Can you remember the relationships you had when you were an adolescent? Did you belong to a small clique or did you have a wide circle of friends?
As I played plenty of sport, I tended to hang out with some of those in the different teams I participated in and this tended to lead to a wide circle which was great, though I had one or two closer friends who remained friends for many years.
Emily (not her real name) and I were chatting about friendships the other day. Emily, almost 16, is keen to do well at School and is genuinely striving to be the best she can be. She had concerns about how she was handling the different pressures in her life and approached me to have a discussion about all this.
I have noticed that she hangs around at times with students whose behavior borders on being ant-social, yet is not quite in that category and she is aware that she could be ‘labelled’ along with that crowd. They are all great students, simply in different places on their adolescent journey and this leads to inconsistent behavior which Emily admits she struggles with.
So, our conversation moved to looking at the importance of hanging out with positive friends.There is so much research these days that tells us over and over again that, other than parents, one’s peer relationships are the most important relationships to adolescents.
Emily and I chatted about the importance of having different peer groups. Adolescents are renowned for having fall-outs with friends and it’s a natural part of their journey through adolescence. Thus it’s important to have a sense of belonging to different groups, so one can move around between these groups when relationships become strained. I used the example above of how I moved around with different peer groups depending on which sport I played. In hindsight, I was probably quite fortunate with regard to peer relationships during those confusing adolescent years.
I pointed out to Emily that, from my experience, when students hang out with positive peers they tend to push one another to do well, there’s friendly rivalry, they most likely stay out of trouble and are positive contributors to their Communities.
I have reflected more about the qualities of Positive Peers and offer some suggestions which a mentor can discuss with a mentee, a hugely important discussion when working with young people:
Persistence – try hard; don’t give up; don’t get distracted; check work when completed.
Organisation – plan and prioritise; set achievable and measurable goals; manage time effectively.
Self-confidence – “I can do it!”; I have gifts and talents and will succeed in some areas; I am capable and competent in certain areas.
Independent – willing to stand up for something I believe in; prepared to try new things/ways/methods/move out of my comfort zone.
Tolerance – acknowledging we are all human and make mistakes; trying to be non-judgmental and respectful of others.
Integrity – being honest with myself, about myself; respectful of myself and others; truthful; trustworthy.
Visualisation – learning to paint a picture of myself doing/achieving my dreams/goals; seeing myself succeeding; using, positive action words; writing my long-term goal or dream in the Present tense, as though I have already achieved it.
Experiment – taking calculated, non life-threatening risks; having an open mind; giving something a go!
Problem-solving – considering different responses to life situations, relationship issues etc.; thinking about the consequences of my actions on others.
Effort – realizing that the harder I try the more successful I’ll be; my attitude determines my altitude!
Empathy – walking in someone else’s shoes; trying to understand how others are feeling; the consequences of my actions etc.
Rules – accepting the importance of boundaries in my life; there for a positive purpose; create a happier more supportive world; making a positive difference where I can.
Structure – living a balanced lifestyle, including 9 hours sleep a night; participant in school, sport, cultural social activities; valuing my family.
These are some examples of the qualities POSITIVE PEERS will work hard at developing, especially with the support of parents and mentors. These are some of the qualities Emily and I chatted about. She headed off and said later she felt motivated and inspired 🙂
How about you? What qualities did you observe in your peer groups – many of these? Others?
About the author: Robin Cox has been a School Principal, sports coach to National Under 19 Level, Youth Symposium Organiser, developer of Youth Mentoring Programs in New Zealand and Australia, Churchill Fellow and author of books linked to youth mentoring, Peer Mentoring and the development of adolescents to become the best they can be. He has trained over 1,000 volunteer adult mentors, run workshops for teachers promoting the Spirit of Mentoring and personally mentored over 1,000 adolescents. Still an idealist, a cancer survivor of 50+ years, married with two adult children, Robin lives in Australia and shares a passion with anyone wanting to make a positive difference in the global community. You can join him on Twitter @million2016coxy or on Facebook or contact him through his YES! website