Monday, January 30, 2012

Goldie Hawn - Parenting and mindfulness

The film actress and ' Celeb'   Goldie Hawn has written a parenting book – 

 Most parenting books focus on parents' needs – how to get back control,   how to get your child to do what you want without you ever asking them , how to set limits and boundaries, 6 easy steps to deal with defiance etc.

Very few books help parents meet the developmental needs of kids – how to help them become more empathic , have more self control and be able to set their own limits and boundaries , regulate their emotions, articulate their concerns, take perspectives , be mindful of what you are doing and aware of others etc

Mindfulness helps kids reduce stress levels and  anxiety. They learn to calm themselves  down by connecting to their inner selves and can also  ' soothe ' themselves to sleep so that they get quality sleep. The traditional approach to kids with ADHD is to give them medication. The obvious question is – why not simply teach kids how to pay attention , focus and be aware. They then become more intrinsically motivated by being more focused on the present , on the process rather than just on the end product. They become more attentive to others, more empathic and compassionate.

Goldie Hawn also teaches kids to be aware how their brain works and be aware of their thinking – what part of the brain is driving the thinking – the prefrontal cortex or the amygdala.   -  Mindfulness for children   - mindfulness for children you tube 

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Collaborative problem solving - Drilling down by ' tabling'

One of the biggest challenges of collaborative problem solving – Plan B is to gather information from the child so we have a clear picture of his concerns. Kids have difficulty in articulating their concerns. Often they don't know, have not given it much thought or don't have the words to express their concerns. We need to use probing questions and drill down to their concerns. Kids have usually more than one concern and their major concerns usually surface well into the conversation.

Sales people -  not those who try to pressure one into buying something - do the same thing. Selling by attraction, means that the sales person helps the customer identify his needs and concerns and then shows how the product can meet those needs and concerns. Along the way , there are usually  'objections' such as price. The way to deal with ' objections ' is called tabling. You take the objection – the price is too high and ask '  if we found a solution that made the price acceptable to you, not a problem , would you be comfortable in buying the product ?  If the answer is No , we carry on drilling down for concerns.

Here is a great example of tabling used by a school psychologist Dr Rebecca Branstetter to drill down concerns of a student.

I have totally changed the way I consult about and frame discussions about kids with challenging behaviors. I have changed the way I interact with students. Here’s just one example of a technique that I got from the conference, called “tabling.” It is used in the Plan B “Empathy” step, to really try to understand the student’s perspective of the unsolved problem. In the case of my student, it was a middle school girl who refused to write during journal time. We had set up a behavior plan in which she got points for doing the journal and the points were tallied and sent home to parents, etc etc, and there was no change in her behavior. After the conference and my new framework for understanding the problem, I  interviewed her.

Me: I notice that during journal time, you are not writing.
What’s up? I’m not mad, I’m just noticing this. 

Girl: I don't know

Me: Hm. What do you think is the reason if you had to guess?

Girl: I don't have pencils.

Me: Great! So lets say your teacher went to Office Depot and got you tons of pencils. Then would you write during journal time?

[note: here is the “tabling” part—you table their first reason, because its usually not the only thing going on] 

Girl: No. 

Me: What else is getting in your way of writing? 

Girl: It’s too noisy because my friends distract me. 

Me: Okay, what else is keeping you from writing? 

Girl: I don’t like it [okay, this went on and on for about 10 minutes, and we tabled other ideas too, like she doesn’t like writing fiction, she doesn’t have paper, the room is too hot…and so on and so on. We finally got to the “aha!” moment at the end] 

Me: Okay, so lets say you had pencils and paper, all your friends have the flu, you get to write non-fiction, and the room is 68 degrees, then would you write at journal time? 

Girl: No, because the teacher has us read what we wrote out loud and my heart starts to beat fast and I think everyone is looking at me and that they all are thinking I’m a bad writer. 

AHA. So if we had continued down our current theory that she had a lack of motivation, she would have likely continued to balk at writing, because it wasn’t a motivation issue at all. It was a performance anxiety issue, and the lagging skill was her actual writing skills, or she wasn’t confident in her writing skills, or she was not able to regulate her anxiety about presenting her work. This changes the intervention, right? We teach writing skills and coping skills for anxiety. 

The intervention would be find a mutually satisfying solution that would address both the teacher and kid's concerns and also giving her more resources so to improve her writing skills and deal with anxiety.

What would have happened if behavior plan would have worked and the kid despite her anxiety and lack of confidence managed to pull herself together and write during journal time.?

We are still left with an unsolved problem. The unsolved problem is the anxiety and lack of confidence. The unsolved problem is not the ' behavior '.  Plan A  or behavioral plans deal with behavior with rewards,praise, consequences  , hijack the problem , but don't deal with the underlying problem. 

We also have not solved the motivational problem. As educators , we should be trying to help kids be intrinsically motivated and enjoy ' journal writing '.  Extrinsic motivators may get short –term behavior but undermine intrinsic motivation in the long term with kids losing interest in what they are doing.

