Quick Quiz, in terms of goal setting: – 1. What does SMART stand for? Bonus prize for SMARTER. Pretty quick quiz indeed, but I reckon most folk will know most of:
I’m aiming for this to be my shortest post yet, so best not waste words telling you that. It is more of a question than anything else.
The question is; Should the goal be Realistic? one problem is it would mess up a long lived acronym for a start, but lets put that aside.
As a sportsman and previously a PE Teacher and coach I have taught a lot of young and old ones all about SMART goal setting and it remains in most exam papers still. Many years on I feel a tad guilty about that, as my message was, ‘have a goal but reign it in a bit though aye’.
I’m reading a book called ‘Unleashing Greatness’ by David Galbraith. A New Zealand Sport Psychologist that practices based on Pathway 1 (The Pathway of Courage) and isn’t a fan of Pathway 2 (Self doubt or fear of failure). He strongly believes that ‘realistic’ shouldn’t be included, rather an exploration and striving towards a dream is embraced rather than reigned in.
I happen to think that makes perfect sense and agree. Placing a parameter such as realistic puts an instant glass ceiling on the goals you are setting. I understand there are a few justified arguments for keeping realistic in goal setting. However, I definitely favour the opportunity to support others and myself to reach beyond what you ever thought possible or a safe bet. As with this mindset, the sky really is the limit, so reach for it, and refuse to settle or listen to the inner voice and external noise.
An earlier post ‘let it rip’ gave a bit of an insight into where this one may be heading.
I had the good fortune to be in a lovely MRI machine yesterday. Oh, it is a sweet pleasure indeed…maybe not, but it got me ‘pondering’, again.
There was the awkward moment where I misheard the radiologist say “everything except for your boxer shorts”, what I heard was “everything but especially your boxer shorts need to be jettisoned from your fine physique”. Fortunately the radiology gown, some quick movement from me and a lazy eye from the operator saved any embarrassment. Well, until the damn gown kept getting stuck and I was lying with my legs spread directly in the viewing line of the radiographers.
What could I possibly have been pondering at such a magical time I hear you ask?
As a counsellor or with self development, is it best to ‘go to town’, which means really invest in the situation, problem or challenge? Or… look elsewhere to clearer paths and brighter skies in the hope the crap stays in the past if we race forward faster enough?
I was lying in this machine that was about 10 inches from my face. In support of this confined space I was then placed in this helmet thing that offered about an inch of space from my face. I was in this tight space for over an hour with this god awful banging and buzzing throughout the whole thing – and that was just the radio station that they were playing, but the machine made a far louder and definitely more intense acoustic version. All of this had been preceded by lots of information and questions about being claustrophobic. Well, I wasn’t until they asked that many times that I was soon feeling less than happy, as to be asked that many times could only mean that I should be freaking out so therefore perhaps I should oblige.
As a disclaimer my approach is solution focused, CBT, Mindfulness on a firm base of person centered counselling. When I work with trauma I do work along a narrative approach to explore unhelpful or inaccurate scripts before explore where clients need and want to go. There is a very strong emphasis and understanding in counselling that you rock up for a session and keep rehashing the crapness of what is going on and then it will eventually become less crap. An image that keeps coming to mind which possibly offers an insight into the weird and wonderful world of my mind is someone sitting in a bath of shite. So, would I ask that person to sit, savour, smell and taste the brutal and quite disgusting texture and reality that you are sat in a bath of your own shit. If you are made to sit in that bath for an extended period of time then you will continue to add to the mess that you are sat in. This then reinforces a sense of guilt, shame, frustration, anger etc. in yourself. Or, would it be useful for the person to take a moment to acknowledge that, yes they are in fact sat in a pile of shite, before exploring a preference of whether to step out and clean up or to commit further to the exploration of the situation. It’s a timing thing, I believe anyway.
Back to the MRI machine. How I dealt with it is perhaps one strong contender of how to approach ‘stuff’ or being ‘in a bath of shite’. That is, I acknowledged where I was, but I also clarified the whens, whys and hows etc. to reduce anxiousness through eliminating the unknowns. I then reassured myself that there was an end in sight, I simply had to get in and on with it and tap into my coping toolkit. I took my mind elsewhere, it in no part meant that I was running away or in denial of where I was or what I was experiencing. It was investing my energy and effort into where I wanted to go rather than amplifying the crapness and claustrophobia of where I was.
