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Ep. 145: Ross W. Greene, Ph.D - Unlocking the Barriers for a Disruptive Child

April 15, 2021 Sucheta Kamath Season 1 Episode 145
Full PreFrontal
Ep. 145: Ross W. Greene, Ph.D - Unlocking the Barriers for a Disruptive Child
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Full PreFrontal
Ep. 145: Ross W. Greene, Ph.D - Unlocking the Barriers for a Disruptive Child
Apr 15, 2021 Season 1 Episode 145
Sucheta Kamath

A difficult to teach child slows down the learning for others and accentuates the burden of teaching a group of diverse learners that often looms heavily on the teacher. What if  disruptive children are actually facing challenges that result from the lack of critical “to not be challenging” skills such as adaptive flexibility, frustration tolerance, and problem solving?

On this episode, renowned author, clinical psychologist,  documentary producer, and adjunct professor in the Department of Psychology at Virginia Tech, Dr. Ross Greene, discusses the dilemma of teaching that requires a set of prerequisite learning how to learn skills that facilitate the acquisition of new knowledge but are far less ubiquitous. By prioritizing the building of executive function and self-regulation first,  educators are likely to yield greater cooperation from children and far more success in learning engagement.

About Ross W. Greene, Ph.D
Ross W. Greene, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist and the originator of the innovative, evidence-based approach called Collaborative & Proactive Solutions (CPS), as described in his influential books The Explosive Child, Lost at School, Lost & Found, and Raising Human Beings. He also developed and executive produced the award-winning documentary film The Kids We Lose, released in 2018. Dr. Greene was on the faculty at Harvard Medical School for over 20 years, and founded the non-profit Lives in the Balance in 2009. He is currently adjunct Professor in the Department of Psychology at Virginia Tech and adjunct Professor in the Faculty of Science at the University of Technology in Sydney, Australia. Dr. Greene has worked with several thousand behaviorally challenging kids and their caregivers, and he and his colleagues have overseen implementation and evaluation of the CPS model in hundreds of schools, inpatient psychiatry units, and residential and juvenile detention facilities, with dramatic effect: significant reductions in recidivism, discipline referrals, detentions, suspensions, and use of restraint and seclusion. Dr. Greene lectures throughout the world and lives in Freeport, Maine.

Websites:

Books:


About Host, Sucheta Kamath
Sucheta Kamath, is an award-winning speech-language pathologist, a TEDx speaker, a celebrated community leader, and the founder and CEO of ExQ®. As an EdTech entrepreneur, Sucheta has designed ExQ's personalized digital learning curriculum/tool that empowers middle and high school students to develop self-awareness and strategic thinking skills through the mastery of Executive Function and social-emotional competence.

Support the show (https://mailchi.mp/7c848462e96f/full-prefrontal-sign-up)

Show Notes Transcript

A difficult to teach child slows down the learning for others and accentuates the burden of teaching a group of diverse learners that often looms heavily on the teacher. What if  disruptive children are actually facing challenges that result from the lack of critical “to not be challenging” skills such as adaptive flexibility, frustration tolerance, and problem solving?

On this episode, renowned author, clinical psychologist,  documentary producer, and adjunct professor in the Department of Psychology at Virginia Tech, Dr. Ross Greene, discusses the dilemma of teaching that requires a set of prerequisite learning how to learn skills that facilitate the acquisition of new knowledge but are far less ubiquitous. By prioritizing the building of executive function and self-regulation first,  educators are likely to yield greater cooperation from children and far more success in learning engagement.

About Ross W. Greene, Ph.D
Ross W. Greene, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist and the originator of the innovative, evidence-based approach called Collaborative & Proactive Solutions (CPS), as described in his influential books The Explosive Child, Lost at School, Lost & Found, and Raising Human Beings. He also developed and executive produced the award-winning documentary film The Kids We Lose, released in 2018. Dr. Greene was on the faculty at Harvard Medical School for over 20 years, and founded the non-profit Lives in the Balance in 2009. He is currently adjunct Professor in the Department of Psychology at Virginia Tech and adjunct Professor in the Faculty of Science at the University of Technology in Sydney, Australia. Dr. Greene has worked with several thousand behaviorally challenging kids and their caregivers, and he and his colleagues have overseen implementation and evaluation of the CPS model in hundreds of schools, inpatient psychiatry units, and residential and juvenile detention facilities, with dramatic effect: significant reductions in recidivism, discipline referrals, detentions, suspensions, and use of restraint and seclusion. Dr. Greene lectures throughout the world and lives in Freeport, Maine.

Websites:

Books:


About Host, Sucheta Kamath
Sucheta Kamath, is an award-winning speech-language pathologist, a TEDx speaker, a celebrated community leader, and the founder and CEO of ExQ®. As an EdTech entrepreneur, Sucheta has designed ExQ's personalized digital learning curriculum/tool that empowers middle and high school students to develop self-awareness and strategic thinking skills through the mastery of Executive Function and social-emotional competence.

