Sunday, May 8, 2016

Balancing understanding with demanding

Balance: Will & Griffen practicing Kung Fu with their mentor
"Johnny, you need to clean up your mess."


"Johnny, it needs to happen now."


"Johnny, can I speak with you for a minute?"


"Ok. Johnny, I need you to come with me or I'm going to have to ... "

Who wants to guess if Johnny complied?

Not a chance.

Dealing with students with Oppositional Defiant Disorder and other serious social-behavioral challenges sometimes seems like a full time job... and a losing proposition, but I'm learning it's a balance between understanding and demanding.

Sure, I've been working on some strategies for not triggering their oppositional behaviors, but what am I teaching them if I'm always trying to just avoid triggering them?


Future professors and employers won't be walking around on eggshells, and they won't be putting up with it.

This week, I started listening to the Total Transformation program. While I'm not thrilled with Lehman's approach (I was irritated by the apparent lack of basis in research), one thing has hit home so far: I need to balance understanding students' challenges with requiring appropriate behaviors and teaching healthy problem solving skills.

So I rolled out this new "a + b = c" approach this week with one such student. I said:
"I understand, as best I can, that you struggle with this--that it's not easy for you to respond correctly when I ask you to do something.

But I also need you to comply. We can't run a school if students do whatever they want and don't obey directives. And more importantly, even though you have a powerful and creative mind, you will not succeed in college and career if you don't overcome this challenge.

So that's why I'm going to require that you get more intensive behavioral support. I don't know what that will look like yet, but we're going to come up with a plan that will probably involve weekly counselling sessions."

In short: "I understand ___________, but I need __________, and you need __________ so you need more support."

It resonates with my growing philosophy of the centrality of support. It's about them, after all.

Every one of them.


P.S.: I'm interested in trying out mindfulness training with them as one option for support. There's some evidence that it can help with ADHD and ODD, as it does with depression.

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