What Kids Need to Succeed and What Teens Need to Succeed

What Kids Need to Succeed

Peter L. Benson, Ph.D., Judy Galbraith, M.A., and Pamela Espeland

Free Spirit Publishing

224 pages, $5.99



What Teens Need to Succeed

Peter L. Benson, Ph.D., Judy Galbraith, M.A., and Pamela Espeland

Free Spirit Publishing

272 pages, $14.95

Backpack? Check. Homework? Check. Lunch money? Check. Think your kids are fully prepped for success? Check again.

There's a new supply list these days, with forty essentials in categories such as "empowerment," "positive values," and "social competencies." It's the stuff that really matters. And it'll help you prep your kids and teens for healthy lives as confident, caring, capable adults.

What Kids Need to Succeed and What Teens Need to Succeed, from Free Spirit Publishing, introduce developmental "assets," forty basic, commonsense ideas including family support, a caring neighborhood, honesty, self esteem, and resistance skills. These are the things kids and teens need most to make wise decisions and choose positive paths. Assets come in two groups: The first is "external," the environmental forces that support, nurture, and empower while setting clear boundaries and expectations. The second is "internal," learned attitudes, values, and objectives. The forty-item list is thoughtful and inclusive, and it stands up to scrutiny by parents, teachers, and caring grownups who usually snub checklist-style assessments and solutions for our complex, one-in-a-million kids. These books work because the research is sound, the concepts are concrete and relevant, and the writing is compassionate and fun.

For instance, to boost external asset number one, "family support," What Kids Need tells parents to "eat at least one meal together every day" and "be loving toward yourself and your spouse or partner"; challenges educators to "educate parents on how to be supportive of their children"; urges community members to treat phone calls from kids as a priority in the workplace; and encourages congregations to make sure youth programs aren't overplanned so families still have time to be together.

Of the 270,000-plus young people surveyed by the Search Institute as the basis for the books, sixty-four percent had the family asset in their lives. Fewer, forty-two percent, had asset number thirty-one, "restraint." How does a grown-up broach this prickly topic, let alone build the asset? The book tells parents to talk openly, clarify boundaries, and enter into a dialogue (not a lecture) about dicey topics like one-night stands and date rape. Schools are encouraged to be open and resourceful on the issues of sex and drugs; community members are urged to "create a climate in which abstinence by youth is valued and affirmed; and congregations are emboldened to weave restraint into religious education."

What Teens Need targets teens themselves with the same kinds of daily life, down-to-earth action items like "get physical" (i.e., affectionate) with your family, according to your comfort level; "get verbal" about your feelings; "ask for what you need" from your parents; and "do your part to make your home a warm, caring, comfortable, fun place to be" to secure family support. What Teens Need is sprinkled with facts, tips, and resources, and workbooklike space for readers to explore their own asset-building ideas. It includes a thorough list of tips for adults, families, schools and youth organizations, congregations and neighborhood groups, and business and government. Nobody gets left out. The rabbi, the piano teacher, the business leader, the school secretary--parents or not, we're all obliged to get this new list, and check it. Twice.

What Kids Need to Succeed and What Teens Need to Succeed are available from Free Spirit Publishing, (612) 338-2068,  

Ann Rosenquist Fee frequently reviews books for Minnesota Parent.