Know Your Strengths: Be a Better Parent

Twelve years ago, I became a new mom. I distinctly remember coming home from the hospital with my tiny baby and carefully laying her down on her crib. I stared at her and nervously asked myself, “Now, what?!” I had read so much about preparing for the baby WHILE she was inside my tummy but right then and there I realized, I was clueless about what to do now that she was OUT!

What if Your Child is So Different from You?

How could I create a loving relationship with my firstborn, Martina? I had so many “dreams for her” and how she “should” be so she could grow up to be a loving, compassionate, successful adult. But as she grew older, I realized there were so many things about her that I am not!

When our 2nd daughter, Natalia, arrived 4 years after, the differences even became more apparent and so did the amazement and wonder and yes, the challenges too!

While Martina has some traits that are very different from mine, I am so glad she has them. Other times though, our differences drive me to frustration. “Why can’t you just obey?” Why does everything have to be a negotiation?”

Oftentimes, my husband, Iñaki and I would even joke each other about who she got her frustrating traits from and we would pass knowing glances at each other whenever she would exhibit these behaviors or say something amusing but also exasperating.

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Being a Better Parent Starts with Being a Better You

My journey as a 7 Habits for Highly Effective People facilitator, a People Acuity Certified Coach and Gallup Certified Strengths Coach helped me to unlearn, re-learn, and continue to learn more about Parenting.

I realized that Parenting is not about my children and it’s not about my relationship with my husband or with our partners in raising our children. I realized that Parenting starts and is influenced by my own relationship with MYSELF.

The higher self-awareness and self-control I have, the less judgmental I am with myself and with my husband, and with my children. Knowing more about ourselves, the way we SEE ourselves, our lens…our Strengths, will help us become better Parents. It will help us understand and embrace our own uniqueness, celebrate our differences with others especially with our own children, and learn how to harness and develop the Strengths of our own children.

Our children’s greatest gift to us is in enabling us to form a more intimate relationship with ourselves, making us continually step out of our comfort zones, and step into our growth zone. When we replace judgment with curiosity, we open up ourselves to the gift of getting to know ourselves and our children better and accept that when they are turning out to not be the image that we want them to be and straying from the field of dreams that we created even before they could walk or talk … it’s not that they are wrong, bad, or doomed for life…. It is only that they are different from us and they are creating their own path.

We are here to model, guide, coach, teach, and pray with them. It was humbling for me to realize that I am NOT better than anyone else, including my children, no matter how old they are.

Celebrating our Strengths… and Our Differences

Looking now at my 12- year old Martina and 8-year old Natalia… I am enjoying my role as a mother WITH them. We continually discover our strengths and learn how to communicate better when we trigger each other or we don’t see eye to eye because now I know that it’s not because they just want to disobey me. They are showing to me a strength that they have… they are revealing themselves to me… and I have learned to re-frame that to a discovery experience…a learning experience…a bonding moment that can help both of us get to our truest selves and love “unconditionally.” Instead of focusing on what they are weak at and what frustrates me about them, I have learned to focus on what they are great at and spot their strengths. I have learned to acknowledge them even for the little things that they do well. Every moment that I have with them, I try to see what they are doing well and acknowledge them for it with little things and big things.

When I saw my tween daughter spend time clipping her hair away from her eyes, I took that as an opportunity to compliment how she did it and the effect to me which was that I was able to see more of her bright and beautiful eyes. I noticed from then on she started being more mindful about how she fixes herself. She still doesn’t do it all the time (or even most of the time) but when I notice that she has forgotten, I just look at her and she looks at me, and she ends up smiling and she already knows what she forgot to do! It saves us a lot of nagging and heated arguments. My youngest daughter is really caring and sometimes to a fault that she wants to please people and has difficulty expressing her own needs. Knowing this as a strength, I point out to her what she’s doing well when she cares for people and I also constantly ask her what she needs and what frustrates her and give her the permission to say No to people asking for her help. She now has learned to say No when she feels that she needs to do something else first.

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We need to invest in ourselves and in our children to learn this and we can make it really fun. Instead of just investing on a new gadget for your children to “entertain” them when they are bored (or help them with their homework in school so they can be academically gifted), it is also important to be able to learn more about your own strengths and the strengths of each member of the family, how to apply Strengths Strategies so you may be able to SEE each other more accurately, calibrate your strengths when they are on overdrive and showing up as a weakness, and express these strengths while lifting each other, and creating a judgment free, safe zone where every member of the family would love to come home and always look forward to it. When each of us has created this home, imagine how many young lives we could save from depression, and even suicide!

Parents bring Work Joy wherever they are. When we know our own strengths and that of our children, we will re-connect with the basic fact that our VALUE is UNCONDITIONAL, that we are made up of our own Strengths and Weaknesses and both are OK, and we will live our lives with confident vulnerability, non judgement, and freedom to be who we are meant to be.

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About the Contributor

Kit Malvar Llamas is a Gallup Certified Coach and People Acuity’s leading international partner. She is a talented facilitator of learning and executive coach and a highly sought after FranklinCovey facilitator. Kit is known for instinctively understanding business problems and leading a customized strategy to resolve them. #shiftupwithkit