One of the things I love most about the I Matter Framework and the I Matter Process is that they provide me with such a helpful way of thinking about what is happening, and what is needed and why, in high intensity home times as well as in a professional context.
It has been one of those weeks. This afternoon I sat with my 18 year old son - we were doing a Debrief after an incident that had started last week.
"What happened?" I asked
"Well I did red and so did you".
We agreed that we hadn't seen it coming, as these red route moments don't happen so often these days. However even as my older sons transition into adulthood, red moments do happen and even though I teach these ideas I can still at times find myself in red along with other family members. (It has often astonished me to discover that some people I have taught have drawn the conclusion that red moments would never happen in my own home! Not true!)
I have nonetheless now come to trust those unexpected red moments as I have discovered that when my own security officer/inner child becomes inflamed they are usually telling me that I (the Boss) need to take a stronger stand on something. In the context of parenting young adults, I had had an idea that my parenting role would be pretty much done by now but it hasn't proved to be the case, and sometimes boundaries still have to be stated and restated.
So, today as part of the Debrief we sat in the cafe together and reflected on the sequence of events, and chuckled about what had happened. I had taken a stand about the importance of treating other people with greater consideration, and as part of the process, my 18 yr old had taken himself off to cool down and decided to sleep in a dinghy in a friends shed!
The Debrief gives such a helpful frame to the rows that still sometimes happen. "I knew it would be alright though Mum," said my son. "We always work it out eventually."
This is the safety that our rows now sit inside. It is OK for us to get angry with each other because we all know that we will be able to find a way to chat once emotions have settled - and once our 'Bosses are back from Lunch'. It took a lot of practice. I remember the days when my son's found it almost impossible to put their thoughts and feelings into words. Now they do it well and know how to hold their own. But one of the fantasies I also had to drop in the process of working out this framework was that good relationships would never include rows.
Now I believe the rows are sometimes positively important. Sometimes as the adult we have to challenge, sometimes we have to say No and we are often not popular when we do. But it is through these moments that we talk about feelings and thoughts and different opinions. We talk about values and relationships and things that matter and we get to chuckle at ourselves. So Debriefs can take energy and thought but used carefully the Debrief times can offer precious sweet moments. We were on green - we passed via red and now we were enjoying green again.
"Was it a comfy dinghy?", I asked.
"Not very," replied my son - "but I had an awesome week!"
If you would like to learn more about how learning about the I Matter Framework and about how to use Debriefs effectively to strengthen your communication and relationships with your child, why not Apply for the next course?
I have had a lot of fun with creating this! Plenty of ways it could be improved but hey, I think
its good enough for now!
When it comes to understanding the growing numbers of complex challenging children and rising behavioural and mental health difficulties it matters what outcome measures we use.
The problem with most outcome measures currently in use in mental health services (such as SDQ and RCADS) is that they consist essentially of problem symptom checklists that are additionally - and often problematically - dominantly focussed on the child.
Symptom checklists can have a place as screening tools. It can be useful to think about the potential severity of given difficulties, but any educator will tell you that getting rid of problems or symptoms is much less effective than knowing what specific skills you want to increase and why.
A parallel problem can be found in schools where the key outcome measures used - excepting the Early Years Foundation Stage - are largely based on academic skills with a principle focus only on literacy and numeracy with little if any tracking of the issues that are relevant to mental health. This obsessive tracking of academic outcomes, in concert with neglect of child social-emotional developmental phases is wide of the mark of many of the key issues for too many struggling children. You are much less employable and much less likely to be a happy adult or skilled parent yourself if you can't manage relationships, than if you can't manage maths.
In the I Matter Project the starting points for a screening assessment are therefore
i) a brief skills-based checklist for child and adult called the I Can Control and Sooth Myself Checklist and
ii) a parent/adult confidence rating scale called the Parent/Adult Caring Confidence Checklist
We are also interested in understanding the extent to which difficulties have escalated, and the frequency, duration and intensity of current incidents. If we want to help complex children what we really want to know is how confident does the responsible adult feel in caring for this child? And is the child acquiring the key skills that we know are essential to mental health and well-being in relationships with peers and in later life?
If the child has significant challenges in managing the skills of the I Can Control and Sooth Myself Checklist, then in this project we consider it to be the adult responsibility (at home and at school) to look developmentally and sensitively at the environment (which includes them) to determine what needs to change. What needs to happen is to focus all efforts on helping the child to acquire these fundamentally important foundation skills.
The I Can Control Myself Checklist is therefore a simple checklist that we use with adults and with children that is designed to get everyone thinking about some of the fundamental skills that adults and children must be helped to master in order to be able to be successful in relationships with each other and with other people. This is regardless of the developmental difficulties or life event challenges that they may have had in early life. Society is not very forgiving - learning these skills is important.
The Parent/Adult Caring Confidence Scale is a simple checklist that we can use in relation to home or school to get a grasp on the adult's felt experience of being around the child. This is really important. Our children can only progress in their relationship skills if they have adults around them who want to engage with the child, and confidently do so. If an adult has very poor confidence, then if we want to make a longer term difference, the need fundamentally is to find ways to build adult confidence and competence first.
Many complex children, and sometimes their carers, have tremendous difficulties with the basic skills summarised in the I Can Control and Sooth Myself Checklist, but mastery of these skills is absolutely critical to well-being. The reviewing of the results from these screening tools therefore gives us an idea of where we are starting and of the journey that is left to be travelled. These quick checks highlight to us where there is need for further assessment and further education and training.
If you would like to sample the I Can Control Myself Checklist and get a quick result to start you thinking, then click here
Dr Cathy Betoin
Dr Cathy Betoin
The I Matter Prof Blog:
How do we improve the educational and mental health outcomes of our children?
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