Thursday, July 29, 2010

Coping Skills

I would like to share some valuable insights and learning  from a friend of mine , Bridget . She is truly an example of 'Parenting is Learning'. The great thing is that her kids have learned these skills and use them. I recall hearing of a camp leader being very impressed by her son as he described the meditation and relaxation techniques he used to calm himself down in a rather anxious and tense situation.

coping skills

Here is some information on coping and bodily warning signs. It is directed at parents to help their children w/ coping skills but it is actually written for everyone...adults and children. It is to help anyone understand how to connect their bodily signs w/ coping skills. It applies both to the classroom or groups and to life in was also generated for a broad parenting audience (please take whatever you may find useful and feel free to leave anything you don't):

Coping Skills and Other Information

Many children don’t know what coping skills are or that we use them all the time in situations both positively and negatively. So, like anything else, we teach them in order for them to learn. We let them know what both the negative and the positives are and that the good news is that the positive ones will help us build better relationships with people around us and feel better in our bodies and about ourselves.

Our bodies help us know when it is not coping well by giving us warning signs like (these vary from person to person):

• Heart beats faster

• Body gets warmer or feels hot

• Palms feel hot and maybe even sweaty

• Stomach could hurt

• Head could hurt

• The room feels noisy and you want to cover your ears

• You may want to get out of the room

• Breathing may feel different

• One may feel like crying

• It’s hard to attend and listen

It’s important to understand the warnings so that we take them as messages and can respond in positive ways (positive coping). We listen to our bodies and follow the warnings. Many times a parent/teacher/adult will have a plan in place so that the child is able to leave the situation to regain composure (cope). There may be a plan in place so that everyone feels comfortable asking to go to the bathroom or get a drink. Breaks are good (not leaving the focus completely but rather getting up to stretch or do jumping jacks). Gross motor movement increases blood flow and helps thinking. It can be very centering.

Children learn by example. How a parent copes with a problem is, for now, the only example they have. If a parent tries to cope by more positive means such as talking it out, using problem solving techniques, doing things a different way, meditation or prayer, developing strengths, reacting positively, and other such means, then the child will also learn those ways to cope. If they aren’t learning by the modeling then it just means that they need a little more direct teaching to get the skill in place. Some of us learn Math by watching the teacher, others by watching and practice and still others with extra help from tutors or different teaching styles (depending on learning styles).

There are many different coping skills depending on need. Some of them are:

• Learning how to problem solve

• Standing instead of sitting in a chair (it can be very hard for some kids to sit)

• Squeezing a soft ball or other object to increase attention (busying one part of the brain to allow the other part to attend)

• Teaching meditation/visualization/prayer (the more the better for choices)

• Breathing techniques

• Creating a grudge free zone where things can be talked about in trust and confidence (sometimes kids worry about saying things right and will stop trying to talk about problems out of fear)

• Creating a safe zone where people aren’t being touched, teased or treated disrespectfully. Sometimes this takes creating a Covenant (of sorts and there are other words that better fit different circumstances) that everyone creates together and signs that lists agreements for a smoother running environment

• Creating hand signals to use instead of words to avoid embarrassment or risk tuning out

• Taking breaks and allowing breaks: encouraging relaxation breaks to recover

• Using plans (encouraging the communication about the event; coming up w/ possible scenarios; role playing and creating strategies/plans to use if needed)

• Role playing (doing this before a class or event can ease anxiety and further problem solving skills). Practicing different roles helps w/ perspective taking and empathy as well.

• Making a list of things to do to better cope/coping skills to carry around and pull out in a private place when needed…it can be overwhelming to try and remember it all.

• Counting to 10

• Learning, practicing and using internal dialogue/self talk

• Incorporating mistake making into the normal and expected learning environment

• Practicing forgiveness of oneself and others

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Subject vs Object - CPS and SDT theory

Deci and Ryan
To be self determined is to endorse one's actions on the highest level of reflection

When self -determined people  experience a sense of freedom to do what is interesting , personally important
and vitaling  

Deci and Ryan 's Self Determined theory talks about we can foster the intrinsic motivation and true inner core self of kids. When Kids autonomy , competence and interrelatedness is supported we help kids to become self determined and have true self esteem. CPS – Collaborative problem solving supports these needs by promoting autonomy – kids is part of the solution and his concerns are put on the table , interrelatedness – the process is collaborative and the parents , others concerns are also put on the table , competence – the CPS process promotes life and cognitive skills.

Supporting your child's autonomy , his perception that he is the author and subject of his actions is very important to a child's socio-moral and academic development. As parents we would like to pass on ' values ' and be a guide for our children. We hope that these values are internalized and kids become committed to these values making them their own.

