Quote of the Week

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

A New Year's Promise - submitted by Daisy
Posted by:Jenn--Sunday, December 30, 2012

Thanks, Daisy, for sharing this!


As long as I live, I will always be your parent first and your friend second.  I will stalk you, I will flip out on you, I will lecture you, drive you insane and be your worst nightmare, and I will hunt you down like a bloodhound when I have to, because I love you.  When you understand that, I will know you have become a responsible adult.  You will never find anyone in your life that loves, cares, prays or worries about you more than I do.  If you don't mutter under your breath "I hate you" at least once in your life, then I'm not doing my job properly.

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Scoring the home pass
Posted by:Lloyd Woodward--Saturday, December 29, 2012

(Originally posted November 7, 2011)
Just a note about scoring home passes. This is where you set the bar. If you rate the home pass "successful" mostly because you've seen improvement and you want to encourage your teenager, then consider this: his goal is to have a successful home pass. Period. Oh sure he may have other goals but none of them rise to the importance of just having his home pass rated as successful.

Once you say it was successful you have told him that's good enough. Not only does this have repercussions for future home passes but it has repercussions for the behavior that you can expect once he is returned home from placement. This is really a rare opportunity for you to send a strong message of where you want the bar set and what your expectations are for his behavior.

For example, perhaps you were tested over and over about his wanting to break the rules. Each time you used your parenting skills, e.g., use of power words such as nevertheless and regardless to win the day. OK, you correctly say to yourself that he has to test you to see if you are really going to enforce those rules or not. Fine. However, at the end of the day, or in this case at the end of the home pass you feel exhausted and couldn't wait for it to be over, what does that mean?

In answer to that I'm not sure we have a hard and fast answer. Because he did follow the rules and isn't that what counts? Well, yes on the one hand but if in fact this means that each and every home pass is going to be an exhausting affair, and return home after placement is going to begin a lone exhausting battle to enforce every rule, then perhaps we have to look at this and wonder if set the bar to low. After all, it's not like these rules wern't laid out ahead of time.

In other words, while some testing of the rules might be considered OK and might even be expected, acceptance of badgering might be a missed opportunity for the parent to set the bar higher. Trust your instincts on this. If the visit felt bad, are you being honest when you report that it was successful. One reason that this is important is that Kathie and I like to see three successful home passes before discharge home.

All I want to do here is challenge PSST parents to make the best use of the home pass that you can. It's a window of opportunity.

Here's a suggestion for home pass guidelines that I don't' think we've given in any of our other posts about home passes. Try to strike a balance between some testing and too much testing of rules.

Teen: Mom, I want to call my girlfriend. She's going to be upset if I don't at least call. I mean C'mon, at least one phone call is that asking too much? You get one phone call in jail even.

Mom: [Mom is tempted to cover, once again, the purpose of "family only home pass" but she reminds herself that this is ground that has been covered before over and over and over. So instead she tries this.] I know you hate that rule, you feel it is terribly unfair. And while I don't understand exactly how important this call is, I hear you that's it's pretty darn important. Might not be life or death but it sounds like it is just under that on the scale of importance in your life.

Teen: Right! I gotta call her Mom please let me please let me please let me.

Mom: This is the best I can offer. You go ahead, say for the next hour, ask me if you can call her. I know you need to test us on this. We'll have this conversation or whatever you want to call it, until 2:00 O'clock. After that, I need you to stop asking if you can make that call. Otherwise, I'm afraid our whole weekend is going to be exhausting, at least for us. Do you see what I'm saying?

Teen: You're saying go ahead and ask but if I ask all weekend that's unacceptable?

Mom: Right, that's exactly what I'm saying- great job hearing me.

Teen: But that's not fair.

Mom: How would this be more fair? [Use of open-ended question. More effective for opening up teen than saying "why not?"]

Teen: Well, it shouldn't matter how many times I ask, as long as I don't make the call I should get a successful home pass, because I followed all the rules.

Mom: That's a very good point. Maybe I'm being too harsh about this, and by the way, I appreciate that you and I can have this conversation, but you see, this isn't working for me.

Teen: What do you mean?

Mom: Well, it works fine for you- you can ask me a thousand times, and push me all weekend to let you make that one call, and as long as you don't make it, you're good. Meanwhile, it hasn't been any fun for me having to deal with this over and over and over again all weekend. That's why I wanted to set a limit on it. You get to ask me that same question, or lets' say questions about violating the rules that we have already agreed on, for a certain time period. Maybe I can negotiate the time period, if you feel that ask me up to 2:00 PM is to restrictive for you. You can suggest a different time period, but I'm not comfortable that you get to ask me the entire weekend, then i'm exhausted, and you still get a "successful home pass." I don't feel that that is fair either.

Teen: Oh, I see, so if I ask all weekend then you'll tell Outside In that I was unsuccessful?

Mom: Yes, but I'll negotiate the time frame with you if you like.

Teen: Like what?

Mom: Well, let's say if 2:00 Pm is too restrictive for you, then how about you can badger us about that rule until 5:00 PM, that's three extra hours, that means you can badger us for almost four hours is you start right now, then drop it- just follow the rules the rest of the weekend, and we'll call that a successful home pass if nothing else unforseen happens? How's that- do you feel that is more fair?  [Notice labeling the behavior as badgering.]

Teen: I guess so.

Mom: OK, then that's a deal. Let's get started. Ask me if you can call your girlfriend or whomever you want to violate the home rules that we already agreed on before you left for the weekend.

Teen: Can I call her?

Mom: No. [pause.] go ahead ask me again.

Teen: This is stupid.

Mom: Kind of - yes, but at least I feel that it's more fair.

Teen: I'm not going to get to call her no matter how many times I ask.

Mom: I agree.

Teen: I'm done. I'm going to my room. Don't bother me OK?

Mom: Take a break Son it's OK. We'll talk about this later.

Teen: Don't think you won or you heard the last of this.

Mom: Oh no. I'm sure we'll talk about it later.

This role-play was not intended to be the end-all-be-all prototype of home pass rule negotiations. Many of you could write better ones I expect. My only intention was to show that you do not have to have an exhausting weekend and still rate it as successful. There is a way or perhaps call it a goal, to let your teenager know that enough is enough. "It's fine that you are following the rules but if the entire weekend was spent testing me, then no I'm going to have a problem calling that successful."

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Stop to Enjoy Today! - submitted by Daisy
Posted by:Jenn--Thursday, December 20, 2012

A thought for the day from Daisy, especially appropriate during this holiday season . . . Many of us worry about tomorrow so much that we sometimes forget to enjoy today!

"I have a stairway in my house, and every time I look too far ahead when I walk up or down the steps, I stumble and fall. I don’t have any problem when I pay attention to the step I’m on or the one that is just ahead. It’s the same for our lives. Looking too far ahead can cause us to stumble and fall."

