I just spent some time on a great website called Lives in the Balance, put out there for parents and educators by Ross W. Greene, PhD. Dr. Greene’s approach to developing social-emotional health (or reducing challenging behavior) is not unlike Tina Payne Bryson’s and Daniel Siegel’s ideas about discovering what social and emotional skills children are needing to learn. He advocates that children do well when they can, not “if they wanna.” Challenging behavior is a matter of “can’t,” not “won’t.”
On his website, Dr. Greene provides free education about his approach, many in video form, as well as free tools for assessment and intervention. The Assessment of Lagging Skills and Unsolved Problems (ALSUP) is a great place to start to see how your child’s challenging behavior is due to a developmental delay in certain thinking skills. Which ones? Check it out! http://www.livesinthebalance.org/
Dr. Greene calls his approach to teaching the delayed skills Collaborative Problem Solving. He explains that challenging behavior is caused when our expectations exceed a child’s capacity to respond well. He points out that as parents, when our child is not meeting our expectations, we have three options. We can do “Plan A,” which is the common response of imposing our will on the child in a variety of ways. We can do “Plan C,” which is to change or remove the expectation, or we can do “Plan B,” which is to engage in collaborative problem solving so that the child learns the lagging skills and the expectation is met. He emphasizes that Plan B is best done proactively, to prevent challenging behavior that is predictable, instead of during the challenging behavior (or “Emergency Plan B!”) Although Plan B is best accomplished with verbal children, the ALSUP can still provide insight into what skills to help not-yet-verbal children learn next, as well as which daily routines and expectations to work on.