Daughter Declares Bisexuality and Atheism

Dear Mr. Hutten,

I am beginning session 3 of your program tomorrow. I am however very bothered by my 15 year old coming home and telling me that she is bi. I have always raised her Christian and she knows that I don't approve of this kind of behavior. She announced to me also that she is now atheist. She is also involved in the goth look. I was reading your sample contract and it states that I will accept her individuality. Please tell me that this is a behavior issue and not an individuality issue. Remember she wants me to accept her "girlfriend" coming over to visit and to allow her to meet up with her. I told her that I accept her as bi, but I will certainly pray for her. This and the atheist and goth behavior makes me crawl inside. Please, is this a behavior issue where I can say no and set consequences for, or do I still have to just accept it? Remember she’s only 15.

Very Saddened Mom,



Hi V.,

First and foremost, I would suggest that you simply continue to digest the entire program before making any big decisions one way or the other.

Having said that, the atheist stance and the bisexual thing is indeed not a behavioral issue – so it is rather off-limits for any disciplinary interventions (which would do no good anyway). Many – if not most – parents would spend (i.e., waste) a lot of time and energy trying to change their child’s sexual and religious preferences. The bad news: This attempt to “fix” the child would only serve to reinforce her desires to move in these directions that are contrary to your liking.

The goth behavior is a temporary teenage thing that should go in the "pick-your-battles-carefully" file (i.e., save your energy for the more important battles). Also, I would guess that her atheism will fade away over time as well (and possibly the bisexual orientation; she wouldn’t be the first teenager to experiment with bisexuality only to one day realize that it too was just a fad not unlike tattoos and piercings).

In the meantime, I think it is perfectly acceptable that you tell her (only one time though, otherwise it will be perceived as “nagging”) that you disapprove of that life-style.

Mark Hutten, M.A.

My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents

Preparing Teachers for Your ODD Child

"My son has Oppositional Defiant Disorder and ADHD. Should I give his teacher (tutor) some strategies to deal with him in the classroom during summer school (starts on Mon.)? If so, what can I tell her?"

Click here for the answer...

==> My Out-of-Control Child: Help for Parents with ODD Children

Best Parenting Techniques for Raising Oppositional Defiant Children and Teens

Defiant kids are often upset, frustrated, looking to externalize blame and operating under the assumption that they are equal in authority and wisdom to grown-ups. This results in being upset in their interaction with their peers and with anybody in authority like the poor long suffering mother/father. When grown-ups resort to spanking, oppositional kids are often able to manipulate the situation and turn the focus on the moms and dads' behavior. Oppositional kids are commonly also labeled as explosive as strong-willed.

Most moms and dads of oppositional kids are afraid to set definite and definitive limits, and chaos results. Underlying influences driving oppositional behavior may be feelings of inadequacy due to concerns such as: peer rejection, conflict with moms and dads, past traumas, body image concerns and sibling conflicts. The perception is that oppositional behavior is cool. All kids display oppositional behavior from time to time, but it's possible that your youngster has a condition called Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD).

Moms and dads can inadvertently contribute to a youngster's oppositional behavior and negativity by being too intrusive and by constantly imposing their own agenda. With a baby, for example, moms and dads may over-stimulate him by talking too loudly, tickling too many times, and bouncing him around too much. In attempting to cope with all that stimulation, the baby protests with fussing or crying.

Family members may have a hard time understanding each other and a youngster with any level of oppositional behavior can create big problems for himself, his family, and others around him. However, openly uncooperative and hostile behavior becomes a serious concern when it is so frequent and consistent that it stands out when compared with other kids of the same age and developmental level and when it affects the youngster's social, family, and academic life. It may be helpful for family psychotherapy to improve communication, cognitive-behavioral therapy to assist problem solving and decrease negativity, and social skills training to increase flexibility and improve frustration tolerance with peers.

With a toddler, a mother/father who doesn't read the youngster's cues and who constantly insists that the youngster do things the parent's way can contribute to an oppositional youngster's rigidity. For example, an eighteen-month-old is playing with a jack-in-the-box and is focused on figuring out how to open the latch to get Jack to pop out of the box, when he is suddenly interrupted by his father. Dad, thinking the youngster can't do it, tries to move his child’s hand forward on the latch. The youngster defiantly shoves dad's hands away. Hurt, the father inadvertently intrudes on his son by putting an alphabet book on top of the jack-in-the-box, muttering, "Let's do something else." The toddler, trapped with both hands under the jack-in-the-box and the book, tumbles everything over and begins a tantrum, banging his head on the floor. His world has been invaded by his father. A power struggle develops, as the toddler digs in his heels even further the more his father takes over.

With a school-age youngster, moms and dads may unknowingly intrude and overload him by the way they boss him around - even when doing something potentially enjoyable together. An eager father may try to coach his daughter in soccer. Rather than letting her experiment with different ways to kick the soccer ball and perhaps setting up ingenious games, the father insists on instructing, ordering, and demanding too much. He gets impatient and upset when the youngster doesn't want to do it daddy's way. The whole enterprise disintegrates into a struggle between an irritable dad and an ever more oppositional youngster.

Moms and dads sometimes contribute to an oppositional youngster's rebellion by getting the youngster involved in too many activities. Actually, the number of activities is less important than the way in which moms and dads get involved. If the activities are fun and spontaneous, and the youngster is learning through discovery, moms and dads find that their youngster has lots of energy. On the other hand, if the youngster is feeling bossed around and controlled, it can dampen even the most energetic youngster's enthusiasm. (If you have had a controlling, intrusive boss at work, then you know how such an attitude can rob you of your motivation and desire to participate and excel.)

In general, moms and dads who are very rules-oriented or rigid are more apt to set up monumental power struggles with the oppositional youngster. When they also often take the youngster's behavior personally, seeing his negativity as aimed directly at them instead of as an attempt to organize his world, the situation is compounded. "He's just doing that to make me upset," such moms and dads tell me. There is nothing wrong with having rules and standards of conduct for your youngster, of course, but too many arbitrary rules and regulations can drive an oppositional youngster into doing precisely the opposite of what you are demanding of him.

These struggles, I have found, are often played out around certain recurrent issues. The mother/father insists that homework be done at a certain time or in certain ways. "You have to do your homework before dinner, in your room, at your desk with the radio off and the door closed!" Such rigid rules almost inevitably set up a nightly struggle that exhausts everyone. Another incendiary issue is clothes. The youngster may want to wear an old cotton shirt and comfortable, worn jeans to school, while the parent insists on a newer, stiffer shirt and pants. "You're not going to leave my house looking like that," moms and dads will say. The youngster's response, of course, is "I won't wear that junky stuff you want me to wear!" And another battle is under way.

Even more important for the youngster's response than moms and dads wanting their way is the style by which they try to get their way. When it comes to homework, cleaning up toys or respecting other people, moms and dads can persuade, negotiate, and set limits in a calm, empathetic, and supportive way. In contrast, an "in your face," domineering attitude is sure to set up or intensify the youngster's oppositional behavior.

When these struggles become entrenched and moms and dads come to me for help, I see several different types of responses. I see moms and dads (often, but not always, a mother) who feel defeated, frustrated, upset, and depressed by the running battles. They feel guilty and are embarrassed by their youngster's behavior - what they see as his horrible manners, his rudeness, and his sloppiness. Feeling helpless and upset, they rage at the youngster, throwing temper tantrums themselves. Another reaction I see from moms and dads (often fathers) is a punitive, "You-won't-get-away-with-this" stance. This father is a law-and-order kind of guy who expects to be obeyed. He may punish the youngster frequently, often physically, hoping to force or scare him into better behavior.

