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Treating Parents under the Pressure of
the 'Responsibility Vacuum'
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In the last section, we discussed The 5 Minutes Technique. Characteristics of this technique have included being Private and Uninterrupted, a Daily Occurrence, Not Competing with Any Other Activity and No Touching.
Has your client tried the 5 Minutes Technique with his or her child, but still has questions about it? Does he or she find that the technique isn't working?
In this section, we will continue to discuss The Five Minutes Technique. This discussion will include questions that other clients of mine asked me regarding their experiences with The Five Minutes Technique and my responses to them. As you listen, think about your clients’ questions. What suggestions do you give? Here are some client responses I received after explaining the Five Minutes of Uninterrupted Time Technique.
After I explained the Five Minutes of Uninterrupted Time technique to Annette, age 32, she stated, "I already spend time with my son, so why do I have to make it into this formal event?"
I stated, "The Five Minutes structure, rules and boundaries tend to make it much more powerful over time than haphazard daily experiences."
Another client, Lawrence, age 38, stated, "I think the 5 Minutes is a great idea for my 5-year-old son, KJ, but my 3-year-old daughter, Suzette, is a bit too young for this to make any sense, isn't she?"
I replied, "In my experience, the Five Minutes Technique works just fine for 3-year-olds. Of course your Suzette won't talk to you in the same way that your KJ will, but, by age 5, the 5 Minutes may have become an integral and natural part of Suzette's life. Initially, knowing that you are there, that she has your full and undivided attention, could be more important to Suzette than anything else she might tell you.
♦ Case Study Analysis: Frederica
Frederica, age 40, a single mother, stated, "During her Five Minutes, my 10-year-old, Vicki, only talks to me about her father, my ex-husband, Derek. It feels like she's trying to make me feel guilty for the divorce by talking about him so much, since she knows that I can't talk back during her Five Minutes. What should I do? I feel like my ex-husband is trying to manipulate Vicki to make me feel guilty."
I stated, "If you feel that Vicki, and not Derek, is trying to make you feel bad and guilty, then simply tell her that you understand how angry and upset at you she must be. Remember, this is not an admission of guilt on your part, only an expression of your understanding. This is all the more important if Derek is not taking any responsibility. If he denies all responsibility and blames everything on you, and you don't validate Vicki's feelings, she may pressure you to fill that responsibility vacuum." Do you agree?
Frederica continued, asking, "Also, If Vicki will be spending the summer with her father, what's the use of the 5 minutes then?" I stated, "Several months is a long time for teenagers and even longer for younger children. When you can't do the 5 Minutes in person, try to do it by phone, daily, if you can. You may want to explain the purpose and process to Derek so that he understands and can assure your privacy."
Tito, age 30 stated, "My 6-year old, Chris, and I live with my girlfriend and her 8-year-old daughter, Kayleigh. Should I attempt to do the 5 Minutes with Kayleigh like I have begun to do it with my own son?"
I stated, "Yes, but with some caution. You may not want to do the 5 Minutes if you don't think you will be a permanent part of Kayleigh's life. If you know that the relationship with your girlfriend is shaky, and that she is probably on the way out, do not promote an artificial relationship. This could create problems for you and Kayleigh when your relationship with her mom ends."
♦ Case Study Analysis: Sasha
Sasha, age 28, stated, "When it's time to do the 5 Minutes, my 13-year-old, Matt, just goes in his bedroom, slams the door, and won't even let me in. What should I do?"
I stated, "First of all, try not to take it personally or get upset. Matt's behavior is probably a.) a dramatic attempt to push your buttons and b.) a sign that sharing real feelings is difficult. You might pull a chair up outside his door and say, 'I'm right here, outside the door. We're still having our 5 minutes.' If Matt looks out the door to see if you're still there, you can say something like 'I see you're thinking of joining me,' even if his expression is one of resentment.
"Just sit there until the time has passed. You might say something like, 'The 5 Minutes is up. I'm sure looking forward to being able to do it on the same side of the door next time!' Be careful not to say together next time, because that could allow Matt to think of you as apart by going into his room and slamming his door. Instead, you can actively define your relationship as being together, even when there is a wall between you."
Sasha stated, "That sounds like it's right out of a sit-com. My son is 13, not 5! Won't that whole scenario sound fake to him?" How might you have responded? I stated, "It might sound that way when trying to start the 5 Minutes with a resistant person, but the outcome doesn't have to sound fake. In a sit-com, the parent would probably drop the whole thing. In real life, however, your son is winning and losing at the same time. First, he may be trying to set you up for embarrassment by slamming the door on you, but second he might be putting your sincerity and commitment to the test. Try not to fold, feeling self-conscious before you even get started."
♦ Case Study Analysis: Ramon
Ramon, age 42, asked, "I know this is a technique that I’m supposed to use for my kids, but can I do the 5 Minutes with my wife?"
I stated, "Absolutely! However, in this case, some modifications might be helpful. The main difference between using the 5 Minutes with children and using the 5 Minutes with a partner is that spouses and partners often find it even harder just to listen and not to explain or defend. Perhaps this is because spouses and partners often find it easier to see the positive parenting or therapeutic value in listening and validating when it comes to children. Parents tend to look to children, not so much for validation, but for signs that they’re doing the right thing.
"Spouses and partners are, in some ways, more like children than parents, each looking to the other for fundamental validation. Doing the 5 Minutes according to the rules actually requires some instant maturity on the part of spouses and partners. Working those rules out can be a good experience. Another big change has to do with the daily nature of the 5 Minutes. It is almost impossible for each adult to have his or her 5 Minutes on the same day, because it’s very hard for the second spouse not to use it as a rebuttal to the previous 5 Minutes.
"In my experience, I have found that ‘you had your turn, but now it’s my turn’ versions of the 5 Minutes make things worse, not better. One solution is simply to alternate days. I have found that after a period of doing a formal 5 Minutes, spouses often become better listeners and more able to provide the support and validation that is often needed. When this happens, communication styles tend to change, and so the formal 5 Minutes may no longer be needed. This change is for adults, however, not for children. Parent-child relationships are very different, so you may not want to stop doing the 5 Minutes with your child." Do you agree?
Have your clients... asked any of these questions upon trying the 5 Minutes Technique? Might playing this section be beneficial for them?
In this section, we have discussed The Five Minutes Continued. This has included questions that other clients of mine asked me regarding their experiences with The 5 Minutes Technique and my responses to them.
In the next section, we will discuss Cleaning Up Communication Styles. This will include Challenging a Client’s Pathological Behavior and Not Forgetting Why You Work With Children.
How can a child benefit from the 5 Minutes Technique?
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