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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No Emotional Pain = No Behavioral Change

This guy influences people to change :)
What can parents do when their defiant teenagers refuse to do chores, refuse to do their homework, refuse to get home by curfew, and even refuse to go to school? The unfortunate truth is that you, as a parent, cannot MAKE your child do anything he or she doesn't want to do. If yelling, bribing, threatening, nagging and pleading changed unwanted behavior, then you wouldn't be having any parent-child conflict today.

When parents have made a habit of trying to "force" behavioral changes versus trying to "influence" change, they literally create defiant behavior in their teenagers. The defiant teen will fight against all attempts made to control him or her, whether it's by parents, teachers, or any other authority figures. Thus, one of the most important things we can do is decipher what we can control – as well as what we cannot. We get into trouble on multiple levels when we "struggle" to get our children to behave. In other words, we make a bad problem worse. We have to think in terms of "influencing" our teens rather than (a) trying to dominate them with an authoritarian parenting style, or (b) giving up and letting them have their way with a passive parenting style. In addition, we need to relegate ourselves to those situations where we DO have control, and operate within those parameters – only!

What CAN you control as a parent?  
  • You can control your own thoughts, words, behaviors, and attitude.
  • While it's true that you cannot control your child's behavior, you do have control over his or her privileges (e.g., digital devices, allowance, car, etc.).
  • You do have control over your own expectations.
  • You have the ability to let your teenager know what those expectations are.
  • You also have control around the consequences that can be issued when your expectations are not met (i.e., the withdrawal of privileges).

A defiant teenager will never work for what his parents want, but he will work for what he wants – and he wants certain treasured privileges. Parents can use this strong desire for privileges to their advantage. And this is where influencing comes in. For example, you may not be able to get your teenage son to stop slamming his bedroom door when he's angry; however, if you state that one of your expectations is "no door-slamming," and the consequence for door-slamming is the removal of the door, then your son may be influenced to avoid door-slamming in the future (assuming he values the privilege of privacy).

Think of it like this: the last time you got a speeding ticket, you had to give some of your hard earned money away, which in turn, probably made you think twice before speeding on that same stretch of highway ever again. That's the power of influence. You paid the price for breaking a rule – and that price was significantly painful. I once ran through a railroad crossing while the gates were coming down. That incident cost me $115.00. Was the cop being an asshole? No. I knew the law and the potential consequences for violating the law. But I chose to violate the law, which meant I also chose the associated consequence. The same principle holds true when it comes to parenting defiant teenagers. Poor choices must have a painful price tag. It is human nature to want to avoid pain, and most people are willing to change their behavior if it keeps them out of the "pain zone."

If you are parenting a defiant teenager, you need to understand that the only thing he or she will understand is the emotional PAIN associated with poor choices. Nagging, pleading, threatening, bargaining, yelling and bribing are NOT painful to your teen. In fact, these attempts to change unwanted behavior create an excitement in the defiant teenager that influences him or her to engage you in a “war-of-wills.” Conversely, not having a bedroom door, not having access to the computer, not having any minutes on the cell phone, not having access to the family car, and confiscation of all digital devices is VERY painful. So painful in fact, that unless your teenager is a masochist, he or she may be influenced to meet your expectations in the future. So, emotional pain equals behavior change. Never forget this. And never feel guilty for being influential.

My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents
  
BEST COMMENT: Great article. It makes sense to inspire children to focus on putting out effort for what's important for them vs. because we say so! I would like to add a plus one to the article. When your child asks for a privilege, you can always validate by agreeing first "I would love for you to be that, do that or have that...what do you need to do to make that show up for yourself?" This way, you are empowering your child or teenager vs. devaluing by saying something like "You didn't do this, so you don't get that." Kids respond much better to positive statements of what they can do, and what does work vs. what they can't have because of what they didn't do.

6 comments:

EarthmA said...

I like this A LOT! Many thanks! My boy is only 8 but refuses to do ANYTHING asked of him. I've found that removing electrical items is the only way forward

Rachael Tate said...

What do you do when that teenager smashes his own phone to prevent you from using it as a bargaining tool?

Marie-Louise said...

What do you do when confiscating treasured items (electronics) causes your teen to become violent and either break things (expensive and/or treasured things that belong to someone else)in the house until he gets his way or attacks you or the other people in the house?

Bridget said...

My teen is 18!
He refuses to do anything and everything.
We don't give him electronic privileges, or money.
He buys his own!
Both of us parents work and our daughter goes to school.
During the day he has friends in the house even though the rule is......no friends when we are not at home.
He quit school in grade 10, doesn't have a job.......he's been sitting around for over 2 years doing nothing!
He sleeps until late afternoon, goes out at night gets home when he wants.
He smokes pot, I have my suspicions on how he gets money.
He isn't of legal age until he's 19 yr. old.
What do we do with him?

mich said...

Oh this is good. So our life with a defiant Aspergers 14 year old. He is oppositional and inappropriate. We take his electronics but he does destroy the house walls with holes! He attacks is and teachers and destroys property at school to get kicked out. He refused going to school claiming reoccurring diarrhea . He cusses and talks sexual. Our home life is miserable with him. Nothing works!

mich said...

What if they threaten suicide?

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