As part of the PLC Lighthouse Leaders programme, positive psychology expert and one of Australia’s Top 100 Women of Influence, Professor Lea Waters returned to PLC on Thursday 12 October to deliver a presentation on strength-based parenting.

By showing parents how to throw the ‘strength switch’, Professor Waters demonstrated how parents can not only help their children build resilience and optimism, but how to also help protect them against today’s pandemic of depression and anxiety.

As a strength-based scientist for more than 20 years, Professor Waters has seen how this approach enhances self-esteem and energy in both children and teenagers.

One of the first things Professor Waters spoke about at her presentation was her own experiences with mental health. In her teens, Professor Waters developed an eating disorder, evolved from a childhood affected by her mother’s mental illness. This led her to struggle with depression and anxiety in her 20’s. Today, however, Professor Waters is very clear about how formative those experiences were on her career.

She told guests that her key goal was to make science more accessible and actionable in the broader community. “I always think about how I can take science out of the ivory tower and make it actionable and real for people”.

Her four strength-based parenting tips were;

1. Label your children’s strengths. Let’s say your child wants to share something with you. Instead of just saying ‘Thank you for sharing’, a strength-based parent will add a strength-based sentence like ‘That’s kind of you’.

2. Provide experiences and the environment to foster that strength. When you start to see a hint of a strength, start to get your child involved in it.

3. Practice. Even though our strengths may be partly genetic, we need practice using them to develop them.

4. Connect your children with role models who possess the same strength, either in real life or through biographies in books, websites or YouTube. If they’re too young to read, talk to them about public figures instead, like Mother Teresa if your child’s strength is compassion.

Strength-based parenting doesn’t just benefit children; it also improves the confidence of parents themselves.

Professor Waters revealed the results from one of her studies, which emphasised that parents who went through a five-week strength-based parenting programme found parenting more interesting and felt more confident in their role as a parent.

Professor Lea Waters is offering the PLC community a 10 percent discount on her five-week strength-based parenting online course. Find out more.

To purchase her book, The Strength Switch, email

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