When you think about your child’s strengths and strong points, what comes to mind?
In this article I look at how you can identify the behavioural and emotional strengths of your child, and why this is so important.
- Perhaps you think about what subjects they excel or thrive at in school.
- Maybe they are great at netball or football.
- Have you noticed a particular talent they are successful at which makes them really happy?
This article explores how you can both harness these strengths to help your child thrive and use them in positive and productive ways. As you will see, a child’s behavioural and emotional strengths are strongly linked to positive mental health.
What Are Your Child’s Strengths?
Your child’s personality holds the key to their emotional and behavioural strengths.
Understanding their character can help you nurture their unique skills and abilities. It allows you to match their needs with the right support.
Children’s personalities can obviously vary greatly. We often label kids as introverts or extroverts, optimists or pessimists. These traits can shape their experiences and responses to the world around them.
Introvert Child Strengths
If your child is an introvert, they likely cherish their alone time. This solitude is where they find comfort and spark their creativity.
While introverted children may enjoy social interactions, they also need time alone to recharge.
Their introverted nature brings several strengths:
- Deep Thinkers: Introverted children often engage in deep thinking. They reflect on their experiences thoughtfully.
- Creative Problem Solvers: In their quiet moments, introverted children can become excellent problem solvers. They use their imagination and creativity to find unique solutions.
- Empathetic Listeners: They tend to be great listeners. Their ability to listen and understand others’ feelings is a valuable skill.
- Independent Workers: Introverts are usually self-motivated and work well independently. They can focus deeply on tasks without needing external stimulation.
- Observant: These children often notice details that others might miss. Their keen observation skills can lead to insightful contributions.
Extrovert Child Strengths
Extroverted children, on the other hand, are energised by social connections.
They love being around others and often make friends easily. They are typically comfortable talking out their problems or worries and may be more likely to have flexible thinking.
The extroverted nature of these children brings several social, emotional and behavioural strengths:
- Socially Confident: Extroverted children usually have high social confidence. They enjoy interacting with others and often do so with ease.
- Effective Communicators: They are often skilled in verbal communication. This helps them express their thoughts and feelings clearly.
- Team Players: Extroverts tend to work well in groups. They enjoy collaboration and often contribute positively to team dynamics.
- Adaptable Thinkers: Their flexible thinking allows them to adapt to new situations quickly. They are often open to new ideas and perspectives.
- Energetic and Enthusiastic: Extroverted children typically bring energy and enthusiasm to their activities. This can be infectious and uplifting for those around them.
Strengths of a Child: Cultural Expectations
Cultural expectations can influence our perceptions of these personality types.
In many Western cultures, extroverted behaviours are celebrated, while introspective, quiet traits can be misunderstood.
However, different cultures value introverted behaviours, showcasing a variety of behavioural strengths.
School environments also shape behavioural norms.
Often, quiet, focused behaviour is expected. Any deviation might be seen as disruptive. What’s considered ‘good’ or ‘bad’ behaviour often reflects cultural biases.
How to Identify Your Child’s Strengths
Childhood and adolescence is a time when children and young people are learning about themselves, relationships, other people and the world in which they live. They gradually discover different strengths in themselves and the consequences of negative behaviours. Therefore, some of their strengths may be yet to emerge or be fully harnessed.
The kinds of activities that your child enjoys or is successful at will give you some insight into where their areas of strengths might lie.
Perhaps your child loves being part of team activities (demonstrating rule following and social connection)?
Maybe your child loves looking after their pets (demonstrating empathy & kindness)?
Use our free printable STRENGTHS CARDS to identify and build your child’s strengths!
A child’s strengths can actually be categorised into different areas:-
- Personal (behavioural and emotional)
- Social skills and communication
- Literacy, logic and cognitive
Child Strengths Examples
|Examples of Emotional Strengths||Behavioural Strengths Examples||Examples of Social Strengths & Communication Strengths||Examples of Intellectual Strengths & Logic Strengths (Cognitive Strengths)|
Managing difficult emotions
Following rules and boundaries
Resisting peer pressure
Able to ask questions
Social awareness – interest in others
Having awareness of others’ personal space
Recognise friend from foe
Strong common sense
Works to find patterns in learning (maths, music)
Increase your child’s awareness of their personal strengths by making a visual poster. This serves as a reminder whenever they face a challenge or they are feeling low.
