Is your child more challenging than most? Do typical parenting approaches not work? We talk about how to parent harder-to- parent kids with Dr. Ross Greene, the originator of the Collaborative & Proactive Solutions parenting model, a non-punitive, non-adversarial, trauma-informed model of care. Dr. Greene is a clinical psychologist, former Harvard professor, and the author The Explosive Child and Raising Human Beings.
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Welcome, everyone to Creating a Family talk about adoption and foster care. I'm Dawn Davenport. I am the host of this show. And I am also the director of the nonprofit creating your family.org. Today we're going to be talking about collaborative parenting. I'm not sure it's a term that that you've heard before. But collaborative parenting has been developed to work with children who are euphemistically, let's just say challenging children who, who the regular parenting methods don't seem to work. That regular parenting approaches that we try with other kids just don't work well. So how can we parent these partner to parent kids? Today we're gonna be talking about that with Dr. Ross Greene. He is the originator of the collaborative and proactive solutions parenting model. It is a non punitive, non adversarial trauma informed model of care. Dr. Greene is a clinical psychologist, he is a former Harvard professor, and he is the author of a book I have thoroughly enjoyed and totally recommend the explosive child. And he is also the author of another book I have enjoyed, which is raising human beings, I recommend both of those. And I recommend this show. This is a recording of a show we did a couple of years ago. It covers a topic that I think and I really I quote Dr. Greene. So often when he says children do well, if they can, it's one of my quotes that I go back to very often when I'm creating not either when we as an organization are creating trainings or when I'm talking to parents, I think you will enjoy the show. I know I did.
Welcome Dr. Greene to creating a family. Thank you so much for talking with us today about harder to parent kids. My pleasure. I appreciate you having me on. You know, as I said, some children are just simply harder to parent. Why is that? Why are some kids
just more just harder to parent harder for us to look they're just parents? Well, we like kids being compliant. Yes, that's nice. Like, we like that when if kids get frustrated, as they all inevitably will, that they communicate that to us in ways that are relatively team. So if you have a kid who is less compliant, and or a kid who is communicating that they're having trouble dealing with frustration,
in ways that are came, then you probably have a harder to parent kid. Yeah. Yeah. Is, is this the reason that children either handle their express themselves and express their frustrations or have or are more easily frustrated? or less flexible? Is that something that is innate? Is it genetic, is our children or children come to us come into this world? Some of them just simply with these characteristics, that would make them harder to parent. There are certainly some that declare themselves early. And that's usually referred to as difficult temperament. But there are kids who were angelic as infants who become more difficult later on. I always say that everything's 100% nature and 100% nurture.
Always both. But there are kids, infants who declare themselves very early on that you're going to be in for quite a ride.
How does? How does trauma impact a child's ability to go with the flow a child's ability to handle frustration, a child's ability to flex with life?
Well, trauma affects different kids in different ways. So it's hard to say this is how trauma is definitely going to impact a kid. When I think about trauma, I think of it as one of the many factors that can affect a kid's development. And development is an important word because what the research tells us is that the primary factor, it's causing some kids to be less compliant. And that's causing some kids to respond to frustration in ways that are bigger
skills, lagging skills, and you mentioned a few of them, frustration, tolerance, problem solving, I would add to the list flexibility and adaptability.
Can trauma be one of many factors that compromise a kid's skills in those areas? Absolutely.
One of the things that I think is that I got out of your first book, The explosive child is a focus on skills and that often when we see behaviors that are driving us crazy, it helps to shift our perspective to viewing those behaviors as a child lacks a specific skill.
And it's such a healthy mindset. I think from a parent's standpoint,
it is healthier. It's also more accurate because that's what the research has been telling us for a very long time. But I find that we when you know, the, there are other ways to interpret a kid's challenging behavior, you could interpret it as willful,
interpreted as intentional,
attention seeking or manipulative or coercive or unmotivated. You could take it personally, if you wanted to, you could take it as a threat, you could take it as a sign that you're a lousy parent, I don't recommend any of those ways of taking it because although those are, some of those are not such unusual reactions. The reality is what the research tells us is that these kids are lacking crucial skills, now we can take it less personally. Now, we're not going to say all those things that we say about attention seeking and manipulative because they're not true. Anyhow, this is a form of learning disability in the same way that some kids have difficulty reading, and writing and doing arithmetic. These are kids who have difficulty when it comes to flexibility, adaptability, frustration, tolerance, and problem solving.
