Monday, April 27, 2009

Building on Assets.....that's what Life Puzzle is all about!

I recently had the pleasure of sitting in on a training focused on teen development--but from a unique perspective--Asset building. Asset building means recognizing the positive things that research has shown results in teens building great lives---and then working to strengthen these assets because we can pretty much ensure positive outcomes for teens, families, schools and society when these are available in their lives.

This training was based on research from Search Institute. Over 50 years they have worked to provide the data necessary to show what works with teens. The outcome is the 40 Development Assets. These include External assets of Support, Empowerment, Boundaries and Expectations and Constructive Use of time. These 5 major areas are broken into 20 more specific assets such as "family boundaries" and "community values youth". Then there's Internal Assets of "Commitment to Learning, Positive Values, Social Competence and Positive Identity". These 4 areas are broken into 20 more specific assets such as "sense of purpose", or "integrity".

What their work has shown over time is that the more assets a teen possesses, the less likely they are to be involved in negative, high-risk behaviors and the more likely they are to be positively engaged in school, home and the community.
If you'd like to see all 40 of the assets, please go to their site to learn more.

An interesting comment the speaker, Clay Roberts made during the 3 hour training continues to ring in my ears. He had the 40 Assets up on the screen and as he pointed to them he shared that at one of the trainings he'd done previously, a man had walked up to him on break and said "I can't believe you get paid this much to teach what is certainly just common sense!". There was chuckling in the current audience as people nodded their heads--but then Clay looked at the audience and said, "Well, yes, it is common sense--but obviously it is not common knowledge. Because as you look at these 40 Assets and examine your own professional encounters with teens and their families---you know as well as I do that far too many families, schools, social service agencies and others who work with our young people do not know this." And so, yes, I am paid to come and teach this--because it is necessary still.

And I would concur with him---and it is why I also continue to teach Life Puzzle. I get very similar comments after I teach people the basics of Life Puzzle making. They'll say something like "Wow--now that I see it, it is so obvious--but without seeing the whole framework of the Life Puzzle model--I was clueless. How come we don't teach this to everyone throughout their childhoods?" Why indeed....

Search Institute shows why the 40 Assets aren't consistently practiced by adults working with young children. Clay had asked this audience--"How often do you hear adults criticizing teens and focusing in on what they do wrong---instead of hearing adults reinforcing assets?" Again, lots of shaking heads that this is what happens--and he asked "Why"? And I raised my hand and said--"Because they don't know how to see their own assets--they are mainly focused on their own negatives---so that's what they see in others." And Clay said--"That's exactly right."

I said that because that's what I hear and see all the time when I'm working with clients or teaching a group about Life Puzzle. When I ask audiences--where are you on the Choosing Continuum--0-5 reactive, unconscious, passive in creating your life or 6-10, proactive, conscious and empowered--90% of audience members recognize they're operating on the 0-5 side. And we discuss why this is--its because that's what they see all around them and its what they were taught.

So that's the bad news--still too many adults unaware of how to build their own lives, unaware of the 40 assets in their own lives--or the children they influence. The good news is Life Puzzle is available--as are the 40 Assets. These two models compliment each other wonderfully. One of the participants in this training had just finished running a CART (creating a responsible thinker) program--the teen/parent program of Life Puzzle. She came up to me and said "Life Puzzle is asset building on the detail level and I'm so grateful to be able to share this with parents and teens!"

Me too *:*