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Spotlight: An alternative to rewards and punishment: Collaborating with your child

Parents can move beyond using rewards and punishments to motivate good behaviour by following the Collaborative and Proactive Solutions framework.
Victoria Ewen, M.A., Clinical Psychology Doctoral Student

Your child stays out past curfew, so you take away their video game console. Your child talks back to you, so you put them in time out. Your child behaves well at the party, so they get to pick out some candy at the store. Do these situations sound familiar to you?

Many of us grew up learning that rewards and punishments are the best way to get children to do what you want. Unfortunately, this strategy does not get to the root of the issue, so misbehaviour is bound to reoccur.

Using rewards and punishments is based in the belief that “kids do well if they want to”. If we can just provide them with the right motivation, they will behave appropriately. The problem with this assumption is that, in most cases, your child truly does want to meet your expectations, but they cannot find a way to do so. And in those circumstances, no amount of reward or punishment will make it easier for them.

But there is an alternative! Collaborative and Proactive Solutions (CPS), created by Ross Greene, is a parenting framework that takes a different approach. It invites parents to assume that “kids do well if they can.”

Under this stance, even the most difficult behaviours are simply a form of communication. Specifically, an indication that your child needs support in figuring out how to meet your expectations.

As the name suggests, using this framework involves collaborating with your child in advance when you know they will not be able to meet your expectations. For example, if every time you go to the store your child throws a tantrum, you would discuss your child’s concerns related to going to the store and sitting quietly. You also share your concerns. And then together, you determine a way to meet both sets of concerns and prevent difficult behaviour.

While this approach can be challenging, it actually solves the problem your child is having with meeting your expectations. It also teaches your child to problem solve, a valuable tool that will support their emotional wellbeing and social functioning throughout their lifetime.

If you are interested in learning more about this parenting approach, take a look at the website, consider reading the book Raising Human Beings by Ross Greene, and join the “The B Team” Facebook group.

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