And that includes the ability to transition between activities is often all of those things you just mentioned, make changing activities, shifting expectations throughout the day difficult. And as we all know, that's what life is all about. And so these kids, the skills that they lack, make living difficult for the kid,
make living difficult for the kid that we sometimes don't appreciate. Because the way the kid is communicating that he's having difficulty can once again be screaming, swearing, hitting and spitting, biting, kicking, throwing, Nobody enjoys living with that. So it's not only the kid who's having difficulty in life, it's the people who are living with the kid and classmates and siblings and teachers and not just parents. I think you were the originator of this saying, if not, you can give credit to whomever it deserves. But kids do well, if they can. I've heard that and attributed to you. And I think it is such a wise thing. But can you can you elaborate it on it more? It's basically saying that this kid could do well, the kid would do well. And what it refutes is this notion that for some reason, doing poorly is preferable for the kid. But it also especially refutes the notion that kids do well if they want to. And that's been very popular for a very long time. The belief that if a kid isn't doing well is because the kid doesn't want to do well. Unfortunately, that has led us caregivers to spend a great deal of time spinning our wheels, trying to make kids want to do well. And how do you do that? With rewarding and with punishing problem is rewarding and punishing doesn't teach these kids any of the skills that are lacking and don't solve any of the problems that are causing their challenging behavior. And in some instances, punishing actually makes things worse, even though it may temporarily make you feel better as a parent. Yeah, yeah, exactly.
I think that is such a powerful because it puts the kids do well, if they can, puts the impetus on the fact that there there is something missing, they they're not able at this point, and that it's up to us as parents to figure out what skill they're missing, and what we could do to help them gain that skill. Correct. That's what direction appoints us into exactly which is a healthy direction for from a parent's standpoint, and far healthier for the kids standpoint as well. Right? Can you tell us a bit about the collaborative partnership approach, and how that fits into this skill building that we as parents need to be doing? The name of my model is collaborative and proactive solutions. And basically, it's saying that why be adversarial your kid when you can be partners, instead, being partners with your kid is, first, the adults that have to do this first part, we have to figure out what expectations that kid is having difficulty meeting that are causing the kids challenging behavior. And we call those unmet expectations in this model, we call them unsolved problems.
Next, the goal is to start solving those problems, but instead of doing it unilaterally, which is the way adults frequently do it, you're doing it collaboratively with the kid as your partner. But another key term is that instead of doing it in the heat of the moment, when that unsolved problem has set in motion a challenging episode yet again, you're doing it proactively. And the proactive part is made possible by the fact that these
unsolved problems are actually very predictable, these kids are losing it over the same things every day every week.
That makes them predictable. If they're predictable, we can identify them ahead of time. And then we can solve them proactively. So those are some of the key terms here. Not only are you being collaborative, there's a partnership between you and your child. You are also solving these problems proactively rather than in the heat of the moment. Can you give us an example of an unsolved problem? And how it would look how it would play out? What would we be seeing on the outside? What would the need the skill that the child is lacking? And how it apparent go about ProAct being proactive and collaborative in the solution?
Well, a very common one for parents and one that I use in his example a lot is difficulty brushing teeth before going to bed at night. Now, there's a variety of lagging skills that could be causing that kid to respond maladaptive ly to the frustration they experience in brushing their teeth before they go to bed at night. So in each kid, it's it can be a different lagging skill. But the unsolved problem is difficulty brushing teeth before going to bed at night.
When you're solving a problem collaboratively, there are three steps that are involved. The first is called the empathy step. This is where the adult is gathering information from the kid, so as to understand what's making it hard for the kid to meet that expectation. Second step is called the Define adult concern step. That's where the adult is entering their concern into consideration, especially why it's important that that expectation be met. And the third step is called the invitation. That's where a child and caregiver are putting their heads together and collaborating on a solution. But a solution that addresses the concerns of both parties, and of course, true to the proactive part that we were talking about a few minutes ago. You don't want to be doing this conversation when your kid is having difficulty brushing her teeth yet again. She's been having difficulty brushing her teeth before going to bed at night for the last two years. Why are we doing this in the heat of the moment? We want to do this proactively. So here's what those three steps could sound like. The Empathy step begins with an introduction. The introduction begins with the words I've noticed that ends with the words what's up. In between, you are inserting the unsolved problem. Here's what it would sound like I've noticed you've been having difficulty brushing your teeth before going to bed at night. What's up? Now, in that since I've dealt with this unsolved problem, literally hundreds of times I could tell you lots of stories about it. But my favorite one is a father who was telling me that he thought he already knew what was getting in his kids way. He thought it was the taste of the toothpaste. So he was telling me the story that 15 different flavors of toothpaste later.
