Saturday, October 02, 2004


Part One: Things to Look At to Understand Why this Book Will Work for Your Children's Behavior Problems

Chapter I Introduction

The Main Purpose of This Book

This book was primarily written for parents wanting to end the frustration and pain children's behavior problems cause everyone in the family. During the last few decades, these problems have become the most common symptoms of the most common childhood difficulties. Misunderstanding them has often lead to ineffective treatment. "Quick fixes" are wanted but remain elusive, especially when inappropriate, disruptive, and aggressive behavior becomes deliberate, because they don't exist, leaving overburdened, sometimes chaotic families, schools, any place that kids congregate, and for some, social services involvement, juvenile office rules, and court control.

I have been fortunate to have had many varied opportunities to help address these problems. I and my colleagues realized that while "traditional" mental health solutions and medication were well-suited for many behavior and attitude problems, when they were deliberate and there was no interest in the treatment, a lengthier, more comprehensive approach to the harm was indicated in addition or instead. We developed successful programs for adults that were my inspiration for creating programs in private practice that helped families become healthier, happier, and more harmonious as children changed.

Unfortunately, private and government insurance companies do not support this lengthier course. Some explicitly note in the manuals they give to their service providers that behavior problems are not considered mental health problems. The implication is that unless there is some "chemical imbalance" requiring medication and/or short-term psychotherapy, it is a "management", not a health issue.

Therapists are not encouraged to see intentional behavior and attitude problems as illnesses or to try something different to address them. They either aren't adequately trained to do what needs to be done, know that insurance doesn't cover the extensive treatment necessary, or are lead to believe that it's an extravagance or pointless. Many try helping children feel better about themselves or educating families on how to behave, like how to take a pill according to the instructions on the bottle, and rely on the willingness to "get better". Anyone who has had any success with changing a child's intentionally inappropriate, disruptive, or aggressive behavior to positive, healthy participation in family life knows that this approach may be marginally effective at best and, too often, fruitless.

A small number of children develop behavior problems that become so serious that hospitalization for several weeks or longer is recommended. While hospitals have excellent programs for behavior problems, insurance companies are usually unwilling to pay for this very expensive treatment unless drug therapy is involved and this becomes the focus of treatment. Behavior problems are managed by the concentration of staff there and cheap monitoring of medication after discharge justifies the claim of excellent care while the aftercare for the behavior problems is considered secondary and ends up being inadequate with no hospital staff around. Inpatient behavior problem programs where medication is a secondary issue are typically not supported by insurance companies.

Society seems willing to invest significant resources in addressing children's behavior problems only when danger is serious. Sometimes children are made to stay in "residential treatment centers" until they become marginally functioning adults, millions of who in the U.S. end up in prison. While the risk of this kind of dysfunction is small, it is very likely that what may now be only your child's relatively small behavior problems will or already seriously impair, in some way, your efforts to restore or maintain family stability, peace, and fulfillment. If your family is like most, not fortunate enough to find or afford a therapist who knows how to address these problems to make things better, this book is for you.

Besides Offering A Behavior Problem Solution, What Else Is This Book For?

So many parents have asked why their kids and so many others are having behavior problems. They asked how things got to be the way they are, with harm sometimes inflicted "and they don't even get anything out of it!" They often blame themselves or some aspect of modern life but it is rarely that simple. There is rarely one dominant influence in today's children's lives and only some with behavior problems have similar parents in similar circumstances that would seemingly be the cause.

Once parents are assured that it is not their fault or not simply the school's or society's fault either, they often indulge their curiosity about children's behavior problems in general, i.e., what "makes children do these things" and how did it get to where so many kids have them. When the "easy" explanations don't "wash", people still want some explanation. Given the rise of terrorism and other seemingly futile harm and the attention scientists, politicians, and the media have paid to behavior problems in general, it's no wonder that parents want answers. The public often hears one-sided, too simplistic, and contradictory analyses.

This book looks at the last 75 years--four generations--of unprecedented historical and technological events giving rise to the "connected" western society we have. It also examines the contemporaneous emergence of the mental health field from infancy to some sophistication. How these changes have effected our perceptions of kid's behavior and the high social demands we make of them is then discussed. Parents are helped to understand that society's implication in children's behavior problems is a matter of its requirements for greater concentration and complex task mastery rather than simply being too permissive.

Then a picture of control is introduced in which it is described as not being only "bad", i.e., it's "good" when it pursues mutual enrichment rather than victimization. Goals of power or money, then, or always getting one's way, are viewed as "good" or "bad" only in the context of the larger control goals that they are secondary to. When parents see this and how critical this view is for helping behavior problem children, they more easily follow the book's program and don't feel guilty or blame someone or something else.

Knowing all this "background" may not be your primary purpose for reading this book. You may want to first "get a handle" on solving the problems and "get moving". Either way, this book is organized so that you can easily get to the type of information you're interested in now. The next chapter shows you how to do this.

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