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Thursday, May 23, 2019

Making StrengthsExplorer Work, for Kids and for You -- Season Wrap With Dr. Mary Reckmeyer



In this StrengthsExplorer podcast, Dr. Mary Reckmeyer, author of Strengths-Based Parenting and Executive Director of the Donald O. Clifton Child Development Center, joined host Maika Leibbrandt (Learning and Development Consultant at Gallup) to wrap up the StrengthsExplorer podcast series.  




[4:07] Maika Leibbrandt: Hey, Mary, can you tell us a little bit -- we've talked quite a bit about StrengthsExplorer; it's been the technical focus of this entire series. From your perspective, what was the original intent behind creating StrengthsExplorer?

Mary Reckmeyer: As an organization, and just philosophically, we've always believed that it's important to treat children as individuals and to really respect their natural inclinations, their talents, their interests. And of course we had (CliftonStrengths) for adults, or let's say, for individuals about (age) 15 on up. 

And through our own research as well as research of a lot of other people, we know that focusing on strengths decreases pain, decreases stress, anger, sadness. And we know that when we focus on positive emotions and what's right, that people are happier -- they've got better wellbeing, they've got more energy; they're rested; they're smiling; and they're learning. So why wouldn't we want that same thing for young people, for children? 

We had to do the trick of spending time figuring out, How can we have an objective assessment for kids, to help us all know what's right about them. And of course, we've been working with school districts for decades. Teachers, coaches, administrators -- they all want to figure out what makes kids tick. They want to know what motivates them; how to help them learn best. 

And they want to be able to do that in August and September -- not to get to that point in April, where they say, "Aha! I think I just figured out how to do this better for that child." And then it's summertime and it's gone, and we knew there were a lot of ways StrengthsExplorer could make a difference to young people and in development and in education and to parents and families. And so that's really why we wanted to create this tool.

[6:14] ML: Sounds like a big piece of it you mentioned is that objective tool that helps accelerate the speed of those conversations. Who's going to argue with being happier and less stressed? I deal with adults most of the time who say that's the No. 1 reason that they want any kind of intervention that we're doing.

But we also know that simply using that tool and having that strengths-based experience where you do experience that change -- there's got to be something more than just the use of the tool. What do you think needs to go around the tool -- what also needs to be there if we're really going to have that strengths-based experience for children?

MR: I think there are several things we can do to help "get it right." One of the great things the assessment can do is it helps you build a relationship quickly with a young person -- you have something to talk about that is very much a part of who they are and what's important to them. We learn best through relationships, so getting the relationship off to a quick start in the right way is key. 

I think also, if we're going to get strengths-based relationships and development right with kids, we also have to remember they're not mini-adults. They don't necessarily think and feel and put the same importance on things that we do as adults. Adults have had a lot of years of experience; a lot of time to sort. But kids are developmentally at a different place. They're doing their sorting; they're doing their growing; they're finding their pathways. And we've got to be sure to remember that. 

I think we also, in addition to getting those Top 3 back, we have to continue to spend a lot of time listening, observing, and then of course accepting, appreciating and building on what we hear, and helping kids to explore those natural inclinations and their interests. 

And I want to go back to the part about listening. I think it's really key that we remember -- we probably need to spend more time listening than talking or thinking we're giving a whole lot of great advice to kids. But take time to listen; ask them some great questions and then let them talk things through. I think that's really important.

One of the things I do like to remind adults about -- it's my three-second rule. So when adults ask a young person a question, whether they're 3 years old or 12 years old, do you know what the average length of time is that the adult waits for the child to respond before adding in or asking another question? It's a whopping 0.9 seconds (nine-tenths of a second). Think about that! That is just nothing. So I say, give it 3 seconds -- triple that time -- 3 seconds is still kind of nothing. But if you do that, you really will feel the difference.

What if you triple that and got to 9 seconds? You'll really feel the difference there. But just stopping and waiting and not having a preconceived idea of what the right answer should be. 

I also think, when we're considering StrengthsExplorer and talents, that we also need to give kids time to get good at something. Anything, really, but just so they have some kind of expertise -- and that expertise might keep changing and growing, but it's giving a child a confidence about something they know and can do. Because it gives them that added edge and that added resilience. 

So maybe you're not a writing star, but you're the best at math facts. That can help you override and keep going. So those would be some of the things we need to consider in addition to StrengthsExplorer to really get it right with kiddos.

StrengthsExplorer is a podcast series that dives deep into the 10 talent themes of the Clifton Youth StrengthsExplorer. It's designed for adults who are interested in accepting, affirming and growing the individual potential within a child. This series expands your language to describe what might be right and strong -- two key words throughout the series -- with children aged 10 to 14, and maybe a little on either side. 

To further your understanding, check out Gallup's book Strengths-Based Parenting wherever books are sold, or you can get it directly from us. Also check out How Full Is Your Bucket? For Kids, another book from Mary Reckmeyer.

Also be sure to visit and bookmark the StrengthsExplorer site, which has more information on StrengthsExplorer and where you will be able to get even more StrengthsExplorer content in the fall of 2019. 

Purchase CliftonStrengths Assessments and Featured Coaching Resources


Register for the 2019 CliftonStrengths Summit

Access all Theme Thursday episodes 

The goal of this podcast is to improve the conversations we have with children, to help adults accept, affirm and grow the natural talents within kids. Special thanks to Dr. Mary Reckmeyer, Jerlene Mosley and Johnny Liesveld.

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