One day when my daughter was between two and three years old, we pulled up beside a bearded young man in a Jeep Cherokee. He had his music up loud and he was singing along at the top of his baritone lungs. My daughter asked, “Daddy, what’s that lady doing?” I looked at him, then I looked at her through the rear-view mirror and said, “Well first of all, that’s not a lady, that’s a man!” The light turned green and he sped off. For the remainder of our ten minute drive to her preschool, my daughter kept arguing that the bearded baritone was a woman. She even argued with me when I used the Love and Logic one-liner, “I love you too much to argue with you!” She emphatically said, “NO YOU DON’T!”
Needless to say, my wife and I are saving money to send our daughter to law school someday (Besides, someone has to take care of us in our old age!) She loves to argue! She needs to continue to learn how to argue from the other person’s perspective and she gets better at this all the time. With a little modeling and guidance, her “determination” is becoming a strength that makes her a leader in school and life.
What’s the Moral of this Story?
Sometimes, we have to get creative and recognize the strengths behind our child’s apparent weaknesses. For example, the “flip-side” of your teen’s distractibility is creativity, the strength associated with your child’s impulsivity is curiosity, and your tween’s stubbornness can easily be reframed as determination.
How Can You Identify Your Child’s Strengths?
To identify your child’s strengths, try these steps.
- First take a look at this list of possible strengths and think about what your child does really well. These are talents and character strengths that can be emphasized to help your child make important changes in life.
- Next, think about your child’s most difficult challenges (or the things that challenge you the most). Often hidden in these struggles, there is a strength. Ask yourself, “Is there a ‘mirror’ strength or a hidden ability that might be a strength for her?” For inspiration, take a look at my Pinterest board called “Hidden Strengths.”
- Consider your child’s temperament – how she comes to the world and how she deals with the world – to identify strengths. Which of these (or combination of these) best describes how your child has always been?
- He’s “easy-going” and seldom reacts negatively to what you ask of him or what happens in his life. He seems to go along with whatever is happening and seldom argues.
- She’s “slow to warm-up” and it takes her some time to warm-up to new situations. If you try to push her into something new, she will dig in her heels and she has to warm-up to it in her own time.
- He’s “determined”: he wants his parents and other adults to be in control, he just doesn’t want to give up whatever control he has in the moment. As a result he will argue, (sometimes) fight, and may even impulsively disobey in order to stay true to his determined self.
Each of these temperaments can be strengths – think about how you can emphasize the strengths associated with your child’s temperament. For example, strengths associated with being “slow to warm-up” can include caution, sensitivity, and, with help, strong problem solving skills.
The exciting news is that once you start to recognize your child or teen’s strengths, you can start to emphasize them in order to help build resilience and address needs.
Need Help Applying This Concept?
If you struggle to recognize your child’s strengths, call us at 817.421.8780 to make an appointment to identify your child’s strengths.
© 2009 -2012, Monte W. Davenport, Ph.D.