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Parental Influence Fosters Greatness From an Early Age

How Parental Influence Can Foster Greatness From A Very Early Age

By Dr. Artyom Zinchenko

When Steven Spielberg started making amateur films with his father's camera, little did his family know that this hobby would evolve into a legendary filmmaking career. Spielberg's early fascination with storytelling and film was nurtured in a challenging and creatively stimulating household. His mother, Leah Adler, a concert pianist, encouraged his imaginative pursuits, while his father, Arnold Spielberg, an electrical engineer, inadvertently influenced Steven's technical acumen for filmmaking.

Steven Spielberg's journey from a young boy with a camera to one of the most esteemed directors in Hollywood is a powerful example of how parental nurturing of a child's interests, even amid family complexities, can lead to extraordinary achievements. This story exemplifies the broader principle of recognizing and fostering our children's talents and passions early on. Just as Spielberg's parents played a significant role in his development, we can adopt similar approaches to encourage our children's interests and support their overall development.

1. Encourage Exploration and Curiosity

When nurturing our children's early development, one of the most beneficial approaches we can take is encouraging them to explore a wide range of interests. During these formative years, it’s incredibly enriching for children to dive into various activities. These could be anything from getting lost in the pages of a colorful book, piecing together building blocks, dabbling in arts and crafts, or even conducting simple science experiments right at our kitchen tables.

Exposure to different fields is more than just fun—it's foundational. As children explore these various activities, they uncover their passions and strengths. With time, they naturally gravitate towards certain areas that resonate most deeply with them. Then, they can start focusing more intensely on these chosen fields. This focused dedication builds upon the rich and varied foundation of their early experiences, allowing them to grow and develop in the areas they are most passionate about.

2. Foster Emotional Intelligence and Resilience

When we think about creating a rich learning environment for our kids, it’s not just about having the right books or educational toys. It’s also about nurturing their emotional intelligence and resilience, skills that are just as important as academic knowledge.

This journey begins with us. When we engage in empathetic communication—listening to our kids’ feelings and responding with understanding and support—we lay the groundwork for their emotional intelligence. It’s also about setting the right example. When they see us handling stress or disappointment calmly and constructively, they are more likely to adopt these positive emotional responses.

Sports, music, and arts can be fantastic platforms for developing resilience. Whether mastering a new skill in a musical instrument, handling the disappointment of an imperfect performance, pushing through a challenging game, or creating a piece of art that doesn't turn out as expected, these activities offer real-life lessons in perseverance and coping with challenges. Encouraging our children to reflect on what they’ve learned from each experience, including enjoyable and challenging aspects, can deepen their resilience.

3. Cultivating Early Motivation

Before our kids even step foot into a classroom, there's something significant we can do to help them love learning for life. It's about nurturing their intrinsic motivation – that inner spark that makes them want to learn, not for stickers or gold stars, but for discovering something new. This is what keeps them engaged and curious throughout their lives.

Think about when your little one spends hours figuring out a puzzle or exploring the backyard. That's intrinsic motivation in action! They're driven by their curiosity and the fun of learning, not by some reward waiting at the end. We can encourage this by letting them choose activities they love. Maybe it’s building with blocks, drawing, or playing make-believe. When they’re calling the shots, they feel in control, and that’s a big deal for their growing minds.

By nurturing this intrinsic motivation early on, we’re not just preparing them for school but setting them up for a lifetime of learning. We’re helping them develop a love for learning beyond the classroom. It’s about fueling that natural curiosity and allowing them to explore and learn uniquely.

4. Introducing Basic Metacognition Skills

As parents, the term metacognition might sound a bit technical, but it's just about helping our kids understand and manage their learning. Think of it as teaching them to be mindful about how they think and learn. For instance, when your child works out a math problem, metacognition is the part where they figure out which steps to take or how to approach a tricky question. Or, when they're reading a story and start to ask themselves whether they understand what's happening in the plot, that's metacognition at work, too.

Even simple everyday activities can be opportunities for metacognition. For example, after reading a bedtime story, you might ask your child what they think about the story's characters or why they think it ended a certain way. This makes storytime more interactive and nudges them to think about their thinking. Metacognition isn’t about pushing kids harder; it's about helping them become more aware and reflective learners. It's like giving them a toolset for learning, not just for school but for life.

Just as Steven Spielberg’s parents recognized and nurtured his potential, our role in guiding our children's passions and developing their emotional and cognitive skills is a foundational step toward building their confidence, character, and future successes. Our children's earliest interests, whether in sports, arts, or science, nurtured with patience and understanding, can blossom into remarkable achievements.


Artyom Zinchenko, Ph.D., is a cognitive neuroscientist and co-author of the forthcoming book Wisest Learners (Parent Edition): Unlock the Secrets to Your Child’s Academic Success. Currently a researcher and faculty member at Ludwig-Maximilian University in Munich, his focus includes cognition-emotion interaction and long-term memory-guided attention utilizing neurophysiological methods. More information can be found at:

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Cover Photo by William Fortunato

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