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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High Self-Esteem: A Cure for Bad Teen Behavior

The development of a positive self-esteem is extremely important to the happiness and success of adolescents. Self-esteem is how young people feel about themselves – and their behavior clearly reflects those feelings! For example, a teenager with high self-esteem will be able to tolerate frustration, take pride in her accomplishments, attempt new tasks and challenges, handle positive and negative emotions, assume responsibility, and act independently – all the traits that parents want their teens to have!!!
 
15 steps you can take to help your teen develop high self-esteem (and as a happy bi-product, improve his or her behavior as well):

1.  Help your adolescent learn from her mistakes. Give her constructive criticism when she attempts to resolve a particular problem, because she is taking responsibility and learning from it. When dealing with mistakes, assist your adolescent in identifying the problem, and then brainstorm solutions together. Allowing her to brainstorm with you will build her confidence and push her to become more involved in making positive changes in her life.

2.  Encourage your teenager to ask for what he wants assertively, pointing out that there is no guarantee that he will get it. Reinforce him for asking, and avoid anticipating his desires.

3. Show your adolescent that it is perfectly acceptable to make mistakes, and it is sometimes best to laugh at the mistakes. At times, it's better to find humor than to focus on the negativity that surrounds slip-ups and blunders. This will prevent your adolescent from dwelling on his mistakes and allow him to move forward and achieve success in where he made an error.

4. Encourage your teenager to behave toward herself the way she would like her friends to behave toward her.

5. Encourage your teenager to develop hobbies and interests which give him gratification and which he can pursue independently.

6. Have your adolescent set realistic goals, while encouraging him and praising him for achieving these goals. Assist your adolescent in reaching goals which he can fulfill. Reaching his goals will foster a sense of accomplishment. Your adolescent also learns that nothing is impossible – if he just tries.

7. Consider positive self-talk. Have your adolescent verbally say good things about herself. Point out your adolescent's strengths (e.g., sports that she is good at, subjects she has a strong knowledge of, etc.). Reinforce them when she encounters negativity and assist her in taking pride in her own accomplishments. The ability to identify positive things about herself is an important part of building high self-esteem.

8. Help your teenager develop tease tolerance by pointing out that some teasing can’t hurt. Help him learn to cope with teasing by ignoring it while using positive self-talk (e.g., “names can never hurt me,” “teasing has no power over me,” “if I can resist this joker, then I’m building emotional muscles,” etc.).

9. Help your teenager think in terms of alternative options and possibilities rather than depending on one option for fulfillment. A teen who has only one friend and loses that friend is friendless. However, a teen who has many friends and loses one, still has many. This same principle holds true in many different areas. Whenever you think there is only one thing which can please you, you limit your potential for being content! The more you help your teenager realize that there are many options in every circumstance, the more you increase her potential for fulfillment.

10. Laugh with your teenager and encourage him to laugh at himself. Adolescents who take themselves too seriously are undoubtedly decreasing their enjoyment in life. A good sense of humor and the ability to make light of life are important ingredients for increasing a teenager’s overall quality of life.

11. Always be generous with praise. Look for occasions when your adolescent has displayed a new talent, accomplished a new task, acted unselfishly, or has demonstrated positive character traits. Praising your adolescent for a job well done fosters her independence and encourages her to think positively, because she knows she is doing a good job.

12. Let your teenager know she creates - and is responsible for - any feelings she experiences. Similarly, she is not responsible for other people’s feelings. Avoid blaming your teenager for how she feels.

13. When possible, let your teenager settle his own disputes between siblings and/or peers.

14. Allow your adolescent to make decisions on his own. Praise good decisions, but also allow him to take ownership of his own mistakes so he can learn from it. Don't always solve your teen’s problems for him, otherwise he will always depend on you when something goes awry. Try some “decision-making skill” exercises (e.g., making a list and weighing the consequences of each outcome). Letting your adolescent make his own choices promotes self-esteem because it empowers him and increases his confidence level.