"If you don't sit straight at this table, you're going to your room for an hour," he may roar at the dinner table each night at his slumping youngster, who merely stares back in oppositional silence. "All right, that's it! Go to your room, and I don't want to see your face until seven o'clock!" As this scene is repeated over and over again about major and minor issues, a fierce duel between parent and youngster develops. The mother/father tries to intimidate or scare the youngster into backing down. While this approach may frighten some kids into obedience (although the parent will have sacrificed the youngster's goodwill and respect in the process), the oppositional youngster only digs in deeper. Open negativism turns into stony passive resistance. His grades suffer. He may get headaches and stomachaches. He may use more primitive mechanisms to battle back.

At the extreme, he might even begin wetting or defecating in bed. But often he will still refuse to give in. As the battles between mother/father and youngster rage on, the whole family begins to suffer. By the time such a parent reaches my office, he is often so enraged that he is willing to sacrifice anything not to lose face. Mortified at the prospect of appearing weak and impotent, he forgets that his adversary is just a youngster. "I don't care what happens," I hear from such moms and dads frequently, "he will not be a spoiled brat!"

There is yet another worrisome parental pattern that I sometimes see among moms and dads of oppositional kids. They become so drained of energy in the power struggles, and so upset at their youngster that, without meaning to, they inadvertently become less nurturing and empathetic. There is less love and understanding in the family as a whole, and sometimes between the moms and dads as well. Moms and dads tell me, "I love Joey deeply. Because I love him so much, I get frustrated and withdraw like that." Unfortunately, kids pick up on this response. One eight-year-old youngster told me, "I know my parents love me, but they hate everything I do." As the special nurturing care in the family erodes, not infrequently kids will tell me, "I wish I were never born" or "Sometimes I think it's better not to be alive." Or the youngster may simply wall himself off more and more in an oppositional corner, refusing to be a part of the family.

A mother/father's lack of nurturing, added to over-intrusiveness, is a double whammy that very few kids, especially those with an oppositional nature, can deal with. Most often this double whammy intensifies the youngster's difficulties.

How Can Moms and Dads Help the Oppositional Youngster?

The most important way to help your oppositional youngster is to become aware of his underlying insecurities and vulnerabilities and be as soothing as possible. Underneath the youngster's oppositional behavior is his inability to let you know directly how much he needs you and how much he depends on you for comfort and security. The only response he knows is to act defiantly (hardly a way to win friends!). Therefore, you want to first gain your youngster's trust and confidence and somehow slip under his oppositional behavior so that you can offer him what he needs.

Organize your youngster’s daily activities so that they occur in the same order each day as much as possible—

This technique for oppositional kids is ultimately the most important. Developing a routine helps a youngster to know what to expect and increases the chances that he or she will comply with things such as chores, homework, and hygiene requests. When undesirable activities occur in the same order at optimal times during the day, they become habits that are not questioned, but done without thought.

Chances are that you have developed some type of routine for yourself in terms of showering, cleaning your house, or doing other types of work. You have an idea in your mind when you will do these things on a regular basis and this helps you to know what to expect. In fact, you have probably already been using most of these compliance techniques for yourself without realizing it.

For kids, without setting these expectations on a daily basis by making them part of a regular routine, they can become very upset. Just like grown-ups, kids think about what they plan to do that day and expect to be able to do what they want. So, when you come along and ask them to do something they weren’t already planning to do that day, this can result in automatic refusals and other undesirable behavior. However, by using this compliance technique with oppositional kids, these activities are done almost every day in the same general order, and the youngster expects to already do them.

Create a written or picture schedule—

If for some reason it is absolutely impossible to do a regular routine in pretty much the same order every day, put together a written (if your youngster is able to read) or picture schedule for your youngster to view each day.

While this compliance technique for oppositional kids requires more effort on your part initially, if it would make a difference in your everyday battles, wouldn't it be worth it (one or two hours of work in exchange for days and months of peace)? You can put together the schedule each day as needed by arranging the laminated pictures on a Velcro strip, writing on a dry erase schedule board, or arranging pictures or written words on a computer to be printed off.

Go over the schedule at night before bed explaining what will happen the next day, again in the morning, and then continue to cross or check off each item as it is completed as you are able. Be sure to include lots of fun things to do as well.

Organize fun activities to occur after frequently refused activities—

This technique also works as a positive reinforcer when a youngster complies with your requests. By arranging your day so that things often refused occur right before highly preferred activities, you are able to motivate your youngster’s behavior of doing the undesirable activity.

This is not to be presented in a way that the preferred activity is only allowed if your youngster does the non-preferred activity. However, you can word your request in a way so that your youngster assumes that you have to do the non-preferred activity before moving on to the next preferred activity.

For example, you do not want to say something such as, “If you clean your room we can play a game.” Instead word your request like this, “As soon as you are done cleaning your room we will be able to play that really fun game you wanted to play.”

Praise, Praise, Praise—

This is probably a common term you are used to hearing by now. If you praise your youngster’s behavior, he or she will be more likely to do that behavior. So, it is essential to use praise when working with oppositional kids. It also provides your youngster with positive attention. However, it is important to know how to praise in a way that encourages future automatic reinforcement for your youngster when doing a similar behavior.

Saying things, such as good job after a gaining compliance, work well when dealing with oppositional kids, but it’s important to use descriptive praise (state the exact behavior you are praising) and correlate it to why that behavior was so important.

For example, if your youngster helped you pick up his or her toys you may say something like this, “Awesome job cleaning up your toys. I’m so proud of you for helping around the house. By cleaning up your toys, we don’t have to worry about someone tripping and falling or getting hurt. That is really responsible of you to clean your toys up to help keep everyone safe. You should be really proud of yourself.”

If your youngster brushed his or her teeth, you may say something like this, “Way to go brushing your teeth! I’m so proud of you for making sure your teeth are clean, so that you don’t get any cavities (or Ouchy) in your mouth. You should be proud of yourself for taking responsibility and brushing your teeth!”

Be sure to focus on telling your youngster to be proud of his own behavior and the effort involved more than the product. This helps to not only encourage the behavior in the future, but for your youngster to understand why you are always making requests to do that behavior.

Sometimes things can become too focused on compliance without emphasizing why the actual behavior is important to the youngster as a way to gain natural compliance because your youngster begins to understand the importance and feels more responsible and proud of his or her behavior, both natural reinforcers.

Give a 5-10 minute warning—

This compliance technique for oppositional kids is one that also works as a transition technique. If you let your youngster know that in 5-10 minutes you want a certain request completed, this allows your youngster time to finish whatever he or she is currently doing and allows your youngster to process the request.

Follow through on requests—

One of the more important compliance techniques that should be in place with the others mentioned is to make sure when a request is made that you follow through with your youngster. If you are always making requests that your youngster doesn’t complete, then your youngster learns that your request must not be important or that it is not necessary to do what you ask.

This is especially important to start this example when your youngster is young, as it is much easier to ensure compliance from a younger youngster than it is from an older youngster. This may include facilitating the request or hand over hand prompting.

For example, you may facilitate the request for oppositional kids to pick up toys by handing your youngster the toys and telling them where they need to go. Hand over hand prompting would include actually taking your youngster’s hand, helping them to pick up the object and put it where it belongs while giving lots of praise. Hand over hand prompting would not be something you would typically use with an older youngster, but may be possible.

