Developing Talent in Young People; Ballantine Books
This article is a chapter from Benjamin Bloom's book, "Developing Talent in Young People." The author, Kathryn Sloane, examines the influence parents have on the development of talent through support and encouragement. The author focuses on family values, parental involvement in instruction, how parents adapt to the changing child through the years and family dynamics.
This chapter focuses on the home environments of the swimmers, tennis players, pianists, and sculptors. The previous chapters described the typical patterns of development for each of these groups of talented individuals. Descriptions of the roles of the parents and other family members in the development of talent were included in these preceding chapters. The purpose of this chapter is to discuss the typical pattern of parental support and encouragement of talent development by pooling the information on the home environment across four of the talent groups (swimmers, tennis players, pianists, and sculptors).
The generalizations in this chapter were drawn primarily from the interviews with the parents of the talented individuals. Information on the home environment was also obtained in the interviews with the talented individuals. Rarely was the information from the two sources contradictory. The interviews with the parents, however, provided more information on the early years of talent development and on the context and rationale of decisions throughout the process.
In this chapter, information from each of the four talent groups will be analyzed.1 The aim is to identify processes and patterns of home support and encouragement that are similar across these four fields of talent development. Examples from each of the talent groups will be provided to illustrate these processes whenever possible. When a pattern or process does not apply to one of the talent groups, the discrepancy will be noted and discussed.
Value of Achievement
Reports of the families' routines of daily living, work habits, and leisure time revealed parents who were hardworking, active people. A variety of activities filled their days. These parents wanted to be involved in something, learning about something, working on something, as often as possible.
Doing one's best--whatever the task--was very important in these homes. It was not enough to stay busy. Emphasis was placed on doing the best one is capable of. Once goals were attained, there was pride in achievement, the reward for a job well done. Some of the parents were known as "perfectionists"; nearly all set high standards for the successful completion of a task.
The parents organized their time and established priorities as a means of pursuing a variety of activities while expressing the belief that "if it's worth doing, it's worth doing well." Work was completed before play. Wasting time or idling away the hours was cause for disapproval in these homes, as was doing a sloppy job or shirking responsibilities.
Even in their leisure time, the parents chose activities that required practice and learning. Favorite hobbies or avocations were rarely passive, nonparticipatory activities such as watching television. The parents were more often attracted to avocations that involved active participation, such as carpentry, gardening, sewing, sports, reading history or literature, playing musical instruments, travel, photography. When they were spectators instead of participants, as in attending concerts or sporting events, they studied and discussed the performances of others to increase their own knowledge, skill, or appreciation of the activity.
The parents' commitment to the productive use of time and doing one's best was evident in the values they taught their children. The parents expected all family members to learn this code of conduct, and the models the parents provided of working hard and setting high standards of performance were clearly recognized by the children.
[Father] was just a very honest, hardworking person.... When I say hard worker, I mean.... When he came home at night, he would just keep working...he has to be constantly busy (A-14).
I can remember my dad working around the house--I can't give you a specific example--but if something weren't right he'd just rip it up and redo it (S-5).
The whole family's attitude...you can see their work ethic.... Work is the goal of life (P.15).
In addition to providing role models, the parents explicitly discussed with their children the importance of trying hard and doing well.
I was always the one who sort of drummed it into them that you always have to do the very best you are capable of and anything less than that is not enough (M of P-25).
We always stressed that anything that is worth doing is worth doing well. No matter how many times you do something, you always try to do it as well or better than the time before (M of S-N).
We always stressed that what he should do with his life is always do his best, that nobody could expect more (M of A-5).
The parents put these discussions and maxims into practice. The parents checked the children's homework, or at least glanced over it for neatness and blatant errors. The children's extracurricular lessons and practice were supervised by the parents. Responsibilities and household chores were shared by all family members and were performed under the watchful eyes of the parents.
I think theoretically we work with the idea that everybody should have a specific chore. I don't think actually we really ended up with any one person being responsible for emptying wastepaper baskets and everything else, but everybody participated, believe me.... I just originally believed that everybody should participate; that everybody has a responsibility in this world, whether it's at home or anyplace else (M of T-7).
I didn't want a son who didn't do a thing. He was taught at the very beginning that he had to do his share...the kids had to help clean, and boy, did they hate it. We'd work until twelve or one o'clock, until the job was done, then they were on their own (M of P-28).
The parents guided and monitored the children's time in the early years, since "little children couldn't judge time. They would intend to do something but wouldn't do it unless they were guided into it" (M of P-13). Over the years, the children learned to juggle family responsibilities, homework, practice, and other activities. They learned to abide by the family's code that "work had to be done before I could go out and play" (S-19).
The children's play, or free time, was also monitored by the parents to a certain extent. While the general rule was that once responsibilities were taken care of, the children were "on their own," the parents disapproved of idling away free time. So they arranged "constructive" activities for the children to pursue. They read to the children, or played games, or introduced the children to hobbies. Or, they took advantage of local facilities or neighborhood activities to channel their children's energies. As an example, a swimmer's mother recalled joining a local sports club
to have something to do with the children in the summer. I spent the whole summer there with them. You have to have something to do with the kids, they can't just float around all summer. I knew where they were all the time (M of S-1).
It is interesting to note the extent to which the parents' own interests and preferences influenced the children's "free time" activities. For example, parents who cited sports as their own favorite pastime were more likely to encourage their children to play outdoors and be physically active than to read or draw or listen to music. Parents who were interested in music or the arts tended to do the reverse.
In summary, the parents of the athletes, musicians, and artists believed in the importance of working hard and doing one's best. They organized their time, established priorities, and set standards for the completion of a task. They were proud of their achievements and skills. This emphasis on self-discipline, the importance of doing one's best, and the satisfaction of accomplishment may be termed "value of achievement."2
The parents' value of achievement was applied, at first, primarily to short-term goals and was focused on daily activities in the family's routine. Few of these parents had specific career aspirations or lifetime goals for their children when the children were young. Most made it clear, however, that "whatever it was, I wanted him to do it well" (M of P-4). Initially, they felt that education was important and that their children should work hard in school.
The parents expected their children to learn and to live by this value of achievement. They were models of this value and they conveyed their expectations to their children through discussions and through the organization of the family's daily routine. They monitored the children's efforts to make sure the children worked well and thoroughly completed certain tasks. These codes of behavior were an integral part of family membership; this was just the way things were, the family's "style."
It's a family situation where people finish what they start and do the best they can. General self-discipline, and if everyone in the family has it, then I think the assumption is that that is what one does [M of 5-6].
