The need for powerful, effective approaches to youth empowerment is greater that ever. Our youth, the young people you love and support and teach, are facing a new era in human history. Our world has changed. The rate of change continues to accelerate.

youth empowermentCLICK to get our Free e-Course and e-Book that teaches many of these principals and practices. You’ll also get a bonus: my 350 Free Youth Empowerment Resources.

Most safety nets have long vanished for young people. We cannot be there to protect them, guide them, or rescue them from the inevitable challenges that will confront them. So we are left with only one viable choice: prepare them to survive and thrive on their own. Provide them youth empowerment programs that achieve the following:

  • Instill in them a sense of purpose, vision, and direction.
  • Help them discover their own intrinsic values and motivators.
  • Give them the skills, tools, and resources and show how to apply them.
  • Support and encourage, as we model for them the character qualities that will carry them through their greatest challenges and biggest opportunities.

This is clear: Teens with vision, purpose, skills, resources, and support will overcome many obstacles and open many doors. They will have the capacity to pause their natural inclination to impulse long enough to consider longer-term alternatives.

I’ve raised 5 children to become thriving, successful, engaged adults. I created and ran a nationwide online business focused on youth empowerment that’s reached over 37,000 young people. I’ve consulted with schools, colleges, homes, centers, faith-based organizations, youth professionals, counselors, and teachers in all 50 states.

From those 30 years of youth development and inventing new youth empowerment programs, here are 21 specific, concrete examples of principles and best practices from my own outreach. These have worked with tens of thousands of youth and the caring adults that serve them. I’ve instilled all these in my own youth empowerment programs, and I draw many lessons from my own experiences as a parent and leader.

