Talents of the Heart

Competition is huge in our society. From reality TV shows to Monday Night Football, from Facebook pages to Elementary school fundraisers. . . even Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, and Youth Groups at churches hold somewhere in their practices an element of competition.

Ads for child nutrition supplements show soccer moms comparing the energy and performance of their kids. In high schools all over the country, teenagers vie for the best looking college application by achieving the highest awards and positions in extra-curricular activities. Moms of young children are always concerned with the development of their children compared to other kids of the same age. . . even without trying, we compete daily. With ourselves, with our family members, our friends, our colleagues, and in our communities.

“Keeping up with the Joneses” wouldn’t be such a well-known saying if it weren’t universally true. Competition is just part of our being, whether we like it or not.

We judge information by the same token. If it’s met with critical acclaim, a documentary or published study becomes that much more important and recognized. If it gets onto the NY Times Best Seller List, we’ll be more likely to trust the integrity of a book and it’s author.

But this element of competition, this natural esteem that comes from being acclaimed, known, and excellent – only measures outward talents. How many books are sold. How many experts agree with an idea. How effective a product is. How beautifully and masterfully a violinist plays, or a dancer moves. Outward talent, easy to see and appreciate, is extremely valuable in our society.

More difficult to recognize – and much less publicized, honored, and cultivated – are talents that cannot be measured by a competition. Talents like being a good listener, a comfortable collaborator, a dedicated care-giver, or someone who boosts the esteem of others. These sorts of talents can be seen even earlier than outward talents like dancing, musical aptitude, or giftedness. They manifest in daily interactions with others, and continue for a lifetime.

How blessed would our society be if these talents of the heart were nurtured and supported as much as outward talents are!Becky also has something to say about the subject in her post, Be A Daisy at Old New Legacy. It’s definitely an idea worth some thought for those of us who strive to be authentic and nurturing parents. Our society is so driven by competition and success.

Compassion, collaboration, and cooperation are qualities that are, unfortunately, frequently overlooked, but incredibly important to the health of our society. Hopefully, shining light on these inward, unique talents of the heart will lead to a more cooperative and compassionate generation to follow!

Personally, I can tell that my three-year-old daughter would be an awesome collaborator. She always has something interesting to say, enjoys conversation, and negotiates and elaborates like a pro. We make up songs together, create stories, engage in role-play games, and talk about what could be. . . in addition to her enthusiasm, agile nature, and rhythmic sensitivity (all of which can be measured and pertain to certain outward talents, like singing, dancing, and gymnastic strength) I can see her collaborative ability, and I try to nurture it and help it mature as she grows.

Can you see a talent of the heart in your child?

What types of activities encourage your child’s unique inward talents?

Identifying Talents of the Heart:

Here are some suggestions for identifying “hidden” talents of the heart. . .

- What does your child like to do when you’re not looking? (For example, when she’s playing independently, my budding collaborator likes to get out all of a certain group of toys, and talk to each and every one of them, putting them into a circle and letting them chat with each other and with her.)

- Which activities does he frequent, and how does he interact with the toys he plays with? (i.e. does he talk to them, sing to them, question them, “listen” to them, care for them, etc?)

- What role does your child playin her group of friends, or when interacting with siblings or cousins?

- Think about your child’s most challenging behavior. What helps your child handle this challenge? What type of coping works for him? How are you (or another caregiver) able to provide effective comfort, or help him find a solution to a problem? These answers can help you see how your child’s heart and mind work together, and can lead to insight about inward talents.

-Thinking about your child’s inward talents of the heart is a fun and interesting way to understand them better and to nurture a compassionate personality. It’s fun to pinpoint your unique talents of the heart, and those of your partner and friends as well!

This post is edited from a previous version by Amy Willa that was originally published at Natural Parents Network


  1. My daughter does have “talents of the heart” but after reading this I think that I too often let her challenging behaviors preoccupy me. This is something I really need to work on as I can’t imagine how my preoccupation wouldn’t effect her behavior.

    I think it is interesting that you identify compassion, collaboration and cooperation as likely overlooked characteristics. I wonder if cooperation and compassion are more appreciated by parents than say collaboration because the first two more frequently impact the parent-child relationship. Again, just wondering.

    • Marisa, I definitely do think that compassion and cooperation are key to the parent-child relationship. I also see a place for collaboration, too. I’ve found that in not only accepting but utilizing Abbey’s gift for collaboration, I can help her problem-solve instead of perpetuating a conflict we (or she, with a friend, or her brother) are having.

      I observe: “this is not working. What we are doing is not working.” and then ask, “What do YOU think we should do?” and it gives her an opening to put her talents to work solving the problem at hand. We usually end up figuring out something that works for both of us, and I see her skills and gift for facilitating collaboration grow every day!

      The “three C’s” are definitely not the ONLY hidden talents that a child (or any person!) can have. What other characteristics do you think could be “talents of the heart” ?


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