Parents are naturally prone to notice the things they would prefer their child would change rather than the things their child is doing well. Dr. Lea Waters, author of the upcoming book “The Strength Switch“, says that parenting focusing on a child’s strengths is more effective in helping them succeed than focusing on their faults. Her essay in the Wall Street Journal discusses how parents can be more confident and have happier, more successful children by using techniques based on the child’s strengths.

Dr. Waters discusses a study showing that young people who are taught to be aware of their strengths and to use them to solve difficult situations are generally more successful at school and have better social skills. They are more likely to overcome faults than children who do not have this training. In another study, parents who had training in positive parenting skills focussing on their child’s strengths became more confident as parents and more content with their child’s progress than those who did not.

A strength, Dr. Waters says, is not just something the young person is good at, but also something the child does frequently and truly enjoys doing. Sports, art, humor, music, friendliness, curiosity, and academics are some of the many things that can be strengths. Scientists have found and identified over 100 different strengths, all of which can be used to help a child succeed in school, home, and further in life.

What do parents need to know to practice strength-based positive parenting? Dr. Waters suggests noticing your child’s strengths and pointing them out to your child. Choose a strength he or she possesses every week and have a short talk with them about that strength. Ask them how they can use that strength to help them solve problems or do things differently. Doing this can help them identify and use their strengths to improve their performance at school or manage their tasks at home more easily. The regular practice of finding strengths also helps parents use that technique when it is difficult rather than resorting to pointing out faults.

Parents naturally hope for their child’s success and happiness. By using their child’s strengths rather than their negative qualities to help them change their behaviors, parents are helping them find these things.