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Thank You from Justin
Posted by:Jenn--Sunday, December 16, 2012

First and foremost I want to thank all of those in attendance at PSST on Saturday, December 15th for the Big Announcement. It was so nice to see such a wonderful turnout and the support is incredible.
As you probably know by now, I have accepted a job with Allegheny County Juvenile Probation and will be starting on January 14th, effectively ending my time at Wesley Spectrum Services on January 11th. While it is sad to step away from a job that I am very passionate about, I am stepping into a job that I am even more passionate about. It is a wonderful opportunity for me to take all of the wonderful skills I have learned and apply them in a different facet.
For those of you who attended the meeting, know that I was speechless after everyone's comments and could only mutter the words "thank you." The truth is, I was extremely humbled by all of the kind words and show of support that I was rather choked up. Over the last 2 years I have learned so much from not only Lloyd and Kathie (Val and Jerry, too!) but all of the parents as well. You have allowed me to see you in vulnerable times and have accepted advice with open arms, which I know is very difficult at times. I'm very impressed also with how each of you has grown, many by leaps and bounds. I'm thankful for how embraced I felt from the beginning and the compassion shown towards new parents to the group. PSST has been a wonderful experience for me and I have every notion of attending from time to time in the future. I will also spread the word to the families I work with because I have seen such positive effects on all of you that attend.
I'm truly grateful for the guidance of Lloyd and Kathie in particular; I could not have grown in the ways I have without the support from them and Val. I'm looking forward to this new chapter in my career and will not forget any of you. Again, thank you for all of your continued effort to become empowered and save your children's lives! Without all of your dedication to each other and your kids, as professionals we would likely not have the same level of joy with our jobs as we do. As parents we all have been given a gift and sometimes it is up to us to keep that gift safe; never feel bad about doing everything in your power to ensure that happens!

Thank you so much for everything that you all have said and given!

Thank you also for allowing my wife and daughter to share in the last half of the meeting!

God Bless and Merry Christmas!

Justin Innocent

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If you loved me you would (fill in the blank).
Posted by:Lloyd Woodward--Sunday, December 16, 2012

About this image
It's tempting to challenge a loved one, a child or a spouse to prove that they love you.

"If you loved me you would respect my space."

"If you loved me you wouldn't threaten me."

Don't be surprised if you see your teen using this approach back on you.

"Mom, if you loved me, you wouldn't call my Probation Officer." "Dad, if you loved me you would let me have the car tonight. You know how important it is to me."

The real problem is that love has nothing to do with it.

Love isn't enough. If love was enough then we wouldn't have any parents at PSST because you couldn't find any more loving parents than at PSST.

People show love in different ways. It's up to the shower of the love to decide how to show it. It is also true, however, that some people, either teens or adults, give lip service to love without demonstrating it. Love is an action word and sometimes we are right to ask for reassurance that someone loves us; however, if we are using our need for reassurance to try to control a loved one's behavior it is probably going to backfire at some point.

I am reminded again of what we say in PSST and this time I looked up the source: “Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them." -James Arthur Baldwin.

Show love to your loved ones and likely (at some point)your loved ones will show love back. Sometimes I think we fail to consider how many different little ways we can show love to our loved ones. Let's consider for a moment how we as parents but more than that as people can show love to our loved ones.

For example, have you told your teen that you love them today. Have you told them that you are thinking of them? Have you texted them lately? Have you written them (snail mail anyone?) When's the last time you bought a card for your teen when it wasn't their birthday or it wasn't Christmas? What is their favorite foods and when have you made that favorite dish last? Is there a movie they are dying to see and why not surprise them with movie tickets? How about spending more time and just listening instead of lecturing? How about letting them know in some other way that you were thinking of them?

There are lots of ways, but as it often happens, parents become resentful because the teenager has accrued so much power. And when we are resentful we don't care to do the little things. When we feel like we are being taken advantage of, then we don't want to show love. Instead, we want love shown to us and we want reassured that our teens love us and we fear that really they only want "stuff." Even then if we roll the tape back we are probably the ones that started equating "stuff" with love. "See how much we got you for Christmas?"

Here's some alternatives to say when you are thinking of saying, "If you loved me you would _____.

"I know you love me, I'm your mother and you have your special ways of showing that you love me. I'm just saying another way you could show me that is to clean your bedroom really really good today. You know that Aunt Cheryl is coming over and it would mean a lot to me to have the whole house clean. I can help you if you need it or if you don't need help that's fine too."

Even though I suggest this as an alternative to saying, "If you loved me you would ___" it is probably better to just separate the love thing from behavior. "Hey, I know you don't need to hear this, but I need you to clean your room really really good today. It's a big day! Aunt Doris is coming and I'm going to be getting the whole house in order."

Associating love with behaviors is a slippery slope. Consider the above example but put the shoe on the other foot. When that gets turned around on you it might look like this: "Mom, I know you love me and you have your ways of showing that, but one way you could show that is to ask the Judge to send me home with you today." Of course, then you have the option of replying, "You're right I love you very much and today I'm more concerned about your safety so it's not all about love today."

Another side of this coin is trying to control an addict by withholding love. "Oh, if you do that again, I'm done with you- forget you- don't even speak to me because I won't be talking to you." The problem with this is that it doesn't work. Even when teenagers rob, kill, rape or whatever, parents still love them. Love isn't something that you can just turn off like a light. Pretending as though you can turn it off is phony and in the end it has a way of backfiring on you.

If you've been to PSST you know that we talk about how to adopt a Non-enabling approach to your teenager that can still be done with love. We just stop giving them stuff, stop giving them money, stop giving them privileges, or in some other way hold them accountable for their behavior. Just don't pretend that you won't love them because no one is going to believe that one.

If your teenager doesn't do what you want you know it doesn't mean they don't love you. They love you. They just love stuff, power, drugs, and other things too.

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The Conversational Best Practices of Roxie and Lenny - written by Roxie
Posted by:Jenn--Monday, December 10, 2012

The Conversational Best Practices of Roxie and Lenny - written by Roxie

Lenny, my 17-year-old twin son, has been dibbling and dabbling in drugs and alcohol since age 13. To my surprise, he was leading a double / triple life outside of my happy home. Just a sidebar - one’s definition of happy may not be the same as one’s children. Apparently, happy to me meant boring to Lenny. As Lenny’s mantra goes, “You know what happens when I get bored, don’t you?” Was that a threat or just an in-Roxie’s-face demand to keep him purposefully occupied so he will not hang with his homeboys and get high? Both.
To help Lenny redefine what true happiness should be, we have embarked on weekly counseling sessions together at his halfway house. My reluctance took months, for I thought it would be an hour of wasted time with my uncooperative kid and a counselor explaining the meaning of co-dependency. To my wonderful surprise, it has turned out to be one of the most significant, positive experiences involving Lenny and myself.
In the first meeting, I noticed a small white board next to the counselor’s chair with eight rules of conversational engagement that Lenny and I had to follow during our session.    I was awestruck. It was as though I was discovering a new form of hieroglyphics. I experienced what Oprah would call an “aha” moment. I have named these rules Conversational Best Practices. The rules are so simple, yet tantalizingly untied to my unruly tongue.
1.     Avoid interruptions. Instead, wait for the person to pause, or ask if it is OK to speak.
2.     Avoid talking for more than a minute.
3.     Avoid saying, “no” when someone asks for something. Instead, tell the person what you can do.
4.     Avoid rolling eyes or using negative facial expressions.
5.     Avoid swearing, shouting, sarcasm, or statements that are hurtful.
6.     Avoid talking about past problems or weaknesses. Instead, suggest solutions and alk about strengths.
7.     Talk about things you want. Do not give criticisms about the negative attitudes you dislike.
8.     Speak in a soft and conversational tone of voice.
Lenny and I are both amazed at how well these rules are working in our counseling sessions. I would recommend them for everyone. Unfortunately, I realized that I use none of these at home. My inside voice is only used in the bathroom. I roll my eyes and snap my neck while I let my sarcasm soar. An example of Roxie’s frustrating conversational attack on Lenny’s dad would be, “Your parental involvement with your family is so minimal that you carry around the family picture that came with the wallet!” Those type of non-cursing statements are also used while my hands are on my hips; vocalizing with an outside voice. Swearing is non-essential; point well taken and unmistakably understood.
Lenny showed empathy and concern during his last home visit with me. “Mom, you are a completely different person talking to me at the counseling session than you are talking to Daddy and my sister at home.”
Indeed. Although it is not part of the rules, I was literally speechless. In my uncomfortable silence, he repeated the statement.
I told Lenny that I would start using the rules at home, without telling his dad and twin sister. It would be an experiment to see if they notice how I have morphed into a kinder, gentler Roxie. Lenny promised to hold me accountable on his home passes.
In the interim, I will update my husband’s wallet with a new family photo.

