Playing to Your Child's Strengths

March 25, 2014 Heiddi Zalamar, LMHC, MA

Today I read an article introducing me to positive psychology. The article was co-written by Martin P. Seligman who proposed looking at a person’s strengths rather than weaknesses. When you apply this to a special needs child, it is about playing to the child’s strengths.

Both personally and professionally, I find that there are several benefits to playing to your child’s strengths. Check them out below.

Playing to the Strengths, Not the Weaknesses

When you play to your child’s strengths, you look at all of the things your child does well. In Bob’s case, it is his optimism and persistence that strikes me. Bob is so bubbly and positive. He’s always been that way – with a cheerful and sunny mood. He was a very happy baby and is now an optimistic teen. And his persistence does pay off. Bob doesn’t give up easily on things. Even when I’m upset with him, he’s there with a smile. Not to dismiss what I’m upset about, but instead to cheer me up. His optimism is contagious!

[caption id="attachment_2510" align="aligncenter" width="320" caption="Playing to Your Child's Strengths"]Playing to your child's strengths can improve negative behaviors. It's challenging to see positives, but focusing on your child's strengths can help you both.[/caption]

Building up Your Child’s Self-Esteem

A second benefit to playing to your child’s strengths is improved self-esteem. I use this in my daily work with clients and parents. I find that pointing out strengths gives a child hope and encouragement. This also motivates the child to do more positive things at home or in school. As the child’s self-esteem improves, so does behavior. With parents, I teach them to spot the strength and encourage more positive behavior. This two-step process allows both parent and child to grow their relationship while also building self-esteem.

Improve the Relationship with Your Child

Another benefit to playing to your child’s strengths is that your relationship gets better. I found that as I noticed Bob’s strengths more, his confidence grew. Along with self-confidence, Bob’s confidence in me as his mother improved. He began to open up more and share his feelings. The more I showed Bob his strong side, the more he trusted me with his heart. I may not know everything that goes through his mind, but I do know what he feels simply because he has confidence in me.

It Takes Time and Hard Work

Playing to your child’s strengths is hard after dealing with negative behaviors at home and in school. There is a struggle between wanting your child to do the right thing now and taking the time to point out the positive things to see improved behavior. This wasn’t easy for me. After calls and complaints from teachers as well as hours spent crying over homework (both Bob and I cried), I couldn’t see the good stuff. I didn’t notice. But, when I began paying attention to the little things that Bob did well and told him about it, there was a shift. There was a visible shift in his motivation and in his behavior. And there was a huge change in our relationship for the better. It didn’t happen overnight; it took time and effort on both our parts for this to happen. Playing to Bob’s strengths changed everything. And playing to your child’s strengths can change things for you and your child.

photo credit: deeplifequotes via photopin cc

Heiddi can be found on Twitter and Google+.

APA Reference
Zalamar, H. (2014, March 25). Playing to Your Child's Strengths, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, May 25 from

Author: Heiddi Zalamar, LMHC, MA

Leave a reply