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Dealing with Disrespect: 15 Tips for Parents

If you have a disrespectful teenager, don’t give up! Below are some highly effective techniques you can start implementing that will greatly diminish disrespectful behavior. While not all of these strategies will work in every situation or with every teenager, most parents who have practiced the following techniques report significant improvements in their child’s general attitude and behavior:

1. As much as this sounds like bribery, adolescents will react positively when they realize there is something in it for them. That doesn't mean for every good report card or every goal scored they should get money or gifts. But maybe after maintaining consistent good grades or following house rules, lighten their chore load or give them a later curfew. It's these things that matter the most to an adolescent after all, while giving them a little leeway here and there will show them that you recognize their efforts and hard work.

2. Generally, moms and dads should ignore the mildly disrespectful things that their children do (e.g., eye rolling, stomping up the stairs, muttering about how life isn’t fair, sighing dramatically, slamming their bedroom door, etc.).

3. If an adolescent breaks the rules at home or at school, the initial reaction of a mother/father will be to punish them in some way. Although he or she should not get off scot-free, it's essential to try and create a rational punishment that both mother/father and youngster can agree on, or at least a punishment that moms and dads know they can control. For example, your adolescent may break curfew or get poor grades. Saying that they're grounded for a month (or longer) is not going to work. Why? One of the most important aspects of an adolescent's life is being part of the social scene; going out with their friends and not feeling like they've missed anything. So no matter how strict you are, your young person will find a way to sneak out and go where they please. Of course if they get caught, this will most likely lead to more fighting and stricter rules, which will probably be broken again, and the cycle goes on. Want a more modern punishment that will really work? Take away their cell phone.

4. Be willing to follow through. You cannot just threaten to take away your disrespectful adolescent’s cell phone; if the behavior continues, you actually have to do it. No, you do not have to wrestle the phone out of your adolescent’s hand. Simply call the company and suspend the service. You will make your point, and in most cases, your disrespectful adolescent will choose respect over lack of privilege.

5. It is a mother/father's first instinct to worry when their son or daughter doesn't answer the phone, doesn't call that often, or isn't home all the time. While it's perfectly normal to worry, you should also remember that your adolescent is a person to, with a life of their own. Because it's never a good thing to be known as the "crazy" mom or dad who calls everyone in their phone book at 4 AM looking for their son/daughter, it's a good idea to set up some basic rules to avoid this situation. For instance, before your adolescent goes out, ask them where they're going and when they plan on being home. Make it understood that if their plans change, i.e., they plan on sleeping over a friend's house or staying out later, they simply must call to let you know. If you need to tell your son/daughter something and have a cell phone, text them instead of calling. If your adolescent is at a party or out with friends, they aren't going to want to openly answer their phone to a bugging mother/father with a million questions. Texts are more private and to the point. If there is an emergency at home, then call them. Try and make this routine so both mother/father and youngster will agree to have some communication, without the mother/father being overbearing.

6. Moms and dads may shudder at the thought of their son/daughter having sex, using drugs, failing school, an even being unpopular. But these days, such issues cannot be avoided. While perhaps the hardest part of being an adolescent lies in making decisions that will change them for better or worse, moms and dads should know that they can have a positive influence on their youngster if they approach the issues correctly. For example, instead of saying "don't have sex" or "drugs are bad," tell them what could happen to them if they do have unprotected sex or abuse drugs. I guarantee a picture of an STD or (for girls) the thought of having a baby will make them think more than a command will. If you know your adolescent is sexually active, ask them if they're using condoms and even sneak some into their purse or wallet if you can. This may seem a stretch for some moms and dads, while others may feel it equates to giving their adolescent permission to have sex. But, if your adolescent isn't having sex now, he/she will be one day, and it is better to take this approach instead of pretending sex doesn't exist. In addition, for all of those old-fashioned moms and dads out there, you should know that the good old fashion "sex talk" doesn't work. Taking the "safe sex" route is always more effective than "no sex" because it shows your children you are aware of what they're going through, making you one less adult in their life that doesn't understand.

7. No matter how much you want to know where your son/daughter is and who they're with every second of the day, you simply can't. In the same manner, you can't expect your son/daughter to be open with you about everything going on in their life. As harmless as it may seem to an adult to invade their adolescent's privacy every now and then, to an adolescent it is a line that should not be crossed. No matter what good intentions a mother/father may have, once they cross this line they will notice their son/daughter is less and less open about even the simple things, like how they did on a test or how soccer practice went. You can't expect an adolescent to be open with you if you go out of your way to be sneaky or nosy in their personal life. If you want to win their trust, sometimes it's the little things that count, such as knocking before you enter their room or not interrupting them if they're on the phone. Remember, everyone needs their space.

8. Often, as moms and dads, you might feel as though you are obligated to remain engaged with your adolescent no matter what. Whether you feel you have to have the last word or you have to keep pushing until your adolescent acknowledges your point, you may be suffering through more disrespectful behavior than you need to. If you are having a conversation (argument) with your adolescent and frustrated about the way the conversation is going, or if you do not want to allow the conversation to escalate into an argument, then you have to learn that it is ok to walk away. If your disrespectful adolescent is attempting to engage you in an argument or trying to get his or her way on something, firmly and quietly repeat your decision, then let them know you will not continue the conversation, and walk away. Even if you have to leave the room, lock yourself in your bedroom, and jog in place to burn off the frustration, it is better than continuing to engage your adolescent on that level.

9. One of the main reasons kids and adolescents are disrespectful is because they have been indulged and spoilt, not taught how to disagree in an assertive manner. Disrespect is rife in homes where moms and dads have been permissive in bringing up their kids and where there are few firm rules set for appropriate behavior. It is easy for the youngster to push the boundaries and behave in a disrespectful way because they know no different and believe that kind of behavior would be appropriate and accepted. In these permissive homes, the adolescents are often confused by the inconsistency in their treatment and bad behavior is their way of rebelling against this. The best tips here are to be firm but fair with the youngster from as early as possible in their life, to be consistent but flexible with rules and to ensure that the boundaries for good behavior are kept in place, and with some discretion. Every step along the way, make sure that adolescents are taught appropriate ways of asking for what they desire, disagreeing with decisions made and being able to deal with rejection. Those coping skills will then become routine in their behavior and help to make them more confident, especially in the more competitive adult world.

10. Remember that adolescents have their own world of problems. To them minuscule drama is equated to grown-ups not being able to pay the bills. They are not concerned with real life problems yet. However, on the same note realize they do have to deal with serious issues that grown-ups easily may have forgotten about, from self-esteem to sex to drugs. Just remember to be there for them without being judgmental.

11. Respect, disrespect and compliance are often issues that become entangled between moms and dads and children. Moms and dads have a right to expect compliance from all the kids who are living in their house, even if that youngster is 22 years old. Often, the friction is caused by a child’s legitimate need to become more independent as he develops. This is precisely where moms and dads and adolescents come into conflict: the mother/father wants compliance and the child wants independence. Now let’s take it one step further: When the child doesn’t comply, the mother/father feels disrespected—and they make the mistake of personalizing that feeling. I think that adolescents have to learn to solve the problem of compliance in healthy ways. But moms and dads also need to understand that many times, their youngster’s small acts of rebelliousness come from the fact that they want to be independent—it has nothing to do with disrespect.

12. Some moms and dads easily mistake their youngster's ranting and raving as a direct attack upon them as authority figures. However, for some adolescents, venting is their way of talking and being open without feeling vulnerable. Most adolescents don't feel comfortable opening up to moms and dads about personal issues and some never will. Instead of trying to force them to open up or asking mundane questions like "How was your day," try and direct your questions towards their needs. For example, if their complaining about how hard their math homework is, offer to help them with it. If they are yelling about how their life sucks and there's never anything to do, offer to drive them and their friends to the movies or the mall. In essence, kill them with kindness.

13. Sometimes adolescents are disrespectful toward moms and dads because they are emotionally hurting and in pain. Many kids hurt for lots of reasons that their moms and dads are not even aware of. Often the moms and dads get the stick simply for being there, because there is no one else to blame. The youngster could be bullied, or being abused in some way, or has fallen out with peers, and disrespect to a mother/father makes up for the lack of support and good feeling the adolescent may perceive are missing. The best way to deal with this aspect is to talk to them often about their day, show concern for their life and activities without being intrusive. Wait until they are ready to open up. Be sensitive to when they might be unusually quiet or pre-occupied and be there for them when you sense they need your comfort.

