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Educating Your Child About S e x

Answering children's questions about sex is one of the responsibilities many mothers/fathers dread most. Otherwise confident parents often feel tongue-tied and awkward when it comes to conversations about sex. But the subject shouldn't be avoided. By answering children's questions as they arise, parents can help foster healthy feelings about sex.

Q & A: Educating Your Child About Sex

1. At what age should females be told about menstruation?

Females (and males!) should have information about menstruation by about age 8, some of which may be provided in school. Instructional books are helpful, but moms should also share their own personal experiences with their daughters, including when their periods first started and what it felt like, and how, like many things, it wasn't such a big deal after a while.

2. At what age should nudity in the home be curtailed?

Families set their own standards for nudity, modesty, and privacy. Although every family's values are different, privacy is an important concept for all children to learn. Moms and dads should explain limits regarding privacy the same way that other house rules are explained — matter-of-factly — so that children don't come to associate privacy with guilt or secrecy. Generally, they'll learn from the limits you establish for them.

3. Is it OK to use nicknames for private parts?

By the time a youngster is 3 years of age, mothers/fathers may choose to use the correct anatomical words. They may sound clinical, but there is no reason why the proper label shouldn't be used when the youngster is capable of saying it. These words — penis, vagina, etc. — should be stated matter-of-factly, with no implied silliness. That way, the youngster learns to use them in a direct manner, without embarrassment. In fact, this is what most parents do. A Gallup Poll showed that 67% of parents use actual names to refer to male and female body parts.

4. To what extent can mothers/fathers depend on schools to teach sex education?

Moms and dads should begin the sex education process long before it starts in school. The introduction of formal sex education in the classroom varies; many schools start it in the fifth or sixth grade. Some of the topics addressed in sex-ed class may include anatomy, contraception, sexually transmitted diseases, and pregnancy. Parents should be open to continuing the dialogue and answering questions at home. Schools tend to teach mechanics and science more than values. This is an area where parents can and should have something to teach.

5. What do you tell a very young child who asks where babies come from?

Depending on the youngster's age, you can say that the baby grows from an egg in the mommy's womb, pointing to your stomach, and comes out of a special place, called the vagina. There is no need to explain the act of lovemaking because very young children will not understand the concept. However, you can say that when a man and a woman love each other, they like to be close to one another. Tell them that the man's sperm joins the woman's egg and then the baby begins to grow. Most children under the age of 6 will accept this answer. Age-appropriate books on the subject are also helpful. Answer the question in a straightforward manner, and you will probably find that your youngster is satisfied with a little information at a time.

6. What should you do if you catch children "playing doctor" (i.e., showing private parts to each other)?

Children 3 to 6 years old are most likely to "play doctor." Many mothers/fathers overreact when they witness or hear of such behavior. Heavy-handed scolding is not the way to deal with it. Nor should parents feel this is or will lead to promiscuous behavior. Often, the presence of a parent is enough to interrupt the play. You may wish to direct your youngster's attention to another activity without making a lot of fuss. Later, sit down with your youngster for a talk. Explain that although you understand the interest in his or her friend's body, but that people are generally expected to keep their bodies covered in public. This way you have set limits without having made the youngster feel guilty. This is also an appropriate age to begin to talk about good and bad touch. Tell children that their bodies are their own and that they have the right to privacy. No one should touch children if they don't like it or want it. Tell them that if anyone ever touches them in a way that feels strange or bad, they should tell that person to stop it and then tell you about it. Explain that you want to know about anything that makes your children feel bad or uncomfortable.

7. What sort of "sexual" behavior do young children exhibit?

Toddlers will often touch themselves when they are naked, such as in the bathtub or while being diapered. At this stage of development, they have no modesty. Their mothers/fathers' reaction will tell them whether their actions are acceptable. Toddlers should not be scolded or made to feel ashamed of being interested in their bodies. It is natural for kids to be interested in their own bodies. Some moms and dads may choose to casually ignore self-touching. Others may want to acknowledge that, while they know it feels good, it is a private matter. Moms and dads can make it clear that they expect the youngster to keep that activity private. Parents should only be concerned about masturbation if a youngster seems preoccupied with it to the exclusion of other activities. Victims of sexual abuse sometimes become preoccupied with self-stimulation.

8. When do children start becoming curious about sex?

Kids are human beings and therefore sexual beings. It's hard for mothers/fathers to acknowledge this, just as it's hard for children to think of their parents as sexually active. But even infants have curiosity about their own bodies, which is healthy and normal.

9. When should mothers/fathers sit children down for that all-important "birds and bees" talk?

Actually, never! Learning about sex should not occur in one all-or-nothing session. It should be more of an unfolding process, one in which children learn, over time, what they need to know. Questions should be answered as they arise so that children' natural curiosity is satisfied as they mature. If your youngster doesn't ask questions about sex, don't just ignore the subject. At about age 5, you can begin to introduce books that approach sexuality on a developmentally appropriate level. Moms and dads often have trouble finding the right words, but many excellent books are available to help.

10. Why Do Kids Need to Know About Sex and Sexuality?

Understanding sexuality helps children cope with their feelings and with peer pressure. It helps them take charge of their lives and have loving relationships. It also helps protect them from sexual abuse — and from becoming sexual abusers. Home can be the most meaningful place to learn about sexuality. We can help our children feel good about their sexuality from the very beginning. Then they will be more likely to trust us enough to ask questions about sex later on in life. Young people are less likely to take sexual risks if they have:

• a connection to home, family, and other caring adults in their community, school, or religious institution
• a positive view of sexuality
• a sense that their actions affect what happens
• clarity about their own values and an understanding of their families’ values
• information that they need to take care of their sexual health
• interpersonal skills, such as assertiveness and decision-making abilities
• self-esteem and self-confidence

11. When's the Best Time to Start Talking with My Kids About Sex and Sexuality?

It's best to start as soon as kids begin getting sexual messages. And they start getting them as soon as they're born. Kids learn how to think and feel about their bodies and their sexual behavior from things we do and say — from the way we hold them, talk to them, dress them, teach them the words for their body parts, give them feedback on their behavior, and behave in their presence. But don't worry if you haven't started yet. It's never too late. Just don't try to "catch up" all at once. The most important thing is to be open and available whenever a youngster wants to talk.

12. How Do I Start a Conversation About Sex and Sexuality?

Some moms and dads look forward to talking with their kids about the wonders of human reproduction and human sexuality. But many find it difficult to talk about important topics like relationships and sex and sexuality. The good news is that, if we pay attention, we can find many everyday moments in our lives that can prompt conversations about these topics:

• Models in print ads or on billboards may make us think about and question our own bodies and body image.
• Our favorite TV show may feature a character going through puberty.
• Our neighbor or friend may be pregnant.

