This is part three of our 6-part series on family relationships. Click to read parts one and two.  

All of the blog posts in this series are focused on how families can use Search Institute’s Developmental Relationship Framework–the key elements of strong relationships–as their kids transition to middle or high school.

We all need nudges that push us to work hard on achieving our goals–teens are no exception. We can challenge teens and tweens to grow as they transition to middle and high school by pushing them beyond what’s comfortable, raising questions, and testing their abilities in ways that are demanding, stimulating, and motivating. We also help them keep heading in a positive direction by setting appropriate limits.

What is Challenge Growth?

Challenging growth is how we help kids push to be their best. It’s the second element of a developmental relationship. It involves learning from failures and being accountable so they can stay on track. We all need others to believe in us and expect more from us. Challenging growth means “push me to keep getting better.”

Express care

Why It’s Important To Challenge Growth

We know from research that without some challenge in their lives, kids get bored. When kids are presented with challenging tasks that fit their abilities, they tend to rise to the challenge. They find the activities are more enjoyable and interesting than when the tasks are not as challenging.1

Challenge can improve:

  • Ability to stay focused on achieving their long-term goals
  • School performance
  • Civic participation
  • Nutrition and health habits
  • Alcohol or tobacco abstinence rate


When parents challenge kids to grow—while also Expressing Care—young people

  • Learn to talk about different points of view
  • Test their own abilities
  • Practice managing emotions
  • Stay focused on long-term goals

In the process, they discover their power to shape their own lives.

Strategies for families to try:

How can we do more in our family to focus on using our mistakes and failures as opportunities to grow and learn? These ideas and activities can help you examine how you Challenge Growth in your child. Try one of these strategies:

  • Tell your child about people and ideas that have inspired you.
  • Talk with your child about the positive things they have to look forward to in the future.
  • Expect your child to do her or his best, even when doing something he or she doesn’t like.
  • Help your child find their own solutions rather than just telling them what to do.
  • Challenge your child to try things that are a little hard for him or her
  • Tell your child about a person who really inspires you now, or one who did in the past. If possible, introduce your child to that person.
  • Teach your child that making mistakes is part of learning.
  • Praise your child for working hard and sticking to tasks even if they don’t get the right answer or win the competition.
  • Require your child to take responsibility if they do something wrong

We continue to learn, grow, and adapt throughout life. We will try new things, work on getting better at things that matter to us, or actively deal with the difficulties we face. The attitudes, skills, and habits we develop as kids can set us on a path for lifelong growth and learning.

Don’t Forget the Families
Relationships First: Creating Connections the help Young People Thrive

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