How to Get Oppositional Children and Teens to Cooperate

Since kids pass through many developmental stages as they mature, it is important to understand the differences between normal childhood attempts to defy authority and symptoms of full-blown Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD). Oppositional defiant kids share many of the following characteristics:
  • The ODD youngster is socially exploitive and very quick to notice how others respond. He then uses these responses to his advantage in family or social environments, or both.
  • These kids tolerate a great deal of negativity – in fact they seem to thrive on large amounts of conflict, anger and negativity from others, and are frequently the winners in escalating battles of negativity.
  • They possess a strong need for control, and will do just about anything to gain power.
  • They typically deny responsibility for their misbehavior and have little insight into how they impact others.

Besides ODD, these kids may also have another psychiatric disorder. ODD is frequently a co-morbid condition with ADHD. It can also be diagnosed along with:
  • Anxiety and mood disorders
  • Asperger’s
  • Language-processing impairments
  • Nonverbal learning disabilities. 
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Sensory integration deficits
  • Tourette Syndrome

Some researchers believe that many of the symptoms of these disorders may share common neurobiological mechanisms. If your youngster is affected by one of these disorders, it is critical to keep in mind that ODD can create additional problems for you and your youngster.

Many authorities on parenting have indicated that oppositional behavior is more prevalent when structure in the home is out of balance (i.e., when there is either too much structure or not enough).

In an overly structured environment, the parenting is rigid and inflexible. These moms and dads “micromanage” and come down hard on their kids, controlling every aspect of their lives. This particular style of parenting only serves to create more opposition and defiance.

On the other hand, structure that is too loose can also cause difficulties. Kids can exhibit oppositional defiant behavior when moms and dads do not provide enough structure by setting appropriate boundaries, or establishing and following through with consequences for misbehavior. These moms and dads usually give in to all of their youngster’s demands, either out of fear of the youngster, or in an effort to keep themselves in the youngster’s good graces.

In order to prevent or reduce oppositional defiant behavior moms and dads should aim towards a firm and loving parenting style in which the structure is balanced. Moms and dads must take charge, and place themselves at the top of the family hierarchy. They must use their authority as moms and dads and, at the same time, make the youngster feel protected, loved and soothed.

How well the moms and dads get along, whether married or divorced, is another factor to consider in preventing oppositional behavior. When couples are unhappy or oppositional in themselves, they frequently disagree on parenting issues, significantly limiting their success in changing the behavior of their youngster. ODD children are experts at dividing their parent’s authority, and will most certainly take advantage of exploiting rifts between the parents. Couples counseling may be in order to decrease the hostility and conflict between moms and dads and set the stage for united, successful parenting.

Another factor to consider is how the family is affected by ODD. This can be one of the most stressful conditions a family faces and, when it is secondary to another neuropsychiatric disorder, that stress is compounded. Family counseling may be helpful to resolve family difficulties. The family therapist can provide a controlled environment which offers support and skills training to weary moms and dads.

Once marital and family issues are addressed, moms and dads can begin to train both themselves and their youngster. If parents continue to respond to quarrelsome behavior as they always have, the ODD child will continue to tune them out, escalate the arguments, and push parent’s buttons.

Most adults engage in an argument with concern for the outcome. The adult’s goal in an argument is to come to a resolution. In other words, what transpires as a result of the conflict is most important. As a parent, from your perspective, if you have determined the outcome of the argument, you are the one in control. For the oppositional youngster, the process of creating an argument is more meaningful to him than the outcome of the conflict. These arguments over insignificant issues may seem pointless however, with such a strong need for control; it is your oppositional youngster’s goal is to escalate the conflict until you are no longer the one in control.

What is important to the ODD child is not the issue being argued over as much as what is going to happen during the argument. In order to control the process of the argument, the oppositional defiant youngster attempts to determine the topic and direction of the conflict and seems to instinctively know when parents are feeling most vulnerable and their energy is low.

The ODD child will bring up conflict-laden issues during these times, aiming towards pushing your buttons and diverting you from issues in which you are likely to be attempting to exert your authority over her. When your ODD youngster finally pushes your buttons, in his mind, he has gained control of you and your emotions. At this point, he has now successfully taken over your position of authority. Furthermore, when you lose control of your emotions, your youngster’s anxiety level rises along with his defensiveness. When his defenses increase, he becomes more oppositional, which is his main defense mechanism. As he becomes more oppositional, the situation escalates and parents are caught in an endless cycle of conflict.

Strategies for avoiding conflict are essential to de-escalate the situation. It is wise to change the subject if your energy is low, or you suspect that the topic of discussion will result in an argument.

