The way we think about youth today matters. People are inclined to either view youth as an asset or as a liability.
This thinking can be considered to be either from the perspective of strengths or deficits. This small difference can change how we interact, serve and work with youth. It can be a challenging concept but think about the past week, how have you seen the youth you work with?
Seeing youth as assets, and creating environments and conversations based on the strengths of the students allows youth to find a greater joy, peace and sense of self then just looking at their deficits and the things that are not working for them. Even the things that youth lack become an opportunity for better relationships, growth and learning than simply a problem.
If we ask people to examine our own lives they are sure to find deficits, things that are missing, ways that we have failed, and our less honorable moments. A different, strength-based, approach creates a sense of personal accomplishment, looks at the relationships of youth and allows youth to develop in a way that helps them build grit in order to overcome the challenges of life. This distinction is the lens in which we choose to see the world.
When you choose to interact with youth, and even their families, through the lens of their strengths it changes the attitudes and perspectives of those involved. There is now hope where things once looked bleak. There is new life, because someone has decided to look for the strengths where others missed the opportunity. Youth are able to engage in the world around them in a positive manner, they can see what is going well for them, they feel competent to accomplish tasks and meet expectations, and allows the relationship between adult and youth to be a positive one.
There are three basic ideas when we shift perspective to the strengths of youth:
- All youth have strengths
- All youth can be motivated by a caring adult
- Just because something is not a strength, does not mean it is a deficit, it is an opportunity
Here are some great questions to start asking youth in order to look through the lens of their strengths:
- What is working well?
- If you said one good thing about yourself, what would it be?
- What do you like most about your friends? Why?
- How do you think your friends would describe you?
- Who is someone you look up to? Why do you like them?
- What do you do to blow off steam?
- What is life like when you are most at peace?
- What gives you energy?
- How have you overcome the challenges in life?
- What is one thing you can do that would help improve _______ in your life?
Youth are more capable then we realize. However, during life it takes caring adults to help show them their strengths, not just berate them on failures. The conversations you get to have with youth as you walk through life with them helps to reinforce that they belong somewhere, that they are significant, that they have something to offer the world, and they are worthy of love.