Before you start considering things that we typically think of as talents – dancing, playing sports and learning musical instruments, or singing – think a little bit deeper about your children. I’m talking about a different definition of talent – Thinking Talents – as outlined by researchers and child development expert Dawna Markova.
Finding the Thinking Talents Within Your Child
In her book The SMART Parenting Revolution, Markova and various research groups have determined that people have different Thinking Talents, and that there are 36 different, specific talents that can be seen. These talents all have several things in common:
- People appear to be very naturally inclined towards their talents, without specific training in them. Your kids have always just been really good at doing them.
- People feel enthusiastic about pursuing these thinking talents. Your kids seem more engaged and energetic when they get to use their thinking talents.
- People enjoy furthering these talents. Your kids naturally seek out more ways to develop their thinking talents and use them more fully.
- People see the world and how they relate to it through the characteristics of their thinking talents. Your child has a unique perspective on life based on these thinking talents.
As adults we average 5 thinking talents that we usually use most often, but our younger kids are more flexible in their development and tend to use more talents. It is during puberty that our kids start to hone their thinking talents and place more focus on specific ones. While most of this is done subconsciously, we as parents can consciously help our kids discover their thinking talents, helping them become stronger, more confident, and happier, and helping us parent more effectively and lovingly.
What Are the 36 Thinking Talents?
Markova and her colleagues describe 36 separate thinking talents, the combinations of which your children have is what helps form their unique and individual beings.
- Collaboration – your child enjoys working in a group
- Concentration – your child is at her best when she can focus on one thing for a long period of time
- Enrolling – your child enjoys meeting new people and engaging with them
- Equality – you child wants to make sure everyone is treated fairly
- Feeling for Others – your child thinks about others almost more than she does herself
- Fixing It – your child likes to make things and situations better
- Flexibility – your child “goes with the flow”
- Gathering – your child likes to collect things, ideas, or trinkets
- Get to Action – your child has less patience and wants to see things done ASAP
- Goal Setting – your child has a consistent drive to get things done
- Humor – your child likes to find the “funny” in situations
- Including – your child likes to make sure everyone is included
- Innovation – your child loves to create and come up with new ways to do things
- Intimacy – your child prefers to have close, genuine friends with just a few others
- Connection – your child likes to take ideas from various people and combine them into something bigger
- Love of Learning – your child loves learning new things
- Loving Ideas – your child is energized by new concepts
- Making Order – your child likes to organize a mess
- Mentoring – your child likes to help others find success
- Optimism – your child is enthusiastic and positive
- Peacemaking – your child seeks out harmony and avoids confrontation
- Personalizing – your child is in tune with what makes other people tick
- Precision – your child needs to do things in particular order
- Reliability – your child is responsible and strives to be dependable
- Seeking Excellence – your child likes to make the most out of anything
- Self-confidence – your child is generally confident about what he does
- Standing Out – your child appreciates being recognized for her accomplishments
- Storytelling – your child likes to use stories to bring ideas and thoughts to life
- Strategy – your child enjoys thinking about the possibilities (if this, then that…)
- Taking Charge – your child prefers to be in a leadership position
- Thinking Ahead – your child gets excited when thinking about the future and plans ahead
- Thinking Alone – your child needs time alone to think over ideas
- Thinking Back – your child likes looking back at what has happened in the past
- Thinking Logically – your child needs to know specific information, not generalizations
- Values – your child has a strong core set of values and isn’t afraid to show them
- Wanting to Win – your child thrives on competition
Helping Your Children Discover Their Talents
When I first tried to recognize my children’s thinking talents, I admit that I was a bit overwhelmed – I felt like I needed flashcards with the 36 talents that seemed to me at times to overlap. But instead I had to find a new way to look at various situations with my kids. Instead of feeling a bit anxious because the kids started to bicker again, I would try to see which talents each child was bringing to the table. I soon realized that the bickering was often because their talents were not similar – and sometimes in competition with each other. We had to work together to find ways to allow everyone to bring their unique set of talents into the situation. It is as much about recognizing the talents within yourself as it is in respecting the unique talents of others.
- Hang a list of the talents on the fridge (consider it your flashcards).
- Give each of your kids a stack of notecards. Have them write down the thinking talents they feel they use the most often – maybe 10 or so.
- Do the same for your kids – writing down which talents you see in your children.
- Meet with your kids one-on-one and go over their talent cards, sharing why you both chose the ones you did.
- Have a fun family meeting where everyone else shares a few of their own talents and one or two they see in their siblings or parents.
- Find ways to make sure that everyone’s thinking talents have a place in the family. If you have one child who thrives on collaboration, but another child who thrives on thinking alone, find ways to honor both of those talents when it comes to making family decisions.
Make sure your kids understand that these talents will ebb and flow as they grow, and they aren’t hard and fast rules. Definitely do not let them become self-fulfilling prophecies. Instead take a new look at your kids and relearn your definition of talent. When we help our children recognize their own talents and those of their family members, we are giving them tools for personal and social development that will stick with them forever.