Skills Training for Struggling Kids: Promoting Your Child's Behavioral, Emotional, Academic, and Social Development

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Challenging kids don't behave badly on purpose-they are simply struggling to "catch up" in key areas of psychological and cognitive development. If your child or teen's emotional or behavioral difficulties are getting in the way of success at home, at school, or in social situations, this is the book for you. Dr. Michael Bloomquist has spent decades helping parents to understand acting-out kids and support their healthy development. In these pages, he presents tried-and-true ...

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Challenging kids don't behave badly on purpose-they are simply struggling to "catch up" in key areas of psychological and cognitive development. If your child or teen's emotional or behavioral difficulties are getting in the way of success at home, at school, or in social situations, this is the book for you. Dr. Michael Bloomquist has spent decades helping parents to understand acting-out kids and support their healthy development. In these pages, he presents tried-and-true ways you can build your 5- to 17-year-old's skills to:

Follow rules and behave honestly.

Curb angry outbursts.

Make and maintain friendships.

Express feelings productively.

Stay on task at school.

Resolve conflicts with siblings.

Manage stress.

Loads of checklists, worksheets, and troubleshooting tips help you select and implement the strategies that meet your child's specific needs. You'll also build your own skills for parenting effectively when the going gets tough. Systematic, compassionate, and practical, the book is grounded in state-of-the-art research. The road to positive changes for your child and family starts here.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Dr. Bloomquist speaks frankly to parents and emphasizes ways to overcome barriers to change, such as a child's protests against following rules. He also helps you learn to cope with your own emotional reactions in difficult family situations."--John E. Lochman, PhD, ABPP, Director, Center for Prevention of Youth Behavior Problems, University of Alabama

"We have been using the methods in this book with our two children for a while--Dr. Bloomquist's positive skills-building program is powerful! Practicing the skills and making them part of our everyday life has helped us grow closer as a family."--Margaret N.
"Dr. Bloomquist's approach has given us insight into why our son acts (and reacts) the way he does. Learning these techniques was like being handed an indispensable toolbox for addressing problem behavior. Now we can resolve challenges with a lot less chaos and stress."--Marci and Matthew H.

"Bloomquist draws on a wealth of experience in both research and applied settings. Strengths of this parent guide include its focus on children's and teens' competencies across a broad age span; the inclusion of strategies to enhance parental well-being and family functioning; and the emphasis on skills building for both children and parents. Highly recommended!"--Robert J. McMahon, PhD, Department of Psychology, Simon Fraser University, and Child and Family Research Institute, Canada

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781609181703
  • Publisher: Guilford Publications, Inc.
  • Publication date: 11/30/2012
  • Pages: 275
  • Sales rank: 397,530
  • Product dimensions: 10.40 (w) x 8.10 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Michael L. Bloomquist, PhD, a child psychologist, is Associate Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Minnesota, where he conducts research and trains practitioners. He is the author of a related book for mental health professionals, The Practitioner Guide to Skills Training for Struggling Kids. Dr. Bloomquist has worked with struggling kids and teens and their families for more than 25 years. He and his wife are the proud parents of two sons.
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Read an Excerpt

Skills Training for Struggling Kids

Promoting Your Child's Behavioral, Emotional, Academic, and Social Development

By Michael L. Bloomquist

The Guilford Press

Copyright © 2013 The Guilford Press
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-60918-170-3


The Struggling Child

Understanding Your Child's Behavioral–Emotional Problems

Child difficulties like disrupting the classroom, arguing with adults, fighting with siblings, moodiness, excessive worrying, rejection by peers, and/or underachieving in school, to name just a few, are indicators of behavioral–emotional problems. Such behaviors and/or emotional symptoms can harm your child's functioning in everyday life, which in turn stresses you out and probably has a negative effect on family life. You are likely reading this book and perhaps working with a practitioner due to similar concerns and out of a desire to get your child and family back on track.

To do that you need to develop a specific plan of action that is exactly what your son or daughter needs to be successful (see Chapter 2). But first you have to understand your child's behavioral–emotional problems and begin thinking of them from a developmental point of view.

