Better Questions Get Better Answers

Several months ago I asked my then four-year-old what they wanted to be when they grew up. The answer I got was: “Duh! I don’t know.”

Which fair, maybe four is a little young to have a life plan. I couldn’t help but laugh because her answer made me realize how much we ask kids that question and how truly unhelpful it really is.

As if they know what they want to be. I’m almost 37 and sometimes I’m still unsure about my answer.

Asset #39 Sense of Purpose isn’t just about how kids want to make a living. It’s about what makes them come alive.

Had I asked my four-year-old what she loves doing I would have gotten a better answer: skiing, watching as much TV as we’ll let her, and playing Big Hero 6. While these might not be Sense of Purpose material just yet, it gives us better information about what she’s interested in and the activities, people, and places we can encourage her to explore.

For instance: When I was a kid, I loved playing school, making art, and arguing with my parents. So they encouraged those things, well most of them. They looked for opportunities to expose me to the things I was passionate about. Took me to art shows, signed me up for classes, helped me get a summer job with a real, working artist.

Then, they encouraged me to use my interest and skill to help others. So I started volunteering at my local Arts Council, and eventually I snagged a job leading classes for kids.

While a lot of this was due to my parents’ support, it also happened because other adults took a chance on a teenager who felt her life’s purpose was to make art. The artist who let me crash his studio every Saturday. The non-profit that trusted me with a job.

Childhood isn’t about having it all figured out. It isn’t about “what you want to be when you grow up.” It’s about trying lots of things and discovering what you’re passionate about. It’s about having the space and support to test ideas and change your mind.

And we can all help kids do that!

Comment below with how you’re Build Asset #39! And for more tips follow us on social media!

Weekly Roundup: Self-Esteem

Photo by Andre Mouton on

This week we’ve been delving into self-esteem. If you missed our Facebook posts, here’s a list of helpful resources for building Asset #38 Self-Esteem.

Download our FREE printable at the end to use with your family over the long weekend. And if you’re struggling with how to entertain your kids, this list of activities can help.

Happy Asset Building!


Good Job not Saying “Good Job!”

Self-esteem in Kids: Lavish praise is not the answer, warmth is

15 Tips to Build Self Esteem and Confidence in Teens


Self-Esteem and Boys

Encouraging Teen Girls and Improving Self-Esteem


Why Thinking You’re Ugly is Bad for You

Meet Yourself: A User’s Guide to Building Self-Esteem


Self-Esteem Bingo

Follow us on social media and let us know how it goes!

Good Job not Saying “Good Job!”

Admittedly, when I read that one of the 40 Developmental Assets was Self-Esteem, I sort of rolled my eyes. It feels so 90’s. Everyone gets a participation trophy and told how wonderful they are. Then, we all pat ourselves on the back, say “Good job,” and go home knowing what a difference we made.

And yet, I know it’s more complicated than that.

Self-Esteem has been vexing the mental health field for as long as the field has existed. And for every expert you find that says it’s the end all be all, you’ll find another one who totally disagrees.

So what does that mean for Asset Building?

As Asset Builders the best things we can do to boost healthy Self-Esteem are:

  • Foster close relationships that create a sense of belonging. This doesn’t mean agreeing with everything your child does or handling every tantrum like a champ. Just that most of the time you attune to them, let them know you’ll be there and love them no matter what, and acknowledge when you get those things wrong.
  • Give specific praise when you do give praise. Especially since lavish, continual praise actually undermines the development of self-esteem. Instead of “Good job!” reflect their feelings, make observations, ask questions, or don’t say anything at all-kids know when they do well and don’t always need us going on about it. For example: Replace “Nice job getting an A on that test!” with “Way to work hard!”
  • Pay attention to what you model. Kids learn more by what you do, not what you say. So model a healthy sense of self, resilience, effective problem-solving, and a growth mindset.
  • Have a growth mindset. Which just means instead of always focusing on the outcome, notice the process. The hard work that goes into making a good grade. The effort to learn a skill or try a new thing, even if the final product flops. Take risks, try things, and let your kids make mistakes.

