Parent Resources

Webinar Summary: Collaborative and Proactive Solutions: Understanding and Helping Kids with Behavioral Challenges

Presented by Ross Green, PhD

Ross Green’s model for helping kids with behavioral challenges is a thoughtful alternative to behavior modification methods that were initiated by B. F. Skinner. Ross’ life work has been primarily with kids and adults that have very significant behavioral challenges. Early in his career he found that Skinner’s model of behavior modification was a way of substituting a more acceptable behavior for one that was unacceptable without addressing the kids underlying problem. He compares this to treating the symptom or the fever without addressing the root cause or the problem. He views the behavior modification model as a combative model where perceived problems found in the kid are solved by the adult and implemented by the adult. Any subsequent failure to meet the expectations outlined in the solution implemented is dealt with some form of consequence that escalates from a time out on the low end to an expulsion from school on the upper end. The friction from this process results in a combative relationship where the kid feels no connection to any solutions, and the caregiver feels disconnected to a kid that does seem to want to do the right thing. Ross Green begins his webinar by introducing the 6 themes of his Collaborative and Proactive Model.

The first theme is the most important because it shifts the focus away from behavior analysis (a downstream problem) to problem solving (an upstream problem). The kid’s behavior is the signal that he is stuck or that he has a problem he cannot solve. The second theme involves the kid in problem solving. This means, problem solving is collaborative rather than unilateral; additionally, it means you are doing this with the kid rather than to him. Proactive problem solving is the third theme. The intervention is planned and proactive. This contrasts with the behavioral model where intervention is reactive as the behavior emerges. Ross Green points out that the heat of the moment is not an ideal time for problem solving. Proactive problem solving means you collaborate with the kid to find out why and when his behavior is challenging. The focus is not what is the behavior, but what is the problem causing this behavior. Ross Green discusses research that finds challenging Kids have challenging behaviors because they are lacking the skills to not be challenging. Challenging behavior is more about lagging skills and not about motivation. He adds that challenging kids are challenging when expectations outstrip their skills which is not unique to challenging kids but to everyone. In the fourth theme Ross Green points out, “understanding comes before helping.” This theme elicits the softer, kinder, and gentler side of the caregiver to the point that the caregiver begins to feel compassion for the challenging kid. “Kids do well if they can.”, is Ross Green’s fifth theme. This is different than kids do well if they want to. Ross Green’s mindset is that kids would do better if they had the skills to solve problems. Traditional responses to kids with bad behavior, like time outs or detentions, solves no problems and teaches no skills. “Doing well is preferable.” is Ross Green’s sixth theme. His work experience with challenging kids has demonstrated to him that challenging kids are motivated to do well but they lack the skills to solve their problems. Also, kids that look like they don’t want to do well have been over directed, over corrected and over punished for so long that they have given up.

Ross Green ends his webinar with outlining the skills that challenging kids lack. He identifies a website that has an assessment to determine skills missing and problems that have been unsolved for challenging kids. He ends his talk with a brief description on how to implement his Collaborative and Proactive Solutions. The assessment is offered on line for free, and a video demonstrating the implementation of his model is also on line at lives in the balance.org. This webinar is validation for including students in crafting and implementing interventions for academic skill gaps. Clinicians should pay attention to Ross Greens Collaborative and Proactive Solutions: Understanding and Helping Kids with Behavioral Challenges