If you are a teacher, a parent or work in some capacity with children and teenagers then Your Child’s Strengths by Jenifer Fox is an excellent book to put on your “books to read” list. For more than 25 years Ms. Fox, an educator has been interested in not only discovering a child’s individual strengths, but on what makes a child feel most alive. In her book not only is it important for students to do well academically, but also just as imperative is the need for children to feel a sense of fulfillment in their lives. What I like about this book is that it isn’t your typical educational book focusing on children that are struggling in school (those book are just as important) but it encompasses even students who have stellar grades. In Your Child’s Strengths she writes, “Remember, strengths are not talents or skills, or what your children are good at. All those things are open to evaluation and criticism. Strengths are far more personal-they are the activities that make someone feel strong”. Personally, I believe that as adults most of us search at one time or another for the meaning or purpose in our lives, but I never looked at it as something our students want to attain as well. Even though children and teenagers probably can’t articulate it they also long to do activities and hobbies that they find meaningful and fulfilling.
In her book Ms. Fox talks about Marcus Buckingham. Mr. Buckingham is better known in the business sector as someone who helps “managers and organizations access the untapped potential of their people’s strengths”. Mr. Buckingham and Ms. Fox’s perspective on harnessing people’s strengths is very similar. In Mr. Buckingham’s book, Now Discover Your Strengths he believes that the best employers are the ones that know how to optimize their employees’ strengths. Mr. Buckingham’s perspective is that everyone has unique, innate abilities, but that many people are stuck in jobs that even if they are good at, don’t necessarily leave them feeling fulfilled. (Coincidentally, years ago I happened to see Mr. Buckingham at a reading he was giving at Borders Bookstore when he was promoting his book, Now, Discover Your Strengths. Just for fun I took the quiz in his book that lets you know what your strongest strength is. My strongest strength was Empathy, which pretty much means that I pick up on people’s emotions (even the ones they don’t know they are putting out) like a sponge. Thankfully, I’ve learned to work through this. If you happen to take this quiz I’d be curious to hear what your strengths are). Personally, I like that Ms. Fox in her book included someone like Mr. Buckingham. Eventually our students, our children are going to go out into the work place and it would be advantageous for everyone if we could help them start identifying their strengths and sense of meaning when they’re young. Developing a sense of fulfillment in our students will eventually help them become the kind of leaders that “see” way past their employees’ resumes or weaknesses. Employers who understand and cultivate their employees’ strengths are leaders who are extending and expanding their companies’ longevity. And for students who don’t have any interest in leading anyone anywhere, learning about their strengths will still lead them to more fulfilling and purposeful lives. In her book Ms. Fox asks, “Strong lives are those that are marked by a sense of purpose, connectedness, resilience and fulfillment. So how can we foster these traits in our children?” I hope it is a question that as educators, parents and world leaders we continue to explore and it is a question that Ms. Fox passionately addresses in her book.

If anyone reads or has read this book I would love to hear your thoughts.

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