For a even deeper dive into Self-Esteem check out this article, What is Self-Esteem? A Psychologist Explains. And check our Facebook, @tetonvalleyyouth, for other Asset Building tips.

If you do a good job raising our kids’ self-esteem or know someone who does, let us know!

But Wait, Why?

Last week we featured Jacob Zarpentine as a Asset Builder of the Month for helping us administer the DAP.

DAP stands for The Developmental Assets Profile. Developed by the Search Institute, it is “a reliable and valid assessment of the strengths, supports, and social and emotional factors that are essential for young people’s success in school and life.”

It’s a ten minute, online survey given to kids in grades in 4th-12th. We administered it to our 7th, 9th, and 11th graders. Based on years of research with millions of young people, the DAP “shows youth perspectives across several contexts of their lives: personal, peers, family, school, and community.”

Read more about the DAP here.

So why do we care about this data?

Because research shows that the more Assets a young person has the better they do in school, at home, and in the community. And the LESS likely they are to engage in high risk behaviors like violence, drug and alcohol use, and sexual activity.

That sounds pretty good to us.

Plus, lecturing kids about “not doing drugs” or “not having sex” usually doesn’t work. Using the Developmental Asset framework means we can talk about 40 other things that will help prevent some of the behaviors we worry about most as parents. And hopefully, with less eye rolls.

Which also sounds pretty good to us.

So what’s up with our kids?

Overall, the results of the DAP show that our families are thriving. We could use a little work at the school and community level though.

Asset wise, our kids are pretty solid in the number of External Assets they have. Internally, they need some support from us.

We’ll be diving deeper into this over the coming months. Specifically focusing on how we, as community members, can help our kids increase their Positive Identity, Commitment to Learning, and Constructive Use of Time.

If you want to learn more about how you, your neighborhood, business, nonprofit, club, organization, etc. can apply this information let us know. We are currently booking community presentations.

If reading along at home is more your style, bookmark us or add us on social media so you can stay up to date on our Asset Building posts.

As always, if you do or see someone building Assets, let us know!

Asset Builder of the Week: Jacob Zarpentine

Without Jacob’s hard work at the high school, we never would have been able to survey the ninth and eleventh graders. Administering the Developmental Assets Profile (DAP) let us know how our youth measure up. What Assets do they already have and where could they use a little help?

We’ll be using these results in the coming months to help you best support our youth instead of just using national trends.

Thank you Jacob!

About Jacob Zarpentine

How long have you been a counselor?

I am currently on my 3rd year as a counselor, having graduated from Idaho State in 2017. I’m one of the school counselors at Teton High School.

Tell us a little about yourself.

I grew up in Northern Idaho, on the south end of Lake Coeur d’Alene, in the beautiful, small town of Harrison, Idaho. I graduated Kootenai High School with the class of 17! Then, I went to Idaho State University for 6 years, ran track there, received a bachelor’s, married the love of my life, and got my masters in Mental Health Counseling with an emphasis in School Counseling.

I have always been passionate about helping others find passion in their life. I am an outlier in some ways in my profession. You usually don’t see many young adult males in the world of school counseling. [Edited to add: True that! Thanks for being such a great example to young men!] But I want everyone to know that I love this job so much and I truly care about each and every student, even if I have only talked with them once.

There isn’t one thing I won’t talk with a student about and that’s because it is not my job to judge or dictate the decisions of students. I help them make healthy decisions that THEY choose, not me. I believe students have the answers and coping skills within them to be healthy teenagers and adults.

What do you like most about working with youth?

My favorite thing about working with youth is helping them realize all of the potential they have within themselves. I love to help provide future plans, coping skills and most importantly, just a space for them to be themselves; free of judgement and full of excitement.

I love helping students find the confidence to pursue something they did not see themselves ever doing. To walk down the halls of our high school with so much confidence and anticipation for the future.

What you wish more people knew about our kids?

That our students are more resilient than we give them credit for sometimes. That being a support system is the biggest thing you can do for them as a parent, staff member, or friend. Providing meaningful relationships opens them up, makes them happy, and gives them hope that they don’t have to fight life by themselves. [Edited to add: YESSS! This is Asset Building at its finest-creating meaningful relationships!]

