Lea Waters’ tips on talking about your child’s weaknesses.
In her book The Strength Switch, psychologist Lea Waters demonstrates how to discover your children’s strengths and talents, use positive emotions as a resource, build strong brains, and even how to deal with problem behaviour and talk about difficult situations and emotions. No child wants to be made feel mediocre, so it’s important to help them draw on their strengths, and identify and talk openly about their weaknesses. Here she offers three tips for parents looking to reinforce that none of us are perfect, and that our shortcomings are rendered inconsequential when focusing on the positives.
I define weakness similarly to what you’ll find in the dictionary or after a quick Google search. Weaknesses are features regarded as disadvantages or flaws – specifically, a flaw that prevents us from being effective. We can be weak in certain skills, abilities, talents, and aspects of our personality/ character.
We all have weaknesses, and it’s important to be real with our kids about that. Strength-based parenting doesn’t mean you ignore your child’s weaknesses; it allows you to approach them from a new perspective. In fact, it supports more genuine, less defensive conversations with your child about their weaknesses, because your child knows that your focus is, first and foremost, on her strengths.
There are three important messages to give to your child about weakness:
1. Just as everyone has strengths, everyone has weaknesses.
2. Having weaknesses doesn’t mean you’re unworthy; it just means you’re normal.
3. Avoid the trap of spending too much time focusing on your weaknesses.
In my workshops, I ask parents to write their child’s name with their dominant hand. I talk about how each of us has a dominant hand. For me, it’s my right hand. I didn’t choose that. We’re just born with our brain wired in a way that makes one hand easier to use than the other. We build on that propensity and further develop that neural network. We write with ease. Then I say, ‘OK. Swap hands.’ It takes them much longer to write their child’s name with their nondominant hand. It’s messy, even illegible. It’s tiring and somewhat frustrating. When you constantly focus on getting your child to fix her weaknesses, it’s like you’re always asking her to use her nondominant hand. Her performance, energy, and use won’t be nearly as high as when she works from her strengths.