Most of us are used to being told what we need to improve upon. In performance reviews at work, there is often a focus on what isn’t going well rather than what is. As adults, we tend to focus on what’s missing rather than what’s good. Wouldn’t you like to get beyond the bad stuff and move onto focusing what’s actually good?
Strength-based parenting offers a different outlook for parents which allows us to focus more on what is going right rather than what is going wrong. Studies have shown that strengths-based parenting approaches offer a better way to empower our children to become successful and confident adults. Who in turn, as adults themselves learn to focus on what they have in abundance rather than what they are missing.
Unfortunately, though, it’s human nature to focus on what’s going wrong. In fact, this is a long formed survival technique, as hundreds of years ago, the natural reaction would be to look for threats in the environment before opportunity. It’s served us well over the years, preventing the human species from a number of threats, but now it seems that our brains are almost pre-determined to look for what could go wrong rather than what could go right.
When trying to identify a strength, it is useful to look at what do we do well and what are we good at. When you look at your children, you may notice they are fully immersed in an activity. So much so that they engage in a sense of flow, where they lose the concept of time and focus only on the activity in hand. I see this when my child is painting. Nothing else matters to them and they perform to their highest ability. Afterwards, they often have high energy and self-motivation. It is a joy to watch.
Everyone has multiple strengths. These can be physical strengths, such as being the strongest or fastest. Emotional strengths, such as having high emotional intelligence or intellectual strength, such as being able to grasp new maths concepts quickly. To give you an example, if you take a strengths-based parenting approach to a typical problem it would look like this:
My hallway is often littered with school bags, scarves and shoes as the kids dump them there in a rush to get in after a long day at school. Previously I would have berated them to move their things, eventually ending up moving them myself for fear of someone falling over the errant shoe and breaking a bone. They became used to this pattern over time, that if they left their bag and shoes there eventually Mum would come and tidy it up.
I’ve now focused on my eldest’s strength of timekeeping and calmness. I showed them how much time they were wasting in a morning looking for the missing other shoe (that could be anywhere – one has been found upstairs and one downstairs in the past.) These precious few minutes added up and the environment often got tense in the morning. Through explanation, they understood that this was extra time they could spend in the morning doing things that they wanted to do rather than listening to me berate them over the missing school shoe once again! The atmosphere is once again calmer in the mornings and the shoes have remained paired together in the shoe rack.
It’s important to call out, that strengths-based parenting is not a cure for all discipline issues, You can’t ignore something fundamental by saying – well that room is messy because being tidy is not one of their strengths so that’s Ok. It does not excuse bad behaviour. As a parent, it takes a constant awareness and practice to pause and look for the strength first as it is always easier to find the negative.
Strengths-based parenting is not about false praise. It is about acknowledging the uniqueness of that child and their own innate strengths and abilities. When a parent is honest with their child about their own strengths they begin to see it too and begin to shine with confidence in their abilities.
Through history, most parents try to be better parents than their own. As generations evolve, what may have been an acceptable parenting approach back in the day, can now seem antiquated and outdated. Everyone wants a better life for their children than they had. Helping children understand their full potential via their strengths gives them a solid platform for the future.
If you are struggling to see how you can apply strengths-based parenting in your own home try these simple steps:
1. Look at your child and see what they get energy from. What makes excited and happy? What brings them joy? If you are struggling here, you can always ask the child to come up with the list themselves.
2. What do they naturally do well at? What appears to come easily to them? What do they not struggle with? It may be a sport or a topic in school.
3. What activities do you naturally praise? Sometimes the strength is in plain view. It just takes you a moment to recognise that it has been there all along.
May the strengths be with you!