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

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

What To Do When You Don’t Like Your Teenager’s Friends

Parenting an adolescent can be tough, especially when he or she starts bringing new friends home. With all the different friends your youngster is bound to make, it’s very likely you’re going to dislike at least one of them. Here’s what to do to keep this issue from becoming a big problem:

1. As long as your youngster isn’t getting into trouble with his friend, and your dislike is not based on anything concrete, let your youngster make his own choices about which friends he is going to hang-out with. Keep a close eye, but believe in your kid to make good decisions.

2. Ask yourself if what you don’t like about the friend really matters. Is it the way he dresses? Is it a lack of good manners? Is your youngster getting into trouble with this friend? Once you identify this, you will have a better idea of how to proceed.

3. Be a fly on the wall when the friend is over.  One of the best ways to listen to conversations your teen and her friends are having is to make snacks and walk in and out of the area replenishing the snacks and drinks without saying anything that would call attention to yourself.

4. Don’t turn everything into a life lesson. If you do this every time your adolescent tells you a story, soon he won’t tell you anything. Laugh with him. If you can’t do that, laugh at him. If something he says causes minor concern, wait and bring it up later under a different context.

5. Don't attack your youngster's friends. Nothing will start an argument faster than suggesting that her friends are not good enough. She really needs her friends at this stage in her life. Criticizing the friends is seen by adolescents as being the same as criticizing them.

6. Every time your youngster gets into trouble, it can’t be the fault of the other youngster 100% of the time. Remember that your youngster is not perfect. There may be times when he is the bad influence.

7. Few things drive an adolescent closer to her “problem friends” than a parent’s snap judgment. You may tell your adolescent you just don’t like her friends when you don’t really know them, and this can make her very angry, possibly driving her closer to the friend in order to try to prove you wrong. In many cases, if you try to tell your youngster who not to be friends with, you can bet you have just picked her new best friend, even if that friendship happens entirely behind your back. Adolescents have a tendency to dig in their heels when they're given an ultimatum, either out of loyalty to the friend or resentment at being told what to do.

8. If the friendship shows signs of falling apart, don’t point out how you were right all along. Your teen certainly doesn’t want to hear “I told you so” anymore than we as grown-ups want to hear that when we make mistakes.

9. If you decide that you do need to get involved in your child’s friendships, sit her down and give her clear concrete reasons. Focus on the impact the friendship is having on your adolescent, rather than spouting off a list of things you dislike about the other kid. Are her grades slipping? Has she given up other friendships? Have you caught her lying? Has she gotten into serious trouble? Discuss these concerns with a serious tone.

10. If you notice that your youngster is suddenly cussing or missing curfew since he started hanging out with a particular friend, focus on dealing with his behavior rather than disrespecting the friend. If you're consistent about disciplining your teen for any rules he and his friend break while the friend is visiting, he may get sick of being in trouble every time his friend comes over and eventually ditch him.

11. If your teenager meets a friend you like, encourage that relationship. Offer to take them to the movies or some other outing. Talk about how great it was and how it worked out so well for everybody (without exaggerating).

12. If you're discouraging a particular friendship, make it easier for your youngster to start a new one. Fill his calendar with activities he enjoys. It will give him a chance to meet new friends outside of school and the neighborhood.

13.  Instead of telling your adolescent everything you don’t like about his friends, make a point of talking to him about what friends should be. Take some time to teach your adolescent what traits to look for in a friend.  Be subtle though. Adolescents know when you are trying to drop hints and come at something from another angle.

14. Make sure your youngster knows your family rules and values. For example, "You can only go to parties if a parent is there to supervise." Be as clear and consistent as you can about what's acceptable and what's not.

15. Make your home somewhere teens want to hang out. The teens who are the real troublemakers don’t want to hang out anywhere near moms or dads. So they will tend to go away and find other peers who are equally less supervised.

16. Many moms and dads feel they need to manage their teenager’s choice of friends out of a sense that they're losing control, but that's not doing your children any favors in the long run. You want your kids to be able to make decisions on their own. 

17. Moms and dads often don't like their kid's friends without realizing that children choose friends for specific reasons. Ask yourself, “Why is my youngster attracted to this particular kid?" Is she lonely? Did her group just dump her? Is this person exciting to be around? Learn how to ask the right questions in a curious, nonjudgmental way. For example, "Help me understand what it is about Craig that you're drawn to."

18. Sometimes, children just "try on" friends for a while to see who fits, then move on. In some cases, they may choose friends with traits they feel they lack and admire. In other cases, they may choose friends with similar traits (e.g., teens with low self-esteem can be attracted to other teens with low self-esteem).

19. Take time to get to know your adolescent’s friends. Then, if you really do disapprove of them for legitimate reasons, you have a leg to stand on. Think about opening your home to them or driving them to outings. Your initial “accepting attitude” will probably go a long way in establishing your credibility if you have issues with your adolescent’s friends later.

