Most people are familiar with the comedian and actor Jim Carrey. He has done several interviews over the years talking about growing up with a mother who suffered from depression and how he used to act funny to make her laugh. I have often used a story he tells about his experience in middle school when teaching instructor workshops. He says that to help curb his disruptive behavior that some of his teachers gave him a few minutes at the end of class to do a comedy routine. He also credits this as being one of the things that helped him prepare for his career which he started at a comedy club in Toronto at the age of 15.

I share this story in workshops when we are talking about our attitude toward people and the challenging behaviors they use. It’s so easy for caregivers to get into power struggles with the people they serve without understanding the reasons behind their behavior. In Jim Carrey’s case, his mother’s struggles likely contributed to the disruptive behavior he was using. Too often, in these type of situations, caregivers focus on trying to stop the challenging behavior by using coercion and threats of aversive consequences. In this case, his teachers found a way to refocus the behavior and structure the situation so the behavior occurred in a less disruptive way. This also helped him develop a skill that has served him well in his life.

In The Mandt System, we focus on teaching caregivers to work with people to gain cooperation instead of focusing on compliance. To reduce the number of escalated and violent incidents in the places we work, focus on trying to understand the reasons behind people’s behavior, and then seek ways to help them change and refocus those behaviors in cooperative ways.

Doug ZehrVogt, Mandt System Faculty