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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Issuing Consequences 101

A consequence is a result of something a child does. Letting kids experience the natural or logical consequences of their actions is one way to teach responsibility. A natural consequence means what happens because of something a youngster does. A logical consequence is a result arranged by the mother/father but logically related to what the youngster did. Natural and logical consequences result from choices kids make about their behavior. In effect, they choose the consequence they experience.

Sometimes the consequence which naturally or logically follows the youngster's behavior is unpleasant. By allowing kids to experience the pleasant or unpleasant consequence of their behavior, moms and dads and caregivers help kids learn what happens because of the behavior choices they made. Using consequences can be an effective discipline tool with kids three years old and older.

Natural Consequences: These are the inevitable result of a youngster's own actions. For example, despite Dad's urging him to put on his coat, Jake goes outside when it's cold without wearing a coat. The natural result is that Jake gets cold. This result is a consequence of a choice Jake made. Natural consequences are: (a) the responsibility of the youngster and (b) not administered by the mother/father.

Logical Consequences: Logical consequences happen as a result of a youngster's action, but are imposed by the mother/father. For example, 4-year-old Kylie rides her bike into the street after she was told not to. The logical consequence for Kylie's mother to impose on Kylie is to take her bike away for the rest of the morning. Logical consequences are most useful when a youngster's action could result in harm. It is important to make sure that logical consequences are reasonable and related to the problem, and to let both the youngster and the mother/father keep their self-respect.

How to Use Logical and Natural Consequences—

1. Identify reasons: When your youngster misbehaves, find out what he/she is doing and try to figure out why. Kids usually misbehave for these reasons: (a) because they feel inadequate, (b) to get even, (c) to get power, and (d) to get your attention.

It's important to try to understand why the youngster is misbehaving so you can take the correct action.

Michael, age 5, was playing in the yard. It was almost time to go to preschool. Mom called to Michael that he had five minutes to finish playing. Michael kept on playing because he was having fun. “One minute left,” warned Mom. His toys were still all over the yard and it was time to go.

Paying no attention to his Mother is a great way for Michael to gain power and get attention.

2. Decide whose problem it is: Some problems are the youngster's alone. When this is the case, it's often best simply to let whatever will happen, happen. As long as the consequences are not dangerous, don't interfere. This is a natural consequence. For example, if Michael were playing out in the yard when it began to rain and he would not come in, he would get wet. The natural consequence would be the discomfort of being drenched. When Michael will not put his toys away, his mother has the problem. Mom really needs Michael to put his trucks away before going to preschool. They live in an apartment complex where there are many other kids and the toys might not be there when they return. Mom has been working to help Michael be more responsible for his toys. In this case it's time to use a logical consequence.

3. Offer choices: When you want your youngster to do something or behave in a certain way, the best way is to offer a few choices. Make sure any choice you offer is one you can live with and does not harm the youngster.

“Michael, I need you to pick up the toys right now. If you don't they will have to be put away until tomorrow. I know you will want to play truck when we come home. That won't be possible unless you put them back in the house now. It's your choice.”

It's important to keep in mind that a logical consequence comes from the youngster's decision.

4. Stand firm: If the youngster chooses a consequence, follow through and don't waver. This is very important when you begin using this technique. A youngster used to getting his/her way through misbehavior may try to do the same thing as Michael thing when choosing a logical consequence.

Michael looked at Mom and continued playing. Mom said “All right, I can see you have decided not to play with your truck this afternoon.” Mom then removed the truck and put it in an out-of-reach place that Michael could see. Michael began to cry and throw dirt. Mom remained calm (it was not easy to do) and simply reminded Michael that he had made a choice.

5. Talk to your youngster about choices in a positive way: A choice given as a way to get something is far more appealing to a youngster than a warning. The actual consequence is probably the same, but a power struggle is avoided because the mother/father is positive rather than threatening.

Michael's Mom might want to rephrase her words. She might have better luck if she said, “Michael, I want you to be able to play with your truck later. Let's bring it into the house right now so you can play with it when we come home from preschool. I know you really like this truck, but if we leave it out here, it might disappear like the blue one did.”

6. Let your youngster know when she or he has done something good: As soon as a youngster corrects his behavior, let him know you think it's great. All of us respond better to praise than to criticism. Sometimes it's the only way a youngster knows he has met your expectations.

Two days later Michael was playing truck again. Now, Mom needed to go to the store and asked Michael to put the truck in the house. He ignored her for a minute, but when Mom reminded him that he was responsible for making sure the truck didn't disappear (either because he left it in the yard or because Mom put it away for a brief period of time) he picked it up and walked toward the door. Mom said, “Wow, I really like the way you're taking care of your truck. I'm proud of you!”

7. If possible, let the youngster help decide the consequence: Because the problem is the youngster's and she is in charge of the choices she makes, it's a good idea to ask her what she thinks a good consequence might be. This makes it more likely that the youngster will do what you ask. And if she chooses not to do it, she was part of the team that decided what the consequence would be.

Michael and Mom were talking about what might happen if he didn't bring in the truck. Michael understood the reason for needing to keep track of his toys and said that it might be taken away by another youngster if it were left out. Mom talked about how it would be hard to buy Michael another truck right now because trucks cost a lot of money. Michael said that if the truck disappeared, he might be able to help buy a new one with some of the money he got for his birthday. They both agreed that the best solution was to bring the truck in whenever Michael wasn't playing with it.

Kids can often come up with better consequences than their moms and dads when given the chance.

