Some plants thrive in rain
Parents are like gardeners.
They plant seeds. They nurture and protect these seeds. They watch them grow.
A gardener adjusts the environment to make sure their plants thrive. Some plants thrive in rain and others cannot breathe in it. Some plants like direct sunlight and others enjoy shadows. Some like to be outdoors and others indoors.
Observe and adjust like a gardener
The gardener has to know their plants well. But plants don't always come with an instructions manual. The gardener has to carefully observe, make adjustments, observe again, and make adjustments again.
"Too much water? All right, a little less. Too much sunlight? Alright let's change your position. Not enough fertilizer? All right, here's a little more."
Parenting is no different. (My point must have become obvious by now.😊) A child is a seed. A seed needs certain conditions to thrive. We might not be aware of these conditions yet. Some observation and adjustment should do the trick.
Like all humans, children have strengths and weaknesses
One of the greatest privileges a child can have is being surrounded by adults who see the best in them. An adult carefully observing and supporting the strengths of a child has a great influence. Such a child will:
- Have a strong sense of self.
- Think more clearly about their strengths.
- Use their strengths to overcome their weaknesses.
What are your child's strengths?
Although not limited to these, some strength types are: social, language, logic, communication, emotional, physical, musical and creative. Each kid is unique. Each kid has a variation (or more) of these strengths. But every child has at least one. (Some parents say that their child has no strengths. This is false.)
- A social strength can be: Noticing and showing interest in strangers.
- A musical strength can be: Singing or dancing to music.
- A communication strength can be: Being a curious listener.
How to notice your child's strengths
Observe your child's interaction with activities, objects, people and places
Being present and aware during everyday activities is the best way to notice your child's strengths.
Watch your children during indoor or outdoor activities such as reading books, playing with toys, having a meal, playing at the park, interacting with grandparents, etc. See how your children show curiosity. See how they explore. Look for things that grab their attention fast. Notice what makes them laugh the most. You can also ask other caregivers, if there are any, who spend a lot of time with your children.
Look for these 3 elements of a strength
According to Greater Good Magazine of University of California, Berkeley, looking for these three elements helps you identify if a particular thing is your child's strength:
1) Is she good at it? When a child learns something fast and is good at it above age expectations, it might mean that she has a strength in that domain.
2) Does she feel good when doing it? Your child has a lot of energy when using her strengths. This is because of the self-reinforcing nature of our strengths. The more we use them, the more fun we have.
3) Does she choose to do it often? A child chooses to use her strengths often. Look for the things she prefers to do when she has an option to choose between many things.
How to nurture your child's strengths
Keep a strength journal
Write down your child's daily activities to see what keeps repeating. I use Presently, a gratitude journal, for this job. It allows me to quickly write down my observations, thoughts and feelings without much hassle. I can also download my writings if I want to. When you see your child's strengths clearly, you can intentionally start supporting them.
Be vocal about strengths
When you notice your child's strengths, make sure you let your child know. But be careful to be mindful with your praise. Try to avoid generic praises such as "good job", or "well done". Instead, be more precise, such as: "I saw how you built those blocks," or "I like your choice of colors in this painting."
Encourage different ways
As you engage in activities or interactions that you think your child has a strength for, encourage a little challenge or a different way to handle that activity. This way, your child will feel supported. It will also help them build more independence as they discover new ways to approach the same thing.
Introduce new things
It's important that children do things that they have never done before. The same applies to things they are not good at. When children engage in new activities, it's important to acknowledge their effort rather than applauding the final product.
Sit with them through challenging activities
Developmentally appropriate activities help children grow better than too challenging ones. However, when an adult accompanies a challenging activity, the challenge will not be so overwhelming.
For example if a 3-piece puzzle is developmentally appropriate for your child you can sit next to him and gently take him through the process of making a 24-piece puzzle. This will build confidence and make him better at the skill.
What about your child's weaknesses?
You kids have weakness even if you don't want them. This is the beauty of being a human. Although having weaknesses is perfectly okay, having a strength-aware mindset will let you see your kids strong and weak sides. This way, you can start supporting their weaknesses too.
As a final note: be careful not to project your own weakness onto our child. A very introverted parent can have a socially engaged child. Examine you own strengths and weaknesses. It's important not to assume that our children will have the same strengths and weaknesses as we do.
Final tips and takeaways
👀 Be mentally present when you spend time with your children.
🔬 Observe your children's interaction with activities, objects, people and places.
💪 Notice their weaknesses and support them too.
😇 Be careful not to project your own weaknesses onto your children.