But what if your child doesn’t tend to open up to you? Take a look at Dr Lucy Russell’s article: When Your Child Won’t (Or Can’t) Talk About Their Feelings, for some great ideas.
You can also look at our article about whole family strengths and goals. This can help your child to see which strengths they share with family members, and which are unique to just them.
Behavioural and Emotional Strengths: Anna, Age 11
Anna’s mum Shirley is very aware of Anna’s social and emotional strengths and weaknesses. She has many emotional and behavioral strengths. Anna is enthusiastic, has high energy, makes friends easily, and she is never afraid to try again when she makes a mistake. However currently Shirley feels her behavioral and emotional weaknesses are outweighing these strengths.
Anna is impulsive and often jumps in without thinking a decision through. Adults find her difficult to work with as she says exactly what she thinks in any given moment, regardless of who she is talking to. Although Anna makes friends easily, she struggles to maintain friendships as she can be bossy and self-centred. As Anna grows up she is starting to become more aware that others can find her difficult to be around. This has begin to affect her self-esteem.
How Shirley Helps Anna With Emotional and Behavioural Strength Building
Shirley is determined to help Anna by increasing her awareness of her strengths and giving her opportunities to let them shine. For example, when she is playing hockey these strengths allow Anna to excel. Her high energy and enthusiasm help her outpace the competition. She bounces back quickly from setbacks and this helps increase the morale of the whole team.
Shirley plans to support Anna with her social, emotional and behavioral weaknesses in three ways.
Firstly, by increasing her awareness and coaching her to slowly adapt certain behaviors. For instance, they role-play how to let other children have their say in a conversation, and how to listen and respond to someone else’s ideas with interest.
Secondly, Shirley teaches Anna a growth mindset approach. This approach encourages us to take the view that nothing about our weaknesses or difficulties is fixed. Our brains are highly malleable and we can always build our skills and our behavioural and emotional strengths. In Anna’s case for example, Shirley encourages Anna to see that although she struggles to make longer-term friendships at the moment, she can work on this and change it. Anna has a lot to offer in friendships, and just needs to tweak and build certain skills to encourage other children to trust her in a deeper friendship.
Finally, Shirley encourages Anna to reframe her weaknesses as potential strengths. Although impulsiveness can be problematic in certain situations, in others (such as in hockey) it can work to her advantage. Anna’s frankness and openness about her views can be problematic in a classroom setting when a teacher sees it as impertinence. However, others appreciate Anna’s honesty and openness. “What you see is what you get”. This can be a valuable and endearing emotional strength.
Examples of Emotional Strengths of a Child
This is by no means an exhaustive list, but I wanted to give you a list of some emotional strengths and what they might look like in your child.
Which ones does your child have?
- Empathy: An empathetic child can sense the feelings of those around them. For instance, they may comfort a friend who is upset about moving schools, providing a listening ear and reassuring words.
- Resilience: Resilient children bounce back from setbacks. After a disappointing test score, a resilient child will seek feedback, study harder and view the experience as a chance to learn.
- Self-awareness: Children gradually learn to identify and understand their own feelings. But some are self-aware at a very young age whereas others are in early adulthood before they develop self-awareness. A child with self-awareness might notice they are getting frustrated during a group activity and choose to take a break.
- Emotional regulation: This is such a tough one to learn, and parents/adults need to manage and contain children’s feelings for them until they can manage their own feelings. What does an emotionally regulated child look like? When they lose a game, they don’t lash out, but manage to acknowledge the disappointment and find ways to enjoy the experience nonetheless.
- Patience: A patient child can wait calmly. During a long car ride, they may keep themselves occupied with quiet games or reading. They may be able to delay gratification (a very tough skill), for example waiting to get a reward.
- Optimism: Optimistic children see the bright side. If a planned outdoor adventure is rained out, they’re the first to suggest a fun indoor alternative.
- Self-confidence: Confident children believe in their own abilities. They may audition for the school play, expressing their creativity boldly, even when facing potential critique.
