When you’re working with young people at risk it doesn’t work to say, ‘Oh look, you’re so great, you have so much potential’
Young people need to be seen in terms of their potential as well as their behaviour, the Chief Executive of charity Children: Our Ultimate Investment (UK), said this week.
Diana Whitmore told delegates at the Behaviour Change in Public Health conference that if constantly ‘labelled’ negatively, they will begin to display behaviour appropriate to that label.
Ms Whitmore talked of the charity’s programme, Teens and Toddlers, which aims to give young disengaged people an ‘experience of their potential’.
She explained: “When you’re working with young people at risk it doesn’t work to say, ‘Oh look, you’re so great, you have so much potential.’
“They need to feel that, to live that.”
The work of Teens and Toddlers has taught the charity ‘unquestionably’ that all young people, vulnerable or not, long to feel they belong somewhere; need to feel good about who they are, and have a sense of meaning and purpose in their life.
Participants go into nurseries to act as mentor and role model to small children.
Ms Whitmore described this approach as a ‘live, hands-on, in-your-face experience’ of the enormous amount of work involved in having a child.
It works as a deterrent to teenage pregnancy, she said, and every young person involved so far has made the choice to be entered for a recognised accredited qualification in interpersonal skills. The pass rate is 92 per cent. This encourages participants to believe they can achieve and that school can be useful to them.
The young people are involved for 18 weeks, but outcomes are not usually obvious until the final 25 per cent of the programme.