In my last blog post, I referenced Sir Ken Robinson’s new book You, Your Child, and School that I am currently reading. I promised that I would comment on each of the five themes addressed in the book in my upcoming blog posts. As a reminder, the themes are:
- Knowing your child
- Your child’s development
- Your role as a parent
- Why education needs to change, and
- Actions to take as a parent to change education
This week I am tackling the first theme of knowing your child.
Last week I presented the workshop “Confident Teens: Identifying Talents and Strengths” to parents and youth at the local library. You can hear more about what was covered at the Confident Teen workshop here. I had a number of parents attend with their teens to discover more about how to identify their own strengths individually and as parents, and secondly, how to guide their teens to identify and understand their strengths. I was delighted to teach both parents and teens about talents and strengths that evening.
Why is it important to know your strengths as a parent? When you know your own strengths, then you can lean into your strengths when addressing challenging situations that come up in the family. As an example, I have the strength of connectedness. Connectedness allows me to build relationships with people based on the belief that God (or a Higher Power) is guiding me on a path to serve others. I also believe that things happen for a reason and there is a lesson to be learned in both challenging and predictable times. I use my connectedness strength when I interact with my children, and connectedness helps me to recognize how each of my children is navigating his or her own unique challenges. Connectedness strength aids me to be centered in who I am so that I can support my children in how they are developing and who they are becoming.
When I know my own child’s strengths, it helps me to support him/her during challenging times and to recognize the personal positives. When I can find the positive in my child instead of turning to negative thoughts, our relationship can be affirmative and supportive.
Our children’s personalities and temperaments are part nature and part nurture. The environment we create in our families is very important to nurturing our teens’ interests, talents, values, and motivators. Children are born to learn. This is evident every time you look at a young child and see how she explores the world around her. She learns to walk, to talk and to accomplish many other skills, all through modeling and curiosity. As children grow older, something changes as their learning process in formal education begins. Formal education has standards, expectations, and rules to follow that may not be developmentally appropriate for a particular child and can at times actually harm the natural learning process.
All children do not learn how to walk or talk at the same age, so, why do we expect them to learn to read or write at the same age? Humans grow physically, cognitively, emotionally and spiritually at varied rates. Trying to force a child to take on a topic or skill that he is not ready to learn can sometimes cause more harm than good.
Many times school does very well with monitoring academic achievement; however, formal schooling tends to ignore the rest of the areas of growth in a child. As Robinson notes this can cause problems for students and parents.
“One of the deep problems in education which should concern you as a parent, is the limited idea of intelligence that permeates school culture. Achievement in education is still largely based on a narrow conception of academic ability and the tendency to confuse that with intelligence in general. Academic ability involves particular sorts of verbal and mathematical reasoning, which is one reason why children in school spend so much time sitting down writing and calculating. Academic ability is important, but it’s not the whole of intelligence. If it were, human culture would be far less interesting. When education operates on a narrow idea of ability, all sorts of other abilities can go undiscovered.”
Knowing your teen’s strengths, learning style, interests, and values can help you to navigate the school curriculum as to where your child might be able to develop in other areas of his life. Strengths are developed through factors other than just academic activities. When you know your teen’s strengths you will be able to find other ways your teen can develop his strengths. Activities such as participating in a play to develop a talent in communication and/or to help plan a family trip that serves to develop the skill of organizing. Just like many of the natural resources in the earth, a talent usually has to be uncovered and refined before it can be used as a strength.
Identifying your teen’s talents and supporting her to develop her talents into strengths can help your teen to lead a life that is rewarding and a benefit to others. This will be especially true when your teens find something to really care about and can do especially well. When these attributes mature, you will have a confident and capable teen.
Now open for a limited number of clients:
Wildewood Learning’s program, Road Map to the Future, is a self-discovery program that empowers teens and young adults to better understand personal strengths, values, interests, and abilities and that helps create a plan of action to reach the next step on their journey.
Parents are welcome to contact Kathy at firstname.lastname@example.org for a free 30 minute “Discover your Teen’s Strengths” conversation that will lead you to help your teen or young adult to become a more capable and confident adult.
Robinson, Ken. You, Your Child, and School: Navigate Your Way to the Best Education (p. 61). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.