Guidelines for Using Logical Consequences—

Logical consequences are arranged by an adult but must be experienced by the youngster as a direct result of his/her behavior. To be effective, the consequence needs to fit the behavior in a logical way so that the youngster associates the consequence with the behavior choice.

1. Logical consequences acknowledge mutual rights and mutual respect.

Mother (TV is blaring): “Kayla, I realize you and Dana are enjoying your program, but your dad and I are trying to talk. Please turn down the volume or go outside. You decide which you'd rather do.”

In contrast, discipline expresses the power of personal authority.

Mother: “Kayla, turn that TV off this instant! I'm trying to talk to your father.”

2. Logical consequences are related to the misbehavior.

Father: “Richard, I'm going to mow the lawn this morning, but I won't be able to mow until all your toys are picked up. Please pick them up. If you don't, I'll place them in a bag and put them out of reach in the garage.”

In contrast, discipline is rarely related to the logic of the misbehavior or situation.

Father (mad): “Richard, I've told you a dozen times to pick up your toys outside. I'm going to mow over them and you can just forget about going to the show this afternoon, too.”

3. Logical consequences are not judgmental.

Son: “Dad, remember when I borrowed your pen without asking?”
Dad: “Yes, I do.”
Son: “Well, I lost it. I've looked everywhere for it.”
Dad: “Well, son, how are you going to replace the pen?”

In this example, Dad handled the situation by focusing on the impersonal fact that a pen was lost and must be replaced. In contrast, discipline implies wrong-doing and personal deficiencies, rather than a mistake or inappropriate behavior.

Dad (very angry): “Son, you took my pen without permission! Don't you know enough to ask? That's outright stealing. And you lost it. You'll never use anything else of mine again!”

4. Logical consequences are related to current and future behavior.

The Johnson family recently got a dog. Little John agreed to feed it, but did not live up to his agreement. John is playing with the dog.

Father: “I'm sorry, John, but you're not ready for the responsibility of caring for a dog. You'll have to leave the dog alone for two days. Then you can take on your responsibility for feeding the dog again.”

In contrast, discipline relates to past behavior.

Father (angrily): “John, you forgot to feed the dog. You don't care one bit about that poor animal. It's just like you to forget. You can't ever play with the dog again.”

5. Logical consequences are done in a firm but kind manner with a pleasant, friendly voice.

James and Robert are kicking each other under the table.

Mother: “You boys may either settle down and eat your breakfast or leave the table until you're ready to join us!”

In contrast, discipline often is threatening and treats the offender with disrespect.

Mother (angrily): “You two knock it off right now or you'll go to school without any breakfast!”

6. Logical consequences give the youngster a choice.

Tina has just come home from school and wants to play outside.

Mother: “Tina, if you plan to play outside, you'll need to change into your play clothes.”

In contrast, discipline demands obedience.

Mother: “Tina, change your clothes right now!”

Sometimes there is a thin line between logical consequences and discipline. The tone of voice, friendly attitude, and willingness to accept the youngster's decision are essential characteristics of logical consequences. No matter how logical an action may seem to you, if your words are threatening, the message conveyed to the youngster will be one of discipline. Then, your youngster will be resentful and angry at you for imposing the consequence, instead of taking responsibility for his/her actions and learning from the consequence.

Advantages of Using Natural and Logical Consequences—
  • Because it separates the deed from the doer, it does not shame or punish the youngster.
  • It is concerned with present and future behavior and helps kids learn to be responsible for their own actions.
  • It is done in a calm environment.
  • It lets kids make a choice.
  • The consequence is closely tied to the behavior, and gives the youngster a chance to learn what happens when he doesn't behave in the way you expect him to behave.

Disadvantages of Using Natural and Logical Consequences—

It can sometimes be difficult for moms and dads to use natural and logical consequences because the mother/father must be able to think ahead and come up with a proper response.
  • The youngster must be allowed to experience the consequence.
  • The consequence takes time to put into action and often does not work the first time.
  • The mother/father must not step in and “save” the youngster.

Help for Parents with Out-of-Control Teens

Dealing With Your Child's "Silent Treatment"

A youngster or teenager who uses the silent treatment does so as a way to shut parents out – and push their emotional buttons. The silent treatment also gives the youngster a feeling of power and control over the parents. And the more parents make an issue of this form of emotional abuse, the more the youngster uses this strategy.

Often times, the silent treatment is the only problem-solving technique your child has at that moment (i.e., he or she is trying to deal with a particular problem by using a passive-aggressive approach). By avoiding eye contact and discussion, your child has found a way of getting the upper hand.

So what can parents do? Here are 10 tips for dealing with your child's silent treatment:

1. Don’t fall into the “reaction trap.” Many parents take the silent treatment personally; they feel powerless as a parent and react with anger and threats. This is exactly what your child wants. When you get mad and lose it, your child wins – and he/she knows it. Also he/she will kick-up the silent treatment to a whole new level now that it has been reinforced by your over-reaction.

2. Let your child know that the silent treatment is ineffective. First, parents can respond with, “Ignoring me doesn’t solve the problem. You are not to leave the house or engage in any recreational activities until we discuss this matter. Take all the time you need. If you want to talk about it, let me know.” This statement sends a very clear message to your child that (a) his/her silence doesn’t give him/her more power or control and (b) there is a consequence for avoiding addressing the problem. Second, parents should leave the ball in the child’s court at this point. Let the deafening silence run its course – and it will die by default. Your child will eventually realize that this tactic did not help achieve the desired objective.

3. Don’t stoop to your child’s level. In other words, don’t try to be smart and use some reverse psychology by giving him/her the silent treatment in return. It won’t work! Besides, that’s what your child wants – for you to SHUT UP! So, use the strategy outlined in point #2 above, then – and only then – can you let silence reign. You have the upper hand now, because the more your child refuses to talk, the longer he’s grounded.

