I haven’t been posting for a while as I had to take some time off work with stress and the last thing I wanted to do was regurgitate the facts regarding the stress I was under. Anyway, here is a snippet that illustrates why people working with feral youths and the underclass regularly take time off sick and also tend not to last more than a couple of years in the sector.
A few weeks back, I was at a notorious difficult care home for teenagers. Kerry, Louise and myself were trying to settle to bed, Liam, 15, Edwin, 15 and Becky, 15 and pregnant. In the morning, we were to take them to a local amusement park to reward them for a week of verbal abuse, violence, criminal damage, truancy and inertia. Every weekend they get to go somewhere, as well as a few outings during the week, often when they should be at school. However, the management and staff had stipulated that if they didn’t settle to bed on time, this particular Friday night, then the amusement park would be cancelled. This was because they were all so hideously behaved during the week and it was felt they should have to comply with some of the house rules to ‘earn’ the trip out. Personally, on account of all the negative behavior mentioned there should be no trip at all. When I was a child this was called a consequence. However, in care homes for teenagers if they behave for even one hour they will get some kind of reward. On the other hand, when they kick off and are violent or abusive this behavior will usually lead to minimal sanctions, if any. The emphasis is put on praising the positive, it’s called ‘positive reinforcement’, but this tends to be done at the expense of ignoring the negative and not dealing with it. I am not against ‘positive reinforcement,’ it works, but only when used in conjunction with discipline and boundaries. If you only use positive reinforcement the child or teenager learns that he or she can do what they want. Simply put, they learn how to manipulate.
Anyway, as we were trying to get the youngsters to settle down Liam became argumentative and said he was going to play his music loud for as long as he wanted. He was told this would lead to him not being allowed go to the amusement park the next day with the others.
“I will be f**king going. I’d like to see you try and stop me,” he barked.
“Well Liam, it’s not a question of me stopping you, it’s a question of me refusing to take you there and if you haven’t noticed you don’t drive and live over thirty miles from the amusement park. Now, I need you to make the right choice (we have to talk to them like this its management diktat) so you can have an enjoyable activity tomorrow. I know you can make the right choice and turn your music off and go to sleep. If you don’t, then I will have to come in and turn it off as you are disturbing your peers and preventing staff from finishing their work and getting to bed,” I stated.
“If you come in to my room, I will f**king smash you right up!” he snarled, as he held a steel toe capped boot in his hand ready to throw it at me.
Liam is 6’2 and 15 stone. He is huge. He is very dangerous. He has assaulted staff on many occasions. He spits, punches, throws objects and smashes up the house several times a week. He has smashed up several staff members’ cars. His behaviour never improves, he just gets worse. He should be in a secure unit. He will probably end up there eventually, but before he does he will wreak plenty of mayhem.
At times, I am frightened of him. Tonight is one of those times. He has that vacant angry look in his eye. Going in to turn his music off will escalate his behaviour. I want to avoid this, if possible, but I may have no choice. He is always belligerent so that almost any request for him to do something even the most trivial of things turns in to a power struggle where he asserts his power. He always wins in one way or another because care is set up this way.
The other two residents, Edwin and Becky are worried that if Liam doesn’t calm down and turn his music down, they too wont be able to go to the amusement park. They have been reassured this is not the case but they don’t believe the other staff or me. Edwin appeals to Liam to turn off the music, peer pressure works a lot better than adult authority (which is almost non-existent). However, even the request of his friend doesn’t work on this occasion. Staff spend another twenty minutes talking to Liam encouraging him to make the ‘right choice’ and praising him for the few hours during the week when he wasn’t being a scumbag (as he was on his xbox he had no reason or time to be involved in anti-social behavior). None of this was working, it never does.
Edwin by then was losing his temper and shouting and threatening Liam, as was the teenage mother to be Becky. Anyone walking past the house would have heard a cacophony of angry violent threats, swearing and loud dance music. If someone was to listen close enough they would hear the staff praising the young people and offering them bribes to refrain from their behavior. By now, Edwin could take no more of Liam’s refusal to co-operate, he went to his room and picked up a large metal body building weight. He ran towards Liam and let the weight fly. Liam ducked out of the way just in time. Then, his eyes glazed over and veins were throbbing in his forehead with rage. There was going to be trouble for sure. Here is a lad who has smashed up the entire house and assaulted staff simply for being asked politely to go to school. He is never made or coerced to attend just asked and encouraged with a daily cash award if he attends. So, you can imagine what he is like when he has got a valid reason to be angry?