Before you harp on weakness, show your kids their strength

I go back and forth about if I should develop my weaknesses. I am bad with money. Not bad at earning it, but I’m bad at waiting for stuff. I just buy what I want. Imagine a petulant bratty child shopping online some nights and drinking wine to cope with self-induced financial pressure on other nights.

Sometimes I consider being a person who is good with money. Cheap car insurance is okay. But cheap pens, not okay. And then I think about the oozing black glaze pens I write with, and I think I would have never found those if I were price sensitive about pens.

People accomplish more by focusing on strengths
The thing is, it drains our energy to focus on our weaknesses. That’s really what personality type is about. Each of us can function like any type we want to function like. But it’s exhausting to be someone you’re not. And that’s really what “working on your weakness” means: working on being someone you’re not.

On top of that, focusing on our strengths is what makes us resilient, and that, more than fixing weaknesses, is what allows us to overcome hardship. And this is true in terms of both individuals and families as a unit.

Obsession on fixing belies lack of self-knowledge

I have noticed that the with all 16 personality types, once a person understands their strengths and weaknesses, they have little interest in developing their weaknesses. The people who think it might be a good idea to work on their weaknesses are people who don’t have a good handle on their strengths.

People like people who are like them. Parents tell kids to work on their weakness because parents want kids who are more like them. And bosses tell employees to work on their weakness for the same reasons.

A trait of someone with Aspergers is poor self-control. I work on the things that are super important, like waking up each morning so my kids have a mom. But I can’t fix each instance of poor self-control. Most people with Aspergers are great with routine, and we can just leverage our strength in creating routines so we deal less frequently with issues of self-control.

Strengths and weaknesses come in pairs
As an ENTJ my weakness is being so direct that I’m offensive. And that’s a trait of someone with Aspergers, too. So I have a lot of problems being too direct. But if I weren’t direct I wouldn’t have the benefits of being an ENTJ (earning a lot of money because I don’t care what people think) and Aspergers (being honest no matter what the circumstance). I like the benefits that come with my weaknesses, which makes me much less willing to work on weaknesses, and much more willing to sleep in the middle of the day.

Become an expert on your kid’s strength 
And I know I’m not alone. People actually don’t mind their own weaknesses. So an important part of teaching a kid who they are and what their strengths are is leaving them alone about their weakness. Because their true self doesn’t care about their weakness.

I’m not saying to tell your kids they are great at everything. That’s delusional. They are great at one thing. Just like everyone else is. Help your kid find what they are great at. Parents are very specific about what kids need to fix. Be that specific about what a kid is great at – that’s what it means to focus on a kid’s strength.

This is a good time for me to tell you that you should buy this course about using personality type in your parenting. But I’m not that great at using this blog to sell you stuff. And I don’t want to change that. So instead I’m going to tell you that if you know your kid’s personality type, put the four letters into Google and read a lot about that type. To teach your kid to leverage their strengths, first you have to understand them at a deep level yourself.

4 replies
  1. Sarah
    Sarah says:

    I loved reading this article today; my husband is also ENTJ who is so direct that he offends people. He did so well as a naval officer for 11 years — in the military, his superiors valued his directness and didn’t expect him to cater to anyone’s feelings. But for the past 5 years in the civilian work world, he has constantly had to deal with people who love the incredible results he delivers, but hate his personality. In the past they promoted him anyway because no one can do what he does, but lately things have come to a head and his bosses are trying to shunt him into a lateral move because he’s pissed too many people off. They want him to stop being so honest, but I was telling him the same thing as you wrote in your article — that his ability to see the BS and call people on it is one of his greatest strengths, and instead of trying to change that, he should find a new position where people will value that.

  2. Joyce
    Joyce says:

    Thank you for this post. I’m INFP, and all my life I’ve been doing things to overcome my weaknesses. Study in a science high school and major in electronics engineering to have a technical and high-earning job. Shift to diplomacy to be more sociable and have a stable government job. Study law because we had legal problems and to be more confident and have a high-paying career. I’m now practicing law but it’s exhausting to be always working on my weaknesses. In fact, ever since high school, I considered myself depressed.

    Sad to say that knowing about one’s strengths does not necessarily mean that one will always focus on them. I knew about my INFP type since my last year of college, so I used it to find jobs as a writer and a researcher, which I both enjoyed. Why did I leave those jobs? My mother who is ENFP and former military asked me twice, first to visit relatives abroad and next to study law. I don’t think law was a good fit for me then, but I studied it and am still practicing it now because I believe it will make my mother proud. Even though my mother said that I do not have to become a military lawyer and I can be anyone I want, my desire to please her trumps my need to work on a job that reflects who I am.

    Anyway, I tried to find my other strengths. First, I took Strengths Finder 2.0 and got these strengths: context, connectedness, intellection, adaptability, and resilience. Second, I took the DISC profile test and got high S for steadiness and high C for compliance. I also got my HEXACO results: average honesty-humility and emotionality, low extraversion, high agreeableness, average conscientiousness, and high openness to experience. Anyway, I got average for honesty-humility because I had low sincerity while my other honesty-humility traits were high. Having low sincerity and high agreeableness tend to make me sacrifice who I am to please others. Maybe Penelope can incorporate HEXACO in this blog as well. Thanks.

  3. Anu Tiwari
    Anu Tiwari says:

    Nice article, very true since our childhood we are train to focus on our weaknesses and always try to overcome them and we expect the same with our children without giving it a second thought. Strengths and weaknesses both needs to be given equal importance.

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