Support the show (https://mailchi.mp/7c848462e96f/full-prefrontal-sign-up)

Sucheta Kamath: Hello, welcome back to Full PreFrontal exposing the mysteries of executive function, as you always hear very eagerly, that we talk about executive function, prefrontal cortex, self proficiency, and how to unlock the mysteries that hold us back or we how do we achieve goals that we set out for ourselves but those who are responsible for children, we're always curious how to help children self actualize, and reach their fullest potential. I wanted to start with a little background today that in 1972, Terry Moffitt and her colleague, Dr. Kaspi, launched a most comprehensive investigation to tease apart previously unseen patterns in human development, which came to be known as the Duden Multidisciplinary Health and Developmental Study, where they followed close to 1000 children for over 30 years. There study revealed many, many things. But one key component was that the childhood self control seemed to predict physical health, financial success and lack of criminal behaviors amongst adults. And that brings me to our dear guest guest today, who has committed his life to those children who, whose failed self control during the kindergarten to 12th grade education becomes a source of failure, and not just academic and personal failure, but failure to receive in nurturing support and guidance and patients from all those who are invested in educating them, educating them, and mostly in spite of them having incredible potential. So it's great joy, privilege and honor to welcome you. Dr. Ross W. Greene, he is a clinical psychologist, and the originator of the innovative evidence based approach called collaborative, proactive solutions, CPS, as described in the his influential books, the Explosive Child, Lost at School, Lost and Found and Raising Human Beings. And I am going to concentrate on Lost at School, which is one of my favorite books. All of them are favorite. He also developed an executive producer award winning documentary The Kids We Lose, released in 2018, I highly recommended, and Dr. Greene was on the faculty of Harvard Medical School over 20 years and founded the nonprofit, Lives in the Balance in 2009. And that's a great resource. We'll be attaching a lot of links in the show notes. He is currently adjunct faculty in the Department of Psychology at Virginia Tech, and adjunct professor in the psychology at adjunct professor in the Faculty of Science at the University of University of Technology in Sydney, Australia. The man is very busy, and I'm so grateful he found time for me. There are a lot of things that we can talk about. But one tidbit here that if you Google, he has 52 quotes. And I'm shocked that they're only 52 because every word he says are quotable. And one of my favorite amongst all his kids do well if they can. And welcome to the podcast. Ross,

Dr. Ross Greene: How are you? Thank you for inviting me to do this. And thanks for your persistence and making sure that it happened.

Sucheta Kamath: Yes, yes. And I mean, it's going to be your treat to the audience. So I really appreciate your time. So this podcast is about executive function, which as you know, entails adaptive flexibility, good goal management, but behavioral and emotional regulation. Since this is the question, I've been asking all of my guests how as a child, you were in the classroom. And I mean, I think I can predict how you are but you, you're the shepherd of all the troubled children and their mismanagement. So did you ever get in trouble? How were you?

Dr. Ross Greene: Seldom did I get in trouble. I was more anxious and shy. I was a kid who blended into the woodwork early on some separation anxiety, some general anxiety, but mostly, very, very shy. And what many people don't find hard to believe is that I'm actually still pretty shy. I'm nowhere nearly as shy as I was, but I'm still pretty shy person. And so No, I wasn't getting in trouble almost ever. Because the whole thought of getting in trouble was so just paralyzing that. Nope, truth is. But here's the interesting thing. You know, what I say about the kids that I work with, is that the reason they are getting into trouble is because of certain behaviors that they exhibit. When they're having difficulty meeting certain expectations, well, I didn't exhibit those behaviors. And better yet, I was meeting most of the expectations that were being placed upon me. And so I was lucky in both ways. My I was not having that much difficulty meeting most expectations with math being the exception. And my behavior when I was having difficulty meeting expectations was more toward the internalizing end of the spectrum, anxious, shy, withdrawing, and of course, those are the kids, even though they are lacking some skills to they get met with nurturance, and support and empathy. The ones I've been working with for 40 years, the ones who are externalizing, screaming, swearing, hitting, spitting, kicking, biting, destroying, they don't get empathy, they frequently don't get support and nurturance. So in both of those respects, I was lucky. No, I did not get in trouble much. Now I did. Now I will say this, I am slightly a limit tester. I'm a good limit tester. Right. But through this, and I don't know, if I'm more of a limit tester than most Americans. You know, I find that many Americans see a sign that says no parking. And their first thought is, oh, but it's just for five minutes, right? Or are they you know, or they see the speed limit sign that says 65. And they're thinking, that's a 72, right? So I'm not alone in the fact that I test limits, I just don't test limits to agree to a degree that gets me into trouble.

Sucheta Kamath: So many things come to mind. One is you're such an amicable personality, you know, your agree ability is so high, that people even if you create a trouble, there's a tongue in cheek in your attitude. So I think that just kind of take the edge off. And second, I think there is a general collaborative pneus in your trouble. So you're not going to cause problems while others, but just see if there's elbow room to move. And so the good trouble as john lewis says, getting in good trouble. So you kind of started setting the stage for us. But you know, the author of Raising Cain, Dr. Michael Thomas, in your book, says that no one in America has thought more deeply about the problems of disruptive children in school than Ross Greene. Why do you think the children who struggle then tend to be tend to misbehave and are easily misunderstood?

