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Helping Your Kids Identify Their Strengths

Focus on the Family / Jim Daly
The Truth Network Radio
October 21, 2022 6:00 am

Helping Your Kids Identify Their Strengths

Focus on the Family / Jim Daly

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October 21, 2022 6:00 am

Brandon and Analyn Miller admit to early parenting challenges – believing their kids were supposed to make them look good as parents. But then they discovered the power of strengths-based parenting, where you identify and encourage areas where your kids excel, rather than focus on their areas of weakness.


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My daughter has always loved different creative pursuits, whether it's been piano in high school or baking.

It's always something different, but it's creative. So from the earliest age, my daughter always showed kindness and compassion, and she always noticed those around her who were in need. And she now works for a foundation that gives away scholarships for teenagers that really, truly need that help. My oldest son is good with mechanical and home repairs, and that came in really handy this past weekend when we were doing some home repairs that he just jumped in, took over, and it turned out great. Well, I wonder if you can relate to those parents. Do you see areas where your child seems to really kind of shine, or are you more likely perhaps to see where your child struggles and fails? Today on Focus on the Family, we're going to be talking about ways that we as moms and dads can have a more positive approach to parenting, where you look at your child and see their strengths, and I think it's going to be a really encouraging program for you. Your host is Focus President and author Jim Daly, and I'm John Fuller. John, every parent knows their child has certain talents or skills.

You see that usually pretty young. I remember with Trent, I could see that he was mechanical. I could totally resonate with that opening. Trent was always the mechanic, and it was a little, you know, I had to humble myself because at the age of 9 or 10, like, he could put things together that I would struggle with, and I had to say, okay, you're the guy.

You're going to be coming to you for all this, and then Troy's just different. He's more of a writer, reader. He loves that area. Trent's more science, and so it's just great to be able to see that. Now, how do you develop that? That's what we want to talk about today, and not concentrate on the negative things that so many times us as parents, that's where we go to, is the things that aren't being done so well. And our guests today have written a great book, Play to Their Strengths, and it's a wonderful resource to help parents understand the gifts and talents that God has given their children. Yeah, I appreciate what you said about the boys.

I remember one of my kids would always say, I have an idea, and it was kind of irritating for a while until I realized I could lean into that and say, you are a man of many ideas, and just to affirm what I could and see the positives. And as you said, Jim, we have some great guests here. They are Brandon and Annalyn Miller, and they've joined us.

They're authors, speakers, and business owners, and Brandon does a lot of coaching and consulting with businesses and families, and Annalyn is a successful real estate agent, and we're glad to have them here. It's great to have you with us. Hi, thanks for having us. Thank you.

Yeah, welcome. Well, let's get started. You have a small family, seven kids. My last count, it was seven. Come on, seven kids.

That's awesome. Yes, we are one big happy family, literally. What kind of car do you have?

Just curious. Do you have like a 15-passenger van? It's not, but I do have a large SUV. So you can actually get them all in one vehicle? Not at all.

No. So the others, you just have them jog outside? They have their own vehicles now, and it's their job to get where they need to get.

I think that's awesome. I just always wondered, you know, big families. Well, you've got a big family too, John.

We had a suburban for many, many years. Well, you've admitted that in the early years of parenting, you made a lot of mistakes. Let's just start with describing some of them so we can attach to those mistakes because we all make them.

Sure. So as our kids were younger, we realized that our focus really wasn't on trying to find the unique talents and get into the conversations and learn about who they are. We were really raising them to make us look good.

Wow, that's a very good admission. It was true, and we had to come to grips with the fact- We didn't want them to embarrass us. We didn't want them to embarrass us. We didn't want to be those parents in public whose kids could not behave.

The Walmart shoppers. We did not want to be those parents. And so you didn't want to be those people whose numbers flashed in church. Because it was your kid that you were going to have to go back to the class. That's the ultimate social scorn.

And you're like the walk of shame. That's me. I'm the one whose child cannot hold it together during preschool in church. And so we very much focused on behavior modification. You need to act this way because this is the proper way to do things. And in reality, I think as we got older and realized this is ridiculous.

We're trying to make them be something that makes us reflect well and gives us a good reputation. But this isn't working. And in the book you point out it was your three oldest kids when they got into their teen years. You realize you could no longer control them the way you used to. Bribery didn't work as well.

So you can bribe younger ones with sweets and almost get away with anything. As they got older, they started to up the ante and we realized we're going to lose this game if we keep going. They're going to have the house. They're going to own it all. So it was, wow, they have their own minds and they're pushing back and they're challenging us to think differently about, okay, what are we doing here?

