This blog is my place to vent and share resources with other parents of children of trauma. I try to be open and honest about my feelings in order to help others know they are not alone. Therapeutic parenting of adopted teenagers with RAD and other severe mental illnesses and issues (plus "neurotypical" teens) , is not easy, and there are time when I say what I feel... at the moment. We're all human!

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Books and Methods Review - Therapeutic Parenting - Ross W. Greene

Kids do well if they CAN. This has nothing to do with whether or not they want to. Our role is not to make him want to, he already does. Our role is to figure out what is getting in his way, and help him. Changing our focus to finding out what is challenging him, helps both the child and ourselves.

I know that for myself, understanding why the child is acting this way, makes it feel a lot less like a personal attack, much easier to feel empathetic, and less likely to be personally triggered by it. (Finding the Joy)

Dr. Ross W. Greene's website
Dr. Greene's YouTube Channel 

The Educating Traumatized Children Summit had Ross Greene, Ph.D. as the keynote. A review of the  interview by Julie Beem of the Attachment Trauma Network (ATN). Dr. Greene is the author of The Explosive Child and Lost at School, Lost & Found and Raising Human Beings. He's the originator of the Collaborative and Pro-Active Solutions (CPS) model. (More about CPS pdf)

“Kids with trauma history don’t need more punishment, and quite frankly they don’t need more stickers.” Ross W. Greene

Marythemom:  I really like this book and found that it describes my kids pretty well. Even though the causes for their behaviors might be a little bit different, I’ve found a lot of the techniques he uses are easily incorporated into the therapeutic parenthing techniques that I do with my kids. Understanding more about why they act the way they do is invaluable in helping me stay calm and better deal with my children’s behavior.
The Explosive Child
You know the things that are commonly said about behaviorally challenging kids: they're manipulative, attention-seeking, unmotivated, stubborn, willful, intransigent, bratty, spoiled, controlling, resistant, out of control, and defiant. There's more: they are skilled at testing limits, pushing buttons, coercing adults into giving in, and getting their way. 
You know (perhaps from personal experience) the things that are said about their parents: they're passive, permissive, inconsistent disciplinarians. They've botched the job.
Don't believe any of it. Thanks to the research that's accumulated over the past 50 years or so, we now know better. What we know can be summarized in one sentence:
Behaviorally challenging kids are challenging because they're lacking the skills to not be challenging. 
Challenging kids are lacking the skills of flexibility, adaptability, frustration tolerance, and problem solving, skills most of us take for granted.
The most important way to tell they are lacking in these skills? Because your child isn't challenging ever second of every waking hour. He's challenging sometimes, particularly in situations where flexibility, adaptability, frustration, tolerance, and problem solving are required.
Complying with adult directives, interacting adaptively, handling disagreements, completing a difficult homework assignment, dealing with a change in plan... they don't have the skills to respond adaptively to demands and expectations without falling apart.
The most important theme of this book - kids do well if they can.
They're not enjoying the screaming and shouting and crying and swearing and hitting. The kids described in this book are not choosing to exhibit challenging behavior any more than a child would choose to have a reading disability. 
The primary strategy you'll be using to reduce challenging episodes, the strategy this book will be teaching you how to use, is problem solving. Not putting stickers on a chart. Not sending your child to time-out (and holding him there when he won't stay). Not screaming. Not berating. Not lecturing. Not depriving him of privileges. Not taking away his Xbox for a week. And certainly not spanking.
In fact, as you may have noticed, these strategies sometimes cause more challenging episodes than they prevent.
Dr. Greene describes how best to:
  • Understand the factors that contribute to challenging episodes.
  • Identify the specific situations in which challenging episodes are likely to occur.
  • Reduce or eliminate challenging episodes by solving the problems that cause them. 
  • Solve problems collaboratively (rather than unilaterally) and proactively (rather than reactively). 
  • Help your child develop the skills to be more flexible, solve problems, and handle frustrations more adaptively. 
  • Reduce hostility and antagonism between you and your child. Review -  
Flexibility and tolerance are learned skills, as any parent knows if they've seen an irascible 2-year-old grow into a pleasant, thoughtful, and considerate older child. Unfortunately, for reasons that are poorly understood, a few children don't "get" this part of socialization. Years after toddler tantrums should have become an unpleasant memory, a few unlucky parents find themselves battling with sudden, inexplicable, disturbingly violent rages--along with crushing guilt about what they "did wrong." 

