How to make the skills work for you child with specific issues

by | Mar 30, 2017 | Blogs, Others

How to make the skills work for you child with specific issues

The Teaching-Family Model has been used since the late 1960’s and has been successful in improving the lives of hundreds of thousands of youth. Many of these children have diagnoses such as Autism, Oppositional Defiance Disorder, Depression, or Down’s Syndrome. The Teaching-Family Model is equally effective with every type of child regardless of their diagnosis. One of the reasons for this is the flexibility of the Teaching-Family Model’s use of behavior skills to shape the child and the parents’ behavior. Minor adjustments can be made to the skills to best fit the needs of your child, while still maintaining the integrity of the Teaching-Family Model.


Identify what specific behaviors you want to teach your child

The first step in modifying the skills for your child is to identify what behaviors you want your child to improve on or what behaviors they need to be taught. Make a list of all the behaviors that come to mind, and then group them into similar behaviors or type of skills.


Children diagnosed with depression often seclude themselves, sleep for long periods of time, appear apathetic, lose motivation to participate in activities or complete schoolwork, and become irritated easily. With these behaviors you might group the first, second, and fourth together because they are centered around their use of time and the third and fifth together because they both include emotions.

You can’t work on all the behaviors you’ve listed at the same time. It would be overwhelming to the child and you won’t be able to focus and reinforce all the behaviors at once. So begin working on behaviors that your child has the most strengths in. Once they have success and adjust to the parenting skills you are using, then you can move onto more difficult behavior.

Choose the skill that best fits with the behaviors

After grouping the behaviors that fit together, and deciding which behaviors are your child’s greatest strengths, choose the Smarter Parenting skill that best pairs with those behaviors. The skills on can be generalized to most of the situations you and your child will encounter every day. The current skills on the website are listed under the lessons tab and include: Decision Making, Correcting Behaviors, Following Instructions, Effective Communication, Observe and Describe Behaviors, and Effective Praise. (LINK TO LESSON TAB) Other skills that will be added in the future are: Accepting a “No” answer, Role-playing, and Effective Consequences.


For a child who has been diagnosed with Autism, if you identified that your child does not maintain eye contact, interrupts during conversations, and escalates quickly during conflict, the best skill to teach your child would be Effective Communication.

Review the steps of the skill and adjust the steps to best fit the needs of your child

The steps in each skill are general behaviors that are socially acceptable for that specific type of situation, but that doesn’t mean those steps are the only, or most appropriate, behaviors to help your child succeed. If your child needs to work on an additional behavior that isn’t included in the skill, then add it in. And if your child doesn’t struggle with one of the steps or one of the steps is too advanced for them, then take it out.


You’ve identified Following Instructions as the skill to teach your child. The last step of Following Instructions is for the child to report back to the parent when they have finished the instruction. If your child already does this naturally and it is not something they need to work on, then remove this step. Or if your child struggles staying on task while completing instructions, include a step about remaining on task until the instruction is completed.

Occasionally a skill may be too advanced for your child, but it is still a skill that they need to learn. Start by teaching and reinforcing the first two steps and then when they have implemented these, add on to the skill. Also, make sure to simplify the wording to best fit your child, including visual steps if necessary. When I taught Following Instructions to children who couldn’t read I would draw or find pictures to represent the steps instead of words. Music, hand gestures, and movement can also be used to aid in learning the skill.

Role-play the skill

Role-play will show you if the steps you have taught will be most effective with your child. If they don’t understand or cannot properly use the steps after many attempts at role-playing, then the skill needs to be adjusted. Role-playing should be used every time you teach your child a skill. Practicing the skill ahead of time will prepare them to succeed in the moment. When emotions are high in the moment it can be hard to apply a new skill, but if they have practiced how to respond ahead of time they will be a lot more likely to use the skill. Start by showing them how to use the skill and then have them role-play on their own (at least 3 times), giving feedback between each practice.


Once your child has mastered the skill, add another step or move on to a new skill using the same 4-step process. While the child is learning to apply the skill, remember to give feedback in a ratio of 4 positives to every 1 negative. Positive reinforcement is more motivating than negative consequences and will lead to quicker implementation. Teaching behavior-based skills in your own home will minimize the effects of the diagnoses your child has been given and YOU will be able to teach your child in the best way for them, alongside teachers, therapists, and other adults your child will work with.


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