Parenting or teaching a child with emotional and behavioral deficits can be challenging on many levels. What 3 essentials skills (or group of skills) are necessary to be an effective parent or teacher of students with emotional behavior disorders?
As teachers and therapist of children with emotional and behavior disorders, we often encounter children who lack the skill of using positive self-talk. Like any skill, it needs to be intentionally taught and modeled. Teachers and therapists are in position to be powerful role-models in the lives of children. We can help empower them by using positive self-talk in the classroom. Affirmations, combined with the positive emotions and positive consequences that we attach to them, are a powerful way to help us and our children achieve joyful lives.
It is up to us to provide children with the necessary tools to empower themselves and overcome the negative and often self-limiting thoughts and actions that they encounter ever day. The best example we can give our students is to use social and emotional affirmation statements (self-talk) that reflect self-confidence, caring, and trust. But, in order to be successful, you have to go into every day and session with the mindset that you are going to model positive self-talk for your students and clients. By mindset I mean a class of behaviors and patterns of behavior that are intentionally performed to meet a particular outcome.
If you need some scripts for some affirmations you can model, below are just a few positive social and emotional examples you can model every day. Write them down on a small piece of paper or index card to help remind you. You and your students can modify them to meet your needs:
Good things happen to me.
I am friendly.
I am a good influence on others.
I am kind to others.
I focus on the positive.
I am helpful.
I am a good listener.
I can do it.
I make friends easily.
I play well with others.
Every problem has an answer.
I am loved.
I am a loving boy/girl.
I am beautiful/handsome.
I like myself.
I feel calm and relaxed (especially when child is upset).
I love my life and have lots of fun.
I choose how I feel by the way I think and talk.
I feel happy.
This is a simple and brief description of how a self-talk intervention can be implemented. This is not intended nor shall it be misconstrued as advice or as a comprehensive intervention for a particular child or situation. As always, before engaging in any any major behavior change program you should consult an expert or highly trained professional such as a Licensed Psychologist or Board Certified Behavior Analyst.
While conducting staff development today on social emotional learning, I began contemplating our true purpose and goal for teaching social emotional learning. I realized that teaching social emotional wellness skills requires a certain mindset.
As parents and teachers we must maintain a mindset that social emotional learning is not about teaching children how to behave, it’s about teaching children how to belong. When a maladaptive behavior surfaces, we must recognize that behavior is only a symptom. The presenting behavior manifests itself due to one or more social emotional deficits. Once we identify that deficit we can work on the next step, conducting some functional analysis, or determining the “why”. With this information we can begin adjusting our instruction and the environment to help the child acquire the skill.
Armed with information and a sense of vision, we can go about the work of promoting social success. Every interaction we have with our children should be driven by a vision of life-long social emotional success. Every situation is an opportunity to help your children achieve that vision. We must be intentional in every moment possible to teach and model the skills necessary for children to develop a feeling that they are a part of something greater. By helping our children develop these social emotional skills, we help them learn they are not just “a part of it”, but also feel like the they are accepted and contribute to the world. In other words, to belong.
Having the courage, patience, endurance, and fortitude for this profession can be a gift and a curse. Not many people see a crisis situation and head towards it. Few people have the patience to manage crises daily without taking it personally. It takes fortitude to wake up in the morning knowing that today you may face a horrible day. Even fewer have the endurance to last years knowing that every day can be a battlefield and that sometimes you will have more failures than successes. However there is joy to be found in the some of the more quirky events you encounter in the classroom.
One of my really strong teachers once reviewed the steps for going out to the playground with one of her students. The final step for going out to recess was “no peeing on the playground”. A close friend of mine worked with a boy who had a tendency to be very vulgar towards his female peers. He taught the boy how to properly ask girls out on dates, because as it turned out he liked girls very much, but didn’t know how to talk to them. He watched a lot television at home and thought that was how he was supposed to talk to girls to get them to like you. I had to give another student cue cards with replacement “nice words” because he swore often and didn’t realize that his superlatives were offensive to others. (“Sorry, that’s f’n awesome is not exactly appropriate in school”)
A student once said to me, “I love you Mr. Z…” He could have just said that and all would have been fine with me, but he had to add “in a cool kind of way”. I remember having a really good laugh over that comment. It just struck me so odd yet so fitting. We had worked with each other for a couple years. We had walked down a long road with many ups and downs. I’m not his dad or even a distant relative, but we had a moment in which we recognized the mutual admiration, respect, and significance for each other. We followed it up with a fist bump.