According to the Self Determination theory of motivation -  when kids needs for autonomy , competence and relatedness are being addressed and met , the stage is set for kids becoming more intrinsically motivated.

Collaborative problem solving addresses the problems- not behaviors- that are getting in the way of kids in a supportive way  -  and thereby addressing the motivational issue.

 We need to remember    - Even if the motivators get rid of the behavior and the student manages to pull himself together and perform , it is usually despite an existing problem. The problem or unmet concerns are still not being met. This of course has a negative impact on intrinsic motivation. Not only because extrinsic motivators undermine intrinsic motivation,  but also underlying problems are not being solved

check the archives for posts on drilling down 

Monday, January 16, 2012

In the Bathroom - brushing teeth - cleaning up your mess

When it comes to dental care I think even adults who are more likely to  value the importance of dental hygiene don't do too well - maybe brush teeth once a day, no flossing, not making appointments –dentists, cleanings  etc

It is about missing skills, competence, transitioning from an activity in order to brush teeth, keeping a routine

When I drill down for concerns , I ask , if the concern stated would be addressed by …  or if the problem did not exist - do you feel that brushing your teeth everyday would no longer be a problem  If still a problem , we have a new concern on the table. If the solutions are not working – we can do Plan B on the problem -  brushing your teeth is not important for you , what's up ?  can you tell me more ?

- when I remind you etc to go and brush your teeth , you say – not now , in a few moments etc and then you don't get  around to brushing your teeth what's up ?  If a kid says he doesn't want to talk about it , a Plan B conversation will be -  I have noticed when I want to talk to you about brushing teeth , you don't want to talk about it , what's up ?

It also helps if the issue of brushing teeth is initiated or confronted by the kid's dentist if possible using cps. Lots of thought is needed to help a kid become competent -  maybe  doing things together, poster reminders etc .

When kids learn about dental hygiene in depth and learn to identify with the value of brushing and more committed to prevention, and also learn methods to help them stick to a routine and brush well = competence and feel supported in their efforts the tooth brushing no longer remains the parent's concern

We can also try to give brushing an association of fun , something that holds true for all activities in the home.

I am not an advocate of using rewards or extrinsic motivation to get a kid to brush teeth , as it only works for the short term.  But we reframe things and ask the kid if he needed some type of motivators to help him meet his goal of brushing his teeth. Here the reward is self determined and used to help the kid meet his goal , rather than the parent bribing the kid.

When it comes to not leaving the bathroom in a mess , I have different thoughts. Some kids are messy, part of their personalities, usually we see a change when they mature , later teenage years. The home is my responsibility, I want it clean , and it is less trouble and quicker to clean up myself .

The other approach –in addition to cps like my suggestions on teeth brushing is to learn about the subject of running and keeping a house organized , getting rid of clutter, using signs , posters, explain the procedures of how to organize a room , how to go about tidying up , throwing out things.

Friday, January 6, 2012

The social Navigator and Collaborative problem solving

The social navigator is a gadget designed by a special needs mom and professional  Lorraine Millan to help kids develop the many lagging cognitive skills and solve problems in a flexible and adaptive way. 

The underlying philosophy behind the social navigator fits in well with  The Collaborative problem solving approach  - 'Children do well if they can '  and not' Children do well if they want to '. This means problems need to be solved not by using consequences, rewards and punishments, but in a way that teaches the lagging skills and addresses the child's concerns in the context of problems.

Traditional top-down strategies of teaching kids problem solving and social skills fail to help kids generalize their skills to real life situations. Kids' concerns, the key to problem solving are ignored. The social navigator focuses on the kid's concerns – helps kids to identify concerns and articulate them.

The social navigator – from the S.N web page  -

 The Social Navigator  Reduces Reflexive Negativity and Agitation

So many children with social and emotional issues have been corrected so many times, that they become highly reactive to any redirection.

It could be that ' correction' ,  and problem solving is being done ' in the moment '  when kids are already frustrated and agitated , so  correction makes things worse . 

When a kid uses the gadget his ' autonomy ' is being respected since there is not another person telling him what to do.

CPS – collaborative problem solving can be a little negative for kids in the beginning as no one likes to reminded that they have problems  ,the connation  being  'you are a  the problem'. 

Once kids begin to trust the process, see their interests being served, their problems solved, and relationships improved -  CPS loses this negativity. Kids should be taught that ' mistakes are our friends ' and problems are windows of opportunity.

There is a downside or a challenge to using the Social navigator. Parents and teachers and other care givers should be using them if they don't have CPS skills. The gadget cannot replace the role of the adults in CPS and their contribution to interactions with kids. Relationships are also reciprocal and dependent on compatibility. CPS is not so much finding your solution, but finding solutions that are mutually satisfactory. A gadget seems more valuable when solving a problem on your own. A parent or teacher acting as surrogate frontal lobe can do a better job that a gadget in directing a kid's thinking. We want parents to improve their CPS skills , responsiveness and compatibility with their kids.

The other challenge is that we want the kid in time to get a thrill in solving problems without the gadget and use it less and less.

Read about the social navigator below and see CPS approach behind the gadget.