Some moms and dads call these “teachable moments.” Take time to recognize the teachable moments that give you opportunities to talk about sex and sexuality with your youngster. Spend a week or so noticing how topics you‘d like to discuss come up in your family’s everyday life. Think about what you might ask your youngster about them to get conversations going. And think about your own opinions and values about these topics, and how you can express them clearly to your youngster.

After you’ve thought about what you want to say on a subject, use the next teachable moment that comes up. The first few times you do this, kids may be cautious and ask, “Why do you want to know?” Or they may search for an answer they think will please you. It may take several tries before you can speak comfortably together.

13. What If I’m Uncomfortable Talking About Sex with My Children?

Don’t let fear get in the way. Being open and available about subjects such as sex and sexuality can be challenging. Some common fears that many parents have are:
  • Encouraging sexual experimentation. There is a myth that information about sex is harmful to kids and that it will lead to sexual experimentation. The fact is that our kids won’t be more likely to have sex if we talk about it. In reality, children who talk with their parents about sex are more likely to postpone having sex.
  • Feeling as though talking won’t make a difference. Kids look to their moms and dads to teach them about sexuality. Most young people prefer to hear about it from their parents than from other people. In fact, young adolescents place parents at the top of their list of influences when it comes to their sexual attitudes and behaviors.
  • Feeling embarrassed. It’s very common for parents or kids to feel embarrassed when talking about sex and sexuality. The best way to handle it is to admit how we’re feeling — we can simply say, “I might get a little tense or uncomfortable during this conversation, and you might, too. That’s okay for both of us — it’s totally normal.”
  • Looking dumb. Many of us weren’t taught about sex and sexuality, yet we may feel that we should know all the answers. But if our kids ask us about something we don’t know, we can simply say, “I don’t know. Let’s find out together.”

14. What Should I Tell My Kids — And When?

Kids have different concerns about sex at different ages. They also have different abilities to understand concepts — and different attention spans. If your five-year-old asks, “What is birth?” you might answer, “When a baby comes out a mother’s body.” If your 10-year-old asked the same question, your answer would have more detail, and might begin, “After nine months of growing inside a woman’s uterus …” Preteens and teens often spend a great deal of time wondering if they’re “normal”. We can help them understand that it is "normal" for everyone to be different. In fact, the most important lesson we can share with our children is just that — being different is normal. When deciding how much detail to give, moms and dads can rely on what they already know about their youngster’s level of understanding. Reading about what kids need to know at different ages could help you decide what is age-appropriate. Reading tips for talking with your kids about sexuality and how to answer their questions also may be helpful.

15. What are some ways to get “the conversation” started?

Sometimes asking your youngster a question is a great way to open up a conversation. Here are a few questions you might ask:

YOUNG KIDS—

• Your aunt is pregnant. Do you know what that means?
• Do you know why girls look different than boys?
• Do you know the names of all your body parts?

PRETEENS—

• At what age do you think a person should start dating? Have any of your friends started dating?
• Do you think girls and boys are treated differently? (If yes …) How?
• People change a lot during puberty. What have you heard about the changes of puberty? How do you feel about going through puberty?

TEENS—

• At what age do you think a person is ready to be a parent?
• At what age do you think a person is ready to have sex? How should a person decide?
• How have you changed in the last two years? What do you like and what do you not like about the changes?

My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents

Giving an Allowance: 5 Tips for Parents

Your 5-year-old son wants an allowance (because “all of his friends get one”). You wonder if he's old enough to handle the money and, if you give him one, how much should he get – and how often?

An allowance can be a great way to teach children money management skills and help them learn how to make decisions, deal with limited resources, and understand the benefits of saving and charitable giving. There's no single correct way to handle giving an allowance. Deciding when to start, how much to give, and whether you want to link the allowance to chores are choices that should fit your family.

Giving an Allowance: 5 Tips for Parents—

1. Should an allowance be tied to chores? This is a personal choice. Some experts think that it's important to make this connection so that children learn the relationship between work and pay. Others say that children should have a responsibility to help with housework, above and beyond any financial incentive. Ultimately, you must decide what works best for you. Whatever you decide, be sure that all parties understand the arrangement. If you give an allowance for doing housework, make sure that your children understand what their responsibilities are and the consequences of not doing them. You might want to involve them in choosing the chores and then keep a chart posted to remind them what needs to be done. It's important to be consistent. Following through on your promise to give a regular allowance sets a good example for your children and is incentive for them to honor their end of the bargain. If you don't keep up with the allowance, they might lose that incentive and stop doing the chores.

2. Once children become teens, you might want to provide a quarterly clothing allowance in addition to the weekly allowance. If you do, establish a reasonable budget and allow your children to spend it as they wish — but also to honor its limits. If your daughter chooses to buy a $90 dress or your son opts for a pricey pair of tennis shoes, for example, they might have to make compromises on other clothing choices.

3. When starting an allowance, no particular age is best for every kid. Having said this, consider starting an allowance by the time a youngster is 10 years old. By then, most children have had experience making thoughtful spending decisions but still look to moms and dads for guidance. How much allowance should you give? It depends on your financial situation and what kind of commitment you feel that you can comfortably keep. Regardless of how much you choose, give the allowance regularly and increase the amount as your youngster gets older.

4. How should children spend their allowance? It's good to have them use it for discretionary things, not essential purchases such as food or clothing. This lets children make buying decisions — and mistakes — without dire consequences. You might want to encourage children to put away a portion for charity and another portion for savings. If so, let them choose where to donate the money. It may be a cause that a youngster can relate to in some way, like an animal shelter or a group that helps sick children. If some of the allowance goes to savings, consider setting up an account at a local bank. This way, your youngster can keep track of the money. Many banks offer special bank accounts for children, and yours may enjoy the experience of getting mail, even if the mail is a bank statement.

5. How much should I give? There's no one dollar amount that's appropriate for all children. The amount you decide on should be sufficient to provide your youngster with some extra money so he'll learn how to handle it. There's no educational benefit in setting an allowance at an amount at which it's already decided how it will be spent before it's even received. Many factors go into fixing an allowance. The four main ones are listed here:

  • What the allowance is supposed to cover. If you expect your teen to buy all his own clothing from his allowance, then the dollars paid to him each week must be sufficient to allow for this extensive purchase. If you supplement an allowance with spending money, then a less generous allowance may be in order.
  • Where you live. Maybe keeping up with the Joneses isn't high on your list of priorities and you frequently tell your youngster, “I don't care that James has this or does that.” But, realistically, the neighborhood you live in can certainly influence how much allowance you give your youngster. What your youngster's best friend receives may not be a deciding factor, but it's a factor nonetheless.
  • Your youngster's age. Obviously, the older your youngster, the bigger the allowance (up to a certain point, at which your youngster may become too old for an allowance).
  • Your family income. Only you know how much your family can afford to allocate to allowances.