There are many situations you would not think you would find yourself teaching in a classroom. It’s easy to take most of what we learn naturally for granted. But the bizarre can easily become the norm when teaching social emotional development. It’s okay to take joy in addressing topics that you never thought needed to be addressed. Your students will appreciate it, even though they may not realize it until much later.
This may seem incongruous with some of what I have previously stated. Yes your students need you and yes you are a vessel for change, but in order for you to realize the potential effects you make on a child, you have to recognized that you weren’t part of the problem to begin with.
As stated earlier, students are with you for a reason. If they could make the decision to be better, they probably would have done so long ago. However, the fact remains that they did not, and most likely the ability to generate change within themselves has not emerged. So therefore the responsibility is handed to you to generate behavior change in your students. You must live every day with the mindset that you are the one that needs to adjust, adapt, modify, and manipulate the environment (including your person) in order to promote change in the student. All that said, the problem didn’t start with you.
I have been slapped, kicked, punched, grabbed, choked, pinched, poked, spat upon, bitten, cursed at. I have been given a new name, gender, ethnicity, and sexual preference a countless number of times. I’ve been told where I can go, what I can do with myself once I get there, and how I’m going to be sent there in a myriad of not so kind ways. I’m going to describe for you a few situations you may recognize that despite your best efforts, you may not be able to avoid.
Once I attended a parent conference in which I was accused of having sketchy theories on behavior, poor management skills, a very poor understanding of students’ needs, and although the term child abuse was not used, I’m pretty sure it was implied. That being said, the parent in the same conversation said they were confident that the best interests of their child were being considered by your friendly neighborhood monster (ok the monster part was added by me). I took the opportunity to explain in detail to the parent all of the interventions along with rationale for the strategies that had been taught to the teachers and modeled by myself throughout the course of a week. I also provided documentation of pre, during, and postvention data showing evidence of the student’s progress. SILENCE. “Well, we just wanted to make sure you were doing your job”. Are you kidding me?!
One day I stopped by a class to see how one of my first year teachers was doing. My job takes me many places and allows me the pleasure to meet many different children, most of which have severe anger concerns. Many times I follow them if they change schools to help the transition process. One such friend is a young man of 11 years. He’s a great kid. He and I exchanged pleasantries and he was glad that I had come to visit him. I provided lots of praise, welcomes, and offered my support to him in his transition. It was a wonderful visit. However, on this particular day I picked a bad time as one of his classmates was visibly upset. The visible looks of happiness on our faces clearly upset this classmate who is 8 years old. In my opinion this boy was clearly looking for attention from me and chose to actively ignore him. To put it bluntly, I think this little guy had never been ignored before because he showed me exactly how he gains attention in a way I cannot ignore. By the time he was finished the room looked like a mobile home community after a hurricane. As he deescalated he curled up into a ball and slept like a baby. It was the cutest sight you had ever seen.
Oh but it was not over…
A teacher, yes a teacher, tells a parent that I recommended that a good alternative to hitting the teacher in the face was to let the student hit her hands. Anyone who knows me knows this goes against every thing in my mind, body, and soul. Hitting clearly is not a good alternative to hitting. See even in writing it doesn’t make sense.
Next….oh did you think this was over?
A parent calls me to schedule an ARD (its a Texas term, for most of you its an IEP meeting) because of behaviors on a bus. As I am in the process of contacting the necessary people, the parent calls me again to ask why I can’t get it set up right away. Now I’m good, but I’m not that good. Afterall, I do still have students and teachers to work with in between phone calls and messages. Let’s just say she was less than cordial in her appreciation of my ability to attend to her request.
What am I trying to say with this long set up? Yes, I work in a field in which positive results are not just wanted, they are expected. Yes, I live in a society in which children and their parents (and sometimes their teachers) have been empowered and in many cases enabled to engage in these types of behaviors. Yes, I choose to be here and by definition I have put myself in these situations. It’s my job, and I love what I do and sometimes we I need to pause and remember my purpose so I can move on. What gets me through each and every day is that I can emotionally remove myself (also known as rational detachment) from the situation. Why? Because IT’S NOT ABOUT ME! We work in a field with emotional children who behave in irrational ways and say irrational things. Likewise, some parents get very emotional about their children (and rightfully so) and therefore say and do irrational things themselves.
When you are able to recognize the parts that are not about you, the easier it will be for you to make it about you, in a positive and proactive way. Remind yourself of this each and every day. Although you are in the business of promoting behavior change in others, ultimately your self-worth is separate from other people’s behavior.