To summarise. This is again the pondering of a lifelong learner and curious mind of a counsellor. Primarily it is the ramblings of someone in pursuit of wellness and what this looks and sounds like for me but also those I interact with professionally and personally.
Like ‘letting it rip’ I do wonder if we absolutely acknowledge where we are and the challenges which we are faced with. I am leaning towards an increased investment in time and energy in exploring where we want to be, and then ‘going to town’ on how we get there, and stay there through developing resilience and an ability to cope along the long journey of life, not just one step at a time. That is not for every person and every challenge, but would certainly relate to a massive majority of my own challenges and the clients I work with.
How? It’s taking a holistic approach to a healthy lifestyle with wellbeing at the front, middle and end. Connectedness with self, with others and our environment. It’s diet, exercise, mental health and a positive excitement and optimism about your potential and what that may look and sound like and how it would positively ripple in to the lives of those you care about and anybody else that comes in to contact with your contagious awesomeness.
Knowing what our kids are playing and taking a second to think of the implications, now and later.
Well, I don’t know where to start on this because I don’t know where it would finish or even if it could finish without writing a novel.
‘It’s awesome! If you finish the level quick enough then you can kill the baby when its still sleeping and upgrade your gun!” This came out of the mouth of a six-year-old child I was seeing as a counsellor. I had been called into a school to help improve the behaviour of some challenging wee ones. To give a bit of context, I’d barely sat down and asked how the week had gone so far. The game is called Duck Hunt (search duck hunt horror – if you see the red eyed dog, you have found a version) and he put an impressive amount of energy behind reenacting how to move and shoot with speed and accuracy. Now, my generation will remember that game as one where you shot ducks as they flew across the screen. Its not that one! I didn’t believe what he was telling me at first, so I looked into it and quickly found what he was playing. He was right! It starts quite harmlessly as a basic shoot’em up (birds) game, before it quickly enters a room with a family all sat in a lounge. Depending on which family member you shoot will dictate which gun you upgrade to. The graphics are damned realistic too. This is just a game that this six-year-old fills a bit of time with and far from the worst he plays. The exception, absolutely not!
I am a counsellor working with kids from 5 upwards as well
as the grown-up work I do. I have been doing this for over a decade and
therefore believe I have a pretty fair reflection on what is going on purely
from experience rather than from afar in a research paper. I have seen a direct
correlation with behaviour challenges to the games used. I intentionally didn’t
say technology as that isn’t the case at all. Demands on parents are increasing
and work patterns have changed massively. On my way back from a run or the gym
at about 6.30am day cares are already receiving their first drop offs.
With this increased busyness and kids that by the very fact
that they are kids are a bundle of fun, energy and thirst for time and
entertainment. Digital devices are gold for keeping young ones still and quiet.
They are however, far from safe. Any parent will tell you noise (within reason)
is the norm, but silence – that will get me jumping up to see if the boys have
drawn on the wall or hand fishing in the toilet. It is kind of like that with
kids and games, just because they are out of your hair for 5 mins don’t start
celebrating until you know for sure what they are up to.
Firstly, I am completely pro technology and certainly see
its abundant benefits. Having access to information is invaluable, especially
when in academic land and completing research.
This post is raising a flag on how technology is used by our
kids. It’s a bit of common sense really, but I get how life can result in a few
First, have a think on what your values and
Explore what they may look, and sound like for
you and then your kids.
Then take a look at the games that they have,
regardless of age. You pick what is appropriate for your kids not the games
company or censorship committees. Google the highest-ranking games in the world
right now- well keep tracking back over the last 10 years- it’s the same
result. Every one of the top games is a shoot ‘em up and the graphics are
bloody realistic. Grand Theft Auto is a
cracking example. Pull over, once you have evaded police, and then kill as many
people as possible to get some money. You get even more money depending on how
creative you are in your murder. Not to mention the rewards for killing female
characters. Then ask, how does this look
compared to my image of the values and beliefs I thought of earlier. What is it
normalising and desensitising our children to? As an ex police officer, I have
seen my fair share of the dark side, murder and violence. Maybe that’s why I
might be a tad ‘sensitive’ and ‘overprotective’, or maybe not.
