Monday, December 23, 2013

Baumrind's Authoritative Parenting

I have shared the The differences between Conditional mand Unconditional Parenting  . What about Authoritative parenting.? Authoritative Parenting features in Baumrind schema of Parenting styles – Authoritarian , Permissive and in the middle Authoritative parenting style. The parenting author Myrna Shure whose books focus on problem solving said to me that her approach does not fit into any of the categories described by the Baumrind schema. It is clear that authoritative parenting= conditional parenting.

Dr Ross Greene was asked why he did not elaborate on Plan A techniques = helping parents impose their will in a more effective way. He replied that helping parents to make their kids more compliant will get in the way of parents becoming better collaborative problem solvers. When combining approaches kids get 2 different messages and it is confusing. When the going is tough parents tend to fall back on their old ways, because it is easier to punish, give consequences and rewards than to solve problems in a collaborative way

'Authoritative Parenting -is defined as  high in control and warmth; mature demands of and responsiveness to children; allows lots of discussion and considers children's opinions before making final decision; have set rules and guidelines; use rationale and logic when disciplining. 

This sounds good but the reality is that when parents are highly controlling using rewards and punishments, the warmth and empathy becomes rather perfunctory and conditional and kids concerns are not taken seriously. Rules and guidelines are not formulated together with kids but in a unilateral way and discussions are usually about the logic of the 'imposed ' punishments and consequences.

The proof is in Diana Baumrind on writing on parenting. It leans heavily on control through extrinsic motivation and warmth and love is conditional. In his book Unconditional Parenting  and in the articleRethinking Baumrind's autoritative parenting  Alfie Kohn writes the following.

 She describes parenting as being "authoritarian" on one side, "permissive" on the other side, or "authoritative" (read: just right) in the middle. In reality, though, her favored approach, supposedly a blend of firmness and caring, is actually quite traditional and control-oriented -even if less so than Option 1. In fact, a close reading of Baumrind's research raises questions about the recommendations she offers, particularly her endorsement of "firm control."To begin with, Baumrind (1972) has argued against unconditional acceptance of children by their parents, declaring that "the rule of reciprocity, of paying for value received, is a law of life that applies to us all." She continues: "The parent who expresses love unconditionally is encouraging the child to be selfish and demanding" - suggesting that an economic model for human relationships may go hand-in-hand with a dim view of human nature. She also assumes that "structure" in the family requires the use of extrinsic motivators and "contingent reinforcement," which she strongly supports. She approves of spanking, dismisses criticisms of punishment as "utopian," and declares that parents who don't use power to compel obedience will be seen as "indecisive" (Baumrind 1996)
Unfortunately, the research she cites to show that authoritative parenting works best doesn't support any of these positions. Her original findings were interpreted as proving that a combination of warmth and "firm control" (or "enforcement") was optimal. But another researcher who looked at the data carefully (Lewis 1981) discovered that the positive outcomes for children of authoritative parents didn't actually seem to be connected to the use of firm enforcement at all. Kids whose parents were warm but not controlling did just as well as kids whose parents were both - probably, she suggested, because control in the traditional sense isn't required to create structure and predictability as Baumrind (and many others) assumed. By the same token, Baumrind seemed to blur the differences between "permissive" parents who were really just confused and those who were deliberately democratic. There were no problems with the children of the latter parents, suggesting, in the words of another psychologist, that "a close look at Baumrind's actual data may reveal significant support for child-centered parenting" (Crain 2003) even though Baumrind has created a very different impression because she personally opposes that style. Subsequent research using Baumrind's formulation seems to support this view. A huge study of teenagers (Lamborn et al. 1991) did indeed find benefits from what was described as "authoritative" parenting, but that term was defined to mean that parents were aware of, and involved with, their children's lives, not that they were even the least bit punitive or controlling. Another study (Strage and Brandt) similarly cited Baumrind by way of suggesting that parents need to be both supportive and demanding, but it turned out that being demanding when their children were young was unrelated, or even negatively related, to various desirable outcomes. By contrast, the extent to which the parents had been supportive, and also the extent to which they had encouraged their children's independence, had a strong positive relationship to those same outcomes.

