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March 3, 2008

Discover Your Child's Strengths and Your Own

My high school guidance counselor told me I would be lucky, LUCKY, if I got into community college.

I failed math three times in high school and twice in college. It was like a foreign language to me that I had no interest in speaking.

A math tutor once told me, “If your parents hadn’t paid me so much, you would not have passed the course.”

When I got into to some swanky colleges, my father called that guidance counselor back to gloat. I graduated from a top university and from one of the most difficult departments in the US for my major. Did I mention I was one of the only women? I kicked some boy historian butt!

This is the educational system at work with me. Through the years, I have been told, “NO,” many times over. I was not your typical cookie cutter set of students. I did not perform well on tests. The SATs were a nightmare. I was unreachable and not eligible for this or for that. I was not good enough or smart enough for whatever goal I tried to attain. I persevered and reached those goals anyway.

Could it be that instead of looking at our strengths and encouraging students like me the school system has become a breeding ground for elevating the weakness in a child? In my case I believe that yes, this is true. When I heard PBN was reviewing Jenifer Fox’s new book, ‘Your Child’s Strengths’ I had to obtain a copy. It was like a siren song calling to me, just not in that perilous doomsday way. While I was not a rock star student, I was not a bad one either. I just coasted along, bored and unreachable. If by chance, a teacher managed to catch my attention they had me for good. I would do anything to ace tests, please that teacher and excel to the highest points that I could.

I remember one particular high school art teacher, Mr. Farrell, who allowed a stray dog that was wandering the school parking lot into the classroom for inspiration. We hugged and petted the dog. We painted him (non-toxic paint of course), let him roll in the paint and then photographed and bathed him. Not only was it fun but that breaking of the school rules spoke to me. From then on, not only was that class a favorite of mine, I also felt more inspired than ever before. Mr. Farrell’s no holds barred teaching style gave me the boost I needed and optimism to trust other teachers too who in turn nurtured talents I did not know I possessed. That confidence made me feel that it was perfectly OK, most days, that I was not excelling in every subject but getting by on average grades, which quite frankly is not really getting by, but doing just fine. Did my high school guidance counselor zero in on these points? Did anyone besides my parents? No. Continuously, it was pointed out that I was bad at math and science and therefore hopeless with no future. It was focused on so much and so often that I became convinced I must not be smart at all in fact. I must be quite dumb indeed.

Reading, Jenifer Fox’s book, Your Child Strengths, I thought would open my eyes to how my own child learns and think. Not only did the book do just that but it also validated and taught me about how I learn as well. Reading about Foxes high school experience mirrored my own and many times throughout the book, I found myself marveling at how often our lives paralleled each other in this regard. I learned that I am a visual learner, an explorer, linguistic, a truth-teller and appreciator. What does all this mumbo-jumbo mean? Fox points out that strengths do not come from something that we are good at but from the activities that energize us. When you do something, you excel at and makes you feel good, here in lays your strength. Children do not need to excel at everything and expecting them to do that is asking them to constantly grasp and reach out for goals that are not always attainable or the best route for the child. My parents always told me to “do what you love. It is the only way to find true happiness.” I took their advice, majored in history in college and was happy as a clam. When I graduated, I sought out job after job that I thought was expected of me and continuously felt depleted. It was not until I had the courage to focus on my strengths that I broke free from that unhappy work life and began working on my writing, which brings me true joy.

‘Your Child’s Strengths’ helped me to discover parts of me that I already knew but needed to polish up a bit and get a better grasp on. There is a lot, I mean, A LOT of information in this book. It can be a bit intimidating at first when you see the activities and Appendix. Yet, it is entirely worth it. Through Foxes book, I have a better understanding of how I learn and work. Armed with this knowledge I can be a better parent. I can teach my daughter to find her own talents and strengths. She does not have to be another victim of cookie cutter style of teaching. She can use this information with our assistance and carve her own path, which to me is the best way. I truly cannot express how grateful I am to have had the opportunity to read and learn from this book. It changes the way I view my daughter’s daily activities and how I interact with her. 'Your Child's Strengths' is a welcome change of pace. It made me feel good without the gooey factor, which is worth its weight in gold to me.

For more reviews about this book and other products visit PBN. To purchase Your Childs Strengths visit here.


Stephanie said...

My mom is still upset at our school system messing me up, especially in math