Take a second. You are at a barbeque with some
friends. You see your wee angel playing with a few other wee angels. You listen
and look a bit closer. One of the other kids pretends to shoot your angel in
the head with a gun whilst shouting ‘take that biatch!’. In the meantime, the
other kids want in on the action and pretend to kick the crap out of your
little angel because they too can get some points if they inflict a bit of
damage too. They then turn on one of the other kids shouting, “now you can be
the police” we are gonna f.&k you up! Would you smile and nod to one of
your friends and smile before sharing a “kids aye” moment? I think not.
Fortnite– the latest global phenomena game- is
not unheard of by any means with many of my young and old clients.
Social media and the role in the lives of our young ones is
a beast in itself that I’m sure I’ll talk about at some point. When it comes to
computer games, it is really simple. How does the game look compared to your
own family values and beliefs? We all make our own decisions, and these are my
thoughts. They are however thoughts based on working with young ones for nearly
20 years and the last 10 specifically with child and adolescent mental health. I
absolutely see a direct correlation between behaviours and the types of games
and amount of time spent playing them.
As parents, but as adults and a society we really need to
take as much responsibility of the safety and wellbeing of our children and
future when they are sat in front of screens as we do when they are not. We
can’t be too surprised or p’d off with the kids behaving in a way that is
pretty out there. We need to step up first and then see what happens with
behaviours and some very shaky wellbeing.
With the many weird and wonderful experiences
that are part and parcel of life, you can’t help but ponder stuff. In my case it’s
also professional practice.
Quite often I support and encourage
clients to take quite an ‘assertive’ approach to mental health and dealing to
the challenges to acknowledge and then take control. That is definitely one way
that has proven highly effective for all the clients where we take this approach.
But there are ‘horses for courses’ that need to be picked wisely for the best
outcome. I still see a time and a place for this style but now I’m pondering quite
What if sometimes, for some people, fighting mental health
head on is in fact giving it more power than less. You make it front and centre,
the be all and end all. The worst thing is you can’t see or hear it, so you are
in fact swinging blindly.
I am surrounded by surfers and surf beaches, which is perhaps why approaching stuff like a rip tide, may in fact be a good way to go. For those that don’t know what a rip tide is then perhaps google it. In short (or this will make no sense at all) this one is for kids, which is bang on my level https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rJ76XfBVKq0 . In a wonderful world the tide and waves beautifully all lap towards dry land and return surfers and swimmers to terra firma. A rip tide is a sneaky little beggar that bucks the flow and creates an invisible channel that takes you out to the big blue sea. This takes those not familiar to a rip by surprise. Instinct is to swim like your life depends on it -because it does, I suppose- towards land. As you’d expect a swimmer is no match for the immense awesomeness of the sea. This is what got me thinking. Sometimes by investing all attention and effort into fighting the rip tide (mental health) you are in a battle where there is only ever going to be one winner. The swimmer eventually tires and then is in real bother. For the sake of happy endings and a hop, skip and a jump. Hasselhoff or The Rock pluck you out of the sea and holds you in a safe embrace.
The alternative and the best way to deal
with a rip is to stop and as soon as possible take stock and acknowledge that
you are in the shite, well rip tide. This being a metaphor for mental health.
At each point you keep raising your arm high in the air calling for help. Help
being family, friends and better still a trained professional. In the meantime,
simply breathe and know that the calmer you are, the clearer you think and in
the meantime tap into your coping toolkit and resilience to ‘calm your farm’. If
you take it easy and either float out to the back you will eventually come
right, you could end up in some pretty dark blue water, which is a tad unsettling,
especially if you too were traumatised by jaws
and then topped it up with an unhealthy dose of In the Deep. So, this is where tapping into your tool kit comes in.
As, you swim across and parallel to the beach you eventually get out of the rip
tide and back into the waves that are taking you on a fast track back to dry
land. This being a place of relative calm, balance and positive wellbeing.
Finding a good counsellor is all about finding the
right fit for you and a style that will work. As a counsellor it can only be a
positive to be able to change gears and styles to best meet the needs of the
person or people that sit in front of you. So, I’m still pondering when to ‘deal
to it’ and when to take stock and swim across and out of a rip tide. Better
still I will keep looking at refining the skills and resilience that would
enable and empower my clients, friend, family and of course myself to find the
right way at the right time.
Personality types, your young one and you. What does it look and sound like, and how might this influence your parenting?
What personality type is your young one?
If you have read my post on ‘Passion Pushing or Sharing the Goodness’ then you already have a fair idea about what I’m like when it comes to sport and competition. I was recently part of a workshop talking about resilience in children, and it recalled the old matter I had about personality types, namely the Myers-Briggs personality model.
