Now this might seem a bit rich from someone who writes a blog every month about communication with children and young people, but in this column I’d like to touch on having faith in your own judgement, rather than stressing out about what you read is the correct way to do things.
There is so much information out there. Some of it is conflicting, and much of it sounds as though it’s riding roughshod over natural instincts and causing us to mistrust our own gut feelings. But it’s worth taking some reassurance from the fact that the human race seemed to perpetuate just fine before all the instruction manuals came into being.
I don’t mean to dismiss the value of expert advice (obviously!) or to talk down all the wonderful resources that are available to us in the modern age, but it can be easy to become overwhelmed by it all and to forget that each and every one of us has natural instincts that are valid.
When push comes to shove, I believe that if you hold in mind that any child or young person is a human being that you should treat with the same love and respect that you would offer any other person that you care about - and that you would want for yourself - the upshot should be better than if you try and manipulate behaviour according to the current fashion or trend.
Spend time with your children at crucial moments of transition, waking up or arriving home if you’re a parent; arriving or leaving school if you’re a teacher. Take time to find out how they are, let them know that your intention is an awareness of their being. It only takes two minutes to make a difference.
Pay attention to - give in to - your humanity, and mostly I think that leads to deeper, better and more genuine communication and connection.
Not so long ago I was reminded of a time when I was working with a group of excluded 14-year-olds. As an outsider, I often find that children and young people will open up to me more readily than someone working inside the system. Although it breaks my heart when they look to me for solutions I am powerless to provide.
In the world of conference speaking, people often use the phrase ‘The Big Take Home’ or ‘The Big Take Away’, and almost any guide to public speaking will tell you that all presentations should have one. It’s a perfectly valid piece of advice and I always find it useful to decide on the main point I want people to leave with, even before I start writing a speech.