We often hear people telling us to play to our strengths. Great advice but do we really know what those strengths are? How do we go about engaging with them more fully? And…what’s the big deal anyway?
Positive psychology research has shown that when we use our strengths, we are happier, more fulfilled, and more energized. We learn more quickly and are more likely to achieve goals. We have better relationships with others and are more resilient. Research from The VIA Institute on Character reveals the correlations between strengths-based strategies and success in all life domains.
In parenting, taking a strengths-based approach involves intentionally identifying and fostering positive qualities and developments in your children. It’s about connecting your children with their innate strengths such as strengths of character (e.g. empathy, bravery) as well as their talents such as reading or playing an instrument. These strengths are the inner support system contained within our kids that aids to increase their contentment with life.
Adolescence is a time of profound psychological fragility because of the social, hormonal, physiological, and neurological changes. It’s also a time when contentment with life declines. Psychologists know that life contentment protects adolescents against the onset of psychological disorders.
Teenagers feeling satisfaction with life have stronger emotional, academic and social skills. It’s therefore important for parents to find ways to build their teenager’s life satisfaction during those challenging teen years. Strength-based parenting is one such approach.
IT HELPS US TOO
Strength-based parenting doesn’t just benefit our sons and daughters; it also enhances our own feelings of pleasure in life and confidence in parenting. Studies where parents underwent a month-long strength-based parenting program concluded they became more engaged overall in their parenting, and experienced more positive emotions toward their children.
While the importance of providing love and emotional support to children is well understood, we now know the importance of deliberately identifying and building strengths in our children.
Mental health issues in young people has reached alarming rates. Coupled with the new challenges of raising children in the 21st Century, strength-based parenting is a valuable tool to add to our repertoire of parenting strategies. It offers much value to our children.
TIPS TO APPLY STRENGTH-BASED PARENTING
Notice: Spend a moment considering what your child’s strengths are. Watch them in action and see how they use them. Then let them know!
Write to them: Ever kept a special letter someone wrote to you expressing your positive qualities? Not only does it help you flourish in the good times, but you can bring it out on the difficult days and it helps you to carry on.
Take a survey: There are many online surveys that children can take to help highlight their strengths. The Gallup Institute has the StrengthsExplorer for children aged 10-14 and the StrengthsQuest for children aged 15-25. If parents and children are interested in identifying personality strengths, they can go to The Values in Action Institute and complete the free online VIA-Youth survey.