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TWT: No Baby-Making Allowed!

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Dear Friends and Readers, 

This is the first in our “Trouble with Teens” (TWT) posts. To kick us off, I am going to make an earth shattering revelation… wait for it…. wait for it… 

Teenagers have hormones! **Cue shock and awe.** 

We all know this, but how do we best respond?  Below are some ways that organizations I have been a part of have addressed the first of many common teen issues: Physical Boundaries.

I am warning you ahead of time, some  of this will sound ridiculously prudish. This is for 3 main reasons:

1) The more at-risk the kids are that you work with, the more likely you are to implement strict rules. The ideas that seem the most conservative are the ones that come from working with foster kids, kids from the inner city, and teens who were in trouble with the law.

2) Generally, rules have to be implemented when the common sense of youth fails to guide them towards appropriate behavior. Rules aren’t made until someone breaks them. Thus, rules tend to be as extreme as the situation that brought them about. 

3) I am a prude. 

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RULES ABOUT PHYSICAL BOUNDARIES:

Specific rules and policies vary, but they tend to fall into 4 basic categories.

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 TYPE 1: Separate Genders Completely. 

  • This does nothing to address same gender physical boundary issues, and it doesn’t teach teens how to interact appropriately with peers of the opposite gender (other than teaching by staff setting an example). It does, however, have its perks. 
    1. It is easier to address relationship issues with more frankness when you are only talking with kids of one gender. 
    2. Especially with girls, if the teens have been sexually assaulted/molested in the past, it creates a much less threatening environment. 
    3. It eliminates worry for staff so that they can focus on other issues and tasks.
    4. This works well in small groups for short periods of time and is often used (and I would strongly recommend using this) for youth group bible studies or “focus groups” for character/lifestyle education.
  • I once worked at a camp where boys came one week and girls came another. This of course meant that kids viewed counselors of the opposite gender as hot commodities, but as long as counselors knew how to respond swiftly, appropriately and consistently, this was not an issue. 
  • At this same camp, the summer before I worked there, a counselor jumped out of a canoe that had two teenage girls in it and swam to shore because they continued to ask him to have sex with them. Kudos to that counselor.

TYPE 2: Supervised, Limited Interaction.

  • 6 Foot Rule: Two kids being too friendly? Simple solution: they are not allowed within 6 feet of each other. 
    • That means if they both stretch their arms towards one another, they shouldn’t be able to touch. 
    • That means if they talked to one another, someone nearby will be able to hear the conversation as well. 
  • Separate Chairs and Couches: If kids of opposite genders don’t sit next to each other, then it is far more difficult for them to get too cozy. 
    • This doesn’t help with same gender over-friendliness issues, but can eliminate a large portion of the problem. 
    • One teen per seat (3 kids to a couch, 2 to a love seat, etc) is another rule that can help avoid those “we were squished and my hand slipped” issues. 

TYPE #3: Supervised Interaction.

  • Clear, Consistent Rules! 
    • Are couples allowed to hold hands? What about heads resting on shoulders? When kids sit next to each other, is it okay if legs are touching? Set clear, consistent rules that are appropriate for the setting.
    • Those rules should be somewhere between chastity belts and organizing a game of 7 minutes in heaven- but will depend on your kids, your staff and the general environment. 
  • Verbal Reminders: I like quick, easy and consistent phrases to remind kids about the rules in a casual way. You can whisper it in their ear or announce it to a group without explanation or awkwardness, and everyone knows what to do.
    • “Appropriate Boundaries”/”Keep Your Body to Yourself” These are my favorite phrases to use in a non-religious setting. I use “appropriate boundaries” when I am being Serious Miss Brenda, and “keep your body to yourself”  in a sing-songy voice (a familiar phrase, since it is my same no-fighting rule) when I am being Goofy Miss Brenda. 
    • “Room for Jesus” This phrase is far more effective in a religious setting. It is pretty common for kids to be a bit more self conscious and disciplined in a church than at school or when just hanging out with friends, but it never hurts to remind kids that both you and God are watching.
  • Staff Placement: When elementary students are being too loud, what do you do? You stand next to them and stare of course. When teens are being too friendly, what do you do? You go ahead and squeeze in right between them. They can’t cuddle through you and the awkwardness is not something they will forget…works every time.

TYPE #4: No Supervision (AKA Pregnancy and Lawsuits).

What have you tried/experienced?

~Miss Brenda

The Trouble with Teens

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Dear Friends and Readers, 

Sara likes Todd but Todd kissed Renee and Renee is Sara’s best friend forever. Meanwhile, Colton likes Sara but his friend Austin told him that Sara wasn’t interested because Austin’s girlfriend Becca overheard her talking about Todd before Science class last Monday.

