Quote of the Week

"If I cannot do great things, I can do small things in a great way" ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

Listen To One of Our Parents on KDKA
Posted by:Ken Sutton--Saturday, December 15, 2007

Left click any place in this sentence to hear one of our parents on the Marty Griffin show - You can also right click and "save as" to download the mp3 file to your computer.

Providing MP3 audio is something new for us. Please leave a comment if you like it, hate it or have difficulty using this feature.

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We are opening our meeting this saturday at 8 AM!
Posted by:Lloyd Woodward--Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Its our holiday meeting. People may want to come early. We will attempt hot coffee by 8:00 AM. Come in early and help us celebrate the holiday.

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Ask me again. Ask me again! (who is the big dog?)
Posted by:Lloyd Woodward--Monday, December 10, 2007

This role-play or technique if you will, comes up again and again at our meetings as parents discover it's effectiveness in stopping teens from debating and pestering. It came up at our Alliance Meeting on 12-8-07, as one of our parents reported again on how effective this has been since he heard about it from one of the other parents.

Teens have learned that they can sometimes wear parents down by constantly badgering them. That especially, if parents allow themselves to engage in the big "debate" over whether or not a teen should be allowed to do a certain thing, that eventually they become weary of the discussion and may weaken to the point of saying something to the effect of, "oh it's on you- go ahead, remember I told you this was a bad idea," or "OK, but just this once don't ask again." This approach reminds me of a persistent hockey team playing against the best goalie in the world. Their game plan is to just put enough traffic in front of the goal so that something can slip in. Likewise, a teen is just going to torture his parents until he gets the answer the he wants.

Parents can declare freedom from this pressure when they admit a couple of things to their teenager.

1st. We are not going to convince our teens that we are right when we say "NO." We can sit there all night and debate and our teen will only get more annoyed or angry with the parent. The teen does not wish to understand. The teen wishes to have his own way. There is a big difference between wanting your own way and wanting to understand.

2ND. Some times our teenagers need to ask us a million times if they can do something. This is partly because they may have learned that it is one way to get their own way.

3rd. If we try to leave the teen to his own struggles, the teen might just stalk us around the house until we give in. Don't run if you think you will pursued. Stop. Face your stalker. Use strong body language and show your teen that you won't run from the issue. Exception; if you have opportunity to retreat to part of the house or to the car where there is sanctuary- then that's fine- however, often there is no safe haven and we must stop running if we can't get away anyhow.

Teen: Mom can I go out tonight.

Mom: No.

Teen: Please.

Mom: No it's late. Stay home.

Teen: Why? Give me one good reason why not?

Mom: It's too late.

Teen: I'll be home by eleven. That's not too late. You let me stay out that late before.

Mom: Not tonight.

Teen: Give me one good reason.

Mom: No

Teen: What do you mean "No."

Mom: Look, [leaning in closer and lowering voice]. I will never convince you that you should not go out tonight.

Teen: What does that mean?

Mom: Just this. We could discuss this all night. Come morning, you would still think that you should have been allowed out. I don't have the power to convince you that you should stay home.

Teen: Right. I know. So let me go.

Mom: No.

Teen: Just like that. Just because you say so- is it one of those again?

Mom: Yes.

Teen: I don't understand.

Mom: I know. And that's my point honey. You won't understand - no matter how long we talk about it, no matter how many reasons I give you- it won't be enough to convince you. So, I'm not gong to try to convince you. It's just the way it is. Deal with it.

Teen: You have no right to treat me like I'm 14.

Mom: Nevertheless, stay home- do not go out.

Teen: You don't even know where I want to go! I want to go over Laura's. You KNOW she's a good kid, Mom.

Mom: Regardless, stay home.

Teen: Mom, you have to let me go! I have to go. I have to see Laura. I have to talk to her tonight- you don't know how much this means to me!!!!!!.

Mom: OK, I can see where this is going.

Teen: You can? So you'll let me go? I love you- I promise I won't be out past 12.

Mom: That's not want I meant.

Teen: What do you mean - you see where this is going? It's going to where I wanna know why i can't go out- that's where it's going.

