Glossary of Terms for Struggling Children

not so easy children

Glossary of Terms for Struggling Children

Dr. Bob | struggling child | 0 Comments | Post Date: April 29 2019


Anxiety is the body’s natural response to stress. It’s a feeling of fear or apprehension about what’s to come and is very common in NSEC, particularly the nonadaptable. These kids overcorrect by over planning and insisting on their plan which looks like they are trying to control everything.


ADD/ADHD is a medical diagnosis requiring the child to meet six of the nine symptoms of inattention and/or hyperactivity/ impulsivity prior to age 12.  Many children have less than the six required and do not meet the diagnosis of ADHD, but they need the same help. In the temperament/EF language ADD is working memory (cool EF) deficit without impulsivity and ADHD is with it. Any behavioral issues (hot EF) are NOT due to the diagnosis of ADHD but are separate issues requiring a different approach.


Adaptability is a temperament trait for the ability to shift, transition, and change according to the new needs of the situation. Nonadaptable children are less resilient and struggle with change.


Approach/withdrawal is a temperament trait with the ability to use new information. The withdrawing child is shy and resists new experiences, and the approaching child likes new experiences.



Behavior cascade is the less resilient phases a child exhibits when he is overwhelmed (stuck) by a problem he cannot solve. The three phases are: Lock up, Melt down and Lash out.



Consequences are natural outcomes or results of all actions. Some are good and some are not. They are life’s teaching moments and are necessary for a child’s healthy development. Failure to allow or impose   consequences leads to dysfunctional development, later struggles, unhappiness and success in life. 


Cool executive function is a classification of learning executive functions such as working memory.


Cognitive flexibility is the EF that incorporates the temperament traits of adaptability, approach/withdrawal, sensory threshold and mood to be able to shift direction, use new information and alter course as the situation changes.



Emotional control is the EF that incorporates the temperament traits of adaptability, approach/withdrawal, sensory threshold and mood and the EF of impulse control to achieve a balanced response to any situation.


Executive functions (EF) are the mental processing skills that enable us to inhibit impulses, shift directions when new information has changed our plan, control our emotions, retrieve information needed to solve problems, organize and manage time, focus attention, remember multiple steps, filter distractions, prioritize tasks, set and achieve goals and monitor our progress. All these skills are necessary to achieve selfregulation and obtain success. The three hot EF (behavioral drivers) are: Inhibitory Control, Cognitive Flexibility, Emotional Control. The five cool EF are: Initiation, Working Memory, Plan/Organize, Organize Materials, Monitoring.


Executive dysfunction is the new medical term for executive function deficits that lead to behavioral and or learning problems.



Fit is a concept of parent/child interaction compatibility. Temperament traits of parent and child can mesh or clash. If they mesh it is a good fit; if it clashes it is a poor fit and conflict occurs. 



Helicoptering is a dysfunctional style of parenting by constant hovering and swooping in to fix any difficulties or possible failures.


Hyperactivity is a state of high activity of energy, constant movement and talking.


High sensory threshold is the lack or poor appreciation of sensory signals, high pain threshold, less empathy for others and often includes social communication issues.


Hot executive function is the classification of behavioral executive functions comprised of inhibitory control, cognitive flexibility, and emotional control.



I expect is the phrase to use first and every time you want your child to do something and always with a time to complete, such as: “I expect you to put on your shoes in five minutes,” and a timer is set.


Impulse control is a more common term for the executive function Inhibition Control.


Inhibition control is the denotation of the executive function, meaning the same as impulse control and is the EF that allows a child to inhibit or ignore distractions, to focus and to stay on task.


Initiation is the cool EF that marks the ability to start a project. Those with weak initiation skills are said to procrastinate. Procrastination is not a moral habit but in fact is a lack of EF skill and an executive dysfunction.



Just right parenting is the goal of being a parent who is easily accessible without being constantly present. The ability to help a child learn and build skill sets without doing it for them or making it easier by removing all obstacles. It is a teaching parent who responds rather that reacts and responds with as little emotion to misbehavior as possible.



Lash out is the last phase of the behavioral cascade (Mudhole experience) that results from trying to stop a meltdown. The child becomes uncontrollable and may call you names, hit, bite, kick and lash out and say he doesn’t love you anymore. His brain ceases to function enough to solve a problem and stops working properly.