Dr. Ross Greene: Well, your program is focused on a big part of it. It's not lagging motivation. That's not what the research tells us. It's not necessarily poor parenting, most parents of kids with concerning behaviors, have other children who are well behaved. It's lagging skills. Life is full of problems and frustrations they are in escapable. Some of us handled them fairly well, most of the time. And a lot of kids would concerning behaviors are not handling them very well. Enough of the time for us to notice, here's what's interesting, they are handling them sometimes reasonably well. So it's not like it's like a, you know, it's like it's not like a complete void. It's just an under certain conditions, especially when they're having difficulty meeting certain expectations. That's when they look bad, and they happen to look bad, because because of the skills that they are lacking. And but but that is such a solid statement that is backed up by 40 to 50 years of research. But the important point about that is that they are not lacking motivation, they are lacking skills, and therefore, interventions aimed at motivating them to do well are unlikely to get the job done. Because unmotivated is not what they are in the first place.

Sucheta Kamath: So it's so interesting. Can we talk a little bit about what the skills are? Because these are skills, executive function skills, these are how do I pay attention? How do I sustain my interest? How do I complete start task? complete tasks? How do I understand expectations? Right? And do you have any theory as to why have we? How did we all come about keeping these skills outside academics? So academics is math, science, English, and then there's behaviors which is written as a little note, as an afterthought, we're getting that wrong. I do not know.

Dr. Ross Greene: I think that we've been separating behavior from the problems that are causing those behaviors for a very long time. And truth is, the problem is that we've been focused mostly on the behaviors rather than the problems that are causing those behaviors. So here's the interesting thing, there are lots of kids who have difficulty reading. Reading is a skill that those kids are lacking. But the ones who are responding to the difficulty they're having reading in ways that are more extreme, are the ones who are lacking the skills to respond to the difficulty reading in ways that are less extreme. So you know, I think life is fairly simple in that way, I don't want to make it more simple than it really is. But executive skills, especially any executive skills related to regulating one's emotions, shifting from one mindset to another working memory, I think of as a big one. It's no accident that a lot of kids with concerning behaviors are lacking some very important executive skills. But it also depends on what you put in the executive category. Some people would put social skills in the executive category, I'm not a category, guys, I don't really care. But for those who don't put social skills in the executive category, social skills are big, cognitive flexibility skills are big, many kids who exhibit concerning behaviors are very concrete, literal, black and white, rigid, inflexible thinkers. Some people would say, yeah, that's executive, others won't I don't care, language processing and communication skills. I you know, there are many people who separate language processing from executive, I don't think it can be done. So it all depends on what your categories are. But the bottom line is, there is just a boatload of evidence telling us, these kids are having difficulty responding to life's problems and frustrations in ways that are adaptive, are lacking skills, not motivation.

Sucheta Kamath: You know, and I don't think I mean, I've heard you speak many, many times. And I don't think there are enough people who so emphatically say that, because even as, as I've been deeply engaged in, in my community, as well as doing a lot of national work about student engagement and learning loss, and the biggest thing, you know, in a talk about, you know, message boards, or in the chat boxes, what people, teachers and educators are talking about, how do I get the child to be engaged? And almost it's like, one time thing? And then can I do that thing, so that forever The child is engaged? It's so complicated. So I think people don't even understand what motivation is. And what does it mean to have to work with a child who's disengaged? So how do you conceptualize this distinction between a willingness and ability to engage no matter what the demand is, and then second part, not having the skills to know what to do? Because you're not able to engage? Either you don't like it, or you don't actually have the skill? So you need to advocate. So it's a full spectrum of executive proficiency?

Dr. Ross Greene:  Here's what's interesting, because my overriding philosophy is kids do all if they can, This kid has a preference for meeting expectations. Life just goes smoother. That way, life is better that way. Here's what's interesting. So I default to kids do all if they can 100% of the time. So kids do all if they wanna is actually not part of my thinking. But here's the bottom line. Bottom line is the person who is in the best position to tell us what's making it difficult for them to engage on a particular assignment or activity is the kid. Yes. And that's why a very big part of my model is helping caregivers, parents, teachers, whoever, gather information from kids about what's making it hard for kids to meet certain expectations. So quite frankly, it doesn't even matter what I think about why kids in general are not engaged. Number one, I don't care that much about general, I care about this kid on this particular task, and what this kid tells me about what's making it hard for them to engage on this particular task. And never do I hear. I'm just not motivated. Now, I do sometimes hear, it's not that interesting. It's boring. It's too hard. I don't understand it. There's all kinds of things that I might hear. Just because I'm hearing that is boring, or that a kid doesn't want to do it doesn't tell me that we're in the motivational category tells me the kid has good reasons for thinking that it's not particularly interesting. And the kid has good reasons for thinking that he doesn't particularly want to do it. Good. Let's hear about that next. So I'm less likely to talk about generalities about will To engage, each kid is different. Each kid has different reasons that they're having difficulty engaging on different tasks. We adults don't need to be good at figuring that stuff out on our own. We need to be good at extracting that information from kids, one kid and one problem at a time.

Sucheta Kamath: So there are two striking things about it. And, again, maybe, and you have been very successful in appealing to educators. So I'm very keen to know. One is I think, in your approach, even when you demonstrate You talk a lot about developing a relationship. And and that relationship comes from having a one on one conversations. So one of the things I hear in the learning context, when the teacher is in the front, and the students I'm sitting, the, the teacher feels unable to individualize that way, all the time. So there, you have clever ways to address that. And if you would, don't mind sharing it. And second thing is, this requires a little bit of investment of time, because to get the child to tell what is not working, is not going to be because some it's something to problem, this kid may not even know what he doesn't know. And so that may require a little bit teasing out which requires patience on both parties. And I feel there's a little bit of lack of patience, particularly if a kid presents himself or herself as arrogant, disrespectful or smug. Those What are your thoughts about that?

