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|Vertically Challenged - Page 7|
Then an astonishing thing happened. In the third game, Allison shot the ball—the first time she'd actually touched it all season—and scored, except her shot went into the wrong basket. You can imagine her teammates' reactions and her uncontrollable sobbing.
Her mom, remembering our sessions, went over to Allison on the sidelines, patiently waited until she began to cry a little bit less, and then briefly acknowledged her daughter's toughness in trying to harness her tears. Within a few minutes, Allison stopped sobbing, and a couple of moments later, she asked the coach whether she could be put back in the game. On the way home, she shocked her mother by snuggling against her saying, "That was the greatest game I ever played. I almost kept crying like I always do, but I didn't."
Communication and Conversational Style
A father tells me, "With one of my children, driving home from school is where talking happens. Another one loves to joke around, and in the middle of his lunacy, he'll get serious and tell me about a worry. Our third child is completely different: he hates all questions. With him, I'm required to listen and let him get the story completely out. Why does it have to be so different with each of them?"
While most post-boomer parents have heard about attention and learning style, few are familiar with what I call "conversational style," a notion I picked up while listening to speech pathologists and veteran parents describe communication patterns. Some kids open up in the morning, some right after school, and others at bedtime. Conversational style means that each child responds to a different tone and pacing from a parent; each has a different level of comfort with back-and-forth dialogue, questions, and phrasing. These differences are apparent from the first years of life and remain relatively constant through adolescence and well beyond. Through thousands of family sessions and "stories from home" (brief "I said—they said" notes that parents read to me about dialogues around the house), I've realized that therapists and parents need to take these characteristics into account and respond in a fashion that complements a child's conversational style. Given the peer group, the pop culture, and self-regulating videogames, kids are used to nothing less.
Fifteen-year-old Collette's conversational style was to argue—stubbornly, aggressively, immovably. Take a position and Collette immediately took the opposite one—a pattern that had alienated her parents and teachers and led to a welter of diagnoses: oppositional and conduct disorders, along with attentional, affective, and bipolar disorders. Our sessions took the form of constant debates:
Collette: Every adult I know is unhappy, my parents, all their friends. Probably even you.
Ron: Why are we—they—unhappy?
Collette: They hate their work. They hate the institution of marriage. They hate everything.
Ron: How can you be so sure of what they feel? You're saying you don't know one adult who's anything but unhappy?
Collette: No, don't be so dense! I don't think everyone is so unhappy every moment of every day.
Ron: But you just said that. You said that everyone is unhappy all the time.
Collette: Well, my parents are mostly unhappy.
Ron: Well, let's say mostly everyone is unhappy most of the time; it's all futile—then it's no wonder you just lose yourself in reading fantasy fiction and don't get involved in school.
Collette: How do you define reading?
Then we were off to the races again, lost in an endless chain of arguments. One day, Collette dropped by the debating club at school. The head of the team told her, "Look, you can't really try out for this unless you get better grades." She came away grumbling, and, of course, she and I argued about this "senseless" requirement. But Collette started to go to a few more classes, and got enough decent grades to join the team.