Parenting a Child with Severe Behavioral Issues

At SCS, we specialize in non-coercive and relationship-based ways to help a child manage difficult moods, feelings and behavior.  Importantly, these methods help your child learn to cooperate rather than ‘comply’ in order to earn a reward or to avoid a punishment.  The methods are all based on a foundation of dignity and respect between parent and child.  The techniques described in the articles below apply these principles in different ways, making up a “tool box” that we can use to help a very wide range of children with difficulties relating and communicating, or whose behaviors are a consequence of sensory integration, emotional or psychiatric conditions.

The following articles cover issues important to parents of children with special behavioral and learning needs. Hopefully, these articles can help you to evaluate what you might need or want to know in order to help your child. They cover issues regarding behavior and parenting techniques, as well as ways to help children manage severe problems with mood, emotional and behavioral regulation.

Encouraging Thinking and Cooperation, Reducing Oppositional Behavior

Most parents want their children to learn to think for themselves. They would rather have children that want to cooperate out of a sense of affiliation and an ability to be flexible, rather than raise children that comply only because they expect rewards or fear punishment.  Unfortunately, many of the techniques currently recommended for children with developmental or behavioral issues take the “compliance” route. In this articles, we explain why children cooperate and why they don’t, and ways to elicit cooperation rather than win power struggles.

The Therapeutic Pause Technique for Teaching New Skills and Responsible Behavior

There is a way that you can pause for a moment, in order to help your child notice something he or she needs to notice, take a moment to think, and to respond rather than react.  Learn how to use the Therapeutic Pause technique as a way to teach your child how to learn in a mindful way.  Also in this article, we introduce important differences in teaching children to notice and use “points of reference,” versus typical approaches that focus on remembering “correct” responses and following directions.

Guided Participation: A brief definition and what it means to be a “Guide”

Relationship skills intervention teaches children to rely on relationships with nurturing Guides.  To be a Guide, you learn to teach your child how to think rather than merely follow directions.  Importantly, Guides help their apprentices or learners (or child) learn to handle their emotions. “Guided Participation” teaching describes how parents can easily learn to turn the authentic routines of the real family and community lives the currently lead. There is no need for interrupting family life together and normal routines for the sake of “therapy.”  Learning to learn in this way is the key to having a child capable of not only cooperation, but also responsibility, no matter where they are on a spectrum.

Declarative Language Stimulation, a powerful technique for getting more communication, sharing, and cooperation

Tired of prompting? Tired of “pulling” language out of your child? Tired of the constant deal-making? Tired of the power struggles?

Declarative Language stimulation is a fancy name for using your own thoughts and observations to help and motivate your child to share with you. While questions and directions can bring about useful, but short and impersonal communication, what you really want is “experience-sharing” communication.  Using declarative, experience-sharing phrasing is one of those “tweaks” that we talk about – a way of simply rephrasing what you say, that can you can use in your everyday life, over and over again in many different ways, and that results in real communication.  “Speaking declaratively,” rather than “imperatively” (demanding a response – questioning, directing), also is an important tool for reducing the tension in stressful situations – so it is an important tool for helping children with a tendency to involve adults in power struggles.

Dealing with Explosive Rage and Aggression

SCS is very experienced in working with children that have severe developmental, emotional and psychiatric complications with behavior.  We can draw from the most applicable techniques from Applied Behavior Analysis and Developmental Psychology in order to understand the behavior and to be able to guide it.  We discuss the reasons why children feel and respond in the way that they do, and ways to help children get through difficult moments.

Why Does My Child Act This Way – How Loving and Capable Parents can have Children with Behaviors Resembling Autism or Attachment Dysfunction

This is an article about Sensory Integration Dysfunction (sometimes called, Sensory Integration Disorder), and how early difficulties with modulating sensory input can lead to severe difficulties regulating their moods and feelings. These difficulties predispose children to rigid, sometimes oppositional, aggressive and explosive rage-related behavior, despite the fact that they come from loving and capable parents.

Dealing with Explosive Behavior

Learn the ‘Three Steps’ technique to help your child get back to the “calm/alert” or “green zone” state where they can return to “responding rather than reacting.”

The Therapeutic Pause Technique for Teaching Cooperative Behavior and Independent Thinking

This article discusses how to use the Therapeutic Pause technique to help a child calm down, think and respond rather than react.

Prompting – Pros, Cons, and Otherwise

Not all forms of prompting are created equal. Prompting can be an important part of a particular learning strategy, or as a way to function in complex environments.  Like any tool in a toolbox or medicine in a medicine cabinet, prompting can be the best way to teach something or to help someone in certain situations. In other situations, other means of teaching might work better. Learn the different types of prompts, what situations they work best, and the potential downsides of different prompting or cueing strategies.

Note: We will eventually spin these pages off to separate pages for EIBI/IDI articles for Professionals, and another page of articles for Parents and Professionals dealing with specific behavioral issues.

Dealing with Specific Behaviors

Dealing with Attention Seeking and Sibling Rivalry in a Relationship-based Way

In this article, we discuss the typical reasons for sibling difficulties and the forms it can take, as well as ways to intervene, manage and guide your children from conflict to resolution.  We discuss what “fairness” really means, and the nature of child thinking that contributes to sibling rivalry.  As always, we discuss these concepts with children with developmental or emotional complications in mind.

Help with Picky Eaters and Picky Eating Habits

Learn why children are picky eaters and what you can do to help your child get over his or her aversion to new foods.

Teaching Techniques used in Early Intensive Behavioral Intervention (EIBI) and for Intensive Developmental Intervention (IDI)

Techniques for Increasing Nonverbal Intelligence, Thinking, Initiation and Cooperation while Reducing Prompt Dependence at the same time

Checklist for Guides using “Child-Lead” teaching techniques

Teaching Logical Thinking by Challenging: Tools from Systems Theory: “Violating Expectations” and the “Therapeutic Pause”

Language Techniques Used at Sponderworks: Techniques for Atypical Language Learners and Children with Autism and other Disorders of Relating and Communicating

Refrigerator Notes

This is a very useful and practical collection of techniques that we use at SCS. This packet (on a PDF) includes brief descriptions of each technique along with examples.  It is not appropriate for parents to use alone, rather, the individual entries make good notes to place on the refrigerator as part of weekly lessons for parents. The professional selects the technique, posts a particular Refrigerator Note in the Site Notebook or the parents put it on their refrigerator.  The idea is to work consistently on one or two techniques to the point of parent mastery and needed consistency.

Parenting Children with Developmental and Behavioral Challenges Menu Card

Meditation and Breathing Techniques for Children

This article explains simple breathing strategies to help children learn to focus their attention and improve self-regulation.