Often times we talk about children choosing behavior for control. We need to consider that control can take on more than one form. When looking at patterns of behavior, we have to answer the question, is the child attempting to gain control or does he already have it? We frequently feel the need to take charge and remove all opportunities for control. Having an iron fist of control in the classroom or at home is much like squeezing putty in your hands, as you squeeze tighter the putty inevitably seeps out. However by attempting to exert all the power and control you unintentionally lose it. In an attempt to hoard all opportunities for control, you create a condition in which the children make every attempt to gain some semblance of control in their lives.
Here we have two conditions. In the first condition one person has too much control. In the other condition the person has too little. Most people would like harmony in their lives and most of us would like to be fun to be around. In order to create this harmony we have to be able to create a balance of control. To do this, ask yourself these questions:
Is there a balance?
Good vs. bad, black vs. white, right vs. wrong, action and reaction, there are always forces at work that create a balance. Is control any different? A big step toward progress is to recognize that the scales of control are off balance.
Who has the control?
Does one person have the upper hand in the situation? If the child has the control, you’re going to need to set limits in order to regain some. If you have the control, guess what, it’s time to give some up in order to restore balance.
What am I willing to share?
Sometimes the hardest decision to make is what you are willing to give up, especially when you are used to having it all. Contrary to popular belief, most of the time, providing a child with choices is actually okay. You can have control by setting the limits and providing structure to the choices, the child gets control over which choice to make. Sounds like a win-win situation doesn’t it?
What am I willing to keep?
Sometimes it’s necessary to hold on to the choices. Situations involving safety usually come to mind here. Everybody has some “have to’s”, just don’t let them prevent you from finding some middle ground.
When we have too much or too little control over our lives we become stressed. When this happens we tend to overreact or under react and end up in the power struggles that we are trying to avoid. Remember that if control is not given, it will eventually be taken.
There is joy to be found in hard work…..if I just put in the effort in the beginning.
Every new teacher has probably heard the phrase, don’t smile until Christmas. Although I disagree with this statement, it actually somewhat holds true. However, if you are really holding off smiling until Christmas, plan for a miserable experience.
I have always lived by the 3 week rule. In the first 3 weeks of school, I do anything and everything in my power to teach, re-teach, and reinforce rules, procedures, and expectations. I find every nook and cranny in my schedule to work in those structured social skills lessons to build a foundation of essential skills my students need to attain their goal of learning. Putting forth that effort on the front end prevents you from having to management the problem all year long.
A common question I get is, “How do I know when my students are ready?” My answer is always, your students will let you know. They will tell you they are ready, in fact they may beg and plead for you to stop because they are “ready”. Don’t listen! When they start begging you for work and asking when class is going to start, then you know they are ready. If you start to relax and the problems arise again, then you know you need to go back to boot camp. You may not need to do it with the intensity initially required, but that will only be determined by what the behavior is telling you. Teach social emotional skills, rules, and procedures continuously and be sure to review them periodically. If you only take care of business at the beginning of the year, you run a serious risk of failure. Put the time in at the beginning for certain, then continue to review and tweak throughout the year.
It’s a tough job working with kids with behavioral challenges. In fact sometimes there are long periods of time with minimal progress or reinforcement for your efforts. Feeling a bit down during these times is natural. During these times it’s also easy to fall into patterns where your interventions are not being implemented with integrity and fidelity. It becomes easy to blame the student for the lack of change. This is a trap that can be hard to escape from once you are in it. You have to remember that these students are with you for a reason. If they could make the decision to be better on their own, they probably would have done so long ago. However, the fact remains that they did not, and most likely the ability to generate change within themselves has not emerged. So therefore the responsibility is handed to you to generate behavior change in your students. You must live every day with the mindset that you are the one that needs to adjust, adapt, modify, and manipulate the environment (including your person) in order to promote change in the student. Do whatever you need to do to motivate yourself to implement your interventions once misbehavior starts. It could be self-talk, positive reminders, or even as simple as taking a deep breath. Now that you’re ready, do the hard work that needs to be done. Operate under this mindset and you all will reap the benefits of your labor sooner rather than later.
Creativity is vital to survival.
It’s easy to get upset when an administrator suspended our students or assigns them to alternative education placements. I would go as far as to say that it offends me. I take it personally because I feel there’s something that we could have done something better. We could have intervened quicker, provided better support for the student, or come up with a consequence that would have a more lasting positive effect than letting them get to stay home or in any other way allow them to escape the problem.
