We know it when we see it. Strength. Power. Self-assuredness. Guts. The wonder of assets in motion. Brought to life in a child not only in the way s/he acts, but in the way s/he thinks and feels about him/herself and the world in which s/he lives. Studies of more than 2.2 million children and teens from the Search Institute, an organization that promotes healthy children, youth and communities, consistently show that the more assets young people have, the more successful they are, and the less likely they are to engage in risky behaviors.
But it’s more than just a list of competencies. Our children must have what researchers at Search Institute call “spark” – an interest, talent, skill, asset or dream (academic, relational, athletic, artistic or intellectual) that excites them and enables them to discover their true passions, along with encouragement from trusted adults to nurture it. In my experience with young people, I have also seen spark further fueled when they have the “know how,” committed behaviors or “actions” behind those aspirations and defined reasons for pursuing their passion. Therefore, I’ve expanded the Search Institute term into the broader acronym, S.P.A.R.K.:
- Support: Important mentors, most typically trusted adults, in different positions and places where girls work and socialize, who can guide, affirm, celebrate, and encourage a child or teen to keep going.
- Passion: The animated need, self-identified, and the interest to pursue this goal at this time.
- Action: The actual work that the child or teen commits to doing and actually does consistently without need of prodding or provoking.
- Reason: The “why” that intrinsically motivates the child or teen to move forward and puts them in a state of flow.
- Knowledge: The skills and capacity to actually tackle the goal.
How are you helping to provide S.P.A.R.K. in your children? What do your children and teens really LOVE to do? Want to learn? Want to become?
While many teens can’t name 3 adults in their lives who they can turn to when they are in need, we can be those people. Let’s be there to light that S.P.A.R.K. and cheer as they show us what they can do.
Adapted from Good Girls Don’t Get Fat: How Weight Obsession is Messing Up Our Girls & How We Can Help Them Thrive Despite It
Just a few others who are working to highlight the assets rather than deficits in our girls:
More to come! And please…let me know what websites you love for boys!