Value of the Talent Area
The parents in our sample reported a range of interests, but one type of activity generally stood out as a special interest in each home and a favorite for vacations and free time.
In some of these homes, sports and physical activity (athletics) were favorite pastimes. Only a few parents were involved in athletics as a profession (three were tennis coaches). The majority were avid amateurs and spectators.
We both tend to be athletic (M of S-5).
I have pursued some type of physical activity all my life (M of S-1).
I was interested in every sport going.... During school years I, for a long while, paid much more attention to sports than I did to books. I did everything. Field hockey, baseball, riding, some tennis, and I didn't take up golf until I was about thirty.... Then took that up and really pursued that very competitively until I went to work (M of T-7).
These parents joined sports clubs and made frequent use of neighborhood recreational facilities. Their friends tended to be people who were also "sports-minded." The family played sports together, attended sporting events, and discussed the achievements of local athletes. Their children were more often encouraged to run and swim and play catch than to stay inside and read, for example.
Other parents preferred to spend their time enjoying music, literature, art, and "cultural" events. Two parents were members of symphony orchestras and one parent was a commercial artist, but the majority enjoyed these activities as hobbies or preferred avocational interests.
Some of these parents were considered fairly proficient amateur artists or musicians. They practiced regularly, read books on art techniques or the history of music, and were familiar with the great names and current development in the field.
[I] started practicing [a string instrument] at age ten, played sonatas or whatnot with my mother [and still practice regularly]...music is a daily diet in terms of listening; it was one in my childhood. My wife...loves music, but she has not practiced piano since she was a kid. But we both love music and go to concerts, and listen to music somehow a little bit every day of our lives (F of P-8).
Others were not as knowledgeable or proficient, but they appreciated and were impressed by others who were. They knew people who were professionals or accomplished amateurs and enjoyed listening to or talking with these friends about the field.
I had a friend who was very good on the piano and organ.... I loved her music and I loved to hear her play.... She was doing what I would have liked to have done (M of P4).
I can't say that [husband] is particularly creative. He likes the arts and we go to plays, operas, and concerts. We both like those things very much (M of A-4).
In most of the cases in our study, the parents' special interests were highly related to the field in which one of their children became an outstanding achiever. In other words, the parents of the swimmers and tennis players tended to be people who particularly enjoyed sports and physical activity. The parents of the musicians and artists tended to prefer music, the arts, and literature.
These different groups of parents conveyed to their children their belief that athletics, music, or the arts were important. They viewed these activities as valuable and enjoyable because of their own interests and positive experiences, and they wanted their children to enjoy these activities, too.
I wanted them to have the experience of music and literature, but even more fully [than I had]--things I knew of because of my experiences in college [M of P-25].
I am a sports-minded person myself. I just think everybody should be interested in sports.... I tried to expose them to everything. I went through each sport and made it available to them so at least they would know the specifics of each sport...all my children were taught to swim, play golf, play on Little League baseball teams (M of S-8).
To summarize briefly, the parents in our sample had preferences for specific types of activities. Leisure times--evenings, weekends, and vacations-were frequently devoted to these special interests. The parents varied in the degree of their skill and expertise in athletics, music, or the arts, but they considered their special interests valuable and enjoyable. They modeled a value of the talent area (athletics, music, or the arts) and wanted to share their experience and interest in the area with their children. The parents drew from the types of activities they themselves enjoyed when planning family interactions, outings, and vacations, and many of the activities the family participated in together were related to the talent area.
The children's introduction to the talent area during these family activities and the subsequent initiation of formal instruction are described in the following section.
THE EARLY YEARS OF TALENT DEVELOPMENT: PARENTS INITIATE INSTRUCTION
Introducing the Children to the Talent Field
Most of the individuals in our sample were first introduced to the talent area--sports, music, or the arts--by their parents, relatives, or family friends. Vacations, weekend outings, or interactions among family members frequently included activities in the talent area.
[Music] was a natural part of our life, even when we didn't have [outside] exposure to it. We performed it to the best of our ability.... I had a lot of music in the house, and I sang. So they were exposed to my singing. We also had a piano.... (M of P-29).
[We went to art museums] quite a lot and we usually took the children with us.... They would walk around the room very quickly, while we were standing in front of one picture...then they'd come back and point to a picture and say, "We like that the best." A lot of times it turned out to be a very good one. They liked going with us, I don't know whether it's because they liked going with us or because they enjoyed the art (M of A-6).
We always kidded that [daughter] woke up in a car bed, next to the tennis courts, hearing the ping-pong of tennis balls--that was one of the first sounds she recollects probably...we belonged to a club and played tennis all weekend (M of T-11).
Even when he was real tiny, I'd take him to a pool and put him in a playpen. He was still just a baby.... We'd get him in the water with water wings, so he was used to the water (M of S-4).
It was in the context of these activities in the homes or with the family that the children began developing simple skills in the talent area. Parents, or older siblings or relatives, taught informal "lessons" whenever the child showed an interest or when the family was involved in the activity. For example, if the child gravitated toward the piano, the parents played a simple tune or "showed him how to do a scale" (M of P-2). If the family was at the pool (or lake or beach), the parents taught the child to float or kick and paddle.
In most families, this introduction to the field and initial, rudimentary skill development occurred in the following way. Parents (or other family members), in pursuing their own interests, created situations that intrigued, interested, or involved the child. The parents responded to this interest favorably, by allowing the child to participate or by arranging special opportunities specifically for the child. Thus, the child's interest was rewarded or encouraged, and the child did learn some simple skills.
When [son] must have been around four years old, my husband had a [tennis] match and started playing and [son] picked up a racket and said. "Can I play?" and my husband said, "Sure." And since that time, he's always had a racket in his hand (M of T-10).
When he was four, his musical interest really became obvious. He wanted me to practice all the time. He learned to tell time because I told him. "If you'll tell me when it's 10:00 every morning, then I'll practice for an hour." He would always tell me, and then he would stand by the piano the whole time I was practicing and then he would sit down and play (M of P-25).
The parents encouraged the children's interest and provided opportunities for the children to learn in other ways as well. For example, they provided resources and materials specifically for children-records, toy instruments, sketch pads, watercolors, and sports equipment. In some instances, these resources were provided to entice and to interest the child in the talent area.
I always put the [toy] piano in the area where she was playing, always kept it handy for her.... If you have an instrument where they can get at it, they'll learn it (M of P-28).
In other cases, materials were made available in response to behaviors the parents perceived as interest. One three-year old "was going around the house tapping out rhythms on the furniture." His parents' response was to buy a toy drum, "just so he could have an instrument to play with" (M of P-7).