4. Make the first move. After you have completed steps 1 and 2 above, and at least an hour has elapsed, you can (in one very short sentence) state in a calm voice, “Do you want to talk about it yet?” If you just get more silence, simply go on about your business and try again in another hour. If he/she says something – anything – then try to keep the conversation going.

5. Give your youngster some space to sort out his/her feelings. Don’t try to force him/her to talk, and don’t cajole, threaten or give into his/her demands. Instead, a brief separation may give him/her time to think through the situation. The silent treatment can last a long time in teens, so be patient with the process.

6. Maintain your routine. Proceed with family life and family activities throughout your youngster's silent treatment. That way, he/she doesn’t hold the family hostage with his/her emotional blackmail and manipulative behaviors. If you have regular, fun family outings planned, your youngster may be motivated to begin speaking to fully enjoy the activity.

7. Remember who has legitimate authority. The silent treatment is a power-play, and as the mother or father – you have all the power. So never take the silent treatment personally. Instead, view it as a learning opportunity for your youngster. Remember, you are getting the silent treatment because your youngster has not yet learned more appropriate ways of solving his/her problems. You can help him/her learn better problem solving methods.

8. Reward positive behavior. If your child’s tactic is unsuccessful in manipulating you, he/she will eventually open up. When that happens, express your empathy (e.g., “I’m sorry we both had to go through this”) and praise him/her for opening up (e.g., “I know you were angry, but the fact that you are speaking to me now tells me that you can be respectful”).

9. Begin the process of trouble-shooting using the following guidelines:
  • First: The two of you will only discuss the problem(s) as long as you are both sitting down. If either of you stands up, there is a break so you can both cool down.
  • Second: The parent delivers an assertive message to get the discussion started: When you… (state what the child did), I felt… (an emotion – not a thought ). I’d rather you… (child’s new behavior that replaces old behavior).
  • Third: Ask your child to repeat back what he/she just heard you say.
  • Fourth: If your child does not paraphrase correctly, return to the third step.
  • Fifth: If your child paraphrases correctly, ask open-ended questions and make comments such as: How long will this (problem) last? It must be difficult being you. It must be hard for you to imagine your life being any different. What are you feeling right now? What do you think about what I just said? You look ticked-off, who has been hassling you? How can I help you? What can we do so this problem doesn't happen again?

10. Consider drafting a house-rules contract that stipulates what course of action to take in the case your child uses the silent treatment in the future. For example, “When child refuses to discuss a particular issue, child will be allowed a one hour cooling-off period. After one hour, child will either engage in problem-solving with parent or receive an appropriate consequence.”

My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents

Resolving Parent-Child Conflict by Creating Win-Win Outcomes

Some moms and dads are lucky and have a youngster that is easy to discipline or that simply wants to please his parents. Then, there are moms and dads who have a youngster that never listens, does not like to please anyone except himself, and simply is out-of-control. These kids repeatedly test their parents and make the entire family crazy at times. But here's the good news: with a few simple techniques, parents can get even the most uncooperative child to "walk the line."

It’s hard to understand why your youngster refuses to listen to you. Also, it is difficult not to take it personally when she repeatedly does the things you ask her not to do. However, it is important to realize your youngster is not intentionally trying to make you feel like a bad parent. Instead, she is trying to find out what works for her. If she does not do what you ask her to do and you let her get away with it, then it is worth her disobeying to get what she wants. In fact, if you let her get away with it even half of the time - or just sometimes - this is enough for your youngster to challenge your authority and disobey you.

15 tips for parents on how to turn parent-child conflict into a win-win situation:

1. At the end of the day, remind your youngster that he is special and loved. Help him look for something good about the day that is finished and the day that lies ahead.

2. Brag about your child to others when your child is within earshot. For example, tell your wife, ‘”You should have seen Jeremy at the barbershop. He sat up so tall and answered all the barber’s questions.”

3. Give your youngster something to do that he can’t do while misbehaving. For example, “Help me pick out six apples” instead of running around the grocery store. It is a good idea to offer two positive alternatives that are incompatible with the inappropriate behavior: “Would you like to choose the oranges or select the cereal?”

4. Give your youngster two choices, both of which are positive and acceptable to you. When a youngster does something you don’t want him to do or doesn’t want to do what you have requested, give him a choice. For example, if your youngster balks about getting out of bed and ready for school, you say, “You may either get up or you go to bed an hour early tonight.” Then, “You choose, or I’ll choose” is the next choice if he is still reluctant. Usually, he’ll choose, but if not, follow through with the consequence that evening.

5. Instead of yelling, screaming or talking in a loud voice, surprise your youngster by lowering your voice to a whisper. This often evokes immediate attention and helps you stay in control and think more clearly. It’s our reactions to kid’s actions that teach them whether or not to repeat them. They’ll get your attention whichever way they can get it. Kids repeat the behavior that works.

6. Keep it simple. A parent should check frequently to make sure that the child is not overloaded with directions, expectations, and picky regulations. Not only does it make any child non-compliant, but also when surrounded by so many directions, a child will often forget what is expected.

7. Keep your eyes and mind on what is happening. Don’t wait until your youngster is out-of-control to step in. Remove him from the situation if necessary. Stay calm and emotionally detached. Let him know what his options are. Be firm but not mean.

