About UsEarly Childhood DevelopmentEducation & Special NeedsHealth CareGiving & EventsPublications & Resources

Think:Kids - Rethinking Challenging Kids
By Michelle Gaudet, Metrowest Regional Parent Coordinator
Family TIES of Massachusetts

Contrary to popular belief, children with challenging behaviors do not behave badly to get or avoid things they want or don’t want, or because they have ‘bad’ parents. Some kids act inappropriately because they lack the skills to solve problems, to be flexible, and to cope with frustration. This is a type of learning disability or executive function weakness that affects a child’s capacity to handle life’s social, emotional, and behavioral challenges.

While a reward or punishment may control a child’s behavior to a certain extent, it does not teach the child the thinking skills he will need to successfully deal with the increasingly complex situations he will face as he gets older. Think:Kids-Rethinking Challenging Kids, is a type of behavior modification program based on the book “Treating Explosive Kids: The Collaborative, Problem-Solving Approach” by Ross W. Green and J. Stuart Ablon. However, rather than modifying the child’s behavior, parents and other adults are taught how to change their behavior towards their child. Parents learn to:
  • Understand how their child feels,

  • Identify situations that trigger certain behaviors, and

  • Work with their child to figure out appropriate responses and resolve conflicts.

The Think:Kids Web site at www.thinkkids.org has a great parent section. It includes an overview of the approach, a description of the model, and videos that demonstrate how the model works. There is also a Thinking Skills Inventory tool. This six-page worksheet helps parents identify situations that trigger problem behaviors, and then literally “assign” blame to a particular executive function skill. This not only helps parents identify weaknesses, but also profiles their child’s strengths.

Family TIES of Massachusetts is a statewide information and parent-to-parent support project for families of children with special needs and chronic illness. It is administered by parent coordinators housed in each of the regional offices of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. Coordinators maintain lists of support groups in their regions, which are available on the Web site (Information & Resources section). If you are looking for a local group to support your emotional needs or can share news of one, contact our staff at 1-800-905-TIES (8437) or visit www.massfamilyties.org.