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Posted by:Rocco--Wednesday, December 05, 2012


Having a young family member in placement during the holiday season is agonizing.

Sometimes it is far too much and parents “surrender”. They sincerely want to practice the "tough love" discussed at their parent meetings, never-the-less, maybe this year is not the year.

With a lot of guilt they invite their addict child home for “just a few hours” on a home pass.

No judgment here and no opinion; We simply know this “invite” happens.

If you decide to have your addicted child home, please live with your decision. It is important to set realistic boundaries and reasonable expectations in your heart and in your head. Your “guest” child is very sick. Keep that fact close during their visit.

Remember that your child is no longer the cuddly little kid that rolled down the steps in their footie pajamas just a few short years ago. Those days are gone and it takes inner strength and effort to be able to accept that fact.

Acceptance is one of our many holiday “side dishes” as parents of addicts.

Your child has become both physically and mentally altered by their addiction. For your parental perspective to remain clear this must be understood. Keep in mind that ultimately the responsibility of their recovery belongs to them. Plain and simple, the call is their burden.

For those who are struggling with the decision to have them spend a few hours at home with you, we only pray and hope that it works out well. Clearly set and discuss your expectations and your rules with them prior to the day of their visit.

Along with the sweet potatoes and cranberry sauce you will want to serve up a side order of “boundaries” for your holiday table. Keep the rules realistic but enforce all of them. Their visit is number one a “Family Visit” - No friends and no phone calls.

If they can’t agree with your rules you want to reconsider your invitation. Once they are at home be aware that if they are having difficulties meeting your rules and expectations that you are permitted to end their visit early. Good or bad - discuss their visit honestly with their counselors.

If you opt to have your child suffer their own consequences of spending their holiday away from home, we wish you continued strength as we know this decision cuts your heart like a razor.

Either way; joy does not come easily but we sincerely wish you peace and strength this Holiday Season.

If you need to discuss this or other issues please come to our next PSST Meeting.

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A Rocky Road with Bam - written by Wilma
Posted by:Jenn--Monday, December 03, 2012

A Rocky Road with Bam by Wilma

Well, it's been almost eight weeks since Bam Bam was transferred to an adolescent ½-way house, and he has had some rocky times so far.

Initially the facility turned him down for admission but his team asked that he be re-evaluated and he was accepted.  Bam has a history of aggression and mental health problems but they decided to give him a chance.

He was working a day program and, in addition to being evaluated there, he was breaking rules. He was calling his friends including his cousin that he has used with, going on facebook and making lunch dates with his friend Melvin (the same "friend" who took Bam out last Thanksgiving only to return in less than an hour with a stash of weed).

He told his boss that he had the lunch plans, which they made him cancel and so he got in some trouble at the house. When he called to tell me about this incident, he started off the phone call with "well I didn't get kicked out."

In addition to this he had also punched an outside wall at the house. The director felt the hand needed looked at, so the day before Thanksgiving Bam went to the ER and had a splint put on. However, he refused to continue to wear the splint.

Bam was also staff-splitting so disciplinary action was taken, which involves losing home passes. He was able to get 5 hours on Thanksgiving as the disciplinary action began at 3:00 Monday for 72 hours so it ended at 3:00 Thursday.

The holiday was awkward as we had to keep eyes on Bam at my brother's house. There were triggers there, the biggest one being Bam's cousin that he's used with. However, my family was glad to see him and I think Bam was glad to spend time with our extended family. He hasn't seen anyone except my sister in the 7 months that he's been away. We also took him home for about a half hour and he got to see the dog and home for the first time in almost 7 months.
The Tuesday before Thanksgiving we were in court for Bam's review before his judge.

Bam was officially committed to the ½-way house and the judge agreed that Bam needed to be there. Prior to the hearing, Bam had told me that he thought he had enough of being in placements and that he was going to ask the judge to let him go home. Then he said that he was going to ask the judge to override the ½-way house disciplinary action. His therapist told him if he was going to do that, she would not go to bat for him regarding the partial holiday pass. Thankfully he didn't make these requests and cause any problems in court.

In fact his judge brought up Bam's award winning essay and mentioned that he had read it that day! He told Bam that he'd like to see him implement the suggestions he had in the essay!!!

This I want to see...
In the last several weeks Bam has been looking for a job and has had some interviews. He has to work while he is at the ½-way house since he is not in school. He has had some interviews and almost had one job, but the hours would not work out. However, he was hired at a restaurant close to the house. He called to ask us to buy him shoes (he had to have black, non-skid restaurant shoes) which we picked up for him. I thought here we go again buying yet another pair of shoes for Bam for a job and hoping this time it's for real.

Well, we were visiting him today and he told us he lost the job. He said it's because they knew he was living in a ½-way house but then he also said something about them wanting him to work more than 36 hours (which is what he can work while being at the house).

I'm not sure what the truth is. I never know when he is telling the truth.
Another issue with Bam that started the first week is that he was selling his stuff for money to buy cigarettes (more rule infractions).

Yes, he sold the earrings he bought the day before arriving at the house, at least one hat that we know of, and clothes. I suspect he is also trading his stuff. He denies that he does this, but where is the money coming from?? He did have some money he earned at ABC123 and he spent almost the entire amount on ONE pair of shoes!!
Oh, and another bombshell is that Bam has decided when he is discharged from ½-way house, he is going to get his own apartment. He had told me and Fred that he decided to do this and the details have changed a few times – first he was moving himself to an expensive area, then he was moving in with his buddy Eddie who had been selling weed out of the family basement, and the third choice was moving in with his drug-dealer friend who lives in a questionable neighborhood. However, I don't think these options will fly with his P.O.
We spoke with a staff person who said that Bam went to church today (he is going every week) and she thinks he might be doing better with his sense of entitlement. We had a pleasant, short visit, with no turmoil.

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Reverse Honesty
Posted by:Lloyd Woodward--Friday, November 30, 2012

(Click to go to original)
I interviewed a young person in treatment yesterday. This person, lets call her Doris, had failed in a halfway house but she was still clean. She broke the rules of the halfway house too many times; e.g., getting on Facebook, lying about certain things and when she found out that she was on her way to Shuman (Violation of Probation to fail at halfway house) she thought about running. She didn't run. She was mad.  She got a little nasty with people; however, she was still there the next day when her therapist came to ride her to Shuman...then something unexpected happened.