8. Make a big deal over responsible, considerate, appropriate behavior with attention, thanks, praise, thumbs-up, recognition, hugs and special privileges. Kids want your eyeballs more than anything else, so you have to train yourself to look for the good behavior and look away when it is inappropriate (as long as it is not dangerous or destructive). If it is dangerous or destructive, you have to stop it in the least reinforcing way possible – quickly before it escalates.

9. Never embarrass your youngster in front of others. Always move to a private place to talk when there is a problem.

10. Set the rules together. This does not signify that a parent needs to comply with the wishes and demands of their children. Kids need an opportunity to tell their parents what they think and feel about the rules and regulations they are inclined to set. When this happens, kids are more likely to comply with the rules. When a child is asked what she feels about the rules or limits, the child usually feels that she has some sense of control of what is going on. When the child feels that she has some sense of control in a situation, the child is more willing to cooperate and comply. A good time to bring up the discussion of setting the home rules and setting the consequences would be during a family meeting where every member of the family is present.

11. Sometimes, simply use actions instead of words. Don’t say anything. When your youngster continues to get out of bed and comes to the living room, take him back to bed – as many times as it takes. Don’t get upset, talk, scold, threaten or give reasons. Stay calm. Your youngster will learn that nighttime is for sleeping and that you are serious about enforcing bedtime.

12. Tell your youngster to “take a break” and think about what he could do differently that would work better or be more constructive. Tell him that he can come back as soon as he is ready to try again. Put the ball in his court – and make him responsible for changing his behavior.

13. Children have learned that they don't have to cooperate right away. Most parents start off asking their children to do something nicely, and if they don't listen, parents ask a second time using a louder and firmer tone of voice, and then they escalate to threats, "If you don't start doing your homework right now, then you’re grounded tomorrow!" When begging, pleading and bribery fails, parents do what anyone in a state of desperation would do—they explode. They yell, rant and rave and dole-out consequences that are impossible to impose (e.g., "You’re grounded until you bring all your grades up to ‘C’ or above”). Children like to feel powerful, and seeing mom or dad pitch a fit is worth the consequences. Think in terms of teaching your children to listen instead of disciplining them for ignoring you. Teach children to listen using the A, B, C and D's:

A. Ask in a serious tone of voice
B. Be clear and specific
C. Communicate your request in 10 words or less
D. Don't make “not listening” an option

For example, if you ask your child to get ready for bed and he tunes you out, say, "Bedtime. Please, turn the television off." Don't walk away and hope he will do as he is told. Stay with him until it's done. Turn off the television yourself if needed, and just thank him for listening (reverse psychology here). Don't yell or threaten the child. Be creative. Getting ready for bed can be turned into a game, or you can give your child motivation to cooperate by saying, "Go get ready for bed and choose the book you want me to read." Be realistic. It will take time for your son or daughter to become better listeners, and it may very well take you time to learn to stay calm. In the meantime, be on the lookout for small improvements and make sure you praise your youngster for listening-up.

14. The best way to get our children to behave accordingly is to demonstrate the desired behavior ourselves. The three areas where role modeling is particularly helpful are as follows:
  • BEING ACCOUNTABLE— How a child deals with accountability has a lot to do with how the parent deals with his own mistakes. The permissive parent will tend to hold themselves responsible and accountable for the mistakes of others. Autocratic parents will tend to point the finger, blame, and accuse others for their own mistakes. The democratic parent will tend to acknowledge that he or she made a mistake and finds a way to fix the error.
  • BEING SOCIAL— As a parent, do we treat our children with courteous, dignity and respect, or do we treat them as if they were commodities? The way we talk and treat kids will determine the way they will respond and treat us. Do we dictate and command or request and ask that our children do what needs to be done? When a parent respects the rights, needs and wants for the child, the child will respect the rights, needs and wants of the parent. That is the way it works.
  • BEING TIDY— We all want our children to be tidy and do their chores. Before we are able to demand tidiness from our kids, let us examine our own room. Do we demand that our children do their chores while there is laundry that requires to be done, dishes piled up in the sink, and clothes scattered everywhere in our own bedrooms?

15. Get the child's attention. Parents can reduce confusion and non-compliance by making sure that children are paying attention before giving instructions. To endure a child's attention, follow these steps:
  • Precede every request by speaking the child's name.
  • Get down to the child's level. The child will not feel inferior, but rather will feel as an equal because you have physically placed yourself at his or her physical level.
  • Look into the child's eyes and speak directly to the child. The child will find it difficult to look elsewhere when someone has established eye contact.
  • In some cases, it may be necessary to check the child's understanding by getting verification. A parent can ask, "Can you repeat to me what you need to do?"

My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents

Sneaky Ways To Curb Teen Anger: 22 Tips For Parents

When parenting angry teens, it’s easy to "take the bait" and turn a minor challenge into a major power struggle – but that ends up being miserable for everyone. Instead, there are steps you can take to prevent or defuse a conflict and help your angry teen learn valuable lessons about respect and cooperation.

1. “No” is a complete sentence. Teens are programmed to push and resist against rules. Saying no is just a boundary, and if you feel guilty or bad for saying no, you are training your teens to have the belief that life should go their way – and if it doesn't, it's your fault as the parent! Say no, just once, and if she throws a tantrum, walk out of the room and let her anger be her problem.

2. Brainstorm solutions to the struggle. The idea is to never discount your teen’s idea. Write all the suggestions down and then hand the list to your teen first. She will go through them and cross off the ones that she doesn't like. Then you get the paper and the opportunity to cross off the ones you don't like. Usually there will be two or three suggestions left that the two of you can come to an agreement about. This is a wonderful problem-solving method and with enough practice, it can be done without writing anything down.

