Sunday, February 6, 2011

Changing paradigms to a CPS/ SDT way of thinking - Part 1

One of the difficult challenges facing parents of challenging kids is advocating for their children and dealing with the school system. Parents have the task of changing the perceptions of staff and help them make a paradigm shift - We no longer believe that 'children do well if they want to ' , but see things through different lenses -' Children do well if they can ' and when they are not being successful the problem is not one of motivation but lacking skills.  One parent who understands the benefits of CPS may have the same challenge in helping a spouse make the paradigm shift. Staff who are trying to introduce Collaborative Problem Solving at hospitals and other facilities have the same difficulties as parents dealing with schools trying to convince other staff members.

I believe that the fear of relinquishing tools of control and seduction and focusing on one's ability to reach out to a kid and ' work with ' them is getting in their way of staff in these facilities, parents or teachers.

Traditionally, the focus of treatment in treatment facilities is medication and treating the symptoms with behavior modification. It is much easier ' doing to ' a kid than ' working with ' them. It also gives you a feeling that you are doing something – give meds , behavior charts , points and levels - you have 'data '. The pursuit of data gets in the way in helping kids meet their essential needs and treat them with compassion and empathy.

Suffering at the hands of autism – from ' share your story '

My son is injured, I try to imagine his suffering

16 years of "services" and all he has to show are labels

Oppositional, Defiant, Noncompliant

They want to know the function of his behavior:


Am I the only one who can see he has no effective or reliable

communication skills?

Data collection gets in the way

of compassion and empathy.

There I said it.

So what does this ' data' tell us . We can conclude that the meds are working or not , or we need more ( of what's not working ) extrinsic motivation. Rewards etc that seem to work , have a problem that they may make a kid look good in the short-term but have no impact on long term measures, generalization and commitment to values. Behavior modification and medication treat behaviors. This is so much easier , much less of a responsibility than to treat the whole child , engage his personality and thinking , drill down with questions so you understand his concerns, and build trust etc.

So how do we get teachers and therapeutic staff to move away from rewards, consequences etc. ?

We need to help parents, teachers and staff to focus on the long term goals we have for kids and not just getting kid's compliance in the short term. We need to help caregivers see their role as helping kids meet essential needs of ' autonomy, competence and relatedness.' - SDT Self Determination Theory

Alfie Kohn says ' In my workshops for parents I like to start off asking, “What are your long-term objectives for your children? What word or phrase comes to mind to describe how you’d like them to turn out, what you want them to be like once they’ve grown?”

Take a moment to think about how you would answer that question. When I invite groups of parents to come up with the most important long-term goals they have for their kids, I hear remarkably similar responses across the country. The list produced by one audience was typical: These parents said they wanted their children to be happy, balanced, independent, fulfilled, productive, self-reliant, responsible, functioning, kind, thoughtful, loving, inquisitive, and confident.

Is what we’re doing consistent with what we really want? Are my everyday practices likely to help my children grow into the kind of people I’d like them to be? Will the things I just said to my child at the supermarket contribute in some small way to her becoming happy and balanced and independent and fulfilled and so on–or is it possible (gulp) that the way I tend to handle such situations makes those outcomes less likely? '

Alfie Kohn is questioning why parents and parenting literature focus on compliance and quick fixes, and is pointing out that docility and short-term obedience are not what most parents desire of their children in the long run.

'Teachers and schools tend to mistake good behavior for good character. What they prize is docility, suggestibility; the child who will do what he is told; or even better, the child who will do what is wanted without even having to be told. They value most in children what children least value in themselves. Small wonder that their effort to build character is such a failure; they don't know it when they see it. '

- John Holt

How Children Fail


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