Parents are soo non-compliant 🙄

Tuesday, December 20, 2022

Alright let’s decipher this very common phrase we hear in our field.

First, “non-compliance” is not a behavior (A dead man can be non-compliant, right?) but we all understand what people mean when they use this phrase to describe the parents/clients they work with.

When I hear “non-compliance” I think of it as; a refusal to engage in a task (collecting data, engaging in interventions) by either not engaging in the task, delaying it, cancelling parent training sessions to avoid speaking about the task or using excuses of why they were not able to engage in task). For practical reasons let’s continue to use this phrase through this article.

When we speak about parents being “non-compliant” a couple of things happen

•We don’t take responsibility for how our actions can impact their non-compliance. .

•It’s a bit of a circular statement in that we are stating that the parent  is non-compliant and therefore we can’t “get them” to comply which leaves us feeling helpless, so they will continue to be non-compliant.

•It is a statement that implies a whole lot of judgement without really giving us a solution to the “problem”

Instead let’s look at the term DISCORD!

What’s discord?

Discord is an interpersonal verbal behavior that reflects dissonance in the working relationship; examples include arguing, interrupting, discounting, or ignoring. (William R. Miller and Stephen Rollnick, 2013)

It is a “signal” that lets us know how the working relationship with the client is going. So that means that both parents and therapists play an active part in the communication process. Remember it's a PARTNERSHIP!

Below are some “Smoke Alarms”—that signal discord in the working alliance.

1. Parents are engaging in much more sustain talk than change talk.

2. It is unclear what the parents’ goals are for therapy.

3. The therapist feels frustrated with parents’ behavior.

4. Most of the session is focused on therapist explaining the importance of the intervention rather than identifying WHY the parent has challenges in adhering to the interventions.

What are somethings you can do if you find yourself in discord with the parent/client?

1. Take a step back and focus on building rapport

2.  Apologizing-When needed “apologize” by taking partial responsibility for how things are going (ex: “I’ve noticed that you have not been able to intervene in the way we spoke about, I’m sorry I may have come too strong and did not even ask you how you felt about this intervention, let's rewind and start again”).

3. Coming Alongside-Remember to use reflections in your conversation with parents/clients.

4. Shifting Focus—If you feel “stuck” this is a way of responding to discord where you are redirecting attention to a less “threatening” topic or perspective.

Quick reminder: Language impacts our private events so let’s be mindful of the way we use it!

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