3. Don’t argue or challenge your teen when she’s angry. Many times moms and dads deal with angry outbursts by challenging their teens and shouting back. But this will just increase your feeling of being out of control. The best thing you can do is remain calm in a crisis. Think of it like this: If you get into a car accident and the other driver jumps out and yells at you, if you can remain calm, he will probably start to calm down and be rational. But if you yell back at him with an aggressive tone and say, “This was your fault mister,” the tension just stays elevated.

4. Don’t make empty threats. Giving harsh consequences – or multiple consequences – in the heat of the moment is a losing proposition. As you may have discovered, when you say to your teen, “O.K. Just for that, now you’re grounded for 2 weeks instead of one” …your teenager asserts, “I don’t care, screw you!” What’s really happening here is this: the mother or father has lost control and is desperately trying to regain control. Harsh consequences that seem never-ending to your teen are not effective, and will only make her angrier in that moment. Plus, most parents (after declaring that the child is grounding for 2 or 3 weeks) usually retract such a hard consequence later just to avoid further parent-child conflict.

5. Don’t try to reason with your teen when she’s in the middle of an “anger attack.” Many moms and dads fall back on logic when their teens are angry. After all, as grown-ups, we reason through things to defuse tense situations. This is always a challenge with teens, because they don’t have the same ability to stop and reason like we do. Thus, when you’re dealing with your angry teenager, you have to avoid using “reason” and use different techniques. Saying, “Why are you angry with me? You were the one who forgot your cell phone at school,” will only make your teen rage even more. She’s already “hurting” over the fact that she doesn’t have her cell phone, and now she perceives that you are rubbing salt in the wound. Instead, wait until she calms down, and then brainstorm some solutions.

6. Don’t wave the white flag. Some moms and dads give up when their teen throws a tantrum. The mother or father is emotionally overwhelmed and becomes paralyzed with indecision or gives in to avoid another bout of anxiety. If you’re this type of parent, you may find that your teen will get mad on purpose just to push your buttons – she will bait you by acting pissed or saying something hateful, because she knows that this will cause you to give in. So your job is to not take the bait (i.e., don’t get angry and don’t give in). Moms and dads sometimes have a tendency to renegotiate with their teen in these situations. They are having a hard time managing their own feelings, and as a result, they don’t know how to coach their teen properly in that moment. But remember, if you renegotiate, even every once in a while, you’re showing your teen that she gets her way in the end.

7. Emotionally detach. Sometimes we create patterns of reactive behavior with our teens. They say or do something we don't like, we react to it, they say or do something else, we react to that, and pretty soon, we are reacting to each other. The parent-child conflict escalates and we begin to try to force our teens to do things they don't want. We aren't solving the problem, and our reactions are hurting our teen and ourselves. The first step in emotional detachment is to understand that reaction and control will not work. The next step is to get peaceful and balanced. Out of that calm state of mind, a solution or an intuitive thought will emerge that will effectively resolve the issue.

8. Give consequences for the behavior, not for the rage. When your teen throws a tantrum, make sure you give her consequences based on her behavior and not on her anger. For example, if she calls you a “bitch” during a rage attack, give her a consequence later for that infraction of the rules. But if all she does is stomp into her room and slam the door, then let that go. Teens get pissed just like adults do. They need to feel that they have a safe place to blow off some steam. As long as they’re not violating any major rules, allow them to have their angry time.

9. Give your teen appropriate ways to be powerful. We all want to feel powerful, and if your teen doesn't have opportunities to do it appropriately, she will create ways to feel powerful that are inappropriate (e.g., power struggles, picking on siblings, etc.). In the middle of a battle with your teen, stop and ask yourself, "How can I give her more power in this particular situation?" It might be as simple as asking her for help in coming up with a solution.

10. Give your teen choices. We all like to feel influential – and our teens are no different. Let them make as many choices as they can that will give them control over what happens to them. For example, "Do you want to do your homework before or after dinner?" or "Do you want to have your friend over for pizza Friday or Saturday evening?"

11. Help your teen become aware of her sensitivities and tolerance level. Help her to see what she does and what she doesn't do when she gets overloaded. Urge her to verbalize her feelings and develop a reflective attitude toward her sensitivities. That way, she eventually learns to prepare herself for challenging situations.

12. Help your teen figure out what she needs. The most important way to help your angry teen is to become aware of her underlying insecurities and vulnerabilities and be as soothing as possible. Underneath the teen’s anger is her inability to let you know directly how much she needs you and how much she depends on you for comfort and security. The only response she knows is to act out (hardly a way to win friends). Therefore, you want to first gain your teen’s trust and confidence and somehow slip under her anger so that you can offer her what she really needs.

13. Let your teens know how valuable they are to you. The more they feel valuable to us, the less likely they are to use anger as a coping strategy. Ask their advice on buying clothes, or how to decorate your home. Have them teach you a video game or a fun activity.

14. Make your instructions fun and enjoyable. Many of us approach disciplining our teens with a serious, no-fun-allowed attitude. But think about how much more you learn when you are enjoying yourself. For example, try singing "no" (e.g., “no, not today”) instead of speaking in your usual admonishing tone of voice, or use a gibberish language to ask your teen to pick up her socks from the living room floor (e.g., “picky up socky’). Some parents think they don't have time to think of unique ways to teach their teens or that they aren't creative enough to come up with ideas. Those are just self-limiting thoughts, and you would be better served throwing them out of your brain. A great skill to have as parents is to think of fun ways to handle difficult situations. You might be able to immediately win a power struggle by forcing your teen to do something, but in the long run, you both lose.

