What Happens When We Notice the Good Stuff?

What Happens When We Notice the Good Stuff?

Recognizing and emphasizing strengths in young people isn’t a naïve way to ignore problems, challenges, and risks. Rather, it taps their motivations and capacities to learn, grow, and improve.

When adults view young people based primarily on their limitations, we treat them differently. That reinforces our preconceptions (and sometimes stereotypes) about who they are and what they can do. Even when they have the best of intentions, when adults hold deficit-focused views of young people, they subconsciously . . .

  • lower their expectations for these young people;
  • give fewer options for learning;
  • spend less time with these young people; and
  • talk less with them.

Is it any wonder that youth disengage or hold back, particularly when they are struggling?

In contrast, noticing strengths and aspirations can bring out the best in youth. One way it does this is by helping young people themselves recognize and use those strengths for their own learning and growth. It also creates a positive connection between the adult and the young person that motivates them to work harder.

In the end, recognizing and building on young people’s strengths is more motivating and empowering than focusing on their challenges and deficits. While negative emotions can shut us down, positive emotions open us up, helping us see more options, solve problems, and expand our worlds.

Yes, many young people do face real challenges and limitations. It’s just as true, however, that these same youth have real strengths. Our challenge and opportunity as educators, youth workers, parents, and community members is to notice those strengths as resources, even when they’re overshadowed by the challenges we first notice.

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Publish Date: 

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

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1 Comment

What Happens When We Notice the Good Stuff

What is written here is equally applicable to our aging population. Realizing that because a persons body is beginning to give out is no reason to feel they do not have an active mind with amazing lessons to share.

Keep on doing what you are doing.