Nurturing a Child's Passion


I can’t remember when I started believing in super powers. Maybe I’ve been brainwashed by a culture that abuses the right to use words like awesome and amazing. Or maybe it’s the way the media pipelines images of extraordinary talent to somehow make what’s exceptional look commonplace. Pretty sure I’m sure not the only one convinced that a sizable majority of mankind has a killer Voice, Top Chef skills, or some random, yet compelling X-Factor meriting large sums of money from reality TV competitions. Most of the hype around super powers isn’t even the televised type though. Just stop by a local park and head straight to the small herd of moms rattling off their kids stats by the monkey bars. The conversation always trails back to that infamous benchmark probe: “So what is your kid doing these days?”—a question that would indeed suggest that every child should be doing something comparably gloat-worthy.

When my first daughter was born, I immediately started looking out for her super powers. I knew my child would be special—and not in the generic, feel-good type of way that preschool teachers use the word. I was convinced she’d be born with some very specific talent or giftings. I didn’t really care what those things might be. I was more concerned with finding those things as quickly as possible so that I could start tracking down the enrichment activities, the teachers, the mentors, the coaches. My goal was to hunt down as many opportunities as I could possibly schedule and afford to cultivate her talents right into success.

A few months ago, my preschooler took her first ballet class. I was curious how she’d do. Especially given that I was awful at ballet. Or at least that’s the picture my own mom paints when she tells her go-to parenting story of my short-lived stint as a ballerina. “You had my clumsy genes,” she jokes, “Ballet, just wasn’t your thing, so we pulled you out.” My daughter was pretty out of sync too. But she liked ballet. She liked everything about it, from the tutus, to the music, to her classmates. I figured we’d finish out the semester and move on to some other extracurricular sweet spot where she would shine. But then I caught myself. Or maybe it was a bit of nostalgia that did. I remember not always getting the techniques down right away either. But I also remember liking ballet very much, good at it or not.

As a mother, I get it. I really do. Parents instinctively want to help their children find their strengths. When struggles come, we want to swoop in and rescue them. When they excel, we want to pursue those things so that they can be exceptional and successful.

But parenting has challenged what I thought I knew about raising a child who will excel. I don’t think it’s about finding special talents anymore. I think it’s much more about figuring out what things a child loves and will drive them, regardless of how good they are at those things. Of course, some kids might love what they do and be great at those things too. (When the two merge, it’s electric!) But other times, passion and natural-born talent are mutually exclusive. And the only thing that will bridge the two are a good dose of chutzpah. I want my kid to have more than talent—a strong right hook and left jab of chutzpah will do fine. Click To Tweet Because if she grows to think the only things worth doing are the ones that she does well, she’ll miss opportunities to learn about perseverance and drive.

God bless the self-propelled child who has it in him to do anything these days! Especially the things that don’t come with the guarantee of adults singing accolades or slapping certificates on the refrigerator door hall of fame. Sticker charts, empty adult praise, and the type of wrath only displayed by dance moms replaced intrinsic motivation a long time ago. But joy will drive a child to work harder, to push through obstacles. Most certainly, it will nurture a child’s passion. Joy propels in a way that talent does not.

My daughter may or may not be the next prima ballerina. But she is a kid who likes what she’s doing and who has the drive to keep doing it. Maybe that’s not by definition a super power. But if sticking with ballet teaches her about pursuing passion, finding joy, and working through challenges — then that’s super powerful.

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Stefanie Foster Brown, a certified school psychologist, hosts Preschoology, a blog for parents and school professionals to find fresh ideas, tips, and tools to help young children learn and grow. She lives in Tampa with her husband, Eli, and their daughter. The couple are currently developing a series of educational mobile apps to teach young children new skills. Check out Stefanie on Twitter and Facebook.

This post appeared first on Preschoology. It was reprinted with permission.

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Denene Millner

Mom. NY Times bestselling author. Pop culture ninja. Unapologetic lover of shoes, bacon and babies. Nice with the verbs. Founder of the top black parenting website, MyBrownBaby.


  1. Love this post…. I want to teach this to every child, every person, and me.

  2. Great article!

  3. I didnt think about this subject from this perspective. My brother and I recently spoke about what we do when our kids suck at an activity. My brother said he leaves them in it becuase they like it and he would rather do something they like. I said I pull my daughter out of it. My daughter recently asked me why I stopped letting her lay the piano. I asked her how she could want to do something she wasn’t very good at. Her answer was simple “Mommy, I liked the music that I made with my own hands”. Wow! This post and my daughter definitrly give me something to think about in the future

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