source: | 2000 Games, Devotions, Themes, Ideas and more for Youth Work
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Peculiar forming of relationships

meaningful relationships
The success of a youth worker is marked by his
ability to form relationships with his group members.

According to the behaviourist Paul Watzlawick, every communication between people consists of a substantive- as well as a relationship component. Man classified the relationship aspect as more important.

  • A boy spits on a girl. When asked why he was doing this, he admits tearfully that he really likes the girl and wanted to build a relationship with her. Even this appears a bit odd; it was his way to get in touch; the only way he knew how to do this.

  • Another boy, whenever he experienced joy he would bit or claw his teacher. It was his way to get in touch, which is almost impossible for the bystander to understand. What they did not know was, that the boy was already beaten while he still was in the womb. He never experienced anything else but physical violence.

  • Another young man who was deeply in love with a girl, yet, rejected her whenever she came too close to him. Indeed, he was sorry and angry about his behaviour, neither did the girl know where she was standing with him. As it turned out, the boy was so insecure and self-conscious, he did not know how to approach the girl and, therefore – to be safe – kept his distance. Until now the boy was spoiled. Everything was given to him. He never had the chance learning how to approach other people. In particular boys, the pride of every mother, tend to get spoiled. Most of the interactions are initiated by the mother. Therefore, the boy does not learn to initiate contact with others.

  • A student becomes apparent by his disruptive behaviour in the classroom. What the teacher does not understand: the boy wants the teacher’s acceptance. However, since the teacher only sees the negative aspect of the boy’s behaviour and his only concern is for the teaching goals, he neglects to meet the boy where he is at this point. If the teacher were less offended and would not dismiss the student, this could be the beginning of a relationship, which would make life in the classroom easier for both parties. Just remember your schooling. Lessons, where the teacher was more laid back, thought highly about you and was more open towards the students, those lessons were not only more fun but they also had the potential to form relationships.

What do these examples mean for the youth worker?

With these examples, I would like to suggest that every behaviour holds a relationship component, with its own reason.

If the youth worker is disturbed by a particular behaviour of a “troublemaker”, it would be advisable to question this own conduct. As for this matter, his own anger as well. Is it possible that the youth worker receives a certain behaviour offending? Sees it as a disregard of his person? In this case, two aspects collide: the personal sensitivity of the youth worker and the behaviour of the young person.

The way to get out of this troubled situation is twofold: Firstly, don’t take yourself as important and let go of being too sensitive. Secondly, with our issues out of the way, you are now open to devote ourselves to the young person. The success of a youth worker is marked by his ability to form relationships with his group members. As soon as the young people realise, here is someone who takes us seriously, someone who actually likes us and cares, opportunities to from relationships will open.

Youth leaders who have little desire to craft an appealing group session or doing their best to get out of there as soon as the meeting is over, are most likely those, who do not want to know about the young persons in their care.

Only by trying to form meaningful relationships will you succeed with yielding youth work. Strange behaviour of one or more children/young people ideally should not be dismissed. This is a cry, however clumsy, for help to build a relationship, to be heard, to belong! Anyone who feels offended by the young person’s behaviour could make the effort to get to know himself better, but, above all, learn to empathise with the young people.

Relationships promote understanding - understanding develops relationships.

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