Blog | Starting over

BF Starting Over 02

Working with young people can be challenging, but finding a way to resolve differences is the greatest test of all.

‘I DIDN’T SIGN up for this!’

As I explained to my colleague I was having an issue with one of my Explorers, I tried to hold back the tears but they soon came streaming down my face; each teardrop signifying failure, rejection and frustration.

It was the start of the New Year and my Group was hosting a large youth event; the atmosphere was buzzing. In the midst of it all, I had a disagreement with one of the Explorers, which took place in front of a group of girls I was also responsible for.

Most of the girls in the group mimicked their friend’s challenging behaviour, which left me fighting a losing battle between a group of strong-willed teenage girls. Trying to get back-chatting teens to do something they don’t want to do is like entering into a ring with 10 sumo wrestlers – you’re going to get crushed.

My leadership and the relationship I had developed with that Explorer had been rejected and I couldn’t see how I was going to be able to turn the situation around.

During my outburst, my colleague told me about her own experiences as a youth leader and the times when everything went wrong for her too.

'I made sure my time spent with the Group was shared equally'

‘These situations happen; you’re not always going to experience happy days with your young people,’ she said. ‘There will be times when you won’t get along, but you have to push through and be there. Don’t give up and especially don’t give up on them.’

She then went on to share with me stories of leaders I knew and admired, and the problems they have faced.  It was encouraging to know that others have found it difficult to relate to their young people but now have a flourishing relationship with them.

In the weeks that followed the event, the Explorer I had fallen out with gave me the cold shoulder. I had to turn the situation around somehow. I took on board what my colleague said and pursued developing a better relationship with the young person. When pursuing her, I made sure she knew I was there for her and that I cared about her personal development. Slowly she began to open up to me again and the cold shoulder was beginning to warm up.

I made sure my time spent with the Group was shared equally, that way it didn’t come across as if I had favourites and she wasn’t one of them. I sought to encourage her even when she didn’t need my encouragement. It’s amazing how reminding a young person how great they are at doing a task, or pointing out to them hidden talents that they never knew they had boosts their confidence.

After I persistently pursued and encouraged her over time our relationship developed into one that is stronger than it was before our disagreement. I also learnt how to handle conflict better when working with young people.

I’m a leader because I enjoy helping young people develop. Scouting is a great place for young people and adults to learn how to develop relationships, resolve differences and learn from each other – all so that young person can develop into the well-rounded individual Scouting helps them to be.  

This story was orginally published in Scouting Magazine. Visit scouts.org.uk/magazine to download your copy.

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