It’s the start of the School year. My daughter has entered year 11. Like many parents I’m wondering where the years have gone. My baby is now a senior. She will embark upon rigorous study routines, feel strained by mountainous homework and navigate the peaks and troughs of HSC preparation. Her school is proactive, they’ve engaged experts to talk with students and parents on topics ranging from mental stillness, physical activity, healthy eating, managing time and balancing friendships. They’re doing all they can to provide a platform for my daughter to succeed. I am grateful.
However, I know my daughter’s success will be her decision and importantly, her effort. My daughter needs to know why she is doing what she is doing. Purpose will provide her with hope, direction and energy. She also needs to know how she can accomplish her aims. Recognising her strengths and being willing to apply them will help her traverse the learning landscape. My daughter needs to know which tools and strategies will help her on the journey. She needs to develop skills and knowledge through a commitment to deep practice.
How can we, as parents, help?
Professor Lea Waters, from the Centre for Positive Psychology at The University of Melbourne explains that when young people are developing a sense of self, separate to their parents, they’re vulnerable. This is a time of anxious exhilaration. Students in their senior years of school are emerging adults. They’re stepping into the uncharted territory of increased personal and social responsibility. Water’s research suggests a strengths based approach to parenting may be the best way to support and nurture this transition.
A Strengths Based Approach to Parenting
Perhaps the key factor here is that our teenage children need to feel accepted for being themselves and rewarded for what they bring to a situation. This builds confidence and helps them develop a proactive approach to getting things done. Research by Gallup and the VIA Institute suggests that adopting a strengths-based approach to parenting can have significant benefits to families. A strengths-based approach provides a shared language for recognising what is done well.
However, focusing on strengths does not mean ignoring weakness. Instead it’s about recognising what is done well so that patterns of achievement can be applied to things that are not going so well. It is about seeing through a problem to the solution. Essentially a strengths-based approach involves identifying the patterns of behavior beneath a particular task and choosing the thoughts, emotions and actions that lead to success.
Strategies for Appreciating Strengths
- Strengths Spotting – be alert to the times your son or daughter is actively using their strengths and offer specific praise at the time.
- Write your daughter or son a note or letter that describes the strengths you see in them.
- When confronted with a challenge, ask your son or daughter which strength they could use to manage or solve the problem.
A strengths based approach recognises that it is as important in the late teen years, as it was in the toddler years, to catch our children doing something good. For my daughter to flourish in her senior years of school, her father and I need to provide an environment where she has the confidence to thrive. Her school is doing their part. Her father and I need to do ours. We can provide a home where she feels safe, valued for who she is and what she wants to achieve. Importantly, we need to realise, our daughter’s hopes, strengths and values may be different to our own. If we know our daughter’s values, strengths and goals we can offer positive encouragement and practical support that is personally relevant to her.
One of the most valuable lessons I’ve learnt as a parent is that I need to understand my daughter’s why. Her father and I need to remember that it is her purpose, her goals, her hopes and her dreams that are the most powerful motivators. We need to be alert to our daughter’s strengths and appreciate her patterns of thought, emotion and behavior. We need to be aware of her values. This will help us, help her.
If you would like to know more about how to recognise your child’s Strengths or how to adopt a Strengths based approach to parenting contact Nicole today for a complimentary introduction to Strengths coaching session.
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