4-H members Thrive Through a Pro-Social Orientation
The 4-H program is rightly proud of establishing and promoting a positive youth development philosophy and practice. This positive approach recognizes all youth have abilities and strengths. 4-H programs enhance these common youth strengths and help kids thrive. And thriving kids see helping others as a personal responsibility, and live up to the values of respect, kindness and generosity. Thriving youth care about, and give back to, their communities. They demonstrate the pro-social values of respect, honesty, responsibility, empathy and helping.
These thriving youth who recognize a responsibility to community and common values are seen as having a Pro-Social Orientation. Youth who have grown into a pro-social orientation care about others and take actions that reflect this caring. Pro-social development happens through social learning. Social learning occurs when youth observe and remember the positive behaviors that are rewarded by the community.
These behaviors can be acquired and taught through social learning, including modeling, social reinforcement (like 4-H clubs and activities) and school socialization.
Once youth internalize these positive behaviors and the rewards that come with them, they start to practice these behaviors.
Practicing these positive behaviors help youth internalize positive attitudes and actions. Eventually, these positive actions become part of a young person’s core values. Pro-social development is further facilitated when youth feel that they belong and matter to others. It is only through positive interaction with others that youth learn and practice pro-social values and behaviors. This practice ultimately leads to a young person who cares about others and gives back to her or his community.
J. Eccles and J.A. Gootman, authors of Community Programs to Promote Youth Development, stress the importance of pro-social orientation and social learning in a youth program like 4-H when they write: “Establishing positive social norms with rules of behavior, clear expectations, values and morals, and obligation for service is a key feature of positive youth development programs.”
For 4-H program staff and volunteer leaders, below are some key pro-social factors to implement when working with 4-H youth:
- Ensure that 4-H programs are welcoming to all. This sets the stage for youth belonging.
- Set clear pro-social behavior expectations in all programs.
- Engage youth in developing a list of positive behaviors that they all agree to promote and practice in 4-H.
- Help youth practice taking perspective of others-especially when there are disagreements
- Recognize, support and encourage kindness and empathy among youth.
- Help youth practice generosity to others through regular community service projects.
- Help older youth see that they are important role models for younger 4-H members.
You Can Find Things to Do at 4-H.org
If you are looking for more activities for youth at home, you will want to check out the Inspire Kids to Do activities from 4-H.org (4-h.org/about/4-h-athome/). You will find an Inspire Kids to Do list with thirty activities for 30 days. There are also STEM labs for Science, Technology, Engineering and Applied Math, another activity guide with 60 things to do, a Healthy Living Activity Guide to help learn about exercise and eating nutritious meals, activities from the Extension service, as well as STEM challenges from previous 4-H National Youth Science Experiments.
But that is not all you’ll find. There are also 4-H activities from other states, including Virtual 4-H space STEM camp, Watercolor Wednesday, Create a Window Greenhouse and more.
And just a reminder that you can always sign up for a 4-H Activity Guide. It’s available on the same page as the other activities.
There is plenty to do and you don’t have to go far to find it. So have fun and stay busy.
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