My son is a big unit for his age, the size that many folk presume equates to a child a couple of years older than he is. This then is sometimes followed by the comment that he’ll make a heck of an All Black. This is somewhat of a contradiction to reality. This has nothing to do with his physical attributes but elements of his personality that makes me prouder than if he were to be an All Black. We join other families on a Saturday morning at Rugby Tots. He is pretty sharp off the mark, outstanding at zig zagging and takes great delight in watching me race off after his ball once he’s kicked it the length of the room. The personality I am referring to is best illustrated in how he plays the games they guide us through. Cowboys and Indians to start with, this is a gauntlet style activity where the cowboys race through a channel whilst the Indians are kicking foam balls at the them. Last one standing wins. My boy waits until the others have past before he kicks the ball safely out of harms way. The best example is tag rugby. He won’t take the tags off the other boys. When I asked him why, he whispered into my ear that it is snatching. Every week this happens with the strongest example being the Saturday just gone. Two boys face off with about 10 yards between them. When the whistle goes they have to sprint to the ball and the first one that dives on it wins. After 3 attempts my son would stop short of the ball until the other boy had caught up and dived on the ball. The fourth time I had encouraged him to get the ball highlighting it was part of the game and okay. This time he raced down and secured the ball and proudly brought it back to me. The other boy was beside himself and being consoled by his mum and one of the coaches. My son then turned around, jogged to the other side of the room and handed the ball to the upset young man. Every part of me a proud dad. I would suggest my son is very much a Golden Retriever. I am only too aware having seen lots of interactions with other children, that as parents we need to be mindful of the implications of being a retriever and how this informs elements of our parenting.
That is the very point of these personality type examples. To encourage us as parents to simply observe, listen and explore our young ones as best we can. Developing an awareness of our childs needs through celebrating strengths and acknowledging areas that would benefit from monitoring and developing.
Have a look at these and just explore, even if you think it doesn’t fit your young one then have some fun defining your own animal, car, plant… whatever.
Imaginative, easily distracted, creative, dramatic, ideas, spontaneous, entertainers… these are often the children with ‘imaginary friends’ or who you see in the Spiderman outfit! Putting them in ‘time out’ often not effective as they really don’t care that much. Reward them with fun and praise them for originality.
Practical, punctual, precise. A fan of rules, lists and step-by-step instructions. Likes structure and to get things right the first time. Children will often play ‘real’ games like shop, restaurant… and aim to draw pictures realistically rather than imaginatively.
Direct and competitive, strong-willed, assertive. Likes to be treated as an equal, they don’t like authority. Yelling and putting them in ‘time out’ won’t work. You need to stay calm, involve them in decision-making and give them some responsibility.
Caring, affectionate and empathetic. Likes to keep everyone happy (sometimes at the expense of themselves), likes to follow the rules and be ‘good’, needs praise and encouragement and to feel special. Can be loyal to a fault. Just the mention of being put in ‘time out’ will often result in good behaviour as they don’t like to be separated from the group or to be ‘bad’.
So, which one is your young one, better still which one might you be and how can this inform how you parent?
Does counselling work? Well, only if there is a client in the room, otherwise its just an awkward silence between me, myself and I.
Engaging with a client is one thing, nurturing and maintaining a therapeutic connection is where the ‘good stuff’ happens. So, it’s agreed, good counselling does work when the client turns up and better still comes back.
This wee post is about points of initial connection (PIC’s). It is not a trick or mind play, for me its simply a reflection of the details I consider to make the space and time as comfortable for the client as possible. My intention and hope is that they quickly shift from going to see the Counsellor, towards the realisation that they are in fact catching up with Tony.
Now, here is a picture of my office and you’ll notice a few bits and pieces from the Phrenology head to a picture of my son. With a quite intentional variety in between they will quite often acknowledge the thing that connects with them. These can offer a quick conversation where we both get to cautiously , yet confidently find the point of resonance where everybody is relaxed and ready to go.
Anyway, I do digress a bit. If you look again at the picture above you’ll see something that draws attention from every adolescent (and most adults) that step into my room. That is the Star Wars Force Trainer on my bookshelf. The idea of this device is you put a small headset on that measures brain waves (i’m not so sure about this, as I rather think it goes off your pulse), but the outcome is the same. The harder you concentrate, the stronger the fan and therefore the higher the ball floats within the tube. Not to mention you get Yoda in the background cheering you on. As with anything like this, it had to be imported as NZ haven’t quite accessed this field yet. It has been an incredible hit!
