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Adolescent depression can harm your youngster's relationships and academics, as well as increase the risk of substance abuse. Understand what you can do to help prevent adolescent depression. Adolescent depression is a serious health problem that can cause long-lasting physical and emotional problems. Not all adolescent depression can be prevented, but there's good news. By promoting your youngster's physical and mental health, you can help him or her handle stressful situations that might trigger adolescent depression.
What causes adolescent depression?
There's no single cause of adolescent depression. Genetics and environment may play a role. In addition, some adolescents are more prone to depression than are others — including kids of depressed moms and dads, as well as kids who have anxiety or behavior problems. Adolescent girls may be more vulnerable to depression than adolescent males, because females are more likely to derive self-esteem from relationships. Some adolescents' relationships can be especially challenging due to early physical development that can make them look different and change the way peers treat them. Sometimes adolescent depression is triggered by a health problem, stress, or the loss of an important person in the adolescent's life.
How does depression affect an adolescent?
Adolescents dealing with depression are more likely to experience adolescent pregnancy, abuse drugs and alcohol, and perform poorly at school and at work than are other adolescents. Adolescent depression is linked to an increased risk of suicide and suicide attempts, as well as a recurrence of depression in adulthood.
How can moms and dads prevent adolescent depression?
You may be able to help prevent depression by promoting his or her physical and mental health. Research has shown the following steps can make a difference, including:
Encouraging physical activity. A small number of studies show that physical activity — regardless of the level of intensity — may slightly reduce adolescent depression and anxiety. While further studies are needed, there's no doubt that physical activity can improve your youngster's overall health. The Department of Health and Human Services recommends adolescents get one hour or more of physical activity a day.
Praising your youngster's skills. A 2008 study showed that kids who struggled academically in core subjects in first grade were more likely to display negative self-perceptions and symptoms of depression in sixth grade. Meet with teachers to find out how your youngster is doing in school. If your youngster is having trouble in school, be sure to praise his or her other strengths — whether in music, athletics, relationships or other areas.
Promoting participation in organized activities. Research shows that playing team sports or taking part in other organized activities can help prevent adolescent depression by boosting a youngster's self-esteem and increasing his or her social support network. Encourage your youngster to get involved in extracurricular activities.
Providing parental support. In a 2008 study, researchers suggested that the link between low family income and childhood depression might be explained by exposure to stressful events such as divorce or separation or low levels of parental support. Higher levels of parental support seemed to offer protection from depressive symptoms. Remind your youngster that you care by listening, showing interest in his or her problems, and respecting his or her feelings.
Talking to your youngster. One of the early warning signs of adolescent depression is a sense of isolation. Set aside time each day to talk to your youngster. This step can be crucial in preventing further isolation, withdrawal and progressive depression.
What if my youngster is at risk of depression?
If you're concerned that your youngster will develop depression, consider taking extra preventive steps. Recent research has shown some protective benefits for kids of depressed moms and dads who participated in depression prevention programs involving cognitive behavioral therapy (a type of psychotherapy) or efforts aimed at enhancing their resiliency. Further study of depression prevention programs is needed, however. Consult a mental health professional about the options and what might work best for your youngster.
Boundaries are the lines you can draw in the sand. The purpose of boundaries is to keep your son or daughter safe. They are not used to control your youngster into being a different person, to have a different attitude, to change their style of expression. Boundaries are for safety and guidance.
If you are reading this blog post and have a situation with a defiant teenager, then it is already likely you have fallen into the trap of exercising too much control over your teen to change who he or she is. Excessive control will always lead to excessive playing-out of the youngster trying to break free from it. PERIOD! This is a “lose-lose” situation. However, you must have boundaries set to protect your children, obviously.
This is how I drew the line in the sand with my own children: I would tell them that there are rules and there are cardinal sins. Not cardinal sins like from the bible, but cardinal sins from me. Cardinal sins are few, but absolute. Mine were:
No drinking and driving
No riding with a drinking driver
No hard drugs
No unsafe sex (obviously I did not want them having sex early, but realistically unless I could be with them 24 hours a day… ultimately I would not have that control, so the cardinal sin was for unsafe sex which is ultimately far worse)
And that was my Cardinal sin list. I could have made a thousand sins on that list, but then I would be leaning more towards control than guidance.