My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents

Enjoying a Headache-Free Vacation: 25 Tips for Parents

While travel is fun, family vacations introduce challenges, stressors, long stretches of boredom, and days of over-stimulation. Family vacations can be stressful times filled with tantrums and trouble, but it doesn't have to be that way. Use the tips below to survive your next family vacation:

1. The first thing that you can do is start by nipping the temper tantrums in the bud at home first. Remember that discipline will have to start at home if you expect it to continue when you are outside of the home. There have to be strict rules, and consequences for bad behavior. The key to ending the temper tantrums is sticking to whatever form of discipline you choose. Whatever punishments you use at home you will also want to use when you are away on vacation. This way your youngster will know that no matter what they do, and where they are you will end up suffering the consequences. If you are going to be traveling by plane, or boat and you have multiple kids, it can be very difficult to manage those little temper tantrums that occur. In this case you may want to consider taking along some help.

2. Accept that sometimes nothing you do is going to work. You may just need to wait the meltdown out. Try to stay calm and help your youngster reconnect and relax when it’s over. If she’s willing, try to figure out what set her off so you can avoid the situation next time.

3. Apologize to those around you. It may soften a few of the evil glances shot your way. It also shows you are trying to deal with the situation and understand that it may be inconveniencing others.

4. Be realistic. Children will only tolerate so much, and they do not have the capacity to cope that grown-ups have. Put yourselves in their shoes. If you would get antsy visiting a stuffy museum, imagine how they will feel spending the afternoon shopping. Keep the activities that clearly will only interest grown-ups to a minimum, or book a hotel with babysitting services so you can have some parents-only time.

5. Distract your youngster. If a meltdown is in the early stages, distraction may work. Look out the window for airplanes, offer a snack, a sip of soda, or even (if you're desperate) a piece of candy.

6. Don’t try to reason with your youngster. A youngster in the midst of a full blown meltdown doesn’t want to hear logic or reasons why he shouldn’t scream. Do try to reflect what you think your youngster is feeling back to them. “You’re tired because we’ve been flying all day” or “You wish your food would come faster because you’re very hungry,” etc.

7. Don’t try to teach limits on behavior with your words rather than consequences. This is a common mistake we all make. We start to see our children moving toward inappropriate behavior, or perhaps they're getting out of control, and you begin to remind them or lecture them or scorn them. As the day wears on, we find ourselves getting more and more of this. If you happen to have a youngster who is somewhat difficult or challenging, you know that this can escalate into a situation that quickly grows out of control. You avoid this mess by turning toward consequences, and not words. As you set your expectations with children, let them know what the consequence will be for their failure to honor a particular limit.

8. Don't let a youngster's tantrum ruin your vacation. If your youngster is going through this face you should be well prepared mentally that it will probably happen. Just consider this to be a phase you need to be able to deal with. Also you don't want to allow your youngster to see you get upset. If they see that no matter how they act you will stay calm, fewer temper tantrums will occur.

9. Grown-ups need fun too. Hire a babysitter for a night on the town and you will model to your kids the importance of taking care of your relationship. Ask the concierge about the babysitting services the hotel provides or recommends. Make sure that the sitters are screened for background checks, and that they are CPR and First Aid certified …then take some time to dance the night away. Also, book adjoining rooms for older kids so you can have some alone adult fun time too.

10. Head off the temper tantrums at the pass. As a mother or father, you notice the signs that a tantrum is brewing. It could be whining, or attempts to agitate their siblings, and you know that these are the early warning signs that the tantrum storm is coming. Take a minute and breathe before you respond. Kids pick-up on your emotional state and mirror it via the phenomena of mirror neurons, meaning if they are agitated then you are likely to mirror their emotional response, which only amplifies their tantrum. Research suggests taking a deep breath allows you to increase the flow of oxygen to your brain, whereby you’ll approach the situation from a calm and rational place, rather than reactive response. Take a breath, let your youngster know you understand how they feel, and then calmly talk with your youngster.

11. Ignore rude comments or looks. You aren’t the first parent to have this happen and you surely won’t be the last. You’ll most likely never see these people again and your youngster should be your focus.

12. Keep routines on vacation. This is easily the most overlooked, yet most crucial, aspect to keeping things sane and calm on your family vacation. It's so easy in the excitement of sightseeing and travel activities to throw routine out the window. It's also easy, since you're in a strange place without the comforts of home, to think routine cannot be maintained. You can keep a routine, even if it's done by following the simple things. Bring favorite toys and books. Maintain the same bedtime routines. If your youngster always naps at noon, it isn't fair to expect him or her to behave in a boring museum at that time. Go back to the hotel for lunch and a nap, and return to your day's activities afterwards. If your teen likes watching the Simpsons each evening, bring a DVD of the show and a portable DVD player.

13. Keep them entertained. The best thing you can do to keep the peace is to always be sure the kids are entertained. Bored children get grumpy, which leads to moms and dads who get grumpy. Pack a family travel tote bag for the road with easy-to-access items. Let them pick out favorite items to bring along for the trip.

14. Listen to your youngster. If he wants to sit on your lap, let him. If he’s incoherently babbling, encourage him to calm down and talk to you. Even though it probably won’t calm your youngster, it will let him know you’re listening and want to help.

15. Many kids have a difficult time with transitioning, going from one thing to the next, and for some kids a vacation is over-stimulating. They may have a difficult time with loud noises, new experiences, or may be sensitive to moving from one place to another. Often temper tantrums are a youngster’s way of expressing that they are overwhelmed. A little preparation can help with the transitions. Share with your youngster images of where you are going and talk about what they will see and experience. They can even begin a scrapbook with images of their vacation before they leave and complete it when they return, so they have a feeling of control over the experience. Pack a few things in your youngster’s travel backpack that will help your youngster with transitioning and waiting, such as favorite music on their mp3, favorite DVDs, a new coloring book, or a new toy. Remember to always pack snacks and juice or water; a hungry kid is a cranky kid (and that goes for grown-ups too).

16. Pick vacations that will have something each family member can enjoy. No, you don’t have to sacrifice grown-up time to enjoy a happy family vacation. Choose a location that will have something for everyone, such as a family friendly cruise with kid themed activities and lots of adult amenities or the family resort with the water park that suits mom’s desire to shop and dad’s golfing needs. If you have more than one youngster share some special “vacation alone time” with each youngster, where they can spend time with mom or dad doing an activity they choose.

17. Plan ahead, but be flexible. While it is wonderful to be spontaneous on vacation, planning ahead can avert many tantrums. If you know you want to see a certain attraction, it is best to head out first thing in the morning if you will need to return for a midday nap. If there will be long lines on Saturdays, visit popular spots on weekdays. Even so, with kids it is best to be ready to alter those plans at a moment's notice. Don't be so married to the idea that your road trip should last 6 hours that you don't give your kids enough of a chance to stop and stretch their legs.

