This is part of an email discussion about using PMT – Parent Management Training and CPS – Collaborative and Pro-active Solutions as treatment models for kids with challenging behavior. I reached out to some Prof whom name I mistakenly mistook as someone who was an SDT advocate – Self Determination Theory . I discontinued the discussion because he was conflating autonomy with independence and structure with control , implying that he did not or did not want to understand what SDT was all about .
Thanks for your quick response. I apologize for asking some more questions . You write 'In my opinion there is more than one way to increase autonomy in children – and CPS and PMT are two of the ways. Some children need more external “controls” to help them develop autonomy whereas other do not. Thus, both can be effective in this regard. No mystery here – there are multiple pathways to any one outcome as many of us have written over the years.
I can appreciate that some kids need more structure , but one can do that without being controlling. From what I know about SDT , and I think you have done much research on the SDT model , using extrinsic motivation and controlling parents places the locus of control with the parents and this impacts negatively on autonomy and on intrinsic motivation. So can you refer me to the literature or give me an explanation to solve this mystery.
I think part of the issue here is the word “controlling” – while it is true that the parent remains the parent and has a responsibility to do so, in PMT the parent collaborates with the child in identifying targets for change and in selecting reinforcers for consequences. This is a process, and the child is involved at each and every step. Developmentally, I believe most of us think that external “control” is needed to achieve “internal” control. The key here is to use what you refer to as “control” to instigate the behaviors – to prompt them, occasion them, and consequate them - as the child is able to gain control of his or her behavior, the external contingencies are removed. Kohn greatly overstates what actually goes on in PMT – PMT done well helps the child become autonomous.
'With both treatments we want families to get along better and the children to flourish – both can accomplish this goal.'
Again my difficulty – PMT is based on parental authority and getting compliance, CPS is more of a working with, collaborative approach so getting along and children flourishing can mean different things to different families. A consensual and more democratic relationship or more of a conditional and controlling environment – and that imho impacts on autonomy and IM. Maybe all parents share the long-term goals of better relationships and flourishing children , the short-term goals of compliance using contingencies , rewards and consequences and praise to enforce behavior means that their emotional needs of unconditional acceptance are not being met. So my comment about the Alice in Wonderland was if the goals and parenting philosophies are so different we must know what we want from our research - to measure compliance and that kids are less trouble now or are we meeting their emotional and developmental needs of autonomy, competence , relatedness and also a commitment to the values underlying behavior.
In my opinion, the problem with your position is that your assumptions are wrong – PMT is not solely based on “parental authority and getting compliance” as you suggest. There is much more to it – you might wish to read Russell Barkley’s manual and books on PMT where he does a good job of talking about the processes involved. By the way, I also think that the child’s “emotional needs of unconditional acceptance” is grossly overblown. I am not sure where your support for “unconditional acceptance” is coming from and whether it is a “need.” I can see how if you really believe this, you would think that PMT is as you suggest. Again, it is not and children do not have a need or unconditional acceptance – where is the evidence for this? If it exists I am unaware of it.
About Alfie Kohn you say : Much of it is not grounded in science and it needs to be desperately evaluated before it is promulgated the way it has been. From what I understand and have read it is heavily based on SDT so could you briefly elaborate here
A place to start here is a scientific review of SDT – might you provide me with that? All things, in my opinion, do not need to fit in the SDT model to be valid and clinical useful – thank goodness for that!