Thursday, March 13, 2008

Learning and living through strengths

It might have started as a way to keep track of how much Fly nursed and how much he slept as a newborn -- yeah, I think that was it.

Then it evolved as a way to fill in the first year baby calendar I got as a gift at a shower.

After the first year was over, I still made notes about him in a computer file. Every week for the first six months, I cataloged Fly -- his first smile, when he sat up, crawled, walked, what he liked to eat, what his daily routine was like, which toys he enjoyed playing with. Then I went monthly with those details. I still like to write down when he learns new words or understands something new!

I know, I know, it sounds a little anal. But from month to month, I can see how he is growing and changing. The person he is today won't be here again. And I know it's so easy to forget the little details moms cherish....

I am keeping track of Fly's growth and traits, and this will eventually help him discover his strengths, it turns out, after reading Your Child's Strengths: Discover Them, Develop Them, Use Them by Jenifer Fox. She actually recommends keeping a record of your child's preferences, activities he enjoys, tendencies, quirks and personality traits because they will help uncover strengths.

Fox's book takes a look at the ways many students are shortchanged in their education because our typical education system is set up to focus on a student's weaknesses, not her strengths. For Fox, strengths aren't talents or skills, but something that makes you feel strong when you're doing it -- and that is the key to learning and to living.

What she says makes a lot of sense, really. Do you remember the scene in Pretty Woman when Julia Roberts tells Richard Gere that the bad stuff people say about you is easier to believe than the good? Fox makes a similar point in many places throughout the book, including her own experience as a student, giving anecdotes about students who were having problems in school because their strengths weren't being recognized.

Most of Your Child's Strengths seems to focus on children who are already in school -- this is a book about education, after all -- but there are some sections that mention things parents of very young children can do to help their kids find their strengths, like family traditions and rituals that help kids form memories and projecting a positive attitude yourself as a model for your child.

This is a book I'm going to hold onto and read again when Fly is ready for school. I will need a refresher on the three kinds of strengths (activity, learning and relationship), and I will use the workbook in the back to help uncover those strengths.

One of the things I loved best from the book: "Knowing your own strengths will help your children understand theirs.... You will teach your child how to live a full life by living one yourself."

Sounds like something that is more caught than taught.

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Blogger Unknown said...

Great to know there is a book out there like that! I have a hint of what my almost-4-year-old's strengths are but it would be great to tune in when she starts school!

6:46 AM  
Blogger Heather said...

What a great thing you've done by keeping track of all that. I have to say that I didn't do the best job of it once my daughter turned 2 and her brother came along. #3 will be lucky to have a baby book I suppose.

8:05 AM  
Blogger Nadine said...

Hey, I'm glad you're back from your break.

I've always found that kids get more from watching us - good or bad.

2:27 PM  
Blogger ohAmanda said...

Very cool. I wish I had done more cataloging. I doubt I wrote down when Lydia's teeth came in!

9:14 PM  
Blogger Steph said...

You don't have to feel anal alone, I've been doing the same thing for the past two-and-a-half years with Tatum :) I've been doing it for so long now that I don't feel like I can stop. Maybe she'll enjoy looking at it someday. Thanks for the book recommendation, I will check it out!

11:58 PM  

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