15. Teach your teenager to change her “demands” to “preferences.” Point out to her that there is no reason she MUST get everything she wants, and that she need not feel angry either. Encourage her to work against anger by setting a good example and by reinforcing her when she displays “appropriate irritation” rather than anger.

Adolescence is a turbulent time. Teenagers go through many changes during this time of their life. Factors such as hormones, moods and peer pressure can often influence a teenager's decisions. As a result, they may make bad choices, resulting in undesirable behavior and constant negativity. Having a positive self-esteem means you have pride in yourself and in what you do. Teenagers that have high self-esteem are filled with confidence and determination – and can make the right choices in life and become well-adjusted grown-ups.

My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents

Reducing Stress In Your Single-Parent Family

If you're raising a son or daughter on your own, you're in good company. Single-parent families are more common than ever. Child-rearing can be difficult under any circumstances, but without a spouse/partner, the stakes are even higher. As a single mother or father, you probably have sole responsibility for most aspects of day-to-day child-care. This can result in added stress and fatigue. If you're too tired or distracted to be emotionally supportive or consistently discipline your youngster, behavioral problems can arise.

Single-parent families also generally have lower incomes and less access to health care. Juggling work and child-care can be financially difficult and socially isolating. You might worry about the lack of a male or female parental role model for your youngster, too.

How to reduce stress in your single-parent family:

1. Contradict negative stereotypes about the opposite sex. Share an example of a member of the opposite sex who doesn't fit the stereotype. Include in your life members of the opposite sex who aren't romantic partners. Seek out positive relationships with responsible members of the opposite sex who might serve as role models for your son or daughter. Show your youngster that it's possible to have long-term, positive relationships with members of the opposite sex. Look for opportunities to be positive. Point out accomplishments or positive characteristics of members of the opposite sex in your family, the community, or even the media. Avoid making broad, negative statements about the opposite sex.

2. Take advantage of local resources. Many communities offer play groups, after-school activities, and parenting classes. These can give you and your youngster a chance to have fun, learn, and make new friends.

3. Don't blame yourself or spoil your youngster to try to make up for being a single mother or father. Feeling guilty about the divorce only makes a challenging situation even more challenging.
 
4. If you need regular child-care, look for a qualified care-giver who can provide stimulation in a safe environment. Don't rely on an older son or daughter as your only baby-sitter. Be careful about asking a new friend or partner to watch your youngster.

5. Explain house rules and expectations to your youngster (e.g., speaking respectfully), and enforce them. Work with other adults in your youngster's life to provide consistent discipline. Consider re-evaluating certain limits (e.g., your youngster's screen time) when he/she shows the ability to accept more responsibility.

6. Don’t forget to play and have fun. Take a break from your busy routine to plan something special for you and your youngster (e.g., a trip to the zoo, going out for ice cream, etc.).

7. If you're dating, consider the impact your new romantic partner will have on your son or daughter. Look for a partner who will treat both you and your youngster with respect. Consider waiting until you've established a solid relationship with someone before introducing him/her to your youngster. When you're ready to make the introduction, explain to your son or daughter some of your new partner's positive qualities. Don't expect your new partner and your youngster to become close immediately, however. Give them time to get to know each other.

8. Invite a positive and responsible family member or friend to spend time with your youngster. Young people tend to do very well later in life when they have an involved, caring mentor during childhood. If you don't have a family member or friend available, groups like Big Brothers/Big Sisters can help.

9. Include physical activity in your daily routine. Eat a healthy diet, and get plenty of sleep. Arrange time to do activities you enjoy alone or with close friends. Just be sure to take care of yourself.

10. It's OK to be honest with your youngster if you're having a difficult time after a divorce, but remind him/her that things will get better. Try to keep your sense of humor when dealing with everyday challenges. Stay positive as much as possible.

11. If you don’t get to spend enough time with your son or daughter, look for creative solutions (e.g., find out if your job lets you work flexible hours).

12. Remember to praise your youngster. Give him/her your unconditional love and support. Set aside time each day to do something together, or simply sit with your youngster.

13. Structure (e.g., regularly scheduled meals and bedtimes) helps your youngster know what to expect. So, create a routine and stick with it.

