Zarrow Now: Dr. Stuart Ablon

man sitting in chair with hands clasped together

MHAOK is honored to have Dr. Stuart Ablon as our first Zarrow Symposium 2022 Keynote Speaker. His presentation entitled “Rethinking Challenging Behavior: It’s about skill, not will” was compelling, educative, and filled with ‘aha moments.’ 

Dr. Ablon offered a paradigm shift in understanding challenging behavior in our children (and ourselves) that combines neuroscience, compassion and common sense. Based on the notion that behavior is determined by skill, not will, his Collaborative Problem Solving approach has been shown to reduce behavioral challenges, conflict and stress while improving relationships and building skills.

A few key moments:

– It all starts with empathy. Empathy is not agreeing or disagreeing. It’s not having experienced it. It’s trying to understand. Do we have the right understanding of why kids are struggling with their behavior in the first place?

– While chronic stress and trauma notably impacts brain development, the brain can be re-trained. There is promising information that the best predictor of how someone is doing currently is not what happened to them in their past, but how relationally rich their current environment is. A relationally rich environment can buffer the effects of stress and trauma.

– Disregulation is contagious, but so is regulation. 

This is a very skeletal overview of what Dr. Ablon shared with us, this morning. If you’d like to experience more of his work, please check out the resources below:


  • Change-able by J. Stuart Ablon
  • The School Discipline Fix by Alisha R. Pollastri and J. Stuart Ablon
  • Collaborative Problem Solving by Alisha R. Pollastri, J. Stuart Ablon, Michael J.G. Hone