Asset-Building On The Run
By Thomas M. Lang

It seems like yesterday my kids were just babies when I could hold and protect them just about 24 hours a day. But today, one is a full-fledged teenager and the other, waiting to leap the divide from tween to teen. Neither my wife and I, nor all the armies of Rome, can ensure their safety around the clock. Their lives are busy, taking them from school to music lessons, to choir and orchestra practices, to a multitude of other expectations and activities. Their lives, like most others their age, are going at a frenetic pace.

The pace is sometimes energizing, but more often brutal, as busy parents stretch limb and sanity to keep up with the many demands of raising children today. In fact, the pace is so fast that it is quite difficult, if not impossible, to focus on any one aspect of raising kids. Grades, health issues, friends and their issues, fear, security, peer influence, religious beliefs, safety, love -- the list expands light years by the day. It makes parents dizzy just keeping up with today's issues, let alone following through on yesterday's.

Recently, a wonderful thing came along to make parenting a bit more sane, satisfying and secure. It is called the "40 Assets." Perhaps you have seen a brochure on the counter of a local business, or heard about the 40 Assets directly from your son or daughter. It's a list of 40 positive assets that, when carefully seeded and nurtured in your children, result in teens and adults with solid core values and healthy engagement in school and community. Introduced by the Search Institute in Minneapolis, Minnesota, they have been carefully researched and tested over many years.

The assets are divided into "External" and "Internal" assets. "External Assets" include categories like "Support" of families and neighbors, and through supportive environments in community organizations and institutions; "Empowerment," as young people are made to feel safe and secure, and are given many opportunities to contribute to the community; "Boundaries and Expectations," which clearly indicate to young people what is expected of them and what behaviors and activities are "in bounds" and "out of bounds"; and "Constructive Use of Time," as sufficient enriching opportunities are provided for creative growth at home, in school and through community-sponsored events.

"Internal Assets" include "Commitment to Learning," whereby young people are nurtured to develop a lifelong commitment to education; "Positive Values," as youth are taught to develop strong values to guide the billions of choices they will make in life; "Social Competencies," so that young people can equip themselves to build relationships in a world of diversity; and "Positive Identity," by which children and teens develop a strong sense of their own purpose, promise and worth.

As you can see, these categories are well-rounded and inclusive. By going to <>, you can acquire a copy of the 40 Assets and discover how each one applies to promoting positive and healthy growth in your sons and daughters. You'll also find a wealth of resources, many of which are geared to parents and offer creative ways to use the assets. You may want to inquire through your schools and community youth organizations about the existence of a40 Assets initiative in your community.

The 40 Assets are simply the things your grandparents taught your own parents. In your rush to keep up with a more complicated set of dos and don'ts in raising kids, the 40 Assets help you do the best you can, on the run.

Thomas M. Lang is a pastor, musician and storyteller focusing on raising the best kids he can at home, at church and in the community. He lives with his wife, Susan, an author and pastor, and their tween and teenage daughters in Perkasie (Bucks County), Pennsylvania. He can be reached at

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