I recently saw a meme that perfectly summed up my experience as a parent:

“Just when you think you have the parenting thing figured out, you have a child.”

Parenting is arguably the hardest job on the planet and especially tough for military spouses who are often called on to serve as both “Mom” and “Dad” during extended training exercises and deployments. This past year my husband was gone on a series of TDYs that essentially took him out of the net for five straight months. It was during this time that I began searching for additional parenting support (Gee, I wonder why?? Ha!). It wasn’t that I didn’t love my military “brats;” it was that I wanted to make sure that I was providing them with the unique support they needed.

My children are 5 and 9, so although I am out of the trenches of sleepless nights and diapers, we are entering the arena of Common Core homework and playground interpersonal dynamics. There wasn’t necessarily a “problem” with the parenting style in our household, but more of a feeling that things could be better. My search didn’t last long — as a Gallup Certified Strengths Coach I received an email about the release of“Strengths-Based Parenting, a book focusing on developing your children’s innate talents. I ordered it faster that you can say “Amazon Prime” and began devouring the content as soon as it arrived.

I can happily report that the book did not disappoint! I truly enjoyed applying the principles I was familiar with (identifying areas of talent to invest time and resources into to develop the ability to provide near perfect performance) in a new light…parenting. Strengths-based parenting is making a conscious effort to discover and understand your own innate talents and effectively apply them to discover where your children thrive, not focusing on trying to “fix” their weaknesses.

1. Identifying your strengths is critical to developing your parenting style.

It is no secret that our worldview causes us to see the world differently (the recent election was a perfect example of this), but what is often overlooked is the fact that our worldview causes us to parent differently. Instead of trying to develop or follow a one-size-fits all parenting approach, we should individualize it based on what we enjoy doing and are talented at!

As an achiever (I work hard, possess a great deal of stamina and take satisfaction in being productive), I learned I should be adding activities that are important to my children on my daily to-do list. Although I always want to play board games at night with my boys, I would often times would miss out on the opportunity because I was trying to finish up the chores on my to-do list. Once I added “game time” to the list, it was a win-win: I felt like I was being productive and I got to spend quality time with my kids.

2. Identifying their strengths is the next step in strengths-based parenting.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu beautifully summed up this sentiment in a compelling charge: “We must look on children not as problems, but as individuals with potential…I would hope we could find creative ways to draw out of our children the good that there is in each of them.”

Spend time with your child and make note of the activities that they are drawn to (Yearnings), the skills they pick up quickly (Rapid Learning), what they are doing when they lose all track of time (Flow), the activities they are naturally good at (Glimpses of Excellence) and when they get immense joy from completing an activity (Satisfaction). These five indicators of natural talent will point you to the activities you should invest both time and resources in for your child.

There is no doubt that my oldest son loves to think and dream about the future. He can spend hours imagining and his visions of the future are definitely bigger than most. Before I understood that this was one of his strengths, his daydreaming would frustrate me when we were trying to work through his homework or when I was trying to learn about his day at school (what actually happened, not what he dreamed up during homeroom). I now make a conscious effort to ask him about what he has been thinking about and share my own ideas about the future. It has been so much fun connecting on a shared strength of ours and working to shape this into a usable skill for both of us.

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