One of the things often said by many people who are just learning about Plan B is, “I do this already.” But they often discover that there are important ingredients of Plan B that they’re leaving out. Talking with a kid is not the same thing as Plan B (though Plan B does typically involve talking). “Processing” is not synonymous with Plan B either (though Plan B is certainly a process). You could spend a fair amount of time talking and processing with a kid and never identify his concern or perspective on a given unsolved problem, never communicate your concern or perspective, and never collaborate on a solution that addresses those concerns.
So it’s not unusual for unsolved problems to be talked about and processed quite a bit but never durably solved. People – kids and adults – eventually get frustrated over the fact that they have little to show for all the talking and processing they’re doing. Kids may eventually let us know they’re frustrated by refusing to talk at all. And adults express their frustration over the lack of progress on solving problems by saying things like, “I’m through talking…now we’re doing it my way,” or “We’ve talked with him about that until we’re blue in the face; now he just needs to sink or swim.” If the kid doesn’t have the capacity to solve the problems on his own – and, of course, that’s why the problems are still unsolved – then sinking is the far more likely outcome. This pattern suggests that, if we’re going to talk about or process a problem, we should probably do it in a way that actually sets the stage for the problem to be solved. That’s where the three ingredients of Plan B are indispensable. As you may know, those three ingredients are the Empathy step…where you’re gathering information so as to achieve the clearest possible understanding of the kid’s concern or perspective on a given unsolved problem…the Define the Problem step…that’s where the adult is entering their concern or perspective on the same unsolved problem into consideration…and the Invitation step…that’s where adult and kid are brainstorming solutions so as to work toward a solution that addresses their respective concerns. If any of those ingredients are missing, the problems won’t get solved and you may start to feel like you’re wasting your breath. Plan B can breathe some life into the talking and processing you’re doing and help you and kids work toward solutions that are realistic, mutually satisfactory, and durable. That’s how Plan B reduces challenging behavior. Solved problems don’t cause challenging behavior…only unsolved problems do. Thanks for reading.