14. You owe your adolescent a roof over his/her head, food to eat, and your love. Everything else (cell phones, video games, internet access, cable, free time with friends, money for the dance on Friday night, dating, a car, etc) are all EXTRAs. It might not seem like that sometimes, but if you start recognizing that each of the items your adolescent holds dear is most likely a want and not a necessity, then you can offer your disrespectful adolescent a choice. If your adolescent chooses to treat you and the other members of your family with respect and follow the house rules, then there will be privileges to have. If your adolescent chooses to behave disrespectfully, that behavior is a demonstration of a lack of maturity and privileges can be denied or removed from the adolescent’s life.

15. You would think that the golden rule would be ingrained in the minds of grown-ups from a young age, however it's surprising to see how many moms and dads call their children disrespectful and then react the same way themselves. For example, if your young person screams and yells at you rudely, do you yell back? Do you shut them down with "you're grounded" and slam the door? It's important to remember that communication is critical in any relationship and of course, the relationship with your adolescent son/daughter is going to be one of the hardest you'll have to maintain. Try to respect them no matter how out of line they may be, and try to stay as calm and rational as possible. If anything, this will get them to eventually calm down and convince them that you're actually listening to what they're saying and not just yelling back commands.

Help for Parents with Disrespectful Children and Teens

Juvenile Delinquency: How the Juvenile Justice System Works

Each state has special courts -- usually called juvenile courts -- to deal with juveniles who have been accused of violating a criminal statute. The proceedings are civil as opposed to criminal. So, instead of being formally charged with a crime, youth offenders are accused of committing a delinquent act.

A juvenile case gets started when a prosecutor or probation officer (PO) files a civil petition, charging the youth with violating a criminal statute and asking that the court determine that the youth is delinquent. If the charges are proved and a delinquency determination is made, the youth offender comes under the court’s broad powers. At that point, the juvenile court has the authority to do what it considers to be in the best interest of the youth.

Often, the juvenile court retains legal authority over the juvenile for a set period of time -- until the youth becomes an adult, or sometimes even longer.

Eligibility—

To be eligible for juvenile court, a young person must be a considered a "juvenile" under state law. In most states, the maximum age for using juvenile court is 18. In a few states the age is 16 or 17, and in one (Wyoming) the maximum age is set at 19.

States also set lower age limits for juvenile court eligibility. Most states consider kids under the age of 7 to be incapable of determining the difference between right and wrong, or forming a "guilty mind." So, kids under the age of seven are usually excused from responsibility for acts they commit. Instead, moms and dads may have to pay compensation to anyone victimized by the acts of a young child. In some cases, the court will find a parent unfit to care for a youngster who has committed wrongdoing and will place the youngster with relatives or foster moms and dads. Whether kids between the ages of seven and 14 can form a guilty mind is usually left up to the Juvenile Court Judge. If the judge feels that the youngster was capable of forming criminal intent, the youngster will be sent to juvenile court.

Most states regard kids 14 and older as capable of forming criminal intent, so the majority of cases involving young people from 14 to 18 years of age are adjudicated in juvenile court. In certain circumstances, a youth can be tried in adult criminal court.

Cases in Juvenile Court—

Not all cases heard in juvenile court are delinquency cases (those involving the commission of a crime). There are two other types of cases: dependency cases and status offenses. Different procedures typically apply to all three types of juvenile court cases.

• Cases involving status offenses. A status offense is a violation that only applies to juveniles. Examples include truancy (skipping school), curfew violations, running away, and underage drinking.
• Juvenile delinquency cases. These cases involve juveniles who have committed crimes -- meaning that if the crime had been committed by an adult, the matter would be tried in regular criminal court. But the procedures in juvenile court differ significantly from those in adult criminal court.
• Juvenile dependency cases. Cases involving juveniles who are abused or neglected by their moms and dads or guardians -- called "juvenile dependency" cases -- are also heard in juvenile court. In a juvenile dependency case, the Juvenile Court Judge will ultimately decide whether or not a juvenile should be removed from a problematic home environment.

Common Offenses and Trends—

Roughly half of all youth arrests are made for theft, simple assault, drug abuse, disorderly conduct, and curfew violations, according to the federal Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. In an average year, only about 3% of cases heard in juvenile court involved violent offenses like robbery, rape, murder, and aggravated assault.

Historically, the vast majority of juvenile court cases have involved male offenders. But the number of females entering the juvenile justice system has been on the rise in recent years -- in an average year, females accounted for 27% of all youth facing proceedings in juvenile courts in the U.S.

Procedures—

When a youth is suspected of violating a criminal statute, the procedures are very different from those used in adult criminal court. Most significantly, the police, prosecutors, juvenile court intake officials, and juvenile court judges all have broad discretion to take more informal steps in handling the case. As a result, many young offenders never reach the point of a formal adjudicatory hearing.

Likewise, the constitutional rights of youth are different from those of adults who have been accused of committing a crime. For example, although young people have the right to an attorney at an adjudicatory hearing, in most states they do not have the right to have their case heard by a jury.

Some juvenile cases are transferred to adult court in a procedure called a "waiver." Typically, juvenile cases that are subject to waiver involve serious offenses, like rape or murder, or youth who have been in trouble before. Youth have a right to a hearing to determine if their case should be transferred to adult court.

Sentencing Options—

Juvenile courts have a broad range of sentencing options (usually called "disposition orders") if they find that a youth is delinquent. Courts can confine the youth in a variety of ways -- from sending the juvenile to a traditional juvenile detention facility to placing the youth under house arrest. More importantly, juvenile courts can order a whole range of punishments that do not involve confinement -- including counseling, curfews, and probation.

When a youth is suspected of violating a criminal statute, the procedure that's followed is very different from that used for adult offenders in a typical criminal case. All states have created a special juvenile court system for juveniles who get into trouble with the law. And although some juveniles are ultimately judged to be delinquent by these juvenile courts, the different players in a typical juvenile case -- including police officers, prosecutors, and judges -- have broad discretion to fashion other outcomes.

Although the procedure for juvenile delinquency cases varies from state to state, the following is a rundown of a typical juvenile case.

How Police Deal With Youth—

There are a number of ways that a juvenile might come into contact with law enforcement over the alleged violation of a criminal statute. Some juveniles are arrested by police, while others are referred to the police by moms and dads or school officials. Regardless of how the police get wind of a potential juvenile case, a police officer may decide to deal with the youth in several ways.

• Hold the juvenile until a parent comes. Sometimes the police officer will detain the juvenile, issue a warning, and then release the juvenile to the custody of a parent or guardian.
• Issue a warning. The police officer can detain the juvenile, issue a warning, and then let the juvenile go. This is often referred to as the "counseled and released" alternative.
• Refer to juvenile court. The police officer may also place the youth in custody and refer the case to juvenile court.

When Cases Go to Juvenile Court—

Once the police officer refers a case to juvenile court, a prosecutor or juvenile court intake officer (often a PO) takes over. That person may decide to dismiss the case, handle the matter informally, or file formal charges (called "petitioning the case").

In deciding how to proceed, the prosecutor or intake officer will typically consider:

• the ability of the juvenile's moms and dads to control his or her behavior
• the youth's age
• the youth's gender (males are more likely to be charged than females)
• the youth's past record
• the youth's social history, and
• the severity of the offense
• the strength of the evidence in the case

In an average year, about 20% of the cases referred to a juvenile court intake officer are dismissed and another 25% or so are handled informally. The remaining cases go through formal proceedings.

Informal Proceedings—

If the prosecutor or PO decides to proceed with the youth's case informally, usually the juvenile must appear before a PO or Juvenile Court Judge. Although no formal charge is entered against the youth, he or she will usually be required to do one or more of the following:

• attend after-school classes
• attend counseling
• enter probation
• listen to a stern lecture
• pay a fine
• perform community service work, or
• repay the victim for damages

If the youth's abuse or neglect is suspected as part of the case, the juvenile court judge may initiate proceedings to remove the juvenile from parental or guardian custody.

Formal Proceedings—

If the prosecutor or PO decides to proceed formally, he or she will file a petition in juvenile court. The juvenile is then "arraigned" (formally charged) in front of a juvenile court judge or referee. In some cases, the court may decide to send the youth to adult criminal court.

