Ways To Turn Your Child’s Weaknesses Into Strengths

You naturally want your child to become an achiever in life. So, you constantly work on perceived 'weaknesses'. But is that the right approach? Why not celebrate your child's uniqueness, instead!

By Mina Dilip

Ways To Turn Your Child’s Weaknesses Into Strengths

'He is so stubborn!'

'She is a drama queen!'

'He talks nonstop!'

'She is too shy...' 

The long list of complaints about children I hear these days is endless. Oftentimes, I find parents so caught up in the ‘Whose-child-is-an-all-rounder’ race, that they begin to focus too much on what’s missing and what’s not right. In the process, they forget to acknowledge their child’s unique gifts and abilities. This article is an attempt to guide parental attention towards strengths and provide a new perspective on perceived weaknesses.

Children and personality

Every child is born with certain genetic traits and characteristics, which eventually interact with the environment and crystallise into a personality. A child’s personality is a blend of their thoughts, feelings and actions, as well as a certain degree of conditioning and environmental shaping that results in a unique disposition and temperament.

While some personality traits are found to be endearing and praise-worthy, there are always a few other attributes that are considered annoying or unacceptable. Hence, every parent tries to ‘mould’ the child’s character by trying to remove the weaknesses or ‘negative’ traits.

Traits commonly perceived as weaknesses

There are some traits in children which are considered to be unappealing or characterised as weaknesses. However, these very weaknesses can actually be hidden strengths, which parents fail to recognise. A list of such traits — frequently considered ‘weaknesses’ — has been summarised below using the acronym 'TALENTS':

Talking too much

Children who talk a lot are teased with nicknames like ‘Nonstop Nonsense’. I have a long list of overly verbal young clients who have a lot to say. Parents find this habit irksome and tiring.

However, I have a different view. I think that children who talk a lot, process a great deal of information verbally. Such children can be a great orators and efficient communicators. They are articulate and socially skilled. Often, they are extroverts and ambitious as well.

As parents, we can guide a nonstop talker towards processing information in a coherent and structured way. This can also lead to practicing brevity periodically. Thus, this trait can be channelled positively into leadership roles and people-oriented careers in later life. Professions such as law, management, marketing and training require this skill. So, why not encourage and channel it right from the time your child is young?

Acting-out behaviours

It can be so annoying when your child acts out and throws a full-blown tantrum, especially in front of visitors or strangers. This can be exasperating and I don’t blame you for wishing it away. However, such behaviours are often a child’s way of communicating deeper underlying emotions and difficulties.

If you can look past the annoyance and address the core issues, these behaviours often settle down. Having said that, children who have the innate ability to act out often thrive in fields that require dramatisation and theatrics. Show business, theatre and other performing arts are very good avenues to channel the excess energy and acting skills that such children possess. So, if you have a little drama king or queen in your family, consider enrolling your child in theatre class!

Lazing around and daydreaming

This is a frequent complaint with young children — middle school children are notorious for daydreaming during class hours at school. While this can set your child back in academics and make it harder to catch up with daily notes, the bigger picture that emerges is one of creativity and imagination.

Children who daydream are often out-of-the-box thinkers and creative problem-solvers. In their study, 'Functional connectivity within and between intrinsic brain networks correlates with trait mind wandering', published in the journal Neuropsychologia (2017), Godwin et al found this fact to be true. Many daydreamers often go on to pursue careers in art, writing, poetry or cinema. Consider helping your child express this latent creativity on a daily basis through drawings, cartoons, story-telling, etc.

Extremely shy

In a world that rewards extroversion and condemns introversion, shy and reserved children are often put down, criticised and shamed for being who they are. It is incredibly sad that we do not recognise the wealth of talent they often possess and end up focusing critically on their inability to excel in social situations.

People who are shy do extremely well in areas that require critical thinking and analytical skills. In an article 'The Shy Child', educator and counsellor Leah Davies, writes: "It is noteworthy that shyness is not necessarily a negative attribute. Many shy children exhibit an ability to please and think for themselves."

Shy children make great number-crunchers and excel in detail-oriented tasks. Instead of pushing shy children to become someone they aren’t, why not encourage their quiet pursuits so that they can lead peaceful, contented lives?

Naughty and restless

On the other end of the spectrum from the daydreamers and shy children are the naughty and restless ones. These are the children who are stamped with labels like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and hyperkinetic disorder. Such children thrive on movement and exploration. They are tactile, experiential learners with a boundless curiosity that often lands them in trouble.

The best way to handle such children is to provide ample avenues for them to release their high levels of energy through physical activities, free play, martial arts training and movement-based exercises. When they grow older, they may gravitate towards movement-oriented careers such as sports, travel photography, gymnastics or dance.

Too bossy and stubborn

Children who are perceived as adamant and domineering may not be a pleasure to be around. But, with a gentle channelling of their bossiness, along with some training in active listening and negotiation skills, such children can make outstanding leaders and managers in the future.

Bossy and stubborn children have the innate gift to hold their ground and be firm and assertive. Managerial positions that require decision-making abilities and negotiation skills would be best suited for such children when they grow into adults. This is because they have a mind of their own and are very clear about what they want.

Slow in everything

In our fast-paced world, slowing down does not seem to be an option. Being on the move and constantly running from pillar to post seems to be incentivised. Consequently, being slow is disrespected and often disgraced. Children who are slow to complete their work are scolded and tormented, as parents try to push them to conform to the order of the day — to rush forward mindlessly. 

Wait. Take a breath. Observe your child. Learn to slow down!

Slow children exist in our world to remind us to take a step back and slow down every now and then. These are the children who remind us to ‘Stop and smell the roses' – to appreciate nature, to reconnect with ourselves and enjoy the healing power of slowing down. Such children may grow up to be more spiritually attuned, with an ability for deep thinking and poignant philosophising. Many slow learners also excel in careers involving animals or children. Some go on to pursue yoga or meditation. Yet others gravitate towards therapy and healing as professions.

If you have been focusing on your child’s weaknesses or negative traits, perhaps it is now time to pause and take a look at how the same weakness may actually be a strength in disguise, waiting to be recognised and nurtured. Once you discover the strength that underlies the annoying weakness that keeps surfacing, you will be well on the way to assisting your child in developing those hidden strengths and celebrating their weaknesses.

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