I saw this title while working as a school principal and felt that it applied directly to CPS and how we think of challenging behaviour. If we change the words we use to describe the behaviour then we change the way we see the person. As a result we will respond in a more caring and helpful manner. We tend to, as does society in general, describe challenging behaviour by kids, or adults, as wilful, manipulative and intentional to get something, like a reward, or to avoid something, like an unpleasant task. Challenging behaviour by children can include crying, screaming, hitting, spitting, defiance, shutting down, running away or tantrums. In adults challenging behaviour could include similar examples although in a work environment might include regular lateness, unprofessional interactions with colleagues, not following company rules or policy, performance issues or simply, social awkwardness.

Conventional wisdom assumes that these individuals choose to behave this way to get something or avoid something, in other words. I believe conventional wisdom is wrong. The CPS philosophy states that “Kids do well if they can.” I believe this is also true for adults. Regardless of whether we are dealing with a five year old or a fifty year old, demonstrating challenging behaviour is because of lagging cognitive skills, not because of a choice to do poorly. Changing the words we use to explain the behaviour will help us develop a more positive mindset. We will begin to have a growth oriented approach and try to understand what is causing the behaviour as opposed to blaming the individual as being selfish and manipulative. We begin to look for triggers to the behaviour and how we can help to build the skills to solve problems, handle frustration more appropriately and build cognitive flexibility.

CPS teaches us that challenging behaviour is due to a lack of ”skill, not will.“ If we change our mindset and therefore the way we explain challenging behaviour we will progress toward achieving the goals of CPS to reduce challenging behaviour, solve problems durably, teach important cognitive skills, pursue our high priority expectations and build or restore the helping relationship with the child, or adult.

Let’s not use negative language to blame and label children and adults. Let’s try to understand their concerns and together find solutions to problems so we can build skills and support our kids, and our colleagues.