Medical experts haven't helped much: the flurry of acronyms and labels (Tourette's, ADHD, ADD, etc.) seems to proffer new discoveries about the causes of such explosions, when in fact the only new development is alternative vocabulary to describe the effects. 

Ross Greene, a pediatric psychologist who also teaches at Harvard Medical School, makes a bold and humane attempt in this book to cut through the blather and speak directly to the (usually desperate) parents of explosive children. His text is long and serious, and has the advantage of covering an enormous amount of ground with nuance, detail, and sympathy, but also perhaps the disadvantage that only those parents who are not chronically tired and time-deprived are likely to get through the entire book. 

Quoted dialogue from actual sessions with parents and children is interspersed with analysis that is always oriented toward understanding the origins of "meltdowns" and developing workable strategies for avoidance. Although pharmacological treatment is not the book's focus, there is a chapter on drug therapies. --Richard Farr 

Walking Tour for Parents

Dr. Greene's Collaborative & Proactive Solutions model consists of three basic ingredients. 

  1. We need to make sure you have the right lenses on. 
  2. We need to help you identify all the expectations your child is having difficulty meeting (we call those "unsolved problems") and decide which ones you want to tackle first. 
  3. Then, you'll want to start solving those problems collaboratively and proactively. (Solved problems don't cause challenging episodes...only unsolved problems do.) 

In each step, there's either streaming video or audio programming to help you understand and implement various facets of the model. Walking Tour for Parents

Lost at School: Why Our Kids with Behavioral Challenges are Falling Through the Cracks and How We Can Help Them

Psychiatrist and Harvard professor Greene follows up The Explosive Child with an in-depth approach to aid parents and teachers to work together with behaviorally challenging students. 

Greene's philosophy is driven by the recognition that "kids who haven't responded to natural consequences don't need more consequences, they need adults who are knowledgeable about how challenging kids come to be challenging.

Greene's "Plan B" system, which is fully and clearly explained in the course of the book, emphasizes identifying challenging behaviors - acting out, hitting, swearing, poor performance in class-and then working with students to find actual, practical ways to avoid them. 

Helpfully, Greene uses a fictional school for examples, devoting several pages to illustrative anecdotes in each chapter, greatly increasing the material's accessibility. Greene's technique is not fail-proof, principally because it requires the good will and hard work of all participants; a section on implementing Plan B in the face of real disagreement or apathy would have been helpful. However, Plan B has all the qualities of accessibility, logic and compassion to make it a solid strategy for parents and educators. 
The first comprehensive presentation for clinicians of the groundbreaking approach popularized in Ross Greene's acclaimed parenting guide, The Explosive Child, this book provides a detailed framework for effective, individualized intervention with highly oppositional children and their families. 

Many vivid examples and Q&A sections show how to identify the specific cognitive factors that contribute to explosive and noncompliant behavior, remediate these factors, and teach children and their adult caregivers how to solve problems collaboratively. The book also describes challenges that may arise in implementing the model and provides clear and practical solutions. Two special chapters focus on intervention in schools and in therapeutic/restrictive facilities.

Dr. Greene Dr. Greene is the originator of the innovative, research-based approach now known as Collaborative & Proactive Solutions (CPS), as described in his influential books The Explosive Child and Lost at School, and in his recently released books Lost & Found and Raising Human Beings

Dr. Greene served on the teaching faculty at Harvard Medical School for over 20 years, and is currently on the faculty in the Department of Psychology at Virginia Tech and at the University of Technology in Sydney, Australia. He is also the Founding Director of the non-profit Lives in the Balance (, which provides a vast array of free, web-based resources on his model and advocates on behalf of behaviorally challenging kids and their parents, teachers, and other caregivers.

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