Differences between Conditional and Unconditional Parenting

Conditional Parenting
Focus                                                    Behavior
View  of  Human  nature                     Negative
View of Parental Love                         A privilege to be earned
Strategies                                            ''  Doing to ''  - control via rewards , punishments etc

Unconditional Parenting

Focus                                                  Whole child ( including reasons, thoughts, feelings )
View of Human nature                       Positive or balanced
View of Parental love                         A gift
Strategies                                            ''  Working with '' (  collaborative problem solving )

Conditional Parenting or Typical View of Difficult Children:

 Guiding Philosophy: “Children do well if they want to”.
  Explanation: Children’s difficult behavior is attention-seeking or aimed at coercing adults into “giving in”.
 Goal of treatment: Induce children to comply with adult directives.
  Tools of treatment: Use of reward and punishment programs to give children incentive to improve behavior.
 Emphasis: Reactive focus on management of problematic behavior after it has occurred.

Unconditional Parenting -Dr. Greene,Ablon  Collaborative Problem Solving Approach  View:
  Guiding Philosophy: “Children do well if they can”.
  Explanation: Children’s difficult behavior is the byproduct of a learning disability in the domains of flexibility, adaptability, and frustration tolerance.
  Goal of treatment: Teach children lacking cognitive and emotional skills.
  Tools of Treatment: Teach children and adults how to work towards mutually satisfactory solutions to problems underlying difficult behavior.
  Emphasis: Proactive focus on solving and preventing problems before they occur.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Empathy and CPS Parenting

There are  2 approaches to empathy that are found in different parenting styles. Progressive parenting uses empathy with compassion. Traditional parenting uses empathy or perfunctory empathy.

Progressive parenting which focuses on the whole child including his motives and feelings takes seriously a child's concerns. Getting a clear understanding of the child's concerns is critical for solving problems in a collaborative way= Plan B. Here we use 'empathy with compassion'. 

 Traditional parents uses ' empathy ' to get compliance. When we use reflective listening or empathy we say to kids that they have been heard. This technique is sold as having magic powers to produce instant results. So when a mom uses Plan A=adult imposing adult will, it sounds like this.

 Mom:  you can't go to a friend more than twice during the week
              Kid:  you are always   so unfair 
             Mom: Hmmm. It sounds like you think what I have proposed isn't fair. That makes you feel angry , doesn't it !?
(parody) -             Kid: Yes, But    …well, I guess that I can live with it. (Pause) Gosh, thanks for taking the time to understand me! I feel all better now!
This is called ' perfunctory' empathy and is rather apathetic and indifferent .The child perceives that their concerns are being ignored and is resigned to the fact that her mother will never see her perspective.

From   Ross Greene interview -Lost at school  on empathy and collaborative problem solving

 As I describe in Lost at School, there are three ingredients required for resolving a problem collaboratively.  first is to gather information from the kid so as to achieve the clearest possible understanding of a kid's concern or perspective on the problem you're trying to resolve (I call this the Empathy step).The second is to communicate the adult's concern or perspective on the same problem (I refer to this as the Define the Problem step).And the third is the brainstorming of solutions that will address the concerns of both parties (I've called this the Invitation).Perfunctory empathy – which is not a desirable thing – relates to the first ingredient, and refers to the tendency on the part of adults to gloss over or rush through the process of information seeking, thereby achieving an insufficient level of understanding of a kid's concern or perspective, guaranteeing that the kid's concern will remain unaddressed, and perpetuating challenging behavior in response to that problem.
Why do adults do this? Well, we are pressed for time (of course, if we don't take the time to understand the concern or perspective setting the stage for a kid's challenging behavior then we're going to be spending a lot of time dealing with his challenging behavior).Often adults use perfunctory empathy because we're certain we already know what the kid's concern or perspective is (my experience is that we're often wrong).And often it's because we're not sure what words to use to "drill" for more specific information. But in many instances it's because we're worried that if we take a kid's concern into consideration, somehow our concern won't be taken into account. Now…and this is rhetorical question…why are there so many adults who are worried that their concerns won't be taken into account?'

