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OSU Extension

College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences

June 18, 2019 - 8:50am --

This month on TV I spoke of the Search Institute and the 40 developmental assets. While I was doing some research I realized they have some additional research that I’d like to share.  Their goal is to identify what children need to have in life to succeed.  They work to build on children’s strengths rather than deficiencies and emphasize the possibilities for common good.  Based on some recent data there are five top strategies they believe are needed to assist children in being successful in their futures.  This research was conducted nationwide to more than 1,085 3-13 year olds.  When parents report that they have stronger relationships with their children and use these strategies, the children are more likely to:

  • Be motivated to learn
  • Take personal responsibility
  • Manage their emotions well
  • Be able to concentrate and put in effort
  • Experience fewer behavioral problems, such as throwing temper tantrums or fighting
  • Help others and be concerned about other people

Developmental relationships within the family are up to 10 times more important than other demographic factors (income, race and family composition) in predicting key character strengths.  The heart of the study identified that relationships are characterized by five essential actions:

  1. Express Care: Show that you like me and want the best for me.
  2. Challenge Growth: Insist that I try to continuously improve.
  3. Provide Support: Help me complete tasks and achieve goals.
  4. Share Power: Hear my voice and let me share in making decisions.
  5. Expand Possibility: Expand my horizons and connect me to opportunities.

So how can we take action to make sure that these are incorporated in our families?  Here’s what they suggest:

  1.  Express Care by Listening and paying attention when you are with me.  Be warm and let me know that you like being with me and express positive feelings torward me.  Invest time and energy to doing things for and with me.  Make it a priority to understand who I am and what I care about and be dependable, be someone I can count on and trust.
  2. Inspire me to see future possibilities for myself and expect me to live up to my potential.  Hold me accountable for appropriate boundaries and rules.
  3. Encourage and praise my efforts and achievements while guiding with practical assistance and feedback to help me learn.  Be an example that I can learn from and stand up for me when I need it.
  4. Respect me by taking me seriously and treating me fairly, give me a voice in making decisions that affect me.  Work with me to accomplish goals and solve problems while understanding my needs, interests and abilities.
  5. Expose me to new ideas, experiences and places and introduce me to people who can help me learn and grow.

The findings of this study bring to light an important question.  How do we become more intentional and specific about the kinds of relationships kids need at home, at school and in other places they spend time?

How might we do this?  By really listening to families and learn of their needs.  Focus on building relationships with the family and not just providing services or programs.  Highlight the strengths they have and encourage families to try new practices that fit their lives, rather than giving advice and actively engage families as a focal point for strengthening relationships.  These ideas illustrate that families do this through everyday ways they interact with, care for, and invest in their relationships together.

Whether you are a parent, grandparent, teacher, pastor, neighbor, relative or employer there are things that are mentioned above that we can all play a role in.  Encouraging families and children in today’s world is a priority for all of us to have children of the next generation.


Melinda Hill is an OSU Extension Family & Consumer Sciences Educator and may be reached at 330-264-8722.

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