She called a rehab. Even though she was clean they found a way to admit her. Because of her admission to rehab, she avoided Shuman. Now she is approaching discharge and she seems to be committed more than ever to her recovery.

I expressed surprise that she had gotten herself into inpatient and she disclosed that she had fibbed. She now tells me that she told the intake person that she had a small relapse by misusing her prescribed medication to get high.

She seemed a little ashamed, but at the same time she seemed proud of herself. Sort of like a guilty pleasure. On the one hand she says that it is now difficult not to disclose this lie, because she finds herself being so honest this time around about everything else. I think that's why she told me. She wants to be honest. On the other hand, she points out that she "lied so that I could get into treatment, I didn't lie to avoid getting treatment." Of course, she lied also so that she would not go to Shuman but I couldn't help thinking that she was much better off in treatment than she would have been in Shuman.

Was it lying? Yes, but can we also call it reverse honesty? This young lady went on to tell me that at the point that she failed in the halfway house, her disease of addiction had the better of her. Her behaviors in the rehab reeked of relapse, albeit a behavioral relapse. She was fully in a relapse mode but unless she told the intake person that she had actually relapsed, she couldn't have gotten admitted. So, she told the truth about having relapsed but technically she lied about misusing the pills.

Note: If you are an Intake Person at a rehab and you think you know who this person is, let me point out the obvious: maybe she told the truth about the misuse of prescription meds and for some reason she feels that it is necessary to lie to me! We may never know.

I believe that there are times when people manipulate themselves into a higher level of care. Halfway house to inpatient. One thing that Doris said that really stuck with me: "I really needed to be here."

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Protection - an overlooked parental duty
Posted by:Lloyd Woodward--Monday, November 26, 2012

Where did we find this graphic?
At PSST we have discussed how important it is that parents work together, present a unified front, discuss their differences in private, and generally prevent the teenager from manipulating the one parent against the other. In this context "protection" of the teenager can sound like a contradiction to all for which we stand. Or it's the exception that proves the rule. I'm not sure.

The passive parent might never stand by for physical or sexual abuse but he doesn't see the emotional abuse for what it is; therefore, he never steps up to the plate.

Because the passive parent has become a co-conspirator he is as responsible for the emotional abuse as the other parent. Also he has missed an opportunity to intervene and build a more solid relationship with his teen.

The good news is that when a passive parent decides to step in, PSST skills can help.

Teen: I didn't think it was going to be that cold out today.

Dad: [Yelling] You don't think, that's the problem. It's November, I told you don't think, just do what I tell you- take the coat to school every day.

Teen: I just didn't think I needed it.

Dad: [Yelling] I told you - don't think just do it. What is it about 'don't think' that you don't understand?

Teen: I just thought...

Dad: [Yelling]That's the problem!

Mom: [Walking in from the other room] OK, she gets the message.

Dad: [Yelling] You stay out of it. When I need your help, I'll ask for it.

Mom: OK, OK,  but I think you made your point. [walks out of the room]

Dad: [Continues to yell at teenager about other stuff] Blah Blah Blah

Mom: [Walking in from the other room a second time] hey hey you made your point.

Dad: [Glaring at Dad now] [Yelling} This is none of your business! Do you understand, this is none of your business?

[Pause the action] At this point Mom has set herself up to be the object of Dad's anger. She is basically saying, without saying it, "Hey, if you need to yell at someone, try me. I'm an adult, and I can take it." However, what Mom says is really very different.

Mom:  Regardless, I'm not comfortable with it.

Dad: [not really yelling now but very deliberately focusing in on Mom] I don't care what you're comfortable with.

Mom: Nevertheless, I'm not comfortable with that.

Dad: [Glares] 

[yelling stops- Mom walks out again.  Obviously, Mom is not trying to take over]

{In a few minutes the yelling resumes with the Dad yelling at the daughter.}

Mom: [Yelling a wee-bit from the other room just to be heard] Hey, the dog is getting scared in here!

Dad: [Yelling] You stay out of this!

Mom: [Walks in with the dog] Hey, I just want the dog to see that your not mad at him Honey; he's hears all that yelling and he thinks he did something wrong.

Everyone doesn't have a dog. Right. Still, the idea here is that Mom intervenes every time to protect her daughter and yet she does it without attacking the Dad. In the process she certainly leaves herself open to attack.

At some point the daughter looks at Mom and whispers something like:

Teen: Stop it, you're making him madder.

But Mom doesn't stop. She knows that consistency is important. At no point does she suggest that the girl should not have worn a coat. At no point does she argue against Dad; however, at every point she steps up to the plate to disrupt the yelling.

Later, on the sofa after the teen goes to sleep the Mom initiates a conversation with the Dad, one that she has initiated before.  This time, however, she tries to use humor to deflect Dad's anger.

Mom: [whispering] You know, [our daughter]she thought we were seriously mad at each other ha ha nice going, you were very convincing, like you were really mad at me. [Mom puts the pound fist over to Dad, pretending that they were teammates in plot to fool the daughter.]

Dad: [Glares} What do you mean "like" I was really mad at you? I told you before to stay out of it. You are undermining me.  Didn't you learn nothing in those PSST classes??  You need to start supporting me so we can show a united front!  You wait till next week!  I'm going to have Lloyd run this for you in a role play!

Mom: Oh c'mon, You're not mad at me for stepping in, are you?  I'm helping you.

Dad: We talked about this before.

Mom: You are right, we have talked about this before and you know that I'm not comfortable with the yelling.

Dad: She was wrong. She needs to wear a coat. You don't seem to care about that. You were home when she went out? Why didn't you stop her?

Mom: You're right. I was home.  So you're mad at me?  [Pause]  I'm different and you're better at that stuff than I am, nevertheless, I'm not comfortable with the yelling. [Mom refuses to have the subject change.  Mom is avoiding debate, sticking to one issue, just like we learn to do at PSST.]

Dad: You need to stay out of it.  Mind you're own business. I'm not kidding.

Mom: I'm not comfortable with that.

Dad: I don't care what you are comfortable with.

Mom: Regardless, I'm really not comfortable with that.

Dad: [Glares]

Mom, doesn't kid herself. She knows she is not going to change Dad. At least not over night. But she also knows that emotional abuse can only happen if she stands by passively and lets it happen. She doesn't plan to do that so Dad will eventually realize that yelling is going to bring Mom out of the other room.

Notice that at no point does Mom say that the girl is right and Dad is wrong. She is not really taking sides. She is just taking a stand against the yelling. She refuses to debate. She has boundaries and, for her, this is non-negotiable.

Like a lot of our role-plays, this one brings up as many questions as it answers. For example, how should they hold their daughter accountable for not wearing a coat? Should Mom step up to the plate and make sure that daughter wears a coat more often? Is the yelling worse because Mom is not helping Dad to parent? Or does Dad have a need to yell, and without that as an option, what will he do? Is Dad really angry with Mom about numerous issues, but the teen is an easier target?  Why should Mom intervene at all if she can't be there ALL the time to protect his daughter? Isn't the yelling just going to happen when she is not there?