18. Set standards of behavior. Your youngster may not be used to spending time in fancy restaurants or stuffy art galleries. Make it clear before you go that you expect good behavior on the trip. You can use the fun kid stuff as incentives. If your youngster acts up during your family vacation, remove the youngster from the situation or give a time-out on the spot. Do not allow a tantrum to dictate your behavior or result in a reward just for the sake of peace.

19. Take a break. Sometimes there is just so much that your youngster can experience in one day before they become overwhelmed. Create some downtime each day where they can just play in the pool or chill with their tunes. Be realistic for the developmental age of your youngster – and just how much activity is too much – and you will minimize exhaustion temper tantrums.

20. Take a deep breath. You need to stay calm in order to deal effectively with an out of control youngster. Count to ten if you need to before you try to help your youngster.

21. Take him to a quiet place. In a pinch, an airplane restroom or restaurant porch will do. The change of scenery may do the trick; at the very least it’ll help you feel calmer if there are fewer people around.

22. You may be working too hard to make them happy. All that you can do is expose them to a wonderful experience full of great opportunities for laughter and fun, and let them learn to accommodate long lines, disagreements with their siblings, and the need to get out of the sunshine before they get burned to death. In these moments of unhappiness, allow them to have their moment. You don't have to rescue them from it. In fact, they need to learn how to rescue themselves from this. This is a critical life lesson.

23. Consider shorter vacations. Rather than going on the traditional week-long excursion, consider a “weekend get-away” or a 4-day trip. Why go away for 7 days if the last 3 days are going to be pure hell.

24. At the risk of suggesting something illegal, some parents have been known to “borrow” a couple of valium from a friend for the “super-stressful moments” that may occur during the trip. Also, bring plenty of your favorite over-the-counter headache medicine

25. Keep the following tips in mind when taking a flight with kids:
  • Don't stress if they get upset
  • During boarding, take off and landing, talk to your children about what is happening - ask them to tell you what they see
  • Have a sucker or drink to help with ear popping
  • Let children burn off energy in airport before getting on plane
  • Lots of snacks, and activities
  • Make sure they are comfortable
  • Stay calm and prepare for the flight
  • Walk around plane when you can

My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents

Reducing Parent-Child Conflict

Parent-child conflict occurs for many reasons. When it does occur, the entire family can be thrown into emotional turmoil. Resolving a parent-child conflict requires the participation of everyone involved.

Communication is a very beneficial tool in resolving conflict. When parenting, we need to listen to our kids and consider their input. Understanding why parent-child conflict occurs and how to resolve it can help bring harmony back to the entire family.

An important feature of parent-child relationships that affects the negativity of conflicts is that the relationships are not voluntary (i.e., kids do not pick their moms and dads). Like marriage partners, moms and dads and their children develop considerable intimacy. More so than spouses, however, moms and dads and their kids are "bound" in a family relationship, which can serve to intensify serious conflicts between them. Family disputes often represent underlying relational struggles regarding power or intimacy.

Regardless of the "involuntary" nature of parent-child relationships, family conflict has the potential to positively impact kids in the long-run. Childhood conflict interactions can contribute positively to personal and social development because the child is learning conflict resolution skills (assuming the parent is modeling such skills during and after conflict arises). In addition, moms and dads can develop their negotiation skills in conflicts with their kids. To garner such positive rewards from conflict interactions, family members need two basic skills for conflict management: (a) flexibility versus rigidity and (b) the ability to manage conflict without escalating the severity of the problem.

I am often asked, “What is the best way to reduce conflict with my children?” The #1 thing parents can do to reduce conflict is to teach “self-reliance.” How? By giving them age-appropriate amounts of freedom.

Honor your kid’s need for freedom and exploration while teaching him/her to be safe. After all, you want your son or daughter to develop the ability to survive and thrive without you someday. You are not going to be around forever. You should want your youngster to safely and responsibly handle ever-increasing freedom. Thus, slowly increase the freedom you give your youngster while you teach her/him how to handle that additional freedom.

Your parenting job is to teach your kids to satisfy their need for freedom while you satisfy your need for keeping them safe. This is the process that helps moms and dads and kids handle their inherent conflict. (As an important side-note, safety always comes before freedom, which means that children will not always be able to do what they want if the parent views it as unsafe).

So the next time you get into an argument with your adolescent who wants permission to attend a birthday party that you are worried about, or your 10-year-old wants to go a movie with a friend without adult supervision, or your 3-year-old wants to wander further away from the front porch than you feel comfortable with, take a moment to remember the inherent conflict between you and your youngster. Is it possible for you to teach your youngster how to handle a little more freedom safely? Can you stretch the limit of what feels safe and comfortable for you, just a little? Take a chance of granting a little more freedom for your kids so that they can stretch their wings and learn to be safe with more freedom. This is fostering the development of self-reliance!



Best Comment:

First of all, I am not a parent, I am just shy of my 21st birthday but I am at my wits end with my younger 17-year-old sister and with my parents' ineffective attempts to deal with her.

The trickiest part about my family's situation is that virtually nobody outside of my immediate family experiences my sister's childish behavior. In some ways, I feel that this is somewhat my fault. When I was younger I was NEVER out of line, since I was in 6th grade I would come home by myself and get all my homework done immediately. The issue is that under these relaxed conditions, I never created any major problems but for my sister there have been disastrous consequences.

At home, my sister spends all of her time of facebook or watching junk television (a la Maury or Jerry Springer), NEVER does any homework and takes no responsibility for herself whatsoever. My parents come home to find messes everywhere such as dishes with old food left everywhere, food packages left out of the refrigerator, bathrooms that look booby-trapped smelling of hairspray with puddles everywhere and somehow she uses all the family shampoo in one shower and it ends up on the bathtub floor where I have slipped, her room looks like something out of A&E's Hoarders and she expects special treatment at the drop of a hat. If I do not get out of the living room to let her watch her show, I get tantrums and non-sequitor responses like "oh yeah, well we aren't going on vacation this year because your summer class cost too much money!", which is essentially her way of saying "well you're not perfect either so you can't tell me what to do so fuck off!"

Thing is, if I tell her to do anything she gets mad at me since I am an older brother, not a parent so I can't tell her what to do, but I'm really trying to avoid hearing a drawn out argument between her and my mother later which I cannot stand anymore. My mother is a lawyer and my father is an engineer and both work full time, they are two of the smartest and most diligent people I know so it drives me up the wall to see them come home every day to a nasty daughter who takes no responsibility for herself. She never cleans up after herself because she assumes she can get away with it and she's right, my parents would rather clean up the kitchen then argue with her about it which she will never do. She sees/saw a therapist and a tutor to help her with various school and home issues and organization respectively. Eventually she made appointments herself due to her complicated tennis schedule which interfered with her former times and she has essentially stopped making them. She did not see either of these expensive professionals as people to aide her to better herself but as a burden my parents placed upon her.

