1. You have observed and described your own behavior and circumstances well. It is good that you are able to reflect on your own practice and on the difficulties you experience.
2. Yes, youngsters would prefer to get off somewhere than to stop and talk. And, as you say, often they dont talk well and probably have difficult stuff to talk about or not talk about. But between you and your staff colleagues, try to plan to BE THE PLACE the kids want to get to. Youve got no program if the adults and kids are avoiding each other all the time. And it seems that the young people in your program are needing more interaction and time together with caring adults. If the adults are going to be in any way effective, there must be something happeing activities, groups, games, rites and rituals, tasks, meetings, classes, walks, meals whatever that you plan in your program together with the children.
3. Why do you feel that the kids expect you to scold them or make them do something? Are you only showing them these aspects of your role? Does your program limit you to these levels of contact? As child and youth care workers, our ability to relate to young people is often affected by the roles we play or the roles we are given. We can find ourselves in roles such as teacher-pupil, professional-client, adult-child, custodian-detainee but at the heart of our work always is the necessity for us to build person-to-person relationships.
4. Yes, at risk youngsters are often socially awkward and verbally reserved and especially with people who are not familiar or culturally similar. But they learn to talk by talking, and they learn to relate by relating. When a young person has spent ten minutes talking with you about something he or she is interested in (a movie, a sports star, how to play a game, fix a bike or paint a picture) they experience some comfort in person-to-person interactions and are less likely to be so awkward next time. Most kids come to you almost by definition with limited coping skills they are retiring, clumsy, inept and unconfident and your main job is to create periods when they can be capable, confident and successful.
5. Something to try: with kids you are just getting to know (or to engage) try not to position yourself face-to-face with them. Face-to-face can be intimidating (for both of you) and it stops you both from moving. Rather turn and face the way they are facing accompany them, dont confront them. This way you can look at something together, walk together, talk together ...
* * *
Keep on observing your own practice. Check
back and see what worked for you and what is still difficult.