Kids Problem Solving Binder

Well, I’ve spent a few weeks on getting together a binder for helping my very sensitive 5 year old with her behaviors at home. It’s been a long search on the internet, but I found some good ideas.

I’m posting because of the behavioral issues I have had with her since school started up again. I have been searching for about 2 years now for help in understanding her and guiding her without punishment (which doesn’t work anyway for my spirited, sensitive child). I know there are other parents out there with similar struggles that don’t want to resort to punitive measures and want to teach their children how to deal with their strong emotions and help them choose acceptable responses to anger and frustration. We have to be emotion coaches for some children, because they can’t do it for themselves. As I’m finding out, it’s not as easy as it seems like for some children.

My highly sensitive, anxious, bright middle child can be such a sweet, charming child, until she’s for whatever reason miserable. Then she makes life very, very difficult for those around her. Part of it has to do with her school and anxiety issues, but part of it has to do with what I wrote about in a post on my other blog about the Explosive Child.

Helpful books include Kids Parents and Power Struggles by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka and the Explosive Child by Ross Greene, Ph.D..

She is a child who really needs help with turning down the intensity and teach her how to appropriately deal with her very strong feelings. So, one of the ways I’m trying to help her is by creating a problem solving book that contains social stories with pictures, and problem solving techniques and stress reducing strategies. Because of her age, and because she is a highly visual learner, pictures communicate a lot to her.

We are in the preliminary stages middle stages of learning here. My daughter has progressed very nicely with the help of this book since I first posted it in October.

I hope to accomplish these things:

1. Help my anxious daughter properly identify feelings. Using books, social stories, puppets, pictures from magazines, to give her the words to describe what she feels. Without a feelings vocabulary, she can’t articulate what’s wrong.

2. Identifying stress signals in my child. Ask them how their bodies feel when they are mad/frustrated/scared/happy/calm. One conversation during our time using the binder, my daughter told me that when she was frustrated, she felt like hitting someone (though, it’s been years since she actually did that).

3. Reflect her feelings. Acknowledging that something hurts/frustrates/makes them mad etc.

4. Give her some tools (in the form of a picture chart) to help her choose something to help her calm down so she can think straight what to do next. That might be deep breathing, listening to music, being hugged, rocked, or actually left alone if that’s what she prefers (not usually).

5. Give her options to defuse her feelings if normal calming techniques don’t work. Running, jumping jacks, jumping on a hop/ball or trampoline, primal screaming (only if you aren’t sensitive to noise), acting silly, bear hugs, etc. Gross motor movement helps diffuse the intensity.

6. Once she is calm, I tell her I will help them figure out solutions that are agreeable to both of us.

For instance, taking turns, using a timer, sharing toys would be viable options for sharing issues. Hitting, yelling, hurting another persons feelings are not.

Over time, however long as it takes, the child will internalize the lessons. But, the key to the explosive child (and this is common sense) is to get to the child before things get too far gone in the meantime.

So this is what it looks like (so far):


What starts the book of is a great conflict resolution guide. This wonderful Australian website of Kids’ Health from the Children’s Youth, and Women Health Service also has a great section regarding kids’ feelings and other topics related to kids between the ages of 6-12 (though a lot can be adapted for younger ages, I think). The topics are illustrated with kids’ artwork. What you teach the children in this lesson about conflict resolution:

1 Seek to understand
2 Avoid making things worse
3 Work together
4 Find the solution

Not just for kids, it serves as a great reminder of how to handle our own intensity as adults dealing with conflict.

To identify feelings, I used the wonderful picture resources at

I feel…(sad, frustrated, mad, happy, excited) when… pages

I feel frustrated when…


Examples: I don’t know the answer, I can’t decide, I have to have help,people won’t leave me alone, I have to wait, I can’t keep playing, I have to do something I don’t want to, I can’t fix a problem, and the last box contains, “now you think of one”.


I feel excited when


examples: I figure it out, I’m going to a party, it’s my birthday,I get a present, I go on a vacation, It’s the holidays, I play on the playground, my parents love me, now you think of one.

It’s been amazing the things we’ve both come up with on that last one – she asks me to think of things that make me happy, excited, mad, frustrated…and we talk about my feelings as well as hers.

I can use my words social story (instead of whining, crying, or yelling) from the CSEFEL website under the Resources tab under Practical Strategies. They also have a wonderful book list midway down the page that breaks down emotions by topic.


Tantrums don’t help me fix a problem social story


Steps to Calm Down

1. Take a break
2. Sit down in break area
3. Take 3 deep breaths
4. Count to 10…slowly
5. Are you calm?

Solution choices (when kids fight over something, or when one child bothers another)

Card #1
Get a teacher – will be changed to get an adult
Ask nicely
Play Together
Say “Please Stop”
Say “Please”


Card #2 (not shown) says
Wait and Take Turns
Get a Timer

Stress reducing strategies choice page (images from


Chores (not used at the moment, working on getting a picture schedule done that includes some of these chores)


All of these pages I printed out on cardstock with the exception of the I can use my words social story (it has about 16 pages to it so I just used printer paper). Then I slipped most of the others into a heavy duty page protector. With the solution choice cards, I actually laminated them with self-stick laminating sheets. Ideally, they would be cut out and laminated individually. But I’ve been wanting to get this done, so I just left them intact. I may go back and reprint them, cut them out, then laminate them individually.

