Child Expert Ross Greene wants adults to rethink the way they support children who struggle with their behavior. He offers two reasons children behave in unexpected ways:
- Lagging skills
- Unsolved problems
Greene says about 80 percent of problem behaviors at school are due to academic struggles and the rest are related to social inadequacies. To help children make good choices and participate in their education, he says, adults need to collaborate with children to help them learn the skills they need and solve problems that are getting in the way.
PAVE was among state agencies that collaborated to offer an online training for educators and families that Greene provided near the end of 2022. That training, Children Do Well if They Can, is available on-demand. Greene says adults are misguided when they presume children do well only if they want to.
“There is 0 research telling us that kids respond poorly to problems and frustrations because they’re poorly motivated,” Greene says. “That study doesn’t exist. There’s a mountain of research telling us that they’re lacking skills. What skills? Here are the umbrella skills: flexibility, adaptability, frustration tolerance, problem-solving, emotion regulation.”
Families that agree with Ross Greene’s approach can tell the school they want to follow this model in rethinking a student’s supports at school. The lagging skills and unsolved problems can be addressed through a well-built Individualized Education Program (IEP) with a positive behavior support plan, Greene says.
A key point is that “escalation” is downstream. The unsolved problems and lagging skills are addressed “upstream,” before a troubling behavior shows up. For example, an accommodation to support a student “when frustrated” is downstream. If adults instead figure out what problem is causing frustration, they can collaborate with the child to solve that problem and prevent frustration.
If, for example, a child is not learning to read at the same rate as peers, the child might need to be taught reading in an individualized way to have success in reading and regain confidence. That might solve a long-term problem. If the student instead takes a break every time they get frustrated, they might never get better at reading. The problem is pushed down the road.
Greene provides a questionnaire for families and schools to start with—before they discuss what needs to be in the IEP or behavior plan. His form is called the ALSUP—Assessment of Lagging Skills and Unsolved Problems.
The video, Children Do Well if They Can, is about 2 hours and includes comments by Washington State leaders who are proposing an end to isolation/restraint practices in schools. Greene’s presentation lasts about an hour and begins about 15 minutes into the video.
PAVE provides many resources to support families whose children are missing educational opportunities due to behavior. Type the word “behavior” or “discipline” into the search bar to explore other options. Here are places to begin:
- Video: Discipline and Disability Rights: What to do if Your Child is Being Sent Home
- Article: What Parents Need to Know when Disability Impacts Behavior and Discipline at School
- Video: Behavior and School: How to Participate in the FBA/BIP Process
- Video: Behavioral Health and School: Key Information for Families