Your child needs to clean his or her room, but you know from experience there will likely be an argument. Your child often becomes angry and uncooperative when asked to do this task. Previously, you’ve “put your foot down” by sending them to bed without dinner, but this never works. It’s time for a Plan B.
“Instead of saying what’s wrong, we must ask why this child is having a hard time.” Jennifer Henderson, licensed professional counselor
The CPS model
The Collaborative Problem-Solving (CPS) model is effective in helping children and teens who exhibit different behavioral, emotional and social problems, according to local professionals.
“Collaborative Problem-Solving is a nontraditional approach to working with children who have challenging behaviors,” says Lauren Ramirez, a licensed professional counselor in Medford and Grants Pass. CPS focuses on building skills and communicating with children in a different way, she explains, rather than using traditional systems like rewards and punishments to motivate compliant behavior. “Conventional wisdom tells us that kids do well if they want to, whereas CPS believes kids do well if they can.”
Understanding why challenging behavior occurs in the first place is key to implementing this model, according to Jennifer Henderson, a licensed professional counselor in Medford. She says we know children communicate their needs through different behaviors, and challenging children have lagging skills that need to be developed.
CPS focuses on solving the chronic unmet expectations and triggers that children with challenging behaviors struggle with, says Ramirez. “There are three options for responding to problems to be solved; Plans A, B and C. Each has a different focus and intent, but Plan B is where we have a conversation with the child and help them build skills and solve problems. The goal of these talks is to help kids build thinking skills and relationships and reduce challenging behaviors.”
Benefits of the CPS model
There’s little evidence to show rewards and punishments are effective with most challenging children, says Henderson. “Rewards and punishments increase feelings of stress and defeat in challenging kids,” she explains, but CPS shifts the brain to decrease challenging behaviors and build relationships.
Henderson says research shows CPS is effective for children 3 years old and up. “But really, there’s no age limit to empathy. CPS looks at how we can wire the brain and help these kids as early as possible. Instead of saying what’s wrong, we must ask why this child is having a hard time.”
Fortunately, with education and training, the CPS model can be implemented by parents, teachers, caregivers and other adults involved in the child’s life. There are several trainings offered, explains Ramirez, as well as books and social media groups.
Changing our interactions
Children with challenging behaviors lack skill, not will, explains Ramirez, adding that lagging thinking skills are often a product of genetics, environmental factors and trauma. “The good news is that thinking skills can be developed and strengthened with the CPS model,” she says.