Cardinal sins were enforced by me saying this: “Children I love you, and I am your father. It’s my job to keep you safe. Rules are rules, and everyone makes a mistake once in a while breaking a rule. But Cardinal sins can never be broken. If you do, you will lose everything you have that I have given you. Cell phones, televisions, music, toys, hobbies -- everything is gone. It may be for a month, a year, it may be two years, or it may be forever. If you break a cardinal rule, your life as you know it today is over.”
I made sure I got this point across by telling them several times in their lives.
Use cardinal rules to set your boundaries. Everything else that you want to control about your teen’s life you need to evaluate whether it is because the thing is harmful to him or her, or just something that you do not like. If you have been overbearing with your control over your child's life, you have created a time bomb that will explode to the determent of both of you. The good news is that now you have a lot of low hanging fruit: releasing control, but keeping your boundaries. Your teenager will have a huge sigh of healthy relief – and so will you.
The parents’ job is not to change the personality of their child, as much as we are all driven to do so. Control will never change who they are. Being an example to them will always affect them. Empowering them to have self-control by being given more freedom, with naturally occurring consequences, will give them self-control. But overbearing parental control will not – ever!
Adolescence can be a confusing time of change for teenagers and parents alike. But while these years can be difficult, there's plenty you can do to nurture your adolescent and encourage responsible behavior. Consider these parenting tips for defiant adolescents:
1. Minimize pressure— Don't pressure your adolescent to be like you were or wish you had been at his or her age. Give your adolescent some leeway when it comes to clothing and hairstyles. It's natural for adolescents to rebel and express themselves in ways that differ from their moms and dads. If your adolescent shows an interest in body art (e.g., tattoos and piercings), make sure he or she understands the health risks (e.g., skin infections, allergic reactions, hepatitis B and C, etc.). Also talk about potential permanence or scarring. As you allow your adolescent some degree of self-expression, remember that you can still maintain high expectations for your adolescent and the kind of person he or she will become.
2. Prioritize rules— While it's important to consistently enforce your rules, you can occasionally make exceptions when it comes to matters such as homework habits, TV watching and bedtime. Prioritizing rules will give you and your adolescent a chance to practice negotiating and compromising. Before negotiating with your adolescent, however, consider how far you're willing to bend. Don't negotiate when it comes to restrictions imposed for your adolescent's safety (e.g., substance abuse, sexual activity, reckless driving, etc.). Make sure your adolescent knows early on that you won't tolerate tobacco, alcohol or other drug use.
3. Set a positive example— Remember, adolescents learn how to behave by watching their moms and dads. Your actions generally speak louder than your words. Set a positive example and your adolescent will likely follow your lead.
4. Show your love— One of the most important parenting tips for adolescents involves positive attention. Spend time with your adolescent to remind him or her that you care. Listen to your adolescent when he or she talks, and respect your adolescent's feelings. Also, keep in mind that only reprimanding your adolescent and never giving him or her any justified praise can prove demoralizing. For every time you discipline your adolescent, aim to compliment him or her twice. If your adolescent doesn't seem interested in bonding, keep trying. Regularly eating meals together may be a good way to stay connected to your adolescent. Better yet, invite your adolescent to prepare the meal with you. You also might encourage your adolescent to talk to other supportive grown-ups (e.g., an uncle or older cousin) for guidance.
5. Encourage cyber safety— Get to know the technology your adolescent is using and the Websites he or she is visiting. If possible, keep the computer in a common area in your house. Remind your adolescent to practice these basic safety rules:
Don't get together with someone you meet online.
Don't send anything in a message you wouldn't say face to face.
Don't share personal information online.
Don't text while driving.
Talk to a parent or trusted adult if an interaction or message makes you uncomfortable.