Kids may be compliant and act out values as a result of external controls such as demands , threats , bribes, rewards, punishments, consequences etc – their actions are externally regulated so the locus of control is not within the kid but external.

Sometimes behaviors appear to be internally motivated but in fact the locus of control is still external. Often kids' feeling of self worth and self esteem is contingent of how and if their parents express approval , acceptance and love or the opposite disappointment and disapproval that kids are not meeting their expectations. When kids behave in a way to please parents in order to gain their love and acceptance , their behavior is not an expression of the self but a desperate attempt to live a parents life for a bit of love and acceptance. This is called Introjected regulation of behavior , kids in a way are ' swallowing whole ' the values of their parents. They have become' introjets'.

When we 'do to kids '– demanding, telling, praising ( I don't mean neutral informational feedback), rewarding, punishing, consequensing we make kids into objects . When we ' work with children ' - ask questions , notice , make neutral and non-judgmental observations to lead into conversations we give children a voice and make them subjects. Instead of praise , we can ask a child why he decided to give the little boy a cookie ? When he begins to reflect – he becomes a subject , when he expresses how he felt after he gave the cookie and saw the boy's face light up , he learns he is a person whose feelings are important. What is important is not what mom or dad feels , whether they will express approval or not but his feelings, his intimate attempts to make meaning and feel an inner sense of pride. When we do to kids , they talks like objects – what will I get if I do this or what will be done to me if I do/don't do this ? Kids should be asking if what I do is an expression of the type of person I want to be , is it an expression of my true inner self ?

Deci and Ryan remind us that autonomy is not independence but interdependence and relatedness. Often rebellious and defiant kids feel that their ' resisting ' parental control or influence is an expression of autonomy and independence. The truth is they are acting like objects. They have chosen to have their lives controlled by their parents . Instead of perusing

their autonomy and furthering their goals and interests their lives are dominated by opposing their parents. They live according to the parents agenda. On the other hand kids who have good relationships with their parents and are supportive of the family benefit from parents who actively support their autonomy.

Although it seems that we are objects - life throws various situations at us , we don't create reality , but we do have a choice whether to react – be an object or make a well thought out response and be ' subjects'.

Instead of fostering 'introjets ' we can help kids identify with our values as personally important for them and even better when these values are assimilated with self so they are included in persons self evaluations and beliefs on personal needs. Kids become the 'ultimate subjects ' when they experience the 'non-self'. This happens when they are motivated by interest and enjoyment, and become so involved with what they are doing that they lose themselves in what they are doing . The actions, the goals , the experience is bigger than the person. Experiencing the non-self is what true self esteem is about.

Supporting autonomy includes strategies like encouraging children to solve their own problems , collaborate with them to solve problem and find mutually satisfying solutions , trying to see things from the child's point of view , entering his world , asking him advice , listening to his perspective and opinion , letting him express feelings, in short giving him a voice. This is what respect is all about - ensuring your kid becomes a subject , a person with a voice that counts .

A kid once said of his father – he loves me , he is dedicated to my well being , he will do anything for me – but he does not know me , he loves a virtual child.

'What kids need more than love is respect ' – Chazon Ish

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Social Skills Part 2

For successful social interactions Kids need to have the following skills.

Attend to and/or accurately interpret both verbal and non-verbal social cues and nuances

Seek attention in appropriate ways

Appreciate how one’s behavior affects other people (vs often
surprised by others’ responses)

Empathize with others, appreciating and taking another person’s perspective or point of view into account

Appreciate how one or one's behavior is coming across or being perceived by others

Appreciate how one's behavior is affecting other people

Ability to attribute the likely motives to other people's behavior and interpret the behavior correctly in terms of the context

Having a wide repertoire of social responses

Pragmatic skills like knowing how to start a conversation, enter into a group , being reciprocal , keep a conversation going and explore issues

Links and resources - Social skills Jarvis Clutch – Social Spy by Mel Levine - I laugh model of Social Cognition social skills


Social Skills - Part 1

The CPS –'collaborative problem solving 'approach
See my blog - Children do well if they can - July 8,2010

has a philosophy that 'children do well if they can 'and 'not that children do well if they want to you'. Most kids would prefer to do well and be successful , especially being accepted , have good relationships , feel they can initiate social interactions , maintain friendships , feel autonomous and not controlled by others.

Social skills deficits are one of the reasons that kids respond in a maladaptive way in situations where demands are placed on these skills.

