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Theoretical Basis of Warwick's Work

In General

The main theoretical approaches to behaviour change are:-

1.  Behavioural   
Problems due to maladaptive learning - uses rewards and punishments

3. Person Centred
Problems due to child's self-concept - aims to redress discrepancies between the child's actual - and ideal - self

          2.  Cognitive Behavioural
Problems due to maladaptive thinking - uses training for erroneous or unrealistic thinking

4.  Psychodynamic
Problems due to unresolved unconscious conflicts - helps child to gain insight and increase ego strength


"interactive behaviour imbalance"

Warwick believes that chronic bad behaviour creates what he has termed an "interactive behaviour imbalance" (www.ibi.org.uk). He does not see "bad behaviour" as the child's problem at all but an interactional problem between child and authority figure which the child is incapable of changing.   Warwick therefore works exclusively with the parents and teachers, through their accounts of what is happening, and does not see or interact with the children themselves.

Theoretical Position
Looking at responses that actually work Warwick has for many years been attempting to define and clarify the principles that form the basis of the changes he achieves

Warwick's approach is mainly behavioural
There are four reasons why, in Warwick's view, the behavioural approach is the best suited for use with children who are badly behaved. The behavioural approach: -

1. Does not require the child to have reached any particular level of conceptual development and

2. Enables the parents or school staff to remain as the 'agents of change' and the initiative to stay with them.   This means that they can make changes without a loss of leadership or the child being made too aware that an outside agency is involved.

3. The parents or school staff can then be trained change their own behaviour and to focus on the interactive nature of the problem.

4. All parents and teachers already use an intuitive version of the Behavioural Approach - they use rewards and punishments instinctively.   However, lack of precision in their use is always, in Warwick's view, one of the main reasons for the problems they experience.   Warwick has found it essential to train parents and teachers to use rewards and sanctions effectively.

Influences of the other approaches

Person Centred
Although he works exclusively with parents and educational staff Warwick sees the child's perception of what the parents think of them as central.   Through exclusively Behavioural methods, he trains parents and staff to maintain a positive approach and reduce discrepancies between how the child would like to view themselves and the view they see reflected from the authority figures.

Cognitive Behavioural
An intuitive version of this third view is also often found in use by parents.   They are very often engaged in continuous attempts to change what their children appear to think. This often just adds to their problems and they need clear strategies to avoid this trap.   When working with badly behaved children, Warwick does not view their apparent maladaptive, erroneous or unrealistic processing as a problem associated with thinking at all - but rather one generated by a lack of training to accept consequences.

He believes problems stem from an emotional need to suspend logic rather than a lack of logical thinking ability.   He finds that the unhelpful or unrealistic ways that children appear to think are effectively changed by careful use of a combination of techniques linking rewards and sanctions consistently and positively applied.

The Problem with many Behaviour Interventions
Warwick believes that taking too little account of the interactive nature of "bad behaviour" handicaps many interventions. "Bad behaviour" is always, in his view, part of an interactional problem.
Warwick believes that it is vital for professionals not to work too far away from these interactions.   For him, the parents' and teachers response to behaviour is always the key factor.

Don't blame Parents
Warwick believes it makes no sense to blame parents for the bad behaviour of their children, in his experience the vast majority have always done their best and have often found it difficult to find effective help.

The Need for Research
The following conclusions are all intuitively based but present some interesting and concise areas for future research.

Position on Behaviour Disorders
Warwick believes that since many diagnoses of behaviour disorders do not come with any comprehensive advice on behaviour management it is probably best to assume, unless the professionals specifically say otherwise, that the techniques that work with "chronic bad behaviour" will still be needed.   Although there is currently no research to back it up Warwick inclines to the belief that many behaviour disorders merely predispose the child and the parent to have problems interacting rather than make it inevitable that the child will behave badly.   Interactive behaviour techniques may not alter the underlying behaviour disorder, ADHD, for instance, but may dramatically change the trauma of living with it.