14. Accept help. If friends and family offer their help, take it! This can mean having someone play with your youngster while you run errands or having someone to call when you need to talk.

15. Many single-parent families are the result of divorce or separation. If this is the case in your family, talk to your youngster about the changes you're facing. Listen to your youngster's feelings and try to answer his/her questions honestly — avoiding unnecessary details or negativity about the other parent. Remind your youngster that he/she did nothing to cause the divorce or separation, and that you'll always love him/her. A counselor might be able to help you and your son or daughter talk about problems, fears or concerns. Try to regularly communicate with your youngster's other parent about your youngster's care and well-being to help him/her adapt.

16. Work out a carpool schedule with other parents. Join a support group for single moms and dads, or seek social services. Call on trusted loved ones, friends and neighbors for help. Faith communities can be helpful resources, too. Learn to lean on others.

17. If you're a single mom, you may have to deal with a male parent who isn't very involved in your youngster's life. No matter what you do, you can't force your youngster's dad to get onboard. However, how you explain the situation to your youngster is crucial. Although having a father-figure is valuable, it's not everything – you don't NEED an adult male to help raise your youngster. But, don't talk negatively about your youngster's dad (don't glorify him, either). Leave the door open for responsible contact between your youngster and his/her dad, but know that if you try to force a relationship between father and child, your child is bound to feel disappointed and rejected.

18. If you are a single father, be sure to communicate regularly with your kids. There are too many dads who do not talk enough about “feelings.” This doesn't imply that they are not involved or care less; in homes where the dad is playing both the parents, sometimes there is very little time for a sit-down conversation about the day’s events and how the children feel about those events. Try to keep a track of what's going on in school. Take interest in your youngster's studies and know how he or she is faring in tests. Showing interest in your kids’ education gives them the feeling that you are involved. Also, try to show your softer side. The gentler you are with your kids, the more capable they will be in dealing with the absence of their mom – and they will be more comfortable in sharing their matters with you. And lastly, get in touch with other single dads. Talk to them and share your experiences. Sharing your feelings with other fathers who are in the same position as you will make you a better parent, because you will probably get some crucial parenting tips from the other single dads who have been single longer than you.

19. Allow yourself to have some “alone-time.” You need to relax once in a while too! This can be as simple as taking 10 minutes to read some in a good book after your youngster goes to bed.

20. Lastly, never forget that being a single mother or father can be a rewarding experience. By showing your love and respect, talking honestly and staying positive, you can lessen the stress of single parenting and help your son or daughter thrive.

My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents

What To Do When Your Teen Lies About Bad Grades

“We are seeing problems with our teenage son thinking that he is smarter than everyone else, not doing schoolwork because he thinks it is 'dumb', then lying to us when confronted by the bad grades. How should we deal with this lying issue?”

One of the perpetual problems that many parents face is lying by their teens. Moms and dads will often personalize this problem and view it as a sign that their teens lack respect for them. Parents may also believe that their parental authority is being undermined when their teens distort the truth.

Moms and dads need to understand that all behavior is purposeful, even the habit of lying. Some lying is a common feature of the human experience. Rather than focus on the specific lies told by their teens and the implications of those lies, parents would be well-served in trying to understand the purposes underlying their teen's need to distort the truth.

When moms and dads confront their teens about their pattern of lying, they may inadvertently make the problem worse. They may unintentionally promote a power-struggle and cause their teens to actually become more deceptive about their behavior.

I believe that moms and dads need to rethink their perspective for dealing with their teens when they lie. I recommend they never use the word “lying” in front of their teenagers. Use of the word “lie” sets up an adversarial dynamic. It is preferable to use phrases such as "you need to be more up-front with me" or "you need to be honest with me." This relaxes the encounter and makes it more likely that you will get to the bottom of the situation.

Oftentimes, young people will lie if they feel intimidated or feel excessive pressure from a mother or father. For example, an adolescent may be afraid of harsh, punitive treatment as a consequence for poor grades. Talking with your son or daughter on an on-going basis about the nature and quality of his or her work – rather than focusing on assessment – is helpful in promoting more truthfulness.

