About/Start Here

Children challenge us to the extreme mainly because we’ve lost touch with how to see them.

When children lack self-regulation skills it means they exhibit any or more of the following behaviors: frequent tantrums, melt downs, inability to manage strong emotions, not listening, difficulty focusing long on and completing tasks, withdrawal and disconnect, difficulty expressing themselves easily in ways that are socially appropriate, and, aggression.

When behaviors like this are happening ongoingly it can, of course, be due to a child having certain medical conditions and/or special needs. But by and large, children act out not only because they’re “not getting their way”, – which can be seen as “the surface reason”, but because at the deepest core of themselves these children are feeling out of balance in some area(s) of their being.  This makes them feel unsafe.  It is this imbalance and unsafety that underlie and cause the negative and worrisome behaviors that challenge us.  When children don’t understand what is going on inside them (often as this reflects what is going on outside of them), and if they don’t have words for what they’re experiencing, their behavior says it all.

It’s our job to understand what’s going on inside them and why, and to address these deepest issues. This means we need to be sure we are seeing and approaching our children holistically: identifying and relating to all the facets of their being, not just behavioral symptoms.

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The Program:

The Holistic Child’s Self-Regulation Program is a system, or methodology, that grew out of the work and observations I’ve made in over twenty years of working with children, their parents and teachers, and evolved from a theory of psychological development I wrote during that time.

 The Holistic Child’s Self-Regulation Program is more than a curriculum for understanding and increasing children’s self-regulation.  It is a framework for navigating one’s internal and external experiences throughout life, containing mastery skill sets for “ways of thinking and doing” that anchor a child deeply in a supportive trajectory of social competence, confidence, and success. 

It is a 3- component model taught to solidify a positive, character-strength driven “inner working model” for a child’s self-awareness, self-management, self-responsibility and self-determination which capitalizes on each child’s individuality and strengths.  It is child-focused, child-honoring, and non denominational while including critical thinking formats for non judgment and forgiveness. 

The Program’s overarching goal is that a child develop “right relationship” with himself, the foundation for his development of right relationships with others, and mastery skills-based successes throughout his life.

The three components of this model are The 3 Stages of Self-Regulation each containing Mastery Skills Sets; The Wheel of Holistic Perception (find it with the freebies access on our homepage); and a collection of Principles, many of which help build what I call our PsychQ, or psychological quotient –  absolutely necessary for putting all the pieces of your child’s behavior together.  All three components are useful in and of themselves, though when learned and used together make this framework a systematic road map for you and your child’s successes throughout life.

I use this model in my personal consultations with parents, and teach it in trainings and presentations by arrangement as an Early Childhood Education/Mental Health lecturer in undergraduate and graduate teaching programs; to parent groups; parent-teacher associations; child and family services agencies; community organizations; policy makers; nanny-caregiving associations, etc.  I am currently writing a book on this program.  For further information please contact me here.

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About me:

I’ve worked with children, their parents and teachers in educational and therapeutic settings as a therapist and behavioral consultant for many years.  Fifteen years ago in the Philadelphia school system the average age of the children I was called in to see was about 13 years old.  A decade later it was 7-8 years of age.  It’s now not at all uncommon in some schools for upset first and second graders to yell, fight, knock down desks, kick their teachers and peers, and elope from school grounds.

It is heartbreaking that in this kind of behavioral health model in which I worked, the emotional and behavioral concerns of many such children are addressed after severe behavioral problems become manifest.  These programs in place to help these children are dedicated ones that help children, families, and classrooms arrive at a baseline of manageability so that the child is not removed from his home or school, and this kind of manageability is very important. Therapy and behavior modification help some of these children some of the time; however, from my experience and that of many others’, for most children band-aid interventions just keep deeper underlying issues at bay. Not fully addressing the underlying developmental needs of children only perpetuates the core problems.  It has been clear for a long time that we need to include different approaches that are more preventative.

