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

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

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When Your Child is a Chronic Complainer

You may have children who whine a lot. They may tattle on their siblings, complain about things that you’re not doing right, cry about house rules, moan and groan about school, etc. Part of their “acting out” is this kind of constant annoying level of voicing grievances. What do you do?

Establishing a Grievance Time—

Set up a “grievance time” (e.g., after dinner). This is a time where you’re going to sit down with these children for five minutes – and that’s their time to register complaints. That’s when they get to tell you what’s really on their mind. You may even instruct them to keep a journal so they can keep track of grievance and write them down. So, something goes into their “grievance journal,” and then in grievance time, you take the time to explain it to them and point things out to them.

But…

This approach is a much more focused situation in which they can’t pretend not to understand or pretend not to hear. The great thing about the use of grievance time is, if the kids start “bitching” at 3:00 PM, you can say, “Write that in your grievance journal please, and we’ll talk about it at the grievance time.” In this way, the parent gets a way to defer the complaint and do what is called a “redirect.” You are effectively redirecting the kids to another task instead of the task that their complaining about – or instead of complaining about you.

How to Help Resolve Complaints—

The ability to solve problems can be broken down into two separate but related parts:

• Analysis: this is the ability to break a problem down into its sub-parts and look at these closely to see how they fit together.
• Synthesis: having broken the problem down into its sub-parts, put the parts back again in such a way as to make sense of the original problem we are tackling.

The two aspects of problem-solving, analysis and synthesis, are vital steps towards a proper understanding of how to tackle problems. However, it has been found that many young people have great difficulty applying these steps. They fail to appreciate that problems can be broken down into more manageable blocks and tend to see them globally – as a whole – rather than in an analytical sense. As parents, there are a number of steps we can take to help our kids grasp this point:

1. After kids have generated their ideas and alternatives, help them evaluate the consequences. For example, “What might happen if . . .? Would it be safe? Would it be fair? How would everyone feel?” Parents should encourage kids to evaluate their ideas and see why they are acceptable or unacceptable.

2. Allow your youngster to fail. It hurts to see your youngster suffer or struggle, however the most important lessons are learned through our mistakes. Unless you youngster is in physical danger, allow them to learn cause and effect. A skinned knee, although sad, is just a skinned knee. Your youngster will learn that the behavior that caused the skin knee should be adjusted for future. Like my mom told me, you touched the stove once and never did it again. A youngster does not understand a stove is hot until they touch it themselves no matter your warning.

3. Ask for a decision. After kids evaluate their ideas, parents should restate the problem, summarize their ideas and let kids decide which actions they would like to try. If kids choose an idea that you think will not work, make sure they know what their alternatives are and what they should try next.

4. Ask your child if he has any ideas for how to solve his problem. If your child can suggest a possible solution, encourage him to implement them and report back to you. Some children simply need a little support and are happy to handle their own problem. If your child can’t suggest a possible solution, tell your child that you’re not sure how to solve the problem and wait for his response. He will likely be perplexed at your admission that you don’t have an answer. After all, parents are the source for answers! After he gets over his shock, try redirecting the conversation back towards helping your child come up with his own solution. By covertly putting the ball back in your child’s court, you empower him think of a possible solution and encourage him to implement it.

5. Be patient. Allowing your kids to problem solve can be frustrating. Most parents give in, not because they want to fix their kid's problems per say, but it's just easier and faster to fix the problem yourself. Don't give in. You will do your youngster a disservice.

6. Generate alternatives. Help kids stay focused on their problems and ask what they can do to reach their goals. When kids offer alternatives, repeat their ideas and ask them what else could be done. Don’t criticize their ideas. Instead, prompt more solutions by asking the kids questions. If they cannot think of alternatives, ask them to imagine how someone else might handle the situation.

7. Get the facts and identify feelings. When kids are fighting, angry, frustrated or upset, identify the problem. When asking kids to tell you their problems, you need to be calm and nonjudgmental. Kids see things from their own perspectives and may be completely unaware of how their actions affect other kids. Helping kids identify their own feelings and recognize the feelings of others is an important step.

8. Have your child explain the situation. As he talks, listen to his full explanation without interjecting your own thoughts or asking clarifying questions. This way your child will have an opportunity to voice all concerns without feeling he was cut off.

9. Help kids set the conflict-resolution goal and define what they want to happen in the situation. When kids have clear goals, it’s easier to think of solutions.

10. Make suggestions. Instead of fixing a problem, offer alternatives that your youngster can do to fix the problem. Don't constantly give them what they need. Give them options, and they will gradually learn that there are alternatives and choices to get out of a tough situation.

11. Repeat aloud your child’s concerns, asking follow up questions, as necessary, to make sure you understand the problem. By repeating his concerns, you allow him to feel that his words and concerns are important and you validate his feelings. In many instances, children simply want to feel that their concerns are heard and valid, so this approach may, on its own, help your child calm down.

12. Whether your child thought of a solution on his own or needed a little direction, check in with your child to see how his solution worked. Celebrate with him if the solution was a success (e.g., a “high-five” or hug) or offer support and begin brainstorming once more if the problem was not entirely solved.

My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents

The Negative Effects of “Nagging”

Moms and dads often engage in nagging techniques because they need their children to do something and because they believe their persistent requests, demands, reminders, and threats of negative consequences will influence them to do what they want. What most mothers and fathers fail to realize is that even when nagging does work (which is always just a temporary ‘fix’), it usually ends up leaving both sides with negative feelings about the whole matter.

“I told you to pick that up.”
“How many times do I have to remind you?”
“Will you stop it?”
“You need to have a better attitude!”
“If I have to tell you again, you’re going to your room.”

Chronic nagging will chip away at a youngster's self-worth over time. Studies show that nagging does not improve behavior – it actually worsens it. Nagging is especially defeating in kids with a poor self-image. Nagging and repeating commands make kids nervous. Some kids exhibit more than their fair share of negative behavior, but constantly reminding your children produces more negative behavior. It is better to purposely pick out some redeeming qualities and concentrate on the positives (e.g., "I like the way you ignored your brother when he was trying to pester you”). You will see the “negatives” melt away.

It's really important to understand how nagging affects everyone involved. For one, nagging says to your youngster that he is either unable or not responsible enough to do what you've asked of him without being reminded. It may be true, but what happens is this: children will start to internalize this belief and live up to the expectation that they are irresponsible. They begin to believe that they can't do it rather than they won't do it.

The other thing about nagging is that it sounds more like a demand than a reasonable request. Demands are inherently inconsiderate because it tells the person that her feelings absolutely don't matter. It's also very disrespectful. You're effectively "pulling rank" and making the child feel powerless and inferior. If you can imagine having a superior at work demanding rather than requesting something of you, then you will understand what negative feelings this might bring out in your youngster. Rebelling and defiance become a natural reaction to nagging.

In addition, nagging can give children a false sense of power because they learn they can make you upset and amplify your nagging to ridiculous levels by holding out. The longer they wait the more powerless and upset you feel because your words continue to lose influence. You react by nagging some more, which causes them to wait even longer, and the vicious cycle goes on and on.

There are a few things you could do in the place of nagging that might benefit everyone involved. The first is to come to a reasonable agreement on what needs to be done and when. Make sure that an understanding of the consequences is communicated clearly but gently and be prepared to follow through with those consequences if the agreement is not met (which will likely occur often at first). Many children will make agreements too easily just as a way to postpone what needs to be done. They may also get defensive or upset even at a simple request. Rather than reciprocate the negative attitude, make it easy for them to discuss their objection so that an agreement can be made. Once you've come to an agreement, resist all urges to hint, remind, re-ask, or demand.