The teenage years may be the most difficult developmental period for dealing with lying. Teens, during adolescence, are looking for ways to separate from their moms and dads through experimentation, concealing information, and acting guarded. Try to keep the lines of communications open. Set appropriate boundaries and limits. Monitor your teen closely for substance abuse, and other acting-out behaviors. Never accept excuses for inappropriate behavior. Set logical consequences and stick to them. By setting these parameters, you can reduce the opportunity for your teenagers to engage in lying.

Some guidelines for parents to cope with teens who conceal the truth are:
  • All behavior is purposeful, even lying. Lying is not always intentional deceit and may be aimed at getting attention from moms and dads or manipulating a situation.
  • All teens will lie on occasion. It is inevitable. Remember your childhood?
  • As a parent, role-model honest communications and behavior demonstrating integrity with your teen. Teens may pick up on inconsistencies in parenting and use those patterns as a reason to be untruthful and manipulative.
  • Monitor your teen's behavior – without over-involvement – to see if you notice any red-flags.
  • Never make the issue of deception the main focal point of your conversations. Lying is always a byproduct of other more meaningful areas of exploration with your teen.
  • Never set-up your son or daughter by being aware of a lie and then asking him or her for the truth without discussing that you have information. Acknowledge up-front that you know what's going on.
  • Reframe the word “lying.” Use terminology that means the same, but softens the conflict.
  • Stay out of power-struggles with teenagers over deception. If you know they are being untruthful, merely acknowledge it and set reasonable, logical consequences.
  • Teens may be embarrassed or sensitive about telling the truth. Acknowledge those feelings with them, but insist on knowing the truth.
  • When teens tell the truth, reinforce their positive behavior.

Remember that lying is purposeful behavior that can be minimized with healthy involvement with your adolescent, appropriate monitoring, sensitivity and understanding, and role-modeling of honest, open, and emotionally expressive communications.

Questionnaire To Help Decide If Your Teen Is Using Drugs

While it's natural for adolescents to be somewhat rebellious and have a social life that consists of questionable peers, music, romance and parties, they can also be guarded and mysterious, especially with their moms and dads. Sometimes it takes a little detective work to find out if your adolescent is using drugs.

Nearly half of all adolescents will try drugs before they turn 18. Some use marijuana and/or alcohol regularly. A relatively small amount of adolescents are addicted to drugs, but that number is growing.

Use the questionnaire below to help decide if your teenage son or daughter is using drugs or alcohol:

1. Are there drastic changes in your teen’s appearance?  This is one of the first cries for attention if that is what she is seeking.

2. Does your teen have altered eating and/or sleeping habits (e.g., poor appetite and insomnia)? Sudden desires for sweets as well as weight loss indicate addictive swings typical of drug use.

3. Does your teen make a number of excuses for why he comes home late?

4. Does your teen refuse to talk to you, other than using simple one word replies (e.g., “yes,” “no,” “I don’t know,” etc.)? And have you notice her exhibiting slurred speech?

5. Does your teen smell funny? If he is drinking or doing drugs, you may be able to smell it on his clothes or breath. If he smells like he just sprayed on perfume or cologne, he may be trying to cover up the scent.

6. Has your teen been missing classes? Note any calls from school authorities with complaints about her attendance and/or behavior.

7. Has your teen lost interest in sports or hobbies he once enjoyed? Take seriously any mysterious rejection of interests that were once important to your teenager. Watch if he loses interest in his usual activities. He might abandon his previous hobbies, or take up new ones.

8. Has your teen started carrying eye drops, or is she wearing sunglasses a lot (to hide dilated pupils or red eyes caused by marijuana)?

9. Has your teen started staying away from home more than ever before? If so, ask where she is going and who's going to be with her.

10. Has your teen’s attitude changed for the worse? She might become excessively rude and more rebellious than usual, and she might refuse to do any chores unless paid.

11. Has your teen’s behavior changed for the worse? Look for behavioral changes (e.g., excessive sleepiness, lack of sleep, bouts of nausea and/or throwing up in the toilet, an air of indifference, quick anger, irritability, unresponsiveness or spaciness, etc.).