Talk to my students daily about the goal of coming to school. The main goal obviously is to learn right? Therefore every behavior they engage in must be in some way related to accomplishing that goal. As the teacher it is my duty to make sure I help them learn the necessary skills so they can attain that goal every day. My function is not to make them do it, it’s to teach them how to do it for themselves. But these kids don’t want to stay in school, right? So how do we do this? Often times, creativity in the moment is the key to survival.
Let’s think of this scenario. Michael is a third grade student who detests math. Every day during math, he yells out, talks to other students, and taps his pencil loudly. The teacher in her frustration calls for the assistant principal, who comes down and takes Michael to the office, talks to him for a while, then sends him back to class an hour later. The next day, as math class begins, Michael starts his routine of yelling out and acting a compete fool. This time Michael is escorted to the office and is told to sit on a bench until he can be seen by the assistant principal and is given work assignments to complete while he waits. Two hours later, the assistant principal calls Michael into the office. Not only has Michael not completed any assignments, he hasn’t started a single one. When the AP talks to him, Michael comes out with every reason he couldn’t do the math work; he was sick, his head hurt, his poison ivy rash made his arm itch so much he couldn’t write, and his dog died so he couldn’t concentrate on the work. He was playing the sympathy card now and it appeared to be working. The assistant principal got Michael to admit he was disrupting the classroom, had him make an apology to the teacher and sent him back to class for time served. However, the next day it happens again, only this time Michael gets two hours away from class and in-school-suspension for the remainder of the day. The behavior continues when Michael returns the following day and this time he gets in-school-suspension for two days. Do you see a trend here? Michael kept playing the hand he’d been dealt, and it was paying off every time, each time with increased pay off. Michael was using his creativity to avoid having to do work and no one was to catching on. This is an example of a time when we need to out manipulate the manipulation. Michael has worked out the system. If he acts up he will be removed from the demand. Give everyone a diversion story and he gains sympathy, gain sympathy and he will never be held accountable.
However armed with another weapon I am determined to out manipulate this manipulation. When you rationally detach yourself from the crisis, you can begin a situation analysis of this problem. We have determined that Michael is desperately trying to get out of work and learning. Let’s try to give him the opposite of that. The opposite of avoiding the demand would be to maintain it. Eventually, Michael will reach a point when he will want something. I’m guessing that he has a strong desire to want to go home on time today. I’m also guessing that if he doesn’t go home on time today, things are going to be very inconvenient for him. You see I listen to lunch time conversation and I am aware of the new game console that he just got this past weekend, and he really wants to play it as soon as he gets home. Getting home late will really put a damper on that plan, what a bummer. I can empathize with that. Now you have a mutual problem. You both have to stay after school in order to get what you need accomplished. Being the rationally detached adult, I realize this situation can be manipulated to my advantage and the student will hopefully learn something in the end. I’m accustomed to staying after school, it’s really not an inconvenience for me. But in order for an intervention like this to work I have to be able to make a connection. I need to convey some empathy here. I want to show that I’m put out, but that I’m more than willing to make the sacrifice for this noble cause. At least that is what I want him to believe. I want him to know I can and will stick it out as long as I need to. He has the choice to minimize the damage and you still get what you want in the end. Here some creative problem-solving and collaborating can lead you down the path of crisis resolution.
Recently I was working with a 4th grader in an E/BD classroom. We were working on an assignment on measurement. He did wonderful, not only did he learn the concept he was able to expand on it and relate information from his own life. This student is not known for being loquacious, so it was cause for celebration. Earlier he had shown me a lima bean seed he had germinated in wet paper towel. He was very excited that it had grown so much and even sprouted a single leaf. He was however a little disappointed that he could not plant his lima bean sprout since he did not have any dirt. What a coincidence, I live not even a mile from the school this child attends, and it just so happens that I had an open bag of potting soil at my house. Do you see where I am going with this? I asked the teacher if it was okay to fetch a small amount of potting soil for this student to plant his sprout. After all, he was maintaining on-task behaviors, displaying appropriate manners, had good self-control, was engaged in learning and completing assignments, all at once I might add. I asked him if he would like to have some dirt to plant his sprout with and he smiled one of the biggest smiles I had ever seen. Assuming that was a yes, I told him as soon as he asked, I would go and get some soil from my house. I pretended to anxiously wait by whistling and tapping my foot. After a few seconds he asked “Can you go get me some dirt to plant my seed while I do my work?” I responded with “Since you asked so nicely and have been doing all your work and have done such a good job working with me, ABSOLUTELY, thank you so much for asking!” (I have a tendency to be a little bit of a ham in the classroom. Try it, it works.) I immediately left and was back in 15 minutes with a large zip-lock bag full of potting soil. My only regret is that I did not get the chance to stay to see him plant that seed. But I did stop by the next morning to see it. He was very proud of it, as was I.