She sees any attempts of advice or direction such as "clean up after yourself" or "do your homework" as a violation of her privacy and the messes that she leaves for my parents to clean up again and again solidify to me that she does not give a shit about anybody else. No one she knows would believe any of this as far as I know; she puts on a facade outside. Perhaps worst of all, I feel like my dog is getting more and more unhealthy whenever I come back from school. In high school I my dog every day with a friend and his dog and would play fetch with a tennis ball every day for close to an hour. Now I am afraid that she gets walked twice a day at most for 15 minutes each. Once at around 7am and the other at around 9pm. She no longer gets any exercise and cannot run like she used to and it pains me to see that whenever I come home.

In short, my sister is utterly sloppy, rude and disrespectful to (seemingly) only my parents and I, my father is quite lame when it comes to giving and enforcing orders (he has issues with depression) and my mother comes home late from work, exhausted and finds my sister's messes to clean up. I am afraid that neither of them is around enough to discipline her and I am afraid she has had too much autonomy at home alone and is too old for discipline to work. The act of working constantly and appeasing my sister's requests and spending money on specialists that make no short-term progress is costly and harmful. I feel as though my parents appease her constantly just to give themselves a break and the stress that we all feel is through the roof. I myself suffer from depression and have gone through several slumps at school which my sister uses (loudly) against me.

It pains me to see my sister get away with so much and my parents under so much stress. Whenever I suggest anything, they dismiss it immediately and don't take my advice seriously because of my age and because they believe that our situation at home is not that bad.

Pick Your Battles Carefully

Hi Mark,

Its been quite a while since I emailed in crisis! The good news is that I’m not emailing in crisis just thought I’d update you & ask for a steer on a couple of things!

So update:

After Danielle was away from home for 6 weeks, she asked to return home (she’s now been home for 2 months) & as guided by you we welcomed her back on the proviso that she sign up to a really clear home rules contract – she did & the benefits & consequences are crystal clear!

She’s got herself a job which is great & is paying $25 rent a week, she hasn’t missed a curfew & when we say no she seems to accept it much quicker than she has in the passed – plus the yelling & screaming matches have stopped. She’s dropped out of mainstream school but is doing an alternative school program and hasn’t missed a day – its not what we wanted for her but we are fully supporting this as a respectful, self reliant young adult is preferred – when & if she realises she needs a higher grade of education she can do that in her time.

I am waiting for it to all go south but fingers crossed we are seeing a turn around, we did notice a difference when she started seeing a boy but we had a conversation about the changes we were seeing in a calm way & she seems to have responded well.

We have a happier a much happier home at the moment – my question is around family participation – pretty much there is none – Danielle spends 100% of her time with her friends (they are not really our choice of friends!!) she is pleasant at home & is doing the chores she’s been allocated – we do invite her to do things with the rest of the family but 9 out of 10 times we get a no. This upsets my husband.

My view is that she’s turning 16 in a month, she’s following the rules, the fighting between us & her in negligible & she’s a teenager who wants to spend time with her friends – this is normal behaviour & we should just keep on inviting her to participate in family life & accept that 9/10 times the answer will be no! Correct?

I know I’ve said it before but thank God for you & your program, we’ve had a hellish year (I’ve lost many pounds!!!) but we are at a status quo – one that I hope will last & we are prepared with a strategy that if God forbid it all goes wrong again (fingers crossed that doesn’t happen).

Again many, many thanks – we’ve just got to tackle her just turned 5 & 7 year old brothers now!

Rach

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Hi Rach,

Re: My view is that she’s turning 16 in a month, she’s following the rules, the fighting between us & her in negligible & she’s a teenager who wants to spend time with her friends – this is normal behaviour & we should just keep on inviting her to participate in family life & accept that 9/10 times the answer will be no! Correct?

You are 100% correct. Pick your battles carefully. If her participation is such a big issue - then give her some incentive (e.g., "If you'll come to the cookout, we'll go to the Mall and get you a new shirt afterwards"). Her presence in these family get-togethers is your privilege - not your right! If she is doing well in all (or most) other areas, then a reward for family participation is justified.

Mark

Parenting Teens: Tips for Single Moms

Raising teens is a challenge no matter how many parents are living in the home. Particularly challenging are the ages between 12 and 16, which are marked by mood swings, defiant attitudes and attempts to push limits set by parents. During this time, teenagers try their hardest to gain independence and self-autonomy. In addition, teenagers are often masters at pitting married parents against one another, so when parents are divorced and living in different households, it can be extra difficult to co-parent with effectiveness.

So, what can a single mom do to make the adolescent years sail as smoothly as possible? Here are 20 important tips:

1. Ask others for help when necessary. The single mother frequently feels overwhelmed by the responsibility, tasks, and emotional overload associated with raising kids alone. It is extremely important to manage time wisely and to ask for help when necessary. Assign kids appropriate chores and tasks. Arrange car pools when possible, and ask other moms and dads for help when needed. My kids would not have been able to continue in club soccer were it not for the kindness of other moms and dads providing rides to practices and games.

2. Create an inviting environment. Make your home a safe haven for not only your own youngster, but for your youngster's friends as well. This means being approachable and available, even if the adolescents don't have much to say. Talk about your favorite TV show or other non-threatening topics. Have sit-down dinners whenever possible and encourage your children' friends to eat with you, even if it's pizza or peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Declare your home a peace zone, keeping arguments at a minimum and humor at a maximum. Adolescents love to laugh, and they love to tease. Learn to laugh at yourself and with them. If you handle setting boundaries, you will spend a lot less time revisiting familiar battles and will have more opportunities to enjoy living together. This inviting attitude will keep your children and their friends closer to home and out of trouble -- and will mean less stress for you!

3. Don't treat your youngster like a peer. Do not confide in your youngster as though he/she is your peer, regardless of how mature the youngster appears to be. This is a common mistake made unintentionally by many single moms who turn to their youngster for emotional support and don't realize they are hurting the youngster until after the tact. Allow kids to be kids, and find other grown-ups for companionship and support.

4. Establish firm, clear boundaries that leave no doubt that you are the boss in the home. Single moms often make the mistake of allowing kids to become equal partners or peers, and too many kids are running the show. This loads to serious individual and family problems. Kids need limits. Use consistent discipline that provides clear expectations and guidelines for behavior, and rely on natural and logical consequences. Learn to say, "I love you enough to say 'NO' to you."

5. Establish schedules and predictable routines. Part of creating stability and security in the home involves establishing predictable schedules and routines for your kids. Of course, we must not be rigid and inflexible, because kids need to learn that life is not always predictable. Find a healthy balance.

6. Give yourself credit for a job well done. No matter how loving and competent you are, you are still only one person and you are doing a job most agree is meant for two people. Do not allow your kids to manipulate you by making you feel guilty about the situation. Remind kids that you are a team and have to work together. You may have to wait until your children are grown before you get any credit from them. This is where a sense of humor comes in handy!

