Cover image for The strength switch : how the new science of strength-based parenting can help you and your child flourish / Lea Waters, PhD.
The strength switch : how the new science of strength-based parenting can help you and your child flourish / Lea Waters, PhD.
Publication Information:
New York : Avery, [2017]

Physical Description:
340 pages ; 24 cm
Standing for strength in a world obsessed with weakness -- The strength switch -- Understanding strengths -- The ages and stages of strength growth -- Attention, savoring, gratitude, and goofing off -- Mindfulness -- Self-control -- Communication -- Strength-based living in the real world -- Strong selves, strong families, strong communities, strong world.
Explains how making small shifts in one's parenting style can yield big results by uncovering a child's strengths, rather than focusing on his or her weaknesses.


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1 Bob Harkins Branch 306.874 WAT Book Adult General Collection

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Unlock your children's potential by helping them build their strengths.

This game-changing book shows us the extraordinary results of focusing on our children's strengths rather than always trying to correct their weaknesses. Most parents struggle with this shift because they suffer from a negativity bias, thanks to evolutionary development, giving them "strengths-blindness." By showing us how to throw the "strengths switch," Lea Waters demonstrates how we can not only help our children build resilience, optimism, and achievement but we can also help inoculate them against today's pandemic of depression and anxiety.

As a strengths-based scientist for more than twenty years, ten of them spent focusing on strengths-based parenting, Waters has seen how this approach enhances self-esteem and energy in both children and teenagers. Yet more on the plus side: parents find it a particularly exciting and rewarding way to raise children. With many suggestions for specific ways to interact with your kids, Waters demonstrates how to discover strengths and talents in our children, how to use positive emotions as a resource, how to build strong brains, and even how to deal with problem behaviors and talk about difficult situations and emotions. As revolutionary yet simple as Mindset and Grit , The Strength Switch will show parents how a small shift can yield enormous results.

Author Notes

Lea Waters, Ph.D., is President of the International Positive Psychology Association and the Gerry Higgins Chair in Positive Psychology at the University of Melbourne, Australia. She holds an affiliate position with Cambridge University's Well-being Institute (UK) and the Center for Positive Organizations at the University of Michigan (USA). Waters was the Founding Director of the Centre for Positive Psychology at the University of Melbourne and was listed in the Top 100 Women of Influence by The Australian Financial Review in 2015. She has also served as a consultant to a wide range of businesses. Waters lives in Melbourne, Australia, with her husband, Matthew Scholes; her son, Nicholas; and her daughter, Emily.

Reviews 1

Publisher's Weekly Review

The framework of positive psychology, combined with recent studies into strength, yields here a parenting method that ditches a culturally dominant negativity bias in which parents are focused on correcting weaknesses. Psychologist Avery encourages parents to "flick the switch" by instead focusing on acknowledging and building on their children's strengths so that their children develop self-esteem, optimism, resilience, and self-control. Waters teaches parents to identify their children's strengths at the intersection of spontaneous high performance, high energy, and high use, and then to find natural opportunities for these strengths to be used and developed. She sketches out a framework that considers problematic behaviors as resulting from overuse or underuse of strengths. Waters also offers parents and children alike methods for achieving other aspects of positive psychology-attention, gratitude, and mindfulness. Despite the focus on positivity, Waters comes off as a thoughtful parenting realist and not a spacey happiness guru, supporting her ideas with a mix of parental anecdotes and pointers to psychological research. Waters's clearly presented, easily implemented ideas will make sense to parents looking to escape the corrective mind-set that can make both them and their children feel defective or broken, especially in the children's teen years. (July) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.



