As a parent do you oftentimes struggle with how to support your children in becoming the best of who they are? Unfortunately, many of our schools (and our culture) try to fit our very unique children into one mold – the same mold – they feel will make them "successful." As a Strengths Coach, this is quite frustrating, but because I understand my strengths, I know exactly why it bugs me so much! You see, one of my top strengths (according to Strengths Finder 2.0) is Individualization, which is the talent of wanting to see, pull out and leverage the unique talents of individuals, and not live by a cookie-cutter approach. Also, my Learner strength drives this home, because it wants me to understand how my children learn differently, and cater my parenting style to support how they learn.
Looking back I can see vividly how these strengths came to play in our lives. My son was in pre-k and his teacher felt he needed some occupational therapy. He was an active boy with a lot of energy and he had not yet figured out what hand he wanted to write with. In fact, he had some delayed fine motor skills, as many kids do at this age. I was okay with getting him the developmental support he needed, but I was not okay with his Kindergarten teacher treating him differently, which I had observed. It's as though she was judging him as "less than" and punishing him for not "fitting in". I acted quickly and enrolled him into another school that I thought would support him, only to find that it was worse. In the end, they tried to force him to write with his right hand (he is a leftie), and their very clear message to me was that all children had to learn and advance at the same pace. Oh boy!! That did not sit well with me. By the end of the year, my son was quite depressed and had given up (in Kinder!!!).
I moved fast again, and this time, found him a home in a school where they managed his delays and weaknesses, and focused on his unique strengths. He's now a senior in high school, getting ready for college and is thriving in all ways. He's excelling in his weakness, which is math, because he's learned how to manage it, but he's THRIVING in his strength of creativity, and will pursue a career in music. Together with his school, I was able to identify and leverage his innate talents and help him thrive in a way that made sense for him. Happy Mom. Happy School. Happy Son.
So, how well do I know my kids? Pretty darn well. I take pride in knowing them very deeply, their nuances, and I love seeing how their talents continue to develop. There are many ways that we as parents can learn about our children – through observing, asking them questions, asking their teachers, coaches and friends questions, through seeing them in uncomfortable situations, through their mistakes and how they overcome challenges, etc. And, when we know what their unique strengths are, we understand all of this input even more. We begin to understand why they operate as they do and what makes them feel good, confident and successful.
GALLUP offers strengths assessments for children beginning as early as 10, however we can begin to dissect our kids' strengths by Strengths Spotting. Through observing them in all aspects of life (playing, learning, communicating, sports, etc.), we can identify their unique and natural reactions. GALLUP has synthesized these reactions into 10 general themes:
- Future Thinker
I bet you can already say, "Yep, my child thrives when he (thinks about his future, takes care of his sister, etc.)". When we spend more time observing and becoming really clear about their general talent themes, we can customize our parenting approaches to support them in a way that feels great, and we are encouraging them to become even more skilled and successful at what they're naturally strong at.
Watch for clues to their talent by paying attention to:
What they long to do
What skills or activities they learn quickly and easily
What activities satisfy and fulfill them
What they lose track of time doing
A 23-year longitudinal study of 1,000 children in New Zealand found that a child's personality at age 3 shows remarkable similarity to his or her reported personality traits at age 25. Wow! Is that not cool? Let's not wait until they're 25 to know where and how they will thrive. Let's start now.
This simple process can step-up your parenting and help you to not only better connect with your children, but to support them in living and leading a life of authenticity and passion.
I encourage you to start Strength Spotting. Have fun with it, and let me know what you find!