How to be an involved 4-H parent in 10 easy steps – Step 3: A safe place to learn

Your child has joined a 4-H club, now what? Try these tips to help 4-H members and parents have a successful experience.

Let’s start by clarifying there is no such thing as “easy” when it comes to being a parent. Parents play an important role in 4-H programs by supporting and encouraging their child throughout the 4-H experience, in much the same way they would advocate for the child through school, sports or other activities. Being an informed and supporting parent can enhance your child’s 4-H experience to ensure they receive maximum benefit from the program. This article is part of a series that will provide a number of tips for 4-H families to bolster their 4-H experience and apply the 4-H motto, “To make the best better.”

Step 3: A safe place to learn

Wouldn’t life be great if it offered a try-it-before-you-buy-it option? For many youth, 4-H can offer just that opportunity. As we learned in “Step 2: Developing successful youth” of this series, 4-H offers a wide range of educational topics for youth to explore. The 4-H program also strives to use a hands-on learning approach, where youth are actively engaged in the learning process. The Michigan State University Extension article, “Exploring active learning: What is it and what are some strategies to use it? (Part 1),” explains active learning.

As your child takes in new experiences in their 4-H career, they may find some they really like and they may find some they really don’t like. That’s OK. As a parent, you should reassure them it is OK to not like everything they try. At the same time, it is important for you to help your child process the experience to identify the knowledge or skills they did gain from the experience despite not enjoying it. “Michigan youth participating in 4-H learn to see mistakes as ‘untapped’ resources” provides tips on how to support young people to learn from their mistakes. Helping them process the experience may also help you guide them toward a different experience in the future that will be more enjoyable for them.

As a parent, you hate to see your child fail at anything they attempt. “Teaching failure” explains why failure can be a good experience for your child and how it can set them up with valuable skills in their future. Opportunities to teach failure in a safe environment such as 4-H will allow youth to gain these important skills without exposing them to unnecessary physical or emotional danger.

Your family’s 4-H journey can provide your child with an unlimited number of learning encounters. Whether your journey is just getting underway or if your family has been involved in 4-H for years, you are likely to find something new to learn and experience every step along the way. You will find there are people along the path to help guide you, but ultimately the path of your family’s 4-H expedition will be individually determined.

Look for the next article in this series soon—Step 4: Backseat driving.

For more in this series

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