Mom: Like I said, I can't convince you honey but I can see that you need to ask me repeatedly about this. OK, lets get it over with. Ask me now.

Teen: What are you talking about?

Mom: Well you need to ask me, I suppose, 20 or 30 times to try to get me to change my mind. Go ahead. Ask me now. [mother moves closer.]

Teen: Can I go out tonight?

Mom: NO- ask me again.

Teen: Can I go out tonight?

Mom: No- ask me again.

Teen: This is stupid.

Mom: Yes - I agree. But you need to get this out of your system so go ahead. Ask me again. Ask me now.

Teen: No. [walks off angry.]

The idea is that once you give the teenager permission to ask you- it somehow becomes a "paradoxical task," or "reverse psychology." In any case it seems to take the wind out of the sail of the teen and they no longer wish to do it once they have permission to "fire away." The teen can sense the futility in the exercise.

The other thing that often happens is that the teenager pursues the parent into different corners of the house continuing to torture the parent who will not relent.

If you were in group in Wexford on Saturday or at Greentree last Tuesday, you may remember me telling about the time when I was small and I tried to outrun a dog who had jumped over a fence. I couldn't out run the dog. I got bit on the rear end. Stitches and everything. Very traumatic. What did i learn? Don't show your rear end. Keep good solid eye contact. Don't back down because if you do retreat you will get bit. The exception of course is if you can get away- then that is a different story. So many times, however, the parent knows that in their home for various reasons, there is no where to hide.

The remedy for this is to face the teenager. Bridge the gap. This is often a tactic that we recommend in group. Get closer. Face to face. Take a wee bit of their personal space away. Don't become their prey. If you are being pursued in your own home as you run from room to room, then it is clear who has all the power. If you allow yourself to become the prey then you are fast on the way to loosing any position of power.

Once you face down your teen you may sense the shift in power. In fact, with strong body language, you can now allow yourself to be conciliatory. This is often a very good way to take the offensive.

Mom: [trying to get away from teenager she starts walking away still saying these words] I'm done talking about this- this conversation is over.

Teen: [raising voice] Don't you walk away from me you little Ho, I'm not finished discussing this one. There is no reason - you can't give me one reason -that you have to treat me like this. I did nothing to you. I even helped you with the laundry today, and now you won't give me the car to use? What kind of shit is that?

Mom: [reverses direction- faces teen- moves into personal space of teen but keeps voice very low and very measured] OK- I can see that you still have things to say about this.

Teen: [startled with the reverse direction and the teen backs up a step to try to keep things more in her comfort zone] You're damn right I've got things to say.

Mom: OK, well I want to hear what you have to say. In fact, I'm going to give you the last word. Go ahead, you take the last word. I'll shut up and listen.

Teen: I want to go out.


Mom: Keep going.

Teen: I am going out. I need the keys to the car tonight. It's very important. If you knew how important it was to me you would let me go out.

Mom: Keep going. I'm listening.

Teen: Please Please Please let me have the car tonight- Please Mom I swear I'll be home by midnight.

Mom: Keep talking- let me have it.

Teen: Mom! Answer me.

Mom: No- I've said my piece. This is your chance to have the last word. You can tell me off or say anything you want. I'm listening.

Teen: That's no fair.

Mom: What's not fair?

Teen: You aren't going to let me go-it doesn't matter what I say.

Mom: It apparently matters to you - that's why you follow me around the house with this stuff- lets just get it out of your system. I'm not arguing - I'm giving you the last word so that we don't compete to see who gets to have it. You can have the last say. Go ahead- tell me what you need to tell me. I'm listening.

Teen: Can I have the car tonight please?

Mom: No you may not. Ask me again if you need to- go ahead.

Teen: Fu$& you. [walks away]

Both of these situations involve the parent giving permission for the teen to continue to ask or to have the last word. But now, to the teen, there appears to be no point.

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A little holiday fun
Posted by:Ken Sutton--Wednesday, December 05, 2007

We had a suggestion (good idea Barb!) at our last meeting to share some holiday treats and joy during our 12/15 meeting at the Eastern Probation Office. Purely voluntary if you want to bring something. We will have a regular format meeting, just more to eat!

