Sunday, December 31, 2006

Dr. Ross Greene

I did attend a training by Ross Greene ( at the Brattleboro Retreat ( Ross Greene does not speak much about trauma. However his approach that children do well if they can, and that defiance and other problems are caused by learning disabilities, are very compatible with our work. He states that rewards and punishments teach that external bad effects rapidly follow bad behavior, when you are caught. This is not always true in the world, and leads mainly to an emphasis on not being caught- a radar detector approach to speeding. Learning how your behavior affects others is a much more powerful force for change.

As I have often stated, it all goes back to your formulation of what you think is going on when that kid is acting up. Why do you think he is not doing well? If you believe it is because he doesn’t want to, then an approach of increasing motivation (rewards and punishments) is appropriate. But if you believe he doesn’t know how, then a skill teaching method is called for.

Ross Greene had some thoughts to add to our investigation of manipulation. He stated as others have that our kids are bad manipulators- their manipulation is too obvious and makes other people feel bad. Good manipulation is more subtle, makes the other person feel they are doing just what they want to do. It involves planning and organization and the other person does not know they are being manipulated, or does not resent it. So- can we start working "being a good manipulator" into our skills classes?

I liked the phrase Dr. Greene used: "decisive not punitive". When we first teach staff about the Restorative Approach some feel that it means that they should ignore kid’ harmful behaviors, not step up to what they are doing that is hurting others. The best Restorative Work requires very active involvement with the kid and lots of feed back on how what they are doing affects others. Decisive but not punitive!

Dr. Greene describes our role as being a "surrogate frontal lobe" for the kids while helping them grow one of their own.

Dr. Greene’s method of collaborative problem solving is certainly an excellent idea. One thing I like was the suggestion to teach kids a few key phrases they can use when they are starting to feel upset. As we know, our kids don’t know what to do when they become over whelmed, don’t know how to ask for help, and resort to old solutions such as throwing chairs. Learning some phrases like: "Gimme a minute"; "I need a break"; "Something is the matter"; "I can’t talk about that now"; and "I don’t know what to do" could be a great help.

Dr. Greene suggested there are really only three basic ways to solve a problem between two people: ask for help, give a little, or do it a different way.

I enjoy the convergence of these various methodologies.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Taking Responsibility Part Two

In treatment programs we talk a lot about kids taking responsibility for their behavior. It seems to be very important to us that the kids acknowledge when they have done something wrong. It is, of course, important to identify when one has done something wrong- how can you fix it if you don’t acknowledge that it ever happened? I have previously written (June 15, 2006) about how shame paralyzes our kids in this area: doing something wrong to them feels like all is lost, all my worst fears about myself are confirmed, no one loves me, everything that has happened is my fault. If admitting you have done something wrong plunges you into total hopelessness, and you have no feelings managements skills, and you have no skills for repairing relationships, your only defense is a complete refusal to own the behavior.

Recently I have been thinking that our indignation that kids "won’t even take responsibility for their own behavior!" might be tempered if we look at ways we find it difficult to take responsibility for our own behavior.

I attend Weight Watchers and that is a wonderful place to learn about adults (including myself) who are trying to make difficult changes- like our kids are. These adults (including myself) by in large have many more assets than our kids do- supporting networks, developed feelings management skills, intellectual abilities. Yet what do we see? People having difficulty taking responsibility for their behavior.

If a person has not been following the eating plan their first impulse is to skip the meeting all together, and to think of a good reason they cannot attend. If they go to the meeting they may want to skip the weigh-in. If they have gained they have many reasons and many extenuating circumstances (in the kids we would call this making excuses, although just as with the kids many of these reasons are completely legitimate). If any one has a bad day of over eating, we often feel that all is lost, that we will never lose weight, and then we keep on over eating more and more. Much in the same way the kids are plunged into hopelessness and despair, these high functioning adults are similarly affected.

We can think of other situations in which we hide our failings, conceal our mistakes, find reasons to excuse our less desirable actions.

I guess it just isn’t that easy for the human being to take responsibility for his or her behavior.