Make the activity fun—

This compliance technique for oppositional kids may involve some thought on your part, but if you can do this, then you will also achieve natural reinforcement for the behavior. Making a game out of the request or singing songs can make a less desirable request turn into lots of fun.

Singing the clean up song from Barney or racing to see who can clean up the most items turns a tedious request into a preferred activity. You may also make up a tooth brushing song, use bubbles in the bath or use bath crayons, or have special designated snacks only allowed during homework time.

Our tooth brushing song is to the tune of London bridges falling down and goes like this, “Brush your teeth until their clean, until their clean, until their clean. Brush your teeth until their clean, until their clean.”

It's amazing the difference it makes when you put the outlined compliance techniques in place for oppositional kids. When I make a conscious effort to apply the information above, and it does take a conscious effort for most of the techniques, my son almost becomes a different youngster.

His refusals of "no, no, no!" …turn into "Okay!" and him running off to complete the request. I know it may take work at first, but the reward is far more valuable than the time spent.

Phrase requests differently towards an oppositional youngster to achieve better compliance—

State the request as if you are already assuming your youngster will complete it and if possible provide a choice that he can only make if he completes the request.

  • When you put away your clothes, did you want to hang them all up in your closet or put them in the drawers?
  • When you brush your teeth, did you want to use the electric tooth brush or a regular tooth brush?
  • After you take your shower, did you want to wear your black or blue shirt?
Instead of asking or telling him to do certain things, try making an obvious statement that leads to the desired behavior.

  • If you want your youngster to wipe his or her face at dinner, instead of telling him or her to use his napkin, say “You have some food on your face.”
  • If you want him to pick up his clothes, say “It looks like you have some dirty clothes on the floor that could go in the hamper.”

What can you do when working with very oppositional kids?

Try asking your youngster to do three simple requests first. Request can be things like asking what time it is, what day it is, to hand you an object he is sitting near, and to tell you something fun he did that day, etc.

Then make your fourth request the more complicated one you were originally hoping to get your youngster to do. People are more likely to comply with a more difficult request after already completing three simple requests first. (You can try this compliance technique on your husband/wife too! It works!)

Break down tasks so that they are easier to understand—

When working with oppositional kids, instead of just asking your youngster to do something, such as clean his or her room, give 3-4 specific behaviors that would result in a cleaner room (e.g., putting away clothes in the hamper, making the bed, and putting papers in the trash).

Arrange the environment for oppositional kids so that it is easier to comply with requests—

This compliance technique for oppositional kids encourages your youngster to do what is asked because the response effort is much less than usual. Such as, bundling an entire outfit with underwear, socks and everything, so that it is very easy for your youngster to go to the closet and pick out what he or she should wear that day.

Make sure you youngster has a trashcan and hamper in his or her bedroom where it can be easily used. Try using other organization products as well.

Establishing Trust and Security—

Establishing trust and security is not easy, of course. For example, when you ask your eight-year-old how school went and he replies, "Don't ask all the time! Why do you care?" it's hard to see his underlying vulnerabilities. It is easier to be soothing with a highly sensitive youngster who is clingy and frightened than with an oppositional youngster. The oppositional youngster, with his constant need to be the boss and his ongoing power struggles with you, makes life more difficult. Yet, it is crucial to remember that this youngster is just as prone to being overwhelmed and overloaded as the highly sensitive youngster. The oppositional youngster uses bossiness and oppositional behavior in an attempt to feel secure. To protect himself, he shuts out part of the world - including his moms and dads at times. Your goal is to provide tender, loving care in spite of his negativity and oppositional behavior.

At first such a youngster may not trust you completely. He is not sure whether your attempts to soothe will be comforting or upsetting. He is so accustomed to taking charge, and so fearful of intrusions, that he feels he can trust only himself. You have to convince him that you can be comforting. Review in your mind the kinds of experiences that tend to be soothing for him. Which kinds of sounds help him relax and which are upsetting? Does he like light or firm touch? Does he prefer soft music boxes or rhythmic beats? Is he sensitive on certain parts of his body - his feet, perhaps, or his head, or his mouth? If he is a baby, what kinds of rocking motions does he like? Fast? Slow? In an older youngster, does he like to run fast or just putter along? Does he like you to be laid-back with him or focused on him and very enthusiastic? Over time, by watching and playing with your youngster, you can build a profile of his likes and dislikes. Then you can use that profile to adapt your approach in trying to calm and comfort him.

Start slowly and gradually. With a sixteen-month-old, for example, who pushes your hand away or turns his back when you try to play with him, sit just outside his "boundary," so you don't intrude. Find some way to relate to him - working down the ladder of development, if need be. That is, if you can't get him to brighten up by talking to him, try using gestures - point at the block tower he is building and put one of your blocks right at his "boundary." Maybe he will reach out and take it. But if he still responds with irritation - pushing your block away, for example - back off and go down one developmental level. Try just exchanging some attention: see if you can exchange a smile and a flirtatious glance with him. See if he'll respond with a little grin. As you do this day in and day out, you should start seeing him loosening his "boundary" and begin relating to you in more complex ways. From exchanging glances, you can move up to exchanging gestures (you hand him a block, he accepts it and adds it to his tower while you clap softly and smile), and then to exchanging words (you say, "That's a great tower!" he says, "Want more blocks!"). Soon, he will learn to be more flexible and will be relating to you at whatever developmental level he has reached.

You can follow the same technique with a preschooler. If your youngster is lining cars up in a row, come in as close as you sense he will let you. Offer to help him make his line of cars longer. Keep your motions slow and relaxed. Try to remember to use voice tones that he is comfortable with. If he is sensitive to touch, be respectful of that. You probably don't want to mess-up his hair or pinch his cheek, for example, if he doesn't like being touched on the head or around the face. Be especially cautious about trying to control his body with grabs or unwelcome hugs. It's better to let him know you are available through a warm look and outstretched arms, gesturing your interest in hugging him and seeing if he'll meet you halfway. Wherever possible, let him be the boss.

With an older youngster, the same principles apply. Approach him slowly. Make sure your movements and voice tone are as relaxing to him as possible. For example, your eight-year-old is sorting through his baseball collection and reciting batting averages. "Cal Ripken batted .280 last year," he says as you enter his room. You sit down on the edge of his bed, respectful of his "boundary" and say quietly, "Oh, I didn't know that." Your goal is to establish a calm relationship on his terms. Let him boss you around. If your youngster is playing Nintendo, ask if you might play together and let him assign you to your role.

Even more than with most kids, the general goal with the oppositional youngster is to be warm, soothing, and respectful as much as possible. Meet his inflexibility with flexibility. For example, you're helping tie his shoes. He pulls his foot away - "Not so tight, stupid. It hurts my foot!" Instead of saying, "Don't talk to me that way!" you could take a deep breath and say, "I guess your foot is a bit sensitive," as you tie his shoe one more time. "Is this way better?" At another point (when he isn't feeling so finicky) you can raise the more general issue of why he gets so mad at you and calls you "stupid" whenever you're not "perfect." Here, you can help him reflect on the fact that maybe he is being extra hard on you. As you help him see this pattern and encourage him to become more flexible, remember that he is probably being harder on himself, calling himself "stupid" or worse.