What did I learn from this, dirt is a good reinforcer? Well no, as much as I would like to think that, I wish it were that simple. Reinforcers do not have to be limited to praise or prizes. Sometimes activity reinforcers serve as extremely powerful reinforcers as much as any prize or praise. Sometimes the spontaneity and creativity of a reinforcer can have great value, especially when it appeals to a child’s interest at that moment. What I liked the most was that he was not going into a corner and zoning out for a few minutes for a break. This was an activity that not only peaked his interest, but allowed him to engage in learning while he was doing it. Obviously, I don’t plan to drop everything and run to my house or the store every time a student does something great or asks for a reward. But I have taught this student that rewards can be learning activities. Many times you already have the materials you need for activity reinforcers, if you take a look around your classroom. They can be cheap and often times require little effort to provide. You can provide them as individual as well as group activities. When it comes to activity reinforcement, find out what your students like, be creative, and be spontaneous.
“I have hope, I can give hope to others.“
When I first started teaching in a behavior classroom, I thought I had to make my classroom a virtual prison. It was designed to be a structured, organized, and efficient classroom, and I accomplished all those things. What it lacked was personality, warmth, and empathy. My students were successful, but they performed more because of what they would get in return and less because they really wanted to.
It is so easy in this day and age to simply use token systems and rewards as our sole basis for reinforcing behavior and performance. However, what we end up teaching children using this methodology is “If I do what you want, you are going to give me something I like”. That is okay in the beginning, in fact I often times start out using tangibles as reinforcers, but long term we want that student to learn to be intrinsically motivated. Remember, the student isn’t at that point yet, but that is where we want them to be. So even though I might give a tangible reward in the beginning, you better believe I’m piling on the social praise each and every time. Even a small success like being able to stand in line becomes a party at the Hard Rock. Eventually I’m making a bigger deal of the social praise than I am the tangible. I say things like, “Wow, you must be so proud of yourself!” or “I’m so proud of you, but who cares what I think, how you do you feel?” By doing this, I’m setting the stage for the student to make positive statements about himself. Even the most troubled child can’t help but feel good once he starts thinking and talking about himself in a positive light. It’s the beginnings of hope.
A teacher with the right mindset will build on this. It is time to go into Arnold Schwarzenegger Terminator Scan mode. This teacher will seek every opportunity to catch the student doing more positive behaviors and “catch them in the act”.When we are distressed it’s easy to miss the positive things students do. We feel “he never does anything right!” But a teacher with the right mindset will generate a laundry list of positive actions the student can talk about and refer to. Those students who previously had no reason to succeed will develop desire. Empowered by hope, they begin to feel better about themselves. Any tangible reward they might receive for doing well is nothing but a bonus, because in the end what they gained is greater than any prize they will ever earn.
“I will persist, I will persevere.“
A “never say die” mindset is essential to success with children with emotional and behavior disorders. Any parent or teacher of children with behavior problems will most likely tell you that stubbornness is the most common trait of these children. At times you will want to throw your hands up and quit.
Think about this for a minute, someone is trying to get you to do something you don’t want to do. If you really don’t want to do it, don’t you just keep findings ways to get out of it? I detest washing dishes. I will do anything other than washing dishes. I might even fall asleep to avoid doing them. Deep down inside I am hoping for a miracle that somehow they will get done themselves. However it doesn’t happen and they are still there. Now I also have this strong motivation to want to eat off clean dishes. They haven’t gone anywhere and I am still responsible for getting them done. Those stubborn dishes won’t clean themselves. I can only hold off for so long. Eventually there will be no more clean dishes to eat off of, and those darn dirty dishes are still going to be there. They refuse to go away! Now I’ve realized that the only way to make this serious condition of mine go away, I have to get started on washing those dishes. Once I begin cleaning them I discover that the mountain of dishes shrinks right before my eyes. In less than 10 minutes I’m finished rinsing the dishes and the dish washer takes over. Yes, I only had to rinse the dishes, all I had to do was start the task and a machine did most of the work. It actually took minimal energy on my part, as opposed to all the energy I spent into avoiding doing the dishes to begin with. My reward in the end was that the dirty dishes went away (and I had some clean ones to eat off of). Talk about a personalized lesson in negative reinforcement!