The key to end nagging is to change your own attitude to certain situations. Repeating the same request over again does nothing for you or your youngster. Try these tips for a new perspective:

1. Are you expecting more of your youngster than he can reasonably deliver at his stage in life? Listen to other moms and dads when they discuss everyday life. You’ll learn about what other children are doing and can use this as a guide. Of course, every youngster is different, but knowing roughly what to expect will help you pitch your expectations accordingly.

2. As with other areas of parenting, “positivity” can go a long way when you’re caught in the nagging trap. If you can’t avoid mentioning what your youngster didn’t do, try to counter-balance this with acknowledging a good thing that he did. Perhaps he forgot to brush his teeth again, but he did wash his hands. Make a big deal out of what he did well and your nag can just be a sideline.

3. Everyone likes to receive praise. Instead of concentrating on what your youngster isn’t doing, focus on the times when he does cooperate. Implement a star chart, with a small reward after a certain number of stars are achieved. If he forgets to hang up his coat as you asked, mention that next time he hangs up his clothes, he’ll get a star on his chart. A star chart is a positive, visual incentive to good behavior.

4. If all else fails and you really want to make a point, refuse to get drawn into any other discussion until your youngster cooperates. The prospect of being ignored is often enough to spur him into action.

5. If you always nag your youngster to get dressed after breakfast, change things around. Encourage him to dress first then have breakfast. With the prospect of food, he might be more likely to cooperate.

6. If you don’t listen to your youngster’s wants and needs, you can’t expect him to consider yours. Nagging stems from a youngster not listening to a parent, and that parent feeling frustrated. So, when your youngster has something to say, give him the attention you’d expect him to give you. Then, when you want to ask something of him, you’ve already set a positive example.

7. If you feel your youngster no longer listens to you, it could be that he has simply become immune to the same demands. If you’re constantly asking your youngster to tidy up, put things in a more positive way. For example, instead of saying: ‘Tidy this room, it’s too messy to move in here.’ Try: ‘Shall we tidy up together, and then we’ll have more room to do this jigsaw?’ If you get involved yourself, the task may seem less overwhelming to your youngster.

8. Pick your battles. Driving home the idea of road safety is never wasted. But do you really need to make a point about every crumb dropped on the floor? Decide what issues are most important to you as a parent and concentrate on these.

9. Remember that a youngster can’t always see the reasoning behind the things a parent wants him to do. So, if you want him to get dressed in the morning, explain that once he’s dressed, he can go outside to play. Or if you’re constantly asking him not to step off the sidewalk, tell him that you wouldn’t want him to get hurt by a passing car.

10. Sometimes a bit of light relief is all that’s needed, rather than repeating your request for a tidy room yet again. Stage a pretend fall over a toy which has been left on the floor. Most kids love slapstick humor and the distraction can be enough to get the job done.

‘Stopping nagging’ is hard for some moms and dads to do because they actually fear what would happen if their youngster does not come through for them. This could range from something as minor as the dishes sitting in the sink longer than they should to not filling out college applications before the deadline or taking their medication. The fear or frustration may be so strong that mothers and fathers will either give in to the urge to nag – or end up doing it themselves. This is probably the worst thing you can do since all it does is reinforce the irresponsible behavior and teach children that they can get out of responsibilities by just waiting long enough. Instead, be patient and show that you have confidence in your youngster even at the risk of her not coming through. You may be surprised.

My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents

The Art of Compromising: Tips for Parents

How to Use “Compromise” as a Parenting Tool:

Compromising with your youngster doesn't cheapen your authority – it strengthens it. Kids respect moms and dads who are willing to listen to them. Until they leave home, kids must accept your authority, but that doesn't mean you can't listen to their side of things.

Compromising is a win-win situation that benefits both mothers/fathers and kids. Moms and dads show that they are approachable and open to another's viewpoint (a trait that kids become more sensitive about as they approach the teenage years). In adolescence, you will find that compromising becomes your main behavior management tool, because teens like to be treated as intellectual equals and expect you to respect their viewpoint. If used wisely, compromising improves communication between mother/father and youngster. A stubborn insistence on having your own way has the opposite effect. Even the wishes of a nine or ten-year-old should be open to compromise. This is a warm-up time to help you sharpen your compromising skills for the years ahead.

"Why do I have to go to bed at 9:30?" argued nine-year-old Jake.

"What time do you think is a good bedtime for you?" asked Mother the Compromiser.

"10:30," Jake suggested.

"That extra hour means a lot to you doesn't it? What would you do during that extra hour?" said Mother.

"I could read," Jake asserted.

"Remember how tired you are the next morning when you stay up late. You fall asleep at school," Mother reminded him.

"But that was last year. I'm older now," Jake pleaded.

"Yes, I guess you are. Let's try this," Mother suggested. "On school nights you have to be in bed by 9:30, and you can read in until 10:00. On nights that you don't have school the next day, you can stay up until 11:00."

The youngster thought this was acceptable, and his reasoning was validated. The mother achieved her goal being sure her son got enough sleep. She knew that after five minutes of reading in bed, her son would probably fall asleep – which he did. As this compromising went back and forth, the mother was earning points with her son. The youngster was getting the message that "I can talk to my mother. She is reasonable, and she really does care about what's good for me. My mother listens, and she has some wise things to say."

Sometimes you will want to let your youngster take the lead. Use a well-known compromising tool: Meet the youngster where he is, and then bring him to where you want him to be. For example, you want your youngster to do his homework, but he's intent playing with the cat. Let him spend a bit of energy chasing the cat around the house. Let him tire himself out so he can sit still and do his homework. This is not “giving in” to the youngster or letting the youngster be in control, it's simply being a smart compromiser. It's a way to bring your youngster back to your agenda after a short excursion that satisfies the needs of his agenda.

Command - and show - respect during compromise. If your youngster starts screaming or acting disrespectful, close the discussion (e.g., "Do not talk to me in that tone, Jake. I'm the father, you're the son, and I expect respect"). This sets the tone for future compromises. You may have to remind your youngster of this non-negotiable fact of family life often during the pre-adolescent and adolescent years. Because of the constant bartering that older kids do, it is easy to let your authority slip away. Don't! You need this authority to keep order in the house, and your youngster will need to respect authority to get along in life.

There will be situations when you don't want to compromise. You know you're right and your youngster is being unreasonable. Before he works himself into a rage, break off the compromising process. That's the parent’s right (e.g., "That's a TV show we don’t watch in this house. I won’t be changing my mind about this – so switch the channel or turn it off" ...then walk away). Kids need to learn when moms and dads mean business. Mothers/fathers can't use this approach every time or kids will see them as “control freaks.” Be prepared to allow the youngster to watch other programs that are acceptable.

If used wisely, compromise can become a valuable communication tool, helping kids develop their reasoning abilities. Teach your youngster that compromise work best when everyone is calm and peaceful, not in the heat of the moment (e.g., "I’m saying ‘no’ for now, but I'll talk it over with your mother and get back to you this evening"…or "You’re being disrespectful. Come back later when you're feeling less angry and we’ll talk about it"). When you're not sure, or feeling pressured, decide not to decide.

My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents

Teaching Children That Choices Have Consequences

Experiencing the consequences of his choices is one of the most effective ways a child can learn self-discipline. These lessons really last because they come from real life. Most success in life depends on making wise choices. Being able to think ahead about the positive or negative consequences of an action and choose accordingly is a skill we want our kids to learn.

Building a youngster's natural immunity to bad choices—

Natural consequences are situations that are not controlled by anyone. Kids learn through natural consequences, and parents use natural consequences as teaching points. There are parents that believe in giving children rules and regulations, and then if that child does not follow through, in some cases, he or she receives a natural consequence for their actions. For instance, a house rule might be “no running in the house.” A youngster bumps into another youngster because of running and hurts himself. A parent might want to use the natural consequence to emphasize the reason of the rule and remind the child to follow the rule on the spot. Natural consequences sometimes are more powerful than other discipline strategies since kids learn through their own experiences rather than words being told by someone else.