For this reason, a defensive technique ("You can't talk to me like that!") and then blowing up with rage over his "spoiled, insensitive" behavior (understandable though that response may be) not only doesn't work, but actually strengthens the youngster's oppositional behavior. Whatever your youngster is doing to you, he is probably doing worse to himself. When you come down on him too hard, you may only intensify his self-criticism and probably even self-hatred. Empathy and flexibility, coupled with quiet explanations, help him see that he is being hard on both you and himself.

Setting Limits—

Firm limits also need to be implemented. Being empathetic doesn't mean always giving the youngster what he wants. But when he is being refused another helping of ice cream, or punished for kicking his sister or trying to scratch his mother, the limit setting needs to be done in a firm but very gentle (and I stress "gentle") manner. Gentle limits coupled with empathy and flexibility will gradually help your youngster be less critical of you and himself.

Expand the youngster's dialogue about what comforts and what bothers him. For example, say he doesn't like the way you put his shirt on. So you try again, only this time you ask him to help direct you so that you are exchanging lots of words and gestures and, at the same time, following his general guidelines. This tends to ease the tension. Trying too hard to get it "right," or putting the shirt on him in a rough or annoyed fashion, will start a battle. As you build his trust and confidence in you, he begins to see you as a colleague who can help him, rather than as an adversary out to get him.

In response to such advice, moms and dads tell me they fear they will "spoil" or overindulge their youngster and worsen his upset, demanding behavior by being so understanding. I tell them that moms and dads can't spoil a youngster by helping him to feel more secure. They spoil him by not setting limits. Underneath a spoiled youngster is a youngster who thinks, "I can't get the boundaries I need. I have to push more and more and more because nothing works." But you need to set limits on his aggression, not on his need for comfort and security. You don't set limits and soothe at the same time. And you need infinite patience - not an easy thing to accomplish.

In setting limits, take advantage of your youngster's debating skills to hash out rules, rewards, and punishments in advance together. Try to avoid surprises and avoid throwing a tantrum yourself.

Also, it is best to try to avoid situations where the family becomes so stressed and exhausted that the moms and dads stop nurturing each other and a great deal of rage develops in the family. Under those circumstances, one parent commonly tries to overprotect the youngster in an anxious, hovering way, unsettling the youngster with his or her needy intrusiveness. And the other parent, feeling deprived and jealous, often becomes overly punitive with the youngster. It's only when moms and dads have their own needs met that they can be truly gentle and collaborative in setting the required limits.

Encouraging Self-Awareness—

As your youngster gets older, help him to become aware of his own sensitivities and tolerance level. Help him to see what he does and what he doesn't do when he gets overloaded. Urge him to verbalize his feelings and develop a reflective attitude toward his sensitivities. That way, he eventually learns to prepare himself for challenging situations. Because this youngster is so sensitive to feelings of embarrassment and humiliation, his needs must be respected. But, at the same time, see if you can build in some humor, as well. Shared jokes about his perfectionism and critical attitude, if done in a warm and accepting manner, allow him to become aware of his sensitivities. Help him acknowledge some of his tyrant-like and greedy tendencies. "I guess more is always better," you may tease gently. Or you could jokingly ask him how he thinks you should be tortured for being so imperfect!

While empathizing with such a youngster is difficult, it can be made even harder by his aversion to being patronized. You may find, for example, that comments like "I know it must be hard" when said in an exhausted tone of voice will not have the desired effect. On the other hand, using both empathy and humor to help your youngster verbalize his rage and outrage may prove especially helpful. For example, if he is glaring at you and muttering under his breath, complaining that the soup is still too cold or too hot, a remark like, "Gee, I guess you're ready to fire me" or "I guess you think I'd better practice my cooking a little bit more" will respect your youngster as an intelligent, though outraged, individual and is more effective than a patronizing "I know how sensitive your little tongue is."

Moms and dads benefit from self-awareness as well. Sometimes moms and dads feel some embarrassment and guilt toward oppositional or stubborn aspects of themselves. Without being aware of it, they may see pieces of themselves in their youngster and, if they hate that part of themselves, they will often take that hatred out on the youngster, rather than be aware of its origins. All of us have negative characteristics that we aren't proud of. These hidden "truths" often resonate with characteristics in our kids that we don't like. It's as if all the "bad elements" in the collective family psyche hang out together. Being aware of these patterns allows us to take a more supportive and empathetic posture with our kids, rather than an overly critical one.

An oppositional youngster can also learn to choose certain physical activities to decrease his oversensitivity and overload. Many of the same physical exercises I describe for the highly sensitive youngster are also helpful for the oppositional youngster: jumping with joint compression, large muscle movements, and rhythmic actions in space (such as swings or spinning games). Be sensitive to the particular patterns of sensations that comfort your youngster. Again, the most important thing to remember as you develop a program of physical activity is that the oppositional youngster needs to be the boss. Let him direct how fast mommy is swinging the "airplane," or how many times in a row he wants to jump on daddy's tummy.

==> My Out-of-Control Child:  Help for Parents with Oppositional Defiant Children and Teens

The Police Officer Approach to Discipline

There are usually as many discipline techniques as there are moms and dads. Correction methods for kids concerning misbehavior, offensive comments, and family rule infractions usually range between physical-abuse to no parental involvement. Each parent has his or her own style, methods, and attitudes about discipline.

Imagine videotaping moms and dads as they communicate with their kids throughout the week. Reviewing all of the tapes, we may find a number of parenting behaviors and discipline styles.

Some of those discipline techniques might include:
  • Assigning time-outs or isolating the youth in their room
  • Calling the youngster names or making derogatory comments
  • Demanding information about the misbehavior – "Why did you hit Tommy?"
  • Fortune telling – "You're going to end up in prison if you keep acting this way!"
  • Grounding the youngster
  • Humiliating the youngster in front of other kids
  • Ignoring all misbehavior that is not life-threatening
  • Isolating and terrifying the youngster – locking them in a closet
  • Laughing about the misbehavior
  • Lectures about genetics – "Stop acting like your father!"
  • Lecturing the youngster about the misbehavior
  • Making the youngster feel guilty – "You're the reason I'm sick all the time!"
  • Scolding and yelling at the youngster
  • Slapping the youngster in the face
  • Spanking the youngster on the buttocks
  • Striking the youngster with a belt, paddle, or other object
  • Threatening disciplines such as grounding, spanking, etc.
  • Threatening time travel – "I should knock you into next week!"
  • Warning the youngster that the next misbehavior will bring serious consequences

The methods of discipline are exclusive to each mother/father and each family. In certain two-parent families, both mom and dad might use the identical methods. In other two-parent families, the techniques employed by the mother and father might be totally different, compelling the kids to choose discipline by one parent and developing fear of the other parent. When moms and dads are divorced or when several residences are involved, parenting methods may differ with each location.

==> My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents

Where did we develop our current method of discipline? Generally, we use the technique that has been present in our childhood environment. If our moms and dads yelled and screamed – we'll likely shout and scream at our kids. It's really no secret that physically and/or emotionally abused kids frequently turn out to be emotionally and physically abusive moms and dads. Some discipline techniques appear to be favored in certain households, as if the strategy and technique was authorized for use in that family. I have noticed some families have approved hostile and violent parenting techniques like face slapping, paddling with switches/belts/boards, or injury-producing bodily assaults. Grown-ups using these techniques routinely have a reason such as "I was brought up that way and I turned out o.k."

