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

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

Resolving Sibling Conflict: Tips for Stressed Parents

Sibling conflict is the jealousy, competition and fighting between brothers and sisters.  It is a concern for almost all moms and dads of two or more children. Problems often start right after the birth of the second youngster.  Sibling conflict usually continues throughout childhood and can be very frustrating and stressful to moms and dads.  There are lots of things parents can do to help their children get along better and work through sibling rivalry in positive ways.

There are many factors that contribute to sibling conflict:

• Kids feel they are getting unequal amounts of your attention, discipline, and responsiveness.

• Kids may feel their relationship with their moms and dads is threatened by the arrival of a new baby.

• Kids may not know positive ways to get attention from or start playful activities with a brother or sister, so they pick fights instead.

• Kids often fight more in families where moms and dads think aggression and fighting between siblings is normal and an acceptable way to resolve disagreements.

• Kids who are hungry, bored or tired are more likely to become frustrated and start fights.

• Each youngster is competing to define who they are as an individual.  As they discover who they are, they try to find their own talents, activities, and interests.  They want to show that they are separate from their siblings.

• Family dynamics play a role. For example, one youngster may remind a parent of a relative who was particularly difficult, and this may subconsciously influence how the parent treats that youngster.

• How moms and dads treat their children and react to conflict can make a big difference in how well siblings get along.

• Not having time to share regular, enjoyable family time together (e.g., family meals) can increase the chances of kids engaging in conflict.

• Stress in the moms and dads' lives can decrease the amount of time and attention moms and dads can give the kids and increase sibling conflict.

• Stress in your kid’s lives can shorten their fuses, and decrease their ability to tolerate frustration, leading to more conflict.

• Your kid’s developmental stages will affect how mature they are and how well they can share your attention and get along with one another.

How Parents Can Reduce Sibling Conflict—

1. Being fair is very important, but it is not the same as being equal. Older and younger kids may have different privileges due to their age, but if kids understand that this inequality is because one youngster is older or has more responsibilities, they will see this as fair.  Even if you did try to treat your kids equally, there will still be times when they feel as if they’re not getting a fair share of attention, discipline, or responsiveness from you. Expect this and be prepared to explain the decisions you have made. Reassure your children that you do your best to meet each of their unique needs.

2. Don’t play favorites.

3. Enjoy each of your kid’s individual talents and successes.

4. Let each youngster be who they are.  Don’t try to pigeonhole or label them.

5. Make sure each youngster has enough time and space of their own.  Children need chances to do their own thing, play with their own friends without their sibling, and to have their space and property protected.

6. Pay attention to the time of day or other patterns in when disagreements usually occur. Are disagreements more likely right before naps or bedtime or maybe when kids are hungry before meals?   Perhaps a change in the routine, an earlier meal or snack, or a well-planned quiet activity when the children are at loose ends could help avert your youngsters’ disagreements.

7. Plan family activities that are fun for everyone.  If your children have good experiences together, it acts as a buffer when they come into conflict.  It’s easier to work it out with someone you share warm memories with.

8. Set your children up to cooperate rather than compete (e.g., have them race the clock to pick up toys, instead of racing each other).

9. Teach your children positive ways to get attention from each other.  Show them how to approach another youngster and ask them to play, and to share their belongings and toys.

10. Try not to compare your kids to one another (e.g., don't say things like, "Your brother gets good grades in math—why can't you?").

11. Set aside “alone time” for each youngster, if possible.  Each parent should try to spend some one-on-one with each kid on a regular basis.  Try to get in at least a few minutes each day.  It’s amazing how much even 10 minutes of uninterrupted one-on-one time can mean to your youngster.

12. When you are alone with each youngster, you may want to ask them once in a while what  are some of the positive things their brother or sister does that they really like and what are some of the things they do that might bother them or make them mad. This will help you keep tabs on their relationships, and also remind you that they probably do have some positive feelings for each other!

13. Listen—really listen—to how your kids feel about what’s going on in the family.  They may not be so demanding if they know you at least care how they feel.

14. Celebrate your kid’s differences.

15. Let each youngster know they are special in their own way.

16. Research shows that you should pay attention to your youngsters’ disagreements so that no one gets hurt, and you can notice abuse if it occurs. Try to see if your kids can work out their own disagreements, but remember that younger kids will probably need you to intervene and help structure the problem-solving.    Try not to take sides and favor one youngster over the other. Get them settled and calm first, then ask questions about what happened before dispensing discipline.

17. Help your children develop the skills to work out their disagreements on their own.  Teach them how to compromise, respect one another, divide things fairly, etc.  If you give them the tools, eventually they will have the confidence that they can work it out themselves.

18. Don’t yell or lecture.  It won’t help.

19. It doesn’t matter “who started it,” because it takes two to make a quarrel.  Hold kids equally responsible when ground rules get broken.

20. In a conflict, give your children a chance to express their feelings about each other.  Don’t try to talk them out of their feelings.  Help your children find words for their feelings.  Show them how to talk about their feelings, without yelling, name-calling, or violence.