The children's participation in these activities and the subsequent development of skills were seen as "natural' or normal." Few parents (or older siblings or adults) were teaching the child these skills with any goal in mind other than helping the child participate in family activities or entertaining the child.
[Water] didn't scare her. It didn't scare any of the other children. It was just the way we started them out. She tried to follow her brother out. She spent more time under the water than on it-not unusual, because I grew up around water and so did my husband, so it was just a continuation of the way we learned to swim. It was a natural thing as far as I was concerned (M of S-3).
[Grandmother] would take the newspaper and have me copy things from the newspaper. She would draw certain things too.... It wasn't like Grandma Moses or anything like that-they weren't finished drawings or on canvas...she'd just take butcher paper or something and just draw.... I really never imitated her, but I'd pursue that and she'd help me with something like that...just spending time with your grandmother (A-14).
It is important to note that it was not always a parent who taught the child rudimentary skills or sparked the child's initial interest. Relatives, family friends, neighbors, older siblings, peers, or friends of older siblings were sometimes responsible for introducing the child to the talent area. The parents, however, usually responded favorably to these experiences the child had with others and began providing resources and learning opportunities for the child.
In summary, opportunities to become familiar with the talent area were available to most of the individuals in our sample from an early age. These opportunities occurred through: (a) watching parents, older siblings, or family friends participate in and enjoy talent-related activities; (b) access to resources and materials, which were available because of the parents' activities or were provided by the parents specifically for the children's use; and (c) listening to the parents discuss the positive benefits of such activities, either with the children or with friends or relatives.
In the context of these family activities, the children developed an interest and learned some basic skills in the talent area. Their interest was encouraged by positive responses from the parents. Skill development occurred through informal lessons and the use of available materials and resources.
Sports, music, or the arts were certainly not the only experiences these children had in the family. Athletes' parents listened to music, and pianists learned to swim. But in each home there were clear preferences for specific types of activities, and these were pursued more frequently. The children's interest and participation in these preferred activities received more attention and response from the parents than did other activities the child may have enjoyed.
Providing Formal Instruction in the Talent Field
The parents in each of the four groups demonstrated a willingness, perhaps even an eagerness, to provide educational opportunities in addition to school.
I felt that educational opportunities were so narrow. Whatever they were going to become, whatever they were going to develop out of their own curiosity, would have to come from their home environment. I did not feel that the public school gave that to the unusual child. Of course, I didn't know if my children would be unusual, but I wanted to give them the opportunity to have more. So we did more things than the family might normally do-things I thought were stimulating. We took them to concerts when they were very young, for example (M of P-25).
The parents were selective, however, about what type of early lesson to provide. Some experiences that they thought would be important could wait. For example, many of the athletes' parents wanted their children to have music lessons, but they assumed that opportunity could be pursued at a later time. In the meantime, their sports club offered swimming or tennis lessons, so they took advantage of these. In contrast, the pianists' parents thought of music lessons much earlier.
The athletes and musicians began lessons in their respective fields by age six or seven, on the average.3 Swimming, tennis, or piano lessons were not generally available through the school system for children entering elementary school. The parents decided to hire a teacher for their children on a one-to-one basis or to enroll their children in special classes. The parents provided the tuition, transportation, equipment, and materials needed for formal instruction in the field.
The parents enrolled their young children in lessons in the talent field because they believed the experience would be a valuable one. Some parents were eager to enroll the child in special classes as soon as a teacher would accept the child. Others found teachers when the child asked for them (usually because other siblings or friends were taking lessons) or when the child demonstrated interest in other ways.
Occasionally, the parents were aware of the child's interest but waited for "external validation" of their perceptions before actually finding a teacher. One father said he knew his son enjoyed playing musical games, but he waited because parents "can be so prejudiced. I didn't trust myself" (F of P-22). When the neighbors began encouraging him ("'He's coming into our house and he's banging around, and some of it sounds pretty good for a little kid and you sure ought to get him a piano.'"), he found a teacher for his five-year-old. Other parents were encouraged by kindergarten teachers or the instructor at the local sports club or public park to get the children started.
It was important to these parents that their children take lessons in sports or music as early as possible. The choice of the specific sport or musical instrument was, to a certain extent, arbitrary. Piano seemed a logical first choice of musical instrument, but the parents assumed the child could switch to another instrument later if he or she wished. The choice of swimming was most often determined by the availability of facilities and a coach. The parents of the tennis players were more directive, wanting the child to learn tennis because they were avid players themselves. The availability of courts and tennis programs was, of course, a necessary prerequisite.
Although accessibility and availability played a large part in the selection of a beginning teacher, the parents did choose this first teacher with care. The parents asked friends for recommendations or, in some cases, were attracted to instructors who had reputations for being particularly good with young children. The criterion at this point was the teacher's ability to work with children. The parents wanted the beginning teacher to teach the fundamentals of the field in an enjoyable way. They wanted the children to learn, but the children's interests were to be encouraged, not squelched by a teacher who was too "harsh" or too "demanding."
The parents tried to find teachers who had the "right" personality and who would take an interest in their child. Sometimes they narrowed their choice to two or three reputable teachers and then selected the one who could best provide the attention and encouragement they felt their child needed. Again, being "good with children" was more important than the teacher's technical expertise.
[The first coach was] a very athletic person, very good at instructing the whole group at a time, not just one child. He coached with emotion and explained things to them-even I understood him. He got some very good results with the groups he had. He was good with the children and a good instructor (F of S-2).
He wasn't a great teacher, but he knew the fundamentals and he was pretty musical and he and [P-22] got along fine, which is pretty important. It's important for the student to understand the teacher (F of P-22).
The parents usually attended at least the first few lessons with the child to be certain they had selected the right teacher. If the parents did not approve of the teacher's techniques or personality, another teacher was found very quickly.
So I started to investigate teachers for her. I got the advice of people who had used several teachers.... There was one woman across the street about a block down and we tried her.... And she had a canary that sang all the time, that she kept right over the piano...[P-24] always looked at that bird. She couldn't concentrate on her lessons, so [the teacher] really didn't think too much of her. And I thought, well. I'll have to find someone else. We investigated one woman who I didn't think would fit the bill. I didn't think their personalities were right for each other. The second choice was Mrs. ___, and we went to her right away. And she liked [P-24] from the very beginning (M of P-24).
The Parents' Role in Lessons and Practice
Although the instructor's responsibility was to provide good instruction in a positive atmosphere, the parents did not believe their child's progress was solely in the hands of the teacher. They felt it was their responsibility to make sure their child was well prepared for lessons, practiced regularly and thoroughly, worked hard, and did his or her best. As one mother said, "We were never parents who dropped the kids off and expected the club to take care of them" (M of S-9).