In addition to using Plan B and solving problems some social skills can be taught through direct instruction and role play.

Problem solving is far more effective as it is really on-the-job training in real situations. Social skills are essentially one on one interactions and these are best taught by parents , teachers , mentors or peer mentors in an informal way through Plan B discussions solving real problems. Problem solving puts the missing skill into a meaningful context for the child, helping him put his concerns on the table and asking the questions - over what is the problem , with who , when and why . Problem solving promotes skills like empathizing, perspective taking, interpreting motives behind behaviors and most important asking questions. The art of conversation is the art of listening and asking questions. We don't have to limit our conversations to personal or family problems. Actually these skills are better taught in the beginning by chatting about general stuff , other peoples' , kids or animals problems , something we saw on TV , newspaper or magazine articles , movie , video or reading together a book. We can take perspectives , notice concerns , define problems , look for mutually satisfying solutions , describe behavior as pro-social and moral.

Social skills should taught in the context of building and contributing to a family , classroom , school and community. Kids need to ask themselves not only what type of person do I want to be , what are my inner core values , does my behavior express this - a caring and responsible person , but they also need to ask what type of family, classroom , community do I want . They have to see value in community. Getting involved in community work , charities , sports clubs where there are different generations helps with social skills. When we put kids together with their peers , we often get bullying and other non-social behaviors. Put a kid in an environment where he has to act like an adult , he will start thinking like a caring person and not like a teen. Mentors , buddy-tutors , older family members and friends are great resources for promoting these skills.

It is easier to have these discussions on non-emotive subjects. We can also transform day to day experiences into learning ones , transcending basic interactions by exploring them and making meaning. Baking a cake or seeing a report of an earthquake can stimulate conversation to so many different disciplines and directions.

In short the most effective teaching tool we have for our kids is US , simply connecting and having conversations , taking perspectives , concerns , exploring issues and problem solving. It promotes learning, life skills , connection , kid gets to express himself , has a voice and thus feels respected and understood. He becomes a ' subject' .

The Chazon Ish , a famous Rabbi (1878-1953) said – ' What a child needs from his parents more than love is respect'.

See Social Skills Part 2 for links and resources


Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Kids voices : Noise or sounds

Here is a chart showing different voice levels on which kids can operate in the classroom and school environment. The chart seemed to point out that silence is something special in that silence is golden implying that kids voices are noise and distracting.

I am sure each voice level is appropriate for different situations, but I don't think silence is golden in a progressive educational set up , maybe silence is golden in a traditional classroom.

I noticed that Alfie Kohn in his chart of ' what to look for in a classroom ' ' uses the word sounds instead of voice or noise levels . In a traditional classroom and one especially focused on teaching to test because of high stakes testing ' silence is golden ' and kids' voices are noise. On the other hand in a progressive classroom kids learn by asking questions of each other and teacher, talking and discussing kids voices are not noise but sounds of engagement and activity.

Progressive classroom - Sounds

Frequent hum of activity and ideas being exchanged

Traditional classroom - Sounds

Frequent periods of silence

The teacher’s voice is the loudest or most often heard

Instead of silence is golden I would talk about thinking and reflecting , listening etc. We have 2 eyes, 2 ears and 1 mouth which suggests we should be more listening , reflecting and thinking to make sure our speech is relevant and helpful.

High stakes testing is turning kids voices into noise rather than sounds and impacting on other areas as well.

A teacher known for his interesting projects and student collaboration in learning said to a group he longer teaches. He is now busy teaching to test for high stakes testing that the school is forced to do. A reading teacher had a certain amount of time where kids read books of their own choice in classroom. Now that she has to teach to test for reading and comprehension tests kids don't have time to read in the classroom.


Untangling Learned or naughty behaviors from diagnoses !!!!!!????

Untangling Learned or naughty behaviors from diagnoses !!!!!!????

The traditional approach to challenging behavior is to see them as learned, naughty or ' working for ' kids and that is why token economy systems , rewards, punishments, credits, sticker charts are recommended to make kids ' wanna to do ' what we want and be compliant. Psychiatry uses diagnoses to medicate and pathologise kids and recommends rewards and punishments to treat the symptoms. Cps sees challenging behaviors as a product of lacking skills , a learning disability . Diagnoses don't tell much and rewards and punishments don't teach skills.

From blog for clinicians 5/23/2007 -' why diagnoses don't help much'.