21. Encourage win-win negotiations, where each side gains something.

22. Give your children reminders and advance warnings (for example, counting to three). When they start picking on each other, help them remember to state their feelings to each other.  Help them solve the problem themselves. You can offer suggestions, but let them decide what the best options are.

23. If you are constantly angry at your children, no wonder they are angry at each other!  Anger feeds on itself.  Learn to manage your anger, so you can teach your kids how to manage theirs.

24. Teach conflict resolution skills during calm times.

25. Model good conflict resolution skills for your children when interacting with them and with other family members.

26. Dangerous fights need to be stopped immediately.  Separate the kids.  When they have calmed down, talk about what happened and make it very clear that no violence is ever allowed.

27. If your kids are physically violent with each other on a regular basis, and/or one youngster is always the victim, is frightened of the brother/sister, and doesn’t fight back, you are dealing with sibling abuse.  You should seek immediate professional help and guidance.

Involve your kids in setting ground rules.  Ground rules, with clear and consistent consequences for breaking them, can help prevent many squabbles.  Here are a few ideas:
  • Any youngster who demands to be first will go last.
  • If arguing over who gets first choice of bedtime stories or favorite seats in the car is a problem, assign your children certain days of the week to be the one to make these choices. 
  • If borrowing is a problem, have the youngster who borrows something from a brother or sister put up collateral—a possession that will be returned only when the borrowed item is returned. 
  • If the children fight over a toy, the toy goes into time-out. 
  • In a conflict, no hurting (e.g., hitting, kicking, pinching, etc.) is ever allowed. 
  • No fighting in the car or you will pull over and stop until all is calm again. 
  • No making fun of a youngster who is being punished, or you will also be punished. 
  • No name-calling, yelling, or tattling is allowed.

What are family meetings, and how can they help with sibling conflict?

If you have older kids, call a family meeting every once in a while. A family meeting is a meeting for all family members to work together to make family decisions. Moms and dads, kids, and any others who live in the home and have a stake in decisions affecting the daily life of the family should take part. Choose a time that works for everyone.  Establish a set of rules (e.g., no yelling or name-calling, everyone gets a turn) and allow everyone to have a say, even if members don’t agree.

The purpose of the family meeting is to recognize that everyone's opinion makes a difference.  The meeting allows the family to share their opinions, seek understanding, and find resolutions to problems. Family meetings help to build cooperation and responsibility, and make anger and rebellion less likely. Also, it is a time to share love, develop unity, and to build trust and self-esteem. The social skills and attitudes that kids develop within the family circle are the skills and attitudes they will carry with them the rest of their lives

Ground rules for family meetings:
  • Everyone gets a chance to talk
  • Everyone has to listen 
  • No one has to talk 
  • No one puts anyone else down
  • Okay to say what you feel 
  • One person talks at a time and does not get interrupted

Sample agenda for family meetings:
  • Clarify the issue to be discussed
  • Determine priority issue(s)
  • Determine the most effective solutions
  • Discuss family issues, concerns, interests, and positive events of past week
  • Generate possible solutions
  • Make plans to implement the solution
  • Plan one fun activity for the coming week


My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents

Tips for Future Stepmothers

 Becoming a Stepmother?

The prospect of creating a blended family can evoke feelings of excitement, relief, nervousness and worry in a future stepmother. Experiencing a wide variety of feelings is normal and common. Because building a successful blended family requires a lot of energy and commitment, it is important for the future stepmother to talk to her future husband about what they expect from each other and their new family, both before and after the marriage occurs. This enables them to discuss important issues and can help them avoid serious problems down the road. It is critical to have realistic expectations and goals for blended family life. Time spent wisely during courtship can lay a foundation for positive blended family relationships.

Beginning a new family requires careful consideration. Think about these questions:
  • How have you managed the strong feelings about your former spouse? To what extent do these feelings affect your present relationship with your potential new spouse?
  • What goals do you have for this marriage?
  • What values are important for you to have in common with your future mate?

People desire to get married or remarried for a variety of valid reasons. It is important for the couple to discuss their motives for wanting to marry, because they may be different. Likewise, an understanding of - and respect for - each other's basic values and priorities is essential to the success of any close relationship.

Losing a former partner through divorce is usually accompanied by strong feelings (e.g., sadness, anger, guilt, etc.). Each individual in the prospective marriage needs adequate time to heal before re-entering another marital relationship, or the adjustment to blended family life will likely be more difficult. The couple should assess their feelings about former spouses and honestly consider how those feelings are impacting their present relationship.

Employment—

An individual’s job frequently occupies a large percentage of his or her time and energy, making it something around which family life largely revolves. Consider these questions when thinking about your job:
  • Will your new marriage require a job change for you or your spouse?
  • How compatible are the demands of your career?
  • Whose job has priority in deciding where to live, working overtime, etc.?

