Monday, March 26, 2012

March Mentor of the Month

Angela Huffman

Angela and her mentee have enjoyed an amazing year together. The mentee was referred to our program because she needed a positive adult role model who could help her with her self-esteem and academics. Her mentee was moving to a new house and a new school and was a bit worried about the transition. Angela was there to ease her mentee’s concerns by showing up consistently and allowing her to express herself. She became the big sister her mentee always wanted and could confide in.

Angela focused on exposing her mentee to new experiences, and cleverly used her mentee’s love of marine life and art to encourage interest and excitement about a large variety of activities and opportunities. They visited museums, went hiking, spent time whale and dolphin watching, created paintings and drawings together, role played complicated social situations, and worked on homework. Angela even helped her mentee practice public speaking by making presentations to each other on different marine animals, which showed her mentee how academics can be fun and practice can overcome the most difficult challenges. This has tremendously helped Angela’s mentee improve her confidence. Before Angela, her mentee had no interest in attending a college, but now she has been inspired to go to college and earn a degree in Marine Biology!

Even though Angela works and goes to school, she is very dedicated to the program. She attends most, if not all, of Mentor Program events in order to meet new mentors and help her mentee make new friends. Angela also attends the monthly mentor trainings to learn more ways to help out her mentee on various topics. She comes up with creative ways to help her mentee grow as a person, and is always looking for ways to improve. Thank you Angela for being so devoted and doing such an amazing job of encouraging your mentee! Congratulations! You are our Mentor of the Month for March!!!

Monday, March 19, 2012

What Do You Think?: House Parties


Eddie and Diego are walking home on Monday after school to play Xbox at Eddie’s house. As they enter, Eddie’s parents call him into the living room. They tell him they are going to be gone Friday night so he’s going to be home alone. Diego overhears that Eddie is going to have the house all to himself. As they play Modern Warfare, Diego tells Eddie that he should throw a small party. “We can invite Cindy and her friends. It’ll just be something small and chill; I know you think Cindy’s cute…this’ll be perfect!” says Diego. Eddie is hesitant but agrees to have something at his house while his parents are gone.

Friday night comes around and Eddie’s parents are headed out the door. They give him money for pizza and tell him only Diego is allowed to be over. It’s 9:00 pm and as Eddie changing in his room, he hears a knock. He tells Diego to let the girls in. By the time Eddie is done being ready, there’s about 20 people all over his house and more knocking at the door. This small party is turning out to be bigger than Eddie expected. He doesn’t even know half the people there.

Questions for Discussion:

1. What do you think is going to happen at the party?

2. What will Eddie’s parents think of him if they found out he had a party?

3. What would you do if your friend told you to throw a party? Would you of said yes? Why or why not?

4. What could be the best possible outcome of this party? What could be the worst? That’s the possibility of each?


** Movies, such as “Project X” and others, glorify large teen parties with minimal consequences, making it seem “cool” and inconsequential to throw large parties with underage drinking and other illegal activities.

** Four Loko, an Alcoholic Energy Drink, has been involved in many fatalities during young people’s partying, with both high school and college kids. Four Loko contains the caffeine equivalent of three cups of coffee, with 12% alcohol and a large amount of sugar. Some states have banned these and other alcoholic energy drinks because of their popularity in underage users.

** Alcohol is involved in nearly half of all teen automobile crashes and 50-65% of youth suicides. Sexual assault, damage to cognitive, physical and social development, injury, death, and future substance addiction are all risks that teenage drinking and partying can cause.

** Police reports of sexual assaults on young females show that around 2/3 of these occur at home parties, some as a result of date rape drugs being slipped into drinks and some as a result of large amounts of binge drinking or other substance use.

** Social Host Liability laws target the location in which underage drinking takes place, focusing particularly on house parties, where a majority of underage drinking occurs. In the city of Santa Barbara, fines for Social Host Ordinance violations range from $1,000-$2,000.

** Parents are often in denial or are not aware that their teenager is partying, drinking, or using drugs.

** Parents and other adults who provide alcohol, drugs, and/or party locations (especially in their homes) often feel they have control over the situation. Not only can they be punished for their actions, but the situations of house parties often escalate out of their control because they cannot monitor everyone at once. The same often applies for underage kids who provide to their peers and/or younger kids.

How Mentors Can Help:

** Kids may not want to open up about their partying, for fear of being punished. This is a conversation to ease into. You could start by bringing up the new movie, “Project X,” or another popular representation of teen partying. Ask them what they think would happen in real life and talk about how movies do not always accurately display the reality of what could happen.