6. Set limits— To encourage your adolescent to behave well, identify what constitutes acceptable and unacceptable behavior at home, at school and elsewhere. As you establish appropriate rules, explain to your adolescent the behavior you expect as well as the consequences for complying and disobeying. Consider these parenting tips for adolescents when setting limits:
Put rules in writing. Use this technique to counter a selective memory.
Be specific. Rather than telling your adolescent not to stay out late, set a specific curfew.
Be reasonable. Avoid setting rules your adolescent can't possibly follow. A chronically messy adolescent may not be able to maintain a spotless bedroom overnight.
Be prepared to explain your decision. Your adolescent may be more likely to comply with a rule when he or she understands its purpose.
Be flexible. As your adolescent demonstrates more responsibility, grant him or her more freedom. If your adolescent shows poor judgment, impose more restrictions.
Be concise. Keep your rules short and to the point.
Avoid ultimatums. Your adolescent may view an ultimatum as condescending and interpret it as a challenge.
Not sure if you're setting reasonable limits? Talk to your adolescent, other moms and dads and your adolescent's doctor. Whenever possible, give your adolescent a say in establishing the rules he or she is expected to follow.
7. Enforce consequences— Enforcing consequences can be tough, but your adolescent needs you to be his or her parent, not a pal. Being too lenient may send the message that you don't take your adolescent's behavior seriously, while being too harsh can cause resentment. Consider these methods:
Scolding and disapproval. Make sure you reprimand your adolescent's behavior, not your adolescent. Avoid using a sarcastic, demeaning or disrespectful tone. Also, avoid reprimanding your adolescent in front of his or her friends.
Imposing additional restrictions. Take away a privilege or possession that's meaningful to your adolescent (e.g., computer time or a cell phone).
Imposing additional responsibilities. Assign your adolescent additional household tasks.
Asking your adolescent to suggest a consequence. Your adolescent may have an easier time accepting a consequence if he or she has played a role in deciding it.
Active ignoring. Tell your adolescent that you'll talk to him or her when the whining, sulking or yelling stops. Ignore your adolescent in the meantime.
Whatever disciplinary tactic you choose, relate the consequences to the broken rule and deliver them immediately. Limit punishments to a few hours or days to make them most effective. In addition, avoid punishing your adolescent when you're angry. Likewise, don't impose penalties you're not prepared to carry out. Also, punish only the guilty party – not other family members. And of course, never use physical harm to discipline your adolescent.
Text messaging can be a fun way for adolescents to communicate — but texting carries risks, too. To help your adolescent avoid texting problems, consider these important adolescent-texting tips.
How should I talk about texting with my teenager?
Your adolescent may be more digitally savvy than you are, but a lack of maturity can easily get him or her into trouble when using technology. That's why it's important to talk to your adolescent early about texting and proper use of cell phones. Before you start a conversation, get to know the technology firsthand, then ask your adolescent:
Has anyone ever taken an embarrassing picture of you without your permission? Have you ever taken an embarrassing picture of someone else? What did you do with it?
Has anyone you don't know ever sent you a text message? If so, what did you do about it? How did he or she get your number?
Have you ever communicated with someone you met online through your cell phone?
How many numbers do you have stored in your phone? Do you personally know all of these people?
What features do you use on your cell phone? Can you show me how to use them?
Who would you tell if someone sent you a text or picture that was inappropriate?
What are the risks of texting?
Texting can pose potentially serious physical and emotional risks. Talk to your adolescent about:
Cyberbullying - Cyberbullying refers to sending harassing texts, emails or instant messages, as well as posting intimidating or threatening Web sites or blogs. Receiving bullying text messages can make an adolescent feel unsafe and lead to school absences. Discuss cyberbullying with your adolescent. Encourage your adolescent to talk to you or another trusted adult if he or she receives harassing text messages and to consider options such as rejecting texts from unknown numbers. Explain to your adolescent that it isn't appropriate to send harassing text messages to others.
