By Aisha Powell, CEI Intern
Disruptive behavior in children—from having an occasional angry outburst, or escalating to more troublesome actions, like lying and stealing—is much more complex than it looks. While it can range in expression, the trauma that is often at the root of such behavior can result in emotional and mental disorders down the line if children are not taught effective self-regulation skills. For teachers and educators, addressing these issues holistically can result in increased success. Studies have shown that effective treatment can include things such as early intervention and a combination of parent and schoolwide involvement (CHADD, 2018; Greene, 2018). Clinical Child Psychologist Dr. Ross Green developed the Collaborative & Proactive Solutions (CPS) Model to help adults identify, resolve, and address these problems.
CPS Model and Addressing the Problem
When there are behavior disruptions, instead of focusing on the child as the “problem,” Dr. Green contends that adults need to find a way to meet both the adult’s and child’s needs. After his long career in research and practice, he created the Collaborative & Proactive Solutions model (CPS) to help caregivers and children improve their relationships by breaking down the steps needed to come to a healthy agreement. Substantial research has proven that the CPS model works to help reduce disruptive behavior and improve parent-child relationships (Lives in the Balance, n.d.).
The first stage is about approaching the problem from a sympathetic standpoint. The four steps are:
Emphasize the problem (and solving it) and not behaviors (and modifying them). Too often, blame and guilt are put on children when a problem occurs, which causes more tension and apprehension.
Engage in collaborative, not unilateral, problem solving. “Solving” a problem without consideration from both parties is not finding a real solution. Instead, there should be a collaboration between both child and adult to find a solution that acknowledges both their perspectives. This will empower both the child, who will feel like their voice is an integral and important part of a solution, and the adult, who wants to better understand the child.
Undertake proactive, not reactive, problem solving. Do you know why a child is feeling challenged? If the answer is no, then you first need to find out when and why a child will feel challenged, in order to have a plan of action before they show disruptive behaviors.
Remember: Kids do well, if they can. Don’t assume that a child wants to be challenging on purpose. Instead, remember that—like you—they are doing the best they can. If they don’t have the skills to regulate their behavior, adult expectations may be impossible to meet until they acquire the necessary strategies and tools.
Many researchers have studied the best treatment options for children with disruptive behavior disorders. Some include early intervention, some highlight intense parent involvement, and others stress schoolwide involvement. But a combination of the three is what is needed to truly address the problem. Dr. Ross Green has studied Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) and Conduct Disorder (CD)—the diagnoses given when misbehavior goes beyond mere disruption and becomes unsafe to the student or their peers. He found that a clash between child and parental or educational expectations can cause children to react in ways that are disruptive because they don’t yet have the skills to meet those expectations (Green, 2018).
Success in the Classroom
At Bloomfield Public Schools, an 11-school district in Essex County, New Jersey, implementing the CPS model proved to be a rewarding experience for parents and teachers alike. During a 9-week program, spearheaded by Dr. Greene, they were able to offer parent-teacher workshops introducing the four steps and how to effectively intervene for better outcomes. It was positively received and resulted in the CPS model being implemented in their district-wide intervention practices to help “change the lenses” of staff members and parents alike (Bloomfield Public Schools, n.d).
The CPS model can be implemented in both educational and home settings to help resolve instances of misbehavior on the spot and alleviate them in the future. To do this effectively, adults must take a collaborative approach with an emphasis on problem-solving. Green advises starting with empathy. First, gather information to identify the child’s concerns. Next, define adult concerns. Lastly, work together to find a solution that is realistic and mutually satisfactory. If necessary, you can also set the problem aside and agree to come back to it at a time when the tension has lessened.
For more information about the CPS model and tools to support your children, please visit the Lives In Balance website to download more resources.
Bloomfield Public Schools. (n.d.). CPS Model.
Children and Adults with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD). (2018). Disruptive behavior disorders.
Greene, R. W. (2018). Transforming school discipline: Shifting from power and control to collaboration and problem solving. Childhood Education, 94(4), 22–27.
Lives in the Balance. (n.d.). Research etc.