Outcomes Offered

■ Discrimination skills

■ Social skills

■ Decision-making skills

Have you noticed how sometimes parents can be as subtle as a sledgehammer? Sometimes they might not even consciously be aware of the effects ofwhat they are saying . . . but just say it anyway. Sometimes, too, it is easy for kids to take what they say in a way that it might not have really been intended. I'm not sure what the problem was for Rob.

His parents are friends of mine and I happened to be sharing a meal with them one night around their kitchen table. Somehow conversation moved on to Sally, the daughter of a mutual friend who wasn't very happy and hadn't been for several weeks. Rob's mom said that Sally had been getting into trouble for a while and that her parents didn't approve of the company she had been keeping. Then, suddenly, all her friends had dumped her and she was sad. For a while afterward she just sat at home and didn't want to go out. She didn't want to go to school, and when her mother and father tried to make suggestions, she'd snap back a reply like, "Get off my case."

Then something interesting happened, though Rob's mom said she didn't know what had made the difference. What happened was that Sally began to take a serious look at her friendships. For so long, she had just drifted along with her old friends without even questioning whether they were the best friends for her to have. Being dumped didn't feel good, but it did give her the chance to rethink whom she wanted to spend her time with and whom she didn't. She then thought about which kids she really wanted to be her friends. She made the effort to speak with them a little more often than she had done previously. She smiled when they passed in the corridors and she started to dress in a similar, though not identical, way. She paid attention to what TV programs they talked about, what boys they discussed, what teachers they liked or didn't, and the sorts of things that they did on their weekends . . . and she began to ask them questions about these things they were interested in. She found she started to enjoy the conversations and liked doing the things that they liked doing.

Rob's mom had said that Sally came home one day after school and said to her mother, "You know, I never realized it before, but I didn't really like my old friends. Some ofthem were always getting into trouble in class, some were experimenting with drugs, and some were always talking negatively and angrily about their parents. I can see now that some weren't nice people to be mixing with. My new friends are so much nicer. They want to get ahead and the fact that they apply themselves to homework and study means I feel more interested in doing it, too. I wasn't happy at the time when my old friends dumped me but I'm sure happy with the new friends I've made."

As Rob's mom finished telling the story, Rob folded his arms, looked down at the table, and said, "Okay, I know what you're saying."

Isn't it interesting how we all can see things a little differently? Maybe we hear our own messages in what's being told. For me, sharing dinner with them, I thought Rob's mom was just telling me a nice, positive story about Sally. Rob obviously thought she was sending a pointed message his way about the sort of friends he keeps. Of course, I don't know what she had in mind in telling me, but I was interested that Rob saw it so differently.

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