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

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

Dealing With Your Resentful Teen's "Cold Shoulder"

You made the wrong comment, asked the wrong question, or said something you weren't supposed to. The response you get says it all: the cold shoulder! A teenager may use the cold shoulder as a way to shut her parents out, to get them to leave her alone, and to push her parents’ buttons. What most moms and dads don’t realize is that under the surface, something else is going on: the cold shoulder is giving your youngster a feeling of control over you.

The cold shoulder (also referred to as “the silent treatment”) is a common punishment used by teens. It is manifested by a child who completely ignores his parents, going through his typical day as if his parents were invisible or absent, even if the parents are standing right in front of him or talking to him.

What parents need to understand is that the cold shoulder is frequently utilized as a lever to gain control in the power struggles of the parent-child relationship – and it works because most parents react in a way that tells the child she is winning. Never is this more evident than in the conflicts associated with a “resentful” teenager. When a resentful teen uses the cold shoulder, she takes it to the extreme. A resentful teen may refuse to speak to – or even acknowledge – parents for great lengths of time, and may even demand an apology that is out of proportion to the perceived offense.

The cold shoulder is usually used to silently express contempt or disapproval. It is a common response used by teens who can’t tolerate being on the receiving end of a parent’s self-assertiveness (e.g., a parent who is consistent with issuing consequences for misbehavior). The cold shoulder effectually cuts parents off from the teen, and sends a clear message to parents about how insignificant they are and how easy it is for the teen to live without them. This strategy is used by insecure adolescents with a poor self-image who have no other problem-solving skills (yet). When parents do something that displeases the resentful teen, they cease to exist for a certain period of time (and most often, extensive and disproportionate amounts of time).

The resentful teen also uses the cold shoulder to throw his parents off balance. The teen does this to find out exactly how much control he has over the parents. The most typical reason is to “punish” his parents for some good they failed to do, or some wrong they did (and probably are unaware of). Of course, if parents directly ask the teen about it, he will deny it.

The resentful teen also uses the cold shoulder as a way to get a reaction from parents. Typically, parents ask their resentful teen, “What is wrong, why are you ignoring me?” This lets the child know she has been successful in pushing her parents' buttons. It also gives her power to do whatever she wants. If parents don’t accept her behavior, she will then use the cold shoulder again to draw them back in to the cycle.

It’s theorized that the cold shoulder is a learned behavior. A child may observe parents using the cold shoulder and copy it as a way to punish others or get them to comply with his wishes. Moms and dads greatly affect their youngster’s behavior. A child is like a sponge – he models everything his mother or father does and incorporates what he sees into his own life. According to research done by the University of Chicago published in the Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, an antisocial teenager learns his negative behavior from his parents’ examples.

So what is a parent to do about “the cold shoulder” treatment? Just two things really:

1. Model tolerance. If you say something to your teenager, and then get the cold shoulder, simply acknowledge that you noticed this – and move on. Here are two examples:

Example #1—
  • Mom says, “How was school today?”
  • Teenager says nothing and gives mom a dirty look.
  • Mom says, “Looks like something’s bothering you. If you want to talk about it, let me know” (then mom goes on about her business).

Example #2—
  • Arriving home from school, angry teen slams the front door and throws his books all over the floor. Mom says, “Slamming doors and throwing books is not acceptable behavior.”
  • Teen says nothing and heads to his room.
  • Moms says, “I’m sorry if you had a bad day, but you can choose to pick up your books, or you can choose the consequence.”
  • If he picks up his books in a reasonable amount of time (as defined by you), there’s no consequence. If he doesn’t pick up his books, he receives a consequence (again, as defined by you).

2. Let “cold-shoulder behavior” run its course. When you stop responding to the cold shoulder, it will die from neglect—and that’s exactly what you want, but it’s going to take some time. Be patient and ignore it. That’s right! There are no consequences for the cold shoulder (however, other negative behaviors may need a consequence). Giving a consequence for the cold shoulder is synonymous with giving attention to it, which will help it to grow.

My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents

The 3 Worst Parenting Styles: How to Be a Bad Parent

Parental stress can often cause changes in parenting behavior, for example: being more reactive and less proactive, decreased monitoring and/or supervision, engaging in increasingly harsh disciplinary behaviors, inconsistency, increased negative communication, and setting vague rules or limits on behavior. In this post, we’re going to look at “how to be a bad parent.”

