DECLUMP Your Priorities!

To watch the video version of Declump Your Priorities, click here.

I think because on the surface the behaviour all looks the same, parents tend to have a really difficult time separating out different problems. We’ve talked about how defiance and listening and all that are a conglomeration of eight different executive functioning skills in the past so we’re not going to go into that right now. What I want to talk about right now is declumping the issues you want to work on.

Are You Clumping?

One thing that everyone seems to have a lot of difficulty with is what Dr. Greene calls “declumping.” They tend to look at their child’s challenging behaviour in multiple different settings, in relation to multiple different activities, at multiple different times of the day and equate it all to one centralized source. I guarantee you that the stress that’s driving the behaviour at the doctor’s office is not the same stress as is driving the behaviour at the park. They’re both stress, and they both look like stress. Just like two bubbles look the same. But just because two bubbles look the same doesn’t mean they’re the same bubble. Just because two instances of stress look the same, does not mean they’re the same stress. They might be related! But they are not the same.  

Why Clumping Doesn’t Work

When we clump we’re much more likely to forget about a child’s strengths because when you sew together all the various difficulties they’re having throughout their day into one all-encompassing problem, it seems like they’re never successful at doing anything. When we clump things all together we tend to make very generalized plans that focus on the symptoms. The plan might deal with a few specific behavioural symptoms we’re seeing but because we’re clumping ALL the problems together into one, there’s no hope in hell of actually addressing the root issues because even if they look the same they are not the same. They aren’t being driven by the same thing. We need to separate out the problems that we are then going to make individual priorities for, and individualized plans for.

How To Declump

So next time you’re trying to solve a behavioural problem, stop and think “how many ways can I divide this up?” For example, if you had a really bad park visit- the park is the clump. It’s the unifying factor. But your child throwing sand at the park is a different problem than your child pushing kids down the slide at the park. Them running off when you call their name is another different problem. Them screaming and kicking and crying when you leave is another separate problem. So while it was ONE bad park visit, there were at least 4 separate actual problems to look at and to make plans for within that. 

And I promise you- if you can start to do this. If you can start even just- make a list- I need to address the sand throwing, I need to address the bolting, I need to address the pushing, and I need to address the difficulty leaving. Okay well, now you’ve declumped! Then apply what I talk about in the Two Questions post. Ask yourself those two questions for each line item. Now are you seeing a plan emerge? This is called Backwards Design, where we figure out what the outcome we want is and we work backwards from that to solve the problem. This is what we do in ParentAbility. So if you’re struggling to fill in those gaps- to flesh out that plan- that is where you need to be. Because I can hold your hand and walk you through each and every one of those steps. I also have my Well-Behaved Kids Class which can help you figure out the ‘what don’t they know how to do?’ bit. 

So what do you think? Can you think of a time you’ve clumped issues together and it’s caused you to create very general solutions? Do you think declumping is something you can apply? Let me know in the comments. 

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About Allana

Hi, I’m Allana. I teach parents of toddlers and preschoolers why their children are misbehaving and what to do about it without yelling, shaming, or using time-outs. When not teaching parents about behaviour you can generally find me chasing around my two boys, reading cheesy romance novels, or hanging out with my own parents.

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