The techniques of discipline at home have a very powerful impact on later adolescent and adult behavior and mind-set. We can generate specific behaviors and attitudes in our kids by the discipline techniques we use in the household. More often than not, the mother/father may be unaware they're generating these behaviors and attitudes as they are employing methods that have been accepted in their household for decades. Through the years, I have seen moms and dads mention the correction of their youngster and the techniques used without any sense that the technique could be abusive or psychologically harmful. I've heard "I told him I'll kill myself if he doesn't straighten up" or "When she said that word I busted her in the mouth and she didn't say it again!"

Without question, all kids will be requiring discipline. This is an important part of the personality and emotional growth of the youngster. Even so, some techniques tend to be more emotionally and socially healthy than others. Some techniques may alter the path of a youngster's character – once and for all.

In the interest of rearing socially and psychologically healthy kids, you should use the most beneficial techniques that have the fewest negative side effects. The Police Officer Approach to Discipline is an attempt to provide guidelines for better discipline methods. This approach may also help moms and dads understand how using poor discipline methods can damage the positive attitude and behavior of a youngster.

The Police Officer Approach—

The Police Officer Approach uses the discipline methods of the adult world with kids. Within the adult world, improper forms of discipline tend to be legally corrected via legal actions, civil suits, media exposure, etc. Authority figures who correct adults - such as law enforcement personnel, job supervisors, government representatives – have strict guidelines regarding how corrections are applied and in what situations. Because of this, the adult world doesn't use many discipline techniques that might be emotionally harmful, at least for minor crimes. Furthermore, the adult world has similar regulations in most situations – correction at the job, in the neighborhood, in social situations, etc.

The adult world also consists of an element of fairness by concentrating on suitable discipline and consequences. The criminal justice system actually ranks offenses by their seriousness or level of victimization. Corrections and punishments used for murderers can't be used for those who steal gas from your vehicle. In a nutshell, the degree of punishment fits the degree of the criminal offense in the adult world.

Methods of discipline employed by moms and dads would not be accepted in the adult world. Extreme and harmful parenting methods are used with kids as the kids have little ability to exercise their constitutional rights. They cannot challenge their consequences and cannot pay for a lawyer.

Let's think of the consequences of employing some parenting techniques in the adult world:
  • If your supervisor is tardy for work, try taking away his/her automobile for a week.
  • When a coworker fails to submit a report by the due date, begin sobbing and telling them "You're the main reason I never get a promotion!"
  • When a coworker uses a profanity – try sticking a bar of soap in his or her mouth.
  • When your coworker "talks back" and disagrees with you, slap them on the mouth.

In the adult world, these coworker behaviors could be corrected, but by way of a procedure that is purely business. This "strictly business" approach can be found in just about all businesses and functions in the community too. In the United States, for instance, sticking a bar of soap in someone's mouth may find you arrested for assault.

Does using an adult-world approach to the correction and discipline of kids make sense? Let's evaluate the data (all psychiatrists do this by the way). According to current numbers, 5 % of kids have experienced extreme physical maltreatment. Data on psychological abuse tend to be more difficult to acquire. Nevertheless, a Bureau of Justice Statistics 1999 report entitled "Contacts between Police and the Public" estimates that less than half of one percent of an estimated 44 million individuals who had face-to-face contact with the police were threatened or actually experienced force. Notably, those face-to-face contacts took place because the individual was linked to a criminal offense of some kind – while a youngster could be disciplined for non-crimes like spilling milk, back-talking, homework problems, etc. Obviously, fewer kids will be physically or psychologically mistreated if we follow a law enforcement design.

The Police Department can be used to illustrate professionalism and reliability in discipline. There might be other examples of professional law enforcement in your area. The State Police in the United States offers us a model of responding to problems with behavior or rule violations.

The Police Officer Approach is strictly business, not emotional or reactive, and corrects behavior through consequence (the fine) and bringing attention to the incorrect behavior. If you're racing on the road and therefore are stopped by the State Police, after viewing your license and registration, the discussion should go something similar to this:

State Police: "Mr. Smith, you were clocked going 70 in a 55 mile per hour zone."

The police officer just informed you of the inappropriate behavior as well as the legal and expected behavior.

State Police: "The fine for speeding in this state is $80.00. Please sign this ticket."

The police officer has informed you of the consequence (fine) for that crime.

State Police: "Instructions for paying the fine are included on the rear of your copy. Have a great day."

The police officer continues to be courteous and businesslike. He doesn't ask the reason why you were speeding. He doesn't attempt to help you understand the reason behind speeding laws in that state. He doesn't insult you with "How can you be so dumb?" or "Where did you get this clunker of an automobile?"

The Police Officer Approach involves three simple steps:

Step 1: Determine the offense or appropriate behavior.
Step 2: Advise the violator of the consequence or fine.
Step 3: Stay courteous and calm.

When used with kids, and adults for that matter, the Police Officer Approach works well in decreasing hatred, rage, and inappropriate behavior. The fine for speeding will not force the violator into legal bankruptcy, will sting in the wallet, but isn't intolerable. It is also difficult to disregard. The Police Officer Approach has been discovered to be extremely effective in the adult world. If we pay a credit card bill late, we are "fined" a late fee as a reminder that prompt payment is required. If our behavior isn't corrected and we are continuously late in our payment or fail to make a payment, the "fine" increases to notifications to the credit bureau or eventual repossession of our big-screen television. Methods of correction in adulthood seek to provide a punishment that is appropriate for the violation as well as avoiding punishments that are extra, excessive, or damaging.

==> My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents

The Police Officer Approach is a technique of using the adult world approach with kids. It reduces the anxiety and frustration often related to parental discipline in both the kids and the moms and dads. By identifying the incorrect behavior, providing an appropriate fine or punishment, and maintaining a calm, business-like interaction with the youngster, we decrease the misbehavior while continuing our good relationship with the youngster. An example:

Mother: "James, you shoved your brother and you know we don't allow shoving and hitting in this family. I want you to go to your room for fifteen minutes. When your time is up you can join the rest of us and watch television. We'll see you in fifteen minutes."

How Parenting Techniques Produce Misbehavior in Kids—

The Police Officer Approach, like all types of parental discipline, could very easily be changed in a manner that would produce poor attitudes, additional misbehavior, and character changes in adults and kids. Modifications in the laws of your state or country might drastically change your personal behavior when disciplined. Let's investigate the way you could alter the laws for law enforcement and actually generate bad behavior in adults. For example:

Excessive Fines-

Changes in the Law: A new law permits the cop to fine a speeding motorist $1,000 for every mile over the posted speeding limit. Traveling ten miles over the posted speed limit is now a $10,000 fine for instance.

Behaviors produced in the Violator: The majority of adults, realizing that the fine is excessive and harmful to their financial situation, might attempt to avoid or out-run the police officer. If apprehended, they might lie or do anything in their power to prevent that ticket and fine.

Discussion: It is uncommon that a routine speeder tries to avoid an $85.00 fine unless the speeder has additional outstanding warrants for another offense. Once the fine is suitable for the crime, mature adults have a tendency to accept their obligation and the fine for the crime. In kids, excessive fines like physical punishment or extreme grounding produce kids who deny their behavior and/or lie about their involvement. When punishment and correction are "short and sweet", there is little reason to avoid both personal responsibility and the punishment. The youngster feels no need to lie and risk another fine or punishment.

Unpredictable Fines-

Changes in the Law: A new law permits the Police Officer to generate his/her own fine for the crime. The new law makes the fine for speeding totally unpredictable as the police officer is permitted to give a warning, a fine anywhere from 1 dollar to $50,000 or to physically attack or even shoot you then and there.

