How to Use Your Child’s Strengths to Help Them Grow

Many schools have parent-teacher conferences. This is a time for parents to come into the classroom to meet with teachers about their child’s development. I was thinking about my time in the classroom and a phrase I used to use with parents during these meetings: “We’re all working on something.” I always followed up this statement by talking to parents about their children’s’ strengths and how we use these strengths to work on areas that children are finding challenging. Then we take baby steps toward growth!  

Build Strategies Around What Makes Your Child Tick

Whether your child is typically developing or has special needs, this idea applies. Whenever I work with families, we spend a significant period of time thinking about a child’s development, temperament, personality and strengths. Needless to say, we cover the challenges that typically have instigated the call. But when I know what “gets a child going,” where their interest lies, and what they’re great at, I can tailor my work with them to build on these areas. Here are a couple of examples to help you think about using this strategy at home:

Ben: Using Puzzles to Overcome Tactile Issues

Ben is a 2 year old boy who loves puzzles. He has difficulty staying focused on a task, sitting in a chair, and following 1-step directions. Ben also shows tactile defensiveness (doesn’t like to touch certain things). During one recent session, I hid small puzzles pieces in a bucket of dried beans. We sat at his table, and in order to complete the puzzle, he had to put his hand into the bucket of beans, pull out a piece and then place it in the puzzle. We spent 10 minutes in those chairs at the table! Great work!

Emma: Growth Through Storytelling Emma is a typically developing 4.5 year old who loves anything princess-related. She’s very interested in storytelling and likes pointing to words in books and having the grown-ups around her tell her what they are. Emma’s pencil grip is age-appropriate. In the classroom, we run with Emma’s interests by helping her create stories and illustrate them. She picks a word to label each picture and writes the word on her paper. Sometimes she uses inventive spelling by thinking about the sounds the letters make, sometimes she asks us to write the word on a separate paper for her to copy over, and sometimes her letters are in the wrong direction or position on the page. At this point, we’re simply encouraging Emma to grow in an area she enjoys. Wanting to understand how words are spelled, let alone attempt to create words with letters, is not “age appropriate.”  But because Emma has an interest here, we follow her lead.  She is very proud of her work!

So, what’s the big picture message? Know and use your child’s strengths and interests, and honor the baby steps along the road towards goals. You’re on your way, baby!