Plan B = both concerns 
 So if a kid is not happy to go out to play in recess, a Plan B would go like this. The challenge is to make sure we use ' empathy with compassion' and not ' perfunctory empathy ' in the CPS process.

Teacher – I have noticed that you are not so keen about going out for recess-play lately.
Kid – Yes
Teacher – so what's up?
Kid – I just don't want to go out.

Teacher - getting empathy wrong using perfunctory empathy

Ok so you don't want to go out for recess – the thing is that I don't mind you staying with me every once in a while, but sometimes I have to leave the classroom and there won't be anyone to watch you .Do you understand?
Kid – Uh –huh
Teacher- Do you think we can come up with a plan so of what to do when I need to leave the classroom, and you don't want to go out for recess. Do you have any ideas?

Teacher – getting the empathy step right
You don't want to go out for recess; can you try to help me understand why?
The kids concerns could be that she does not feel socially accepted or there might be bullying or there is something else going on and only she can give us information. Often it takes a bit of drilling down to get a clear idea and understanding of her concerns.

By using perfunctory empathy and paying lip service to a child's concerns we are going to come up with a solution that does not deal with the underlying problem.

There are times when a kid comes over to us, upset about something and is just looking for empathy. She just wants someone to listen and empathize and feel for her. We can use reflective listening and empathy to help her get over the emotional hurt.

But when we want to collaboratively solve problems we need to use ' empathy with compassion'.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Should Parents be friends with their kids?

Lots of parenting articles and books admonish parents - Be a parent, don't be your kid's friend. And when I see this I recall the following Biblical sources usually cited when discussing the parent –child relationship.

In this week's Parasha-portion Genesis 31:46, we read how Jacob- Ya'akov instructs his BROTHERS to gather stones and form a mound. This mound   was to be a monument and a witness to the treaty between and Laban and Jacob. The obvious question is that he had only one brother   Esau and he was not around. Rashi answers that Jacob referred to his sons as ' brothers' because they identified with his struggle and were committed to him. The relationship between Jacob and his sons could be described as an older brother-sibling relationship.
Further on in the Book of Genesis 45:8 , Joseph reveals himself to his brothers and he says that G-d has placed him as an Av= father to Pharaoh.  Rashi explains that the word Av=father as being a friend and a patron = from the Latin/greek  'pater'.  The word patron means a benefactor and protector.
Traditionally kids show respect to their parents by addressing them with the words my father- mother, my teacher. So from these sources the relationship could be described as one of an older brother, friend or mentor.

It is pretty obvious that a parent should not make her kid her confidant and burden her child emotionally with all her troubles and that she doesn't share everything. But being a friend of your kid helps the parent to be a ' real, genuine   and authentic person'. Alfie Kohn Alfie Kohn  reminds us that your child needs a human being – flawed, caring and vulnerable – more than he or she needs someone pretending to be a crisply competent Perfect Parent. If parents don't share with kids things they enjoy or hate, or their needs that they have, kids will never be able to empathy with parents, and see that they are real people who also have needs. Real people are not perfect, screw up and make mistakes. Apologizing to kids not only models how that should be done, but shows that it is possible to acknowledge to ourselves and others that we make mistakes and that things are sometimes our fault, without  losing face or feeling hopelessly inadequate. But apologizing exposes our fallibility and vulnerability and makes us feel a little unsafe when we stand on the perfect parent pedestal, a position of ultimate and unquestionable authority. Even saying thank you to your child in a sincere and genuine way, that without their help you would have been lost exposes your vulnerability. There is nothing to fear because it is when we expose our vulnerability, we create connection and facilitate learning   opportunities.  Brene Brown teaches that it is vulnerability that creates great business leaders and when you shut off vulnerability, you shut off opportunity. If vulnerability is good for business leaders, how much more is it so for parents!