The court will also determine whether the juvenile should be detained or released for the time period before the initial hearing. In about 80% of cases processed formally in juvenile court, the judge allows a juvenile to remain at home while awaiting the hearing.

If the juvenile's case remains in juvenile court, one of three things may happen:

• The Juvenile Court Judge "diverts" the case. When a Juvenile Court Judge diverts a case, the judge retains jurisdiction over the case while the youth undergoes a recommended program (such as counseling) or performs some act (such as community service or payment of restitution). If the youth doesn't fulfill these obligations, the court may reinstate formal charges.
• The Juvenile Court Judge holds an adjudicatory hearing. If the case goes to trial (called an "adjudicatory hearing" in a juvenile case), both sides present evidence and the attorneys argue the case (much like a criminal trial). In most states, the hearing is before a Juvenile Court Judge, not a jury. At the conclusion of the hearing, the judge will determine whether the youth is delinquent. A delinquency ruling is called "sustaining the petition."
• The juvenile enters into a plea agreement. Often, a plea agreement hinges on the youth's compliance with certain conditions. For example, as part of a plea deal, a youth may need to attend counseling, obey curfews, or reimburse the victim for damages.

If a delinquency ruling is made, a PO will evaluate the youth, order psychological examination or diagnostic tests if necessary, and then make recommendations at the disposition hearing (which is similar to a sentencing hearing in criminal court). The Juvenile Court Judge then decides what is in the best interest of the youth, and may order any number of things as part of the disposition, including:

• confinement in a juvenile detention facility
• counseling
• probation
• reimbursement of the victim, or

The Juvenile Court Judge may also order the youth to appear in court periodically (called post-disposition hearings) so that the judge can monitor the youth's behavior and progress.

Constitutional Rights—

Juveniles in juvenile court delinquency proceedings do not have the same constitutional rights as those given to adults in regular criminal court cases. In fact, prior to the 1960s young people had few due process rights at all. But as juvenile court proceedings have become more formal, states and courts have strengthened youths' constitutional rights.

Below is a summary of the due process rights that do and do not apply to youth in delinquency proceedings. Some of these rights derive from U.S. Supreme Court cases -- and therefore apply to all states -- while other rights vary by state.

• No (or limited) right to a jury trial. Most states do not allow jury trials in juvenile delinquency cases. The few states that do allow jury trials often limit them to only certain types of juvenile cases.
• No right to bail. Youth do not have a constitutional right to seek bail. But many young people are released to their moms and dads or guardians prior to arraignment in juvenile court.
• Probable cause needed to search a juvenile. Police officers must have probable cause to search and arrest a juvenile who is suspected of violating a criminal statute. However, public officials in quasi-parental relationships with juveniles -- like school personnel -- need only "reasonable suspicion" of wrongdoing rather than probable cause to temporarily detain and search juveniles.
• Right to a phone call. Usually, a juvenile is allowed to make at least one phone call if they are in custody and not likely to be released quickly. The juvenile can call a parent or guardian, who in turn can contact an attorney. Or the juvenile can contact an attorney directly. By asking to speak with a parent or attorney, the juvenile invokes his or her Miranda rights. So, if police ignore the juvenile's request to consult a parent or attorney, anything the juvenile says to the police after that will likely be inadmissible in juvenile court.
• The privilege against self-incrimination. Juveniles in juvenile court proceedings have a right to assert their Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination. This means that a juvenile cannot be forced to testify against him or herself.
• The right to confront and cross-examine witnesses. Even though a youth adjudication hearing is not a formal criminal trial, a juvenile has the right to confront and cross-examine witnesses -- meaning the juvenile gets a chance to question (through an attorney) the people called to testify by the state, and to challenge their testimony.
• The right to counsel. In 1967, the U.S. Supreme Court (in a case called In re Gault) ruled that juveniles have the right to an attorney in juvenile proceedings. If a juvenile cannot afford an attorney, he or she has the right to be represented by a state-appointed attorney.
• The right to have charges proved beyond a reasonable doubt. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that if a youth faces incarceration or adjudication as "delinquent" as a result of juvenile court proceedings, then the state must prove the charges against the youth "beyond a reasonable doubt." If those penalties are not at issue, the state need only prove the charges by a "preponderance of evidence" standard.
• The right to notice of the charges. In re Gault also requires that a youth be provided with notice of the criminal charges he or she faces.

Juveniles Tried in Adult Court—

Some juvenile cases get transferred to adult criminal court through a process called a "waiver" -- when a judge waives the protections that juvenile court provides. Usually, juvenile cases that are subject to waiver involve more serious crimes, or juveniles who have been in trouble before. Although being tried in adult court gives a youth more constitutional protections, it has distinct disadvantages too -- including the potential for a more severe sentence and the possibility of serving time in an adult correctional facility.

Below you'll find an outline of the waiver process, factors the court will consider in deciding whether to transfer a youth to adult court, and the pros and cons of trying young people in adult court.

Cases Eligible for Waiver—

In most states, a youth offender must be at least 16 to be eligible for waiver to adult court. But, in a number of states, juveniles as young as 13 could be subjected to a waiver petition. And a few states allow kids of any age to be tried as adults for certain types of crimes, such as homicide. The current trend among states is to lower the minimum age of eligibility for waiver into adult court. This is due in part to public perception that youth crime is on the rise, and offenders are getting younger.

Factors that might lead a court to grant a waiver petition and transfer a juvenile case to adult court include:

• Past rehabilitation efforts for the youth have been unsuccessful.
• The youth has a lengthy juvenile record.
• The youth is charged with a particularly serious offense.
• The juvenile is older.
• Youth services would have to work with the youth offender for a long time.

Waiver Petition—

There are three ways that transfer proceedings can usually begin -- the most common is through the prosecutor's request. But the juvenile court judge can also initiate transfer proceedings. And some state laws require that young people be tried as adults in certain types of cases, like homicide. (To learn more about state laws requiring youth to be tried as adults, see the "Automatic Transfer Laws and Reverse Transfer Hearings" section below.)

If the prosecutor or Juvenile Court Judge seeks to transfer the case to adult court, the juvenile is entitled to a hearing and representation by an attorney. This hearing is called the waiver hearing, fitness hearing, or certification hearing. Usually, the prosecutor must show probable cause that the youth actually committed the charged offense.

If the prosecutor has established probable cause, the Juvenile Court Judge must then decide on the juvenile's chances at rehabilitation. To make this decision, the judge will often hear evidence on the juvenile's:

• willingness to get treatment in the juvenile system
• juvenile court record
• background

If the Juvenile Court Judge transfers the juvenile case to adult criminal court, the case starts there at the beginning -- typically with the arraignment (formal, in-court notice of charges against the youth).

Automatic Transfer Laws and Reverse Transfer Hearings—

Some states have "automatic transfer" laws that require juvenile cases to be transferred to adult criminal court if both of the following are true.

• The charges involve a serious or violent offense, such as rape or murder.
• The offender is a certain age or older (usually 16).

Young people subject to an automatic transfer can still request a transfer hearing in juvenile court. During that hearing -- called a reverse waiver or reverse transfer hearing -- the youth (through an attorney) has the burden of convincing the Juvenile Court Judge to reverse the automatic transfer and allow the youth to be tried in juvenile court.

Pros and Cons Adult Criminal Court—

Usually, youth and their attorneys fight to keep a case in juvenile court. But there are also advantages to being tried in adult criminal court. Here are some of the pros and cons for young people whose cases are waived to adult court.

Advantages of Adult Court—

Sometimes, it can be advantageous for a youth to be tried in adult court. Here are some reasons why:

• In some jurisdictions where dockets and jails are crowded, the court may be inclined to dispose of the youth's case more quickly and impose a lighter sentence.
• Juries in adult court may be more sympathetic to a juvenile.
• Juveniles have the right to a jury trial in adult court (most states do not provide a right to a jury in juvenile court).

Disadvantages of Adult Court—

Some of the disadvantages for youth in adult court include the following:

• A conviction in adult criminal court carries more social stigma than a juvenile court judgment does.
• Adult criminal records are harder to seal than juvenile court records -- sealing or "expunging" records makes them unavailable to the public.
• Judges in adult court do not have the wide range of punishment and treatment options that are available to juvenile court judges -- such as imposing a curfew or ordering counseling instead of jail time.
• The youth is subject to more severe sentences, including life sentences.
• The youth may have to serve time in adult jail or prison, rather than in juvenile detention centers.