Natural Consequences represent the natural flow of events without interference of the parent. Natural often deals with the environment and is a direct result of the youngster’s actions. In essence, if it's not morally or physically harmful, let the youngster experience the natural consequence of his/her actions. For example, the youngster who refuses to eat will go hungry or the youngster who does not wear mittens in cold weather has cold hands – and he parents stand aside and do not become involved.

Letting natural consequences teach your youngster to make right choices is a powerful learning tool. Experience is the best teacher: He's careless, he falls; he grabs something hot, he gets burned; he leaves his bicycle in the driveway, it gets stolen. Wise moms and dads protect their kids so they don't get seriously hurt, but do not overprotect to the extent the youngster doesn't learn the consequences of his folly. Some bruises and scrapes along the way are unavoidable and educational.

Kids make poor choices on the way to becoming responsible grown-ups. Kids must experience the consequences of their actions in order to learn from them. Within reason and safe limits, let your child explore, fail, bump, and learn. Expect him to help clean up his messes. Let her experience the penalty for not completing homework by bedtime. After years of small pricks of consequences, the youngster enters the teen years at least partially immunized against bad choices, having had some genuine experience with decision-making. Kids learn better from their own mistakes than from your “preventive lectures.”

Adolescence is a time when the consequences of wrong choices are serious. The youngster who has learned to deal with small problems is more likely to be successful with bigger ones. Being a wise “choice teacher” means keeping a balance between overprotecting your youngster and being negligent ("Let him fall, he'll learn.") In the first case, the youngster enters adolescence with little practice at handling inevitable conflicts and risks. In the second case, the youngster feels no one cares. Either way, there are rough times ahead.

Sometimes the best solution is to offer your youngster guidance, state your opinion, and then back off and let the consequence teach your youngster. Use each consequence as a teachable moment, not an opportunity to gloat. Avoid sentences that begin with "I told you so..." or "If you would have listened to me..." But to be sure that your youngster learns these little lessons of life, and talk through each situation. Replay the tape so that your youngster gets the point that choices count, and his actions affect what happens. You want your youngster to realize that he is happier and his life runs more smoothly when he makes wise, though perhaps not easy, choices. Let the consequence speak for itself. The youngster spills her Coke, and there's no more Coke – without your commentary.

Use logical consequences to correct—

Besides letting natural consequences teach your youngster, you can set up mother/father-made consequences tailored to have lasting learning value for your youngster. Consequences can be by parental design. For example:

• Child parks his car in the street rather than in the driveway risking having it towed >>> after forewarning is ignored, parent parks the car in the driveway, and the child must pay a towing fee to get his keys back

• Child leaves her toiletries in disarray throughout the bathroom each school morning >>> after forewarning is ignored, parent confiscates all items for a period of time (technique works with clothes and toys as well)

Logical consequences:
  • are not used to threaten or intimidate a youngster
  • are used as an alternative to punishment strategies such as reprimands or scolding
  • are used to help guide kids in the right direction by guiding them to face the results of their behavior
  • refer to the actions or responses that are implemented following a youngster’s inappropriate behavior that serve to discourage the youngster from engaging in the behavior again
  • should be presented to the youngster as a choice; the youngster may engage in the expected behavior to access an activity, object, person, or material – and the options should be related to the task by being logically linked to the current activity and the resulting action
  • should not be used if the youngster does not understand the options and is not able to make a decision about the action to choose
  • should result in rapid changes in the youngster’s behavior within the targeted routine or activity; if the problem behavior persists, the parent should think about why the youngster is engaging in the behavior and consider the use of other approaches to assisting the youngster

The process is a learning experience for kids, teaching them that they have responsibility for and control over their own behavior The consequences of their actions are logical because they are clearly related to the youngster’s behavior. Kids usually accept logical consequences when the consequences are framed in a guiding way rather than when they are framed as punishment. Kids learn that the choices they make have consequences, whether positive or negative. They are taught that they are responsible for their own behavior. Logical consequences help guide kids in learning how they are expected to behave in the real world.

When choices are provided to the youngster, they should be stated calmly, clearly, and respectfully. Logical consequences should not be arbitrary, threatening, or punitive. The tone of voice used can mean the difference between logical consequences and punishment. Threats usually tell kids what not to do rather than teach what they can do in order to get what they want. The options that will be used for logical consequences are planned in advance of the situation and presented to the youngster prior to when the undesired behavior is expected to occur. The youngster is made aware of the options and is guided to understand what may result from his or her action.

For the most learning value, balance negative with positive consequences. The youngster who frequently practices the piano gets the thrill of moving through his books quickly and receiving hearty applause at his recital. The youngster who consistently takes care of her bicycle merits a new one when she outgrows it; otherwise, she gets a used one. The youngster who puts his sports equipment away in the same place each time gets the nice feeling of always being able to find his favorite bat or soccer ball.

In these examples, no amount of punishment could have had the lasting teaching value of natural and logical consequences. With punishment, kids see no connection between their behavior and the discipline. With consequences, the youngster makes the connection between the behavior and the results. You plant a lesson of life: ‘take responsibility for your behavior.”

My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents

How Should I Discuss "Puberty" With My Child?

Today, children are exposed to so much information about sex and relationships on TV and the Internet that by the time they approach puberty, they may be familiar with some advanced ideas. And yet, talking about the issues of puberty remains an important job for moms and dads because not all of a youngster's information comes from reliable sources.

Don't wait for your youngster to come to you with questions about his or her changing body — that day may never arrive, especially if your youngster doesn't know it's OK talk to you about this sensitive topic.

Ideally, as a mother or father, you've already started talking to your youngster about the changes our bodies go through as we grow. Since the toddler years, children have questions and most of your discussions probably come about as the result of your youngster's inquiries.

It's important to answer these questions about puberty honestly and openly — but don't always wait for your youngster to initiate a discussion. By the time children are 8 years old, they should know what physical and emotional changes are associated with puberty. That may seem young, but consider this: some females are wearing training bras by then and some males' voices begin to change just a few years later.

With females, it's vital that moms and dads talk about menstruation before they actually get their periods. If they are unaware of what's happening, females can be frightened by the sight and location of blood. Most females get their first period when they're 12 or 13 years old, which is about two or two and a half years after they begin puberty. But some get their periods as early as age 9 and others get it as late as age 16.

On average, males begin going through puberty a little later than females, usually around age 11 or 12. But they may begin to develop sexually or have their first ejaculation without looking older or developing facial hair first.

Just as it helps grown-ups to know what to expect with changes such as moving to a new home or working for a new company, children should know about puberty beforehand.

Many children receive some sex education at school. Often, though, the lessons are segregated, and the females hear primarily about menstruation and training bras while the males hear about erections and changing voices. It's important that females learn about the changes males go through and males learn about those affecting females, so check with educators about their lesson plans so you know what gaps need to be filled. It's a good idea to review the lessons with your youngster, since children often still have questions about certain topics.

When talking to children about puberty, it's important to offer reassurance that these changes are normal. Puberty brings about so many changes. It's easy for a youngster to feel insecure, and as if he or she is the only one experiencing these changes.

Many times, teens will express insecurity about their appearance as they go through puberty, but it can help them to know that everyone goes through the same things and that there's a huge amount of normal variation in their timing. Acne, mood changes, growth spurts, and hormonal changes — it's all part of growing up and everyone goes through it, but not always at the same pace.

Females may begin puberty as early as second or third grade, and it can be upsetting if your daughter is the first one to get a training bra, for example. She may feel alone and awkward or like all eyes are on her in the school locker room.

