The Hardest Question to Answer

One of the questions I ask parents and students alike is what are your strengths? It is funny this might be the hardest question I ask, or at least it seems to be very hard to answer. Why?

Perhaps it is cultural or societal, but we tend to focus on what’s wrong, missing, not as good in comparison to others. What if we focused on our and our kids’ strengths? Would that change anything?

We’re taught not to be braggarts, but to be confident as well as recognize our shortcomings and make improvements. We’re encouraged to feel good about ourselves yet keep striving to be better. How is that done, how is it possible?

Learning to value yourself leads to confidence. “I worked hard, but only got a C on the test,” is not a confidence builder. It focuses primarily on what is not okay  and is demoralizing. It promotes the idea that one is not good enough, no matter how hard they try, and perpetuates a never satisfied effort to be enough. You can build confidence and encourage your child to improve at the same time, in fact the former will support the latter.

Allow your/your child’s greatness to stand and be acknowledged. This will serve as the foundation of building more skill, character, and ability. There is even greatness in working to improve something. It is much easier to ”get better” or improve coming from a strong base than a shaky one. Improvement comes from identifying strengths and using them to support growth. It does not come from highlighting deficits. What you focus on becomes more powerful. What do you want to be the more powerful guiding force in your child’s life – deficits or strengths?

Changing “buts” to “ands” or leaving them out altogether makes a difference. “But” invalidates everything before it, so it is a deflator (i.e. in the above statement, the work is invalidated and the C is highlighted). “I work hard and feel good about that in myself,” builds confidence. “I’m working hard at math and its still difficult,” acknowledges both the strength and the area for improvement. It builds confidence while identifying areas for improvement. If we want our kids to grow into adults with confidence then we need to acknowledge their strengths and let these shine.

Take a look — in what ways do you acknowledge your own strengths? How about those of your kids? Do you look for the “what’s wrong” first or only? Try making one small change in what you notice and how you talk to yourself and to your child. See how it feels to you both.

Let me know what happens! If you need help in implementing these changes to support yourself and your children, let’s talk, I can help.


Here is another helpful article about acknowledging and supporting the strengths in those with learning difficulties from a very helpful website called Understood for learning and attention issues.


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