The parents made explicit efforts to learn the requirements and standards set by the child's instructor. Some of the parents who attended the first lessons continued to attend lessons regularly with the child. They did this because they "thought it would be fun just to see" (M of P-15) and to help the child with practice. At the lessons, these parents began to learn the specifics of instruction in the talent field.
We sat there...while he took a lesson, so we learned as well as he did, and then you know what to look for (M of T-18).
I think I learned everything I know about it from [child's first coach].... I just remember all the instruction-how to hold your head, how to put your arms in the water, your kick, your breathing (F of S-2).
Occasionally, the parents took lessons themselves "to help him, because we wanted to do everything we could" (M of P-4) and to better understand what was required of their child. Those who did not attend lessons themselves had frequent discussions with the child and with the teacher or coach. Parents also bought books and subscribed to magazines to learn more about the details of instruction and performance in the specific talent field.
The parents learned that to advance in a talent field, daily practice was important and not to be neglected. In sports, practice at the swimming pool or tennis court was scheduled and supervised by the coach. The parents arranged the family's routine to conform to this schedule. They drove the child to and from practice, spent their weekends at swimming or tennis events, and rearranged mealtimes. When practice was in the home (especially in music), the parents helped the child schedule and plan practice time. They scheduled a regular time and made sure other family activities did not interfere.
Most of the pianists' parents monitored the amount of daily practice in the home. They listened or watched to ensure the quantity of time spent. The children were not allowed to "play around," skip drills, or quit before the designated time. Practice had priority and was to be done every day, despite the inconvenience of schedules. Consistent with the "value of achievement" philosophy, the parents taught their children that practice
...had to be done. If you didn't work nothing would be accomplished. Lessons won't be ready and so on. And also I think another thing would be brought up-that there would be something else come up tomorrow and you want to do that, too, and you won't get it done tomorrow, so why not get it done today (P-4).
In addition to monitoring the amount of practice time, these parents did whatever they could to make the practice productive and enjoyable. Those parents who had sufficient expertise corrected mistakes and offered advice.
I was working around in the house and I had half an ear on what he was doing, and if he was doing something wrong, I would correct him (F of P-22).
I would go down when he was practicing and if I didn't like something, I would scream. If he was having trouble with something, we'd go in and figure it out. He wasn't allowed to [practice] mistakes. My ear was good enough, so I'd know if something was wrong (M of P-29).
The parents also applauded and encouraged the child's efforts and tried to convey to the child their interest and involvement. Even those who could not offer advice or corrections would help in other ways. For example, one mother remembers "walking across the room at a certain pace, like a walking metronome" when her son practiced particular pieces (e.g., a funeral march).
He would say, "You've been to funerals, do you think this is a good speed?" [So she would play along,] thinking, oh my god, the potatoes are overcooking. But he always came first. The potatoes could burn, but if that's what he wanted, that's what it would be (M of P-15).
The parents' involvement in daily practice helped the child prepare for lessons. It ensured the amount of practice time and prevented the child from practicing mistakes or "playing around" instead of concentrating on the task. But the parents' involvement also served as motivation and encouragement for the child's efforts.
The children love it because they don't feel they are being forced. [She] loved it when her father stayed with her or I stayed with her (M of P-1).
I would always sit down with him [to practice].... And I think that helped, especially when they're young. Because it's pretty hard just to sit down and practice without someone there beside you (M of P-4).
The parents of the athletes and musicians learned to judge their child's progress and assess his or her strengths or weaknesses. In addition to the frequent discussions with the instructor, the parents also evaluated the child's progress by attending meets or tournaments or recitals. And they attended all of them. They knew what the instructional goals were from their involvement in daily practice. They were learning more and more about the field-the rates of progress that were reasonable to expect and what the child's next goals would be. At the "public" events, the parents could judge the child's progress relative to the previous event and to the child's peers.
[We] didn't need [the coach] to tell us how all the children were doing. We could tell ourselves when we went to meets. Their times were progressively better, and they had a better outlook on what they were doing (M of S-l2).
[He] was always the hit of the show [recital] because he was so far advanced than the other children who had been taking lessons (M of P-15).
More resources and opportunities were provided to promote and encourage the child's learning in the field. The parents subscribed to talent-related magazines, bought books about composers, took the entire family on trips to weekend competitions, or attended concerts--all so the children could learn more about the field and observe the performance of the more advanced person in the field. Birthday gifts and special rewards became increasingly focused on talent-related materials and supplies.
The child's efforts in the field became a central part of the family's life. Discussions at the dinner table often focused on practice, the child's progress, future competitions, or the performance of other talents in the field. Musicians' families learned to accommodate the ever-present piano and the resulting distraction. In the athletes' homes, family vacations were planned around meets and tournaments, and workout schedules determined mealtimes. Close bonds were also developed with other families who had similar interests.
In these early years of talent development, the talent field provided ample opportunities for the family to enjoy activities together. In the car to and from practice, parents and children had the time to talk and they had topics to discuss. Meets, tournaments, recitals, and concerts became family affairs. Over and over we heard parents describe how enjoyable and rewarding these early experiences with the children were.
We used to go to the meets with the little kids, and you never got so excited when he was in the Olympics as you were when he was nine and ten and eleven years old (M of S-10).
He loved to play duets [with his mother], that was a big item. It was just more fun than anything (M of P 4).
I loved driving the youngsters around to the tournaments.... I really enjoyed taking them around. It was a great pleasure for me (M of T-11).
In addition to providing an opportunity for the family to pursue activities together, the talent field also became a means of translating the value of achievement into specific behaviors. The importance of goals and self-discipline were evident in the rules and expectations surrounding lessons and practice. The parents saw to it that the child worked consistently toward the goals set by the teachers or coaches. Progress was monitored by the parents at practice and at public performances. In some families, goals and progress were recorded on charts or in notebooks. When progress faltered, the parents discussed possible causes with the child and/or the teacher and sought solutions to the problem immediately.
Doing one's best was stressed continuously, with respect not only to public performances but also to daily practice. "Slacking off" during practice or repeating mistakes were cause for reprimand. As might be expected, the parents had different methods of handling this situation. Some appealed to the child's professed love of the field or reminded the child of goals and accomplishments that lay ahead. Others emphasized the time, energy, and resources already committed. Still others threatened to discontinue their support and provision of resources if the child was not dedicated to working hard.
