An Introduction To Strength-Based Parenting: What It Is, Why It Matters, And How To Do It

Oct 18, 2022 | Parenting

Most parents want what’s best for their children and strive to provide them with the tools they need to succeed in life. But we know now, the traditional methods of parenting can do more harm than good. Strength-based parenting is a positive and empowering approach that focuses on building up a child’s individual strengths rather than trying to fix their weaknesses.

There is a growing body of research that demonstrates the benefits of strength-based parenting. Studies have shown that children who are raised in this way are more likely to be successful in school, have better mental health, and exhibit higher levels of self-esteem. They are also more likely to develop positive relationships with others and contribute to their community in a meaningful way.

What Is Strength-Based Parenting And Its Benefits?

Strength-based parenting is about supporting our children in a way that recognizes their inherent value and natural strengths, as opposed to focusing on improving weaknesses. It’s an approach that can benefit both children and families by creating an environment of love, respect, and positive reinforcement.

According to Dr. Lea Waters, strength-based parenting “is a style of parenting characterized by knowledge and encouragement of a child’s unique personality, abilities, talents, and skills (i.e. strengths).[1]

The benefits of strength-based parenting are far-reaching and science-based. Some of the positive outcomes are:

  • Students achieve higher academic achievement, such as better grades and level of engagement.[2]
  • Children have lower stress levels and strength-based coping strategies.[3]
  • Adolescents report a better well-being and mindset.[4]
  • LGBTQ+ individuals reported lower levels of post-traumatic stress symptoms and higher levels of posttraumatic growth if they had experienced strength-based parenting.[5]

Strength-Based Parenting Tips

Strength-based parenting feels like a no-brainer for parents and caretakers trying to implement positive parenting techniques. However, when a child needs correction, an adult’s natural instinct is to focus on the negative. They worry that if they don’t point out this weakness, a child will continue to struggle with it. The research shows, though, that focusing on the positive in both difficult and easy interactions with children produces the best outcomes.

Here are some simple ways to implement strength-based parenting into any home.

Use Strength-Based Compliments

The simplest way for caregivers to use strength-based parenting is to compliment their children. Saying genuine remarks like, “You’re so good at sharing your toys with your sister,” or “Thank you for thinking ahead and bringing that. You’re really good at planning!” can help a child internalize their strengths and build on them in the future. Even adults today will often reference compliments they got as children that positively affected their life.

Keep Track of Children’s Strengths

If finding strengths regularly comes unnaturally or if caregivers want to find a unique ability to compliment, keeping a running list of a child’s strengths can be helpful. A list on your phone or journal of strengths is invaluable on days when positivity is hard to find. Caregivers can go to their list and commend the strength of their child instead of falling into a negativity loop.

Set An Example

It can be difficult to focus on a child’s strengths if the caregiver doesn’t have a positive view of themself. Caregivers should spend time thinking about their own strengths and how they can parent in accordance with what they’re good at – they can even practice complimenting themselves by creating a strength-based journal. If you are in a two-parent or partner household, you can also set an example to your little ones by regularly appreciating one another’s strengths.

Create A Strength Map Of The Family

Because every person in a family has their own set of strengths and weaknesses, a strength-finding exercise can be helpful. According to Dr. Waters[6], mapping out the strengths of each family member can help you improve communication and teamwork. Recognizing that one family member is especially good at planning in advance and another family member is excellent at making conversation can help families work together.

Focus On The Positive

Positive parenting isn’t about condoning every negative behavior from a child. On the contrary, parents and caregivers still need to correct their children. Caregivers can still use strength-based parenting techniques in difficult situations. For example, asking a child,

“What strengths do you have that could’ve helped you avoid that fight?” can lead to an open dialogue about conflict resolution that doesn’t make a child feel ashamed.

Every child and family is unique. Strength-based parenting celebrates this and is easy to weave into the day.

So why isn’t strength-based parenting more widely practiced?

In many cases, it simply comes down to a lack of awareness. When parents focus on their child’s weaknesses, they often do so out of concern that those weaknesses will hold their child back in life. Now we know, research shows that by helping children build on their strengths, we can help them overcome any obstacle they may face.

References & Sources

[1] Waters, L.E., Loton, D. & Jach, H.K. Does Strength-Based Parenting Predict Academic Achievement? The Mediating Effects of Perseverance and Engagement. J Happiness Stud 20, 1121–1140 (2019).

[2] Waters, L.E., Loton, D. & Jach, H.K. Does Strength-Based Parenting Predict Academic Achievement? The Mediating Effects of Perseverance and Engagement. J Happiness Stud 20, 1121–1140 (2019).

[3] Waters, L. The Relationship between Strength-Based Parenting with Children’s Stress Levels and Strength-Based Coping Approaches. Psychology, 6, 689-699 (2015).  doi: 10.4236/psych.2015.66067.

[4] Jach, H.K., Sun, J., Loton, D. et al. Strengths and Subjective Wellbeing in Adolescence: Strength-Based Parenting and the Moderating Effect of Mindset. J Happiness Stud 19, 567–586 (2018).

[5] Zavala, C., Waters, L. Coming Out as LGBTQ +: The Role Strength-Based Parenting on Posttraumatic Stress and Posttraumatic Growth. J Happiness Stud 22, 1359–1383 (2021).

[6] Waters, L. How To Be A Strength-Based Parent. Greater Good Magazine. October 2, 2018.

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