What do you like our project? How do you hope it will make a difference?

I am excited about the Developmental Assets project because it will no longer make us guess/assume what they need from us. The assessment shows us, in a holistic and collective way, what we need to provide to our youth. It allows us to see what those weaknesses are and come up with a specific plan to help.

The assessment also shows our students strengths. I am excited to see what they strongly possess and how we can continue to provide them with those skills.

We have a diverse and unique community for such a small valley, and this assessment can show us that we all share many strengths and characteristics even though we may think we are so different.

I hope this assessment can help strengthen and bond our community together.

Please give a shout out to this Asset Builder!

If you are doing great work with kids or know someone who is, nominate them using this form so we can feature them in the coming weeks! We can’t wait to hear from you!

What We’ve Been Up To

It’s been a busy few weeks for us, as we’ve been doing a deep dive into the results of the Developmental Assets Profile (DAP) our seventh, ninth, and eleventh graders took back in December. Thanks Wendi and Jacob, middle and high school counselors, for administering the survey! Look for a profile on their good work later this week.

We’ll be using the results of the DAP to inform our Asset of the Month program. Each week (starting in February), we’ll feature an Asset our kids need a little support in.

Here’s what you can expect:

Mondays we’ll release an intro to the Asset of the Week.

Wednesdays will feature a guide with specific ideas for building the Asset.

Fridays will be all about highlighting people, organizations, and businesses doing good work related to the Asset of the Week. If you know anyone we should feature, fill out this form! Or if you want us to come present to your organization, email us at

In the next few weeks, look for some more information about the DAP, local Asset Builders, and what our kids want you to know.

Click here to get FREE printable versions of the the 40 Developmental Assets so you’ll be ready to go when we start rolling out our Asset of the Month.

As always, if you do or see someone building Assets, let us know!

Activities So You Don’t Break Over Break

If your family is anything like mine, then the novelty of Christmas break has worn off and it’s looking a lot more like Lord of the Flies at your house.

It’s also about the time I’ve run out of tricks and am scraping the bottom of the barrel for fun activities to get us through until school opens NEXT Monday.

Until then here are five of our favorite no cost activities to help you survive, and maybe even build some Assets while you do it.


  1. Take a “sled ride” or “float” at the Geotourism Museum. It’s free and my kid loves running around, mashing buttons, and looking at everything. Team it up with checking the mail (and mailing the junk back to yourself), jumping off the stage at the City Center, and wandering around Corner Drug to buy yourself even more time. Listening, following directions, and keeping hands off the bear build Asset #35 Resistance Skills and help kids with Asset #32 Planning and Decision Making.
  2. Visit See N’ Save’s toy department! Other people’s toys are always better than your own, AND your kids can earn a sucker for cleaning up five toys (Asset #9 Service to Others).
  3. Take advantage of any of the trails Teton Valley Trails and Pathways maintains. Up the Asset #17 Creative Activities fun by bringing bubbles, water guns with a few drops of food coloring in them to “draw” in the snow, a sled, or some digging toys. Gather up a bunch of clean snow and make some snow cream or make a snowman!
  4. Throw on your snow clothes and head to Pioneer Park for free ice skating, to Targhee for some laps on the magic carpet, or to any one of the local parks. Mastering difficult things helps build Asset #38 Self-Esteem.
  5. Hit up the library! In addition to free Maker Space programming, they also have books, games, and toys sure to keep your kids entertained while you enjoy the quiet. Here’s a list of books to checkout. And the librarians are the best at Asset #3 Other Adult Relationships!


  1. Go tubing at Targhee (or get a Shoshone only pass if it’s in your budget)
  2. Go climbing at the Climbing Gym
  3. Have lunch at the Senior Center
  4. Get ice cream at Corner Drug or the Emporium
  5. Eat at Marigold Cafe, play with the the wooden cactus, and look at the fish (or toy section)
  6. Get a treat at Rise and play one of their games
  7. Go see a movie at Pierre’s
  8. Soak at Green Canyon, Heise, or the pool in Jackson
  9. Head out of town to jump at Gravity Factory in Rexburg
  10. Make one of the crafts from this list

Let us know what your favorite activities are below. And if you do any of the above, take a picture and tag us!

