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News & Views - Oct, 1992 Issue 

Don't "Fix" Them
By C. Terry Warner
Brigham Young University
Provo, Utah

C. Terry Warner is a professor of philosophy at Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah. He has done considerable work with the Anasazi wilderness program in Arizona. The following excerpts are from the article he wrote for the Spring, 1992 issue of THIS PEOPLE, entitled “HOW TO MAKE KIDS WHOLE: Don’t 'fix' them, let the goodness come out.”

"The students progress continually amazes me. It far exceeds that of troubled youth in any of the other rehabilitative programs I have been able to learn about, including counseling, therapy, and psychiatry in both residential and outpatient setting.”

“Underpinning everything the Anasazi people do seems to be the unspoken assumption - the absolutely starting assumption - that the students do not need to be ‘fixed’ or 'straightened out'. Indeed, tying to get them to change, which requires trying to exercise some sort of control over them, only makes matters worse. On the other hand, caring about them and treating them with respect gives the best opportunity for change on their own initiative. Like everyone else, teenagers want to do the responsible, mature thing when they can do it freely, but they can never be coerced or intimidated into doing it. Like the rest of us, children fight for the Godgiven right to think and act for themselves.”

“Perhaps the biggest challenge the Anasazi people face is helping parents accept responsibility for their part in their children’s problems. Whatever changes the parents make, the child senses immediately. Such changes bolster the child’s own trail-formed resolve to live caringly and responsibly. The old power struggle evaporates, and all concerned have a real chance to start again, forgetful of the history they have held against each other.”

“I emphasize the word ‘start’. Challenges lie ahead. Inevitably, both sides make mistakes. There’s simply no such thing as instant care. But typically in the Anasazi/Arbinger experience, they do make a start, together.”

“And that - the togetherness - is the secret. Anasazi is effective to the degree that everyone involved - parents, students, and the Anasazi workers - are becoming non-judgmental and caring human beings. Toward this end children can help parents, but, generally speaking, only if the parents respond in kind and help the children in return. Usually when the family leaves the trail to return home, everyone involved knows something of the power of emotional honesty and forgiveness, and they will be able to maintain it, or, if necessary, regain it, provided they are willing.”

Copyright © 1992, Woodbury Reports, Inc. (This article may be reproduced without prior approval if the copyright notice and proper publication and author attribution accompanies the copy.)

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