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The ONE Thing


Folks can write all kinds of books on raising and teaching difficult kids. It certainly seems that one’s head can become so overloaded with ideas until it’s difficult to focus on ANY of them. Tell me, what is the ONE thing I can do to have the most impact in changing the difficult and defiant behavior of my child?

It’s so easy to become overwhelmed by all the well-intended advice. Actually, this question reminds me a bit of the movie City Slickers (Columbia Pictures, 1991). Curly Washburn, Jack Palance’s character in the picture tells the wanna-be cowboys there is one one thing that matters most in their cattle drive, and in life. Curly never tells them what it is, exhorting them to figure it out for themselves.

Dr. Ihaleakala Hew Len, the psychologist noted for his unique and effective approach to healing (his success resulted in the closing of an entire ward set aside for criminally insane patients at the Hawaii State Hospital in the late 80s), shares how he was inspired by a simple plaque on his mentor’s desk:

Peace Begins with Me

(Dr. Hew Len’s story inspired me from the moment I first heard of it, then later read about in the book, Zero Limits. His approach to healing lies at the very core of my newest work, The Changing Behavior Book.)

If this was the driving philosophy that helped Dr. Hew Len achieve astonishing improvement in what many would consider “impossible” individuals, how much better would it serve us with reasonably intact young people capable even of expressing a bit of tenderness amid the turmoil?

But what sort of peace is that? Well, for starters, I believe it means waking up in the morning without a “hangover” full of yesterday’s issues. Is that difficult to do? Incredibly so, sometimes; I’ve been there as a parent. But I honestly can’t remember one single instance where my anger, resentment, and frustration ever contributed anything to a solution. One doesn’t change the weather by smashing the thermometer.

Authentic peace, and how to achieve it, has as many meanings as there are folks interpreting it. One thing, however, is for cetain: Everyone knows when they don’t have it.

Let me close this section with a word of caution about “Peace Begins with Me.” It is contagious.

Your kids can catch it.

James D. Sutton, EdD, CSP

Consulting Psychologist/Certified Speaking Professional
PO Box 672, Pleasanton, TX 78064

October 25, 2011 Posted by | Difficult Child, family, Healthy living, Parents, Uncategorized | , , , , | 1 Comment

Proactivity as a Problem


As I conference with the school on my child’s behavior, I’m finding it difficult to suggest a proactive approach to intervention. What do you see as the issue here, and how can we best address it?

This is an excellent question. To make sure we’re on the same page, proactive intervention refers to addressing a pattern of behavior in a way that it cannot happens again. For instance, if Sally doesn’t want to stay in her seat, she’s given a task she can only do standing up, or if Tony’s always dropping his crayons when it’s time to go to lunch, the before-lunch activity is changed so there are no crayons to drop. (These are just examples; intervention can become considerably more involved than this.)

Why it can be a Difficult “Sell”

Three reasons come to mind as to why a suggested proactive plan might meet with resistance:

1. Everyone is overwhelmed already. Schools have their hands plenty full just following mandated state and federal standards. The last thing they need is one more thing. If being proactive involves planning, it might just be shuffled to the bottom of the stack.

2. Proactivity means spending time and energy on something that hasn’t happened (yet). It’s an elective approach for addressing something that, in a perfect world, might not happen again. Look at it this way: How many folks buy a burglar alarm after their house has been robbed.

3. The prevailing thought might be, “the YOUNGSTER needs to be doing the changing, not me.” This is an understandable position, but it might not take into account that the child is “stuck” and doesn’t have the faintest clue how to change.

“Selling” It

An effective proactive plan for addressing problem behavior might be “sold” by pointing out some of the following benefits:

1. It sets up the child to be successful. If the youngster can go a day without the problem behavior, it can be the begining of a new, better pattern. Who doesn’t want to have a better day?

2. A proactive stance is the best and most efficient use of time and resources. The counselor, school psychologist, and administrator aren’t being called out for emergencies. Also, there are no discipline referrals for problems that don’t happen; there’s nothing for teachers to have to write. (They have enough of that already.)

3. There’s less distraction and more on-task work. The youngster, the other students, and the teacher all benefit from a problem that never happens.

4. It’s much more pleasant. Relationships fare better with a proactive approach. When there are no negative consequences, no losses are imposed (and we all know how kids hate to lose anything).

It would not be difficult to work a proactive approach into Response to Intervention, Positive Behavior Intervention and Support, an Individualized Education Plan (Special Education), a Behavior Improvement Plan (also SpEd), or a 504 Plan. Tracking and follow-up, and accountability all the way around (including the parent, of course), would be built into the effort.

James D. Sutton, EdD, CSP

Consulting Psychologist/Certified Speaking Professional
PO Box 672, Pleasanton, TX 78064

October 13, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment