September 4, 2008

On a Scale of 1-40, Where Do You and Your Teen Rank?

By Vestina F. Crayton, Education Instructor, Pinellas County Extension

Even in these challenging economic times, parents might say that providing food, shelter, and clothing is easier than knowing the proper balance of love and discipline that will produce a responsible, caring, and healthy teen. Encouraging your teen to make informed choices and allowing them to respond and experience the results of their choices, is critical in their development. Giving them the freedom to explore their independence will strengthen and empower your teen.

The Search Institute has created a list of 40 Developmental Assets for Adolescents (12-18) that identifies key characteristics of a well-rounded teen. The 40 developmental assets have been categorized into external and internal factors that influence the maturation of an adolescent. External assets refer to the tangible such as family, school, adult role models and religious affiliations. Internal assets refer to the intangible such as resistance skills, motivation, critical thinking and a sense of individual worth. Research has proven that “as the number of assets in youth increases, the likelihood of them engaging in risky behaviors decreases (Benson, et al., 1998; Kegler, et al., 2005; Leffert et. al.’1998).” Determining the best approach to equip your teen with these attributes can be overwhelming.

According to research conducted by the University of Florida IFAS Extension, the following are six ways parents can begin to build a mutually beneficial environment where parents and teens can work together.

Trust – Be confident that the values you have instilled in your teen will be a guiding force in their decision making. Showing your teen that you trust their judgment will increase their self esteem.

Respect – Like adults, privacy is important. Respect your teen’s right to privacy. Keep in mind, communication is important. Establishing two-way communication where both parent and teen are expressing their thoughts and knowing that the other is not only hearing what is being said but more importantly is listening. Showing mutual respect encourages respectful behavior in your teen.

Listen- Effective listening is an active skill that requires training. Listening is an act of engaging the ears, eyes, mind, and most importantly the heart. The ears simply hear the information. The eyes, heart, and mind process and interpret what is being said. The eyes see the communication cues such as body language and facial expressions, the heart feels the emotion and the mind logically arranges the information to generate an appropriate response. It is important that both parent and teen practice listening to one another to understand and communicate without judgment.

Limits- During this time, teens are experiencing many changes - physical, social, cognitive, and moral. It’s important to know that boundaries that are set and enforced, establish a stable environment in this flurry of activity. If a solid foundation is in place, a teen will feel secure that the decisions that they make are within the limits set by and with their parents. Having limits can serve as a gauge for teens. It allows the teen to exercise their ability to respond appropriately to any given circumstance.

Support – Remembering when you were a teen will help you provide the support that your teen needs. Be available to give advice without expectations. This is the perfect opportunity to give your teen the benefit of the life lessons that you have learned. Sharing your wisdom through your personal experiences will let your teen know that you have an idea what they may be going through without forcing your opinion.

Problem Solve – Finding solutions to problems should be a collaborative effort. This approach will show your teen that you trust, respect, and are willing to listen to their feelings and opinions on what is the best course of action to address the issue.

All six of the highlighted suggestions can work together to give you and your teen the tools needed to facilitate the evolution of a caring and confident person.

As a challenge, review the 40 Developmental Assets for Adolescents (12-18) and check off how many assets, as an adult, you possess. This is a great tool to see how you rank on a scale of 1- 40. You may be amazed and inspired.

As part of the University of Florida, Pinellas County Extension’s 4-H Youth Development program uses research-based information to help parents sharpen their skills and identify new tools to help meet the challenges of enhancing their teen’s opportunities to be the best they can be. To assist parents and caregivers, Extension offers the 4-H Family Teening –Up learning experience. This unique program engages parents along with their teens to communicate more effectively, make decisions together, and address concerns in a positive way. To learn more about this program or to participate in the next two day, 12- hour workshop call (727) 582-2450.


“40 Developmental Assets for Adolescents (ages 12-18)” 1997, 2006 Search Institute, Minneapolis MN

“Teening-Up” With Your Adolescent: Parenting Children Ages -16 (Based on an earlier version of Teening-Up with Your Adolescent: Ages 10-16), Empowering Teens to Build Assets, University of Florida IFAS Extension, Gainesville Florida

A Parent’s Guide through the Teen Years

The Teen Brain is Different

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