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Finding Your Child’s Strengths

by Tiffany in Book Reviews, Children, Homeschool

teacherA few days back I wrote an article about how I see the public schooling system failing us. It had much to do with the fact that in general public schools require all students to meet the same cookie cutter standards. Because everyone has to fit a certain mold and be proficient in the exact same things at the exact same levels or beyond they make a HUGE mistake. They are focusing on weaknesses.

Your child may be excellent at reading and writing. Perhaps they can write beautiful poems or decipher some of Shakespeare’s deeper passages. They truly master the language arts. BUT instead of focusing on those strengths that child is pulled from those activities and interests to devote more time and energy to what their teachers consider their “weak” area….perhaps math. That was me. My son is the flip side of the coin. His strengths are mathematical, mechanic, and artistic. He struggles in reading and writing though, so his teachers spend monumental amounts of time (his and theirs) trying to “fix” this deficiency.

Well, I read a book recently that takes on this problem and calls it not so much an issue of where your child goes to school but a problem of a personal nature for children and their strengths bookparents. The effort towards societal change and a re-valuation of our inborn strengths begins at a personal level. We ALL need to see that it does no one any good, individually or in a global sense to focus on our weaknesses instead of our strengths. We NEED to help our children find their strengths.

The book is Your Child’s Strengths – Discover Them, Develop Them, Use Them by Jenifer Fox.

I really liked this book because I feel that an education should not be about test scores, getting into the right college, or job training. It should be a discipline and a life. A journey to find out who we were, how we fit into the world and what we can bring to it. We want to bring our best so it makes sense that we would want to find our strengths and nurture them at every turn. If we focus on our weaknesses and split our focus like that, we will be only half what we could be.

Fox defines weakness as a feeling of depletion, a constant draining of energy.

Weakness personified is a persistent and cunning thief, creeping into your life and the lives of your children masked as hope and constantly nagging, “Look at me, fix me, improve me, and then you will be happy.”

She asserts that focusing on your weakness translates into a weak life and we need to focus on the opposing quality…strength. Our children can discover their strengths with our encouragement, nurturing, and sustained approval. In the first chapters of the book Fox shows us how we may be unwittingly sending our children disapproving messages and inadvertently focusing on, and causing them to focus on, their weaknesses.

Beyond that, Fox says that we must change what we teach, how we teach, and the outcomes we expect from children. Amen to that!

We foster weakness when we force children to sit all day long absorbing content for which they will never have any use, then chastise them for not showing any interest.

If they don’t see the value and practical application they won’t retain the information making for a monumental waste of time and energy. But 20 years from now they may get the opportunity to go on the Are you Smarter Than a 5th Grader TV show and get trounced, not because they are stupid, but because their minds are programmed to forget the relatively useless factoids they don’t need to live and work.

The book then goes on to explain how we discover our Activity Strengths, Relationship Strengths, and Learning Strengths and those of our children. The fact that we all have unique strengths in all of these areas is exactly why standardized schooling is so bass ackwards. Fox shares many personal stories from her own life and her dealings with teachers and students and how she used certain techniques to draw out their particular strengths and their awareness of them. That leads to the last half of the book which is full of workbook exercises that parents, teachers and children can use to discover and develop their strengths.

This is a truly valuable book for teachers and parents…FULL of “aha” moments. Ms. Fox has been working within schools for 25 years and her insight and experience in this area is wonderfully valuable. It is also important to mention that this book is for public schoolers AND homeschoolers….this book is beneficial for both.

  • Linda

    Thanks for your review. I am going to get check this out at my library today. Coming from a family environment that focused on weaknesses I am really adamant about teaching my daughters to build on their strengths.

    Linda’s last blog post..Plastics – Know Your Symbols

  • I’ve commented before on your wonderful articles about the state of schools lately. I was a special education teacher, but I taught the students that were severly disabled…the ones that nobody ever wanted to teach. But the reason why I love those kids and loved that job was the fact that I had the freedom to teach to their strengths. I wasn’t shouldered with test performance because these kids can’t take those tests. It was the most amazing, and difficult 10 years of my life, but I wouldn’t change it. I wish that education would shift away from all this testing and give teachers the freedom to work with student’s strengths and talents and use those to help bolster the weaker areas. It seems then we would truly be creating lifelong learners, instead of wearing children out with test after test.

    Aimee’s last blog post..Remembered by Tamera Alexander

  • Rebecca

    I agree that emphasizing the positive is a great way to go. But I feel like you can’t just ignore the fact that a child is weak in reading or math or whatever, some skills need to be improved because they are important. How do you nurture the strength but at the same time, improve the weakness. Maybe I need to read the book.

  • Teachable Moments! Teachers and parents have to take these opportunities and soar with them. When there is that moment in time when a kid get something and it is off track from what your agenda is or your thought process…who cares…go with that moment! Great review!

    Sommer’s last blog post..Making a green move to wordpress or typepad

  • Cali Supermom

    that in general public schools require all students to meet the same cookie cutter standards. Because everyone has to fit a certain mold

    I so agree with you regarding the public school. My little guy is only 3 but he was in special day school. I pulled him out for this exact reason. They wanted him to fit into their mold and they weren’t really helping him excel at all. I’m now doing his therapy at home.

    I’m going to look into this book.

  • JHS

    Thanks for participating in this week’s Carnival of Family Life, hosted at On the Horizon tomorrow, April 14, 2008! Be sure to drop by and check out all of the other excellent entries this week!

    JHS’s last blog post..Friday’s Feast Special Edition

  • Tara

    This sounds like a great book. I’ll have to check it out. Thanks for the recommendation!

    Tara’s last blog post..Serendipity

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  • Great review – I have put this on my list of books to read. I am currently reading The Homework Myth, by Alfie Kohn and he is equally scathing of the unnecessary facts that we wan to cram into our children’s heads.

    PlanningQueen’s last blog post..10 Strategies To Gain Co-Operation From A Toddler

  • Thanks for the book suggestion. I’ve added it to my wish list at Paperbackswap.

    Tammy Takahashi’s last blog post..Friday Five – Hobbies

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  • Nur Wadik

    Thanks for your revew this book. It’s help me to understand the content …