This post cannot address all these questions; however, let's examine the last one. Why, if  Mom is powerless to stop the yelling [assuming that they have had these conversations in the past already] should she only stop it when it happens in front of her?

Besides the obvious fact that emotional abuse is difficult to stop when you are not there, it's because the emotional damage could be worse when two parents are around. If Mom allows the yelling in her presence then she is in essence saying to her daughter, "you deserve to be abused." Or "I am not strong enough to protect you."  Or worse yet, "You're not worth me making a fight over."  In this case not taking action is taking action.

The damage is that the teen begins to see herself as deserving of abuse. Over time, the teen will see herself as unworthy, which is of course the opposite way that we want her to see herself.

When the mother intervenes in real-time, however, she shows her daughter that she doesn't believe that she deserves to be treated in this way. She doesn't see her as unworthy. She knows that this intervention can affect her daughter's self image in a positive way. At the same time, she demonstrates how one person doesn't stand by and let another person, parent or not, abuse someone. She steps up and helps protect someone from being bullied.

Everyone can agree that it is challenging to stand up for the teenager. Let's examine some reasons why:

First, the passive parent does not want to undermine the abusive parent and allow room for the child to manipulate.

Second, the teen has done something wrong; therefore, this emotional abuse is considered disciplining.

Third, it's not certain that yelling is abuse
. It falls into gray areas, e.g.,name calling, belittling, and "putting the child down" is more obvious and might be identified as emotional abuse, but how about just yelling at the child?

Maybe the parent who is doing the yelling has every reason to be angry. Is that still emotional abuse?

Some yelling, especially when rarely done or when something out-of-the-ordinary comes up and catches the parent by surprise, is probably not injurious to the child. There are times when parents loose their cool, right away they apologize for their loss of control, and in so doing set a good example.  After all no one is perfect. One would think that would cause very little injury.

Or on the other hand there are parents who's main style of discipline is yelling at the child, who believe that they have every right, wait- have every responsibility to address the child by yelling and denigrating. These parents rarely apologize because they see it as their duty to "straighten the child out." To apologize for yelling would seem like they were showing weakness.    And yet, these are usually the parents who are surprised that the child is at times disrespectful, yelling angrily at the parents.  Don't forget, children imitate adults.  

Yes, I'm suggesting that yelling can be injurious to the child and more than that, I'm suggesting that the passive parent needs to step up to the plate to minimize that injury. Click here to see our other post on yelling.

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Letting Go - written by June Cleaver on 10/27/12
Posted by:Jenn--Sunday, November 25, 2012

Today is an anniversary  .......    and my birthday. Today is one year that the "Beav" moved out. And to have an all out pity party, my mother also died 15 years ago today. (Personally I think that her departure on my birthday was her last "dig", but I will have to wait to find that out for sure.)

This is about the Beaver, though. A year ago I was supposed to embrace the words "I threw my son out of the house". It's now a year later, and I have used various phrasings over the past 12 months. "He's living with his dad", "I asked him to move in with his father", "he's living in Charleroi now".......... and yes sometimes "I threw my son out of the house". The words and I are not BFF's. I still feel my throat tighten when I get to the end of the sentence. Perhaps I should use it as an acronym ITMSOOTH. Indeed it does roll off my tongue much smoother.
But would I do it all over again? In a heartbeat. I can honestly say I have approximately 85% sanity most of the time. The other 15% is lost due to life in general, and the phone calls from the Beaver. You see, just to refresh your memory, his father is a functioning alcoholic and was the person whom Beaver stole the reefer from when the big time troubles began. The thought that this is where he is living grabs with hooks into my intestines.

Beaver is basically on his own because his dad works and then stops at the "Legion" on his way home. His dad does not require that he work; in the home or outside. His rules are made to be broken, and Beaver does his best to keep up the standards. Beaver has chosen not to go to any more meetings--doesn't need them, you know? When I asked, he told me that he had relapsed at the end of last year when his love life took a nose dive. According to him it was just for a couple of months until they got back together. Now, according to Facebook, they're engaged. Isn't that grand? She's a sophomore and the Beav is 19. Three and a half years difference--I did the math too.

So why am I posting? Hopefully for those of you that need the final shove to let go; just do it. The world doesn't stop spinning, your life goes on. I don't think you ever put your guard totally down, but that is good. And you don't ever stop loving your child. You will still hate [yes, I mean hate] the things they do and want to try to 'fix it'. But you can't. They're addicts. And that is their personality.

Somewhere underneath their brave front, mouths that say whatever is in their brain at the time, and the smell of defiance pouring off them---they are still your child that you tucked in at night and promised to protect from all the evils of the world. When their world [and them] became the evil that you were supposed to protect them from, our heels dug in and the fight began.

Don't give up the fight. Just choose the one you want to win. Being in the background of Beaver's life hasn't been easy, nor a smooth ride. BUT....I do have the tools to have a meaningful conversation when we are together. Why----because of PSST and the cast of extras. AND.....when we do get together I've learned the body language that works best to obtain information or give advice. Again-----because of everyone involved with PSST.

I miss the meetings and will hopefully be coming to one soon. Sometimes a hug and a kleenex goes a long way.

Blessings and love to all,
"June Cleaver"

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If I Could Live It Over
Posted by:Sally--Monday, November 19, 2012


Losing our son, Cisco on September 1st devastated us. Even with the tremendous outpouring of love and concern from so many dear friends and family, at times, one stands alone with their grief. And even though people say "You did all that you could possibly do to help him through his addiction" it is natural to ask "What if?" it is normal to wonder if you played your cards differently would he still be with us here today. I have been doing a lot of thinking lately and have come up with one thing I would have said to Cisco more often.

It is not that I needed to tell him that I loved him anymore times than I did. I truly believe he knew that. There was not more of a need to discipline or to stop enabling.

If I had one more day with Cisco, I would spend a lot of that day encouraging him. "You could do it Cisco, you can beat this nasty disease. I am not saying it will be easy Cisco, however, take one day at a time sometimes you will need to take one moment at a time."

I am only beginning to realize how difficult it is to overcome a strong addiction. Now I see that once this vile and pestilent habit, we call addiction, has its victim by the jugular, the victim is in for the struggle of his life.

Both Rocco and I did spend time encouraging Cisco, however, Cisco was in a tremendous struggle which paled our efforts.

If I had one more day with Cisco I would spend it carefully listening to him and I would gently interject many words of encouragement. I would hug him around his broad chest with both of my arms for a long, long time and before I let him go I would say, "Please, know Cisco, that in the deepest, quietest place in your heart, there is One who can get you through this addiction and give you the strength to see you through."

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Letter to My Son - by Brigitte
Posted by:Jenn--Monday, November 19, 2012



Letter to My Son

Below is the letter than Lloyd asked me to post. I wrote it to my son because I felt he needed clarification on a few things, and so did I. We had a good talk about this afterwards during his home pass.



 Hi (son),

I don't get to see you that much and when I do, we seem to be regularly interrupted, so I thought I'd write some additional thoughts that came up after our visit last night. First of all, I don't think I tell you enough how proud I am of you. You surprise me (in a good way!) with your plans and effort. I'm especially proud that you will have 90 days clean on the 23rd.