In 2007 I was blessed to begin working as an Early Childhood Mental Health Consultant for the PA (Pennsylvania) Keys, a state-wide quality-assurance program for preschools and childcare centers that was spearheaded by then governor, Ed Rendell as a direct response to an “epidemic” of children of this age (5 and under) getting expelled from these settings for their “challenging behaviors”.  Expelled.

The establishment of this and other services for our children in their earliest years has been hugely important for helping to prevent the more difficult problems children could and do encounter when not addressed while children are very young.

During these years, I identified and chronicled what I observed to be the most effective sequencing of the developmental goals and their related skill sets of a child’s optimal psychological/mental health as I had begun seeing it.  By 2003 I had organized skill sets within these 3 sequential stages.  A second component to this model is a group of Principles that relate throughout its study and use. I later added to it the Venn diagram – the “Wheel of Holistic Perception” for perceiving a child holistically. Together, this 3-Stage process of psychological development with their inherent skill sets, Principles, and the Wheel of Holistic Perception became The Holistic Child’s Self-Regulation Program as I teach it today. What it is, is a kind of relational heuristic for navigating internal and external experiences in order that one acquires and maintains optimal mental health. We use the term self-regulation because self-regulation, as it may be further defined, determines optimal mental health. A child will not have optimal mental health without achieving these skills of self-regulation. It is my understanding and experience that these skills must be sequentially acquired and internalized for one’s optimal mental health and happiness to be fully actualized.

I like to think that the Program’s model is simple to understand, although the processes included in it – for which we are responsible, are indeed specific.  For example, the specific sequencing of processes in Stage 1 is necessary before the child goes on to master skills in Stage 2, which need to be in place to support Stage 3. This structure is a framework containing a precise system your child – and you – use for responding to, and positively and safely engaging with, the experiences of life.

Please contact me for information on trainings for your group, school, education program, network, agency, community, or to inquire about one-to-one consultations at Denise@OurHolisticKids.com.

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The Website:

To raise balanced, peaceful, confident, socially and emotionally competent children who feel safe, are happy, well-adjusted, and responsible self-determiners, we need to remember how to see them, and how to relate to them holistically. We need to help adjust the various environments that affect their mental health – which is their holistic health. We do this by informing ourselves about our children’s needs on many levels, perhaps levels we have not considered deeply enough or at all. No judgment here, just observations.

How I help is in providing information which targets all aspects of children’s health and well-being. I help caregivers see and relate to their children in holistic ways which help children succeed across the trajectory of their lives – body, mind, and spirit.

I post stories here, in the blog column called “Kid Takes”, with information to help readers increase insight into why children act out, melt down, withdraw, deny responsibility, reject support, and bully, or otherwise behave with violence.  And I provide strategies for helping you help them.

Much of the strategies are based in psychology as part of the “Attachment/Relationships” lens – one of 9 lenses in the Wheel of Holistic Perception tool. Look to the right on the home page for access to this tool and 2 other “freebies”: a format for reducing negative behaviors in three quick steps, and a story about a physically aggressive child I worked with, in which I describe a step-by-step format to improve both your relationship with your child and his behaviors right away. All of this content is geared toward increasing one’s “PsychQ” – our “psychology quotient”.  As you’ll learn, I’m a huge advocate for increasing our individual and collective psychological literacy. We use the Wheel as a starting point – a tool for perceiving your child or student holistically. All the information posted on this site is of the same essence and written for the same purpose: to help you help the children in your care. Often, you’ll see examples about how our own behaviors factor into our children’s experiences. I also may post and discuss resources, commentary on policies, curriculum, culture, etc. from time to time.

There is also a column called the “Self-Reflection Series” containing content to help support us in the quest of “being what we wish for our children”. It’s for us, about our relationships. We have so many of them. Here I may share a bit of my own self-reflective experiences to help you become more comfortable with your own capacity for emotional vulnerability. This is necessary for true self-reflection, and all the gifts that follow: insight, wisdom, less stress, happiness, and more changes for the better.

