Enlisting Youth in Creating Cultures of Respect

Room: Commonwealth 5-8

Discussions on racial trauma and racial equity are typically directed only to staff, thus overlooking the most powerful force for inclusion and belonging: young people themselves. Recent years have seen the proliferation of many trauma-informed and racial equity training programs for professionals – yet young people are critical players in creating climates of racism and rankism, or, instead, respectful relationships with peers and adults. In cultures of coercion, youth battle adults and become bullies or victims of peers. Despite efforts at bully-proofing schools, typical approaches fail to change values in youth or build climates of respect as shown in research by Juvonen. But Indigenous cultures of respect view children as contributors to the community, not problems to be controlled. As Martin Brokenleg describes the Circle of Courage in the new book Decolonizing Discipline, youth are taught to treat one another with care and concern, thereby converting peer influence into a positive force for wellness.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration puts peer support on its short list of trauma-informed practices. Unfortunately, youth are often perpetrators of trauma and racism through peer mistreatment, so it is not surprising they are seldom seen as resources for helping and healing. How can we develop cultures of respect with youth? Not by formal instruction in trauma and racism, but by unleashing the natural inborn capacity of humans to help one another in times of need. Youth become trauma-wise and resilience-focused in their relationships with one another. Respectful relationships heal trauma and build resilience. Included are voices of youth describing this transformation in their lives.

This presentation describes how to engage youth in responding to the needs of their peers who are showing what James Anglin calls “pain-based behavior.” Practical strategies drawn from the Circle of Courage resilience model and Positive Peer Culture (Brendtro and Kreisle, 2022) are used to engage youth in prosocial helping roles. These methods are supported by research as designated by the California Evidence Based Clearing House.


Larry Brendtro, Ph.D.

Director , Reclaiming Youth at Risk

Email: larry.brendtro@gmail.com

Beate Kreisle, MA

Director , Jugend Kolleg am See

Email: jugend-kolleg_am_see@t-online.de

Sascha Opitz

Vice President , Jugend-Kolleg am See

Email: jugend-kolleg_am_see@t-online.de