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Posted: Sep 16, 2008 21:02

UNDERSTANDING YOUR CHILD'S PUZZLING BEHAVIOR

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A Guide for Parents of Children with Behavioral, Social and Learning Challenges
By: Steven E. Curtis, PhD
Bainbridge Island,WA:Lifespan Press:2008

Review by: Lon Woodbury

Although the author says this book is "For use with children ages 3 to 12," it can be helpful for all ages. Essentially he systematically goes through the process of how to organize and identify the issues that could underlie problems a child might be presenting.

He starts with a very common sense concept of puzzling behavior--something that just doesn't make sense or is self-destructive. He explains how to think about that behavior and tease out what might be at the root of it. For example, he warns of jumping to the conclusion that a child's inability to pay attention means that the child has Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). There could be many causes for that "puzzling behavior" of which ADD would be only one possibility. Another possibility could be environmental, such as turmoil at home. For the good of the child, it is important to first get to the bottom of what is causing that "puzzling behavior." He is very firm on avoiding "labeling" a child, since that is usually too easy and can easily be a way of avoiding taking a hard look at the child and what is going on within the child.

This book is a problem-solving guide for parents who are presented with some behavior that is different than expected or of concern to parents. The first step is to be aware that whatever is of concern could be normal or abnormal, and he recommends that parents initially reserve judgment. He then explains some methodical methods of analysis and interventions that the parent might use to enhance understanding. It is time consuming but necessary in order to comprehend the unique individual the child is and to develop an appropriate intervention if that appears needed.

There are five steps that will enhance the possibility of fully and accurately understanding the child and his/her "puzzling behavior." Reading through them, it becomes obvious that this is a guide to help common sense that virtually any parent could master.


  • Clarification of Concerns: Clearly define what you see as the problem or areas of concern. Vague impressions can just lead a parent in circles.

  • Functional Behavioral Assessment: Many professionals use to gather information to determine a relationship between a child's behavior and aspects of the environment.

  • Investigate Other Factors: Essentially, this is to investigate alternative possible causes for the areas of concern to "rule out" them as a possibility. This could be something as simple of checking to make sure low blood sugar or poor vision isn't the real root cause of the behavior of concern to the parents.

  • Profile Development and Planning: the start of theory building, speculating on what might be the problem based on the results of the previous research, with implications as to what intervention would be required if the theory makes sense.

  • Plan Implementation and Evaluation: Start the intervention based on the above research, including a way to evaluate what progress there is, if any.


There is a very helpful chapter on seeking professional help, explaining the wide variety of types of professionals, what their strengths are and when to use the various types of professionals. He warns about misusing professionals by demanding they give you advice outside their areas of competence.

This is a short book, but one to be studied and digested, as the author has packed much into just a few pages.



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