Recently I had the opportunity to be heavily involved in the planning and execution of the 4th Canadian Conference on Positive Psychology. As a part of my role as Marketing and Communications Chair I had the opportunity to interview Dr. Ryan Niemiec, one of the world- renowned experts on character strengths. During the interview, I told Dr Niemiec about an event that happened during the course of my experiment of parenting with character strengths in mind.

A Rare Parenting Win

My daughter was heading to sleep away, summer camp for the first time ever, it was a big moment and I wanted to send her with a little something special to help her along. I prepared a package for her to take that included, on the top page, a list of her top five character strengths as identified in the Via Character Strengths survey, a free online resource available to all. This was meant as a little prompt for her to remember her specials talents and the strengths that she could call on in times of challenge. I anticipated that she’d see it, roll her eyes at more of mommy’s efforts to infuse positive psychology into her life, and toss it into the bottom of her bag for me to find crumpled up when I unpacked her things. Much to my genuine surprise, when I went to visit her, I found it pinned to the beam above her bunk in her camp cabin. Through proud tears, I took a picture for posterity sake and banked it as a parenting win, that happen all too rare if you ask me!

The Response

Dr. Niemiec loved the story and asked me to send him the very picture I took of her strengths in case he could ever use it. After I picked myself up off the floor I said of course, fired it off and told my daughter all about how the story had reached one of the world’s most prolific ambassador for the knowledge, understanding and spreading of character strengths. Even if he never used it, or thought of it again I thought it was a wonderful, positive reinforcement of my efforts to parent with character strengths in mind.

Show Time

Fast forward to his opening key note at the conference and he pulls me aside to let me know that he indeed did put it in his presentation! As if that wasn’t enough of a thrill, it turned out that I had coincidentally planned to bring my kids to his opening key note address since it was an evening event and my childcare wasn’t happening. What an incredible collection of circumstances that led my daughter being able to witness her story appearing in his presentation. When he introduced her, and asked her to stand, she received an applause that I could swear made her grow two sizes bigger. I watched before my very own eyes, and a whole audience’s worth, her pride and self-worth swell. It was a magnificent moment for a young person to understand the true value and importance of character strengths not just to her mother but to an entire community of positive psychology enthusiasts.

The Power of Character Strengths

I believe the recognition and celebration of character strengths is so meaningful partly because it is such an innate representation of what is best in each of us. When you recognise this in a child you are truly contributing to their growth in a very fundamental way. When you parent with character strengths in mind you are arming your children with a set of tools they can call on in any moment. You’re giving them the knowledge and understanding that there is a unique set of characteristics that are within them that they can use to help them address challenges and meet their goals. When we build up our children in this way we are contributing to building their future and ours.

About the author: Kimberley Wakefield is a MAPP-in-training at Bucks New University, a leadership coach, positive psychology enthusiast and a marketing & communications professional. Find out more about me at


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