15. Pay attention to your physical reactions. It’s important to watch your physical reactions, because your senses will tell you, “Oh crap, here we go with another knock-down-drag-out battle.” You’ll feel your heart start beating faster and your muscles getting tight. Even though it’s hard to do, the trick is to act against that in some way and try to stay calm. Remember, you’re showing your teen how to handle anger in these moments. By staying calm, you’re not engaging in a power struggle, and paying attention to your own reactions will also help your teen pay attention to herself because she won’t need to worry about you “coming down on her.” When you don’t respond calmly, your teen will work even harder to “win the battle.

16. Stick with the major issues. The average teenager receives approximately 12 minutes a day in actual communication with her mom and/or dad. The parents spend 7 minutes of that time correcting or arguing with their teen. That only leaves about 5 minutes with anything positive going on. So, carefully choose the major issues to work on with your teen, and don't hassle her with a lot of minor complaints. Working on too many issues at once can be overwhelming.

17. Take care of yourself. Have you discovered that when you are tired and overworked that you become irritable and controlling of your teenager? Possibly the most important thing you can do for your teen is to take care of yourself. To be an effective, loving mother or father, you need a lot of energy and encouragement. Make time for yourself whether it is a bubble bath, yoga, or a light jog around the park. Knowing your early warning signs of burnout is also important (e.g., your shoulders getting tight, noticing that you are getting grumpy, a headache starts to come on, etc.). These are signs of not taking enough time for yourself, and if you don't take that time, you will most likely become resentful over the time others demand from you.

18. Teach your teens to say “no” to you in a respectful way. How many of us were allowed to say no growing up? If we weren't allowed to, we did say no in a number of other ways. Like rebelling, or doing a job half-ass. Teach your teens to say respectfully, "No, I'm not willing to do the dishes, but I will sweep the floors and clear the table." This creates an atmosphere of cooperation and support.

19. Understand that “bad” behavior is a form of communication. If we hold the belief that misbehaving teens are "bad," then we get drawn into trying to fix the bad teen and make her "good." That type of belief system sets up the power struggle. Instead, understand that your misbehaving teen is trying to communicate something to you, and it is your job to "get" that message. Ask her if her behavior is effective, is she getting the results she wants. In this way, the judgment is taken out of the equation. You might say, "This doesn't look like it is working because it is making you even angrier. What else can you try?" …or show curiosity about her behavior, "Babe, I'm curious, why did you do that?" You will probably get an honest answer and have a better understanding about what is going on with your teen.

20. Use self-calming. This is a technique you or your teen can do instead of reacting negatively to a situation. Take a break to get into a peaceful state of mind, to work through your feelings and find alternative solutions to the problem. It is a way to relax instead of reacting in an angry or hurtful way. Try going to a special space you have created for yourself that is peaceful. Ask yourself the following questions: (1) What is the issue? (2) What is my part in this issue? (3) What is one thing I can do to solve this problem?

21. Use signals. Sometimes when a parent and teen are working on resolving recurring conflict, it is helpful to have a signal that alerts both of them to this pattern of behavior. Use signals that you both have agreed upon and feel comfortable using. Remember the more power and control you give your teen, the more likely she will be to cooperate. Signals that are funny are also a light way of reminding each other about your patterns.

22. Use win-win negotiation to resolve conflict. Most of us were not taught the concept of win-win negotiation. We most likely experienced situations that were win-lose or lose-lose. When your teen is angry with you for some reason, the most effective negotiations are when both sides win and are happy with the end results. It can be challenging since you must listen intently to what your teen wants while staying committed to what you want. Ask your teen, "I see how you can win in this situation – and that's great, because I want you to win. How can I win, too?" When teens see that you are just as interested in seeing them win as yourself, they are more than willing to help figure out ways that you both can win.

My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents

Violent Siblings: What Parents Can Do

Sibling violence is the physical, emotional or sexual abuse of one sibling by another. The physical violence can range from more mild forms of aggression between siblings (e.g., pushing and shoving) to very violent behavior (e.g., using weapons).

Often times, moms and dads don’t see the abuse for what it is. As a rule, parents and society expect fights and aggression between brothers and sisters. Because of this, parents often don’t see sibling violence as a problem until serious harm occurs.

Besides the direct dangers of sibling violence, the abuse can cause all kinds of long-term problems on into adulthood. Research shows that violence between siblings is quite common. In fact, it is probably even more common than child abuse (by parents) or spouse abuse. Unfortunately, the most violent members of American families are the kids.

Experts estimate that 3 kids in 100 are dangerously violent toward a brother or sister. A 2005 study puts the number of assaults each year to kids by a sibling at about 35 per 100 children. The same study found the rate to be similar across income levels and racial and ethnic groups. Likewise, many researchers have estimated sibling incest to be much more common than parent-child incest.

It seems that when violent acts occur between siblings, family members often don’t see it as abuse. How do you identify abuse? What is the difference between sibling violence and sibling rivalry?

At times, all siblings squabble and call each other mean names, and some young siblings may "play doctor." But here is the difference between typical sibling behavior and abuse: If one youngster is always the victim and the other youngster is always the aggressor, it is an abusive situation.

