Often times in parenting, especially through the teenage years, it is easy for parents to get overwhelmed by what is wrong and what is not going well, especially when it comes to school success. However, in his new book, Strong Families, Successful Students: Helping Teenagers Develop Their Full Potential, Dr. Steve Gavazzi, an OSU family researcher and therapist, urges families to focus on their strengths.
When teens are criticized, they may tune out their parents and can begin to emotionally start to shut down. A perfect child or parent is impossible to find and there will always be faults to find if you are looking for them. Gavazzi, in his research has found that it’s much more healthy and beneficial to focus on the positive aspects of your child and your family. By emphasizing the things that your teen is good at, parents may begin to define success a little differently.
Families who focus on their strengths:
–Share a common ideology, including having a common understanding of what family success looks like
–Are patient and kind to each other and to others
–Look for unique strengths and talents in each family member
–Know how to solve problems together as a family
–Know how to find and use resources to help them
The author also wants to empower parents to become more confident about the role that they play in the lives of their teens. He believes that parents are the best experts about their family and are best suited to understand what is going on in the family and make decisions based on that. Again, he encourages the parent to focus on what is going right in the family and to play off those strengths.
Gavazzi points out that families function within the context of a larger environment. For example, in an interaction, there is usually not clear cause-and-effect. Each interaction can be affected bymultiple factors including personality, environments such as school and culture, and friends or peers. Therefore, the family cannot be viewed exclusively through the lens of what is happening in the home or in the classroom, rather it can be more helpful to look at the whole system.
This perspective is especially important when thinking about school success, which is the main focus of this book. The author has found in is studies that if a teen is not doing well in school, there are usually many factors that are leading to this. This is why, in a book about school success there is so much emphasis on the family and family functioning.
The book is written based on years of research that Gavazzi and his team have been doing on a project called, “Growing up FAST”, a youth delinquency program. However, the book is not targeted towards other researchers. The author combines stories and advice based on his research to reach out to the many families that are struggling to help their children succeed in school.
The teen years are important times of growth and development. Doing well in school is one aspect of growth that can help your child move toward success as an adult. By focusing on what your child is talented at, the positive aspects, you can help shed light on how to improve those things that may be more difficult for your child.
To learn more about Dr. Gavazzi and his work, you can check out his new book, Strong Families, Successful Students: Helping Teenagers Develop Their Full Potential, or you can an interview with him, discussing his book on YouTube at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H40sFp0hBxM .
Dr. Gavazzi also writes a blog for the Columbus Parent Magazine called, “Strong Families, Successful Teens” http://blog.dispatch.com/successfulteens/ where he covers many helpful topics on parenting teens.