** Allow this to segway into a discussion about some of the risks of teen parties, including: alcohol or drug overdose, injury, death, sexual assault or unprotected sex, drink spiking, gatecrashing, fighting, injury, and getting arrested.

** Ask your mentee if they know about some of the laws involving who is liable (them, the party host(s), and the owners/providers of the location) and discuss some of punishments, such as fines and jail time, that the responsible parties have received. Talk about how someone getting injured at or leaving a house party could also be the responsibility of those who hosted the party.

** Talking about any underage partying you might have undertaken is not necessarily appropriate because you are a role model, and they might want to imitate your behavior. However, if there are situations where you learned your lesson and never did it again, or someone you know experienced a serious consequence (jail time, fighting, injury, fines, death, etc), you could utilize your personal experience as a teaching lesson.

** Discussing peer pressure and ways that people can enjoy their social time with friends while still staying safe is important. Encourage them not to be talked into doing anything that makes them uncomfortable. Ask them their thoughts about hosting a party or providing alcohol to others, what they think the consequences might be. You might be surprised to know that they have a plan or are well prepared for those situations. Then you might not have to do the next point.

** Without lecturing, try to encourage things such as: never getting into a car after drinking or getting into a car with someone who has been drinking, leaving for somewhere safe when they feel they are in danger at a party, caution at parties around pools or other dangerous locations, knowledge about the risks of alcohol and drug usage, and if ever in a situation where alcohol or drugs are being used, do not let anyone give you something (because it might not actually be that substance, you do not fully know the effects, and/or someone could add date rape drugs to it).

** Encourage a plan for attending house parties, such as knowing how you are getting to and from (and having a back-up plan), who is attending, and what might be taking place, not going anywhere alone with strangers, and avoiding potentially violent situations.

** It is important not to encourage illegal substance use, but it is also realistic to make sure that those who are “going to do it anyway” to be safe when they do so. Encourage awareness of consequences, and helping to keep themselves and others safe. Feel free to share some statistics with them in order to make sure some of this is understood, as well as continuing to emphasize the difference between what is seen onscreen and what actually occurs in real life.


UCSB Student Responsible Party Page
Santa Barbara Social Host Ordiance
Adolescent Substance Abuse Knowledge Base
Teens and Parties: Information for Parents and Caregivers of Teens
'Project X' (movie)-inspired party ends in teen's death
Article on underage drinking parties
Adults most common source for alcohol for teens
Partying safely: tips for teenagers

Monday, March 12, 2012

What Do You Think?: Giving Compliments

Cecelia and her friends are walking down the hall talking about the upcoming school play. They are excited because this year’s play will be the “Wizard of Oz.” The bell rings and Cecelia and all her friends split up and go to their different classes. As Cecelia walks to her math class, she stops and looks at the roster for the play. She sees that the lead part of Dorothy will be played by Sally. Cecelia has never talked to Sally, even though they sit near each other in a few classes and pass each other in the halls all the time. When Cecelia gets to class she sits down next to Sally and feels like she should congratulate her on the leading part. Cecelia feels weird giving Sally a compliment since they don’t ever talk, and she normally only compliments her friends. But Cecelia taps Sally’s arm and says, “I saw you’re going to be Dorothy in the 'Wizard of Oz' play. Congratulations and break a leg. I’m sure you’ll be great.” Sally and Cecelia both smile.

Questions for Discussion:
  1. How do you think this made Sally feel? Do you think it meant more to her coming from Cecelia rather than from a friend? Why or why not?
  2. Do you ever compliment people you don’t know, or only friends and family? Why?
  3. Can you remember the last time you got a good compliment? What was it about and how did that make you feel? How do you feel when you give a compliment?
  4. Do you think compliments based on skill, like getting the lead in a play, are more meaningful that ones based on appearance, such as wearing a cute shirt? Why or why not?
  5. What kind of compliments do you usually give? What kind do you usually get?

** Many youth hear negative feedback on a regular basis, such as how they forgot to do their homework or their chores, or even verbal abuse from peers or adults. Positive feedback can encourage them to make them feel like they are doing something correct.

** Complimenting a child or adolescent on something they worked hard to accomplish can make them feel like their hard work has paid off, thereby encouraging them to continue to work hard on tasks.

** Deeper compliments, involving accomplishments and inner beauty, often have longer lasting effects, than  superficial compliments on outer beauty or appearance.

** Positive support from people kids know and trust, feelings of belonging, and knowing they can trust people in their lives are important parts of preventing youth violence (including assault, bullying, and suicide).

