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Better Late Than Never....Recap of 2/5/11 Meeting
Posted by:Max--Friday, February 11, 2011

As usual, we had a great turnout in our Wilkinsburg meeting location, which also happens to be the Juvenile Probation office of our leader Val Ketter, who was in attendance with PO's Lloyd and Rebecca and The Wesley Spectrum team of Kathie T, Jocelyn and Justin.

With Rebecca acting as leader, we went around the room for each parent to give the "Reader's Digest" update of their situation. After a break we worked on the following role plays:

Role Play #1
New parent Joan (welcome to PSST, Joan! Keep coming back!) has a 19 year old daughter Melissa. Melissa started drinking in high school until a bout of alcohol poisoning set her straight for a while. But in her senior year, she met some new friends, became rude and obnoxious, was removed from her place as captain of her sports team, and in the National Honor Society. By this time she was smoking pot and snorting opiates. She was picked up for shoplifting and finally asked Joan for help. Melissa went to NA by herself (not through a rehab program); she made new NA friends who helped her stay clean for a while. She went on to freshman year at college, but started a downward spiral, becoming depressed and drinking more. She went to campus counseling, but by Christmas break, Melissa was "a mess" according to mother Joan.
Joan and Melissa agreed that she needed to take a leave from school to get straightened out. Joan told Melissa that she couldn't be in the house when Joan wasn't there, but Melissa broke in anyway. Joan told her she had to leave. Melissa couch surfed with her NA friends, who convinced her to enter a RTF. Melissa did not take the program seriously, and received an "administrative discharge". Melissa's NA friends are totally on to her, and will not speak to her at this time. Joan made a contract with Melissa; she could live in the basement, was forbidden upstairs, and had a lock put on the door to ensure this. If she broke the rules or used, she would be kicked out of the house. Melissa finally agreed to try a different RTF, and was clean for 31 days, but left the program. She continues to live in the basement. She has asked her mom if two of her friends from college could come and visit, as they were "good influences" and although they drink socially, they are committed to helping Melissa by not drinking in her presence - what should Joan do? We played it out, with Joan playing her daughter Melissa, and yours truly acting as Joan:

Melissa: Mom, can my two friends come to visit? They promised to stay in the basement with me, and even offered to stay in a hotel if you weren't comfortable with them being here.
Joan: Well, they do seem like nice girls...but I am not yet comfortable with you having anyone over.
Melissa: (indignant)WTF?? Why? I just told you they wouldn't drink around me! I told you they HELP me, they even went to NA meetings with me! I can't go on like this all alone in the basement!
Joan: (agreeing)Being in the basement all the time sure does SUCK...
Melissa: it is worse than that...it BLOWS!
Joan: I agree - it is a miserable way to live!
Melissa: I know, so will you let me have my friends in for a visit?
Joan: (LEANS IN )Melissa, I am going to tell you something you aren't going to like. In fact, you are going to be wild...and if at any time you don't want to sit here and talk, please feel free to leave the room. I am not comfortable with your two friends coming in for a visit. The answer is no.
Melissa: WHAT?? I thought you understood how unhappy I am! Why can't I have my friends over?
Joan: I'm not comfortable with it.
Melissa: You are so unfair! You don't care if I rot in the basement alone!
Joan: You are so right, honey, you really do think I am unfair and that I don't care!
Melissa: Right! So can they come?
Joan: No...but I sense you have the need to ask me again.
Melissa: huh?...
Joan: Go ahead, ask me again.
Melissa: Can my friends come in?
Joan: No. Would you like to ask me again?
Melissa: Mom, can my friends please come to visit?
Joan: No. Do you need to ask me another time?
Melissa:(finally understanding that she is getting nowhere)@#$%!!!

Techniques we used in this role play:
agree with your teen whenever you can - it surprises them that you would agree about anything lately. Please note: you are not agreeing to their demands, or agreeing that they are correct in their thought process. You are agreeing with something you are comfortable agreeing with - if they are angry, you can agree that they are really angry! If they say you are so rotten, you can agree that you have become really tough!
The second useful phrase that we PSST-ers rely upon is "I'm not comfortable" rather than saying no and feeling the need to, or be pressured in to,explaining why. There is not a lot to say back to a parent who says "I'm not comfortable with that". It may actually stymie them for the moment. The only thing they can really respond with is "WHY" - to which the parent responds again with "I'm just not comfortable with that".
Another technique used here is the "prepare the oppositional teen for disappointment twist"...Newbies, listen carefully. Our teens are oppositional, which sets them up to DISAGREE with anything we try to tell them. So we are setting them up to prove us wrong. When you are about to give difficult information-or simply to say "no" to your ready-to-explode teen, prepare them. Say "I have something to tell you that you will not be happy about" - being oppositional, they begin to think "ha, they think I won't like what they are going to say, but I'll show them...I just may like it!"
You tell them "if you at anytime get so angry that you feel the need to walk away, I won't be angry if you do". Again, in their mind, they say "if they tell me I can leave, I'll show them...I'm staying!" Of course, they may end up leaving, or blowing up. But in my experience, my kids actually sit, listen and do not walk away. It was a real coup for Mel and me!
And now,one of my personal favorites, "Ask me again". When you have said "I'm not comfortable" and "No" enough times for the meeting to be over, but your child is relentless in asking for something, just respond as above: "the answer is still no, but I see you still need to ask...so, ask me again". Continue this 3 or 4 times, and your kid will walk away in disgust (as mine finally did - this technique REALLY WORKS!)
An important addition to what you say....your body language. Lloyd reminded us to lean in towards your kid...get into his personal space, make him feel the discomfort. That one is a difficult one to remember to do, but it is a physical position of power. You need not limit this to when you are serious or angry. You can do it to good effect when you are saying how much you love them! And through all of these difficult interchanges, it is always appropriate to say "you're right, I am a real jerk for not doing what you want, but this jerk loves you so much, she'd do it all again, just to keep you alive and safe".

