I have always used the "YES" principle in working with children and training staff. In every house there is a sign that reads:
In all the years I have used this principle, and all the years I have taught the staff, I have never felt that I completely convinced the staff of its value. Recently I was going through some old trainings and I found a paper from Wendall Walker entitled, "Yes and No". The very first line stood out and called my name! How had I missed this small detail? Wendall said, "To maximize relationships with other people, while honoring your own values, here are some ideas to consider:"
The whole thing I have missed in all these years is the staff's value on consequences. They have had a difficult time accepting the new program because the level system of the old program, even though the children choose the consequences because they knew the rules and consequences, (positive and negative), were still consequences. The staff believed the program worked because of the consequences, while I was believing the program worked because we were evaluating the choices and consequences on a daily basis.
Now that we have moved to a therapeutic program, and away from a level system, the staff have been more reluctant to use the principle of "YES". They want the emphasis to be on the IF, WHEN, and BUT, and not on the YES.
For the next several blogs we will consider our quality world and how it effects the basis of our beliefs, and how we build relationships with others.
It is just a matter of a short time and we will have our STRTP (Short Term Residential Treatment Program) License. We have been working on this for 3 years now. We wrote the program, filled out the paper work, (and the revisions), trained the staff, trained our administrators, and it finally is about to come through.
What does it mean? It means we will no longer be a group home organization, but a treatment facility. It means we will not have staff anymore, we will have child care counselors. It means we will not only be dealing with behaviors, but with the trauma the children have been through that created the behaviors they choose.
Using the fact that we all genetically have 5 Needs, and that there are 4 parts to the behaviors we choose to meet those needs, we will teach the children to evaluate their choices, both to see if they get them what they want, and if those behaviors help them build relationships with the people they most want in their lives.
If you have been following my blog, then you have a good idea how we plan to help the children find meaning in their life and make choices that will make their daily choices more effective.
This is a common theme in a group home. Some girls show their feelings by isolating, staying away from anyone who wants to help, even verbally abusing anyone who tries to make friends. Some of the girls come in refusing eye contact, any complements, and any attempt at conversation.
We work hard at making a safe, comfortable environment for our counselors and girls, and day by day listen to what they have to say, ask questions about what they want and how we can help. We work with the girls to plan meals, community outings, and find activities that we can do together.
We have "sister" houses, where we can have all-house meetings, outings, and groups with more than just one house, but not so large that it is overwhelming.
One of the activities we use is the "WHO ARE YOU" chart. We divide a page into two columns, and title the columns:
WHAT DO PEOPLE SAY ABOUT ME WHAT DO I SAY ABOUT ME
We have the girls write as much as they can and then we ask how many comments are in each column. We ask them to compare the two columns, and ask if the things in the first column have an effect on what we put in the second column. We ask if the things in either column have an effect on their thinking and behavior, and how it ultimately effects how they feel about themselves. We close with asking them to write one positive truth across the bottom.
These words are to be used in discussion with the children about when and how they would use them. Role play is useful in helping them feel comfortable expressing in appropriate ways. They have no problem expressing themselves when they are mad, but it is usually not acceptable even with their own peers. This is to help them learn effective use of their words.
Here are some important words to help you set and keep healthy boundaries:
"I WILL NOT"
"I CHOOSE NOT TO"
"I DON'T LIKE IT WHEN YOU TOUCH ME THERE"
Here are some boundaries:
WORDS - The word NO defines where and what
TRUTH - honesty about who you are
GEOGRAPHICAL DISTANCE - you can always remove yourself
TIME - time out or time apart
EMOTIONAL DISTANCE-temporary space, forgiveness with a guard on your heart
OTHER PEOPLE- relationship needs or finding a new input or support network
CONSEQUENCES - beware when the "No trespassing" boundary is up
FEELINGS - are your responsibility and you own them
ATTITUDES AND BELIEFS - attitudes are your perception of something, and beliefs are anything you believe as true.
BEHAVIORS - natural consequence
CHOICES - need to take responsibility for your choices and we are in control of our choices
VALUES - what wed assign importance to
LIMITS - setting limits on others is not possible; you can only set limits on what you will take from others. We set the limits on who we will accept as they are while setting our own internal limits - self -control
TALENTS - take ownership of our talents and their use
THOUGHTS - own our own thoughts. Grow in knowledge and expand our minds. Clarify distorted thinking.
DESIRES-lies within our boundaries, they define the "real me"
LOVE - the greatest need to give and respond to love. An unloving heart needs an inflow as well as an outflow of lifeblood. Needs to be used, needs to trust.
"My name is Carla Atkinson and this is a blog for foster parents and group homes. We will discuss laws, new and old. We will share ideas and we together, we will work to make the lives of children a little better."