Employment can bring many positive outcomes (e.g., financial support, friendship, self-esteem, etc.). However, employment can also be emotionally and physically demanding, time-consuming and stressful. When contemplating marriage, it is important for future spouses to understand each other's feelings about their careers and the amount of time and commitment they require. The life changes that a new marriage brings may tempt people to change or discontinue their current job. However, too many major changes at once can be stressful. Often it is recommended that future spouses continue in their same career path until they have made an initial adjustment to their new blended family.

Financial Issues—

It is essential that future spouses communicate about financial decisions and their personal philosophies about money. Each individual brings previous experiences and perspectives about family finances to the new marriage — often the expectations are vastly different. Consider these questions:
  • How much money does each of you make?
  • Who provides what proportion of support and living expenses?
  • How should money be allocated to kids?
  • What financial responsibilities do you have to other family (e.g., child support, maintenance, care for an elderly parent, etc.)?

Financial issues are a common source of stress in many families, but they can be especially problematic in blended families. Blended families are usually more complicated than first-time families because there are more relationships to consider and more sources of income. Child support payments can be a difficult issue in blended families. Child support obligations continue the link between former partners and are often a source of persistent problems. It can be stressful for people in one household to have to base their financial decisions on the needs of another household (e.g., it is not uncommon for women in new marriages to be frustrated because their spouses must pay a substantial amount of money to support their kids from a previous relationship).

Before getting married, it is important for future spouses to decide whether they will pool their resources or keep them separate. It is also highly recommended that they construct a tentative family budget. Although discussing financial issues will not likely eliminate all problems with money, it helps the two understand the specifics of each other's financial situation and provides the impetus for making important decisions together.

Living Arrangements—

A major issue for blended families is where they will live, and who will live with whom. Consider these questions:
  • Do kids live with you now, or do you anticipate they will in the future?
  • Do they have a special place for their belongings, even if they only live with you for short visits or holidays?
  • What living arrangements work best for your family?
  • Who should be responsible for which household chores?

In an ideal situation, the blended family is able to begin living together in a place they can call their own. Moving into a home in which a previous partner and/or kids lived can be uncomfortable and make the new members feel like outsiders. Creating a home together that is new everyone provides a fresh start for the blended family. However, a new home is often impractical, financially or otherwise. In any case, it is essential that all members in the family have spaces of their own, even if they do not live in the household all the time. Also, being able to choose how to decorate one's own room or space is usually exciting and can ease the transition into blended family life.

It is also important that everyone be involved as much as possible in making decisions about household chores. Kids will be less likely to resent decisions made by stepmothers about chores and other responsibilities when they have participated in the decision-making process. Future spouses should keep in mind that there are many ways to perform household chores, and people from different families often have different expectations regarding who should be responsible for which tasks. Discussing these issues before the marriage occurs paves the way for a smoother transition to blended family life.

The Kids—

Building relationships with stepkids is a huge task, one usually requiring a great deal of time and effort. You should consider these questions:
  • Do you and your new spouse want to have kids together?
  • How well do you know and relate to each other's kids?
  • What do you want and expect from your stepson/stepdaughter?
  • What role do you want your future spouse to play in your kid's lives, now and in the future?
  • What types of custody/visitation arrangements do you currently have?
  • What types of rules and discipline do you want operating in your home?

It is absolutely necessary that people spend adequate time discussing their beliefs about child rearing, discipline, rules and other issues related to their kids before they decide to get remarried. Once the man and woman make the decision to get married, it is important that they tell their kids directly and give them an idea of the effect the remarriage will have on their lives. Kids will likely have many questions and concerns about the new family, and it is important to take time to address these questions in a serious, respectful manner. Making sure that kids are included in the wedding plans and other family-related decisions gives them the feeling of having some control over their lives.

Moms and dads need to realize that their kids will probably not view the remarriage with the same emotions as they do. Although the man and woman are looking forward to gaining a new mate, the kids may feel as if they are losing their mother to the new partner. This can be especially upsetting to kids if they took on greater responsibilities in a single parent family and developed a peer-like relationship with their parent.

Also, stepkids will probably not feel strong positive feelings for their stepmothers automatically, and vice versa. Although two grown-ups may love each other, they may not necessarily love each other's kids right away. Patience is necessary for all parties in a blended family, because it can take years for bonding to occur in blended family relationships.

Kids will likely be affected differently in the blended family, depending upon their age and level of development.

Preschool: Remarriage can be confusing to young kids. Their familiar routines will likely be disrupted, and they may require more attention and affection from their parents. It is important that they feel loved by both of their biological mother and father, as well as the new stepmother. At this young age, most kids will react positively to a stepmother who tries to establish a good relationship.

School-age: Kids in elementary school often have a wide variety of feelings when one of their parents remarries. They may feel anger and hostility because remarriage dashes their hope that their biological mother and father may get back together. Feelings of frustration may occur if they have to share their space or possessions with new stepbrothers/sisters, or if they are subjected to new rules and routines. If kids feel displaced by the new stepmother, they may try to attract attention by being "extra good" – or acting out. School-age kids may be embarrassed by the remarriage because they do not know how to tell their peers or teachers about it. Other common feelings include guilt, betrayal and uncertainty. It is important for moms and dads to reassure their kids that they are still loved and important. Like preschoolers, school-age kids need to maintain a positive relationship with the biological mother with whom they are not living.

