While I don’t have the space here to share the statistical theory that supports this assertion, all kids, barring significant brain injury or dysfunction, possess at least one top strength. Using this strength, or strengths, in ways that matter, is a major component of any child developing a sense of personal competence and efficacy, which then heavily influences the development of self-esteem. The problem is that many youth have no idea that they possess such a strength, and have little or no experience wielding it in the world. Below are six suggestions for identifying and promoting your kid’s strength(s).
#1: Just like plants grow their branches around obstacles towards the light, kids’ behaviors will often gravitate towards their strengths. So observe what s/he does when not sedentary. Sometimes these behaviors are on the beaten path (e.g., she likes to shoot baskets) while at other times they are not (e.g., he likes to write poetry), but keeping an eye out can be a very important part of a strength development program.
#2: Consider arranging for your child to complete an online evaluation. These tools generate theories abpuit your child’s top personality strengths, which can then help to point you in a given direction. For example, The Values in Action (VIA) Strength Survey for Children can be taken by youth ages 10 to 18; it is available, at no charge, at www.authentichappiness.com (find it under the tab labeled “Questionnaires”). StrengthsExplorer For Ages 10 to 14: From Gallup, the Creators of StrengthsFinder is a book that includes an access code to an online assessment tool; it is designed for ages 10 to 14 (older adolescents may take StrenthsFinder 2.0; a 10th Grade reading level is required). However, be careful to not view these reports as tablets coming down the mountain. Such tools are most helpful when they are used to develop theories about your child’s personality strengths.
#3: If your child has identified a top strength, try to put it into action. The more s/he uses it the more resilience will accrue to him or her, among other benefits. Also, there are few moments that are more joyful in parenting than observing your child wield a top strength.
#4: While (of course) there is nothing wrong with engaging an activity that isn’t a top strength (or else I would have to quit golf), it would generally be a good idea to look for independent confirmation that the skill at hand is a top strength before sacrificing significant family resources on its altar. We parent-lunatics are often not the best appraisers of our kid’s strengths. So, seek feedback from experts that are willing to be straight with you before investing in it to a degree that hurts; also, keep in mind that experts who stand to benefit financially from a positive review may sometimes not be objective. Of course, if the strength involves participating in competitions, how your child does in those can also tell you a lot, especially as your child competes beyond a local level.
#5: We should be mindful of the costs that can be involved with pushing too much or too little. Once we find our child’s top strength, it will need to be cultivated if it is to flourish. Sometimes this cultivation necessitates engaging activities that don’t feel fun to our child or which require discipline. As is the case so often in parenting, we do well to strive for the middle ground. Too little engagement on our part and our child may not develop his or her ability to do things when s/he doesn’t feel like it or develop the strength at hand. Too much engagement and our relationship can become conflict laden and our child may come to despise the activity. Of course, finding this middle ground isn’t always easy as it usually moves as our child matures or regresses, making listening and adaptation very important.
#6: If you’d like tailored help for this consider seeking out the services of a qualified child psychologist. For a referral, click here.
Good luck helping your progeny to soar!