Building youth with the five C’s: Competence

Youth who display the five C’s are less likely to behave negatively and more likely to be developmentally on target. This series explores how you can help young people strengthen their C’s.

Positive youth development builds on Lerner’s 5 C’s. The five Cs are competence, confidence, connection, caring/compassion and character. The sixth C, contribution, is attained when a person has more fully realized the five C’s. This series by Michigan State University Extension will look at each C and ways adults can encourage the development of these assets.

Competence is defined as having a positive view of one’s actions in areas like social, academic, cognitive, health and vocation. Social competence refers to interpersonal skills such as conflict resolution. Cognitive competence refers to cognitive abilities such as decision making. Academic competency refers to school performance, which can include grades, behavior and attendance. Nutrition, fitness and rest make up health competency. Vocational competence involves work habits and career exploration. Adults cannot give young people competency, but we can provide opportunities for young people to build competency.

How can we help a young person build competence? First, we should allow youth to take on tasks where they can practice skills and succeed. It is important to break down larger tasks into smaller pieces. Help them learn to make decisions by considering the various possible outcomes. After a young person makes a decision, help them reflect on the decision and process due to the choice that was made. Young people need information to gain competency in areas like health. Role model positive health choices, but also explain why you make certain choices. For instance, instead of having a soda together, consider making smoothies and talk about the health benefits of different fruits, vegetables and other ingredients that you use. Consider doing something active together rather than a sedentary activity. Young people learn about careers by gaining exposure to different job possibilities. Allow a young person to shadow you at work or introduce young people to friends in different career fields.  

By helping a young person gain competence you contribute to positive youth development and help prepare a young person for success. The next article in this series will focus on the second C, confidence.

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