Teens: Adolescents may experience many of the same feelings as school-age kids (e.g., anger, hostility and frustration). They may become withdrawn and seemingly apathetic to the new marriage. It is common for teenagers to feel displaced by the new stepmother. Because adolescents are striving for greater independence and freedom at this time in their lives anyway, it is likely that they will clash with a stepmother who attempts to take on a parental role and expects to play a part in disciplining the kids.

Although blended families are "instant" families, it can take considerable time for the stepchild to accept his/her stepmother and stepbrothers/sisters as family. Blended family members have had previous relationships and are likely to have different ideas in some areas about how things should be. It takes time to create a new, cohesive family unit. There will be many challenges among members in a new blended family, but by discussing issues related to kids, spouses will be better prepared to cope with the new family dynamics.

Parenting Ideas—
  1. Be realistic and patient in your effort to build a blended family.
  2. Be unified with your partner about rules, methods of discipline, and other important issues.
  3. Ease into the stepmother role by focusing on building a friendship with your stepchild before trying to parent him/her.
  4. Educate yourself about blended family life by reading books and articles about blended families.
  5. Get outside help when needed from a counselor or by attending an educational program for blended families.
  6. Have family meetings regularly to provide a time for people to communicate about relevant issues and concerns.
  7. Let kids choose what name to call the stepmother.
  8. Talk to other stepmothers who can be a valuable source of support and ideas.

Relationships—

Relationships with others can have a significant impact upon the quality of life in a new blended family. Some questions to consider are:
  • How do you presently communicate with your former partner?
  • How do your spouse's parents feel about their step-grandparent role?
  • How much contact do your kids have with their other parent?

If at all possible, it is important that kids maintain positive relationships with the biological mother who lives elsewhere. No matter how good the relationship is between a stepmother and stepchild, a stepmother can never replace a biological mother. Kids need to feel that both of their biological parents care about them. Efforts should also be made to maintain contact between kids and their grandparents and other extended family.

It is also essential that spouses strive to have courteous relationships with their former partners. This can be difficult, but good relationships between biological parents greatly benefit the blended family. Although feelings of hurt and anger may persist, former partners should strive to make their kid's welfare their top priority in their dealings with each other.

Tips for Success—

There are many things blended families can do that will help them develop positive relationships with each other. The following are a few suggestions.

1.    Give one another time to adjust to new roles. Becoming a member of a blended family can be challenging because people acquire new roles that are likely to be unfamiliar. For example, there are considerable differences between being a birth parent and a stepmother, and these differences may require a lot of adjustment. Forming a blended family brings a lot of changes into the lives of all parties involved, and being flexible is crucial for the family's success. Building a strong blended family involves more than love and good intentions. Being a member of a blended family requires a lot of hard work, creativity and endurance. In most cases, time is a critical factor in the development of healthy blended family relationships. This makes patience important, despite trials and challenges. Remembering that many blended families do achieve unity, happiness and fulfillment can help you survive the rough spots. Discussing important issues with your spouse will help you lay a solid foundation from which you can build a happy and successful blended family.

2.    Family traditions strengthen families because they create feelings of solidarity and oneness among members. They can also help a family create a sense of identity. These outcomes are especially important in blended families, where members must make an effort in order to feel as if they are actually a family. Creating new traditions that are unique to the blended family can help create a new family identity. Holidays are opportune times for families to create new traditions. However, it is important to leave some traditions in place from previous families for the sake of familiarity and stability (e.g., a family celebrating Christmas could try one or two new recipes, while cooking a favorite dish of each family member). If they are accustomed to sharing the holiday with extended family, they might continue to do so but incorporate new activities into the day's events. This would help them find a good balance between change and stability in their traditions.

3.    Participating in enjoyable family activities helps members get to know one another better and strengthens family bonds. Possible activities include working on a project around the house, taking walks in the evening, and playing games together. Taking day trips and going on vacations can also help unify people and create lasting memories. All members of the family need the opportunity to assist in planning activities. This will help them feel more involved and they will be more dedicated to helping the activity be a success. By making family time a priority, everyone will be able to see that you are committed to creating a strong blended family.

4.    One of the most important things spouses can do in a new marriage is to continue to build their relationship. Moms and dads often feel greater loyalties to their kids because they have had a relationship with them for a much longer time. However, it is vital that spouses present a united front to the kids in their home. Kids can sense when parents are not in agreement, and they can use the situation to work in their favor by playing one parent against the other. In order to build unity, spouses need to be honest and open with each other and practice good communication skills. It is also important that they spend time alone together and nurture their friendship. A strong couple bond is essential to the success of the blended family.

