Monday, June 14, 2010

The absence of bad does not equal the presence of good!

To poorly quote lyrics from the musical Rent…
The opposite of war is not peace, it’s creation.
The absence of bad does not equal the presence of good.

This seems awfully common-sense-ical when stated, but,
like many other things that I have discussed, application is everything.

Ask anybody who has tried to eliminate a bad habit, nature abhors a vacuum.
Instead, replace the bad habit with a good habit that will evict your bad habit.

Bad things create crisis, and they get attention and a response.
We spend a lot of time talking about eliminating bad things.
However, the solution is not to get rid of the negative problem (well, in isolation, that is).

There are many real-world times when this is seen.

“If only dad would stop drinking!”
– Although a step in the right direction, the family will not attain instant Utopia.
They need to problem-solve and communicate as a team -
a skill that they have never had the opportunity to develop
- at least not with dad involved.

“How do I get my son to stop hanging with the ‘bad’ crowd?”
– You don’t, but you may be able to reinforce him hanging out with a better crowd.
It is hard to hang with the negative and positive crowds at the same time.

“How do I get this student to stop _____________.”
– This is where the concept of a Functional Equivalent Replacement Behavior (FERB)
- or similar catch-phrase- in behavior management comes into play.

– Often, cutting is not a suicide attempt.
It is usually a coping-behavior.
It is a crappy coping-behavior, but a coping-behavior nonetheless.
We should not focus on eliminating the crappy (and, possibly, only) coping-behavior.
We should be teaching and reinforcing better coping strategies.

DISCLAIMER - If you are dealing with cutting or other self-injurious behaviors, and you are not already talking to a live professional.
Get professional help for this.
Cutting is not something you should try to self-help alone - either online or in a book.
Get help, then feel free to read up.

Placement Bouncing
– There is an entire industry whose sales tactics market on parents’ frustration with the public school district.
BUYER BEWARE - Especially when someone is selling you, "We are not the evil public school district!" without proving to you that they provide a better alternative (which would be the presence of good)!

For example, in California, Charter Schools are disproportionately over-represented in the lists of best public schools.
However, the same holds true in the lists of the worst-performers.
The good ones provide a positive alternative, while the bad ones market exclusively to parents of marginalized/at-risk students without actually providing a positive alternative.
The LA Times did a revealing article… written before the California High School Exit Examination was in full-effect.

Don’t get me wrong, some behaviors need to stop.
However, if you want to have a prognosis for real, positive, and lasting change – focus on teaching, developing, and reinforcing the presence of good.

Professionally, the research has shown a shift in this regard.
Instead of asking,
“How do we get rid of (insert problem here)?”
many are realizing that the question should be,
“How do we improve resiliency-coping-communication-etc.?” 

There is a hint of this in my post about accommodations.
Extra-time may not be allowed in the real-world, so what are we doing to help a student meet deadlines?

So, when something bad creates a need for urgency, please take the time to ask,
What are we doing to teach and support _______?
  1. Study skills.
  2. Self-advocacy.
  3. Coping.
  4. Social skills.
  5. Organization.
  6. Academic skills.
  7. Problem-solving.
  8. Appropriate and effective communication.
  9. Resiliency.
Whatever the case may be!

Besides, life is best lived pursuing happiness.
There is a reason why the American ideal is not, "Life, Liberty, and the Avoidance of Unhappiness."


1 comment:

  1. Excellent post, Dr. Eric. Followed you over from some other new-to-me blog. I'll be back.
    Dr. Barbara