Didn't even know there were 15 flavors of toothpaste
that his daughter was still having difficulty brushing her teeth before she went to bed at night. So finally, he tried to solve the problem collaboratively. And what he learned in the empathy step is that he was getting water all over her face when he was using the electric toothbrush on her. And she heated getting water all over her face. And as I said to him, Well now there's a concern that 15 different flavors of toothpaste.
No, Start step he let her know that the reason he thought it was important that she brushed her teeth before going to bed at night was because it hurts to get cavities and it costs money to get them fixed. Adult concerns, by the way, usually fall into one or both of two categories. How the unsolved problems affecting the kid how the unsolved problems affecting other people so that that's a good example of both. And then the invitation which is beginning with the words I wonder if there's a way now what you're wondering if there's a way to do is solve this problem which which want to do is recap the concerns of both parties. And it sounds like this in this example. One of there's a way for us to do something about the water getting all over your face when I'm using the electric toothbrush. And also make sure that
you're not getting cavities that would hurt to get filled at the dentist and I'm not spending lots of money at the dentist.
You've now defined the parameters of the solution that you both need to come up with. You are then giving the kid the first crack at this little
wishing, you're saying you got any ideas. She did have an idea. She suggested that they wrap a towel around her face. When the father used the electric toothbrush on her, as I always ask who won?
Both, she's not getting water all over her face anymore. And he's not having to deal with cavities, who lost? Nobody. That's a good example of what the process sounds like.
Does many of the kids that we work with, and that people who are listening to this interview are facing our kids who have experienced trauma, kids who had been in foster care or adopted internationally adopted at older ages, our kinship care where kids are coming into and living with grandparents, aunts, or uncles, and these kids have had trauma in their earlier life, and oftentimes, if not hedged on parenting in their earlier in their earlier years as well. Not always, but sometimes. So how would the collaborative approach how would this apply? How would it work with kids who are coming in a deficit already coming in having experienced early life trauma? Well, that's usually the kind of kid we're working with. It's just that as I mentioned earlier, that's not always due to trauma. Trauma is certainly one factor that could delay the development of a kid's skills in handling frustration, solving problems, and being flexible and adaptable. It's just that I'm reluctant to attribute all cases to trauma, because there's many kids that I've worked with over the years, who were lacking those skills, but did not necessarily have trauma histories. Absolutely. Absolutely. I do hear that right. But certainly, so I don't want to put put the trauma blanket over everybody. But we want to recognize that trauma. In my opinion, the primary impact of trauma is that it can delay the development of those skills, along with a variety of other factors. So just as an example, being exposed to substances in utero, could delay the development of those skills.
premature birth, there's all kinds of factors that have been attributed, later, difficulties that kids have, that have been traced back to being born prematurely. Bottom line is anything that could compromise a kid's skills in the domains of flexibility, adaptability, frustration, tolerance, and problem solving, is fair game as a potential explanation for why this kid is lacking those skills. And trauma would certainly be prominent on the list. But not exclusive on that list. I hear you exactly what you're saying.
One of I am sure you've heard this before. But one of the I suppose the criticisms of the collaborative and proactive solution model would be that it's, you know, how is this different from permissive parenting, letting the kid get away with whatever they want? When by golly, that kid needs to toe the line and do what I tell them to do? So how, what would you say to those who assume that collaborative partnership, parenting is equal to permissive parenting, they don't understand collaborative and proactive solutions very well.
Think of that as a criticism, I think of that as a complete utter misunderstanding of the model.
Here's what's interesting, there are still definitely folks out there who think that you're being permissive and passive, if you are not consequences in the heck out of a kid. And that is really, really unfortunate, because there are so many things that consequences do not do well, among them, teaching a kid the skills they are lacking, solving the problems that are causing the kids challenging behavior in the first place. So it's always really unfortunate, and many people see the world through either you're being unilateral, and lowering the boom, or you're being permissive. Goodness gracious, the world is much more complicated than that. What's interesting is that in this model, you are being very active, that there's nothing permissive at all about this model. You are very actively solving those problems with your kid.
In doing so, what the research tells us is that you are improving the kids behavior every bit as much as you would have been if all you were doing was consequences. That behavior of course, on the other side of it, consequence in that kid's behavior doesn't solve any of the problems that are causing that behavior. So I'm not exactly sure what we've accomplished. But that's interesting, because that's usually a sign that somebody doesn't understand the model very well or are trying to force the model to
into a very narrow view of parenting that says, you're either being the boss or you're being passive. Well, there's a lot more to parenting than just being the boss or being parents being passive. What's interesting is this, when you are solving problems collaboratively with your kid, you aren't just solving problems, you're not just improving the kids behavior. You're also enhancing many of the skills that the kid is lacking. In the empathy step, kids are learning how to figure out what their concerns are, to express those concerns in ways that other people can hear very important life skills. And the Define adult concern step kids are learning how to listen.