20. The best judge of character is often other teens. Listen to what your child’s other friends have to say about the kid you don’t like.

21. With respect to romantic relationships, don't let your dislike of your teenage daughter’s boyfriend hinder your relationship with her. Make sure she knows you're always there for her, regardless of whom she's dating. 

Rude Teens and Backtalk: 25 Tips for Parents

Backtalk can be one of the most frustrating behaviors for moms and dads. It's hard to keep cool and clear-headed when teens are being disrespectful. The angrier we become, the more backtalk our teens dish out. Don't despair. Taming backtalk takes practice, but if you stay calm and consistent, you can get a hold of this troublesome behavior. 

You can control this vicious cycle if you follow some of the tips below:

1. Avoid the word "if" (as in "If you do that again, I'm going to..."). It makes you sound weak instead of decisive, and your teenager will pick up on that. Moms and dads tend to over-talk. Taking action is much more effective.

2. Back off. If your adolescent is irate, any attempts to restrict or discipline her will only be counterproductive. Give her some time to cool off. If the situation calls for a consequence, it can be dealt later, but too often moms and dads make threats that are too harsh in the heat of the moment.

3. Backtalk sometimes comes from adolescents trying to learn how to assert their independence and test limits, so help them make good choices within the boundaries that you set. As much as possible, help them to be responsible for their own behavior, even if it means that they have to deal with the negative consequences (this can often be the best learning experience).

4. Be willing to have conversations (not arguments) about adjusting the rules and consequences every few months as your teenager gets older and can take on more responsibility. However, make it clear that your adolescent must be able to present her position to you without being rude (an excellent life skill to instill). In addition, all parties involved need to understand that just because the adolescent may present a good argument in a polite manner, it doesn't mean that you're required to change your position. Be willing to listen with an open mind and be up for a discussion, but in the end, you are the mother or father with the life experience to make good decisions, as well as the adult responsible for your teenager’s safety and well-being.

5. Beware small things that may start long arguments. A little disagreement over whether or not you were fair in grounding him two weeks ago may spiral into a fight over how fair you are regularly.

6. Calm down. If the teenager talks back in a very disrespectful way, leave the room and the conversation. If the teenager trails behind, let him know that backtalk will not be tolerated, and ignore the teenager. After calming down, then decide on the punishment for the offense. Do not lecture or give long-winded speeches, as your adolescent will simply tune out, which will in turn make you more likely to get worked up.

7. Do not negotiate with your teenager, back down, or let her draw your into an argument about the consequence that you are enforcing. Consequences are consequences and shouldn't be up for discussion or argument. If your teenager feels like she can argue or negotiate a consequence, she'll be more likely to continue an undesired behavior and moreover, more likely to argue even more the next time around.

8. Do not talk about several issues at a time. Concentrate only on one thing, and try to sort it out rationally.

9. Encourage your teen to express herself in the future. Most teens hold their frustration in too long, and then do something drastic when it's too much.

10. Give your teenager the same respect that you would like, and try to refrain from name-calling or labeling with such words as, “spoiled brat.” Instead, keep the focus on the behavior that you would like to change.

11. Ignore any backtalk associated with the consequence. Don't get drawn into explaining or justifying your position. Also, don't punish your teenager again if he gives you backtalk when you enforce the consequence. Treat it as one incident.

12. Ignore mumblings. Sometimes teens complain. It's their way of saying they'll do it, but only because they have to, not because they want to. This is fine. A response isn't necessary, or even expected by the teenager.

13. Make sure that the rules of the house are very clear and specific. You may need to say to your teenager (at a time when you are both calm), “We have been fighting a lot lately, so we need to sit down and clarify what my/our expectations for your behavior are, and what the consequences will be for breaking the rules.”

14. Offer the teenager choices. Teens are less likely to argue if they feel they have a choice. Even if neither option is really attractive to them, they feel more empowered to be able to choose. So, give them choices whenever you can, but make it clear when no choice exists and you are not willing to negotiate, especially when it comes to matters of your teenager’s safety.

15. One common refrain from adolescents is, “You don’t understand!” Do not further frustrate your teenager by saying, “Yes, I do!” or “I went through exactly what you are going through now.” We all like to think of experiences as unique. Instead of asserting a "been there, done that" stance, help your teenager practice communicating without being rude by responding, “I may not understand, but I do want to try to understand what you are feeling. Can we talk about it later when we’re both calmer, or you can you write it down and send me an e mail, if you like?”

16. Realize that your teen is going through a difficult time. Teenagers have many stresses. Your child is maturing into an adult and is dealing with pressures from school, homework, friends, popularity, dating, after-school activities, individuality, hormones, etc. It's a heavy load for her to carry.

17. Remember that your teenager really does love you. She argues when she is angry and makes statements she doesn't mean because she is just learning to express herself and doesn't see many other ways, especially if she feels she is not being effective talking calmly.