7. Have a support system. Develop a wide network of people who can provide you with emotional support, companionship, help in emergencies, child-care, reality checks, etc. Be selective and choose caring, reliable, trustworthy people who will be there for you In times of need. Single moms with healthy support systems usually feel better mentally and physically and demonstrate to their kids that it is OK to ask for help. Support groups for single moms offer an excellent opportunity to socialize and share with others in similar circumstances.

8. Have realistic expectations. Focus on success and not on failure. Set realistic goals as a family and work together to accomplish these goals. Decide what is important and prioritize accordingly. Have family meetings on a regular basis and allow kids to have input. Learn to effectively communicate and solve family problems together while still demonstrating that you are the boss. Give your children credit and give yourself credit.

9. Have some non-negotiable house rules. When it comes to alcohol, drugs, smoking and other obvious health risks, there should be no negotiation, and your adolescent needs to know this every time you sit down to have your six-month meeting. Let her know she is responsible for her own behavior and should take herself out of situations that could lead to trouble. Other items you can discuss are your rules about body piercing, tattoos, driving with a seatbelt, etc. When your adolescent sees that you are serious about health and safety issues, and you have a set of firm consequences to address violations, she may whine and moan -- but she'll get the message that you care and will most likely 'walk the line.'

10. Have some rules regarding dress codes and hairstyles. This is a good place for negotiating. The job of the adolescent is to shock her mom or dad! Most of the time, her desires to wear extreme clothing or hairstyles is directly correlated to the parent's vulnerability to the shock value. If you are horrified that your son wants to wear 36-inch wide bell bottom jeans, you might want to compromise and allow 24-inch wide. If your daughter wants to dye her hair purple, don't freak out. Encourage her to buy non-permanent dye and allow her to do it for a weekend. Compromise a little, and don't let your shock show. The motivation for the extreme will probably wane.

11. Have the right attitude about single-parenting. Grown-ups and kids do better when single parenthood is perceived as a viable option and not as a pathological situation. Start with a positive attitude and focus on the benefits of single parenting (e.g., less conflict and tension in the home). Many single moms treasure their newfound autonomy and independence and feel hopeful about the future.

12. If you are feeling overwhelmed, depressed, anxious or stressed, get professional help. A competent therapist can help you find the light at the end of the tunnel. A great support system will contribute to your ability to be a good parent and raise good children!

13. Let your adolescents know that they are always welcome to talk to you anytime no matter what time day or night. Adolescents needs their moms and dads during the difficult years despite the bad attitudes.

14. Make sure that you keep communication with your adolescents. Be concerned when they stop talking to you for long periods of time. You want them to be open with you and able to talk to you about boys or even girls and any other issues going on.

15. Set tough consequences for dishonesty and lateness without a phone call. Setting blanket curfews based on age can be pointless because if there is no reason for a adolescent to be out until 11 p.m., then the curfew for that night should be earlier. "Cruising" and hanging out until curfew provides more time to look for trouble. Find out where your adolescent is going, who she will be with, and what she will be doing. Base curfew times on what she has planned. If she's going to a 7:30 p.m. movie, then set the curfew for 10 p.m. Let her know you expect a phone call 30 minutes before she expects to be late, not five minutes.

16. Show respect for the other parent (assuming you are divorced). A week before your six-month meeting with your adolescent, call the other parent and talk about how things have been going in each household. Find out about any new rules and issues that have come up. Talk about how you might help reinforce the rules in the other household. Even though you may have different rules, respect the other parent's opinion and explain to your adolescent that you are each entitled to make different rules for your separate homes. Don't try to change the rules in the other home, but do show support if you can for the other parenting style. If you think a style is extreme or hurtful, consult with an adolescent counselor to make sure the other parent isn't engaging in harmful discipline. Most of the time, though, there is a wide range of healthy variations in parenting styles that will not adversely affect your adolescent's emotional welfare. Explain to your adolescent that when she enters the workforce, she will be forced to work within varying guidelines in different companies and with different supervisors, so operating under moderately different household guidelines should be respected and will be good training for her future.

17. Take care of yourself. It is critical for your kid's well being for you to take care of yourself. There are times when you feel like you need a break. Ask other single moms and dads to trade babysitting or hire a mother's helper. Pay special attention to diet, exercise, stress management, and getting a good night's sleep. Learn relaxation, yoga, meditation, visualization, or whatever healthy coping skill allows you to relieve stress and tension. Take a walk, read a book, call a friend, take a nap (my personal favorite). A stressed out parent results in stressed out children.

18. Talk to your adolescents about sex, divorce, and drugs. You can even talk to them about birth control if they are willing to listen. This is important that your adolescents are informed about important issues regarding sex and drugs.

19. They need encouragement to do well in school. Adolescents usually want the approval of their moms and dads. They want to know that you are very happy when they get good grades in school.

20. Create realistic and enforceable boundaries. The earlier this is done the better. Let your adolescent know that you will negotiate boundaries every six months, in January and June, for instance. This means that twice a year, you will sit down with her and discuss important rules and appropriate consequences for her age. Let her come up with ideas so that she will be more apt to comply. Topics to discuss should include:
  • Appropriate places for hanging out with friends. If R-rated movies are against your rules, make that clear. If your adolescent is driving, make specific rules about when and how often she can use the car and who will pay for expenses.
  • Household chores, job expectations and church and/or social responsibilities.
  • How time is spent after school and on school nights.
  • How time is spent at home during summer break and on weekends.
  • What your expectations are for completing homework and chores before talking on the phone or visiting with friends, and when she should be in bed with the lights out.

My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents of Defiant Teens

Parent-Child Arguments: How to Avoid Power Struggles

Disputes between you and your kids are inevitable in family life.

If your family never has arguments, it probably means that issues are being avoided. To become productive grown-ups, kids need to be able to voice their opinions - even if they disagree with yours - and feel they are being taken seriously. Even so, you can and should keep the negative impact of arguments to a minimum.

Kids love to argue. They want their ideas to be everyone else's ideas. They like to prove that they are right and you and everyone else are wrong. Kids like to control the situation. They enjoy having power over their moms and dads. Kids have a need for power. This need is normal; kids see grown-ups as having power. We do what we want to do; at least, that's what our kids think. We appear self-reliant and secure. We are all grown up. We have power. Kids want to be like us. They want power, too.

Having a need for power is not a bad thing. It is only when a youngster uses power in a negative way that power can become a problem. Power-seeking kids try to do what they want to do. They refuse to do what you ask. Kids who seek power do not like to be told what to do. They resist authority. They like to make the rules. They like to determine how things are going to be done.

