Managing the behavior of difficult populations of youth can be challenging but is essential for their well-being and their development. Difficult populations can encompass a range of issues, including delinquency, behavioral disorders, substance abuse, and more. Here are some strategies and considerations for effectively managing the behaviors of at-risk youth and improving their life-skills.
- Have the youth sit in a circle: This allows everyone to see each other and adds the feeling that everyone in the group is on equal terms.
- Use group facilitation skills:
Listening: Gather information from what the youth is saying. You are like Sherlock Holmes becoming curious about the person. Through employing curiosity, empathy, and attention, you gather information.
Reflection: When one person has finished speaking, give yourself a moment to consider what they said and make a reflective statement of what they said. You clarify what they have said. This allows staff to be empathetic and promotes empowerment in the youth. This allows you not to think of your answer but assures the individual that you heard what they said. This takes practice to learn to do so don’t be hard on yourself if it takes time to learn to do.
Percentage of time talking: Group members should speak 70% of the time and the group facilitator 30% of the time. The at-risk youth will become active and expert participants. Keep each of the comments under 2 minutes for after 2 minutes listeners tend to stop paying attention.
Pay attention to your body language and tone of voice: Be non-judgmental, non-confrontational, inquisitive, supportive, and directive. You want an atmosphere where you can explore behavior and goals without increasing defensiveness in the participants.
- Person-Centered Approach: Understand where the youth are and guide them forward at a pace they feel comfortable with. Go under the assumption that humans are inherently good for the most part, rather than selfish and corrupt. This changes your perception toward the youth and creates a more positive environment for change. Look for the strengths rather than deficiencies.
- Teach conflict resolution life skills: Teach conflict resolution and anger management skills. Help them learn how to express their feelings and frustrations in healthier ways. Use ARISE Anger Management (or view ARISE Violence and Conflict Book).
- Involve the families: We learn from our families, yet many families need help in dealing with their own life issues so they can better help their children. They need an arsenal of tools to accomplish this. ARISE Family Tools to the rescue (learn more at ARISE Family Tools).
- Build Self-Esteem: If you don’t feel good about yourself, you can never feel good about another person. Teach at-risk youth to look at their strengths and areas where they might need help. Self-esteem can have a significant impact on one's mental and emotional well-being, relationships, academic and career success. Great group discussions to enhance feelings of self-worth can be found in ARISE Self Esteem Curricular (for more information, click this link: ARISE Self Esteem).