Meeting them where they are

When we are in conflict with a youth, our whole task is to be with him or her.

And we won’t see any change unless we can show the other people in the child’s life – their teachers, and parents, and youth workers – how to be with them.

The youth needs to grow their brain. This is a structural problem for them. Their needs are primary. The brain has not grown the channel where the youth meets other peoples’ needs, except perhaps when they encounter a safe situation, such as with younger children. In that case they can teach younger children how to meet their needs the same way as the youth would meet that kind of need himself or herself.

When a toddler wants something, they might yell at the top of their lungs, “I want it and I want it now.” That strategy won’t work for a youth who has yet to learn to be reciprocal. When the youth yells, random people don’t meet the youth’s needs.

In order to help a child grow a reciprocal brain, his or her parents, and professionals who work with the youth must see their behaviours, although delayed, as a developmental stage and not be fussed or pay particular attention to the child’s demands. By not fulfilling the demands until the youth becomes more civil, we can actually watch the youth’s brain growing right before our eyes.

Thus, when working with a youth whose brain has not had an opportunity to grow in that way, we must acknowledge that is where the brain is. The youth is not doing this on purpose. In any event, their strategy is ineffective, and they are unable to take part in the balance between their needs and another’s needs.

This youth is without a peer group, doesn’t accommodate other people, and isn’t learning. Their lack of emotional regulation is about the brain, and is merely another brain function. When it has not been built in, it has to be taught.

The brain, as we talk about it, grows as a biological organ. It is a real thing. As it grows it creates processes that allow for thinking.

As we start to understand the relationship between processes and organs, we can deconstruct them a little bit and observe that the child’s brain has suffered insults.

Our first step is to meet the youth ‘where they are’.