My job as a middle school counselor is to help students succeed in school and in life. Unfortunately, I see far too many children choosing to cope with life in negative kinds of ways.
Research at the Search Institute in Minnesota has found that the difference between children in trouble and those leading productive, healthy, positive lives is strongly affected by the presence in their lives of developmental assets. Assets are good things such as family support, boundaries, self-esteem, caring schools and neighborhoods, and hope for the future.
The more assets young people have, the less likely they are to use alcohol or other drugs, have sex too soon, fail in school, be violent or engage in other negative behaviors. This is what we want for all of our youths. Unfortunately, youths across the nation are lacking in developmental assets.
There are many specific, practical things everyone in our community can do to make a difference in young people's lives. What adults do makes a big difference in the lives of children. Last spring, a group of eighth-graders put together a list of things they would like from parents, teachers and other adults:
n Have dinner as a family as often as possible.
n Acknowledge me when you see me.
n Let me act my age -- it's good for us to be children.
n Suggest better behavior when I act out.
n Be available when I need to talk. Be open and listen.
n Encourage me to think big and set high goals.
n Find a common interest with me so we can spend time together.
n Be happy -- it will be easier for me to be happy.
n Encourage me more and criticize me less.
n Take me to church and teach me the difference between right and wrong. We need to know and understand God.
n Ask me to help you with something so I can show how responsible I can be.
n Be consistent -- especially with privileges and consequences. It lets me know what to expect.
n Love me no matter what -- and tell me every day.
What children need most in their lives are adults who care!