With week one of the school holidays now done, how are things going on the parenting front? Perhaps you could use a little rejig to help get through things more positively over the remainder of the weeks? I recently read an amazing book called The Strength Switch by Prof Lea Waters which has really changed my way of parenting – in a nutshell it encourages us to parent by our children’s strengths and not their weakness. I’m delighted to have had the opportunity to interview Lea on how exactly we can not only get through, but keep things more positive for the remainder of the summer holidays using strength based parenting so here goes:
Why do you think the summer holidays present a particular challenge for parents?
Summer holidays can be a wonder or a wreck! The treats of being on holidays can also cause tension – being out of routine, hanging out with each other for long stretches of family time, having abundant downtime can all throw a family off centre. On top of that, parents have to juggle work commitments and kids miss their friends.
How can we put a more positive spin on things during these 6 weeks ahead?
I’d suggest using the 6 weeks to embark on a strength-based family journey. Start the holidays by exploring each other strengths. There are free surveys and a free strength library on my website (www.strengthswitch.com) that can help families explore and identify their strengths. Once you are clearer about the strengths of your kids, you can have them join you to choose a range of holiday activities you can do over the 6 weeks to help them build and amplify their strengths.
Kids who have analytical and problem solving strengths might collect up on a range of puzzles and quizzes to do in their downtime. For those kids with creative strengths ensure they have the equipment needed to be creative and plan some visits to Galleries. For those kids with social strengths, ensure they get to see their friends and maybe get them connected to a social improvement project in your local area that will meet their social needs.
How can we use the summer holidays as an opportunity to encourage creativity and develop our children’s self esteem?
By doing the above and tapping into your childrens’ strengths you are giving them a chance to regularly build their well-being because their strengths are the qualities in them that bring out their best and make them feel confident. What’s more, strengths are energizing and self-motivating so your kids won’t be bored.
What are your top tips on interacting and getting the best out of our children over the summer holidays?
Aside from the suggestions above (identifying strengths and planning activities that help kids build their strengths) you can also play strengths bingo and whenever you see your kids using a strengths, mark it up on a poster or the fridge. Create a friendly competition for who is the best strengths spotter in your household; set a family goal for a strength that as a family, you’d all like to improve, establish mini-goals along the way and reward your family with a nice dinner or movies for working towards the goal.
And what about dealing with arguments and problem behaviours?
First, try to change your vantage point and view misbehaviour as a potential overuse of strengths rather than deliberative badness. The child who is overly curious might be misinterpreted as being nosy, the child who has natural leadership might go to far with it and be bossy. Instead of criticizing your child for their noisiness or bossiness, educate them about the valuable strength they have and show them how that strength works best when used for the right reasons in the right situation. Talk to them about the downsides of over using a strength.
Second, when there are arguments of problem behaviour ask yourself and the parent “What would I rather see instead of this?” Think about what the positive opposite is that you want and call that forward. This changes the way you react from ‘Stop Fighting!” to “How about we co-operate here?” or “Let’s our kindness to fix this”
Third, use your own strengths to re-direct the behaviour. Your strength of humour can be really useful in the heat of the moment as to your strengths of perspective, kindness, fairness and/or patience.
How can parents steer their children away from the “e” of gaming, sitting and eating to something more beneficial?
Find out their strengths and plan a range of different activities that help them build their strengths. You can also set stretch goals for your kids, longer term projects that will take 6 weeks (on and off) to complete and that tap into their strengths. Maybe it is getting fit, learning to cook, completing a model aeroplane, redecorating their room etc.. When you feel they have been gaming, eating or sitting for too long invite them to keep working on their project.
What are your five top tips for making that Strength Switch in the heat of the moment?
- Pause and recognise your own emotions before you react.
- Think about the moment as an opportunity for learning
- Think about the positive opposite that you want, this way you’re not just telling your kids what not to do, you are showing what to do instead and this provides a positive pathway forward.
- Look for a strength that you child has that can be used to resolve the situation
- Teach the importance of forgiveness in a family
So has that helped your frame parenting over the summer holidays in a way? Do you think strength-based parenting could help you be more positive in your parenting for the remainder of the school holidays and beyond? Do leave a comment and share.
The Strength Switch is published by Scribe (£14.99).
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