I have many examples of how this toy has proven invaluable in supporting positive change for some of my young clients. For example one 7 year old came to see me with a report of significant behaviour issues, both at home and school. He was very much on his last warning after no real change post a couple of Ed Psych visits. This young man was oozing character, personality and a heap of energy, which I could see wouldn’t make for Mr Popular with his teachers or peers. We had talked-and performed- the relationship between thoughts, feelings and behaviours (CBT). There was a deep narrative behind the status quo. The ‘Yoda’ machine, which he called it, made an appearance to highlight how the relationship between the thoughts and behaviours could be seen tangibly. With ongoing exploration of the feelings, we could monitor and celebrate progress. Now, it is a toy, a great one, but a toy none the less. So was it monitoring progress, not so much, but it was serving as a powerful anchor to maintain momentum with everything else we discussed. 8 Months on he continues to be a popular member of the class and has a better relationship with his teacher. Even if the only thing it could have offered was a genuine understanding of the interrelation between thoughts, feelings and behaviours, then i’ll take it. Better still, he had fun and therefore talked….alot.
It appears particularly powerful with students presenting with significant anger. Again, it offers a tangible rationale for ‘whats the point?’ but equally an absolute focus and calmness that brings them absolutely into the space we are in, and therefore in a better state to explore the ‘anger iceberg’.
Is it a gimmick? not for me, and certainly not for my clients. It is another example of how technology can be used to facilitate the counselling process with young ones. As with everything in a counsellors toolkit, you introduce and offer it if and when appropriate and purposeful to the session.
I recently got into a conversation with a new senior manager at a high school. We talked about what takes a leader from professional competence (looks the part and keeps working through the ‘to do’ list and ‘to see’ folk) to a nurturer of authentic change. I am primarily talking about pastoral care of our students and the role we as educators have. When I refer to pastoral leaders I refer to every member of the school community from the canteen staff, students and teachers all the way up to the Principal. I am fortunate to be surrounded by incredible educators that far exceed the expectations of any job description. They bring about change through relationships that are firm, fair, consistent and from a position of genuine care for a students wellbeing. We all know this isn’t always the case and even the best of folk have their off day.
The huge shift I see in schools at the moment is one to student lead, and therefore change based on student voice. To sympathise a person may ask and then listen to what happened, whereas an empathetic leader would genuinely want to explore the whys. The difference between processing the problem and acknowledging the uniqueness of everyone we come into contact with is a more effective position. It is a conversation of reciprocated learning, modelling the very behaviours we hope to hear and see. It is not losing Mana, control or power, in fact the very opposite. This is how you affect change one by one, and beyond one incident but toward ongoing growth.
An example: A student wears the incorrect shoes for three days, following school policy and procedure, post warning they are now into after school detention land. Until…. the student ‘loses the plot’ after receiving an additional detention slip for ongoing ‘minor defiance’ (not attending original detention). This results in a ‘major defiance’ and a stand down. The teachers perspective, the student is just plain defiant and being a teenager so must get punished. It’s then far more than just interesting to explore the the student’s experience towards informing the why? As it happens the school shoes had just been bought in anticipation for a new start in the safe place that is school. This student has endured an abusive home environment almost all of their life. Unfortunately, these same new shoes were used to assault a number of family members the night before he was first pulled up by teachers, to the extent the students mum was hospitalised with serious injuries. These shoes were seized as evidence in the intended prosecution of his father.
If you get anything from this post then I hope its this: It’s very rarely black and white when it comes to school misbehaviour or discipline. Is it brave or just plain common sense to come alongside the student and dare to listen just as much as talk. It’s not necessarily setting out to justify a behaviour, but more to inform the context and reasoning with the hope of preventing future incidents and exploring better responses for better outcomes.
The biggest point to be made in terms of pastoral leadership is that it is not hierarchical, every member of a school community from the students to the Principal are all pastoral leaders. This philosophy is no longer a feel good gimmick that can be rolled out prior to inspection time. It is increasingly and quite rightly being acknowledged as fundamental to a strong school community. Wellbeing measures as a tool for measuring educational success is growing, and when embraced beyond rhetoric is a fantastic juggernaut that showers both staff and students with the benefits.