12. Has your teen’s mood changed for the worse? She may be grouchy and may mope around in a lazy fashion most of the time.

13. Have there been occasions when money or valuables are missing around the house?

14. Have you found drug paraphernalia in your teen’s room? If you suspect drug use by your adolescent, this is one of those times that you need to be the mother or father who checks her personal area.

15. If your teen has his driving license and his own car, does his car smell funny?

16. Is there a change in your teen’s hygiene and/or appearance? Look for indications that your son or daughter may have begun taking drugs and spending time with a "drug" crowd (e.g., glassy eyes, new piercings, tattoos, sloppy clothing, general lack of hygiene, etc.).

17. Is your adolescent avoiding having you meet his new friends?

18. Is your teen always asking for money? He might be spending his money on drugs. If he asks for money, ask him what he needs it for.

19. Is your teen hanging out with a different crowd? Her friends may be more rebellious than usual, and/or she might bring home new friends, or neglect her old ones. Is she ignoring her usual friends in favor of a new group who dress different or seem to have lesser morals?

20. Is your teen starting to have falling grades? Adolescents who use drugs sometimes are less likely to value academic performance, so this is a telltale sign. Stay in touch with teachers if a change is apparent. Search for drastic drops, not just little dips. This could be due to anything.

If your adolescent is displaying some of these signs, it does not necessarily mean he or she is taking drugs. It could just be a new phase or an attempt to keep up with the "cool" crowd. Talk to your teen, and get professional help if necessary.

My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents

How to Stop "Back-Talk" in Disagreeable Teens

“Initially, my husband and I were concerned that our son, Robby, who is 13, did not fit the ‘profile’ of an out-of-control teen. We were motivated to seek outside help and guidance due to the negative attitude we felt we were experiencing with him. This was primarily a ‘talking back’ issue where Robby would continually talk back to us, mutter under his breath, and be purposely rude and disagreeable. Additionally we saw problems of him thinking that he was smarter than everyone else. Any tips for dealing with back talk?”

With a little understanding and self-restraint, moms and dads can put a lid on talking back. The reasons for back talk are as varied as the personalities of the kids who use it. The youngster could be hungry, tired, or in a transitional period. But kids who talk back usually do have one thing in common: They're trying to separate from their parents and exercise control over their lives.

Behavior Tracking—

Moms and dads need to do some behavior tracking: For 3 days, make notes about what your son says, what the situation was, and how you responded. See if you notice any patterns. And keep in mind that when young people talk back, something else is going on underneath. The goal is to help them express it constructively.

You won't ever be able to avoid disagreements with your son, but you can learn how to fight fair:
  1. Define what the problem is
  2. Define how to rectify it 
  3. Don't attack, belittle, or condemn (unless you want some back talk)
  4. Figure out what can be done to prevent it in the future

13-year-olds are notorious for putting moms and dads on the defensive (after all, they are officially a teenager at that point, with an attitude to match). For example, say your son borrowed a ring that had sentimental value, and then he lost it. You might yell, "How could you be so damn irresponsible!" Look out though – he will most likely turn your reaction around on you (e.g., "Oh, so you've never lost anything before? Excuse me for not being perfect!"). Instead of attacking, try talking in concrete terms, such as, "When you _____ (insert the behavior he exhibited), I felt _____ (insert how you felt about his behavior)." 

As strange as it may seem, be sure to use the same restraint and respect you would show a guest in your home. The goal is for you to express your feelings ABOUT his behavior rather than accusing him of “misbehaving.” This lessens the likelihood that he will feel attacked, which in turn lessens the likelihood that you will be on the receiving end of back talk.

My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents

How To Talk Your Way Through Parent-Child Conflict

Conflict between you and your adolescent shouldn’t come as a surprise. This is the age where she will begin embracing independent thinking. Parent-child conflict isn’t necessarily symptomatic of an unhealthy or unhappy household (unless arguing becomes the standard mode of communication).

