Strengths Based Parenting: Developing Your Children’s Innate Talents – Post 3 (by Kim Jansen)

The story of Matt demonstrates the power of a parent or other mentor in helping a child recognize and develop his talents (see page 14 of Strengths Based Parenting).

Growing up on a farm, Matt joined every 4-H club possible, and he frequently won the highest award for his projects at the fair. Upon receiving the coveted ribbon, however, Matt frequently dropped that particular activity to try another one.

Some adults in Matt’s life called him a “quitter.” Matt’s father, on the other hand, realized that Matt’s StrengthsFinder themes explained his son’s desire to learn, work hard and win.

“For years, I felt kind of bad, like people were right that I have a character flaw,” Matt said. “But my dad helped me see that I’m a great builder, not a great manager. And the world needs builders.” Matt’s dad supported his son’s quest for new projects. Today Matt is a successful entrepreneur.

I recognize Matt’s characteristics in one of my sons.

Back in 2017, my teenage son rigged up an electric scooter with a gas-powered weedwhacker motor. With his grandfather’s help, he got it to run (albeit not as fast he had hoped) and then turned his attention to a broken-down ATV. After tinkering there for a few weeks, he sold the ATV for parts and bought another one, plus an old pickup truck. Now he’s interested in a friend’s old, junky boat.

Oh, and did I mention he has a 4’x8’ model railroad layout in his bedroom that’s been a “work in progress” for three years?

My husband and I sometimes get overwhelmed by the multitude of projects and our son’s tendency to jump from one thing to the next. However, once our son took the Clifton Youth StrengthsExplorer assessment (for kids ages 10-14), it all began to make sense.

One of his primary themes is “Discoverer.”

As a Discoverer, he is “a thinker and learner… [He likes] to ask the questions ‘How?’ and ‘Why?’… [He] might be bored doing things the same way everyone else does because [he likes] to find new ways.”

Dr. Reckmeyer offers several suggestions for parents of Discoverers:

  1. “Provide a special space where he can build, explore read or work on projects and not have to put them away.” (Thankfully, we have an additional two-car garage, aptly named “The Shed.” This space helps my husband and I remain patient with the mess.)
  2. “Position yourself as a fellow learner, and let him become the expert,” Reckmeyer says. “Show interest by watching, asking questions or lending a hand.” (I’ve noticed that often the best way for me to bond with my son is to pull up a chair and quietly watch him work.)
  3. “Use different approaches like reading, experimenting…and fields trips to integrate and deepen his learning.” (I love that my parents keep an eye out for model train & car shows, etc. to give their grandson a hands-on experience with his interests. I’m so thankful for their assistance in this endeavor!)

As I mentioned in the previous post, the last half of this book consists of a glossary of talent themes and suggestions for how to nurture them in yourself and in your children. There are also two access codes included for you & a child to take the 20-minute online assessment, complete with a report of each test-taker’s top themes.  Our family purchased additional codes so all members above the age of 10 can participate.

I’m excited to see what happens as we develop a greater insight into one another’s innate talents and a common language to talk about them. As with any family, we all have our own ways of viewing and interacting with the world. However, it is my hope that Clifton Strengths can assist all members of my family to flourish in their own unique ways.

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