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Thursday, January 5, 2017

Strengths Based Tweens: Creating an Empowered Adolescence

By Megan W. Gerhardt, Ph.D. & Sue Bath, Ed.D.

“How we navigate the adolescent years has a direct impact on how we’ll live the rest of our lives.”

—Brainstorm: The Power and the Purpose of the Teenage Brain

MB, age 14, recently took Gallup’s StrengthsExplorer and shared the results -- Caring, Organizer, Dependability -- with her parents.

"Knowing our daughter's top talents has helped me know how to support her better,” says MB’s mother Nancy. “Because she has dependability as one of her talents, I know that I don’t have to push her in this area because she inherently wants to be responsible. Instead, I am trying to help her manage her expectations of herself in that area.” 

Nancy also aims to develop MB’s confidence by giving her opportunities to use her strengths. “[MB] recently suggested we bake cookies for new neighbors because we felt other neighbors were not welcoming. We made the time to bake and deliver the cookies the next day. I could tell she had a great sense of pride that we had acted on her idea. I see these strengths as her way of connecting with others over time. When she shows up in a new community, these will be the most natural ways for her to contribute, feel valued and feel a part of things."

Gallup’s StrengthsExplorer allows adolescents 10-14 years old to identify their top three talent themes. Identifying their unique talents is a powerful way for young people to better understand themselves, how they prefer to interact with their peers, and how their unique abilities can help them be successful and engaged not only at school, but in all areas of their life. 

Just as adults can learn to cultivate their unique talents into strengths, tweens have the opportunity to do the same. Understanding their talent themes early allows young people to invest in them throughout their lifetime.

One of the most difficult parts of adolescence is navigating new social environments. Awareness of their unique talents can be a great tool to help tweens in these encounters. For example, a tween with the Relating theme might enjoy having just a few close friends, rather than a large group of friends that is more difficult to get as close to. Owning this theme -- and receiving encouragement in support of this theme -- empowers tweens to not feel peer pressure to join in social activities they may not enjoy, and can allow them confidently to “claim” their preference for a smaller social group, rather than feeling there is something wrong with them when they prefer to approach social situations differently than their peers do. 

Knowing that a friend has a strong Competing talent can help one tween understand why the friend always seems to compare themselves with others or why the friend may love playing sports even if the individual may not care much about that activity. 

Adolescence is also a time of experimentation and discovery. Knowing one’s talent themes can help tweens and their parents find activities and hobbies that foster their talents and turn them into strengths. 

The 10 talent themes from StrengthsExplorer are:

  • Achieving
  • Caring 
  • Competing
  • Confidence
  • Dependability
  • Discoverer
  • Future Thinker
  • Organizer
  • Presence
  • Relating

Once you know your tween’s results, consider these key questions and suggestions:

  • How you have seen your tween display these talents to be successful in the past? Encourage your child to think about this question as well, and to ask friends or teachers for examples. 
  • How can you help your tween apply these talents to areas in which your tween is struggling? 
  • What opportunities or activities could you help your tween seek out in the future to leverage these talents even more?

Sue Bath, Ed.D., is a Talent Management Consultant at Gallup and is an expert practitioner of Gallup’s selection and development science. Certified as both a CliftonStrengths Coach and Associate Coach with the International Coaching Federation, Dr. Bath supports clients in using Gallup’s philosophies and approaches to transform their cultures to better meet their business objectives.  

Sue's top 5 strengths are: Maximizer | Individualization | Activator | Belief | Input

Megan Gerhardt, Ph.D., is a Professor of Leadership and Co-Director of the Center for Business Leadership in the Farmer School of Business at Miami University, as well as a Gallup Certified CliftonStrengths coach. Dr. Gerhardt publishes research on the role individual differences in motivation and leadership,and frequently provides professional development workshops through her leadership consulting business, The Gerhardt Group.  

Megan's top 5 strengths are: Ideation | Intellection | Input | Strategic | Learner

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