Behaviors produced in the Violator: If arrested, unpredictable fines prompt the violator to manipulate – attempting to obtain the lowest fine possible from the police officer. The speeder might beg, weep, and declare to have a brain tumor, or threaten with a lawyer.

Discussion: Unpredictable fines prompt the youngster to be a con artist and/or manipulator. The youngster will attempt to manipulate to obtain the lowest fine or punishment possible. When a mother/father gives a five-minute time-out for an offense, then six-month grounding for a similar offense, the youngster attempts to control the fine. Consistency in fines can avoid manipulation in both law enforcement and parenting situations.

Canceled Fines-

Changes in the Law: A new law permits the Police Officer to allocate a fine/punishment during the time of arrest, then call and cancel the fine the next day.

Behaviors produced in the Violator: When a fine is terminated, the speeder could be more prone to continue speeding as he/she feels the fines will not be applied. In criminal justice systems, it is common to see career crooks that have a long list of arrests followed by "dismissed" and "probation". Canceling fines and consequences can lead to repeated offenses.

Discussion: When kids are punished/disciplined, then "bailed out" of the punishment, they are likely to continue their misbehavior, because they never endure the consequences. Kids that are often rescued from the penalties of their conduct develop the feeling that the rules do not affect them and may be ignored…as absolutely nothing happens. These kids frequently increase their misbehavior, feeling they're not going to be held accountable for their actions. They eventually reach a severity where rescue is no longer possible. This situation is often found in adolescents who are given probation for several criminal offenses by local courts, being suddenly shocked when the judge/court assigns prison time. Short, appropriate fines and corrections do not need to be canceled in parenting.

Guilty Fines-

Changes in the Law: A new law permits the Police Officer to punish your family for your misbehavior and/or offenses. The cop assigns the fine to your family without cost to you.

Behaviors produced in the Violator: In psychologically healthy individuals, this fine method creates remorse and anxiety. The helplessness of the scenario could also create depression and low self-esteem.

Discussion: Moms and dads often use guilt to manage their kids. The youngster is told their misbehavior is the reason for personal, family or marital troubles. Misbehaving kids are held responsible for a divorce, sickness in the mother/father, a lack of employment, the family financial situation, etc. "You're the reason nobody in this house is happy!" Moms and dads have been known to threaten suicide in an effort to emotionally punish or control their kids. This method of discipline produces guilt-ridden kids. In some cases, however, excessive use of guilt creates a youngster (then an adult) that is emotionally numb to the feelings of others.

Harassing Cop-

Changes in the Law: A new law permits the Police Officer to harass those who have received a previous ticket for speeding. Once receiving a ticket, the Police Officer begins to stop you on a regular basis to remind you that you're a speeder, although you're traveling the speed limit every day. You receive a lecture regarding speeding with each stop.

Behaviors produced in the Violator: The citizen develops resentment and animosity toward the cop and toward authority figures on the whole. He/she begins avoiding highways/roads assigned to that police officer.

Discussion: Harassment by a mother/father generates kids who are bitter and resentful. They feel unjustly disciplined. If reminded frequently, they attempt to avoid interactions with the mother or father and ultimately avoid being in the same area with the parent. This is a typical experience when the misbehavior generates financial hardships or public humiliation for the moms and dads. In certain situations, the parent is psychologically traumatized to the point that the physical presence of the youngster/adolescent brings up the psychological trauma. This scenario is harmful for both parent and youngster.

==> My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents

Insulting Cop-

Changes in the Law: A new law enables the Police Officer to insult and threaten anybody stopped for speeding. A routine speeding ticket is accompanied by a string of personal insults and threats.

Behaviors produced in the Violator: Most individuals can accept their faults and fines as well – if the consequence is suitable for the crime. Insults and threats, however, tend to be more damaging than the fines. Everybody becomes defensive when threatened.

Discussion: Irritated adults make irritated moms and dads. When correcting a youngster, moms and dads tend to be furious or annoyed by the circumstance, creating the temptation to "jab" at the youngster with insults, even though the consequence has ended. Envision working in a job where your boss, often in the presence of your co-workers, lets you know how ignorant you are every time you make a mistake. Insults tend to be more harmful than fines or consequences and create adults and kids that are indignant, resentful, and have low motivation. The principle behind any parenting style would be to correct, not emotionally hurt, our kids.

The Angry Cop-

Changes in the Situation: The Police Officer has just pulled you over for speeding. In your rear-view mirror you observe him to be furious, cursing, clinching his fists, and walking toward you as if he or she is likely to tear the door from your car.

Behaviors produced in the Violator: Observing the rage of the cop, you feel terrified and nervous. You're afraid of an assault of some sort. You then become afraid that you'll make the wrong remark or move in a fashion that could get you assaulted. Because of this, you "clam-up" and offer no or minimal reaction to questions.

Discussion: When we discipline our kids in frustration, they become focused entirely on our upset disposition and potential for attack – not their original misbehavior. Following several of these incidents, our kids become anxiety-ridden and have the feeling they are "walking on eggshells" in our presence. Kids in these home environments (where an adult has a "hot temper") feel anxious on a regular basis. They start to hide school notes, report cards, and avoid contact with grown-ups in the house. When in this home atmosphere for several years, the kids develop panic disorders, wetting the bed, sleep issues, medical conditions, and behavior problems.


When disciplining kids, it is vital that we provide our discipline, structure, and interaction without having rage and violence. Being afraid of a mother/father is not a type of respect – it's a type of intimidation in which violence is respected, not the parent. Our behavior as a parent offers a model for kids. When our discipline includes shouting, intimidating, physical violence or harassing behaviors – these kids will grow to use these same behaviors against the mother/father and eventually against their partners and their kids.

A parent recently described an audit with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). As he explains it, the audit was introduced with "This audit is not a punishment. This audit is simply to insure compliance." Insuring compliance, good behavior, and following the rules is the aim of parental discipline. Parental discipline is definitely an activity in the home, not a personal challenge to the mother/father. Guiding our kids, by correcting their mistakes at times, is best done in a series of small corrections, not intense shoves.

The Police Officer Approach to Discipline prepares kids for the adult world by emphasizing individual responsibility, acknowledging that mistakes and misbehavior happen, and that improving and fixing our behavior can be achieved in a fashion that isn't psychologically or physically damaging. We are able to provide correction and structure for our kids and still maintain a physically and emotionally healthy home atmosphere.


==> My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents

Bad Attitude – or Oppositional Defiant Disorder?

Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) is defined by therapists as a cluster of behaviors that include many or all of the following characteristics:
  1. Accusatory
  2. Aggressive
  3. Angry
  4. Argumentative
  5. Bad temper
  6. Blaming
  7. Defiant
  8. Foul-mouthed
  9. Hostile
  10. Low frustration level
  11. Negative
  12. Oppositional
  13. Pessimistic
  14. Resentful
  15. Spiteful
  16. Unreasonable

How can a mother or father know if a teen is simply dealing with the pains of becoming an adult or has a significant conduct problem that will require therapeutic intervention? If this pattern of behavior is becoming the typical emotional state of your adolescent, he or she might have ODD. ODD can disturb home and family life, other relationships, and school efficiency.

This is often a particularly frustrating disorder, since your teen usually believes he or she has just cause to be so indignant. The youngster may fault moms and dads, friends, educators, or other authority figures for the behavior, declaring others are unreasonable, bothersome, or just plain wrong.