Lawnmower parent is a dysfunctional style of parenting by constantly removing any obstacle in the child’s path that may pose difficulties or possible failures for the child.


Laws rules and SOP‘s is my structure to family life and is like capital crimes, felonies and misdemeanors. These expectations are written, posted with the consequences listed for failure to comply. This takes the guess work out of what you expect all the time and prevents on the spot coming up with a consequence.   


Lock up is the first phase of the behavioral cascade when a child is signaling that he is stumped, can’t solve the problem and is about to explode. It is the only phase that you can be a part of by attempting to stop the cascade.  (See Getting to Now What page 149 of  The Normal but Not-So-Easy Child.)


Low sensory threshold is the temperament trait that registers sensory input. This end of the spectrum is the highly sensitive child who commonly is overwhelmed by loud, too tight, too smelly, too cold/hot, spicy or confusing. They are very empathetic and communicate well.



Meltdown is the second phase of the behavioral cascade when a child is being pushed to hurry, do it now, or fails to solve the problem. This phase is marked by a fit of varying degrees of yelling, throwing things and total brain shutdown. If allowed to run its course it will abate,  but if there is an attempt to stop it usually goes to the last phase, lashing out.


Mood is the temperament trait that is either positive or negative, glass half full or half empty. Positive children sometimes fail to see the possible negative outcomes and the negative ones often fail to expect anything but negative outcome.  


Monitoring is the last component of cool EF and denotes the ability to check one’s work or her/his effect on others.


Mudhole is my expression for the end result of the behavioral cascade if not handled correctly and results in the parent and child losing it as they wallow in the mud for control. Both come out covered in anger, frustration, and for the parents, guilt, i.e. mud.



Nature vs Nurture are the influences of genetics and the environment. 

Not-so-easy child is any child who is struggling to accomplish what is expected of him/her. The reasons vary with skills of temperament traits and EFs.



Organization materials is a cool EF trait that denotes the ability to organize his back pack, drawers, books, etc. If your child’s back pack is a mess so are these skills.


Over-parenting is the style of being a parent that is ever present and includes both helicopters and lawnmowers (see above). This style arises in today’s culture from intentions to be the best parent but has untoward consequences, causing teens and twenty somethings the inability to run their own lives and has resulted in one third of thirty-year-old’s living at home!



Planning organization time management is one of the cool EF skills that enable complex tasks.


Punishment is what happens when parents get angry and wait too long to administer consequences. It is not a successful parenting action and rarely teaches, but often makes the child angry and resentful.



Reboot is the concept of starting over and the primary consequence for the NSEC.


Resilience is the characteristic of bouncing back or plasticity exhibited by children with balanced temperament traits and strong EFs. This is not only in large life experiences but in the day to day issues children face, such as when a toy is taken away by another child.



Self-regulation is the end product of strong EFs and balanced Temperament traits. It is the ability to calm yourself, handle frustration, adjust to a change and new information, and keep on task regardless of distractions to achieve your planned goals.   


Sensory threshold is the temperament trait that reflects the strength of sensory input required for a child to pay attention. If only a small amount of cold or hot sensation is required for the child to notice, that child has a low threshold or is highly sensitive. The reverse is true if a large amount of input is required to notice a change, and that child would be classified as high threshold or less sensitive. The threshold measures the input to the five senses and is necessary to function.



Temperament traits are the inborn, genetically determined nine traits studied by Drs. Chess and Thomas. They are present at birth, measurable at 3 months and stable by age two years. They determine our first response or reaction to change, new experiences, sensory thresholds, our body clock regularity, activity level, persistence, distractibility and intensity and mood.  


Timer is a mechanical or digital minute timer used to measure time to complete a task. The purpose is to set limits and remove the parent from the process of the child doing what was asked. It is set after the phrase, “I expect you to…” Timeout is a frequently used default consequence for the under five-year-old.



Working memory is the important EF that is a child’s brain’s RAM and is responsible for temporarily retrieving and managing the information needed to solve complex cognitive tasks such as learning, and problem solving. 



LinkedIn Facebook Twitter Pinterest