Mutual learning, mutual respect

This may come as a shock, but you don’t know everything. It will undoubtedly come as a shock to most teens that they don’t know everything too. How many times have we heard the old rhetorical when speaking to teens about something that they don’t want to talk about, “What do you know?”.

Yes, as an adult you generally have the trump card on knowledge by virtue of your years, but the amount of candles on your birthday cake does not mean you are the authority on every aspect of life (even if you may be the authority on how to put out a small fire). So when engaging in a conversation with a teenager enter it in the expectation that you might learn something from them. This is the breeding ground of genuine respect- it shows you value their input and they are more likely to value yours. This is worth its weight in gold when you are trying to change someone’s behaviour for the better.

You could even go out of your way to tap into their knowledge and ask them something in your sessions. One young person I worked with was doing a vocational qualification in gardening at his Pupil Referral Unit (where kids go who have been permanently excluded from school). Being a bit of a gardener myself I made a point of asking him for tips, like how to stop slugs eating my lettuces without having to spend a fortune on slug pellets. He was genuinely thrilled to tell me to use crushed eggshells around my lettuces. Asking them about something they know about gives them a real sense of worth and boosts their self-esteem no end. The bonus here was that it motivated him even more to continue attending the PRU and to get a qualification.

I have even be known to ask questions of young people that has them rolling their eyes and giggling because to them I am asking the dumbest question in the world. Back in the days when text speak was in its infancy I actually asked a girl what lol meant. She nearly died from laughter, but she did tell me. It makes me lol even thinking about it now, but by me asking her, I showed her that there is no such thing as a dumb question. This is role-modelling in a very simple but effective way. By asking ‘dumb’ questions we show them that if they have something they want to know but feel stupid asking about, that they should just go right ahead and ask. Learning something is never stupid.

So in your sessions make space mentally and time practically to learn something from your client. In so doing, you give them a voice and some sense of worth. It’s priceless. You might even find that you both learn something in the session that has greater impact and longevity than the main reason for your meeting.

Anger management not working?

1 comments On Mutual learning, mutual respect

  • Awesome article that can enlighten and empower coaches in working with teens on a one-on-one basis or in groups.

    Currently enrolled in a four-part Fundamentals Teleseminar offered by Teen Wisdom Inc.,, to prepare me to creat and facilitate life coaching. Your offering could not have come at a better time. Thanks Sam

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