LD Expert Podcast

Episode 19: A New Approach to Behavior Change – Dr. Stuart Ablon

    In this Episode

    This week’s podcast guest is Dr. Stuart Ablon who shares a new approach to behavior change: Collaborative Problem Solving.

    He is the director of Think:Kids in the Department of Psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital and associate professor and the Thomas G. Stemberg Endowed Chair in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. 

    Not long ago we used to think that kids who struggled to read were lazy or dumb.

    However, we still think kids with behavioral challenges just aren't trying hard enough to behave well. Just like with learning disabilities, kids with behavioral challenges don't lack the will to behave well. What they truly lack are the skills to behave well.

    In this week's episode, you'll learn:

    • A perspective shift in how challenging behaviors are due to lack of the right thinking skills
    • The ingredients of Collaborative Problem Solving
    • Examples for when and how to apply Collaborative Problem Solving
    • The cognitive skills, including Executive Function skills, that are developed when using Collaborative Problem Solving

    Episode Highlight

    “Kids with behavioral challenges, they don't lack the will to behave well. What they lack are the skills to behave well.” - Dr. Ablon

    In this week’s episode, Dr. Ablon shares that behavior consists of cognitive skills that can be developed. This is radically different from conventional wisdom’s view that assumes good behavior is a natural thing that everyone should just know - it is or it isn’t.

    How we perceive the behavior sets the stage for how we intervene. If we believe that a child doesn’t want to behave well, then we’ll respond with rewards and consequences. But if we see that the behavior is due to something deeper like the inability to tolerate frustration, then we can be more understanding and approach the behavior with more compassion and collaboration.

    Tune into this week’s episode to learn more about how to apply this new approach to behavior change.


    Bonus Q&A

    What if you ask your child a question about their behavior, and they just say, I don't know, I just don't like it or I don't want it? How do you continue to solve that problem with them if they don't have a lot of awareness?

    The short answer is that it may take several conversations and playing detective to help your child develop the self-awareness to be able to articulate their concerns. You’ve already identified two skills that your child needs help developing: self-awareness and articulation. What you don’t want to do is move past this step and begin voicing your concerns.

    Listen to a more in-depth explanation, and more questions in this week’s episode.