Walking away from the conflict is another strategy to consider. If you cannot change the subject, or walk away it is important to keep in mind that the ODD youngster’s goal is to push your buttons. Think about your endurance, how long can you endure really oppositional button pushing? When you get to the end of your rope, what are your options?

It is critical not to take what your youngster says personally. As soon as you defend yourself, your youngster, by the rules governing arguments, has the right to defend himself against your attack. In turn, you get to defend yourself, and he has now pushed your buttons and gained power. You do not have to defend yourself or try to convince him you are right. Do not lower yourself to the level of your oppositional youngster. There are two options available for preventing him from drawing you in:
  1. Tell him, in an unruffled rational manner, that he has two choices. If he wants to stay around, he can change the subject and stop complaining – or he can go somewhere else in the house to complain if he chooses.
  2. Should your youngster choose to escalate, it is time to use two powerful words which can cut through any argument. These words are “regardless” and “nevertheless”. For example, “nevertheless, this is how it is going to be…” Using these words repetitively (like a broken record), in a calm unemotional manner will serve to de-escalate the situation without allowing your youngster to draw you into the power struggle.

Utilizing effective consequences for the oppositional youngster can be difficult since this presents one more opportunity for conflict in which you are likely to lose power. Discussing consequences while you are in the midst of their negative behavior will most likely result in more frustration for you. Therefore, it is critical to focus on consequences that do not require cooperation of the youngster.

Rules and consequences must be clear, and in writing to provide clarity for both youngster and parent before the conflict occurs. Begin by removing reinforcers and allowing your youngster to earn the items back as a reward for acceptable behavior. Reinforcers include items such as television, stereos, CD’s computers, video games, telephones, bicycles, skateboards, visiting friends, access to favorite clothing, favorite foods, etc.

Once you have successfully avoided having your buttons pushed and gained some control over your youngster’s behavior, it is time to go on the offensive to soothe him, and help him get back to an even place. Oppositional kids do not like being soothed by their caretakers. This places them back into the role of being a youngster and puts you back into the role as the parent. One of the driving forces behind ODD is that, for whatever reasons, a youngster is trying to grow up too quickly and considers himself to be equal to his parent.

The ODD youngster may feel less loved due to the amount of conflict going on, and it is difficult to simultaneously feel loved as a youngster and try to operate on an adult level. Your youngster may know intellectually that he is loved, but not feel loved. Moms and dads must be able to show love, and soothe and nurture their youngster. This is not always easy to accomplish, especially when previous negative behavior patterns have become ingrained.

Kids look to their moms and dads for a sense of security, belonging and identity. As our society becomes more complex, the need for our kids to develop a clear set of values is critical. Current research also has indicated that boys with ADHD and increased oppositional behavior are at greater risk for later antisocial behavior. With this in mind, the need for structure becomes particularly relevant in today’s world.

It is apparent that kids affected by a variety of neuropsychiatric disorders are at greater risk for oppositional behavior. Since this behavior will create additional difficulties for them as they pass through the various developmental stages, it becomes even more important to use the authority vested in us as moms and dads to establish consistent limits and consequences, and to distinguish boundaries within the family. This will form a family unit characterized by established guidelines, affording kids a secure backdrop in which they can grow and thrive.

==> My Out-of-Control Teen: Parenting Oppositional Defiant Teens and Pre-teens

Teaching Students with Oppositional Defiant Disorder [ODD]

Teaching students with Oppositional Defiant Disorder [ODD] will be -- let me repeat that -- WILL BE the most challenging aspect of your teaching career. However, if you have a few special tools in your teaching toolbox, getting through to the ODD child can be simplified, saving you from (a) headaches in the short run and (b) total "burn-out" in the long run.

Tips for teaching students with Oppositional Defiant Disorder [ODD]:

1. Address concerns privately. This will help to avoid power struggles as well as an audience for a potential power struggle.

2. Allow the ODD child to redo assignments to improve his/her score or final grade.

3. Always listen to the ODD child. Let him/her talk. Don't interrupt until he/she finishes.

4. Ask parents what works at home.

5. Avoid all power struggles with the ODD child. They will get you nowhere. Thus, try to avoid verbal exchanges. State your position clearly and concisely and choose your battles wisely.

6. Avoid making comments or bringing up situations that may be a source of argument for the ODD child.

7. Choose your battles carefully. Selecting a couple of areas to focus on will work better than fighting every behavior problem.

8. Decide which behaviors you are going to ignore. Most kids with ODD are doing too many things you dislike to include all of them in a behavior management plan. Thus, target only a few important behaviors, rather than trying to fix everything.

9. Do not take the defiance personally. Remember, you are the outlet and not the cause for the defiance- unless you are shouting, arguing or attempting to handle the child with sarcasm.

