FROM THE SUPERINTENDENT’S DESK
Unrealistic Expectations Can Hinder Children from Discovering Their Greatest Talents
Children develop interests and cultivate talents when they are exposed to a wide variety of opportunities over the course of their elementary, middle and high school years. Some of the activities they enjoy, and even excel at, may become long-term pursuits, while others may just be passing phases. As children grow and mature, it’s important for parents to encourage them to explore many different kinds of activities, allowing them to discover their own distinctive abilities and interests.
It isn’t unusual, however, for parents to draw conclusions about their children’s abilities prematurely. We are all, of course, inclined to believe that our children are exceptional — and every child certainly has unique gifts. The danger is when we make judgments about a child’s strengths or weaknesses that limit his or her development of other interests, or that create expectations the child may not be able to meet.
When a young child draws a beautiful picture, plays a piece of music well or kicks a soccer ball with enthusiasm, proud parents sometimes believe they have a little Rembrandt, Beethoven or Pele in the making. However, the child may just be discovering a new activity that gives him or her pleasure. On the other hand, children who show no special talent at an early age often surprise us in the long run. The child who doesn’t play sports today may become an all-star tomorrow.
It’s important to give children a positive message as they grow and develop a variety of interests. Encouraging your child to feel good about small accomplishments has lasting value. Regardless of whether your child is successful in any particular endeavor, he or she will be more likely to develop the confidence that leads to success later in life.
We can unintentionally limit our children when we give them a set of expectations we would like them to fulfill. We could be depriving them of discovering “hidden” talents that may truly be the seeds of exceptional ability. Parents and educators alike must remember that children need to explore and develop many interests in order to achieve their full potential.
Dr. Carole Hankin is the superintendent of Syosset Schools in Long Island, N.Y.