Let’s face it: nobody likes being told what to do. No matter how good your intentions are or how much you care about the other person, the instant you try to be somebody else’s counselor, you’re booted out of the other person’s head. That is, unless, you have background knowledge or are experienced!
But not to worry if you’ve never dealt with a particular situation. See it as an opportunity to get to know more about the person’s motives and ask the right questions!
The Metacognitive Approach
You’re a parent and you have a teenage son/daughter. You drive home, back sore as usual around 8 P.M. after another long haul at work to the typical sight of your child, pencil grasped, headphones in, eyes fixed on their homework.
“Kid studying? Check. Okay, I’m going to bed”, you think to yourself.
It wasn’t the beeping noise of the alarm clock or the blaring sirens of cop cars whizzing down the roads that roused you from sleep. You know darn well you need to shake off the blanket and head straight to the bathroom to pee: “I shouldn’t have drank anything”, you mutter bitterly. Flush. Wash hands. Just before you tuck yourself back to bed, an odd smell catches you off guard. The familiar smell from the jacket of one of the regulars at the bar is causing you worry. No, it can’t be. Slowly, and anxiously, you tread blindly in the dark spaces of the house, sniffing left and right like a dog, you raise your head to entry door and see the outdoor lights turned on. With every inching step closer, you cause the sound of your steps to dampen. It is important to seize the moment in secrecy, so you peak through the eye hole of your door and see billows of smoke filling the outdoors, the moonlight illuminating the hand grasping the joint; it’s your child.
“No… not my kid…why God?” Tears begin to stream down your cheeks.
Every parent will react different and deal with the situation different. Some may berate themselves with questions: “Why did they do it? How long have they been doing this? Where did I go wrong?”, while others may mull over a way to punish the kid. Whatever the response is, we know that an intervention is much needed to get to the bottom of the mystery. Let’s play through the average response we expect to see:
Mom: WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU ARE DOING!?
Kid: Shit! I’m sorry mom! I was just trying something small, that’s all…
Mom: Are you out of your goddamn mind!? I SEE DRUGS IN MY HOUSE!! GET INSIDE!
Kid: (I am so fucked…)
Okay, so mom wasn’t a smooth sailing ship (but hey, that’s one way to ride the storm). But as I’ve stated before: every parent will react different. There are a hundred different ways the scenario could have played out, but what matters most is the resolution. As the parent in the situation, this would be the time to put down the boxing gloves (so not to further damage the child’s dignity) and have a deep, heart-to-heart conversation. Your time is better spent asking questions and reflecting on your own experiences than to constantly express disappointment or distrust. Even this negativity is unbecoming of a parent whose role is to be their child’s number one inspiration! So constantly telling the child, “you’re crazy”, or “you’re dumb” for thinking a certain way at this point is futile and dehumanizing. Turn your asinine remarks into a motivational force that will get the other person to open up and actually think! You’ll be heavily appreciated for being as open and respectful as one could ever be in the worst of times.
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