Sunday, July 15, 2012

Collaborative problem solving - 3 year old hitting

A previous post dealt with seeing the difference between a kid's unmet concerns and the hitting which is symptomatic of lagging skills and at most a solution to an unknown concern.

Here is a practical question.

My son (3 years old) keeps hitting other kids, his cousins and us. We don't know what to do anymore. 

He asks for a toy and the other boy doesn't give it to him or the other boy plainly ignores him, he feels frustrated and hits. What exactly do we do?

 It seems that he is: a) impatient because he wants something (a toy, attention of the other kids) and he doesn't get it; or b) he can't respond verbally to a situation with another person (e.g. his cousin is older and has more verbal skills and teases him, or he just doesn't know how to express what he wants to say). 

What do we do from a CPS view point?

CPS sees challenging situations as a product of lagging skills, a developmental delay in the context of unmet concerns.  The CPS process helps kids acquire various cognitive skills and at  the  same time find a  durable solution that is mutually satisfactory.

Lagging skills are taught mainly out of the moment by solving problems collaboratively and in the moment using 'guided participation' to teach skills like perspective taking, planning , language and social skills etc talking about peoples' problems and dealing with life itself – for eg planning and preparing meals , daily schedules and their challenges and dilemmas. Check out the RDI – relationship development intervention and Myrna Shure's books  

We need to find time  'out of the moment', sometimes over a treat, outside of the home  where we can bond and connect with the child. We should try to get the kid to speak and we listen , sharing our perspectives ,  asking our kids opinion etc  This helps to set up a connection for a more emotive CPS conversation.

Here is what a CPS conversation would look like ?  

Remember to go slowly , pause – give the child time to think , reflect back  - we want the kid to speak and we listen. Conversation is in the listening . We must put aside our preconceived solution or theories of what is bothering the kid  and try to gather information from him.

We would have to have a CPS conversation with both the 3yo kid and the older kids . This could be done separately and maybe afterwards bringing the 2 kids together if one thinks it would be helpful

1 Empathy + information gathering stage

M: Neutral observation -  I have noticed when someone is playing with a toy , you want it and he does not want to give it to you , you get upset , what's up ?

K: I don't know

M: making tentative suggestions – kid can offer a yes or no answer ?  If the answer is yes , we can try to drill down for more information 
You want the toy and he does not want to give it to you ? 

K: yes

M: Can you tell me more ?  what toy or toys do you want to play with ? , are there some toys that you don't want to play with ?  which kid does not want to share with you ?, what does the boy say to you , what are you thinking when he does not want to give you the toy,  what would you like to say to the kid , are there times when kids share with you and there are no problems ? 
 tabling -  if we can find a solution to this problem …… , would everything be OK now , or would there be something else bothering you ?

Don't overload a kid with questions – only one at a time

M: define the problem  -  here you put your concerns on the table – your concerns go beyond hitting  -  I am worried that you are getting upset not being able to play with the toy you want , and  the other kid is getting angry when you try to take it from him and I want everybody to be  safe  - pause between each section , wait for a response  for e.g  agreement

M: Invitation step : I wonder if there is a way  that you can play with toys  and be happy and all the other kids also be happy , play with the toys and have fun ?  Do you have any ideas ?

Brainstorming solutions will depend on the information we have gathered
Is it a particular toy ? , is it his toy or the other boy's , is the problem with all kids or a particular kid , does he have a problem with what to say , ?

Generically – problems can be solved in 3 ways   -

 ask someone to help  - so when he feels he is getting upset or needs help , he should go and ask the caregiver  , of course there can be more supervision or have an older kid mentoring him

problem solve -  out of the moment – we can give him toys to play with alone , his special toys we can keep away  , give him a toy that one plays with together with some one

problem solve – in the moment   -
1 give him the specific negotiating language, give a little and take a little , describe situation and ask the kid what questions he can ask the other kid. You can role play afterwards.

Scenario:  Young kids are playing in a kindergarten.
 Boy 1 grabs the truck from   boy 2. Asking a question would be more appropriate.
Boy 1 – can I play with your truck ?     
 Boy 2  -  No
Boy 1 –why don't you want to let me play with your truck  ?
Boy 2 -Because I am scared you will break it , won't give it back when I want it , I        have nothing else to play with etc                                                                                 Boy 1 if I will ……  etc will you let me play with your truck ?

2  help him identify his bodily cues that he is getting upset  and then go and ask for help  or do some deep breathing to relax

M:  state the suggested solution and ask if he thinks there could be any problems in going through with it , Mom could say that it is unrealistic  and we need to rethink a solution

M: Once there is a solution , we should agree to come together and review how the solution is working out. In real life , the first  solution is rarely the durable solution 

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Positive parenting and CPS- collaborative problem solving

Parents who practice ' Positive parenting '  tend to focus on ' behaviors '  - hitting, biting etc and the direct  teaching of  replacement behaviors -  communication skills  etc  instead of focusing on problems and teaching skills indirectly through the collaborative problem solving process .

Parents who practice  ' Positive parenting '  have difficulty in implementing the Collaborative problem solving approach because they focus on the behaviors  -  hitting, biting, screaming or running in hallways etc . These behaviors are merely symptoms of lagging skills, and  unmet concerns . Treating these behaviors and replacing the hitting, biting and screaming with better communication or teaching a kid to walk and be safe in the hallway do  not  deal with the problem. 

We can only get a clear understanding of the problem once we have put the child's concerns alongside our concerns on the table.  It does not help parents guessing the child's concerns. Kids need to feel understood and participate in seeing  that their concerns are being put on the table so that they can be  addressed. So if a  child hits another child because he has taken his toy, there could be different concerns at work here.  This is a toy that the kid does not want to share with others, the kid is scared that it will be broken, the kid is not certain that the other kid will give it back when he needs it , this is the toy that the kid wants to play with now  etc.

  Teaching the kid communication skills  to replace hitting at most  means that the kid will now express his displeasure in words and not hit , but we have not helped him come up with a solution that will address his concerns  -see my tentative suggestions - and our concerns for pro-social behavior . Teaching a kid how to be safe in the hallway is unlikely to stop him running to the school canteen so that he can  make sure he gets his favorite  ' warm ' meal.  Teaching skills does not address concerns. When the canteen staff take up his suggestion to  keep  a warm meal for him until he comes , he will no longer  need to run.

Another area where positive parenting has difficulty with CPS is   the understanding   that the lagging skills are taught by working with the child through the CPS process.  There is a place in CPS to teach certain skills directly , but the focus is to teach the communication and all the other cognitive skills  such as executive functions, cognitive flexibility, emotional regulation skills and social skills in a dynamic way in the context of addressing concerns and  solving problems. 

CPS is not a technique , but rather a process whereby kids acquire cognitive and life skills . The idea is not only the result  which  counts but in a sense more important is the process that promotes kids' autonomy , competence and relationship.