Bad Parenting Style #1: The Dictator—

Dictatorial parenting is characterized by high expectations of compliance to rules and directions, while allowing little open dialogue between parent and youngster. Dictatorial parenting is a punitive parenting style in which moms and dads make their kids follow their directions and respect their effort. Dictatorial moms and dads expect much of their youngster, but generally do not explain the reasoning for the rules. The "dictator" is less receptive to his youngster’s needs, and is more likely to ground his youngster rather than discuss the problem.  Dictatorial parenting deals with low parental receptiveness and high parental demand, and the parent tends to demand obedience without explanation.

Kids raised under this parenting style often have less social competence, because the mother or father generally “tells” the youngster what to do instead of allowing the youngster to “choose” by himself. Some kids of dictatorial moms and dads may develop insecurities and display anti-social behavior.

Bad Parenting Style #2: The Over-Indulger—

Over-indulgent parenting is characterized as having few behavioral expectations for the youngster. Over-indulgence occurs when moms and dads are very involved with their kids, but place few demands or controls on them. The parent is nurturing and accepting, and is receptive to the youngster's needs and wishes. Over-indulgent moms and dads do not require their kids to regulate themselves or behave appropriately. This often results in raising children who have a large sense of entitlement (e.g., “The world owes me, I shouldn’t have to work for anything”).

Kids of over-indulgent moms and dads tend to be more impulsive, and as adolescents, often engage more in misconduct. Over-indulged kids rarely learn to control their own behavior and usually expect to get their way. Over-indulgent parents (i.e., those low on accountability and high on nurturing) nearly triple the risk of their teenager participating in drug abuse and heavy alcohol drinking.

Bad Parenting Style #3: The Under-Attender—

Inattentive parenting involves parents who are low in nurturing and accountability. They are generally not involved in their youngster's life, are disengaged, undemanding, low in receptiveness, have few rules, and set very few boundaries. Inattentive parenting results is dismissing the kid's emotions and opinions. Moms and dads are emotionally unsupportive of their kids, but will still provide their basic needs (e.g., food, housing, toiletries, money, etc.).

A youngster whose mom and dad are inattentive develops the sense that other aspects of his parents’ lives are more important than he is. Many kids of this parenting style often attempt to provide for themselves or halt depending on the parent to get a feeling of being independent and mature beyond their years. Kids raised under an inattentive parenting style often become emotionally withdrawn from social situations. This disturbed attachment also impacts relationships later on in life. In the teenage years, they may show patterns of truancy and delinquency.

So, enough about bad parenting. What can a parent do if he or she wants to employ a better parenting style? The answer is: become more “influential.”

A Good Parenting Style: The Influencer—


Influential parenting is characterized by a child-centered approach that holds high expectations of maturity. Influential moms and dads can understand how their kids are feeling and teach them how to regulate emotions. They often help their kids to find appropriate outlets to solve problems. Influential moms and dads encourage their kids to be independent, but still place limits on their behavior. Frequent verbal give-and-take is not refused, and the parents try to be nurturing toward the youngster. Influential parents are not usually as controlling as dictatorial ones, allowing the youngster to explore more freely, thus having them make their own decisions based upon their own reasoning. Often, influential moms and dads produce kids who are more independent and self-reliant. An influential parenting style mainly results when there is high parental receptiveness ALONG WITH high parental expectations.

The influential parent sets clear standards for her kids, monitors the boundaries that she sets, and allows her kids to develop independence. She also expects mature, independent, and age-appropriate behavior from her kids. Discipline for misbehavior is measured and consistent, not arbitrary or punitive. The influential parent sets limits AND promotes maturity, but when disciplining her youngsters, the parent will explain her motive for the consequences. Kids raised under the influential parenting style are more likely to respond to discipline, because it is usually perceived as reasonable and fair. The youngster knows why he is being disciplined, because an influential parent makes the reasons known. The “influencer” is attentive to her kids’ needs and concerns, and will typically “forgive and teach” instead of punishing when her youngsters fall short.

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

When Your Child Deliberately Annoys Others

Do you hear from other moms and dads, educators, or other kids that your youngster disrupts activities and deliberately annoys others? It can be a tough pill to swallow, but the best solution is to help your youngster develop better social skills. When someone says your youngster is intentionally bothering others, it’s common for parents to feel defensive or even angry. However, once you’re done reacting, step back and work on ways to help your youngster correct his/her behavior and improve social skills.

Here are some tips to help your child stop his or her annoying behaviors:

1. When your youngster frequently annoys other children or grown-ups, it can be a frustrating, puzzling circumstance. Some kids do it for attention, while others aren’t aware that they are being a pest. As a mother or father, you may not have all the answers, and that’s OK. Reach out to your youngster’s educators and guidance counselor. In some cases, your youngster may benefit from an evaluation with a child behavior specialist.