Dr. Ross Greene: Those kids are losing style points. But that doesn't mean that their concerns are legitimate, or that it's less important to find out what's getting in their way. And by the way, the kid wasn't born arrogant. The kid wasn't born disrespectful. If we took a look back in history, we would find that interactions with caregivers that preceded this one may help explain why this kid is now presenting as arrogant or disrespectful. But I'm not too concerned about style points. I'm much more interested in getting info. Because here's what I know, once I get that info, the kids not going to be arrogant or disrespectful in their interactions with the caregiver anymore. Because we're finally talking about what we need to be talking about. Here's what's interesting. I was in a different conversation earlier today. If you're a kid, and you're having difficulty meeting a particular expectation, and that expectation is causing you to behave in ways that are not okay. And if all your caregivers are focused on is the behavior, and not the problems that are causing that behavior. And you get what we usually do to kids whose behavior is not as we would like it to be, you're getting punished, you're getting detention suspensions, timeouts, if it still doesn't get better, or if the behavior is even more extreme, you're getting restrained and secluded, maybe expelled. If you're that kid, you're thinking these adults, number one are focused on the wrong thing. Number two, they're not engaging me in solving the problems that affect my life. They are just throwing punishments at me left and right. It's not getting better. I don't trust them. I am becoming more alienated over time, because it's not getting better. And because I'm on the receiving end of that kind of treatment. Over time, I am becoming alienated and disenfranchised. And now I do have an attitude. And now I am being disrespectful. And now I am coming off as arrogant. Well, I didn't start off that way. It got that way. And where did begin expectations that I was having difficulty meeting that were causing concerning behaviors, and the caregivers or remote caregivers in my life or almost exclusively focused on the behaviors. Alright, so second leap. Yes, it's going to take some time to figure out what's going on with that kid. Nowhere nearly as much time as it takes to deal with that kid on a daily basis when the kid is continuing to exhibit behaviors that are disrupting his or her own learning and disrupting the learning of the other kids a lot of lost learning here by us focusing on the wrong thing. So I don't worry about time I know that solving problems collaboratively and proactively saves time. Bottom line is there are many things about the way school discipline is structured. That point people toward focusing on behavior. Focusing on the heat of the moment after the behavior occurs, what I call the end of the story, the problems that are causing those behaviors are at the beginning of the story. And the truth is, if we're focused on what's going on at the beginning of the story, we might actually be able to change what's going on at the end of the story. But don't worry about time because this model saves people a lot of time.

Sucheta Kamath: You know, what's so interesting about that is your again, appealing to educators to be mentally flexible, and don't focus on the outcome, but start with the source. And to me, I find that a heated in the heat of the moment, a hyper escalated behavior by a child is met with a stringent, very punitive attitude of the caretaker or the person in charge, they suddenly feel that I'm losing control over my my class or losing control over or I'm My position is somehow diminished. And I'm not saying that the this is happening consciously. But there's that impulse to like if somebody is trying to run your, your impulses to grab them and make them sit. So tell me, you kind of already said this. But why why do you think this the old fashioned school discipline and zero tolerance policies, when they're they were put in place? And people who are running with them? What are they getting wrong, why there's such a compulsion to want to discipline children as a way to manage the classroom?

Dr. Ross Greene: What they're getting wrong. First of all, I can appreciate the need to manage a classroom, you got 20 to 30 kids in there, you got high stakes testing being held over your head, let there be no doubt, we want this to be a classroom where kids are reasonably well behaved so that learning can occur. completely understandable, right? Where we get it wrong, is we're focused on the kids behavior, rather than on the problems that are causing that behavior. And intervention often occurs late at the end of the story, emergently reactively. And we're being very unilateral in how we're going about trying to help these kids, I find that when those things change, we're not focused on behavior anymore, we're focused on the problems that are causing that behavior. We can identify those problems ahead of time, which means that our interventions can be almost exclusively proactive. and collaborating with kids on solutions to those problems, instead of imposing solutions is a whole lot better. To use a word that came up earlier, engages the kid in solving the problems that affect their lives, improve communication, improve another word that came up earlier, relationships. Now, you know what I spend a good part of my time helping people learn how to do. But it actually all begins with helping people recognize that this kid is lacking skills, not motivation. A lot of school discipline programs are still oriented primarily around motivation. Yeah.

Sucheta Kamath: So let's walk through this. How does this identification look like? How you have many, many very systematic ways of of kind of helping educators to arrive at that detection process? Can you walk us through that?

Dr. Ross Greene: It's actually not many, many ways. One way. 

