While I’m generally not the kind of person to place much stock in popular psychologists and their behaviour or intervention models, I’ve become quite enamoured of late by the work of Dr. Ross Greene and his Collaborative & Proactive Solutions approach to parenting.
Greene is the author of The Explosive Child, and in that book he describes his approach and the philosophy underpinning it; this paragraph from the second chapter gets to the heart of the matter:
You also may have noticed that your child’s psychiatric diagnosis hasn’t provided much information about the skills he’s lacking or the specific conditions in which those lagging skills are making life difficult. Diagnoses —such as ADHD, oppositional defiant disorder, bipolar disorder, depression, an autism spectrum disorder, reactive attachment disorder, the newly coined disruptive mood regulation disorder, or any other disorder— can be helpful in some ways. They “validate” that there’s something different about your kid, for example. But they can also be counterproductive in that they can cause caregivers to focus more on a child’s challenging behaviors rather than on the lagging skills and unsolved problems giving rise to those behaviors. Also, diagnoses suggest that the problem resides within the child and that it’s the child who needs to be fixed. The reality is that it takes two to tango. Let there be no doubt, there’s something different about your child. But you are part of the mix as well. How you understand and respond to the hand you’ve been dealt is essential to helping your child.
What attracts me to Greene’s approach is that it roughly parallels the path that Oliver and I have been on in recent months: collaboration rather than conflict, understanding rather than tyranny. Oliver’s been an important teacher to me in all of this, and I think I’ve been able to help Oliver too. That Greene focuses on practical challenges and not diagnoses, and that he focuses not on behaviour but rather on skills, is refreshing in a contemporary parenting climate that remains firm in its belief that kids with behavioural challenges are, as Greene describes it, guilty of being “willful, manipulative, attention-seeking, limit-testing, contrary, intransigent, [and] unmotivated.”
This 2010 piece on TVO, featuring Greene and Toronto psychologist Jordan B. Peterson, is an excellent demonstration of the difference between Greene’s approach and the one many parents get exposed to clinically. For a parent, Peterson’s language and characterizations of behaviour are next to useless; Greene speaks in plain, practical language and focuses on the real world, not an academic psychological conception thereof.
I learned by happenstance that the Mi’kmaq Confederacy of Prince Edward Island is bringing Dr. Greene to Summerside for a workshop on April 28, 2017. The registration form is available online, and more information is available from Taylor Jenkins at the Mi’kmaq Confederacy.
The tuition of $150 will be steep for many; but if my experience to date is any guide, the benefits of adopting Dr. Greene’s model can be profound, making it worth every dollar.