I first came across the strengths-based approach many years ago when I was working in mental health. I always thought it was great approach to life in general.
It is exciting to see that the strengths-based approach is now applied in many different arenas including education and parenting.
The strengths-based approach is fairly self-explanatory. It is all about working with one’s strengths not weaknesses. Focusing on what can be done, rather than what cannot, the aim is to build resilience and maximise the resources we have at hand.
As individuals we all have things we are good at, and things that we aren’t so good at. Very few of us are “all rounders”. As adults, when choosing work and recreational activities, we tend to gravitate to things that we are good at, that we enjoy and energise us. These things are our strengths.
For example, communication is one of my personal strengths. It makes sense then that I am a writer, a social media enthusiast and have a wide social circle.
It seems only fair we allow kids to work to their strengths too.
Our kids face many challenges everyday as they try to navigate school, friendships, extra-curricular activities and home life. Meanwhile, they are still coming into their own, learning about what they like, don’t like and what they are good at.
As parents, can guide them through this process. By helping them identify and harness their personal strengths, we can help them overcome challenges. According to research by psychologist Dr Lea Waters, strengths-based parenting can even reduce stress and improve a child’s coping skills.
Dr Waters says we can help our children identify their strengths by the following signs:
- They are energized and display high levels of engagement during and after using the strength.
- They can become so engrossed in doing a particular skill they lose track of time.
- They show very rapid learning curves in areas that are strengths.
- They have a repeated pattern of successful performance in the area.
- They are performing above age-appropriate levels in a certain skill.
Dr Lea also recommends this survey to help identify your child’s strengths (10-17yr). It is important to keep in mind strengths aren’t just pursuits like sport or creative activities. They are also traits such as compassion, kindness and a sense of humour.
When I think about my kids’ strengths it highlight how very different they are. One is very brave and demonstrates great perseverance. Another is extremely compassionate with a strong sense of justice. They all have an amazing sense of humour.
These are things as a parent I can focus on to help them achieve their goals, build their self-confidence and cope with adversity.
Dr Lea says to foster your child’s strengths it is important to:
- Label their strengths.
- Provide experiences and environment to foster their strengths.
- Give them the right tools – the practical things that will help them exercise and develop their strength.
- Give them opportunities to practice their strengths.
- Connect them with role model who possesses the same strength.
Working with, and helping build, their strengths is such a positive approach to encouraging our children find their way in the world.