The blog

Making Change Happen

Tasks, Goals, Bond. The 3 legs of the stool. Let’s review: we always start the process of bringing about change by identifying what the teen is looking for. What do they want to achieve? Some examples of GOALS for different types of relationships include:

Graduate from high school
Excel on an AP exam
Pass my geometry test

Achieve a personal best time
Make the team
Get better at a particular element of the activity

Rehab my shoulder
Manage my diabetes
Stay healthy

Feel better
Get my parents off my back
Make friends

To maximize our impact, attending to the BOND, or relationship, is a top priority, and we integrate kindness, respect, predictability, authenticity, and acceptance into our interactions at all times. Many of our previous posts focus on ways to increase the likelihood that you will forge a strong bond with young people (archived posts are here).

Let’s turn our attention now to TASKS. What exactly is going to be required of the young person to make the changes they desire? This is where it gets interesting. Effective youth workers are skilled at getting young people to commit to and follow through with the tasks required for success. Here’s how do they do it:

  • Orient to the process to get buy-in: It’s important to get agreement on the plan up front. Realistically describe the plan so the teen knows what to expect and is mentally prepared for what’s to come.
  • Break the tasks down into manageable steps: anyone can read a manual or look up the steps on the web; what our teens need is a trusted adult who can break the plan into bite sized pieces to ensure success. Pay attention to the Goldilocks principle – too easy and kids lose interest, too hard and they give up. Focus on steps that are “just right”, harder than their current baseline and just challenging enough to generate success.
  • Reinforce along the way: high fives, “nice work”, smiles, recognition—find a way to show the teen that you notice their successes. Hard work is more likely to continue when it’s reinforced.
  • Troubleshoot: When adolescents fall short of goals, investigate. What got in the way? What needs more attention? Collaborative discussions and direct observation usually provide the answers here. Integrate what you find out into the plan, regroup, and start again.
  • Cheerlead: Maintain enthusiasm for the goal by remaining optimistic, encouraging, and excited. Cheerleaders don’t stop cheering when their team is down. They cheer louder!
  • Celebrate: Finally, celebrate with your teen when they hit the goal. Mindfully savor the experience and enjoy the outcome.

Bring all 3 components, tasks, goals, and bond, into your relationships with teens and you will increase the likelihood that you will experience the gratification of growth, change, and success. Contribute to the success of the next generation, one relationship at a time.


~Britt Rathbone, LCSW-C