2. Be firm and kind. Follow through every time on the natural or logical consequences.

3. Have a few positively stated rules, and explain the reasons behind them.

4. If there are lots of behaviors you want to change, start by focusing on one or two of the most bothersome or dangerous ones. Don't try to make too many changes all at once. 

5. If your youngster struggles with understanding feelings, start with basic terms. You can slowly build your youngster’s vocabulary as he develops more nuanced language about emotions. Using a chart or book with basic facial expressions may help for younger children who are having trouble grasping concepts (e.g., annoying, embarrassed, frustrated, etc.). Some children don’t respond well to explanations. When that’s the case, try to suggest appropriate behaviors instead of explaining why the inappropriate ones are bothersome.

6. Let your youngster make decisions whenever possible by giving her acceptable choices (e.g., “Would you rather have cereal or scrambled eggs and bacon for breakfast?”).  This will help your youngster feel in control, reducing stress and frustration. 

7. Come up with a secret signal (e.g., pulling on your earlobe) and tell your child you will “cue” him with this signal whenever he’s being annoying (of course, this only works when you are in the presence of your child). It helps to have a signal with some children, which is a sly way to let them know they are bothering others. Then you aren't calling them out in front of their peers, yet they can change their behavior. Many children genuinely don’t know they are being a pest, and a simple reminder can help. So, let your youngster know when his behavior is bothersome, but don’t talk to him about it in front or others or in an embarrassing way.

8. Praise your youngster for good behavior.  The best kind of praise simply describes what you see that you would like to see more of.  Catch your youngster being good, and tell her you noticed (e.g., “I noticed you put your backpack on the table rather than throwing it on the floor; that’s you being responsible”).

9. Redirect your youngster and help him find a better place, or better way to do what he is trying to do. For instance, if his nose is irritated, have him clean it with a tissue, apply saline nasal spray, and then wash his hands. If he simply must go “digging,” have him do it in the bathroom, not in public, and wash his hands afterward.

10. Try ignoring the annoying behavior. Your youngster will probably outgrow the habit with time.  Giving a lot of attention (even though it's negative) may actually encourage the behavior.

11. Use natural or logical consequences for problem behavior. The purpose here is to get your child to make the right decision, not to bend her to your will. Be patient—it may take time for you to see results.

12. Unfortunately, parents need to understand that, in some cases, it is simply impossible to stop the annoying behavior until the youngster becomes interested in stopping.  For instance, a little boy may actually get enough “benefit” out of picking his nose and wiping his buggers on his friends that he will not be willing to stop. When he gets a little older, though, he may be interested in not grossing-out his peers. Then you will be able to help him quit.

How To Get Defiant Children To Do Chores

Doing chores is a tradition in most families. Chores help children learn responsibility. We all need to feel needed and to know that we're making a contribution – especially children! So how do you get your children on board?  

Here are a few tips:

1. Be precise with instructions. “Clean your room” is vague and can be interpreted in any number of ways. Instead, be specific by saying something like, “Put your clean clothes in the dresser, dirty clothes in the hamper, games in the closet, and dirty dishes in the kitchen sink.”

2. Be consistent. If your children aren't expected to regularly follow through, they might start putting a chore off in the hope that someone else will do it for them.

3. Praise, praise, and praise. Get that praise up and running right away! Don't wait until the chore is done. Praise and encourage the youngster while the chore is in progress. You want to build positive momentum, especially with younger children.

4. Start giving chores at age 2. You might think your youngster is too young, but he or she is more capable than you think. Children can do a lot of chores at an early stage (e.g., getting clothes to the laundry, cleaning up after dinner, etc.). Some parents hold back too long because they think their young children are incapable of following through. But that puts the cart before the horse (i.e., kids learn by doing). A defiant 14-year-old is more likely to complete chores if he or she has being doing them for the previous 12 years.

5. Tolerate imperfection. Of course, no child is perfect, and it's better to have a more relaxed approach to how well your children do chores. Otherwise, you will have a power struggle on your hands (or you might jump in and do the chore for them, which would undermine the whole point).

6. Teach the proper way to do chores. Show your child how to do the chore step by step. Next, let him or her help you do it. Then have your youngster do the chore as you supervise. Once your youngster has it mastered, he or she is ready to go solo.

7. Minimize the use of reminders and deadlines. You want the chore to get done without you micromanaging it. Use the "when/then" technique (e.g., "When the dog is fed, you can have your after school snack").

8. Make a chores chart. Create a list of every task that needs to be done. Have your children pick out the task they would most like to do. Then create a chart. Check that everyone has an age-appropriate chore (see below). Then divide the chart into three columns: (1) one is for the list of chores and whose chore it is, (2) another is for deadlines, and (3) the last one is for making a check mark when the chore is done. Put the chart where everyone can see it and let everyone follow through on their own tasks.