Along with self-discipline and doing one's best were rewards and praise for a job well done. Ribbons and trophies decorated the family room; scrapbooks were filled with newspaper clippings. The joys and pride in winning were stressed, as was the satisfaction of doing your best even if you weren't first-this time. The parents were there with applause and verbal praise when goals were attained, with solace and encouragement when goals were not quite reached.
Special Notes on the Sculptors
Like the musicians and athletes, the sculptors learned to value the talent area (for the sculptors, this means the arts and cultural activities) from their parents, relatives, or family friends. They were encouraged by these adults to draw, paint, and experiment with model building and carpentry. Resources and materials were provided for them, and in many instances these adults taught the children specific skills.
Unlike the musicians and athletes, however, few of the sculptors were involved in formal instruction in the field during the elementary school years, other than art "periods" offered in public school. The degree and type of parental involvement in "practice" also contrasted with that of the athletes' and musicians' parents. There was an emphasis on independent learning and working alone in the sculptors' homes. Children were expected to define and pursue projects on their own. There was no scheduled time for artwork or related activities, such as building or working with models. The child was allowed to pursue this type of activity whenever he or she wished. Further, while the parents taught the children carpentry skills or some drawing and painting techniques, these "instructions" were provided primarily to help the child get started on a project. The parents were then available to help with problems, encourage efforts, and applaud accomplishments.
THE MIDDLE YEARS OF TALENT DEVELOPMENT: PARENTS ADAPT TO CHANGES IN THE CHILD'S TALENT DEVELOPMENT
After a few years of formal instruction, and with the support of the parents, the individuals in our sample were doing well in their talent lessons. As students in the talent field, these individuals were well prepared for lessons, were highly motivated, and were steadily improving.
The parents, and the individuals themselves, were encouraged by this early progress. The children found learning the basics in swimming or tennis or music fun and enjoyable. Listening to practice or watching local competitions were seen by the parents as pleasant ways to share experiences with their children. There came a time, however, when higher levels of attainment were envisioned. The parents no longer viewed the child's lessons in the talent field simply as exposure to an interesting and rewarding type of activity. They began to wonder what could be accomplished with more time, better teachers, and more challenging competition or material.
The change into the next period of talent development, termed the middle years in previous chapters, was frequently signaled by the switch from the beginning teacher to a more advanced instructor.4 With a new instructor, lessons were more difficult and intense. Practice was longer and more arduous. The child was now in competition with a more able group of children who had also worked hard to develop their talents. The goals to be attained at this point were higher. Few were aspiring to the 'limits of learning" in the field as yet, but they were working to become more accomplished, more serious, and more dedicated to the field. The child entered a new phase of education in the field. The family entered a new phase as well, one of focusing more attention, time, and resources the child and his or her development in the talent field.
The catalyst for changing instructors varied from family to family. Winning an important competition sometimes convinced the child and/or the parents and teachers to consider the child's potential more seriously. Success in competition or adjudications also opened doors and presented opportunities. The child, parents, teachers, relatives--or any combination of these--may have noted the need for a change for any number of reasons.
The new teachers did not need to be warm, supportive individuals like the beginning teachers. The instructors sought at this level of the child's development were those who had the technical expertise, the knowledge, and the "connection" necessary to expand the child's education and opportunities in the talent field. Usually the parents had to seek advice from teachers, coaches, or experts in the field to get information on prospective teachers.
Finding a more advanced teacher was one indication of fit parents' commitment to the child's talent development. Advanced instructors were not as common as beginning teachers. Advanced instructors were also more expensive, often farther away from home, and took only a limited number of students. The parents arranged auditions, paid the additional fees, and accommodated the longer and more frequent commutes to lessons and practice. In some instances, which will be discussed later in this section, major sacrifices were made by the parents and family members in order to provide quality instruction for the child.
Changes in the Parents' Roles tn Lessons and Practice
On the surface, the parents' participation in the child's lessons and practice decreased, as compared with the degree of involvement in the early years of talent development. The child had advanced beyond the parents' level of expertise in the field, so parents could no longer help with practice. Earlier motivational tactics, such as playing duets and marching in time with the metronome or devising little rewards for a good workout, were no longer appropriate for a child whose goals were to master a field of study and to compete against the standards set in serious competition.
Nonetheless, the demands on the parents' time and their financial and emotional resources increased. Supporting and encouraging the child during this second phase of talent development meant making the child's work a high priority in the family. These parents had tremendous respect for the child's efforts and achievement and were willing to do whatever was necessary to continue this support.
The increase in the time the child spent working in the field translated into greater demands on the family's time, and the family routine was again arranged to accommodate the child's practice schedule. The parents chauffeured the child to and from twice-daily workouts or to the nearby city for music lessons. They juggled mealtimes to conform to practice schedules or postponed family activities that interfered with the piano.
If he had to be at the Steinway upstairs, we just found someplace else to do what we had to do.... Hearing the piano at all hours, it was just part of our lives (M of P-7).
It was the early morning [practice schedule] that made it tough on the family...[but] I could get over there and back before the rest of the family was tearing around.... But it worked out...your dinner would be later, breakfast might be a little rushed... (MS-5).
The child's lessons, practice, and competitions in the field dominated the family's routine. Family vacations, weekends, and social activities were increasingly centered around the child's work in the field. Other interests were gradually eliminated. The families became "swimming families" or "tennis families" or "music homes" with the majority of time outside of school or jobs being spent in field-related pursuits.
Most of our vacations were frankly tennis-oriented (M of T-7).
The whole family revolved around the music, and unfortunately, I think that's what it takes (M of P-13).
Swimming was our way of life. All our vacations and extra money went into swimming weekends--that was our recreation (M of S-1).
The cost of equipment and supplies increased dramatically. The pianists, for example, needed a grand piano. As a teacher told one pianist's parents, "If they were going to be serious about his studying the piano, they had to do something about providing him with an instrument worthy of his lessons, of his commitment" (Brother of P-26). The cost of a grand piano was awesome, given this family's budget. But the parents
deprived themselves for him, they really did. Because they really couldn't afford the $10 weekly lessons, and the $3000 piano that they bought...that $3000 was earmarked for a new car for my father (Brother of P-26).
Travel expenses to national or regional competitions also became a part of the family budget. To continue to improve, athletes needed the experience of competing with more advanced talents. Pianists needed the experience of performing publicly and of being critiqued by experts at workshops and adjudications. The expense of sending the child or traveling with the child (which was more often the case, since these parents felt it was important to do things as a family) could run into thousands of dollars a year.