** Kids who learn to accept meaningful compliments based upon their achievements and identity, in-addition to constructive feedback, will have more positive results with their overall self-esteem and abilities. Meaningless compliments and rewards for minimal efforts could lead to false outer confidence with deeper routed insecurities.

** Over-praise could lose its genuineness, as well as teaching a kid that things every day tasks will only be done for a reward. Rewarding/complimenting a positive effort, such as a kid deciding to befriend the new kid at school without anyone telling them they have to, will provide positive reinforcement and can motivate more positive behavior. If a kid does not elicit a lot of effort and is constantly praised, it can reinforce the idea that they do not have to try as hard to be rewarded.

** Too much or too little praise can teach a kid to be more reliant on the beliefs of others, as opposed to how they think and feel. It is important for kids to have internal motivation, as opposed to just praise-driven external motivation. It may be better in the long run to teach kids to say, “I did it!” as opposed to “Look at me!”

** Consistency in praise and feedback is important in keeping expectations of kids balanced- not too high or not too low.

** The reason praise can work in the short run is that young children are hungry for our approval. But we have a responsibility not to exploit that dependence for our own convenience. A "Good job!" to reinforce something that makes our lives a little easier can be an example of taking advantage of children’s dependence. Kids may also come to feel manipulated by this, even if they can’t quite explain why.

** Specific praise like, "I really like how you held the door open for me," or "Great job taking your time and sounding out those hard words; I know it wasn't easy," is often much more meaningful to kids (and adults) than saying “Nice work,” or “Good job,” because it provides actual feedback on something they did and shows that someone is paying attention, therefore validating their efforts.

** Compliments and praise (from others and the self) can have a positive impact when they come from a place of unconditional love with reasonable expectations.

How Mentors Can Help With This:

** Leave post-it compliments like the ones in the image on their binder, on their homework, on their cell, especially after completing something they put a lot of effort into. It will be a simple reminder of why they are worthy.

** When talking with your mentee about compliments, help them make sure to avoid complimenting peers on appearance. For example, let's say you mentor a 6th grade boy. When he makes that transition into junior high, he's likely to notice his female peers and their physical changes. Encourage him to not make note of the girls' appearances, how they dress, make-up they wear, etc. Explain why it can be detrimental to only notice the "outer beauty".

** Talk to your mentee about times when each of you has received compliments and how that made you each feel. Talk about a compliment that meant a lot to each of you, a compliment that did not mean anything to each of you, and a compliment that actually made each of you feel worse… and why each of you felt that way.

** Discuss compliment giving and how it feels to tell someone else something that might make them feel better. Talk about times when they have put others or themselves down (sharing your own examples when appropriate) and how they think it made the other person feel, as well as how it made them feel. Talk about the motivation behind positive and negative compliments. Encourage people to tell someone when they have done a good job, look really nice, have been a good friend, etcetera.

** Talk about who a compliment comes from and how that may or may not shape the meaning of the compliment. Ask your mentee, of all the people who can or do give them compliments, who it means the most from (parents, friends, teachers, etcetera) and why.

** Consider what the compliment is about. Discuss compliments about achievements, reaching a goal, appearance, and possessions. Let this lead into talking about what kind of compliments are the most meaningful and why.

** Talk about whether or not it is hard to accept compliments and how compliments make us feel. Encourage the use of “thank you” when receiving compliments.

** Ask your mentee if they think there is such a thing as negative compliments. Go over the following and come up with examples of each, as well as brainstorming ways to avoid using these on other people and how to respond when these are received.

  • False Praises: compliments or rewards for something you did not do (One example of this might be getting an “A” for a paper that you copied.)
  • Sarcasm: worded like compliments but meant to imply the opposite (One example of this might be if someone says “Nice shirt,” when they are intending to make fun of the shirt.)
  • Empty compliments: people saying things they do not mean to be please someone, which could be a friend or authority figure, which usually do not have meaning
  • Back-handed compliments: a compliment and insult in one (ie: “You’re pretty good at this job, for a girl.” Or “You’re very smart… for a boy.”

** On a regular basis, it is important to encourage your mentee. Ask them about things more and praise hard work, kindness, and positive attitudes. Encourage them to have internal motivation and positive self-images. Role modeling these things for them is important as well.

Additional Resources:

Kids host a Compliment Day

5 reasons to stop saying, "Good Job"

Do We Compliment Too Much?

8 Best Ways to Treat Your Teens

Complimenting ADHD kids

How to Take Compliments

Building a Teen's Self-Esteem

Other Tips for Complimenting Kids
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...