I met a twenty-something college student during my travels recently. He’s a runner on his school’s track and field team. He is fast, really fast. Though he's modest about his accomplishments, when I look him up on the school’s website, I learn he’s actually ranked fifth nationally in his event.
When we meet, he’s on his way to the NCAA preliminary event, hoping to get a berth in the national finals. During our conversation, I ask him when it was he first recognized his ability. His answer surprises me.
“I didn’t discover I could run until I was a junior in high school,” he says. “I was a soccer player as a kid and switched over in my teens.” In fact, he was diagnosed as ADHD at age 6 and began taking meds to help improve his focus.
“When my mom would get frustrated with me, she’d have me run laps around the block,” he says with a smile. As a teen, he learned other coping strategies. And what he later discovered is that he is his most focused — and does his best work — after running. Eventually, his abilities on the track field earned him a college scholarship.
What was once perceived as a weakness had become a considerable strength.
What I wondered after our conversation is this: How do we, as parents, help our kids discover their strengths? Or better, teach them coping strategies so that a potential weakness doesn’t hold them back, but instead, propels them forward? It isn’t easy, especially as your child's abilities are still emerging. It can take awhile to understand how each kid is wired. But we owe it to them to be patient and to help them make the most of their abilities.
What abilities does your child have that you are nurturing? What weakness do you think could be turned into a strength?
As for this young man, I'm happy to report that he had a great race. In fact, he’ll be competing in the national finals in Eugene, Oregon later this month.
What was once a weakness is now a strength — one that's taking him into the winner's circle.