If you haven't already, read last week's blog entry about a real life example of a behavior issue you might encounter at an urban youth ministry program.  This week, I will share with you an example of a less than helpful response that you or a volunteer could make to Micah's behavior.

You:  Micah, you completely lost your cool in there!  I can’t believe you got that mad over chips!
Micah:  (Defensive) But he was the one that was being selfish and took the last of the chips!
You:  (You’re angry, but trying to control your voice) He is the new kid, let him take the last of the chips!  What’s the big deal?  You have been coming around way too long to be acting like this.
Micah:  (Stands up) I have been coming around here way too long.  (Walks off front porch.)
You:  (Calling after him) Well, come back to bible study when you are ready to apologize!

Why would I consider this a negative response to the youth even though you have told the truth and addressed Micah's behavior issues?  Let's ask a few questions to discover why.

Where is Your Focus:

  • Is it on Lecture or Listening?  Lecture.  You are ready to call Micah out on his bad behavior before you tried to understand his point of view of the incident.  Micah sees you taking the other boy’s side.  This immediately put Micah on the defense to point fingers at the other boy’s behavior.  Micah’s defensiveness angered you all the more, and you expressed your frustration and disappointment with him.  Your negative emotions (even though it wasn’t what you were saying) were a clue to Micah, “I’m not wanted here.”
  • Is it on Positive Growth or What’s Left to Go?  What’s left to go.  The conversation didn’t acknowledge any positive steps that Micah has made thus far in the area of handling conflict
  • Therefore, what is the youth’s response?  Micah feels condemned, angry with the new kid and now angry with you.  He feels left alone to figure out how to apologize when he feels it the other student’s fault for being selfish by taking all of the chips.

What about you?  Have you ever taken this faulty approach with urban youth?  I know I sure have!  Share your story below...


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