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COLUMN: When it comes to youth, real assets don’t mean more stuff
I have said it on numerous occasions that our youth are our most important resource. They are our future and it is up to us as a community to make sure our future generations are equipped with the assets they need to thrive.
When I speak of assets, I am not referring to material possessions. I’m not referring to expensive cars, the latest iPhone or trendy clothes. Yes, our children need a warm bed, healthy food and supplies for sports, art, music and education. And while they have an intrinsic need to fit in, we do spend a lot of time and money piling more and more “stuff” into our lives without stopping to reflect on why.
A dear friend of mine, Keith Pattinson, has worked extensively on a philosophy called “Asset Building.”
Keith has spent countless hours working with youth and parents on this approach, which is a departure from the assumption that the more “things” a child has, the better off he or she will be. The “developmental assets” that Keith works with speak nothing of possessions, and instead focus entirely on positive qualities that influence young people’s development, helping them become caring, responsible, and productive adults.
It examines social support networks, empowerment, boundaries, self-esteem, value systems and social competencies in the life of a child. Asset building research has proven that children who score higher on developmental asset surveys are far more likely to succeed than counterparts who score lower on the scale.
The magic of asset building is in its accessibility. Parents do not need to be top income earners or have a master’s degree to give children the tools that are truly needed to help them succeed. Where this philosophy will challenge parents, however, is in the work it takes to build these assets.
Parents who are new to the concept need to shift their thinking as well as their time management in order to focus on building strong communities, providing a caring and safe environment, encouraging youth to volunteer, keeping youth in constructive activities, teaching empathy and compassion and living a life of meaning and purpose.
This means spending less money and more time. This means being a role model and living the life you want your child to live.
If your children see you volunteer, they will see value in it. If your children see you stand up for your beliefs, they will stand up for what they believe in. If you live a life with purpose, your children will be motivated and inspired by your energy.
Yes, our kids will want the cool stuff their friends have. But in the meantime, building them up as compassionate, caring and motivated people is the true gift.
If you would like more information on developmental assets, go to www.search-institute.org
Jim Cessford is the chief of the Delta Police Department and has spent more than 40 years in law enforcement.