Sucheta Kamath: There are many problems can fit in that model is what I meant to say

Dr. Ross Greene: It begins with an instrument known as the assessment of lagging skills and unsolved problem. Yes, that's what I mean, it's available on the Lives in the Balance website for free in an editable, fillable format. What it helps us identify is what I call the information that's been missing. Yes. We already know what the kids behavior is. And we've known that for a very long time. We're about to get where do you know what the kids diagnoses are? We've known that for a very long time. We don't know what adults theories are about how this kid got to be this way. We've been throwing those theories out there for a very long time, the information that's been missing, what are these kids lagging skills? that's crucial, because it's going to help us get the right lenses on this kid is lacking skills, not motivation. What are these kids unsolved problems? What expectations is this kid having difficulty reliably meeting? By the way? I often hear people say, Well, he can do it. Sometimes that does not prove that he can do it when he wants to know, it proves that we don't yet understand why he can do it sometimes and not others. How about we asked him. So that gives us the information that's been missing, lagging skills, and unsolved problems. As I already said, once we identify those unsolved problems, they are predictable. They were predictable in the first place. We just didn't memorialize them right now. We're memorializing them, then we prioritize them. Because once people identify a kid's unsolved problems, they're going to be tempted to try to solve them all at once, which is the surefire way to guarantee that none of them at all will get solved. So we always tell people, you're never working on more than three unsolved problems at any particular given point in time. So prioritizing is a big part of the process. Another big part of the process is caregivers asking themselves, do I believe that this kid is able to reliably meet that expectation at this point in that kid's development? If the answer is no, and this is this is a really important part of the process. Because I see a lot of kids getting detentions and suspensions and paddled and restrained and secluded. Over expectations, we already know they cannot reliably meet.

Sucheta Kamath: Can I quickly ask you about that though, the teachers or educators are using a parameter of other peers as a way to judge and that the child may be chronologically meeting the standard of being in that class, but the skill sets have not emerged. And so they don't have a right or fully, they're not fully equipped to judge if this is an appropriate expectation or not. Do you have any suggestions for how do they even arrive at that? When they don't have the neuro psychological background?

Dr. Ross Greene: It's okay to have standards. It's okay to have expectations that you want the entire class to meet? If you're a classroom teacher, you almost have to have that because states are imposing those expectations on you. That's okay. It's what you do if a kid is having difficulty meeting those expectations, which is where the rubber meets the road. I've had a lot of classroom teachers say to me, I don't think he can meet that expectation. But he has to by the end of the school year, or that's what the rest of the class is doing? or What is he supposed to do sit there and do nothing? No, he's not supposed to sit there and do nothing. What I can tell you is that putting an expectation on a kid that we know the kid cannot meet? is a concerning behavior waiting to happen. So that's where concepts very familiar concepts to educators like differentiated instruction, yes, and personalized learning, and universal design. Come in. I don't know if there's an educator who still thinks that it's a level playing field in their classroom. And all students were created equal. I haven't met that educator. They all know that that's not the case. Right? how we handle it when it's not the case. And giving teachers permission to prioritize expectations for kids, and to ease up on expectations, they already know that the kid can't meet. And to solve those problems collaboratively and proactively. We shouldn't even have to give teachers permission to do that. Teacher should have permission to do that that should be part of everyday life in a classroom.

Sucheta Kamath: I think that's such a valuable thing that you just said that giving permission to the teachers, I think is somehow I don't know what culture we have created accidentally, maybe that suddenly, every child should be taught should be taught the same way. And the results should be identical. And that's just a disastrous kind of stress on both parties involved.

Dr. Ross Greene: While we have high stakes testing, pushing people you know, if you base a teacher's job security and job performance on how his or her students do in high stakes tests, then you are actually legislating all students are created equal. You know, with all with No Child Left Behind, there were services that were supposed to be provided to kids who couldn't quite make the cut. But it's no accident that I've had a lot of classroom teachers say to me, they took all the humanity out of my job. Somewhere along the line, the people who are doing the legislating, forgot that we've always relied on classroom teachers to be among the most important socialization agents in our society. Yes. And I'm one person who thinks that we are now paying the price for that. 

Sucheta Kamath: Yeah. So, so let's talk about the problem solving process. So I love that first, you know, give them the list to identify all the behaviors where the expectations are not being met, prioritize. And you're suggesting that the educators do that, or they do that collaboratively with the student.

Dr. Ross Greene: Oh, prioritizing can be, the educators are the ones who identify the unsolved problems.  No harm and checking in with the kid in case you missed something fine to have the kid help you prioritize, it's a very good way to engage the kid in the process in the first place. And then the problem solving process is 100% collaborative.

Sucheta Kamath: Perfect. So walk us through the problem solving plans that you put in place, and you recommend educators to follow. I think the other thing that I love about this is the self reliant student, ultimately, the goal there is to not get the student to do what you want. But really get the student to understand that your education is your agency, you are in charge of your learning. And I love that approach, because that's going to last outside the school forever. So what does that problem solving look like?

Dr. Ross Greene: Well, it's three steps. In the first step, you're gathering information from the kid about what's making it hard for them to meet a particular expectation. In the second step, the adult is voicing why it's important that that expectation be met. Notice, this model does not involve dropping expectations completely, as the means of getting the kid to behave themselves. Of course, you still have expectations, how you handle the ones that kid is having difficulty meeting is once again where the rubber hits the road. And then in the third step, caregiver and child are collaborating on a solution. But a solution that must meet two criteria, it's got to be realistic. Both parties got to be able to do what they're agreeing to do. And even more important than that, it's got to be mutually satisfactory, meaning it addresses the concerns of both parties. Now, do I think it's bad for adults to have expectations? No, I think it's great for adults to have expectations. Do I think all kids are self starters? Right from the word go? No, I think that, generally speaking, that comes over time. Do I think that kids do all if they can? Yeah. So do I think the kid would like to meet your expectations? Yeah, if they can do well, they will do well. So what do they mostly need from us? help navigating the expectations? They're having difficulty meeting? But not unilateral help. Collaborative help? Yeah. And if we do it collaboratively, they learn how to solve the problems that affect their lives. They become increasingly independent in doing so. Because we taught them through experience. They start applying some of the solutions, we've come up with two other problems that are affecting their lives without our help. What do I call that? Agency. Self-efficacy.