With males, observable changes include the cracking and then deepening of the voice, and the growth of facial hair. And just as with females, if your son is an early bloomer, he may feel awkward or like he's the subject of stares from his classmates.

Children should know the following about puberty:

• A female's period may last 3 days to a week, and she can use sanitary napkins (pads) or tampons to absorb the blood.
• Both females and males have a growth spurt.
• Both females and males often get acne and start to sweat more.
• Males grow facial hair and their muscles get bigger
• Males' penises and testicles grow larger.
• Males sometimes have wet dreams, which means they ejaculate in their sleep.
• Males' voices change and become deeper.
• Females and males get pubic hair and underarm hair, and their leg hair becomes thicker and darker.
• Females become more rounded, especially in the hips and legs.
• Females' breasts begin to swell and then grow, sometimes one faster than the other
• When a female begins menstruating, once a month, her uterine lining fills with blood in preparation for a fertilized egg. If the egg isn't fertilized, she will have a period. If it is fertilized, she will become pregnant.

Not surprisingly, children usually have lots of questions as they learn about puberty. For you, it's important to make sure you give your youngster the time and opportunity to ask questions — and answer them as honestly and thoroughly as possible.

Some common questions are:

• I'm a male, so why am I getting breasts? Some males experience temporary breast growth during puberty. The condition, called gynecomastia, is caused by changing hormone levels during puberty. It usually disappears, often within a few months to a couple of years.

• What is this hard lump in my breast? Females may notice small, sometimes tender, lumps beneath their nipples as their breasts are beginning to develop. This is perfectly normal. The firmness and tenderness will go away in time as the breasts continue to enlarge.

• Why are my breasts so small (or so large)? Breast size is different from person to person, and your daughter needs to be reassured that, big or small, all breasts are beautiful. It can be hard for females to appreciate this since they develop at different times and rates. The size and shape of your daughter’s breasts will change as she continues to develop. But in the end, size won't affect your daughter's attractiveness or her ability to breastfeed if she becomes a mother someday.

• Why don't I have pubic hair yet? Everyone develops pubic hair, although some teens get it later than others. Just as with breast size or height, the amount or thickness of pubic hair is an individual trait.

• Why haven't I gotten my period yet? As with all of the changes in puberty, periods come at different times for different females. Females usually don't get their periods until 2 or 2½ years after starting puberty, so if your daughter started puberty later than other females, she will probably get her period later than other females as well. Some females may not get their periods until they're 16. This is usually normal, although it can be tough for them when all of their friends have already gotten their periods.

• Why is my penis so small (or so large)? With males, the focus can be on the penis. Since not all males develop at the same time or rate, your son may feel like he is too big or too small. His size will change as he continues to develop. Penises come in different sizes and shapes, but there are a lot less differences in size when penises are erect than when they’re not.

Let your youngster know that you're available any time to talk, but it's also important that you make time to talk. As embarrassing or difficult it may be for you to talk about these sensitive topics, your youngster will likely feel even more uncomfortable. As a mother or father, it's your job to try to discuss puberty — and the feelings associated with those changes — as openly as possible.

It can be made easier if you're confident that you know the subject matter. First, before you answer your youngster's questions, make sure your own questions have been answered. If you're not entirely comfortable having a conversation about puberty, practice what you want to say first or ask your youngster's doctor for advice. Let your youngster know that it may be a little uncomfortable to discuss, but it's an important talk to have.

My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents

When and How to Ignore Misbehavior

When your youngster misbehaves, are you sometimes unsure how to react? Do you ever wonder whether it’s better to put an immediate stop to the bad behavior, or just ignore it altogether? You’re not alone. Most moms and dads face this dilemma. They’re not certain if it’s worth the trouble to confront the behavior rather than simply ride it out – and they worry that their attempt to change the behavior may only encourage more of it.

To preserve parental sanity, sometimes you will need to run a tight ship in certain situations. In other areas, you will need to be more lax. Wise parents learn to ignore “minors” and concentrate on “majors.” A “minor” is a behavior that’s irritating, but doesn't harm humans, animals, or property – and even if uncorrected, does not lead to a “major.” This type of behavior-problem will most often correct itself with time and maturity. “Selective ignoring” helps your youngster learn to respect the limits of a parent's job description (e.g., "I don't do petty arguments").

One evening, two 8-year-olds were playing in their front yard, and they got into an argument over who was going to hide first in a game of hide-and-seek. No one was getting hurt. They tried to drag their father into the drama. He simply said, "You boys are too big to act like little kids. What difference does it make who hides first. I'm not getting involved." Then he walked away. The children got the point and settled the problem themselves.

As it turns out, the best course of action depends on the nature of the behavior problem. To help you determine your response, here are three questions you can ask yourself (your answers will help you decide whether it’s wisest to ignore your child’s behavior, or to take action):
  • Is it bothering other people?
  • Is it undermining your authority?
  • Is this behavior dangerous to your youngster or someone else?

Let’s apply these questions to two different scenarios:

Scenario #1— Your next-door neighbor has gone on vacation for the week, so no one is home at the time. Your 6-year-old son decides to jump the fence and play with the dog in this neighbor’s backyard.

Now, ask yourself the three questions:
  1. Is it bothering other people? Potentially. Home-owners typically don’t like people on their property while they’re gone.
  2. Is it undermining your authority? Yes. He didn’t ask permission to go over there.
  3. Is this behavior dangerous? Potentially. There’s nobody over there to monitor your child’s activities.

Scenario #2— Your family has decided to go out to eat for dinner. Your child declares he only wants macaroni and cheese – nothing else! Despite your best efforts, your child refuses to consider any other food item on the menu and begins to whine and pout. Should you continue trying to persuade him to eat something more substantial?

Again, ask yourself the three questions:
  1. Is it bothering other people? No. He’s not screaming, after all.
  2. Is it undermining your authority? Not really.
  3. Is the whining and pouting dangerous? No.

In this case, it’s best to ignore the behavior. By doing so, you don’t reward your child’s poor behavior with your attention. Instead, simply place your order and go ahead with the meal. When your child stops whining and pouting, you can order for him. If he doesn’t stop, he misses out on a good meal, in which case he doesn’t have to eat the dreaded green beans that he was not in the mood for – but he also doesn’t get the mac n’ cheese. This technique may strike some parents as a bit harsh, but it works. Kids quickly learn that they can’t manipulate their moms and dads with whining and pouting.

You will discover that harmless (yet annoying) behaviors occur less frequently as your tolerance-level widens and as your reactions don't reinforce the child's misbehavior. It's helpful to get some practice in “selective ignoring” during the early years of your kid's life to prepare you for the challenges yet to come (e.g., a teen’s unconventional dress and hairstyles, loud music, and moody behaviors).

NOTE: Ignoring undesirable behaviors works best if you often praise desirable behaviors. Also, ignore the misbehavior, not the child.

My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents

HOW TO USE PRAISE: AN EFFECTIVE PARENTING TOOL

Every parent has heard about how important “praising a child’s good behavior” is. But not all parents know how to effectively use this parenting tool. Here are some of the DOs and DON’Ts when it comes to the use of praise:

1. As an exercise in praise-giving, write down how many times you “praised” and how many times you “disapproved of” your youngster in the last 24 hours. We will call these approvals versus disapprovals. If your approvals don't significantly outnumber your disapprovals, you are molding your youngster in the wrong direction.

2. Before you praise, try to read your youngster's body language to see whether the youngster feels the job is praiseworthy: "Dad, look at my math assignment I did at school today …I got a 'B+'." If he approaches you enthusiastically, displaying his assignment for all to see, this youngster deserves praise that shares his excitement. If he pulls the paper out of his schoolbag and tosses it on the floor, praise may not be in order at this time.

3. Don’t use praise with a hidden agenda. For example, if you tell your daughter that you really like her purple sweater (but you’re saying this because you hate the low-cut blouse she has on), your daughter may see right through your praise and discount it immediately – and to make matters worse, she may not trust future praises that come out of your mouth.

4. Excessive praise will give kids the message that obedience and good behavior are optional. It's better to give your youngster the message that he is doing exactly what you expect, not something out of the ordinary. Kids are programmed to meet your expectations. Sometimes all that is needed for you to break a negative cycle is to expect good behavior. Treat them as if they really are going to choose right. When moms and dads don't expect obedience, they generally don't get it.

5. For quick praises, try "Great job!" or "Way to go!" or "Yesss!" To avoid the "I'm valued by my performance" trap, acknowledge the act and let the youngster conclude the act is praiseworthy. If you praise every other move the youngster makes, she will either get addicted to praise, or wonder why you are so desperate to make her feel good about herself. Be realistic. You don't have to praise, or even acknowledge, things she just does for the joy of it, for her own reasons.

6. Kids with weak self-worth have difficulty giving and receiving compliments. They are so hung up on how they imagine the receiver will take their compliment that they clam up …and they feel so unworthy of any compliment that they shrug off the compliment and ignore the person giving the compliment. If you are like that as a person, learn to give and take a compliment yourself so that you can model this to your youngster.

7. Making-up fake accolades is a ‘no-no’. The youngster will see through them and begin to question even genuine praise.

8. Molding your child’s behavior through praise works well if you have a specific behavior goal that you want to reach (e.g., stopping complaining). Initially, you may feel like you are acknowledging nearly every good behavior your child exhibits (e.g., "I like your positive attitude"). Eventually, as the complaining subsides, the immediate need for praise lessens (of course, a booster shot is needed for relapses) and you move on to molding another behavior.

9. Pay attention to the “when-things-are-not-going-wrong” moments. For example, when the house is quite and everybody is doing exactly what they should be doing, acknowledge their “lack of bad behavior” with praise.

10. Praise the behavior, not the person. Praise like "good boy" risks misinterpretation and is best reserved for training your dog. These labels are too heavy for some kids. ("If I don't do well, does that mean I'm bad?") Better is: "You did a good job cleaning your room." "That's a good decision." The youngster will see that the praise is sincere since you made the effort to be specific – it shows that you're paying attention.

11. Praises lose their punch if you freely hand them out for usual and expected behavior, but when the youngster who habitually has a tantrum finally responds appropriately, that's praiseworthy.

12. Simply acknowledge expected behavior, rather than pouring on praise. Acknowledgment is dispassionate praise that molds a youngster to please himself rather than perform for approval.

13. Teach your youngster to be comfortable giving and receiving compliments. Tell your youngster, "What a strong boy you are" or "How cute you look in those shoes!" Eye and body contact during your delivery reinforces the sincerity of your acknowledgment. Make sure you're sincere. When you hear your kids complimenting one another, compliment yourself for your modeling.

14. Change the delivery of your praises. As you pass by the open door of the cleaner room, say: "Good job!" Show with body language a thumbs-up signal for the youngster who dresses himself. Written praises are great for large families. They show extra care. Private praises help, too. Leave little "nice job" notes on pillows, yellow "post-its" on homework, messages that convey that you noticed and that you are pleased.

15. While appropriately-used praise can mold behavior, it's not the only way to reinforce good behavior. In some ways it's superficial. Praise is an external motivator. The ultimate goal of discipline is self-discipline—inner motivation. For example, you may praise good grades and always motivate your kids by planting the idea that good grades are one ticket to success. But you should always temper your praise with "How do you feel about your report card? We want you to get good grades mainly because it makes you happy." When possible, turn the focus back on the youngster's feelings. You will achieve the best results with praise by setting the conditions that help kids know how and when to praise themselves.

My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents

When Siblings Fight: Tips for Parents

While many children are lucky enough to become the best of friends with their siblings, it's common for brothers and sisters to fight – and to swing back and forth between adoring and detesting one other.

Often, sibling rivalry starts even before the second youngster is born, and continues as the children grow and compete for everything from toys to attention. As children reach different stages of development, their evolving needs can significantly affect how they relate to one another.

It can be frustrating and upsetting to watch and hear your children fight with one another. A household that's full of conflict is stressful for everyone. Yet often it's hard to know how to stop the fighting, and or even whether you should get involved at all. But you can take steps to promote peace in your household and help your children get along.

Why Do They Fight?

Many different things can cause siblings to fight. Most brothers and sisters experience some degree of jealousy or competition, and this can flare into squabbles and bickering. But other factors also might influence how often children fight and how severe the fighting gets. These include:

1. It's natural for children' changing needs, anxieties, and identities to affect how they relate to one another. For example, toddlers are naturally protective of their toys and belongings, and are learning to assert their will, which they'll do at every turn. So if a baby brother or sister picks up the toddler's toy, the older youngster may react aggressively.

2. School-age children often have a strong concept of fairness and equality, so they might not understand why siblings of other ages are treated differently or feel like one youngster gets preferential treatment. Teenagers, on the other hand, are developing a sense of individuality and independence, and might resent helping with household responsibilities, taking care of younger siblings, or even having to spend time together. All of these differences can influence the way children fight with one another.

3. Sometimes, a youngster's special needs due to illness or learning/emotional issues may require more parental time. Other children may pick up on this disparity and act out to get attention or out of fear of what's happening to the other youngster.

4. The way that moms and dads resolve problems and disagreements sets a strong example for children. So if you and your spouse work through conflicts in a way that's respectful, productive, and not aggressive, you increase the chances that your kids will adopt those tactics when they run into problems with one another. If your children see you routinely shout, slam doors, and loudly argue when you have problems, they're likely to pick up those bad habits themselves.

5. Your children' individual temperaments, including mood, disposition, adaptability, and their unique personalities, play a large role in how well they get along. For example, if one youngster is laid back and another is easily rattled, they may often get into it. Similarly, a youngster who is especially clingy and drawn to moms and dads for comfort and love might be resented by siblings who see this and want the same amount of attention.

When the Fighting Starts—

While it may be common for brothers and sisters to fight, it's certainly not pleasant for anyone in the house. And a family can only tolerate a certain amount of conflict. So what should you do when the fighting starts?

Whenever possible, don't get involved. Step in only if there's a danger of physical harm. If you always intervene, you risk creating other problems. The children may start expecting your help and wait for you to come to the rescue rather than learning to work out the problems on their own. There's also the risk that you — inadvertently — make it appear to one youngster that another is always being "protected," which could foster even more resentment. By the same token, rescued children may feel that they can get away with more because they're always being "saved" by a parent.

If you're concerned by the language used or name-calling, it's appropriate to "coach" children through what they're feeling by using appropriate words. This is different from intervening or stepping in and separating the children.

Even then, encourage them to resolve the crisis themselves. If you do step in, try to resolve problems with your children, not for them.

When getting involved, here are some steps to consider:
  • Don't put too much focus on figuring out which youngster is to blame. It takes two to fight — anyone who is involved is partly responsible.
  • Try to set up a "win-win" situation so that each youngster gains something. When they both want the same toy, perhaps there's a game they could play together instead.
  • Separate children until they're calm. Sometimes it's best just to give them space for a little while and not immediately rehash the conflict. Otherwise, the fight can escalate again. If you want to make this a learning experience, wait until the emotions have died down.

Remember, as children cope with disputes, they also learn important skills that will serve them for life — like how to value another person's perspective, how to compromise and negotiate, and how to control aggressive impulses.

What Moms and Dads Can Do—

Simple things you can do every day to prevent fighting include:

1. Be proactive in giving your children one-on-one attention directed to their interests and needs. For example, if one likes to go outdoors, take a walk or go to the park. If another youngster likes to sit and read, make time for that too.