- Gratitude: A child who frequently expresses appreciation exemplifies this strength. They may thank a teacher for an inspiring lesson, or thank their parents for taking them away on holiday.
Examples of Behavioural Strengths of a Child
Again, this isn’t an exhaustive list, but here are some positive behavioural characteristics to look out for in your child!
- Cooperation: Cooperative children work well in groups. They may excel in team sports, valuing every member’s contribution and cheering on their peers.
- Responsibility: A responsible child takes accountability for their actions. If they forget their homework, they don’t make excuses but accept the consequences and plan better for next time.
- Adaptability: Adaptable children adjust to new situations with ease. A sudden change in holiday plans won’t dampen their spirits; they’ll view it as a new adventure.
- Curiosity: Curious children are eager to learn. They often surprise their parents with in-depth questions about nature during park visits, for example.
- Organization: An organized child keeps track of their belongings and schedules. They might have a special system for storing their toys and follow a structured daily routine.
- Initiative: Children with initiative act independently. They might see their parent struggling with grocery bags and offer help without being asked.
- Self-discipline: A self-disciplined child can resist temptations. They might have a tempting video game, but they’ll complete their homework first, recognizing their responsibilities.
Enhancing the Behavioural and Emotional Strengths of a Child
Apple Montessori Schools in the USA reflect that:
“Today research shows that focusing on your child’s strengths rather than weaknesses leads to a more positive self-image and greater self-awareness and confidence. Regularly acknowledging what your child is good at, such as math or sports, or reinforcing positive characteristics, such as helpfulness and kindness, encourages your child to continue honing those skills and qualities. Your recognition of positive traits gives him or her the inner confidence to further pursue and develop those attributes”.
Kids’ Strengths: Can They Be Learned?
In short, yes! Children’s strengths are a combination of nature and nurture.
Humour, for example, may be a character strength that your child was born with. Humour can help your child in many situations, such as making new friends and facing adversity.
Communication skills may be more nurture than nature. Your family may be naturally good communicators and your child may inherit this strength by nature. But strong social skills are also honed every day of your child’s life. This may be around the dinner table, at school and in peer social interactions.
Pro-social behavior (social behaviour that is in the best interests of your child and those around them) is very complex and you – along with other adults – naturally coach your child in everyday situations.
TAKE THE QUIZ!
My Child’s Strengths: Your Role in Building A Child’s Strengths
The most successful parenting approach for enhancing the behavioral and emotional strengths of a child is a warm, non-critical coaching and mentoring role.
Over time, this parenting style results in emotional development and progresses to towards high emotional intelligence.
What is emotional intelligence, I hear you ask?
Psychology Today magazine defines it nicely:
Emotional intelligence refers to the ability to identify and manage one’s own emotions, as well as the emotions of others. Emotional intelligence is generally said to include a few skills: namely emotional awareness, or the ability to identify and name one’s own emotions; the ability to harness those emotions and apply them to tasks like thinking and problem solving; and the ability to manage emotions, which includes both regulating one’s own emotions when necessary and helping others to do the same.
Child Strengths and Positive Parent Role Modelling
By acting as a positive role model and leading by example, you will enhance your child’s behavioral and emotional strengths.
Below are a number of important factors to consider. You can support your child in a number of ways, for example:
- Showing interest and passion in your own work and home activities.
- Having a strong moral compass.
- Showing consistency and fairness in expectations.
- Taking ownership for your own mistakes.
- Showing empathy towards people, society and events.
- Taking care of yourself physically and mentally.
- Demonstrate how to manage strong emotions with effective self-regulation.
Children need emotional stability in order to feel safe and happy. Whilst developing and growing, they need at least one positive adult connection.
Someone who can help regulate their emotions when they are young, and co-regulate as they grow older.
This is how they learn and develop their own emotional strengths.
If a child doesn’t feel safe, their brain will focus on survival. They will not be able to branch out, exploring and building their behavioural and social emotional strengths. Their development will be hindered.
Therefore, supporting your child to feel safe and secure should be your highest priority.
Child Strengths: Providing Practical Support
In addition to focusing on that close and secure bond with your child, these practical tips will guide you.
