Quote of the Week

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

Don't beat yourself up!
Posted by:Lloyd Woodward--Sunday, July 08, 2012

This is a message that we have worked on for the last several meetings; especially, at Eastern this last Saturday we put several role-plays together and asked parents to practice "Don't beat yourself up," with "You are tough and I'm sure you'll find a way to work things out."

The ideas behind these two powerful messages are:

1. If you tell someone not to beat themselves up over something it is implied that what they did rose to the level of what one would normally beat oneself up over.

2. It takes the teenager by surprise because his expectation is that as parents we would always want him to beat himself up over screw-ups and, in fact, until he is ready to beat himself up, we'll be happy to do it for him.

3. It appeals to the oppositional defiant nature because of course anything we tell our teens at the point where they fail at something is going to be disregarded. If they disregard us telling them not to beat themselves up then it stands to reason that they would indeed beat themselves up. Sometimes it becomes a game: we try to "save" the teenager by pressuring him to change and he resists by refusing to really change although he teases us by flirting with change.

4. It address the reality that in most situations with teenagers who are in trouble with drugs and with criminal behaviors, it will be the natural or even imposed consequences that they learn from, not our lecture or our verbal attack. In fact, our lecture or verbal attack can if anything interfere with the life-lesson and build resentment in our teenager.

5. Of course, at the point of failure our teen may be asking parents to bail them out of something or other. Hence, our second message, "you are a tough strong capable human being and you'll find a way to get through this." In this way, we might say "don't beat yourself up" but we are not taking any enabling actions that the teenager may ask for that rescues them from their situation.

Let's see how this might play out in a role-play:

Mom: [visiting daughter at Shuman] Hi honey, how are you?

Teen: Oh you know, this place sucks so bad! Do you see that staff over there? She told me that she knows I'm just a rich preppy from the South Hills and she can't stand spoiled brats like me! Do you think staff have any business saying stuff like that and in front of the other girls???

Mom: That sounds like an awkward situation!

Teen: Well duh! What am I supposed to say to that?

Mom: I don't know. I don't even know what to say about that one.

Teen: What do you mean you don't know what to say?

Mom: Well I've never been up here and I don't know what that's like.

Teen: Have you made those phone calls I told you to make?

Mom: Oh to your PO and to the Judge?

Teen: Yes!

Mom: Well yes I called your PO and he said it's "going to take some time."

Teen: Mom! Do you know how long I've been up here?

Mom: Way longer than we thought you'd be up here!

Teen: That's right! Hey, if they can't find a place for me then I guess I need to come home.

Mom: Boy, that would be nice. I wish it was that easy!

Teen: You could get me out of here if you wanted to. Or even just get that staff person we talked about suspended if you wanted to. If you really wanted to you could do a lot of things to help me out, but you don't want to help me out. You don't love me anymore and you're just going to let me stay up here until I rot. Rot, Mom do hear me I'm rotting away up here, are you happy now??

Mom: Yes. I suppose I am. Not very, but yes I'm happy now.

Teen: What! What do you mean you're happy "not very" but you're happy?!?

Mom: You wouldn't understand. Nevermind.

Teen: Mom! I want to know, what the hell do you mean you're happy now?

Mom: Well, I'm happy you're safe from your drug problem for the time being.

Teen: I'm rotting away up here mom didn't you hear anything I said?

Mom: Sure honey, but I think you're a lot tougher than you give yourself credit for. You're a survivor honey and you'll figure out how to get by up here, I really believe you are a very strong person.

Teen: [glaring]

Mom: For example, you are so much better at handling all this than I would be. I'd be completely a basket case up here I mean not being able to use the phone, not wearing make up, not even wearing my own underwear! I couldn't handle it. But you're not like me. You're a lot tougher than I ever was and I believe in you. I really do.

Teen: None of my friends could handle being up here either!

Mom: I know, that's what I'm saying.

Teen: Still, Mom IF you wanted to you could do SOMETHING!

Mom: Well thanks for saying that.

Teen: Thanks?

Mom: You obviously think I'm a very very powerful woman and you know what, sometimes I am, but I'm just saying that's nice of you to say.

Teen: So?

Mom: So?

Teen: So what are you going to do?

Mom: Oh, well you're right you know about what you said.


Mom: I am happy you are up here. I've been so crazy thinking that this drug problem is going to kill you...

Teen: [rolls her eyes]

Mom: No really, I woke up two nights ago in a cold sweat. I had to tell the undertaker what kind of arrangements I wanted for you and I just couldn't decide anything and he was saying, "the people want to come in and pay their respects, is it the blue room or the gold room..." and I couldn't even decide that. My heart was so broken and I didn't know how the hell I was going to ever bear loosing you to this drug problem- so yeah, you're right, I'm happy your're up here and even if that staff over there is the MOST unprofessional person in the world at least my daughter is alive and I can come to Shuman and play Spades, which by the way, I had no idea was this much fun to play!

Teen: I'm done talking to you. It's like talking to a wall, you know that don't you? Now I have to figure out what to do up here, how to handle these people and how to get accepted into a program somewhere.

Mom: Don't beat yourself up over this.

Teen: What?

Mom: Just don't be too hard on yourself. You made mistakes. You'll learn from them and you'll end up being even stronger, you know, especially if you find a way to get a handle on this drug problem. I just know you can do it. Your not the only kid whose made big mistakes you know.

Teen: Yeah. I guess so [smiles]

1 comment:

Rocco said...

WOW! This worked great. We used this within an hour of our Saturday morning meeting to defuse a potential conflict with Cisco. It caught him totally off guard. First we gave him a simple agreement "Yes, that is really a bad thing..." then tossed in the "...but, hey don't beat yourself up over it..." and then finish with"...no, I don't agree." And then a last reassuring "So remember don't beat yourself up. I know you can handle it." And if your in the right mood throw in an encouraging hug.

Sometimes we forget that people, even our problem children, just want to vent their feelings. They don't want us to solve their problems. They just want us to listen. Just listen and come back with "Wow, that really is tough but don't beat yourself up over it."

The payoff two days later (this time) was a text from Cisco. "Thanks for being there for me"


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