Published On: September 10, 2014

Does your child’s behaviour have you convinced he/she is set on making you miserable? Perhaps your child behaves aggressively, or doesn’t listen to you and it’s driving you crazy? You’ve tried sticker charts, treats, rewards, and lots of punishment, but it doesn’t work. Maybe your child may make some small changes temporarily, but then eventually begin to act in the same challenging way once again? Please–do not allow despair to set in! Dr. Ross Greene, author of “The Explosive Child” has developed a model for dealing with your child’s behaviour that actually works. I can say this because I’ve seen it work with families who have tried everything, and because Dr. Greene has done the research to back it up.

The model is called “Collaborative Problem Solving” and it urges parents to view children’s behavioural struggles from a different angle, and provides the tools parents need to work effectively with their children. Dr. Greene proposes that children do well if they can, and when children present behavioural challenges it is because they are lacking in the skills they need to be successful.

Primarily Dr. Greene is referring to what are known as “executive functioning skills”. Think of executive functioning as the C.E.O. of your child. Executive functioning skills are responsible for your child’s ability (or difficulty) in: thinking and acting in a flexible way, controlling emotions, impulse control/inhibition, planning and organizing, transitioning, problem-solving, getting started with tasks, memory, and monitoring and checking one’s own behaviour. Difficulty with executive functioning skills often goes hand-in-hand with problems such as ADHD, Oppositional Defiance Disorder, Learning Disabilities, and Autism/Aspergers to name a few.

Dr. Greene suggests that changing the way you view your child’s behavioural struggles is essential to better understanding your child’s needs and living harmoniously with your child. For many children, these skills need to be explicitly taught and rehearsed, and many children require proactive measures and assistance to help them where they don’t yet have the skills. Perhaps I can offer a comparison example to help put things into perspective. A child with a physical impairment, a hearing impairment for example, is not likely to be referred to as “defiant” or “button pushing” when they do not respond to a parent’s verbal direction. In this situation, the parents are likely to provide the child with assistance (such as hearing aids or written direction) to help their child overcome this disability. Proactively, the parents may in-fact, make sure their child is looking at them when they give directions and speak clearly to ensure they are understood by the child. When we look at a child who has challenges in the area of executive functioning which would also interfere with a child’s ability to follow a direction, it doesn’t make much more sense to call them “defiant” or “button pushing” does it? Just like the parents of the child with the hearing impairment made accommodations to help their child be successful, parents of children with executive functioning struggles can make accommodations to help their children be successful as well.

Dr. Greene discusses the foundations of Collaborative Problem Solving in his book “The Explosive Child” and on his website where he provides hand-outs, information and training videos. There is even a forum for discussion with other parents. Additionally, I help families put the approach into action in an effective way through C.P.S. workshops and the ADHD Treatment Program at Bayridge Family Center.