The power of our fundamental beliefs...

Some kids seem too troubled to fix. It’s just too hard…

Photo courtesy of ©123rf/akz (adapted)

Photo courtesy of ©123rf/akz (adapted)

If we left it there and didn’t look closer, we’d be defeated before we start.

But there’s more to it than that.

Why redeemability matters…

I dealt with a really difficult situation recently. A young man with very risky behaviour. Very risky.

As I began to talk to those working with him I became aware of my own thoughts. I wasn’t thinking about the risky stuff. I was looking for positives.

Is this a good thing?  Well…yes, and no.


Because if we don’t look for the positives we’re looking at the negatives. That’s the choice.

The bad stuff presents itself pretty clearly. It’s easy to spot because it’s in your face. And it’s usually at the centre of what we’re dealing with as professionals – trouble of some kind:

  • Mental health problems
  • Offending
  • Challenging behaviour
  • Self-harm or suicidality

If we’re going to help kids move on from these issues, we have to see the positives. Or at least be looking for them.

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Getting the balance right…

Looking for the positives is good if it allows us to focus on someone’s strengths as well as the risks. But to neglect risks and problems altogether would be nuts.

We need to get the balance right.

This is what we did with the case I mentioned – we discussed it all. Strengths and risks. Balance.

So here’s a call to action that could help shape our practice: ask yourself this question…

To what degree do I focus on the negatives and how can I shift the focus to get a better balance?


I’d be dishonest if I gave the impression I thought it was all about balance. Because there’s another point here.

There’s an issue that underlies all good practice with troubled kids – do we think that change is possible?

You either do or you don’t. It’s a yes or no question. And it divides people.

I reckon those folks who struggle in their engagement with young people have one of two problems. Either…

  • They believe that kids can’t or are highly unlikely to change. Or
  • They’ve lost the hope they used to have that change is possible

That’s not to say that I never doubt or lose a bit of hope. We all do. But basically if we hold to the idea that kids can change, then we can help.

It’s a belief that changes everything. It transforms our…

Photo courtesy of ©123rf/akz

Photo courtesy of ©123rf/akz

  • Energy
  • Approach
  • Demeanour
  • Creativity
  • Perseverance
  • Resilience

Ultimately, change is about a number of things. I’m not an advocate that positive thinking will do it on its own – clearly it won’t. But our thinking affects behaviour and attitude.

Beliefs affect them even more so.

Here’s my fundamental belief – kids are redeemable. It drives everything I do professionally.

What’s your fundamental belief?

Final word…

As Michael Hyatt is fond of saying – if you’ve lost your way, it’s because you’ve lost your why.

So why do I work with troubled kids? Because I believe they can change and it’s worth helping them. They are redeemable.

What about you?…

What do you think?…

  • What’s your fundamental belief about the kids you work with?
  • How does this impact the way you work?

Please let me know what your thoughts are… Leave a comment below or click here.

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© Jonny Matthew 2015



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