The Strong Question


Recently, my eleven year old son David and I were talking about his day at school. The conversation went like this:

Me. “David, what did you do today at school that made you feel strong?

David. “Today I helped Mr. Wiskey set up for a new sports program.”

Me. “Why did that make you feel strong son?”

David. “I enjoy helping people and Mr. Wiskey is very nice to us students but he is also retired and kinda old.”

Me. “Ok. So you helped him out and that made you feel strong?”

David. “Yes it did.”

Me. “Very good, thank you son.”

During this exchange, I learned about an activity that brings my son great satisfaction. David felt strong and significant when he helped an older, respected gentleman with a task. When we clue into what makes our child feel strong, significant, and positively impacts the world around him/her we are discovering potentially reproducible positive behavior.  

Analyn and I consistently ask our kids the “strong” question every time we see them after school or activities. The answers our kids give vary based on each child’s unique interests, hardwiring and activities. But the key to this question is not necessarily understanding the why behind every answer but amassing data that can clue us as parents in on what makes our children feel strong and worthwhile. Don’t over think it parents and by all means don’t compare one child’s answer to their sibling’s.

Kids, like adults, are looking for a measure of success and fulfillment. We must help them identify that each day by focusing on what made them feel strong rather than what made them feel weak during their day. We celebrated David’s service to Mr. Wiskey and continue to remind him what a great heart he has to helps others, especially the elderly. We didn’t put the idea of helping a retired man in his head but when he acted in a way that made him feel strong we were right there to encourage more of the behavior that he says makes him feel strong and significant.

David has given us others “clues” like feeling strong after acing a test, or playing well on the field. Together, these “clues” teach me about my son and help him to form his own pattern of thinking in regards to focusing more on activities that are aligned with his strengths and values. The more in tune our children are with their strengths rather than their weaknesses the more able they are to align their behavior and even create habits that exercise their strengths more frequently.

Parents, we serve as guides in our children’s self-discovery and it is our joy to help draw their attention to their strengths by asking great questions. So end each day asking your child what made them feel strong. It is by far one of my favorite parts of the day when David jumps in the car eager to answer the strong question before I even have a chance to ask.

If this is new for you, consider setting a reminder on your phone for the same time every day when you know you will be with your child. Be sure to qualify your question with examples like “what did you really enjoy today” or “what made you feel energized today?”  Your child may look at you like you are crazy the first few days but every good habit forms over time so be patient and be willing to come off a little crazy for the long-term win.

One dad recently took up the strong question habit. He said the first two weeks of faithfully asking his high school son the strong question were undeniably awkward. But consistency gave way to openness. His son began to share new aspects of his day and not only was their relationship positively impacted but both son and father discovered more about the unique strengths in the boy that they probably wouldn’t have so evidently seen or discussed before.

We love to hear about parents making the shift to a strengths approach. Feel free to share your comments with us regarding your journey!

Brandon Miller