Lots of people breeze past the topic when I say “Let’s focus on strengths.”
But I want to talk to you today about why it matters so much.
I’m Sue Patterson from Unschooling Mom2Mom - thanks for listening! Let’s dive in!
When you’re not using a lesson plan or a curriculum, focusing on strengths gives you a little bit of a guide… something to keep at the front of your mind as you’re moving along on your unschooling journey.
Because fear is always lurking around the corner, right? That’s Fear with a capital F.
And while everyone’s Fear is different and triggered by different things, one of the worst things Fear make us do is focus on the child’s shortcomings, places where they seem to not be “measuring up.”
Of course, this begs the question, “measuring up to what?” or “... to who’s standards?”
And why does that matter if we’re aiming for a truly individualized approach to learning?
But I don’t want to dismiss or minimize the simple reality that Fear is going to rear its ugly head somewhere along the path.
And when your nemesis, Fear, wants to point out weaknesses (because that’s what school conditioned so many of us to do - twelve years of that kind of conditioning!) I want you to be ready with a clear rebuttal.
That’s why it’s important to think about this now, while you’re content and calm… it’s too hard to do when you’re waking in the night with a panic attack over what you suddenly realize they don’t know! I’ll give you some ideas for this in a minute.
Before we do that, I want to remind you that there’s one other reason unschoolers focus on strengths. It’s because this is at the heart of a truly individualized education. When we know the person’s strengths, that can be our road map to what the next steps should be. We can move in the direction of the strengths. Human psychology tells us that while people remember criticism, they respond to praise and genuine positive feedback. They shy away from people who, in their minds, seem to always be critical. And if we’re not careful, parents can do this too. Sure, we WANT the best for them. We want them to live up to their potential, We love them! But all that gets lost in the translation for kids. They can’t see our INTENTION. They can only hear our words and see the expressions on our faces - the tiniest eyebrow twitch! They feel the criticism.
When we focus on weaknesses,
- Kids feel more self-conscious
- They shy away from risks and challenges
- They play small to avoid embarrassment
- They label themselves as underachievers, slow, losers
- They develop a fear of failure - they only try if they’re guaranteed success
Focusing on Strengths can help kids:
- Gain confidence
- Build better self-esteem
- Help them be more likely to accept challenges
- Be happier with their lives
Strengths indicate what you’re good at. You may work hard at a particular skill or ability, or it may come easily to you.
In either case, these are gifts that you have to share with the world. Most of the time, we’ll be able to notice a child’s strengths by observing them in the day. What are their hobbies? How do they like to spend their time? This begins to show you were to look for their strengths.
We commonly hear that people have strengths in various academic subjects - but we have so many more important areas than academics!
We may have:
- People Strengths
- Body Strengths
- Visual (picture) Strengths
- Logic Strengths
- Music Strengths
- Self-Awareness Strengths
- Word Strengths
But other categories might include:
- Family relationships
- World Knowledge
- Life Skills
- Computer skills
- Various hobbies
- Problem-solving skills
So as you can see, we have a lot of possibilities to notice and lean toward. Because when kids move in the direction of their strengths, they’ll develop the skills they need to tackle whatever is going to face them in their future… be it college, careers, relationships - all of it!
If you’re either of my membership or subscription programs, you’ll have some action steps with PDFs to help you AND your child discover the strengths.
I also go into more depth on strengths in the Jumping Into Unschooling Course. I’ll put links to all of these below.
Looking at strengths may bring up all kinds of thoughts for you. Maybe even a little resistance. Maybe it wasn’t how you were raised at all. You may have a little unpacking to do so you can help your child see what they’re good at and help fuel them so they can thrive. And maybe you can think about all of this and remind yourself about your own strengths. You have them! Add that to your self-care routine this week - focus on your own strengths too!
I’ll be back again next week here - feel free to reach out. I’ll leave some links below.
Enjoy your family - Happy Unschooling!