How to Talk to Kids at Holiday Parties

Ahhhhh, it’s the annual Christmas gathering and kids are going to be there!

I remember dreading Holiday parties as a kid. Mainly because my mom made me wear itchy, festive sweaters and was like soooo embarrassing gah. And because adults usually only asked me one of two really boring questions: What do you want for Christmas? And how’s school going? When I got older they’d jazz it up with college related questions: How are applications going? Where have you been accepted? What are you going to major in?

Which let’s face it is sort of the equivalent of talking about TPS reports.

They’re boring questions kids have already been asked hundreds of times and they don’t give you any real information. No surprise you get a one word answer, shrug, or eyeroll.

Look, I don’t blame you. They are also easy, familiar questions. You were probably asked them by your Aunt Edna while you awkwardly pulled at your turtleneck too.

However, kids, just like the rest of us, want to talk about things that are important to them. So here are some questions that foster connection, build assets, and are sure to thaw even the iciest of teen.

  1. What’s the most interesting thing that’s happened to you lately?
  2. Tell me about your favorite book/movie/video game. What do you like about it? Bonus points if you then read/watch/play it with them.
  3. What’s something you’ve done this year that you feel proud of?
  4. What makes you feel happy?
  5. What do you wish adults knew about being a kid?
  6. What do adults do that you hate? What do they do that you like?
  7. What rules would you give your parents? What rules do you wish they had for you?
  8. What’s your favorite thing to do with your family?
  9. What do you like about your hometown/neighborhood? What would you change? Why?
  10. How would you like to help our world?

If you have to ask about school, try:

  1. What advice would you give younger kids about school?
  2. How did you decide where to apply to college?
  3. How should parents handle bad grades?
  4. What makes your favorite teacher your favorite teacher?

And the best question, if you’re brave enough:

  1. How can I love you better?

As always, let us know how it goes adding these to your repertoire! And comment below with your favorite questions.

Holiday Movie Guide

On the surface Asset Building seems pretty simple—say hello to kids, know your neighbors’ names, include youth in decision making—and it is in a lot of ways. It’s so easy that most of us are building assets and we don’t even realize it.

However, when we don’t name and acknowledge what we are doing it goes unnoticed. We forget our intention and our kids don’t benefit from our efforts as much as they could.

In order to reap the full rewards of Asset Building, we need to regularly talk to our kids about The Assets, prompt them to notice and reflect on Asset Building activities, and encourage them to actively participate in their own Asset Building.

Watching movies as a family, and inviting neighbors and friends to join you, is a great way to, not only build assets, but to spark intentional conversations about The Assets.

Below is our Asset Building Holiday Movie Guide including some prompts to help you get the conversation started. And don’t miss our printable Conversation Cards at the end!


Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch (2018)

Summary: A grumpy Grinch plots to ruin Christmas for the village of Whoville.

Asset: #26 Caring

Why It Matters: This is a classic Christmas movie with several versions. Aside from the incredible animation, this one hammers home how a simple act of Caring radically shifts the Grinch’s perspective. Research repeatedly shows that this is true for youth as well. All it takes to alter the course of an at-risk kid’s life is one healthy adult relationship. This movie shows the power of community and connection, and demonstrates what happens when we feel disconnected and alone. Use it to inspire Caring this holiday season.

Conversation Starters: How did Cindy Lou Who show Caring and what was her impact? When has someone shown Caring to you? How did it influence you? What can you do to show Caring to someone this week? 

Where to Watch: Netflix, Amazon Prime Video

Klaus (2019)

Summary: A simple act of kindness always sparks another, even in a frozen, faraway place. When Smeerensburg’s new postman, Jesper, befriends toymaker Klaus, their gifts melt an age-old feud and deliver a sleigh full of holiday traditions.

