When is your kid old enough to evaluate their own strengths and weaknesses?
I’m biased of course, but I do in general think my kids are pretty cool. They are good students with good attitudes towards learning. While they are not all-stars on the field or in the gym, they try their best at sports. They are kind to their friends and are inclusive of others for the most part. A few times in their lives, I’ve had to fill out surveys about them, telling a little about their personalities and things they like to do. Sometimes these surveys require me to reflect on my kids’ strengths and weaknesses.
One of my child’s biggest weaknesses is that she doesn’t take criticism well. So with no other real reason than to protect her little ego, when I fill these out, I tend to seal my answers in an envelope.
My kids know that they aren’t perfect, but it’s different when someone, like me their loving mother, is pointing out their weaknesses. I often wonder about their maturity and how they would handle hearing the answers to these questions. Would they label themselves and just accept these weaknesses as character traits? Or would they own them and try to improve and make the best of it? For example, my biggest fear is that one of them would label themselves as “bad at math” or “not a very strong reader” or “not cut out for team sports.” I think too many times this allows children to sell themselves short of their best!
This year, my oldest (twins) are in 5th grade, and I felt like they could handle a discussion about it. So this time, I sent their surveys into school totally unsealed, hoping to have a conversation later.
I picked them up from school and asked them if they happened to take a peek at the forms. They both responded by arguing that they weren’t weak in the areas my husband and I described. I fully expected this type of reaction, so I was ready to remind them of the number of strengths we also listed on the same survey! I made sure to tell them that their father and I both have strengths and weaknesses but that we acknowledge them, and most importantly we own them and work to improve on them. It’s not easy to evaluate yourself, but it is important in developing who you are and what you will become. I also made sure to tell them that we also still love each other despite our weaknesses, just like we still love them!
I think they both are still a little defensive about their weaknesses, and I think a little surprised that we would have anything negative to say about them. Am I glad I didn’t put those surveys in a sealed envelope? Maybe I’ll regret it, but so far I am thankful that we could open a conversation like that with our ten-year-olds. And honestly, I am glad they were defensive because maybe that will motivate them to improve on those weaknesses and embrace their strengths. Who knows–I might even send the envelope unsealed a little earlier in life with my younger two!
We all have our strengths and our weaknesses, and we don’t have to have it all figured out by 5th grade!