Monday, May 30, 2011

Parenting Goals and chores

I am looking at ' chores' from a Self determination theory – SDT and Collaborative problem solving - CPS perspectives. Kids are more likely to identify with our goals and values with respect to chores or even find some of them ' intrinsically motivating '  if their needs for autonomy, competence and relatedness are supported and problems are solved in a collaborative way.

The first step is to examine our   Parenting Goals.

Before we try to engage our kids in helping around the home , we first need to ask ourselves -  what are my  primary and long term goals for my kids and how will my approach to chores impact on these goals.

 If not, and especially when it comes to chores  -

 ' We may be tempted to focus our energies on overcoming children’s resistance to our requests and getting them to do what we tell them. If we’re not careful, this can become our primary goal. We may find ourselves joining all those people around us who prize docility in children and value short-term obedience above all. I realized that this is what many people in our society seem to want most from children: not that they are caring or creative or curious, but simply that they are well behaved. A “good” child–from infancy to adolescence–is one who isn’t too much trouble to us grown-ups. '   -  Alfie Kohn

 If our goals are to build a trusting and caring relationship with our kids , helping them to become  intrinsically motivated ,autonomous, competent , responsible and caring people we need first to find another more successful word for helping around the home other  than ' chores'. 

When our goal is simply ' compliance ' , chores describes the reality in the home , an economic or contractual relationship between parents and kids , where kids are taught  - you need to give in order to get ,  kids are rewarded for doing chores , and  chores are tired to allowance money or privileges . No worthwhile attempt can be made to promote or enhance a commitment to the value of family, interdependence and group goals, supporting one another, how a clean, tidy and aesthetic home can contribute to the family and its members. When kids are threatened or bribed they are taught that they cannot be trusted to help or chores have no intrinsic value on their own.  Parents in fact have thus converted the ' social norm ' of making a contribution to the home into an economic norm , something which is valued only in monetary terms and changes a social relationship –  kindness and caring into a contractual relationship.  The kid  learns to ask ' what will I get if I do ……, what will be done to me if I don't   ….,  what's in it for me '? . Doing chores may become a habit done in a rote mechanical  way , something that kids would rather not do but are forced to do by parents or at best an internal compulsion  motivates them. Instead we want kids to reflect on how their actions impact on others, to reflect on the type of person they want to be and the values they want to live by. As parents we can pursue our expectations by ' working with kids', supporting their autonomy and solving problems in a collaborative way.


Monday, May 23, 2011

It is what it is - A show stopper

Kids can really end any discussion with show stoppers like - I don't care, I don't want to talk about it , it is what it is - this is who I am. Don't be caught off guard by these statements - just reset your GPS and try get an understanding of his concerns - why he doesn't care, does not wnat to talk about it or nees no point in talking about a problem.

I have talked about the factors that make getting good quality concerns of the kid on the table  a difficult task.  It could be we are trying to do plan b ' in the moment '  instead of proactive plan B , our opening statement presenting the problem is too vague , or not neutral enough , sounding more like Plan A , the kid thinks that plan B will end up as Plan A – plan B is Plan A in disguise - just another tactic. The kid could be lacking the language skills or in truth does not have the answers on the tip of his done as he has not given much thought to this in the past.

In discussions kids can be vague , generalize and not be specific about the details of a problem or the identities of other people involved – these or those people.

What is even more difficult is when kids use
 a show stopper , a cliché or phrase which seems to be putting an end to the conversation.

When I kid says I don't want to talk about it ,  we can shift the plan B discussion to why he does not want to talk about it , try to address his concerns and take it further.

Kids often answer   -  What ! I don’t do that , it is not true !  I don’t deal with such people.

We may need to first to reassure the kid that we are not talking about blame , we are not mad at them , we are fond of them , we just want their side of the story , their perspective so we can solve problems.

They may answer – 'It is what it is – this is what I do – this is who I am .'

It is a show stopper, they are saying there is nothing we can do about it , so why talk about it.  It won't get better so we don't need to talk about it.

The reason for this type of talk , could be as we said above in the beginning of this post , they don't have the answers , we have not talked about this before , they could be not very optimistic about the possible success of Plan B .

We need to challenge the truth of clichés and move away from them.

It is what it is – this is what I do – this is who I am.  – Well ,yes that is what it has been , the question is what is going on with it  and if there is something that we could do that we have not done before ?

This is who I am is the type of remark that a kid with a fixed mindset will say.  I remind kids that we are not smart or stupid but depending on how we apply ourselves and benefit from the guidance of others we can grow.  Actually people are dynamic beings , we never remain in the same place , we either can be moving forward or not so good backwards , we never remain in the same place.

Kids say – It is just too hard , I just don't want to do it !    and it seems that they have just ended the discussion.

We need to keep the conversation going and drill down further using the components of drilling down list .  We can choose the appropriate strategy from the list.

