I have been thinking a lot lately about my kids' behaviors and how we seem to be struggling with the same things day after day. For awhile we will make some headway, sometimes issues even seem to resolve, but they always seem to come back. Well, I'm not really sure if they all come back, but at the moment I feel like they do. Somehow when I'm bogged down in the anxieties of the day, it is just so overwhelming that I convince myself we have been stuck here forever. I'm sure that is not true. But there are definitely some recurring problems that we can't seem to figure out. Like bathroom issues and not peeing all over the floor. I suppose I should remember the past when the pee was in the trash can or the sink or the soap dispenser and be glad that is not happening. But it's still not in the toilet. So have we made progress or haven't we? I also worry about Herbie's impulsivity. He just does the first thing that comes to his mind, whether that is hitting his brother or running out the front door if he sees it open. I used to think our house was like Fort Knox, but he is gradually figuring out all of the locks so it is only a matter of time... I had thought by this time we would have achieved some level of understanding with him that he can't run in the street or hide behind the neighbor's house, etc. But we're not there yet and time is running out.

So what is the cause of all this? I just read an interesting book called "Lost at School" by Ross Greene. He argues that kids do well if they can. He argues that motivational rewards and sticker charts, punishments and logical consequences are all of no use. They do not teach lagging skills. It sounds completely logical. I don't know if I'm 100% in agreement (after all, we are human beings living in a fallen world, we all screw up things we are capable of getting right), but in general I wish more people would think along those lines, teaching kids how to behave, realizing that rewards and punishments don't teach actual skills. I might argue that a sticker chart or reward system could be useful for creating habits of newly acquired skills, but again it is really hard to say based on the things that seem to be resolved and then pop back up 6 months later.

Greene's conclusion is that we need to collaborate with kids to solve problems and teach skills, brainstorming and settling on mutually agreeable solutions. Sounds great and I have done this to some extent for various specific behavior problems but I can't see how it can help with impulsivity. Actually, the challenging behavior that I really want to understand is the Wise Old Owl's aversion to eating normal foods. I get weary of the comments on my parenting, the opinions that I am "spoiling" my kids, the popular view espoused by Herbie's former psychologist that we just need to be firm. We stopped seeing that psychologist not too long after we started since she was mainly working on motivation for Herbie, not the root causes of his challenges. So while I have no idea how to collaboratively solve impulsivity or eating problems, I do think that I will be more intentional about using this method for addressing other issues like how to appropriately interact with other kids, expected behaviors on the bus, participating in circle time, and some of our other difficulties. Maybe I can even think of a way to use it for the toileting issues--I can only hope!


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