Now Sara and Renee are fighting, Becca is looking triumphant because finally people are talking about something other than her being “slutty”, and Austin, Todd and Colton are trying to avoid eye contact with anyone least they get sucked in further.

While you are sorting all of this out, Robbie and and Alyssa are getting a little too friendly over there in the corner. Surprise! 

I am not the Teen Director at the Boys and Girls Club, and for that, I am grateful. Still however, issues of preteens/teens tend to find their way into my work rather consistently. 

The trouble with teens/preteens, is that teens are TROUBLE. I love them, but they are trouble.

We are going to have a “The Trouble with Teens” series on Corduroy’s Button. Why, you ask? It’s simple… they have too many issues to put in one post. Enjoy! 

~Miss Brenda

Good Afternoon Ladies and Gentlem….

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…Wait, what were you saying? I’m sorry, I must have spaced out for a second. 

Dear Friends and Readers, 

I would just like to note that announcements are awful. AWFUL. I hate them. Kids hate them. I know that I sound just like Charlie Brown’s teacher.

Unfortunately, there are some things that kids need to be told. But if we tell them and they don’t hear us, what is the point? I don’t know that there is a way to make announcements ideal, but with a whole lot of work, they can be made a bit more fun and effective.

Here are some things that I have seen work well in the past…

  1. Switch it up. One day a few of my coworkers changed the announcements around to make them all rhyme. Kids paid attention! I have also seen people do announcements in accents or as a robot from mars and it helps a lot. Kids will pay attention if you do things that are outside the norm. 
  2. Use a skit. Skits can both be funny and have a huge impact. They work best in person of course, but we have done skits over the loudspeaker as well. Kinesthetic and visual learners benefit from this especially as they can see and “experience” the message.
  3. Use a character. Have you ever seen the movie The Holiday? There is a man who puts a napkin on his face and then places his glasses back on. He then becomes “Mr. Napkin Head.” For about two years, the fifth and sixth grade ministry that I worked with had “Mr. Napkin Head” give announcements. 
  4. Make it interactive. Remember, what you are really doing is teaching. If kids are able to participate even just by raising their fingers to count the announcements, it can help. 
  5. Less is more. Give kids one or two things that they need to remember. If bus behavior is a big issue or if you need to promote an event that is coming, emphasize those key words. By focusing on just a few announcements and by using as few words as possible, it will be far easier to retain their attention and have them learn the important things! 
  6. Repeat, repeat, repeat. I will read the schedule for the day to a group of kids and explain each activity quickly. Then I will review using two words or less for each activity. That way kids can both learn about their options, and remember them all
  7. Expect silence and attention. Simple, right? You will have more success if you don’t talk while they are still making noise, but instead wait to move on until kids at least appear to be listening. Even if not every kid was listening, they at least heard you and allowed others to hear you. I also require kids to be looking at me as another prompt for them to pay attention. 
What has worked for you?
~Miss Brenda

A Jungle Jeep, a Rope and a Conga Line

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Hello Friends and Readers,

Leading lines is one of those things that we learn to do in Kindergarten. We used to fight over that job. Now there are days when I would give it away…along with part of my paycheck…to anyone willing to take it. 

Here are some things that I have found helpful when leading lines to minimize the chaos and maintain control: 

  • Walk Slowly. Kids have short legs. They stop to tie their shoes. They wait for their friends. They get distracted and forget to walk. Walk slowly to be sure that the group stays together. 
  • Walk Backwards. Kids push and shove and cut in line ALL THE TIME. Even the most mild mannered children will start running and dancing into a parking lot if not watched by an adult. Walking backwards is one of those crazy-good calf workouts that comforts me when I am later sitting on my “bottom” NOT working out. It also makes my job 80% easier because I can witness and address line issues as we go. 
  • Play a Game! Follow the leader works well with preschoolers. Conga lines, clapping rhythms  and songs work for preschoolers and elementary students. Guessing games can be fun as well.  
  • Use a Rope or Touch the Wall. 
    • At the YMCA where I worked, we told all of the kids that the wall had thousands of bug bites. Unfortunately, the walls did not have hands to scratch their itches and needed the kids to help! Everywhere we went, the kids scratched the walls. This kept them in line and out of the way for others using the hall. 
    • With preschool age children, ropes can also be helpful! 
  • Embrace Your Theme. We had kids ride the “space shuttle” and “Danny the Dino” and the “jungle jeep” and the “one horse open sleigh,” depending on what the theme was for our camp week.  Kids had to open the door and climb into the “vehicle” which was the line. When kids got out of the line, then we had a man overboard and pretended to panic because we had been going so fast! The kids loved that walking in line had become a game of pretend. This works with preschoolers – early elementary school students. 
~Miss Brenda 

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