Signs of ODD often appear throughout pre-adolescence, around ages 7 to 13. Initially you might observe that although your youngster has become aggressive and unmanageable in your home, they don't present these exact same behaviors to the public or outside world. This can cause moms and dads to become confused, possibly making them feel guilt, because they "must have done something" to cause the hostility. Over time, however, the youngster's behavior will also deteriorate in school, and teachers may begin to complain about your youngster's attitude in class. A typical student in this stage of ODD will be disruptive in class, disrespectful of teachers and other authority figures, aggressive toward peers, and generally act like a malcontent.

Behavior modification, along with other therapeutic interventions, is the perfect solution for an adolescent with ODD. Disregarding this severe set of signs and symptoms will allow your youngster's behavior to continue to deteriorate and hinder his or her social behavior, school performance, and ability to be responsible for his or her life as an adult.

If signs have grown to be more extreme and include physical acts of violence towards property or other folks, or if your youngster has begun to commit criminal acts like stealing, he or she might be struggling with a far more severe Conduct Disorder.

What Can Parents Do?

The main parenting-tool that actually works for ODD children is consequences. You heard right …you put down boundaries for your children and then follow up with consequences when the limit is broken.

“But consequences don't work,” you say. “My kids just don't seem to care.”

Well, perhaps your consequences are ineffective consequences. Perhaps the result of breaking a boundary is actually only a punishment. And punishments do not work. Punishments trigger resentment within the youngster and do nothing at all to alter behavior.

Ask yourself, “Am I just punishing my ODD teen?” It's easy to understand the difference. A consequence must have a learning portion to it. It must be connected to the offence that your child did wrong.

For instance, if your child loses your cell phone, don't make his nightly curfew earlier. There is no link between the cell phone and his curfew and this would be a punishment. A correct consequence would be restricted use of the cell phone in the future, or even that he work to help you pay for a replacement cell phone.

Alternatively, maybe your consequences work well, but your child still does not appear to care. Perhaps your consequence to spend an hour in his room is ineffective because he has a book to read for school and had already planned to spend time in his room. Or maybe losing his driving privileges is ineffective because he plans to be away for the weekend.

You must know that a consequence that works once may not be successful another time. Learn how to assess your child's reactions and alter consequences accordingly.

Once again, your child may not appear to care because he has learned to manage his reactions. So while his outer facade displays indifference, he does indeed worry about his consequence. Don't be misled by his uncaring attitude. If this is the case he will most likely overreact to minor consequences to cause you to feel he is properly being corrected.

Become familiar with your son/daughter and know what makes him/her tick. Having the right consequence is paramount to altering his conduct.

Consequence may be difficult. I have worked with many mothers and fathers fine-tuning my parenting techniques and figuring out what works and what does not. I've created a series of videos that show you the most common mistakes made by parents. Don't get caught in this same trap. It may mean the difference between respectful kids and kids who rule your family.

==> Help for Parents with ODD Children and Teens

Adolescent Sleep Problems

Research demonstrates that teens require 8½ to more than 9 hours of rest a night.

You do not need to be a math expert to figure out that if you wake up for school at 6:00 AM, you would have to go to sleep at 9:00 PM to attain the 9-hour mark. Scientific studies have discovered that many teens have difficulty falling asleep that early, though. It's not due to the fact they don't want to snooze. It is due to the fact their brains normally work on later schedules and aren't ready for bed.

Many teens have sleep problems. Examples include:
  • Difficulty falling asleep
  • Feeling sleepy during the day
  • Frequent awakening during the night
  • Having nightmares
  • Talking during sleep
  • Teeth grinding and clenching
  • Waking early

Symptoms of insufficient quality sleep:
  • Apparent defiance and belligerence possibly alternating with withdrawal
  • Edginess
  • Irritability
  • Problems with concentration and sometimes with memory
  • Sometimes behavioral, learning or social problems in school
  • Sometimes blurred vision
  • Sometimes vague physical discomfort
  • Tiredness

During adolescence, the body's circadian rhythm (sort of like an internal biological clock) is reset, telling a teen to fall asleep later at night and wake up later in the morning. This change in the circadian rhythm seems to be due to the fact that the brain hormone melatonin is produced later at night in teens than it is for kids and adults, making it harder for teens to fall asleep. Sometimes this delay in the sleep-wake cycle is so extreme that it impacts a person's daily functioning. In those cases it's called delayed sleep phase syndrome.

Changes in the body clock are not the only reason teenagers lose sleep, though. Plenty of individuals have sleeplessness — trouble falling or staying asleep. The most common cause of sleeplessness is anxiety. But all sorts of things can lead to sleeplessness, including bodily discomfort (the stuffy nose of a cold or the pain of a headache, for example), emotional troubles (like family problems or relationship difficulties), and even an uncomfortable sleeping environment (a room that's too hot, cold, or noisy).

Adolescents are well known for staying up late at night and being hard to wake up in the early morning. Your adolescent is probably no exception, but it's not necessarily because he or she is lazy or contrary. This behavior pattern actually has a physical cause — and there are ways to help mesh your adolescent's sleep schedule with that of the rest of the world.

Everyone has an internal clock that affects body temperature, sleep cycles, appetite and hormonal changes. The biological and psychological processes that follow the cycle of this 24-hour internal clock are called circadian rhythms. Before adolescence, these circadian rhythms direct most children to naturally fall asleep around 8 or 9 p.m. But puberty changes an adolescent's internal clock, delaying the time he or she starts feeling sleepy — often until 11 p.m. or later. Staying up late to study or socialize can disrupt an adolescent's internal clock even more.

Most adolescents require about nine hours of sleep a night — and sometimes more — to maintain maximum daytime alertness. But few adolescents really get that much sleep on a regular basis, thanks to part-time employment, homework, extracurricular activities, social demands and early-morning classes. More than 90 percent of adolescents in a recent study reported sleeping less than the recommended nine hours a night. In the same study, 10 percent of adolescents reported sleeping less than six hours a night.

Irritability aside, sleep deprivation may have significant consequences. Daytime sleepiness makes it hard to focus and learn, or even stay awake in class. Too little sleep may contribute to mood swings and behavioral problems. And sleepy adolescents who get behind the wheel may cause serious — even deadly — accidents.

Catching up on sleep during the week-ends appears like a reasonable remedy to adolescent sleeping difficulties, but it does not help much. In fact, sleeping-in can confuse your adolescent's internal clock even more. A forced early bedtime may backfire, too. If your adolescent goes to bed too early, he or she may only lie awake for hours.

Don't assume that your adolescent is at the mercy of his or her internal clock. Take measures this evening by doing the following:

• Adjust the lighting. As bedtime approaches, dim the lights. Turn the lights off during sleep. In the morning, expose your adolescent to bright light. These simple cues can help signal when it's time to sleep and when it's time to wake up.

• Curb the caffeine. A jolt of caffeine may help your adolescent stay awake during class, but the effects are fleeting. And too much caffeine can interfere with a good night's sleep.

• Keep it calm. Encourage your adolescent to wind down at night with a warm shower, a book or other relaxing activities — and avoid vigorous exercise, loud music, video games, text messaging, Web surfing and other stimulating activities shortly before bedtime. Take the TV out of your adolescent's room, or keep it off at night. The same goes for your adolescent's cell phone and computer.

• Nix long naps. If your adolescent is drowsy during the day, a 30-minute nap after school may be refreshing. But too much daytime shut-eye may only make it harder to fall asleep at night.