Take another person's perspective, appreciate how their behavior is affecting other people. In the invitation step, kids are learning how to think of alternative solutions. Think of solutions that don't just work for you that but that work for other people to resolve disagreements without conflict. But here's the interesting part.
We adults are learning skills and three steps to in the empathy step. We adults are learning how to listen. We are adults are learning and modeling, empathy, and appreciating how taking another person's perspective. In the Define adult concern step we adults are learning how to figure out what we're concerned about and express those concerns in a way that kids can understand. And in the invitation, we are learning the exact same skills that the kid is learning. This is why viewing parenting as between being passive and hammering a kid. Parenting is a lot more nuanced than that. And parenting is a lot more complicated than that.
That's partly because human beings are a lot more complicated than that to.
It's true that when I'm having difficulty in life, to help me get past those difficulties, we're going to need something besides a hammer, and something besides somebody being permissive with me. I'm going to need more help than that. Yeah, all humans do, right? Yeah.
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So now I want to talk about some practical applications. I really think it's helpful for parents to hear examples and see how it could be solved in a way that is a it's proactive and, and collaborative.
One of the things that happens throughout every day is transitions. We are constantly transitioning from the breakfast from wake from bed to the bathroom from the bathroom, to brushing your teeth from brushing your teeth to eating and then from the dinner table image from the breakfast table then moving to another activity and then stopping whatever that activity is to get ready for the next activity. All of these are require transitions throughout the day. And some kids really struggle with sometimes specific transitions just one or two but some kids struggle with most transitions. So what what are some skills that are missing and then walk us through an example of how you could use your approach to solving some of the problems particularly in this case where it's not necessarily happening just
One transition, although that would be a fair assessment to talk about, sometimes some kids just struggle with one transition, that transition from turning off the video game or something. But some kids struggle with every single transition throughout the day or so it seems. Well, one of the lagging skills that we often talk about is difficulty handling transitions, or what we call shifting from one mindset or task to another. Now, here's what's interesting about all of the skills, the research tells us, these kids could be lacking. A lot of us take those skills for granted, we tend to take them for granted, if you're good at them. You don't take them for granted if you're not, and you certainly don't take them for granted anymore if your kid is not good at them. So a skill, for example, in my life that I don't take for granted is math. Mostly because I'm not good in math. Right. So that's a skill I don't take for granted. I tend to be pretty decent at making transitions, but have certainly worked with hundreds of kids who are not. So that's a pretty common lagging skill. As it relates to what kinds of unsolved problems that would relate to you named a few of them, right difficulty
coming in for dinner from playing outside, believe it or not actually difficulty waking up in the morning to get ready to go to school is one of the biggest transitions of the day, although many people don't think of it that way. difficulty getting ready for bed at night. But what's interesting is when you're solving these problems collaboratively, and I'll give you an example of that in a second, a very common one that I frequently help parents solve with their kid, you are not only solving that problem, you are not only getting rid of the behavior that came along with that problem, you are also in a very small, but significant way, improving the skills that kid has at making transitions in general. I'll get to that in a second. Let's say that a kid is having difficulty turning off the Xbox to come in for dinner. Now many of the parents who are listening to this are now nodding like you are and saying, oh boy, that's that's a common one. Yeah, you nailed it. So we're going to do we're going to solve that problem collaboratively, right. And now it doesn't really matter what skill the kid is lacking, that's causing the kid to have difficulty meeting that expectation. What matters is that the kid is having difficulty in meeting that expectation. In the empathy step, we often find out from the kid that and I don't know what we're going to find out an individual kids, I can just tell you what we sometimes hear, right? This is an adventure, you don't know what you're going to hear from your kid. Just because I'm telling people what some kids say doesn't mean it's what some particular parents get is going to say. But some of the common things we hear are, the kid doesn't want to lose his level in the game he's playing on Xbox, at common, also calm and the kid doesn't like what's been made for dinner. So those are common, right? You don't know what you're gonna hear, but you're gonna hear something from the kid about what's making it hard for them to meet that expectation. And the defiant adult concern stuff. We adults have to say what it is that why we think it's important to that expectation be met. As I always say to parents, if you don't know why it's important that that expectation be met. And I don't know why you have that expectation. So you got to know, right? We adults are a whole lot better paying attention to what the kids not doing, or paying attention to what the kids doing that we don't like them not knowing what our expectations are in the first place. So that's big. But I can define, I can define, I can give you an adult definite definition of a concern, adult concern, having experienced that.
