Sunday, October 21, 2012

Approaching teachers with CPS

'My son finally transitioned from self contained classroom to regular inclusive classrooms, This occurred last year, when he started high school. But this year he is having a difficult time with the teachers. His remarks are offending them that he is sent out of the classroom and doesn't have to do the work.

 He also has had a lot of change in his life. His father found someone at his work and asked for a divorce. The divorce became final a year and a half. Before that I moved him into an apartment and his older brother stayed with their father. Six months after the divorce was finalized his dad married the girlfriend and her two children moved in part time. He also has had to deal with my breast cancer diagnosis and my being laid off my job.

He does well when working with his in home therapists and when working with teachers one on one. His teachers either like him and can see that he has a lot to offer or they can't see past the outbursts and can't wait to get rid of him. These are the special ed teachers that he is upsetting. I don't know what to do about the behavior. Since I don't want him going back to the self contained classroom.'

I agree that our goal should be to have a kid in a regular classroom  ,  but we have to ask where are kids needs being addressed the best. 

 The new challenges for him at home due to your divorce and other problems are something that the school can't work on to help your child at school. In the home , you can try and put your relationship with him first , promote his competence and foster autonomy, try and connect him with positive young adults or older teenagers who can ' mentor ' or be a friend of his. You can also use CPS to solve problems in the home and focus on perspective taking, identifying   people's concerns , seeking mutually satisfying solutions – in a word – help your son understand that ' living ' is all about ' relationship' . We need to develop in kids an awareness of relationships – parent- child, family, friends, class mates, teacher- student .

At school -  I would try to build a cooperative relationship with his teachers by doing CPS with them  by taking into account their concerns as well. We first want to help them wear the lenses -  children do well if they can -  your kid is lacking essential skills in the areas of frustration tolerance, flexibility and adaptability. Share with them a list of lagging skills – see the CPS sites – and then ask them to identify the conditions your kid is displaying his skill deficits , in other words -  unsolved problems.

Your kid's offensive responses and remarks are not the unsolved problems. They are behaviors . They are merely the symptoms of lagging skills in the context of  unsolved problems. Trying to give him ' replacement behaviors '  in the form of more appropriate language is unlikely to help him as the underlying problem is not being addressed. The lagging skills will be addressed indirectly by the CPS process itself. The process is so important as it uses and promotes so many cognitive skills.

The question whether he can control himself is irrelevant because the problem will be solved only we have a good idea what his concerns are about , and we need his input.  Extrinsic motivation , certainly removing him from the classroom and even trying positive behavioral supports like rewards or praise is not going to solve problems or teach skills.

Any approach must address the kid's need for autonomy – getting his input, his concerns and his ideas on a mutually satisfying solution , competence – life and problem solving skills and relatedness -  a sense of belonging and support
I also recommend a peer mentor , buddy-tutor and older brothers.

You can share with your school the various CPS books especially ' Lost at school '-  and the CPS sites  - , there is also a radio talk  blog program for educators  , ,   , and this blog 

Monday, October 15, 2012

Secrets of Discipline - Ronald Morrish - a CPS/SDT perspective

I tend to judge parenting/teaching books that focus on behavior through the eyes of Ross Greene's CPS – collaborative problem solving approach and the  Self Determination theory. 'The secrets of discipline for parents and teachers' by Ronald Morrish seems promising  by teaching lagging skills and avoiding rewards and punishment , but  Morrish's book about discipline is just a more sophisticated version of imposing your will and getting compliance by ' doing to kids '.

Moorish suggests 3 important building blocks to sound discipline – Train compliance, teach skills, and manage choices.

He talks about ' training compliance ' so kids out of habit comply with adult directions, rules and limits. This is done by using your parental presence and authority, insisting and persisting, direct instructions and supervision to get compliance, forcing do-overs and if that does not work punishment or consequences.

Behavior management is done by managing the choices of kids. Most parenting books say if you want compliance – give choices. This is still plan A – imposing adult will. Do what I say - A, B, or C.

Children are encouraged to reflect on the outcomes of their actions, whether they were appropriate and successful. Now a successful outcome won't be measured by the reward or consequence given for the kid's compliance or not as Moorish does not recommend rewards and punishment but rather the reward or punishment is more subtle , in the form of parental approval, displeasure or disappointment. As he recommends parents to ask the misbehaving kid – would you have made the same decision if I had been standing next to you? Then why do you need me to stand next to you ? You should be doing what I want without me asking you.

Parents can also disguise punishment in the form of natural consequences. Where a kid has been lying or stealing etc or acted inappropriately , the parent can limit the kid's freedom by saying he cannot be trusted or not responsible enough. According to Moorish and many others being responsible is a kid knowing how to follow instructions and comply.

Skills are taught in a top-down manner again in order to get compliance.

The Self Determination theory says that when the 3 basic needs of kids – autonomy, competence and relatedness are met, kids become self determined, intrinsically motivated and internalize values and their behavior becomes meaningful rather than one of habit. They tend to ask what type of person do I want to be, does this reflect my values.

