Are you willing to lose a battle to win the war?
This thought recently came to me when talking with a room full of probation officers. They were upset that their youth weren’t engaging with community programs. I asked them how these conversations go, how these programs get selected and I asked them about youth themselves. The current process is a P.O. would select a program they felt fit the youth and tell the youth to attend. For me, this current process is losing the battle and the war for the hearts of our young people.
Breaking down the situation I encouraged them to define the win, which was to get young people connected to a positive community program. This is the goal, this is the win. We began a conversation that would empower youth to select programs that played to their strengths and brainstormed strategies for the P.O’s to be more than just P.O.s but positive adults in the lives of these youth to encourage them and even attend programs with them.
What the P.O.’s would have to lose something: their feeling of control.
Are we willing to lose the battle of control over young people, in order to empower them to make decisions that align with the values in which we teach them, in order to win the war. Can we set aside the secondary, and focus on the primary.
Somewhere you are struggling with coercing a young person; struggling to engage them in the program, to change a behavior, or to eat their vegetables. What would it look like to empower them to make a decision, to offer a third option, to teach them the value and the end goal of the decision-making process. When we can empower youth to make their own decisions we communicate that we trust them and believe in them.