Parenting is like gardening, simply 'growing' children isn't enough, we want the value add-on of creating something we know will have lasting beauty and endurance! In today’s world we are very outward focused. We put a lot of emphasis on planning, completing and achieving tasks. Much of our problem solving emphasizes ways to get things done and we can easily forget that positive attitudes and peristence are required when outcomes can not be easily met.
Inner strengths are the qualities we can use when the going gets hard. Strengths are enduring traits that we can pick up time and time again to help us cope…if we know they are available. So talking to children about positive qualities such as
kindness, calm, optimism, being able to bounce back when things go wrong (resilience) , common sense, determination, seeing the silly side of things, hear another person’s opinion….both makes them aware of the ‘traits’ they are using, and the possibility of applying them in a wider range of situations.
If you child is good at endurance in sport you can talk about how using the same model of ‘I can, if I really try, despite set backs’ could apply in creating more acceptance of a brother’s need to argue back. If your daughter is already showing persistence in violin, you can discuss the way that persistence might manifest if it were applied to getting to the table on time for dinner.
Life is made up of challenges and vulnerabilities but strengths modify how we cope with those. Noticing the attributes a child brings to challenge and being just as observant of the ways in which they manage the ‘less liked’ side of life, helps them to own their own abilities. About a third of a person’s strengths are innate and others acquired over time, but they can also be grown and watered with awareness and application.
If you want to share your own strengths that’s a good idea too, saying ‘I am really focusing on growing my patience right now, can you see how I am waiting for you to finish that task rather than hassle you?’. Thinking ahead about the strengths you, or they, might need within different aspects of life is useful – homework, day’s out, car journeys, all are opportunities to build risk taking, gratitude, graciousness, etc. Having a ‘strength’ of the week to spot it’s use within the home is a great idea.
Remember the neural pathways that create long-term attitudes are set by what we put our attention on. If we see the effort behind a goal met, we are likely to understand and value that effort and use it in future. Reinforcing this requires that we use the language of strengths and to do this we must know that language….
If you are unsure about strengths, don’t’ worry. Fortunately positive psychologists (who focus on how we create well-being rather than simply survive difficulties) studied this and created a nice poster on http://www.viacharacter.org/www/Portals/0/Poster.pdf
And a survey, should you wish to know which strengths you have and could transfer into your parenting) is at
Here’s to watering your family strengths this week,