10. Establish a rapport with the ODD youngster. If this youngster perceives you as reasonable and fair, you'll be able to work more effectively with him or her.

11. Establish clear classroom rules. Be clear about what is nonnegotiable.

12. Give the ODD child some classroom responsibilities. This will help him/her to feel a part of the class and some sense of controlled power. If he/she abuses the situation, the classroom responsibilities can be earned privileges.

13. If there will be any sort of change in the ODD youngster's classroom or routine, notify the parents as far in advance as possible so that they can work with you in preparing their youngster for the change.

14. If you react too emotionally, you may make big mistakes in dealing with the ODD youngster. Plan in advance what to do when this child engages in certain behaviors and be prepared to follow through calmly.

15. In the private conference be caring but honest. Tell the ODD child calmly what it is that is causing problems as far as you are concerned. Be sure you listen as well. In this process, insist upon one rule- that you both be respectful.

16. Keep the lines of communication open between home and the school. The ODD youngster needs all the adults in his/her life working together.

17. Make sure academic work is at the appropriate level. When work is too hard, children become frustrated. When it is too easy, they become bored. Both reactions lead to problems in the classroom.

18. Make this child a part of any plan to change behavior. If you don't, you'll become the enemy.

19. Minimize downtime and plan transitions carefully. Children with ODD do best when kept busy.

20. Never raise your voice or argue with this child. Regardless of the situation do not get into a "yes you will" contest. Silence is a better response.

21. Pace instruction. When the child with ODD completes a designated amount of a non-preferred activity, reinforce his/her cooperation by allowing him/her to do something they prefer or find more enjoyable or less difficult.

22. Post the daily schedule so the ODD child will know what to expect.

23. Praise children when they respond positively.

24. Provide consistency, structure, and clear consequences for the child’s behavior.

25. Select materials that encourage child interaction. Children with ODD need to learn to talk to their peers and to adults in an appropriate manner. All cooperative learning activities must be carefully structured, however.

26. Structure activities so the child with ODD is not always left out or is the last person picked.

27. Systematically teach social skills, including anger management, conflict resolution and how to be assertive in an appropriate manner. Discuss strategies that the child may use to calm him/ or herself down when they feel their anger escalating. Do this when the child is calm.

28. The ODD youngster has significant challenges, but he also has many strengths and gifts. Use these to help him have experiences of success.

29. When decisions are needed, give two choices or options. State them briefly and clearly. Children with ODD are more likely to complete or perform tasks that they have chosen. This also empowers them to make other decisions.

30. When you see an ODD youngster getting frustrated or angry, ask if a calming down period would help. But don't force it on him/her. Rather than sending the child down to the office for this cooling down period, it may be better to establish an isolated “calming down” place in the classroom so he/she can more readily re-engaged in classroom activity following the cooling down period.

My Out-of-Control Child: Help for Parents and Teachers Who Deal with ODD Children

Parenting Troubled Teen Girls: 30 Tips for Parents

The teen years for girls are a period of real danger. Girls entering puberty often face a "crisis in confidence" which makes them vulnerable to risky behavior, and these bad choices can have devastating lifelong consequences. They are confronted with drugs, peer pressure, sex, dating, bullying and more.

Teen girls encounter more "stressors" in life, especially in their interpersonal relationships, than teen boys, and they react more strongly to those pressures, accounting in part for their higher levels of depression. The best way to help your troubled teen girl is to intervene as soon as you sense something is wrong.

Here are some important tips for raising teen girls:

1. Aim at building and maintaining strong family relationships, especially between daughters and fathers. While teen girls may rebel against this, a close-knit family is a strong support structure in times of need.

2. Allow teen girls to express themselves within reason and don’t take everything personally. It is not good to repress emotion and by occasionally overstepping boundaries, girls will get a feel for what is appropriate.

3. Ask your daughter's teachers and school staff for an update on her. If they are seeing the same behaviors that you are, it's sign that your teen girl is in trouble. If they tell you her grades are slipping, she's skipping class or becoming aggressive, you should be concerned. This is also important information to gather if you're going to take your daughter to therapy.

4. Be patient. It is very important not to lose your cool every time your daughter makes a mistake or goes wayward. Remember, patience and perseverance pays. Learn to give your teen girl some time to open up. Spend some quality time with her. Give her the freedom to approach you at anytime of the day. Once this is done, your daughter would discuss with you every time she is in a dilemma.

5. Define the problem. It's important to determine the source of your daughter's behavior. Although the teen years are a time of great flux, a complete behavioral change is not a normal facet of adolescence. If your daughter seems to have done a complete 180-degree personality change, it's important to determine why. There usually is a reason.

6. Discuss sex. This might be a little awkward for you, but it is very important to discuss everything related to sex with your daughter. With virginity not a big thing for the new generation, make sure your daughter realizes the need to be careful with her sexuality and the matters relating to sex. Ensure that she knows what is right and what is wrong, when it comes to sexual intimacy between a boy and a girl. Let her see the advantages of remaining a virgin. If you don’t talk about sex, she will gather information from the Internet and uneducated peers, which may lead to bad choices.

7. Don't feel you have to defend yourself. Your teen daughter may accuse you of things that are not true, say things that are hurtful or exaggerate situations. As the parent, you do not need to help them rationalize these things during an emotional moment. Likely your teen girl is not going to be able to hear what you are even saying, and if she is able to hear it, she will likely not be able to effectively process it. If you feel it is important to explain yourself (and often time it is not) then it is better to wait and do this during a time when emotions are under control.

8. Encourage daughters to set goals in life and as far as possible, model the balance between family and work.

9. Engage in family therapy. If your teenage daughter is abusive, whether you know it or not, it's affecting every member of your household. You'll want to involve everyone in therapy to deal with this issue.

10. Engage teen daughters in discussions about pop culture and advertising. Ask their opinion on the latest trends and whether she thinks they are healthy.

11. Find your teenage daughter a mentor that can help her weather the rocky teen years. Even if you feel as though you have a fairly open relationship with your teen girl, some things she simply cannot communicate to you. Whether it's a relative, a mentor from a non-profit organization or a friend of the family, allowing your teen girl to talk to someone without feeling hurt or jealous can help her talk her feelings and emotions out.

12. Get individual therapy for your daughter and any other family members greatly affected by the abuse. Parents of abusive teens can usually benefit from individual therapy or couples therapy as well, because it's extremely difficult to deal with this type of situation every day.

13. Give space. Make sure not to be too nosy. Remember, your daughter needs some personal space and that she would not like you to interfere and be intrusive about every small thing in her life. Give her the space she wants, but do not let her totally loose. A little bit of restriction and a little bit of freedom will ensure a balanced lifestyle for her.

14. Help teenage daughters to reach their full potential. This can be done by encouraging interests and providing opportunities and training in those areas. Teach them independence and allow them to make decisions and learn from mistakes. Help her to find a path by asking her what her goals are. Troubled teens are often those that lack direction. Perhaps your teenage daughter hasn't thought about her future and chooses activities with short-sightedness. Help your daughter define the future and register her in activities and classes that will help to get her there and help to keep her out of trouble.

15. If your daughter is using drugs, she's probably not going to admit it. In fact, she'll probably try to hide it at all costs and make excuses to cover it up. If you want to know if your daughter is using, drug test her. Drug-testing kits are available at most local drug stores; you also can take her to her primary care physician to get tested. Drug tests aren't always reliable, because teens have ways of messing with them such as putting water in the test instead of urine. What your daughter and the therapist discuss is going to be confidential, which means the therapist will not be able to tell you anything your daughter has told her. However, if your daughter informs the therapist that she is in danger, then the therapist is mandated to let you know. For example, the therapist will tell you if your daughter is being abused, is suicidal or is using dangerous amounts of drugs.

16. Know what matters. It's important to keep your priorities intact during your daughter's struggles. If your daughter is dealing with larger emotional, social or psychological problems, it's probably not in anyone's best interest to nitpick over a messy room or poor grades. In this case, save your energy for the more important battles.

17. Listen and acknowledge. Make time to talk to your troubled daughter. Arrange a time and a safe, neutral place to draw your daughter out without too much pressure. This could be while driving in the car, watching a show or over dinner. Ask how things have been lately, and listen without lecturing, rebuttals or dismissing concerns. Instead, acknowledge and validate your daughter's concerns and fears. Let her know they are normal, and you want to talk about them. Open the lines of communication between you so you can better understand how she is feeling. Listen to complaints and woes, but don’t try and fix everything. It is more helpful to listen in an understanding manner to allow your daughter to come to her own conclusions.

18. Offer positive feedback so your daughter can count on your for a self-esteem boost. When your daughter acts up, it can be tempting to overreact and blow up at the situation, doling out harsh consequences and even harsher words. But a teen girl will see your reactions as typical and use them to fuel and validate her bad behavior. Before you say anything negative to your daughter, make sure it's prefaced by something positive. You'll likely simultaneously surprise her and let her know that she has worth in your eyes.

19. Open the lines of communication so that your daughter knows that they are available. You may be willing to talk, but your teen daughter doesn't feel comfortable opening up to you. Wait until you're in a casual setting; ask her open-ended questions about her life at school, her social life and her romantic life. She may be generally unreceptive at first, but you're letting her know that talking is OK, and you're available when she needs to vent.

20. Provide a sounding board for your daughter. Although teens often seek autonomy and independence from their parents, they still need to feel loved, respected and understood. Talk to your teen girl about the things she's dealing with at school, her friends, and the pressures she might encounter. Let her know you're there for her as a safe and unwavering source of support. This will make her less likely to seek out approval and support from questionable sources.

21. Put yourself in your daughter’s position when trying to understand what seems to be an unreasonable request. Find out what motivated her to ask for such a thing.

22. Remain calm. This can be very difficult - especially if your daughter is yelling at your or saying hurtful things. However, if you also become extremely emotional, you will likely not have a productive interaction and you may end up feeling bad that you said things you later regret. Speaking in an even, calm voice often results in the other person lowering their voice and calming down.

23. Say "No". Too often parents sabotage their own efforts by saying "yes" too freely. Whether you don't have the energy for a fight or you simply don't care, saying "yes" too often can give your teenager too much freedom. Even if your daughter rebels, saying "no" lays the ground rules, especially if your daughter is dealing with drug or alcohol abuse. Learn to say "no" to your daughter when she begs you for money, the car or a late curfew. Be consistent and firm so your daughter knows what to expect.

24. Set and maintain boundaries in connection with activities such as drinking, driving, drugs, sex, curfews and computer use. Set clear consequences for breaking the rules and carry these through.

25. Stay involved with your daughter’s education, no matter what her level of ability, and guide her into wise subject choices according to her gifts.

26. Take space. If you feel yourself ready to blow, there is no reason why you cannot take space for yourself. A lot of parents find that going into the bathroom is the best way to do this (although each person should do what works best for them). Whether you go to take a shower or bath or just pretend you need to be in there doing something, often times this gives both the parent and the teenager a "cool off period" and prevents situations from escalating further. Teenagers most often will not bother others when they are in the bathroom with the door closed.

27. Talk to your daughter about what you're seeing and why you're concerned about her. More than likely she'll blow it off and say that you're worrying for nothing and she's fine. Most teenagers don't admit they need help to their parents.

28. Teach your teenage daughter calming techniques during non-emotional times. It is often helpful for parents to talk to their daughters about ways of remaining calmer during times when things are going well. Many parents come up with plans for their teenage daughters where they can ask to be left alone for ten minutes to listen to music and calm down before continuing the conversation. Other parents have worked with their daughters on deep breathing, counting to 10, writing down how they are feeling first before yelling it, etc. These can all be effective if discussed and reviewed during non-emotional times. You know your teen daughter the best and can likely help her find a technique or a couple techniques that will work for her.

29. Use positively discipline. Your troubled daughter expects that you'll yell and discipline when she does something you don't approve of. But positive discipline can be just as effective with teenagers who think they've got you figured out. Parenting experts recommend using positive discipline to teach teens the value of compliments and positive reinforcement. Avoid negative statements, and look for the good in your troubled daughter.

30. Validate. Let your daughter know that you understand she is upset (even if you don't understand why) and that you know it must be difficult for her to be that upset. Sometimes just feeling heard can make a very big difference in how your teenager responds to you. You don't need to agree or fully understand, just acknowledge and validate how she is feeling.

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

Dealing with Parental Frustration Associated with Raising Defiant Children

Frustration jumps in and gets the better of us all once in awhile. We all know what it feels like and what’s most likely to set us off. It’s important to remember that frustration is a normal human emotion. It becomes a problem, however, when it gets out of control or is used inappropriately.

Uncontrollable parental displays of rage resulting from “toxic” frustration rarely do much to improve a youngster's behavior, and can sometimes be damaging to the parent-child relationship. Moms and dads need to find effective ways to deal with their frustration.

People use a variety of methods to deal with their feelings of frustration. The three main ways are called:
  1. suppressing,
  2. expressing,
  3. and calming.

1. ‘Suppressing’ frustration is probably the least effective way of dealing with this potentially volatile emotion. It means holding your frustration in. The danger is that, since there is no outward expression of your feelings, your frustration gets internalized and can cause physical problems such as high blood pressure, hypertension, and depression. Also, when frustration is suppressed, it can build up until you can’t contain it any longer, so that when it finally is expressed it becomes much more aggressive and uncontrolled than it would normally be.

2. The other way that people deal with frustration is called ‘expressing’. This means making clear what your needs are and how they can be met without hurting others. A combination of expressing and calming is the best way to deal with frustration.

