When I arrived at my new job as a teacher and dorm parent at an international boarding school in 1993, I thought of myself as a genuine and honest person. Boy, was I misguided. Don’t get me wrong; I was (and am) an honest, upright person, but teenagers pushed me to a degree of truthfulness and authenticity which I might not have aspired to on my own.
There were so many situations where I needed to make a decision on the spot. I learned that if I tried to color it with cheap fabric such as, “It’s the rule,” or “Don’t talk to me like that,” it simply led to further anger and frustration, on all sides, as well as unpleasant defamation of my character rather loudly proclaimed. I slowly and painfully learned that the only consistently solid ground I had to stand on was the bare truth. I had the experience again and again that if I simply spoke from my own truth, taking full responsibility for my part and asking them to do the same. As a result, the teen generally felt respected, heard and understood and we were able to work together to find solutions respectful to both of us. (No, of course I did not manage this every single time).
The rewards may be long in coming but they make all the tussles so worth it. I recently heard from a long-ago student whom I had to ask to leave the school for being violent with another student (by then I was in the directorship team). He, as have others I had to ask to leave, thanked me for my honesty then. He remembered the talk with his parents in which I explained that physical violence and threats were not acceptable in our community. Also I expressed that I was convinced that their son had talent and ability for many things but not for becoming a lawyer; which was the parents’ dream for him but not at all his own dream. Indeed, he went on to become a professional boxer and now also does volunteer martial arts training with youth in prison. He loves his work and his life and feels grateful to me that I was honest with him and his parents then.
So, you never know if your example and your words will touch a young person, but you can stand on solid ground if you can be real with them and not try to act like you have the answers or are above them.
Please share a time when an adult was real with you when you were a teen. Please post below or on: https://www.facebook.com/PeaceWorksCoaching