Sentencing Options—

Juvenile courts have a wide range of sentencing options (usually called "disposition orders") that they can impose on juveniles or youth offenders who are found to be "delinquent" (that is, finding that the juvenile violated a criminal law). Typically, disposition options fall into two camps: incarceration and non-incarceration. One non-incarceration option in particular -- probation -- forms the backbone of the juvenile justice system. Read on to learn about the different kinds of sentencing options used in juvenile court, the ins and outs of probation, and whether a disposition order can be appealed or changed.

Incarceration—

After adjudicating a youth as delinquent, a juvenile court may order incarceration as a penalty. But methods used to confine young people are often very different from those used in cases involving adult offenders (when jail and prison are the fallback options). Here are some ways that judges can order confinement for a youth who has been found delinquent:

• Adult jail. In some cases, a Juvenile Court Judge can send a youth to adult facilities like county jail or state prison.
• Home confinement/house arrest. The Juvenile Court Judge can order the juvenile to remain at home, with exceptions (attend school, work, counseling, and so on).
• Youth and adult jail. In some jurisdictions, judges can send delinquent young people to a juvenile facility, and then order transfer to an adult facility once the youth reaches the age of majority. When a juvenile is ordered to serve time in both a juvenile and adult facility, it is called a "blended sentence."
• Juvenile hall/juvenile detention facility. The Juvenile Court Judge can send the juvenile to a juvenile detention facility. These facilities are designed for short-term stays.
• Placement with someone other than a parent or guardian. The Juvenile Court Judge can require that the juvenile live with a relative or in a group or foster home.
• Probation after juvenile hall. Some juveniles are sent to a juvenile facility for a few months and are then put on probation afterward.
• Secured juvenile facilities. These facilities are designed for longer term stays. Youth can be sent to secured facilities (sometimes called "camps") for months or years.

Non-Incarceration Options—

Juvenile court judges often have broad discretion to fashion a sentence or rehabilitation program that fits the needs of the juvenile. A disposition order may include options other than confinement, including:

• Community service. Youth may be ordered to work a certain number of hours in service to the local community.
• Counseling. Often, judges require youth to attend counseling as part of a disposition order.
• Electronic monitoring. Youth may be required to wear a wrist or ankle bracelet that verifies their location at all times.
• Fine. The juvenile may be required to pay a fine to the government or pay compensation to the victim.
• Probation. Judges often order young people to enter probation after a delinquency finding. (To learn more about probation, see the "Probation" section, just below.)
• Verbal warning. The sentence for the youth can be as simple as a verbal reprimand.

In creating a disposition order, juvenile court judges can order any of the above options alone or in combination. For example, a delinquent juvenile might need to pay a fine, attend counseling, and perform community service as a penalty for one offense.

Probation—

Probation is a program of supervision in which the juvenile's freedom is limited and activities restricted. Probation has been called the "workhorse" of the juvenile justice system -- according to the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, probation is the most common disposition in juvenile cases that receive a juvenile court sanction. In an average year, about half of all juveniles judged to be delinquent receive probation as the most restrictive sentence.

Specific terms of probation vary widely from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, and from case to case. Typically, a youth must obey both the general terms of probation and any additional requirements tailored to the particular case. The court usually expects that moms and dads or a guardian will help the youth fulfill the conditions of the probation order. These conditions can include community service, attendance at a certain school, counseling, curfews, and orders that the youth not associate with certain individuals (as in cases involving suspected gang members). As part of probation, some young people must attend special day treatment programs that provide additional monitoring and educational services -- including anger management classes, social skills building, and substance abuse education.

Probation Officers (PO)—

A youth placed on probation is assigned to a PO who monitors the youth's compliance with the court's disposition order. The youth meets with the PO periodically (weekly or twice month, for example), and the youth's moms and dads or guardian must report any probation violations to the PO. In this way, the PO and the moms and dads work together to help the youth fulfill the conditions of probation.

Probation Violations—

If a youth is suspected of violating a probation condition, the PO notifies the court -- usually by filing a "violation of probation" notice. If the Juvenile Court Judge finds that the juvenile has indeed violated the terms of his or her probation, the court can revoke the probation option and impose a harsher sentence -- such as incarceration at a detention facility.

Appeals and Post-Disposition Changes—

Just as adults can appeal a sentence handed down in criminal court, young people have the right to appeal (or ask a higher court to overturn) a juvenile court's disposition order after a delinquency finding.

Youth can also ask a court to modify an order if circumstances change -- this is called a "post-disposition" change. Juvenile court judges have broad discretion to change their original orders in order to better serve the youth's needs and best interests. For example, a judge may order that the youngster change living arrangements if a better option becomes available.

My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents with Delinquent Children and Teens

Teens and OCD

At least 1 in 200 kids and adolescents in the United States have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). Understanding the special impact that the disorder has on their lives is important in helping them get the right treatment. Some common issues with OCD in kids and adolescents are as follows:

1. Anger Management Problems: This is because the moms and dads have become unwilling (or are unable!) to comply with the youngster's OCD-related demands. Even when moms and dads set reasonable limits, children and adolescents with OCD can become anxious and angry.

2. Disrupted Routines: OCD can make daily life very difficult and stressful for children and adolescents. In the morning, they feel they must do their rituals right, or the rest of the day will not go well. In the evenings, they must finish all of their compulsive rituals before they go to bed. Some children and adolescents even stay up late because of their OCD, and are often exhausted the following day.

3. Other Mental Health Problems: Children and adolescents with OCD are more likely to have additional mental health problems than those who do not have the disorder. Sometimes these other disorders can be treated with the same medicine prescribed to treat the OCD. Depression, anxiety disorders and trichotillomania (compulsive hair or skin picking) may improve when a youngster takes anti-OCD medicine. On the other hand, Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), tic disorders, and disruptive behavior disorders usually require additional treatments, including medicines that are not specific to OCD.

4. Physical Complaints: Stress, poor nutrition, and/or the loss of sleep can make kids physically ill.

5. Problems at School: OCD can affect homework, attention in class, and school attendance. If this happens, you need to be an advocate for your youngster. It is your right under the Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) to ask for changes from the school that will help your youngster succeed.

6. Problems with Self-Esteem: Children and adolescents worry that they are "crazy" because their thinking is different than their friends and family. Their self-esteem can be negatively affected because the OCD has led to embarrassment or has made them feel "bizarre" or "out of control."

7. Social Relationships: The stress of hiding their rituals from peers, times spent with obsessions and compulsions, and how their friends react to their OCD-related behaviors can all affect friendships.

Experts agree that cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) is the treatment of choice for children with OCD. Working with a trained CBT therapist, kids and adolescents with OCD learn that they are in charge, not OCD.

Using a CBT strategy called exposure and response prevention (ERP), youth can learn to do the opposite of what OCD tells them to do, by facing their fears gradually in small steps (exposure), without giving in to the rituals (response prevention). ERP helps them find out that their fears don't come true and that they can get used to the scary feeling, just like they might get used to cold water in the swimming pool.

Here is an example:

Imagine a teen that repeatedly touches things in his room to prevent bad luck. Using ERP, the teen would learn to leave his room without touching anything. He might feel very scared at first, but after some time, the anxiety goes away as he gets used to it. He also finds out that nothing bad happens.

At first, ERP may sound scary to many kids and teens. They may not be ready to try it. It is important to find a CBT therapist who is experienced in working with kids with OCD. An experienced therapist will be able to get your youngster ready for ERP by making it kid-friendly.

When youth understand how the therapy works, they may be more willing to deal with the initial anxiety experienced during ERP because they know the anxiety will increase and then go down over time. Moms and dads need to be involved in their youngster's treatment as well, under the therapist's guidance.

Medicines should only be considered when there are moderate to severe OCD symptoms. Both cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and medicine effectively treat OCD in kids and adolescents. Their use is supported by the treatment guidelines of the American Psychiatric Association (APA) and the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP).