3. Another method of dealing with frustration is called ‘calming’. This means taking a moment to allow your physical reaction to the frustration to subside, concentrating on slowing your breathing, lowering your heart rate, and letting the emotion subside.

You’ve had a rough day, and the kids are rough-housing while you are trying to fix something for dinner. You can feel your patience level dropping, and the urge to yell at them to settle down. What should you do?

Here are a few simple tools to help with day-to-day parental frustration:

• Avoid words like "never" or "always". Instead, state clearly what the problem is either to yourself or the other people involved. Try not to exaggerate the situation, but step back and look at things as objectively as possible.

• Change the way you think when you are frustrated. If you tend to curse or swear when you are frustrated, try replacing those thoughts or words with more rational statements. Instead of thinking things like, “this is unbearable” or “everything’s ruined”, try saying to yourself, “this is frustrating, but it’s not the end of the world.”

• Change your surroundings. If you have a relative or a trusted friend who can watch the kids for a few moments, give them a call. If not, try taking the children for a walk. A change of scenery is often all that’s needed to calm you down and give you some perspective. The exercise will also help relieve stress and tension.

• Find something funny about whatever is upsetting you. This can help balance out the negative feelings and give you some perspective. Looking at the sillier side of the situation helps deflect some of your fury and can release some of the tension that may have been building up. This is also a good way to begin a discussion with kids about how you are feeling. Catch their attention with a funny story, then tell them what was making you frustrated, and ask them the question, “what can we do about this?”

• Talk as calmly as possible to your kids/spouse about how you are feeling, and then solicit their help. Most kids are very attuned to their moms and dads’ feelings. They may surprise you with just how considerate they can be once they understand what you need to feel better. Let them make suggestions about how to change a situation or how they can help.

• Try a few relaxation techniques. Breathe deeply, from your diaphragm, in through your nose and out through your mouth two or three times. Slowly repeat a word or phrase such as "take it easy", or “just relax”. Try repeating your word or phrase while breathing deeply. Close your eyes for a moment and visualize a quiet, relaxing place. Be aware of your breathing and the beating of your heart. Imagine your heartbeat slowing and your muscles relaxing.

You would think that controlling parental frustration at home would be second nature, but you’d be wrong. Ten minutes after they walk in the door, many parents are ready to “lose it.” All they want to do is sit down on the couch for five minutes to unwind, but their children are desperately begging for cookies while torturing the cat. Polite requests for a few minutes peace go completely unheeded, and before you know it, you’re snapping at your child. Using the techniques outlined above should help parents shift from frustration to relaxation within just a few minutes time. BUT, this does take practice! So begin today...

I have never ever written to a website before about anything but this morning for some reason I googled teenagers who leave home and after going through a few I got on your website and I read your piece on defiant teenagers and I cried literally and am doing so just now because everything you said in that piece was like you had read my life with my teenager, everything and for the first time some-one actually understood what it was like to be a parent on the receiving end of a defiant teenager.

Unfortunately my teenager is living with her friend and initially I was in contact with the mother of her friend and she understood but when it went on for so long I said it was wrong of her to keep her there and the contact diminished.

My daughter is 16 now and has been away from us since August, prior to that she had stayed away 3 times the last being with her grandmother, who without meaning it undermined me as a parent in front of her when we tried to make up and she came home but more defiant and horrible and any verbal communication was almost impossible.

Unfortunately we live in Scotland and the law here says they can leave home without parental consent and she has now declared herself homeless and applied for housing which she has to “bid “every week for a place. Basically the law much on her side so from that perspective we have very little input.

She left school and I was very much in contact with the school guidance teacher who was very helpful on one hand but on the other put her in contact with “Children first” a group that help young teenagers to get help and get back with their families which all sounds fine but they seem to come from the angle that parenting skills are at fault we met with them and we were in contact with a group called “Amber Group “ who help families try to work at ways of getting back together and my daughter did not want to engage unless Children first were involved so we agreed and after 3 meetings my daughter walked out and would not engage again. She did however txt me and said can we work it out on our own but her whole attitude to us is awful and disrespectful that I fear that won’t work. She came home for Xmas eve night and got her presents then left after she got them and stayed at her boyfriend’s parent’s house.

Three days later she rang and asked me to pick her up at 11pm as she was ill I did and nursed her took her to the doctors she had glandular fever but on New year’s eve while I was at work her dad took her back to the doctor as she had a repeat appointment to go to she asked him to drop her off at her boyfriends to use the computer (to “bid” for accommodation) and she has never come back.

She txt me to tell me she had an interview for college and one for a hairdressing job. I wished her good luck. We were to meet but unfortunately I got swine flu and was really very ill although she txt to say hope you get better she never came to see me. She has since passed both interviews and all I said was that well big decisions for hope you make the right one and congratulations, no pressure.

