By Brooklyn Storme
Growing up on the Mornington Peninsula with my mum and five younger siblings was interesting, to say the least. I remember loving my after school activities very much! For me, it was all about ballet and calisthenics. Every night after school I’d come home and I’d give myself carpet burn on the balls of my feet from all the practising I did on the rug on our lounge room. To say that I loved it would be an understatement!
My brother on the hand did not love dance. He loved tennis and so he’d be off doing that. I remember being really interested in why he liked it so much and then one of my sisters decided she wanted to try it and of course then; I panicked that I’d miss out if I didn’t try it too. So off we all went and I did give it a go but it just didn’t light me up the same as dancing did, so I stuck to that.
And now I’m in my mid 40’s and I look back at those times and I think I should really give my mum a massive high-five for doing such a great job. You see, she didn’t push us to do anything that we didn’t want to. She allowed us to find our flow and encouraged us to tap into our own unique gifts from a strengths-based framework. Good on you Mum!
Strengths-based parenting is really about focussing on your child’s positive values and beliefs as well as on their interests or abilities. Positive values such as compassion, generosity, kindness of spirit and honesty are examples of areas of strength that we want to try and cultivate. Special interests are also unique to your child and may include any interest they having in pursuing creative, active or cognitive areas, for example.
According to psychological research, a strength has three components. These include: Use (best thought of the child’s natural tendency to want to use that strength), energy (using the strength results in the child feeling inspired, happy, energised and excited) and performance (the child is good at the activity they are doing / interested in).
Research shows that when parents give attention to their child’s strengths, the impact is that the child feels more inspired, energetic, happy, open to new experiences and more resilient. It can absolutely be tempting to compare your child’s performance to other children their age but doing so can have negative consequences for them both short and long term.
It can affect their self-esteem, reduce their confidence, increase the child’s stress and impact their mental health in unwanted ways.
1. Be consistent
One of the key ways that children receive information is by watching you. They are watching and learning from you even when you think they’re not! So by role modelling the good values, the better beliefs and the desired behaviours your little one will be more likely to pick them up.
If your child expresses an interest in an activity like sport, chess, spelling, art, dance or any other reasonable thing, supporting them to have their own experience of it will really help them to identify if it is an ongoing interest and from there, opportunities can be created for them to build their confidence and self-esteem.
3. Words of encouragement
Be a detective at home and keep an eye (and ear) out for any examples of positive values or beliefs being expressed. If your child shares her snack with her brother, acknowledge it. If they apologise to someone without being asked, praise that behaviour. By providing positive feedback you will be more likely to increase these behaviours occurring and help your child to develop clarity around positive behaviours.
It’s fabulous to praise a child when they demonstrate a great behaviour but we can dive a bit deeper by pairing this feedback with an acknowledgement of the matching inner strength that was exhibited during the action by your child. For example, if your child sees others picking on a friend in the playground and goes to comfort him, you might say “thank you for helping” but a paired approach would also add, “that was very understanding of you” / “that was very kind of you” / “that was very compassionate of you”. We acknowledge the behaviour and the strength.
I hope this article was a useful read and gives you a new perspective on a parenting approach that might be a good fit for your family. As someone that was raised under this framework, I can say that it was by living a life that was aligned with my passions and interests and by having a parent foster my inner strengths, I’m all the better for it.
Dr. Brooklyn Storme, PhD is the Director and head psychologist at All Psyched Up, a mindfulness-based allied health practice on the Mornington Peninsula. When she’s not at work, she’s usually teaching Gabe new tricks or spiking up his purple Mohawk.
Facebook: allpsychedup | Ph: 8765 2434