In addition to the financial and emotional support, and the time involved in lessons, practice, and attending competitions and adjudications with the child, the parents found ways to be involved in the field themselves. Athletes' parents became timers at meets, tournament officials, fund raisers for the team, assistants to the coach. Some of the musicians' parents became beginning teachers, using the skills they had learned while helping their own child.
I just took beginners. If they showed any real talent, I'd send them to another teacher, because I don't think they should be held back (M of P-4).
The parents did whatever they could to remove obstacles, soothe failures, help the child over humps. They placated school officials or made special arrangements when the child had to miss classes for practice or travel. They threatened, cajoled, listened sympathetically, sought remedies to problems, cried and laughed with the child. Note, for example, the ways two of the swimmers' parents treated problems associated with moving up through the ranks of age-group competition.
At ten and under, she was one of the top ten-year-olds in the country. At eleven years, she was at the bottom of the heap. She'd say. "Mom, what's wrong with me?" and we'd talk about "Well, you've grown, and it will take you a while." It took her close to two years to become accustomed to that extra height (M of S-9).
When he changed age groups. I remember he had been at the top of his age group, the ten-year-old, and he was winning first place.... Then when he turned twelve, he was at the very bottom and all these other kids were getting ready to go into the fourteen and naturally he was losing then, and he would say, "I think I'll quit swimming." And I would say. "There's just one thing. If you decide you want to quit swimming, I want you to quit while you're a winner. You just be a winner again. If you want to quit, quit, but don't quit while you're a loser." Then by the time he was a winner again, he didn't want to quit (M of S-10).
Providing emotional and motivational support was not new thing for these parents. They wanted their children to work hard and achieve, they enjoyed spending time with their children and being involved in the children's activities, ant they valued and respected the talent field.
However, the increased demands on their time, the family's life-style, and their financial resources required them to make difficult choices and decisions. The parents sometimes had doubts about the decision to make the child's efforts in the talent field a main priority. They did not always know if the choice of instructor or the timing of the competitions would b best for the child's progress in the talent field. They worried about the activities the child missed out on, "normal" activities that other adolescents pursued or activities the child enjoyed but had to eliminate.
She used to enjoy playing tennis, but the problem was that what was good for tennis is not good for the piano. She was told by her teacher not to play tennis, and she resented it. She's well coordinated and could have been a good tennis player, but she didn't pursue it (F of P-8).
I guess [he] didn't have a normal childhood, because it took so much out of him to play the tennis. He didn't have time when he came home, after the tennis he had to do his homework, it was late so he didn't have the time to run around in cars or go partying or get into drugs.... We felt it was a good choice.... He's met so many nice people and he's done a lot with his life (M of T-10).
[He] gave up quite a lot.... Parties, social life were greatly curtailed. Swimming had to come first, in our house, too, if you wanted to be good (M of S-12).
As illustrated in the foregoing quotes, the benefits of the child's involvement in the field outweighed the sacrifices, according to these parents. Using time productively, setting goals and doing one's best to attain them, and establishing priorities were a way of life. "You can only excel in one thing at a time," they believed, and defining a task and sticking with it was the way to excel. As one mother said,
When you finally get dedicated in preparing for a national competition, you have to put that first, because if you start putting it second, pretty soon it slides down the way-side and gets lost. Our house runs on a workout schedule.... We were all in training the summer of '76, before the timed trials (M of S-12).
One consequence of the parents focusing on the one child's development in the talent field was that they had less time to spend with other family members. Working to help the child learn and achieve often resulted in a closer relationship with this child than with the others.
[S-17] never went through a rebellious period like most children [e.g., the sister] do. But I think that was because we were so close. After she started swimming, we were with her all the time. It has left us with a very close relationship--sometimes it worries me--in fact we worried that it may be a little too close (M of S-17).
Other family members realized that one child was "special" in the family and received more time and attention from the parents.
[My other daughter] says. "Everytime it's my birthday, you're never home, you're at a swimming meet with [S-4]." She was swimming, but she'd be at another meet somewhere else and she would go with friends (M of S-4).
My daughter says we favor [P-23]. [And do you?] Yes, I guess it does happen. We were very proud of him--his performing and all. It's not that we weren't proud of the others. But because we like music and we understand more about music [than] that of what our older son is doing, that makes a difference (M of P-23).
When the individual in our sample was an only child, or the youngest by several years, this focusing of the parents' time and resources did not create a problem. But in a few extreme instances, the parents feel that the attention was too one-sided.
I'd like to give advice to those who have younger children. Don't give all your attention to the star, because there are other ones down there in the background. I wouldn't say that's all of [my younger son's adjustment problems], but I think that's part of it. I'm sure that had an effect on [my younger child], but you can't go back... (M of S-4).
Some families faced decisions that illustrated their commitment to one child and his or her development in the talent field in ways extreme even for our sample. These were the instances in which an advanced instructor was not available in the immediate vicinity. Major changes in the family were therefore necessary in order to provide the child with high quality instruction. In a few instances, the family moved to another city or state so that the child could study with a respected teacher or coach. In other cases, the family split into two households. Families who chose this option did so in one of two ways: Either the child moved nearer to the desired instructor and lived at a boarding school, with friends, or relatives; or the father became a "weekend parent," living within commuting distance of his job during the week while the mother and children lived within commuting distance of the instructor.
At this period in the children's development, no one was sure the child would "make it," or even what the final goal would be. So why were the parents willing to increase their commitment, to focus on one child's development in the talent field, and to adapt to the demands this increased commitment entailed? Even in those families in which extreme changes were not necessary, there were major sacrifices, doubts, and difficult decisions to be made.
One reason the parents gave was the pleasure and enjoyment they derived from watching the child develop in the talent field. Those children who progressed rapidly, who were consistent winners, provided consistent encouragement to the parents for their efforts.
Another reason for the parents' increased support for the one child was a sense of responsibility to develop the child's talent. For some, this feeling of responsibility derived from their perceptions of the child's specialness or potential in the field. Others listened to teachers, relatives, or friends who were impressed with the child's abilities and progress and who urged the parents to provide even more opportunities for the child.
In addition, a small percentage of parents were highly skilled in or knowledgeable about the talent area and were aware of the length of time and the changes implicit in the development of one's abilities in the field. These parents knew that reaching higher levels of accomplishment in the field depended on getting the right teachers at the right time, and spending long, arduous hours of practice. Because they valued the field themselves and could understand the child's needs, they were willing to adapt to the changes in the family during this period of the child's development.
