It’s a good thing you don’t have to pass an aptitude test to become a dad. No question, I’d have failed. Over the years, I’ve relied on the great advice of some really passionate and gifted parenting teachers. For instance, Jim Dobson once said, “You’ve got to make sure that every one of your children excels at something— doesn’t matter what it is. You must be certain that your child knows the one thing they do better than anything else.”
I thought about that a lot during a season that one of our kids really struggled with math. For her, nothing about numbers came easily. As the assignments became more difficult her frustration grew. No matter what we tried, we found no answers. She seemed to have a block.
Then, I remembered Dobson’s advice, and I knew I needed a new approach. I sat down with our daughter and we had a heart to heart.
“You know,” I said. “I understand math is hard for you. It’s just not your thing.” And then I looked her in the eyes. “Here’s the deal. You have your own gift. You see things—visually speaking—in a way that no one else does. You view life through your own unique lens. You take the most amazing pictures. So, big deal if you don’t become a math major in college. Who cares if you don’t become a research scientist? God has given you a gift that can’t be measured on tests. You won’t find it on the SAT.
“I’m telling you the truth. No one else can take pictures like you can.”
Our little discussion didn’t end her math struggle. But some things did change. In her eyes, I saw a little glimmer of confidence growing. I found that I worried less about how her battle with numbers would end. Now, so many years later, I see the fruit of that pep-talk.
You can see it too. These days, our math-challenged, but visually-gifted daughter works as a professional photographer in Virginia. Check out her work:
I’m grateful for Dobson’s advice. As parents, we must develop a genius for discovering the genius in our own kids. Once you spot it, you must help them see it and develop it. Hone it. Reward it. That special skill will give them resilience during the inevitable struggles of life.
How about you? Have you had a child of unusual genius? How did you help them discover that genius? Or, do you still struggle with the ways you fall short? Are you discouraged with your own deficiencies? Perhaps you need to discover your own genius; allow yourself to be good—really good— at one thing. Let all other disappointments take a back seat. Your view of the world just might change. Drop us a comment and share your experience!
Dr. Greg Sutherland
(with Bette Nordberg)