Understanding Your Child's Behavioral–Emotional Problems

Almost all children demonstrate the problems described in this section, to some extent. It is the frequency and magnitude of the problems that make the difference between a normal bump in the road and something to be concerned about. For example, habitual defiance is much more frequent than average and is a concern. A child who throws a chair while being defiant is demonstrating a problem behavior of much greater magnitude than run-of-the-mill talking back. Determining whether a child has crossed the line in frequency and magnitude for a particular problem is, unfortunately, a judgment call that is tough for many parents to make. This is where a qualified practitioner can help. Experienced practitioners have seen many children with problems and are also well versed in the symptoms of behavioral-emotional problems and when they should be addressed.

Following is a list of common characteristics of children that are problematic when their frequency and magnitude are high:

• Hyperactivity—can't sit still and is constantly in motion.

• Impulsivity—fails to think before acting, exhibits behavior such as blurting out, shoving in line, or even stealing something tempting.

• Inattention—is distracted, has difficulty focusing, and demonstrates low effort and motivation to complete tasks and stay focused.

• Defiance—argues with or disregards adult directives.

• Rule-violating behavior—violates commonly accepted standards of behavior such as breaking curfew, stealing, vandalizing, running away from home, skipping school.

• Aggression—displays actions that harm or intimidate another—physical aggression, like punching, hitting, and kicking, or relational aggression, like spreading rumors or excluding someone from a group—both of which can be expressed as reactive (spur of the moment) or proactive (planned).

• Moodiness—exhibits depression-like sadness, discouragement, and hopelessness; and/or euphoric excitability, mania, or irritability.

• Anxiety—worries, is physically tense, and avoids certain places, people, or events because of nervousness.

• Emotionally overreactive—acts aroused, agitated, and "ready for action."

• Emotionally underreactive—acts calm, with low guilt and/or concern for others (sometimes with lower empathy).

• Underachievement—experiences delays in reading, arithmetic, written language, and other areas of academic proficiency.

• Social difficulties—has a hard time with friends and peer interactions, possibly including being socially troublesome to others and/or withdrawn and shy.

These behavioral–emotional problems can all range from mild to severe, and some children may have more than one of them. It is unfortunately all too common that a child starts out with one or two of these problems, which lead to setbacks in everyday life, and then they "snowball," creating more problems over time. Although there are gender differences in the incidence of some of these problems, both boys and girls can exhibit any of them.

These behavioral–emotional problems may be the reasons you have sought assistance for your child, as they are for many parents. More often than not, these problems end up being the "target" of an intervention. It's essential, though, that you accurately identify the problems your child is experiencing before deciding what kind of help he or she needs. Here too a practitioner can help guide you.

Understanding Your Child's Developmental Struggles

The underlying premise of the "Struggling Kids" program is that a child with behavioral–emotional problems like the ones listed above is struggling with psychological development. That is, the child is behind in accumulating typical skills, or competencies, in the behavioral, social, emotional, and academic arenas. This is why the "Struggling Kids" program focuses on skills building: To be successful, the struggling child needs to be given the ability to master tasks that are part of typical child development.

To get a better idea of where your child stands in psychological development, review the Child Psychological Development chart. Compare the struggling and successful child in each area. Try to pinpoint your child's developmental progress. Is your child behind and struggling or on track and successful? Keep in mind that although your child may be at a certain chronological age (e.g., elementary school age), he or she may be at a younger developmental age (e.g., preschool), and if so, that means that your child is behind. If you're not sure where your child fits on the developmental path for any domain, try to think of examples of your child's behavior that prompt you to say that your child is struggling; a practitioner can guide you, if you need additional expertise in this area.

Because children don't grow up in a vacuum, it's important to take into account how the parent and family contribute to a child's development. In this book the well-being of the parent and family are considered so that the plan can also address any stress-related problems within the family that might influence the child. Therefore, you need to know if you as a parent or your family as a unit is meeting the challenges of everyday family life. Are you stressed or coping? See the Parent and Family Well-Being chart to get a better idea.

Knowing the Power of Protective Factors

Many parents wonder what causes developmental struggles in a child and whether anything can be done to make things better. A combination of genetic vulnerabilities and environmental stresses causes a child's psychological developmental struggles. As a result of genetic and environmental influences, the central nervous system of a struggling child may be different from that of a successful child.

Fortunately the effects of genetic vulnerabilities and environmental stresses are not etched in stone. Protective factors, such as those listed in the chart on page 19, can shield the child from genetic or environmental risks. In other words, these protective factors can increase the odds that an at-risk child can still be successful. The greater the number of protective factors, the greater the chance that the child will reclaim normal development.