Type rest of the post here

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Report on recent meetings and Holiday Vist role-play.
Posted by:Lloyd Woodward--Wednesday, December 05, 2007

We had four parents two weeks ago at Eastern, 12 parents this last Saturday at Eastern, and three parents at Gateway Greentree. At the 12-parent meeting we also had two guests from Wesley-Spectrum Family Therapy.

It was very nice to have guests at our Wilkinsburg meeting. Wesley-Spectrum therapists are involved with more and more of our parents in group and reports that we get are very positive about the great work they do.

All in all it was a great meeting. Even with 12 parents everyone finished updates by close to 10:30 AM leaving us time for an extra long break followed by role-plays. The smaller meetings that we have had lately have allowed more time for more intimate sharing and more time for longer role-plays.

At one meeting we explored how much power that teenagers still exert on the family even when they are in placement. How do they manage it? Mostly through the application of guilt. Parents are often particularly susceptible to these tactics because they already feel so guilty about having their teen in placement, even though it means that they are temporarily safe from continued substance abuse.

Add to this equation the fact that the holidays are upon us and you see tremendous pressure. For example, consider this exchange from a recent role-play.

Teen: Mom, you know you can have me home at on Christmas.
Mom: I thought you had to be here longer to get a home pass. You just got here a month ago.
Teen: No, Mom! That doesn't matter. All you need is a Court Order, and they say it's fine for me to go home at Christmas.
Mom: A court order?
Teen: Yes, you can do that Mom. Just call the PO. Tell them you insist, that you expect me to at least have a Christmas Visit. Look at this place Mom! And you put me here- the least you can do is spring me for one day!
Mom: Oh I don't know about that honey...
Teen: MOM! [getting a bit louder] it's Christmas! Oh my gawd, even Tiny Tim had a Christmas! You remember our favorite holiday movie we used to watch- or did you even forget what wonderful Christmases we had when I was little.
Mom: No honey, I didn't forget...
Teen: Then you'll call the PO and ask for the order?

We can see how much pressure this teen puts on the parent. Note that the natural tendency for the parent is to say, "no, honey. I can't do that." Or "I'll call the PO" and later say, "you Know honey, I called the PO and they say we can't do that. Sorry I did what I could. You know I want you home for Christmas and if I could have done anything at all- I would have."

But lets look at this reply. It accomplishes one thing. It keeps the teen in the placement where she is safe over the holidays. However, it does that without transferring any power to the parent. The power-players in this scenario is the Teen for applying a generous amount of guilt and the PO who says "no- way." The parent is correctly viewed as powerless. Also, the parent really does nothing to garner support or appreciation from the teen who could care less how much mom tried- the bottom line is Mom failed. Plus the teen might correctly assume that Mom didn't really try that hard. No, this is not what we need. What we need is for the Mom to be powerful, and in the beginning of the role-play you can see that the Teen attributes power to the Mom. The teen is more or less saying, "hey Mom, you are powerful." And Mom's response is "no, I'm not powerful." This is like throwing money away. Part of the problem that we are trying to address is the imbalance of power that happens along with Chemical Dependency. The addicted family person ends up with way to much power. When the addicted person is in treatment, we are trying to correct this imbalance. Consider the following wrap-up to the above role-play:

