One of Rachel’s recent posts reminded me of my years working with troubled kids. For three years between my time as a hairdresser and going to grad school for graphic design, I worked in a residential treatment center.
When I first started, four of my five shifts were with Mrs. CityName. She was a gruff older black woman who’d worked in the cottage for 17 years. For the most part she completely neglected to train me. Her methods of discipline were based on her personality. When she yelled, “You’ve got three seconds to get back up these stairs…1…2…”, kids jumped. If I tried it they laughed and kept going.
In the midst of shifts from hell when she left me alone so she could 'drive to Dunkin Donuts' (i.e. take a cigarette break), she did teach me a key life lesson.
One afternoon, NoRs and I were in a conflict over her taking a time out.
“Yes, you will go in the time out room.”
“No I won’t! Youwha howible pehson and I hate you, bitch!”
“If you won’t go in there, I’ll have to make you.” I threatened as I stood up.
Mrs. CityName finally intervened. “That little girl has you going. You need to stop the power struggle. Just step away.”
“You gotta give the kid a choice," she continued, "Make it between what you want and Hell, but give them a choice.”
She looked across the room and growled, “Time out room for five or your room for fifty.” NoRs stomped into the time out room cursing us the whole way.
I think the thing that bugged me about the whole incident was feeling that by not forcing my will, I was being weak. That little girl just cussed me out and didn’t have consequences for that?! What I had to learn was that anytime I reached a ‘yes you will’ / ‘no I won’t’ stage, I’d cornered both of us into a losing situation. The challenge was (and is) figuring out viable ‘choices’ before getting into the conflict.