5 Tips for building youth’s leadership skills – Part 1: Making decisions
Explore some quick ideas to add leadership opportunities to any youth development activity.
Many 4-H and other youth development programs are built around specific topics, which works to draw in participants interested in that subject matter. One of the challenges of 4-H volunteers is to enhance these experiences with leadership skills. Volunteers may come with expertise in raising sheep or building a rocket, but might not always know how to prepare youth for taking on more responsibility in the future.
Here are a few things even new volunteers can do to develop the decision-making skills of their participants:
- Allow youth to actually make their own decisions, even if the adult volunteers don’t agree. Students may consider different influences when they make their decision, and it may end up being a better decision for them.
- Let youth experience the consequences of their decisions. It is easy for adults to want to fix a decision they believe is wrong, but the youth will learn more by seeing a decision through to the end result.
- With younger children, give them two specific options to choose from. This will help them build confidence in making decisions in a more controlled situation. They will also appreciate having some degree of control over their experience.
- Help youth actively think about their voice. Take polls to let them make decisions as a group (which toppings to order on a pizza, whether to meet Tuesday or Saturday next week, which community service project they want to work on).
- Engage youth in current events. Give them a space to talk about what’s going on and what they think about it. Allow them to have differing opinions, but make sure they treat all opinions with respect.
When you need new ideas or want some help adding layers of skill-building to your 4-H participants’ experiences, make sure to visit your local 4-H office or check out the Citizenship, Leadership & Service section of the Michigan 4-H website for lots of information! This is the first in a series of how to build leadership skills in youth. Be sure to also read about responsible leadership, public speaking skills, goal-setting skills and problem-solving skills.