By Erin Leyba, LCSW, PhD

One way to delight in children is to know their strengths – inside and out – and provide creative opportunities for them to do the things they really love. Carving out time from busy days to honor children’s beloved activities, unique traits, and favorite interactions helps them thrive.

Consciously noticing the times when children “light up” helps parents maintain a positive outlook.

Here are a few examples:

A Son Who Loves to Be Playful

You may have a son with an awesome sense of humor. You may prioritize silly games like peek-a-boo, funny voices, silly teasing, and play wrestling by building them into his day. At the end of the day, you might reflect, “I have a son who loves to be playful. Did I make enough time to do that with him today?” Notice when he laughs, plays, and jokes around. Does he seem brighter and more engaged? Is he more content with other activities when he has gotten his fill of goofing off and being playful?

Daughter Who Loves to Help Babies

You may have a daughter who loves playing babies, taking care of babies, and helping out with babies. When a friend brings over a baby, you and your daughter might make a basket filled with soft baby toys, teethers, pacifiers, and a receiving blanket. You put your daughter in charge of giving these things to the baby’s mom and explaining what they are for. You might give your daughter a job like “Could you sing a lullaby to the baby if she starts fussing? Which song do you think the baby would like?” or “Could you get the baby a blanket?” You might notice that when your daughter is helping babies, her leadership energy is put to good use and she seems at her kindest and gentlest.

What are your child's unique strengths?

A Son Who Loves to Run

You may have a son who loves to run. Your son wants to have races, play sports, play tag, and play chase. He needs room in his days to go to sports class, kick the ball around in the yard, and even run around the house. He needs ample time allotted so he can run to school, the library, and the park instead of being driven there. He needs running time built into his schedule as if it were just as important as brushing his teeth. While gardening, you might give him a job of running across the yard to get you things like a shovel, seeds, or a watering can. While packing for a trip, you might ask him to run around the house to get things like swimsuits, washcloths, or socks. When he runs, notice if he appears happier, sleeps better at night, or if his behavior seems more regulated the rest of the day.

A Daughter Who Loves to Color

You may have a daughter who loves to color. You may leave time for her to relax and make art throughout the day. You may realize that she benefits from consistent access to crayons, markers, colored pencils, and paper. She may enjoy it when you send her drawings to a grandparent or a babysitter, post them on the refrigerator, or refrain from interrupting her while she’s in the middle of a picture. Notice when she colors if it helps her wind down from school, make things for other people, wait patiently for dinner to be done, or transition from day to evening.

We love watching children have fun, learn, create, discover, and shine. Noticing what they are drawn toward helps create conditions for them to live with even more joy. When we’re fully aware of our children’s talents, gifts, and interests, we reflect back their best, most unique selves. We communicate that we treasure them completely.

Children’s interests and strengths change over time. We don’t want to get stuck on one trait or over-emphasize to the point of putting pressure on them. However, making room in the day for the things that help our children “come alive” ensures that we stay tuned to the good in them. It helps us create interactions that are full of joy.

Here are a few questions to help pinpoint your child’s unique strengths:

  • What are three activities that your child loves doing?
  • When your child is at his/her best, what is he/she usually up to?
  • When do you enjoy your child the most?
  • What is one positive trait of your son or daughter that stands out, that seems central to his/her core?
  • What’s one way you could create space for your child to do or be more of what he or she loves?

All rights reserved. Copyright, 2015, Erin Leyba, LCSW, PhD