Build a strong human being

Consider the 40 Developmental Assets for your foundation.

Developmental assets serve as a foundation for a strong child. Photo credit: Pixabay
Developmental assets serve as a foundation for a strong child. Photo credit: Pixabay

What comes to mind when you hear the word “assets?” For many of us, the first thought is financial resources; the kind of things a bank might look at when we apply for a loan. We might consider our car, house or family heirlooms as assets. The word assets can be applied to another valuable resource that might not come immediately to mind.

The researchers at the Search Institute in Minnesota have identified 40 Developmental Assets that young people need in life to succeed as contributing, successful adults. Developmental assets include experiences, skills, relationships, behaviors and other qualities that benefit young people today.

A growing body of research from Fedlmeyer and Roehlkepartain indicates that the more assets children have, the less likely they are to be involved in at-risk behaviors. Kids who are involved in more “right things” are involved in fewer “wrong things.” Developmental assets serve as a foundation for a strong child.

This may sound like common sense, but the premise has powerful implications for parenting and for providing child care and education for young children. If we want to build strong children who are protected from at-risk behaviors like drug and alcohol use, early sexual activity or school failure, the answer may be to help kids become involved in more positive things rather than focusing all our energy on getting children to “just say no” to the wrong things.

In the Building Strong Adolescents curriculum, Michigan State University Extension suggest you consider all of the things you would have to do if you decided to remodel or add a room on your home. You would have to consider what tools were needed. You would need to gather supplies and materials. A contractor might be consulted and you may need to obtain permits, and more.

Building assets in a human being is not unlike other building or remodeling projects. You generally don’t begin without a plan. You purchase quality materials and use builders who are proven and reliable. You don’t begin tearing everything apart before you consider what you already have in place and make decisions about what needs to change and what can remain. If there are areas in your project that are dangerous, you might begin removing the dangers first.

As you explore developmental assets that your child already has, you can ask yourself which of them you consider most important. Make your plan to build on existing assets to add strength to your child’s foundation and consider new assets that can strengthen areas that are weak. Intentional parenting takes planning and effort.

Developmental assets are internal and external. Internal assets have to be nurtured and you can help to strengthen them in children. These internal assets can include honesty, integrity, caring and a sense of purpose. Parents can work as partners with their child’s school, daycare, religious institution and community to create conditions that contribute to the development of internal assets. Surrounding your child with positive role models who share your values can strengthen these internal assets.

External assets may include parent involvement in school, maintaining high expectations for children and providing family support. These assets are rooted in a child’s environment. Parents, in particular, make a difference here because many of these assets actually depend on family. These assets can include those who are primary caregivers for a child in addition to parents.

It is unrealistic to think every child will have all 40 Developmental Assets, but that is not the goal. The goal should be to have as many assets as possible and to work on those that could use some remodeling. Asset building is a team sport! Put children first. Consider who is on your child’s asset-building team. You are not the only adult who influences your child. Everything in your child’s and your family’s environment affects their growth and development. See your role as a teacher and helper and model the behavior you would like to see. Make asset building a priority for your children and all those you impact. Building strong children will, in turn, build stronger communities and a stronger world.

For more on information caregiving or family issues that affect you and your family, visit the eXtension and MSU Extension websites.

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