The information on holistic child development that helps children feel the most safe, balanced, and happy is the same that creates the secure attachment you have with him, and which he therefore creates with himself. It  serves his capacities to regulate his emotions, feel more calm, focus better, follow directives better, and hopefully laugh more with you as you improve your relationship with him.  This can happen.

What we focus on is helping him develop ‘right relationship’ with himself.

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On Thinking:

On a larger scale, Albert Einstein’s quote, “We shall require a substantially new manner of thinking if mankind is to survive.” speaks accurately to the tragedies we have been witnessing in recent years: Columbine, Virginia Tech, Boston Marathon, Sandy Hook, et al.

It’s no secret that as a world culture mankind has dramatically changed the ways we live and communicate, and it seems, the direction of our thinking. Does it give you pause to consider that aspects of our changed thinking have put our very survival at risk? Our children’s survival? To me it seems that, unfortunately, too many of us are thinking less about very important things that can bring more harmony to our lives and to our planet. We’ve had more than enough instances of bullying, and other forms of violence amongst our young people, let alone wars.

There has been much cause for our lack of focus on thinking as a cultural imperative. The wars, industrialization, and corporatization that have changed the focus and manner of much of our working lives over the past several generations have also changed our economic priorities, the ways in which we raise our children, the manner by which we grow and access our food, observe and treat our health, and care for our elders. That’s the short list.

Growth for growth’s sake has its perils. That our thinking has changed directions and advanced civilization in many ways, as in producing the technologies which connect us – this is brilliant, of course, and we are blessed to be able to uplift, serve, teach, and learn from each other. From anyone across the globe. It is obvious, though, to anyone who reads the newspaper, that we are direly out of balance. The social conditions that many of our children are growing up in are the worst of it. We need to help them, and it’s going to require work. We’ve neglected their holistic health for generations as we moved closer to “modern” Western medical, agricultural, and educational models. It will take several generations to best restore what is broken. Not everyone will agree with changes that can, need to, and already are happening. The work we need to do requires that more of us think differently and more deeply about what holism is, how its lack or presence affects the health and generativity of everything, particularly our children, hence, the great risks to them.

This thinking requires much more of our time and attention. An investment.

Self-reflection needs to become a cultural norm. In the classrooms, in the boardrooms, in government, at the family supper table. It’s a multi-pronged approach, and we can begin to establish a precedent by incorporating it into daily conversations and dialogues with kids at school and at home starting now.

A huge issue is, we are experiencing more stress than ever before in our jobs, in our bodies, in our relationships. More is expected of us. Risks are higher. There is little to no room for failure, it seems. There is barely room to breathe deeply or connect regularly with Nature, let alone think about things like the psychology of why we do what we do, how to get kids eating real, nutrient-dense food, and how to address sensory, learning, and other individual differences.

Living outside of a holistic framework is an enormous factor in all of this.

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There are so many resources to help you, however. What I provide here is just one of them.

I hope you find information here to help you. It’s my joy and my honor to serve you. Please let me know how I can make this site better for you.

For the sake of transparency, I’d like to state that I am not a parent. I have mourned this loss. Also, I want to be clear that I am not nor have I ever claimed to be a “parenting expert”. Self-regulation is about relationships, and observing, understanding, seeing patterns and solutions inherent in relationships of all kinds is my area of specialization as this relates to children’s self-regulation abilities.

Throughout my career as a therapist and children’s behavioral/mental health consultant I’ve logged well over ten thousand hours observing and working with children, their teachers and parents. l’ve learned much about a child’s many relationships and how they contribute to the health of his most important relationship: the one he has with himself, which impacts all measures of success he experiences throughout his lifetime.  It is my joy to share maternal instincts, love, and hope through serving in this way. Thank you for visiting.



Denise Durkin

Philadelphia, PA



Please Note: The information provided in this website is for educational purposes only and may not be construed as clinical, medical, or nutritional advice. The reader is encouraged to make independent inquires and to seek the advice of a licensed healthcare provider.




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