I recently read a great book by Times journalist and one time Olympic Table Tennis star Matthew Syed called Bounce.
I highly recommend it to all dads.
Through a long study Mr Syed concludes that it is nurture not nature that determines talent. It's not that we're born to be brilliant, we become brilliant, and we only become brilliant through practice.
The book gives countless examples of kids who have mastered their profession in later life through dedicated practice in their early years.
David Beckham would take a ball to the local park every day and practice his free kicks, aiming for the exact same spot on a wall with every kick.
Tiger Woods, encouraged by his father Earl, was playing pitch and putt golf at the age of 2
The Williams sisters spent hours with their father on pothole riddled tennis courts before going on to professional coaching and dominating the women's game.
Syed himslef, places all of his table tennis success on the fact his parentes brought a table when he was young and he played every day
There are many more example from the world of arts, chess, medicine and countless others.
Here's my most recent experience.
After 3 consecutive failures to pass a times tables test at school I introduced a daily ritual for my son to practice. The school's test requires him to correctly answer all 50 questions within 5 minutes. There is no pre warning of when the test will occur so the children need to be ready at all times.
Despite reciting tables daily he couldn't answer all the questions in the set time. "Daddy, I'm just not good at Maths," he would say.
So we started to replicate the test at home. Being economical with paper I printed 2 sets of 50 questions on one page.
To start with his performance was similar to that at school. He'd answer all the questions correctly but would run out of time. Within a week he was answering correctly and finishing before the timer ran out. Within 2 weeks he was correctly answering the questions from both tests within the five minute limit, therefore working at double the required rate to pass.
I was amazed that so much improvement could be made in such a short period, and all through practice.
He believed he 'just wasn't good at Maths'. It turns out, with practice, he is.
As parents we should encourage this 'can do' mind set. Our children need to believe that skills or talent or intellect can improve over time, if we practice, persevere and work hard. We need to celebrate and reward their effort as well as their results. We need to teach them that failure is part of the learning process and a catalyst to future success.
And, of course, this applies to everything, from the sports field to the classroom to hobbies and games.
Not all kids will bend it like Beckham at Wembley Stadium or fade it like Woods at Augusta. But with a belief they can improve they are much more likely to overcome difficulty and be successful.