Family members need to feel free to express their feelings honestly, including airing grievances rather than to repress them. That’s how issues get resolved before small disagreements snowball into more serious problems. However, in order for confrontations to ultimately be productive, everyone needs to observe certain ground rules. As moms and dads, it falls to us to model the behaviors and attitudes conducive to healthy conflict-resolution.

Below are 12 tips for talking your way through parent-child conflict:

1. Don't step on your teen’s tongue. It's tempting to dive-in and over-react to something your adolescent just said. Let your teen have the first word! Listen without interrupting. When she has expressed her viewpoint, then - and only then - should you respond. Take the high road here. Always let your adolescent speak first. Teenagers we surveyed said that if they have a chance to talk first, they're more receptive to what their mom or dad says. Once adolescents get to speak their minds, they're usu¬ally willing to listen to “reason.”

2. Control the things you can, and don’t try to control the things you can’t. For example, let's say your adolescent is “back-talking” you. You might be tempted to say, "You will NOT speak to me like that!" Unfortunately, this come-back throws gas on the fire, because a state¬ment like this challenges your teen to prove she – not you – controls her tongue. A better option would be to say something like, "I'll be glad to listen to you when you speak to me more politely." Now you're saying what you will do, which is something you can control.

3. If you do issue a complaint, be very specific (e.g., “Michael, you forgot to give me 3 phone messages last week – one from my boss, one from your father, and one from grandma” …rather than, “You always forget to take messages”).

4. Briefly explain your reasoning. Some adolescents say they simply don't understand what their moms and dads are asking them to do. Explain the reasons for your request or rule, and then have your adolescent restate what you've told her (e.g., "I know you want to go with your friends to the movies tonight. But you were out late last night and could hardly get up in time to catch the school bus. I don’t have time to play taxicab driver when you miss the bus. You’re free to be with your friends over the weekend, but not tonight").

5. Only deal with the current issue. Don't dredge up past failures or mistakes. Also, don't compare your adolescent with anyone — living or dead, related or unrelated.

6. Avoid the words "always" and "never" (e.g., “You always get angry whenever you have to hear the word ‘no’ ” …or “You never follow through with what I ask you to do”).

7. Ask your teenager to offer his solution to the problem. Your ultimate goal should be to resolve the conflict – not win the argument. If your teen’s solution sounds workable, then give it a shot. If his solution sounds ridiculous, then fine tune his idea a bit so that it can be more workable.

8. Ask yourself, “Is this issue really worth arguing about? How important is this situation, anyway?” Maybe it’s possible to work toward a win-win solution, or at least one that everyone can live with. Choose your battles carefully. Stand up for the values that are most important to you and to your adolescent's safety, but consider flexibility on the smaller issues.

9. Get off to a good start. The first 3 minutes of a confrontation usually dictate how the rest of it will go. Begin the conversation with a soft voice, and you’ll increase the odds that the discussion will be productive. As one adolescent stated, “My dad and I could talk about our problems because he treated as an equal instead of talking down to me.”

10. Take a time-out when needed. If you or your adolescent are getting too pumped-up, take a break. It doesn't hurt to put a confrontation on hold until everyone has calmed down.

11. Model what you want your adolescent to do. When moms and dads scream or point fingers, teenagers figure that it's okay for them to do the same. They also put up a stone wall and get into "fight" mode.

12. Consider sending an email or a text message rather than face-to-face confrontation. Emailing or texting gives you time to sort through your thoughts and express yourself wisely. Also, it gives your adolescent time to respond instead of reacting defensively. That's what a father discovered when his 16-year-old daughter wanted to see an R-rated movie. He kept telling her ‘no’ – and the two of them kept arguing. Finally, the father sent his daughter an email explaining his reason for saying ‘no’. The daughter never asked about it again, and even seemed warmer toward him than she had been for a long time.

There are many important misunderstandings that occur both with the parent and with the teenager that, if recognized, would not only reduce conflict, but strengthen the relationship. While conflict between parents and their teenagers is not of itself a bad thing, the manner in which we choose to resolve these conflicts is what ultimately determines the outcome – and stress – each encounters.

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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