When my son was around 12 he was figuring out he was a bit different from most of his sports friends. He lived and died sports but that was about all they had in common, he wasn’t different on the outside, just inside as he was more compassionate and caring and that felt wrong somehow. It was at that time I had him fill out the VIA survey for teens. My hope was that he would see what he was good at, not what he wasn’t. After reading his 5 top strengths I was blown away. Here I saw my son in a new way-Zest, Social Intelligence, Love, Kindness at the top and at the bottom, Leadership. I was thrilled, such wonderful qualities in a young man, but a lightbulb went off in my head. As a parent, I saw them as great qualities, but they weren’t the “cool qualities” that a boy his age would appreciate. The last few years when his coaches constantly told him to step up and be a leader he would always shrug, not wanting to play that role. He’d rather be the person rallying the team, cheering for them. It all made so much more sense.
From that time on we would talk about things differently, like “lead by example”, or instead of questioning why he was hanging with the girls or not going to certain parties, we understood how much more girls appreciate the caring side of him than the boys, and knowing where he didn’t want to be; of course now that he’s a senior the boys appreciate all the female friends he has!
My son has struggled at being picked on for his exuberance and wearing his emotions on his sleeve, but now that he’s matured and no longer needs or seeks the approval of the “masses” and is just o.k. with who he is we’ve seen some amazing things happen in just the last few months. He won an award for his team spirit, he danced around at the mother-son dance encouraging all to participate in the whole night, and just seeing his “light” shine bright. I have always known he would be o.k., but parenting with the knowledge of his character strengths made understanding his perspective and encouraging him to be himself so much easier and now watching him reap the rewards of being himself all the more sweet.