Because if we don't start dinner, number one, we all it's important to us as a family to sit down and eat dinner together. Number two, the rest of the family is awaiting dinner at this point number three, if we start dinner too late, then our bedtime routine starts too late and everybody gets to bed too late and we don't get enough sleep. Can you tell I've had this problem before and if rehearsed, I can tell you given this one some thought
I have. So now we have two sets of concerns on the table. Now it's time for the invitation. So I'm just going to pluck one of the kids concerns and one of the adults concerns that you mentioned. And try to put that into the wording of the invitation. Okay, I wonder if there's something we can do about you not wanting to lose your level in the x box game.
But also make sure that we don't have to wait for you for dinner, and that the dinner doesn't get cold. You've got any ideas? And now we are considering ideas but you're giving the kid the first crack. And you know what, we just made that much more solvable. The kid might say well, if
let me know what time dinner is going to be at, I will make sure that I stopped my ex box game before that time, so that I'm not in the middle of a new game, and I'm at risk for losing my level, then I'll be on time for dinner, it won't get cold. And you guys won't have to wait for me. Now, that sounded much too easy, right? But here's what's interesting, right? First of all, I'm often amazed at what incredible solutions kids come up with. And by the way, if the kid doesn't have any ideas, I'm sure the adult has some ideas. The crucial thing for adults and kids to remember is that the solution has to address the concerns of both parties. The reason I made that sound seamless is because it went way faster than it normally does. It takes some time to gather information about the kids concerns. It takes less time usually, but time still, for adults to talk about their concerns. And then the invitation step can take 5678 minutes for us to come up with a solution that is going to address the concerns of both parties. So we just did it in fast forward mode, because it's an unsolved problem that I deal with frequently, I don't want to mislead people into thinking it's going to be that easy, or that fast. But in terms of the key ingredients that are crucial for coming up with a solution, you just heard him. Now back to your original question. Now, kid, we have one solution in the kids difficulty handling transitions repertoire. One, is he good at making transitions yet now? When will he be better at making transitions? When we get a few other solutions into his repertoire? And what are we hoping fingers crossed, will start to happen. We are hoping that he will start to apply some of those new solutions to other transitions that he's having difficulty making.
And now we have not only solve specific problems that seem to be related to that lagging skill, we have also made it easier for the kid to handle future transitions as well.
So would it be fair to say that when you have a lagging skills such as handling shifts and expectations or transitions, as I call it, that rather than look at it as a whole, take it in it's a specific example where that is is causing a unsolved problem causing a problem in your life in the child's life and solve this specific problem. And that's building the skill that's building. It's adding sub problem solving skills to that child for handling and adapting to other times in other transitions. That is correct. You actually are not working on lagging skills explicitly. In this model, you are working on unsolved problems in this model. By working on those unsolved problems, you are also indirectly enhancing those very skills.
Now I can hear parents everywhere saying yes, but we all know that when Johnny is approaching the next level, and he's got five minutes before dinner. What if Johnny decides to go ahead and start the next level? Because that's kind of the nature of of video games. And and then we so it's it isn't it didn't solve the problem, because it's stopping and permitting yourself from not going to the next level is is, shall we say not in his skill set right then. So how would you apply your approach to when your solution doesn't necessarily work? A
lot of people think that this is magic. It's not magical. It's the hard work of coming up with solutions to problems. So what I tell people about solutions that don't work is that they may not have been as realistic as we thought they were. And so we're always telling parents before you have you're not running with the first solution that kid says, right? Got some work to do, even though there's a solution under consideration. You have to think about is it truly realistic? Can we both truly do what we're agreeing to do? That might have been an unrealistic solution, not a tragedy, but a sign that we that solution is not going to work? Right? We need a better solution than that. Right? Maybe it wasn't as mutually satisfactory as we thought it was. Once again, that's not a failure, right? In real life. Most solutions come after the ones that did
You've worked very well and what we've learned from them. So maybe it wasn't mutually satisfactory. And then the third reason that a solution might not work is that it really didn't address the concerns of both parties. Or it didn't address all of the kids concerns that we heard about. It only addressed some of the ones we heard about, because we didn't try to address all of them in the same problem solving conversation. And then it's also possible that the kid had concerns that we didn't even hear about in that first conversation. And the solution could not possibly have addressed those concerns. So it's important for people to recognize this is a process. This is not a technique. This is a process Solving problems is a process. And by the way, if that's an unsolved problem that the kids and the parents have been struggling with, for the past three years, we may go through a solution or two, before we get that one solved, it's been unsolved for a very long time.
