Staying in the Green Zone With Positive Behavior Support
Staying in the Green Zone With Positive Behavior Support
Do you ever feel like you are simply reacting to what happens? That your life lacks predictability and control? That your household is in disarray? Do you feel that this impacts your children and your approach to parenting? If so, you may be in the “red zone”. We all experience this at times and to different degrees. What if a more proactive approach to parenting could keep us in the “green zone” most of the time? This article will describe a proactive approach to supporting children’s behavior and family life, using a Green Zone Checklist as a guide.
The green zone refers to proactive, positive approaches that can make our lives better and easier. Research from schools and other organizations has shown that these universal strategies – components of positive behavior support – can improve overall behavior and success. There is no reason they cannot be used to improve family life as well.
Although every family is different, embracing the principles outlined in the green zone checklist can be beneficial for everyone for a number of reasons. First, family life can be stressful, sometimes even more so when one of the members has a disability. This approach guides us to consider how to organize our environments so that everyone’s physical, social, and emotional needs are met. Second, gravitating to more proactive and positive interactions creates a pleasing, relaxing climate. It is more respectful than waiting for problems to occur. And finally, while the principles in the green zone may have a particular benefit for the child with a disability, all family members benefit.
Setting up your green zone
A good green zone has a number of important parts. First, it is really helpful if all of the family members are on the same page about important values, behaviors, and responsibilities. You can achieve this through occasional short family discussions where you review expectations together and resolve any differences of opinion that may be creating difficulty for your family.
Second, we can organize our family homes in terms of space (including reducing clutter, making items needed for activities available, and managing the sensory environment) and time, creating predictable and balanced schedules and routines.
Perhaps most importantly, the green zone asks that we put time into planning positive interactions and strengthening our relationships. This involves focusing on strengths and positives, communicating openly, and scheduling quality time together, no matter how busy or frustrating things get.
You can use the PBS green zone checklist to work through each of these parts step by step. For more help with establishing expectations, organizing your household, or strengthening relationships, please refer to the following articles:
- What to Expect When Setting Expectations
- Household Organization
- Supporting Teen Behavior and Loving Relationships
It can take time to establish new habits and, as families grow through life stages, it may always be a work in progress. Be positive and forgiving of yourselves as parents.
Expectations: The H family consists of Mom, Dad, and two teenage boys, including Ben who has a developmental disability. The family values honesty, productivity, and open communication. They have two primary expectations that are consistent with what is expected at the boys’ high school: be responsible and be respectful, further defined by:
- Be responsible: share who, what, where, and when if you are leaving the house, complete your chores and homework, be in bed by the mutually agreed-upon time of 10:00 pm, take care of your belongings, admit your mistakes.
- Be respectful: ask permission before taking other peoples’ things, encourage/compliment one another, resolve problems calmly, apologize when needed.
These expectations apply to all members and specific examples and picture cues are added for Ben. The family reviews them monthly and shares them with guests.
Organization: The H family’s home is tailored to these expectations and the needs of its members. Although the boys must share a room, the beds are on opposite walls and they each have a sliding crate under their bed to store their personal treasures. There is an area in the loft that is the “calm space”. When someone chooses to go there to decompress, their privacy is respected. All chore and homework supplies are where they are needed and there are designated hooks for jackets and backpacks and bins for shoes in the mudroom.
The family maintains a white board calendar on the door leading to the garage. It has both individual activities and shared events, noting who will provide transportation. Ben’s activities are color coded and include pictures or symbols. All family members are forewarned of changes.
Interactions: The H family recognizes that each member has certain strengths and challenges. They divvy up responsibilities so that everyone pitches in based on their abilities. They do not assume that one another automatically understand what they want or need. They carve out time every Sunday afternoon to talk about how things are going and to do something fun (e.g., go to the beach, bowling) to build their family unity. They also tackle household projects together, finding ways for everyone to contribute. Each member has a support system outside the home as well and they lean on their friends and family when things are difficult.
Meme Hieneman, has a Ph.D. in Special Education and is nationally certified as a behavior analyst. She has published a variety of articles, chapters, and books including “Parenting with Positive Behavior Support: A Practical Guide to Resolving Your Child’s Difficult Behavior.” In her professional career, Meme has worked with children with severe behavior problems for more than 20 years.
- Designing Strategies to Improve Your Child’s Behavior
- Proven Strategies for Supporting Your Child’s Behavior
- Spare The Rod: Addressing Difficult Behavior Effectively
- Family Chat Replay: Improving Family Lives with Positive Behavior Support
- Positive Behavior Support as a Family Affair
- Use Your Words Replacing Problem Behavior with Communication
- How Positive Behavior Support Can Work In A School Setting
- Using Visual Strategies to Improve Behavior
- A Parent’s Roadmap to Improving Challenging Behavior With Positive Behavior Support
- Reinforcement: Improving Behavior One Interaction at a Time
- Cultivating Support for Your Child’s Challenging Behaviors
- Bookshelf Essential: Parenting with Positive Behavior Support
- Can Your Thoughts Impact Your Child’s Behavior?
- Getting Involved with Positive Behavior Support at Your Child’s School
- Finding Common Ground: Working Together to Resolve Behavioral Challenges
- Parenting with PBS: Resolving Children’s Behavior Problems More Effectively and Efficiently
- Getting Ahead of the Game: Changing Behavior and Family Life
This post originally appeared on our January/February 2020 Magazine