I am writing I guess because going to get your book etc but my daughter doesn’t live me and how would I be able to do what strategies you have advised if she is not with us or am I really in a hopeless situation as I fear I am . Every single thing you wrote in that defiant teenager piece was exactly my situation. Once when she came home to pick up something for her CV I asked her what she was doing with some clothes in a bag she had left as I said I was going to throw them out but she said no I might need them it’s like she wants to keep her room available to her whenever she might appear but leaving it as it is killing me inside. It’s like she keeps us totally at arm’s length and does whatever she wants but we are not allowed to move on from her. My friends and husband have all told me to just leave her, make no contact and see what happens. I am totally torn in two.

I am sitting here now wondering why an earth I have written to you sheer desperation I think. I have cried everyday for the last 6 months and am now on antidepressants to help me cope with work and sleep etc., something which I would never have done. I was such a strong person before my teenager left us and now I feel utterly useless at times.

First off, thanks for creating this program and making it affordable. I have already seen improvements at home in my son and my relationship. I enjoy your to-the-point format and the clarity of directions. I am at the second assignment level and working on studying week 3. In the meantime, my son is having some difficulties in high school and I would like to hear your advice on how to help him with these teenage issues. We are trying to start the 2nd semester of his first year in high school with a fresh start and with your program to guide me into more effective parenting skills.

In the past (and before this program), anytime his grades were below a 70%, he was grounded. His school allows us to check his grades in every class anytime online. Our logic was to only apply groundings as long as there were failing grade averages to give more focus to school work and return privileges when all class averages are passing. He was most recently grounded for an entire 3 months and over holiday breaks. It was too long and I saw it was not helping, but I did not want to seem like I was giving into his ways so I held it up until now. I followed your advice in explaining that there will be a change in our techniques. He is no longer grounded for grades. We are working on building better study habits, instead.

Currently, my son says he doesn't care about grades and that I am the only one who cares if he passes his classes or not. We have discussed the logical consequences of failing in school such as having to retake classes, taking a longer time to graduate high school, and added difficulties in getting jobs in the future as well as loss of privileges. At home, we keep organized, have all needed supplies, have a 'library' with a set homework table, have a set time of the day to work together on the homework, etc. We require both of our children to spend a minimum amount of time doing homework each and every school day. If there is no homework due, we read for a short time together.

He is however clever enough to find loop holes such as 'losing' his entire book bag with all papers inside, inform us that all work has been completed and turned in, or tell us that instructions have been 'altered' to require less requirements. He tries to sleep through the short reading period if no homework was available. He knows he has no access to computers, games, TV, phone, friends, etc. until all homework is complete. We have informed him that if his work is lost or does not get turned in, we will have to redo the assignment as many times as it takes to get it completed and turned in as well as any new assignments. In the past, I have been in contact with his teachers and receive emails that list assignments that are due from only a couple of classes as the other teachers are too busy to return emails. I have also met with his teachers on occasion as I substitute teach at his school. Most teachers expect that high school students will keep up with their own assignments and not have to go through their moms. I would like to agree with that, but it hasn't worked that way so far.

He is struggling with ADHD and lacks a sense of responsibility. I realize that he has some learning differences, but I also do not wish to make excuses for his lack of efforts. This is the first year he has ever failed on a report card (now he has failed a total of 3 classes), he is receiving in school detention regularly for being late to class and for violation of dress code, and he refuses to bring home the necessary worksheets and books to complete homework. Typically, I would not mind his exploration of personal styles, but our current town is small and keeping with this gothic style he has chosen lately has ostracized him from the larger groups of peers. He recently shaved his hair into a Mohawk and tried to get on the bus before I stopped him and 'corrected' the hair cut. Now he is practically bald in the cold month of January. He dresses in the 'gothic', all black look, wears the oldest clothes he owns and grows out his facial hair in an unkempt fashion to the point of looking like he is homeless, and walks around with an angry scowl at school not typical of how he usually is. At home and on weekends he dresses 'normal', so I believe it is that he feels he is only accepted into the gothic clique at school this year. At one point, he told me that these are the only people who will talk to him nicely. I do not believe that his true 'style' is gothic and he is just looking to fit into a crowd...any crowd. He refuses to participate in sports anymore, also. Athletics has suddenly become unacceptable to him. I am surprised as he played soccer for 5 years. I am just afraid this relates to an overall sense of 'giving up'.