Antidepressants are usually the first kind of medicine that a doctor will try. Your doctor might refer to these medicines as SSRI's, which stands for "Selective Serotonin-Reuptake Inhibitors", or TCA's, which stands for "Tricyclics." Here are some names of each of these kinds of medicines:

SSRI's-
• citalopram (Celexa®)
• escitalopram (Lexapro®)
• fluoxetine (Prozac®)
• fluvoxamine (Luvox®)
• paroxetine (Paxil®)
• sertaline (Zoloft®)

TCA's-
• clomipramine (Anafranil®)

OCD medicines control and decrease symptoms, but do not "cure" the disorder. OCD is usually well controlled when the right treatment is in place, but symptoms can often return when the youngster stops taking the medicine.

All OCD medicines work slowly. It is important to not give up on a medicine until it has been taken at the right dose for 10 to 12 weeks. Studies have also shown that improvement of childhood OCD can continue for at least a year after starting medicine.

Only four OCD medicines have been approved by the FDA for use in kids:
  • clomipramine (Anafranil®)
  • fluoxetine (Prozac®)
  • fluvoxamine (Luvox®)
  • sertaline (Zoloft®)
But, doctors can prescribe any OCD medicines to kids if they feel it is needed.

The best dose of OCD medicine should be determined on an individual basis. Kids should start at a lower dose than adolescents, but OCD symptoms often need to be treated with higher, adult-sized doses. If a youngster has difficulty swallowing pills, a liquid or other version may be available. The following dose ranges may be necessary:

• fluvoxamine (Luvox®): 50-300 mg/day
• sertaline (Zoloft®): 50-200 mg/day
• clomipramine (Anafranil®): 50-200 mg/day
• citalopram (Celexa®): 10-60 mg/day
• paroxetine (Paxil®): 10-60 mg/day
• fluoxetine (Prozac®): 10-80 mg/day
• escitalopram (Lexapro®): 10-20 mg/day

No two kids respond to OCD medicines in the same way. In general, clomipramine (Anafranil®) is usually not given first because of its side effects.

Factors that may guide the medicine choice can include:

• a good response to a certain drug by other family members
• cost or availability
• potential for side effects
• presence of other disorders

In the largest youngster OCD treatment study to date (POTS)1, remission (the absence of any major symptoms) occurred in about 1 in 5 kids on medicine and in more than half of those with medicine and CBT. In addition, many more kids had improvement (but not full remission). Some kids will have no response at all to some medicines, but it does not mean that other medicines will not help.

Every kind of drug has potential side effects. These side effects must always be weighed against the benefit. Some common side effects of OCD medicines include:

• a heightened sense of energy
• inability to sit still
• nausea
• sleepiness or insomnia

In general, the other drugs are safer than clomipramine (Anafranil®) which has its own side effects, including:

• concentration problems
• drowsiness
• dry mouth
• problems with urination
• racing heart
• weight gain

For all antidepressants in kids and adolescents, the FDA has issued "black box warnings" about suicidal thoughts and urges. The highest risk period for this is when starting or increasing the dose of the medicine. However, a recent study found no increase in suicidal thoughts in groups of kids with OCD who were studied.

These drugs appear very safe with long-term use and side effects reverse when they are stopped. There is no current evidence that they do permanent damage to the body.

It is important to know that if the first medicine does not improve OCD, another one should be tried. Trying several OCD medicines may be needed. Many people have better results if CBT is added to drug treatment. If the combination of one drug and CBT don't work, adding a second or third medicine can also be tried.

Many doctors suggest that OCD treatment should continue for at least one year, even after the symptoms have stopped. Unfortunately, OCD drugs do not "cure" the illness. When medicine is stopped, symptoms often return within a few weeks to months. If they return, most patients will respond well after starting to take the medicine again.

 My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents

Children Who Abuse Their Pets

Child and teen motivations for the abuse of pets have not been studied extensively. However, case reports and a child interview study (using the Cruelty to Animals Assessment Instrument) suggest a number of developmentally related motivations.

Why Children and Teens Abuse Pets—
  • Animal phobias (that cause a preemptive attack on a feared animal).
  • Attachment to an animal (e.g., the youngster kills an animal to prevent its torture by another individual).
  • Curiosity or exploration (i.e., the animal is injured or killed in the process of being examined, usually by a young or developmentally delayed child).
  • Forced abuse (i.e., the youngster is coerced into animal abuse by a more powerful individual).
  • Identification with the youngster's abuser (e.g., a victimized youngster may try to regain a sense of power by victimizing a more vulnerable animal).
  • Imitation (i.e., copying a parent's abusive "discipline" of animals).
  • Mood enhancement (e.g., animal abuse is used to relieve boredom or depression).
  • Peer pressure (e.g., friends may encourage animal abuse or require it as part of an initiation rite).
  • Post-traumatic play (i.e., reenacting violent episodes with an animal victim).
  • Rehearsal for interpersonal violence (i.e., "practicing" violence on stray animals or pets before engaging in violent acts against other people).
  • Self-injury (i.e., using an animal to inflict injuries on the youngster's own body).
  • Sexual gratification (i.e., bestiality).
  • Vehicle for emotional abuse (e.g., injuring a sibling's pet to frighten the sibling).

Research on the abuse of pets reveals the following:
  • A youngster harming - or killing - a family pet is a precursor to some very serious violent behavior. Research in psychology and criminology shows that kids and teens who commit acts of cruelty against animals don't stop there – many of them move on to their fellow humans.
  • Acts of cruelty toward animals are the first signs of violent pathology that includes human victims.
  • Animal abuse is not just the result of a minor personality flaw in the abuser, but a symptom of a deep mental disturbance.
  • Kids who abuse animals most likely are repeating a lesson learned at home from their moms and dads or guardians. They are reacting to anger or frustration with violence.
  • Kids who harm family pets are at risk for other kinds of acting-out behavior and need immediate help.
  • Domestic abuse is directed toward the powerless; animal abuse and youngster abuse often goes hand and hand.
  • Police records indicate that a history of cruelty to animals is one of the traits that regularly appear in its computer records of adult violent criminals. Violent and aggressive criminals are more likely to have abused animals as kids.
  • The youngster's violence is directed at the only individual in the family more vulnerable than himself — an animal.
  • What also goes along with torturing animals is setting fires. If you smell smoke, you'd better take it seriously.

Here are some “red-flag” behaviors that a youngster may exhibit towards a pet:
  1. Chasing after an obviously scared pet
  2. Intentionally feeding pets harmful substances
  3. Intentionally putting an animal in danger such as throwing it out the window or kicking it onto a busy street
  4. Locking pets inside enclosed spaces
  5. Taking pleasure in watching a pet who is in pain
  6. Tying strings or chords on pet’s neck, limbs or paws
  7. Violently lashing out at a pet after being reprimanded by an adult

Once detected, it is advisable that moms and dads step-in and immediately correct the behavior before it worsens.

What Parents Can Do About the Abuse of Pets—

One of the most powerful tools we have for preventing cruelty to pets is education. It is important to plant the seeds of kindness in kids early, and to nurture their development as the youngster grows. Kids not only need to learn what they shouldn't do, but also what they can do. When kids see that their pets are happy and loving, it will make the youngster feel good, too. This in turn will help the kids care for their pets' feelings.

Kids need proper education, too. Please urge your local schools to integrate humane education into their curricula. To help you, your local shelter may have outreach programs, education materials, camps, etc.

Every youngster is unique, and grown-ups should use caution and careful thought when discussing cruelty with kids. In general, kids under the age of four simply should not be exposed to cruelty. Two-year-olds can begin to learn that their actions make others (including pets) happy and sad. With two- and three-year-olds, discuss their own experiences and how they would feel if they were treated the way they treat their pets or other pets in their immediate lives. Help them relate not only the ways they would feel hurt, but also the ways they would feel happy.

With all kids under six or so, you may wish to help guide their hands so they can learn how to pet and hold their animal companions. Kids do not have fine control over their movements and impulses—they will want to treat their pets with love, but will need a little help from you to do it correctly.

Kids who are between about four and six often begin to understand basic moral concepts, such as fairness. These kids can learn to be kind to pets because the pets "deserve" it. Kids may discuss injuries they have had themselves, but do not introduce discussions about other types of injuries. Try to limit discussions of animal cruelty to the simple fact that pets can be hurt; do not describe how they can be hurt (e.g., starvation, physical abuse, etc.).

