Quote of the Week

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

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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There is always Hope . . .
Posted by:Jenn--Tuesday, November 06, 2012

As we are all worrying and praying for Dylan's safety and Jen & Brad's peace and comfort during these very, very difficult days I thought I would share a bright light and hope for the day.

FaceBook post by Andy last evening:
"Eating Chinese with my probation officer.  Life is Good!"

Never, ever, ever thought we would witness this   :^)

This is the fruits of PSST and an excellent Juvenile Probation Officer.

Come to our next PSST meeting in Wexford on Saturday 11/10/2012.
Trinity Lutheran Church 9 AM - 11:30 AM

Cheryl, Jim and Andy on the blog

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