My daughter really, really liked them. She really identified with the feelings pages and it led to a clearer understanding of what makes her mad sometimes, and with the social story “I can use my words”. I would read her the story, and she would read inside the bubbles.

We still have work to do to turn down her volume when she’s mad, but then again, I’m 38, and I still need to work on that myself, so I’m cutting her some slack on that.

I hope all this is going to help. It’s not like I came up with all these visuals by myself, but, it still takes a while to find this stuff, print them off, and then organize them. I worked on this for about a week off and on. I plan to add to it if I find more things too.

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17 Responses to Kids Problem Solving Binder

  1. Pingback: Kid’s Problem Solving binder. « Raising Smart Girls

  2. Heather says:

    This is a wonderful idea! I think it would work great with my two spirited and emotionally intense little girls.

  3. growinginpeace says:

    Great! I hope it helps you. My 5 year old daughter still loves to read her book to me. I think it’s really helping.

  4. Pingback: Young Children and Labeling Emotions « Teaching Young Children

  5. Kristiana says:

    I was linked to this post from Teaching Young Children. What a fabulous thing you created!

  6. growinginpeace says:

    Kristiana –

    Thank you. It took a little while to put together, but it was so worth it! It has helped us so much. That’s not to say my daughter never has any bad days anymore, but they are much better than they used to be and she can articulate for me what the problem is a lot better than she used to.

  7. Monique says:

    I was wondering how old the chid was when you started using this with her. And how are things going now?

    And when are you packaging and selling your great idea! 🙂

  8. growinginpeace says:

    Hi Monique (btw – love the name because it’s my middle name!).

    At any rate…I started with the binder when dd was a little over 5 and it’s been working out really great. She’s going to be 6 in Sept.

    She’s better able to communicate with me using words instead of grunting or wailing her frustrations. It also helps me focus on how to help her too, giving me strategies instead of just getting frustrated.

    As far as packaging it and selling it – well, that may not be a bad idea – not that I want to make money off of it, but if I got the cost of the materials to print out and ship, I would love to be able to do that for others because I know how hard it is to be where we were a year ago.

  9. Pingback: Creating a life I love « Raising Smart Girls

  10. peterhbrown says:

    What a fantastic idea! And so much love and time that has gone into this binder! What an awesome effort from an awesome mum! All the best.

  11. growinginpeace says:

    Mr. Brown – thank you. It was a labor of love. My daughter is better able to articulate what she’s feeling now that she’s been using it a while.

    And while it did take a fair amount of time, it was really worth it!

  12. Monique says:

    I was wondering if you decided to make your binder available -in a physical form or pdf yet?
    I am planning to pass this on to an OT friend.

  13. Kim says:

    I am a friend of Monique’s and a speech pathologist working with the 5 and under crowd. Your collection of materials is great. I agree, a packaged product would help a lot of people who may just be at the end of their rope and not able to put the work in to it as you have. Bless you as you teach your children.

  14. growinginpeace says:

    Thank you both.

    I will see what I could come up with. I don’t have a problem with printing things out and putting together a binder for someone else’s use. But I do not think I have a right to make them in PDF format though, because they are someone else’s “published” work.

    These materials are free for people to download/print, but I don’t know how the original authors feel about having their work distributed beyond “personal use”. I don’t know if that would mean a copyright infringement. And certainly while I don’t want to make money off of other authors work, between the cost of paper and ink and shipping, it would begin to add up.

    Let me look into what the websites say as far as copyright/distribution goes.

    • Anita says:

      Hi, I wanted to thank you for taking the time to post all the links and instructions for the “positive behavior” binder. We were having a very difficult time with our spirited little girl, four-years-old. The binder seemed to get through to her like nothing else we had tried. She seemed for the first time to understand how her (negative) actions affected those around her. She also for the first time was able to visually associate her emotions and begin to explain them– not only explosively act them out. We now only have to reference the book when we see some of those old behaviors appearing, and she immediately recognizes that a change in behavior is needed. Thank you again for making helping to bring so much peace in our lives.

  15. Sharon says:


    I’ve only glanced at your site but the information looks so similar to issues I am experiencing with my own 7 year old son.

    I want to encourage you to investigate sensory integration. My son actually has sensory modulation issues, a related issue. He, like your daughter, is also super bright, has an extrodinary memory, and is great academically. But, if he were in a public school classroom he’d be in the principles office daily. He’d fall through the cracks of the system. He simply has a hard time sitting still, focusing and not being the class clown.

    He is currently in a small aggressive private school where he is doing great. They address his sensory needs without singling him out, causing him to feel different. Again, he’s growing tremendously.

    Anyway, just thought I’d share the sensory info with you. Though, using BoardMaker, you may already have ties to special education materials and information.

    God Bless,

  16. GinevraCat says:

    What a brilliant idea. Thanks for posting this. I’ll definitely be using this for my eldest, who needs LOTS of problem-solving help. I also loved the information in “The Explosive Child” which is so relevant, helpful and hopeful.

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