The staff of youth development programs perform a delicate balancing act between supporting youth agency and exercising necessary authority. To understand this balancing in daily practice, we interviewed 25 experienced (M = 14 years) leaders of arts, leadership, and technology programs for high-school-aged youth. We obtained accounts of when, how, and why they gave advice, set limits, and “supported youth when disagreeing.” Qualitative analysis found surprising similarities across leaders. They used authority to give advice and set limits, but did so with reasoned restraint. Maximizing youth's opportunities to learn from experience was central in their decision making. They described employing authority in intentional ways aimed at helping youth's work succeed, strengthening youth's agency, and building skills for agency (e.g., critical thinking, “clarifying intent”).
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cultural Studies
- Developmental and Educational Psychology
- Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
- Behavioral Neuroscience