2. Don't let children make you think that everything always has to be "fair" and "equal" — sometimes one kid needs more than the other.

3. Have fun together as a family. Whether you're watching a movie, throwing a ball, or playing a board game, you're establishing a peaceful way for your children to spend time together and relate to each other. This can help ease tensions between them and also keeps you involved. Since parental attention is something many children fight over, fun family activities can help reduce conflict.

4. If fights between your school-age children are frequent, hold weekly family meetings in which you repeat the rules about fighting and review past successes in reducing conflicts. Consider establishing a program where the children earn points toward a fun family-oriented activity when they work together to stop battling.

5. If your kids frequently squabble over the same things (such as video games or dibs on the TV remote), post a schedule showing which youngster "owns" that item at what times during the week. (But if they keep fighting about it, take the "prize" away altogether.)

6. Let them know that they are safe, important, and loved, and that their needs will be met.

7. Make sure children have their own space and time to do their own thing — to play with toys by themselves, to play with friends without a sibling tagging along, or to enjoy activities without having to share 50-50.

8. Recognize when children just need time apart from each other and the family dynamics. Try arranging separate play dates or activities for each kid occasionally. And when one youngster is on a play date, you can spend one-on-one time with another.

9. Set ground rules for acceptable behavior. Tell the children that there's no cursing, no name-calling, no yelling, no door slamming. Solicit their input on the rules — as well as the consequences when they break them. This teaches children that they're responsible for their own actions, regardless of the situation or how provoked they felt, and discourages any attempts to negotiate regarding who was "right" or "wrong."

10. Show and tell your children that, for you, love is not something that comes with limits.

Keep in mind that sometimes children fight to get a parent's attention. In that case, consider taking a time-out of your own. When you leave, the incentive for fighting is gone. Also, when your own fuse is getting short, consider handing the reins over to the other parent, whose patience may be greater at that moment.

My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents

Preventing Children From Abusing Prescription Drugs

What's easier for a typical adolescent to get his hands on: a six-pack of beer or a bunch of prescription drugs?  More adolescents now say it's easier for them to acquire prescription drugs — usually powerful painkillers — than it is to buy beer.

Unfortunately, moms and dads are somewhat ignorant about their adolescents' use of drugs. Almost half (46%) of adolescents surveyed say they leave their homes on school nights to hang out with friends — and sometimes use drugs and alcohol. But only 14% of moms and dads say their adolescents leave home to hang out with friends.

Adolescents used to say it was easiest to buy cigarettes and marijuana. But for the first time, they say prescription drugs not prescribed to them are easier to get. Their main source of drugs such as OxyContin, Percocet, Vicodin and Ritalin: the medicine cabinet. Another big source of these drugs is their friends.

Adolescents tend to think that because the medications are prescribed, they're safer than alcohol or illegal drugs such as marijuana. They're not! Drugs such as Vicodin — a commonly prescribed pain pill that causes a drunk-like feeling — can be detrimental to the still-developing teenage brain and can impair judgment in people who already are prone to mistakes in judgment. The drugs increase the risk for accidents, sexual activities and more drugs.

While teen use of illegal drugs has gone down in recent years, the one category that has gone up is teen abuse of prescription drugs. Americans are in denial about how widespread this problem is. Many recommend locking up drugs. But the best way to prevent drug abuse is good old-fashioned parenting. We know from our research that parental engagement — being involved in your kids' lives, monitoring what they're up to — is a very key component in teen substance risk.

Just as you inoculate your children against illnesses like measles, you can help "immunize" them against drug use by giving them the facts before they're in a risky situation. When children don't feel comfortable talking to moms and dads, they're likely to seek answers elsewhere, even if their sources are unreliable. Children who aren't properly informed are at greater risk of engaging in unsafe behaviors and experimenting with drugs.

Preschool to Age 7—

Before you get nervous about talking to young children, take heart. You've probably already laid the groundwork for a discussion. For instance, whenever you give a fever medication or an antibiotic to your youngster, you have the opportunity to discuss the benefits and the appropriate and responsible use of those drugs. This is also a time when your youngster is likely to be very attentive to your behavior and guidance.

Start taking advantage of "teachable moments" now. If you see a character on a billboard or on TV with a cigarette, talk about smoking, nicotine addiction, and what smoking does to a person's body. This can lead into a discussion about other drugs and how they can potentially cause harm.

Keep the tone of these discussions calm and use terms that your youngster can understand. Be specific about the effects of the drugs: how they make a person feel, the risk of overdose, and the other long-term damage they can cause. To give your children these facts, you might have to do a little research.

Ages 8 to 12—

As your children grow older, you can begin conversations with them by asking them what they think about drugs. By asking the questions in a nonjudgmental, open-ended way, you're more likely to get an honest response.

Children this age usually are still willing to talk openly to their moms and dads about touchy subjects. Establishing a dialogue now helps keep the door open as children get older and are less inclined to share their thoughts and feelings.

Even if your question doesn't immediately result in a discussion, you'll get your children thinking about the issue. If you show your children that you're willing to discuss the topic and hear what they have to say, they might be more willing to come to you for help in the future.

News, such as steroid use in professional sports, can be springboards for casual conversations about current events. Use these discussions to give your children information about the risks of drugs.

Ages 13 to 17—

Children this age are likely to know other children who use alcohol or drugs, and to have friends who drive. Many are still willing to express their thoughts or concerns with moms and dads about it.

Use these conversations not only to understand your youngster's thoughts and feelings, but also to talk about the dangers of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Talk about the legal issues (e.g., jail time, fines, etc.) and the possibility that they or someone else might be killed or seriously injured.

Consider establishing a written or verbal contract on the rules about going out or using the car. You can promise to pick your children up at any time (even 2:00 AM!) no questions asked if they call you when the person responsible for driving has been drinking or using drugs.

The contract also can detail other situations: For example, if you find out that someone drank or used drugs in your car while your son or daughter was behind the wheel, you may want to suspend driving privileges for 6 months. By discussing all of this with your children from the start, you eliminate surprises and make your expectations clear.

Laying the Groundwork—

No parent, youngster, or family is immune to the effects of drugs. Some of the best children can end up in trouble, even when they have made an effort to avoid it and even when they have been given the proper guidance from their moms and dads.

However, certain groups of children may be more likely to use drugs than others. Children who have friends who use drugs are likely to try drugs themselves. Those feeling socially isolated for whatever reason may turn to drugs.

So it's important to know your youngster's friends — and their moms and dads. Be involved in your kid's lives. If your youngster's school runs an anti-drug program, get involved. You might learn something! Pay attention to how your children are feeling and let them know that you're available and willing to listen in a nonjudgmental way. Recognize when your children are going through difficult times so that you can provide the support they need or seek additional care if it's needed.

A warm, open family environment — where children are encouraged to talk about their feelings, where their achievements are praised, and where their self-esteem is bolstered — encourages children to come forward with their questions and concerns. When censored in their own homes, children go elsewhere to find support and answers to their most important questions.

My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents

Preventing Teenagers From Running Away: 15 Tips For Parents

The teenage years can be a tumultuous time, and as many moms and dads know, it is also a time when teens begin to flex their mental muscles, testing boundaries, and turning to peers rather than parents for advice. Sometimes emotions and arguments can become so intense that things get out of hand and the teen runs away.

Reasons Teens Run Away—

It may be hard for a mother or father to understand why adolescent’s runaway, so here are a few reasons that may help you to understand:

1. The adolescent may feel like she has to escape and get away from home to avoid something bad from happening (e.g., maybe you have been fighting a lot and she feels she just can’t go through it again …or she may be afraid you will be mad at her for something she did wrong or rules she disobeyed …or she may feel like you won’t forgive her so she has to leave).

