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Resilience Revolution, The: Discovering Strengths in Challenginng Kids

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Discover effective ways of connecting with youth at risk. In this inspiring resource, the authors focus on strength-based alternatives to punishment, including creative ways to develop trusting relationships, search for hidden potential, and instill purpose in students

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7 Chapters

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Chapter One Kids in Pain

ePub

Hurt people hurt people.

Native American Proverb

Life has been described as a journey down a long and winding road. The road I have traveled has been twisted, filled with pain—a journey to places most would never want to go.

My childhood was marked by constant trauma. Mom and Dad were always abusing each other and us, too. By the time I was nine, I was put into a class for kids with behavioral problems. If someone tried to be nice, I made an effort, but if they were mean, I let them have it, and in a way they would remember. There were some teachers who really made a difference, but mostly I was such a problem child that the only attention I got was negative.

As a teen, I developed many of my parents’ problems, plus post–traumatic stress disorder and juvenile delinquency. The meds I was always on didn’t help much, so to numb the pain inside, I cut myself and took illegal drugs. I even tried killing myself several times.

 

Chapter Two The Road to Resilience

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“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?” asked Alice.

“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.

Lewis Carroll1

Jermaine had troubles in school and with the police since he was eleven years old. His mother was the sole parent and worked hard at two jobs to make ends meet. Left to fend for himself, Jermaine gravitated to the street, and his male role models soon became older gang leaders, who initiated him into delinquency as a “lookout.”

By age fourteen, Jermaine was having both behavioral and learning problems and was expelled from school. Adrift on the streets, he wound up in the juvenile justice system, shuttled between residential placements.

In residential placements, Jermaine’s life actually improved. He attended school and fed his hunger for positive adult mentors. He also picked up new skills for turning his life around and a fresh determination to “do good” when he returned to his community.

 

Chapter Three Building Trust

ePub

Sometimes I say I hate you

because I’m afraid

you don’t love me.

Theta Burke1

Craig was a youth who had recently transitioned from a secure locked facility to a group home. Having battled adults in the previous program, he continued to set up power struggles in the group home and seemed to be provoking the use of physical restraint. This was puzzling; staff members were not doing anything to escalate physical confrontations. What was the purpose of his behavior?

One person noted that any physical contact was strictly banned in the locked facility from which he came. Perhaps Craig was starving for human touch. Not all agreed, but after much debate, the staff decided to try an experiment for Craig. Certain staff would give Craig appropriate touch: a pat on the back, a “high five” when he had done well, an occasional hug from the side. Soon he had no need for physical restraint, and all his provoking incidents stopped.

 

Chapter Four Nurturing Talent

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The very qualities of sagacity and daring which formerly rendered them a terror to the community will push them forward in their new career of virtue, honor, and usefulness.

S. D. Brooks, 18561

We once asked a group of kids we had been working with at a detention center, “What would you like to be doing in five years?”

It was a shift from the typical conversation they had been engaged in, a conversation that usually focused on what they were doing wrong and what wasn’t working. They had become pretty clear on what they didn’t want, but being asked to examine what they did want posed a new, greater dilemma.

None of the kids wanted to respond. They had been in and out of institutions so many times, and each had made countless promises that this would be their last time in lockup. Their reluctance to make yet another empty promise lingered heavy in the air. The pain of disappointment, ofhopes being raised and then dashed, was more painful than the acceptance of failure, even inevitable failure.

 

Chapter Five Promoting Power

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Our worst fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us.

Nelson Mandela1

Jason had been locked up for four years before transitioning into one of Straight Ahead Ministries’ aftercare homes. His first couple of months went pretty smoothly. But one night, after going out with some friends, he came home very drunk.

Since he seemed unable to handle the amount of freedom and responsibility he had been given, Jason was restricted to the house for a couple of weeks, except when he was at work, school, or an approved activity. During that period we observed that he was particularly difficult to wake up for school. He was always tired. That didn’t make any sense to us, since he was at home now more than ever.

One day, after Jason’s grounding was over, he said to us, “You probably noticed how tired I was during the past few weeks.” We said we had certainly noticed and asked why that was so. “Believe it or not,” Jason said, “I would get up at one or two o’clock in the morning, when everyone else was sleeping, and walk around outside.”

 

Chapter Six Instilling Purpose

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It is despair, loneliness, and hopelessness. We need someone to talk to; we need to be taught how to talk. We need people who really care about us, support us. . . . Teach us to hope. Bring some kind of meaning and purpose to our lives.

A high-school student1

The kids that come in front of me [in court] seldom focus their attention outside themselves. Most are self-centered all the time. Instead of just fining them and having them go to class, I’ve begun having them complete twenty hours of community service on their own.

The key is that they have to go find a place to serve other people in the community. We used to have a program where we would have them go clean up the school or something, but they did it just because the court made them. Here, they have to go find ways to serve.

One girl went to an animal shelter. Her mom was not too thrilled because she brought home about five dogs, but when she came back to me after having completed her ten hours, she was glowing. Her eyes were on fire. She said it was the most wonderful thing she had ever done; she loved it and was going to keep volunteering.

 

Appendix Learning-Style Indicator

ePub

This indicator was developed by Dell Coats Erwin and is based on Dr. Howard Gardner’s work on multiple intelligences. To some degree, everyone has strengths in all nine intelligences, but most people are stronger in one or more areas. Knowing where young people are strong can help those who work with them better understand and more appropriately assist them. Knowing their own strengths can also help young people better understand and appreciate themselves. Likewise, understanding where a youth is not strong can reveal areas that need work. The more a young person learns and grows, the stronger he or she will become in each area.

The following assessment is for youth to self-administer. It’s not a diagnostic test, but rather a way to have fun while opening up new learning and self-discovery. Before passing out the assessment, take some time to explain that every person is intelligent in all nine areas to some degree, and that each of us also has preferences, ways in which we learn best. Discuss how discovering our preferences can be fun and helpful when it comes to such things as career planning, and point out how discovering which types of learning are not as comfortable can help us grow stronger in those as well.

 

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