5.    While spending time together as a family is important and beneficial, it is also essential that everyone interact with each other on a one-on-one basis. Because kids often feel displaced by a new partner and/or stepsiblings, spending private time with their birth parent helps kids feel that they are still important despite the changes in their family. It is also helpful for stepmothers to spend one-on-one time with their stepkids. Activities such as going out for ice cream or spending time in a park on a nice day can help both the child and the parent build a relationship and overcome the awkwardness that is often present among everyone in the family who do not know each other well. Letting the stepson or stepdaughter choose an activity with which he/she is comfortable (when possible) will increase the likelihood of a positive experience.

My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents

Parenting Tweens: 25 Tips for Moms & Dads

Mark Twain is said to have advised that when a youngster turns 13, his mother or father should put him in a barrel, close the lid, and feed him through a hole in the side.  Then, when he turns 16, plug up the hole.

A tween is a child between the ages of 9 and 12 (but this age could sometimes extend up to the age of 15). The child thinks she’s a teenager – but she’s not quite there yet. It is a relatively recent term used to describe a distinct period in life in which kids are still kids, but are starting to develop a more realistic view of the world, similar to adolescents.

Tweens are developing a more realistic view of the world in several ways:
  • increased feelings of independence
  • more developed sense of self and identity
  • more mature, sensible, realistic thoughts and actions
  • more nuanced view of human relationships (e.g., they may notice the flawed, human side of adult authority figures more readily than they would at a younger age)
  • more nuanced view of morality
  • more realistic fears (e.g., kidnappings, rapes, and scary media events, as opposed to fantasy things such as witches, monsters, etc.)
  • more realistic job expectations
  • more responsibilities (e.g., mowing the lawn, delivering papers, collecting firewood and shoveling snow)
  • more tolerance to movie, television and video game violence and other content

While these traits may sound similar to those of adolescents, tweens think more similarly to kids than they do to adolescents, and these traits are still much undeveloped.

Many schools attempt to develop these feelings through the use of lessons tailored specifically to tweens' developing worldview. For example, debates on touchy moral issues (e.g., abortion) are sometimes introduced in the upper elementary school grades, as are classes on current events.

Tweens are also known for their brand consumption, and are a heavily targeted market of many advertisers. Their tendency to buy brand-name items may be due to a desire to fit in, although the desire is not as strong as it is with adolescents. Many of these brands names fall under clothing and music.

In any event, if you are the parent of a tween, then I’m very sure you can use some help (unless you are Dr. Phil), so here you go…

Parenting Tweens: 25 Tips for Moms and Dads—

1. Adjust bedtimes according to your kid's behavior that day. For each infraction, they must go to bed five minutes earlier, but if they've been good, they can earn the right to stay up an extra five minutes.

2. Be ready to talk when your preadolescent needs to. Your child will continue to come to you if she knows you're likely to listen to her without jumping in to judge unimportant details.

3. When your youngster was a toddler or preschooler -- or maybe even as recently as a year ago -- you could pretty much get her to do what you wanted with positive reinforcement (e.g., praising her for being good, showering her with stickers) and the occasional time-out. With a preadolescent, however, most moms and dads find they have to bring out the big guns. Very few older children are likely to change their behavior based on, say, the promise of an ice cream cone if they can go a week without stomping around the house. Taking away a favorite activity (e.g., Xbox or cell phone) is the best consequence when tweens talk back or mumble something rude under their breath. Whatever you do decide, follow through. Once you don't do what you say, they'll take total advantage, and you'll lose your upper hand again.

4. You'll need to come up with some new rules as your preadolescent exercises his growing independence. Start by figuring out what's most important to you (e.g., right and wrong, honesty, grades, etc.), and let go of stuff that doesn't matter in the long-run (e.g., keeping his room neat, wearing clean socks, etc.).

5. Make sure your kid knows when she’s crossed the line. For example, ignore eye-rolling or heavy sighs, but if she calls you a “bitch” and walks off in the middle of a conversation, that gets a consequence. Communicate as clearly and as calmly as you can as soon as any unacceptable behavior begins. Try not to wait until it's out of control and your kid is screaming that she hates you.

6. As much as your youngster wants (and needs) to begin separating from you, he's still a kid and wants (and needs) to have a safety net. So provide one.

7. If a job is not done diligently, have your youngster practice doing it. She'll learn to be more thorough if she's made to sweep the floor three times because her first effort wasn't good enough.

8. If you repeatedly open the door to your youngster's room only to catch him in an act of disobedience, take your youngster's bedroom door off the hinges. It sounds harder to do than it actually is. And it works wonders!

9. If your tween gets too hyper, come up with a code word to remind him to stop the action without embarrassing him. For example, whenever he starts getting too rowdy in a group, yell, "Hey, Batman." He will know he needs to calm down before you have to take more drastic measures.

10. If your youngster likes to stomp off to his room or stomp around in anger, send him outside to the driveway and tell him to stomp his feet for one minute. He'll be ready to quit after about 15 seconds, but make him stomp even harder.

