The key to bringing out the best in your kids and understanding them fully is in recognizing each and every of your child’s strengths and enabling them to develop further.
A child’s strength is a rather broad term. Primarily, it tends to be tied around the child’s character as a whole or any of their individual skills, be it physical or mental.
It’s hard to properly categorize, since there are as many strengths as there are skills in existence – if not more.
It’s up to you as a parent to take notice of these skills through attentive observation. That helps you figure out exactly what specific aspect your child excels in.
After that, you can foster that trait into something amazing that can greatly assist your child in his future endeavors.
If done well, it’ll allow him to master his strength, help boost his self-esteem and make him more confident in taking on life’s challenges overall.
All it takes is a bit of positive reinforcement and loving support.
But how exactly can we identify these unique strengths that our kids possess if there are so many?
You may think that it’s hard, but all it takes is a little bit of time and a keen eye.
Let me show you what I mean.
6 Steps To Working With Your Child’s Strengths
1. Observe through activity
To start off, always passively observe your kid when you interact with him on a daily basis.
Look at what he gravitates towards, what he prefers doing.
Does he like doodling in notebooks? Maybe he likes socializing an awful lot?
Maybe a certain sport interests him and he seems to be doing well at it.
Perhaps even a certain musical instrument like your old synthesizer catches his eye and he likes toying with it.
What if he goes for puzzles and brain teasers over some other traditional entertainment?
Maybe he takes great interest in learning new languages as well?
Or perhaps he is a genuinely caring person and often jumps to the aid of others when they’re feeling down, or is really good at resolving conflicts?
The list goes on and on, but these are the types of questions you should be asking yourself when you wonder about what your kid may be good at.
The important thing is to not be too intrusive in this process, as you may scare him off his specific want.
It sounds odd, but some people are genuinely shy about showing what they’re good at due to a lack of confidence at the start.
It’s important to be subtle until he can stand on his own two feet and be proud of the things he’s good at.
I’m not saying completely cut yourself off from him, just temper it down somewhere in the middle. You’re still an important part of his life.
2. Categorize your thoughts
As you go through this observation process, you’re more than likely to have several different thoughts about what may or may not be your child’s biggest strength.
Note down anything that comes to mind – even things that you personally may not think aren’t strengths to begin with, like a good sense of humor or simply being good at video games (but more on that a bit later).
Once you have them all down, try thinking about them a bit to potentially eliminate some and make the choices a bit more concise.
Alternatively, you can just start testing each and every one bit by bit and use that as a metric to determine what aspects of your child’s life are his biggest strengths.
3. Tread the surface
Now that you have your list, it’s time to give each of them a shot and find the proper list of things that your child is good at and enjoys doing.
It takes some time and it can be a tedious process, but the key is being diligent, patient, and open to change.
Trust me, the reward is more than worth the effort.
Begin by opening your kid up to new experiences. Suggest some activities that may loosely tie to some of the child’s strengths you presume are present within.
Give him some hands-on experience tied to said trait, then watch his reaction throughout the activity.
If it’s mostly negative and he ends up feeling disappointed, then it’s safe to cross that off the list.
If it’s a middling response like “It was okay, but…” then he might be open to it and it may just not have been presented well to him.
But, if he seems genuinely happy that you seem to be taking an interest in something that he likes, you’ve got a guaranteed winner right there.
He will appreciate the opportunity to broaden his skill level and knowledge of the thing he excels at.
Plus, you’ll get your own little reward there by seeing your child happy and grateful to have you as his parent – one who allows him to blossom rather than being stifled for his choices.
Do keep in mind that every child has his own learning style when it comes to his own strengths, own special needs, and route he takes in order to develop them.
These “tests” are here to help you help your child find and navigate them.
4. Have an open mind
Of course, there are limits to how open of a mind you ought to have, the limits of which are some sort of ethical code, but that still leaves a lot of things up for grabs.
Don’t deny something as a character strength just because you don’t think of it as one.
Take video games for example. Back when I was young, I would’ve never considered that a strength on its own and would pretty much dismiss it as a pastime.
But, when a friend of mine showed me the positive effect certain games can have on a child’s life and mental health, my mind was opened.
Not only that, but these days livestreaming is a genuine source of entertainment and there are people out there who pursue streaming video games as a profession – granted, not a very lucrative one, but they’re pursuing their passion.
Should your kid try striving for the same, it’ll be healthier for you to support him while still warning him of the potential dangers it may possess down the line.