Martin Seligman is widely known as a leading authority on positive psychology, a branch of psychology that scientifically studies how positive emotions, strengths, and virtues help us thrive. I had met Marty when he came to Australia to establish a positive psychology approach at a school near the University of Melbourne, where I work. I had just transferred to the Melbourne Graduate School of Education from the School of Business and Economics, where as an organizational psychologist I'd been studying and consulting for organizations on integrating positive psychology into the workplace, particularly on how focusing on strengths as opposed to weaknesses could improve performance. Basically, I'd swapped offices for classrooms, senior execs for teachers, and workers for school kids. I was also leading the establishment of our Centre for Positive Psychology, a dedicated facility that was a first for Australia, for the university, and for me.   Marty and I were talking about how effective school systems could be for introducing positive psychology to children so kids could do better in school, feel better about themselves, and become adults who will shape a society empowered by positive psychology.   But as a psychologist and parent of two children, I knew that, in the infinite ways parents connect with children every day, families are by far the most powerful positive psychology delivery system of all.   The question was how to reach them.   Our conversation went something like this:   Me: It's great that we're doing this in schools. But what happens when kids go home? I'm using a strength-based approach with my kids, and I've seen the benefits. Someone should do the research that would inform parents about this.   Marty: Why don't you do it?   Me: But I'm an organizational psychologist, not a parenting expert.   Marty: You're raising your children this way, you're a qualified psychologist, and you're working with kids in schools. So why not you?   I think that's when I suddenly noticed that my wineglass needed a refill!   Despite initially avoiding Marty's question, it followed me all the way home on the thirty-hour flight to Melbourne: Why not me? Maybe I could do it. Maybe I should do it. If I do it, I'll be helping a lot of parents and kids. By the time the plane landed, I knew that bringing strength principles into families' lives was something I had to do.   Parents: 24/ 7 CEOs of Our Kids' Lives These days I run strength-based workshops for schools, workplaces, and parents around the world. I've found that no matter what country, continent, or culture they're from, two things unite all parents: the desire to help their children flourish and a sense of inadequacy for this task.   Parenting can feel overwhelming. We're the CEOs of our children's lives, responsible for all the different departments: cognitive, physical, social, emotional, moral, sexual, spiritual, cultural, and educational. The buck starts and stops with us.   Parents today have a lot more to worry about. My parents didn't have to think about screen time, cyberbullying, or sexting. Expectations of parents are growing, too. We're raising kids in an era ruthlessly focused on grades, college admission, earning potential, and social acceptance.   There also seems to be less and less consensus--and more scrutiny--on the "right" way to parent. We're bombarded by conflicting approaches to raising good, successful kids. It can lead to anxiety about whether we're doing what's best for our child. We may feel so pressured to help our children grow into the person society says they should be that we may not be allowing them to grow into the person they actually are .   I know these pressures well. It takes all my confidence to tell other parents that I would rather let Nick and Emily play than provide them extra academic tutoring to pump up their grades. Am I putting them at a disadvantage? While there are more opportunities like this than ever for our children, they come with more competition and incessant chatter about how to help our child get ahead. How do we know what is the best approach?   Based on my psychological research on well-being; my work with schools, workplaces, and parents; and my own experience as a parent I think the best approach is one that supports your child's ability for self-development, so that over time your child has the tools to take on the mantle of CEO.   This approach is rooted in positive psychology and provides a child with two vital psychological tools:   1. Optimism: the force that motivates your child to create a positive future for herself   2. Resilience: your child's capacity to bounce back when life throws a curve ball   You may be thinking, That sounds great in theory, but how do I help my child acquire and use these tools?   Why Focusing on Strengths Makes Sense Today Our quest to define and live "the good life" goes back to the ancient philosophers, but only in recent decades have we started examining the question scientifically. The strength-based approach gives us the power to live the good life by drawing on our most abundant inner resources. When we use it with our children, they internalize the idea that they have strengths, and they learn to use them to take charge of their life.   Why, then, do we tend to focus on the negative? As many parents confide to me: "I love my kid, but I keep criticizing him. What's going on?"   I have two words for you: old wiring .   Our brains were shaped by the rigors of survival into becoming brilliant pattern detectors. For most of our evolution, we've survived by quickly alerting to disruptions in the patterns of daily life as clues to possible danger or to weaknesses that put us at a disadvantage: That unusual movement in the grass might be a lurking predator . . . That one unsmiling face around the tribal campfire might be an enemy . . . Our inability to run as fast as the others might mean we'll be left behind when fleeing danger . . . and so on. This primeval tendency to zoom in on what's "off" helped us size up our chances for survival and decide whether our world might be about to turn upside-down.   This negative bias can be hugely helpful when your life's at stake. But most of us don't face such extremes. For the situations we encounter today--which usually demand complex reasoning and problem solving, sophisticated cooperation and communication, reserves of persistence, or expert facility in a specific skill--the negative bias can put us at a disadvantage because it blinds us to opportunities, keeps us from seeing the larger picture, and bars access to the expansive thinking that unlocks innovation, collaboration, adaptability, growth, success, and fulfillment.   Attention on the negative helped us survive. Attention on the positive helps us thrive .   Three decades of research clearly shows the advantages of taking a strength-based approach for children and adults alike, including:   *greater levels of happiness and engagement at school *smoother transitions from kindergarten to elementary school and from elementary to middle school *higher levels of academic achievement (as found in high school and college students) * greater levels of happiness at work *greater likelihood of staying at work *better work performance *greater likelihood of staying married and being happy in your marriage *higher levels of physical fitness and of engaging in healthy behaviors (e.g., healthy eating, visiting the   doctor) *better recovery after illness *increased levels of life satisfaction and self-esteem *reduced risk of depression *enhanced ability to cope with stress and adversity Excerpted from The Strength Switch: How the New Science of Strength-Based Parenting Can Help Your Child and Your Teen to Flourish by Lea Waters All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

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