Everyone has a tale to tell. Our personal stories, as presented in last week’s post, ultimately determine how we feel about ourselves and how we respond to challenging situations. Regrettably, the majority of our firmly held truths are erroneously based on someone else’s judgements.
This statement is especially accurate when we consider the messages our kids are bombarded with every single day. Young people translate those verdicts quite effectively, for themselves, into meaning: “there is something wrong with me and I don’t fit in.” And, in turn feel obligated to judge others using the same exact criteria.
As our kids grow into tween-hood (ages 9-12), they have most likely already embraced their assigned identity. Unfortunately, for many, that stamp is debilitating negative - hyper, weird, angry, stupid, shiftless and lazy, or, simply, the trouble maker. Once distinguished, they feel obligated and strangely proud to uphold their disagreeable reputation.
Understanding this basic piece of human nature, I wonder, incessantly, why we, as a society, instead of actually spending the time to get to know the child well enough as to understand the motivation behind the negative behaviors, continue to go into default mode of control - authoritarian methodology, and criticism, to try to produce desired results. Especially when we know these strategies often yield: drama, anxiety, tension, angst, resistance (push-back), intense unhappiness, and, very rarely, the outcome we envision.
I maintain that it is far more beneficial to offer positive reinforcement – to seek out (really dig for) and recognize efforts and accomplishments with supportive, inspirational, and esteem boosting language, which in the process, builds a positive reputation that the young person can proudly own, as well as respectful, trusting, and egalitarian relationships that last a lifetime.
Yes, I will be the first to admit, this takes time, patience, and tons of effort, because, sometimes finding the positive is extremely hard, especially, when a kid is working overtime to maintain that trouble maker image. To be truly effective, we, first, need to comprehend that it feels impossible (terrifying and unsettling) for them to relinquish an identity that is deeply intrinsic to their essential being.
Ultimately, you will discover that cultivating an environment of inclusion, respect, support, mutual dialog, and trust by communicating affirming, constructive, and encouraging messages is worth the time, sweat, frustration, and, yes, tears. Because, positively influencing a child’s (teen’s) perception of themselves and having the great privilege of observing the powerful transformations is just reward.
DRC News Spring Concert
Join us for the DRC Spring Concert at the Canton Free Library, Tuesday, May 9th at 12:30 and be prepared to be impressed by these awesome musicians. This is a free event; everyone is welcome. Donations will, however, be gladly accepted. DRC Voices We are celebrating all of the unique voices at DRC. Have you seen the series on the website and Facebook? If not, spend some time getting to know these fabulous beings. You may just be inspired! Trip to MA and CT I will be traveling to three other Liberated Learner Centers in MA and CT with two DRC teens the week of May 15th. We are looking forward to spending time with, and, learning from other teens and adults who are passionate about self-directed learning.