2. An adolescent may be afraid that something bad might happen if she doesn’t leave home (e.g., living with a step-parent that she fights with a lot, the step-parent may make her feel like everyone would be happier without her).

3. The adolescent may feel that you “don’t understand,” and she may runaway to be with others that will let her just “be herself” (whether it is right or wrong).

4. An adolescent may runway to meet someone you told her to stay away from.

5. Sometimes just plain being lonely and begging for attention will cause an adolescent to runaway.

Other reasons teens run away include:

• abuse (violence in the family)
• arrival of a new stepparent
• birth of a new baby in the family
• teenagerren or parents drinking alcohol or taking drugs
• death in the family
• failing or dropping out of school
• family financial worries
• parents separating or divorcing
• peer pressure
• problems at school

Periodic vs. Persistent Running Away—

It’s important to distinguish between teens who run away periodically, and those who are persistent runners. The reasons behind the actions are quite different, and it’s critical to know what they are:
  • Periodic Running: When your teenager runs away after something has happened, it can be viewed as periodic running away. It’s not a consistent pattern, and your teenager is not using it as a problem-solving strategy all the time. It's also not something she uses to gain power. Rather, she might be trying to avoid some consequence, humiliation or embarrassment. Some teens leave home because they were caught cheating in school or because they became pregnant and were afraid of their parents’ disapproval.
  • Persistent Running: A teenager who consistently uses running away to gain power in the family has a persistent problem. Know that persistent running away is just another form of power struggle, manipulation, or “acting out” (a very high risk “acting out”). She may threaten her parents by saying, “If you make me do that, I'll run away.” She knows parents worry, and for many, it’s one of their greatest fears. Some moms and dads may engage in bargaining and over-negotiating with their teenagers just to keep them from running away. But understand that teens who threaten to run away are using it for power. This not only gives them power over themselves, but power over their mother and/or father. When parents give in to threats of running away, their teen starts using it to train them (e.g., a mother will learn to stop sending her teen to her room if she threatens to run away each time it happens). A teen who persistently threatens to run away is not running away to solve one problem – she is running away because that is her main problem-solving skill – she’s trying to avoid any type of accountability.

Red Flags—

Even though you can never really know for sure what an adolescent may be thinking, there are signs that you can look for that can help alert you to possible problems:
  • Does she avoid spending time with the rest of the family?
  • Do you ever agree on anything, or does it seem you only argue and fuss all the time?
  • Does your adolescent act strange, or have extremely emotional feelings that are out of control?
  • Has your adolescent been hanging out with bad company (e.g., peers who drink alcohol, use drugs, or other adolescents that just go out to look for trouble)?
  • Is your adolescent acting withdrawn and completely unsociable?

If you notice these signs, it would be wise to try and communicate with your adolescent, even if you have to get outside help to do so.

Prevention—

Unfortunately we can’t completely prevent adolescents from running away, but here are a few suggestions that may help:

1. Always approach something as a problem that needs to be solved, and reward your teen when he’s able to do it successfully. Be sure to say things like, “I liked the way you solved that problem. The teacher was mad at you, but you went up and apologized.” Praise your teenager when he does something positive.

2. Don’t scream and yell, or threaten your adolescent, this will only make him want to leave more.

3. Give a warning by saying, “Listen, if you run away, I can't stop you, but it's dangerous out there. I won't be able to protect you. So not only will you not solve your problems, you'll also be putting yourself at risk.”

4. Have a system where you check in with your teenager frequently. Just stop and ask, “How's it going?” …or “Is your day going O.K.?” You can say this two or three times in one day; go by their room and knock on the door. That way you're constantly giving her interest and affection. You’re saying in a roundabout way, “I'm interested in you, I care.”

5. If you don’t agree with your teenager, at least listen to her side, then calmly give your side. If things start to get out of control, take a break

6. If you feel your teenager may runaway, you can seek professional help with counseling.

7. If you think your teenager is at risk of running away or you know that her friends have done so, you want to sit down and have a talk. You could say, “If you become upset and run away, don't hesitate to come back and we'll talk about it.” If your teenager says, “Talk about what?” …say, “Talk about how to solve the problem differently.”

8. If your teen is very upset about something, you could say, “So what's so bad about this that you can't handle it?” After she tells you, you might say, “You've handled situations like this before. I’m sure you can do it again.” As a parent, you're not “giving in,” rather you're trying to persuade your teenager that she is O.K.

9. It's also good for moms and dads to say, “It's okay to make mistakes around here.” Make it clear to your teen that “the way we handle mistakes in our home is by facing up to them and dealing with them.”

10. Teach your teens “problem solving” skills. Ask them, “What can you do differently about this problem? What are some ways we can deal with this problem?”

11. Try not to interrupt your adolescent when she does come to you to talk …sometimes it helps the most to just listen. Show your adolescent respect and keep communication open by listening to what she has to say. Explain how much you love her, and that you will always be there for her.

12. When you talk to your teenager, don't ask her how she's feeling – ask her what's going on. All teens want to argue about how they're feeling—or they want to deny that they’re feeling anything at all. Often parents get stuck there. So instead of, “Why are you so upset?” try asking, “What’s going on? What happened that made you want to leave?”

13. When your teen threatens to run away, respond by saying, “Running away is not going to solve your problems. You're going to have to take responsibility for this. And if you do run away, you're still going to have to face this problem when you come home.” Then tell her what will solve her problems.

14. Don’t get tossed into panic-mode that your teenager will run away and you will never – ever – see her again. Most homeless teens return home soon after they leave. The keys seem to be (a) maintaining relationships with pro-social or mainstream peers (non-runaways), (b) staying in school, and (c) the support of parents – especially a teenager's mother. All of these factors influence teenagers to return home. More than two-thirds of newly homeless teens leave the streets, resolve their family differences, and go home.

15. Most important of all, though, is early intervention before family relationships deteriorate and negative peer influences take hold.


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

When Teenagers Get Arrested: 12 Tips for Parents

There are some  areas where seemingly small transgressions can easily become huge legal problems for a teenager. About 15 percent of all adolescent males get arrested, and 24 percent of all minority adolescent males get arrested.

When kids enter the teen years, they will naturally begin to rebel. Some adolescents choose to change their hair color or get a tattoo, but others become more rebellious. This struggle for independence can lead to trouble for the adolescent. This trouble can then lead to an arrest. If this happens with your youngster, follow these steps to learn to deal with the adolescent getting arrested:

1. Be sure your adolescents knows their legal rights. They do not have to talk to a police officer without a lawyer present. They do not have to submit to a search without a warrant. They do not have to answer questions.

2. Determine if your adolescent is alright. Is he in jail? Is he in a safe jail? Some communities have safe jails, other communities have unsafe jails. If it is safe, you might want to leave your adolescent in jail for the night. If he is unsafe, get him out as soon as possible.

3. If it is a minor issue, do not hire your youngster a lawyer. Let your adolescent know that you will find him a lawyer, but he will have to arrange with the lawyer how the lawyer will get paid.

4. Don't yell at - or question - your adolescent. This problem is your adolescent's problem, not yours. Let your adolescent take responsibility for his own mistake, not you. The more the parent yells, the more the parent takes responsibility for the adolescent's behavior. The less the parent yells, the more the adolescent realizes this is between him and the law.

5. If your adolescent is a cooperative, cheerful adolescent, never in trouble, and protests that he is innocent, he might be.

6. Listen intently to the adolescent when he tries to explain the arrest. Moms and dads have a tendency in times of crisis to turn off their listening skills. This is a mistake, and you will miss an opportunity to really listen to your youngster. The mother or father should make note of the body language of the adolescent. If the adolescent is truly remorseful, his body language will be withdrawn and sullen. If the body language is relaxed and nonchalant it, may signal that the adolescent is still having issues realizing that he has a problem.

