Ross Greene has spent most of his career as a clinical psychologist figuring out how to best deal with behaviorally challenged children who are prone to outbursts.
Through his studies he has developed a method of intervention he calls Collaborative and Proactive Solutions (CPS) which enables adults to communicate more effectively with children and helps them get to the root issues of problem behaviour.
He has shared this method via the books The Explosive Child, Lost at School, Lost & Found as well as Raising Human Beings.
As director of the non-profit Lives in the Balance he also travels extensively to promote the method to parents and teachers across the globe.
Last week (Sept 11-12) his travels brought him to Quesnel where he spoke to a few groups on how to best apply the method.
Greene says he was drawn to behaviorally challenged kids early on in his career.
“They just grabbed me,” he says, “For some reason I was intrigued by them.”
He explains how his work contrasts with what may have been the prevailing methods beforehand.
“It’s a very different way of helping kids who tell us that they are having difficulty meeting our expectations through their challenging behavior,” Greene says.
“It doesn’t have us focusing on the behaviour, it has us focusing on the problems that are causing that behavior and then solving those problems.”
Green says he thinks of behavior as the signal to underlying problems.
“Even if you get rid of the behavior all you got rid of was the signal. You didn’t get rid of the problem that was causing the problem in the first place and I think that that is unfortunately what school discipline has been for a long time and I think that’s what family discipline has been for a long time and I also think that’s a big part of why we’re losing a lot of kids.
“We’re focused on the wrong thing.”
The model Greene suggests helps people focus on the expectations that the child is having difficulty meeting and trying to work with the child on those unmet expectations.
“We call those unmet expectations unsolved problems, so this is a problem solving model, not a behavioral modification model.
“But the research tells us you are improving behavior every bit as much when you’re solving the problems that are causing those behaviors as you would be if you were trying to modify those behaviors. So, nothing to lose but a lot of problems getting solved to gain.”
Greene says punishing a child – whether in the form of time-out or detention or suspension- doesn’t solve any of the problems that are causing the challenging behavior in the first place.
The method is more than simply a theory or a way to sell books. Greene and his associates have used it in juvenile and adult prisons, in-patient psychiatry, residential facilities, schools and with countless families.
“Probably the most impressive success stories would be schools that are no longer doing any detentions, any suspensions, or anything punitive because they are now busy solving problems with their students,” he says.
“In the juvenile detention system in the state of Maine – by implementing this model as part of changing that system – they reduced recidivism from 85 percent to 15 percent and reduced their juvenile prison population from 250 to less than 50.
“Those are some mind blowing statistics.”
Lance Lindblom, a local counselling clinician says he has been using the method with some success over the last few years but he points out it is difficult to change some people’s ways.
“A lot of people are ingrained in the way they’ve approached problems in the past and any suggestion that they might need to start changing their practices comes with a bit of push back,” he says.
“Lots of times I’m working with parents who are having problems with the children that I’m counselling and my work ends up being changing their mindset towards how they’re dealing with some of the problems that they’re seeing in their home and getting them to take this model into account when they’re trying to solve [issues].
“I find changing their perspective is a challenge up front but once they start applying some of these practices at home it becomes easier and they’re more accepting and I think we’re going to see that same thing in schools as well.”
There will be considerably more people in Quesnel applying the method in the near future.
“We had over 250 educators in the teacher session,” says Dan Lowndes, district principal of support services for School District 28, “And over 125 parents in the parent session and then another 30 of what is the start of a core team to really kind of dig in on the learning and help spread this learning in the school.
“So this is a fantastic start for us.
“We really wanted to make sure that there was a solid understanding about the shift because there really is a mentality shift of thinking about solving problems instead of focusing on behavior.
“Once you stand back, it makes perfect sense that you’d solve the problem and put the fire out instead of fanning the flames.”