Definitely read the book. You can get a nice overview at www.thinkkids.org
. In particular, if you read the blog, both the parents blog and the clinicians blog have some examples of Plan B.
These are the three plans the book talks about. They are not a ranking system (so it's *not* that you use plan A for really important things, plan B for sort of important things, and plan C for things you don't care about), they are three separate approaches to parenting/addressing concerns.:
Plan A: addresses the parent's concern, not the child's, does not reduce meltdowns, does not teach skills (aka imposing the parent's will). This is best used when there is no time for Plan B.
Plan C: addresses the child's concern, not the parents' concerns, avoids meltdowns, but does not teach skills. (aka "let it go", child gets to do what child wants) This is best used for issues that are not currently a priority OR if the parent has no concern about the issue.
Plan B: addresses BOTH the child's concern and the adult's concern in a realistic manner that is satisfactory to both parties, reduces meltdowns, teaches skills. Plan B leads to durable solutions that work for parent and child. The goal is to find a mutually satisfactory, doable, realistic solution.
"A problem is two concerns that have yet to be reconciled."
Things that I think are different about Plan B:
1) It's problem solving, not negotiating. When we "give a little" in Plan B, we're not giving up getting our concerns met--we're letting go of particular solutions we think we need in order to meet that concern. KWIM?
2) In Plan B there's an emphasis on getting at what the actual concern
of each party is. Often negotiations get stuck because the parties involved are focused on the solutions they want, thinking of those solutions as their concerns. We all do this to some extent. Problem solving gets much easier when we "drill down" (Greene's words) to concerns. This is what the empathy step is all about. It's not "oh, that does sound hard." It's reflective listening and neutral questions in order to get to what the actual concern is. It's a very important step.
3) In Plan B the emphasis is on problem solving proactively
. If you're doing Plan B once the problem has already begun (your child has already said "I want pizza" while you're driving to an appointment and want to be on time), that's emergency
Plan B. Emergency Plan B can work, but relying on emergency Plan B too much is not going to help in the long run. It's important to be as proactive as possible. Meltdowns tend to actually be very predictable, once you start to keep track. This is good, because it allows us to sit down before
a problem is happening and problem solve.
4) The idea is that "children do well if they can." Children act out when the demands of a situation outstrip their ability to respond adaptively. If a child is melting down frequently, it's not that they need more motivation, they need to learn or improve skills. There are numerous cognitive, emotional, social, and language skills that are required for any of us to handle frustration adaptively. So in order to help our kids have fewer meltdowns, we need to help them learn these skills. Plan B goes a very long way toward helping them learn these skills, they learn them as we engage in Plan B with them and model those skills. *example: My child needed to learn to be more aware of, better identify, and better communicate her emotions in order to be less aggressive. Part of Plan B was figuring this out, by talking to her and observing her, then finding ways of helping her learn these skills. This was very proactive work, not something we just did when she started fighting with her siblings. This was "hey, she can't communicate this stuff well, we're going to work all day every day on helping her learn to do this."
5) The more important the problem, the more it needs to be addressed with Plan B. A lot of parenting approaches are some version of picking your battles, and when it comes to safety issues it's all about mom and dad imposing their will. But Dr. Greene, and I agree with him, thinks that safety issues are so very important that if they are at all likely to come up again, they need to be addressed with Plan B. Plan B is what gets you durable solutions. So yes, I need to use Plan A when my child is about to run into the road, but if there's any possibility that might happen again we need to address this issue with Plan B.
That is my brief take on what makes Plan B different, and so wonderful. (I feel I should say that although I love Plan B, and have been to workshops to learn it better, and have gotten better at it, I still feel like I suck at it too often: it's not super easy to learn to do, mainly because it really is a very different way of viewing kids and parenting than what most of us were raised with. Even just getting in the habit of getting to concerns rather than solutions can be a lot harder than it sounds. And this, apparently, is a very common experience of parents trying to learn Plan B.)
I don't know if I actually explained all this to my explosive child. I think I just said something like "I've noticed......I'd like to work this out together with
you, because your feelings and what you need matter to me a lot" as a preface to trying to problem solve the first several times. She was, I think, 7 when we started this in earnest. I have used this approach with my other children, too, (it's how I strive to parent, I think it's a great approach for all kids) but have never formally explained it to them. Just jumped in. I might sometimes remind them "I want to work this out with you" or "I want to help you."
Staying calm and really being present with them to do this is a challenge for me, when we're trying to address an issue as it's occurring or about to occur. And they do sense when I'm impatient/too frustrated/too angry and not really letting go of my agenda in order to listen. This is why Plan B is best as a proactive approach, outside that frustrating moment. And sometimes, you do just have to decide to talk about it later because now is not a good time for whatever reason for whichever person.
eat I've totally rambled, but this has been so good for me. I needed the reminder. Thanks.