It’s easy to imagine an easier life with model kids like the ones they script into holiday TV commercials. They smile at you with adoring eyes and pad sleepily down the hall in footie PJs for bedtime. I don’t know about your home, but bedtime with my kids tends to resemble the running of the bulls … if the bulls were bouncy. And sneaky, very sneaky. Let’s be honest, almost any event sort of looks like that!

Although we might crave the ideal, deep down we love those things that make our kids unique and what we really want for them is to realize the very best of who they uniquely are. How can we raise children confident enough to trust their own strengths but aware enough to recognize their weaknesses?

Frankly, I don’t know. But I had an awesome conversation with my daughter a few months ago that gave me a clue and gave our family a new catch phrase. Because of our familiarity with many things sci-fi and fantasy – like Star Wars and Harry Potter – we tell each other, “Use your power for good!” We have decided to look at our personalities as power, each one different but equally potent, that we choose to use for our own good and for others around us.

This particular conversation started with a bit of conflict. As usual, my daughter took significantly longer to get ready than the rest of us because she was reading. When I scolded her, she answered, “But I was reading, Mom. Isn’t that a good thing?”

Good question, right? Because the answer is yes. And no. So, Question One..

What is one thing you’re really good at?

In this case, she’s really good at reading and any other “thinking” activity. So, I say, “Yeah, you’re right, let’s think about that. Question two…”

How could that be good for you or someone else?

Easy question. Reading helps you learn and builds your imagination. Since it make you smarter, when you get older you can maybe do something like cure cancer or solve other big problems. My daughter knows how I think so she was quick to add that “reading helps you make friends, too, because you can talk about the stories.” I might have rolled my eyes but I had a point to make. “Yes, that’s all true but (Question Three)…”

How could that turn into something not good for you or someone else?

This one took a while, but she eventually admitted that if you read all the time, you could miss out on a lot of other stuff. If you’re always reading, you can’t ever use all those smarts you get or make all those friends. And because I had to throw it in there, I added, “You could also make people late all the time when they are waiting for you.” Check. Mate. This being the case, we need a final question…

What can you do to make sure you don’t turn that into something that’s going to be bad for you?

Think about what you do and USE YOUR POWERS FOR GOOD!

There are two sides to every coin, even personality traits. These questions can be flipped to examine weakness. I’ve had to have this talk with my son, who lives in fear of disappointing everyone from his family to the clerk at the grocery store. It helped him understand that while it’s lovely to consider other people’s feelings, it’s important to be able to communicate your own needs and wants as well.

Despite my love of big picture building, an entire self-analysis would overwhelm anyone. This kind of conversation works better in a quick three-minute reflection as issues come up. Within a specific context, it places the responsibility for their decisions squarely on their shoulders. It also gives kids the framework to see themselves as packed full of individual potential.

Looking to increase your general communication with your kids? Check out 7 Communication Secrets for Parents of Elementary Aged Kids and 7 Communication Secrets Every Parent of a Teen Should Know.