Skills-building strategies can help a child get along better in everyday life and can boost protective factors. Many of the protective factors listed in the chart are essentially skills (e.g., behavioral and emotional regulation skills) or can be the by-products of the success that comes with having such skills (e.g., positive parent-child interactions). The bottom line is that a skills-building approach can enable a struggling child to make progress and succeed. There is room for optimism and hope if you take effective action by helping your child build developmental skills!

What Is the Next Step?

Having read this chapter, you should now have a better understanding of your struggling child. For whatever reason, your child may be behind in skills development and is now struggling. Most children learn developmental skills implicitly through everyday interactions with parents and others. But a child who is behind needs to have those developmental skills taught explicitly. A child can be taught skills to help him or her shift from struggling to successful. In addition, parents and family members can be taught skills to help them move from stressed to coping. In this process protective factors will gain a boost that will keep your child and family on track. The next chapter will guide you in creating a skills-building plan of action for your child and family.


Getting Back on Track

Coming Up with a Skills-Building Plan for Your Child and Family

In Chapter 1, I propose taking the view that a struggling child has gotten off the developmental track. The good news is that the child can get back on course with a skills-building approach. In this chapter you'll have the opportunity to identify specific parenting strategies that will build the skills that your child and family need. It's time to come up with a plan and then get going!

Examining How Child and Family Are Doing

Let's take a closer look at your child's developmental struggles and/or the parent/ family concerns that you started to familiarize yourself with in Chapter 1. Use the Examining How Your Child and Family Are Doing chart (at the end of this chapter) to rate your child, self, and family. If you are working with a practitioner, he or she can give you a valuable perspective here and help ensure that you are focusing on the most important areas.

Selecting Skills-Building Strategies to Strengthen

The next step is to identify the areas you rated a 1, 2, or 3: These are the areas that you will target in your skills building with your child. The skills-building chapters in this book (Chapters 4–20) are divided into six sections that correspond respectively to the four areas of child development and the two areas of parent/family well-being. The chapter summaries that follow will help you zero in on which individual chapters might help you work on the broader areas of concern that you rated as 1, 2, or 3. Keep in mind that the information in each chapter of this book can be applied broadly to children in the 5- to 17-year-old age range, but there are tips on tailoring the strategies for a younger child, an older child, or a teen.

You may not be entirely sure of which chapters to tackle first. Use your best judgment and choose those areas and chapters that seem to match your goals for your child and family. Your practitioner can help you think this through. It could be that several areas and corresponding chapters appear to be useful. You cannot do everything, however, so you need to focus and select one strategy to begin with. Figuring out what to work on is a very important step.

Enhancing Your Child's Behavioral Development

Chapters 4–7 contain ideas and strategies for dealing with misbehaviors. You will learn techniques for building the parent–child bond and "managing" a child. This cluster of chapters is often the best place to begin for a child rated as struggling in behavior development.

Chapter 4. Doing What You're Told: Teaching Your Child to Comply with Parental Directives

These strategies can be used to teach your child to comply with reasonable directives and to avoid related parent–child power struggles. In this chapter you are taught how to give an effective command, to give an effective warning using an "if–then" statement, and to follow through by putting a child in time-out (preschool or elementary age) or by taking away an age-adjusted privilege (all ages). Chapter 7 is often used in conjunction with Chapter 4.

Chapter 5. Doing What's Expected: Teaching Your Child to Follow Rules

Procedures are presented for clearly stating house rules to your child and for making sure those rules are followed. There are also suggestions for stating and following through with situational rules that pertain to a particular event or place away from home, such as in a restaurant or at a relative's home. Chapter 7 is often used in conjunction with Chapter 5.

Chapter 6. Doing the Right Thing: Teaching Your Child to Behave Honestly

Ideas for quelling dishonest behaviors such as lying, sneaking, cheating, or stealing, and for promoting honesty, are provided in this chapter. Different methods are presented for a child whose dishonesty is impulsive, for one whose dishonesty is related to the influence of peers, and for one who seems to view dishonesty as an acceptable way to get what he or she wants. Chapter 7 is often used in conjunction with Chapter 6.

Chapter 7. Staying Cool under Fire: Managing Your Child's Protesting of Discipline and Preventing Angry Outbursts

This chapter provides information and techniques that can help you deal effectively with your child's protests (whining, tantrums, talking back, refusing to go in timeout or give up a privilege, and so on) when you are disciplining for misbehavior (defiance, rule breaking, or dishonesty). Procedures for preventing angry outbursts from your child, such as routines, rules, and redirection, are also described.

