Archive for April 30th, 2011
PEORIA — The girl with a lion-mane head of hair in half brown, half blond came with barely suppressed anger on her face and a tight black jacket covering tattoos that crept up her neck and over her hands.
Another girl sat tight and tense, glaring at the teacher.
One walked in six minutes late, slapped both hands on the table and said, “I have to be out of here by 5:45 to catch the bus.”
Sitting at the head of this table of roiling anger is Ron Tyler, supremely congenial program director and anger management counselor at FamilyCore, formerly Counseling and Family Services.
All eight girls in this nine-week class have personal records with the criminal
justice system. Their probation officers recommended them for Tyler’s anger management class.
He teaches them they may not be able to control the other kid, but they can control how they react to the other kid … or the teacher or parent.
“We just assume people know how to handle anger, and we never teach them,” said Tyler.
These are girls awash in violence from television, computer games, movies, society and sometimes their own families.
Girls night is Wednesday. Boys night is Thursday.
Tyler looks forward to both classes.
“It occurred to me we spend more time teaching kids how to play baseball … how to stand with legs spaced apart, eyes looking forward, knees bent … than we spend teaching how to control anger,” he said.
Once enrolled in this program, attendance becomes a condition of parole. These girls, ages 16 and 17, are all on court-ordered probation.
Each class starts with a “hassle log.” Students write about a situation that occurred during the past week and how they handled it.
“We dissect the situation and how it happened. Sort of CSI about their anger,” he said.
One girl insisted she had no problem with anger management; it was the situation, not her. She had responded appropriately.
“Everyone gets angry, and everyone has mishandled it,” Tyler said. “We can all learn to do better. If you learn this, you gain control over your life. There are consequences to everything we do – both good and bad.”
One girl who commutes to Peoria for this class from an outlying school district insists on staying with a boyfriend who announced on Facebook that he is not in a relationship. Her anger erupted when she saw another girl talking and laughing with him.
“I don’t like it when girls try to come between me and my boyfriend,” she said. “My mom asked me about this class, and I told her I don’t need anger management just because I cuss.”
Another girl reacted explosively when someone made a derogatory remark about her baby.
For another girl, the boiling point was a boy who sat across the lunch table and wanted to watch every bite she ate.
Another girl erupted when she heard someone saying she’d had sex with six guys over the weekend.
“I told her ‘Listen you little stupid … you better stop talking like that.’ I told her I’m going to beat her … and she knows it,” the girl said proudly.
Tyler explained there are both external and internal triggers to anger. Sometimes other people know just how to trigger our anger and our reaction hurts us, not them.
“We need to figure out what triggers you. That’s why we do the hassle log. We figure out the trigger and how to prevent it,” he said.
One evening, the entire class was focused on how to avoid fights – despite some initial insistence that in some situations, fighting is the only way.
“How many of you have gotten into fights?” Tyler asked.
All hands went up and there was emotional embellishment about smashing someone, slapping someone and sitting on someone.
“OK, fights can be physical and verbal. Why is it important to stay out of fights?” Tyler said.
The lion-mane-haired girl said, “Look, we all understand what you are saying, but it’s just not going to work.”
Tyler said, “At least give yourself the knowledge prior to an incident and then you decide if you are going to use it. If you are in a fight, I can’t help you. But before a fight starts, I can help you think your way out of it. I’m not saying it will be easy, but you will live with the consequences. I can teach you, but you are the one in control. You can figure out what is best for you and your future.”
Rosemary Davis, an intern at FamilyCore and a student at Illinois Central College majoring in human services, said, “We’ve all learned different ways to deal with anger. There are times dealing with frustrations that we could all use some anger management.”
Tyler uses hassle logs, role playing, group discussion, pre- and post-testing, diagrams and basic principles of control – tools he calls “the nuts and bolts of anger management.”
“I worry about these girls. They are all awesome young ladies, but they come here following failures. Some have awful situations they deal with. Some live independently, and some go from family member to family member. There is no stability. Everything is temporary,” he said. “I have them 45 minutes a week for nine weeks to teach them anger management.”
Despite the time constraints, he has seen girls dramatically alter behavior by the end of the program.
“You can see it in their dress and their attitude. They’ve had a change of heart,” he said. “That’s when we know we’ve made progress.”
The average cost of incarcerating youth is nearly $72,000 a year. Currently, there are over 500 youth in Peoria County under the supervision of Peoria County Juvenile Probation.
Tyler operates 10 nine-week sessions of anger management classes each year, seeing a total of about 100 students. Students can miss one session. After two absences, they are discharged from the program and are in violation of their probation.
