As a 4-H Educator and an uncle, I often get to interact with Cloverbuds. Just this past year I had one niece graduate Cloverbuds to start her first year in 4-H project age, and three nieces and nephews start their first year as Cloverbuds. One thing I often hear about and engage with is how much Cloverbuds love to talk. They love to share and tell stories. However, I often catch myself wondering how myself and others are modeling talking and having meaningful conversations?
In today’s world we see youth somehow shift from being extremely social and talkative to being closed off teens or young adults, struggling with social skills and not being able to have meaningful conversation with others. We also see adults who can’t even get through a conversation about religion, politics, beliefs, or even different thoughts without getting upset and ending the conversation or turning from constructive to toxic. What changes? How do we shift from being excited to talk to others and tell stories to having social anxiety or not being willing to talk to others, even when they think differently than us?
As a 4-H professional or volunteer we have to be conscious of not just what we talk to our Cloverbuds about, but how we model having positive and meaningful conversations. Here are some tips for having positive conservation with Cloverbuds:
- Take time to have one-on-one conversations with each Cloverbud (even if it’s a 2-minute interaction) every time you have a meeting. This shows them that it’s important to take time out of your life to chat with people and hear about their lives.
- Share information about yourself to model how they can talk about themselves and then ask questions that encourage them to share information. (example: I really like cows, they’re probably my favorite animal. What’s your favorite animal?)
- When they do share information about themselves, always give them positive reinforcement by saying things like:
- Wow, that’s so cool!
- No kidding!
- Tell me more!
- Challenge Put-Downs or Hurtful Comments. At a very early age youth begin to put down themselves and others. It is important that we begin shutting down the negative comments youth make. When a Cloverbud says they don’t like someone or themselves, start pointing out that was it the other kid or themselves they don’t like but what they or the other kid did/said.
- Get on their level when talking with them. If you can, crouch or sit down to be at the same eye level as them and look them in the eyes. Have them focus on you when speaking.
At the end of the day, it’s our goal to model positive behavior and that also means discussion. So make sure that even when you are speaking to Cloverbud’s parents or other adults that you are trying to reflect positive conversation skills so they learn. Take time in a meeting to actually setup a time for Cloverbuds to just talk to each other and ask each other questions about their lives. This way, as they get older, they naturally have a curiosity to get to know the people around them.