Adults are usually the ones that set guidelines and consequences for behavior, but what would happen if adults empowered young people to help outline those same guidelines and consequences? Young people are very capable of describing expected behavior and even the consequences that should be faced for misbehavior.
HOW DO I START?
You might ask a question, such as: "What makes a good friend?" or "What will make our class great?" or "How can we be a great team?" It's best to keep the focus on positive behavior, so you can 'catch them doing good', instead of naming the negative behaviors that you want to avoid.
WILL IT WORK WITH PRESCHOOLERS? WITH TEENAGERS?
If you pose the question in age-appropriate language, children as young as 3 years of age, can help develop behavioral guidelines. (The picture above represents ideas shared by children ages 3-7). But it also works well for high school sports teams, clubs and classrooms.
WHY DOES IT WORK?
- It allows children and youth to think critically about their behavior - what's acceptable and what's not acceptable.
- If they help set a standard or expectation, they are more likely to strive for success.
- If you outline behavior guidelines together, it takes away the 'you vs. them' divisions, and you join together to work towards a common cause of a peaceful and productive environment.
- When negative behaviors need to be addressed, you can point the child/children back to the norms they created, and they will more quickly understand and adapt toward the desirable behavior.
Empowerment is one of the 8 categories of Search Institute's Developmental Assets - so that tells us that empowering children and youth is critical to helping them become successful, thriving and contributing teenagers and adults. Letting children and youth set behavioral norms is just one simple way you can promote empowerment in your organization.