Anger management and other programs at FamilyCore are sustained on shrinking state and federal funding.
Lynn McPheeters, former vice president and chief financial officer at Caterpillar Inc., was on the board of directors of Counseling and Family Services before the name was changed to FamilyCore.
When he retired and he and his wife Susan moved from Peoria back to Memphis, Tenn., he asked Debbie Ryva, director of development at FamilyCore, to stop by their house.
The moving truck was there and they were leaving town, Ryva said, but not before handing her a check for $100,000.
“When I was on the board, I gained such appreciation and admiration for what that agency does for families and children. On such a limited budget they do an incredible amount,” McPheeters said.
“I have a financial background, and I understand we are in a difficult budget situation, but I don’t think we are putting resources in the right places. If we don’t put resources into children and get them on the right path, we will never get out of this situation.”
The violence on television and video games only reinforces the need for countervailing balance, McPheeters said.
Toward the end of one anger management class, Tyler said, “You don’t have to get street-side justice. There are adults in your life and you need to rely on them. Your parents, your teachers, me. A lot of people are looking to bring you down and with one bad decision, you let them. Don’t let people derail your future.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Seek understanding rather then agreement: Negotiate. Compromise, Ask yourself, “Is it better to be right or just have peace?” Ask the other person, “What is the worst part?” and even if you don’t agree, you can respond with, “I never thought of it that way.” We communicate to promote understanding of what we things and feel. Asking questions gives us more information, rather then a defensive reply that argues the facts.
Practice inviting people to talk: When discussing important or “hot” issues, turn off all music, televisions sets, computers and home or cell phones. Invite the person to talk by scheduling a conversation, rather then pushing them into a discussion. Inviting them to talk, not bullying them into speaking when its convenient only for you. Make an appointment by asking, “Is this a good time to talk?” or “I want to talk can we sit down tomorrow after dinner?” This time must be agreed upon by both parties and must be a priority despite any unforeseen events.
Use “I feel….” statements: “I feel…..(state your emotion)” and end there. You do not have to explain or defend why you feel what you do. The natural response is “How come?” So this leads to a dialog, rather then a long winded defensive monologue where we blame and falsely accuse another for triggering our emotions.
Avoid starting sentence with “You” and “Why”: These statements put people on the defensive. Replace “You” with “I feel….” and replace “Why” with “I’m confused.” These suggestions are assertive statements that promote insight into how you are reacting to another’s behavior.
Avoid using “Always” and “Never”: These words are not literal facts, but are figurative or feeling words. They lead the listener to argue the fact by pointing out exceptions, rather then seek understanding for how you feel based on their pattern of behavior. Rephrase them by saying, “It feel like you always…” or “It feels like you never…”
Commit to a no-exit strategy: Do not threaten the relationship by hangin up, slamming doors, or walking out. This only serves as a form of manipulation. These behaviors antagonize another’s fear of rejection, abandonment and loss. The attempt to scare someone into agreement leads to resentment due to feeling controlled by seeking submission rather then compromise.
Use Time-Outs: Agree to take a break and set limits to alleviate anxiety and frustration. A 20 minute break allows both parties to calm down, de-escalate, process and regroup their thoughts. The person needing a time out must announce it and set a length of time that it will last and both parties must reconvene to work out the issue within 24 hours.
Avoid using “Shoulds”: The word should implies I know what is best and if you don’t do as you should you are then guilty of being wrong. Replace with, “I prefer…” Remember everyone’s perception of reality is their “reality” or “truth”. There is no agreed upon right or wrong, good or bad. We only have personal preferences and taste.
Listening – Mirroring and Validating:
a) One person speaks at a time – The other person cannot interrupt, argue or defend while another person is talking
b) Mirroring – Reflect back what you hear before replying. “What I hear is….is that right?”
c) Validating – Acknowledge the feeling behind the words to make the implied explicit. “You sound …..(feeling)” or “I don’t blame you for feeling…”
Body Language: Be mindful of what you are saying with your tone, posture, hand gestures, head positioning, eye contact, breathing, facial expressions and movements.
Take responsibility for your choices: You must make an active effort to look at what you can control and what your are responsible for in your relationships. You cannot expect others to read your mind and must avoid the belief that they “should know…” without your saying it. You cannot change anyone else. You are powerless over everyone and everything but yourself and your efforts. No one can make you act out aggressively, you have a choice and you control your decisions.
There are no victims in a relationship, only willing participants. No one can take advantage of you, abuse you, unless you let them. You are in control.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )