Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Sometimes It's the Parents

This kind of fits in with my earlier post about blame.

When I was a social worker, running an anger management program for teens, I frequently found the parents were as trouble as, or sometimes more troubled than, the teenagers.

One of my job duties was doing intakes on kids referred to the program.  I met with the kid and at least one parent or guardian and gathered information about why they had been referred to the program and determined whether or not they were suitable participants for our program.  Kids with serious mental illness or serious substance abuse programs, for instance, needed more intense treatment than what we provided and they were referred to appropriate services instead of enrolled in our program.

On more than one occasion, I met with teens that behaved fairly appropriately during the intake and that apologized to me for the inappropriate behavior of their parents.  I remember one telephone call in which an angry mother, upon being informed she was expected to attend the program with her child, shouted at me, "I don't need no anger management," along with some profanities.  She called me back a little while later after her coworkers - apparently she had made that call from work and her coworkers could not help but overhear her cursing and shouting about how she didn't need no anger management - suggested that perhaps she could use a little anger management after all and told her that she should call me back to apologize.  I was impressed that she actually listened to them and did call to apologize.

In the time that I worked at that job, I had the opportunity to facilitate anger management group sessions for teenage boys, teenage girls, and parents.  The boys were the easiest.  Teenage girls were more challenging, but the parents were the most difficult.  I liked the parents group that I led for more than a year, but it was very, very challenging.

Often, it was quite obvious why the kids had anger management problems.  It would have been surprising if they hadn't.

Well, today was my third tutoring session with TK.

The first day we met, dad brought him to the session.  We meet at the public library.  They arrived about five minutes late.  No big deal.  I had asked dad, four days earlier, to take TK to an office supply store to buy a daily planner in which to keep track of his assignments, prior to our first session.  I explained that I wanted TK to pick out the planner.  Dad agreed to do this.  However, he "forgot" to do it and so TK showed up without a planner.  Dad assured me he would do it before our next session two days later.

Two days later, TK's mother brought him to the session.  They were 20 minutes late.  Mom apologized to me several times and said she'd "forgotten" she was supposed to bring him to tutoring.  Dad still had not gotten him the planner.

Today, dad sent me a text message at 2:59.  Tutoring is supposed to be from 3:00 to 4:00.  The text read, "We're on today for 4, right?"

As soon as I read that, I threw up my hands and said, "Good grief, it's not the kid, it's dad!"

I didn't think for a minute that dad really thought tutoring was supposed to be at 4:00.  He's the one that picked the time in the first place.  And he got the kid there almost on time, at 3:00, the week before.  He knew what time he was supposed to be there.

I texted him back, "I thought it was 3 but we can make it 4 if that works better for you."

He then texted me back, "No, we'll be there in a few minutes."

So TK arrived about five minutes later, but dad did not come in with him.  He still did not have a planner.  He also "forgot" to bring any of his school stuff other than his geometry stuff.

At this point, I do not blame TK a bit for "forgetting" his other school stuff.  If dad is forgetful and disorganized, which he certainly seems to be, how would TK have learned to be organized?  Organizational skills are just that - skills.  You have to learn them from somewhere.  You aren't born with them.  And it seems unlikely he's had the opportunity to learn them from dad.

I'm very skeptical that dad is really as forgetful as he seems to want me to think he is.  Maybe he's just not prioritizing his kid's tutoring, but if that's the case, why hire a tutor (and pay a tutor $60 a week) in the first place?  I think he's being passive-aggressive or sabotaging his kid or something, although I don't know why.  But if dad, and mom, are behaving like tutoring isn't important enough to be on time for or to be prepared for with the proper supplies, like a planner, why would the kid think it was important to be prepared and bring the proper supplies, like textbooks? 

On my way home, I stopped by an office supply store and bought TK a planner.  I'd have preferred dad to do it, and I'd have preferred that TK got the opportunity to pick it out, but I want him to have it and that's the most important thing.

I'm going to have to think about how to deal with dad. 

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