• Stick to a schedule. Tough as it may be, encourage your adolescent to go to bed and get up at the same time every day — even on weekends. Prioritize extracurricular activities and curb late-night social time as needed. If your adolescent has a job, limit working hours to no more than 16 to 20 hours a week.

• Sleeping pills and other medications generally aren't recommended for adolescents.

In some cases, excessive daytime sleepiness can be a sign of something more than a problem with your adolescent's internal clock. Other problems can include:

• Depression. Sleeping too much or too little is a common sign of depression.

• Insomnia or biological clock disturbance. If your adolescent has trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, he or she is likely to struggle with daytime sleepiness.

• Medication side effects. Many medications — including over-the-counter cold and allergy medications and prescription medications to treat depression and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder — can affect sleep.

• Narcolepsy. Sudden daytime sleep, usually for only short periods of time, can be a sign of narcolepsy. Narcoleptic episodes can occur at any time — even in the middle of a conversation. Sudden attacks of muscle weakness in response to emotions such as laughter, anger or surprise are possible, too.

• Obstructive sleep apnea. When throat muscles fall slack during sleep, they stop air from moving freely through the nose and windpipe. This can interfere with breathing and disrupt sleep.

• Restless legs syndrome. This condition causes a "creepy" sensation in the legs and an irresistible urge to move the legs, usually shortly after going to bed. The discomfort and movement can interrupt sleep.

If you're concerned about your adolescent's daytime sleepiness or sleep habits, contact your adolescent's doctor. If your adolescent is depressed or has a sleep disorder, proper treatment may be the key to a good night's sleep.

==> My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents with Strong-Willed Teenagers

Kids Who Can't Pay Attention

Mothers and fathers are troubled once they get a note from school stating that their youngster won't pay attention to the teacher or causes problems in class. One possible reason behind this sort of behavior is ADHD. 

Even though the youngster with ATTENTION DEFICIT HYPERACTIVITY DISORDER (ADHD) often wants to be a good student, the impulsive behavior and difficulty paying attention in class frequently interferes and causes problems. Educators, parents, and friends know that the youngster is misbehaving or different but they may not be able to tell exactly what is wrong.

Any youngster may show poor attention, distractibility, impulsivity, or hyperactivity sometimes, however the youngster with ATTENTION DEFICIT/HYPERACTIVITY DISORDER shows these symptoms and behaviors more frequently and severely than other kids of the same age or developmental level. ADHD occurs in 3-5% of school age kids. ADHD must begin before the age of seven and it can continue into adulthood. ADHD runs in families with about 25% of biological mothers/fathers also having this medical condition.

A youngster with ATTENTION DEFICIT/HYPERACTIVITY DISORDER often shows some of the following:

• blurts out answers
• easily distracted
• fidgets or squirms
• impatience
• inattention to details and makes careless mistakes
• interrupts or intrudes on others
• leaves seat and runs about or climbs excessively
• loses school supplies, forgets to turn in homework
• seems "on the go"
• talks too much and has difficulty playing quietly
• trouble finishing class work and homework
• trouble following multiple adult commands
• trouble listening
• trouble paying attention

You will find 3 forms of ATTENTION DEFICIT/HYPERACTIVITY DISORDER. Some individuals only have trouble with attention and organization. This is sometimes called Attention Deficit Disorder or ADD. This is ADHD inattentive subtype. Other people have only the hyperactive and impulsive symptoms. This is ADHD-hyperactive subtype. The Third, and most commonly identified group consists of those people who have difficulties with attention and hyperactivity, or the combined type.

A youngster presenting with ATTENTION DEFICIT/HYPERACTIVITY DISORDER signs and symptoms needs to have a comprehensive assessment. Moms and dads should ask their pediatrician or family physician to refer them to a youngster and adolescent psychiatrist, who can diagnose and treat this medical condition. A youngster with ADHD may also have other psychiatric disorders such as conduct disorder, anxiety disorder, depressive disorder, or bipolar disorder. These kids may also have learning disabilities.

Without appropriate treatment, the youngster may fall behind in schoolwork, and friendships may suffer. The youngster encounters more failure than achievement and is belittled by educators and family who do not understand a health problem.

Research plainly shows that treatment can help increase attention, focus, goal directed behavior, and organizational skills. Medications most likely to be helpful include the stimulants (various methylphenidate and amphetamine preparations) and the non-stimulant, atomoxetine. Other medications such as guanfacine, clonidine, and some antidepressants may also be helpful.

Other treatment methods may consist of cognitive-behavioral therapy, social skills training, parent education, and modifications to the youngster’s education program. Behavioral therapy can assist a youngster to control aggression, modulate social conduct, and be more successful. Cognitive therapy can help kids build self-esteem, reduce negative thoughts, and improve problem-solving skills. Moms and dads can learn management skills such as issuing instructions one-step at a time rather than issuing multiple requests at once. Education modifications can address ADHD symptoms along with any coexisting learning disabilities.

Moms and dads are often anxious when their youngster has learning difficulties in the school. There are many reasons for school failure, but a typical one is a particular learning disability. Kids with learning disabilities generally have a normal range of intelligence. They try very hard to follow instructions, concentrate, and "be good" at home and in school. Yet, despite this effort, he or she is not mastering school tasks and falls behind. Learning disabilities affect at least 1 in 10 school kids.

It is believed that learning disabilities are triggered by a difficulty with the nervous system that impacts receiving, processing, or communicating information. They may also run in families. Some kids with learning disabilities are also hyperactive; unable to sit still, easily distracted, and have a short attention span.

Psychiatrists point out that learning disabilities are treatable. If not discovered and treated early, however, they can have a destructive "snowballing" effect. For example, a youngster who does not learn addition in elementary school cannot understand algebra in high school. The youngster, trying very hard to learn, becomes more and more frustrated, and develops emotional problems such as low self-esteem in the face of repeated failure. Some learning disabled kids misbehave in school because they would rather be seen as "bad" than "stupid."

Moms and dads should be aware of the most frequent signals of learning disabilities, when a youngster:
  • cannot understand the concept of time; is confused by "yesterday, today, tomorrow"
  • easily loses or misplaces homework, schoolbooks, or other items
  • fails to master reading, spelling, writing, and/or math skills, and thus fails
  • has difficulty distinguishing right from left; difficulty identifying words or a tendency to reverse letters, words, or numbers; (for example, confusing 25 with 52, "b" with "d," or "on" with "no")
  • has difficulty understanding and following instructions
  • has trouble remembering what someone just told him or her
  • lacks coordination in walking, sports, or small activities such as holding a pencil or tying a shoelace

Such difficulties should have a comprehensive assessment by a specialist who can evaluate all of the various issues impacting the youngster. A psychiatrist can help coordinate the assessment, and work with school professionals and other people to have the assessment and educational testing done to clarify if a learning disability exists. This involves speaking with the youngster and loved ones, analyzing their circumstances, critiquing the educational testing, and consulting with the school.

The psychiatrist will then make suggestions on suitable school placement, the need for specific help such as special educational services or speech-language therapy and help mothers/fathers assist their youngster in maximizing his or her learning potential. Sometimes individual or family psychotherapy will be recommended. Medication may be prescribed for hyperactivity or distractibility. It is important to strengthen the youngster's self-confidence, so vital for healthy development, and also help parents and other family members better understand and cope with the realities of living with a youngster with learning disabilities.

==> My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents

How do I get my over-achieving daughter to slow down?

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