Here’s a question that every parent has asked themselves at one time or another. Am I a “good enough” parent? Sure we’d love to be a perfect parent, but let’s be real! We all make mistakes. The real question is how do we measure how well we are parenting? What does success look like? And do we have to wait until our kids are adults to know if we did it right?
You’d like to measure the effectiveness of your parenting throughout your child’s life, not just when they reach adulthood. I’d like to share with you a great tool for doing just that. It’s called the Developmental Assets® Framework created by The Search Institute. This framework focuses on relationships and social emotional health to help parents identify the skills and strengths their children possess and to support their growth in other areas.
The Search Institute’s vision is to see young people thrive! To this end, they “promote positive youth development and advance equity.”
So let’s get back to your kids. How can this help you? The following is a breakdown of the Developmental Assets® Framework so that you can start to measure how your kids are doing. With this knowledge you’ll be able to see if your parenting is “good enough” or if you need to step up your game a bit!
Developmental Assets® Framework
The Framework identifies 40 assets that are clustered into eight categories. I’ll go over these categories and give you a summary of the assets. The eight categories cover assets that show up in relationships (externally) and in social emotional ways (internally).
These assets are ways that your child relates to others and how that affects their personal development.
Your children thrive when they grow up in a supportive environment. This asset is evident when kids feel a high level of love and support at home, in their neighborhood and at school. It’s also important that they have other adults they can depend on, besides their parents. As a parent, you can think about the other adults in your child’s life. Are there adults your child can go to in times of stress, worry and trauma? If not, how can you help them to develop these relationships?
Another good thing to consider is, “Are you a supportive adult for other young adults?” Do you relate well to your friends’ children and your nieces and nephews? Modeling this behavior, as a caring adult, will also show your kids that they can rely on other adults in their lives.
You want your kids to feel empowered in life, right? You can make that happen by supporting your child getting involved in their community or school. Find ways to point out that your community or school values and respects their youth. Talk about the programs for youth, the financial support of youth activities, and the opportunities for getting involved locally. Help them find ways to volunteer and serve others. Finally, empowerment is also dependent upon young people feeling safe in their environment.
If you are questioning whether your child feels empowered in these ways, begin with having a conversation with them. Do they feel safe at home, school and out in public? Why or why not? Do they recognize that the community values them? Why or why not? If you get your child thinking about these assets, they will start to recognize them.
Boundaries and Expectations
Yes, it is an asset to have boundaries and expectations! This is an area where your kids may disagree, but it really contributes to their sense of belonging and safety. Your kids should be clear on the rules of your family life, the rules at school and in the community. It’s also helpful for neighbors and friends to support these boundaries and expectations.
A great way to communicate this asset is by role models and peer groups. Do your kids have adults who model responsible behavior? Are they choosing friends who make wise decisions about their behavior? You can help your child develop this asset by having conversations with them about friend choices and discussing choices you are making to be a responsible adult. Keeping communication open is what makes boundaries and expectations effective.
Constructive Use of Time
The final External Asset identified is Constructive Use Of Time. This asset is probably the easiest one to complete. Your kids may be very involved in sports, extracurricular activities and/or church related events. Those are all great. But you’re probably also aware that sometimes young people get overbooked!
So this asset includes recognizing that your kids need to have down time. Time with friends or family that is just hanging out with nothing special driving the situation. It’s important for their brain and their body to relax in the midst of comfortable people. That is definitely “constructive” use of time!
These assets address how your child develops their social and emotional skills to become a responsible adult.
Commitment to Learning
You can measure your child’s commitment to learning partly by their engagement with school. But it is much more than that. Does your child have a curiosity about things? Do they enjoy discovery and seek to try new adventures? Are they interested in reading? Their commitment to learning might be met with their out of school interests.
You can help your child develop this asset by tapping into what they are most interested in and supporting it. Even when the interest isn’t something you share. Affirming their passion boosts their commitment to learning more about it. Here’s an example: My son loved dinosaurs as a kid. He couldn’t get enough info and exposure to them. Now, I was completely uninterested! But I supported his passion. You never know when you might be raising a Paleontologist.
Our values help us make healthy decisions, mentally and physically. If you value a healthy body, you’ll eat well and exercise. If you value honesty, you’ll have healthier relationships. You can help your child recognize their own values such as: caring, responsibility, integrity and social justice.
Understanding your value system also develops a skill of resiliency. When we are firm on our values we are able to overcome difficulties and make wise decisions about our behavior. Of course, the best way to instill values is to be the best role model of your own values. Remember, your kids are always watching!
These assets have to do with decision making, conflict resolution and acceptance of others. Your child’s development of these assets starts young and needs support throughout their lives. That’s why it is important to avoid being a ‘helicopter’ parent. Let your children solve problems and conflicts on their own so they can learn from their mistakes and successes. The lessons learned at a young age are very powerful and will equip them for the future.
Most importantly, you need to role model these assets. So think about how you resolve conflict and show acceptance of others. It’s even helpful to talk about your decision making with your kids. Tell them how you solved a problem, let them know it’s normal to be unsure. And absolutely demonstrate the importance of empathy and compassion in society.
This final asset is one already on the minds of most parents. You want your child to have a good self image, to have high self-esteem. The best way to develop this is to help your child feel a sense of purpose in their life and to help them feel they have control over things happening to them.
Goal setting is a great way to assist your child on their journey to a positive identity. You can help them to become optimistic about their future and to recognize the steps they can take to reach their potential. As they make progress toward their goal you can offer authentic praise to really boost their self-esteem.
Okay, so that’s a lot of information. But if you’ve read this far, you qualify as a “good enough” parent. You qualify because you want to know how best to help your child grow into a healthy, well-adjusted adult. That is the first step towards making good things happen. We love working with parents like you. Let’s talk! Sign up here for a FREE session with one of our coaches.
Are You A “Good Enough” Parent?
By Lisa Reichelt, M.Ed., Parent Coach