Because saving our most vulnerable kids requires a paradigm shift

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. Doing the right thing isn’t an option – it’s an imperative. There are lives in the balance, and we all need to do everything we can to make sure those lives aren’t lost. Kids with concerning behaviors have the following rights:

  • To have caregivers 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
  • To have caregivers 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.
  • Not to be misunderstood and counterproductively labeled as bratty, spoiled, manipulative, attention-seeking, coercive, limit-testing, controlling, or unmotivated.
  • To have adults 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.
  • To have caregivers 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.
  • To have adults (and classmates) understand that time-outs, detentions, suspensions, expulsion, paddling, and isolation do not solve problems or “build character” but rather often make things worse.
  • To have adults recognize that kids are usually the best source of information on what’s making it hard for them to meet a particular expectation.
  • To have adults in their lives who do not resort to physical intervention and are knowledgeable about and proficient in interventions that actually solve problems.
  • To have adults who 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.
Young boy smiling


If you agree with what you’ve just read, print the Bill of Rights and post it in your home, office, or workplace.  If you want to help Lives in the Balance let people who make important decisions affecting behaviorally challenging kids know that you endorse the above principles, sign it now!


If a child can't learn the way we teach, maybe we should teach the way they learn.

- Ignacio Estrada