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Making Asset Building a Mindful Practice

August 1st, 2013

“Start with one mindful practice a day…When you do this, you awaken the inner intelligence inside you.” - Dr. Deepak Chopra


You’ve learned many asset principle; many factors that contribute to the well-being of youth.

“But how,” you may be wondering, “do I make this happen on my own? How do I integrate 40 things that youth need? How do I impact them?”


You don’t. You aren’t responsible for all 40 factors.


So, first, you need to remember that you are not alone. You are part of the village and are not responsible for more than you can do.


The key to becoming even more of a caring adult in young people’s lives is to keep your personal practice simple. Choose one place to start, one action to take. Then be mindful to practice and apply that asset principle over and over again until it becomes second nature.


Which asset is important to you?  Which is important to the youth you know? Which one can you begin to mindfully practice and build into your interactions with youth?


Pick one and begin. Watch to see what happens over time.

The Natural Power of Play

August 1st, 2013

As I walked my dogs the other day, I passed a huge t.v. box sitting in a neighbor’s yard. On my return route, I rounded the corner and saw two of the neighbor boys attempting to carry the box between them. Picture this: the sun is starting its downward descent so the light frames the tykes in a glow. They walk, pause, stop and readjust the box between them. Now, the box height wise is barely shorter than the boys.

They are taking on a Herculean task to get the box from the neighbor to their house. Their faces are scrunched in concentration and effort. As I pass them, I smile and ask, “what cha got?” “We’ve got a box! It was just sitting in that yard!” “What are you going to do with it?” “We’re gonna get IN it!” “Are you building a fort?” “Oh, yeah!”

And on they go.

It was just one of those zen moments when you know all is right with the world because as long as there are kids, empty boxes, imagination and creativity, anything is possible.

Be Surprised

July 11th, 2013

Recently I helped lead a Youth Summit with middle schoolers.  We were asking their input on what an agency needed to offer youth that wasn’t already available in the city.

The experience reminded me of something that absolutely delighted me -  Plan to be surprised.  Always. Youth come up with innovative ideas and you just never know when they will come up with “THE” idea. They will dream of things that adults discount because we automatically check off all the reasons why something won’t work (done it, didn’t work) or because it’s “too hard.”

In this session, I dubbed the best idea of the day this one: turn the swimming pool into a skating rink. Freeze the water and let people skate.  Love it!  I would never have thought of that, but someone in that room saw possibilities beyond the pool season.

The 12 or so youth in the room played out what brain development facts tell us: the brain thrives on novelty and challenge, and developmentally, youth are fresh, more open to possibilities and aren’t afraid to take risks – great resources for a vision process!

Our job when youth dream is to let them. Let them dream and dream big. Let them figure out pathways to achieve their dreams and support them. So, again I say, plan to be surprised – don’t let your own experiences (even though they are valuable!) color the process so much that they cut short new possibilities. You never know when you may just be the one grooming an Einstein, Mozart or Ford. So listen and be surprised.

The Joy of Serving

July 8th, 2013

Today I got to do something worthwhile. Today I got to give and receive. Today  was our first day of camp. Fourteen girls and two staff. None of them knew each other, none knew exactly what they would be doing. But they did know what they signed up for. To serve. Each girl signed up to participate in Care Bears Camp where the whole theme is to give back and serve the community.

Camps have always been a particular joy for me – the energy, the fun, and the friendships that grow. But a camp that serves has an extra “umph” to it that delights my soul because I know the girls who are there want to be there and are wired a certain way to give, encourage and help another.

Today we went to Charis Ministries and in our short time there packed 20 boxes to go to families who are running short of food supplies and need a little help to make meals happen in their homes. The girls went at it wholeheartedly and packed away, making sure each box had a variety of food and that all items were still good to go (no expired cans!). They then decorated the inside flaps of the boxes with messages and images of hope and encouragement.

As we ended our time together, the girls took turns sharing their wishes for the families that will receive the food boxes. And boy, that’s the time that makes me smile the most as I listened to the earnest hearts of 9-12 year olds. My wish is that even though right now it’s hard, they’ll have hope. My wish is that they’ll not have to know hunger again. My wish is for them to have good meals and to be happy.

And then there was my personal favorite from a 9 year old: my wish is for them to have a puppy!

After all, we all know that puppies make everything better! (And if I were to say this to them, every camper would agree!)

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