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

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

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Dealing with Uncontrollable Anger in Your Teenager

Anger in teens takes many forms. It may be expressed as indignation and resentment, or rage and fury. It is the expression of anger (i.e., the behavior) that parents see. Some adolescents may repress their anger and withdraw, while others may be more defiant and destroy property.

Anger is an emotion – not a behavior, and it is usually caused by something going on in the adolescent's life. Treating uncontrollable anger in teens generally involves several types of psychotherapy and training for your teen – as well as for you. Treatment often lasts several months or longer. If your son or daughter has co-existing conditions (e.g., ADHD), medications may help significantly improve symptoms. However, medications alone generally aren't used for anger-related issues unless another disorder co-exists.

Here are 17 crucial tips for dealing with uncontrollable anger in your teenager:

1. At first, your teen probably won't be cooperative or appreciate your changed response to his or her behavior. Expect that you'll have setbacks and relapses, and be prepared with a plan to manage those times. In fact, behavior can temporarily worsen when new limits and expectations are set. However, with perseverance and consistency, the initial hard work often pays off with improved behavior and relationships.

2. Be forgiving. Let go of things that you or your teen did in the past. Start each day with a fresh outlook and a clean slate.

3. Build in time together. Develop a consistent weekly schedule that involves you and your teen spending time together.

4. Assign your teen a household chore that's essential and that won't get done unless the teen does it. Initially, it's important to set your teen up for success with tasks that are relatively easy to achieve and gradually blend in more important and challenging expectations. Give clear, easy-to-follow instructions.

5. Consider individual and family therapy. Individual counseling for your teen may help him or her learn to manage anger and express his or her feelings more healthfully. Family counseling may help improve your communication and relationships, and help members of your family learn how to work together.

6. Employ social skills training. Your teen might benefit from therapy that will help him or her learn how to interact more positively and effectively with peers.

7. Learn ways to calm yourself. Keeping your own cool models the behavior you want from your teen.

8. Model the behavior you want your teen to have.

9. Pick your battles. Avoid power struggles. Almost everything can turn into a power struggle — if you let it.

10. Recognize and praise your teen's positive behaviors. Be as specific as possible, such as, "I really liked the way you helped wash dishes."

11. Set up a routine. Develop a consistent daily schedule for your teen. Asking your teen to help develop that routine may be beneficial.

12. Set limits and enforce consistent reasonable consequences.

13. Research parent-teen interaction therapy (PCIT). During PCIT, therapists coach moms and dads while they interact with their teenagers. In one approach, the therapist sits behind a one-way mirror and, using an "ear bug" audio device, guides moms and dads through strategies that reinforce their teenager's positive behavior. As a result, parents learn more-effective parenting techniques, the quality of the parent-teen relationship improves, and problem behaviors decrease.

14. Take time for yourself. Develop outside interests, get some exercise and spend some time away from your teen to restore your energy.

15. Try cognitive problem-solving training. This type of therapy is aimed at helping your teen identify and change through patterns that are leading to behavior problems. Collaborative problem-solving — in which you and your teen work together to come up with solutions that work for both of you — can help improve anger-related problems.

16. Work with your spouse or others in your household to ensure consistent and appropriate discipline procedures.

17. Get involved in parent training. A mental health provider with experience treating uncontrollable anger in teens may help you develop skills that will allow you to parent in a way that's more positive and less frustrating for you and your teen. In some cases, your teen may participate in this type of training with you, so that everyone in your family develops shared goals for how to handle problems. As part of parent training, you may learn how to: 
  • avoid power struggles;
  • establish a schedule for the family that includes specific meals that will be eaten at home together, and specific activities that mom and/or dad will do with the teen;
  • give effective timeouts;
  • limit consequences to those that can be consistently reinforced and if possible, last for a limited amount of time;
  • offer acceptable choices to your teen, giving him or her a certain amount of control;
  • recognize and praise your teen's good behaviors and positive characteristics; 
  • remain calm and unemotional in the face of opposition, or take your own timeout, if necessary.

Moms and dads must be aware of signs to look for in an angry and aggressive adolescent. It's common for adolescents to fight with their moms and dads, peers and siblings, but certain signs and symptoms are indicative of a bigger problem. When an adolescent appears isolated, spends a lot of time in his or her room, or does not want to participate in typical activities, you may have a reason for concern.