And should we make an adjustment? What was that moment with Lance? I think that was the aha moment that you mentioned. What took place and what grabbed you? So Lance was in eighth grade and I spent a year traveling to every wrestling tournament the kid was in. And I was that dad that some of you coaches know you don't want to have that dad. You were that dad? I was involved. I was loud. I was engaged.

Opinionated. Engaged. I like that.

We're going to call that the nice way to describe it. So I tried to be that guy. Well, going into the next year, he signed up to play football and I said, my sports, here we are.

We've arrived at the place. So I got myself onto the coaching staff. And so that whole summer. You are that dad.

I did. I'm all in. And so that whole summer, I'm gearing him up, getting him ready. So on the day of his first practice, we're driving to the field and I'm giving him that get one for the gipper, son. Here's how you're going to play. Here's how you're going to do it.

Here's how you're going to show up. And I mean, I was sweating. It was August. I don't like I was spitting on the on the steering wheel. Like it was a it was a good speech. Well, he leans over. This is a 14 year old little guy compared to his big dad. Put his hand on my shoulder.

He goes, hey, dad, I just need you to know I'm not like you and I'm not going to play football the same way that you did. And I was just awesome. I was shocked. It was not it didn't feel that way at the time.

Right. But in retrospect, it was the I'm not like you. And it just one of those moments where you're where you go, boy, that came from somewhere deep.

There's something in there that I needed to pay attention to. And so I spent the next season, not just during his football season, but the next season really evaluating what did that mean? Now, what did you say to him next?

I don't think that's in the book, but I'd like to know. I think something like, go get him, son. Do it your way. Yeah, the best I had was go get him. And then I and I was coaching. So I got out there and I was trying to coach and I noticed, you know, this this probably wasn't going to be his sport. He was one season and he's like, Dad, they're hitting me in the head.

I am not into this sport. And I thought, that's the fun part. We were just wired differently, you and me. Very much.

And so and so it just caused me to step back. And then interestingly enough, what I do for a living is I assess people's strengths. And so at the time, I asked him if he'd be willing to take an assessment. And he did. And the guy couldn't have been more correct.

We're totally opposite people. Right. And your comment about people who are mechanical. So he was the kid. That was him. He was the kid. And funny story, years later, my son today is the journeyman electrician, which is hilarious because in my early days of college, I took on the job of electrical work to pay the bills. Gave me through school, figure something out. And I don't know, it was about 18 months in. I realized that either myself or someone at work was going to die if I continue to do this trade.

Me and and wires with fire in them did not belong in the same place. And so I dropped out. So the fact that this guy ends up turning this into his profession very successfully is just one of those we look back and go. We look back and laugh because literally had it right.

Yeah. We were like, we need you to be the man of the house and take care of this family. So I'm thinking this job is not going to work.

Not going to work. After the second time, Brandon got electric. I would have caught the house on fire somewhere, somehow. But you explain in the book to notice in your child the shining eyes. What did you mean by observing the shining eyes? So when a child is in that place of doing something that they really love, that they derive energy from, there is this glimmer, you know, and you notice it where they are doing something and their eyes are bright and their eyes are excited about whatever task or thing they're doing.

And we encourage families, even as your kids are younger, to begin watching for that. And what we what we call that is, you know, being fascinated with them, being in a place of discovery mode all the time. In our book, we talk about how in the beginning when you bring your babies home and, you know, you're just full of wonder, you're like, who are they going to be? What are they going to be like? Well, you know, what traits are they going to take on? And we're so excited and enthralled in them.

And so, you know, as they get older, we sometimes lose that. Yeah, we we we borrowed that phrase from a gentleman by the name of Benjamin Zander. So he's the conductor of the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra. And Ben would say, the only way I can tell if my players are engaged is I got to look in their eyes. And he dropped this quote. He said, if their eyes aren't shining, I get to ask myself, who am I being that my players eyes are not shining? And he dropped it even further and he said, hey, parents, when your children's eyes aren't shining, you get to ask yourself, what kind of parent am I being?

And it was one of those mic drop moments of just, whoa, that's a whole different way to shape. What am I doing that's causing my kids eyes to be downcast? And have I lost that fascination with this child?

Am I more frustrated with what they're doing? Because, you know, as we describe in the book from the early stages into toddlerhood, you wonder who stole your baby. You're wondering, like, what what happened to my child that now they're willful and sassy and pushing back and embarrassing me in public to the place of, OK, I can now start to reframe the fact that, one, I'm in control, I'm the adult. And two, I get to start discovering who this child is and stay in that mode. How does the parent stop and not react when that child is kind of triggering you in those ways you just described? How do you stop and see the good in that moment?

