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10 top tips in getting results with “difficult” and “defiant” children (22 Apr 08)

They’re a great challenge – but so rewarding when you succeed – and here are some suggestions

Just because someone or some group is hard to involve, it doesn’t mean you should ignore them.

Come to think of it, it probably means two things. First, they have more problems and need more help than the easy ones; and second, success with them is far more rewarding.

Take difficult children. All too often people working in the community ignore them because they’re hard to handle. And it may not be just their fault. Let’s face it, adults have so many fears and insecurities when they have to work with them.

Which is why I have asked Fin O’Regan, one of the UK’s top experts in working with children and young people to put together some really helpful, practical tips for you.

“Working with young people isn’t easy but it’s not impossible. The key is to be firm, friendly and fair. Don’t preach but do promote good values and responsibilities and let them understand that they have choices.

  1. Be consistent in your approach and handle disruptions with a response that includes no emotion and not too much talking. If you do get wound up about it and you show it, this can result in confrontations and arguments that you can’t win.
  2. Don’t take it personally, it is not about you it is about them. Failure to do this will result in stress and burn out and you will start to resent them which they will notice.
  3. Look for a draw. Defiant children are into power so let them save face by providing them with 2 options with either one being ok with you
  4. Know that your job is to set boundaries but the child’s job is to test them. Remember though that discipline means sometimes being prepared to make unpopular decisions
  5. Use assertiveness as opposed to aggressiveness but eliminate sarcasm and other forms of put downs. The difference is being a benign dictator rather than a controller

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How to work successfully with difficult young people – and enlist their help in your initiatives