Ep. 63: Recognizing Strengths to Help Your Teen Thrive
Jenifer Fox, author of Your Child’s Strengths and an education expert, covers the three areas to watch for strengths: learning, relationships, and activities. The key is to embrace your teens strengths, even though on the surface they might seem “different” from others.
Full Show Notes
Unfortunately, a lot of teens perceive an unspoken message from their parents, the sense that they aren’t good enough. Teenagers rate pressure from parents as a major source of stress, and it might have something to do with focus. When parents fixate on how their teens can improve, rather than where they excel, teens can form a negative view of their own identity.
Presenting a fresh perspective on raising teens according to their strengths, is Head of the Berkshire Country Day School, Jenifer Fox. Her book, Your Child’s Strengths: Discover Them, Develop Them, Use Them; A Guide for Parents and Teachers, is full of activities and lessons to help parents identify their kids’ strengths so they can thrive.
Doesn’t it seem like everybody’s a critic? That reality can be challenging for a teenager trying to find their true self. Even well-meaning parents can be quick to critique their kids by pointing out what they’re doing right, or wrong. One of the things teens crave most is validation and acceptance for their individual strengths, but some strengths are easier to recognize than others.
It can be problematic if parents fail to perceive their teens’ strengths as viable. In this episode we talk about the misconception that our teens don’t do anything, and how we can recognize our teens’ interests as valuable. Whether it’s surfing, studying, or listening to music.
Jenifer also illuminates how teens can learn to play to their strengths. One method we discuss is encouraging teens to pick out the chores that they feel confident tackling. Another strategy we get into is paying close attention to the working world around us. When we teach our teens to ask how many different types of jobs we can spot in one place, and think about what it takes to get those jobs, we open up a great conversation about strengths. And, we talk about how to ask our teens to find a better alternative to showcases their skills, without being judgmental.
That’s Not All!
In this episode with Jenifer Fox, you’ll also hear expert insight on:
- How to bring the most authentic piece of yourself to the conversation.
- The truth about schools being set up for one type of learning.
- How project-based learning engages teens and touches on all areas of education.
- The relevance of Activity Strengths: Those things that light you up and get you energized. The captivating flow state where time flies and you’re always looking forward to it.
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Word-for-word examples of WHAT to say to your teen
1. When you notice your teen struggling with a chore, task or assignment, uncover underlying preferences:
“Why isn’t this the thing you’re good at? What would you rather do instead?”
2. Instead of accusing your teen as being a slob, discover if organization is maybe not their strength::
3. After introducing your teen to someone new, see what your teen thinks:
Step-by-step guides for applying the ideas from this interview
1. Identify Your Teen’s Activity Strengths:
In my interview with author and education expert Jenifer Fox, we discussed three areas to identify strengths: learning, relationships, and activities. The area that parents may be best equipped to help identify is the activity strengths.
Jenifer cautions against being evaluative with your teen’s strengths – rather she suggests you create discussions around it, and let your teen tell you their strengths.
One place to look at is chores. Take the next week to observe when your teen does an outstanding job or a really poor job on a chore or task. Maybe you notice that one teen likes to use their hands (doing dishes, folding laundry) while another prefers to use their body (sweeping, mowing the lawn). And maybe another prefers to do organizational tasks, like unloading the dishes from the dishwasher or cleaning out the garage. Hobbies are another area to pay attention to as well.
After a week of jotting down things your teen enjoys/excels at (and the opposite) make a pint the following week, let them know you’ve noticed a few things – and then ask them if they think your observations may have any merit.
Do this exercise every few months and see if you notice new strengths or if your teen’s strengths evolve.
2. Get Out in Someone’s “Field”:
About Jenifer Fox
Jenifer Fox holds a Masters in Education from Harvard and has been working in the education sphere for over 30 years. Her work on strengths has led her to publish two texts on the subject, Your Child’s Strengths, for parents and teachers, and The Differentiated Instruction Book of Lists, a resource text for teachers.
Jenifer’s expertise in strengths-based education has led her to become a leader in her industry and she is regularly engaged in speaking jobs to business leaders, schools, and companies. She has given talks at corporations like Microsoft, Gap, Best Buy, and Yahoo, as well as a variety of elite schools. Additionally, Jenifer has been featured on The Today Show and writes for The Huffington Post.
An educational visionary, Jenifer feels the differences between people should enrich our lives and understanding of the world, rather than keeping us fractured from each other. She wholeheartedly believes that schools, at their best, are places of wonder and joy.