Thursday, April 13, 2006


Jonathan is a 14 year old boy who was admitted to Klingberg about six months ago. He is small in stature and has a history of severe trauma. He came in snarling- he was vicious to staff and to other kids, and talked a lot about how tough he was, his gang friends, and made many threats to stab and otherwise harm everyone. He would not say hello or smile, much less talk about himself. He thought this whole treatment thing was so stupid. Yet, there were moments. Even the second day he was there he said: “You aren’t helping me!”- our first glimpse that he felt the need for help.

In he old system Jonathan would never have emerged from punishments. Staff would have confronted his every behavior head-on. Now, people kept their focus on the small, hurt, scared, confused boy who was desperately protecting himself with a wall made of hostile actions. Staff smiled, approached him, and said “life doesn’t have to be this hard, Jon.” He even said: why are you guys punishing me more? That would have fit with his self concept. We kept a log of “Hopeful Moments with Jonathan” to help us keep up our stamina.

Gradually Jon started to relax a little, connect a little. He began to say hi, and ask for things he wanted. One time that he was mean to a younger peer he and that boy made brownies together for the unit, and Jon taught the boy how to play a computer game. He began to participate in family therapy, and shared with his therapist how angry he feels about how badly he was beaten. He even started to look at his relationship with the mother who is only intermittent in is life.

Unfortunately Jon was hospitalized this week. He began to cry a lot, stayed in bed, and would not go to school. But this is all part of the process, and he will return to continue his treatment. If he is able to change, it will not be to earn privileges or to avoid punishments. It will be because compassionate people made him feel safe enough that he could finally share how scared he is, and finally begin to rely on some help from caring adults.

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