Friday, May 09, 2008

R - E - S - P - E - C - T

This week, in my final group work class with Dr. Meander, we performed role-play group simulations. Some students were facilitators, some clients. It was very interesting and creative; we all had a lot of fun and it illustrated many important aspects of how groups function and promote change.

During one presentation -- a role-play of a parenting skills and support group -- one of the characters was a Cuban man who smacks his 12-year-old daughter when she doesn't obey his rules. This, naturally, led to a lot of discussion in the group, and then they asked the rest of the class what we would have said to such a person if we were facilitating. I volunteered.

Ayelet: Mr. Cuban, have you ever spoken to your daughter about the reasons you have these rules?

Mr. Cuban: I don't have to. I'm her father. The rules are to protect her, and she has to follow them. If phone curfew is 11 p.m. it's 11 p.m., no exceptions

Ayelet: Can you tell me why phone curfew is 11 p.m.?

Mr. Cuban (exasperated, as if it's obvious): Because she needs her sleep!

Ayelet: That's a good rule. You know, when kids are little, it's not so important to explain your rules. They might not understand your rationale, and they usually accept that it's best for them anyway. But adolescents are a little more questioning and rebellious. They like to know why they have to do something. Then, if they understand why they have to do it, it's easier for them to do it. So it can be helpful to explain the reason behind a rule; then teenagers might be more likely to follow it.

Dr. Meander said, "Ayelet, I have to interrupt."

Uh-oh. Was I making too many generalizations about kids and adolescents? Lecturing too much? Giving too many suggestions?

"I want to call attention to the wonderful respect Ayelet is showing this gentleman," continued Dr. Meander. "Your tone, the way you're explaining things to him, and the way you're not judging him or his culture. As group facilitators, we often work with clients who come from different backgrounds, different cultures, who have different ways of doing things that we do. It's important at all times to show respect for a client even if you might not agree with the way they are doing something."

"Mr. Cuban" (who in actuality was an African-American woman wearing a fake soul patch) agreed. "I didn't feel threatened or criticized," she said. "I felt like she respected me and was trying to speak to me in a way I wouldn't object to."

This shows a few things:

1. I'm still paranoid I'm always doing something wrong. Last week Melanie said there was something she had to discuss with me. "Uh-oh," I thought. "What did I do?" Turned out she wanted to take me out to dinner to say thanks for all my good work and didn't know any kosher restaurants. But the first thought that jumps to mind when someone says "we need to talk" or the equivalent is never that I'm doing something right.

2. I'm able to convey respect when I work with clients. (Bad Place psychologists, you are so ignorant.)

3. Dr. Meander isn't half bad. I like her a lot more now than I did at the beginning of the semester -- I guess the meandering has grown on me, especially if she's meandering on about something I'm doing right -- and I've really learned a lot from her. I have a lot of respect for her. Dr. Meander said that in the future, as we go on to work with groups, if we have questions we can always call or email her. I'm going to take her up on that.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

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