Here are 30 important tips for avoiding arguments with your “power-hungry” child or teenager:

1. A little humor may help. Here is a way to neutralize arguments in the car, for example. Whenever you are on a trip and the kids start to argue, ask them to stop. If they don't stop, begin talking about a trip for moms and dads only. "This explains why so many moms and dads leave their kids at home. Next trip, let's go somewhere romantic." When kids hear this, they get the point.

2. Admit you are wrong once in a while. This is a tough one. Your kids will learn from your example. When you openly admit your mistakes and weaknesses, you are showing them that grown-ups are not perfect. We don't know everything. Anthony attended a meeting I had with a proofreader of this book. He could not believe that she had so many suggestions. It was good for him to see that his dad is not perfect. It was also good for him to see that I did not take the corrections personally. I explained that she was helping me make the book better. I showed him that it's okay to make errors.

3. As long as arguments stay within certain boundaries, they are an acceptable and productive form of communication. They can continue as long as they are under control, respectful and are moving toward a solution. But discontinue them if they degenerate into name-calling, if calm voices are replaced by shouting or if you and your youngster are going around in circles without progressing toward a resolution. Never laugh at your youngster, no matter how ludicrous her arguments sound to you; by laughing you are essentially ridiculing her and what she is saying.

4. Be positive when disciplining your kids. Do not criticize. Be sure that punishments are fair and that they make sense to your youngster. Punishments should not humiliate or embarrass your youngster. Punishment should be mild. They should teach your youngster to make better decisions. Do not use punishment to get even with your youngster for something he has done that hurts you or makes you angry.

5. Be selective about the issues you fight over. When a potential problem arises, decide if it is really worth the battle; some issues probably are not. For example, if your youngster wants to wear an old pair of sneakers to school rather than the newer pair you recently bought her, or if she wants to wear her hair a little longer than you would prefer, you might decide to let her have her way, choosing to take a stand on more important matters instead. Pick your battles carefully.

6. Control yourself. Do not let him push your buttons. Have faith in your judgment. Do not give in to arguments like: "Taylor's mom lets him watch R-rated movies." Do not reward your youngster's revenge. The more confidence you have, the easier it will be for you to win your youngster's cooperation.

7. Do not ask why. Kids misbehave because they choose to misbehave. When you ask why, you are suggesting there may be an excuse: "Why did you do that?" "He told me to do it." Clever kids will search for excuses until they come up with one that you accept. If you don't accept it, you then have a power struggle on your hands.

8. Do not carry on about small mistakes; deal with it and then let it go. The purpose of verbal corrections is to have a more cooperative child. Misbehaviors and mistakes are normal. You can help your youngster best by minimizing problems. Do not dwell on them, or rehash the day's problems with your spouse in front of your youngster. Kids cannot build on weaknesses. They can only build on strengths. These same ideas apply when your kids are arguing with each other. Stay calm and do not make threats. If you can, help your kids reach a settlement.

9. Do not forget that kids learn how to handle disagreements by watching their moms and dads' example. How readily do you and your partner have "good" arguments, which end in successful reconciliation? Or do you stay angry, or avoid fights altogether? Your kids model themselves on you.

10. Giving verbal corrections is difficult. Verbal correction can turn into arguments, especially if you get angry. Yelling, scolding, and threatening help you vent your anger, but they do not correct misbehavior. Sometimes they make the misbehavior worse. Stay calm. Tell your kids to stop. Be ready to enforce a punishment if you must. Do not become caught in the cycle of yelling and threatening. You do not want to spend the rest of your life that way. Getting angry and yelling makes arguments worse. If your youngster's goal is to push your buttons and get you angry, yelling is a reward for misbehaving. Yelling will strengthen unwanted behavior.

11. If conflicts about particular issues recur again and again, take a look at the root causes. Think deeply about why you and your youngster are arguing about these matters, and try taking some preventive action. For example, if your child rebels against going to bed each night, she may be using her outbursts as a way to stay up a little longer, or to get more attention. Or if she repeatedly argues about doing her homework, try to put an end to these conflicts by actually writing up a contract stipulating the expectations, responsibilities, rewards and punishments for doing and not doing homework. Remember that the homework assignment is made by the teacher and is your youngster's responsibility. She may not do it your way, but if she is satisfying the school's requirements, you should not turn it into an issue at home. Both you and your youngster should sign the contract, agree to abide by it, and (hopefully) end the disagreements about the subject.

12. Let your youngster win sometimes. When you and your child argue, you need to do more than listen to her point of view; when she presents a persuasive case, be willing to say, "You convinced me. We'll do it your way." Let your child know that you value her point of view and that through communication, conflicts can be resolved - and that sometimes she can win.

13. Many moms and dads measure their worthiness by their kid’s success: "If I am a good parent, why are my children so bad?" They feel that if their kids are not perfect, then they must be less than adequate as moms and dads. By believing this, you are making yourself vulnerable to your kids. You become an easy target for any youngster looking for a button to push. Think about the reasons you might feel this way. Are you insecure about yourself? Do you feel this way because of your spouse? Is this a leftover belief from your relationship with your moms and dads? Think about your strengths rather than your insecurities. The more you focus on your strengths, the more confident you will become.

14. Most kids will quiet down for a while when threatened. Unfortunately, the father thinks that yelling works. This is a mistake. Yelling works temporarily, but the quiet will not last. Yelling and threatening have no long-term effect on misbehavior. The kids argue; father yells; they quiet down for a while. Soon, they argue again. Father yells. They quiet down again. This can go on and on. These kids will learn that they can argue until father yells at them to stop. They will not learn to solve their problems.

15. Most moms and dads deal with power by emphasizing counter-control. This does not work. Efforts to control a power-seeking youngster often lead to a deadlock or power struggle between your youngster and you. No final victory is ever possible for you. Once you find yourself in a power struggle, you have lost. If your youngster wins the power struggle, he is reassured that power caused the victory. You were defeated by his power. If you win the power struggle, your youngster thinks that it was your power that caused the victory and defeated him. He is reassured of the value of power. This results in kids striking back, again and again, each time with stronger methods. You win the battle but lose the war. Every youngster displays power differently. Most power struggles are active. Arguing is a good example of active power. Some kids have learned the value of passive resistance. Rather than argue, these kids will refuse to do what you asked. They nod their heads and just sit quietly. Some even smile a little. This type of power has a definite purpose-to push your buttons.

16. React appropriately to the size of the problem. If your youngster misbehaves while shopping, restrict him from shopping: "You can't go shopping with me for two weeks. You will have to stay home. I hope that when you can come with me again, you will behave."

17. Realize that an upset youngster is not a good listener. This is not the time for constructive communication. Wait until he cools off.

18. Remind your youngster of previous good behavior: "That's not like you. You are always very well behaved when we go shopping."

19. Separate your youngster from his behavior. Say, "That behavior is unacceptable." Do not say, "Anyone who would do that is stupid."

