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5 Steps to Becoming a Strength-Based Parent: Insights from a Neuropsychologist

As a child neuropsychologist, I complete evaluations with kids and adolescents to identify

strengths and challenges, clarify diagnosis, and provide recommendations for supports. I am

always trying to learn more about strength-based approaches and how to weave them into

assessments. This is an ongoing process that can be challenging at times, as psychology (and diagnosis in particular) is built in many ways from a deficit-based framework. But, I think we know now that solving problems for a child is just as much about identifying vulnerabilities as it is about knowing what a child is good at.


We now know that solving problems for a child is just as much about identifying vulnerabilities as it is about knowing what a child is good at.

 

A second role I play in my life is that of “Mom” to two young boys. Just the other day, a question came to me: Am I applying these strength-based strategies at home with the people who matter most to me? In starting to dig a little deeper, I’ve tried to clarify some strength-based approaches that parents can implement daily. These are by no means novel ideas. Nonetheless, in my mission to become a more strength-based parent, these are five ideas I’ve put together to help me more regularly appreciate strengths at home:


1. Start With You


One way that we can be better cheerleaders of a child’s strengths is to be more attuned to and celebratory of our own as adults. Many of us have learned that being humble is valued; has a fear of seeming boastful negatively impacted our ability to identify our own strengths? Think about your areas of skill and passion. Does your child hear you express pride in these things? When kids observe you being self-complementary, you are giving them the language and freedom to celebrate themselves.

2. Look on the “Flip Side”


We know that being strength-based is not overlooking or sugarcoating challenges. But, we also know that a child’s challenges are defined in large part the context in which a “problem” occurs. For example, a tendency to hyperfocus can make it difficult for a student to transition away from a task to other activities. On the other hand, hyperfocus is an incredible asset in any environment where one needs to dive deep and have expertise. Remind yourself that the flip side of oppositional behavior is that a child is exerting independence, expressing needs, and/or not being blindly compliant. In a different setting, this same behavior might serve them well. 

3. Let the Child Lead the Way


We may have unspoken expectations about what our children are good at and what they struggle with. Thus, we may be unintentionally reinforcing a narrative of strengths and challenges while overlooking others. I’m going to make a more conscious effort to ask my kids what they think they’re good at (and what they want to be good at) and take it from there.

4. Link Interests With Challenges


Anytime an interest can be paired with something that is difficult, it is helpful to find a way to connect them. This runs deeper than just choosing incentives, and might require some creativity! In my house, reading and writing has been more successful when the material is related to Minecraft. With some brainstorming, we might be surprised at how many times we can make something easier by tapping into a passion or strength.

5. Educate Yourself


We are learning so much about neurodiversity and the unique strengths and challenges that come with identified diagnoses. If your child has a learning difference, try to learn more not only about areas of vulnerability, but also about the associated positive aspects of the diagnosis as well. 


Being strength-based is a journey, and one that I feel we need to commit ourselves to daily. My hope is that with the shifts we are making as professionals and parents, our children will grow into adults who are more confident in their beautifully unique and diverse abilities.


 

This article was written by Dr. Cassie Green, a pediatric neuropsychologist based in Portland, Oregon. Check out her website to learn more at www.drcassiegreen.com

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