 Another reason why parents fear developing a genuine and warm relationship with kids is that it will compromise their ability to set limits , impose their authority and control them.
In fact the opposite is true. Do you ever wonder why parents and teachers are the last to know when kids screw up or act in an inappropriate way? When kids feel that they are unconditionally accepted and loved by their parents for who they are , and trust them to be their guides and help, kids will come to parents for help. It is our healthy attachments with kids that allow us to be their guides and mentors.

We can set limits in a unilateral way and demand compliance or we can let kids participate in setting limits using the CPS – collaborative problem solving approach. When our concerns and expectations are addressed by the agreed solutions, we are in fact setting a limit together with the child.

As parents and educators we really want our kids to learn to set limits. Instead of giving a list of rules and consequences we can offer them principles and guidelines to help them navigate the world. We want kids to derive limits and guidelines on how to act from the situation itself and what other people need .If so, then our coming up with   limits, and especially specific behavioral limits and imposing them on kids makes it less likely that kids will become moral people who say that the situation decrees a kind of a boundary for appropriate ways to act.

Parents should be friends with their kids, but it is not a friendship of equals but similar to the trust, respect and caring that a mentor shows for his student.

Barbara Coloroso was once asked to help parents with their young teenager. When he was a pre-teen he was such a good kid, he always listened to us. Now he no longer listens to us, just to his teenage friends. She answered the parents that nothing has changed – he used to listen to you, now he is listening to them. When a parent is a friend and a mentor the child is not being compliant but self determined and acts in an autonomous way giving expression to the values he acquired from parents and teachers and has made his own.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Self Esteem or Self Compassion

It is generally accepted that a negative self esteem and self concept gets in the way of a person dealing with setbacks and failure, but the research shows that also  high self esteem does not buy very much and can be very problematic. Despite the research the belief in ' self esteem ' is so engrained. Teachers and parents are told to praise and compliment kids and help their   ' self –esteem ' by reflecting on all their positive attributes. So why is ' self esteem ' problematic and what can be done instead to foster success?

The problem with fostering self esteem with praise is not because kids are over –praised or don't deserve praise – it is praise itself. Praise is a way of getting kids to experience success as a reward and esteeming of the self. Instead kids should experience success and failure as information they need to make changes or  become even  more successful. The problem with self esteem is the focus on the ' self'.

The SDT  Self Determination theory talks about 2 types of self esteem. Contingent self esteem is experienced by people who are preoccupied with questions of worth and self esteem and are strongly motivated by the desire to appear worthy to self and others. Their worth is seen as dependent on ' achievement ' and appearing in certain ways. Whether such individuals come away with positive or negative conclusions, the very fact that one's self esteem is in question suggests a psychological vulnerability. Non- contingent self esteem characterizes people for whom self-esteem is not a concern or issue. Success and failure is experienced as information and does not implicate self –worth ,even when they lead to a reevaluation of their actions and efforts. These people experience themselves on a fundamental level as worthy of esteem and love.

The psychologist Eric Fromm talks about 2 types of people -   the ' To have '  people whose self worth and esteem depends on their 'having' .It leads to people being overly attached to possessions, achievements , and relationships. ' To be '  people focus on how they experience the world rather than on having.

'To have '  people view the ' self ' as an 'object' which needs to be appraised , judged and evaluated, the more positive , the better. In contrast SDT and religion see the Self as a process where a person makes meaning of experiences and integrates and assimilates them into his personality.

The research shared by Kelly Mcgonigal  
describes what helps people to deal with setbacks and change and what gets in the way.

The first experiment she shares deals with people who are dieting and are invited to participate in an experiment testing the effects of food on mood. Each person chooses their favorite donut, eats the whole donut and is given a big glass of water which leaves a full and uncomfortable feeling. This triggered feeling of guilt amongst the dieters. The question was would the feelings of guilt help dieters resist subsequent temptations.?  In order to test this , the dieters were given a ' taste experiment '  - to eat as much as they needed to,  from a  wide choice of candy  (so everyone had something they liked) in order to evaluate the taste of the candy. One of the test groups was exposed to the following message. In a very by the way fashion , they were given a 3 point message -  they were made aware of their guilt feelings of indulging in the donuts , they were told that it is human to error , it does not so that there is something wrong with you , everybody indulgences here and there and thirdly – so don't be hard on yourself. The group that was exposed to the   message calling for self-compassion ate 40% of what the group not to exposed   to the self- compassion message ate. People who are hard on themselves and have guilt feelings end up despairing, saying can never change and what the heck and then indulgence even more .