Some possible signs of sibling violence are:
  • A youngster acts out abuse in play
  • A youngster acts out sexually in inappropriate ways
  • A youngster has changes in behavior, sleep patterns, eating habits, or has nightmares
  • One youngster always avoids their sibling
  • The kid’s roles are rigid: one youngster is always the aggressor, the other, the victim
  • The roughness or violence between siblings is increasing over time

How can you identify sibling abuse? Here are some useful guidelines:
  • How does the victim respond? Victims often respond to abuse from a brother or sister by protecting themselves, screaming and crying, separating themselves from the abuser, abusing a younger sibling in turn, telling their moms and dads, internalizing the abusive message, fighting back, or submitting.
  • How often does it happen and how long does it go on? Acceptable behavior that is long and drawn out may become abusive over time.
  • Is the behavior age-appropriate? Remember that generally you should confront fighting and jealousy even if you tend to think it is "normal."
  • Is there a victim in the situation? A victim may not want to participate, but may be unable to stop the activity.
  • What is the purpose of the behavior? If it tears down another person, it is abusive.

How can I prevent abuse from taking place between my kids?
  • Create a family atmosphere where everyone feels at ease talking about sexual issues and problems.
  • Don't give your older kids too much responsibility for your younger children (e.g., use after-school care programs, rather than leaving older kids in charge of younger ones after school).
  • Keep an eye on your children’ media choices (e.g., TV, video games, and Internet surfing), and either join in and then discuss the media messages or ban the poor choices.
  • Know when to intervene in your kids' conflicts, to prevent an escalation to abuse.
  • Learn to mediate conflicts.
  • Model good conflict-solving skills for your kids.
  • Model non-violence for your kids.
  • Set aside time regularly to talk with your kids one-on-one, especially after they've been alone together.
  • Set ground rules to prevent emotional abuse, and stick to them (e.g., make it clear you will not put up with name-calling, teasing, belittling, intimidating, or provoking).
  • Teach them to say “no” to unwanted physical contact.
  • Teach your kids to "own" their own bodies.

What should I do if there's abuse going on between my children?

When one sibling hits, bites, or physically tortures a brother or sister, the normal rivalry has become abuse. You can't let this dangerous behavior continue. Here's what to do:
  • After a cooling off period, bring all the children involved into a family meeting.
  • Brainstorm many possible solutions to the problem, and ways to reach the goal.
  • Continue to watch closely your kids' contacts in the future.
  • Gather information on facts and feelings.
  • Help the children work together to set a positive goal (e.g., they will separate themselves and take time to cool off when they start arguing).
  • Help your children learn how to manage their anger.
  • Make sure you don't ignore, blame, or punish the victim—while at the same time, not playing favorites.
  • Make your expectations and the family rules very clear.
  • State the problem as you understand it.
  • Talk together about the list of solutions and pick the ones that are best for everyone.
  • Whenever violence occurs between kids, separate them.
  • Write up a contract together that states the rights and responsibilities of each youngster. Include a list of expected behavior, and consequences for breaking the code of conduct.

Can sibling relationships have lasting effects into adulthood?

In the last few years, more researchers have looked at the lasting effects of early experiences with sisters and brothers. Siblings can have strong, long-lasting effects on one another's emotional development as adults.

Research indicates that the long-term effects of surviving sibling violence can include:

o Alcohol and drug addiction
o Depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem
o Eating disorders
o Inability to trust; relationship difficulties
o Learned helplessness

Even less extreme sibling rivalry during childhood can create insecurity and poor self-image in adulthood. Sibling conflict does not have to be physically violent to take a long-lasting emotional toll. Emotional abuse (e.g., teasing, name-calling, isolation, etc.) can also do long-term damage. The abuser is also at risk—for future violent or abusive relationships (e.g., dating violence and domestic violence).

My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents

How To Say “No” Without Having An Argument

According to parenting experts, the average youngster hears the word “no” an astonishing 400 times a week. That's not only tiresome for you, but it can also be harmful to your son or daughter. According to studies, children who hear “no” too often have poorer language skills than kids whose moms and dads offer more positive feedback. Also, saying “no” can become ineffective when it's overused (a little like crying wolf). Some children simply start to ignore the word, while others slip into a rage the minute that dreaded syllable crosses your lips.

So what's a parent to do — let her kids run amok without any limits? Well, no! Parents can break out of the “yes-no tug-of-war” by coming up with new ways to set limits.

Here are 20 positive ways to answer your child in the negative:

1. Adjust your use of the word "no" over time. For example, in the first year of life, the word "no" is usually reserved for warning your youngster of dangers he encounters (e.g., a hot stove). Preschoolers might hear "no" regarding their negative social interactions. Older kids and teens hear "no" in response to their material requests. Temper your use of the word "no" as your youngster's skills and independence grows.

2. Are You a Parent Who Can't Say No? In their zeal to give their kids everything they need, some parents risk giving their kids everything they want. Parents who practice attachment parenting risk becoming totally "yes" parents, with "no" being foreign to their parenting style. It is important for the parent to feel comfortable saying 'no' to the child from the very beginning.

3. Avoid Set-ups. For example, if you're taking your youngster along with you to a toy store to buy a birthday present for his friend, realize that you are setting yourself up for a confrontation. Your youngster is likely to want to buy everything in the store. To avoid the inevitable "No, you can't have that toy," before you go into the store, tell him that you are there to buy a birthday present and not a toy for him so that he is programmed not to expect a toy.

4. Create Alternatives To The N-Word. Constantly saying "no" causes this word to lose its punch. Since stop sounds are used mainly to protect, try using more specific words that fit the situation. Consider this example: When a child is about to reach into the cat litter box, your first reaction is to say "no," but follow it up with an explanation: "Dirty! Make you sick." Next time the youngster goes for the litter box (and he will do it again), instead of "no," say "Dirty! Make you sick." That (and a disgusted expression on your face) will help the youngster learn the “why” as well as the “what” of good behavior, and the litter box will lose its attraction.

