Indicators of a Thriving Kid

Posted: September 1, 2011 in Monday Morning Message
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“My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style”

— Maya Angelou

Can you think back to what got you into youth work?  For me it was when I was 19 years old.  I was attending a faith-based wilderness college in Wisconsin and began to do some work in the community with middle school and high school aged youth.  The communities surrounding the college were very small and scattered and didn’t offer many opportunities to the young people there.  After recruiting a couple of my classmates, we began talking with some churches in the area about doing monthly youth events to provide some support and activity for the youth in the community.   In September 1989, The Friday Nite Club was born with 4 college leaders, a host church and about 30 youth.  The focus of the night was nothing more than giving the young people in the community a safe and fun place to hang out with their peers.   Word spread and we had over 150 young people at the October event.  It was during this October event that we did an activity where the youth were allowed to share their personal story to a small group of their peers. It was then that I knew I wanted to devote my life to working with young people.  The pain, disappointment, frustration, and hopelessness they shared rocked my world and jolted me with a new level of passion and determination.  Over that school year, the Friday Nite Club continued to grow; we moved to meeting weekly and extended our offerings to include homework help and mentoring.  We thought we were making an impact, but we didn’t know for sure and at that time we didn’t have any tools to measure our success or to point out where we needed to grow.

Thankfully, you have the tools.  With over 50 years of positive youth development research at our fingertips and the work of the Thrive Foundation for Youth, you have the ability to measure the impact that your work has on the lives of the youth you interact with.  The indicators of thriving or 6 Cs as developed by Richard Lerner of Tufts Institute for Applied Research in Youth Development identify a group of qualities that indicate that we are on the path to thriving.  Here is a quick overview of each of them:[i]

  1. Competence is the possession of required skill, knowledge, qualification, or capacity.
  2. Connection is demonstrated through relationships with others and with schools and other institutions.
  3. Character is the possession of self-control, morals, and spirituality; demonstration of positive behaviors; and respect for rules and standards.
  4. Caring is having empathy and identity with others—including those who are different.
  5. Confidence is demonstrated through self-esteem, identity, and a belief in the future.
  6. Contribution is a behavior or action that has a positive impact on one’s self, family, community, and society.

The greatest thing that we do to impact the lives of our youth is to provide support to our youth in these areas and opportunities for them to grow.  You have heard the old adage, “Give a man a fish; you have fed him for today.  Teach a man to fish; and you have fed him for a lifetime.”  The 6 Cs provide strong indicators of where our youth are in their journey to adulthood and give 4-H leaders focus as we help youth along the pathway to thriving.


[i] Each of the following descriptions was taken from the iChampion Adult Volunteer Leader Guide

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