"Bridging the Gap Between Generations"

B Y  D A N I E L   J A C O B


There are new winds blowing in the World of Family Therapy.  And it sounds to me like they’re far more than just hot air!  There is a fellow out of Harvard, Dr. Ross Greene, who has put together a therapy technique called “Collaborative Problem Solving.”    

So simple that a person might be inclined to say………”But of course!” when presented with this method…….CPS takes troubled families beyond those “presenting problems” which often drive them into therapy---all the way to the ROOT of Family Disharmony---namely, A Breakdown in Communication, resulting in one or more family members withholding huge parts of themselves from each other.

Granted, Judgment plays a big role in this.  Parents judging children, because they’re not “behaving” the way they (the parents) wish they would.  Children judging parents, because their “ways” are outmoded, and don’t seem to work.  Instead of GETTING IT ALL OUT, so everyone feels heard, family members tend to bottle things up---which leads to emotional explosions, and challenging behavior. 

On their Web Site, the Center for Collaborative Problem Solving has this to say:


Thanks to research in the neurosciences, we know a lot more about kids with social, emotional, and behavioral challenges than ever before. We now know that challenging behavior - whether it's screaming, swearing, biting, spitting, hitting, kicking, destroying property, or worse - is set in motion by lagging cognitive skills, especially in the domains of flexibility, frustration tolerance, and problem solving. We now know that challenging behavior isn't the result of passive, permissive, inconsistent, non-contingent parenting, but is instead best understood as a form of developmental delay.

And we now know that traditional discipline - with its heavy emphasis on consequences - doesn't teach challenging kids the skills they lack and can actually set the stage for a challenging kid's worst moments.

Best of all, we now know how to teach those skills and work collaboratively with challenging kids to help them solve the problems that are precipitating their challenging episodes.

Welcome to the work of Dr. Ross Greene, Harvard psychologist, author of the highly acclaimed books The Explosive Child and Lost at School, and originator of the Collaborative Problem Solving (CPS) approach, an evidence-based, proven approach to understanding and helping challenging kids.


The way CPS was explained to me, which made total sense, is as follows: 

A child who resorts to seriously abnormal social behavior does so because he or she has an inability to see life’s issues in shades of grey.  Somewhat akin to a dyslexic person, who has difficulty reading, because everything appears backwards---children who resort to challenging behavior can only see life from a “black” or “white” viewpoint.  Things are either RIGHT, or they are VERY WRONG. 

I know, I know…….what we’re saying about challenging children also resembles certain “extremist political movements” as well!  And you know what?  It’s true!  Underneath the “lofty veneer” of Political Extremism---there are troubled children, who never learned how to overcome certain “Developmental Delays.”  THAT’S why they resort to extremist viewpoints and outrageous behaviors.

Pent-up emotions, like some bodily infection that has gone out of control, tend to fester, and poison a person’s mind.  Rather than ‘agreeing to disagree” with those who oppose them---repressed people build up rage and disdain for others with such intensity, that they can (and do) act out in violent and deadly ways.  Some of you may have read my article about Jared Loughner, called “Souls in Emergency.”   Indeed, that whole case might have turned out differently if he’d had a chance to interact with someone in the way I’m describing here. 


There was a book written back in the 80s, about Anorexia Nervosa, called “Starved for Attention,” just before Karen Carpenter died of malnutr.  The primary premise it held about Anorexia---or ANY of the outrageous behaviors people tend to get themselves into---is that they’re each a cry for HELP---a kind of PROTEST MARCH, in which a child, or other injured soul, demands that someone care enough, and be strong enough (in themselves) to see and hear THE VERY WORST that is roaming around down at a person’s inner core.

A child, for example, may say to a parent:  “I wish you were dead.”  Shocking?  Oh my, yes!  And what else?  “I wish I’d never been born!”  You do?  And what else?  “I hate myself, and I want to die!”  Oh really?  You want to DIE?  “Well, yes….sometimes.” 

On and on it goes, in Collaborative Problem Solving.  It’s a focused pursuit of FULL DISCLOSURE, where a kid can say (or even do) whatever he or she NEEDS TO SAY OR DO……..(aside from actually harming self or others).  The primary caveat is:  The “side” of the conflict which has previously been most restrained (usually the child) gets to be the first to speak---uninterrupted, unhindered, and safe from all judgment whatsoever. 


