Kids (and adults) do well if they can.

Collaborative Problem Solving®

Collaborative Problem Solving® is a revolutionary, evidence-based approach strongly rooted in the latest neuroscience that has been shown to help children with behavioural challenges. We promote the understanding that challenging kids lack the skill, not the will, to behave well – specifically skills related to problem solving, flexibility and frustration tolerance. Unlike traditional models of discipline, this approach avoids the use of power, control and motivational procedures and instead focuses on teaching kids the skills they need to succeed.

CPS was originated by Dr. Ross Greene and further developed with Dr. Stuart Ablon at Harvard and Massachusetts General Hospital to deal with extreme behaviours demonstrated by young people. CPS requires us to change how we view and work with our children presenting challenging behaviours.

The CPS Philosophy states, “Kids do well if they can.” If they are not doing well there is something getting in the way so parents and teachers need to figure out what so we can help.This is an unconventional approach to dealing with problem behaviour. We believe kids want to behave and that their challenging behaviour is a result of not having the cognitive skills to meet the expectations place upon them.

With Collaborative Problem Solving® we learn to solve problems and teach skills through a relational approach called Plan B. Plan B is a specific structured problem solving conversation we have with the child. The Plan B ingredients are:

  • Empathy – clarifying the child’s concern
  • Sharing the adult concern
  • Collaborating : brainstorming, assessing and choosing a solution that address both sets of concerns

The CPS model helps us pursue our high priority expectations, reduce challenging behaviour, solve chronic problems durably, build cognitive skills and create, or restore, a helping relationship.

Research shows CPS helps families
Pollastri,Epstein,Heath & Ablon, 2013 found:
-statistically significant reductions in symptoms and severity of challenging behaviours as well as parental stress
-significant improvements in parental competence, child’s autonomy and parent-child interactions

Besides challenging kids, who else can benefit from CPS?

CPS is applicable to diverse human interactions, especially those that can result in conflict. CPS can be applied to interactions between classmates, siblings, couples, parents and teachers, employees and supervisors, and nations. All people benefit from learning how to identify and articulate their concerns, hear the concerns of others, and take each others’ concerns into account in working toward mutually satisfactory solutions.

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Why I am Passionate About CPS

As a teacher I felt that I was able to create exciting learning environments for my students. If a child was not learning, with the help of the special education teacher and other colleagues, I was able to develop a plan to teach the academic skills the child needed to be successful.

I also found that sometimes a child’s challenging behaviour was getting in the way and impacting student learning. What plan did I have to help the student? I had a few conventional strategies I’d developed and some approaches that others had shared with me, but no real thoughtful plan to follow. The conventional strategies included; consequences, rewards, punishments and ignoring, all aimed at “getting the kids to wanna behave.” There was no thought about teaching cognitive skills necessary for problem solving, really listening to get the child’s perspective or believing that the child wasn’t intentionally being lazy or manipulative. Everyone seemed to agree that conventional approaches were the way to go.

In my first school as a Principal we were increasingly faced with bright children, eager to learn but increasingly demonstrating challenging behaviours. A bright grade 1 child who had just registered and for whom conventional approaches in the classroom did not work introduced me to CPS. He and his mom asked me to become familiar with CPS by reading “The Explosive Child” by Dr. Ross Green. I did this in 2006 and shortly after attended a presentation by a colleague of Dr. Green’s, Dr. Stuart Ablon. I was hooked. I’d always been aware of the importance of being positive, building positive relationships and thinking the best of all the people with whom I worked. CPS provided a model to help all of our students.  This was the beginning of my CPS journey. Whether working with kids, adults, at school, at home or workplace CPS provides us with a plan to help kids and adults learn pro-social behaviours, work more effectively and be more productive.