11. Include your tween in decision making and involve him in conversations about your own life so that he knows he has a valuable contribution to make to your life. This confirms for him a sense of belonging in your family and builds his respect and self-esteem.

12. When a "discussion" between you and your preadolescent leads to screaming or hysterics, step back and wait for things to calm down. Encouraging your youngster to take a break from a situation is a good way to defuse high emotions all around.

13. The “tween years” is not the time to try to be your youngster's best friend. Despite appearances to the contrary, he's looking to you to help him get through this confusing stage. Ultimately, he'll take his cues for how to behave from the way that you deal with a given situation.

14. Make a homemade “consequence jar” and fill it with slips of paper with various consequences written on them. Instead of giving your youngster a time-out, send her to the jar for a slip (e.g., no TV or computer for a night, early bedtime, an extra chore, etc.).

15. Next time your youngster "forgets" to put something away (e.g., video games, sports equipment, etc.), put it away for him. When he asks where it is, tell him that he'll just have to look for it. He will learn that it's a lot more trouble to find something that you’ve hidden than it is to put it away in the first place.

16. One way to handle a tantrum is to simply say, "That is too disruptive for this house. You may continue your fit in the backyard. When you're finished, you are welcome to come back inside." When there isn't an audience, the thrill of throwing a tantrum is gone.

17. Peer pressure will become greater. Be sure you're still the one he can trust to talk to, because you are attentive and have time for him. Be understanding and sensitive to his feelings, and be sure to hold back from impulsive reactions, snap decisions and judgments.

18. Share openly with your tween so that she will know you are human and accessible when the difficult issues begin to come up for her.

19. Seek immediate help if your tween’s behavior is truly threatening. Once the crisis is averted and after ensuring everyone's safety, the first thing you should do is sit down and talk. Try to identify "things" your youngster values. This may include bicycle time, controlling the music choices in the car, or freedom to stay up until a certain time. These "things" are your tools. When you know what these tools are, use them as rewards and consequences.

20. Take your preadolescent out for breakfast or invite him along to walk the dog, just the two of you. Don't push an agenda, but do let your youngster lead the conversation, even if he just wants to chatter on about that video game he's addicted to. You never know where the conversation might lead -- and even if it goes nowhere, you'll get points for listening.

21. Take time to participate in your tween’s activities and the events she's passionate about even if you're not interested in them. Celebrate her! This lets her know that she is important to you, and it builds the bond between the two of you.

22. Timers set definite boundaries. For example, with a timer, you can say, "I'm setting the timer. I want the dishes unloaded in 10 minutes. If you haven't finished by then, your consequence is _____." This method not only spurs on easily distracted kids, but it also leaves little room for arguing about a job that isn't finished and whether the consequence is warranted.

23. Remember that consequences should fit the situation. Too often, moms and dads respond to a youngster's misbehavior with too harsh a punishment. A youngster grounded for 2 weeks for a minor offense may have trouble seeing the end of such a consequence and may lose all incentive to improve his or her behavior.

24. Remember that consequences should be immediate. An immediate consequence makes it clear to your youngster what behavior caused the reward or consequence.

25. Your preadolescent should be moving away and out into the world. Your job is to move with him, not away from him. Recommit to maintaining a close relationship so that no matter what he does, you're not far from him.

My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents

Resolving Parental Disputes

There are some families in which the parents’ beliefs about changing children’s behavior are so different that their attempts at discipline become more of a problem than a solution. A youngster whose dad is strict, but whose mom is a consistent pushover, for example, receives confusing information about what’s expected.

Such fundamental disagreements can lead to difficulties that go far beyond the consequences of not picking up toys after playing with them. Moms and dads who have significantly different parenting styles are more likely to have kids with behavior problems than families who have similar styles.

Here are some steps you can take to work towards resolving parenting disagreements:

1.    Be prepared for behavioral problems. Remember that many changes in your kid’s behaviors are linked to their stage of normal development. It should come as no surprise that your 3-year-old becomes defiant or your first-grader has an occasional temper tantrum. Talk ahead of time about how each of you would handle these predictable situations. That way you’ll have fewer conflicts when they occur.

2.    Discuss your parenting objectives. What is important to both of you? Sit down with your spouse and decide what values are most important. Also, what areas are not as important?

3.    Don’t be trapped by your past. That includes both your own childhood and the style of discipline you may have used in an earlier marriage. Look for ways to explore, with your partner, your unquestioned assumptions about disciplining kids. One good way to do that is to take a parenting class together. That does two things: (a) it helps you realize how differently other people respond to the same situations you face as moms and dads, and (b) it gives you and your partner a common base of information from which to develop your shared approaches to discipline.

4.    Find out what both of your parenting strengths and weaknesses are. Many times both moms and dads want the same things for their children. Compliment your spouse on his/her strengths. Don't just point out your spouse's flaws.