7. Realize that this is not about you. Too many times moms and dads ignore the cry for help from the adolescent and make the arrest about themselves. This creates a feeling of neglect in the adolescent. They will feel that the parents care more about their reputation than what is going on with their youngster. This increases the chances the adolescent will act out again.

8. Relax. Finally someone else is yelling at your adolescent: a police officer or a judge. Not a parent. This is a good learning experience for a rebellious adolescent.

9. Show the adolescent that you still love and accept him, but that there will be consequences for his actions. This will obviously depend on the severity of the crime but responsibility and love should be your focus after the arrest.

10. Stay away from blaming any other adolescents involved in the arrest. Too many times moms and dads will search for others to blame for their kid's behavior. It is a major mistake to shift the blame to another youngster and not focus on why your youngster chose to do this. The adolescent will also try to blame others for the arrest and you need to make sure he and you take responsibility for the arrest.

11. Help your adolescent stay out of trouble in the future. Find out what went wrong, and allow him to learn from this mistake. This is a “learning opportunity” – not a “failure” on the child’s - or parents’ - part.

12. Try to understand the root cause of the arrest. The root cause is not the criminal offense that resulted in the arrest. It is the underlying emotion the adolescent felt that made him commit the offense. For instance, many adolescents will shoplift in order to fill their emotional needs through the danger and material satisfaction of the crime. Moms and dads often focus on the surface of the crime, totally missing the underlying cause.

A Message To Your Teenager—

In some U.S. states, any adolescent who has attained the age of seventeen years who commits a crime will be charged immediately in adult court – and they will face the adult penalties. Kids of lower ages may be "waived" into adult court depending upon the nature of the offense, the age of the youngster, and the youngster's record. Adolescent behavior that in years past might have been shrugged off as "boys being boys" is now considered to be criminal behavior.

1. Alcohol— In Wisconsin it is against the law for an individual who has not attained the age of twenty-one years to consume alcoholic beverages except in the immediate presence of a parent or guardian. In other words, it is legal for a parent or a guardian to allow a youngster who is not yet twenty-one years old to consume alcohol- as long as the drinking is in the immediate presence of the parent.

When you are not in the presence of your parent or guardian you may not possess or consume alcoholic beverages. As a practical matter, if a police officer finds an adolescent in public with alcohol on his or her breath, even though no alcoholic beverages present, there is going to be a problem. This is primarily because many police officers do not understand that it is legal for an adolescent to drink alcohol in the presence of their moms and dads. The more experienced police officers, though, will first question the adolescent about where he was when he consumed the alcohol. If the answer is anything other than "at home with my moms and dads" a ticket is going to be issued. The penalty for under-aged consumption or possession of alcohol is a forfeiture of money and/or a suspension of driver's license. Repeat offenders will certainly lose their driver's licenses.

2. Cars— Moms and dads may not be able to keep their children away from every party, but they should make every effort to avoid putting their child into a situation where he/she could easily face a serious felony charge. Allowing an adolescent to have his/her own car, to be used at any time, is a recipe for disaster. Lawyers joke that they will never let their adolescents drive with friends. They know that there could be a car-load of young people, all of whom went to the same party, all whom drank the same amount of beer, and all whom chanted for the driver to "go a hundred miles an hour." But when that car hits the tree killing or injuring the occupants, it will be the driver who is charged with a felony and sent to prison while the passengers are all wrapped in the cloak of victim-hood.

There are no adolescent car accidents anymore. There are homicides and recklessly causing injury charges. There are prison sentences and lawsuits. Additionally, it is a fact that the police would be unable to make approximately one-third of the arrests they currently make if it were not for cars. The police may pull over an automobile on a public roadway for almost any reason. If it is a slow night, any cop will tell you that all they need to do is to find a car-load of adolescents and pull them over. It will usually yield some under-aged drinking tickets and a bag of pot or two.

If you are not old enough to drink, you may not drive a motor vehicle with any amount of alcohol in your system. This even includes any alcohol consumed in the presence of your mom or dad. The moral of story is for adolescents to walk to where they are going (and I fully realize that this is advice that will be accepted by exactly no one).

3. Drugs— Of the children who wind up in legal trouble because of drugs, it is usually alcohol and cannabis. It is so obvious that possessing or selling heroin, crack, cocaine, LSD, or ecstasy is such a serious legal matter that it is truly beyond the scope of this article. If you are caught with these drugs, you will most-likely find yourself obtaining your GED in prison.

4. Cannabis (marijuana)— It is a misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months in jail, for an individual to possess cannabis. One may be found to have "possessed" cannabis even if the police officer does not find it in one's pocket. I’ve heard many teenagers complain that they should not be charged with possession of cannabis because the cop found the weed under the passenger seat and "I was sitting behind the driver in the back." Under the law, an individual "possesses" all items that are known to them to be present in an area that is under the person's "dominion and control" (i.e., in an area where the person could go get the item if one so desired). So the fact that is was "dude's weed" and he threw it under the seat is not much of a defense.

It is a felony to deliver cannabis to another person. The law does not require there to be a "sale" in order to charge a felony. All that is required is that the defendant transferred possession of the cannabis from themselves to another person. Therefore, one commits a felony by simply passing the bowl to a friend. Such behavior is not usually charged as a felony; however, the point is that it could be charged as a felony by a zealous prosecutor.

You may have heard of people getting a "ticket" for possessing cannabis. Most municipalities have ordinances prohibiting the possession of cannabis. One cannot be put in jail for a municipal ordinance violation. If a small amount of cannabis is found and if the defendant has no prior record, the police officer may decide to issue a ticket rather than to refer the matter to the district attorney for criminal charges. You do not have a right, though, to be given a ticket. This is in the police officer's discretion. Therefore, if you find yourself in this situation, it will normally be to your advantage to be as courteous and as cooperative with the police officer as you can.

There are two significant consequences of being convicted of a "state charge" of cannabis possession as opposed to a municipal ordinance violation. First, a municipal ordinance violation for possession will not disqualify you for federal financial aid for college, whereas a state charge will disqualify you. Second, a second state conviction for possession of cannabis is a felony. However, a municipal ordinance violation for possession of cannabis does not count as a first offense.

5. Sex— It is remarkable how few moms and dads understand the truly life-shattering consequences of adolescent sexual behavior. It is a fairly common occurrence for a sixteen year-old sophomore boy to be dating a freshman girl who may be as young as fourteen. This is an absolute legal mine-field for the boy and his mom or dad. Whether it seems fair or not, the truth of the matter is that in the case of adolescents having sexual intercourse or sexual contact, it is the boy who will be charged and the girl who will be considered the "victim". The penalties for a boy having sexual contact with a fourteen year-old girl can ruin a young man's life permanently.

The statutory definitions of "sexual intercourse" and "sexual contact" include activity beyond the normal meanings of the phrases. It includes almost any intentional touching of another's sex organ for the purpose of sexual gratification. What moms and dads called "petting" in their day can very easily be a serious felony in this day.

Any person who has sexual intercourse or sexual contact with an individual who has not attained the age of sixteen years is guilty of a Class C felony. The maximum penalty for such a crime is a fine not to exceed $100,000 or imprisonment not to exceed 40 years. This is an offense that will put the boy on the sex offender registry for life. Even when the girl turns sixteen there are still problems. It is a Class A misdemeanor to have sexual intercourse with an individual who has attained the age of sixteen years, but who has not attained the age of eighteen years. The penalty for a Class A misdemeanor is up to nine months in jail and/or a $10,000 fine. It is absolutely critical that moms and dads talk to their adolescents about the legal problems that sex between adolescents will cause. This, of this, of course, is not to mention the family problems of pregnancy, paternity actions, and child support.

My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents with Delinquent Teenagers

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