I'm a little confused about something you said yesterday. You said that you relapsed in the past because you weren't trying to stay clean, but at your ISP meeting you said that you didn't intend to relapse; it just happened. After I thought about it, I really didn't get it. Were you saying that you didn't intend to relapse but that you also weren't really committed to staying clean? Because you seemed to be committed each time, just as you seem to be committed right now. It's hard to tell though because after each relapse you usually say "Oh well, I wasn't really trying." It seems to me that it would be better to try, fail and be honest about it than to not try and fail and keep making the same mistakes.

This leads to our discussion about your car. Let me be clear about a few things so that we don't keep having the same discussion. Yes, it is your car. We gave it to you; you earned it; you will have it one day. Nevertheless, dad and I will not give a car to someone who is newly in recovery. We made that mistake before and we don't want to make it again. For reasons you won't agree with or understand, we are uncomfortable with handing you the keys until you are on much firmer ground. Of course, we are expecting you to do well and to have your car back at some point. However, I honestly can't say when that would be. I know this makes you angry and that you feel we are trying to control your life and also reneging on our promise. I can see your point of view on that. Regardless, we aren't going to change our mind. Make other plans for the time being. I would think that (your sponsor) would understand that you can't drive there yet. I did offer to pay for a bus pass once probation is over and that offer still stands. The good thing about you is that you are very resourceful when you have to be.

I hope I was clear about school as well. We are willing to reimburse you each semester as long as you maintain a 3.0 average, same expectation we would have of (your brothers). If they fail to maintain a 3.0 in high school, they would also have to come up with the first year of college tuition, then would be eligible for reimbursement. It's up to you whether you want to take us up on it.

Anyway, weird that you just called while I was writing this. Good luck on orientation. Hope it's a job you like.

Lots of love,


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Congratulations to Kathie's Award Winning Team!!
Posted by:Jenn--Thursday, November 15, 2012

Congratulations to Kathie & her team of dedicated professionals!!

Their program, Wesley Spectrum’s Drug & Alcohol Initiative, has won the

PA Juvenile Court Judges Commission’s

2012 Community-Based Program of the Year Award

for the state of Pennsylvania!

Wesley Spectrum’s Drug & Alcohol Initiative is an intensive aftercare intervention that was developed to address unique issues stemming from youth struggling with substance abuse who are committed to a residential program.  The program was designed to aid in the reunification and stabilization of youth back to their homes by combining family therapy techniques with drug & alcohol education/interventions.  The foundation of the program is based on a strong partnering approach or "triage" with Wesley Spectrum therapists, professionals from the residential program, the family, and the Probation Officer. 

Val & Kathie

Lloyd, Kathie, Russ Carlino (Alleg. Co. Chief Juvenile Probation Officer)


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A Friendly Reminder
Posted by:Sally--Thursday, November 15, 2012

I just wanted to share with you something new I started to do. Of course, I miss Cisco so much and think of him often. I have  many good memories of him for he was such a dear son and so  much more than a man with an addiction.

When my thoughts turn to sadness I quickly think of my other son, Joe, because I am grateful to have him. If it is feasible, I send Joe a quick text or email or phone him at that time. If it is not possible to contact Joe I do something nice for someone else whom I am grateful for.    

It is important and therapeutic to be grateful. May we all remember to be thankful for our bountiful gifts, especially in this holiday season.  


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I would like to share a positive experience- Written by Mary. - PSST
Posted by:Lloyd Woodward--Thursday, November 15, 2012

Here's where graphic came from
Originally Posted -- Thursday, April 12, 2007

Everyday I remember to tell my son how proud of him I am. Whether I say this in person or send him a text message, I do this every single day!! He thanks me and responds with "I am not going to use anything today".

I thank him in return.

It is easy to forget the struggle our kids deal with while in recovery. Recovery from heroin is no simple task. It takes determination and courage to fight this horrible disease. My son has manipulated me in the past- plenty of times. Today, he is working a strong program. So, I thought I would share a simple but powerful exchange of words that my son & I share. It works for US!!!!

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Posted by:Lloyd Woodward--Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Where did graphic come from?
So, your bike is a bit rusty? You think it also needs repaired? The brakes need tweaked and the derailer needs adjusted? What do you do first?

A generous amount of WD- 40 would be a good start. Even if I did take it into the shop I expect that regular shots of WD 40 would keep it running better.

That's what affirming teenagers is like. WD 40. It's the lubrication that you need.

It might be more than that. Let me reach here for another more dramatic analogy (those of you that attend PSST know that I love analogies). Think of the fish you just caught. For a minute after you catch it, there is nothing wrong with it. It flops around on the ground with all of it's parts working brilliantly. Every muscle still operational. After a bit it slows down, then it starts to die.

If you get to the fish in time and get it back into some water, it's ok. You guessed it: the water is the affirmation that our teenagers need. The fish seems to be in control in the water. Left out on the deck it is out of control and just flops around.

Just like the fish goes for water our teenagers will flop to where they get affirmation. Unfortunately, one of the easiest places to get affirmation is from other troubled youth. Our teens only have to do drugs and alcohol, then they bathe in each other's affirmations.

This is not the whole story and I do not mean to imply that if we give enough water, WD 40 or affirmation that our bike or our fish or our teenagers won't have other issues. Even if I soak my bike in WD 40 it might still need to go into the shop. After I get it out of the shop, however, maybe it will ride better if I spray it regularly. A disclaimer here is that bike chains do much better with bike chain oil then they do with WD 40. WD 40 apparently picks up too much dirt.

Likewise, affirmation works better if you keep four things in mind.

1. Whatever you say make it the truth or at least make it close enough to the truth so that it is believable. When I say believable I mean for both you and for your teenager.

For example, I can say, "You know, you've really surprised me!" Teenagers love to surprise you. They hate to be predictable. I think in a way we are all like that a little bit but teenagers and children relish in the idea that they have in any way at all surprised you. Of course, you can be surprised in a good way or a bad way but often it's seeing the glass as half full or half empty, half fool or half brilliant. Therefore, being surprised can be a strong affirmation but it's not one that we usually associate with affirmation.

Parent: You really surprised me yesterday.

Teen: I did?

Parent: Yeah, you did. You know when Aunt Lois came over with cousin Johnny who everyone knows can be such a terror-and you ask him if he wanted to play your x-box. that was really nice of you.

Teen: Oh, thanks.

I might have an advantage here over most people. First, I'm easily surprised by things.

Secondly, I think it's very difficult to predict with certainty.

On the other hand, some people see the writing on the wall even in situations where it is challenging to predict. They pride themselves on being able to "see that one coming." Still, I wonder if those people don't imagine an event with several different outcomes; that way no matter what happens they can say, "I saw that one coming." Let's remember, that when you care about giving someone affirmation, it's a lot more powerful to say, "I did not see that one coming." It's more fun too. :-)

Another easy affirmation to throw out is "You are really courageous". This has a truthy feel to it probably because even the basest coward is courageous about something. Think of the Cowardly Lion in Wizard of OZ.

Parent: What you did took a lot of guts!

Teen: What do you mean?

Parent: Well, to admit right out loud that you are afraid to try (that thing-fill in the blank) we were talking about. I think that took guts.

Teen: You do?

Parent: Absolutely

A third easy to use affirmation is "You are very loyal." This can even be used when he refused to give up his peer group. Keep in mind, you will still hold your teen accountable for violating his contract, but you can do that and at the same time throw in affirmation.