'Back in the 50s, a prominent psychiatrist named Thomas Szasz characterized psychopathology as “problems in living.” How apt a description for kids being diagnosed with bipolar disorder! What are their problems in living? They lack the skills to handle frustration, regulate emotions, and solve problems adaptively. Can these skills be identified and taught? Indeed, they can. Can medication be helpful in setting the stage for such teaching? In some cases, yes. Does medication teach lacking thinking skills or solve problems? No, medication does not. Is diagnosing a child with pediatric bipolar disorder a necessary first step? In general, no. '

Many schools use FBA's Functional Behavior Assessments to see what is going on and how the behavior the child is choosing is working for them. CPS believes that the only message we can understand with certainty is that that the essential function of challenging behavior is to communicate to adults that a kid doesn’t possess the skills to handle certain challenges under certain conditions. – see policies and practice- FBA's

In certain circumstances rewards etc ' can make a kid look good ' but it does not teach skills and as Alfie Kohn says it does not make kids committed to the values you are teaching just motivated to get rewards. In fact there is research showing that rewards actually cause more anxiety and stress and trigger the inappropriate behavior the interventions are supposed to treat . Most consequences which are imposed are neither logical ( maybe to the teacher ) or natural. A natural consequence is like wasting time and missing the bus so you need to wait for the next bus. You will take the next bus and go on your journey , nobody is consequencing you. When the alternative to consequences is to problem solve and give a kid a vision for the future , consequencing a kid for sure is not logical or natural.

There is a place for rewards when it is ' self determined ' . Alfie Kohn's work is based a lot on Deci and Ryan. We need to choose goals and more important enjoy the process of getting there . We may find that the extrinsic motivation of the goal is not enough so we may decide we need something more. The kid's goal is to become proficient at piano playing, he enjoys playing , but he feels he needs some extra motivation. The point is the kid is the author of this , it is not someone trying to manipulate him.

Even when the doggie biscuit offered by the teacher is attractive , the effect is only short term and causes kids to lose interest in what they are doing and choose easy tasks.The way to go is to work through the checklists of missing skills and unsolved problems - see the CPS sites for the paper work , lacking skills pathways inventory ,
, start to prioritize problems and start working on the them collaborating rather than doing to your child. It is not a technique but a process and takes many CPS moments to acquire skills and trust the process. That is why I recommend chatting about general stuff , taking perspectives , noticing concerns and suggesting solutions.I recommend evaluations and labels just to get the accommodations and resources for your child. We have to show schools that children do well if they can and that a only a trusting relationship between teacher an kid can facilitate progress. The book ' lost at school ' and the links are good resources

I hope this helps

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Education:What children really need ?

Here is my response to a paper written by Dr Hannah David , an Israeli educationist.

She claims based on the writings of Charles Murray that a large proportion of kids don't have the innate capacity to graduate high school with a diploma. She suggests that graduation which will enable kids to receive higher education should be reserved for those that have ability.

The question that should be asked is whether kids are getting an education at all and are they becoming life- long learners and not how many get a piece of paper at the end of 12 years study. At least 90% of kids will never look at maths again after leaving school and that's includes those going to university.

Instead of quoting Charles Murray we should be reading Deborah Meier and Alfie Kohn. All kids deserve an education that gives them life skills, how to communicate , acquire critical and design thinking , and the values of responsible and caring people .

It is not about how much you know , but how you think and how much you care.

Below are quotes from Deborah Meier in a response to Charles Murray , and a quoe from Alfie Kohn 's article -' what it means to be well educated' .

Alfie Kohn has 2 books on education translated into hebrew.

Having read Deborah Meier and Alfie Kohn the question is not whether we should try and make all kids succeed in a school system and curriculum which does not teach thinking and values , at most kids learn some facts and skills, or should we be examining what kids really need ?

Deborah Meier

'What all kids need is an engaging, stimulating curriculum on one hand and engaged, stimulating adults on the other. Kids need to be keeping company with a lot of adults who have qualities kids of all races and classes admire and imagine they, too, could emulate. Interesting people with power. Keeping company with interesting peers and adults is half the battle, especially across lines of class, race, generation, status, and expertise. Then comes the hard part. Having unconditional respect for each other (as we learn to decide how much to trust each other). We need enough of the latter—trust—to feel that we are amongst people whose intent is probably trustworthy. What we can offer each other in the way of expertise is what time alone only can reveal.'

Charles Murray says that Educational romanticism consists of the belief that just about all children who are not doing well in school have the potential to do much better. Correlatively, educational romantics believe that the academic achievement of children is determined mainly by the opportunities they receive; that innate intellectual limits (if they exist at all) play a minor role; and that the current K-12 schools have huge room for improvement.

