One of the most fun and unpredictable parts of working with children is how they can take your original idea and then add something which not only improves it but makes it even more fun.
Once I brought in Jenga to use with a group. My intention was to hand out an equal amount of bricks and each child would place one down to reform the stack. As they placed each brick they had to assign it a positive quality about themselves. Each child had a turn stacking positive feelings about themselves until we’d rebuilt the tower. With the stack complete, I chose one boy to knock the stack over which very happily they did.
I asked them: ‘Can we rebuild that stack?’ To which they all agreed they could. Then I brought to their attention the point behind the exercise that I wanted them to notice. ‘There will be days when something will come along and knock your stack down. Something may happen that will topple your day. But, like this stack, that doesn’t mean you can’t build yourself back up again. Just as we’ve done now, we can build the tower one brick at a time.’
It’s a really nice game to end the programme on as it reinforces the tools they’ve learnt over the preceding weeks; showing them that they have the ability to continue the amazing work they’ve done.
What came as the additional bonus was when one of them asked if we could do it again but this time use negative qualities. I’m not one to ignore these traits, but wasn’t overly happy about focusing on them until I thought of a way to make it work more favourably.
‘OK,’ I said. ‘Let’s rebuild the stack. Then take a brick away for each negative quality you think you have’. Going around the group, they each take a brick away, each time saying what the brick is for. Getting them to say: ‘I’m removing this brick of…’ to which they add the negative quality. And with each brick I say: ‘Give me your block, let me take your block away from you so it’s removed from you. Sooner or later the stack collapses and I’m left holding all their negative blocks.
Their ability to identify what they want to remove, and through metaphor have that taken away, can be a very powerful process. Liberating them from their definitions of who they are and who they think they’ll always be. From here we can begin the inquiry to understand how to amend those unwanted behaviours.