Thursday, April 14, 2011

I don't know - Drilling down for concerns 2

I have previously discussed the importance of  drilling down with questions to get accurate and good quality concerns on the table

The quality of our solutions using the collaborative problem solving ' Plan B ' will depend on the quality of the kid's concerns we manage to put on the table. This will depend on how clear  ( not vague )  the empathy step is. If the empathy step is too vague or contains too much information that needs to be processed kids will answer ' I don't know'.

Kids may answer ' I don't know '  because they don't trust the  process and see plan B as Plan A in the guise of plan B or that Plan A is around the corner , something which they have come to expect.

We need to drill down with questions to get really good quality concerns.

1  We can ask the the wh – questions  to learn more about the situational factors   -  what,  where, with whom, over what , why , how  

2 asking yes/no questions and then taking the answers further

3  Different conditions and situations -   under certain conditions the kid does not have a problem, while under others he has difficulty

4   what was the kid thinking during the problem ?   this helps to get their view and perspective on the table. Asking about feelings - how did you feel  etc does not contribute directly to gathering information about concerns.

5  Breaking down the problem situation into different parts or components

6   Using clarifying statements to help the kid do more talking and so give more input
-            Can you tell me more -  I don't understand or I am a bit confused can you explain, how so ,  - there could be more than one concern –so if we can deal with your concern = need a quiet place for homework , would homework then be no longer a problem ?  so the kid may come up with another concern . We would need to prioritize concerns when working on a solution.

7 Making tentative suggestions  - when a kid shuts down or has difficulty identifying or expressing his concerns , we can have in mind 5-6 tentative suggestions of what his concerns might be and express them in a tentative way

  • questions that focus on the who, what, where and when about the conditions of the unsolved problem
  • differentiate between why the problem occurs under some circumstances and not others
  • breaking down the problem into its components. For example, if it looks like the child has problems during English class, ask questions to clarify which part of English class is problematic (reading, writing, group work, individual work) If it's reading, then ask questions that clarify what part of reading (out loud, silent)
  • reflective listening and clarifying statements: "How so?" "I don't understand" "I'm confused" "Can you say more about that?" "What's hard about that?"
  • asking the child what s/he's thinking in the midst of the unsolved problem
  • summarizing what's been learned so far
  • "tabling" some concerns so as to permit considerations of others. "What if the floor wasn't dirty, could you then sit on the floor with the class?" "If we removed Elijah from group, would that solve the problem?" "Would that make it easier for you?"

We may need to have a Plan B discussion about why a kid is answering all the time '  I don't know '. Instead of trying to clarify concerns about a particular problem, we would focus why the kid has difficulty in answering problems.

Plan B is not a technique but a process . When we engage in Plan B , every step on the way , we and the kid are involved in learning.  It takes lots of Plan B experiences for both parent and kid to get good at Plan b and come to trust the process. General chatting and perspective taking can also help with the learning.          

Thursday, April 7, 2011

The Best Kind of Different - Questions for Shonda Schilling

Shonda  Schilling , the wife of a famous baseball player has written a book about parenting their r son Grant , the discovery that he has asperger's syndrome and their journey with the syndrome. Asperger kids are on the  autistic spectrum. They  are high functioning but  lacking social skills.

I have listened to a you tube interview with Shonda Schilling and now I have some questions for her.

If your son already had a diagnosis of ADHD  ,why only after the aspergers dx did you view him as being different and needed a different type of discipline? ( A  good proportion of ADHD kids have   difficulties with social skills.)

You have guilt feelings for yelling and trying to discipline him when he did not have the skills to respond to your discipline. When ALL kids don't meet our expectations or screw up , should we not respond in a respectful way , try to see things through their eyes , and  '  work with them '  in a collaborative way to try and solve problems rather than using threats of consequences , bribing them with rewards to get compliance ?  Why should only being different demand a respectful response ?

The problem imho was that Shonda Schilling got ' bad advice'. Instead of viewing her ADHD kid as   ' kids do well if they can ' , Shonda , I assume based on the ADHD parenting books out there , was told that ADHD  lack intrinsic motivation ( Barkley)- 'kids do well if they want to '. We   need in addition to medication manage their behavior with rewards and punishments = time out  using token economy systems. ADHD kids need to be managed more and need more  discipline. 

Instead of viewing kids through the lenses of lacking skills and unsolved problems , her child was labelled , pathologised , given medication and the symptons  of his ADHD were  treated with behavior modification.  If Shonda Schilling would have been exposed to the Collaborative problem solving approach , she would have gone through the inventory of lacking cognitive skills - the path ways to challenging behavior , made a list of unsolved problems  and then began a journey of teaching lacking skills in the context of unsolved problems.