Disrupted sleep - Many adolescents send and receive text messages after turning out their lights and going to bed, which can interfere with a good night's sleep. Even moderate nighttime texting can greatly increase the risk of long-term fatigue. Consider keeping your adolescent's cell phone out of his or her room at night.
Sexting - Sexting refers to sending a text message with sexually explicit content or a sexually explicit picture. This type of texting can cause emotional pain for the person in the picture, as well as the sender and receiver. Explain to your adolescent that text messages shouldn't contain pictures of people without their clothes on or kissing or touching each other. Make sure your adolescent understands that sending this type of text message is considered a crime in some areas and that the consequences could involve the police and suspension from school.
Texting while driving - Research suggests that distractions such as texting may be an even greater threat to adolescents than to other drivers. Peer influence also may play a role. The more passengers in the car, the more likely young drivers are to use cell phones while driving. Talk to your adolescent about the consequences of texting while driving. Monitor your adolescent's driving behavior, and set clear rules and consequences — such as revoking driving privileges if your adolescent texts while driving.
How do I set appropriate limits on my adolescent's use of text messages?
Start by talking to your adolescent about how much he or she texts. You can also review cell phone records to see if your adolescent is sending or receiving late-night texts. Working together, set an appropriate limit for your adolescent's use of the technology. You might also have your adolescent pay for the cost of his or her texts with allowance money or by performing chores or working at a part-time job. Explain to your adolescent any exceptions, such as texting with you or other family members and texting during emergency situations.
Also, let your adolescent know that you'll periodically check his or her phone for inappropriate content. The older your adolescent is, the more often you may need to check. You may also be able to use software to monitor your adolescent's text and picture messages. If your adolescent isn't willing to follow the rules and expectations you've set, consider removing your adolescent's ability to text or send pictures through his or her phone.
Pay attention to warning signs that your adolescent may be spending too much time texting, including:
A drop in grades or other academic problems
Skipping activities, meals or homework to text
Weight loss or gain
What else can I do to help my adolescent text safely?
Understand the types of security settings that are available on your adolescent's cell phone and use them appropriately. In addition, remind your adolescent that any text message he or she sends can be shared with the entire world, so it's important to use good judgment. Discourage your adolescent from gossiping, spreading rumors, bullying or damaging someone's reputation through text messages — and have an honest discussion about the consequences of poor judgment.
Texting can carry risks for your son or daughter. Monitoring your adolescent's texting habits and setting appropriate limits can help prevent problems down the road.
Sex education is offered in many schools, but don't count on classroom instruction alone. Sex education needs to happen at home, too. Sex is a staple of news, entertainment and advertising. It's often hard to avoid this ever-present topic. But when moms and dads and adolescents need to talk, it's not always so easy. If you wait for the perfect moment, you might miss the best opportunities. Instead, think of sex education as an ongoing conversation.
Here are some ideas to help you get started — and keep the discussion going:
Be direct. Clearly state your feelings about specific issues (e.g., oral sex, intercourse). Present the risks objectively, including emotional pain, sexually transmitted infections, and unplanned pregnancy. Explain that oral sex isn't a risk-free alternative to intercourse.
Be honest. If you're uncomfortable, say so — but explain that it's important to keep talking. If you don't know how to answer your adolescent's questions, offer to find the answers or look them up together.
Consider your adolescent's point of view. Don't lecture your adolescent or rely on scare tactics to discourage sexual activity. Instead, listen carefully. Understand your adolescent's pressures, challenges and concerns.
Invite more discussion. Let your adolescent know that it's OK to talk with you about sex whenever he or she has questions or concerns. Reward questions by saying, "I'm glad you came to me."
Move beyond the facts. Your adolescent needs accurate information about sex — but it's just as important to talk about feelings, attitudes and values. Examine questions of ethics and responsibility in the context of your personal or religious beliefs.
Seize the moment. When a TV program or music video raises issues about responsible sexual behavior, use it as a springboard for discussion. Remember that everyday moments (e.g., riding in the car, putting away groceries, etc.) sometime offer the best opportunities to talk.
Sex education for adolescents includes abstinence, date rape, homosexuality and other tough topics.
