Nurturing (not Forcing) the Gift: How to Foster Your Child’s Talent Without Forcing Them
Recording artist, music producer, and actor Nino Alejandro shares his experience when it comes to helping his daughter nurture her talents and gifts without inadvertently forcing her to follow in his musical footsteps.
I love to sing. It’s something I have loved for as long as I can remember. I was that toddler who always performed for family and friends (even when they weren’t listening), and I always felt my absolute best with a microphone in hand. I was fortunate because music is something that is part of my family and part of who I was growing up.
My family’s history is steeped in music. The music of my uncle, Hajji Alejandro, helped define a generation of OPM, and his songs like “Kay Ganda ng Atin Musika” and “Nakapagtataka” are timeless classics. My cousin and partner-in-crime Rachel Alejandro is an OPM icon in her own right as well—and a child prodigy at that.
I was fortunate enough to join the industry when I was still a teenager. I’ve released several of my own albums, performed for audiences all over the world, and been on TV, in movies, and in musicals. I’ve even started my own record label.
Music has always been at the center of my life. Naturally, everyone just assumed that when I had my own children, they would follow in my footsteps. While I can definitely understand that, when my daughter Bella was born, I didn’t automatically expect her to be just like me (though I can’t pretend I didn’t have dreams of singing on stage with her one day).
Discovering Their Talents
I knew that whatever her talent was or whatever she loved, I would be there to support her talent and her passions. There are some that believe that talent is inborn. Geniuses like Mozart who played piano at three-years-old reinforce that belief.
However, Sigmund Freud and other psychologists also postulated that parents and how they support or don’t support their children can play a big part in nurturing the child’s talent to its full potential.
Reinforcing that belief is Mozart’s father, who was a successful musician and composer, and was devoted to teaching his son—pushing him, and helping him practice hard to achieve perfection. Clearly, he succeeded.
I knew even when Bella was just a baby that I would do everything I could to help my daughter nurture her own talents. But I didn’t automatically expect those talents to be in music just because she was my daughter. If she showed a preference for something else—art, writing, dance—I would support her there too.
I think that’s the most important step of all when it comes to supporting your child and nurturing their gifts. You have to give them enough freedom to discover what these gifts are. You can help them explore new avenues (there are tons of workshops and online classes available)—even recommend ones you think they’d like or excel at—but in the end, it has to be their choice. Because passion can’t be faked, and no amount of pushing will make your child succeed in something they don’t love.
And that’s a key factor when it comes to success. They need to love what they’re doing. They need to love it enough to give their 110%. If your child likes to play sports, that’s great, but if they want to be the next Michael Jordan they are going to have to work hard too.
Talent alone won’t get children where they need to go, especially in today’s extremely competitive landscape. And that’s where we can help. Once we’ve discovered what our children are good at and what they love, we can help them excel at it.
Setting Them Up for Success
When you know what your child loves, you can provide them a springboard for success. In our case, my daughter Bella loves to sing. So I told her I would gladly help her on this journey. Here are some of the things we did that I think will help any parent nurture their child’s gifts and encourage their passions.
1. An Early Start
Sure, there are some stories about parents pushing their kids too soon. Kids should still have time to simply be kids, but the truth is, it’s never too early to start letting your child explore his or her gifts. Many of the successful people of today started out at a very young age.
In our case, we exposed Bella to different types of music early on. She saw musicals, watched concerts, and witnessed different types of people perform. These inspired her in her own performances.
2. Expert Instruction
Many of us feel we can teach our kids anything. After all, we’re adults and professionals. But there’s still something to be said about expert instruction. Teaching is a gift that not everyone has, and sometimes even the best professionals can’t fully articulate or pass on their practice like a teacher can.
I enrolled Bella in singing lessons and piano lessons – both of which I felt were instrumental in making her a better performer. While I could have just taught her myself, I knew she would benefit from a teacher that could give her a helping hand. I believe she is all the better for it.
3. Practice Makes Perfect
There is no shortcut to success. If you want to help your child succeed, you need to hammer this point home. They need to practice, practice, and practice some more.
All the repetition might not seem so fun after a while, and you may even worry that your child’s determination is wavering. But if you’re sure that they truly love what they’re learning and want to get better at it, then encouraging them to keep going could spell the difference between quitting and succeeding.
4. Constructive Criticism
Children will make mistakes. They will hit a flat note or miss the shot. While you want to comfort them (and you should), it helps to turn the setback into a teachable moment.
Mistakes when addressed properly can become stepping stones to success. If you only focus on the positives, you are depriving your child of the character-building and talent-boosting power of constructive criticism. And I encourage you to give them honest and helpful feedback early on, from someone who has their best interest at heart, rather than them receiving non-constructive and potentially hurtful feedback from someone else.
I generally give Bella a lot of constructive criticism. I do it because I know she wants to improve and that is how I can help her. She has realized that it isn’t because daddy doesn’t love her. On the contrary, it’s because daddy loves her that he wants to see her succeed.
A Healthy Push or Too Forceful?
At the end of the day, we all want what’s best for our kids. It’s possible to push them to their full potential without forcing them to do something they don’t want to do. In my case, I would never want to be an obnoxious stage dad, but when Bella asks me to help her rehearse for a performance, I am there for her 110%.
Perhaps that’s the difference when it comes to pushing and forcing—letting them take the lead. A child’s talent and path to success is like a train speeding forward, and we should let them decide the destination. What we can – and need – to do is help keep that train focused and on track. That’s what I hope I am doing with Bella.
If there comes a day when she’d say she didn’t want to sing anymore and wanted to focus on something else instead, I might be heartbroken, but you better believe that I would still be right there supporting her new passion. (And if that were to happen, I’d say a small prayer of thanks that we already had our first father-daughter performance at a concert in San Francisco when she was just six!)
About The Writer
Nino is an Awit Award-winning singer, actor, songwriter, and music producer. He has released three studio albums and has acted in telenovelas, movies, and stage plays and musicals like Jersey Boys and Waitress with Atlantis Entertainment Theatrical Group. Nino has toured all over the world performing in countries such as Japan, the United States, the UAE, and Canada to name a few. He was also on the popular television show The Voice of the Philippines under Coach Lea Salonga. Alongside performing, Nino is also a record and music producer and owns independent record label Rebel Records Philippines. In his spare time he loves playing sports, traveling, and spending time with his daughter.
The views and opinions expressed by the writer are his/her own, and does not state or reflect those of Wyeth Nutrition and its principals.