Enhancing Your Child's Social Development

These chapters provide ideas and strategies for enhancing your child's social competence. You will learn methods for targeting, teaching, and guiding your child to use social skills and for assisting the child in coping with challenging social situations.

Chapter 8. Making Friends: Teaching Your Child Social Behavior Skills

Suggestions are given for teaching and coaching your child in the development of positive social behavior skills. This includes identifying social behaviors to work on (e.g., sharing or negotiating), as well as teaching and coaching the social behavior(s) with your child.

Chapter 9. Keeping Friends: Teaching Your Child Social Problem-Solving Skills

In this chapter you are told how to teach your child to recognize when a social problem exists and how to use a step-by-step process to solve that problem. This includes discussing and practicing social problem-solving skills with your child and using social problem solving to help siblings resolve conflict (if applicable).

Chapter 10. That Hurts!: Helping Your Child with Bullies

You can assist your child with the situation if he or she is bullied. First you are encouraged to take steps to organize adults (e.g., parents, teachers, neighbors) to be observant, coordinate with each other, and intervene whenever a bully's behavior is directed toward your child. You also are given ideas on how to teach and coach your child to ignore and/or be assertive him-or herself.

Chapter 11. Hanging with the "Right Crowd": Influencing Your Child's Peer Relationships

This chapter focuses on what you can do to reduce negative peer influences on your child while increasing positive peer relationships. Specific techniques to monitor and supervise your child's peer-related activities are noted. You are also taught how to teach and coach your child in peer-coping skills. With your support, your child can learn how to identify and avoid certain situations with peers, as well as to be assertive in handling peer pressure.

Enhancing Your Child's Emotional Development

The strategies in these chapters can be especially important for a child who is prone to worry, sadness, and/or anger. You will learn to teach your child to deal with and manage feelings better so that the feelings don't manage the child. These chapters take a lot of work and call for your child to be fairly motivated (see Chapter 3).


Excerpted from Skills Training for Struggling Kids by Michael L. Bloomquist. Copyright © 2013 The Guilford Press. Excerpted by permission of The Guilford Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

Introduction: How to Use This Book
Getting Started and Staying with It
1. The Struggling Child: Understanding Your Child's Behavioral-Emotional Problems
2. Getting Back on Track: Coming Up with a Skills-Building Plan for Your Child and Family
3. Taking Care of Business: Getting Going and Following Through
Enhancing Your Child's Behavioral Development
4. Doing What You're Told: Teaching Your Child to Comply with Parental Directives
5. Doing What's Expected: Teaching Your Child to Follow Rules
6. Doing the Right Thing: Teaching Your Child to Behave Honestly
7. Staying Cool under Fire: Managing Your Child's Protesting of Discipline and Preventing Angry Outbursts
Enhancing Your Child's Social Development
8. Making Friends: Teaching Your Child Social Behavior Skills
9. Keeping Friends: Teaching Your Child Social Problem-Solving Skills
10. That Hurts!: Helping Your Child with Bullies
11. Hanging with the “Right Crowd”: Influencing Your Child's Peer Relationships
Enhancing Your Child's Emotional Development
12. Let It Out!: Teaching Your Child to Understand and Express Feelings
13. You Are What You Think: Teaching Your Child to Think Helpful Thoughts
14. Stress Busters: Teaching Your Child to Manage Stress
Enhancing Your Child's Academic Development
15. Surviving School: Teaching Your Child to Manage Time, Organize, Plan, Review, and Stay on Task
16. Teaming Up: Collaborating and Advocating for Your Child at School
Enhancing Your Well-Being as a Parent
17. You Parent the Way You Think: Thinking Helpful Thoughts to Enhance Parenting
18. Cool Parents: Managing Your Own Stress to Enhance Parenting
Enhancing Your Family's Well-Being
19. Let's Get Together: Strengthening Family Bonds and Organization
20. We Can Work It Out: Strengthening Family Interaction Skills
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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 18, 2013

    This book is written by an experienced child psychologist, who h

    This book is written by an experienced child psychologist, who has been working with families for many years. It was recommended to me by our therapist. This book has helped us get a handle on where to begin and what to do. 

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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