18. Set up a certain time of day in which the teen can talk back to you. You can say to her, “From 6:00 to 6:15 p.m., you can ask me to re-explain all my decisions. Save it for then. If you need to, write it down in a note to yourself. Then at 6:00, we’ll sit down and I’ll explain to you why you can’t __________ (insert something they wanted to do, but you said ‘no’) or how come you got grounded for __________ (insert misbehavior). But at 6:15, our discussion is done. If you try to keep it going, there will be consequences.” In this way, if you feel like you want to give your teenager an outlet to vent her complaints, there’s a way to do it without getting sucked-in to perpetual arguing.

19. Tell the teenager what you need to tell him, and then leave. This will help the teenager appreciate that the mother or father has the last word.

20. Think about how you speak to your teenager and to others around you. How often are you sarcastic or rude? Is your teenager picking up on your tone and the way you treat others? Try to adjust your own behavior and remember that whether she knows it or not, you are your teenager's greatest influence in terms of nurturing the right kinds of behavior in her. Consider telling your teenager that you have noticed that you can be rude to others sometimes, and that you're going to try to modify your own behavior. Sometimes, moms and dads admitting that they too can make mistakes or have things that they need to work on, makes all the difference in terms of communication. Your teenager will feel less like she's under attack and more open to making adjustments of her own.

21. Treat first offenses like teaching opportunities. Firmly inform the teenager that the behavior is unacceptable. Then continue the discussion, never revisiting the issue that started the backtalk in the first place.

22. Try to break a pattern of interaction in which your teenager is constantly rude to you – and you in turn respond with frustration and/or punishment. Tell your teenager that you don't like the way your relationship has been lately, and that you would like to do something pleasant together. Let your teenager choose something that the two of you can do together, and make a pact that neither of you will be rude or critical. If one of you breaks the pact, end the activity, and try again another day. 

23. Use "I" statements to let your teenager know how his backtalk makes you feel. You might say, "When you speak in a disrespectful tone, I feel hurt and frustrated. "I" statements help us to stay calm and communicate clearly.  In addition, we are modeling positive communication skills to our teens. Many times, if we stay calm and let our teens know how we feel, they will calm down too. Backtalk is angry, impulsive behavior. When we calm down and give our teens a chance to think about what they have said, they will often feel truly remorseful.

24. When your teenager uses rude words to label you or someone else, ask her to be specific. Say, “When you call me _____, it is not only rude and will not be tolerated, but it also does not help me understand what you want. Tell me what you are upset about or what you would like to happen.”

25. Your teen learns that her parents can lose control and that by pushing the right buttons, she can get you to lose control. Understand that once you've started using yelling as a behavioral management tool, you’ve told your teen everything she needs to know about pushing your buttons.

My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents

Dealing with Parental Guilt: Tips for Parents with Defiant Teens

Guilt is a reality for those of us who are raising defiant teens. Balancing the tasks of raising kids, caring for our home, nurturing our relationship with our spouse, and earning money to pay the bills is just plain hard work.

To make matters even more difficult, our child is now a teenager who may be acting out (e.g., being disrespectful, verbally abusive, failing academically, violating curfew, etc.). Something has to give!

There’s just no way to do it all perfectly all the time – and so we don’t. We don’t fall short out of choice though, so we feel guilty. We are disappointed that our teenage son or daughter didn’t turn out the way we thought he or she would? We wonder how this child is going to function as an adult out in the “real world.” We feel like we should have been a better parent? And we have come to terms with the fact that our child is not the person we once knew. So what is a parent to do in light of all these circumstances?

Feeling guilty is a habit that will take time to break. If our guilt is excessive or debilitating, we may be reacting to memories of our own childhood, which may or may not have anything to do with what our teenagers need now.

Many of us feel that we are less than perfect in our parenting. The problem here is that we think that something is perfect. What would that be though? There is much written on what “model parenting” is, but there are many circumstances where this "model" does not make a difference, or is complicated by other “less than model” factors.

No mother or father remains calm and collected ALL the time. And no child ALWAYS behaves as a perfect little being. Thus, we need to accept that we are “less-than-perfect” parents. We must cut ourselves a little slack and demand less from ourselves – and our teens.

Recognizing what we “could have done” is not necessarily what was possible. When we think about what was possible (spending more time with our kids, not having worked so much, not going through with a divorce) we often forget that, at that time, there were other things going on that made that impossible. When recalling what was possible, our recall is usually faulty. For example, we have forgotten how intolerable it was to live with our spouse prior to that divorce, or how difficult it was to find a job that did not require moving to a new school district (which in turn angered our children).

When all demands of our child are met, he or she loses the importance of things and begins to take it as a matter of right. Who in this world gets all their demands met? Thus, we should help our son or daughter to develop frustration-tolerance and develop a “learn to earn” approach.

While being consumed with guilt, we forget an essential fact: we are not “all knowing.” Sure, we are probably better informed regarding “good parenting practices” than our grandparents where (perhaps). But, that doesn't mean we blame ourselves for not knowing everything.

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