Sometimes, even without realizing it, we might be holding beliefs, ideas or expectations for ourselves or our for children that just don't match who we really are or what really matters to us. We may be, as Einstein said, judging the fish by its ability to climb a tree. Meanwhile, that fish has so many other unique qualities that are simply ignored! So what does it mean to focus on strengths? It's not about having a "Pollyanna" view on things. Certainly it's important to be honest and acknowledge our areas for growth. In fact strengths-based parenting means we actually have a more realistic and more complete picture of ourselves and others. And when we work with strengths it gives us the energy, enthusiasm and support we need to make changes and keep growing. Think of how discouraging it can be when someone points out a fault or shortcoming. Most times it doesn't immediately inspire us to change. The same is true when noticing the faults of others. If we focus on this alone, we can forget they even have any redeeming qualities! Our forgetfulness makes it hard for us to truly support and encourage any change in them. Using the time-tested, holistic approach of Education for Life we have tools for recognizing, exploring and supporting strengths in ourselves and in others, especially our children. When we focus on where there is joy and energy already flowing we can use that flow to help support and motivate movement and change in other areas. Sometimes just shifting our focus brings a greater flow of energy and the "problems" or challenges seem to take care of themselves. I once had a student in 3rd grade who had been consistently struggling with reading. There were many measures being taken to support her development of this skill but there seemed to be very little progress despite everyone's best efforts. On the other hand, this was also a child who was incredibly creative and artistic. She excelled in drawing, painting, creating stories - anything that engaged her imagination. At times I was torn on how to perceive the whole situation. She must
learn to read but when I only focused on that, both of us felt like failures. By being willing to hold a bigger picture in mind, giving equal weight to those skills which were more highly developed, her confidence was boosted. It gave us both a deeper connection - she felt seen not just in her challenges but also in her strengths. Throughout the year she remained undaunted, eager and enthusiastic to learn to read better, even as her peers raced ahead. Focusing on her strengths helped her to keep her energy, joy and enthusiasm for learning alive. Without that, no growth would have been possible. Letting go of my expectations around the rate of her reading progress help me to keep my joy as well! Certainly there are many benefits to focusing on strengths - greater connection, boosting motivation, even resolving conflicts - but at times it can be more challenging than we realize. We can get caught in those old ideas or expectations. Having a community of support to help you in shifting your perception, changing old habits, can be invaluable. You may like to join our Self-Care for Parents circle (every first Wednesday) to take a moment to pause, reflect and reset. You'll leave with renewed energy and inspiration to be your best self as a parent.
If you're the parent of a teenager, you can learn more about Education for Life and strengths-based parenting in our upcoming Parenting Teens group starting April 13th.