In another study shared by  Heidi Grant Halvorson  participants who failed an initial test were given a chance to improve their scores. One group were encouraged to boost their self –esteem by affirming and validating positive qualities. Another group was encouraged to exercise self –compassion and not to be hard on themselves. Those who took a self-compassionate view of their earlier failure studied 25% longer and scored higher on a second test, than the participants who focused on bolstering their self-esteem.

Self compassion is effective because it is non-evaluative. It allows people to look at their mistakes and flaws with kindness and understanding. People then focus on the self as a process and not as an object. You don't judge   yourself harshly nor feel the need to defensively focus on all your positive qualities in order to protect your self-esteem. Setbacks and mistakes are part of being human and essential to the learning process. When the focus is on the process, rather than achievement, the journey rather than the destination you are more likely to be more accurate in assessing your abilities and coming up with a better plan which will help you reach your destination.

People who view the self as an object react by saying ' How could "I"  ( capital I )  do that ?  have feelings of guilt and shame which get in the way, while people who said '  How could I do THAT, did not focus on the self but on their  actions and were successful in changing.

The problem with sin, falling or failing is not in the sin, falling or failure but what happens afterwards – not getting up. Guilt feelings get in the way of recovery and getting up. The verse proverbs 24:15 says that   7 times a saint falls and then he gets up.

Self compassion leads to higher levels of personal well-being, optimism and happiness less anxiety and depression.

Mindfulness and promoting the needs of autonomy, competence and relatedness help people and kids focus on the self as process.

 Mindfulness is an open non-judgmental awareness of what is happening in the present. Self esteeming and the focus on ME are just   mental constructions of the mind. In mindfulness and SDT there is no fixed concept of the self to protect or enhance, all facts are friendly and inform one's experiences and behaviors.

According to SDT , people with low self esteem are lacking in supports for and satisfactions of one or more of the basic needs of autonomy, competence and relatedness. They don't feel worthy as they are missing a sense of love, authenticity, or effectiveness. People with high contingent self esteem seek behaviors that support and reassure them that they are worthy in their eyes and others.

The paradox of self esteem of self –esteem ' If you need it , you don't have it and if you have it , you don't need it .

See my blog post on  Motivation and Bob the Builder  
on the effectiveness of different types of self talk. A statement -  I can or will do it as opposed to asking a question will or can I do it ?

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Resolving the heart of conflict depends on the CPS mantra - children do well if they can

This week's Torah-Bible reading Devarim starts the 5th book of Moses, Deuteronomy. Devarim is always read   on the Sabbath before the fast of 9th of Av , a day where Jews reflect on the causes of the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem - baseless hatred and destructive human relationships.  The temple will only be rebuilt when people are worthy of a temple by being  loving and caring towards one another.

With so much conflict on a family, community, national and international level one cannot but ask – What's getting in the way?

James Ferrel from  The Arbinger institute , in his highly recommended TedX Talk – Resolving the Heart of Conflict  – takes us first through a family scenario, then corporate life, international politics and then ends off with an emotional story about a father and son. I share here only his ideas and one example from an article not discussed in his Tedx Talk. 

He claims that we actually value problems, mistreatment, trouble, and conflict. He explains that according to Martin Buber, we don't have problems with people whom we count or identify with. We see their humanity and 'are made in God's image'. The others who don't count in our eyes are viewed as objects. It is easier to view or treat people badly if you ' objectify ' them. But objectifying people comes with a consequence – a deep inner need to justify that view. So the heart sees advantage in trouble and conflict, it provides the proof and justification that we are looking for. People then begin to value problems above solutions, conflict above peace and cooperation.

