Last week I wrote about your parenting style, which is pretty well tied into your attachment style. While these styles don’t paint the entire picture, they do give a good baseline for how we relationally approach parenting our kids. We parents carry so many stories and libraries of information around about who our kids are. Most of the time, the biggest problem with parenting is the parent. We get in the way with things like what we like and don’t like about them, what we hope for them, and what we are afraid of about them. It’s easy to feel pretty overwhelmed about how to parent them well. I’ve adapted an exercise (some might call it an assessment) that will help you get out of the way, and clearly identify the make up of your kids.
If you’ve been around team building or organizational development, you may be familiar with the SWOT analysis. This is often used in businesses and organizations to identify what’s going well, and what’s not going well both internally and externally. SWOT is an acronym for: Strengths; Weaknesses; Opportunities; and Threats. I’m adapting this exercise to use as an assessment for parenting.
We’re going to take a look at doing a SWOT+ analysis on your individual kids. You may notice that I’ve added an “+” to the original exercise described in the first paragraph. This represents the future oriented “hopes and motivations” of our kids. Each kid is a unique creation, and needs to be treated as such. Good parenting is about knowing how to engage differently with each unique child, not as though they are a heard of animals (though it sometimes feels that way).
I’ll explain the exercise and then provide an example SWOT+ to show you what it might look like. Sometimes this is better to do on a whiteboard or poster-board if you have those available. The SWOT+ assessment is a 3-part exercise addressing the make up of the child (internal), your influence as parents (external), and the future hopes and motivations of the child (eternal).
A few final thoughts before proceeding: Don’t worry about getting it right. Think of this as a living document that you’ll add/edit/change over time. The exercise doesn’t have to be linear, feel free to go back and forth over the different categories. (Warning, this is not something your child needs to see until they are mature enough — mid to late teen years.)
Internal (What’s unique about the child)
Strengths & Weaknesses
Section Goal: Find out what’s your child needs help with, and what they are good at. Try to fill this section out in a 2:1 ratio of strengths to weaknesses.
Sometimes, especially with teenagers, we forget what is amazing about our kids. This might be the section your kids need to spend the most time on. What are they good at? What is a gifting of theirs that you want to name and highlight about who they are? It’s easy to miss what is good about our kids when we aren’t pointing out for them what is good. Try to balance their strengths between what they do and who they are (we are human beings, not human doings). Examples: Creative, artistic, thoughtful, follow through, compassion, remorse, empathy, plays well on their own, reading, athletic, leader, smart, competitive, relationships.
What does your child lack or need help with that they are naturally not good at? Sometimes a weakness relates to an underutilized gift. Think of weaknesses as where they will need other people to help them. Weaknesses are less about normal development, and more about what they are not naturally gifted at. Examples: patience, compassion, team work, initiative, appropriate emotional regulation, relationships. If you find yourself naming more weaknesses than strengths, that might say more about you than it does about your child.
IDEA – If my son is not good with time management but is great at follow through, I might need to adjust how I give him deadlines that set him up to win opposed to a expecting him to magically become better about time management. Asking him to clean his room by 3pm today might not be specific enough for him to manage that whole process in a timely manner.
External (Parenting opportunities and threats)
Opportunities & Threats
Section Goal: To name how the child’s gifts and abilities are uniquely influenced by you the parent(s). Keep in mind how your parenting style (Withdrawn, Hyperactive, Confused, Comfortable) might be helping or hurting your specific child.
Taking into account his/her gifts and abilities, what current opportunities are available for you to encourage and develop in your child? In this time of quarantined living, if your child is artistic, this would be a great time for them to have a portion of the day set aside to learn and develop a new type of art. Other examples might be: Reading, writing short stories, developing a new craft, hobby or skill. Opportunity has a lot to do with motivations, which we will talk about at the end. What are the unique opportunities that each parent individually has to engage in a special with your child?
Some dad’s get into “Alpha-male” battles with their sons. Some mom’s get into nagging and petty fights with their daughters. Most parents struggle with the child that is most like them. What is something that is challenging you with developing and encouraging your child in achieving their goals in this time of life? What would threaten you from helping or engaging well with them? For example, a kid loves to be outside playing games, but you’ve just had knee surgery and cannot play with them. Or more nuanced, your child needs a lot of physical touch, but you aren’t a touchy-feely person (avoidant parenting style?) keeps you from meeting this need in them.
Eternal (Encourage your childs’ purpose)
Hopes & Motivations
Section Goal: Name at least one hope, and one unique motivation about your child (not about you!). What they are motivated by and hope for has a lot to do with how they will influence their world. There will never be another person in the history of the world like them, help them discover and live into who they were created to be.
Hopes & Motivations.
Your child tells you often about what they hope for, they just might not say it in an obvious way. For example, my 12 year old son hopes to be included and is motivated by attention. He’s always up and about, looking for ways to be involved with his siblings or with us, his parents. When we give him a little bit of those things that motivate him, he comes alive. One of my other kids hopes for independence and is motivated by money and good food. Knowing these things is extremely helpful in how we approach each kid uniquely. If I parent my 12-year old as though he wants to be independent, he’s going to feel profoundly misunderstood. What does your child hope for, and what motivates them?
Now that we’ve talked through each of these categories, set aside some time (15-20 minutes per kid) to complete each section for each of your kids. Again, I’d recommend some posterboard or one of those “giant sticky notes” you get from an office supply store. Seeing these words written down on paper helps to clarify the process.
The next part in this series is setting goals. This will come from taking your parenting style and your kids SWOT+ and applying these to some specific goals for each one of them, and your family. Check back later this week for that post.
Have questions, or want to set up some parent coaching? Let’s connect.
Christopher – 13 Years Old
Strengths: Others-centered, athletic, competitive, numbers/math, flexible, diplomatic.
Weaknesses: Attention to details, Intuition, Tends to look for others to make decisions. Has to compete with younger sister for attention.
Opportunities: Katie (younger sister) & her being in 6th grade with him next year. Gifted in soccer, mom played soccer in college, so time for them to work on this together. Has ample time to learn coding and other basic math implementations with technology.
Threats: Time with Dad b/c of dad’s work schedule. Tends to get lost in family needs/discussions because he is quiet and removed. Mom’s hyperactive parenting style can overwhelm him with too much energy. Dislikes being given multiple tasks at one time (weakness- attention to details)Hope.
Hopes & Motivations: Motivated by surprises. Wants to be a teacher when he grows up. Energized by serving/helping others.