By focusing on compliance Moorish ignores fostering the kid's autonomy. When limits are set together with parents and problems are solved in a collaborative way kids internalize limits and with the help of parental guidelines rather than rules, kids actually learn to create limits themselves.

Kids show responsibility not by following instructions but by 'generating ' choices and articulating their thoughts, feelings and opinions. Kids learn to express and get their concerns met in appropriate ways in the context of the needs of the family, friends or classmates. They also learn to take perspectives and to actually appreciate and understand the reasoning behind a parental, teacher or a friend's request.

Parenting is more about kids being able to trust parents, to see them as a help, as somebody who understands their concerns and cares about them. It is about relationship. Moorish sees relationship as serving discipline and blows kids concerns off the table and trust being the responsibility of the kid – you can be trusted with the freedom I give you as you don't follow instructions.

Moorish talks about teaching skills like  resolving conflict, working and playing with others and being cooperative. If the parental focus is on compliance, plan A= imposing adult will ,where is the parent modeling and teaching collaboration and conflict resolution skills.

From the experience of RDI – relationship developmental intervention therapists skills need to be taught in a constructivist way using parental guided participation to encourage kids thinking and autonomy in the learning process. The  most important skill being taught is ' relationship' , not compliance. The CPS – collaborative problem solving approach teaches skills indirectly by solving problems in a collaborative way. The purpose of teaching skills is not to get compliance but to promote intrinsic motivation and relatedness.

Moorish's parenting/teaching practices fail children badly by ignoring their needs for autonomy, competence and relatedness.

 here are 2 summaries of the book 

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Plan B , dismissal time/runningin the classroom

An example: Friday waiting for dismissal there were 4 students in my room. My 5th grade student of concern, let's call him Han, started going in circles around the room narrating what he was doing: "walking, running, walking, running." The other 5th grader was confused and scared and the 2nd grader with ADHD joined in with the running. Plan A doesn't work. Plan B (or something emergency Plan B-ish) like, "Han, you running in the classroom is not good for the rest of the kids" is met with "I don't care." In general, Plan B with him is met with "I'm not talking to you," "It's fun," or "I don't care."

In the moment is not the best time to do Plan B , so it is more about being creative in trying to distract the child and then redirect him. Think of things you could ask him to do and he  would be willing to do – for eg  send him on an errand – you could make a plan with the secretary , principal , resource teacher etc that in order to distract the kid , you will send him with a note etc . Another distraction is to practice a mindfulness technique by asking the kid to focus on something and then tell you what he sees and then have some kind of conversation   as you wait for dismissal time.

The starting point in Plan B is the neutral statement  - Han , I have noticed when we are waiting to be dismissed , you like to start walking and running and talking out what you are doing , what's up ?  - we want Han to do the talking and we do the listening.

We can reassure him – I am not going to tell you what to do , I just want to hear you , get your perspective/ view point of what is happening .

If he says – I am not talking to you – we can say ' OK'  , so you don't want to talk to me about it , can you tell me more ?

So the plan B conversation is now dealing with his concern – he does not want to talk about ….  .

You might need to take a break from the conversation and make another time with him for the discussion.

Sometimes it is better to engage in connecting activities before a Plan B conversation or small chat where he essentially is  agreeing with you.

If he says – I don't know – you can make some tentative hypotheses /suggestions about possible concerns -Bored, nothing to do – just wait , restless , cannot sit still, struggling to be patient  etc

You can then try to drill down for more information with questions like – can you tell me more , I don't fully understand , see my blog for articles on ' drilling down for concerns '

After he has stated a concern, we can ask –tabling - if we can find a solution for this concern that you like, do you think there are other things that could bother you?

Once we have a clear picture of his concerns and he feels understood, we can put our concerns on the table. I am worried , concerned that if you are walking or running in the classroom , the other kids will be distracted.

If he says – I don't care, your response could be – I am sure you care enough to find a solution to the problem which you will like , and that's what is important.

Next we have the Invitation step  -  I was wondering if we could brainstorm some solutions which would address both your concern – being bored , restless when waiting for dismissal and my concern that the other kids are not disturbed or distracted.

We can brainstorm solutions which are realistic, durable , can be implemented by the kid and mutually satisfactory. This could also be in the form of some ' procedure ' that you have both worked out to give dismissal time some structure. We also agree to revisit the problem and see how our solution is working out and if necessary try to come up with a better plan.

In addition you could engage in pro-social activities, talk in the plural – we , perspective taking, identifying the concerns of others , see CPS as TLC – we talk , listen and care.

Kids often answer – because it is fun -   ' I agree it is fun, let's try to think of a better time to have fun, when I am not talking to the whole class or the other kids are working on something or settling down to leave .

I also highly recommend ' Mindfulness for children '  to help them calm down and be more attentive.

Also check out   Marshall's 'Discipline without Stress '  hierarchy of behaviors. This is not about problem solving but is a good discipline tool to help redirect behavior. Kids are taught  A= anarchy, B = bullying, bossing,  C= compliance , D= democracy , doing the right thing. So when a kid is running in the classroom , he is asked to  reflect on  his behavior  whether it  is A, B, C, or D.