Be prepared for questions like these:
What if my boyfriend or girlfriend wants to have sex, but I don't? Explain that no one should have sex out of a sense of obligation or fear. Any form of forced sex is rape, whether the perpetrator is a stranger or someone your adolescent has been dating. Impress upon your adolescent that “no” always means “no.” Emphasize that alcohol and drugs impair judgment and reduce inhibitions, leading to situations in which date rape is more likely to occur.
What if I think I'm gay? Many adolescents wonder at some point whether they're gay or bisexual. Help your adolescent understand that he or she is just beginning to explore sexual attraction. These feelings may change as time goes on. Above all, however, let your adolescent know that you love him or her unconditionally. Praise your adolescent for sharing his or her feelings.
How will I know I'm ready for sex? Various factors (e.g., peer pressure, curiosity, loneliness, etc.) steer some teens into early sexual activity. But there's no rush. Remind your adolescent that it's OK to wait. Sex is an adult behavior. In the meantime, there are many other ways to express affection (e.g., intimate talks, long walks, holding hands, listening to music, dancing, kissing, touching and hugging, etc.).
If your adolescent becomes sexually active — whether you think he or she is ready or not — it may be more important than ever to keep the conversation going. State your feelings openly and honestly. Remind your adolescent that you expect him or her to take sex - and the associated responsibilities - seriously.
Stress the importance of safe sex, and make sure your adolescent understands how to get and use contraception. You might talk about keeping a sexual relationship exclusive, not only as a matter of trust and respect, but also to reduce the risk of sexually transmitted infections. Also, set and enforce reasonable boundaries (e.g., curfews, rules about visits from friends of the opposite sex, etc.).
Your adolescent's doctor can help, too. A routine checkup can give your adolescent the opportunity to address sexual activity and other behaviors in a supportive, confidential atmosphere — as well as learn about contraception and safe sex. For girls, the doctor may also stress the importance of routine human papillomavirus vaccination (HPV) to help prevent genital warts and cervical cancer.
With your support, your adolescent can emerge into a sexually responsible grown-up. Be honest and speak from the heart. If your adolescent doesn't seem interested in what you have to say about sex, say it anyway! He or she is probably listening.
Sex education basics may be covered in health class, but your adolescent might not hear — or understand — everything he or she needs to know to make tough choices about sex. That's where you as the parent come in. Awkward as it may be, sex education is a parent's responsibility. By reinforcing and supplementing what your adolescent learns in school, you can set the stage for a lifetime of healthy sexuality.
There’s probably a good reason you’ve found us. You’re here because you want to change your defiant teenager’s behavior, and you want to learn some real parenting strategies that work.
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Our website is a single resource for children, parents, teachers, mental health professionals, and others who deal with the challenges of Oppositional Defiant Disorder, Conduct Disorder, ADHD and other childhood disorders. We provide articles, conference information, educational resources, links to local/national/international support groups, lists of camps/schools, moderated support message boards, recommended reading, sources of professional help, and online parent-coaching.
We strongly believe that everyone faced with challenges associated with childhood disorders should have the right to - and deserve - support and understanding, inclusion, and appropriate education so they and their families can experience the greatest quality of life possible.
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Many teens seem to be slaves to technology these days. They have their cell phones, iPads, iPods, laptops, etc. It's gotten so bad that, for some teens, it's an addiction in the fullest sense of the term. Everywhere you look, there's a cell phone and thumbs are texting. Anything that a teen can become obsessed with, and she does so much that she doesn't do the things she needs to do with family, school, work, etc. – that’s an addiction (FYI: adolescent females lead the charge).
A full 75% of adolescents own cell phones, and a third of those text more than 100 times a day. About 11% say they send over 200 messages every day. Approximately 4% say they have sent a "nude" or nearly nude image of themselves to someone via text, while 15% say they have received such an image of someone else via text.