The homes of the musicians and athletes are similar in the extent to which the family's time and resources were focused on the child's development in the talent field. The specific behaviors involved in this focusing were different. A swimmer's home, for example, had a different set of priorities, activities, discussion topics, even books and magazines, than did a pianist's home. In each of the four talent groups, however, resources, encouragement and support, models, and instructional opportunities were available in the environment.
In the sculptors' homes, this environmental support was exemplified in attitudes and behaviors that were different from those found in the pianists, swimmers, and tennis players. As discussed in the "Early Years" section of this chapter, the emphasis in the sculptors' homes tended to be on independent learning. These parents were less likely to monitor and guide their children's work than were the musicians' and athletes' parents.
The sculptors signed up for art, architecture, or mechanical drawing classes in high school. Thus, the parents were not usually involved in finding a teacher or the scheduling requirements of special classes. When the sculptors did enroll in special programs, the parents paid tuition and arranged for transportation and supplies.
Much of the sculptors' art education during this period took the form of visiting museums, reading art books, or experimenting with art tools and materials. These were solitary pursuits, and the parents by and large respected and encouraged these activities.
The parents' support and encouragement took many forms. Some parents converted areas of the home (e.g., basement, attic) so that the child would have the space and privacy to work. They provided material and supplies--torches for welding, canvas, paints, wood, and tools. A few prominently displayed the child's work in the home. Perhaps the most important form of support, in the sculptors' memories, was simply leaving the sculptor alone to engage in art and art-related activities.
Modeling, discussions of conceptual and technical issues, and the introduction to new ideas and skills were rarely the domain of the parents in the sculptors' group. Those sculptors who had these opportunities in their high school years (many did not until college) gained them through other adults. Family friends, neighbors, and relatives were often the ones who played these roles.
Some of the sculptors' parents were initially concerned when the child began speaking of art as a possible career. An art interest was fine, and should be encouraged, but the financial security of an artist left much to be desired. Some parents hinted at architecture or commercial art, or mentioned acquaintances who pursued art interests avocationally. Others were more explicit about their concerns, but all parents eventually reached the point where they agreed to continue their support for the child's art education.
THE PARENTS' ROLE IN THE LATER YEARS OF TALENT DEVELOPMENT
During the later years of talent development, the individuals in our sample typically studied with a master teacher in the field. The individual's education in the talent field was now under the guidance and tutelage of experts. As adolescents or young adults, the individuals in this study assumed the primary responsibility for pushing, driving, and motivating themselves. They had to make the talent field their own.
The parents were no less supportive, having resolved--or at least reduced--whatever doubts they may have had about their child's aspiration to strive for the highest levels of accomplishment. The parents, however, knew little about the requirements and demands of lessons and practice at this point in the adolescent's education. They were no longer in a position to open doors for their child; others who were experts or had "connections" in the field took on that responsibility.
The parents helped the adolescent make the transition. They consulted with teachers and experts to find the best teacher and/or school. They discussed the options with their child, weighing the benefits of a music school as opposed to a liberal arts college with a strong music department, for example. They visited colleges, talked with potential master teachers, and ultimately trusted the decision made by their child and his or her advisers.
Generally, the parents paid the tuition and living expenses for their children's final stages of formal education and training in the talent field. Many of the athletes received scholarships for their college years, although there were major expenses if they were coached by specialists not working in a college setting. The musicians and sculptors particularly needed financial assistance, as few individuals in these groups won scholarships or were sponsored by a specific group or patron. In these two groups, many parents continued to provide financial support after college while the young adult was becoming established as a promising young star in the field.
The complexities involved in these later years of talent development usually made it impossible for the parents to play a leading role in their child's decisions and progress. They remained a strong force in the background, however, as providers not only of financial support but also of emotional support. Perhaps most important, they offered a nurturant, understanding environment for their child to retreat to, if necessary. From their years of involvement in the child's talent development, they could share and appreciate the successes and lend a sympathetic ear to the failures.
The parents in our sample continue to enjoy and support their children's work. The swimmers' careers as swimmers ended with the Olympics, but the pianists, sculptors, and, to some extent, the tennis players anticipate long-term careers. The parents continue to attend competitions, concerts, and art shows. Many of the parents in each of the groups have continued their own involvement in the talent field, utilizing the skills and experience they gained from their participation in their own child's talent development.
DISCUSSION OF THE FINDINGS
The preceding sections of this chapter summarize the typical pattern of parental support and encouragement throughout the many years of talent development. Many more detailed aspects of the values, attitudes, and behaviors these parents reported could be further analyzed and discussed. An extensive analysis of many subtle differences among the home environment processes of these four groups is beyond the limits of this chapter. The points are worthy of special attention, however. These generalizations emerged very strongly in the pianists', swimmers', and tennis players' homes, but were not as strong in the sculptors' homes.5
First, we were struck by the degree to which the athletes' and musicians' families were "child-centered." The vast majority of these mothers did not work outside the home, which was not unusual in the 1950s. Many of them, however, reported rarely, if ever, leaving their children with baby-sitters. The parents were also willing to channel their own interests into the child's activities, to rearrange their schedules to conform to the child's activities, and to devote awesome amounts of time to monitoring practice and attending meets, workouts, and tournaments.
Shared family activities were encouraged. The talent field proved to be an excellent way for the parents and children to enjoy and benefit from family interactions. The parents placed great importance on spending time with the children and becoming involved in the children's activities. They saw shared experiences as a foundation for close relationships, and the family's involvement in the talent field provided a mutually attractive situation around which to share these experiences. One mother spoke for many when she said, "As far as I'm concerned, [the talent field] helped our family become a family, because we were spending all this time together" (M of S-12).
The second point is the degree of concentration on the child's development in the particular talent field. The child's progress in the talent field was clearly important to the parents, but lessons and practice in the field were not the child's only activities. The parents expected their children to have opportunities and experiences in other areas as well. Cub Scouts or Brownies, dancing lessons, baseball, class plays, and summer camp were as likely to be a part of the athlete's childhood as they were a pianist's or artist's. The parents admitted, however, that they were not as involved in these "extra" activities as they were in the child's lessons in the talent field. They did not apply the same standards of time or performance to these other activities.
It was not always clear why the parents focused more heavily on one of the child's activities. Their own interest in the talent area played apart. They enjoyed some activities more than others and were willing to spend time participating in activities related to their special interests.
The parents' value of achievement also seems to have played a role in making the talent field a priority. The parents placed a great deal of emphasis on doing one's best and achieving. For any number of reasons (for example, the degree of parental supervision and provision of resources, the early introduction to the field, or the parents' value of the talent area), the child did very well in early lessons in the talent field. The parents were well aware of the child's progress, through their own involvement, and less aware of the child's other accomplishments. When the time demands of lessons and practice in the talent field increased, the parents encouraged the child to drop other competing activities in favor of the talent field. They believed the child had a better chance of becoming a high achiever, in the talent field. This was the field the child was doing best in and was, therefore, the field that should have priority.
