What Does Encanto Teach Us About Placing Value on Our Kids' "Special Gifts?"

I’ve been thinking a lot about Encanto and the parenting lesson behind the premise. If you haven’t seen it, Encanto is about a girl named Mirabel who comes from a family where each member has been bestowed a magical gift. These gifts are revealed to the children through special golden doors at a certain age. The children’s gifts help serve their town which brings prominence to the family and pride to their grandmother, the matriarch of the family. For instance, one daughter has the gift of super strength, while another has the ability to grow flowers.

In the opening song, we learn that Mirabel, for whatever reason, did not receive a special gift like the others. She went to her ceremony, opened her door and there was simply nothing there. The rest of the movie revolves around Mirabel grappling with her importance to the family in the absence of a magical power. Is it still out there waiting to be revealed to her? Or must she accept herself for exactly who she is? Then it’s slowly revealed that the rest of the kids are feeling pressure to live up to identities that they did not choose themselves. Will my grandmother still love me if I do not use the gift I was given? Do I have any value to the family if I am not exceptional?

As a parent, this resonated with me because I often feel like part of my job is identifying each kids’ “thing.” And because neither of my girls has chosen a particular passion to pursue in a big way on their own, sometimes I feel like I have failed them in this area. Mazzy is an excellent artist and Harlow is a natural born dancer, so I’ve tried repeatedly to encourage them to take those skills and make the most of them, but they both seem content to keep them as casual hobbies. Meanwhile many of their friends are on teams and doing competitions. I’ve always thought, if I don’t push them to hone their natural gifts while they have the opportunity, they will regret it later. I can pay for the classes! Why don’t you take me up on it??? But Encanto has me wondering if encouraging them has as much to do with my selfish desire to have children who are exceptionally good at something, as it does with teaching them the value of what you can accomplish if you really apply yourself. And maybe, all this “encouraging,” is teaching my kids that they need to achieve excellence (or at least try) to be valued.

What do you think? Where you do draw the line between healthy encouragement and being too pushy? How do you separate what you want from what’s good for your kids? Is our society too wrapped up in little kids identifying their gift early and achieving a level of excellence? Is it good when it happens naturally but too much pressure when it doesn’t? Is it unhealthy to always look for ways to exploit talent instead of just letting kids enjoy stuff? Is it okay if your kid never has a “thing?”

Let me know in the comments!

There’s a new perk for paid subscribers!

Apparently is a reader-supported newsletter by Ilana Wiles with both free and paying subscribers. If you become a paying subscriber, you will gain access to locked posts and my new “close friends” group on Instagram where I’ve been posting additional daily stories and answering questions about the new apartment. If you click the subscribe button and upgrade to paid, you will immediately get an email with instructions to join!

Subscribe or Upgrade!