Most young people come to DRC with a severely distorted image of themselves, which has been cultivated, manifested, and sustained by the negative verbal and subliminal messages they received from peers, authority figures, or from people they respect and love, as well as all the traumas they endured. Those critical implications ignite a perverse and dangerous cycle of self-perpetuation. Perceptions are powerful, and they do not discriminate! Say or hear something, negative (or positive), often enough and it will become normalized and very real within your mind.
The following statements I hear from kids, on the daily, are all I need to confirm this truth: “well you know, I am the bad kid.” “I am so dumb. I can’t do anything right.” “I am lazy.” Or, even, “I am not creative, artistic, or imaginative.”
Pointing out negative behavior does not force someone to change – it only reinforces all those internal negative images and profoundly impacts their future. In time, the label becomes their excuse, their reason for not trying, and for ultimately not succeeding.
This is just one of many reasons I never request school records. Most consist of nothing more than a rap sheet. And, I understand that whether I am aware of it or not, my feelings about a student could be unfavorably influenced by knowing their previous record.
Seeking out and focusing on the affirmative accomplishes, as you would expect, the exact opposite – positive steps forward. The following is a short tale to highlight this basic principle: we currently have a teen who believes with his whole heart that he is the “bad kid.” He (as well as a parent) has relayed a well-documented reputation to confirm why he believes that statement. We have spent the months, since he joined us, refuting that conviction – honing in and frequently remarking on the sweet-natured kid we see underneath the bluster, immaturity, and bravado.
Friday afternoon, Chris was talking to another student who was having a bad day. He was simply feeling blue and disappointed with how the day had unfolded. The teen overheard the conversation, got up from the computer, took off a silicone bracelet that had an inspirational saying on it, and handed it, without fanfare or explanation, to the kid who was feeling unsettled. Needless to say, we immediately expressed our appreciation and the pride we felt for his selfless and kind behavior.
When he left for the day, he was standing a bit straighter, with the hint of a smile, indicating a sense of personal achievement, on his face. That one small, but, significant action could very well be the beginning of healing for that teen. I look forward to watching his journey unfold as he manifests positivity in his life by being the “good,” kind, and compassionate kid who helps others through some of the rough patches he understands far too well.
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