Common Characteristics
Although, again, research is needed to confirm his observations, Warwick believes that children with "chronic bad behaviour" have a range of characteristics as predictable as those associated with the recognised behaviour disorders.   He has introduced the concept of "interactive behaviour imbalance" not to create another behaviour disorder but to show that "bad behaviour" is always a problem shared by the child and the parent.   It is, therefore, essential to search for both the problem and the solution within these "interactions".

Characteristics of the child with "Interactive Behaviour Imbalance"
Warwick's method involves speaking to clients every day, including weekends, until the behaviour problem is solved.   Working in this way has produced some remarkable insights.   By far the most interesting is the realisation that his clients' badly behaved children have remarkably similar characteristics.   They

get into a temper if they are not getting their own way

seem not to be able to understand reasons or logical explanations

are defiant

won't listen to you or talk over you when you are trying to

are strong-willed, tend to wear you down

find it difficult or impossible to lose even over small unimportant

tend to blame others for even small disappointments

When you attempt to punish them they will often
say they "don't care"
threaten or produce a temper tantrum or other retaliation
try to make you feel guilty
say you are unfair
say you don't love them
say they don't like or love you

They may also

appear to be selfish

tend to argue with or be spiteful to brothers or sisters

tend to be spiteful to you, or say hurtful things

tend to whine or complain

often need a lot of reassurance and sometimes

have a tendency to demand affection when they don't deserve it

occasionally still be sleeping in their parent's bed

Interactive behaviour problems do not always appear to affect relationships outside the home but when they do the children

tend not to have or not to keep friends
or tend to make friends with younger children
or with children they can dominate
or children who have similar difficulties to their own

May not have problems at school but when they do

may have problems with peers at break times
may take a strong dislike and get in trouble with new or particular teachers

The above characteristics mean

the child is usually very powerful within the family with a
strong will that may be overpowering
but usually has very low self-esteem and is
unhappy much of the time

As these last two characteristics always seem to be present Warwick believes it makes no sense at all to call such children "spoilt".

Children with these characteristics are often just badly behaved yet this list looks as serious any of the lists of symptoms of major disorders like ADHD or Aspergers Syndrome or Attachment Disorder.   In many ways, for the family, they can be just as serious, but there is one big difference; with careful work by parents these behaviours and their attendant characteristics can be quickly trained away.

As parents we become painfully aware that we have no direct access to our children's behaviour.   Apart from the use of drugs we have no direct way of modifying it.   The only access we have is through what we say and do, in other words through our own behaviour.

Behaviour Change Consultancy

What are the Characteristics of the typical child with "interactive behaviour imbalance"?

ibi.org.uk - Click Here

What is the difference between a child with an "interactive behaviour imbalance" and a child that is just  "very badly behaved"?

Click Here

What is the structure of your Interactive Behaviour Intervention with families?

  1. The problem  - you give us a detailed description of the problem and the changes that you require

  2. The responses - you give us a detailed description of your current responses and what you have tried in the past.

  3. The explanation - we give a detailed analysis of the effects your current dynamics and a detailed explanation of an alternative response to each of the behaviours that you want to change

  4. The Intervention - you begin the new responses the moment you next see your child

  5. Daily support - you communicate with us each day (including weekends) for a month and a half until the changes identified are achieved

  6. Open-ended - we are so confident that you will achieve your goal that you pay only a one-off payment for the original consultation.   We do not charge for the daily fine-tuning that we do, neither do we put a limit on how long our support lasts.   This is where the body of the work is done - we create no barrier to this - parents have to be committed to communicate with us each day in the first six weeks (and then weekly) for the behaviour to change.

  7. The big difference - this is the big difference between our approach and that of other agencies.  Not only do we make detailed suggestions of what you should do (often other professions make general statements rather than give you the detail that you need) but we also put ourselves on the line each day to support you with each change that you make.   If we were not effective we would never work in this exposed way.

    Warwick Dyers EBook Download

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