Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Greene's "Plan B" in the Trenches

A few years ago I wrote a review of Ross Greene's "The Explosive Child" and in that I explained about Plan B. (Yeah folks, this is a parenting post, not a birth control one.)
Dr Greene discusses 3 plans: Plans A, B, and C.
Plan A is where the Adult forces his will on the child...
Plan C is where the adult capitulates and just lets the Child do what he pleases...
Plan B is to utilize what Dr Greene calls "collaborative problem solving" (CPS) to find solutions that will solve the concerns of Both adult and child.
This last weekend I had a chance to use collaborative problem solving to find a Plan B with my thirteen-year old Wolf.
The scenario was thus: I have established a household policy that food and drink (with the exception of closeable water bottles) remains in the kitchen/dining area. More especially, food is definitely not allowed in bedrooms. Wolf is well aware of this policy, and breaks it repeatedly. (I only catch him actually eating in his room occasionally, but there are often empty wrappers or crumbs in his room, so the evidence is obvious. And this has been going on since he was four. When he was little I tried to focus on teaching him better, as he got older I started punishing...the behavior has never changed.) Of course in addition to breaking the rule, he also is sneaky about it so as to be able to get away with it, so he's adding deceit to disobedience, and sometimes lying on top of the whole pile. Last week he did that (lying on top of it all) and I lost my temper at him. I decided it was time to step back and bust out some CPS about this.
oh look, he's not the only one!

CPS can be hard for a parent, because it means that *I* have to be willing to compromise too. But it's also a recognition that I can still get what is most important to me, while still giving my kid a chance to have something that is important to him, and give him some practice in collaboration, problem solving, and compromise. (Yes I like and still use the Oxford comma, bite me!)

I began by clearing the air about my outburst the other night. I asked him why he'd lied to me, and if he'd really thought he could get away with it. He said no, he was pretty sure I knew, but he knew that lying would get yelling, whereas if he had only gotten caught with the soda can--and not lied about it--then he would have gotten a lecture. He just wanted it over fast so he chose lying/yelling.


My concern
Alright. So, I had already considered my position, and I knew my most important concern in this conflict. I am concerned about mess. I don't want crumbs, or spills, or sticky spots, or wrappers, or garbage in his room. I'm concerned about it attracting insects or vermin partly, but I also just think it's really gross to have crumbs in your bed and wrappers on the floor.
His concern
Wolf considered, and concluded that he really only wants to eat in his room when he is playing games on his computer because he doesn't want to be interrupted. (The computer is only a few months old so I don't know what his excuse was for the last nine years, but we'll work with this for now and re-evaluate as necessary.) He has no problems leaving his room for a snack when he's supposed to be doing homework! But he plays some online real-time games with his cousin or other friends, and if he's absent from the game for five or ten minutes his character could get booted off the server.
Our collaborative compromise
I will get him a garbage can for his bedroom--he hasn't had one, but promises to utilize it if one is present. He will handle emptying it as well.
He is considering purchasing an anti-tipping or spill-proof cup (with his own money) to use in his room.
He has to ask an adult before taking a snack--to ensure that the food he wants isn't earmarked for something, or that dinner isn't imminent, or that sort of thing.
With those criteria met, he may take food to his room when gaming. This may be a weekends-only thing, or (depending on his homework load) an after-homework thing.

When I raised the point of having to have homework done before playing, he asked if we could adjust that a little "perhaps one late assignment per week?" I gave him a full-blown stink eye and told him I wasn't going to go for that idea. Then I nudged him to articulate his desire in a different way, and he was able to explain that after six hours at school he just wants a little break before diving into the homework. Now THAT I can support. His school day lets out at 2:30, so we've agreed that he has to get started on homework by 4. (Of course, if he is really eager to get to his games, he may change his mind about this schedule, because I'm still thinking no games before homework...but maybe that will be another Plan B for us to play with.)

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