Building up self-awareness, confidence and resilience is a key part of positive child development. One way to do this is to make children aware of their personal strengths and how they can regularly use them. A previous post about developing children’s strengths explores how you can foster this awareness in more detail.
As children become more comfortable using the language of strengths and are familiar with their personal strengths, there are a number of activities you could use to help them develop these further. In her book The Strength Switch Dr. Lea Waters offers some practical ideas to try at home. Three of my favourite are below:
1. A Better Question Than “How Was School Today?”
Rather than asking this and getting a grunt in return, why not share the strengths you’ve used during the day and give an example of one you saw in someone else? If you notice a pattern over time, this could help to identify your core strengths. As you talk about the strengths you used/saw you’ll also learn more about each others’ day.
2. Family Strengths Poster
Stick a piece of blank paper up on a wall at home and for the next week encourage family members to write on the poster when they see others showing strengths. This activity encourages both strengths mindfulness (being in the present moment to notice strengths in other people) and can also boost family relationships.
3. Write Your Child A Strengths Letter
For one week, every day note down the strengths you see in your child and examples of when they use them. Also reflect on ‘big’ moments in their life and the strengths they showed then. Use your notes to write a letter and give it to your child. This strength-based praise celebrates what they do well and can also encourage children to build strengths they’re not using enough of. It offers an opportunity for parents to catch their children doing good things, to praise, not criticise – and can improve the parent-child relationship. You never know, if it’s a success in your home, they may want to switch roles and write one to you!
Focusing on developing your children’s strengths from a young age can help them build positive self awareness, confidence and resilience. These are all attributes which contribute to a well rounded character and a child’s social and emotional intelligence as they develop through childhood.
This is highlighted in the video clip below from the VIA Institute on Character. Their website also offers numerous articles with practical tips for parents on how to identify and encourage the use of child and teen strengths.
Waters, L. (2017). The strength switch: How the new science of strength-based parenting can help your child and your teen to flourish. Penguin.