- Set goals collaboratively with them.
- Take a genuine interest in what interests them. If they love video games, try and join them and learn what motivates and excites them about this activity.
- Encourage them with motivation and validation.
- Celebrate their accomplishments. Highlight the positives.
- Help them in areas they find challenging. For example if they find organising tricky, help them to make achievable plans. You may need to break down the steps much more than you think. Children’s brains – well into the teenage years – are very different from adults’ brains. They cannot organise, plan and make rational decisions in the same way that adults can.
What Are Behavioural Strengths in Children?
Behavioural strengths are your child’s ability to make the best decisions, inhibit certain behaviours when necessary (e.g. when doing otherwise may get them into trouble) and to stand up for themselves when appropriate.
Therefore behavioural strengths actually involve a lot of cognitive skills!
Behavioural strengths are all about how your child interacts with themselves and other people.
You and other family members can help to foster positive behaviour in your child with honest and open communication, being clear about expectations, rules and boundaries.
Behavioural Child Strengths and Future Life
The behavioural and emotional strengths of a child help determine their decisions, choices and outcomes for them in life. They also influence what they gain from their experiences and how they feel about themselves (their self-esteem).
Children’s behavioural and emotional strengths are also closely linked to mental health and physical development.
Here’s an example…
If you have a sense of humour and resilience (both highly valuable emotional and behavioural strengths), you are more likely to laugh and try again if you fall off your bike.
This means you are more likely to be successful at learning to ride a bike.
Exercise positively influences physical development (for example physical confidence, co-ordination, muscle development) and mental health.
It produces mood balancing chemicals such as endorphins and serotonin.
Behavioural Strengths Example: Javier Age 16
Javier has big ambitions.
He is determined to go to become a lawyer.
But he lacks confidence and often thinks he doesn’t have what it takes.
Javier’s tutor, Phil, knows that Javier has huge strengths as a student. He decides that increasing Javier’s awareness of his student’s strengths and weaknesses will help him enhance his strengths and build on his weaknesses.
Academic and Personal Student Strengths and Weaknesses
Here are the academic/student strengths and weaknesses Phil wrote down about Javier:
- Works hard.
- Can study independently.
- Good at planning ahead.
- Has a logical and strategic brain.
- High verbal abilities.
- Finds it hard to get started on bigger tasks.
- May panic under timed conditions and this affects his performance.
Here are the personal strengths and weaknesses Phil wrote down about Javier
- Social intelligence: Javier is polite, friendly and has high levels of empathy.
- Self-control: Javier is self-disciplined.
- Thoughtful and curious about the world.
- Lacks self-belief and this may hold him back in his future career.
- Tendency to panic: Phil hopes that Javier will develop strategies to stay calm as he gets older.
Javier was happy that Phil identified his strengths and weaknesses.
It gave him confidence that he had many of the social and emotional strengths that he associates with becoming a lawyer.
He knew that he could work on his weaknesses and began actively doing so.
What Are Emotional Strengths in Children?
Emotional strengths are the positive qualities that help your child navigate their feelings and relationships with others.
Examples of emotional strengths include empathy, resilience, optimism, and self-awareness.
When your child has strong emotional skills, they can handle challenges and setbacks with grace, and bounce back from difficult situations. They can form healthy relationships with others and communicate their needs effectively.
If you try to build your child’s emotional strengths a little each day, you can help them develop into confident, well-adjusted adults.
Social-Emotional Child Strengths
Social emotional strengths are absolutely vital in every area of life. I strongly recommend that as a parent you actively mentor your child to build up their social emotional strengths.
But what exactly do I mean by social emotional strengths?
Social emotional strengths are your child’s ability to interact with others in a positive and productive way. Examples of social emotional strengths in a child include:
- Social awareness
- Relationship skills: A collection of the many “micro-skills” needed to form and maintain positive relationships with others, including peers and adults.
- Social decision-making: The ability to make pro social choices based on ethical and social norms.
- Navigating and developing healthy boundaries.
Social emotional strengths are crucial for your child’s success in relationships and in the wider world.
Here’s a case study to illustrate how you can support your child’s social emotional strengths.