The book of Deuteronomy is Moses last sermon to the Israelites. He recounts their history together, especially the failed mission of the spies. The spies went on their mission with a negative view of the Promised Land. This created a need inside of them to justify that view. So they went into the land 'digging' for problems and trouble. They reported that it is '  a land that eats its inhabitants'. After the report of the spies, this negativity was directed against God himself. To justify this negativity, they said that it was clear that God's purpose in taking them out of Egypt was to destroy them in the desert by the hands of the Amorites.

The way out of this trap is to see the humanity of others and that they are made in God's image. In an article – James Ferrel writes about company executives, employees and representatives of the unions who spent some time in a holiday resort trying to see how they could cooperate much more efficiently. At the end of the 3 days, they attempted to resolve disputes which had been around for more than a year and that were scheduled for arbitration.

'They resolved the dispute in forty minutes , because – during the first 2 days together they solved the heart of the conflict that had been dividing them, which was the mutual objectification and blame for each other. Until they saw their conflict partners as people, with hopes and dreams and cares and fears as real as their own, they needed justification more than they needed resolution and were both unwilling and unable to find creative, mutually beneficial possibilities. They found too much advantage in problems to be able to find lasting solutions.' – James Ferrel.

We can now more easily appreciate how the Collaborative problem solving approach's mantra –' children do well if they can , and not children do well if they want to'-which we can apply to adults as well - , enables us to see their humanity , act with more compassion and instead of making problems worse than they are , make things better for all.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Korach 73 - Put your relationship first

Being religious is problematic , it can lead to a person being self righteous. So as parents we should put the relationship with our kids first ! From my parenting by the book blog

The mission of the spies to the land of Israel ended in disaster. The generation of the spies lost their right to enter the 'promised land' and they were now destined to spend the next 40 years in the desert. There was a lot of dissatisfaction with Moses' Leadership. Korach and his followers challenged Moses right to lead and started a rebellion against Moses. God intervenes -  Moses remains the leader and Korach and his followers are destroyed.

The commentators talk about how destructive strife, conflict and friction are to a community and encourage ' Shalom '  peace without sacrificing God's truth.

' Peace –harmony 'is the vessel through which God's blessings is able to reach us as a community and a family.

There is an interesting Medrash Rabah  insight taught by the Rabbis on Psalm 34 verse 15.
'Seek out shalom=peace and pursue it ' The verse says – seek out peace but not Mitzvot = good deeds.

 This medrash is very strange. Are we not taught to seek out and do good deeds , is this not our purpose here in this world?  (our ) Rabbi   Yeruchum from Mir explains that our purpose is really to seek relationships with people based on shalom. If our purpose is to ' collect ' as many good deeds as possible, the focus becomes 'oneself 'and there is the danger of a ' self righteousness'  distorting one's judgment. But when we give our good deeds the context of shalom and relationship, our focus is on the relationship and other people.

What does this Medrash say to us as parents ?

We should ask ourselves – what type of relationship do I have with my kids ? Do they see me as a help, caring and loving , somebody who they can trust and learn from or  do they see me as being judgmental, critical , demanding and show less love when they screw up. ? Instead of being right, and self righteous insisting on ' our principles and standards ' we should focus on relationship.

It suggests that we  that we should put our relationship with our kids first.

Alfie Kohn in his book Unconditional parenting suggests that  we should be careful not to jeopardize our relationship with our kids when we try to get them to do certain things or say the unnecessary Nos. We should consider whether some of our demands are worth pursuing in the first place, are they developmentally appropriate to a young kid or a kid that is not flexible and has a low frustration tolerance. We can try and make the environment more user-friendly so we need to exercise less control – for example –parents , whose kids play in a safe environment and serve healthy food including for deserts don't need to be controlling in the park or home , limiting what kids can do and  forcing them  to eat healthy foods. We can drop ' our principles ' and lower the rope when it comes to kids rooms so the only place that is truly a child's own does not have to be maintained at high parental standards. We need to ask if what we are doing or demanding is worth the possible strain on the relationship.