It takes a long time to for it to become a problem, it's going to take a fair amount of time for the problem to come up with a reasonable solution sometimes, all right. Hey, do us a favor, if you're enjoying this podcast, or I guess even if you aren't, but hopefully you are enjoying it, please go over to iTunes and give us a rating, you can either do a star rating, which will take you just seconds, or you can write a comment, that would be nice as well, we very much appreciate all the comments. And they actually really help us as a podcast, because that's how the algorithms work within iTunes for who they suggest and in which podcasts rise to the top. So really do us a favor and pop over and give us a rating and we would really appreciate. Thanks.
Alright, so let's talk about children who can't accept no for an answer. Again, it's a fairly general problem. So if you can do a practical application where you apply that to a specific time and a specific unsolved problem, that would be good. So can't fit can't accept no for an answer, argues tantrums. Because whatever. Well, now you're talking about the behavior. That just tells us that we have an unsolved problem. But difficulty handling the word no is not a specific enough unsolved problem. It's what you're saying no, about that we've met. I don't know how we work on the word no. But I do know how we can work on something more specific. And that is what you are saying know about. And we've actually kind of used an example of that already. Know, you cannot go to bed without brushing your teeth. Oh, so that's the unsolved problem of difficulty brushing teeth, before going to bed at night. Now, you cannot play your ex Xbox while the rest of us are at dinner. Oh, so that's difficult to getting off the Xbox to come in for dinner. So difficulty with the word no is never a specific enough unsolved problem. It's what you're saying no, about that makes that unsolved problem much more specific. Okay, so thinking in terms of alright, what specifically what specific know is are you most concerned about right now? Let's say the specific no is
wanting to buy snacks or candy are whatever, when you're at the grocery store, and mom or dad says, No, we're not. You're not getting the Snickers bar. Yep. So I don't want to turn that into the into the heat of the moment, right? When mom or dad says no, you're not getting a Snickers bar. And the reason I want to do that is because that's probably a chronic unsolved problem. So as you can tell, I want to get us out of the heat of the moment. Right. I don't want to give any impression that that is the first time that that has ever happened. Because that is not the first time that that has ever happened. Right? We've got a word, that unsolved problem. Difficulty not buying candy, every time we go to the grocery store,
would be the wording of that unsolved problem. And the bottom line is now we got three steps, right? What's hard for the kid about that? We're going to find that out and the empathy step, right? Why do the parents not want the kid to buy candy every time we go to the grocery store, we would get that information on the definable concern stuff. And an invitation we would come up with a solution for that doesn't sound like the parents are saying you can never have candy. So what's probably happening is, the kid doesn't know if this is one of the times we're buying candy or not. Now we're saying no. Boy, if we solved that problem proactively and we had a solution that was working, we wouldn't have to say no to that whenever again, we've that's a solved problem. So many unsolved problems that cause challenging behavior. And it's only unsolved problems that cause us to say no, solve problems do not cause challenging behavior, and solve problems do not cause us to say no
Okay, so in that example, we would have the you would have the invitation, you would and that would go remind me again what the language for the invitation is. Well, first of all, we'd have to find out what the concerns are. So let's say the kids can't work the invitation unless you know the concerns of both parties. Okay, let's say the kids concern is you never let me buy candy. I'm the only kid in the world who doesn't get to eat candy. Let's say the parents concern is we buy you candy every time you go to the grocery store.
It's not healthy, you're gonna get cavities. Now, I'm ready to word, the invitation. And not a moment before, by the way, okay? There's something we can do to make sure that you get to eat candy sometimes. But also make sure that you're not being unhealthy. And we're not eating so much candy that you get cavities. Do you have any ideas? And now we are thinking of solutions.
I think I just got rid of a lot of nose. I think I just got rid of a lot of scenes at the grocery store. And if we come up with a solution for that, that addresses the concerns of both parties. We have solved that problem.
