In September we will be sharing stories about everyday moments in treatment and how we can make them as healing as possible. We start with Dahlia…..
In this example, a childcare staff member reacts to a teenager in the morning:
It’s a school day and Dahlia is sluggish and half awake. She scatters cereal all over the counter and leaves the milk out when she goes over to the table to eat. Mary, a staff member says. “Dahlia! Clean up this mess you made! Put away the milk!”
“No” replies Dahlia. “You do it.”
“Dahlia, I have given you a directive. Please get over here and put away this milk and clean up this mess!” Mary insists.
“F*** you!” replies Dahlia as she storms out of the kitchen and leaves for school.
Mary cleans up the mess and puts the milk in the refrigerator.
Mary is fuming. “These girls,” she says to a co worker. “They are so lazy and they have no respect for me or for their home. They are hopeless. How will they ever be able to live on their own?”
It’s a school day and Dahlia is sluggish and half awake. She scatters cereal all over the counter and leaves the milk out when she goes over to the table to eat. Mary looks at the counter and says: “Hey, Dahlia, what a mess. How about I’ll put away the milk – will you get the counter after you are done eating?”
“Okay I guess,” says Dahlia.
Mary puts the milk in the refrigerator.
After she is done with her cereal Dahlia cleans off the counter in a half-hearted way, leaving some cereal. Then she goes off to school.
Mary finishes cleaning up the counter.
“Ahhh, teenagers!” she thinks to herself as she goes on with her tasks.
Notice that in the first scenario Mary issued an order, while in the second she made a request for mutual effort.
Even more important, notice that the meaning that Mary attributes to the event determines the quality of her interactions with the child, both in the present moment and in the future. Is Dahlia an obstinate child defying a Staff Directive, a sign of disrespect and a hopeless future? Is it clear evidence that Dahlia has no caring for Mary or for her home? Does it demonstrate beyond doubt that Dahlia will never manage her own life well? Or is it a sleepy teenager in the morning?
Would you like a summary of the key points of this story, to use with your team for discussion?
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