For parents and teachers who care, instructing children includes helping them find and develop their unique skills so every individual can grow as a whole person. Sadly, too many educators—and even well-meaning parents—fall into the trap of thinking that every individual should grow up to fit the high-paying-corporate-job model of “success,” that everyone should be “grade A” at everything, and that the best approach is to push improvement of weaknesses while taking strengths for granted. While this stress-and-pressure approach may help some children become “successful,” it will leave almost anyone frustrated, feeling inferior, and disgusted with the whole idea of learning.
Focusing on natural strengths is a far better way to build effective individuals—and effective teams that are more than the sum of their members’ individual skills. Here’s how to maximize a strengths-based approach.
- First, make sure everyone knows their strengths. Ask the kids to share what they really enjoy doing and what gives them a feeling of accomplishment.
- For further clarification, introduce the kids to personality and aptitude tests. Take a few yourself and make a group activity of it.
- Always emphasize individual value and the importance of being oneself. Never, ever say, “Why can’t you do this as well as so-and-so?”
- Call for volunteers rather than just assigning duties. “Lazy” kids can be exceptional workers when allowed to choose tasks they personally enjoy.
- Minimize your own expectations of how and when kids should use their strengths. Too much “You should do this because you’re so good at it” will burden almost anyone with a sense of false obligation, and leave them overloaded and frustrated.
- Encourage “What do you want to be when you grow up?” discussions, but also emphasize finding ways to use strengths now. Most successful people were using their entrepreneurial/artistic/organizing skills in significant projects before they finished grade school.
- Avoid at all costs the panicked “You’ll never be able to make a living at that” reaction when someone expresses a “when I grow up” dream. Overprotective parents, who think they’re preparing their children for a secure future by discouraging risk-taking and outside-the-box thinking, are actually sending the message that income and personal comfort are all that matter—are even more important than being happy and fulfilled.
- Do expect that specific future goals will change as a child grows. Every strength has many potential uses, and different seasons of life call for different emphases.
- When responsible for multiple kids with different strengths, include activities that suit everyone’s
- Even better, schedule team activities that let everyone contribute according to their own strengths. As far as is possible, let the kids divide duties themselves, rather than assigning team roles based on your
- Emphasize individual initiative as well as individual strengths. Encourage proactively seeking out ways to participate, rather than waiting for the right opportunity to appear on its own.
- Let the kids have fun discovering and using their strengths—and while you’re at it, look for ways you can enjoy developing any of your natural strengths you’ve been neglecting.
DEVELOPING INDIVIDUAL STRENGTHS AT SCHOOL
At Shady Oak Primary, we believe that every child is a unique individual, and that a school’s job is to help everyone grow and develop into their best selves—not to squeeze every student into the same achievement mold. This philosophy undergirds all our classes and programs. If you agree that your children deserve to become their own best selves and make their best possible individual contributions to society, contact us today to learn more!
Blessings to parents and children of all ages!