Strength-Based Versus Deficit-Based Thinking

Being strength-based suggests that the way we interact and respond to children is rooted in the way we view them. As practitioners focused on promoting resilience in at risk children, we must maintain a positive focus even when children are difficult for us to understand. When children exhibit challenging behaviors, deficit mindsets are more prevalent. Below are some easy ways to reframe our thinking to a more strength-based perspective.

Deficit-Based Thinking

  • What’s wrong with her?
  • He’s just a bad kid.
  • Look at her behavior.
  • He doesn’t even want my help.
  • Punishment will get her attention.
  • Give him an inch; he’ll take a mile.
  • He can’t be trusted.
  • We are in charge.
Strength-Based Thinking

  • What’s right with her?
  • There is no such thing as a bad kid.
  • I wonder what is making her act that way?
  • He’s afraid that he will get hurt again.
  • Caring people will get her attention.
  • If we give him a chance, he could go far!
  • He needs a positive adult that he can trust.
  • Let’s see what she needs to feel better.

By Dr. Caelan Soma, PsyD, LMSW

Dr. Caelan Soma, PsyD, LMSW, Chief Clinical Officer, provides oversight for all clinical operations and research at Starr Commonwealth. Dr. Soma provides trauma assessment and trauma informed, resilience focused intervention for youth utilizing evidence-based practices, including TLC’s SITCAP® model programs.

About Starr Commonwealth

Starr Commonwealth is dedicated to the mission to lead with courage to create positive experiences so that all children, families, and communities flourish. We specialize in residential, community-based, educational, and professional training programs that build on the strengths of children, adults, and families in communities around the world. To schedule a training or consultation, please contact or call 800-837-5591.