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Collaborative problem solving

CPS is typically associated with child protective services, but for my purposes, it refers to collaborative problem solving. Dr Ross Greene outlines his system for CPS at, and in his book, "The Explosive Child". Prior to writing my own book, this was the closest thing I had read to my household. I highly recommend it. As much as it hit home with my children's tendencies to explode, it didn't entirely describe our home. However, incorporating the CPS method more fully into our parenting has helped us do better.

We have always asked our children why they did certain things, or what they were thinking and feeling. Often, the answers we received were vague, non answers that still left us with questions it seemed no one could answer. CPS outlines several likely struggles that may be the root of behaviors we see. CPS also describes a method by which to dig those root difficulties out of our children who might be reluctant to share, or who just don't know what is going on until someone guides them.

Lately, Will has been struggling with skipping over the talk about it part of frustration and going straight to the fists and screaming part. He did this often (multiple times hourly) as a toddler. As he got older the frequency seemed to drop off, but the length of the meltdowns increased. So, we got several many hours long meltdowns each day. Those gradually decreased as he learned more coping skills, and we learned better how to help him navigate the ever changing landscape of his life.

Apparently, life is returning us to the days of us having no idea what happened to precipitate a meltdown. Will, has in the last two days, had four occasions during which meltdown happened without even a breath after frustration set in. Because he is unreachable logically during meltdowns, we endure the screaming or silence (or both) until he is ready to talk. Then, he is able to explain.

I asked him briefly this evening why he was skipping the talk phase, and he didn't know. This is a common answer for many kids. But we must ask the question anyway. We assure ours that "I don't know" is an acceptable feeling, but we will revisit. They should introspect, and work toward more of an answer. When we can talk about this struggle again, I will employ the CPS model with him. "I've noticed you are struggling with talking before you meltdown, what's up?" I will follow this with additional questions based on his answers, and other observations I make throughout the days or weeks. Those might include the situation or environment if I notice a correlation. Maybe the time of day, or amount of activity is troublesome. Perhaps he is nearing 11, and hormones are beginning to set in.

Whatever answer we get to, we will then work out a plan that both of us can agree on, and that works for the whole house. After we implement the plan, we will check in with each other every few days to see how it is working. Will is experiencing a time of struggle. Rather than belittle him, or punish him, our job is to find the source and address it so we achieve growth and understanding.

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