40 Assets that Teenagers Need to Succeed


The following is a framework of 40 developmental assets for teenagers ages 12 to 18 that blend the Search Institute’s research on developmental assets for 12 to 18 year olds.  In parentheses behind some items are a few possible suggestions.



Teenagers (ages 12 to 18) need the following to succeed.


1.      Family life provides love and support. (Keeping an open-door communication with your child.  Take a few minutes to ask them about school).

2.      Family communication is positive and open.

3.      Teenager receives support from other adults. (Enjoys being with an aunt or uncle, maybe a friend from church).

4.      Teenager experiences caring neighbors. (The neighbor that used to always stop to buy apples or kool-aid, still stops and asks them how they are doing).

5.      School provides a caring climate. (A smiling voice on the phone from the secretary at the school)

6.      Parents are involved in teenager’s schooling. (Parent teacher conferences, encourages/helps them with their homework, school open houses, Boosters).



7.      Community values teenagers. (Community attends school plays, sponsors them for band trips, attends public speech performances, reads the school news paper/articles)

8.      Teenagers have useful roles in the community. (Helps the community by volunteering at your local theater, volunteering at Vacation Bible School)

9.      Teenagers serve others in the community. (Mowing a neighbor’s lawn for them or scooping snow for them, play music at a nursing home; take a child to a playground or park).

10.  Home, school, and neighborhood are safe. (Emergency numbers are posted, fire escape plan is in place)


Boundaries & Expectations

11.  Family sets clear rules and consequences. (Home by 10 and if not, not able to so something that they really like to do. Parents know where they are. Negotiate new boundaries as your child grows older. Be patient, calm, and consistent as teenagers test the boundaries you set.  Praise them when they do something well).

12.  School sets clear rules and consequences.

13.  Neighbors monitor young people’s behavior. (And let you know if they are doing something they shouldn’t be).

14.  Adults model responsible behavior.

15.  Friends model responsible behavior.

16.  Parents and teachers have high expectations. (Follow their dreams and do what they want to achieve, and try to do their best).


Constructive Use of Time

17.  Teenager participates in creative activities. (Help decide how they would like to paint their room, participates in drama club, band, choir, or dance classes.  As a fundraiser at our church the kids had to provide a service.  My son’s talent he wrote down was “singing telegrams”.  He sold two of these and we surprised 1 person at a birthday party and the other we sang a song that we made up for him for his graduation … George was very surprised)

18.  Teenager participates in the school or community programs. (4-H, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Camp Fire)

19.  Teenager is involved in actives in a religious community. (Participates in Youth Groups or attends Sunday School, helps with Vacation Bible School)

20.  Teenager spends most evenings at home.


Commitment to Learning

21.  Teenager is motivated to do well in school. (Praise them when they improve grades or try to do their best).

22.  Teenager is actively engaged in learning.

23.  Teenager does homework every school day. (Set aside a certain place and time to do homework)

24.  Teenager cares about their school.

25.  Teenager reads for pleasure. (Go to the library on a weekly basis. Read the same book that your teenager is and talk about it.  Read the comics together.)


Positive Values

26.  Teenager values caring for others. (Shovel someone’s side walk for them. Adopt a family at Christmas time. Hold the door for people when you go out of a store.  Sit with someone who usually sits alone. Pick up litter when you see it on the ground.)

27.  Teenager promotes equality and social justice. (When we were younger, in our 20’s we belonged to this social club in Des Moines.  After we had belonged for several months a band was suppose to play there that had a black person playing in their band.  This social club wouldn’t let him in their club.  After finding this out, we no longer belonged to this club either).

28.  Teenager values integrity. (They believe in something and stand up for their beliefs.  Like our beliefs that this black band player should be allowed in this social club, and when they weren’t, we didn’t belong to this club any more).

29.  Teenager values honesty. (Admit to successes and to mistakes.  Be honest when talking to telemarketers.  Instead of hanging up or making an excuse, just say, “No, thank you.  We’re not interested.” Then hang up.)

30.  Teenager values responsibility. (Have them wash towels.  Write down the steps for them, and then praise them for completing all the steps from washing to folding to putting them away.  When you make a commitment with your child, follow through.)

31.  Teenager values restraint (One of the biggest topics many parents prefer to avoid, including myself, is talking about sex, alcohol, and other drugs with my children.  It’s best to be clear about boundaries, values, and your reasons.  Most teenagers are relieved to hear their parents say, “We expect you not to have sexual intercourse or drink alcohol as a teenager.”  Explain why, and be open to questions.  And if they do fall into peer pressure, love them, talk to them, and encourage them to abstain).


Social Competencies

32.  Teenager has decision-making and planning skills. (Have your child help plan a vacation trip for the family, have them plan a family meal once a month)

33.  Teenager has empathy, sensitivity, and friendship skills. (Meet people and start conversations.  My Dad sold Ford tractors and he could start up a conversation with anyone and talk to them about anything)

34.  Teenager gets along with people from different cultures. (The Cedar Rapids school that pulled a novel from their required reading list because of a negative racial slur in the book.  Everyone should be treated the same.)

35.  Teenager resists negative pressure from others (encourage them to walk away, ignore the person or situation).

36.  Teenager resolves conflicts peacefully (help them to understand new ways to solve conflict.  Apologize. Say you’re sorry.)


Positive Identity

37.  Teenager has a healthy sense of personal power (Remind them that they are worthwhile, encourage them to give it their best shot).

38.  Teenager has high self-esteem. (Love, respect and accept them, listen to them, honor their uniqueness)

39.  Teenager believes his or her life has sense of purpose. (Remind your child often that they were created for a reason and have a special purpose to fulfill.  God has a plan for them.)

40.  Teenager has a positive view of his or her future (have them follow their dreams and encourage them along the way).


The next article is on “Ideas to Start Building Assets Now”.


For more information about asset building and Healthy Families/Healthy Youth, contact Lori Johnson, Tama County Empowerment Coordinator, Tama County Public Health and Home Care, at (641) 484-4788 or 1-866-484-4788.