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|Tapping into Strengths - Page 4|
I stated clearly to the two of them that the behaviors their son was exhibiting wouldn't yield to direct, escalating punishments. Although discipline was certainly a part of the picture, exiling a child with this kind of psychological profile into an empty room for hours at a time was likely to backfire. I asked whether they'd consider the possibility that some part of a solution might lie in "the story with the hedge-clippers." Why did they think that the evening finally ended so well? "We wore him out" "We distracted him," they said. Fair enough, I thought, but I asked Paul, "Do you think anyone but you could have made that happen?" A thoughtful silence was the only response. Then, after a moment, Janet said simply, "Daniel likes spending time with his father."
In doing resilience-informed therapy, the therapist tries to find the family's strength and resilience that's seemingly embedded in—or buried under—a simplistic story of symptoms, problems, and failure. One way of looking for the gem encased in clay is to focus the therapeutic faculty of curiosity. Instead of asking a parent, "How many times did Johnny miss school this week?" ask, "What are your hopes and dreams for Johnny's future?" In this way, the "presenting problem" is subsumed into a broader, more complex family story.
By this time, we'd come to the "treatment recommendation" phase of our consultation. I proposed to the family and their therapist that they focus their future work together on encouraging Janet and Paul's creativity, intuition, and clearheaded devotion. They were to think of Daniel's stealing as a symptom of past events that they couldn't change. Discipline should be clearly defined, time limited, and as dispassionate as possible—such as writing assignments and loss of privileges—with no more family lockdowns or forced isolation. Most important, though, the long-term solution to Daniel's problem, and theirs, would be loving attachment, enacted in more episodes like the evening when Dad and Daniel clipped the hedge by moonlight.