Some “truths” linked to “Getting Anxious”

  • “My child is simply neglectful”
  • “My child is simply unwilling to do things right”
  • “My child is simply oppositional”
  • “My child is just stupid”
  • “The only way to help my child doing things right is letting them know when they are wrong”
  • “Only bad friends/neglectful parents tell you that you are doing alright when you are not”
  • “I have tried being nice and everything else, but nothing works with him/her”
  • “What my child is doing is against my principles; I cannot tolerate it”
  • “tolerating her behavior makes me complicit; I will lose authority”
  • “I’m just telling the truth; I don’t like lying”
  • (Feeding questioning oneself) “They know better, I deserve this”
  • “I am just a kid, I have not rights”
  • “I should know how to do this right on my own; I just suck”
  • “I don’t have emotional needs; that’s for the weak”
  • “Communicating needs is useless”
  • “Nobody will understand me”
  • “Nobody really cares so I won’t even try doing things better”
  • Add your own

Tips to co-construct antidote (3) Via thickening preferences.

Aim or sub-task           Guiding questions
Identify a relational preference (preferred relational understanding such as preferred emotions, capacities, behaviours, attitudes, intentions, identities, ways of relating). You said your child was very upset, and I thought you wanted to say that wasn’t right for you, is that a fair statement? According to you, the bad thing about it is getting upset, losing control, or something else? (To ‘bearer’ of problem) what is it that you value about being upset? Does it give you strength? Does it help you express something you are unable to express with words sometimes? Does it help you to express something you find unfair? When would you say the ‘upset’ helps you, and when does it turn into a “bad thing”, because makes you do things you do not feel proud of doing?   Some parents sometimes want to help their children to learn self-control… is that important to you? Some parents want to help their children to make good decisions for their lives…is that important to you? Did you ever noticed something that would get close to such ability/learning?  
Characterize the preference How would you call this? (e.g., “self-control”; “inner control”; “assertiveness”; “promoting autonomy”; “respecting others’ rights”). Does your child know that you are interested in promoting her…. (e.g., autonomy)? When have you seen her exercising autonomy (or “inner control”) to some degree? How would you know that she is getting more autonomy? Have you met people who make good, autonomous decisions, commit and take responsibility for their decisions, etc? Who is better at home at exercising inner control? Second best? Third?  
Bring forth powerful inspirations (e.g., utility, goodness, beauty, or other “good reasons”). Would you say there’s something ‘ugly’ about “lack of self-control”? if so, can you tell me more about that? Why would you say autonomy is somewhat desirable? Admirable perhaps? Why is it useful? What has life taught you about the importance of “self-control”? Where did you learn that from? What would happen immediately in your relationship with your child if they decided appreciating and welcoming your willingness for her to gain more autonomy? What would happen after a year? After 10 years?  
Track ongoing changes in relation to preference Who has gotten better at (supporting) self-control at home? Who has noticed some difference in your child’s “inner control” in the last year? In the last month? How have you noticed that?   How long are these ‘meltdown episodes’ now? From 1 to 10, how intense are they now? How frequent? What does ‘patience’ do to “outer control”? (When unhelpful interaction is being enacted in session: does nagging help you? What else helps you?)  
Plan, do, and consolidate   What else are you going to do to Support/exercise inner control? Do you have a plan? How would you practice your “autonomy muscles”? Who may have some other ideas? What do these changes tell about what the relationship between you is becoming? What are you becoming into?

Tips to co-construct antidote (2) Via exception

Aim or sub-task           Guiding questions
Formulate a hypothetical solution Imagine this issue of ‘blowing up’ solved out, what would be different? What would you see different? What would you hear different? What would you think/feel different? How would you respond or do different?
Identify critical factors in hypothetical solution   What did you do that helped solving out this problem? When the problem solved out, how did you respond? When you responded like that, what did you observe as an effect? How others responded to your response?
Identify an exception to the problem When have you been able to resist engaging in exercising ‘outer control’, and opened space for ‘inner control’ to take place? Have you ever resisted to engage in exercising outer control? What did you notice when you did? What was different?  
Amplify exception in the present   How did you did that (exception)? How else did you empowered yourself and didn’t let outer control manage you? How did you manage not to surrender to the anxiety that came up for you when you saw your child was…? Where did you learn that? What did you do to get ready or prepare to make that step in that occasion? What other personal resources did you rely on to make this step?   What did you notice different in the relationship with your child when you did that (exception)? What did you notice different in yourself? What did other members of your family noticed? Who was the first in noticing the difference? Who was the second? Third? How did others respond? How did you feel when they did that? How did the rest of your day go after this happened? What did you notice later?
Co-create a new future When you act upon these ideas, what difference will it make for you? What difference will it make about how you feel about the episode? About yourself? When you feel like that, what will be easier to do from that mindset/mood/state of mind/stance etc.? How will this orient you towards a new direction in your life? While you continue going in this preferred direction, how will your new future be different from your old future?
Formulate a step by step plan Would you be interested in working (with your parents) to figure out new ways to (expand solutions/resist problems)? Who else could we recruit as part of your supporting team? How could they help with this? What could their contributions be?   What difference does it make for your next steps knowing that you were capable of resisting the temptation this time? What ideas does this success give you about what your next step could be? How will you know that your next step was successful? How else would you like to restrict the power that “outer control” may have in your family?

