Strengths are the characteristics or behaviors that come more easily to your child. These are things they may naturally be good at or they have a natural inclination to exhibit towards other people. Often these strengths will be something that the child may not even identify as being strengths. In fact, in adult samples, two-thirds of adults have difficulty identifying the strengths they possess.
There is a term called “strengths blindness”. The basic idea is individuals may have a hard time seeing what they do as being a strength even though those around them readily identify it as a strength.
Two ways you can help identify strengths in your child.
1. Strength Spotting is a strategy parents can utilize to better identify strengths of their child. When children are using their strengths they likely are:
a. energized and display high levels of engagement during and after using the strength
b. become so engrossed in an activity they lose track of time
c. show very rapid learning curves in areas that are strengths
d. have a repeated pattern of successful performance in the area
e. are performing above age-appropriate levels in the skill or trait
Raising your child’s awareness is really the first step. Look for the situations mentioned above where your child tends to excel at doing things. You can also look to comments made by other people about your child about what they do well.
Spend some time this week identifying strengths in your child through strength spotting. Remember it could be a specific activity or character trait.
2. You can have your child complete the Values in Action Youth Survey (http://www.viacharacter.org). This can be completed by children 10 and up. The surveys help parents and children understand their unique strengths profile. It takes about 15 minutes to complete.
The cool part to the child completing the youth survey is that it generates a list of strengths identified by the child. This is important because it comes from their perspective not your perspective as a parent.
As a child moves towards adolescence, they begin to individuate from their parents and start developing their own perspective on things. It is important for the child to say “this is what I’m good at” rather than “this is what my parents think I’m good at”.
Like most things, a focus on strengths needs to be a deliberate, conscious choice.
It is one thing to identify the strengths your child possesses. You should also additionally look at how the strengths of your child can be incorporated in their day-to-day activities and interactions.
Spend some time talking with your child about what you have noticed as well as what the strengths survey showed. I have found very few children tend to resist this activity in part because the focus is on something very positive about them.
You could brainstorm with them how these skills might be incorporated more in their life. Most kids though will likely struggle with this. This is where you are thinking through how they could better utilize their strengths would be helpful. You could also elicit feedback from other important people in their life that know them. Sometimes children will be able to hear things differently if the message is delivered by people other than their parents.
Finally, when you see your child exhibiting their strengths. Say something. Increase their own awareness of when they bring their best selves to others or an activity. By doing so, you will help them continue to develop and build on what they do well.