I’ve come to believe that one of the main duties for SF practitioners, is to ensure that client’s take credit for their achievements. We don’t do this by telling them how great they are, or even by offering subtle compliments, but rather, as is often the case in SF, by asking yet one more question. To illustrate this point, I want to share a story from a session conducted with a young mother who was referred due to struggling with her 7-year-old son’s behaviour. For the purposes of this story we’ll call the mother ‘Alice’ and her son ‘John’.
The session was taking place at the family’s home, with Alice and I sat in the downstairs living room, whilst her son played independently upstairs (notice the exception to his ‘troublesome’ behaviour already!). Part way through the SF session I was conducting with Alice, John came down the stairs and the following scene unfolded…
John: Mum, I’m hungry, can we have dinner now?
Alice: I’m in the middle of something at the moment, but give me 20 minutes and then we’ll cook something. What would you like, pasta?
John: Ok, and yeah pasta would be good.
At this point John proceeded to walk across the room, acknowledging me with a nod and a smile on his way past, before giving his mum a great big hug.
John: Love you.
Alice: Love you too.
John then heads back out of the room and up the stairs to play independently once more.
Ben: So Alice… How have you managed to raise John to be so polite and well-mannered?
Alice: [exasperated]… He’s only being polite because you’re here!
And so we come to the main point of this blog. Think about it. What message does it send to the client, if I, the professional, accept her assertion that the only reason her son is being well behaved, is because I am in the room?
Probably not a message of empowerment, probably not a message of hope, more likely a message of dependency on services and other’s expertise.
So what do we do instead? Ask yet one more question of course…
Ben: So how have you raised John to be so polite and well-mannered in front of strangers?
At this question Alice was stumped, and found herself with no option but to disclose the various skills, techniques and resources she had drawn upon to raise her son so far. Included were stories of establishing and maintaining boundaries, delivering a consistent message of love and care for him, even when things were not going so well, and utilising grandparents as a source of support and guidance.
What was abundantly clear, was that the reasons for John being so polite and well-mannered, were far more to do with Alice’s efforts and abilities than mine. My role? Simply to persist until she took the credit she deserves.
Ben Scott – Early Help Professional and SF Possibilities Trainer