"What would happen if we studied what was right with people versus what's wrong with people?"
Don Clifton's quote from the book Soar With Your Strengths summarizes the driving force behind the science of strengths-based development. Applied to workplaces, schools and communities worldwide, Gallup's strengths philosophy also pertains to arguably the most important team in the world: the family.
The problem that parents and children face, just like employees, teachers and others, is that too often, society wants to focus on what's wrong with them -- to fix their weaknesses. For example, a Gallup survey showed that 52% of Americans believe that knowing and trying to improve on your weaknesses will help you be more successful in your life than knowing and building on your strengths.
In the newly released Strengths Based Parenting, Gallup's Mary Reckmeyer, Ph.D., gives parents the tools and knowledge to build stronger families by focusing on what they and their children do best, instead of fixating on their weaknesses. The book, which includes codes to access the Clifton StrengthsFinder and Clifton Youth StrengthsExplorer assessments, introduces research, stories and practical advice on how to develop talents and strengths while managing weaknesses.
What Is Strengths-Based Parenting?
There is no one "right" way to parent. Every parent and every child is unique. Reckmeyer recognizes this individuality throughout the book as the driving force families should embrace. It is this individuality, Reckmeyer says, that is the real "secret" to successful parenting: Parents can shape a better future for their kids by helping them discover and develop their unique talents and strengths.
Reckmeyer would know. Not only is she the executive director of the Donald O. Clifton Child Development Center, but she's also a former teacher, the mother of four and the daughter of Don Clifton, inventor of the Clifton StrengthsFinder assessment and recognized as the Father of Strengths-Based Psychology by an American Psychological Association Presidential Commendation.
Through decades of study -- from mentoring and teaching to collaborating with educators worldwide -- Reckmeyer has determined that what makes the biggest developmental difference in someone's life is having at least one person who not only loves and cares but who also recognizes and respects the person's individuality. In Strengths Based Parenting, Reckmeyer writes, she wants to help parents be that someone for their children.
The Key to Strengths-Based Parenting
People are most effective -- and happier -- when they use their strengths. Gallup's research finds that when people discover their talents and develop them into strengths, it can improve the quality of their lives.
Using stories, examples and practical advice, Reckmeyer paints a vivid picture of how real people have experienced the positive outcomes of strengths-based parenting. She introduces and reinforces the keys to strengths-based parenting, sharing her experiences and offering parents guidance on how to implement strengths-based parenting in their own lives. Here is some of her advice:
1. Strengths-based parenting starts when parents know and understand their own talents and how they can best apply them with their children and family. From the minute people find out they are going to be parents, questions, doubt, guilt and worry can settle in and sometimes overwhelm them. But, instead of obsessing over areas of weakness, Reckmeyer says, parents should spend more time enjoying their children. She says that parents who know and understand their talents and then tailor those talents to the job of parenting will have a much more positive experience and accomplish more.
2. Strengths-based parenting means discovering children's talents and helping them develop those talents into strengths. All parents want the best for their children. And, as Reckmeyer writes, the best for a child is the best in the child. No matter their environment, kids will be happier and do better when they are using their talents. For parents, that means they must nurture the nature in their children.
Children learn and grow better when they put their energy toward what they can do rather than toward what they struggle to do. Strengths Based Parenting offers insights, advice and action items parents can use to learn and understand their kids' talents and their own. The book includes access codes to take the Clifton StrengthsFinder and Clifton Youth StrengthsExplorer assessments as well as a section on "StrengthsSpotting," which is Gallup's model for finding talents in very young children.
3. Strengths-based parenting means finding and selecting strengths-based schools and educational environments that will engage children. Gallup has long studied student engagement in U.S. schools. Unfortunately, this research has identified what we call the "school cliff" -- engagement levels are the highest in elementary school, take a downward turn in middle school and continue their descent into high school. Reckmeyer writes that strengths-based schools are a key component in reversing this trend. She cites a survey of 600,000 students that found that students who strongly agree that their school is committed to building the strengths of each student and that they have at least one teacher who makes them excited about the future are 30 times as likely to be engaged at school.
All too often, schools focus more on fixing weaknesses than focusing on strengths. Reckmeyer writes passionately about the power of strengths-based education, from the long-term effect of great teachers who have the talent to teach to the importance of effective school administration. Strengths Based Parenting offers clear direction and advice for parents on how to partner with teachers and schools when looking for an educational environment that values their children's talents.