Parent: I was just thinking, you are really a very loyal person.

Teen: I know.

Parent: Really, I mean you know the deal. You realize that if you keep hanging with those kids that you got high with, that you run the risk of loosing your phone and all that other stuff that you have, but even knowing that, you loyally stay involved with your whole gang.

Teen: Not really. I mean it's not like that, I just ran into some of them.

Parent: Yeah, I know, in our back yard but still I just want you to know that I know it's hard for you to stay away from those guys. They are your friends and friends mean a lot to you.

Teen: Then why are you taking away my phone?

Parent: Right, I would ask the same thing (more affirmation) Well, you see I have to follow our contract. But I just want you to know that I try to understand what it might be like for you. It's gotta be a hard thing to just say to yourself "well my friends will be around later, after I get off probation" and because friends mean so much to you, that's just really hard to do.

Teen: yeah [looking down and depressed over the thought of this]

Parent: I think you'd rather want your friends to know that you haven't given up on them than you would have a phone or computer or anything. That's just stuff. You care more about people than you do stuff.

[Long Pause- Dad allows the silence to settle in; he's not trying to fill up all the space with talk. Dad knows it's OK to be quiet together.]

Teen: Dad?

Parent: yeah?

Teen: I don't want to lose my stuff. Can you give me a chance please? I can stop seeing them, really.

Parent: Well, I don't know, but you know that surprised me. Do you really mean that?

Teen: Yeah I do. I mean I've said it before, but this is different now.

Parent: I think you do mean that a Son, let me talk to your mother about it first.

Teen: After all dad, my friends will still be around later, after I get off probation.

Parent: Do you think?

Teen: Sure, especially if they are really my friends. Right?

Parent: I guess so Son. You know, I wasn't looking at it that way. Good thinking (more affirmation).

Now I know if you are still reading this rather long post, that you are wondering, "Well did you take the phone or not?" Depends. Regardless of what you ended up doing, you have "lubricated the bike" and the theory is that it should run better.

For example, in that case, since the teen seems genuine, you might take off texting but leave him the phone with the warning that next time he will loose it all, or you might take the laptop and leave the x-box for now, like some parents that I work with recently did. One step at a time.

Another easy to use affirmation is "You are a really good guy."

Parent: You know, I was thinking, the way you stood up for that one kid at school that the other kid wanted to bully?"

Teen: Yeah?

Parent: I'm really proud of you.

Teen: Yeah, I hate bullies.

Parent: You got a really good heart; you'd help someone out if they really needed it.

Teen: Depends; but yeah I would.

Parent: I know sometimes that can get you in trouble, like when you were worried about Phil not having a ride home when it was raining, so you stole Uncle Jerry's limo and then you wrecked it and had to go away for five months, but the thing I'm just realizing is- you got into all that trouble just because you were worried about your buddy having a ride home. I mean, I guess looking back it would have been better to have let him get wet, but at the time you really really cared what would happen to your buddy.

Teen: Not really.

Parent: No?

Teen: no, i didn't are if he got wet or not really, i just wasn't thinking. Dad, that was one of the dumbest things I ever did in my life!

Parent: Ah, yes you are right aren't you? (Affirmation).

Teen: Duh!

Parent: Well, i still think you're really loyal. Maybe what I said was a poor example.

Teen: It was a stupid example. You're really weird sometimes Dad!

Parent: Ha ha yes that was stupid now that I think about it (affirmation in a self deprecating way- we agree that he is RIGHT that we are sometimes silly)

Teen: Yeah, but you are right. I'm a good guy- sometimes I'm too much of a good guy.

Parent: Ohhhh

Let's examine one more easy to use affirmation. That was really grown up stuff.

Parent: Johnny, I want to say something to you, is this a good time? (Affirmation via respect. Johnny's time is valuable too)

Teen: Yeah, is it going to take long, cause I got to text my friend in a minute.

Parent: It's a pretty short thing. You know yesterday when we told you that under no circumstances would we be comfortable with you going to an Insane Clown Posse concert, no matter who your went with, well the way you handled that surprised me.

Teen: Why?

Parent: It was real adult stuff. In the past if you had a big disappointment like that you might have flipped s*** and ranted raved and even put holes in the wall, maybe threatened to relapse and warning us that whatever happened it would all be our fault. Anyhow, you didn't do any of that. You just sort of huffed off to your room and slammed the door. And that was fine. I just see you growing up, you know, becoming more and more mature.

Teen. [nothing-another pause]

Parent: Well, that's all I wanted to say, go back to your texting son, thanks for listening. (Thanks is a affirmation)

Teen: Dad?

Parent: Yeah?

Teen: I didn't really expect to be allowed to go.

Parent: You didn't?

Teen: No. I mean I just got out of rehab two weeks ago and it would have been sort of insane to let me go to an ICP concert.

Parent: Oh, yeah but you know we kind of laid it on heavy, like we wouldn't be Ok with that even if you had been out of the rehab a couple of months.

Teen: I know but I figured that out anyhow.

Parent: You did?

Teen: Well ya Dad, I'm not stupid or anything. You went over it in the contract.

Parent: Oh yeah. I guess we did.

Teen: It's OK. I think I was just testing you- seeing if you meant that stuff about protecting me from people from drug stuff.

Parent: Oh. Well, Son you've surprised me again.

Teen: Now what, why?

Parent: That you would admit that you were testing. It just seems like something the old Johnny wouldn't have done, that's all. (affirmation that Johnny is changing. It's something we all usually like to to hear.)

Teen: The old Johnny wouldn't have done that.

Parent: Right.

Teen: Later Dadagaitor.

Parent: After while Teenophile

Teen: Ha good one dad. (this kid is returning affirmation. We give it and if we are lucky we get a little bit back.)

Let's take a look at another favorite affirmation of mine: You are really good at reading me.

Teen: Mom, can I go to the movies with LeRoy.

Mom: No.

Teen: Why not?

Mom: I'm not comfortable with you hanging out with LeRoy. You know that.

Teen: You NEVER let me do anything! I knew you'd say no, I just knew it.

Mom: You are good at reading me.

Teen: [glares]

Mom: Really. Nobody gets me like you do.

2. Which brings us to things to keep in mind #2. Beware the "BUT."

If you affirm someone and then right away you say "BUT" followed by a debate, then you just cancelled out the affirmation. Often this is even done in the same sentence. It's not the word "But" that is so terrible; however, "But" followed by debate is an effective way to reverse the affirmation and open the door for more debating.

Parent: When you told the truth to us yesterday about how you stole Jenny's money and you bought drugs with it it's really good that you were honest with your sister but I don't think you understand how much that hurt her. That was devastating to her and when she got up this morning I could see that she had been crying all night over that.

Teen: Mom, her boyfriend broke up with her, did you know that, huh, did you know that? No, you didn't, so talk what you know!![Said with equal parts hurt and anger.]

In this example, it's not that it was so wrong to point out that Johnny hurt his sister but we can see how the affirmation of honesty got lost in the shuffle? When this happens it can be confusing to us. From our point of view we told him that it was good to be honest, but all he heard was criticism. From our point of view our teenager needs to be a better listener; however, we can see that that "But" and what followed it was much of the problem.

