Strengths Spotting

“If you’re not ahead, you’re behind.”

That’s what my twelve year-old son said when I asked him what connection he saw between being, both, competitive and unrelenting.

Jack wakes up every day with an agenda; at least on thing he must do before he (or you) can go to bed. As much as it drives me crazy at times, his follow-through is a quality I admire and wish I had more of.

Yesterday it was renewing his picture ID at a local park where we have membership. Mind you, the ID serves no real function. He doesn’t need it to gain admission because I I swipe my ID at the gate when dropping him off. And he doesn’t need it to buy a snack, because they only ask for our family ID; a 6-digit number he memorized within the first five minutes of it being issued, six years ago.

The day before that it was designing his ideal drone. And then holding me captive until I listened to every feature that made it faster and more powerful than anything already on the market.

The day before that it was ordering my husband a salad bowl as a present for his birthday,

And the day before that it was packaging up and shipping off a tennis racket he was returning to Wilson. In a new box because, according to Jack, Wilson might not accept his return if we repurposed the gently used box it came in.

In all cases, Jack wants the best of everything and he’s like a dog with a bone until he checks an item off his list. He’s driven to push his agenda because, in his mind, “if he isn’t ahead he’s behind” and for a competitive person that feels like losing.

More important than the examples is Jack’s ability to articulate, for himself, the connection between his talents and these innate patterns in thinking, feeling, and behaving. Once Jack makes the connection for himself, he can lean on those strengths for the rest of his life as tools for building future successes.

It doesn’t work if I make the connection for him and at least two things are required for Jack to do it for himself.

Knowledge of his strengths. Jack is lucky enough to attend a school that uses our Shine curriculum, so in the fifth grade all students take StrengthsExplorer. This tool, created by Gallup, provides children 11-14 years of age with language around their top three strengths (his are: Competing, Organizer, and Discoverer). The shared language is what allowed me and Jack to have a conversation around patterns I was noticing in his behavior.

Questions. As parents hoping to unearth the talents and gifts of our children, the most important thing we can do is hold a mirror up to behaviors we notice and frame those observations in the form of questions. “Jack, I notice when there is a task you want completed, you won’t stop until it is done. Why do you think that is? Or, “Jack, what does it feel like when you check one of these items off your list?” Or, “What does it feel like when days go by and there is a task you don’t get checked off your list?”

Feed your strengths and they become stronger. Ignore them and, like the muscles in our body, they will atrophy. How can you feed the strengths of someone you love today by making an observation or posing questions about patterns you notice in their thinking, feeling, or behaving?

Claudia Beeny

Founder and Executive Director

Posted on 7/3/19 5:43 am by Claudia Beeny in: Uncategorized

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