Reader Q + A | Adolescent Males
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The answer to this question may seem complex since adolescents in general can be challenging to work with. Add a young man who is prone to aggressive behavior + many people run away! You work with an adolescent male in a residential similarly to how you would work with other adolescents: recognize that they are young men, honor their thoughts + ideas + help them find hope!
Recognizing that they are young men means respecting them where they are despite the fact that their thought process may be immature. Some of the most profound statements come from teens. I believe this is due to the fact that they maintain a portion of the innocence of childhood as they teeter in between childhood + adulthood. It is a well known fact that men tend to be authoritative + get sort of an "alpha-male" complex in the sense that he wants to be heard. He wants to exercise his authority. Recognize that adolescent males love to exercise their authority! This is a healthy part of development. However, they must be taught to express themselves appropriately. When they are not allowed to express themselves freely, most often this is where you will see aggressive behaviors.
Honor their thoughts + ideas! Remember when you were a teen? Remember when you were just looking for a safe space to feel whatever you wanted to feel? This is the same thing they want + need! Many of us miss out on the amazing person hiding behind physical aggression, because we can't move past the disrespect. It sounds crazy to move beyond disrespect - believe me I know! But you will not see the person underneath until you move beyond the disrespect! Build on their strengths! Rejoice in the small victories!
When I say small victories I do mean small! If you have a student that struggles with school refusal + literally cannot get out of bed in the morning. Despite the fact that nothing appears to be "wrong" - praise them for getting out of bed! Yep, you read that correctly! They might make a snarky remark initially to see how serious you were, but you just keep making your positive comments + praising the little things - you will see a difference! Find ways to expand their ideas + help them build on experiences! This could look like a situation where their solution is to curse someone out then walk away. You would help them expand on this idea + think deeper by asking them to refrain from cursing the person out (maybe curse in their head -- baby steps here people) + simply walk away. Even the slightest resistance of impulsive behavior should be praised!
Help them find hope! If you are working with adolescent males in residential - it's probably safe to say they are struggling to find good reasons to change their lives. It is most likely that they have experienced trauma (many continuous trauma unfortunately) at some point in their lives. Experiencing trauma changes your perception about people. It causes you to trust less people as a protective factor. Keep this in mind + don't be offended when the young man doesn't trust you easily. He will most likely attempt to push you away. The worst thing you could ever do is accept this, mull over his feelings or completely ignore them. A wise man once told me all behavior is attention-seeking. People do things for the sake of drawing a certain kind of attention to themselves, both consciously + unconsciously. I can't tell you how many conversations I have seen go downhill, because the underlying issue is bulldozed over. Much of the behavior we observe is due to a lack of trust in those around them + loss of hope that their life can get better. If you're working with adolescent males, it's your job Dear Reader - to help them find their worth + keep hope alive in them!