Sucheta Kamath: Amazing. So can you do and giving us an example or I'll give you an example of a student student, a classic, you know, seventh grader not turning his homework, turning in his homework, many problems. They're not copying the homework down, not remembering the teacher's website where the teacher posts the homework, not doing the homework or doing the homework and leaving it on the kitchen table. various ways the homework never reaches the teacher.

Dr. Ross Greene: Well, you actually just named for different problems. Yes. So we wouldn't roll with difficulty completing homework, because it's too broad. We would want to be very specific about what homework and we'd want to be specific about the different components of homework that the kid is having difficulty doing. So one of the ones you mentioned is difficulty turning the homework in on time.

Sucheta Kamath: So just a quick interruption here. So you will be my teacher and you'll do directly work with me. You will not involve my parents, correct.

Dr. Ross Greene: Well, now on the since I'm the one who assigned the homework,

Sucheta Kamath: So you will be the one in charge. Okay. 

Dr. Ross Greene: I could be. Homework is one of the unsolved problems on which there is overlap between home and school. So we might need the parents. We might not need the parents. But I'd probably start with the person who's assigning the homework. That's the classroom teacher.

Sucheta Kamath: Yeah, what I really loved like your book books always read like a screenwriters. You know, little workshop you it's always has dialogue, there's a modeling going on. And there's an opportunity for teachers can literally have a student there and read the script back and forth. Because then it's because some people I feel are not psych wise. And I hate to use that term, but it requires a little bit of acumen of empathy and understanding that maybe they're not getting it rather than them being difficult. So I love that if you mind doing that with me,

Dr. Ross Greene: Well, happy to. Here's the interesting thing. What I'm always telling people is, you don't have to be super savvy about kids. You don't have to be sort of super psychologically sophisticated. Just do the three steps you'll be fine.

Sucheta Kamath: Amazing. 

Dr. Ross Greene: Alright. So if you're the student who's having this difficulty, I've noticed you've been having difficulty turning in the, let me pick something. summaries on the chapters you've been reading about Ponce deLeon. What's up? 

Sucheta Kamath: Um, I didn't remember it was due.

Dr. Ross Greene: Ah, now Now I'm going to one of the things I've done is articulated eight different drilling strategies to help people extract information from kids, because one of the things I've learned is that for any variety of reasons, a lot of adults at that moment would have no idea what to say next. Right. And one of the biggest bad habits we adults have, is that we would immediately kick in with a solution. Okay. We might say something like, Well, why don't you put a reminder in your phone?

Sucheta Kamath: Yes. And I'm also being that facetious student who actually is so self blind that everything is or no, but at least I'm being verbal and vocal.

Dr. Ross Greene: And those are the people people that those are the kids people really want to know, because they think I don't know means the curtain just came down to solving the problem when it means nothing of the sort. But let's go with what you said, Ah, I'm going to use a drilling strategy called reflective listening, familiar to any mental health professional out there, plus lots of other people, you're forgetting to write it down? Can you tell me more about that?

Sucheta Kamath: Forgetting to write it down, out, well, I didn't copy because the when the class ended, we were rushing out. And I generally don't have time to copy it from the board.

Dr. Ross Greene: Got it. So Well, that's a little different than forgetting. Sounds like you are remembering. I don't want to put words in your mouth. But it sounds like you're remembering. But you don't have time, because you're in a rush at the end. Help me understand which of those is closer to what's really going on? Are you forgetting? Or are you just running out of time? Because here's the interesting thing. This is why this is so crucial.

Sucheta Kamath: You know, and I just realized, like, I'm not even playing my role correctly.

Dr. Ross Greene: Now, you're doing fantastic. But here's the interesting thing, if the first thing that kids says is forgetting, and the adult kicks in with a solution that's all about forget all about remembering, yes. But on further inquiry, we find out that this has nothing to do at all with remembering, it's just the first thing that kids said. But we've already run with a solution. That's all about remembering, we won't solve this problem. Right? So which is it more, the forgetting or is it running out of time to copy it? Or both?

Sucheta Kamath: I think mostly I will say I'm not prepared to copy it, because I'm rushing out from the class. So I don't have time to copy it.

Dr. Ross Greene: What do you mean by you're not prepared to copy it?

Sucheta Kamath: Because when the you know, after your class, I have to go to math. Sorry, I have to go to the science lab. And it's on the other side of the hallway. And I have to stop at the locker. So I put everything into my bag before so I have enough time to run to the locker. That's why I don't have time to copy it.

Dr. Ross Greene: Alright, so once again, I don't want to put words in your mouth. But it sounds like it's not that you're not remembering. Sounds like you know you're supposed to and you're remembering to. But you are in such a rush that you feel that you don't have time to copy it down and still get to your next class in your locker on time. Do I have it right?

