Friday, June 08, 2007

Cereal on the Counter

Scenario number one:

It’s a school day and Dahlia is sluggish and half awake. She scatters cereal all over the counter and leaves the milk out when she goes over to the table to eat. "Dahlia!" Mary, a staff member says. "Clean up this mess you made! Put away the milk!"
"No" replies Dahlia. "You do it".
"Dahlia, I have given you a directive. Please get over here and put away this milk and clean up this mess!" Mary insists.
"F you" replies Dahlia.
Eventually Dahlia leaves for school, counter unclean, milk untouched. Mary cleans it up.
Mary is fuming. "These girls" she says to a co worker. "They are so lazy and they have no respect for me or for this house. They are hopeless. How will they ever be able to live on their own?"


Scenario number two:

It’s a school day and Dahlia is sluggish and half awake. She scatters cereal all over the counter and leaves the milk out when she goes over to the table to eat. Mary looks at the counter and says: "Hey, Dahlia, what a mess. How about I’ll put away the milk- will you get the counter after you are done eating?"
"Okay I guess" says Dahlia.
After she is done with her cereal Dahlia cleans off the counter in a half-hearted way, leaving some cereal. Then she goes off to school.
Mary finishes up the cleaning.
"Ahhh, teen agers" she thinks to herself as she goes on with her tasks.

Which was your morning like?

We have all had both types.

Notice the power of how a request is made: a "staff directive" or a request and a mutual effort.

But even more important notice the power of how an event is defined. Is this an obstinate child defying a Staff Directive, a sign of disrespect and a hopeless future? Is it clear evidence that the child has no caring for Mary or for the house? Does it demonstrate beyond doubt that Dahlia will never manage her own life well?

Or is it a teen ager in the morning?

1 comment:

Joe Ryan said...

I think that this scenario is a perfect example of situations throughout the day where adults (staff members) provoke a situation and create a power struggle that is completely unnecessary. Allowing the kid to calm down, using a more thoughtful/relational approach and role modeling not only gets the task completed, but builds that connection between the child and the adult. Also, it's not just teenagers that are cranky in the morning :-).