A drop in grades, lack of appetite, sleeplessness or too much sleep is also a sign that an adolescent is troubled. Crying often or constantly finding a reason to argue is also a common trait in an angry adolescent. When an adolescent feels very angry or out of control, aggression can take over. Physical contact, such as pushing or smacking a parent, sibling or peer, is a clear indication that the adolescent needs help.

Although some parent management techniques may seem like common sense, learning to use them in the face of opposition isn't easy, especially if there are other stressors at home. Learning these skills will require consistent practice and patience. Most important in treatment is for you to show consistent, unconditional love and acceptance of your teen — even during difficult and disruptive situations. Don't be too hard on yourself. This process can be tough for even the most patient mother or father.

My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents

Defiant Teens and Homework Refusal: 30 Strategies for Concerned Parents

Research suggests that over 50% of moms and dads fight with their teenagers every night over homework, and over 70% of teens regularly refuse to do their homework. Guess who’s winning this war? You guessed it!

If you’re like most moms and dads, you feel overly-responsible for getting your teenagers to take education seriously, and you get worried and angry when they refuse to do their homework. This can easily turn into a power struggle if you feel this is a “war” you have to “win.” It’s very easy to react to your own anxiety about this dilemma rather than acting in a well-planned way that will get your youngster where he or she needs to be academically.

Below are 30 strategies (some of which may be controversial) for parents who want to “influence” (rather than “control”) their defiant teenagers to do their homework. Some of these techniques will work – some won’t. But pick a few that seem relevant and give them a try. You can always come up with “Plan B” if “Plan A” isn’t working so well.

1. Adolescents often feel loved "conditionally" rather than “unconditionally” (i.e., they only think you approve of them when they do a good job). This can lead to depression and bitterness. Try to be as positive as possible. If your adolescent comes up to you and tells you something really terrible, like she failed a unit test or something, be understanding. It took a lot of courage for her to work up the nerve to tell you this. So, the cooler you are with it, the more likely she is to come and talk with you on a regular basis.

2. Bring your teen’s backpack to her. This may seem ridiculous, but it can work. Adolescents are lazy by nature. It can be all the more difficult to get them to work if what they need is downstairs and they are comfortable on the couch upstairs. Sometimes, adolescents will forget about work simply because it is not in sight. So, get your teenager started with homework by setting her stuff down in front of her.

3. Doing a good job as a mother or father means that you have done all that you can do as a responsible parent. It does not mean that you have raised a perfect child who has made all the right choices. Once you really get this, you won’t be so anxious about your youngster’s behaviors, actions, and decisions. You will be able to see him objectively, and therefore be able to guide his behavior, because you’ll have seen what he actually needs.

4. Don't "bitch." This will invite adolescents to resist. Be kind, yet firm – and be proactive. How? By brainstorming with your adolescent. She is a lot more inclined to follow a plan that she came up with herself.

5. Getting your kids to listen to you is primarily about setting up the conditions under which they choose to do so. In order to do this, make a conscious effort to sprinkle your relationship with more positive interactions than negative ones (e.g., hug, show affection, laugh together, spend time together, etc.). Point out your appreciations most instead of constantly correcting, instructing, teaching, yelling, and complaining.  While it’s true that you will need to correct and reprimand as a mother or father from time to time, try to make a conscious effort so that every time you do this, you will follow it with many positive interactions. Teens tend to remember the negatives much more than the positives. Most of them will be happy to listen and be guided by the adults in their lives who they like and respect.

6. Have realistic expectations. If adolescents forget certain chores or assignments, it does not mean they are irresponsible – it means they are adolescents. So give them reminders in a good humored way. Use your sense of humor and remind without saying anything. Point, use charades, or write a note and leave it on their door or chair. If you have to say something, ask, "What was our plan?"

7. If you are a single mother or father, read all you can about identifying with your adolescent one a personal level. Adolescents who see their parent as the "annoying grown-up" will be even less likely to listen.

