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Transcripts of Selected Group Discussions on CYC-Net

Since it's founding in 1997, the CYC-Net discussion group has been asked thousands of questions. These questions often generate many replies from people in all spheres of the Child and Youth Care profession and contain personal experiences, viewpoints, as well as recommended resources.

Below are some of the threads of discussions on varying Child and Youth Care related topics.

Questions and Responses have been reproduced verbatim.

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Language, manners, respect

I am new to the 'network'. Our staff are having a difference of opinions about whether we must teach the children to use better language and show manners and respect because surely this will help them better when they grown up and look for a job ect, or whether we should accept bad language and bad manners and respect? Are we here to teach them better or not?


I recently attended a workshop provided by Charles Appelstein (Youth Care worker extraordinaire!) and author of the books, The Gus Chronicles, Reflections of an Abused Kid, Gus 2, Reflections and There is no Such Thing as a Bad Kid. This was the most amazing workshop I have ever attended and it would benefit every Child and Youth Care in existence! As well, I am a Child and Youth Care College Instructor, and I use those 3 books as texts. I honestly believe every Child and Youth Care should read those 3 books. One of the things he stressed was using "please" and "thank you." He stressed how much this makes a difference in a variety of areas, and that they should be used always by staff and kids. He gave several examples. He said even kids in crisis, using please and thank you is important. First of all, it is all a matter of respect. It is one thing to respect bad language, because I realize that several generations use terrible language. That is all one thing, but you can use bad language and still use respect. Can you believe that I just said that!! Charles Appelstein has a website, check it out for great advice, as well, I strongly recommend those books, and especially There is no Such Thing as a Bad Kid.

I hope this helped a little!!

CYCW Instructor
NS, Canada


In my opinion it is very important to teach the children and youth we work with to use appropriate language, respect and manners!! Though it is not always a main focus with some of the challenges our youth face, I always make sure I am modeling appropriate behaviour. Simple redirections, I find, work quite well during conversations, and interactions between the staff and residents of our residential facility. These are minor issues in the big picture, so I tend to not push too hard, but for example when a resident demands something I always remind them that I will not do extra things for them unless they ask politely. We tried once to do a program with our teens on manners, but they thought it was lame. So incorporating it into everyday life seems like the best way to get the message across, besides that is when they will need to put in all into practice, everyday life. And remember, everyone you work with may not be on board, but do the best you can!! (I have coworkers that swear in front of the residents. When the residents ask me why I do not swear at work, I remind them that there is a time and a place for that language, hanging out with friends, that's ok, at work, it is not.)

Hopefully that helps!
Steph Locke

Hey Mary,

You ask a question that I think about often. The answer, I believe, lies in the relationship you have with the youth you are working with, and the relationship you have to the larger peer group as well.

It seems to be a question of "pick your theory". Are you a behaviourist, following Pavlov? Offering positive or negative reinforcers until the behaviour has curbed? For example, offer smiles and time spent when they are socializing positively, or spend less time with them when they are behaving rudely? Offer negative consequences or cancel outings?

Or do you buy into the socio-cultural learning model like Banderas? All you need to do is role-model appropriate behaviour and hopefully they will follow suit? I personally believe this only works when all adults in a child's life and macrosystem subscribe to similar socio-cultural values, unless you are working one-to-one in an attachment related way (more to follow on attachment).

Or perhaps we need to focus on strengths and the greater ecological context.

The Integrative model,for example, created by Garcia Coll, Lamberty, Jenkins, McAdoo, Crbic, Wasik and Garcia (1996) allows us to recognize development as infinitely and intricately affected by where one's social location lies on the greater scope.

Take for example an adolescent who came to our centre, who engaged in many at-risk behaviours. Staff introduced positive and negative reinforcers and modelled socially acceptable behaviours encouraged in our centre, but also recognized that this young man, surviving on the fringe of society in very difficult times, needed to be supported and recognized within this location.

His estranged, criminally involved father asked us to help his scrawny son into boxing lessons, knowing full well that the boy was being socialized by his family, peers and neighbourhood to become criminally involved. The father feared that once his son went to jail, he would be the beating bag for being so small. So we worked with the family to achieve the plan for boxing lessons.

The father and son both became more fit, spent more time in the gym together, and the boy was less of a physical target. The boy may not display or behave in the socially acceptable ways, but he is more connected with his father, knows the centre is there to help if he needs any help, and he is a little safer in the world/sub-culture that he is entrenched in.

Me personally, I go for attachment theory. I connect with those "youts", and through that bond I hold high expectations. Once a youth is positively attached, they want to behave in positive ways that impress me (and vice versa). I find this bond often supercedes the influences of their peer culture. This theory can be seen in building social capital and one-to-one work. I wish all youth felt they had one adult how cared about them unconditionally.

Them's my thoughts. Wish I had a clean answer for you.

Vancouver, BC

Rather thank manners and respect per se ...I like to utilize the info that can be found on Virtues encompass all of these. This program is character building but fits with all faiths and generations and is appropriate for use with kids, teens, therapeutic groups, families and in Staff training.

Cambridge, Ontario , Canada.

Dear Mary

If we do not teach them good manners then who will? Children imitate adults and they are small men that have to be developed by the environment we provide them with, so if their environment is filled with violence, bad language they will surely absorb it like sponges. We cannot expect them to fulfill their roles as worthy 'man' if we do not educate them and allow them to become as the great Dr. Montessori said 'Forgotten Citizens'. Do yourself a favour and read her book the Montessori Method, I think this will open great doors for you. And I really believe that we as adults have a great responsibilities in teaching these children, we cannot allow them to fall through the cracks. So do what you feel is morally right.

Leona Roux
South Africa

Hi Mary,

I believe that we have a great responsibility to teach children manners and respect. Some people will shy away from this, because it feels a lot like "parenting", and we don't always want to take on a parenting role. However, you can call it socialisation or social skills training or whatever, the end result remains the same. We all know adults who it appears, never learnt those skills in childhood, and we all know that it makes a negative impact on their ability to develop friendships and relationships. If we don't take the responsibility to teach the children these essential skills, then who will do it?

Werner van der Westhuizen
Port Elizabeth, South Africa

In response to Sandi in NS –

You're right there is no such thing as a bad kid! The language of respect like all language is so very important to humans experiencing connection.

You can ignore swearing etc. all you like, but you are still communicating a reaction to it and vicariously to the person via your body reactions; a slight flush a change in your breath rate etc. and as many youth at risk are they possess highly adapted skills in 'reading' people.

In my work at the youth centers and now with families as an independent Child and Youth Care offering parenting support there is now better address of these issues than straight on and with a clear level of respect expectation. That lays primarily with the adults to uphold their own behaviour and offer encouraging invitations to change.

Keep up the great work my fellow CYC's.

Kim McLeod, aka Grandma K,

Manners and language are the skills we use to demonstrate or communicate respect, a social value.

If children do not have the skills of manners and langauge, they cannot use them even when they want to.

If they do not have the value of respect for other people, they will not use the skills, even if they have them.

And so we need to teach both.

New Orleans

Reading John's contribution about children having the skills of manners and langauge and the value of respect for other people ...

And then John, if the adults don't have them? I believe there are many ways to communicate respect that sometimes might not include "manners and language" and so then I wonder if the "skills of manners and language"
becomes a judgment? I know I can feel respected with a look, a touch, and yes a kind/respectful word.

I think children/youth can communicate respect in many ways/languages if there is an opening for them...we create that opening/invitation and we begin to do it as we "enter" no matter where we are and with whom. We are after all students and teachers to each other.

British Columbia, Canada

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