    1. Intrinsic Empathy: Help them with listening skills to hear beyond the emotions and stresses of their friends and peers, to build empathy for what those friends and others really need. They’ll also be able to model that selfless capacity for their peers. How important are listening, reflection, empathy, and understanding in today’s divided world?
    2. Conflict Management: Show them how to defuse conflicts through dialog and patience. By slowing down, reflecting, and finding common ground instead of escalating and defending, they’ll make their lives safer and more satisfying. In school, on the street corner, at home, on the job, or anywhere they go, they’ll encounter conflict. Help them face it and constructively engage it.
    3. Self Reflection: In the workplace, in their educational pursuits, in any relationship, or anywhere they venture, model for them how to create some objective distance from their natural, self-centered teen selves. Teens’ ability to manage socializing, dissing authority, personal hygiene, time management, and know-it-all attitudes will ensure they avoid common mistakes, like getting fired from jobs or offending those who can help them.
    4. Connect the Financial Dots: Connecting lifestyle, expenses, income, and education is the hard lesson we all learn at some point, often the hard and painful way. But what if we could offer teens a way to simulate a real life, in the real world, before they get on the street and pay dearly for their own lack of knowledge and experience? By giving them the tools to create a step-by-step model of the life they want, what it will cost in detail, what jobs will pay enough, and what education will quality them for those jobs, you’ll provide a lasting, even profound wake-up call on the dynamics of the real world. From that, they will avoid unrealistic dreams, set meaningful goals, and discover the actual value of education and credentials for themselves, in practical, day to day, on the ground realities.
    5. youth empowermentEconomic Self Worth: Give young people a financial foundation by showing them the basic (and universal) financial dynamics of how people exist in the real world as individual financial entities. By seeing themselves from the standpoint of assets and income vs. debts and expenses, they’ll have a basic framework to constantly asses their own financial health. They’ll be able to track where they are headed. They’ll learn what immediate steps they need to take to change the small vectors today that make a big difference in a year or 5 or 10 years.
    6. Make Interest an Ally: Compound interest is a double-edge sword. It can bring us wealth and prosperity or lead us into destitution and suffering. But how many teenagers have a clue about what it is, how it works, and how to choose from the many loan and debt options available in this world? It’s a simple process to help youth distinguish between destructive forms of debt and interest, and to show them how interest can work for them instead of against them. By sharing our own experiences and lessons about borrowing and interest, they move out into their economic lives with the tools to succeed.
    7. Money Awareness: Teach young people the power of ‘intentional attention’ with their money. Provide them simple practical tools so they can become aware of where their money goes and how they spend. They then can begin to make better choices and can avoid the crushing debt so many young people and adults suffer from today. Starting now to practice this monetary awareness will sustain their financial health for a lifetime.
    8. Systematic Employment: Working and getting off the street is a major step forward in a teen’s life. Being part of a team, serving others, earning income, building skills, and opening doors to the future are just some of the significant benefits of employment. But finding and starting a job is a competitive and tedious undertaking. We can work with them to create a job search and employment strategy. Then, help them work their process to find a job – ‘make a plan, work your plan.’ With that systematic approach, they’ll have a much better chance to get off the street and escape the idleness and low self-worth that encourage poor choices.
      [break]CLICK to get our Free e-Course and e-Book that teaches many of these principles and practices. You’ll also get a bonus: my 350 Free Youth Empowerment Resources.
    9. Discover the Entrepreneurial Spirit: I’m an entrepreneur. I’m thankful for the playground that is the free market. But most teens don’t realize this path exists for them. If we can show them the power of innovation and entrepreneurship and help them realize that employment isn’t the only path to success in the working world, some of them will light up. We can help them discover in themselves their own passion for creating value and taking initiative. Entrepreneurs have created most of the great innovations in our long economic history. Invention and innovation are inherent in some people, and if discovered, can lead to a life of prosperity, leadership, wealth, and excitement. Helping young people explore this alternative to ‘The Job’ benefits them and our world.
    10. Who Am I, Where Am I Going, How Will I Get There: Show them how to discover their own inherent talents and aptitudes, then build practical step-by-step plans to map out their goals and progress, year over year. I’ve seen this happen again and again over 30 years of serving teens and encouraging youth empowerment. When we tap into the unique and intrinsic light that burns in each young person, they change, they transform. That answer to ‘who am I’ becomes their guiding purpose to define where they will go and sustain them through the long journey to getting there.
    11. Operate from Core Values: As the adults responsible for their character development, we must guide teenagers to realize their inherent values and principles. Show them how to uncover new and better values, so that they have a strong foundation to resist peer pressure, harmful social influences, and their own teenage impulses. Operating from core values gives youth the basis for saying No to the wrong temptations, for saying Yes to the best callings, and for building the wisdom to know the difference.
    12. Refuse Victimhood: I watched all my own children eventually pass that point of no return as teens where they finally accepted personal responsibility for their lives. Once they got beyond the blame game for choices they made in the past and consequences they faced as a result, they were on the way to adulthood. Some adults still have not crossed that boundary. By helping youth release their victimhood, they take back their power and own their current and future choices. They can better avoid similar mistakes and begin to master what might be the most important ability they’ll ever have: personal choice.
    13. Addiction Recovery: All of us have some risk of addiction. It’s built into our brain chemistry. Most of us avoid excesses. But due to life circumstances or family dynamics, genetic dispositions and bad luck, some of us become ensnared. And help is always available. Teens need to know that step one is always full acceptance of the situation and the truth. From there, they can take the second step of reaching out for support and guidance. But they need a framework, and they need guidance, non-judgemental acceptance, and encouragement.
    14. Give Back, Pay it Forward: Provide youth empowerment opportunities for serving, giving, and volunteering. By then helping them internalize those experiences, they will see the world from the view of the less advantaged. They’ll begin to realize how we are all better when we share, teach, support, and work together. Theyll discover how to make generosity into a standard feature in their lives. Plus, they will discover how to get beyond their teen egos and self-centeredness, and learn to walk a mile in others’ shoes.
    15. youth empowermentMotivate, Inspire, Empower: Combine and encourage all the approaches here, with conviction and persistence. You will prove to yourself and guide your teens to experience the power and satisfaction of character, skills, and purpose. Include with that the resources that will give them the raw materials to create the life they way. That sense of meaning, vision, and a detailed plan to operationalize that in their lives will give them the power to overcome many challenges and take advantage of many opportunities.
    16. Embrace the Emotional Self: Guide them through how to process the standard and unavoidable emotions of anger, fear, and doubt. Show them how to accept those and make peace with them. They’ll be poised to express those states effectively, and actually discover how to use them as tools in their own development.
    17. Cultivate the Garden: That is, the garden that is their own minds, bodies, and souls. Help them discover the power of self-care, of mental and physical and emotional and spiritual health. Help them find those activities or creative or social pursuits that nurture and energize their being.
    18. Be Here Now: Help them live in the present with an eye on the future. Show them they don’t have to choose between the moment and the eventual. Show them how tomorrow will one day be their moment. Show them that investing some part of their moments now will nurture those possibilities to come. Youth empowerment that honors and considers tomorrow while staying focused on today is priceless.
    19. General Purpose Problem Solving: How many problems do you face on a daily basis, large and small? How many will our young people face in a lifetime? We can provide them with specific tools and tactics for the bigger challenges in their finances, relationships, education, and employment. But we won’t be there to coach and plan the vast majority of medium and small problems they’ll face. So we must give them real-time, hands-on practical experiential learning on general problem solving skills with a framework. With these simple tools, they can tackle any problems that confront them.
    20. Life Long Learning and Novicehood: Through any and all the above, teens can build confidence and equanimity. They’ll discover a willingness to learn and engage themselves and their world. Show them that it’s okay to be a beginner, to empty their cup, and that believing they know it all shuts many doors.
    21. Curiosity and Openness: Who do you know that has closed off their minds to their world and their peers? What is life without wonder and enchantment? Perhaps the greatest failing of any individual in dealing with what life serves up is lack of curiosity and unwillingness to learn and grow. All the youth empowerment approaches outlined here will cultivate willingness. We can enhance and encourage it by modeling it for the young people we love. Teaching and tools and programs are essential – but at the end of the day, nothing replaces an adult of high integrity simply walking their talk. By bringing any of these suggestions to your teenagers, you’re demonstrating your commitment to staying humble and open and learning.

    CLICK to get our Free e-Course and e-Book that teaches many of these principles and practices. You’ll also get a bonus: my 350 Free Youth Empowerment Resources.

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