I am a second year student in the Child and Youth Care Counselling program at Mount Royal University. I am in my first practicum which is at a residential treatment facility for youth ages 11 to 17. Lately I have become a lot more aware of how many power struggles the staff have with the youth. My question to you all is what have you found is the best way to deal with a power struggle or how to avoid it all together.
There are some many ways to answer your question, so I will just provide an answer that maybe addressed one possible aspect – I am sure you will get many other responses. Of course, it is important to try and understand WHY there are so many power struggles. Some power struggles are normal and not necessarily a problem, it is also a way for young people to learn. You do not necessarily want no power struggles, you want power struggles that are well managed and that produce good learning experiences.
One thing I have found – and the basis of this comes from Jim Anglin’s work – is that where you have a lot of power struggles between staff and children you tend to have a lot of power struggles between staff. I cannot say that this is always the case, but since I am more aware of this, I am finding it to be true a lot of the time, and sometimes that is a good place to start.
Hope this is useful.
Werner van der Westhuizen
This is the question that has been asked down the ages.
* Mirror the youngster's feelings. " I bet you're tired of us seeming to tell you what to do all the time. Can't blame you for not wanting to do (whatever) this time."
* Have positive expectation but be prepared to reframe if there is resistance
* Disengage if at all possible. Consider how important the issue is. Many issues aren't.
* Say (for example, depending on the situation and context). :
" Oh, if this means this much to you....sure... you don't have to do it right now".
" Happy to pamper you a bit. I'll sweep the floor
this time... make your bed...pick up the
paper you just dropped "
" OK for now. I'll get back to you later".
" Well, it is a good idea to do... (whatever). What do you think the best way is ?"
With the struggle defused, you have a very surprised youngster. Surprisingly if you do get back to him or her, there's much more cooperation.
This is probably a lot more than you were hoping for but I haven’t written the workshop up into an article, which would be easier to decipher. However, here are some notes from my Power-Control workshop which you can use to help in whatever way you can make sense of them. I’m no longer teaching so maybe this is one of the things I should “write up”. This workshop contains the #1 issue that I’ve been asked to address over my career: it’s the first workshop I ever did and workers continue to struggle with it. As do the kids. Good luck.
To answer this question it would be helpful to know what the power struggles are all about. Are there points and level systems in the program? Consequence and reward systems? Compliance related issues? Reliance on evidence-based practice? This might be a good place to start thinking and I will direct you to some very good resources on these issues:
Hope these help.