You take that child under your arm. Well, that is one way to do it, you know, for us. And one thing we've had to do is literally stop and see them for who they are and not what they're doing, because sometimes and even as adults, we do this. We have immature responses to things. Right. And it's after the fact, in hindsight, that you go, OK, I probably didn't say that in the right way, but this is what I meant.

So even our children do that. Right. Like in the back of her head, she's probably just wondering, like, how does all of that work together? And in her mind, she's wanting to put the pieces together. And I would say there's so there's there's two answers to that.

One is the power of the pause. Right. So in the moment, stop, take the breath. What am I about to say or do that this child is going to respond to? That's really hard to do.

That sounds great. Step two is the practice before the moment. It's the conditioning of my child cannot be perfect. My child is going to be who they're going to be. And so it's funny with our children. So we have five of them that have passed the 15 year old mark. And we'd like to say that we are perfect, that every child at 15 loses their mind in the Miller home.

It's true in the Daily House, too. OK. Yeah. So we're we're five for five. We're waiting on the 13 year old bracing for the next round. But as we mature different groups through now, we've started to realize, you know, we know what's coming with teenage years. We understand that some of this is hormone induced behavior.

These people are experiencing life that they hadn't known before. And we can begin to look ahead and imagine how we're going to respond. Now, with Sierra, I think one of the powerful lessons we understood about her is that our goal wasn't to change her. Right. Our goal is to help director guide that energy because she wasn't being inauthentic. This was her. She is a leader. She wants to engage. She wants to challenge.

And if we can help her guide that, we get to see the wonderful woman she is today. There's there's a line. And, you know, I think all of us as parents, we experience this. You start to ask yourself, what's what's wrong with my kid? Yeah. You know, and you may have forgotten yourself at that age.

That's typically what's going on. But you start to ask that question and you've got to be really careful because it can come out in your demeanor toward that child. And what's a better question that you should be asking rather than what's wrong with my kid?

Fill in the blank. So, you know, I want to bring up a scripture and it's someone thirty nine and I love how it discusses how, you know, David presents that he was knit together in a very intricate way in his in his mother's womb. And, you know, for us, I think to stop and just consider who is God making right now? Well, OK, Lord, help me see it, because let's be real when you're in the moment, as we all talked about.

And maybe there is a feeling of being disrespected by a child or whatnot. Sometimes it's hard to to really see past it. So to really seek the Lord, I think that's super key. You've got to just ask the Lord for wisdom.

And he says he will give it. And so for Brandon and I know that's obviously, as Christians, something that that we take to heart. But we believe that with our children, it's really key. God, who are they?

How can I help steward that person that you want? You know, I've heard that verse and I love that passage of scripture. I've never thought of it, though, in terms of God didn't finish knitting together in the womb.

He's still creating today. That's a great reminder. Our guests today on Focus on the Family are Annalyn and Brandon Miller. And we're so glad you've joined us for this really good insight about parenting. They have this book called Play to Their Strengths, a new approach to parenting your kids as God made them.

And we'll encourage you to get a copy of that from us. The details are in the episode notes. You describe a classic parenting issue. I think it was your daughter, Maddy. Now, I get it.

People are watching. I know you have your kids permission to share these stories, I'm sure. But with with Maddy, I think she brought home a C. She was an A student. I had that same situation with Troy.

I actually had to just release him from the tension of that. I said, you know what? It's OK. You know, if you get a B, it's going to be OK. And he looked at me and said, really?

I said, yeah, that's you know, just do your best. What happened with Maddy? So Maddy handed me her sixth grade report card. And like a parent who was a straight A student, I go to look at this report card. And the first thing I see, you know, bright lights glaring at me is C and math, C and math. And I had to take a deep breath and take a swallow and go, Madeline, you got an A plus in reading, which she did. You did such a great job. I'm so proud of you.

So I didn't even touch the C. A plus in reading. Madeline, do you like to read? And so Madeline looks back at me and she goes, Dad, I'd love to read. Sometimes you and mom think you're putting me to bed at night and I'll stay up till two in the morning reading books.

We're like. And I said, OK. I said, well, I have an idea. How about this summer? I'm going to hire you to do a job.

And she looks back with big eyes. Really? I said, yeah, I'm going to pay you to read. We can go get as many books as you want from the library.

We can order them with the goal that every book you read and do a book report, I'll pay you. Hundred paid books. You get a dollar. Two hundred. You get two dollars.

Three hundred or more. You get a bonus. Five dollars. The book report has to be turned in on Monday and I'll pay you in cash. And so in every talk I get.

Yeah, I'll ask people, what do you think happened? And they'll say, well, you bought math books. I go, no, I didn't buy math books for her to read. No, I let her choose. And she read and she read.

And the quality of the book reports got better. So what I was doing is I was feeding Maddy's energy. I was feeding the place where I would grow her confidence.

At the end of the summer, I went back to the sea. Hey, Maddy, what do you think about doing some math tutoring as you go into junior high? It's going to it's going to elevate here. What do you think? Sure.

No problem. We did some tutoring. So today I would say Madeline doesn't love math. That's probably not an area where she's going to focus. However, she's she's she's competent. She can do her part because when we play to strengths, what we watch happen is kids grow in confidence. You'll watch competence grow and then creativity. So what you get back are reserves to go at the areas where they do need certain things in life, even if they're not strong in it. They will need these. Math is one of them.

And yet we've provided some energy to go at it. Yeah, that is great. Dr. Ben Carson, he said that's the reason he's a neurosurgeon. His mom paid him for book reports. And that's where he said he learned so much information.

So who knows who you have on your hands? That's right. That's right. I mean, we we get to practice that for every report card.

Yeah. So we have children who are straight A students, our youngest boys. One is on a roll every time principals list.

The other one, it really struggles. School is hard for him. And what we learned with the annual is that if we let Daniel, who, by the way, is our star athlete, the player, the kid here, he has literally no parenting. He's number seven.

So this is not just us. Every team he's been on, he's been an MVP every day. He's amazing. He's amazing to watch.

We'll see where it goes. He's only 11. But he struggles in school. And what we found is that if we took time to let him go express his energy, play basketball, go run around, do football, he likes to dance. If we give him time to do that and then ask him to do school, we get a better school outcome. If we force school first and try to put more time there, we get a kid that cries. We get a kid that's frustrated.

And that's knowing your child's been. In fact, you identified five E's that can help parents discern what their child's strengths are. So what are the five E's?

Here you go. So number one is enthusiasm. What is it that your kid looks forward to? They will make that they will stay up till two in the morning doing it, even without asking. So enthusiasm can be pretty obvious. It's what they talk about.

It's clearly where their eyes light up. Number two, what comes easy? So our daughter, Madeline, going back to her, she loves to bake and to cook.

And so one day we, Annalyn comes home. Madeline had made cream puffs. Literally, mom thought they were like this. I thought she purchased them. And when asked about it for baking, cooking, you know, when we leave town, Madeline is the go to sub for our cooking. And she's the one that comes easy to her. She's preparing all the meals. Very good at meal prep. Loves it. Does a great job.

We'll see what her culinary future looks like. Number three, parents. This is the kicker. Excellent.

So this is standout performance above standard. But you don't get to be the judge, parent. This requires third party validation. This requires other people to tell you your child stands out.

Your child won the award. They they clearly have that ability. That's the third clue.

Because you can have the first two without the third. And we'd like to say without excellence, it's probably a hobby. And that's cool. Let your kid go garden and kill tomatoes if they want.

That's fine. They may enjoy it well enough, but excellence is a distinguisher for a strength. And number four, energy. What we love about this one is that you can watch that energy increase after the activity instead of diminish. So it's really that which brings them up instead of sees them depleted.

So they'll actually show great stamina. They'll keep coming back. And that's where the fifth one enjoyment. This is where the gift of resilience comes in. What will they keep doing even when it's hard? And it gives you a clue as a parent where you can apply some pressure. Because if you see the first four, the fifth one is where, no, we're going to finish the piano lessons because I see the first four just because it's getting hard. We don't let up.

We're going to keep pushing through because that's where you can watch them really emerge with those areas of greatness. When I think that, you know, that's good if it's obvious and it sounds very appropriate. Those five E's when it's not so obvious or when your child has deficits. What do you do as a parent to, you know, recognize the deficit and encourage them? I mean, you mentioned what you did with the math class. That was good.

Are there other examples of the deficit? Probably, I think Daniel. Yeah.

So Daniel, he is one that struggles in some of his schooling. And what we have found is, as Brandon mentioned, he gains a lot of energy from doing certain things. So we've kind of reversed, you know, tutoring with basketball. So, hey, go shoot hoops for 15, you know, set a limit.

Go shoot hoops for 15 minutes. Come back in and read a chapter. And so you just, we've switched it almost because it used to always be no fun until. And because he loves gamification. So Daniel's a gamified kid. So what we did is we found a program to help his reading where they turn it into a game. So he does this online tutoring where he wants to win the game by connecting the words. So as they gamified, the learning piqued his interest because he wants to be in front. Well, what we've watched, this is one of the gifts of COVID to our family, is that we didn't have the extracurricular options. And so we were able to invest additional time. And he was he was game because he thought, oh, this is fun.

I'm enjoying this. We have watched his reading increase four levels in six months. Wow, that's amazing. Because all of a sudden we tapped into another part of his strength. So one of the ways we think about overcoming a weakness is what strength can we call it?

We call it a life hack. Right. What strength can we hack into that we can pull from to help in an area that that he's going to need?

He's going to need reading. And so that's one of the ways we think about overcoming a strength is our weak area leverages strength to fill in the deficit. Yeah. I mean, that makes total sense. Let's review some of the common lies that you say parents believe about children. For example, my kid can be anything if they work hard enough. We like to believe in that. I mean, I think it's a nice statement here at all the time. Is it accurate?

Yeah, no. So so we follow an author by the name of Tom Rath. And Tom is is known for saying this is this is a myth that if you just work hard enough, you can be better. Well, in reality, there's so many things we know, so many things we don't know and a whole bunch more. We don't know.

We don't know. And in reality, we're working hard might lead to a good, solid, mediocre, solid, hey, great job. You're right in the middle. And what we suffer from in our in our country and really globally is that we have many people that arrive in adulthood that take on jobs and they find themselves in this place called disengagement. Just meh.

I'm just kind of in the middle. I'm just kind of here because I need a paycheck. And when we shift the focus to kids saying, let's really find out those things you do that you excel, then all of a sudden hard work takes on a different meaning. Hard work elevates and exponentially increases your outcome. Yeah.

I mean, that is really important to know how to manage well. Right. You've observed an identity crisis in our world today. Explain why you urge parents to counter that by declaring God's truth over their kids on a regular basis. And what the shorter version of this is making sure your your children understand their identity in Christ. I mean, that's really what you're talking about.

Yes, it is. I for Brandon and I, you know, realizing that it's important for us, obviously, as the parents to go, OK, well, first of all, how do we see ourselves? Right. Because it starts with us. How does God see us? And then translating that to our children and helping them realize that they were created for a purpose, that they were created to do good works, that they actually all have beauty within them to be shared with the world. And the world needs it, each and every one of them. And it looks different.

And the world needs every different part of you. And so it just changes our perspective. We talk about in the book, if you know, of putting passages that really speak to you, speak to your family and posting them and talking about them and filling your children with those truths so that it anchors them. Absolutely. We'd like to think that if we're going to encourage our kids to be their very best, do do it under God's glory. Right. Due to where you're not just being amazing for the sake of all eyes on you. And if that happens, fantastic high fives all around. Enjoy and celebrate what God has done.

Because if we are created in his image and we're created to bring him glory, then the opportunity for us is to declare that truth over our kids as Christian parents to say, you have within you this divine greatness that all of us have it. Let's find it. Help you be that person. And then just remember where to give the credit. What a great place to end.

I mean, right there. This is the high side of parenting. Doing what your child needs you to do is their mom and dad.

And I think this has been great and very instructive play to their strengths. A wonderful book. And I'd say get a copy of it right here from Focus on the Family. And we'll send you that copy is our way of saying thank you if you can send a gift of any amount. And if you can't afford it, we'll get it into your hands and trust others will cover the cost of that.

But this is one of those tools. I say it often because we're not going to do things that we don't think will benefit you as a parent. This is one of those resources you really need to help you in your parenting journey.

Yeah. And donate today and get a copy of this book, Play to Their Strengths, as well as a free audio download of today's broadcast. When you call 800 the letter A and the word family 800-232-6459 or stop by the program notes for all the details. And we have a parenting assessment for you online. And when you're at the Web site, take that.

It's just five or six minutes long. It's a really helpful tool to help you grow in your role as a mom or a dad. Brandon and Annalyn, thank you so much for being with us. This is great stuff. Thank you for having us, Jim. Thank you.

And thank you for joining us and plan to be with us next time as we hear from Dr. Elizabeth Stevens, who shares how God rescued her from a really extensive trauma. I remember countless times saying, I can't do this anymore. I can't do this anymore. But I'll hold on. And I held on a little bit longer.

And he came through. On behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, thanks for listening today to Focus on the Family. I'm John Fuller inviting you back next time as we once again help you and your family thrive in Christ.

Praying with the kids at bedtime in the comfort of your home. This warm setting is featured in the new special edition print from Focus on the Family titled What Matters Most. It's a story in paint by artist Morgan Weisling as you clay depicting a faithful pioneer family. And it can have a special place in your home to remind you of what's truly important. Get this special edition print at focus on the family dot com slash special print. That's focus on the family dot com slash special print.
Whisper: medium.en / 2022-11-15 12:30:56 / 2022-11-15 12:44:41 / 14

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