It happens to every parent: facing a disappointed child who feels deceit by a friend. A friend shared with me that her then nine-year-old son called his friend “a jerk who never liked me” because “he was never on line to play with me”. This is a normal reaction of anger from someone who feels rejected.
Here is what you can do, based on Meta Models, when your child comes to you with irrational conclusions. Meta Models is one of the most valuable tools in counselling for understanding how a person thinks and functions:
Mind Reading. Child: She doesn’t like me. Your follow up question: How do you know she doesn’t like you? Goal: Find out the source.
Lost Performative (Eternal Truth). Child: This is no good. Your follow up question: According to whom? Who says that? Goal: Find out strategy, belief, source.
Cause & Effect. When the cause is wrongly placed outside the speaker.
Ex: She made me sad. Your follow up question: How come what she does makes you sad? How exactly? Goal: Find out the choice.
Complex Equivalence. Two experiences are interpreted as synonyms.
Ex: The teacher always shouts at me. She doesn’t like me. Your follow up question: How does the fact that she shouts at you mean… Have you ever shouted at someone you like? Goal: Identify the equivalence / counterexample.
Presuppositions. If she knew how this makes me sad, she wouldn’t do this. Your follow up question: How do you choose to be sad? How do you know she doesn’t know? Goal: Identify internal representations and the complex equivalence; describe choice and verb.
All or nothing statements. Ex: She never listens to me. Follow up question: Never? What would happen if she was? Goal: Identify counterexample, effects or results.
Modal Operators. Ex: I must take care of her (necessity). Your follow up question: What would happen if you did (not) do this?
Ex: I can’t tell her the truth. (impossibility). Your follow up question: What would happen if you did? What is stopping you? Goal: Identify causes and outcomes.
Nominalisations. Ex: I must improve my communication. Your follow up question: How do you like to communicate? With whom? Goal: Turn the word into a process and identify omission and reference.
Unspecified Verbs. Ex: He has rejected me. Your follow up question: How did he exactly… How specifically…? Goal: to specify the verb.
General Omissions. Ex: I do not feel at ease. Ex: They won’t listen to me. Ex: She is a better person. Your follow up question: About what/who? Better than whom? Better in what? Goal: Identify omission, comparison, reference.
Try it on adults as well. I bet this will work.
Anna Glazkova is a mother of two lovely children. Founderof The Giving Tree Multilingual Preschool & Primary. Anna is completing her Masters degree at The University of Hong Kong, specialising in Marital Counselling, Emotion Focused Therapy, Psychodynamics and Satir Family Therapy.