Usually we use our posts on Tuesdays to answer your youth work and youth ministry questions. We’ve had the opportunity to answer a lot of questions over the past 18 months and we appreciate that you keep reaching out, sending in your questions and engaging in the discussion. However, just because we share what’s worked for us doesn’t mean we don’t ever have questions of our own.
This week’s ‘youth work Q’ is about a group of youth that I’m working with and I could really use some suggestions on how to deal with these youth behavior issues because I’m all tapped out. Below I’ll share all that I can about the situation and what I’ve already tried, but I’d love for you to provide as many ‘A’s’ as possible from your own experiences.
About The Group
The group consists of ten young people in a school setting; they’re approximately 11 years old and there are slightly more boys than girls. We’ve been working through an anti-bullying / pro-social communication curriculum for about eight weeks.
The group has challenging behavior issues, mainly in how they treat one another. They’re verbally and emotionally cruel to each other. They struggle to work as a group, no matter how the groups are created / divided. They have no patience with one another and no grace. They have some problems with bullying and targeting of certain members of the group, which is why I was asked to come. Each have at least one friend within the group, although some are more isolated than others.
What I’ve Done So Far
I have a group agreement in place along with the schools behavior policy. I’ve used praise with the youth. Over the weeks, I’ve tried to be conversational, informal, funny, stern, formal, goofy and serious in my approach. Currently, nothing is working.
We’ve done games, activities and discussions about feelings, conflict resolution strategies and bridge building. I tried a fan mail activity which is usually very effective in helping youth see the positive in one another without any great success – several even asked if they could throw it away afterwards (a first in the 8 years I’ve been using the activity). I’ve done large groups, small groups, pairs and individual work and nothing seems to be working.
I’ve been giving the group time to share their feelings in a safe and honest space, while still monitoring their behavior for bullying / exclusionary language (verbally and bodily) – which for many seems to be a new activity. A few are now very emotional about what has been shared by their group mates and yet they are unable or unwilling to change their behavior or express their own feelings appropriately.
I don’t expect miracles in 8-10 weeks of groups, but some change in their behaviors, patterns and group dynamics would generally be expected at this point in the group process. So my ‘Q’ to you is this:
Q: What do you do when you feel like you’ve tried everything with a group but the youth still have behavior issues? What suggestions do you have for my specific situation?
A: Please provide your answers and suggestions in the comments below – thanks!