5.    If at all possible, don't disagree in front of your kids. You can't always anticipate where and when you will disagree, but when you can, discuss the issue in private first and return to present a unified front. Disagreeing in front of kids, while not necessarily damaging, can be confusing for them. At the same time, a healthy difference of opinion and subsequent negotiation, compromise, and follow-through on a decision is not necessarily a bad process for kids to see.

6.    If the discussion gets heated, agree to disagree. Fighting about how to parent is only going to make the situation worse. Walk away, take a break and discuss it when you are not angry.

7.    Parenting and relationships are a growing process. The more you communicate the better parent/spouse you will be. Learn from each other and listen to each other. Build on your parenting strengths and tackle your parenting weaknesses a little at a time. It won't happen overnight, but if you continue to discuss things with your spouse calmly and positively, you will become a better parenting team.

8.    You and your spouse will never agree on everything, but perhaps you can agree on a decision-making process. Some situations call for immediate parental action, but if you aren't satisfied with how a situation was handled, you can discuss later and decide how you will handle these kinds of situations in the future. In other situations, you may be able to step away and briefly discuss alternatives. Explaining your reasoning to both your youngster and your spouse will go a long way to building trust with both your kids and your spouse.

9.    Plan ahead. Discuss problem situations you are having with your kids. For example, if you are having a problem with your youngster having tantrums, discuss how you think this should be handled. If you have a plan in action, it will be easier for both of you to follow each other's wishes.

10.    Remember that, compared with losing a loving unified home, the damage that may be caused to your kids by your partner's different idea of what is best for them is likely trivial – even assuming you're right and your partner is wrong. Placing things in perspective this way often leads you to discover that you've been fighting over nothing and resolves things right there.

11.    Talk about where your kids are developmentally and what they are capable of understanding. Sometimes the reasons for parenting disputes are because one spouse thinks that a youngster is capable of understanding something and the other disagrees. Knowing what your youngster's cognitive level is will help you to make better decisions. Don’t compare your youngster to other kids. You can use examples based on what they are capable of doing and not doing. For example, if you ask them to get something out of their toy box, do they understand and go get it? If not, expecting your youngster to be able to understand certain things may be unreasonable.

12.    The majority of parenting disagreements are over discipline methods and when it is appropriate to discipline. One parent may think that spanking is the best method, and the other may prefer time-outs or something else. One of the most effective ways to resolve this issue is to talk about it. Find out the reasons why your spouse feels the way he/she does. There are pros and cons to every form of parenting. Talk about why your spouse thinks his/her discipline style is the better method. Sometimes talking about it will help you to see each other's point of view.

13.    There is so much advice from websites, blogs, online discussion groups, family and friends, and from books and magazines. Find a few trusted writers that are close to your parenting philosophy, and use them as guides to consult at times of conflict. Consider a trusted organization like the American Academy of Pediatrics. Couples may want to agree on a few advisors from whom they will seek guidance.

14.    Time is precious for new moms and dads, and we often don't have the luxury of long conversations, but if you can find some uninterrupted time, it is great for each of you to share how you were parented and what you think was useful and what wasn't. If you have never had these kinds of conversations, it will at least put the disagreements into perspective. If you can find the time, it would also be great to talk about your hopes and dreams for your youngster and what it will take to support them to reach those dreams.

15.    Work on role modeling communication. If your kids see that you communicate and problem solve together, they will grow up to do the same. Kids often repeat patterns of their own moms and dads. Look at your relationship and evaluate how you communicate. Is this the way you would like your kids to communicate with their future spouse?

My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents

20 Tips for Dealing with Demanding Children

As a parent, you know all too well that some kids will simply not take “no” for an answer.  Just as they need to learn the importance of saying “please” and “thank you,” they need to learn how to appropriately make requests. If you are the mother or father of a demanding son or daughter, rest assured that this is not a new problem and there are many parents in the same boat. Here's some help on this issue...

20 tips for dealing with demanding children:

1.  The goal for parents is to immediately respond to demands with (a) choices, (b) consequences, and (c) consistent follow-through in order to avoid power struggles and tantrums. If this is a new approach for you, the youngster will probably still have tantrums in response to this new approach. In fact, his reactions may seem to be more extreme before it improves, because he is testing new limits. Your youngster wants to see if you will react differently if embarrassed in public, if he destroys things, if he loses control, etc.

2.  Ask, “How would this make you feel.” Ask your kids how they would feel if they were interrupted? If they were woken up? If you talked to them that way? Help them understand how their demanding actions make others feel.

3.  Be patient with your youngster. Do not make the mistake of giving up too soon because you do not see the results you want immediately. It is unrealistic to expect your youngster's behavior to change overnight. Persevere in your efforts to teach correct behavior. The time you invest in it will be worth it in the end.

4.  Do not allow yourself to get drawn into arguments. A youngster will resist your efforts to redirect his behavior if “being demanding” has gotten him his way in the past. He may cry, yell, rage, or argue in an attempt to recapture some of his control. Do not engage in power struggles with him. Remind him of your expectations and the consequences for his behavior, and then let him decide if he is going to obey you.

