students from Youth Empowerment Through Learning Leading and Serving (yellsinc.org)
Today we’d like to introduce you to Genie Sockel.
Thanks for sharing your story with us Genie. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
Teens today don’t have the luxury of taking risks in their humor, political views, or pranks. Why? Because these days a momentary misjudgment is so easily captured on video or memorialized on the internet leaving a permanent mark on his/her reputation.
The teen is left to explain why, for instance, they placed fireworks on their neighbor’s porch or why they were caught removing a yard sign in a hotly contested political race. Worst yet is when they have no chance to explain their behavior because a college preemptively rejects them based on their social media reputation.
I want to help teens care about their reputation now – even if they don’t see the value. And, I want to give parents hope that they can emerge from the teen years with a son or daughter poised for great things to come and a connected family.
My passion has come from my own home where my husband and I have grown from 17 years of parenting and now have a senior and sophomore at Grady High School. Over the years, I’ve seen how their classmates have gotten into trouble and how their parents were at a loss for encouraging them to change their behavior. In some instances, the student’s mistakes continued and the student was expelled. It’s not a great feeling for that student to feel that they can’t be rehabilitated. Demanding that these students “knock it off” or “shape up” does little to offer either an incentive for better behavior or a strategy that could make them navigate reputation minefields. In fact, blaming the “bully” can harbor loathing, resentment, and foster anti-social feelings. I believe these momentary mistakes can occur for anyone and they actually offer a tremendous opportunity for the teen who can learn about themselves and their community.
Furthermore, when the situation is handled with an attitude of growth and improvement for all – perpetrator, target, bystander, and families all benefit. Because of these examples, I founded Reclaim Your Reputation (RYR), a new coaching program to help teens and parents use strategies to protect and build their reputation.
For the last 17 years, I have coached adults who had misbehaved at work. Organizations brought me in to give these employees a second chance to learn to be more respectful. We strategized about how to reduce the risk of offending a co-worker or subordinate.
Each professional left with a better plan so s/he could anticipate and avoid any potentially damaging behaviors that could damage their career. This coaching worked primarily because the individual felt that s/he was treated with dignity, heard, and, mostly, that someone believed in their ability to be respectful.
What I consistently heard from these rehabilitated employees was that they wished they had learned these skills preventatively so that they wouldn’t have hurt anyone or jeopardized their career. RYR is a preventative and corrective program that coaches teenagers to express their best behavior in their middle and high school years and beyond.
Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
I launched Reclaim Your Reputation less than a year ago, so, the “road” hasn’t been long. If there has been one challenge it is that many schools have set formulas with how they manage disrespectful behavior. In some cases, parents are only involved after the fact — when they get the dreaded phone call that a suspension or expulsion has occurred. In other cases, parents might be informed of issues that are brewing with their student. Some of these approaches are effective and some aren’t. One thing is for sure, getting schools to be open to a new approach that I propose – training in lieu of suspension so that it doesn’t appear on a permanent record – has been a challenge. I have been successful with some schools who want to use my services proactively and others who are happy to refer me to parents where before they could only refer a student to a therapist. I will continue to meet up with private and public schools and attempt to share the benefit of offering a student a relationship with someone outside of the school. I am hopeful that they will see the value in this.
I’d also say that parents are challenged during this time period. As a parent, I know that when my teen is not having any issues, I just want to relax and lay low; my motivation for seeking a new service is low. So, I vacillate between being motivated by crisis and perhaps handling the situation poorly on our own or not having the band width to get involved and find something to help. It’s not an easy ride for us parents at this state and, so, any first step we can take will help us build a new way to be with our teen.
Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about Reclaim Your Reputation program – what should we know?
We coach teens through a step-by-step method to both understand their own motivations to care about their reputation, strategies to curtail possibly negative or offensive behavior, and how to manage the possible sensitivities of their peers and teachers which is especially important in the multi-generational work world they are entering.
While we coach teens, we also invite parents to reflect on and evaluate their own behavior. Parenting an emerging adult means different strategies and different ways of relating. It means finding the balance among suggesting, requiring, and demanding certain behaviors.
Like therapists, we maintain private conversations with teens. Unlike therapists, our focus is narrowly strategic to address interrelation and communication skills to enhance the teen’s reputation.
I am most proud of being able to give families a chance to be proactive at a time in life that can feel turbulent.
Before Reclaim Your Reputation, parents might wonder about their son or daughter getting in trouble at school and all they could do was wait for the call from the Principal’s office. Today, vigilant parents can proactively engage their family in a path to coach their teen and have their parent commit to changes in their own parenting that engenders more communication and connection.
Any shoutouts? Who else deserves credit in this story – who has played a meaningful role?
Our children have been big supporters of this endeavor. They daily show me that teens today are sophisticated thinkers who want to be an integral part of the healing and advancement of our planet.
Deena Pargman of DBPargman Consulting selected me as her Senior Trainer to train adults seventeen years ago. I have been so honored to serve these professionals.
- Website: http://ReclaimYourReputation.com
- Phone: 678-488-2737
- Email: Genie@ReclaimYourReputation.com
- Other: https://youtu.be/IiC9eIBnotU
Niki Murphy Photography