The power of creating positive change

Thinking back to my teenage years, I remember all the challenges I faced regarding grades, athletics, boys, rebellion against my parent’s views versus mine, attending church every Sunday, and contemplating how I could sneak out of the house to have a fun social life. I imagine as you read my opening statement, you too can find yourself falling into similar thoughts.

I recently finished reading the book “The Good Teen” by Richard M. Lerner. What I found so compelling about his research on adolescence is how positive the book expresses the “troubled teen.” Who doesn’t know the story of Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer? By opening his book with the tales of Huck and Tom, Lerner has found a way to connect to his audience. Connection is one of the “five Cs.”

The five Cs are considered by most experts to be the goals of positive youth development. For those of you who have not heard of this study, the five Cs are competence, confidence, connection, character and caring – with a sixth “C,” contribution. All are positive attributes every teen has the opportunity to develop. As Lerner states, every teen may not demonstrate all of the “Cs” but “your teen already possesses facets of many if not all.”

So why am I highlighting points made by Lerner? In my short two months as the 4-H youth development agent in Ward County, I have heard a number a stories from adults discussing their roles in teens’ lives. The common denominator to all these stories is the teen experiencing a plethora of positive adult role models. By using the positive youth development theory, adults who show and teach competence, confidence, connection, character and caring for our youth are changing our view of adolescents.

“The Good Teen” is a book for any adult or teen who is struggling with the growing pains of teenage years. It is a poignant book that will turn your potential negative fears of the teenage years into positive ways to encourage and advise teens as they approach adulthood.

As Lerner concludes in his book, “a caring, positive society will provide behavioral skills, values and attitudes needed to face whatever challenges teens will face.”

(Micky Zurcher is a 4-H Youth Development Agent who works in the Ward County office of the North Dakota State University Extension Service.)