I once read or probably heard somewhere that if we want to build a great relationship with our children, we should give them five (5) compliments for every criticism we dole out. I must say that as a parent, I have failed woefully in this regard. My daughter is a 10-year old middle schooler and my son is 9 years old. So, building a healthy relationship with them is very important to me. I want to get it right but getting it right doesn't always happen.
Trust me, like you, I tried. Yes, the last thing on my mind is a compliment when I have said, "make your bed", "get your school materials ready the day before", "clean up after yourself", "put things back exactly where you got them" for the millionth time. At this point, I do not want a give a compliment! I give in and the rain of criticism comes pouring down. In the midst of the outpour, it feels like the right thing to do but I do not feel great afterward, neither does my children. Now what?! I tell myself I will do better. I do mean it I say I will do better. However, the cycle of critic and guilt continues. I consider myself a very optimistic person. I am not throwing in the towel on becoming the best possible parent I can be. Not yet.
Though I might have failed by this standard of 5 compliments to 1 criticism ratio, I do not think I and other "failing" parents should not be completely written off. I have hope that we can turn a new leaf. I am saying turn a new leaf because we can never attain perfection. All we can do is put our best foot forward. There is hope. It is not easy, but it is absolutely doable. It starts with our mindset and revamping how we have been approaching parenting. I wish for you the same growth I wish for myself as a parent. I believe the hope we need in this regard is embracing Strength-Based Parenting.
Strength-Based Parenting as the name implies is a style of parenting that focuses on the strengths of a child and amplifying those strengths. Strength-Based Parenting is not advocating that you ignore the weaknesses or negatives. It is advocating for a switch or focus reversal. A push to switch our energy from an emphasis on what needs to be fixed to what is being done right. It is a call to leverage all the things our children do right to upend that in which they need improvement.
I have found that the best way to positively influence a child's behavior is by focusing on what they are doing right. This gives us a better chance to see the best in them, and to provide encouragement toward increasing positive behavior patterns. When we engage strength-based parenting styles, our goal isn't only to help our children succeed, but also to help them grow up confident in their abilities. The problem is that if we continually get in the "fixing mode", we end up compromising our own values - and even our children's success.
Seeking out all the things my children did right required a high level of intentionality on my part. Naturally, I will gloss over the strengths and focus on the negatives. I began to intentionally seek out those moments when they are in their positive elements. I do consider myself a work in progress in my implementation of Strength-Based Parenting. However, I am pleased with the results on the days I horn in on my kids' strengths. Remember, work in progress.
There are many benefits to adopting a strength-based approach to parenting. One is that it facilitates children's emotional growth. Research shows that children who grow up in families where there is a strong sense of belonging and shared power fare far better academically and socially. Research also shows that children raised in this style of parenting fare better during important developmental periods such as early childhood and middle childhood.
Ultimately, the goal of parenting is to create a secure environment for our children. We inevitably create such an environment when we get in a habit of honing in on their strengths.