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The Power of a Smile

January 1st, 2013

“A smile costs nothing but gives much. It enriches those who receive without making poorer those who give. It takes but a moment, but the memory of it sometimes lasts forever. None is so rich or mighty that he cannot get along without it and none is so poor that he cannot be made rich by it. Yet a smile cannot be bought, begged, borrowed, or stolen, for it is something that is of no value to anyone until it is given away. Some people are too tired to give you a smile. Give them one of yours, as none needs a smile so much as he who has no more to give.” – Author Unknown

How might a smile change the spirit of your program/classroom/home today?
How might your smile change one child’s perspective today?
How could your smile change your own spirit today?
Your smile is powerful – use it often and be known for the smiles you share with others.

Building Positive Identity in Children and Youth

January 1st, 2013

Positive Identity is one of the 8 categories of strengths (Developmental Assets) that all children need to succeed. The Search Institute defines positive identity as “young people need to believe in their own self-worth and to feel that they have control over the things that happen to them.”

The characteristics listed under positive identity are:
1. Personal power. Young person feels he or she has control over “things that happen to me.”
2. Self-esteem. Young person reports having a high self-esteem.
3. Sense of purpose. Young person reports that “my life has a purpose.”
4. Positive view of personal future. Young person is optimistic about her or his personal future.

Researching positive identity today, I stumbled upon an article titled, “Helping Your Child Develop Self-Esteem” by the Child Development Institute.

It talked about the characteristics of children with high vs. low self-esteem. It mentioned strategies to build a child’s self-esteem, including my favorite method of generously giving specific praise when praise is due. I also liked how they connected the dots between healthy decision-making and high self-esteem.

They close the article with 10 additional steps you can take to help a child develop a positive self-image. Five of the ideas are on my personal and professional radar lists this month:
1. Encourage your children to develop hobbies and interests which give them pleasure and which they can pursue independently.
2. Let children settle their own disputes between siblings and friends alike.
3. Help your children develop “tease tolerance”
4. Help children learn to focus on their strengths by pointing out to them all the things they can do.
5. Laugh with your children and encourage them to laugh at themselves.

If you want to learn more about building developmental assets visit, where you can learn more about the research behind assets and discover many other resources to promot your journey to nurture healthy youth.

How are YOU building positive identity in your children and youth? Leave us a comment with your stories, or email us at ann(at)theassetedge(dot)net.

Power Packed 40 – the list of Developmental Assets

January 1st, 2013

* Family support * Positive family communication * Other adult relationships * Caring neighborhood * Caring school climate * Parent involvement in schooling * Community values youth * Youth as resources * Service to others * Safety * Family boundaries * School boundaries * Neighborhood boundaries * Adult role models * Positive peer influence * High expectations * Creative activities * Youth programs * Religious community * Time at home * Achievement motivation * School engagement * Homework * Bonding to school * Reading for pleasure * Caring * Equality and social justice * Integrity * Honesty * Responsibility * Restraint * Planning and decision making * Interpersonal competence * Cultural competence * Resistance skills * Peaceful conflict resolution * Personal power * Self-esteem * Sense of purpose * Positive view of personal future *

You can see more about the 40 assets at The research on these building blocks for youth is great – take time to look at it. And print a copy of the assets to post on your refigerator or desk!

Being Intentional

January 1st, 2013

Look ahead at your week and think about how you could intentionally promote healthy children and youth. Ask yourself questions like:

  • How can I empower people to use their talents and resources wisely this week?
  • How can I promote social competencies (relationship skills) this week?
  • How can I set boundaries and expectations for children/youth this week?

Then take time to review your day or your week, and ask broad questions, such as:

  • How have I encouraged children to use their time constructively?
  • How have helped to develop someone’s sense of positive identity?
  • Have I taken the opportunity to model and teach positive values?

Taking time to be intentional with the children and youth around you will make a big impact on who they grow up to be!

Picasso on the Meaning of Life

December 19th, 2012

“The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.”

The Power of Service

November 7th, 2012

“Engaging young people in productive service can build self-esteem and self-discipline, develop practical skills, establish bonds of community, inculcate a sense of civic responsibility and provide something valuable to others.”

“What You Can Do For Your Country,” report of the Commission on National & Community Service

e.e. cummings on Being Yourself

September 26th, 2012

“To be nobody but yourself in a world that’s doing its best to make you somebody else, is to fight the hardest battle you are ever going to fight . . .  never stop fighting.” – e.e. cummings

Friday Playday – 13 different aspects of recreation

September 21st, 2012

Have you ever pondered the depth and breadth of recreation for children?  I met a friend this summer, LaDonna, who is a recreational specialist.  She shared 13 different aspects of recreation – some based on theory, and some from her own experience with youth.  Young people need opportunities to explore each of these aspects of life – how can you integrate the dimensions into your programming?  How can you encourage young people to explore these avenues in their free time?

  1. Arts/crafts
  2. dance
  3. drama/media
  4. literary
  5. environmental/nature
  6. alternative games
  7. sports/athletics
  8. mental
  9. historic/interpretation
  10. mental/linguistics
  11. hobbies
  12. music
  13. technology


Friday Playday: Anxiety, Depression and Play for Kids

August 17th, 2012

All Work and No Play: Why Your Kids Are More Anxious, Depressed

For more than fifty years, children’s free play time has been continually declining, and it’s keeping them from turning into confident adults


What are your memories of playing as a child? Some of us will remember hide and seek, house, tag, and  red rover red  rover. Others may recall arguing about rules in kickball or stick ball  or taking turns at jump rope,  or creating imaginary worlds with our  dolls, building forts, putting on plays, or dressing-up.  From long  summer days to a few precious after-school hours, kid-organized play may have filled much of your free time.  But  what about your children?   Are their opportunities for play the same as yours were? Most likely  not. 

Play time is in short supply for children these days and the lifelong consequences for developing children can be more serious than many  people realize.

Read more…

Can a 4 year old write rules for behavior and character?

December 28th, 2011

My friend Kevin and his 4.5 year old daughter Caroline created their own set of family rules. 

1. Always tell the truth
2. Do what your parents and people responsible for your care ask
3. Don’t talk to strangers, but it’s OK to say “hello” to everyone
4. Be nice to Jack
5. Keep practicing at your activities to get better
6. Have fun, try hard and help your teammates
7. No stinky tooties!
8. You get what you get and you don’t pitch a fit
9. You need to try new things at least once
10. Always be polite

They numbered them, and memorized them together (they both have amazing memories!).  So if they are struggling with a hard day at soccer practice, Kevin can whisper to Caroline, “Think about #6, and she’ll remember to try hard, do her best and help her teammates. 

I love that they wrote the rules together!  I love that there’s a simplicity and a silliness with the rules.  And I love their quest to be a family of character.  You can already see the impact their purposeful choices have had on her character, and she’s growing into a beautiful young girl!

What are your family or classroom rules?  How did you create your rules?  How could you engage young people in crafting rules?

This Holiday Season Make A Difference: Give the Gift of Hope to Women and Girls

December 9th, 2011

I love the idea of giving gifts that make a difference.  So of course I loved this list of charitable giving ideas for people that are shopping for women and girls.  Oh, and I love their picture too – it’s so full of joy!  If you’re still shopping for Christmas and birthday gifts, check out their links to several nonprofit organizations where you can buy beautiful gifts!

african girl

The True Spirit of Christmas for Youth Workers and Educators

December 7th, 2011

By Derek Peterson

The Christmas season is NOT about the gifts of the three wise men, but, instead, it is about the gift of “beholding” the child in the manger. It was their journey to meet with the child, to view the child, to respect the child, and to ultimately lift the child up, that was the GIFT of Christmas.
This could be the model for our Asset-Building Christmas.
Let’s focus less on the material “assets” during the holiday season.
Instead, let’s journey to “behold” the youth in our families, schools, and neighborhoods. Let’s see the promise of the children among us. Let’s bask in glory of each of them.
And, rather than giving them treasures of gold, frankincense and myyrh, let’s give them something more valuable – OUR TIME.
From the time we give our children and youth, let’s pull the treasures out of each of them, and help them spread their treasures out, far and wide, among the people of the world.
Now, that would be an asset-building Christmas!

Derek Peterson
International Child/Youth Advocate

5 Core Learning Principles for Afterschool Environments

November 14th, 2011

“If afterschool programs are to achieve their true potential, they must become known as important places of learning – learning that excites young people in the building of new skills, the discovery of new interests, and opportunities to achieve a sense of mastery. The goal of the Learning in Afterschool (LIA) project is to position afterschool programs as places for learning. They are promoting five core learning principles that should define afterschool programs. Learning in afterschool should be Active, Collaborative, Meaningful, Geared for Mastery, and Expand Horizons. These learning principles are strongly supported by recent brain research and the growing science of learning. ”

Read more about each of these principles at the Learning in Afterschool website,  You will also find tons of research there about afterschool learning environments!

Thank A Youth Worker Day Celebration

October 24th, 2011

 It seems like such a simple thing but to say “thank you” can mean so much. 

On November 3, 2011, communities, organizations, and caring people from around the globe are joining together for another international day of celebrating and honoring youth workers. 

How can you to join the efforts in this third annual Thank A Youth Worker Day (TAYWD)? 

Visit and the Thank a Youth Worker Page on Facebook (  for a collection of resources and tips, and forward this TAYWD email to others in your community and networks who would be in a position to celebrate youth workers.

THANKS to you for taking time to nurture, thank, and celebrate people around you!

Ann & Susan

Volunteering and Career Development

October 19th, 2011

I founded and directed the volunteer program at a Harpeth Hall School, where I challenged girls to find a way to share their time and talents to help create a stronger community.  We promoted volunteerism as a way for personal growth, social development, growing friendships, and finding careers.  Serving others is a huge way for students to learn and grow.

But it’s also a great way for adults to seek professional opportunities.  That’s great news in this economy!  If you have friends that are struggling in the job market, or if you are working with young people to document their service work on their resume, then take time to read this short and powerful article.

Volunteering May Help Your Career More Than You Think