Sucheta Kamath: Yes, yes, you got it. Right.

Dr. Ross Greene: So here's what I know. So far, by the way, this is under drilling strategy. It's called summarizing, and asking for more. Because just, we're early in this process. I don't want to move on to the adults concern and the solution until I feel as certain as I can that I have everything about this that's getting in the way for the kid. Right. What I now understand is that you are in a very big rush at the end of that class to get to the next class and get to your locker on the way and that you feel you don't have enough time to copy the assignment from the board.

Sucheta Kamath: Yes.

Dr. Ross Greene: Is there anything else making it difficult for you to copy the homework assignment from the board?

Sucheta Kamath: Yes, I don't know if you can do that. But you tend to write your homework at the end of the class. And that's hard for me.

Dr. Ross Greene: So it's hard for you, because I'm leaving it till the end. And as at the end that you are in a very big hurry. Yeah, very interesting. That's very good for me to know. Now, here's what I'm going to say. Because I know we don't want to take our entire remaining time on this plan B, the empathy step would continue with more summarizing and asking for more and more reflective listening, until we felt like we have the clearest possible understanding of what's making it hard for the kid to meet that expectation. In the final concern step, I would put my concern on the table. Once again, my concern is about why it's important for that expectation to be met, which mostly comes down to how is this affecting the kid? How is this affecting other people? Here's what it would sound like. My concern is that if you don't copy the assignment down, you probably won't do the assignment, you won't get the practice that you need. And it's gonna stay hard for you to complete that assignment. That's my concern, I would, I would like this to not be so hard for you. Because I know it gets very frustrating for you. And I would like you to be able to go home with knowing what your homework assignment is, and having it so that you can actually do it. The adults concern is now on the table. Here's the invitation of...

Sucheta Kamath: No. So this I was going to keep this question at the end. But tell me how did you come to love children so much, there's so much love in the way you're allowing them, this field doesn't feel First, it doesn't feel like a top heavy, you're in trouble come to me, you know, doesn't feel that second, it doesn't feel that you are going to impose all a lot of BS or lecture on you're going to dump a lecture on me about you know, righteous teacher talking to this petty little student. It feels equal. It feels very relaxed. As you just said Invitational and it also one of the things even as I'm thinking about this, it's making me think, oh, wow, I never thought about this as a problem. Like, I just thought I'm not doing my homework, you know. So you kind of like have helped me package. So that's one thing comes to my does incredible love and trust in children.

Dr. Ross Greene: I do love kids. But I also am very focused on what's going to be helpful, and what's not going to be helpful. And I find that caregivers often when kids are having difficulty meeting expectations, caregivers often go about doing their thing in ways that are unhelpful. Do not promote communication, do not promote collaboration, do not promote relationships, and therefore do not make it easier. Do Do not facilitate the kid actually meeting the expectation.

Sucheta Kamath: That's also true.

Dr. Ross Greene: Mostly This is about yes, I do love kids. I think they're a blast. Right? I like that. They're fun, right? They also recognized but but also I want to do what's helpful.

Sucheta Kamath: But also that act of loving though, because what I'm the reason I'm saying is it's not just courtesy afforded to the kids for their difficulties, but there is an incredible respect offered about this can be solved. So there's like some promise made, there's a patient's offer, there's equality in relationship offered, that to me is comes from source of love. Because otherwise, I feel like there's a lot of something about hierarchy that steps in, in a relationship that people feel somehow. Third time I have told you and you haven't done it. So am I going to have to do this again, with you kind of attitude, you know, it's not problem solving attitude. It's not support attitude. It's not incredible patience for the kids. So maybe you're right. It's not love, but you're genuinely trying to make their lives easy. So maybe commitment?

Dr. Ross Greene: Whatever you want to call it,

Sucheta Kamath: Because I'm trying to see how can educators or parents emulate this? What's the secret sauce, which is the there's a procedure but to even to commit the procedure, there's something that you bring to the table, your approach. 

Dr. Ross Greene: The secret sauce is what I find most educators have unless they're they become so jaded, and so alienated themselves. The very vast majority of educators that I've worked with. 

Sucheta Kamath: I love that so you feel they have it, whatever it takes. 

Dr. Ross Greene: They love kids, right?And a lot of them got into teaching certainly not for the money, but because they love kids, right? What gets in the way of people loving kids having a student disrupt your class so that learning cannot occur so that you are at risk on the high stakes testing, that's gonna get in the way of love. Right? But the bottom line is, I like you, I'm in one of the helping professions and educating is one of the helping professions to Yes, we got to help helpers don't make things worse. helpers help, right? Not that. But the really big question is, what do I need to do to be helpful? Right? Does that come from a place of love? Sure, if you want to use that term, but professionally, it comes from a place of, I'm in one of the helping professions, here's what's amazing. There are lots of people who are still hitting kids, and saying they're doing it out of love. And as an act of love. Wow. Well, I'm actually a little bit careful about the word love. Because there are a lot of people who are doing some pretty counterproductive things to kids out of love, I'd rather go with helpful but also recognize, I'm dealing with kids. But when I start working with them, they've been on the receiving end of a lot of punitive stuff for a very long time. They don't trust me, they don't trust adults in general, they don't see the point of even sitting down and talking about this, for me to be helpful. And this is not purely strategic. This is my demeanor as it is. But for me to be helpful. I'm going to have to have a certain demeanor, one that is conducive to having kids trust me, talk to me, collaborate with me. That's the demeanor that you're seeing. I also hate it when kids very much.