9. Don’t give money for chores. Chores are about teaching responsibility and learning household tasks. True, children need to learn how to handle money, but not by doing chores they are supposed to do anyway. It's especially important to not tie allowances to chores for younger children, because they may be less motivated by money and simply choose to not do them. (Note: There’s one exception. For older children who already know how to be responsible, money can become a nice motivator for doing extra chores above and beyond their usual ones. So, let them bid on those extra chores, and then you pick the lowest bid.)

10. Your youngster can do more than you think. A youngster who has mastered a complicated computer game can easily run a dishwasher. In general, preschoolers can handle one or two simple one-step or two-step tasks. Older kids can manage much more. So, give your children more credit for being smart enough to do what is asked of them, and don’t step in to do the chore for them if they are moving too slowly or are not completing the chore to your perfectionistic specifications.

Here are some suggestions for chores sorted by age...

Chores for kids ages 2 to 3:
•    Dust
•    Fill pet's food dish
•    Pile books and magazines
•    Put clothes in hamper
•    Put toys away
•    Wipe up spills

Chores for kids ages 4 to 5:
•    Bring in mail or newspaper
•    Clear table
•    Dust
•    Empty wastebaskets
•    Fill pet's food dish
•    Fix bowl of cereal
•    Make their bed
•    Pile books and magazines
•    Pull weeds, if you have a garden
•    Put clothes in hamper
•    Put toys away
•    Unload utensils from dishwasher
•    Use hand-held vacuum to pick up crumbs
•    Wash plastic dishes at sink
•    Water flowers
•    Wipe up spills

Chores for kids ages 6 to 7:
•    Bring in mail or newspaper
•    Clear table
•    Dust
•    Empty wastebaskets
•    Fill pet's food dish
•    Fix bowl of cereal
•    Help make and pack lunch
•    Keep bedroom tidy
•    Make their bed
•    Pile books and magazines
•    Pull weeds, if you have a garden
•    Put clothes in hamper
•    Put toys away
•    Set and clear table
•    Sort laundry
•    Sweep floors
•    Unload utensils from dishwasher
•    Use hand-held vacuum to pick up crumbs
•    Wash plastic dishes at sink
•    Water flowers
•    Weed and rake leaves
•    Wipe up spills

Chores for kids ages 8 to 9:
•    Bring in mail or newspaper
•    Clear table
•    Cook simple foods, such as toast
•    Dust
•    Empty wastebaskets
•    Fill pet's food dish
•    Fix bowl of cereal
•    Help make and pack lunch
•    Help make dinner
•    Keep bedroom tidy
•    Load dishwasher
•    Make own breakfast
•    Make own snacks
•    Make their bed
•    Mop floor
•    Peel vegetables
•    Pile books and magazines
•    Pull weeds, if you have a garden
•    Put away groceries
•    Put away own laundry
•    Put clothes in hamper
•    Put toys away
•    Set and clear table
•    Sew buttons
•    Sort laundry
•    Sweep floors
•    Take pet for a walk
•    Unload utensils from dishwasher
•    Use hand-held vacuum to pick up crumbs
•    Vacuum
•    Wash plastic dishes at sink
•    Wash table after meals
•    Water flowers
•    Weed and rake leaves
•    Wipe up spills

Chores for kids ages 10 and older:
•    Baby-sit younger siblings (with adult in the home)
•    Bring in mail or newspaper
•    Change their bed sheets
•    Clean bathroom
•    Clean kitchen
•    Clean oven
•    Clear table
•    Cook simple foods, such as toast
•    Cook simple meal with supervision
•    Do laundry
•    Dust
•    Empty wastebaskets
•    Fill pet's food dish
•    Fix bowl of cereal
•    Fold laundry
•    Help make and pack lunch
•    Help make dinner
•    Iron clothes
•    Keep bedroom tidy
•    Load dishwasher
•    Make own breakfast
•    Make own snacks
•    Make their bed
•    Mop floor
•    Peel vegetables
•    Pile books and magazines
•    Pull weeds, if you have a garden
•    Put away groceries
•    Put away own laundry
•    Put clothes in hamper
•    Put toys away
•    Set and clear table
•    Sew buttons
•    Sort laundry
•    Sweep floors
•    Take pet for a walk
•    Unload dishwasher
•    Unload utensils from dishwasher
•    Use hand-held vacuum to pick up crumbs
•    Vacuum
•    Wash car
•    Wash plastic dishes at sink
•    Wash table after meals
•    Wash windows
•    Water flowers
•    Weed and rake leaves
•    Wipe up spills

My Out-of-Control Child: Help for Parent with Defiant Children

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