Activity 1

Alex is a 4-year-old boy described by his parents as a “difficult” child: even as an infant it was difficult to get him to sleep and he currently sleeps with his parents. Weaning was described as a disaster because Alex refused to try new foods and textures, preferring breast milk; he is currently a very selective child in feeding. He has always had frequent episodes of anger and when faced with frustration cries inconsolably.

Alex recently became a big brother; a baby sister (Carolina) was born, whom he eagerly awaited throughout his mother’s pregnancy. Five months after Carolina’s arrival, the parents consult a specialist because the mood in the house has become, according to them, unbearable! To every parental request Alex responds with sharp no’s, runs around the house, makes a mess of everything, breaks his little sister’s toys, responds in angry tones to any question asked of him. He has resumed biting his parents and soiling his underwear with pee and poop.

The parents appear exhausted by his behaviors and emotional reactions; they report to the specialist that they are constantly punishing him: taking away toys, yelling, grumbling, pushing him away when he loses control of his emotions and behaviors…but all of this seems not to be working and they ask for help.

Why is Alex referred to as a “difficult” child?

  1. It is evident that there is a difficulty in attunement between Alex and his parents at the present time, can you catch the signs of such difficulty?
  2. As an adult, how could you promote attunement between you and Alex if while you are looking after Carolina, Alex picks up one of her toys and breaks it right in front of you?

Activity 2 I choose to say ”No”

Objectives: to experience the “pressure” experienced in a group. To stimulate individual thinking in comparison with collective thinking.

Implementation method: ask children to imagine some episodes in which it might be difficult to reject a “wrong” proposal. Use the role-playing technique to enact the situation chosen by the group from among those proposed. Try to direct the work to an episode that has to do with transgression (e.g., ” your friends propose to smoke a cigarette. Try to refuse.”)

At the end of the exercise stimulate group reflection, involving both actors and observers of the sketch.

Elements to bring out: How does it feel to say no? Is it difficult? Why? How did others react? What was the consequence of that rejection?

Activity 3

Objectives: recognize the “mind-sets” associated with certain social groups. To raise awareness with respect to the fact that prejudices and stereotypes are rigid categories that fail to capture the richness of reality and do not take into account individual differences.

Materials needed: poster and markers.

Implementation Method: on a poster identify a list of social groups (e.g. teachers, doctors, priests, parents, drug addicts, thieves…). At this point the children say (brainstorm) all the words they associate with the various categories (one at a time) immediately, without thinking much about it. This is followed by group discussion in which the prejudices and fixed ideas associated with the various groups are unmasked. The poster can at this point be resumed and enriched with new words that deviate from the patterns that have emerged (e.g., “Just all parents are…?” “How else could they be?” “Do you know any parents who are not…?” “How are they instead?”).

Elements to bring out: reflections stimulated by the game concern the rigidity of certain ideas or opinions, the risks inherent in this labeling, the importance of being able to look beyond categories and see people in their individuality and uniqueness, and the ability and desire to accept others.