|For parents then, fixing their child’s weaknesses was their way of helping them grow up to be successful adults / Photo by: dolgachov via 123RF|
At a parent-teaching meeting, Kasey Edwards of the daily compact newspaper The Sydney Morning Herald was asked: “What are your child’s strengths?”
She spoke to her friends after the meeting. Apparently, several admitted to being baffled by the question, as they could not think of anything to answer it. It doesn’t mean that their child doesn’t have any innate strength. It’s just their parents do not notice them right away.
According to Edwards, the struggle in identifying your child’s strengths stems from how children were parented. The common parenting style of the past was “corrective.” For parents then, fixing their child’s weaknesses was their way of helping them grow up to be successful adults. Moreover, parents were also conditioned to determine the warning signs of failure to the point that they did not acknowledge the skills their child was great at.
Positive psychology expert at the University of Melbourne professor Lea Waters stated that our brains are wired to “avoid what’s going wrong” before noticing “what’s going right.” She suggested “strength-based parenting” to help kids recognize and nurture their skills.
What Is Strength-Based Parenting?
This approach highlights and develops your child’s strengths. Strength-based parenting also encourages parents not to dwell on their kids’ weaknesses, wrote Kaitlin Ahern of American parenting magazine Parents.
The executive director of Gallup’s Donald O. Clifton Child Development Center Mary Reckmeyer, Ph.D. explained, “Innate talents—those behaviors, thoughts, and feelings that come naturally to you—don't change much over time.” Moreover, instead of pooling their energy into “fixing” what’s wrong or forcing their child “to be someone else’s idea of perfect,” parents should embrace their own and their child’s skills and interests.
So, what happens when parents reprimand their kids for their struggles? It will affect the way children feel about themselves. If parents dwell too much on their mistakes or struggles, children may grow up feeling inadequate. For Waters, it’s counterproductive. She asserted0, “We mistakenly believe that the way to make our kids optimistic and resilient is to weed out all their weaknesses.”
However, strength-based science reminds everyone to draw their attention to fostering a child’s strengths “rather than reducing their weakness.” In theory, it sounds lovely, but how about in practice? For example, if a child struggles to read, does a parent take their time to highlight the positives?
It’s not about ignoring your child’s inability to read, Waters reminded. It’s about offering help. When a child doesn’t define themselves “by what’s missing,” they can enumerate the things they’re good at such as playing basketball or figuring out computers, for example. Sounds counterintuitive, right? However, emphasizing the skills your child is good at will enable you to address their weaknesses. Children are going to get defensive if parents keep worrying about what they’re not good at. This will make them feel helpless about themselves, which will prevent them from working on their weaknesses.
|Strength-based parenting also encourages parents not to dwell on their kids’ weaknesses / Photo by: ammentorp via 123RF|
How to Be A Strength-Based Parent
1. Identify Your Child’s Strengths
Waters recommended asking your child, “What do you love to do,” “What excites you the most,” “What are you passionate about?” Observe which activities or environments they’re naturally drawn to, per Doctor Reckmeyer’s suggestion. Try to determine which skills or activities your child picks up easily. If your precious one feels enthusiastic about doing certain activities, then that’s a sign that they are “working in an area of talent.” If you were able to identify the aforementioned clues, then it’s a green flag to help nurture your child’s skills.
2. Tap into Your Child's Skills
How? By encouraging them to pursue and hone the skills they're naturally good at. By making your child an expert in a particular skill set, you are also helping them hone their self-confidence. Moreover, Reckmeyer recommended finding ways to use their skills as a motivational tool if they struggle in a particular subject like math.
For example, you can challenge your child to finish their math homework before dinner if they are naturally competitive. If they are gregarious, then make them join a study group. The point here is to help your child be good enough at the subject they're having difficulty with. Of course, they can still dedicate time to hone the subjects they excel at.
|After identifying your strengths, ask yourself how you can forge a strong partnership with your child's teachers and other adults / Photo by: Oksana Kuzmina via 123RF|
3. Stop and Think
We live in a hyper-competitive and connected world. Experiencing parenting peer pressure may be inevitable. It's tempting to make your child the master of anything and everything. But Reckmeyer suggested to take a step back and reflect. Learn to appreciate, acknowledge, and build on your child's skills.
Additionally, consider which activities will best suit your child based on their interests. Let go of parenting peer pressure by knowing your own strengths and reminding yourself that your child is an individual.
4. Work Things Out
After identifying your strengths, ask yourself how you can forge a strong partnership with your child's teachers and other adults. Give them an inside look at your child's abilities and share your best practices. Of course, expect adults and instructors to share their techniques with you.
Congratulations! You are now taking steps in fostering a strength-based environment.