A creative ten year-old in the United Kingdom was told one too many times to stop doodling in class, so his parents found another outlet for his creativity. They took him to a local after school art class to help him explore his talent — and now his future is written on the walls.
A great deal of research has been done that backs strength-based parenting, or focusing on our kids’ talents and strengths rather than falling into the all-too-common trap of correcting negative behavior. “At a basic biological level, even though we love our children, our brains are wired to avoid what’s going wrong before we notice what’s going right,” Professor Lea Waters, a psychology expert at the University of Melbourne, explained in The Sydney Morning Herald.
Focusing on negatives, places we feel our children are falling short, or behaviors we want to stop can lead to our kids feeling inadequate and losing confidence. Switching our parenting mindset to support our kids’ strengths, on the other hand, has been scientifically linked to higher resilience and lower stress, greater well being and stronger academic achievement. Usually, that means consciously noticing (and giving praise for) positive efforts and behaviors. But on some occasions, it means giving a potential problem a positive spin.
‘Doodle Boy’ has become a viral example of strength-based parenting gone right.
Ten year old Joe Whale, or Doodle Boy as he is now called by his more than 58,000 Instagram fans, has found the perfect path for his creativity after just a little encouragement. After being reprimanded in school for his excessive doodling, his parents and a local art teacher saw a talent that could be better channeled, rather than a behavior that needed to be stopped. As reported on My Modern Met, an online magazine the highlights positive buzz in the art world for 5 million monthly visitors, Whale’s art teacher posted his art work on Instagram, and before long a local restaurant recognized his talent and asked him to cover their walls with doodles.
Whale’s parents said they took him day after day to fill the walls of a new restaurant, called Number 4, in their hometown of Shrewsbury. He doodled until his heart was content, and the results are amazing. Whale is the perfect example of what can happen when we focus on our children’s talents and encourage them to grow. His parents could have easily reprimanded him for his excessive doodling at school — but instead they helped him find a positive way to channel his creativity.
It’s easy for our kids to get wrapped up in grades and piles of homework and lose sight of what they love. Society’s focus on getting children to conform to a certain standard leaves little room for them to express themselves and do what they love most, and our drive to help them succeed can sometimes have the unwanted effect of making them defensive and less equipped to address their weaker areas.
For parents who need help identifying their kids’ strengths, Professor Waters recommends simply asking children what they enjoy most and what they’re passionate about. It’s important for parents and other adults who are with our kids on a daily basis to make sure they have a chance to do what they love, and it’s equally important for parents to take notice. Even a small bit of encouragement for doing something you’re good at can do wonders for anyone’s confidence, especially a child still trying to find their way in the world.