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How to Identify a Teen's Strengths

by Melissa King, studioD

According to a 2004 Gallup Youth Survey, 43 percent of polled 13- to 17-year-olds said their parents recognized their strengths "somewhat well," while 46 percent believed parents knew their strengths "very well." If your teen has trouble deciding on a college major, career possibilities or extracurricular activities, she might need some help identifying her strengths. Teens who don't know their own skills can grow frustrated, bored, and become unhappy at school and home. When you work with your teen to uncover her strengths, you'll also help her find her passion and set goals for herself. As a bonus, discovering your teen's positive traits will allow you to enrich and deepen your relationship.

Realize that your teen's strengths can't always be determined by her academic performance. Most schools don't teach ethics, entrepreneurship or personal skills, for example.

Determine what your teen enjoys doing as a hobby. According to an article on The Children's Trust website, hobbies help your teen develop skills. For example, a teen who loves basketball is likely skilled in teamwork, coordination and athleticism. If your teen enjoys drawing, she might have a strong sense of aesthetics and order.

Watch your teen as she communicates with other people. This can reveal a variety of strengths, such as leadership ability, compassion, problem-solving abilities or empathy.

Ask your teen what she thinks she excels at. You might already know your teen is good at sports, for instance, but you might not be aware of her interest in writing. The Parents League of New York suggests that when your teen mentions an activity, you should ask her what it is that interests her most about that activity.

Have your teen think about which activities energize and excite her and which drain her and leave her unfulfilled.

Give your teen a list of written questions to help her discover her interests and talents. According to a 2010 article by the Connecticut Post, answering written questions might be easier for teens than answering verbal questions about their strengths. For instance, you might ask your teen to list her favorite websites, books, classes and bands.

Talk to your teen's teachers and coaches. Ask them what strengths they think your teen has. They work with your teen for several hours per day so they should have a good idea of where her strengths lie.

Look at your teen's "negative" traits in a different way, suggests The Children's Trust website. For example, if your teen seems to have a pessimistic attitude, she actually might have a realistic worldview and the ability to know which ideas will work and which ones won't.


  • Encourage your teen's strengths by giving her books or equipment so she can explore her interests further.


  • Don't force your teen into an activity because you want to develop a certain strength in her. For instance, if she hates music, don't make her play an instrument at school.
  • Even if your teen loves an activity, don't pressure her to excel at it. Let her enjoy the activity and develop her strengths at her own pace.

About the Author

Melissa King began writing in 2001. She spent three years writing for her local newspaper, "The Colt," writing editorials, news stories, product reviews and entertainment pieces. She is also the owner and operator of Howbert Freelance Writing. King holds an Associate of Arts in communications from Tarrant County College.

Photo Credits

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