While ' relationship ' is important as an end , Alfie Kohn suggests the following benefits.

Misbehavior is easier to address and problems are easier to solve – when children feel safe enough with us to explain the reasons why they did something wrong. CPS – collaborative problem solving rests on the info we gather from the child about his concerns and perspectives.

Kids are more likely to come to us when they are in trouble or to look to us for advice.    Why are parents and teachers the last to know when their kids or students screw up.?

Kids are more likely to want to spend time with us when they can choose whether to do so.

When kids know they can trust us and their concerns are generally taken into account , they are more likely to do what we ask if we tell them it's really important.

The medrash is telling us parents to put the relationship first , be less self righteous and reconsider ' principles and standards - because ' relationship ' is the vessel through which God brings his blessing to us, relationship is so important in itself and in a practical sense helps us raise  reflective , caring and responsible kids.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Are we complainers or Problem solvers

Here are some insights from my new blog

The weekly Torah=Bible reading of Beha'alotcha from the book of Numbers relates various complaints against God that the children of Israel had in the desert.
The people had 'manna' from heaven as their food. They began to complain about the lack of meat and vegetables recalling  the vegetables that they got ' free' in Egypt.

 On the other hand , the Torah tells us that there were those who expressed a certain sadness and disappointment on not being able to contribute and participate in the 'pesach=pascal sacrifice. This sacrifice was a symbol of the covenant between God and his people culminating in the redemption from Egypt. They could not participate in the pesach=pascal sacrifice because they were impure. This impurity was caused by their carrying Joseph's coffin. Aaron, Moses brother was also depressed that he and his tribe were not invited to contribute offerings to the newly established tabernacle in the desert.

As parents and teachers we should be helping kids to deal with the challenges and frustrations of life. CPS – the collaborative problem solving approach is a great way to give kids these cognitive problem solving tools. But just as important we should help them with an approach, and a philosophy to life's problems, disappointments and frustrations.

Are we ' complainers' who express frustration and feel deprived? Or do we see life's problems as challenges, problems to be solved, and opportunities to grow? Are mistakes our friends, which provide learning opportunities, and do we  say failure is not in the falling, but not getting up? Are we frustrated that we are being deprived and did not ' receive '  something or are we disappointed because of  missed opportunities to ' give ' and make a contribution to others.

The basic difference between the ' complainers ' and ' problem solvers'  is how they respond to reality. Complainers try to fight reality and this is usually takes the form of a lot of emotional negative statements and complaints – ' He shouldn't….. why did he …. Why can't I …., why don't I have ……   .  Problem solvers don't try to fight reality. They accept reality , they accept heavenly decrees. This liberates them emotionally from any negative feeling and sets the stage for problem solving.

Instead of complaining about your kids , accept the reality that ' kids do well if they can ' and not kids do well if they want to '  = ( the CPS approach mantra). Now you are emotionally free of the ' he shouldn't being doing that …', he is not trying hard enough.., he shouldn't be so rude and defiant… etc to ask what is getting in my kid's way , how can I help him.

One of the ways to solve a problem is to ask for help. Complainers don't ask for help. They generally express a lot of negativity and their complaints are not really problems to be solved but are symptomatic of the problems they have with life itself.

Modeling and teaching collaborative problem solving skills and an approach to life's problems and frustrations we can help our kids and ourselves to be Collaborative Problem Solvers and not Complainers.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

EFs -Executive Functions resources - CPS , RDI

The collaborative problem solving approach addresses the many cognitive skills that a child may be lacking. When we solve problems in a collaborative way we promote executive functions, language processing skills, emotion regulation skills , social skills and cognitive flexibility. 

The RDI – relationship Development Intervention approach is very helpful in teaching kids EFs. Like CPS , EF skills are not taught directly but indirectly by being the ' guide by the side ' when engaging the child in different real life activities that require EF skills.

