Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Bad things happen to other people

Zlata Filipovic became a recognized author when her diary covering her experiences during the war in Sarajevo (1991-1993) was published. She wrote a line in another book that caught my eye: “…its human nature to always believe that “bad” things happen to other people, not us.”

I think that thought is what is really going on when we say that kids think “they are invincible”. I don’t think teens (and other folks, for that matter) really think that they are invincible. I think that they know that they can get hurt, or worse, when they do certain things, but they simply think that that “hurt” can only happen to someone else. It won’t happen to me. That pattern seems to fit most incidents and accidents that I see.

That changes the focus of the “intervention” as I see it. While it needs to be a part of the “education” that this stuff and/or action can harm or kill you, the main focus ought to be that it can harm or kill YOU. I think that the thought that bad things always happen to the other guy is why we can’t scare kids straight or into “good” behavior.

We need to figure out a way to overcome that human natural belief and somehow convince teens (and other folks) that the “bad” stuff can happen to them. I think seeing, knowing, talking to, and hearing about kids that these “bad” things have happened to makes an impact. I think presenting in a reasoned and reasonable fashion that believing “it won’t happen to me” doesn’t make it so, can have an impact. I think educating them that the basis for some of their behavior is the belief that “bad” stuff only happens to someone else, can, when repeated over time, have an impact. But I think attempting to scare them into the “knowledge” that they are not invincible, gets you nowhere. Telling them that “this” happens to teens instead of this can happen to YOU misses the mark. It may seem a small difference, but it has got to be personal to get them personally.

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