All hands on deck.

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(noun) a person who pleads for a cause or propounds an idea


It’s a jungle out there for kids with concerning behaviors. And it’s not a walk in the park for parents, educators, mental health professionals, staff in facilities, or law enforcement professionals either. Changing lenses, practices, structures, and systems that support punitive, exclusionary practices that are often applied to these kids — practices that propel them down the very costly and unnecessary pipeline to prison — is no easy task. It begins with coming together around key principles related to how children should be treated. Please read the principles below…and if you endorse them, sign up to become a Lives in the Balance Advocator. We’ll keep you in the loop on promising practices and legislation and provide you with resources that will help you advocate for change in whatever ways you choose.

If we don’t start doing right by kids with social, emotional, and behavioral challenges, we’re going to keep losing them at an astounding rate. There are lives in the balance, and we all need to do everything we can to make sure those lives aren’t lost. That begins with principles related to how kids — especially the most vulnerable — should be understood and treated. If you endorse the principles below, please sign up to become a Lives in the Balance Advocator.

  • Caregivers should recognize that maladaptive responses to problems and frustrations stem from lagging skills in the domains of flexibility/adaptability, frustration tolerance, emotion regulation, and problem-solving
  • Caregivers should understand that concerning behavior is no less a form of developmental delay than delays in reading, writing, and arithmetic, and is deserving of the same compassion and approach as are applied to these other cognitive delays.
  • Kids should not be counterproductively labeled as bratty, spoiled, manipulative, attention-seeking, coercive, limit-testing, controlling, or unmotivated.
  • Caregivers should understand that concerning behavior occurs in response to specific unsolved problems – homework, screen time, teeth brushing, clothing choices, sibling and peer interactions, and so forth – and that these unsolved problems are usually highly predictable and can therefore be solved proactively.
  • Caregivers should understand that the primary goal of intervention is to collaboratively solve these problems in a way that is realistic and mutually satisfactory so that they don’t precipitate concerning behavior any more.
  • Caregivers should understand that time-outs, detentions, suspensions, expulsion, paddling, and isolation do not solve problems or “build character” but rather often make things worse.
  • Caregivers should understand that kids are usually the best source of information on what’s making it hard for them to meet a particular expectation.
  • Caregivers should not resort to physical intervention and are knowledgeable about and proficient in interventions that actually solve problems.
  • Caregivers should understand that solving problems collaboratively – rather than insisting on blind adherence to authority – is what prepares kids for the demands they will face in the real world.
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If compassion and mercy are not compatible with politics, then something is the matter with politics.

- U.S. President Gerald R. Ford