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Vexation Vaccination

Three straight weeks with my kids over the break systematically exposed every shortcoming I have as a parent! I made every parenting mistake possible and in the midst of their tantrums, snot, vomiting and subsequent visits to the doctors I began to be drawn to my children’s weaknesses – their faults, flaws and the tasks at which they struggle.

Out of frustration at myself I read ‘The Strength Switch’ by Dr Lea Waters who outlines a strength-based approach to parenting that focuses on children’s strengths in order to build optimism, resilience and achievement in children. ‘The Strength Switch’ discusses why parents should shift their focus to growing the strengths their children already have, rather than trying to correct their weaknesses. It reminded me that parents should, at times, not follow the ‘natural’ temptation to ‘fix’ their weaknesses given we have evolved with a ‘negativity bias’, where we zero in on what’s wrong with our children (and partners) as a way to protect ourselves and our ‘tribe’. Add to this the constant social pressure to raise perfectly behaved, accomplished children, and many parents feel as if they have to be in “fix-it” mode all the time.

There is no doubt that too often our right intentions as parents can be in the wrong direction and our children experience this through negative means such as criticism and nagging about how they fall short of our projections and expectations. When this happens parents quickly become a bad cop and wet blanket all rolled into one! Strengths-based parenting aims to connect children with their inner resources – character strengths like resilience, compassion and forgiveness. Strength-based parenting comprises three main processes: seeing strengths, growing strengths and celebrating strengths. A strength is something your child naturally does well, happily and often. Research confirms the advantages of deliberately amplifying strengths such as developing a child’s potential, well-being, resilience and fostering a better parent-child connection. Dr Waters outlines how strengths-based parenting is associated with higher levels of life satisfaction, positive emotions and confidence.

This is especially relevant given one in four young Australians is affected by a mental health condition. At this time of year, especially with the Ekka approaching, parents look to vaccinate their children against the cold and flu season. Do yourself a favour and read ‘The Strength Switch’ in order to vaccinate your children against today’s pandemic of depression and anxiety. It might even vaccinate yourself against the vexation of parenting!

Conor Finn
Dean of Formation
finnc@atc.qld.edu.au