Hands in a heart shape holding an infinity rainbox. Underneath the words Sandra Bell ND Coach
#23 How Plans B and C Can Work Better

·        What are Plans A, B and C?

·        Why are Plans B and C more neuroaffirming?

·        When to use Plan A.

What are Plans A, B and C?


The concepts of Plans A, B and C are part of Dr Ross Greene’s CPS or Collaborative & Proactive Solutions model. This blog post is just focusing on part of that model – the idea that we can seek to have our expectations met, including as parents, using 3 main styles. In this model they are given the letters A, B and C, and this blog post is only covering them very briefly. There’s a lot more to CPS which I’ll cover in future blog posts or you can find out more at: Collaborative & Proactive Solutions (cpsconnection.com)

The three styles can be used for anyone we are trying to get to meet our expectations – our children, our partner, our colleagues, our boss, or even ourselves. So what are the 3 styles all about then?

Plan A – is a directive style where we tell the other person what we want them to do to meet our expectation – tidy up your room, unpack the dishwasher, etc. What we haven’t done is get any input from the other party, or considered whether they have the skills and/or current capability to meet our expectation. If you are asking yourself, why can’t they just…? Then you’ve probably Plan A’d.

Plan B – is a collaborative style where we invite the other person to tell us what it is like for them to try and meet the expectation we have for them. Only after the other person has set out how they experience it, then the person trying to get their expectation met sets out what they would like, e.g. a tidy room. Then both parties collaborate to come up with a win-win solution. 

Plan C – is a compassionate style, where often without even telling the child or other person concerned, we can decide to let it go, and put that expectation aside for now. That can often mean that extra work falls on the holder of the expectation. For example, if you’ve decided to Plan C your child tidying their room, you may need to still do some tidying yourself so you can gather up the dirty clothes. It can be why Plan C feels like giving up, but what it really is, is having compassion for where the other person is at, and that for right now they just can’t meet that expectation. So pushing for it to be met just causes more angst for everyone. 

Why are Plans B and C more neuroaffirming?


Plan B is more neuroaffirming than Plan A because it centres the experience of the person that has the expectation placed upon them. They get to explain what having that expectation placed upon them is like for them. It is very important when implementing Plan B that the invitation for understanding more about the unmet expectation is worded in a way that invites input without implying any blame or judgement. Dr Ross Greene calls this the empathy step and it involves asking about the unsolved problem using something along the lines of “I notice you have trouble brushing your teeth after dinner, I’d like to understand what that’s like for you?”

Plan C is also more neuroaffirming than Plan A because it makes the assumption that the person just can’t meet the expectation at the moment, whilst Plan A assumes that the person just doesn’t want to meet the expectation.

Plan A lends itself to putting in place rewards and punishments, instead of taking a step back to understand why it is that the person isn’t meeting the expectation. Is it because they have a hidden unmet need? Is it because they don’t have the skills to meet the expectation right now? Is it because the way the expectation has been requested or explained means they just don’t know what it is they are supposed to do? Is it because some other related skill hasn’t been learnt yet?

When To Use Plan A.


You’ve probably caught on by now that Plan A isn’t an approach we would want to be using very often, but it is sometimes appropriate. Is your child is having trouble meeting the expectation that they don’t run onto the road – that isn’t a time to Plan B or C, you need to do what is necessary to keep them safe. BUT, what you can do is work on related unsolved problems – maybe it happens because they don’t like holding your hand – you could Plan B that to understand what could be done to have that safety measure in place, or you even Plan C holding hands, and have another way to help them stay safe like a backpack with a strap that you can hold onto.

You also can’t Plan B in the heat of the moment – that’s where the proactive part comes in. Plan B needs to be done when everyone is calm, and able to think things through and talk about what it’s like for them and what different options might be. That isn’t something our brains are capable of when we are dysregulated - stressed, or anxious, or agitated. Plan B will also often take more than one session to complete – particularly in the early days of trying out this new style when everyone is learning.

As you can probably tell, I am very pro using Plans B and C, and not Plan A. But for my kids it would be too much to Plan B everything (and you should only ever be working on 2-3 unsolved problems at a time anyway), and there are some things that if I Plan C for one child it would negatively impact the other. In those cases I tend to use concepts that come from Behavioural Economics which I’ll go into more in my next blog post. But as an example – one child (Child X) was getting very upset that their towel was being used by the other (Child Y) to dry their hands. I guess I could have taken the time to do a Plan B with Child Y about why they were using Child X’s towel and my expectation they would use the hand towel instead, but in the grand scheme of things it was not the most important unsolved problem at the time, not even close. So I used the behavioural economics concept that we tend to go for the default option, and instead of Child X’s towel being the easiest to access once you’d washed your hands I made Child Y’s towel the one on top of the towel rack. Problem solved, everyone happy. Did anyone learn more skills? No. Did anyone learn to problem solve? No. Was our house more peaceful? Yes, yes it was. 

How do you solve problems or get your expectations met in your household? 

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Please note all information and strategies shared as part of the blog are for information and educational purposes only and do not constitute advice for any particular individual or circumstances.