Quote of the Week

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

Is the purpose of the role play just to have a smoother visit?
Posted by:Lloyd Woodward--Sunday, December 19, 2010

It's a great Question that came up at our Mt Lebanon Meeting on 12-18-10. The answer is an unequivocal "No." Sometimes that happens and sometimes the interaction isn't smooth at all especially because the teenager hates it that the parents are using new skills. So what is the purpose of using our parent skills on our teenagers?

The purpose to is realign the relationship. (1) To bring the balance of power back to where parents are in charge. And (2) to improve the quality of the relationship between the parent and the teenager. It's as if the message that parents send when they use the PSST skills are, "...there are limits to what you can do," and "I love you, and sometimes I like you." The first goal is enhanced by using words and phrases such as "nevertheless," "regardless." and "I'm NOT comfortable with that."

The second goal is enhanced by all the "agreeing" that we make it our business to do. We want to send the message that our teens are certainly right about 90 percent of what they are saying and doing. Then, we can grapple with the other ten percent.

For a moment let's consider that by not arguing with teenagers we don't wear ourselves out and in that sense the visit is smoother. Or after teenagers learn that we are going to remain resolute in our boundaries they might back off and that might produce a smoother interaction. On the other hand, sometimes using these skills sets off fireworks. Consider this role-play:

Mom: Honey, you are so right!

Teen: About what? You mean you will ask for the Court ordered Christmas home pass?

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 comfortable asking your PO for a Court ordered Christmas Visit.

Teen: What!? You don't want me home do you?

Mom: Nope, not yet.

Teen: You bi%@*. You want me to stay in this hell hole that YOU put me in, while you're out having a nice Christmas.

Mom: Yes, I want you to be here where you are safe. [Moving in closer but lowing voice.]

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 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!  It 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 really know what goes on in here.

Teen: So how can you say you're not comfortable getting me out of here for just ONE DAY?

Mom: I am more comfortable having you where you cannot do drugs, stay out all night, or go out with older men who give you drugs.

Teen: You don't have a clue. I'm not going to do any of THAT on Christmas Day now am I?

Mom: Honey, I'm glad to hear you say you're not planning on any of that this year.

Teen: What do you mean this year?

Mom: Well, last year at Christmas we didn't even know where you were!

Teen: That's not going to happen again I told you that!

Mom: I believe you.

Teen: Good. So help me get out of here MOM!

Mom: I'm not comfortable helping you get out of here until you've earned the home pass privilege.

Teen: Why?

Mom: 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: [Fuming] 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. It is much easier than sitting worried that the phone is going to ring and someone on the other end is going to tell me that you are arrested, hurt, or dead. That's going to be much easier for me.

Teen: So, this is all about what is best for you, isn't it. [almost snarling]

Mom: Yes, a big part of this 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:  That's all behind me Mom.  If you would just trust me, just this once, just trust me I swear to God I'm telling the truth!  I'll be good now because now I see where all that stuff can get me.  You don't think I ever want to be put in a place like this again do you?

Mom: Yes, and I believe you. Although I really have no crystal ball do I?

Teen: That's not fair, [starts crying] I just wanted to be home for Christmas!!!!

Mom: No it's not fair. Not at all. Very unfair.

Teen: [Keeps Crying.]

Teen: [ Sobbing but looking up at Mom at the same time]

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! [sincerely said]

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: It's been a bad day for me all around, loosing YOUR good opinion of me. I've lost that before too you know.

Teen: What the hell are you talking about?

Mom: Well it used to bother me a lot when you called me a bi*@#. It still hurts. But not like it used to hurt.

Mom: I guess I'm not really OK with you hating me so bad, but I'm working on it.

Teen: What do you mean by that? That is an ignorant thing to say!

Mom: Well, it used 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 murderers. OK?

Mom: OK.

Teen: And don't expect a da$$ Christmas Present you bi$#!

Mom: Knowing you're safe is all I really wanted anyway.

Teen: I hate you. Please leave now.

Mom: OK, [getting up] I think maybe we covered everything. Thanks for trying to understand [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 and the buck stops here.

Note that Mom may or may not have been able to get the court order for the Christmas Visit; however, that is not relevant. Mom does not wish to enable her 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. It is safety, treatment, and consequence, three overlapping areas.

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-made. 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. This is not about having a smooth visit. This is about realigning the power in the relationship.

The reaction of the teen could possibly 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 trying to manipulate Mom. This is important information for staff to have. This tells everyone that this young lady has a long way to go towards taking responsibility. No matter how excellent she may be doing inside the inpatient treatment program, her interaction with her mother provides useful information on where she really stands.


1 comment:

Max said...

Lloyd, I love this because it once again demonstrates with great clarity why these techniques work. This type of interchange was typical for me. You are spot-on when the Mom says "It used to bother me so much if you were mad at me..." That was always the sticking point with me - FEAR OF HAVING MY KIDS MAD AT ME (read: "maybe they won't love me anymore"). I wonder if this fear of conflict with your kid is is a Boomer Generational thing? My parents certainly didn't care if I was angry with them or not! They ruled the roost!


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