Here is a blog post   Executive Functions and RDI

Executive function Skills – from care givers handout 

These are the thinking skills, associated with the frontal lobe of the brain. They enable one to do the clear, organized, reflective thinking in the midst of frustration that is crucial for solving problems in an adaptive (non-impulsive) manner. The executive skills include:

• shifting cognitive set (the ability to shift gears, to make transitions in activities and thinking smoothly)

• organization and planning, and working memory (allow you to use hindsight and forethought to solve problems in a systematic fashion)

• separation of affect (the ability to put feelings on the shelf to get on with the clear thinking needed to solve problems)

When lacking, these children will have difficulty shifting from one activity to another. They will have difficulty anticipating problems. In the face of frustration, they will have difficulty staying calm enough to think clearly and will have difficulty sorting through different solutions to organize a coherent plan of action. 

Here are 2 check lists – the ALSUP Assessed Lacking Skills and unsolved problems from Dr Greene's site ' CPS – lives in the balance and a similar list from the TSI – thinking skills inventory from – Dr Ablon

Dr Greene feels that categorizing the skills into executive functions etc gets in the way of focusing on the real problem , the concerns of the child and the underlying skill. It becomes a label , a diagnoses that get's in the way of helping kids. Too often , clinicians will try to promote executive functions independently of problems and the child's concerns. It is much better to work with the check list of the lacking skills together with unsolved problems. Dr Ablon reintroduced the categories at the request of parents in order to help them remember the various cognitive lacking skills. Separation of affect – putting emotions on the shelf – is now categorized by Dr Ablon under emotion regulation skills.

The various lacking cognitive skills may be found in nearly all childhood disorders and that is especially true for executive functions. So it is a bit silly to say if a kid has executive functions deficits he must have ADHD. This proves the CPS approach claim that diagnoses don't tell much and actually get into the way of a clear understanding of the underlying challenges of the child and the compatibility and responsiveness of the child's care givers.

From : Treating Explosive children - Executive functions 

Handling transitions, shifting from one mindset or task to another (shifting

cognitive set). 

Sticking with tasks requiring sustained attention (perseverance)

Doing things in a logical sequence or prescribed order (organization)

Reflecting on multiple thoughts or ideas simultaneously (working memory)

Maintaining focus for goal-directed activities (sustained attention / concentration)

Ignoring non-relevant stimuli (distractibility)

Thinking before responding, considering the likely outcomes or consequences of

actions, forecasting (reflective not impulsive thinking)

Considering a range of solutions to a problem 

We can  train kids to be  more organized, planful, intentional ( non-impulsive ) thinking when we use Plan B – taking perspectives and concerns, defining the problem , using hindsight to reflect on past solutions and their outcomes, foresight to predict likely outcomes of potential solutions , anticipating problems and proactively solving them .

Responding to changes in routines or demands to change cognitive sets from one set of rules and expectations and making transitions is a skill which relies also on the capacity to anticipate and predict the near future and thereby not being taken by surprise.

Pan B of CPS promotes executive functions as we work through unsolved problems. We can collaborate – not top down skills instruction – with the child to see how together we can formulate goals , make the day more predictable and organized –

see below resources – Sara Ward and Ann Epstein = intentional choice and planning. 

We can help kids make lists and schedules. This is also great because it gives them a sense of time and a wider time horizon. In the moment , a kid may feel that their needs are not being met , for eg not going to the swimming pool or a play date. When they check the week's schedule they are able to perceive the bigger picture. 

Supporting a kid's autonomy is very important for their development. Autonomy does not mean independence but rather interdependence. It means being in touch with your inner core values and making decisions which express your true self and not just a reaction against parents.

When a kid had made a list or schedule , we can ask ' what about brushing teeth , do you see any problems ' etc . We don't have to give orders or instructions to do things , because it is the list the kid made is creating his agenda.

In today's modern world with plenty of technology with which kids love to mediate the world we can make use of ' Assistive Technology - check my post on ' AT'

Here are some Resources

here are some links - Sara Ward's pdf 

Sara Ward has some ' amazing presentions ' here  - Chandler Papers on childhood disorders   - Ann Epstein   - Edward de Bono