5. Distinguish between reasonable requests and unreasonable requests. Seasoned moms and dads often advise new parents to "choose your battles." You and your spouse should decide what requests are reasonable. If your 5-year-old yearns to jump in puddles every day, perhaps he could be indulged now and then if you have time for a quick clean up before dinner.

6. Encourage your children to think about others. The next time your children ask for new clothes, start by asking them to take inventory of what they already have. If they have outgrown a lot of their clothes, use the opportunity to teach them about donating their old clothes to others in need. If your kids want a big birthday party but you don't think they need all those gifts, encourage them to ask guests to bring money to donate to a charitable organization or a book that could be exchanged at the party (so everyone gets a gift). Or you could just write "no gifts" on the invitation and explain to your youngster that some families might not have extra money in their budgets for gifts.

7. Explain why you're saying “no” in terms children can understand. The slave labor excuse might resonate with a 10-year-old, but it won't work on a 4-year-old. You'll just get a blank stare then more pleading. That's why your response has to be age appropriate -- and simple. If you have young kids and want to prevent in-store meltdowns, set limits before you go shopping and tell them what the consequences are for disobeying. "You can pick out one thing" or "We're just getting a few things at the grocery today, so please don't ask for anything."

8. Give Positive Substitutes. Present a positive with your negative: "You can't have the knife, but you can have the ball." Use a convincing expression to market the "can do" in order to soften the "can't do." "You can't go across the street," you say with a matter-of-fact tone of voice; then carefully state, "You can help Mommy sweep the sidewalk." There is a bit of creative marketing in every parent.

9. Master "The Look". You can often correct a youngster without saying a word. Master disciplinarians use a look of disapproval that stops the behavior, but preserves the youngster's self-image. Your youngster should understand that you disapprove of the behavior, not him or her. To be certain you strike the right note in disapproval discipline, follow the look with a hug, a smile, or a forthright explanation, "I don't like what you did, but I like you."

10. Personalize "No". Rather than giving a dictatorial "no," add your youngster's name (e.g., “no Michael”). If you tend to shout, a personalized address at least softens the sound and respects the listener. Some moms and dads confuse respecting the youngster with granting him equal power, but this is not a power issue. The person with the power should respect the person taken charge of. That consideration holds true in parenting; it holds true in other relationships as well.

11. Prepare yourself to be on the receiving end of "no." Saying "no" is important for a youngster's development, and for establishing his identity as an individual. This is not defiance or a rejection of your authority. Some moms and dads feel they cannot tolerate any "no's" at all from their kids, thinking that to permit this would undermine their authority. They wind up curtailing an important process of self-emergence. Kids have to experiment with where their parent leaves off and where they begin. Moms and dads can learn to respect individual wishes and still stay in charge and maintain limits.

12. Reinforce your values by saying "no" with a calm demeanor. If you become shrill (and what parent doesn't at one time or another?) you risk alienating your youngster, as she rolls her eyes and discounts your reasoning. Saying "no" one time, firmly and with conviction will become increasingly effective over time.

13. Remember to listen to your youngster and validate his feelings. Although we as moms and dads are not obligated to explain every refusal to our kids, sometimes we need to open up the lines of communication by hearing the youngster's side of the argument, even when we know the answer will still be "No!"

14. Rephrase your youngster's question into a sentence. If he says, "Do I have to go to bed?" You can say, "I know you don't want to go to bed, but it is bedtime and we have to wake up early." Again, acknowledge their request, because all children want is to be heard.

15. Say, "Yes, but you'll have to use your money." Children don't have a problem spending your money. But if they have to pony up their own cash, they might back off with their requests. Plus, making children pay -- or at least chip in -- for things they want teaches them a good lesson about making choices.

16. State the facts simply. So if your youngster asks you to stay longer at his friend's house, instead of saying “no,” try saying, “We have to go now. But next time, we can stay longer.”

17. Substitute a choice if you feel that all you ever say to your youngster is "no." If your son asks to watch a movie you have decided is too mature, instead of saying, "No!" you could respond, "We can watch a movie, and the movies you can choose from are X, Y and Z."

18. Teach Stop Sounds. Often a change in your mood or body language is not enough to redirect impulsive actions. Words are needed. Kids soon learn which discipline words carry more power and demand a quicker response than others. And kids soon learn which tone of voice means business and which allows for some latitude. Arm yourself with a variety of "stop-what-you're-doing" sounds so that you can choose one that fits the occasion. Tailor the intensity of the sound to the gravity of the behavior. Save the really big sounds for true danger.

19. Use the word "no" consistently for maximum impact. If your teenage daughter knows you will cave in and extend her curfew after 20 minutes of begging, she has learned that "no" does not really mean "no." Consistency is important across all age levels. When You Say It, Mean It. Follow through on your directives.

20. What If Your Youngster Won't Accept No? Kids, especially those with a strong will, try to wear moms and dads down. They are convinced they must have something or their world can't go on. They pester and badger until you say "yes" just to stop the wear and tear on your nerves. This is faulty discipline. If however, your youngster's request seems reasonable after careful listening, be willing to negotiate. Sometimes you may find it wise to change your mind after saying "no". While you want your youngster to believe your "no" means no, you also want your youngster to feel you are approachable and flexible. It helps to hold your "no" until you've heard your youngster out. If you sense your youngster is uncharacteristically crushed or angry at your "no," listen to her side. Maybe she has a point you hadn't considered or her request is a bigger deal to her than you imagined. Be open to reversing your decision, if warranted. Make sure, though, that she realizes it was not her "wear down" tactics that got the reversal of your decision.

My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents

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