Mirroring Monday – Avoiding a Power Struggle Edition

Start the week off right with examples of mirroring from the team at Connected Parenting. If you’re new to Connected Parenting and want to find out more about mirroring and the CALM method, check out this podcast by Jennifer Kolari (courtesy of Penguin Group USA).

This week’s Mirroring Moment is from Rebecca Lindsay. Enjoy!

rebeccalindsay thumbnailWhen not only less is more but enough is enough and he just can’t stop…

I have a student who engages deeply in projects and often finds it difficult to bring a project to completion and move on to something else. He takes projects and assignments to new levels and most of the time well exceeds my expectations. He also particularly loves art projects, loves color and never tires of adding detail, ever.

Every year, we have a unit whereby we study a great artist for 6 weeks and celebrate the end of the unit with a Grand Finale Art Exhibit where each student’s artwork is exhibited. This particular boy was especially engaged in this one particular piece of artwork despite the fact that there were a dozen other unfinished jobs to attend to, that he had been working on this project for several days and that it appeared very finished. At least in my eyes, this piece of work was well beyond completion, but he could not let it go.

My agenda: Stop working on this one project and work on the 12 others that need to be done by the end of the week.

His agenda: This is fabulous and fun and I can’t imagine working on any other project. I love adding all this detail and color. I never want to stop! This is my favorite one.

This was a power struggle waiting to happen. In fact, he had already received several messages about this project needing to be finished with the exception of his name. So, he got out his Sharpee to write his name and as soon as I walked away, he got out his colored pencils and began to add yet more detail! I came back a few minutes later and realized what was happening. I envisioned my imaginary self having a tug-of-war with him and his pencil crayons which would undoubtedly leave him feeling unfinishied and invalidated. It could not go this way! I am a teacher. I can’t have tug-of-wars with my students. So, instead, I crouched down beside him and mirrored. Our encounter went something like this.

“I see you have your pencil crayons out again…”

“Yes. I just wanted to add a bit more detail…”

“You love adding detail! It’s so hard for you to stop.”

“Yes. I just need to add a little bit more.”

“You just want to keep adding more and more until it’s just right.”

“Yes”… (still coloring away)…

“You’ve been working really hard on this…” I proceeded to mirror the intent of his efforts, the use of color, the filling up of empty space… All the while, he is nodding in agreement.

“The problem is, this project was supposed to have been finished a few days ago and you’re still working on it and all of your other jobs are waiting for you, unfinished.”

“I know, I just really want to keep working on this one.”

“This is your favorite one. You’ve had so much fun working on it. You could keep working on this all day. We just really need to find a way to move on.”

“Maybe I can just work on it for 2 more minutes, just on this one spot.”

“2 minutes seems okay to me as long as you agree to stop in 2 minutes. Do you think you can do that?”

“Yes.”

“What do you think would be fair if in 2 minutes you still don’t want to stop?”

“You can take my pencil crayons away.”

“That sounds fair to me… I’ll be back in a couple of minutes.”

Two minutes later, I walked over to his desk and he handed me his project. “Here,” he said. “I’m finished now.” I took another moment to mirror his work and effort and then proceeded to put his project up high and well out of reach! Tug-of-war averted!

Share your own favorite mirroring moment in the comments below. Or are you stumped? Feel free to leave a comment describing a situation you encountered where you couldn’t figure out how to mirror. We’ll try to incorporate it into a future Mirroring Monday post.

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Please remember that the advice given on this blog is not meant to replace medical advice or the direct advice of a mental health care professional.
"Connected Parenting advises us not just how to parent, but—far more important—who to be as parents. The therapeutic methods suggested by Jennifer Kolari are based not on simple-minded behavioural solutions, but on building warm, nurturing relationships with our children, with insight and compassion not only for their little flaws, but also for our own larger ones."
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