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Sunday, November 27, 2016

People Do Well If They Can

From The Huffington Post

By Janine Francolini
Founder of the Flawless Foundation

October 12, 2016

As parents, teachers, or anyone who interacts with children on a regular basis, we often find ourselves in situations where we are trying to motivate a child to go along with the group, follow the rules, or behave appropriately for the circumstances. How do we typically do this?

The conventional methods usually involve positive incentives, such as the promise of a reward, or negative incentives, such as the promise of punishment for noncompliance.

But what happens when these approaches just aren’t working and the challenging behaviors — the temper outbursts or defiance— spiral out of control at home or in the classroom?

Many of us face this difficult situation, where it seems we’ve exhausted all the possibilities, but nothing has worked. In response to seeing thousands of parents and children, teachers and students and therapists arrive at this challenging behavior impasse, Dr. Stuart Ablon , the director of Think:Kids at Massachusetts General Hospital has questioned the foundational assumptions behind how we approach behavior modification, and developed a very effective evidence based approach that is an alternate solution..

Although we may not realize it, the underlying assumption behind rewards and incentives or timeouts and other punishments is that kids have control over how they behave. And this is not always true. We assume that children make a choice each time they misbehave — in effect, that “kids do well if they want to” — when for many kids, it’s simply not a matter of choice.

For certain children, no matter how much they want to behave well, they lack the cognitive or adaptive skills to be able to do so. Whether it’s impulse control, frustration tolerance, flexibility, or problem solving, if one of these skills is underdeveloped, that child may not be capable of positive behavior, no matter how motivated he or she is.

Collaborative Problem Solving (CPS) comes at challenging behavior from a different point of view with the very powerful philosophy of “kids do well if they can.” Assume for a moment every child already, naturally, has all the motivation they will ever need to behave well. The desire is there, but, due to skill deficits, some children aren’t able to meet whatever behavioral expectations or criteria are set out.

Can you imagine anything more frustrating?

Despite putting forth his or her best effort, rewards remain out of reach, punishment follows punishment, and the child’s motivation to behave gradually dwindles, self esteem is affected and most importantly the relationship between the child and the adult is compromised.

With the CPS approach, the focus shifts from “How can I motivate this child to behave well?” to “How can we work together to train and accommodate for the skills that this child lacks right now?” Not only that, CPS provides a framework, a step-by-step process that can be applied to any situation.

So, while it’s a radical paradigm shift from how we traditionally think about behavior management, it also takes us back to basics. It’s a tool that helps facilitate communication and rethinking the problem together with solutions often generated from the child. And the beauty of it is that it’s a method that everyone can learn, practice and apply.

Our mission at the Flawless Foundation is to revolutionize the way the world perceives, prevents, and treats brain-based behavioral challenges.

We believe that begins at the grassroots level, when each of us starts changing the conversation about behavior that doesn’t fit into the box of “normal.” If we can go from the question, “How can I stop this child from misbehaving?” to “How can I improve my relationship with this child and collaborate with them?” it opens the door to increased understanding and trust.

When we ask ourselves, as individuals and as a society, “How can we empower kids to do the best they can?” and make use of innovative and effective tools like CPS, we can make real strides toward building relationships, families, schools, and a world where everyone is understood and embraced as flawless.

Hear more about the power of CPS in this video.

Erik Kola, R.N., C.M.H.P., speaks about the value of the
Collaborative Problem Solving approach for parents and educators.

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