I've tried the "catch your kid in the act of doing something right" business, but it doesn't really seem to work ...my son just looks at me like I'm stupid. Any suggestions?
Yes... A few points here: The My Out-of-Control Teen eBook does not contain a set of "one-size-fits-all" parenting strategies. I rely on the parent to be smart enough to "fine-tune" the strategies according to their specific situation (this is why the parent-coaching piece is so important; you'll need some clarification and revision on some things from time to time).
Some kids have very low self-esteem, and so a daily dose of positive strokes in the form of acknowledgment and praise is prescribed. Some kids have fairly high self-esteem, and as such, do not need a lot of strokes. In fact, too many stokes for this kid will be annoying to him/her. Use your good judgment here -- be creative.
As a side note, here are the two mistakes I see parents make on this subject of rewarding the kid for good behavior in the form of acknowledgment and praise:
1. The parent is not sincere when she praises, thus the kid picks up on the words used (and the body language behind the words) and knows that the parent in NOT really impressed with the kid's behavior, the parent is simply SAYING she is impressed.
2. The parent praises in a sarcastic fashion (usually due to some unresolved resentment toward her kid; she may not even realize that her praise is being perceived as an insult by the kid). In this case, the praise is not a reward, rather it is a form of criticism.
So, if parents praise TOO MUCH, or the praise is dishonest or sarcastic, they're just pissin' in the wind. In these cases, it would be better to say nothing.