February 20, 2018

Book Review: School Struggles by Richard Selznick, PhD

Book Review: School Struggles by Richard Selznich PhDI had an opportunity to review the book School Struggles by Richard Selznick, PhD last week. The subtitle of this book is A Guide to Your Shut-down Learner’s Success. That is actually a better title because this book is a practical guidebook on navigating your mostly behaviorally challenged child through the maze of school.

This book is a follow up to Dr. Selznick’s Shut Down Learner. It offers step by step suggestions on what we as parents can do to offer success for our struggling children. The book is broken down in 2-3 page chapters, which at first, when I looked at the table of contents seemed overwhelming. After actually getting into the book, I realized that this is intentional for easy access when needing to find an answer to a specific situation. Each chapter has a Takeaway Point and a Try This suggestion.

He starts off directing parents with the advice, ‘if you think there is a problem, there is. Better to start early addressing it, then waiting.’ As a parent of shut-down learner, I agree wholeheartedly. Further, he states we must let these kids work on their own natural timetable, not one forced on them by ours, schools, or society’s expectations. And finally, he supported us “over our heads” parents with the encouragement that ‘parenting isn’t the root of all childhood problems’. That is a good push away start.

There are 5-parts in this book. Each deal with a broad issue, like reading, organization, parenting. That part then is broken down, as I noted above, to specific situations. My favorite portions were Social Skills Road and Parenting Road. I guess the best reason I can give for this is that he uses conversation pointers that are based in reality. Which I find living in hope and unrealistic expectations are not very successful. This reality deals with where the child is and what will happen if they continue making choices they are making. It is good, usable information.

Here are a few highlights from Social Skills Road –

“from my observation of children over the years, I do think that the concept of social IQ is very real. Either you possess a decent, intuitive understanding as to how to get along with others to greater or lesser degree, or you do not”. (pg 157). Harry was a kiddo who had a lower social IQ. He struggled on the playground at school and certain kids (sharks) smelled the blood. And circled around Harry (minnow). No amount of ignoring the sharks is going to stop them (sound like well worn parental advice?). What needs to happen instead is this: “Group dynamics are always at work. In places like the playground they become more pronounced, because there is less structure. Children like Harry need to have greater adult support than they typically receive.” (pg 162 and 163).

He goes on to suggest 2 solutions. First, an intuitive and willing adult would engage Harry more actively and provide a safe zone where he would stay in proximity of the adult. Other minnows could join in. If the sharks do chose to chance swimming by, the adult let them know that these bullying behaviors will not be tolerated on any level PERIOD.

In the Parenting Road, Dr. Selznick pulls no punches.

There is too much talking and too much emotion involved in communicating with kids (both parents and teachers). The main emotion is too much yelling. “Why do we yell so much? Is it working?” (pg 199).

He goes on to discuss other alternatives of communicating, such as clear, direct and matter of fact.

These are just a few of the gems I found in this book School Struggles by Richard Selznick PhD. I would highly, highly recommend this book,  as a mother who daily faces a shut-down learner.


About the author: By

Julie is an awesome parent (along with her husband Matt) to five adopted kiddos and the owner of the Parenting Allies website.

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Disclaimer: We are not psychologists, counselors, or therapists. We are parents of children with special challenges, and the techniques, tools, and programs we recommend on this website have worked for us on our parenting journey.

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