All right. Here's another example that we often hear about tattling. So you've got a child who is tattling on their sibling. And that child is the parent as soon as the child is doing it either to get the other child, the sibling in trouble, or to bring attention to that child. So walk us through how that would how that would look using your approach. Well, the hardest part of how the three steps are gonna look pretty much the same. But the hardest part of that is for me to think about how I want to word it. Yeah. Whose unsolved problem really? Exactly, that's what I'm wondering. Yes. So. So if the kid is, you know, and first, the first thing we're going to throw out, is adult assumptions about why the kid is tattling that the adult assumptions are usually wrong, so we don't need those in the mix. But the big question is, are we going after the tattling which is a behavior? We don't usually have behaviors as unsolved problems. But if the kid is tattling because his sibling is using the iPhone, beyond 10pm At night, which is the limit, then by one way of thinking, the unsolved problem that we're really trying to solve, irrespective of our notions about why the other sibling is tattling is that the one sibling is having difficulty turning the iPhone off by 10pm at night?
So that's why I was wondering if that's not Yeah, but that then that would be then that would be rewarding the tattling because the child in assuming that the parents goal is to not encourage tattling behavior, then it seems to me that if you go after the well, we're not working on behavior in this model. So it's more complicated than just tattling. That doesn't mean we couldn't talk with the kid about what they're doing. But I wouldn't word it as tattling because I really don't like putting behavior in the unsolved problem. So what I would ask the parents is, what is your expectation for what the kids should be doing instead of tattling? And I would need to hear the answer to that toward the unsolved problem. Well, because once I have the answer to that, see tattling, as I said earlier, US adults are really good at saying what the kid is doing that we don't like. What I want to know is what do we want the kid doing instead? So in this case, tattling is what the kid is doing that we don't like, what do we want the kid doing? instead? I would need to know that before I could work the unsolved problem.
Yeah, and the thought that comes to mind is mind your own business. You know, don't be don't be ratting out other people. But I hear your point that that's not necessarily directly relevant to to this the way this would be this model would be approached. Alright, let's use another one. What about
teens disregarding curfew,
or other house rules? You could use either, but let's go with curfew. Difficulty coming in for curfew by x time. Right. That would be the wording of the unsolved problem in the empathy step. And all of these are going to sound the same now because the three steps are the same no matter what the unsolved problem is, but
we want to hear what the kids concerns are what's making it difficult for the kid to meet that expectation. what I sometimes hear there is that they have the earliest curfew of any kid
In the world very much. Or sometimes they're having difficulty getting a ride home to get home in time for curfew. So the common ones in the definable concern step, we might hear parents saying they are worried sick, if their kids come home in time for curfew. And in the invitation, we are trying to come up with a solution that addresses the concerns of both parties. And having dealt with that unsolved problem. Hundreds of times, I can tell you that I have seen many, many different solutions to that one. Here's what's interesting, I don't see it as my role to tell people what the solution is,
it is my role to help them come to a solution that works for both of them. And that solves this problem. So they're not fighting about it anymore. That's my role.
Well, and there isn't a cookie cutter approach. What the beauty of this approach is that it allows for some creativity that plays into the strengths, and the nuances of each of the persons involved a parent and the child direct. And by the way, ending conflict does require some level of solving problems in a collaborative and creative way. Because one thing's for certain the solutions that have been applied to that problem so far clearly aren't working. That's why we're finding the need to have this conversation.
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Okay, what about
what would be the defined problem for aggressive behavior either towards pets or siblings are or even parents? Well, we'd have to worry about the wording. And once again, we're not talking with the kid about his challenging behavior. We're talking with the kid about the problems that are causing that behavior. So if I was trying to help parents figure out what was causing the aggressive behavior, I would ask the question, when is the aggressive behavior being exhibited? When his he's having difficulty sharing his toys with his brother? Oh, that's an easy one. Difficulty sharing toys with brother would be that unsolved problem. Okay, how about making sense when his brother comes into his room without his permission, oh, difficulty when brother comes into your room without your permission. That's the unsolved problem. So as you can see, at each step along the way, whether this is tattling, or being aggressive, or whatever the behavior might be, we're moving beyond the behavior to the problem that is causing the behavior, then we have a problem to solve. If all we're talking with a kid a behavior, we don't have a problem to solve yet, because all we're talking with them about is the signal. What I always tell people is behavior is just the signal, just the fever, just the means by which a kid is communicating. There is an expectation I'm having difficulty meeting. If we never figure out what that expectation is, then we're still stuck talking with kids only about their behavior. And as many of your listeners and viewers know, they have seen the limits of only talking with kids about their behavior. Because if all we're doing is talking with kids about their behavior, all we will end up doing is punishing the behaviors. We don't like rewarding the behaviors we do like and we will solve zero problems that way.
