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Approaches to Sharing Power

Relationship-building approaches are techniques you can integrate into program or classroom activities. They also can be worked into the informal interactions you have with young people in the hallway, after class, on the playground, along the hiking trail, or on the front steps while they wait for a ride home.

Share Power is an element of developmental relationships that can feel uncomfortable at first. And yet when people find a balance that works for them in their relationships, they often find those relationships to be more enjoyable and productive. Consider these approaches that can make sharing power a particularly rewarding part of a developmental relationship.

At the outset of your work with young people, agree together on a set of statements that describe the ways you will work together and treat each other.

Whenever it is possible and appropriate, do things alongside young people, such as cleaning up a space together or raising your voices about an issue in the community.

When you and a young person disagree about something, take time to understand each other’s point of view. Make it clear you respect their thoughts and feelings even if you disagree. Ask questions to better understand their point of view.

Explain the rationale for your own actions, especially when giving consequences or if you are unable to include a young person in a decision that affects them. (If you think you are unable to include a young person in a decision that affects them, ask yourself why. You may discover ways that you can actually include them if you think outside the box.)

Admit when you’ve made a mistake and apologize, including naming ways you’ll do better or try to change in the future.

Give youth more than one option to choose from, such as letting them pick their own partners or groups, choose between a few different activities, decide how to spend their free time, or select topics to read about or assignments to complete.

Invite young people to share their thoughts and opinions and to provide feedback. Remind them that their voices are important within and beyond the program. Ask, “what do you think about _____________?” Take their ideas seriously.

When you solicit young people’s input, let them know how you will integrate it into your thinking, your decisions, and/or your actions. Be sure to either act on that input or explain why you have chosen or are not able to do so. Young people tell us that being asked for their ideas and never receiving a response can be discouraging and demoralizing. Also, when you act on young people’s feedback, always give them credit for their ideas.

Empower young people to make decisions together, and provide ways for them to vote or come to consensus to make decisions.

Encourage young people to take on leadership roles that suit their personalities. Some like to lead “behind the scene,” while others like to be more “out front.” Take time to invite each young person you work with to be a leader in their own way.