On a recent auxiliary training assignment to Africa, I met a new young bishop who shared his enthusiasm for the Personal Progress and Duty to God programs for the youth. He felt that since he was asking the youth to participate in these programs, he needed to become familiar with them as their bishop. Consequently, he started to work on both his Personal Progress and his Duty to God.
He said that he hadn't realized what the youth really do and their great accomplishments. He also shared that whenever he completed an experience in Personal Progress, he asked a young woman to verify his completion and sign his Personal Progress book. He had recently completed one of the value experiences in Personal Progress and had asked a young woman in his ward to sign his book.
He shared with her the things he had learned and done and then she asked to see his journal entry regarding this experience because that was part of the requirement. He replied, "Well, I did not write about this in my journal. I don't have one." The young woman replied, "Well then Bishop, I cannot sign your Personal Progress book. Come back when you have completed all the requirements."
He said that he learned a great lesson. He also shared that whenever a youth completes an experience in either Personal Progress or Duty to God, he now has the leaders notify him. He personally calls them and congratulates them on their accomplishment, because now he realizes how much effort and diligence a completed value experience represents.
This wise new bishop said he felt that instead of focusing on what is not going well with the youth, we should all focus on the great things the youth are accomplishing and recognize them for their goodness.
While much has been written about intrinsic versus extrinsic rewards, it is clear that young people engaged in service benefit from effective recognition. Recognition makes youth feel good about what they have done. It strengthens their sense of self-worth and can provide closure to projects. When youth feel good about their involvement, they are motivated and are likely to stay involved.
We can never underestimate the power of a "thank you" or recognizing a "job well done."
Personal Progress allows young women to share what they have accomplished with their peers, leaders, family and parents.
In Young Women, they are recognized for their accomplishments as they move from age group to age group with a certificate of achievement. They are also recognized for completing a value experience and project with a ribbon in the color of the completed value to place in their scriptures.
When all the experiences and projects are completed, a young woman receives a medallion to wear as a reminder that she is preparing to enter the temple and make and keep sacred covenants.
Older young women can then share what they have learned and felt as they go the extra mile by reading the Book of Mormon an additional time and completing 40 hours of service, which includes mentoring another young woman in her Personal Progress. They are recognized with an Honor Bee charm.
These are small things that bring about great accomplishments and keep young women motivated and moving on the path of preparation and temple worthiness. It is true that "by small and simple things are great things brought to pass" (Alma 37:6).
Personal Progress also gives parents the opportunity to work with their daughters in helping them accomplish their hopes and dreams. It provides mothers and fathers a way to cheer their daughters on in their righteous choices, reinforce and teach their divine identity and prepare them for their future roles. These things invite the Spirit into homes and family interactions.
Youth need to be recognized for the good things they do, and the recognition doesn't need to be elaborate.
One young woman said that she looks forward to coming to Church each Sunday because she knows that Sister Jones will seek her out, call her by name and tell her she is a valiant young woman. This young woman said, "In the world in which I live, I never get praise for being good and I need it."
Effective recognition motivates. President Thomas S. Monson has noted, "When performance is measured, performance improves. When performance is measured and reported, the rate of improvement accelerates" (Conference Report October 1970, p. 4).
What are some of the things each of us can do to motivate and encourage our youth in their journey along the path of progress? We can know and call them by name. We can notice them doing good things. We can celebrate with them in their accomplishments. We can follow the interests of the youth and compliment them. We can honor their individuality. And we can make it fun.
One priesthood leader fills his pocket with miniature Milky Way candy bars and gives the youth one as he says, "You are out of this world!"
But it doesn't take extrinsic rewards — just a smile, a handshake or a pat on the back motivates these valiant youth. They are noble and great, and they are accomplishing great things.
In the Book of Mormon, when the Savior invited the multitude to "behold [their] little ones," perhaps He was drawing the attention of the multitude, and us, to the importance of recognizing their goodness, their purity and their potential. I believe His example was teaching us the tender care we should give to each of our Heavenly Father's precious children. Each has divine potential and each must be spiritually nourished and cared for with love, tenderness and individual recognition.