Tag Positive Psychology

Six Tips for Finding Your Kid’s Strengths

dance, coolWhile 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 happy aa boycode 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 2 happy teens, african-americanfamily 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 adaptdoesn’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!

Using Positive Psychology in Parenting

happy Asian familyPositive psychology (PP) is that branch of psychology that studies what promotes emotional experiences of joy and cognitive experiences of meaning. Instead of asking the question that clinical psychology traditionally asks (i.e., “how can problem x be healed?”) PP wonders, “what can each of us do to feel happy and satisfied?” As parents we do well to both model and teach these strategies to our kids.

Parenting walk and talk are both important. However, the walk seems to matter more. In this context, how happy we are has a great deal to do with how much energy we have for parenting and how often we parent with intention (i.e., doing and saying those things that we most wish to do and say, instead of reacting out of fatigue or pain). Moreover, our kids our affected by our modeling in profoundly impactful ways, and often in a manner that is outside of their awareness The type of world we live in (i.e., mostly happy versus something else) predicts the type of world they live in and the type of world they will live in in the future.

Below are my 10 favorite PP strategies to practice and to teach your kids about:

• Practice gratitude. This can be by way of a daily, weekly, monthly or intermittent practice. This can be an internal event (e.g., counting one’s daily blessings before bed or in the shower) or a specific exercise (e.g., writing a gratitude letter).

• Practice acts of kindness. The “helper’s high” is an empirically established happy black woman backgroundphenomenon. This can be done in simple ways both with strangers (e.g., paying for the coffee of someone behind you in the drive through) or loved ones (e.g., doing someone else’s chore) or can be more elaborate (e.g., volunteering at a pet shelter, taking a loved one to a vacation spot they’ve been aching to visit).

• Think adaptively. This can involve using coping thoughts to lift your mood (i.e., keeping true thoughts in mind that give you energy) or thought testing to reduce the impact of painful thoughts that are not true.

• Use your strengths. This supposes that you know what your top strengths are. You then make sure to use them on a regular basis, preferably weaving them into your vocational life.

• Be mindful. This involves tuning into the details of the moment of time you are in—and I mean all of the minutia of the moment. Cognitive and affective pain tend to live in the past and the future while peace tends to live in the present.

joyful couple• Live by the crisis = pain + opportunity formula. When hammers hit give them their due (i.e., experience the pain without denial or suppression) but then look for the opportunity that is always there, and to a dose that usually surpasses the dosing of the pain.

• Forgive. Forgiving is like flushing a toxin out of the body. It can also produce profound experiences of meaning.

• Sleep, eat and exercise well.

• Be kind to yourself. If what you tell yourself about yourself were all written out in a book what would the overall tenor be? This strategy includes talking to yourself the way you would have others talk to your child.

• Practice the serenity prayer. (You can be an atheist and benefit from this.) This practice combats codependency and helps you to have an adaptive response when you experience injustice. (I’m convinced that the more a person lives a high road life the more that person will experience injustice.)

Want to learn more about these strategies? I have three suggestions:glasses and book

#1: Enter what you want to know more about in the search bar above. I’ve written articles on several of these techniques; some of those blog entries also include suggestions for further reading.

#2: Read my parenting book. I end each chapter with specific exercises for parents from the positive psychology literature.

#3: Sorry, this one is only for people who live by me in Northeastern PA. This June and July (2014) I will be running an 8-session happiness seminar. To learn more, visit www.explorehappiness.com.

Good luck!


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