The Courage To Be Yourself

The Courage To Be Yourself
Helping your adolescent understand conflict and hone resolution skills can be a daunting task. Here are two books that may be able to help you.

Desetta, A. (Ed.). (2005). The Courage to Be Yourself: True Stories by Teens about Cliques, Conflicts, and Overcoming Peer Pressure. Minneapolis, MN: Free Spirit. ($13.95)

This volume provides 26 first-person stories from teens of varied means, ethnicities, and circumstances. Their stories are at once heart wrenching and powerful. Each vignette provides an open and honest account about life as a teen today and how hard it can be to be one’s self in the face of a myriad of pressures, expectations, and concerns. Each story tells a tale of being different and the teasing, bullying, and exclusion that often accompanies those differences.

Written as a self-help volume for teens, the editor introduces the volume with a brief treatise on conflict and courage. Each story is followed by a series of “Think About It” questions to promote self-reflection and metacognitive processing. At the end of the book there is a glossary of terms that may be unfamiliar to some readers, as well as a topical index, and listings of further resources and reading selections.

While this book could be very helpful to individual teens who are experiencing feelings of “differentness” for various reasons, it could also be utilized in a classroom or group setting for self-exploration, conflict resolution, journaling prompts, or coupled with specific content area curricula for extension and further study. The publisher has a companion volume entitled A leader’s guide to the courage to be yourself ($24.95) which would promote this book’s use in a group setting.

Drew, N. (2004). A leader’s guide to the kids’ guide to working out conflicts; How to keep cool, stay safe, and get along. Minneapolis, MN: Free Spirit. ($21.95)

This guide is designed to be used in tandem with The kids’ guide to working out conflicts ($13.95), which was designed to help schools fulfill Title IV-21st Century Schools, Part A-Safe and Drug Free Schools and Communities, Sections 4115(E) viii and xiii authorizing conflict resolution, violence prevention and education programs. The student book teaches eight steps to becoming an effective conflict solver along with self-tests and exercises to help kids discover whether they are conflict-solvers or conflict-makers.

With the many demands placed upon educators, counselors, and parents today, teaching conflict resolution skills can be a daunting proposition. This easy-to-follow guide provides materials and instructions to lead 25 45-minute sessions based on the kids’ guide. Skills covered in the sessions include: fostering respect and communication, reducing conflict and violence, building compassion for others, countering bullying, fortifying young people against the effects of teasing, and making school a more peaceful place. In addition, the guide provides specific techniques to help students: think instead of react, cool down instead of act out, listen instead of blame, walk away from fights, be assertive instead of aggressive, empathize with others, and help others who are picked on.

The possibility exists to use this guide in a variety of settings both in and out of school: in large or small groups within a classroom setting or a counseling setting, youth group meetings, or home instruction. This guide is a valuable resource for anyone who desires to give students the real skills and techniques they need to deal with real life conflict.

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