“How can I raise my child to become talented?”

This is a question often asked by parents of young children, and I’m always caught off guard when the question is directed to me.

Yes, I am an educator for Gifted and Talented (GT) kids, and I have raised two of my own who received these services. But I don’t have the formula.

So when the question is asked, my immediate response is, “YouTube and a lot of luck.”

But we all know YouTube is not the answer.

Parents know there’s a lot more to it than luck and YouTube tutorials.

I’ve had a handful of parents ask me about how my husband and I got our young daughter to learn how to sew, crochet, make jewelry, paint, and be the entrepreneur that she is at such a young age.

She is self-taught when it comes to crafting and painting, and we foster her entrepreneurial spirit. We also allow her to explore her other talents in music and athletics without the pressure of competition. This allows her to be naturally competitive in a healthy way.

However, when I was thinking about her outside influences, I am reminded of ten ways that we, as her parents, developed her talent:

1. Live Out Your Own Passions and Teach By Example. All her life, she has been surrounded by creativity. All kinds of art happen in our home: whether it is literary, music, or fine arts, we are always creating art! I am passionate about writing, and my husband’s first love is making music. She grew up with instruments all around her, and there were journals of my children’s books all over our coffee table. She memorized the first stanza of my first children’s book before she was even able to read. We make a lot of mess, but if you model your passion, behavior, and good habits, your kids will naturally find their own in their own time.

2. Cultivate Their Interests. Her interests in “making stuff” developed at a young age. She outgrew toys (dollhouse, dolls, princess stuff) at age 4. We bought her crafting kits from Target, and she did them all! If you want to encourage creativity (never force activities on your kids; it will backfire on you), grab one of these boxes from Target or Michael’s. Cost is around $10-$15 per kit.

3. Never Underestimate the Power of Your Imagination. When she was about 7 or 8 (around the same time she was in a baseball team with all-boys), her favorite bear, Beary, had to be repaired because its ear had been torn off. I knew my way around very basic stitching with a needle and thread, so we played “surgery” on Beary. I taught her a normal stitch on a piece of cloth, and she was hooked! She still sleeps with Beary, by the way. It is so sweet! This sweet little moment turned into a full-blown passion.

4. Let Them Use Real Tools. She asked for a kiddie sewing machine for Christmas, but her ever-so-practical Dad said, “The kiddie sewing machine costs as much as the real thing. Let’s get her the real thing.” Learn how to use it yourself (YouTube) and then learn together. Her first sewing machine at age 8 brought her some good business! Her first top sellers were her produce bags, custom pillows, and tutu skirts for puppies. Over the course of that first year, she made enough money to buy her own iPod. She and her dad now go to the hardware store together occasionally to build things like a soap mold to make her soaps and other things.

6. Teach Them The Value of Hard Work and Basic Business Strategies. We tell her to base her price points the same way anybody does! Add the cost of materials. Add labor and hours worked. Thank Mom and Dad for their investment in you, whether it’s time, money, lessons, or just plain old bonding time.

7. Teach Them to Recognize the talents AROUND them, not just their own. Uplift others by buying their artwork, recognizing their talents and being genuinely curious about their passions. Learn something new. Learn together.

8. Teach Them to Say No. We tell her that when you are talented, sometimes people will take advantage of you. Some think just because you are friends and family, you can “hook them up.” Be generous if you feel sincere about it (like when she surprised her grandmother with a crocheted blanket for Christmas) but if you don’t, then it’s okay to say no. It’s not personal to THEM, even if it’s personal to you. Practice saying no. “No, I won’t have time to make that for you.” “No, I will not edit your novel for fun.” “No, I will not produce a song for your grandparents’ silver wedding anniversary.” You don’t need exposure. You need to pay your bills. #freelanceisntfree

9. Don’t Force Them. Finally, even if one day she decides her art and entrepreneurship aren’t really where she wants to go to sustain herself, we told her that it’s okay, too. Nothing is forced. I joke about running a sweatshop here, but please know I’m totally kidding. She has plenty of other interests. She’s athletic, and she is a beast on the wall. Rock climbing is her other passion. This activity was inspired by all of the American Ninja Warriors shows we have watched together as a family.

10. Help Them Develop a Growth Mindset. An article from Olympic Coaching Magazine described talent as “something you build on and develop, not something you simply display to the world and try to coast to success on.” This is so true. Hard work is not pretty. There are tons of mistakes. Plenty of failures. But we don’t quit. There are quite a bit of heartbreaking lessons, but we keep going. That’s where you find the heart of their passion.

I do not carry a secret manual to parenting, and I have my own doubts about how I negatively/positively influence my kids. Every day I wonder if I mess it all up, or if I’m doing things wrong, or if I’m saying something bad. But so far, they tell me everyday that they love me. I’m okay with that.

Whether it is arts, athletics, or music, give your kids opportunity to explore it all, even if it is only through YouTube. Show them your own passion and model how you foster yours. They will find their own as long as you continue to lead by example.

Those of you who have rooted or have supported my kids by teaching them, coaching them, loving them, or buying stuff they’ve made, I thank you! It takes a village.

If you want to see the progress of Zoe’s work over the past four years, go to Instagram and search #zdavleen.

If you ordered something, and we haven’t gotten back to you, it’s because Zoe and I have been scrubbing the floors. She was painting, and our cute little fur babies decided to do a not-so-cute-thing and dipped their paws on the paint and walked all over the floor!

Yup. It gets messy.