And it seems to me that kind of the essence here is that through the act of
Solving the problem, you are teaching skills and you are extrapolating from that one problem to other problems. So you're not just constantly solving one problem, one problem, one problem. But the goal is to solve a problem, and then to develop skills that will allow both the child and the parents to more quickly and more easily either prevent problems or solve problems, additional problems in the future. Am I reading that? Right? Well, that's certainly what you hope happens. You know, a lot of kids who have been difficult for a long time, when parents finally get around to identifying the unsolved problems, there's a lot of them, sometimes 30, sometimes 40,
I don't think people are going to have to solve 30 or 40, different unsolved problems, because some of them are going to solve by solving others. But here's the really important point.
By solving problems, you are improving the kids behavior. So if the kid is being aggressive toward his brother, because they're having difficulty sharing toys, and you solve that problem, not only have you solved that problem, the aggressive behavior toward the other, at least as a relates to that problem is now going bad. But if all we're doing is focusing on the boys of aggressive behavior, then he's still having difficulties sharing his toys with his brother, and it's still going to get ugly in some way.
And it also is a respectful approach, it seems to me so that, that because you are respecting the child, that it that also would have pays off and other benefits further down the line as well.
Well, what I always tell parents is that if you want your kid to listen to your concerns,
a good way to make that happen is for you to listen to theirs. And when you are listening to a kid's concerns, and when you are proving to kids that their concerns are not only being heard, but will also be addressed. That is showing respect to your kid. And I find that respect begets respect. You respect your kids concerns, you demonstrate a willingness to get your kids concerns addressed, your kids going to respect your concerns, and your kid is going to show a willingness to address yours. Yeah, that makes sense.
All right. So this all fits in with the concept that if we're approaching it this way, we're giving our kids the power to do well. And we're showing them a model for not only applying it to inside the family, but hopefully, ultimately, skill sets that they're building, they can apply in other areas, because often our kids, if our kids are struggling with the with being with the skill sets of in flexibility, easily frustrated, lack of ability to problem solve, that's not exclusive. within the family, those same kids are usually struggling with friendships and in other areas as well. Sometimes, my friend Tony Wagner has written some very influential books about the kids the skills people are going to need in employment settings. And among the top five, are flexibility. Yes, cooperation, and problem solving. Yeah. Yeah, that's interesting. A lot of people one thing people sometimes say about this model is that it's not the real world. Turns out, these are skills that are required for the real world. And what's also very interesting is that blind adherence to authority, which is what we trained to kids, when we're being very authoritarian, is actually not a skill that very many of us use very often in the real world at all. So why do we have to give some thought to what skills are really required in the real world? I'm confident that the ones we're training by solving problems collaboratively are going to serve this kid very well, not just in our families, but also outside our families. Also, I would say that that that's not true me that that the criticism you were saying is that it not being real world is not true. I think what they're probably meaning is that some variation on nobody is going to, you know, commonly you this way and go through this, these three steps. And, but that's not true. We actually that's how we adults work with each other all the time. And what you're doing is modeling for a child, how to solve problems, how to do this, so that is the real world or at least that's my understanding of what of what the model is. So yeah, well, if a few things first of all, if people have interpreted everything we've been talking about for the last 55 minutes as coddling they missed a lot along the way. There's nothing startling about
This, this is very hard work. But if a kid if we if the reference point is another learning disability, like, say reading,
if a kid is having difficulty reading, we don't throw the Encyclopedia Britannica at the kid and say, Read, you're gonna have to read in the real world Sunday, what we do is we figure out what's making it hard for the kid to read, and we give the kid the help the kid needs. So the big leap for people is to recognize that all behavior is is telling us that there are expectations, the kid is having difficulty meeting. And we need to figure out what's getting in the kids way on the problems every bit as much as we would on any other problems that the kid is going to experience in life, and then give the kid the skills they need to solve those problems eventually, independently.
Yeah, I would agree that I don't know if this doesn't have this goes back to the issue of is it permissive, permissive parenting, and it's not at all and nor is it coddling? It seems to me that it's like you say it's addressing, you're helping your kid become the adult you want them to be. But that's what we do all the time. As parents, it's our role is apparent? Correct? Yeah. So I was reassure people you're not giving in in this model. You're not giving up in this model. You're still an authority figure in this model, all whole more of much more of an authority figure than you would have been. If all you were doing was hammering your kid when there were expectations your kid was having difficulty meeting.
Thank you so much, Dr. Ross Greene, for talking with us today about harder to parent kids. Let me remind everybody that the views expressed in this show are those of the guests and do not necessarily reflect the position of creating a family, our partners or our underwriters. Also, keep in mind that the information given in this interview is general advice. To understand how it applies to your specific situation. You need to work with your adoption foster care professional. Thanks for joining us today and I will see you next week.
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