Monday, August 27, 2012

Parents Do Matter - They are the primary therapists for children

Parents Do  Matter -  

This reminds me of what Alice Miller said about parental love for kids, love is important ,but more important is ' how they love their kids'  - conditionally , love them more , shower praise and get excited when they perform well using ' love ' as a reinforcer. Or when kids screw up use love withdrawal, timeouts and emotional expressions of disapproval and disappointment, telling kids you love them but not their actions – kids, in fact nobody can separate the two. The alternative is that you can love your kids unconditionally for who they are without strings attached, try to see their world through their eyes, collaboratively solve problems and offer neutral feedback and encouragement.

Traditional behaviorist parenting books say that Parents matter too. Challenging kids are described as attention-seeking, manipulative, coercive, unmotivated, and limit-testing. They are the products of permissive, passive, inconsistent, non-contingent discipline.

 Challenging behavior is treated with medication, skills are taught in a top-down, drill 'n skill way using rewards by (ABA) therapists and the symptoms are treated with a behavior plan. Parents need to be firm, consistent, contingent, warm and loving parents whose focus is compliance reinforcing good behavior and not rewarding bad behavior.  

These parents are spending lots of money on therapy and remedial education etc , instead of seeing themselves and the  home as the primary resources for teaching  skills in a dynamic way, in the natural environment, nurturing the parent child-relationship and the fostering the autonomy of the child. 

The focus on compliance and motivation at best may help the kid look good as long as the ' reinforcers' are in place, but the rewards and consequences – Plan A etc more often than not  just create more tension, conflict and problems.

The neuro-scientist Dan Siegel explains that kid's brains grow in a nurturing positive environment. Pathways in the brain are created when kids are happy, thinking, reflecting, communicating and solving problems in a collaborative way with their parents and care givers. 

Hearing No and other stressful words from parents in fact destroys pathways. For sure there are times we say No, but when the No is accompanied by a reason and an alternative plan, the thinking becomes exploratory and positive.  When focused on a reward, the brain switches off those areas   associated with voluntary or self-initiated activities.

Parents matter when they promote their children's autonomy, competence and relatedness needs. When the focus is on collaboration and not compliance we promote thinking.

CPS, the Collaborative problem solving approach and RDI – Relationship development approach use guided participation to solve problems and engage in informal learning that the home environment provides.

These approaches are not easy and messy, but there is learning taking place all along the way. Education is a process, CPS and RDI are working with, not doing to processes, and they are not techniques.

'Doing to' kids using reinforcements is easier than CPS or RDI and they can make a kid look good. CPS and RDI is hard work.

Dr Rachel Sheeley, a RDI expert encourages parents -

'One characteristic of autism is that the young child does not bring enough to the table and this disrupts the guiding relationship. Imagine attempting an interaction without a reliable feedback loop and embed these in hourly occurrences that stretch out over days and you get a feel for the reasons parents find themselves questioning their competence as guides; why they fall back on teaching skills without functions, becoming expert entertainers.'

In the same way it is so easy for parents to fall back on Plan A= compliance and doing to with rewards and punishments.

Parents do matter – they can make things much better or worse

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