SOUCHERAY: Raising children with the '40 Assets'
The Forty Assets first came to my attention in the mid-1990's when a Stillwater School Board member shared them with me at church.
As she explained the program, the question of how these "Assets" had never come across my desk in my teacher training or early childhood family education classes came to mind. They were so fantastic, easy to understand, and seemed to provide a manual for raising successful children. We quickly embraced them as a family and began to incorporate one aspect after another in our approach to parenting our three children.
The 40 Assets were not rigid or inflexible, but rather seemed like a smooth fit for our family, which allowed us to feel more confident that we were on the right track as we raised our kids. As the board member explained, a group called the Search Institute in Minneapolis developed the 40 Assets.
As the story was explained, the Institute spoke to several successful young people and their families, inquiring about what helped them avoid drugs and alcohol, truancy, and teen sex. There were numerous commonalities among the group of families and teens, which the Institute incorporated into the Assets.
Internal assets and external assets were recognized and divided into specific categories, which offer a framework for the everyday experiences of family life. The external assets include support, empowerment, good boundaries, and the constructive use of time. The internal assets are represented by a commitment to learning, positive values, social competencies, and positive identity.
A few of the 40 Assets that seemed to be the most important, as well as gave real support to our family, were those that measured the amount of commitment and involvement of our family in school-related activities. The more active we were in our children's school lives, the Institute suggested, the more interest and importance we would convey to our children regarding the importance and value of education. In addition, their participation in sports and other extracurricular activities offered great advantages to the development of their poise and self-confidence.
The institute also concluded that young people who had adults in their lives, other than their parents, to whom they could go for advice or consolation had greater resiliency to the pressures of the culture. These young people more often believed the experiences they faced had purpose and meaning, they felt better about themselves and their decisions, and they believed their future would be bright and optimistic. They also tended to choose good friends, do service for their communities, and show respect for people and property. Essentially, they were able to resist peer pressure to make unwise, perhaps negative, life-altering decisions in favor of life-giving choices that provided better opportunities for them in the present and future.
The Institute found these young people made significant contributions to society through the use of their gifts, in order to help bring about a better world. These were not "Super Kids." They were everyday, normal, young people, growing up in homes in which the parents were making a concerted effort to raise them to become mature, responsible adults.
These 40 Assets are easily found on the Internet at www.search-institute.org. They are free and available to anyone who has the desire to invest in raising responsible, helpful, stable adults. They are simple to understand and utilize in a home environment, as well as offer tremendous rewards toward the development of a strong and vibrant culture.