Parenting to Your Strengths (and Your Child's)

By Kelly Aluise

Being a parent is hard work. There is no job description that can fully prepare you for the responsibility, rewards, challenges and uncertainty that come with having children. How can you possibly nurture and guide this other person when you are still navigating life yourself?

Well … you do it together! You rely on your strengths and your child’s strengths to learn from one another and celebrate the traits that make each of you feel fulfilled. Here’s an exercise to help you get started.

How to Map Your Strengths to Your Child’s Strengths

First, explore your best qualities.

After taking the VIA Survey, take time to reflect on the feedback. Survey results include all 24 character strengths, breaking them out into your signature, middle and lesser strengths, to give you a sense of how much you “own” each of the strengths. And your results give you a wealth of information on your signature strengths—those qualities that you are naturally more comfortable using. Use the results to create a list of ways that you can use your signature strengths more in your interactions with your children.

For example, if prudence is a signature strength, maybe you and your child develop a weekly meal plan for dinners together. Or if judgment is a signature strength, consider one thing that you and your child don’t agree on and spend time getting more information on his/her point of view. In essence, how can you use your character strengths to foster a stronger relationship with your child?

Second, appreciate your child’s strengths.

After you focus on applying your own strengths, explore how your results compare to your child’s results and what you can do to embrace the differences. First, encourage your child to take the VIA Youth Survey (for ages 10-17) to get their own Character Strengths Profile and VIA Youth Decoder Report (free Parent Guide accompanies Report). Review the results together and compare their strengths with yours. Do any of your signature strengths overlap? What are strengths that your child has that aren’t as high for you? How can you cultivate these qualities and learn from your child in these areas?

For example, if your child has a signature strength of curiosity, spend time asking questions together. Ask your child what they think about TV shows, foods they eat, people they interact with, places they visit, etc. Feed their curiosity! Or if they have a signature strength of honesty, take time to discuss the things that make you unique and why these qualities make you happy. Model their authenticity and openness!

What character strengths does your child exhibit that you can help nourish and develop? How can knowing these strengths contribute to a better relationship?

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