5.  Establish appropriate consequences. Your youngster needs to know there are consequences attached to his behavior. Communicate to your child precisely what will happen when he behaves in a way that is unacceptable (e.g., "We will leave the movies if you begin to cry or yell because you can't have any extra snacks"). Be prepared to follow through by walking out of an activity if your youngster refuses to obey. Consequences have to be consistent in order to be effective.

6.  Give positive reinforcement. The most effective way to reduce demanding behavior in kids is to strengthen desirable behavior through positive reinforcement. Be aware of your youngster's efforts to improve his behavior and give sincere compliments when he succeeds.

7.  Avoid vague reprimands such as "act your age" or "behave yourself." Instead, give your child a clear picture of his unacceptable behavior by using descriptive language (e.g., “You are shouting at me because I won't let you stay up past your bedtime. This is not appropriate.").

8.  If moms and dads allow the natural consequences of a situation to occur, the parent is not the one exerting the control – nature is. The parent can now face the situation calmly and from a detached position of presenting the youngster with his choices and then letting him experience the consequences of his choice.

9.  Is your youngster demanding because that is how you talk to them? Evaluate the way you talk to your kids. We might find that we are relentless and demanding in our communication, and our children are just copying us.

10.  Is your youngster demanding because he doesn’t feel he is getting enough attention? Take time to listen to him without multitasking. Sit down, look him in the eyes and just listen. Laugh together, watch his eyes, and observe his story-telling actions. Forget about the laundry.

11.  Make it really clear that a demanding, whinny, relentless voice will not be tolerated. If they have a request, it has to be made in a “nice voice.” And, saying things once will suffice. Don’t acknowledge demanding relentless requests. Before you start enforcing, teach your youngster what it sounds like to use a nice voice. Go through some common examples of demanding situations you have experienced in your home. Demonstrate a “nice voice,” and then ask your youngster to repeat the voice back to you. Give them a few sample situations where they can practice being respectful and kind.

12.  Moms and dads are doing a disservice to themselves and to their youngster by giving in to demands to avoid a scene. Even if unintentional, this teaches the youngster that if his behavior gets severe enough, he will get what he wants.

13.  Moms and dads should be prepared to disengage and remove themselves or the youngster if the behavior escalates. Moms and dads must be willing to leave a situation and trust that others will understand and respect their need to attend to the situation. Most people are supportive of a parent disciplining a youngster in a respectful way. Although some people would think this action would violate the parent's right to enjoy an outing, one should remember that parental responsibilities do not end whenever it's inconvenient for the parent to uphold them. The parent needs to remember the rights of others to exist in a peaceful environment, and the youngster needs to learn that unacceptable behavior is unacceptable in all situations.

14.  Don’t let your youngster intimidate you. Demanding children feel like life revolves around them. You have to change that. The only way is by saying ‘no’ to some of their requests. This means we have to stay strong and not give in. Stick to your guns. When we give in to the demands, we have just taught our kids that when they are demanding and relentless, they get what they want. The exact opposite of what we are trying to teach.

15.  When kids are young, it’s hard for them to understand the difference between needs and wants. Getting to baseball practice on time is “necessary.” Buying silly putty is “not necessary.” Take some time to explain the difference, and then work to only address the “needs” when your youngster uses a “nice” voice.

16.  The middle of a tantrum is not the time to reflect feelings or try to talk a youngster out of being angry. That time has already passed, and the youngster will now interpret these efforts as a denial of his feelings and may escalate his behavior to convince the parent of how strongly he feels. Communication may be futile until the youngster calms down and may even keep the tantrum going by giving the youngster more attention for his behavior. Process what happened, the youngster feelings, and the choices and consequences of behavior after the tantrum is over.

17.  There are times when it is best to walk away from the situation and refuse to interact until the youngster's behavior improves. A power struggle cannot occur with one person. Walking away is not giving in. Usually the youngster wants something from the parent, either some service or attention. Walking away will give the youngster nothing and will give him a chance to calm down and rethink his choice in the matter. If the youngster has become destructive in the past, the parent can plan ahead by arranging a safe place for the youngster to go and discussing appropriate ways for the youngster to release angry energy away from others. Remember to tell the youngster specifically what behavior is acceptable rather than wording your statements in terms of "don't".

18.  Try to stick with choices within limits unless the behavior becomes even more unacceptable. When this happens, moms and dads can shift the focus from the original issue to the behavior. The parent can present the youngster with a new set of choices (e.g., "You can calm down, or can we'll leave."). Remember to focus on the behavior and not attack the youngster's character.

19.  When your youngster does say something in a demanding tone of voice, reflect his/her feelings ("I understand you feel...") before stating your expectation about how it should be said ("...but I expect you to tell me in a calm, polite way.").

20.  Be patient with your child as you implement your new parenting strategies. We must implement change gradually because change is tough. People don’t like change, and kids will totally reject parenting changes if they occur too fast.

My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents

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