8. If your adolescent feels social pressure to go out and do things with his peers, let him. But make a deal that no matter how late they get home, they will do the homework before the next day. Make a deal and a plan of action. Some adolescents will do their best not to let you down in exchange for going to be with friends. (Disclaimer: As stated at the top of this post, some of these strategies will work for your teen, and some won’t.)

9. If your adolescent is already sitting at the computer, but simply is surfing or doing other things, have her get off. Force her off by standing there and watching her until she turns the computer off. Offer then to take her out to spend some of her money (which usually makes adolescents happy), or take her out for ice cream. It does not have to be a long outing, but getting her out of the "surfing mood” can make all of the difference. When you return home, she needs to start on the homework.

10. If your adolescent is simply being lazy, ask him to get up and do something that he will enjoy for a few minutes. Once he is off of his rear-end, it might become very much easier to get him to go and get his work.

11. If your adolescent simply dislikes the subject, "confide in her" that you will do it for her if she brings it out. Have her bring it to a couch where the two of you can sit together and work. Judge the scope of her understanding on the subject matter, then sort of trick her into doing the work herself (a controversial strategy, I know). Tell her you have to use the restroom, and just walk away. Before you go, ask her to do two or more parts of the homework on her own.

12. If your teen is planning on going out with friends, don't nag him to get the homework done before hand, but let him know that if he fails any assignments, he will not hang with friends outside of school for a week. The same applies if he wants to do something like skateboarding. Allow him to go, but with conditions.

13. If your teen is really struggling to complete homework, call or make an appointment to meet his teachers. Get to know them, make them feel comfortable to get in touch with you. This, of course, is something your adolescent isn't going to like, even if she is a good student. But, the teachers you have called are much more conscious of your adolescent in their class. So, not only does your adolescent know that you care about her education, the teachers do also.

14. Let your adolescent be the one to come up with his daily routine. He is more apt to stick with it this way. But beforehand, set up a consequence if he is unable to stick to the routine.

15. Make your teen start his homework. This seems obvious, but it is not as simple as you may think. Instead of telling him to "go start your homework," bring him to the computer or his work space and sit down next to him. Don't give up or walk away. Just sit there next to him violating his personal space until he opens his notebook or laptop and starts his work. Watch to make sure that he really starts. Sometimes, it is that simple push that he needs. Once he is on a roll, you can walk away and let him continue.

16. Moms and dads of adolescents often have trouble figuring out when to back off. When it comes to education, your adolescent needs to 'hold the bag'. What grades she “earns” in no way should reflect on you as a parent. After you have given her the time, the space, and the tools, she needs to do the learning. In the end, it’ her job – not yours!

17. Monitor your teen’s computer history. If he is working on a computer, watch to make sure that he doesn't stray. You can also set parental controls and restrictions on internet access.

18. Learn how to “inspire” your teenager, not “boss” her. Building a positive relationship with your child is your best parenting strategy. Kids want to please the adults in their lives that they have loving feelings toward. You can’t ultimately make them accept your values, but you can inspire them to do so.

19. Routines make your adolescent feel safe and secure. When adolescents feel safe and secure, they are at their best. Get rid of the 'Did you do your homework yet?' question. Know that from this time to this time, she is working on it. Be available at that time should she have any questions.

20. Responsible adults were not necessarily responsible adolescents. Remember those days when you were going through the same thing? Allow your adolescent to learn from his failure, which is an excellent motivator. Just keep track of his progress to make sure that he does not fail too much.

21. Depending on the confidence-level of the teen, some difficult assignments might be avoided. Anxiety can be a factor where fear of not doing well paradoxically causes the teen to just not do the work. If laziness or distraction don't seem to be the main factors, consider talking more in depth with your adolescent about what's going on.

22. There are many reasons why an adolescent may not want to do his homework. Is he absorbed in some other task? Is he planning on going out with friends? Whatever it is, knowing the cause is the best way to counter. Remember that a lot of trust is involved with raising an adolescent. Put him in the position where you are trusting him, and if he violates that trust, it is nobody's fault but his.

23. When teens enter high school, they are offered many different activities. Some adolescents try to do it all. This is a good time to explain to your adolescent that there is such a thing as 'too much of a good thing'. See how she handles the responsibility of an activity before allowing her to engage in additional ones.

