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'I feel like I’ve tried everything!' - 6 Steps for Getting Through to Difficult Children
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In the last section, we discussed Up Communication Styles. This included Challenging a Client’s Pathological Behavior and Not Forgetting Why You Work With Children.
Do you have a client who feels he or she is not getting through to his or her children? How do you analyze the situation?
In this section, we will discuss Communication Problem-Solving. This will include Talking About Your Child’s Feelings and Needs, Talking About Your Feelings and Needs, Brainstorming Without Judging, Eliminating Solutions that Aren’t Mutual, Picking the Best Solution and Developing a Plan. As you listen, think of what you tell your client. How does your technique compare to the one presented in this section?
Viola, age 37, was mother to Trey, age 9. Viola stated, "I have a feeling I’m not communicating very effectively with my son. He’s a very good boy, but appears to be quite forgetful…here’s a rather mundane example. Trey has a dog, Sage, and is supposed to be responsible for him. We bought Sage for Trey’s birthday several years ago, and Trey understands that feeding him is part of his job.
"However, I have to ask him every day. When I ask, I always do it very kindly and clearly. I say, ‘Trey, when I see Sage staring hungrily at her empty bowl, I get upset that she’s not being taken care of properly. You need to remember to feed her every morning.’ Trey always apologizes and feeds Sage right away. This happens every day, though. I find it impossible to believe that every day Trey forgets to feed the dog!
"This same behavior has started spilling over into homework and other kinds of responsibilities, and I respond the same way every time…this leads me to believe that there’s an underlying problem that I don’t know about. I feel like I’ve tried everything! What do you suggest?" What might you have suggested?
6-Step Problem Solving Method
I stated, "Perhaps it can be effective to include Trey in your problem-solving efforts. He may have some surprising insights into why he misbehaves, as well as some ideas about what can be done about it. There are six steps to the problem-solving method that I use."
♦ Step #1 - Talking About Your Child’s Feelings and Needs
I stated, "First, talk to Trey about his feelings and needs. Try not to assume that you know what they are, because he may surprise you. If you don’t understand something, ask for clarification. This will show that you really care and you’re really listening, because if Trey thinks that you’re only giving lip service to the ‘joint’ aspect of joint problem-solving, then it’s likely that little will be accomplished. Also, as you mentioned, it could be the case that the problem you’re focused on isn’t the real problem. By exploring Trey’s feelings and needs, you may be able to open a curtain regarding the underlying difficulty." Viola indicated that she was receptive to this information.
♦ Step #2 - Talking About Your Feelings and Needs
I stated, "Second, talk about your own feelings and needs. However, try to keep this succinct. The idea is not to try to convince Trey that your needs or feelings are more important or weighty. The concept you will want to convey is that both of you have feelings and needs that are valid."
♦ Step #3 - Brainstorming Without Judging
I stated, "Third, in addition to talking about Trey’s needs and your needs, brainstorm all possible solutions without judgment. If possibly, encourage Trey to come up with the first couple of solutions. Try to encourage lighthearted alternatives as well as more serious ones, and write down everything, without analyzing." Viola asked, "Is that to let him know that I’m not belittling his solutions, even if they’re silly?" I stated, "Exactly."
♦ Step #4 - Eliminating Solutions that Aren’t Mutual
I continued to state, "Fourth, eliminate solutions that aren’t mutually agreeable. Go back over your list and cross off solutions that either of you finds unacceptable. If you think one wouldn’t work, say so without criticism."
Viola asked, "What if we haven’t got anything left on the list when we’re done?" How might you have answered? I stated, "In this case, you have two options. You can reconsider some of the solutions you crossed off of your list, or you can brainstorm more alternatives." Viola stated, "Perhaps we could combine two of our solutions." I stated, "Excellent idea."
♦ Step #5 - Picking the Best Solution
I stated, "Fifth, try to pick the best solution or, as you suggested, a combination of alternatives. It may be helpful to have at least one mutually agreeable solution remaining on your list before you can proceed to this step. If there are a variety of options left on the list, decide together which one you want to try."
♦ Step #6 - Developing a Plan
I stated, "Sixth, develop a plan for implementation and evaluation. Decide how long you want to try the new plan before evaluating its success. It’s also best to develop pa fallback plan in case the first solution doesn’t work. Sometimes a fallback plan will be one of the other alternatives on your list, perhaps a ‘second-best choice.’
"At other time the fallback plan might involve consequences designed by either you alone or in consultation with Trey." Viola stated, "I have always felt that being an effective parent meant respecting Trey…this solution really seems like it communicates that through respecting Trey’s feelings, needs and ideas." I stated, "I agree. It also allows your ideas to be heard equally, so Trey can respect you as well. Sharing these things can enhance your relationship while reducing misbehavior."
In this section, we have discussed Communication Problem-Solving. This has included Talking About Your Child’s Feelings and Needs, Talking About Your Feelings and Needs, Brainstorming Without Judging, Eliminating Solutions that Aren’t Mutual, Picking the Best Solution and Developing a Plan.
In the next section, we will discuss Blowing Up at Children. This will include Stress and Trigger Thoughts.
What are 6 steps to the problem-solving model presented in this section?
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