The point is, in order to make it work, you have to be those dirty dishes. You are not going to go away so easily and sometimes things might a little nasty before we can get ourselves cleaned up. We need to teach students that engaging in misbehavior will no longer gain a favorable outcome. But with some effort, the students will begin to see that positive behaviors will help them achieve their goals. We need to remain steadfast in our conviction in order to teach students that conditions have changed. However in order to do that, you have to remain consistent. If you are consistent only some of the time, you are not being persistent. If you are not persistent, you will never persevere. If you are consistent only some of the time, the child’s behavior will still have a reinforcing outlet. In which case you end up blaming the child (unjustifiably so) and not accepting responsibility for creating change.
One day when I was 12 years old, I was watching a television show in which this gentleman was juggling several items in the air. So fascinated by this, I decided to teach myself how to juggle. I went into my room with a tube of tennis balls and tried to figure it out. I didn’t have a book, someone sitting their coaching my through it, or even a clue on how to even start. But I was able to visualize what it looked like. I saw myself standing there juggling. I could see every move I was supposed to make. Even at 12 years old I was able to problem solve my way through the task at hand. I was determined that the world would not see my face until I had mastered the art of juggling. I started off with 3 tennis balls and after several failures thought “I should just start with something simple”. So I began trying to juggle 2 tennis balls. This still was not as easy as I thought it would be. So again after several failures I went down to one tennis ball. I concentrated on the ball I had tossed over and over, taking in account how high it was tossed and how it landed in my hand. Then I tried to add another ball. I found that I couldn’t catch a ball if another one was already in that hand. I had to toss the first ball high enough so that I could toss another ball in the air in time and at a different trajectory to catch the dropping ball. Soon enough, I was juggling two tennis balls and was beyond happy. Not satisfied until I learned to juggle three tennis balls, I continued at my work. I followed the same process. I started sometime mid-morning, and I finished when it was dark outside. I didn’t take time to eat, I surely didn’t sleep, and never left the room even to take a restroom break. Think about how many attempts and failures I probably made that day. Now it took an entire day sequestered in my room to learn how to juggle, but I was finally able to do it. Imagine the look on my 12 year old face when I could leave my room, show off for my parents that I could juggle, and that I tell them I had taught myself. Talk about a self-esteem booster!
Think about this in your day to day classroom problems. You will have students who will test your limits. Like I mentioned earlier, you will have your days when you will want to give up because you’ve failed so many times you’ve been “beaten”. You will not have the answers to every problem they are going to present. You will have days that you will feel you are the most incompetent teacher and person in the world. One way to fail is in believing that you don’t have any answers. Trust that there is always something different you could have done. There are always alternatives to any situation and the only limit to the number of alternatives is your creativity. The alternatives may not be easy and they may not always be good, but there are alternatives nonetheless. Another easy way to fail is to think you have all the answers and that you are always going to be perfect on the first try. Having that kind of mindset will lead to helplessness, depression, and shame when a solution fails. If you had all the answers to everything, then why are you doing what you’re doing? You should be out on the lecture circuit making millions!
Sometimes we need to take on the traits of the students we so dutifully care for. They often tend to be very persistent and their behaviors allow them to persevere in what they are trying to accomplish, as negative as the goal may be. Therefore we must be persistent in our attempts to find solutions to problems. You must persist at solving problems and reject the notion that you must achieve perfection the first time. Allow yourself to seek and ask for help and resist temptations to do everything on your own. In order to do this you must train yourself to stay calm and gain control of your thinking, also known as rational detachment. By doing this you can start to think objectively in order to identify the problem. Once you identify the problem, you let your brain work for you by developing as many possible solutions as you can. A solution doesn’t necessarily have to be feasible at this point, just possible. Next pick solutions and seek help if and when it is necessary. Now that you have a generated list of solutions you know you can do, try them out. Designate a period of time you will give the solutions before you evaluate the results. A good rule of thumb is 10 days. Remember that behaviors will most likely increase or intensify before you see an improvement, so don’t abandon a strategy because the first few days don’t go as expected. Once you have evaluated the effectiveness of your solutions, you can decide if you need to continue or choose another solution when one doesn’t work. When you are a persistent problem solver, you will find that you will have a tendency to look forward to new challenges and seek opportunities to be creative. You will have more self-confidence, be more resistant defeat, and be better able to handle stressful situations.