Friday, July 5, 2019

An introduction to Collaborative and Pro-active solutions

Collaborative and Pro-active solutions , originally known as the Collaborative Problem solving approach was created by Ross Greene , and can be accessed through his books and non-profit organization Lives in the Balance. CPS can be described as a model of care in which adults work with children in a respectable and compassionate way , to improve cooperation and solve problems that give rise to challenging behavior and in the process facilitate the acquisition of important life skills . The focus is not on behaviors , but the underlying problems and lagging skills that give rise to those behaviors. Unlike other models which are informed by behaviorism , CPS does not believe that challenging behavior is caused by passive, permissive , inconsistent parenting,  or parents not being firm , assertive ,consistent or contingent enough , rewarding good behavior and punishing bad behavior. Challenging behavior occurs when the demands placed on kids outstrip their skills to react in a flexible , adaptable way and problem solve. These lagging skills  can be viewed as a developmental delay in the general domains of flexibility/ adaptability, frustration tolerance, and problem solving . The mantra of CPS is that children do well if they can and not children do well if they want to. Kids prefer to do well than not to do well , we don't have to bribe them to wanna behave and succeed .Only kids that have been rejected and have had their concerns ignored so long  by adults and have lost hope of any adult taking their concerns seriously seem not to care any more. It might be appropriate to bribe a kid to overcome a refusal to  participate in a worth while and beneficial activity. Rewards might appear to work, but they just compensate for the lagging skills , don't teach skills and get in the way of dealing with problems because for  sure a reward won't fix a problem. Rewards undermine intrinsic motivation and any impact is only short-term. In fact the CPS process itself  is rewarding for child, in  that the child and his concerns are taken seriously and problems get in the way of his success are being solved. If the CPS model is concerned about lagging skills , how does it differ from other approaches that teach lagging skills in a top down manner and use rewards to reinforce these skills. ? These approaches focus on teaching skills in order to fix the child , so his behaviors are appropriate. CPS believes that skills must be taught in the context of unsolved problems. The child does not always exhibit lagging skills except in situations, conditions where the expectations and demands placed on him outstrip his skills to behave adaptively. Secondly , we don't want a situation typical of traditional ' doing to " approaches where all the unsolved solved problems in the child's world never get solved because we were too busy fixing  the child.  CPS is not trying to fix the kid so he meets adult's expectations but to solve the problem from the child's as well as the adult's perspective .
Education and parenting is very much about creating structure  either by using Plan A , imposing adult will , Plan B – collaborating with children and Plan C – putting certain expectations for the time being on the shelf. CPS does not conflate structure with control , so structure , boundaries , values, guiding principles, expectations  of a family or school are worked out together in discussion with children. Problems are solved the same was, collaboratively using Plan B so the kid is a fully invested participant, solutions are more durable, and (over time) the kid -- and often the adults as well -- learn the skills they were lacking all along. Plan B is comprised of three basic ingredients. The first ingredient – called the Empathy step – involves gathering information from the child so as to achieve the clearest understanding of his or her concern or perspective on a given unsolved problem. The second ingredient (called the Define Adult Concerns step) involves entering into consideration the adult concern or perspective on the same unsolved problem. The third ingredient (called the Invitation step) involves having the adult and kid brainstorm solutions so as to arrive at a plan of action that is both realistic and mutually satisfactory…in other words, a solution that addresses the concerns of both parties and that both parties can actually perform. Plan B is best done pro-actively. After listing a child's lagging skills in the context of unsolved problems ( the lagging skill is to ensure that we are wearing the right lenses , that children do well if they can and not children do well if they want to) , we prioritize and select problems 2 or 3 problems that are high priority like safety or problems that are causing the most disruption, to work on . We Plan C other problems by putting them in the meantime on the shelf. Dropping some of our expectations is important to reduce conflict and negative interactions and create a calmer atmosphere that allows for building of connection and trust. Plan B is more successful when there is connection and a good feeling between parent and child. Plan A is when the parent in a unilateral way imposes his will on the child. Plan A , the use of power  increases the likelihood of challenging episodes and won’t solve any problems durably.
The CPS model is recognized as an empirically-supported, evidence-based effective treatment. The question " effective for what " needs to be asked. It goes beyond targeting behaviors , a parents' need for discipline and control. It meets the criteria of Self Determination theory that children's well-being is supported when their  needs for autonomy – feeling self-directed and intrinsically motivated  , competence and relatedness are supported. This means that all children, not only challenging kids deserve to be taken seriously, treated in a respectable, compassionate manner and their needs addressed. The child's autonomy is supported because his perspective and concerns are important, and need to be articulated . The child is part of the solutions , generating choice rather than choosing solutions which the adult has laid out. Parents report that they feel it is the first time they have been heard as kids are now listening to their concerns. The process teaches both adult and child many skills in an indirect way. They both learn to articulate concerns and perspective, listen to others , empathy ,take perspectives of others, seeing how your behavior impacts on others ,conflict resolution , problem solving –clarifying concerns, define a problem and try to find mutually satisfying , realistic solutions that requires skills such as planning, foresight , hindsight etc. The approach promotes communication , connection , belonging , caring for others and feeling that you matter. Boundaries and limits are important for children. Parents and teachers are actually setting boundaries in a collaborative way when their concerns are being addressed by the mutually satisfying solution. The model promotes socio-moral learning and commitment to values as  kids learn to set their own boundaries and take into account how their behavior impacts on others.  In a sense Plan A can be viewed as the adult being the authority figure and imposing his will on children. For sure there will be times and situations that demand this, of course with an explanation, but children are more likely to accept parents' decisions because they know that parents take into account their concerns when making decisions that affect them. Leadership and being authoritative are expressed using Plan B and not Plan A. One's authority  is not derived from one's status as the authority figure but because of one's personality and leadership qualities that enable one to work with people, guide them, solve problems in a collaborative way, influence and inspire them. CPS enables our children and even more so the challenging ones to be the catalyst and source of enormous emotional growth, empowerment and leadership. In fact the research ( Greene 2004)  shows that parents who were trained in using CPS felt that they were much better at setting boundaries than parents who received PMT – Parent management that helps parents achieve compliance by being  more assertive and contingent . CPS is simple but not easy to do , but these skills are always being learned on the way. Education is a process , but the journey of consensual living is worth the effort and commitment .


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