When a student is particularly tough to crack, it’s important to understand that they may be putting up an emotional barrier purposely in order to protect themselves inside, and these students that may appear 'hard' could actually be using a self-defense mechanism in order to hide the hurt they’re actually feeling. When something hurts, what is our first natural instinct? It is to protect it, and shield this vulnerability in an effort to give it time to heal; but in some cases, this armor may be an ongoing thing in order to shield a person from being hurt once again.
In many cases, the only way to really reach and inspire is to give the student help in breaking through this armor, and this can only be done when the student feels confident that they’re in a safe place. A feeling of safety will allow them to feel comfortable allowing themselves to show their own vulnerabilities, and it can teach them that help is something to welcome when it comes to the healing process. Without being shown the damage, a person can’t be expected to effectively help, and showing the student that you can give them safety in their pain is the only way to encourage them to reach out.
This idea of safety can be shown in a variety of ways, but the most effective that I've found is through open communication. Providing a place for the student to go to that is without judgment, without scolding, or without lectures is a great way to show them that they’re safe, and this can lead to them taking off their 'hard shell' and allowing you in to see what may be the root cause of their pain. With the root cause visible, you can then help the student in whatever they may need to persevere, and this gives you the opportunity to be the mentor they need as well as the positive inspiration for healthy healing.
Ian Humphrey is a motivational speaker that specializes in creating connections. If you work with hard to reach youth, Ian can give you strategies to help breakthrough, connect and build healthy relationships that are critical for the child's success! Contact us today!