Taking Response-ability

What do you do when your loved one’s behavior bothers you?  You know, when they do something that irritates you, like how my kids used to wake up and pretend to feel sick because they didn’t want to go to school.  I’ll give you a hint, I’ve written about response flexibility before and I’m about to take it a step further here.

When families present for counseling for the first time, they often complain about one person’s behavior, as if he/she is the source of the problem.  If only the person in the family with the most outrageous behavior would change, then everything would be peachy keen. 

This is known as scapegoating.  Families will put all the responsibility for change onto one person in the family, “If my husband would stop drinking; if my son would do what we ask; if my sister would stop being so negative.”  I could go on and on trying to make the point, but I’m sure you get it by now.  People come to my office and ask me to fix one person in the family as if they are the only source of the problem. 

Here’s where things get challenging—responsibility.  Who is responsible for positive change in the family unit?  I’ll give you a minute to think about it. 

Here’s the answer:

Instead of going straight into the topic of responsibility, because who wants to be preached at, I talk about response-ability.  I get it.  You’re loved one’s behavior is super irritating, probably much more so than when my kids begged to stay home and not go to school.  I’m convinced that if your loved one stopped drinking, started doing what you asked, and quit being so negative all the time, then things would get better.  I don’t doubt what you’re telling me.

All I’m suggesting is that we start with what we have the most control over, your behavior, or more specifically, your response to your loved one’s problematic behavior.  How would you rate your response-ability?  How capable are you of responding in such a way that improves your loved one’s behavior with minimal energy expense on your part?

This is the response-ability scale:

Selected Value: 0

My job as a family therapist is to enhance your response-ability.  When my youngest daughter used to beg not to go to school I would often match her negative energy with my negative energy and call it discipline.  When my kids would act up we’d try grounding, taking away tablets, and other privileges. It rarely worked.

We’ve found a much easier way through trial and error.  We’ve experimented with various responses to our children’s negative behavior.  We’ve found the secret to establishing peace in the home by taking our response-ability very seriously. We’ll share more about what we found in our upcoming seminar. Sign up today.

Note: Any reference to truths gleaned or stories about experiences in clinical practice are never in reference to a particular individual but are amalgamations of many stories and experiences to illustrate something common about the human experience. 

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