All children are good if they can be.

That is the premise of this book by Ross W. Greene. That when children explode – or implode – it is due to frustration around a skill they don’t have…yet.

Challenging kids are lacking the skills of flexibility, adaptability, frustration tolerance, and problem solving.

The list of typical delayed skills in explosive children is long and Xavier checked off the majority of them.

> Difficulty handling transitions, shifting from one mind-set or task to another

> Difficulty doing things in a logical sequence or prescribed order

> Difficulty persisting on challenging or tedious tasks

> Poor sense of time

> Chronic irritability and/or anxiety significantly impede capacity for problem-solving or heighten frustration

> Difficulty seeing the “grays”/concrete, literal, black-and-white thinking

Greene provides free access to the complete list and to all of the resources he mentions in the book on his website

Additional audio and video files get you working with your child right away.

Much like ABA, this starts with narrowing in to the very specific circumstance… but instead of describing the behaviour, identifying the antecedent. Every aspect of the behaviour is covered by “has difficulty with”. How is that for judgement free?

The process goes something like this:

  • As parents, identify all of the “Lagging Skills” your child is labouring under
  • Next, get very specific about when and where the difficulty is experienced. These are called “Unsolved Problems”
  • Prioritize the first problems you want to focus on. This is not necessarily the easiest or the worst, just the ones you want to tackle first.
  • Assume the child would behave well if he could and open a dialogue with him “You seem to be having difficulty with ____________. What’s up?”
  • Really drill down till you understand the problem.
  • Share why you experience it as a problem.
  • Ask them for ideas.
  • Work together to identify a mutually agreeable solution.
  • Test and review.

We have started on this path with Xavier but it feels like only a small part of the solution.

It seems like he has given up hope of anyone ever liking him at school to the point that he just doesn’t care. If they are going to tease and bully him, he might as well “earn it”.

He also seems to believe that no adult is smart enough to know he is misbehaving. I know, I am mind reading here but I cannot understand why he will behave when he knows he is being watched but as soon as the teacher or supervisor looks away or even walks a few feet away, the behaviours come out.

Which is leading me to my next book Self-Reg by Dr. Stuart Shanker.

Next post I will share more on Shanker’s premise that we should not try to aim for self-control, that real change comes from self-regulation. This appeals to my process brain because stress messes with how we think, even which parts of the brain we use to think!

Stress and anxiety also mess with our values and beliefs. It can have us filling our minds with Limiting Decisions and use situational values of survival and self-preservation. This can close down our ability to see consequences or consider others.