Photo of young girl giving the thumbs up signNothing has been more disconcerting to me in my forty-five years as an educator than to ask a parent or teacher:  ”What is your child’s (or teen’s) strengths?” and have them answer:  ”He hasn’t got any.”  I’ve actually heard this several times in my career.  It was such responses that motivated me to come up with an inventory of strengths so comprehensive that any parent or teacher could go through it and be assured that they would find at least a few strengths for their kids.

Nothing is more important to a child’s or teen’s welfare than to be surrounded by adults who see the best in them.  Knowing your child’s or teen’s strengths helps them in several ways:

  1. It strengthens their core sense of self, which enables them to confront difficulties without collapsing.
  2. It fortifies their meta-cognitive functions so that they can think more clearly about what they do well.
  3. It provides opportunities for teaching things that are difficult for them using their strengths as teaching strategies (e.g. for a child who has reading challenges but is ”picture smart,” having them read graphic novels).

The following is a 165-item inventory.  Go through this list and check any item that applies to your child/teen.  You might even want to go through it with them (sometimes a child or teen will know their strengths better than the adults around them).  In any case, make sure to communicate to your child/teen on a regular basis about the things they do well. After all,  strengths–not difficulties–will determine their ultimate success in the world.

Personal Strengths

___  Enjoys working independently

___  Has a good sense of his/her personal strengths and

weaknesses

___  Learns from past mistakes

___  Has persistence in carrying out assignments or activities

___  Is courageous in dealing with adversity unknown

___  Keeps a personal diary or journal

___  Has a good sense of humor

___  Possesses a sense of responsibility

___  Has strong opinions about controversial topics

___  Marches to the beat of a different drummer

___  Handles stressful events well (e.g. is resilient)

___  Has good character (e.g. honesty, integrity, fairness)

___  Has the ability to set realistic goals for him/herself

___  Has a sense of confidence or high self-esteem

___  Has good self-discipline

___  Has personal ambitions in life

___  Displays good common sense

___ Possesses personal vitality, vigor, or energy

Communication Strengths

___  Explains ideas or concepts well to others

___  Asks good questions

___  Is a good storyteller

___  Is a good joke teller

___  Has good listening skills

___  Handles verbal feedback well (especially negative

feedback)

___ Has good articulation ability

___ Is able to effectively use non-verbal cues to communicate

with others

___ Is persuasive in getting someone to do something

___ Has good assertive skills without being pushy

Emotional Strengths

____ Is emotionally sensitive to perceiving the world around

him/her

____ Has an optimistic attitude toward life

____ Can tell how he/she is feeling at any given moment

____ Can easily pick up on the emotional state of another                        person

____ Is able to handle strong internal feelings in a

constructive manner

____ Has gut feelings about things

Social Strengths

___  Has leadership ability

___  Has a good sense of empathy for others

___  Enjoys socializing with others

___  Is good at helping others

___  Is kind or affectionate towards others

___  Has at least one good friend

___  Prefers working with others than alone

___  Likes to play board games and/or card games with others

___  Has skill in refereeing disputes conflicts between

classmates

___  Is polite and has good manners

___  Is able to work out his/her own conflicts with others

___  Works well in groups

___  Volunteers his/her time in some worthy cause

___  Belongs to at least one club or social group (e.g. Scouts.)

___  Has a good relationship with at least one family member

___  Is friendly to others

___  Is good at sharing with others

___  Follows class rules

___  Has a good relationship with at least one teacher in the

school

___  Has good personal hygiene

___  Trusts others without being taken in

___  Is liked by his peers

Cognitive Strengths

___ Has good organizational skills

___ Has good study skills

___ Is able to use cognitive strategies (e.g. self-talk) to

solve problems

___ Is able to pay close attention to details

___ Has a good short-term and/or long-term memory

___ Is able to think ahead

___ Is able to become totally absorbed in an activity

___ Can easily divide his/her attention between two or more

activities

Cultural Strengths

___  Has traveled to other countries

___  Speaks more than one language

___  Is tolerant of others who have cultural, ethnic, or racial

differences

___  Has pride in his/her own cultural, ethnic, or racial

background

___  Likes to find out about historical events around the world

___  Enjoys learning about different cultural traditions

Literacy Strengths

___  Enjoys reading books

___  Has good reading comprehension

___  Enjoys doing word puzzles or playing word games

___  Is a good writer in one or more genres (e.g. poetry,

stories etc.)

