Youth Focus

Youth Focus
Self determination

What do church groups, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, school peer groups, and 4-H all have in common? They have adults working with youth and peer groups, plus youth learning how to manage in the world.

Self-determination is believing that one has some impact over life's events rather than submitting passively to the will and whims of others. As an adult are you helping to foster positive youth development in your environment?


Young people must foster a personal sense of influence over their own lives, exercising their potential to become self-directing independent adults. Does your environment foster the opportunity for self-determination by encouraging youth to try new things and learn about them? A result of positive youth development that adolescents discover and practice their individual interests and skills, test their independence and take control of their lives.

Adult leaders might consider the following questions. In your club ?

  • Are members challenged to attempt new things or learn new skills?
  • Do youth have opportunities to discover something about themselves?
  • Do members have the opportunity to be someone special?
  • Do members have the opportunity to apply subject matter content and life skills learned to their everyday lives?

    Some practices your club may want to implement if they are not already in place include the list below:

    (1) Allow all youth to have a voice in selecting activities for the club. A good club program plan should provide every member the chance to do something that they are personally interested in. If members are not interested in the club plans, they will not attend and participate fully.

    (2) Encourage project leaders to use the experiential learning cycle – experience, share, process, generalize, and apply – when working with members in large or small groups.

    (3) Allow for plenty of time for members to talk about their own experiences at the club meetings. Youth need to be active by doing and experiencing. They also need to share feelings, ask questions, and consider how what they have leaned affects them and how they might apply their new knowledge or skill to other phases of their daily life. Each member should have three opportunities to speak during the duration of the club meeting.

    (4) Provide opportunities for older youth to test their independence. Match them with younger members as "Big Friends" or mentors for the year.

    (5) Have the older members plan, implement, and evaluate a program or activity for younger members. Be sure the opportunity provides some challenges for the older members. As leaders be supportive and interested in the project but allow the group to work through the problems and come up with their own solutions. At the end of the project, take time to sit down with older members and help them to reflect on their leadership experience.

    (6) Make certain that young people are heard and taken seriously by others. It is difficult for youth to learn to speak up and express themselves if they feel no one is paying attention. That is why it is so important that youth be given a chance to be involved in making choices and decisions that affect them. A good way to show that they are being taken seriously is to invite them to contribute their ideas, concerns and opinions in committee discussions.

    (7) Be sure that once youth have joined decision-making groups, they are not ignored. Adults tend to forget that they are not the only ones with important things to say. Listening is a skill that takes effort and practice. It is helpful for adults to try summarizing what they are hearing in order to be sure that they understand youth correctly.

    (8) Encourage youth to participate in decision-making activities with the club, committee chair, club officer or a member of a program planning committee, as well as urge them to apply for leadership positions at the county, regional or state level.

    My information was taken from the newsletter found at http://www.4-h.uiuc.edu/opps/pyd_club/06SelfDetermination.doc.

    Upcoming event – Cooking with Honey in Parker at the Community Building on Sept. 26 call 677-7111 for more information.

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