24. When your youngster's grades slip, or you find that he's not getting his work in on time, “supervise” to help him get on track. For certain periods of time, he will not be able to do anything other than homework. During that time, no games or gadgets are allowed—just studying. In this way, you are providing structure that your teen can’t provide for himself. The time that you set aside for studying should be a time when you will be around to enforce the rules that you have set. Give a fixed amount of time, and once that time is up, your youngster is free to go elsewhere, homework done or not. (Disclaimer: Again, as stated at the top of this post, some of these strategies will work for your teen, and some won’t.)

25. Work to avoid getting pulled into a power struggle. Your defiant youngster will need many more learning opportunities and more rewards and negative consequences—and more time to learn these lessons.

26. You are not responsible for the choices your youngster makes in life. It’s impossible to take on that burden without a battle for control. Measure your success as a mother or father by how you behave—not by what your youngster chooses to do or not do.

27. You can't "program" your youngster to care about her work, but you can create a work environment that promotes a good work ethic. Children who regularly get their homework done do better throughout school and in life.

28. Your adolescent will have friends that completely “blow off” all of their work, and this can be a negative influence. Show your child that he can be cool AND have good grades, not one or the other. Do this by telling him stories about when you were a youngster, tests that you failed, and homework that you did not turn in. Don't make it seem like you are encouraging not turning in the work, but your adolescent will look at you differently when he knows that you were just like him at his age.

29. Your message to your children (which does not require long sit down conversations) is, “Your job is to take care of your responsibilities, which includes getting your homework done. Once you’ve done that each day, you are welcome to do whatever you want.”

30. The bottom line is this: You can’t get defiant teenagers to do - or care - about what they don’t want to do or care about. Teens have their own genetics, roles, and ultimately their own free will. So, focusing on getting your son or daughter to “change” will not work long-term and will most often turn into a power struggle. Sometimes the best strategy is to simply let him or her feel the negative emotions (e.g., “I’m a failure) associated with the poor choice of making mostly F’s and D’s.

My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents

40 Survival Tips for Blended Families

When families "blend" to create step-families, things rarely progress effortlessly. Some kids may resist changes, while moms and dads can become perturbed when the new family doesn't function like their previous family. While changes to family structure require “adjustment time” for everyone involved, the following tips will help blended families work out their growing pains and live together successfully:

1. Address conflict positively. In other words, view each "trouble spot" as an opportunity to learn and grow together. "Conflict" is a good thing when it is used constructively ...don't view it as something that "shouldn't happen."

2. Agree with your new spouse how you intend to parent together, and then make any necessary adjustments to your parenting styles “before” you remarry. It’ll make for a smoother transition, and your children won’t become angry at your new partner for initiating changes.

3. All siblings have conflict, so don’t assume all family arguments are the result of living in a blended family.

4. As a new step-parent, you shouldn’t step in as the enforcer at first, but work with your partner to set limits.

5. As you merge two families, differences in parenting, discipline, lifestyle, etc. may become more pronounced and can become a source of frustration for the kids. Make it a priority to have some unity when it comes to daily living (e.g., rules, chores, discipline, allowance, etc.). Agreeing on some consistent guidelines will show the children that you and your partner intend to deal with issues in a similar way. This should diminish some feelings of unfairness.

6. Be sure to discuss everything. Never keep emotions bottled up or hold grudges.

7. Blended families have the highest success rate if the couple waits two years or more after a divorce to remarry, instead of piling one drastic family change onto another.

8. Children often feel unimportant or invisible when it comes to decision making in the new blended family. Recognize their role in the family when you make decisions.

9. Create a list of family rules. Discuss the rules with the kids and post them in a prominent place. Also, understand what the rules and boundaries are for the children in their other residence, and be consistent.

10. Creating an honest and open environment free of judgment will help children feel heard and emotionally connected to a new step-parent. Show them that you can view the situation from their perspective.

11. Creating family routines and rituals helps unite family members. Decide on meaningful family rituals and plan to incorporate at least one into your blended family (e.g., Sunday visits to the beach, a weekly game night, special ways to celebrate a family birthday, etc.).

12. Do things together (e.g., games, sports, activities, etc.).

13. Don’t overcompensate by favoring your step-kids. This is a common mistake, made with best intentions, in an attempt to avoid indulging your biological kids.