Asset: #9 Service to Others

Why It Matters: This is our new favorite holiday movie! While it has its dark moments, this movie ultimately shines because it so heartwarmingly demonstrates how powerful Service to Others can be. Which is true in our world too. There are so many examples that illustrate how one person’s good work on the behalf of another dramatically changes communities: Malala, Kelvin Doe, Nicholas Lowinger…Use this movie to inspire a community service project this holiday season, and who knows maybe it will go viral too.

Conversation Starters: How did serving others change Jesper? What impact did his service have on his community? What problems do you notice in our community? How can you be of Service to Others in ways that address these needs?

Where to Watch: Netflix

Elf (2003)

Summary: After discovering he is a human, a man raised as an elf at the North Pole decides to travel to New York City to locate his real father.

Asset: #39 Sense of Purpose

Why It Matters: Aside from being one of the silliest holiday movies sure to make even your bah humbug family member laugh, it tells such a sweet story of how not giving up on your mission has the power to change even the hardest of hearts. Having a Sense of Purpose and staying the course, no matter what others might say, not only helps kids stay out of trouble because it focuses their energy, it also rubs off on others. And that makes the world a much brighter place. Use this movie to begin identifying New Year’s resolutions that connect to your Sense of Purpose.

Conversation Starters: How did Buddy’s life change when he started living with a Sense of Purpose? How did that change those around him? What do you feel called to do? How can you commit to your Sense of Purpose in the coming year? How can the adults in your life best support you?

Where to Watch: The Driggs Library on Thursday, Amazon Prime Video

*While all the movies we recommended are rated PG, please do your own homework before sharing them with your children to make sure they align with your family’s values.

If you watch any of these movies or use the Conversation Cards, take a picture and tag us on social media!

Get our printable Conversation Cards!

Building A Snowman

My family and I went to the Winterfest in Victor over the weekend. After the parade, my niece, nephew, husband, and almost 5-year-old started building a snowman on the slim patch of earth at the corner of the main intersection in town. We all got really into it and even started forging for arms, eyes, and buttons. We found most of the necessary parts in the nearby parking lot-mud and rocks. But what to do about the nose? 

About that time a nearby family spotted our, what I consider, pretty epic snowman given the conditions and lack of proper building materials. The Dad came over and commented on our handy work. We were quick to add the bit about the missing nose. To which he replied, “I’m going over to the market, you want me to get a carrot?”

We all hardily agreed.

We continued lobbing snowballs at each other and putting the final touches on our snowman, wondering if he really would come back with our nose. And then, there he was with a whole bag of carrots. One of which he gave to my kid just to eat.

I watched as the kids’ eyes lit up. Then, my husband remembered he had an Airhead left over from the parade in his pocket that would make a perfect mouth.

We affixed the final touches, said our thank yous, and stood back and admired our work.

About that time I remembered a line from Klaus, the holiday movie we recently watched for our activity advent calendar, “A true act of goodwill always sparks another.”

It was then that I realized I had just witnessed an Asset Building moment in the wild and regretted not getting our hero’s name so I could tag him on social media.

Now I know some of you might be thinking, “How in the world does building a snowman and a man bringing y’all carrots build Assets? Much less help prevent kids from getting into trouble later? It can’t be that simple.”

But in that moment, the adults were joining in with the kids. We were all working together, listening to one another, solving problems, and then counting on the community to come through when we didn’t have all the resources we needed.

And yes, it was just for building a snowman. But if my five-year-old learns that she can reach out to a stranger about simple, fun things, then we’ve laid the foundation for her to keep reaching out and to trust that the adults in her community have her back.

And isn’t that what we all want? To know that when we are in trouble or need something someone will be there to help us? And aren’t we more likely to do the same for others when it’s been done for us?

We finally had to give into the cold and looming bedtime. As we were walking back to our car, I gave our snowman one final look and made a note to add, “Do something kind for a stranger,” to our advent calendar.

When you do something kind this holiday season or if someone does something for you, take a picture, thank them for being a Teton Valley Asset Builder, and let us know so we can keep “sparking goodwill.”

And look for our Asset Building holiday movie guide later this week!