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Nourishing Your Child’s Assets

Child Development Stages - Child EncouragementWith each passing year, you no doubt take stock of the nutrients you’re providing your child. Is your child getting enough fruits and vegetables? Are those weekly pizzas and Pop-Tarts putting her on a path to obesity? Does he need a multivitamin to make up for a sketchy diet?

But what about your child’s developmental nutrients? What assets or strengths are nourishing your child at home, in school and out in the community, contributing right now to a healthy future?

The Search Institute® is a nonprofit organization that has been exploring that very question for the past 50 years. Originally founded with a focus on youth in religious settings, its mission today is broader to do research; offer networking, training and support; and provide other resources that help promote health and competency in children and youth from all walks of life.

To provide a framework for parents, schools, and communities, the Search Institute® has developed a list of 40 Developmental Assets® that are strongly correlated with positive, healthy behaviors, including success in school and reduced involvement with drugs, alcohol, or criminal activity. The more assets these youth possess, the more successful their development tends to be.

What do these assets have to do with learning? They appear to play a significant role in academic achievement for students from a wide variety of backgrounds. Research shows that students from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds with high levels of assets were about five to 12 times as likely to be successful in school as those with few assets. In fact, the higher the students’ asset levels, the higher their GPA.

What are these assets that are so essential to our children's all-around success? Here is the list developed by the Search Institute for elementary-age children, ages 6–11. You can find separate, but similar, lists for younger and older age groups at the Search Institute Web site.

External Assets

Internal Assets

Support

  1. Family support
  2. Positive family communication
  3. Other adult relationships
  4. Caring neighborhood
  5. Caring out-of-home climate
  6. Parent involvement in out-of-home situations

Commitment to learning

  1. Achievement expectation and motivation
  2. Children are engaged in learning
  3. Stimulating activity and homework
  4. Enjoyment of learning and bonding to school
  5. Reading for pleasure

Empowerment

  1. Community values children
  2. Children are given useful roles
  3. Service to others
  4. Safety

Positive values

  1. Caring
  2. Equality and social justice
  3. Integrity
  4. Honesty
  5. Responsibility
  6. Healthy lifestyle and sexual attitudes

Boundaries and expectations

  1. Family boundaries
  2. Out-of-home boundaries
  3. Neighborhood boundaries
  4. Adult role models
  5. Positive peer interaction and influence
  6. Appropriate expectations for growth

Social competencies

  1. Planning and decision making
  2. Interpersonal skills
  3. Cultural competence
  4. Resistance skills
  5. Peaceful conflict resolution

Constructive use of time

  1. Creative activities
  2. Out-of-home activities
  3. Religious community
  4. Positive, supervised time at home

Positive identity

  1. Personal power
  2. Self-esteem
  3. Sense of purpose
  4. Positive view of personal future


The sad truth is that the average youth surveyed in the United States experiences only half of these assets. Of the two million youths surveyed by the Search Institute since 1989, almost 60 percent had 20 or fewer of the 40 Developmental Assets®.

What can you do as a parent to promote these strengths in your child? First, it may help to remember that you can’t do it all by yourself. Your child needs a web of support to be successful; teachers and coaches, aunts and uncles, neighbors and mentors, friends and shopkeepers. There is, indeed, something to the adage, “It takes a village.”

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