Consider this variation instead:

Parent: When you told the truth to us yesterday about how you stole Jenny's money and you bought drugs with it it's really good that you were honest with your sister.

Teen: Yeah, right. [said with sarcasm.]

Parent: No really, Johnny, I think that took a lot of courage to admit that! Even though I'm sure it hurt your sister to think that you would stoop that low, I know that it also meant a lot to her that you could be honest about it.

Teen: Yeah, but she seemed pretty upset. [doubtful.]

Parent: Oh sure, but that's why it took a lot of courage to be honest. You knew it was going to hurt her but you chose to be honest about it anyway. It's hard to be honest- it's much easier to lie than to tell the truth. I'm just want you to know that I'm proud of you Son.

Teen: Thanks. When she was all crying like that, I wasn't sure if it was cause of what I said or because her boyfriend dumped her.

Parent: He did?

Teen: Yeah he did.

Parent: Oh I did not know that (affirmation again, that Johnny knew something that Mom did not know is wonderful affirmation).

Teen: Yeah, so maybe it was a bad time for me to say all that.

Parent: I'm not sure there's ever a good time to share something hurtful to someone, but hey, you stood up and did the right thing.

Teen: Yeah, I guess so.

3. Which brings us to Things to Keep in Mind #3. Can you over do the affirmation thing?

Is it possible to give too much affirmation so that the affirmation is meaningless?

Yes. Absolutely. "Flattery will get you everywhere" but too much flattery starts to feel phony. The good news is that once you have teenagers involved in drug abuse, it becomes so difficult to affirm anything that they do, that most of you reading this are probably not in any danger of giving too much praise. Nevertheless, if your teenager starts to roll his eyes every time you attempt affirmation, and under his breath you hear him say, "...here we go again," then you might want want to rethink your game plan. Even then, my opinion is that it's better to overdo the affirmation then under do it. Even when kids appear to resent a compliment it can help make a difference.

4. Finally, we come to our last point. It is exactly why some of us have such a hard time with affirmation: What do you do when your teenager uses the affirmation against you in an argument?

Parents fear that giving too much affirmation will embolden the teen the teen to push for more privilege. This may happen; however, once you realize that debate can be avoided, it is not so important that your teenager is emboldened. In fact, when the teen uses the affirmation to attempt to get more privilege or power it shows that the teen has internalized the affirmation. In other words, it shows that the process is working; therefore, it's not just that you know your teen MIGHT use these affirmations in an argument for more privilege, but HOPEFULLY your teen will use these affirmations against you in a bid for more privilege. It certainly means that he hears you. In some cases you might give a bit more privilege and further cement the affirmation and in most cases you probably hold to your boundaries.

Teen: Mom you know how you told me yesterday that it was real "adult stuff" that I told the truth about that missing hundred dollars?

Parent: Yup.

Teen: Well, now that I'm all grown up and now that you trust me a lot more how about letting me take my girlfriend up to my bedroom and close the door for a while so we can have some privacy?

Parent: Wow! Really?

Teen: Yeah! Why you look so surprised? YOU'RE THE ONE THAT said I'm all grown up!

NOTE: There are at least two paths to take here. One is begin to debate that while you said he exhibited some "adult stuff" you did not say that he was "completely all grown up." Taking this approach is a way to do damage control by subtracting some of the great affirmation that you have already given. In fact, on some level the teen is testing his parents and in essence is saying, "Did you really mean all that good stuff you said?" If you choose to subtract, then you are saying that you didn't really mean all that. To your teenager you are a phony and a hypocrite.

The second path is much better. Double down. Instead of subtracting offer additional affirmation. Show your teen that you meant every word. Subtract nothing.

Meanwhile keep that bedroom door open!

Teen: Yeah! Why you look so surprised? YOU'RE THE ONE THAT said I'm all grown up!

Parent: I'm just impressed with the way you just asked for that. Can't I be impressed with you for a minute?

Teen: What you mean?

Parent: The way you presented that was very sophisticated. You used something that I told you yesterday and you actually reminded me of what I said and then you used that to beef up your argument. Very persuasive. Nicely done and point taken!

Teen: Well, can I then?

Parent: No.

Teen: Why not? You're contradicting yourself! Give me one good reason why not!

Parent: Well, I'm definitely NOT COMFORTABLE with that, I'm sorry, and other than that, I'm not sure I really have a good reason, do I?

Teen: {Glares]

Parent: Oh I have my reasons, but you won't think they are good reasons so lets just skip that part.

Teen: No.

Parent: No what?

Teen: I don't want to skip that part.

Parent: Well you won't be impressed is all I'm saying and I do not intend to debate this one with you.

Teen: Try me! [a bit defiantly said]

Parent: Ok, I will. Now, don't interrupt me OK? Usually, I don't like sharing my reasons with you because it seems like I'm trying to debate with you and I don't mean it that way. But, you did present a really well-thought argument and maybe I'll just try and share my thinking with you on this one. OK, no interruptions?

Teen: OK, OK already! [Making a big-eyed face, as if to make fun of what a big deal Mom is making out of all this] Mom: It's because you ARE growing up and if you put two grown ups, one a man, and one a women, into a room together with a closed door, things can happen.

Teen: I can make my own decisions about that and if it's sex you're worried about, I can do that somewhere else anyway.

Parent: Yes that's right, you can. But I asked you to hear me out and not interrupt, OK?

Teen: OK.

Mom: It looks bad. This is not a place that you shack up with girls. It's disrespectful, it's not right, and even if you were 30 years old, I would not be comfortable with it. OK? Thanks for not interrupting [more affirmation] and by the way I warned you.

Teen: I know, you warned me about making babies right?

Parent: Well yes you know how I feel about me becoming a grandmother too soon, but that's not exactly what I meant.

Teen: What then?

Parent: I warned you that you would not think much of my reasons. I shared them with you only because you seem so grown up lately, that I'm starting to think you deserve to know more- like you can handle it, do you know what I mean?

Teen: I don't think it's disrespectful.

Parent: Fine.

Teen: Fine? That I can take her up into my bedroom?

Parent: No, of course not. It's fine that you don't think much of my reason. You are entitled to your opinion and someday when you are the father in your own house, you can let your teenagers shack up- but it's not going to happen here in our house on my watch. {said slowly, softly, and with strong eye close eye contact.]

Teen: Well, it's not fair, Mom! I think I've earned trust, and even you said I'm growing up.

Parent: You are.

Teen: So?

Parent: Sorry, I'm not comfortable going there. Let's move on shall we?

Teen: No! It's my bed room, I've been doing good and I deserve this. [raising his voice to another level, not yelling yet, but the tone you get right before it actually becomes yelling.]

Parent: Nevertheless, it's not going to happen. [Said, softly choosing the power-word, "never-the-less."]

Teen: I'm not stupid Mom I'm not going to make a baby.

Parent: I'm very glad to hear that. Regardless...[choosing the other power-word, "re-gard-less."]

Teen: [Teen is angry and storms off]

In summary, try to affirm your teen more, yet be honest, don't use "BUT" to kill it, and generally speaking you probably don't have to worry about over-using this technique. When the teen tries to use your praise against you it's actually a good thing and you've already learned how to use power phrases like "Nevertheless" and "Regardless" to avoid debate!

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