With most kids who are six to ten years old, you can begin to discuss why someone might be mean to an animal (as long as you make sure the youngster always keeps in mind that it is wrong to hurt pets). In addition, do not let discussions of animal cruelty satisfy the morbid curiosity some kids of this age may have. Kids of this age often form some of their earliest memories and impressions about the state of the world beyond their families. It is very important that grown-ups filter what these kids perceive! Even if kids witness violence as a "bad example" or as a way NOT to act, they are still witnessing violence, and can be strongly affected by it.

Many kids between 10 and 14 are exploring their self-image and reflecting upon their relationships with others. Studies indicate that kids of this age are still strongly affected by violence, so discussions about animal cruelty should still be kept free of details about the violence. Nonetheless, the issue can be raised directly—if delicately—with most of these kids. Grown-ups should make it clear that they do not condone violence in their own thoughts and behavior. Kids of this age are finely attuned to the words and actions of adults, and still rely on them as role models.

Moms and dads, educators, and trusted adults can also discuss with 10- to 14-year-olds how they would act if their peers or friends treated pets cruelly. By couching the advice in terms of what you would do if you were in a given situation, you can help kids overcome peer pressure and follow what they know is right. These kids may encounter others abusing pets—knowing that they are in the right and will be supported for standing up to it is very important at this age of strong peer pressure.

Again, with all kids – even older teens – keep in mind the importance of modeling appropriate behaviors. Our kids do emulate us, even if they wouldn't admit it. If we treat pets cruelly or as unfeeling machines, our kids will probably think that this is right or, at least, normal. The more a youngster identifies with an adult, the greater an impact that person will have on the youngster-in both good ways and bad ways.

Kids who know of animal cruelty should tell a grown-up about it. Make sure kids know who they can trust—such as moms and dads, educators, police, etc.—and nurture their trust so they can tell you.

It's vital that children who hurt pets receive intervention — including counseling and a ban on contact with animals — to prevent their violence from continuing. It's also crucial that animal guardians protect their dogs and cats from abuse and other dangers by keeping them indoors and never leaving them outdoors unattended.

Although vandalism may represent costly and psychologically significant destructiveness, smashed windshields and graffitied walls do not feel pain or cry out when they are damaged. Pets, however, do express their distress when they have been abused, and their distress calls out for attention. This article has provided an overview of the under-reported and under-studied phenomenon of pet abuse in childhood and adolescence. Addressing cruelty to animals as a significant form of aggressive and antisocial behavior may add one more piece to the puzzle of understanding and preventing youth violence.

Help for Abusive Children and Teens

How to Settle Arguments Between Siblings

As close as brothers and sisters can be, they can also be fierce rivals. It is common for sibs to be playing peacefully one moment and arguing or fighting the next. Sibs learn to interact and get along with others by first learning how to live peacefully with a brother or sister. A youngster who has sibs is taught from firsthand experience how to see another person’s point of view, how to settle disputes, how to compromise, and how to show affection and not hold a grudge.

Some situations require a parent’s intervention. You’ll know it’s time to mediate when:

1. You know the argument has gone too far when your youngster is already bawling, screaming, or throwing a fit. He can neither reason nor be reasoned with fairly in this frustrated condition.

2. You’ll easily recognize when an argument is going nowhere (e.g. “Did, too!” “Did not!” “Did, too!” “Did not!”). Don’t let it reach boiling point, and don’t bother asking who started it. Since children have short attention spans, at this point, they’ve probably even forgotten how the fight started.

3. Since they can’t express themselves clearly, children sometimes resort to hitting to release their frustration. Whether it’s a “harmless nudge” or an “innocent push,” moms and dads should intervene. Otherwise, children might conclude that physical aggression is a valid way to solve problems.

4. When the dialogue has veered from the issue and has become an exchange of cruel and disrespectful remarks (e.g. “You’re retarded!”) and maybe even bad words, it’s time to draw the line.

5. If one youngster is bigger or older than the other and is getting physical, it’s time to intervene. Intervening between two siblings is one way of teaching older children to practice tolerance toward their younger siblings.

The “Kid-of-the-Week” Method for Mediating Sibling Arguments--

1. Line up your children and, one by one, take their individual pictures.

2. Make a little frame that will hold the picture and add a magnetic strip to the back so that it will stick to the refrigerator.

3. On the frame in easy-to-read letters write these words: “Kid of the Week.”

4. Put the pictures in a hat, randomly select one and slip it in the frame. This youngster will be the first Kid of the Week. Select a second one and this will be the next kid of the week. Keep doing this until you run out of kids.

5. Now the problem is solved. Whoever is Kid of the Week gets first option on whatever is up for debate. If there is ever an argument over who gets to sit where, who gets to go first, or who gets to use the TV remote, just ask the question: Who is Kid of the Week? They will know and the problem is solved.

6. If you have more than two kids the next choice goes to the next Kid of the Week and on down the line. Just make sure you keep the pictures in order and rotate them at the beginning of the week. Trust me – your children will make sure you do this.

7. You may want to do more than just settle arguments. Whoever is Kid of the Week also has additional responsibilities. For example, Kid of the Week has to empty the garbage cans, help clean up the kitchen, and be the first to carry out other chores when needed. Use Kid of the Week to teach that “with privileges come responsibilities.”

8. Implement Kid of the Week and have fun with it. It's a great teaching tool and it settles a multitude of arguments. The only other thing you will need to do is figure out a way to keep them from gloating: "Ha, ha, I'm kid of the week!"

It may be impossible for moms and dads to be around all the time to mediate, but proper conflict resolution needs to be modeled as much as possible. This means that in the end, all parties involved must be willing to compromise and to give in to the other’s needs and wants.

Discipline for Defiant Teens

How To Ground Your Child

As most parents know, grounding is a technique effective with school-age children and teenagers and involves restricting the child to a certain place, usually home or his room, as punishment. But, unfortunately, most parents do not know the proper way to use grounding, and instead, ground too long – or not long enough. The result: grounding totally loses its effectiveness, and the parent complains, “I’ve tried everything with this child –and nothing works!”

How To Ground Your Child - 20 Tips for Parents:

1. Age appropriate groundings are a vital consideration. Little kids who are put in 'time out' are in effect being grounded. At this age, time outs and groundings need to be timed in minutes. The rule of thumb for time outs, groundings or withholding of privileges should be commensurate with age, but only up to a certain point. Kids under about six years of age should be given incremental time outs in minutes. Time outs should last no more than about one to two minutes per year. Between the ages of six to ten, you can start to ground kids to the yard or house for a few hours to a day at a time.

2. Be prepared to alter your routine in order to enforce the grounding. This may mean making small sacrifices and inconveniencing one or more members of your family. Making small sacrifices now will reap benefits in the future for you and your youngster. So, if grounding your daughter means that one parent stays home with her and misses the family’s Saturday pizza night, so be it.

3. Be ready to take extra steps to enforce the grounding if need be. If your child leaves the house and goes to the party anyway, go and get him. This action lets him know that you mean business. Don’t worry about embarrassing your child, since his friends probably already know that he’s supposed to be grounded anyway.

4. Consider reprieves, but only for good behavior, and often only if the grounding was initially too ‘over-the-top’. Prepare to apologize as well, and be sincere, because in a fit of anger, parents often make the punishments too harsh, then cool down and realize they made a mistake.

5. Good things to ground children from are: sugary snacks or candy, television, computer, video games, IPod, cell phone, special events (e.g., going to a friend's house, after school party, trip to McDonald's or some other junk food venue, etc.).

6. Grounding for a week or longer is difficult to follow through with. Within a week's time, many activities take place. Mothers/fathers must constantly decide whether each activity is included in the grounding. It's also difficult to simply follow through at all on a long grounding. Parents who take away the driver's license for a month often shoot themselves in the foot. For one thing, this means that the parents need to provide transportation to work, school and other events that are not included in the grounding.

7. Grounding must be done in small increments of time (i.e., minutes, hours, or days). Then, if kids defy the grounding, it is increased in small amounts as well. If the original amount of grounding time is large (e.g., 2 weeks), moms and dads risk escalating their youngster’s defiance rather quickly. CASE EXAMPLE: Talking on the phone instead of doing homework. Normal Consequence: Cell phone taken away for one day and evening. First Escalation: Cell taken away for one additional day/night. Second Escalation: Three days. Third Escalation: Four days.

