HELP FOR PARENTS WITH STRONG-WILLED, OUT-OF-CONTROL CHILDREN AND ADOLESCENTS

Education and Counseling for Individuals Affected by Oppositional Defiant Disorder and ADHD

I feel abandoned by my husband and am embarrassed by my son's behavior...

Hi T.,

== > I’ve responded throughout your email below:

Mark:

Thank you so much for the MOOCT website. Our son is 15 and we love him to bits - he is incredible, and he drives us crazy. Most of what we've found at your site is not news to us, but it's an organized and concrete approach that gives us tools, not idealisms. I am especially grateful for the dialogue you give us to repeat over and over; so much easier to not say the wrong things when we have a script to follow!

The Kid is just starting on High Risk diversion (county program) for multiple unruly filings and escalating behavior over the past 9 months. No drugs (multiple clean tests), no physicial violence, worst "community" crimes are curfew violations (regularly) and a couple of fights (rarely - last >1 year ago). Our major problems with him have been school (passed all classes this semester, at last, but with HUGE support from the school), outright refusal to follow house rules/parental edicts, and "loud and hurtful language" coupled with intimidating behavior (punching walls, slamming doors, blocking path) at the most minor of provocations (ie, the word "No.") In the past eight weeks he's progressed to staying out all night or two, (three occasions). And has stolen money from my husband's car the first two times (~5 bucks or so each time).

== > Here you would want to use the strategy entitled “When You Want Something From Your Kid” – Session #3.

This is new behavior around our house; odd as it might sound, he has attempted to respect *some* boundaries to this point. I should say, too, that this is an intelligent and socially well-developed kid that most people mistake for a better-educated young person several years older than he really is. Which means his behavior is willful, and more frustrating.

So we're several weeks past Week 4, and my husband and I are doing *fairly* well. Our son's fuse has gotten shorter; we give the simple "no" and single explanation and off he goes. He usually doesn't even try to negotiate now; just screams some predictable vulgarities as he proceeds to do whatever he wanted to do in the first place. The most recent occasion, yesterday, came after a week of few conflicts and general cooperation with no huge infractions. He had asked Thursday if he could "spend the night anywhere" on Friday and was told no by both parents. Friday, he left while we were at work and called late to ask again if he could spend the night at someone's house, and I told him no. When he (inevitably) raged about how it's not fair and he never gets to blah blah blah, I remembered my rules and told him I wasn't going to argue with him, and that I expected him home by 11pm (legal curfew). He swore again and hung up on me.

He did not come home.

== > Give him a warning in addition to telling him that you expect him to be home by 11:00 PM. “If you choose to ignore your curfew, you’ll choose the consequence. The police will be called. A runaway report will be filed. And I will go to Juvenile Probation and file an incorrigibility complaint.”

When I finally tracked him down today, he insisted that he thought I had reversed my decision during his self-pity party. Let me stress, here: This has *never* happened. And I sure didn't leave any room for misunderstanding last night. I followed the rules to the letter and did not engage in ANY discussion or back-and-forth. Also, he refused to tell me where he was and didn't come home for another five hours.

It seems to me that now he's lost the ability to get us riled up to give him an excuse to take off, he's desperate and turning to sheer invention. Does that seem correct?

== > Yes. We expect this to happen because the child’s ability-to-control-parents is waning.

Right now, of course, he's furious and hostile because I "got the police involved", and they actually called one of his friends this time to see if they could find him. I "got the police involved" the other times, too, but this is the first time they've actively tried to track him down. (Slow weekend here in suburbia, apparently.)

== > Good for you. You’re on track here.

I have three problems with this situation.

First is making sure that the way I'm handling this is correct. Although a part of me is touched by the kid's plea of ignorance, the rest of me remembers that forgetting and being confused and doing things poorly is how kids like this one show rebellion. So I've told him he'll be grounded from all privileges for three days, and that the clock starts ticking when he stops being hostile and stays where he's supposed to be. Is that appropriate?

== > Yes …but, be more specific. “Stop being hostile” is too vague. Plus you did not give a time limit.

Say, for example, “When you stop yelling profanities, the clock will start.”

Second is that my husband, when he gets back home tomorrow from his weekend getaway, will ask me ad nauseum to "let it go" and not punish him. Or punish him for only one day. And let him have his computer. He will "reward" the kid during the grounding period with computer time and money and treats from the store and friends at the house "for just a little while" and etc. He will do this, even though he says he is fully on board with the MOOCT program. How should I handle this?

== > He may be on board in word, but not in action. Having said this, a weaker plan supported by both parents is much better than a stronger plan supported by only one.

Remember your successes. During your marriage, you and your husband have undoubtedly successfully negotiated many situations-with each of you both giving and taking a little until you reached some middle ground. You can also be successful at ending arguments in front of the children if you really want to. It won't be easy, but it will be rewarding.

Agree on a signal to alert both of you that the conversation is, or is about to, get too heated and needs to be halted. Make a commitment to honor and act on the signal. You might walk away and have an agreed-upon cooling off period. Or set a time to revisit your differences in opinion. Or write down what you're feeling and later share it with your husband, who might better understand where you're coming from.

Create your own family "rulebook." Write clear, reasonable, attainable rules (for both parents and kids) about what behavior is acceptable and what isn't. Your family, like a baseball team, will be more successful when you have clear guidelines.

Don’t go overboard in trying to avoid arguments. Having small squabbles in front of the kids-and then resolving them peacefully-can actually be good for them; it shows that it's possible to disagree with someone you love, and that relationships don't end just because people are quarreling with each other.

Third is that I feel abandoned by my husband and am embarrassed by my son's behavior; when the police officer visited our house this evening to confirm that son was safe and sound, he was very rude to the officer. I apologized to the policeman, but can't help feeling guilty that they have to take time out from protecting our city to be subjected to such rude behavior. I know it's part of their job, but it's so unpleasant. I am ashamed of our home situation. Is it normal to feel this way?

== > Yes.

Re: husband. I’m guessing that at some level you feel as though you are “parenting” two children sometimes – your son and your husband. Plus it appears that your husband wants to remain “the good guy” in your son’s eyes.

Re: son. You need not be embarrassed by your son’s behavior. Remind yourself that he is just a kid who has a lot to learn – not a bad person with evil intentions.

Just keep doing what you’re doing, because you are really on track as far as I can tell! Don’t ignore your successes – and I’m sure there are many.

Thank you in advance for your input. I'm sorry this email is so long, and I appreciate your taking the time to respond to us floundering parents with your expertise and experience.

Sincerely,

T.

== > You’re very welcome. It was good to hear from you. Email again in the future if you need some support.

Mark

Online Parent Support

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