With excessive texting come a number of problems (e.g., poor dietary habits, isolation from family, sleep deprivation, poor academic performance, etc.). Adolescent forms of communication (e.g., texting, talking on cell phones) make teenagers less communicative (at least with the people they live with). However, in today's world, forbidding all use of cell phones is not only unrealistic, but hurtful. Staying connected with their peers is very important to adolescents.
One of the biggest problems that many parents seem to have with adolescents who text constantly is the lack of boundaries as to what is appropriate and what is not. Adolescents find themselves being able to send messages that they would never dare to verbalize in the real world. This creates a false sense of security, and coupled with most adolescents already inherent lack of realization for consequences can make the entire situation very dangerous. Thus, it is crucial that parents help their teenager determine appropriate boundaries for his or her texting.
How to set boundaries for your texting-addicted teenager:
1. Bullying texts: Help your adolescent understand some of the problems associated with this technology. Despite their increased maturity-level, most adolescents still lack a certain amount of empathy. Help you adolescent understand that reputation damaging and bullying texts are harmful. Many adolescents mistake the anonymity of texting as the freedom to be able to say whatever they want. Let your teen know that once it is out there, there is no way to pull it back in. And it all can be traced back to him or her if someone needed to find out where the hurtful text came from.
2. Cell phone checks: Let your adolescent know that you will be checking his cell phone periodically. This simple fact may serve as a deterrent for bad cell phone behavior. Since most moms and dads pay for their teen’s cell phone, they have the right to check what kind of text is being sent. Your adolescent needs to understand that you reserve the right to confiscate it at any time to check the text log.
3. Restricted possession: Don’t let your teenager have her cell phone on her at all times (e.g., “If we go out to eat, you have to leave the phone at home”). Don’t over-explain your reasons, simply say, “You are a member of the family, so you need to participate during the times we’re together”). Some moms and dads request that their adolescent’s cell phone be given to them during meal time, homework time, and bed time (which prevents all-night texting). Research shows that adolescents who don’t have 24/7 access to their cell phones are much more likely to send appropriate texts.
4. Passing the bill: Require your teen to pay her own cell phone bills if it gets to the point where you need to limit how many minutes she spends talking and texting. This has a way of reducing a teen’s cell phone addiction.
5. Relaxing standards: As a parent, understand that what you believe to be “too much” texting may not actually be “too much” by today’s standards. If your son or daughter is doing chores, functioning well at school, fairly well-behaved, and not completely isolated from family life, it's probably O.K. to relax your expectations around the amount of time he or she spends texting.
6. Sexting: Most parents are uncomfortable discussing anything involving sexual content with their adolescent. Now is not the time to be prudish. Texting with sexual content (i.e., “sexting”) has become a serious issue. Parents should clearly spell out for their adolescent that they will not condone this behavior. Whether the teen is the instigator of a sexual message or simply passing it on, he is equally guilty. Help your adolescent have a clear understanding of the consequences for this misuse of the cell phone (e.g., losing cell phone privileges, legal actions if a sexting message or picture is traced back to him, etc.).
7. Time limits: Make a rule regarding when texting can be done. If your adolescent is texting through dinner, while trying to do homework, or seems unable to separate herself from her cell phone, it is a good idea to set some time limits on texting. Have times in your family when there is no texting allowed (e.g., from 5 p.m. - 6 p.m. for dinner, from 7:00 p.m. – 7:45 p.m. for homework, and again from 10:00 p.m. – 8:00 a.m. for bed time).
If you implement the ideas listed above for a period of time, but are still concerned about the amount of time that texting is taking up in your adolescent’s life, contact the phone company for a detailed record.
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.
During adolescence, teens start to break away from parents and become "their own person." Some talk back, ignore rules and slack off at school. Others may sneak out or break curfew. Still others experiment with alcohol, tobacco or drugs. So how can you tell the difference between normal teen rebellion versus dangerous behavior? And what's the best way for a parent to respond?
Many families of defiant children live in a home that has become a battleground. In the beginning, the daily struggles can be expected. After all, we knew that problems would occur. Initially, stress can be so subtle that we lose sight of a war, which others do not realize is occurring. We honestly believe that we can work through the problems.
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?
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.