___ Is a good speller

___ Has a large vocabulary for his/her age

___ Enjoys listening to audio books or to someone telling a

story or reading out loud

Logical Strengths

___  Does well in science class

___  Can estimate things easily

___  Enjoys working with numbers and/or statistics

___  Is good at solving math problems

___  Has a chemistry set or other science kit that he/she works            with at home

___  Has an interest in astronomy, chemistry, physics, or                      biology

___  Enjoys logical or number games or puzzles like Rubik’s                  cube or Sudoku

___  Can easily calculate numbers in his/her head

Visual-Spatial Strengths

___  Has an aptitude for fixing machines

___  Likes to create three-dimensional structures with building

materials

___  Is good at doing jigsaw puzzles or other visual puzzles

___  Is able to read maps well

___  Reports being able to visualize images clearly

___  Gets information more easily through pictures than words

___  Is sensitive to the visual world around him/her

Physical Strengths

___  Has a good sense of balance

___  Learns material best when moving around

___  Likes to ride his/her bike, skateboard, and/or other self-              powered personal vehicle

___  Is good at playing team sports like baseball, soccer,                        basketball, or football

___  Is good at playing individual sports like tennis, swimming,

gymnastics, or golf

___  Is in good physical health

___  Likes to dance

___  Is physically strong

___  Is a fast runner or has other athletic abilities

___  Likes to exercise (e.g. weights, aerobics, jogging, treadmill)

___  Has good physical endurance

___  Has good physical flexibility

Dexterity Strengths

___  Has a hobby building model cars, planes, ships or other

similar projects

___  Displays good handwriting

___  Likes to juggle or do magic tricks

___  Enjoys hand crafts like knitting, crocheting, embroidery,

or needlepoint

___  Likes to make things with his/her hands

___  Has good tactile ability

___  Enjoys arts and crafts like origami, collage, and/or papier

          mâché

___  Enjoys woodworking, carpentry, carving, and/or metal

work

____Has good eye-hand coordination

Nature Strengths

___  Has good rapport with animals

___  Is good at taking care of plants in the classroom or at home

___  Is sensitive to weather patterns

___  Takes care of a pet at home or at school

___  Is concerned about the welfare of the planet (e.g. is

ecologically-minded)

___  Likes to go hiking and/or camping in nature

___  Enjoys studying nature (e.g. insects, plants, birds, rocks,

and/or animals)

___  Likes to hunt or fish

___  Has a good sense of direction

Musical Strengths

___  Is sensitive to the rhythms of music

___  Enjoys playing a musical instrument

___  Knows the music and lyrics of many songs

___  Has a particular interest in one or more musical

genres (e.g. rock, classical, jazz)

___  Enjoys listening to music

___  Has a good sense of hearing auditory acuity

___  Has a good sense of pitch

___  Has a good singing voice

___  Makes up his/her own tunes or melodies with or

without/lyrics

High Tech Strengths

___  Likes to spend time using a computer, tablet, or smart

phone

___  Has a facility for playing video games

___  Likes to surf the Internet

___  Knows how to set up audio-visual or computer equipment

___  Likes to text on the phone

___  Enjoys social networking (e.g. blog, website, Facebook)

___  Enjoys using a still camera or video camera to record

events or express him/herself

___  Has several his/her own favorite movies or TV shows that

he/she likes to talk about

____Understands at least one computer language

Creative Strengths

___  Expresses him/herself dramatically

___  Has a good imagination

___  Enjoys doodling, drawing, and/or painting

___  Likes to act in plays and skits

___ Works well with clay or other forms of sculpture

___ Demonstrates creativity in one or more school assignments

___ Possesses a love of beautiful things

___ Has ideas for futuristic or fantastic projects

___ Comes up with ideas that nobody else has thought of

Spiritual Strengths

___  Enjoys meditation, yoga, or some other form of

contemplation

___  Asks big life questions (e.g. what is the purpose of

life?)

___  Has a deep sense of wisdom

___  Participates in religious or other spiritual events

___  Has a philosophical attitude toward life

___  Has a strong faith in something higher than

him/herself

Miscellaneous Strengths

___  Likes collecting things (e.g. stamps, coins, buttons)

___  Loves to cook

___  Has a love of learning new things

___ Is a good test taker

___ Possesses a good memory for nighttime dreams

___ Is curious about the world around him/her

___ Has a good sense of time

___ Manages money well

___ Has good fashion sense in the clothes he/she wears

___ Has good entrepreneurial skills (e.g. has started own

business) started his/her own business

Other Strengths (write in other strengths not mentioned

elsewhere in checklist):


For more information about discovering strengths in students, especially those with special needs, see my book (from which this inventory was adapted):  Neurodiversity  in the Classroom:  Strength-Based Strategies to Help Students with Special Needs Succeed in School and Life.

Cover of book

This page was brought to you by Thomas Armstrong, Ph.D. and www.institute4learning.com.

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About the author

I'm the author of 19 books including my latest: If Einstein Ran the Schools: Revitalizing U.S. Education - https://amzn.to/2KAxT8F.

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