This is the fourth in a series of six posts exploring the strengths that make kids intelligent, courageous, good with other people, involved in their communities and connected with something larger than themselves. The purpose of the series is to give you new ideas for encouraging an insecure child.
Being fair. Stepping in to lead others. Pulling together. These are the qualities that allow us to work, live and get along with each other all our lives. Your child is probably gifted in one or more of these strengths and can learn how to leverage it for even greater success when she’s working on projects or in teams or steps into the working world one day. But all strengths can be built, and you can help her build all of them so she’s ready to take on any group role and feel confident doing it.
Fairness. The child with fairness as a strength will treat everyone the same and give everyone an equal chance. He won’t let his personal feelings bias his decisions about others and will show respect and dignity when he deals with people. Ideas for helping your child build their strength of Fairness: Fairness can be thought of as either giving the same or getting the same as others. We grown-ups know that life isn’t always fair and can sympathize with our kids when they experience it, and help them come up with ways to seek the fairness they desire/deserve.
Giving the same: Both my kids lamented projects where they did more work than others; that’s an example of the importance of everyone giving the same and you could sympathize with your children if it happens to them. Then brainstorm solutions with them. You could also help them come up with the words to say to the child who isn’t pitching in, like: “We are all meant to be doing a fair share of the work on this project and you agreed to do X. Can you tell us when you’ll be done with it?” Teach your kids that they have recourse in such situations; in this case asking the teacher for advice. Sometimes, not everyone CAN give the same; some people just don’t have the same physical, financial or other resources as others. Again, brainstorm with your child: look for other ways those people can contribute — maybe it’s their time or creative expertise or something else the team needs.
Getting the same: Teach your child to trust herself when she believes something isn’t fair and to be able to say so. It can be tough during adolescence to take a stand, but a simple “That doesn’t seem fair” can really make a difference, whether it’s to her or to someone she sees being treated unfairly. It takes courage — the kind of courage displayed by huge icons like Nelson Mandela and by tiny acts of bravery each and every day in classrooms, lunchrooms, friendship groups, sports fields, etc., etc.
Leadership. The strength of leadership is about being able to positively influence others toward a common goal. The child with this quality will be able to encourage a group she belongs to to get things done while maintaining good relations with other group members. She will like organizing group activities and seeing that they happen. Ideas for helping your child build their strength of Leadership: Good leaders are motivated more by the satisfaction of helping people accomplish something together than by the glory of leading. Rather than tell people what to do, they will help people see what’s needed and encourage them to contribute in a way that resonates with each individual. Knowing what each person’s strengths are can help enormously; knowing who is creative, persistent, optimistic, brave or fair, for example, can help a good leader know who will do well at what. You can help your child develop this strength by focusing on the group’s goal, making sure each member feels like they have something important to contribute, and ensuring they have the support they need to do their job.
Teamwork. Children with teamwork as a strength work well as members of groups or teams, do their share and are loyal to those groups as well. They participate and contribute toward shared goals. In research studies, kids with this strength had fewer depression symptoms in high school, had a higher level of “social trust” and a more positive view of others. Ideas for helping your child build their strength of Teamwork: Our first ‘teams’ are our families, and home is the perfect place to begin fostering teamwork. Share chores and let kids pitch in from their earliest days. A woman I know called chores ‘contributions’ and everyone made them: mom, dad, everybody. It was only when the kids got older that they realized it was actually work of some kind. 🙂 Ask your children for their input when you’re planning vacations or making big decisions (appropriately, of course). When they join a club or are part of a school project, tell them they’ll need to see it through, no matter what happens; it will teach them valuable lessons about teamwork even/especially if things go terribly. Be a member of your child’s team no matter what.
Tell me what you think! And if you try using any of this information to encourage your child, how did it go? What can we learn from you?