Tips to co-construct antidote (1) Via unique outcome

Aim or sub-task           Guiding questions
Explore unique outcomes Have you ever seen your child showing self-control? Has she ever decided to control him/herself instead of losing it? Has he ever decided to do something different other than melting down? Has she ever done something different to avoid getting to a place where melting down seems unavoidable?   What did you do in that occasion, which helped her to control herself? What did you do right after, when you noticed she was putting herself together? How did your child respond when you did that? If by exploring this episode in depth we could learn something about your capacity to foster inner control in your child, would you be interested in doing that?  
Internalize personal agency You mentioned that you did something different on that occasion, how did you do that? How did you manage to abstain from attempting to control her behavior, and tried instead opening space so that he could control himself? Was there anything different that you thought or felt that made you stronger, so that you could respond differently?
Link personal agency with personal resources or skills Where did you learn that? What does this skill or ability tell about yourself as a person?
Recruit a supporting team Who could help you to make good decisions? Who could help you to help? If ‘blowing up’ was taking control over you, what could your dad do to help you get stronger? Who could help your dad help you? Who else could help you?
Inquire about future effects of unique outcome   If you had further opportunities to support your child’s inner control in the next few days/weeks, what do you think would happen to the problem? Would its presence (or power to influence your relationship with your daughter) increase or decrease? What difference would this make for you?

Tips to weaken problematic interactions (3) via externalizing a problem-strenghening IDEA

Aim or sub-task           Guiding questions
Explore with curiosity the nature, history, effects, and tactics of the (potentially problematic) idea     What is it that worries you the most about the (e.g,.  ‘misbehavior’) issue? (e.g.,  “Kids should always comply with their parents”; “her disobedience”) How does the idea that your child should always comply with you interferes in your life? How has this idea affected your relationship with your child? Where is this idea more influential? How does this idea manage to convince you of its “truth”? When did you start “blindly obeying” this idea? It is unacceptable, for you, that your child seems not to comply with you, or not comply to certain principles or standards? What would those be? Respecting other’s rights? Caring about personal safety? Self-control? Other?
Explore unique outcomes Has there ever been a time when your child did not comply with what you were saying, but you thought it was nevertheless acceptable? What happened on this occasion? What was different? What did you do? What did s/he do? What did your partner say? What was the first thing you noticed? How did you know that his disobedience was not “bad”? What was the valuable principle s/he was “covertly obeying” in this “good disobedience”? What have you done that has helped your child to obey this important principle? What else?  
Explore future effects of unique outcome If your child believed that it is more important to you that s/he complies with certain principles, rather than complying with you, what do you think would happen to the problem? If your child believed that you worry more about mutually ignoring or distrusting one another, than how much s/he complies with your wishes, what do you think would happen to the problem? If could child was convinced about your good intentions, what would this mean to you? Who would be the most surprised if s/he did get convinced? Who would be the least surprised? Why? What would be different in your life? What would be different in your relationship with your child?

Tips to weaken problematic interactions (2) via externalization

Aim or sub-task           Guiding questions
Name the problem: negotiate an experience-near formulation for the problem How would you call this problem? Lack of control? Melting down? Misbehaviour? Restlessness? Blowing up?…something else? If we had a thermometer measuring temperature from 1 to 100 degrees, where 100 is the worst because you totally blow up, where would you be right now in the ‘blowing up’ scale?
Explore the negative effects of the problem Does the problem (e.g., ‘blowing up’) make you do things that you don’t like to do, or that you regret afterwards? What does the problem make you do? What else?
Is it a ‘strong’, powerful problem? What makes the problem bigger (or stronger)? If we asked your mom, how can she tell when the thermometer went from 20° to 50°? To 70°? To 90°? How does she do, or how does she respond when you are under the influence of this problem?
Explore unique outcomes (for more details check up on “tips via unique outcome”). Did you ever beat the problem (e.g., the ‘blowing up’)? Did the problem ever complied with you, instead of you complying with it? When was (bearer of problem) able to lower the intensity (or frequency) of the problem? When was (bearer of problem) able to do something with the problem? How did you notice? What was the first thing you noticed? What did you/her do? What did your mom notice? What did she do? What happened on that occasion? What did others say about this?
Fxplore unique outcomes in the future If (unique outcome) happened again in the next few days/weeks, what would happen to the problem? Do you think its influence in your life would increase or decrease? What difference would this make for you? What would be different in your life? What else?

Tips to weaken problematic interactions (1) via intention-effect

Aim or sub-task                               Guiding questions
Obtain a prototype of the problematic behavior or situation Can you tell me a typical situation in which this problem (e.g.,  “lack of self-control”; “blowing up”; “melting down”; “losing it”; etc)  takes place? How would you call it? Can you describe how it was the last time that this problem happened?
Obtain a typical response (TR) to problematic  behavior How did you respond in this situation? What did you do when X behaved in that (problematic) way? (e.g., I tried to stop her by…)
Search for positive intention behind TR What did you expect it would happen by doing that (TR)? What was the outcome you were looking for? What were you intending?
Separate intention from actual effect What would you say was the immediate effect of doing what you did (RT)? What has been the long-term consequences for your relationship? What has been the effect of doing that according to the other person participating in the situation? Would you say this is not the result that you were hoping for?
Formulate negative feelings or “stance” on actual effect How do you feel when you realize that you could have produced effects that you weren’t intending? What happens to you when you realize about what actually happened?
Separate agent from action If you had known in advance what the actual effect would be, would you have done something different? If you were convinced that in a situation like this there is something you could do to prevent this negative effect, would you do it?
Formular valor ausente pero implícito Why would you do something different? What values are at stake for you  here? What would be different for you if your intentions came across without distortion to the other?

Some “truths” linked to “losing control”

  • “Kids should always comply with their parents”
  • “Kids are unable to self-control”
  • “My daughter wants to manipulate (or control) me”
  • “My child is bad”
  • “My child is defiant”
  • “My child has ODD (oppositional defiant disorder)”
  • “He is just like his father; it’s genetic”
  • “I was the same as a kid”
  • “I must intervene; If I let them alone, they will kill each other”