University of Illinois Extension

Youth Behavior Guidelines and Expectations

The objectives of this section will allow chaperones to describe appropriate behavior and consequences as they relate to situations and to identify policies and procedures as they pertain to behavior management.

As adult overnight chaperones, you will need to be familiar with the Youth Behavior Guidelines, the 4-H Code of Conduct for 4-H Events and Activities, and the specifics of the Acknowledgement of Risk Forms in order to properly supervise and monitor the behavior of the youth participants. It is critical to understand what is expected of 4-H members and the adults attending an event.

Youth Behavior Guidelines

University of Illinois Extension 4-H has a set of Youth Behavior Guidelines for all youth participants. Youth are often asked to sign their agreement with these guidelines as part of the general enrollment process.

Code of Conduct for 4-H Events and Activities

All youth participants are responsible for their own conduct at 4-H events and activities. University of Illinois Extension 4-H has a Code of Conduct for 4-H Events and Activities. It is provided in written form to all youth participants and their parents or guardians prior to any event. Youth and their parents or guardians are asked to sign that they understand and agree to that code of conduct. Proper signatures are required. Consequences are outlined for the Categories 1 and 2 actions. Chaperones need to have a clear understanding of the Code of Conduct and the consequences for inappropriate behavior.

Implementing the 4-H Code of Conduct

The 4-H Code of Conduct will be reviewed with all youth and adult participants at the beginning of the 4-H event or activity. For youth violating the 4-H Code of Conduct, consequences and resulting appropriate actions are outlined with procedures for Categories 1 and 2 infractions. The Event Coordinator along with the appropriate chaperones and Extension staff will implement the consequences.

Acknowledgement of Risk

For many 4-H events and activities, there is an Acknowledgement of Risk Form that describes the activity, the risks involved, the behavior expectations of participants, and strategies or expectations of the organization to safe guard youth participants. This release form is signed by participants and parents or guardians.

Reasonable Accommodation

If a youth participant needs a reasonable accommodation to participate in a specific 4-H event or activity, they should contact the person listed on the registration form – typically the Event Coordinator or Extension staff member.

Event Guidelines

Event guidelines are important for creating both a safe and properly structured environment. Youth need opportunities to work in partnership or cooperation with adults. In general, young people want to cooperate and be a part of the group. Cooperation can be gained when a structured environment is created that allows youth to “buy in” and have ownership of the event guidelines. As chaperones, you will want to be familiar with the specific guidelines for the event you are chaperoning. As part of orientation for the event or during the introductory session of the event, the guidelines should be shared with both youth and adults. The purpose of the guidelines is not to force young people to be good but to show them HOW to cooperate together. Chaperones should MODEL appropriate behavior at all times.

Event guidelines should have a Purpose. They should also be Possible. Guidelines need to have consequences that can be enforced. The fewer the guidelines the better. Guidelines should also be Plain – easily understood and not debatable. Finally, guidelines should be Positive. We are aiming for positive behavior. We need to state our expectations in a positive manner and enforce the consequences in a way that does not humiliate or embarrass the offender.

As a caring adult chaperone, you will want to take a personal interest in the participants and provide a welcoming and inclusive environment for all. You will also want to foster equitable and positive interactions between yourself and those you chaperone. Chaperones need to clearly communicate expectations of participants for the event. Then, you need to be consistent in your enforcement of the guidelines and consequences. Finally, chaperones need to use positive behavior management techniques whenever possible. Caution – no corporal (physical) punishment is allowed.

Handling Sensitive Issues

Handling sensitive issues means being prepared. Chaperones need to use the utmost care and compassion in dealing with situations so that “mountains are not created out of mole hills”. Often in the heat of the moment, clear heads are hard to find. By following the STOP then ACT guidelines developed by the University of Georgia Extension 4-H program, chaperones can take steps to handle rather than hinder situations.


Stop what is occurring and remove everyone involved from the situation. While this is not always possible, the more neutral the location the more calmly everyone will act.

Think before you react. Any action or words will be hard to erase once they are out in the open.

Organize your thoughts before you speak. Count to ten and think.

Persuade all parties involved to listen to each other without interruptions.

Then ACT

Actively pursue facts. As those involved stray into emotion, pull the group back to the facts and only the facts.

Calmly reach an agreement with everyone. When an agreement can not be reached, at least agree to the next step.

Take notes and use those to complete the Accident/Incident Report form that you share with the Event Coordinator.

Adults working with youth, adults working with adults, and people to people - all three scenarios present the opportunity for success as well as crisis. In attempting to prepare for the worst, expect the best! With an understanding of policy, management of your behavior, development of communication skills, and practice of the STOP then ACT guidelines, even the stickiest of situations can be sugar sweet.

Source: Certified 4-H Overnight Chaperone Handbook. University of Georgia Extension 4-H. Jenny Jordon, 4-H Youth Development Specialist. Pg. 68. April 2001.

Behavior Management Techniques

There are many techniques we can use to effectively manage a group of youth. Remember, we want to promote cooperation and positive behavior and discourage the negative, disruptive behaviors. Behaviors can often be divided into six different situation categories: disruptive individual, disruptive group, violence, non-attentiveness, shyness or reluctance to participate, and verbal or physical harassment. The following is a list of techniques that may help you manage and prevent some of these behavior situations.

  • Give choices
  • Use a variety of activities
  • Use humor
  • Set clear expectations
  • Carefully plan and prepare for activities
  • Choose age-appropriate activities
  • Plan for transitions between events, activities, or time slots in schedule
  • Show interest in and get to know each participant
  • Emphasize cooperation over competition
  • Show concern
  • Separate the child(ren)
  • Use natural consequences
  • Ignore the behavior
  • Involve youth in the planning
  • Tell what “to do” rather than “what not to do”
  • Allow time to practice
  • Demonstrate the skill or task
  • Redirect or distract
  • Surprise them with unexpected response or action
  • Provide rewards
  • Seek help/call 911

The ultimate goal of behavior management is to help young people develop self-discipline. Now take a few minutes to think about how you might manage some of the behavior situations described in “How to Keep Your Cool and Still Be an Effective Chaperone.” Consider whether or not your solution will help develop a young person’s ability to choose a positive, cooperation behavior. Stopping negative behavior doesn’t mean that it will be replaced with a positive behavior. Consider whether or not your solution will help the youth replace the negative behavior with a positive behavior.

Additional Training for Chaperones

Adult chaperones are encouraged to participate in additional trainings provided by the University of Illinois Extension 4-H staff related to behavior management. 4-H has a four-part series on this topic. Sessions include:

  • Introduction to Behavior Management
  • Planning Group Guidelines Together
  • Behavior Management Techniques for Cooperation
  • Working with Youth with Special Needs

Contact your local Extension office for more information and training dates.

How to Keep Your Cool and Still Be an Effective Chaperone Quiz

Complete this short quiz to finish the section.

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