Once a kid has been “milked dry,” so to speak……emptied of every shocking disclosure and depleted of every four-letter epithet he or she can think of…..parents and counselors pay close attention for the proper timing when they can begin to disclose personal insights and information about THEMSELVES. 

And when I speak of “proper timing”……I'm not speaking about some 50 minute period in the counselor’s office…..or even some PLANNED time when a child might be EXPECTING them to share.  When adults speak about themselves or their feelings, it must NEVER feel like a lecture, such as:  “When I was a kid, my father NEVER allowed us to……….”  NOTHING like that could or would be encouraged, EVER.  Rather, it might be appropriate, at some point, for an adult to speak about times in his or her life when they, too, wanted to rebel.  Not as an object lesson, mind you.  But merely as a point of rapport.

Society has been structured, up to this point, in favor of adults.  One might wonder WHY this is, since children are often the most affected by outcomes when adults argue, go through divorce, or end up in trouble with the law. Children are the VULNERABLE ONES here---but if we don’t handle them properly, we face the possibility of driving tender, malleable feelings underground---where no one can even identify them, let alone offer assistance. 


My friend Mark, in Alaska---one of our Reconnections Discussion List Moderators---has been receiving tons of inner “lessons” from the Spirit of the Star Children we channel.  Tonight he nearly blew me away by sharing some insights about natural resources, renewable power sources, and Planet Earth.  He said:  “For many years now, humanity has been focusing on HARNESSING POWER for use by society.  What we needed to be doing all along was discovering how to UNLEASH POWER, so it could be summoned and enlisted, naturally, through Collective Intention of the our Planetary One Mind.” 

The problems we wrestle with today are the SAME PROBLEMS which brought down Atlantis and Lemuria.  We try to harness power, and FOCUS IT, using Ego-Centered Strategies, borne of a Separation Mindset.  The Ego Mind is NOT EQUIPPED to handle the load.  Before long, it simply abdicates power, often through self-destruction.  This is very much the same outcome we see when a charismatic individual....a Cult Leader for example....is given absolute control over a group of followers.  Sooner or later, his fragile, immature ego self begins to arrange things so the whole group concept gets aborted, usually through some form of mass suicide, or grave civil disobedience (such as occurred with the Manson Family).

Even as humanity tends to misuse Earth’s Resources, so do we also tend to squander and misuse our the greatest natural resource of all, OUR CHILDREN…..through excessive control and/or neglect, inadequate and inappropriate education, poor nutrition, and sub-standard health care.

What we need to be doing with our children is assisting them to follow their highest inclinations, their passions, without trampling on society’s rights to do the same.  In other words---we need to help with “directing traffic.” 

As we do this, we don’t want to hang them up with the belief that we naturally “know better” than they how things should be done.  This is one of the major Communication Blocks going on today, between the generations.  Who knows best?  Sometimes, it isn’t FATHER!!! 

Human beings will fight to the death for the opportunity to have our OWN experiences---and learn from them.  When someone comes along and says:  “Oh no you don’t.  Do it THIS WAY,” we find their interference to be insulting and repressive. That is especially true when adults get impatient and refer to their kids as “stupid” or “idiotic,” just because younger folks do things differently than they do.

Our Next Generations are coming in, right from the factory, with a completely NEW form of perceptual “software,” which guides their perception and powers of reasoning.  It’s worth it to us parents and teachers to STAND BACK A MINUTE and WATCH THEM WORK, before we seek to “program” them with our (sometimes outmoded) systems and protocols. 

I’ll be writing more on this as time goes by.  Each day, I seem to be encountering folks who are picking up new ideas and new approaches to parenting, education, and integration of young folks into society as a whole.  As always, your comments and questions are welcome.  Please feel free to write me with them---and as you do, let me know whether or not you want to allow them to be published on the site, along with your e-mail address, so other interested folks can contact you and continue the discussion.        

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Copyright, 2011, by Daniel Jacobs.  All Rights Reserved.  May be copied and shared for purposes of personal growth and/or research.  All reproduction for profit, by any means, requires the written permission of the author.