So, yesterday I posted a poem about how it feels to be yanked out of your dreams of parenting a typical child. I feel compelled to write tonight, however, just for the record, that parenting a typical child is never perfect. To extend the analogy, Italy has pick pockets, and they have bathrooms you'll run into occassionally that have the footpads on either side of a hole that you have to squat over and that's really not that glamourous. In short, parenting is hard. Full Stop. I can't pretend that I have it the worst, or that people who don't have kids with challenges worthy of medical and educational interventions don't have it hard. There are tough choices all around as a parent. That is all.
So, in that theme, and in the vein of trying to share some of the cool stuff I learned at this conference, allow me to introduce the concept of Positive Behavior Support, or PBS. You do NOT have to have a disabled child to enact this stuff. It's also so rediculously simple you might do it already. If you live in Colorado, chances are your kids have already been introduced to it at school. Odds are, this is stuff you do already when you are in the right frame of mind, but you just call it parenting. If you are like me, you do this sometimes, but not all of the time. The PBS system has you consciously using it daily.
The basic tenet of PBS is to set your child up for successes as citizens, socially and societally, with clear, easy to understand definitions and goals what what that success means. It's not enough to tell a kid that they must respect others... It is our job to teach him what respect looks like, feels likes, and how you enact it.
It so much easier to explain this with examples of daily home behavior.
What is the definition of a clean bedroom? Is a clean bedroom one with nothing on the floor but the toybox spilling over and stuff precariously stuffed into closets? I can't tell you how many times I've told The Kid, CLEAN YOUR ROOM, only to have the whole endeavor back up on me, and I end up in the room, cleaning it with him. I have felt like at seven, he should know the basics of how to clean a room because he's watched me do it enough.
Now I understand, I have to break it down for him. I tried it today. I told him, first, pick up any dirty clothes and put them in the hamper. He happily did it and came back. Next, find the toys on the floor and put them into the right cubby or toybox. Again, he ran back, completed that task, and came back. Okay, now make the bed. Scurry, bed made, scurry back. Are you ready to vacuum? Yep! All the while, he was pleased with his progress, I told him what a great job he was doing.
As I sat in the class on this subject, I sat there thinking of all of the times The Kid hasn't really understood what I asked him or needed him to do, as if just acting dissappointed it didn't get done right or me going and doing it for him in the end was going to magically make him know how to do it the next time we needed it done. As parents, we do this all the time, even if we have obedient, responsible kids. I can't wait to do this some more.
The first step they wanted us to do was to identify behaviors of our kids that drive us crazy. Next, we had to write down what we wanted them to do instead. Third, we broke down the tasks necessary to complete the over riding behavior. In action, you praise (not overly crazily so, but just let them know they pretty much rocked it) each of the smaller components of the things we work on with them. This way, even if whatever it is we want to see as the end result is not perfect, we've likely been able to say to the child that we saw five or six really awesome things to the one or two things that could use some improvement.
Here is an example that I wrote down:
Problem Behavior: Homework doesn't make it back into the backpack until the morning, usually as the school bus is driving up, and I'm the one stuffing it into the backpack as The Kid walks out the door.
What behavior do I want to see instead: The Kid, who is often awesome about the 'doing' of the homework in the first place, completes his homework and puts it right back in his backpack after he's done, and gets the back pack in position by the front door to go to school the next morning.
Components of the behavior: Start homework. Complete homework. Mom checks homework and signs it. The Kid puts homework into folder. The Kid puts folder into backpack. The Kid brings backpack to the front door. The Kid has backpack ready to go out the door as the bus arrives.
So, that's six things I can catch him being good at, when normally I'm just bitching at him in the morning that I had to put his homework in his backpack again. I do ask him to complete these tasks now, but not in such clear terms.
There's so much more to say about the subject. Check out the link above, if you are interested. Also, give it a try and get back to me. I'd like to know how this simple change in communication with kids can make big changes in the world we inhabit together.