Recognizing the WHY behind passive actions


One of the best accomplishments I can have with a client is helping them achieve their goals. However, the road to an achieved goal is often filled with struggle along the way. Many times a goal will be set in a session and not be achieved by the next few sessions. This is very common.

When a goal is not met, the next move is to help my client understand what actions they chose INSTEAD of working towards the goal. Often times with teenagers, the decision or indecision making process is a blur and not viewed as a choice. However, all of our actions whether ASSERTIVE or PASSIVE are choices that were made. 

For example

A client who has struggled all semester in Math is depressed and frustrated. His parents are also frustrated and have spoken to him about studying, paying attention and trying harder until they are blue in the face. In the session, the client and I will talk about his goals: taking notes, staying after school for extra help, and doing homework. Then at the next session the client's parents report that he only went to one after school session, missed his homework several times and don't believe he really studied for a test he almost failed. 

At this point, most parents will RAMP UP the punishments and let the emotions fly. This is a normal reaction and understandable, but often ineffective. 

Passive and active actions

Let's take a look at the actions of the teenage client instead of focusing on what he did not do. Instead of staying after school for extra help every day of the week, the teen chose to be with his friends. Instead of doing his difficult homework at home he played video games and spent time on his phone. Instead of putting in time preparing for the test he did not make it a priority and acted as if he had nothing important in the coming days. 

This could easily be viewed by parents in a single prism; "he disobeyed and chose not to do what we told him to do." This is not inaccurate but it's typically not going to answer the WHY behind the actions. If you asked your teen why he disobeyed, the answer isn't because he was trying to disobey you. The disobedience is a byproduct, not the motivator (typically). 

Now here's where we look at the WHY behind the passive actions. A) Trying very hard and failing feels much worse than putting in zero effort and failing. (Fear of failure) B) Video games, friends, and distractions help the teen FEEL better. (Ease the pain) C) The teen does not believe he really can do it no matter how hard he tries. (False beliefs) 

Once we isolate the WHY behind the passive actions we can typically help the teen come face to face with them; the fear of failure, the need to ease the pain and the false beliefs. 

Typically, your child does not know the why behind his passive actions or even recognize his passive actions at all. Start there and your child will begin putting together the pieces by himself.