In that way, you avoid discouraging him by utterly denying him of this.
This concept can be applied to so many other things. Just look back at your own childhood and you’ll understand what I mean.
I first realized this when I took a moment and went back to school in my mind, of how many things I was forced to attend that I didn’t like because I was made to live someone else’s dream instead of my own.
Being denied that for so long did a number on my self-esteem, my social skills were almost non-existent, and my overall confidence plummeted.
I was depressed because I was stuck in this mental prison that I thought I had no way of escaping, but managed to in the end due to outside help from a professional.
I did end up losing several school years because of that close-minded parental behavior, though simply because I didn’t like that yet wanted to make them feel happy.
I vowed that I’d never let the same happen to my own child and I tried my best in providing for him for now.
Sure, I’ve faltered here and there, but I hope that didn’t have a lasting effect on him.
I beg you to follow in these footsteps of mine. Allow your child or your teen to flourish and you’ll be amazed at just how much more positive he’s going to be going forward.
5. Be patient and try being creative yourself
Don’t just seek tutoring as the only method to growing your child’s interest in his specific skills; seek other, more fun ways of approaching him, ones your child is more likely to enjoy.
For instance, not many kids like staring at a book to get the hang of things; some more hands-on experience will be better received and is more likely to stick with him.
You’d be surprised how appreciated things like problem-solving can be with young children when it’s incorporated in an environment that they feel comfortable in.
You’ll be able to know if you can flip the strength switch to “on” if you recognize three key aspects of a successful activity:
An activity that children do really well in; where they’re left in a positive mood and have high energy levels after completing said activity; and one that they get a high use level out of.
If you can tick these three down, you may have just found a winner.
Anything less may just be a fun pastime rather than something to pursue as a career goal or something that won’t exactly become your child’s defining personality trait.
6. Be careful of toxic positivity
As threatening as denying someone something he likes can be, the same applies to allowing your child everything.
And not only that, but also if you’re being overly into it to a level that ends up having the adverse effect of helping, or just boiling down to being downright creepy.
This is what we call toxic positivity. It’s something that’s prevalent in this day and age because people of the modern age seek their unique individuality.
That would be fine on its own if it wasn’t taken to the extreme where everything is allowed and no rules apply anymore.
While it’s nice to have positive reinforcement in a world that sorely lacks it, removing (positive) criticism outright is only going to set your child up for a harsh fall that will shatter his confidence and endanger his overall well-being.
The key to a healthy positive psychology is to have a stance of “yes, but…” By saying those words, you leave your kid with the possibility to still pursue said option, while also being real with him.
You are warning him about the potential risks involved and pointing out aspects that may fail.
The easiest place to apply this logic is in some sort of sporting event.
Lets say your child is into basketball and wants to play for the school team, but he doesn’t even know how half of the rules work despite being a good scorer.
The toxically positive person is going to keep lifting him on a pedestal and calling him a gifted genius – inflating his ego bubble, lifting him high up into the air – until it eventually bursts should he ever fail.
Meanwhile, the more responsible parent is going to encourage him to try, but tell him that he may want to practice first still and have his bases covered, to prepare himself. That’s the healthier approach.
Again, parents who gave birth to my generation were like that. I was praised for how exceptional I was at something, no matter how small, and was told I was the best at these things.
I was raised to believe that I was invincible and that nothing would ever go wrong, but when faced with the reality of it, it comes crashing down real fast.
If you’re to have your child succeed in something and want to continue pursuing his passion even when he gets humbled in it, prepare him for it.
Teach him that failure is a part of growth and not a death sentence.
Teach him that he isn’t just made out of strengths, he has weaknesses too, and that’s fine. That’s what makes him human.
Too many people give up on their dreams just because they fail once. That’s the kind of unhealthy mentality that toxic positivity spreads and, honestly, that needs to stop.
The process of finding a child’s strengths may seem lengthy and complicated.
In truth, it’s only the former because these steps usually come naturally to every parent through daily interactions with their kids.
Sometimes, it just takes someone to actually divert their attention to it and point out if they’ve been doing something wrong.
That makes parents pay closer attention to what their children are doing.
If observing your child is not enough, don’t hesitate to ask him all sorts of questions.
It’s not something that needs to be kept secret. You’re here to help him be more confident. Your kids are the best critics of your actions, just like you are of theirs.
I myself believe that you’re already doing a good enough job at being the best and most supportive mom that you can be, and that you’re just overthinking things.
Just relax and do what comes instinctively; it’s more than likely to help them out.
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