We purchased your online e-book/course. Initially, my husband and I were concerned that our son, R, who is twelve, did not fit the "profile" of an out-of-control teen. We were motivated to seek outside help and guidance due to the negative attitude we felt we were experiencing with R. This was primarily a talking back issue where R would continually "talk back" to us, mutter under his breath, and be purposely disagreeable. Additionally we saw problems of him thinking that he was smarter then everyone else, not doing schoolwork because he thought it was dumb, then lying to us when confronted by the bad grades.
We've started to review your material, but aren't sure how to incorporate it into our family dynamic.
We are writing this email because a recent incident has led us to believe that he is in jeopardy of becoming an "out-of-control teen." It's a very bizarre incident where R, while having a guest over to play the online game Halo, went into the bathroom we are currently renovating and urinated in the brand new tub. He did not wash it away and my husband discovered it while working in the bathroom. We called both boys out to the hall and asked "who did it?" Both boys denied it and we continued the dialogue with general comments of how inappropriate it was, etc... Later, after R's guest left, I asked him directly if it was him, he denied it, but after several minutes of listening to me, confessed that it was him that pee'd in the tub.
Our initial thinking is that he was just being totally lazy and did not want to miss a second of video game playing time, but we are incredibly disgusted, as well as extremely concerned. Where do we go from here? We don't think this is simply a boy being a boy kind of thing. We are concerned that this is part of the bigger picture of arrogance towards other people who he thinks couldn't possibly be smart enough to catch him.
We have determined that he will have a daily "hard labor" type chore around our house for the next five days, but on a larger scale what are we dealing with? In the past we have tried loss of all electronic games, loss of TV, loss of play dates, requirement to wear a uniform, (nice clothes), to school, all with little or no long term improvement.
Please email back with any suggestions.
A. & J.
Hi A. & J.,
With a little understanding and self-restraint, parents can put a lid on talking back. The reasons for back talk are as varied as the personalities of the children who use it. The child could be hungry, tired, or in a transitional period. But children who talk back usually do have one thing in common: They're trying to separate from their parents and exercise control over their lives.
Parents need to do some behavior tracking: For three days, make notes about what your child says, what the situation was, and how you responded. See if you notice any patterns. And keep in mind that when kids talk back, something else is going on underneath. The goal is to help them express it constructively.
You won't ever be able to avoid disagreements with your kids, but you can learn how to fight fair:
· Define what the problem is
· Define how to rectify it
· Don't attack
· Don't belittle
· Don't condemn
· Figure out what can be done to prevent it in the future
12-year-olds often put parents on the defensive. Say your son borrowed a ring that had sentimental value and then lost it. You might blurt out, "How could you be so irresponsible!" Look out -- he'll most likely turn that response around on you: "Oh and you've never lost anything before? Excuse me for not being perfect!" Instead of attacking, try talking in concrete terms: "You did this, so I feel this." Use the restraint and respect you'd show a guest in your home. The goal is for you to express your feelings in a way that allows your child to take responsibility for them.
Re: Not doing schoolwork/bad grades—
Please refer to the section of the eBook [Online Version] entitled “Emails From Exasperated Parents.” Poor academic performance is addressed there.
One of the perpetual problems that many parents face is lying by their children. Parents will often personalize this problem and view it as a sign that their children lack respect for them. Parents may also believe that their parental authority is being undermined when their children distort the truth.
It is important that parents recognize that all behavior is purposeful, even the habit of lying. Some lying is a common feature of the human experience. Rather than focus on the specific lies told by their children and the implications of those lies, parents would be well-served in trying to understand the purposes underlying their children's need to distort the truth.
When parents confront their children about their pattern of lying, they may inadvertently make the problem worse. Parents may unintentionally promote a power-struggle and cause their children to actually become more deceptive about their behavior.
I believe that parents need to rethink their perspective for dealing with their children when they lie. I recommend that parents never use the word lying in front of their kids. Use of the word lie sets up an adversarial dynamic. It is preferable to use phrases such as "you need to be more up-front with me" or "you need to be honest with me". This relaxes the encounter and makes it more likely that you will get to the bottom of the situation.
Often children will lie if they feel intimidated or feel excessive pressure from a parent. For example, a child may be afraid of harsh, punitive treatment as a consequence for poor grades. Talking with your child on an on-going basis about the nature and quality of his work, rather than focusing on assessment is helpful in promoting more truthfulness.
Adolescence may be the most difficult developmental period for dealing with lying. Children, during the teen years, are looking for ways to separate from their parents through experimentation, concealing information, and acting guarded around their parents. Try to keep the lines of communications open. Set appropriate boundaries and limits. Monitor your children closely for substance abuse, and other acting-out behaviors. Never accept excuses for inappropriate behavior. Set logical consequences and stick to them. By setting these parameters, parents can reduce the opportunity for their teenagers to engage in lying.
Some guidelines for parents to cope with children who conceal the truth are:
· All behavior is purposeful, even lying. Lying is not always intentional deceit and may be aimed at getting attention from parents or manipulating a situation.
· All children will lie on occasion. It is inevitable. Remember your childhood?
· As a parent, role-model honest communications and behavior demonstrating integrity with your children. Children may pick up on inconsistencies in parenting and use those patterns as a reason to be untruthful and manipulative.
· Children may be embarrassed or sensitive about telling the truth. Acknowledge those feelings with them, but insist on knowing the truth.
· Monitor your children's behavior (without over-involvement) to see if you notice any red-flags.
· Never make the issue of deception the main focal point of your conversations. Lying is always a byproduct of other more meaningful areas of exploration with your children.
· Never set-up your child by being aware of a lie and then asking him for the truth without discussing that you have information. Acknowledge up-front that you know what's going on.
· Reframe the word lying. Use terminology that means the same, but softens the conflict.
· Stay out of power-struggles with teens over deception. If you know they are being untruthful, merely acknowledge it and set reasonable, logical consequences.
· When children tell the truth, reinforce their positive behavior.
Remember that lying is purposeful behavior that can be minimized with healthy involvement with your children, appropriate monitoring, sensitivity and understanding, and role-modeling of honest, open, and emotionally expressive communications.
Re: Where do we go from here?—
Your son urinated in the tub for one simple reason: He didn’t think he would get caught.
Simply state the house rule and the consequence for violating the rule (e.g., “No urinating anywhere other than in the toilet …if you choose to urinate somewhere other than in the toilet, you’ll choose the consequence, which will be grounding for 3 days with no privileges”). Then issue a consequence if he violates the house rule.
Don’t get too paranoid over this problem. I see it as a one-time event. If it becomes a pattern, then we need to talk again in a future email.
Re: In the past we have tried loss of all electronic games, loss of TV, loss of play dates, requirement to wear a uniform, (nice clothes), to school, all with little or no long term improvement—
How long did the “loss” last. 1 - 3 days hopefully.
If you will discipline as outlined in the eBook (i.e., start with the least restrictive consequence first), then you will see some positive behavior changes occur. Most parents have grounded for too long.
Mark Hutten, M.A.
==> My Out-of-Control Child