Sucheta Kamath: Yeah, no, no, I think that's a very, very important distinction that I've not thought hard enough that the beginning of every educators journey is love, but where they end up becomes this non collaborative, non conducive, a rough space where everybody's under stress, but there's tension. And there's a fear that I'm going to break this relationship, which is held by this tiny thread. And that's not what you're doing. You're being bold, you're being courageous, but you're, you're bringing incredible clarity that my job is to help. And I need to know more, I need to know more. And I have solutions. But I won't offer until you're ready. And I like that clarity. That's that makes a whole lot of sense. So we're in that bit there. What, what, what, what was remarkable, and again, this, this is something you know, I'm also a clinician, and this is something my 20 years of experience of developing relationships of solving, helping people empowering them to solve problems. Is that big didn't take that long.

Dr. Ross Greene: Nope.

Sucheta Kamath: What's amazing is just like sending an email where you have to confront somebody, you avoid that I see lots of people avoiding problems that in themselves are not too bad. But getting to them feels really awful. So are you Do you have any any parting words for educators and caretakers and parents? How where do they find the courage to just face it? Go in.

Dr. Ross Greene: The big courage comes in on recognizing that if you're not being unilateral, if you're being collaborative, if you're being curious, it is highly unlikely that the kid's going to go off on you got to do this proactively not in the heat of the moment, heat of the moment, bad timing. And you got to be focused on unsolved problems instead of the behaviors that are being caused by those unsolved problems. The minute you start talking with kids about their behavior, which is just the signal, they're going to get defensive, they're going to think they're in trouble. And you have just greatly reduced the likelihood that the kid is going to talk to you. That's the secret sauce beyond that determination. But here's the interesting thing, a lot of very determined educators out there, they are determined that they are going to get the best out of this kid. Problem is a lot of them are going about doing it in ways that involve power.

Sucheta Kamath: Yes,

Dr. Ross Greene: It blows up in their face frequently, through my sheer force of will you are going to succeed in my classroom, I will make it so I like that just not through the sheer force of will part not through the power part. Collaboration is going to serve you much better and have you much more in tune with what's making it hard for your students to meet your expectations.

Sucheta Kamath: Amazing. I got it. I think I can I can do this. I think it will be clear for for people. So as Ross would come to an end. Do you have any favorite books, books of influence that you recommend? To our audience, your books themselves are very, very influential. So they should read that. But what has shaped your thought process? 

Dr. Ross Greene: Well, not necessarily books that I would recommend. But what shaped my thought processes were. There's this very obscure book by a guy who has been obscure for a while, his name is George Kelly, he wrote a book called, the Psychology of Personality or a Psychology of Personality, I'm pretty sure. And what George Kelly wrote about was a personal construct theory. And basically, what he said was, how we construe things, how we interpret things, has a great deal to do with how we're going to respond to them. I love that. The reason that's been influential is because I find that a lot of people construe kids with concerning behaviors in exactly the wrong way. We think they think they're unmotivated, rather than lacking skills. My goal is to have people construing these kids in a completely different way, and having them interacting with them in a completely different way. And I know that when people do that, we save a lot of kids. 

Sucheta Kamath: You know, I wonder in one of your books, you quoted Nancy Gibbs saying that illusions are the truths we live by until we know better. I wonder if that was your inspiration there.

Dr. Ross Greene: Well certainly there's a new one that I'm revising the explosive child right now. And the new quote is from Maya Angelou, which is, I don't I don't know if I've got this down. Exactly. But do your best until you know better. Once you know better,

Sucheta Kamath: Yes. I know that one. That's great. Fantastic. Any other book?

Dr. Ross Greene: Walter Michelle, a social learning theorist, luminary, very influential, especially his work on frustration and frustration, tolerance. Practically anybody in neuro psychology who's telling us about the skills that kids would concerning behaviors are lacking. And I'm a big fan of goodness of fit theory, which tells us that what determines a kid outcome is the degree of fit between or compatibility between the expectations we're placing on a kid. And the skills the kid has to meet those expectations. So, as you can see, a lot of this is not our original thinking. There were a lot of people who influenced this hybrid model.

Sucheta Kamath: Its original packaging, let me tell you about that. Because it's not just reading something and understanding theories. It's also one of the ways you have made it accessible is the translation.

Dr. Ross Greene: That's the goal. If it's not accessible, then it's not doing anybody any good.

Sucheta Kamath: Yes, it's brilliant. Thank you for what you have done for our field, our community and you continue to do for our children. And thank you for alerting me about distinction between not coming purely for love because you love can misguide you, but really being consistent and persistent in solving problems so that their life is better. And that's really a different way of thinking. I appreciate that. Thank you for being here with me. And thank you, everyone for joining us on this amazing episode of Full PreFrontal exposing the mysteries of executive function. If you love what you hear, please make sure you share it with your friends, colleagues, your peers, anybody who is dying to know more about how to take care of our children. And please tune in next week and here's to a good brain that keeps growing with better thinking.