Talent Skips A Generation: Myth or Fact?

By Qin Sun Stubis

If your parents happen to be extremely good at something that you are not, you may laugh and invoke the old maxim, Talent skips a generation. It sounds like a perfect explanation, one that has been used for centuries. But is it really true?

The saying has become an idiom that many cite without challenging its validity. If it were indeed true, and if our parents happen to be famous and capable, should we then just quit trying all together and resign ourselves to being part of the skipped generation?

Scientists and medical experts have spent years studying and analyzing genetic intelligence and human IQ, trying to understand how and why some people are smarter or better at certain things than others. Inquisitive people have turned to their own family lines searching for clues without getting consistent answers. Their unsatisfied curiosity has even spilled out onto the Internet with Google reporting more than 13 million hits for this age-old saying. After all, we all want to be among the special and talented people. They rank high in our society, make more money, and are more respected. And, we wonder whether or not we happen to be handicapped, or destined for lives of success and fame even before we were born.

We have solved many equally, if not more, challenging issues before. We can send people to the moon, make ships several city blocks long and map out the genetics of various life forms. Yet, we have a hard time determining why Johnny is not the basketball player his father is, or why Kelly doesn’t have her mother’s eye for art. We could always turn to molecular biologists or evolutionary scientists for plausible explanations, but is it possible that we’re looking for answers in the wrong places?

There might be a simpler explanation. Talented parents, for an example, often have more education and hold important jobs. They tend to be in high demand and have less time for their children. With hectic working schedules and lots of traveling, their kids are often left to be raised by nannies, governesses or relatives, and are less connected with their parents’ talent.

Secondly, talented parents tend to have higher standards for their children and are often more critical. As a result, their children may feel they’re not able to live up to their parents’ expectations, or are afraid to compete with their successful parents. Some children may also rebel against their parents’ criticism and do the opposite of what their parents want.

Whatever the reasons may be for talent sometimes skipping a generation, remember that talent simply means someone is good at something.

Discovering what you are good at is essential to a happy and successful life. And, what you’re good at may have nothing to do with what your parents or siblings are good at. So don’t readily compare yourself with the others around you. Parents: Don’t forget to encourage your children to explore many areas of interest. Encouragement always works better than criticism.

Children: Don’t let other people’s talent intimidate you, especially your parents’. Having accomplished parents simply means that your parents have found their strengths. And, now it’s your turn to find yours. The world is your treasure map, and your talent is a pot of gold buried somewhere for you to discover. So be adventurous and open-minded.

Talent skips a generation: Myth or fact? You tell me.

You can always reach me at qstubis@gmail.com.

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4 Responses to Talent Skips A Generation: Myth or Fact?

  1. bill says:

    I’ve been trying to figure that out with musical skills. My parents were not musical, yet many cousins my age were. I had no talent but my son is skilled musically, plays a number of instruments. His son, my grandson displays a talent even greater than his dad. Go figure.

  2. Rick says:

    I have been trying to figure out if not just talent but also intelligence can skip a generation. My parents were heavy substance abusers. After quitting their substance of choice they became alcoholics. My father got into a atv accident and now has the mentality of a 10 year old and lost all interest in any old habit or addictions. My mother still drinks alcohol heavily though. My father never graduated high school and my mom barely did. I am not addicted to any substance. I went to college and live a completely opposite lifestyle than my parents. I have had no opportunities to help me be successful but I worked several jobs and hardly slept until I was done with college and I am building a new home with my bare hands with do it yourself books. Why are my parents and I so opposite?

  3. My father was good at sport. Though I respect his achievements, I dislike sport. So in that sense the talent has skipped a generation, because of course I could not be talented at something I’m disinclined to to pursue. I still feel I’ve not equalled or surpassed the successes of either of my parents in the field I’m most passionate about (writing). And I blame the Internet for that, because I feel that when I blog something it’s akin to throwing it into the (electronic) ocean. Then again I might be less likely to have an outlet for my passion if not for the web’s existence. It’s just often so difficult to find motivation in the absence of financial incentive.

  4. Geanine says:

    I think it’s mostly a matter of choice, along with how a person is treated as they grow up. If talented parents have poor parenting skills it definitely has an effect on their children. It’s cruel to expect your children to be interested in and talented like they were. I’ve seen alot of parent bullying where children are trying to learn a sport and trying to fit in and the parents pressure them because of their own vanity. It’s disgusting! I’ve always believed that for the great majority of kids they grow up inspite of their parents.

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