Mom: Honey, you are so right!
Teen: About what? You mean you will ask for the Court order?
Mom: Honey, what I mean is this. If we had a Court order you could come home for Christmas. A Court order goes a long way in this business, I'm learning that.
Teen: And?
Mom: Well, this is going to make you mad I'm afraid, but I'm not going to ask for a Court order for a Christmas Visit.
Teen: What!? You don't want me home do you.
Mom: No, not yet.
Teen: you bi%@*. You want me to stay in this hell hole that YOU put me in, while you out having a nice Christmas.
Mom: Yes, I want you to be here where you are safe.
Teen: Oh don't give me that s*&t. I have done really well here, and you know the staff spit on that one girl- what kind of place is this you put me in. You put me here. You don't even know what this place is like, do you MOM? You don't know a thing about this place. The things I could tell you about this place would keep you up at night if only knew what goes on in here...
Mom: Yes, I think it's bad here.
Teen: Bad? You have no idea. Did you ever have to stay in a place like this? Huh? Did you? No you didn't.
Mom: No. I don't' know what goes on in here.
Teen: So how can you say that?
Mom: I prefer that you are where you can not do drugs, stay out all night, go out with older men who give you drugs. That's all. And I want you to come home to visit only when you have earned that privilege here.
Teen: You don't have a clue. Give me one good reason why I can't come home for Christmas?
Mom: Honey, you know if we talk about this for hours, it won't matter. I can't convince you that you should spend Christmas in here.
Teen: You're right! You can't.
Mom: So, I'm not going to try.
Teen: Well, you just want me out of the way, don't you? Admit it. It's just "easier" for you that way.
Mom: Well, yes, it is easier for me to enjoy Christmas knowing that you are safe here from drugs and alcohol.
Teen: So, this is all about what is best for you, isn't it.
Mom: Yes, part of is all about me. I want you safe this Christmas. I don't' want to worry about you getting high, running off with that older man, stealing money from me and from our relatives, and hurting yourself in any of the ways that you have done in the past.
Teen: Why won't you trust me? I'm not going to do any of that this year!
Mom: Nevertheless, you'll be here for Christmas this year.
Teen: I hate you! Don't even come to visit me for Christmas. I don't want to see you anymore. I hate you.
Mom: You break my heart baby.
Teen: Oh sure. I don't think you feel bad at all. If you did, you would get me out of here for just ONE DAY!
Mom: Yes, you are right. I guess I don't feel as badly about it as I would have last year. I guess it's OK for you to be mad at me. I'm OK with that.
Teen: What do you mean by that? That is an ignorant thing to say.
Mom: Well, it use to bother me soooooo much if you were mad at me. Then, I would make decisions that maybe weren't good ones, just so that you wouldn't be mad at me. But I've changed. I have a job to do as your mother. Sometimes when I do my job you're going to be mad at me. I've accepted that.
Teen: Bi$%. Just don't visit me. You got that?
Mom: Yes, I got that.
Teen: Just think about me rotting away while you have your little Christmas, OK? Just picture me stuck in here with all these felons, rapists, and bank robbers. OK?
Mom: I confess that while I will miss you- and you don't believe that- my holidays will be happier this year just because I know you safe from Drug Abuse. That's the nicest gift I could get this year.
Teen: I hate you. Please leave now.
Mom: OK, I think maybe we covered everything. [gives girl a hug, which girl fights off.] Love you. [Mom walks away.]
Teen: [Wants to yell obscenities at Mom but mom is walking aways and is in ear-shot of staff who girl does not want to overhear their problems, so she fumes quietly.

OK, not a happy ending. Not yet. But in this role-play Mom is powerful. This isn't about the PO. Mom takes all the blame. With blame comes power. You don't get the power without taking the blame. Mom does a Harry Truman. The bucks stops here. Note that Mom may have not been able to get the order, however, that is not relevant. Mom does not wish to enable daughter anymore. She refuses to seek the order, preferring that her daughter stays where she is safe and that she "earn" her home passes the regular way. This Mom knows that being in the institution instead of at home is really part and parcel to the treatment that her daughter is receiving.

Will the girl make good on her threat not to have mom visit? Perhaps. Even so, mother can opt to visit or not to visit but her point is well-make. She will not be manipulated into making bad decisions because her daughter is angry and making threats. Period. This mother has made a statement that goes to the core of the daughter having too much power. The reaction of the teen is likely to produce one more thing. If she flips out over this, then Mom has provided "grist" for the "treatment mill." This daughter is blaming Mom and manipulating. This is important information for staff to have. This tells everyone that this young lady has a long way to go towards taking responsibly. No matter how excellent she may be doing inside, her interaction with her mother provides useful information on where she really stands on making changes.

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