What would have happened if her son would have got a Bipolar dx ?  Grant  would have been given more medication and the same behavior modification to treat the symptoms.

Medication seems to help ADHD kids reduce negative social behaviors that are based on ADHD symptoms , but medicine does not teach skills.  

The traditional approach to social skills training is mainly direct instruction and role play. I am pretty certain that Grant  is receiving social skills training. 

In addition he may be getting reinforcements in the form of rewards and verbal praise. In an interview Shonda says that dog trainers are the best parents because they give a lot of praise and unconditional love.  Now rewards and praise = verbal rewards don't treat problems , they are not pro-active , they are supposed to reward and reinforce good behavior by' catch 'em when they are good ' .  They in fact don't reinforce good behavior  but undermine intrinsic motivation and for some kids cause more stress. Treating kids like pets  - giving them doggie biscuits and verbal praise is not unconditional love . These  rewards are contingent on finding something good about the kid or dog even if you make the point of being pretty' large' and dish out tons of praise and doggie biscuits.

Grant is not yet a teenager , so their  journey has a long way to go.  As parents we all are WIP , work –in-progress. I commend Shonda for writing her book. I would like to see the next book where  Shonda advocate for all kids , especially the challenging ones  including ADHD kids . The way to go is to be exposed to names like Ross Greene, Stuart Ablon and Alfie Kohn ,  learn about CPS , collaborative problem solving and unconditional parenting . 

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Structure - a tool of control or freedom and autonomy

Structure can be used as a tool of control or support the autonomy of kids or people , thereby letting them experience true freedom.

Baumrind describes 3 parenting styles  - authoritarian, authoritative, and permissive , none of them consistent with SDT – Self determination theory or ' working with the child'  approaches .

She recommends an authoritative parenting style and holds that "structure" in the family requires the use of extrinsic motivators and "contingent reinforcement," which she strongly supports.

'There is an  important distinction between control and structure.  Again, the people who tend to conflate those two are often either authoritarian types who claim they are giving kids structure but are really controlling the hell out of them, or extreme freedom folks who also assume the two are the same and therefore if we don’t want to control kids we must provide no structure either.  The third alternative, more consistent with the progressive education tradition of Dewey and Piaget and Bruner, suggests that in many respects, kids, especially little kids and especially kids of a certain personality and disposition, do thrive best within certain forms of structure – though not with control '      Alfie Kohn

Most people can relate how 'structure'  can support the need for competence in kids. When structure is created together with kids and not by teachers alone, they are presented in a non-controlling , respectful way as guidelines with a rationale and purpose  behind them , they are developmentally appropriate  and attempt is made to make them as less restrictive as possible , structure helps support the autonomy .

The existence of structure , limits and boundaries can be a condition for a kid to experience autonomy assuming that the kid does not experience  them as being controlling. The same goes for adults who adopt certain limits or boundaries in their lives whether out of a religious calling or commitment to certain values. They may have limited choice , but their choice to adopt limits and boundaries lets them focus less on ' quantity '  but more on quality and enables them to experience true freedom and autonomy.
A parent who provides healthy food and snacks can allow her child the freedom to eat as they choose. In other homes , kids are forced to eat their meals in order to get desert and this external control is a potential cause of obesity as kids lose their intuitive feel to stop eating when they are full and satisfied and eat only when they are hungry.

Here is an excerpt from a  Naomi Aldort interview -  Natural Life magazine – Ask Naomi , Freedom is not license  AS Neill  where she explains how limiting choice supports the autonomy and true freedom of kids . It is like providing him a safe environment , a park where he can play. Join the child’s exploration and follow his lead but don’t follow him into the “jungle.” He counts on your leadership. Take him to the safe park and then you can follow his path in that safe place. You are the leader who can see the distant view, which is not available to the child.
 Naomi Aldort - Structure , freedom and autonomy
Structure  and autonomy support are important in the school setting helping kids become self regulated life long learners .

Naomi Aldort - Structure is the way to freedom and autonomy

Here is an excerpt from a  Naomi Aldort interview -  Natural Life magazine – Ask Naomi , Freedom is not license  AS Neill  where she explains how limiting choice supports the autonomy and true freedom of kids .

Freedom is the ability to be oneself and source oneself from the inside with whatever is or is not available.

