What does it mean to have strengths in your own individual character? Perhaps you have participated in work personality surveys such as Myer Briggs, or maybe this is something new you are discovering. Understanding our character strengths helps us to understand our personality in a deeper way, as well as being able to help support our wellbeing in challenging times.
Positive Psychology research has shown that a strengths-based approach to parenting and education builds resilience in children. As a teacher, by focusing on the strengths of my students I am helping to improve their problem solving ability, develop self-esteem and self-efficacy and help them to see the best in themselves. When we work with our strengths we feel good, energised and of course motivated. Just like adults, kids also flourish when they work with their strengths, building confidence and self esteem, which assists in developing their wellbeing over time.
Thanks to the pioneers of Positive Psychology, Seligman and Csikszentmihalyi, Character Strengths are a core pillar in the development of positive wellbeing and mental health. Character strengths are the positive parts of your personality that impact how you think, feel and behave. Positive psychologists have identified 24 Character Strengths that everyone has the capacity to express, harness and develop over time. Character strengths are also universal and measurable and help to support our wellbeing over time.
By adopting a strengths approach we are not just simply ignoring any negative deficits. Instead we can look beyond a weakness as a negative and more as an area that we are developing, in the same capacity as developing a growth mindset. For example, I know that prudence (being careful about your choices, stopping and thinking before acting) ranks low in my character strengths profile but is a strength that I wish I had called upon at times. This doesn’t mean that this is my weakness or there is something wrong with my ability to make clear, decisive and good decisions. Instead through character strength education I am aware of where it fits in my profile and have worked on over time, so that when the time arises I know I am able to be more reflective in this capacity.
Character strengths help us to move past a negative bias and negative judgement on our abilities. When we continue to focus on negative or weakness, we can begin to develop more unhelpful thinking habits, which can develop into anxieties or even depression. By focusing on strengths doesn’t mean we ignore weaknesses, but look at ways to further develop these traits in a positive way.
Why is it important for kids to learn more about their character strengths? Well why not, if it supports adults and their understanding then of course kids can benefit from this education too. If we build children's capacity to understand their own inner strengths, we are aiding in their understanding of their abilities or talents, so they feel happier and more satisfied in the life they are leading. Sometimes kids don’t even know what their strengths are, but through their own self-discovery, we are again supporting their self-efficacy, confidence and capacity to bounce back in challenging times.
Character matters, because that's what helps us to shine. This year MKM has launched the Inner
Strengths program to build the understanding of character strengths to help support the wellbeing of kids. This program is aimed at primary children in Grade 4-6 and explores the concept of character strengths and how knowing our strengths can build resilience and develop problem solving skills and live more satisfied lives.
Coming soon as part of MKM’s new adult Wellbeing Master Class, you can also learn about your own character strengths and harness this knowledge to support your own wellbeing. Make sure you are subscribed to be up to date when this adult program launches.
In the meantime you can also check out The Via Character website to find out your own 24 unique character strength profile for free. https://www.viacharacter.org/character-strengths-via
Understanding your own character strengths and your children’s, is just another way in which you can support you and your families mental health and wellbeing.