8. If your child retaliates by destroying your stuff or making a mess, then it is appropriate to add to the grounding. However, it should be O.K. for a youngster to discharge his anger through screaming and yelling, but it is never acceptable for him to take his anger out on someone else or his property.

9. Try to give a definite date for the end of the grounding. Prisoners almost always know when their sentences will end, when they have committed far worse crimes. Knowing when the grounding will end will be reassuring to the youngster, while still being effective.

10. Be calm whenever you impose any kind of punishment and avoid any form of aggression. Keep in mind that grounding should be a removal of privilege not an administering of harm.

11. Kids should not be grounded from school field trips or special interest group activities, sports practices, Boy Scout camping trips, youth group functions, band concerts, choir presentations, sports events in which they participate.

12. Never withhold meals or other necessities from a youngster during grounding.

13. Kids should not be grounded from visiting relatives. For example, they should be permitted to go on outings with grandparents (otherwise, you are punishing the grandparents, too). Find something else to withhold.

14. Lift the grounding when your youngster must go to someone’s home (e.g., to be watched while you are at work). Continuing the grounding is difficult for the ‘caretaking adult’ to follow through with. It may cause some tensions that will only have an adverse affect on the desired outcome of the punishment.

15. Make sure that you know whether or not the child’s disobedience was deliberate. Believe it or not, often what seems to be a knowing disobedience is actually something a youngster thought was O.K., and being punished for that could take him by surprise and teach him that you are just waiting to take away his things. Sometimes, kids even forget things, and the proper way to deal with forgetting a chore is to have the youngster do an extra chore for payment.

16. Make sure the punishment fits the crime. Example: If a youngster keeps on imitating fights seen on TV and uses knives, forks, or anything else that is dangerous, then TV restriction is a good course of action.

17. Make sure the situation the youngster is being grounded from is something she really sees as punishment. If she doesn’t seem to care whether or not she goes to her grandfather’s birthday party, ground her on another day when she’ll miss going out with her friends. If your youngster enjoys spending time alone in her room, restricting her to her room will serve to reward her instead of punishing her. Try taking a privilege away instead, or require her to spend some time outside her room.

18. Once you have grounded the youngster, prepare for him to protest, scream, and throw a fit. If that happens, ignore him, and he will soon realize you will not listen to his whining.

19. Only on the rarest occasions should your child be grounded from playing with other kids. If they get into trouble together, or if the youngster is a threat or danger to your youngster, then it would be acceptable to ground your child from seeing the other child.

20. There is a point at which the grounding has the opposite effect from the desired correction (i.e., the point of saturation). For the first few days of grounding, the youngster often feels a certain remorse for the behavior. Whether they admit it or not, most kids understand why they were grounded, if it was an appropriate grounding. After a few days to a week, children begin to get bored and restless. Resentment begins to set in and what was initially effective, corrective discipline backfires.

MODIFIED GROUNDING—

Many moms and dads use grounding as a discipline technique with their teenagers. However, when parents ground their teenagers for long periods (e.g., several weeks or more) it often loses its effectiveness because there is typically little incentive for teenagers to behave well during the grounding. Also, when parents ground teenagers for a long period of time, they often give in and reduce the length of grounding because of the restraints it places on the whole family. When this happens, teenagers learn their mother/fathers won't follow through with the grounding they impose.

The modified grounding procedure described below involves brief and intense grounding, but the teen is allowed the opportunity to earn his way off grounding by completing a job assignment. This technique is most appropriate for older kids (e.g., 12-17 year olds).

Points to consider when using modified grounding:

1. After your teen has completed the assigned job(s), he should come to you so that his performance can be checked. If the job has been done well, it is important to briefly praise your teen for the job performance and inform him that the grounding is over. If the job has not been completed satisfactorily, briefly provide feedback to your teen on the aspects of the job that have been done well and those that need additional work. Be specific in what additional work needs to be done. Try to handle corrective feedback in a matter-of-fact manner without nagging, lecturing, or becoming upset.

2. Grounding is severe and means staying in one's own room (or an assigned room) except for attending school, eating meals, or performing chores. During grounding there should be no television, no video games, no radio or tape players, no other games/toys, no visitors, no telephone calls, no snacks, no reading materials except school books, and no outside social activities. If a family outing is scheduled, a sitter should be used so that the grounded teen remains at home while the moms and dads and other family members can still go on the family outing.

3. Sit down with your teen and develop a list of 10-15 jobs that often need to be done around the home. Do not sit down with your teen to start this procedure at a time when your teen is about to be punished. Choose a time when your teen is behaving well to discuss the technique and to create a list of jobs. These jobs should not be chores that the teen is expected to do on a regular basis. These jobs should take a significant amount of time to complete (e.g., at least 1-2 hours). The jobs should also be things that your teen is capable of doing. Examples of such jobs include washing the windows in the house, cleaning out the garage, and cleaning the bathroom.

4. After a list of jobs has been created, your teen should be told that when he misbehaves to the degree that grounding is necessary, this new discipline technique will be used. Immediately after the misbehavior has occurred, the teen will be told he is grounded and an index card will be picked at random. The teen will be completely grounded until that job has been completed to the parent's satisfaction. For particularly significant misbehavior, more than one card can be drawn.

5. It is critical that you not nag your teen about the jobs to be done. The rules of grounding should only be explained to your teen once.

6. Write each individual job on a separate index card. This description should include a very detailed description of exactly what is required to do the job satisfactorily. For example, cleaning the garage would involve removing all objects from the garage, removing cobwebs on the ceilings, sweeping the floor, hosing/scrubbing the floor, and replacing objects in an organized and neat fashion. If some jobs are relatively brief, it is possible to combine jobs together so that all cards have a job assignment that will take approximately the same total time to complete.

7. Remember to frequently praise and give teenagers positive feedback when they are behaving well. As with any punishment technique, grounding will only be optimally effective when there is a positive and loving relationship between mothers/fathers and their teenagers.

Using the modified grounding procedure, your teen earns his way off grounding. Therefore, your teen basically determines how long the grounding will last. Grounding may last anywhere from just a few hours to several days. If the grounding lasts more than several days, it is important to check to make sure your teen is being appropriately grounded (e.g., they're not sneaking television/radio).

Parenting Techniques for Difficult Teens

How to Conduct Successful Family Meetings

Family meetings help busy families stay connected, improve communication, self-esteem, emotional support and problem solving. Another advantage of family meetings is that they eliminate the need for nagging. If a solution is not followed during the week, the person who notices this can simply write the item on the agenda again. At the next meeting, the family can discuss the consequences of not following the agreed-upon rules until a consensus is reached on that.

Family meetings are good times to set house rules. You are relaxed and the kids are more receptive. Spur-of-the-moment rules ("You're grounded!") made when you are angry are likely to be unfair and un-followed.

Getting together to sort out discipline problems is a valuable way for moms and dads and kids to express their concerns. Discipline problems that involve one youngster should be handled privately, but there are times when all the kids get a bit lax in the self-control department and the whole family needs a reminder.

Suppose your house is continually a mess. Call a family meeting and invite suggestions from the kids on how to keep the house tidy. Use a chalkboard to make it more businesslike. Write down the problem and propose solutions. Put together a "kids want/parents want" list in order to set goals. To avoid “chore wars,” assign each youngster a room to tidy-up. Then you will know who is responsible and who to compliment.

Formulate house rules for happier living. Arriving at a general consensus is better than voting, which has winners and losers. Try a suggestion box and have the kids write their suggestions on little cards. You'll learn a lot about your living habits that way. One father got a suggestion from his teenage daughter: "Dad, please ask me to help instead of demanding that I help."

You can use family councils to help a youngster solve a problem. Develop a share-and-care atmosphere. Make the meeting fun. Besides your living room, try other meeting places (e.g., family picnic at the park). “Meetings” shape family behavior and are a forum in which to foster family communication.

Important Tips for Successful Family Meetings—

1. The first meeting sets the tone. Plan for it! Have a short fun game, a nice refreshment, and positive comments or rewards.

2. After meetings are a well-accepted routine, do not use the Family Meeting time only to resolve conflicts, but also to work out schedules, talk about good news, and to plan for fun, making sure all meetings are sprinkled with a healthy amount of humor, praise and rewards.

