Trying Hard or Not Trying Hard Enough?

By Landon Kirk | Added March 8

In my blog post last month I challenged readers to adjust their lens when interacting with difficult children or teens from, this student is not trying hard enough to this student is dong his/her best.  His/her behaviors are adaptations. 

How did you do?  It is pretty tough to take the perspective that when a teenager is wildly disrespectful, controlling, negative or acting out behaviorally that they are doing their best isnt it?  In fact, the teen might also agree that they are not trying hard enough but not know why or how to change.  However, if we peel away the layers and see the behaviors (disrespect, controlling, manipulating) as symptoms of a deeper issue (fear of rejection, abandonment, need to feel unconditional love and acceptance) we can take a more proactive approach towards connection and healing. 

In tangible terms, when Sally is once again disrespectful and rude and you determine she is not trying hard enough to be polite you are implicitly declaring you have exhausted all of your teaching and parental guidance; especially if you then give her a consequence.  In addition, you are likely hoping that the consequence will magically facilitate intrinsic change.  If this is your stance, there is a possibility you may be correctperhaps you really have exhausted all of the effective parental guidance, modeling, and teaching enough and Sally truly does need a consequence.  However, before you assume you have done all you can do, I urge you to pause and first assume the position of, Sally is doing the best she can right now.  Her disrespect and attitude are communicating a deeper need.   Your subsequent perspective and intervention(s) may drastically change if you do so.  You may be surprised if indeed Sally really needs more coaching, modeling and guidance instead of you telling her to stop talking that way, calm down, trust you, more consequences, and so forth.  Put franklyis there a chance that you have verbalized what you want repeatedly but have not taken the time to involve her, coach her, or model for her what you expect from her? 

One of my favorite Chinese Proverbs reminds us of this principle: Tell me and I will forget.  Show me and I may remember.  Involve me and I will understand.   

In closing--keep trying!  If you shift your paradigm to my child is doing the best he can and allow your interventions to change, let me involve him so he understands I truly believe your relationship will grow deeper roots and your child will feel more love and acceptance. 

Please contact me if you would like to discuss this further.

About the Author

Landon Kirk, MSW, LCSW Owner, Co-Founder and CEO

Landon has devoted most of the past 18 years working with families and teens. During graduate school, Landon became immersed in the world of adoption and attachment and this became a personal and professional passion of his. Following the completion of his MSW degree in 2003, Landon began working in an adoption agency where his responsibilities were divided between therapy, birth parent and adoptive couple work. Specifically, Landon worked with birth parents struggling with the option to marry, single-parent, or place their child for adoption and provided counseling and resources to help them make their important decision. An adoptive parent of three children himself, Landon also counseled, approved, and placed prospective adoptive families with children. Landon feels very close to many adoptive parents and the shared issues of infertility, longing to have children, and post-adoption issues. In December of 2005, Landon joined West Ridge Academy as a full-time therapist. Within six months he was promoted as the Campus Administrator allowing him to lead all residential employees towards effective treatment practices. In January of 2007, Landon was hired as the Clinical Director and Chief Operations Officer (COO) for CALO. In May of 2012 Landon moved into the role of Chief Clinical Officer (CCO). This position permits Landon to lead CALO Directors and employees responsible for the care and treatment of students in Residential, Recreation Therapy, Canine, Academics, Nursing and Clinical towards cohesiveness and clinical integrity. Landon is originally from Jacksonville, Florida and enjoys many sports and outdoor recreation including football, tennis, basketball, golf, camping, hiking, and fly-fishing. Top on his list of interests is spending time with his wife Jill and their three children (Tanner, Kambrie, and Bryelle). The Kirk's reside in Osage Beach, Missouri.

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