Deborah Meier
' Behind our claimed commitment to democracy is a leap of faith. It rests on a imagining a level of mutuality that we are unaccustomed to articulate much less practice, an acknowledgement of each other’s worthiness that we don’t often even pretend to. It asks of schools something we haven’t seriously considered. Hoover Institute’s Charles Murray calls it romanticism. But it’s a romance that has led us to hold dear to an equally fragile idea—democracy; it’s an idea sometimes hard to defend until one considers the alternatives. It’s the “romanticism” that led Rose to go back home to interview members of his family about their working lives, and Sennett to re-examine the place of craftsmanship in the ideal of democracy itself. '

From Alfie Kohn's article -

'The assessments in progressive schools are based on meaningful standards of excellence, standards that may collectively offer the best answer to our original question simply because to meet those criteria is as good a way as any to show that one is well-educated. The Met School focuses on social reasoning, empirical reasoning, quantitative reasoning, communication, and personal qualities (such as responsibility, capacity for leadership, and self-awareness). Meier has emphasized the importance of developing five “habits of mind”: the value of raising questions about evidence (“How do we know what we know?”), point of view (“Whose perspective does this represent?”), connections (“How is this related to that?”), supposition (“How might things have been otherwise?”), and relevance (“Why is this important?”). It’s not only the ability to raise and answer those questions that matters, though, but also the disposition to do so. For that matter, any set of intellectual objectives, any description of what it means to think deeply and critically, should be accompanied by a reference to one’s interest or intrinsic motivation to do such thinking. Dewey reminded us that the goal of education is more education. To be well-educated, then, is to have the desire as well as the means to make sure that learning never ends. '

Thursday, July 8, 2010

'Children do well if they can '

The underlying philosophy behind the Collaborative Problem solving approach - CPS is that ' children do well if they can' and not that ' children do well if they want to.'

Most people including kids would prefer to be successful and do well, be accepted and behave adaptively in various situations. So instead of asking ourselves how can I motivate this child to want to do well, we should ask ourselves what is getting in his way so I can help him to be successful.

CPS posits that the child may be lacking skills in the areas of frustration tolerance, flexibility and responding adaptively in situations that place high demands on those lacking skills. We can describe the maladaptive behavior as a learning disability and here our theme Parenting is Learning ' is crucial. It helps us to learn about our child's challenges and missing skills, seeing his world through his eyes and together in a collaborative way find mutually satisfying solutions to problems. The lacking skills include executive functions skills deficits, language processing skills, emotional regulation skills, social skills and cognitive flexibility. When we use CPS process we not only promote the acquiring of these cognitive life skills, but we foster attachment and connection , creating a trusting relationship which is vital for learning .

CPS is not a technique but a process where over time a child and in most cases a parent as well is acquiring skills, and learning to trust the process. Parents have been advised by therapists and books to ' choose their battles ' . They must learn to ignore minor issues , be very firm on the major stuff and impose their will. CPS calls imposing adult will Plan A ( adult ) and letting things go Plan C ( child's will ). Giving choices is also Plan A as the parent says ' Do it my way – this or that '. Plan C in the CPS plan is not completely ignoring the behavior , but rather putting some of our expectations on the shelf for the time being, thus helping us to prioritize which issues and problems need to be dealt with first. Plan C is important as it helps to reduce negative interactions and helps create a friendly and relaxed atmosphere so learning can take place. Parenting is not about battles and choosing them. Parenting is about learning , being the ' guide by the side ' , working with your child to meet each others' expectations, further goals and solve problems.

Plan B is what CPS is mainly about . This is where both child and adult concerns are brought to the table . Most parents and kids confuse this with negotiation. Negotiation is about putting ' solutions ' on the table and this leads to bartering and a dueling of solutions. Most people presents their concerns as solutions . Plan B is more about revealing concerns and perspectives , defining the problem and only then looking for a mutually satisfying solution. Imho the brilliance of the model is that it teaches kids and care givers to distinguish between ' concerns' and solutions' and thus facilitate collaborative problem solving. The process is ' solution' oreintated but we need to look at concerns first and this opens up the possibility of finding not only one , but various alternate solutions.

There are plenty of resources for both parents , teachers, clinicians and other care givers. I recommend 2 web sites thinkkids and Collaborative Problem Solving . There is plenty of information including video clips showing the Plan B in action and podcasts. If you decide to buy the CPS books - The explosive child - Ross Greene , Treating Explosive children- Greene and Ablon , and Lost at School - Ross Greene , please try and get the latest editions as the model is being continuously updated.

I hope to share more insights on the blog. I welcome feedback and questions . This is how parents learn.