14. Don't expect to fall in love with your spouse’s kids overnight. Get to know them. Love and affection take time to develop.

15. Enforce a respectful attitude. You can’t insist all family members like each other, but you can insist that they treat one another with respect.

16. Establish an open and nonjudgmental atmosphere.

17. Establish the step-parent as more of a friend or counselor rather than a disciplinarian.

18. Establishing regular family meals offers a great chance for you to talk and bond with your kids and step-kids (as well as encourage healthy eating habits).

19. Find a step-parenting support organization in your community. You can learn how other blended families address some of the challenges of blended families.

20. Find a way to experience real life together. Taking both sets of children to a theme park every time you get together is a lot of fun, but it isn’t reflective of everyday life. Try to get the children used to your spouse and his/her kids in daily life situations.

21. Help your children feel safe and secure. Kids want to be able to count on their parents. Kids of divorce have already felt the upset of having people they trust let them down; therefore, know that they may have difficulty giving second chances to a new step-parent.

22. If family members can be civil with one another on a regular basis rather than ignoring, purposely trying to hurt, or completely withdrawing from each other, you're on track.

23. If some of the children just “visit,” make sure they have a locked cupboard for their personal things. Bringing toothbrushes and other standard fare each time they come to your home makes them feel like a visitor, not a member of the blended family.

24. Kids may not think they need limits, but a lack of boundaries sends a signal that the youngster is unworthy of the parents’ time, care, and attention.

25. Kids of all ages respond to praise and encouragement and like to feel appreciated for their contributions.

26. Let the biological parent remain primarily responsible for discipline until the step-parent has developed solid bonds with the children.

27. Let the children know that you and your ex-partner will continue to love them and be there for them throughout their lives.

28. Limit expectations. You may give a lot of time, energy, love, and affection to your new spouse’s children that will not be returned immediately. Think of it as making small investments that may one day yield a lot of interest.

29. Listen respectfully to one another.

30. Members of your blended family may be at various life stages and have different needs (e.g., adolescents versus preschoolers). They may also be at different stages in accepting this new family. Family members need to understand and honor those differences.

31. Most families have very different ideas about how annual events (e.g., holidays, birthdays, family vacations, etc.) should be spent. Children may feel resentful if they’re forced to go along with someone else’s routine. Try to find some common ground or create new traditions for your blended family.

32. One challenge to creating a cohesive blended family is establishing trust. The kids may feel uncertain about their new family and resist your efforts to get to know them. Learn not to take their lack of enthusiasm personally.

33. Present a unified parenting approach to the kids. Arguing or disagreeing in front of them may encourage them to try to come between you.

34. Set aside time as a couple by making regular dates or meeting for lunch or coffee during school time.

35. Tell the children that your new partner will not be a ‘replacement’ mom or dad, but another person to love and support them.

36. The way a blended family communicates says a lot about the level of trust between family members. When communication is clear, open, and frequent, there are fewer opportunities for misunderstanding and more possibilities for connection, whether it is between parent and youngster, step-parent and step-child, or between step-siblings.

37. Try to spend at least one “quiet time” period with your biological youngster daily. Even in the best of blended families, kids still need to enjoy some “alone time” with each parent.

38. Understand that it isn’t that the children don’t want you to be happy; they just don’t know what it will be like to share their parent with a new partner, let alone his/her children. These feelings are normal.

39. Without the marriage, there is no family. It's harder to take care of the marriage in a blended family because you don't have “couple time” like most first marriages do. You'll have to grow and mature into the marriage while parenting.

40.  Your children or new spouse may put you in a situation where you feel you have to choose between them. Remind them that you want both sets of people in your life.

Conclusion:

If, despite all of your best efforts, your new partner and/or kids are not getting along, find a way to protect and nurture the kids despite the difficult environment. Hopefully, if the children see and feel your emotional support, they will do their best with the situation. 

Know that it might be time to seek outside help from a therapist if a step-parent or parent openly favors one youngster over another, a youngster directs anger upon a particular family member or openly resents a step-parent or parent, or members of the family derive no pleasure from usually enjoyable activities (e.g., school, working, playing, being with friends and family, etc.). It may take some time, but choose a therapist that everyone in your blended family is comfortable with. A good connection with a therapist should result in some positive changes right away. You can obtain referrals from family or friends, mental health associations, provider listing from your insurance company, or your family doctor.

