Thursday, February 21, 2013

Counselor's Corner: If at First You Don't Succeed?

I like to think that coming up with analogies that kids will understand is an art form. I wouldn't say that I've mastered it, but I have worked on it for quite some time as an educator. This week, I had a kid come to my office to talk about some trouble he was having getting along with someone. Yes, I'm being vague and leaving out a lot of the story... I want to respect my student's privacy... but this is the part where the conversation got good.

Kid: She hits me.

Counselor: What do you do when she hits you?

Kid: I hit her back.

Counselor: Does that make things better?

Kid: Yeah.

Counselor: So she stops hitting you?

Kid: No, she hits me back even harder.

Counselor: So hitting her back isn't making things better?

Kid: I guess not.

Counselor: So is there something you could do instead of hitting her back that might help?

Kid: No, I'm going to hit her back.

At this point, our conversation stalled a bit. He was adamant about getting her back, and no question I asked seemed to lead him to a plan that didn't include hitting. Then an idea hit me, and I just started to run with it. As we were talking, I started fiddling with a marker and pen that were on my desk. Eventually, I changed the topic.

Counselor: You think you can figure out a puzzle?

Kid: Yeah.

Counselor: Alright, here's your challenge. Make the cap of this pen fit on this marker.

Kid: Alright. 

He worked on it a few minutes and then put it down.

Kid: This isn't going to work. It doesn't fit.

Counselor: Let me see it for a second.

He handed it to me, and I looked it over intently before handing it back to him.

Counselor: Try it again.

Kid: Alright.

He worked on it some more, and then put it down again. Once more, I asked for it back, looked it over, and instructed him to try it again. We repeated the process three or four times before he started looking a little frustrated at me for even asking him to try again.

Kid: You aren't doing anything but look at it. It's the same thing every time. It isn't going to fit.

Counselor: So if we don't change anything, it will never work?

Kid: Yeah.

Counselor: That sounds like what you're doing with the girl... you do the same thing every time, and it never gets better.

And that's when the conversation took a remarkable turn toward productivity!


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