Social Emotional Strengths Examples: Eric, Age 9
Eric is a Harry Potter-mad, loveable little boy who is having friendship difficulties.
His parents Jennifer and Thom know that their child’s strengths are becoming overshadowed by his difficulties.
He lacks social awareness. For example, he will hug someone too tight, or get very close to their face and they don’t like it.
He struggles to make appropriate social choices. For example, Eric will deliberately trip up another child in an effort to be funny.
Eric is also having difficulty understanding appropriate social boundaries. Most children have begin to avoid him, so Eric has begun to hang out with a group of boys who do not have his best interests at heart. He will do anything they ask him to, even though this often leads to him getting into trouble or upsetting others.
Eric’s lack of social awareness means that he doesn’t see how much the other children are exploiting him.
Action Plan to Build Eric’s Social, Emotional and Behavioural Strengths
Jennifer and Thom know they need to take action to build their child’s strengths.
If not, they feel that he will start to get in trouble more regularly and his social difficulties will increase, setting him on a negative trajectory.
Eric’s teacher Mrs Savage agrees.
Following a discussion, Mrs Savage places Eric into a specialist nurture group at school focusing on developing his social emotional strengths.
At home, Eric’s parents decide to work on each area of difficulty with Eric in a playful and positive way.
For example, they play role-playing games where they pretend to be a good friend and pretend to be an unhealthy friend (like the boys Eric is hanging out with). It is Eric’s job to try to spot the differences.
They practise giving all family members more personal space using the concept of a “personal space bubble” to increase his social awareness.
Eric is a bright boy and picks up on the new skills quickly.
Over time, his social and emotional strengths start to increase and his parents feel optimistic that he is moving toward a more positive trajectory.
How Can Harnessing Your Child’s Emotional and Behavioural Strengths Help Them?
|Helps young children do well at school and build confidence as they transition through secondary school and into the workplace.|
|Helps children and young people to feel good about themselves.|
|Influences how well they cope with social interactions in public, at home and in friendship groups. For example, behaving in a caring, empathetic way reinforces human connection.|
|If your child is able to manage emotions and is good at self-regulating, they are more likely to avoid stress, and its potential consequential health problems. Read more about self-regulation in this article.|
|Strong communication skills will help your child navigate times of conflict (e.g. with siblings, friends, parents). Your child is more likely to form strong relationships and feel happy and accomplished.|
|Resilience will build self- trust in being able to withstand adversity and tackle difficult life events.|
|Confidence own their own social and emotional strengths will enable greater independence. Your child will be able to trust in themselves and their decisions.|
|Self-knowledge of our own strengths promotes self-confidence and self-acceptance.|
|Lessens the influences of peer pressure.|
Summary: Building Children’s Behavioural and Emotional Strengths
When your child behaves in a way that they have consciously thought through and planned, they get a natural reward.
They will – more often than not – get a desired outcome.
This might be enjoying the company of friends, or being chosen for a position of responsibility at school. Your child’s brain will connect the action with the reward (verbal or otherwise).
Positive reinforcement will encourage them to behave this way again in the future. The reward is a reinforcing stimulus.
Children who have well-developed emotional and behavioural strengths have more life satisfaction, better health, less stress and stronger relationships. They show more resilience to challenges and difficult times.
As a parent, try to identify and help them recognise the strengths they have.
Talk in a productive way about how you can further enhance your child’s strengths and good character.
This will fortify their core sense of self and their abilities as they go through childhood towards adulthood.
Hayley Vaughan Smith is a Person Centred Counsellor accredited by the National Counselling Society. She is the founder and counsellor at The Ridge Practice in Buckinghamshire, and Counsellor at Everlief Child Psychology.
Hayley has a special interest in bereavement counselling and has worked as a bereavement volunteer with Cruse Bereavement Care since 2019. Being a mum to 3 girls is hard work and rewarding in equal measure and gardening and walking in nature is her own personal therapy – Hayley believes being in nature, whatever the weather, is incredibly beneficial for mental health well-being.
Join They Are The Future’s free Facebook group for regular tips and great ideas to support teens and pre-teens with their mental health! Join the group: Parent Tips for Positive Child Mental Health UK.