Role Play #2:
Our super veterans Rocco and Sally needed to work out some issues with son Cisco, who is in an adult half-way house. His hearing for probation is coming up, and Cisco believes he doesn't need the supervision any longer. He is sick and tired of probation, and wants to do things on his own. His parents feel differently:

Cisco: are you guys still going to those parent meetings?
S & R: yes
Cisco: You guys are the ones who are addicted to parent meetings! I want to move on and get rid of Lloyd.
R & S: That is a great goal for you, son. Why? (AGREEMENT)
Cisco: Now for the first time in my life, I want to stay clean and HE is stealing my accomplishments. If Lloyd says I have to do something, and I do it, it isn't "real" because it didn't come from me!
S & R: We agree with you on that. Nevertheless, we are not comfortable with you not being on probation yet. (AGREE & NOT COMFORTABLE)
Cisco: This isn't about YOU!! This is MY recovery!
S & R: Well, we aren't sure we understand...I mean Lloyd isn't really even around that much...
Cisco: That's what I am talking about! He really doesn't even do anything. He acts like I need to do stuff for him, but I really need to do it for me.
R & S: (LEANING IN) Cisco, we are really proud of that statement; it says a lot about how much you have worked. You have really come a long way! As long as you are working your program and doing ok, you really shouldn't have any problems with probation. (AGREEMENT)
Cisco: So you admit I'm doing well!
S & R: Yes, we feel we can see the light at the end of the tunnel with you! However, you are not out of the tunnel yet, so we are not comfortable backing you on this one at this time. But if you keep working your program seriously, I know one day we will!
The discussion after this scenario was - the PARENTS HAVE THE POWER! They are the ones making a decision about their son, not the PO. They will take the blame/rage/anger that may come up after this talk, but they will also be the power to recon with. Don't be afraid of your kids anger towards you - see it as a sign that he/she REALIZES YOU ARE IN CONTROL! They are testing you by pushing your buttons, waiting to see if you mean what you say. Take it as a compliment of sorts - what you are doing is working!


Wilma said...

This was a great meeting. The role plays really help to learn what to do and say in situations where usually emotions are running high and you can't think.
I found you all in December 2010 and don't feel so alone

Sally said...

Thank you Max, for taking time out of your very busy schedule to give us this comprehensive recap of the role plays.
I especially like how you highlighted the power words with color. I find it helpful and think others will also.

Max, you are Amazing with a capital A.

Joy Y. said...

Max...this is BRILLIANT! I thought my Prodigal was the poster child for ODD (Oppositional Defiant Disorder)but based what you wrote, I guess he should take a number (!). These techniques are perfect! I can't wait to try them out and see his face...that WTF face. The two I like the best (and can't wait to try) is "I have something to tell you that you won't like" because being oppositional he will definitely think "ha, she thinks I won't like it but I'll show her; I WILL be fine with it!". The other one I love is "if you at anytime get so angry that you feel the need to walk away, I won't be angry if you do". He will definitely want to PROVE that nothing I said bothered him. This is SO good. It gives us back all the power. THANKS!!!

Joy Y. said...

Today, I got to try out "if you feel the need to ask me again" and the idea of 'agreeing with' my oppositional son. And it worked just like you described, Max!

My son and I were in the car, alone. The topic of him not being able to use "just weed" while living in our home, came up. He said "I don't understand why I can't, as long as I don't use the other drugs". I replied "You can...just not while living in our home.". He said "Well, if it is bad for me, wouldn't you care if I did it when I didn't live at home". "Well, yes I said. I would care because I'm your mom but if you are living somewhere else, it would be a choice you are free to make". So then he asks "so why can't I at home?". "because you can't live at home and use drugs". "Well why not?". (Now I knew he wanted the *reason* why we decided that...not for us to justify!) so I said "because to live at home you can't use drugs". Well why not...and don't give me the same answer!!!". I said "It seems that you have the need to ask the question again, so feel free". He said, in total frustration "but you're just going to give me the same answer, so what's the point!!!!". He put his ear bud back in a proceeded to ignore me. I smiled to myself, thinking, he is upset because he realizes the power for that decision lies with us, as long as he is living in our home. This is "power" we lacked before...when we enabled his drug use.

I see why you like the "parenting book"(How to Deal with your Acting-up Teenager)by Bayard and Bayard. These techniques are a perfect compliment to the ones offered in that book. In fact, I printed them off and put them in the back of that book (which is also on my nightstand). THANKS MAX!!!

Max said...

I know I speak for ALL PSST parents when I say...
Once you see these techniques actually get results, you can't go back!
Keep up the great work.


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