Why Focusing on the Good Brings Out the Good
If you’re a parent, grandparent, or even just live in a community with children (yes – pretty much everyone), take the time to read The Smart Parenting Revolution, by Dawna Markova, Ph.D. Rarely do I fell this connected to a book, but this one strikes a chord through sound research and practical advice for parents. Markova aims her book at parents and caregivers who want a “powerful new approach to unleashing your child’s potential.” While not every single page resonates for me as a mother, there is so much real world advice throughout that I have to share some of it with you and how it works in our family.
Focus on the Positive Traits of Your Children
“Passionate parents can help their children live up to their potential rather than down to their deficits.”
Markova introduces her book to us as an effort to get parents to stop trying to change all of the little undesirable traits that parents worry their children demonstrate (fidgety, loud, timid, etc.) and focus on their potential strengths. In my mind I’m hearing the tidbits of an old song…accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative…
She goes on to cite research done by the Gallup Organization about which every parent should hear: Every unique, one-of-a-kind child has signature strengths. The Gallup research shows that “not everyone can do everything, and trying to make everyone learn to do everything only produces mediocrity.” I don’t know about you, but I don’t aim for mediocrity with my children or myself. In my family this doesn’t mean we just dismiss things we think we or our children aren’t as capable of doing, it means that we work on developing skills in those areas, but we allow for extra energy to go into things in which we feel we and them are inherently capable. We get to accentuate the positive.
If you think that your kids should have extra lessons and classes and attention placed on their deficits in order to make them good enough, strong enough, or capable enough – enough already. We need to give them room to excel in the areas where they are naturally inclined and form interpersonal relationships with others who can complement self-identified weaknesses.
The Value of Interdependence and Cooperative Learning
Too many people think that we have to teach our children to be completely independent. However, we are missing the value of interdependence. Here is an example of how this works in my family. My daughter is attuned to animals – aspiring to become a veterinarian. People refer to her for questions on dog training and things related to animal behavior and health – these are her innate strengths about which she feels passionate. Now take sports – she is not so inclined to get excited over a football game. Yet when friends get together for a backyard game of flag football, she’ll defer to her brother (the self-proclaimed football fanatic) for the best plays to run. This simple example shows how kids and teens can learn to seek out skills from others that can help them, while at the same time providing their own niche of knowledge. And they feel good about both – we are teaching cooperative learning and interdependence – which frees them up to follow their own unique dreams and ideas.
Helping Your Child Reach His Full Potential
There is potential surrounding us in our children – we just need to know how to help them reach out and grab it. Markova promotes a strategy that incorporates open ended questions and empathy to have conversations and engagements with our kids that will help all of us discover those innate passions and assets – with the acronym of SMART.
- Successes and Skills: your child’s accomplishments
- Mind Patterns: what helps your child concentrate, make decisions, and imagine new possibilities
- Attractions and Interests: the ongoing things that interest your child
- Resources: the people, places, and things outside your child that are available as support to him or her, as well as the inner resources developed from facing challenges and overcoming obstacles
- Thinking Talents: innate ways of thinking that your child excels at and is energized by
As Markova encourages parents to recognize the positive traits in their children and give those attention, she also says that this is not the same thing as giving them compliments or praise. Consider two examples:
- A son comes off the baseball field and his dad says, “You’re a great fielder!”
- A son comes off the baseball field and his dad says, “How did you enjoy playing center field? What is most challenging about it? It looked to me like you were ready at each play – how do you think you did?”
The difference between these two is the first is a compliment that might be nice to hear, but it doesn’t do anything to further the son’s experience. The second is the dad paying attention to the son, engaging him in conversation that might lead to discovery, and it is all done in a positive way. Teach your child to recognize success in himself, and he will be more capable of reaching for it.
There is so much more waiting inside Markova’s book – join me tomorrow for a discussion about how my family implements her ideas on recognizing mind patterns, attractions and interests, and thinking talents.