3. Allow the kids a chance to talk. If you are raising allegations against them, give the kids a chance to explain themselves or provide reasoning for their actions. Make sure the meeting does not turn into a lecture by promoting the kid's ability to speak and be heard.

4. At the first meeting remind everyone to contribute to the conversation, listen to others and to be supportive, not critical.

5. Create a procedure that begins and ends the Family Meeting on a positive note. Moms and dads can say something positive about every youngster, and at the end of the meeting, every youngster can say something positive about the other person on their left, for example.

6. Discuss all the materials that you wanted to discuss. If you are there to discuss certain misbehavior by one of the kids, do this concisely. Do not beat around the bush, as this can aggravate the kids, making them more difficult to speak to about it.

7. Don't let the desire to solve problems get you into a situation where sensitive matters are brought out in front of everyone. The Family Meeting is a public forum, and not the place to "gang" up on moms and dads, children, or solve multiple conflicts. This can get out of control quickly, and respect for moms and dads and children alike is extremely important.

8. In most families, discussions of chores usually take up a good deal of meeting time, at least at the beginning. To get started with this, it is helpful to use a meeting to make a list of all the jobs that need to be done daily, weekly, and monthly. Be sure to include in this list all the jobs the adults do that might otherwise be taken for granted, such as earning money, paying the bills, and shopping for groceries. One way to divide up the chores is to ask for volunteers to take responsibility for each one. After you reach agreement on this, someone can write up an individual job list for each family member. Trading job assignments is another way to divide up chores. For example, one youngster may hate taking out the trash but would be willing to do laundry. Trading can be good, but moms and dads should make sure that no one is taken advantage of in this process. Another way to assign chores is to rotate them systematically among family members each week or month, or distribute them randomly at each meeting. There are many creative solutions, and whatever system your family agrees to is the one that will work the best. Whatever system you use, you can expect some aspect of chores to keep reappearing on the family meeting agenda. This ongoing negotiation, although time-consuming, is important to the success of the family unit.

9. It is important to have a written agenda. If something is eliminated, moms and dads need to meet with the youngster and explain why (e.g., some things are personal, some things are ridiculous, some things are argumentative, etc).

10. It's helpful to use the Family Meeting to discuss consequences for certain behaviors; children will often come up with penalties parents would think were too strict. While moms and dads are still in charge, letting children pick their "punishment" to a certain degree is helpful.

11. Maintain order in the meeting by having the adults speak first. This will set the stage for what the meeting is going to be about. State clearly what you are going to be talking about and in what order things will be spoken about. Make sure the group knows that only one person is permitted to speak at a time to prevent confusion and agitation.

12. Meetings work best if no one adds any items to the agenda once the meeting has started. In order for meetings to run smoothly, there needs to be a chairperson and a secretary. These responsibilities should change each week so that each member of the family has a chance to participate in the leadership; as soon as kids are old enough to do these jobs, they should have their turn.

13. Mom and dad should be the co-moderators for meetings in the beginning. Share the moderator duties with kids as you go along.

14. Moms and dads listen for and acknowledge the feelings that are expressed, ask open-ended questions to clarify the problem, and then brainstorm solutions with the entire family.

15. Moms and dads model making an action plan and help kids set a specific goal to continue positive experiences or address problems identified this week.

16. Moms and dads offer praise, encouragement and support for the good things that each person mentions.

17. Prohibit arguing in the meeting by snuffing it out before it begins. If you see a disagreement begin to develop, do what you can to resolve it right away.

18. Pick a day when all can attend. This may take some discussion but be firm and in the end, just pick a date. Sacrifice might be necessary, but promise short meetings and stick to it.

19. Set a scheduled time for meetings, post it where everyone will see and stick to the time. If moms and dads are committed to the project, it will have more impact.

20. Some families have discovered the importance of starting and ending on time. Unfinished items can be carried over to another meeting, even if it needs to be the next day. In any case, meetings should have a definite end; it's fun to end with a special dessert or a short game, if time permits.

21. Sometimes moms and dads report that their kids are at first resistant to the idea of family meetings, thinking that this is merely a new trick to get the kids to do what the moms and dads want. When this occurs, parents should restrict the agenda items of the first few meetings to pleasant topics that are not emotionally charged, such as planning a family trip or discussing how to celebrate an upcoming birthday.

22. Strive for consensus rather than always voting. It is worth finding solutions that everyone is happy with, even when this requires more time. Consensus means that each solution should have 100 percent agreement among all family members before the next agenda item is taken up. When consensus is hard to reach on a specific issue, the chairperson can ask if everyone agrees to end the discussion, but to have that issue be first on the agenda at the next meeting. Perhaps it is possible to reach consensus on a compromise.

23. Talk about the activities for the days and week ahead. Briefly discussing what everyone has ahead of them is a great way to help children stay informed and to actually understand what others in the family do. Children tend to be self-focused, which is part of their "age and stage." This becomes increasingly important as kids grow older and participate in numerous activities. This skill will also help them learn organization skills, all important for the future.

24. The chairperson's job is to see that each agenda item is addressed in order, to ensure that no one interrupts the person speaking, and to keep the discussion on the topic at hand. The secretary writes down the decisions reached.

25. The magic number of rules for comfortable meetings seems to be 5. Having too many rules is just like too many cooks in a kitchen. Confusion is the result. It will weigh the meeting down, and someone will have to be the "enforcer." This is common even in the corporate world. After 5 rules, even adults seem to mentally clock out. Add more rules over time, as things come up. Keep it Simple!

26. The Nuts and Bolts of the Meetings can bog everyone down. Keep agenda items brief, remembering it is the process that's important. Listening to others, contributing to decisions, having fun are all time important.

27. There will be pouting! Ignore the pouting that may occur when some don't get their way. Expect it. It will go away largely on its own as they see that everyone at one time or another "loses" part of their requests and desires as compromises are born.

28. Try to eliminate the "That's not fair!" complaint. Fairness will often appear to be for the goodness of all, not necessarily the individual. Ii think this word is highly over used. We need to teach our kids how to accept things that are not fair because they're going to run into it a lot!! "Fair" is subjective. Giving in is an important trait, family members need to know that sacrificing their personal desires and "vote" sometimes is normal and right. You can keep your opinion, even though the family may feel the need to not act on it.

29. Try to keep the agendas of your family meetings centered around issues that have a tangible effect on you, such as issues of noise, use of the TV or the family car, help with chores, and messes in the common areas of your home.

30. Close the meeting on a positive note. Perhaps end it with ordering pizza or going out for a snack. This will help the kids associate the family meetings with positive things rather than boring or disciplinary things. If discipline is necessary, still try to do what you can to make the end of the meeting positive. Be lenient if you can or allow the youngster a chance to apologize in exchange for a lighter sentence. However, to ensure the apology is heartfelt, do not tell the youngster beforehand that there will be a lighter sentence.

Family meetings should:
  • be balanced by containing some rules, some firmness, some fun
  • be pleasant
  • be short
  • be uninterrupted by the world
  • contain structure but not be weighed down heavily by it
  • have a direction, purpose and easily determined focus (no one should leave the meeting thinking "Huh? What was this about?”)
  • involve everyone, stressing sharing, taking turns, and listening to others

Examples of common topics of family conflict are:
  • Borrowing other's possessions with or without permission
  • Division of chores
  • Interrupting others
  • Leaving lights on and other family budget matters
  • Showing respect for others (e.g., entering bedrooms without knocking, picking up after yourself, monopolizing electronic game time/TV/music/phone/computer)
  • Use of the bathroom

Use the 'Go Around' method for discussions. Go around the circle, giving each family member the opportunity to respond to the topic:

Topic 1: Something that made you feel good this week.
Topic 2: Something that bothered you this week.
Topic 3: Something that you want to work on or accomplish next week.
Topic 4: Your schedule for the week. What meetings, appointments, tests, special events or projects you have this week.

My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents

The Strong-Willed Out-of-Control Teen

The standard disciplinary techniques that are recommended for “typical” teenagers do not take into account the many issues facing teens with serious behavioral problems. Disrespect, anger, violent rages, self-injury, running away from home, school failure, hanging-out with the wrong crowd, drug abuse, theft, and legal problems are just some of the behaviors that parents of defiant teens will have to learn to control.

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