The individuals who eventually attained the limits of learning in their respective fields were seen as "special" in the family. The parents not only focused their attention on one area of the child's development, they also focused more of their attention and resources on this particular child.
Typically, more than one child in the family was involved in lessons in the particular talent field. These were family activities, and most of the children in the family were exposed to the talent area as a consequence of family membership. But in only a very small number of the cases did one of the siblings come close to the level of accomplishment in the talent field that the individual in our sample attained.
The child who "made it" was not always the one who was considered to be the most "talented." Many parents described another one of their children as having more "natural ability." The characteristics that distinguished the high achiever in the field from his or her siblings, most parents said, was a willingness to work and a desire to excel. Persistence, competitiveness, and eagerness were other often-used terms.
During the period of early instruction, these "characteristics" were noted by parents in the child's approach to lessons and practice in the field. This child more readily submitted to the regime of daily practice. He or she followed instructions, concentrated on the task, and seemed to enjoy practice instead of considering it a drudgery. The parents appreciated the child's responses to lessons and practice. Working with this child--taking him or her to lessons, discussing progress, helping with practice--was pleasant because the child was willing to do the work and was enthusiastic.
While the parents did not necessarily feel that this child was more "gifted" than the other children in the family, they did believe that this child showed more promise for excellence in the field. As the parents learned about the number of hours of practice needed to master certain skills, they realized that the child who was more willing to "work at it" was more likely to do well. In the early instruction period, we began to see evidence of this child gaining a special status in the family as the one with the most potential for success in the talent field.
The indications of the "specialness" were, at first, subtle. There were rarely explicit pronouncements in the family that this child was to be given special consideration and privileges. Rather, it seems to have been a gradual process. Parents made small concessions at first. For example, these children were excused from household chores and responsibilities because "we felt homework and practice were making enough demands on his time.... We let him have full rein of time [for practice] and [did] not force him to do things that other children have to do" (M of P-15). As long as the child was practicing, which was considered a constructive activity, the parents felt that the child was working and learning. They also understood that the child could not excel in everything at once. So, we see some of these extremely achievement-oriented parents being satisfied with average, or sometimes mediocre, school grades, for example, as a trade-off for the talent development.
Our data suggest that the parents spent more time working with this child on the talent field than they did with other children who were also taking lessons. Most parents reported making conscious efforts to distribute their time and attention as equally as possible, but it became increasingly difficult to do this. Even when all of the children were swimming, for example, the parents often had to make chokes about which meets to attend. Recall the sibling's complaint cited earlier, that "'everytime it's my birthday, you're never home, you're at a swimming meet with [X].'"
The parents see their child's development in the talent field as an important part of their family's life. They feel strongly about this, despite some of the problems previously discussed. There were comments such as, "The whole family revolved around music. And, unfortunately, I think that's what it takes." But the field also provided "a common interest and a common goal. As far as I was concerned, it helped our family become a family, because we were spending all this time together."
Looking back at their role in the process, the parents are pleased, but still a little dazed, by the results. They recall, as young parents, having had initial ideas about experiences they would like their children to have and standards they would like them to attain. They wanted to do whatever they could to give their support and to promote achievement. But gradually, accomplishing these seemingly innocent goals required more and more of the parents' time and resources. Almost without realizing the cumulative effects of their involvement, the parents found themselves caught up in the process of one child's development of talent. As one parent said,
...all of a sudden it was big business. It was too late to back out. I suppose if we had gone into it with our eyes open, we would have done the same thing. But I had no idea of what we were getting into--at all (M of S-9).
Another mother mused, "Funny how you get into these things before you know how much work it's going to entail" (M of S-10).
At the conclusion of each interview, we asked the parents if they would do anything differently. Most thought not, believing their decisions and courses of action over the years were necessary for their child's success. The choices were not always easy.
We did feel an obligation to provide opportunities, and that made it hard--not knowing if you were making the right decision. We still wonder what would have happened if we had made different decisions (M of P-5).
A variety of "different decisions" could have been made. The parents could have been less involved with their child's development. They could also have promoted the development of different talents. We have some ideas why the parents chose to focus their commitment on one child and one area of talent. What would have happened had the parents been less involved in sports or music is something we, and the parents, can only speculate about. As one mother said,
I often think that with ourselves and with these children that there are so many possibilities of talent that lie undiscovered and "Did you develop the right one?" I ask that of myself (M of S-13).
We believe, as do the parents, that the parents' interest and participation in the child's learning contributed significantly to his or her achievement in the field. We find it difficult to imagine how these children could have gotten good teachers, learned to practice regularly and thoroughly, and developed a value of and commitment to achievement in the talent field without a great deal of parental guidance and support. The role of the home in supporting the long process of talent development is only one piece of the picture, but it is a crucial one.
1 This chapter focuses on the psychomotor and aesthetic areas in the study. The processes of home support and encouragement for talent development described in this chapter also apply to the cognitive area. The reader is referred to the chapters on research mathematicians and research neurologists for specific descriptions of the role of the home in the development of talent in these fields.
2 The work ethic, a common term that aptly describes these parents' views. Achievement-oriented, goal-oriented, or getting-ahead philosophy also apply.
3 The sculptors did not take special classes in their talent area as early or as consistently as did the musicians and the athletes. Only a few had formal lessons outside of school, and these lessons generally lasted only a few weeks or a year or two. The homes of the sculptors, therefore, are not included in this discussion. See the special note at the end of this section.
4 The middle years is defined slightly differently for the sculptors. This period for the sculptors is marked by an increased "seriousness" toward art, just as the athletes and musicians became more serious about their studies in their respective fields. For most of the sculptors, however, this period marks the beginning of their formal instruction in art in high school or other art classes.
5 In the sculptors' homes, resources were available, values and attitudes were supportive of the eventual career decisions, and ample opportunities were provided for the child to develop skills and interest in art activities. The focusing on one child and one special talent field, however, were not as pronounced in these homes.
In order to guarantee our subjects' anonymity, we have used a coding system for quote attributions that works as follows: Each talent field is assigned an appropriate initial letter, such as P for Pianist or S for Swimmer. The talented individuals are thus referred to as P-2 (for Pianist 2) or S-3 (for Swimmer 3). Similarly, the parents are coded as follows: M of P-2 (Mother of Pianist 2) or F of S-3 (Father of Swimmer 3).