The next step is to create a plan for responding to and supporting youth behavior. Behavior support is a collaborative process that requires the support and feedback of Youth Development Professionals, Club or Youth Center leadership, parents and caregivers, and youth. The tools in this section are designed to support Club mangers, those who are responsible for the development of the overall Program, in developing a consistent approach to responding to and supporting youth behavior. Consider engaging YDPs in the development of your Club’s policies by using the tools together at a team meeting.

Key Terms
  • Behavior is an observable action and form of communication.
  • Behavior support is a process of understanding what youth are communicating with their actions and using that information to adjust their environment and teach skills that promote positive behavior.
  • For deeper context, refer to the 5 Guiding Principles of Behavior Support.

Policy Tools

What is a Behavior Support Policy?

A behavior support policy is a written set of organizational expectations, and practices that guide Youth Development Professional’s interactions when responding to and supporting youth behavior.

Effective behavior support policies have:

  • Coordinated approach to supporting behavior
  • Clearly defined understanding of the types of behavior
  • Outlined expectations around how staff respond to behavior
  • Internal and external communication protocols

A unified approach to behavior helps youth because they experience clear expectations and consistency, and also genuinely helps the staff get on the same page with respect to approaching behavior. When staff view behavior from the same lens, they are more likely to interpret it in a similar way and know how to respond to it in ways that promote positive behavior, acknowledge youth, clarify expectations, and de-escalate tense situations. This process is most effective when both organizational leaders and youth development professionals are working together to develop behavior support policies.

Key Concepts

Keep the following definitions and guiding principles of behavior support in mind as you create your policy approach.

  • Behavior is an observable action and form of communication.
  • Behavior support is a process of understanding what youth are communicating with their actions and using that information to adjust the environment and teach skills that promote positive behavior


The 5 Guiding Principles of Behavior Support

  • 1
    All behavior is communication.
  • 2
    All youth are in the process of learning how to cope with demands, recognize emotions and negotiate interactions. As youth are learning to meet behavior expectations they will at times act in ways that are challenging or concerning.
  • 3
    Everyone interprets behavior through the lens of their culture, upbringing and experience. (For example, in some cultures, making eye contact is perceived as a sign of respect; in others, it is viewed as disrespectful.)
  • 4
    Youth behavior provides an opportunity to learn how youth respond to their environments and the skills they are developing.  
  • 5
    Behavior support is a team approach that should include parents, mentors, elders, extended family or other caregivers, and supportive adults in a young person’s life.

Create Your Behavior Support Policy

  • 1

    Develop Your Approach to Behavior Support

    Describe your goals for your behavior support policies in your Club or Youth Center. What would you like to see from your Club, staff, youth, and caregivers?

  • 2

    Define Your Behavior Support Goals

    It is important to clearly define behavior within your Club’s or Youth Center’s policies. If you do not have clear definitions for behavior, it may be open to Youth Development Professional’s interpretation. How YDPs interpret a youth’s actions can affect how they respond. Clear definitions help everyone interpret actions in a similar way. Positive Behavior is defined as an action that communicates youth’s thoughts and feelings in ways that promote safety and connection in the Club staff and peers.

  • 3

    Outline Responses to Behavior

    As a Club or Youth Center, it is important to respond to all behavior in ways that centers youth, and helps them identify and communicate their feelings. It is also important that YDPs’ responses promote positive behavior and honor the youth’s family and cultural values. Outlining expectation on how staff should respond to behavior can help YDPs respond more confidently and calmly to all types of behavior.

  • 4

    Create Your Unsafe Behavior Policy

    Behavior becomes unsafe when the actions place youth, staff, or volunteers at risk for immediate physical, social, or emotional harm. Unsafe behavior is different from concerning behavior. Members engaging in unsafe behavior are not making decision about their behavior choices from their “thinking brain,” and often not able to comprehend the consequences to their actions in the moment. It is critical to their safety, and the safety of others that YDPs receive adequate training and support on how to respond to unsafe behavior in the moment.

  • 5

    Create Your Create Your Communication Plan

    Clear communication channels are an important piece of behavior support. Behavior support is a team approach which includes the leadership, YDPs, parents/caregivers, and at times, other community professionals in the youth’s life. Clear communication between all adults involved helps ensure everyone has the same information and approach when supporting the youth.

Continue on to Do for new and familiar resources to support implementation.