20. Some families draw a third person into the conflict, supposedly to mediate the difficulty, but who instead may take a position on one side or the other and thereby make the disagreement worse. Sometimes when they are unable to resolve their conflict, the warring parties may join together to focus attention on another family member as a way to avoid dealing with the real problem. Within every family, certain alliances, coalitions and rivalries exist. At times, mother and daughter might form an alliance against father and son. Or the two moms and dads might unite against the kids on a particular issue. But within a healthy family, these coalitions are not fixed, they change from situation to situation, and they do not disrupt the functioning of the family. If they become rigid and long-lasting, however, they can do damage to the family. It is natural to be unaware that any alliances exist within your family. But to get a better sense of your family's dynamics, ask yourself questions like: "What family member do I tend to agree (or disagree) with most often? When my kids are fighting, whose side do I generally take? With whom in the family do I usually spend my free time? Who in the family most easily angers me?"

21. State your concern: "Your behavior at the store was not acceptable. I was embarrassed." Then calmly issue a warning regarding the consequences that will be issued in the future if the child repeats the undesirable behavior.

22. Stop being part of the power struggle. It takes two to have a power struggle. It takes two to argue. Make a firm commitment to yourself that you will no longer engage in arguments and lengthy explanations. State your expectations clearly and firmly and walk away. Tell your youngster exactly what you want him to do, when he must do it, and what happens if he does not. Then walk away. Do not stay in the situation and argue. Go to your room and close the door if necessary. Do not let your youngster push your buttons. If you get angry, you will be rewarding your youngster. Your anger will give your youngster the power over you that he seeks. You may need to use punishment when dealing with power. Tell your youngster what to do. Be ready with a punishment if your youngster fails to cooperate. If you punish a youngster because of a power struggle, remember two things. First, do not punish in anger; this will only encourage your youngster to strike back with power. Second, smaller punishments work better than bigger punishments. If your youngster thinks you have punished him too harshly, he will retaliate with power.

23. Teach your kids to learn from their mistakes rather than suffer from them. Point out things they do wrong by showing them ways to do it better: "You remembered to take out the garbage. Good going. The twist ties need to be a little tighter next time. I'll show you how."

24. The difference between power and authority lies within you. When you have to confront your kids, emphasize cooperation, not control. Stay calm and rational in spite of the situation. Guard your anger button. Stop and think. Do not react impulsively. Give clear and specific expectations. Explain what will happen if your youngster chooses not to cooperate. Do not give ultimatums. Focus on influencing your youngster's motivation.

25. The target of your youngster's revenge is your feelings. A youngster who wants to get even wants to hurt you. If he does, he has achieved his payoff. Some moms and dads lack self-confidence about their skills as a parent. Clever kids realize this and take full advantage of the parent's weakness. Revenge-seeking kids know exactly where to strike. They say things such as, "I hate you. You're a terrible mother." The reason for these remarks is to make you feel hurt. You feel that you have failed your kids. They want you to feel inadequate and guilty. When you feel inadequate or guilty, you begin to question your own judgments. Then you begin to give in. There is nothing a revenge-seeking youngster would like more than for you to become inconsistent. This is the payoff they are looking for. Believe in your own abilities, and you will not become the victim of your youngster's revenge. Support yourself. When your youngster strikes at your buttons, remain strong. Tell yourself that you are a good parent-you are doing the best you can.

26. The worst thing a youngster can say is, "That's not fair," and then tell you why. Many moms and dads feel guilty and reconsider or try to justify it. It's impossible to be totally fair all the time---and it's not necessary. As long as you know you are as fair as you can be, trust yourself to make a quick decision. But the issue in these situations isn't fairness. It's what you want the youngster to do. Attempting to justify it, shifts the argument away from what he or she must do. That's what needs to be focused on.

27. Validate your relationship: "You are my son and I love you. Nothing you do will ever change that."

28. When a youngster feels hurt or angry, he may want to get even. He wants to hurt you. Getting even takes away some of his hurt and anger. Getting even makes kids feel that justice has been served. Revenge is important to kids because of their keen sense of fairness. Revenge can destroy relationships between moms and dads and kids. This is especially true of teenagers. Some kids embarrass you in front of others. Some kids strike out at something that is special to you. Some kids hurt a younger brother or sister. Some kids run away. Some kids will break a window or break something of value. I once worked with a mother who had a vengeful teenage son. One day she came home to find that he had thrown all of her fine china and crystal glasses into the street. Revenge is not pleasant. Revenge typically begins when you punish your youngster for something he believes is unfair. He decides to get even with you by misbehaving again. He pushes your buttons. You get angry and punish again. He strikes back again. The cycle of retaliation begins.

29. When your youngster does what you ask without an argument, thank him. Call attention to it: "Thank you. You did what I asked without an argument. I appreciate that. It shows you are cooperating." As a long-term solution, remember that a youngster's need for power can be a positive thing. Look for independence, self-reliance, leadership, and decision making. When your youngster shows these qualities, spotlight them. Catch him being good. As with most behavior problems, the positive approach is the best remedy for handling power.

30. YOUR YOUNGSTER SAYS, "I HATE YOU." This one stings when uttered in the heat of battle, but try not to take it personally, it's rarely meant that way. Children are raised now to be outspoken, and sometimes that freedom of speech comes without thought. Kids need to feel that their anger toward their moms and dads is not dangerous, that their attachment to you is so secure nothing will result. This also reminds them that such remarks are a part of childhood that cannot seriously threaten the world of grown-ups. Tell them that you're sorry they feel that way, but they still need to do what you asked. There might be times when you can't make a quick decision to end an argument. If you need more time to think, say so. But make it clear you will not listen to further discussion until you have made your decision. An issue might also come up during an argument that requires more discussion. Save it for a neutral time when you or the children have nothing to gain or lose by discussing it.

=> Help For Parents Who Are At Their Wits-End

Articles

Parenting Rebellious Teens

One day you wake up and find that life has changed forever. Instead of greeting you with a hug, your little boy rolls his eyes when you say "good morning" and shouts, "You're ruining my life!" You may think you've stepped into the Twilight Zone, but you've actually been thrust into your son's teen years.

During adolescence, teens start to break away from parents and become "their own person." Some talk back, ignore rules and slack off at school. Others may sneak out or break curfew. Still others experiment with alcohol, tobacco or drugs. So how can you tell the difference between normal teen rebellion versus dangerous behavior? And what's the best way for a parent to respond?

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Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD)

Many families of defiant children live in a home that has become a battleground. In the beginning, the daily struggles can be expected. After all, we knew that problems would occur. Initially, stress can be so subtle that we lose sight of a war, which others do not realize is occurring. We honestly believe that we can work through the problems.

Outbursts, rages, and strife become a way of life (an emotionally unhealthy way of life). We set aside our own needs and focus on the needs of our children. But what does it cost us?

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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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