How to Stop Arguments With Your Defiant Teenager

Most parents hate having arguments with their defiant teenagers. Arguing is exhausting and time-consuming, especially after a hectic day at work. Are you wondering how to stop it? Follow these tips, and they will help you:

1. The first thing to do is to listen to EVERYTHING your teen has to say. Don’t interrupt, even if she is going on and on. Let her finish, and while she is speaking, make eye contact and let her know you hear her. It’s amazing that even after a long, drawn-out argument, neither person feels really heard, so listen intently. This is the first step to ending arguments before they grow into something unmanageable.

2. As often as possible, try to avoid topics about which you know your teen is passionate about. If you know which buttons to push to get her started, don't push them.

3. Empathize with your teen while she is venting. Say something like, “I’m sorry that things are this way, but hopefully we can settle it once we’ve both calmed down.” Being empathic doesn’t mean you’re taking the blame for the argument, it simply means you’re acknowledging the problem.

4. Identify the reason(s) for the argument. When you know what you’re arguing about, you can begin to work on fixing the problem.

5. Only address the “message” that your teen communicated to you. Take the time to address “what was said” rather than addressing “your reaction to it” or your own personal feelings about it.  Not doing so is how arguments spiral out of control – parent and child react to their own feelings about what the other person has said. Instead, respond only to the message that was communicated. This will diffuse the argument, and your teen will know that she was heard and understood.

6. Save your feelings for later. Take a moment to think about if what you are about to say is something that you should bring up now, or if it can wait until later. After you address what your teen has said, you may decide that you do indeed need to address how her message made you feel or some other feelings you have.  Sometimes a teen’s delivery may have been poor, and you may feel attacked.  Other times, there is something else going on and you also want to be heard and understood. If this is the case, wait until your teen feels understood. You’ll know you’re ready to address “your” feelings when the topic at hand feels diffused and it seems like the conversation could end.

7. Try to discern your teen’s “message” or what she is feeling rather than giving your attention to the reactions and feelings that arise WITHIN YOU as she speaks. This takes practice and patience, but it is really key to understanding the message that is being communicated.  When we, as parents, get caught up in what we “feel” about what our defiant teens are saying, we stop really hearing what they are saying. We take it too personally. This can be a real challenge when how your teen communicates is offending you.  But try to focus on the message rather than on the delivery.  If the delivery angered you, choose to address that later.

8. Wait before you respond. When your teen finishes, don’t respond right away.  Take time to think of what you would like to say.  It’s okay to be silent and thoughtful for a moment. Clear out all those reactions that are based on your own feelings before you respond.

9. Walk away from the situation. Many times, parent and child argue because they get entangled with their anger or the heat of the moment. Walking away to diffuse the situation allows you both to cool off.

10. Try to end on a positive note. Sometimes, not everything can be resolved, and that’s okay. Things can take time.  But as long as both you and your teen feel understood, progress can be made in the days to come.  Try to explain what you’ve understood and what you’ll do different in the future.

Regardless of the real issue, the 10-step mediation process above gives you some ideas on how to handle conflict and start chipping away at the problem. If you try this technique in good faith and it doesn't take the arguing down a notch or two, it's probably time for you and your teen to seek professional counseling.

My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents

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One day you wake up and find that life has changed forever. Instead of greeting you with a hug, your little boy rolls his eyes when you say "good morning" and shouts, "You're ruining my life!" You may think you've stepped into the Twilight Zone, but you've actually been thrust into your son's teen years.

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Outbursts, rages, and strife become a way of life (an emotionally unhealthy way of life). We set aside our own needs and focus on the needs of our children. But what does it cost us?

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The standard disciplinary techniques that are recommended for “typical” teenagers do not take into account the many issues facing teens with serious behavioral problems. Disrespect, anger, violent rages, self-injury, running away from home, school failure, hanging-out with the wrong crowd, drug abuse, theft, and legal problems are just some of the behaviors that parents of defiant teens will have to learn to control.

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