In my psychotherapy and coaching practice, I regularly utilize strength-based practices with clients. I help them harness their strengths to achieve therapeutic and coaching goals. It's an effective strategy supported by research and one that I learned in graduate school. However, I also experienced the transformative power of this approach in my personal life as a mom.
When my son entered preschool he had a wonderful experience. It was all that I could have wanted and imagined it to be for him. He had teachers who delighted in his energy and adored his creativity and inquisitive nature. They found creative ways to highlight his strengths, and this enabled him to tackle the tasks that he found more difficult without shame or embarrassment. However, when he moved on to kindergarten, his teacher was harsh and demeaning. She played favorites, and it was obvious that my son wasn't one of them. He sensed that he was disliked by her and interpreted her behavior to mean that there was something wrong with him. He began to say things like ‘I’m a bad boy’ and ‘I’m stupid’. His self-esteem had been shattered and my heart was broken.
As a therapist, I knew I had to be intentional about identifying my son's strengths to help mitigate the damage that had been done. So every night, after his Dad prayed with him, I would ‘fill his mind with good things’. I reminded him of all the ways that he was special and unique. I listed his various strengths, and I pointed out something he excelled at that day, no matter how small. This became a non-negotiable ritual every night, from midway through kindergarten until he was well into his teenage years.
Over time, we noticed subtle changes in him. He became more confident, stopped saying negative things about himself, and started enjoying school again. Today, he's successfully navigating college as a sophomore. He's independent, introspective, and comfortable in his own skin. Sometimes, I catch myself wondering what kind of young man he would have become if we hadn't been intentional about nurturing his strengths. I'm thankful that this wonder remains just that – a wonder...and I am grateful for the role that strength-based practices have had in his life.
This article was written by Ronda Thorington, a Licensed Professional Counselor with a remarkable career spanning over 20 years. Throughout her journey, she has been devoted to providing mental health treatment to individuals of all ages, including children, families, and adults, in diverse roles and settings.
Ronda currently operates a thriving private practice that focuses on specialized care for children and families. In 2012, her life took a turn when one of her three children was diagnosed with Mixed Connective Tissue Disease at the age of four. Drawing from her personal experiences, she now uses her clinical expertise to coach families facing life-changing medical diagnoses.
Through coaching, Ronda shares valuable tools and strategies developed throughout her own journey, empowering families to navigate these challenges with resilience, self-advocacy, and hope. Her aim is to help families reduce feelings of overwhelm and discover lives that are not defined by a diagnosis. You can find Ronda on Facebook and LinkedIn @Ronda Thorington Parent Coach and on Instagram @rtparentcoach