1 Asking the wh questions – who, what, why, with whom , over what , when , how

2 Conditions – under what conditions does the kid do well with this challenge and under what conditions does he struggle

3 Break the unsolved problem into the component parts.

4 What were you thinking in the midst of the problem.

5 Clarifying statements
How so , I am confused or don't understand , can you tell me more , what do you mean, can you say more,

here ae some  more detailed posts on 


Sunday, May 8, 2011

CPS - collaborating with young kids

The CPS model focuses on Collaboration. The first stage in the process is to gather information and  input from the child about his concerns or what is bothering him. Often kids have difficulty in communicating their concerns .We have to help them by being sensitive to the cues they offer and come up with tentative suggestions about possible concerns. Kids may have good understanding but cannot express their concerns. We can make a list of concerns  and let them choose from the list by answering yes or no.  The same can be done with solutions . We can also present a solution in pictures.

'It's never too early to begin applying the core ingredients of Collaborative Problem Solving (identifying a child's unsolved problems, gathering information on his/her concern or perspective on each unsolved problem, and collaborating on mutually satisfactory solutions).  So I don't find that chronological age is the primary issue...indeed, parents collaborate with infants all the time. Rather, it's lagging language-processing and communication skills that necessitate some adjustments

The collaboration process starts as soon as our kid , the infant is born.  The tough part about collaborating with infants (and kids with lagging language processing and communication skills) is that they aren't communicating in words, which is how adults prefer to communicate.  But they are communicating:  crying, grunting, growling, screaming, smiling, and so forth.  The challenge for adults is to figure out what infants (and other kids who are having trouble "using their words") are communicating by paying very close attention to the specific conditions in which the crying, grunting, growling, and screaming is occurring...and then to apply solutions for the purpose of addressing the apparent concerns, paying attention all the while to the feedback the child is giving so as to determine whether or not the solution is getting the job done. '     Ross Greene

Monday, May 2, 2011

Assertiveness , Persistence to do Plan B - CPS

There may be various reasons why a kid is not willing to engage in Plan b – collaborative problem solving.   But we can still put a lot of effort on having plenty of one on one conversations and dialog on general non- emotive subjects focusing on perspective taking, identifying concerns, consequential thinking , brain storming mutually satisfying solutions.

If we have decided that there is nothing in the list below getting in the way of the child engaging in problem solving, we may need to be more assertive and persistent in sitting down around the table and starting to talk and work through problems.

Sometimes one can wait for the kid to come to you and ask for a favour or some request. ' I am happy to do my best and help you , our relationship is important to me , before I get moving I want a short chat with you to hear your perspective about the problem we are having.  Kids tend to agree to start the conversation.

Letter writing also helps.  A kid can read it in his own time , internalize what has been written and work out a response in his own time without any pressure.

Family meetings , where the focus is on hearing everyone's perspectives , rather than blaming others can encourage kids to participate in CPS.

Generally kids will talk if you have been having fun with them, and there is plenty of chatting and perspective taking.

The approach of ' the world stops until we speak '  may work if the kid sees the move more as an expression of the urgency of the matter rather than trying to pressure him to speak.

Factors which may be getting in the way of participating in Plan B

*He may not have the language or language skills to engage in problem solving.

We can ask yes/no questions and proceed from there
Or  make a list of tentative /possible concerns and ask him to choose from the list a concern.

*We may be trying to do plan b ' in the moment ' and emotions and emotional baggage is getting in the way.

We need to remember to do plan B – out of the moment , maybe over a treat , out of the home . First create an atmosphere where you both feel good about each other and are sharing perspectives and agreeing about certain things -  general non-emotive stuff .

*The kid may be taken by surprise when we approach him to talk about a problem.

Sometimes agreeing ahead of time to discuss an issue will help him transition into the process.

*Our invitation step may be too vague so the kid may have difficulty in figuring out what we want from him.

 Use wh questions , break the problem down into parts etc

*The kid does not trust the process, sees plan B as plan A in the guise of Plan B.

Go slow with focusing on his concerns. Instead of stating a concern in a negative way , maybe for example  ask – what would you like to do when I am reading to your brother ? instead of ' I have noticed that you play with the lights while I am trying to read to your brother ,  focus on the positive.  When we go slow and focus on the kid's concerns, just getting his input and perspective, the kid does not feel we are trying to impose a solution.

Use ' I am not saying No ', I am not going to force you to do something which you don't want to do '  - I just want to understand you side of the story , your perspective , your concerns.

*Avoiding talking is a poor coping skill. It maintains the  status quo and the kid has not committed himself to anything.

We need lots of discussion on non-emotive issues, taking perspectives and identifying concerns of other people, animals etc , general chatting we using dialog questions to promote conversation so the kid does the speaking and we the listening.

We can then ask the kid – why he finds it easier to talk about certain issues and does not like to talk about this issue.

Maybe a third party could help facilitate discussion.