 Limitations are a powerful part of life that an autonomous child learns to use well. In the formative years, passive external stimulations hinder a child’s freedom to be herself because they become part of what shapes her choices. For example, choosing sugar is shaped by the addictive nature of sugar; it is not a free choice. When free to choose, the child knows what he needs. However, a child who “needs” candy or a movie is not free; the experience of candy or TV has created the illusion of a need. That which chooses is manipulated by the choice. The industry does a great job of manufacturing a sense of need.

The fact that learning is constant and unknown to us is an argument against media and junk food, rather than for it; it is the reason we want to protect what the child is exposed to until his unique direction emerges from within and he is strong enough to stay rooted in himself.

This is a question of timing. You wouldn’t let your child jump into deep water before he knows to swim. You would provide a life jacket and your constant presence. Likewise, when entering the “ocean” of the commercial world and society, children need “life jackets” until they master the ability to distinguish between what is valuable to them, and what is a seduction with long-term ramifications. They need us to provide the tools and the environment that protects their inner freedom.
In addition, children are capable of making wise choices when they can witness the results of their actions right away. But they have adult parents to guide and protect them from anything that has a long term harmful impact that they cannot foresee.

Naomi Aldort's son  Lennon speaking about himself says “I was always free to do whatever I wanted, and never pressured to fit into any group or social norm. Because of this, I never needed external approval of what I thought or did; I was self-directed. I learned to trust myself and to let my own intuition direct me and not the voices of peers or society”
Considering that my sons did not have free access to media or processed food, the words, “I was always free to do whatever I wanted” are very illuminating. It is not license that children need, but freedom.

 Much TV and junk toys and foods can be the cause of the child’s loss of freedom. I kept our home stocked with only healthy food and natural tools of art, play, and learning, and I stirred our family social connections with awareness. As a result, my children were free to do as they wished and didn’t experience restrictions. Oliver, our youngest, has recently reflected on his childhood, saying those were the most happy years he can ever imagine. He said he recalls getting up each morning and feeling overjoyed with anticipation for the day.

 In reality, many things have more power than a child (or an adult). And, despite parental anxieties, the child is powerful enough to face this truth. There is power in recognizing limitations. An ocean wave, a car, the wind, temptations, anger, tears and yes, media and foods, are just a few examples the child may feel humbled by. The child does have the power to face her own weaknesses and to stay away from things – initially with your guidance and, later, on her own.
We can avoid controlling by not exposing in the first place and by providing clear and kind leadership. Children yearn for parental guidance and are powerful enough to not always get their way.
None of us can do whatever we wish, yet we can be happy, powerful, and free in a world full of opportunities operating within boundaries..
I have raised my children without sugar and junk food, without TV, and with a limited amount of toys. I exposed them a lot to the arts, nature, and philosophy. In their late teens, two of our sons tried junk food for a while and came to value healthy eating and lifestyle even more. The youngest is not interested in junk food even when away from home.
After a childhood of organic, healthy food, they internalized a sense of self-care that was not shakable by peers and the industry. Same with TV. We have watched some videos of the arts and good film. When lodging away from home, we used to turn on the TV. The children would get bored after a while, having more interesting things to do or to talk about. TV has never become an attraction in their teen and adult lives.
Reality and society present many boundaries. Yet it need not take your son’s joy or freedom away. Much of modern life is not fit for a child. You will protect him from alcohol, coffee, sugar, gambling, guns, violence, commercial seductions, streets, drugs, ocean waves, crime, certain areas of the city, etc. You will also insist on him wearing a seat-belt in a car, a helmet on a bike, and other restrictions for his protection, or to accommodate laws or the needs of others. Your own life isn’t without things being off limits either and you are fine. Your son can handle reality and is counting on your management.
Limits are opportunities. Gravity limits us, yet it makes life possible. Children discover this magic when we let them experience it; when we don’t offer a life of illusions. Create an environment that provides plenty to enjoy and explore that is not polluting the body or mind. When happy with what is, a child does not search for what isn’t.
It is important not to live in fear of providing a context within which the child can be self-reliant. Happiness and self-reliance have nothing to do with the child getting whatever she wants and everything to do with freedom from commercial manipulation. There is no growing up without influences; it is up to parents to guide which these would be.

Provide your child a safe environment , set the boundaries and limits which are age appropriate , then join the child’s exploration and follow his lead but don’t follow him into the “jungle.” He counts on your leadership. Take him to the safe park and then you can follow his path in that safe place. You are the leader who can see the distant view, which is not available to the child.