"As long as we live, we have the potential to learn, develop, and become the best version of ourselves. The ability to focus on our strengths lights our path."
~Lea Waters, PhD
Do you ever wish you had a manual for parenting?
Since these kids I am raising came into the world without instructions, and I want them to thrive, I've been on a quest to figure out HOW.
My passionate desire to get parenting "right" inspired me to read and hoard a lot of books.
There are a few gems in my collection that have taught me specific and effective techniques. I've learned how to mitigate sleep deprivation and can whip up the perfect blend of organic baby food (though I am a strong advocate for the pre-made stuff, because it kept me from going insane in early motherhood. More on that here).
The problem is, these kids of mine evolve as quickly as I can read. I tackle one thing, only to find myself facing a new dilemma. Seemingly overnight, I transitioned from worrying about nourishment to the bigger things like,
How do I raise a strong-willed child without breaking her spirit?
Sometimes the techniques I've read about were great in theory, but felt completely impractical in the trenches of motherhood. These failed applications always led me back to square one:
I need another book.
Despite the vast collection of books that line my shelf, I haven't bought any parenting books in quiet a while. I stopped around the time my toddler was recovering from his life-threatening burn injury. At least, that's when I quit looking for the answers about how to parent in books, because even my pediatrician was at a loss for words about the right way to piece my family back together in the aftermath of trauma.
Through that difficult time there was no concrete advice for, I learned to lead by the heart and to trust my instincts. Now, I parent four different ways every day. I conclude there is NO right way or a perfect solution, but by showing up with love, I feel like I am a good enough mom.
I suppose that's why for all my writing on resilience and motherhood, I shy away from parenting advice outside of,
"Just show up with love."
However, there is one thing I want to talk about today that I have practiced over the years:
I see my kids through their strengths.
My strengths-based approach to parenting feels organic, but it's not natural. See, when I studied positive psychology and read about how strengths can enhance well-being, I discovered and started leveraging my top character strengths. This has become the foundation of my resilience.
Knowing how powerfully strengths contribute to well-being might inspire you to learn about yours. You can take a free survey here:
My personal success with strengths inspired me to notice and focus on what is good in my kids. That's pretty much the only parenting technique that works for all of my four unique children. Well, along with love. I parent with strengths and love.
If love has made me a good enough mom on my worst day, seeing my children through their strengths has made me a kinder, more compassionate, and patient mother.
Well, most of the time. I still have shame-filled moments, but parenting is really hard and messy. I am a work in progress who is doing the best she can. While stumbling along, I've been quietly praying for someone to give me clarity on how to better leverage strengths in parenting.
Along came The Strength Switch by Lea Waters, PhD and moms, this book is parenting gold!
What made me buy another parenting book when I had completely given up, you might wonder? Well, two weeks ago I went to an alumni event back at the University of Pennsylvania where I studied positive psychology. Annually, graduates of my program gather to learn about the most current research.
Unfortunately, I had to leave before I heard Dr. Lea Waters speak about her new book on strengths-based parenting. Knowing how well-respected Waters is in my field, I didn't hesitate to purchase what I knew would be an insightful book.
What I didn't expect is that once I started reading The Strength Switch: How the New Science of Strength-Based Parenting Can Help Your Child and Your Teen to Flourish, I wouldn't be able to put it down.
This book will remain readily accessible until I fully digest what I believe is the universal parenting manual I've longed for all these years.
Yes, it's that good!
Written by a distinguished positive psychologist (and mother of two) who draws on decades of personal and clinical experience, The Strength Switch delivers an approach to parenting that is simple, practical, and effective.
Waters arms her readers with the knowledge of our negativity bias (seeing strengths can be hard), but shows us why and how we can work at shifting towards a parenting style that will build resilience, optimism, and an enduring sense of achievement. Strength-based parenting helps us not only to see what is "right"about our children, but inspires us to discover their strengths and talents. By nurturing their strengths, they just might flourish.
At the end of the day, isn't that the goal?
If you are feeling even slightly intimidated about delving into a science-based book, DON'T! Despite layers of fascinating research and insightful experiences, what drives the lessons of Strength Switch home is the authentic voice of its author.
Waters is a REAL mom who gets it, and guides us through a more effective way to parent with compassion and humility. Her "real mom" stories plant seeds of hope that by flipping on our strength switch, we just might have more parenting wins than failures.
At least, that's what I'm aiming for. You can buy it here and thank me later!