Kasserian ingera? Is a traditional greeting of the Masai people of Kenya and Tanzania. Instead of saying “How are you?” they greet with “How are the children?” The typical response is, “Sapati ingera” (“All the children are well”). What would your response be? Perhaps some of the children are well? Is that good enough?
The question of why some kids have a fairly easy time growing up, while others struggle, why some get involved in dangerous activities, while others lead productive lives and why some beat the odds and others get trapped are usually answered by focusing on problems such as poor choices due to socioeconomic status, lack of supportive families, or being surrounded by bad influences.
What if we decided to look for other answers – answers that would tell us how kids prevail, not fail.
The Search Institute in Minneapolis did just that when developing what are now called the 40 Developmental Assets. The Institute conducted research on what makes kids thrive. Their research yielded answers that were optimistic and hopeful, and highlighted what was right with youth. What the Search Institute found was that assets protect and empower youth, and that their effects are cumulative. That means the more assets a youth has, the less likely they are to struggle, and the more likely they are to succeed, in life.
Unfortunately, Search Institute surveys at the National level indicate that the average young person has only 18 out of 40 assets. The exciting news is anyone can build assets! Asset building also costs nothing and is not radical or experimental.
What are the 40 Assets?
The 40 Developmental Assets are grouped into 8 categories, which are summarized below. For a summary of all 40 Assets, download the handouts provided below.
- Support: Young people need to be surrounded by people who love, care for, appreciate, and accept them.
- Empowerment: Young people need to feel valued and valuable. This happens when youth feel safe and respected.
- Boundaries and Expectations: Young people need clear rules, consistent consequences for breaking rules, and encouragement to do their best.
- Constructive Use of Time: Young people need opportunities—outside of school—to learn and develop new skills and interests with other youth and adults.
- Commitment to Learning: Young people need a sense of the lasting importance of learning and a belief in their own abilities.
- Positive Values: Young people need to develop strong guiding values to help them make healthy life choices.
- Social Competencies: Young people need the skills to interact effectively with others, to make difficult decisions, and to cope with new situations.
- Positive Identity: Young people need to believe in their own self-worth and to feel they have control over the things that happen to them.
40 Assets Ages 6-11
40 Assets Ages 12-18
How do we incorporate asset building into our daily lives?
Creating a strong foundation in a young person’s life doesn’t have to be difficult or overwhelming. Taking time, remaining patient, and giving a whole lot of love and caring will take you far. For most young people, their family is the center of their lives. Show your children you love them, and also value each one of them as individuals. Clearly communicate to one another your family’s values, boundaries, and expectations (as well as those of the community). Provide constructive, enriching opportunities for growth through creative activities, youth programs, and quality time at home. Give young people the appropriate amount of freedom to make their own decisions depending on their ages, but also offer options along the way.
What can ASAP offer communities in Aroostook County?
ASAP initiated Asset Building work in Houlton and Caribou in 2008 and recently began making presentations in other towns (details about this work can be found in our Newsletter, which is available on our home page).
Change is possible, and the power rests in the people and places of community that join together to embrace, invest in, and engage with young people as resources and gifts.
Want to know more about the 40 Developmental Assets and ideas for helping young people build them? Visit www.search-institute.org/assets.