My 17 year old son moved out last Fri. It has been a week now. We know he is safe--staying at a friend's house. We have had a small bit of contact through texting. I can't try your suggestions because he isn't here. He let us know that the past week is the happiest he has been in a long time. Of course, there is no one setting any limits, or giving any consequences for behavior, or asking about homework or grades--things I did when he was home. He skipped school last Thurs. and for once in a blue moon, my husband actually gave him a consequence--no car for 2 wks., curfew on school nights at 7 and weekends at 10 for 2 wks. Chase blew up, packed up his stuff and left. His girlfriend took him.

He thinks our home life is "shitty" to put it into his words. Things really aren't great. My husband and I don't have a good relationship. Last Mar. I moved out for 3 months when my son was yelling and cussing at me because I grounded him. My husband stood there and said nothing. I asked, "Are you going to let him talk to me that way?" He just looked at me. It was the straw that broke the camel's back for me after a long time of being the "bad guy" in our children's lives. I ended up leaving and moving to my mother's. I cried all the time and was so depressed. My son, Chase, literally did not talk to me for 3 months--not because I left, but because I had said some angry words back at him when he cussed me out. I came back in May because my 18 year old daughter would be going to college in Aug. and I wanted to be with her the last few months she was home. My husband did nothing to encourage me to come back. He and I live in the same house but basically have no relationship. 

My husband has a drinking problem. He is an alcoholic although he seems to just drink at night. So far he has been lucky enough it hasn't affected his job. He hasn't been caught driving drunk. He has tried going to a program about this, but there hasn't been a major change. Chase has blamed his own drinking on "your alcoholic huband". I told him that his dad has a problem, but that he can't blame his own choices and decisions on that.

All these years, I have been the "bad" guy--doing all the discipline. I took your test and scored 39. My husband will ask me,"What time did you tell him to come home?" He doesn't like to set limits or make demands. He has always said, "I don't want to lose them, Royce." He and his dad had a major falling out and he moved out at age 18. It took his father dying for it to be resolved in any way. He has never told me all the details of it. That is what I have always chalked up his inability to discipline to.

When I read your book, I would put myself in the "Hero" category as a kid growing up. Never wanted to disappoint my parents, etc. My sister was a wild hellion and aged my parents tremendously. My daughter is like me. Doesn't want to disappoint. 

My daughter often says her dad only cares about Chase (our 17 year old son). She knows her dad loves her (and he DOES), but is sad because she feels Charlie only focuses on Chase and what Chase is doing. I have told my husband that. It doesn't seem to change. He really does love her deeply, but because she is so "good", I think he just feels she'll be OK. She and I have our little mother/daughter clashes, but nothing major has happened with our daughter. She is loving college life and seems very happy. She made it clear she wasn't happy with our home life either. My greatest concern with my daughter is that she is a "gimme" person. She and my son have everything. My husband even got each one of them a car (without consulting me--I would have said no and it wouldn't have mattered a bit--he would have done it anyway.) My husband has been overly indulgent. My say hasn't counted. I could go on and on with examples. Ever since they were born, my husband has built his world around them. He put me in the backseat. I hate that my children see this marriage as their role model for marriage. 

I do feel bad about the way home has been the last several years. The atmosphere isn't the greatest , but there isn't constant fighting. Charlie and I just don't even talk to each other much. I come home from work tired (I've been teaching for 38 years--am now 59) and I am no ball of fire. No one wants to eat dinner at the same time. We often get food from a restaurant and everyone eats when they want. Chase usually has wanted food again around 10 and I end up making something for him. Family time all together just isn't there. We all do our separate activities. His homework is "done" he says, though his grades aren't showing that. There is no joy or fun. I can truly see why Chase is unhappy and why Cassie, my daughter, was too.

Charlie (my husband) is often described by people I know as "living through Chase"--my son is quite the athlete. Charlie wanted to be just that when he was growing up. He had Chase in every sport known to man. Chase is now focused on baseball and is a really good player. He is putting it all in jeopardy now with his newest behaviors.

His grades have dropped (to the point it might even threaten to destroy his dream of playing in college and up), he has taken to the sagging jeans & backward baseball cap (used to dress preppy), he's smoking, has gotten drunk a couple of times, and he is sexually active. He told me about being sexually active because I have talked openly about sex to both my kids through the years and told them that I didn't approve of them doing that as teens, but I would rather they be protected and safe and not end up having a child or get a disease than for me not to know. Chase said he felt comfortable talking to me about it.

I am not making myself out to be the perfect parent either. I am not a big sports fan, and I haven't gone to all of Chase's games through the years. He has played sports year round. I guess that makes me a bad mom. I really do feel majorly guilty about it. All his friend's moms live at the park. I haven't . That is something he brings up a lot when he is angry. When he and I had the big battle back in Mar., I said some things like, "Go ahead, move out! See what kind of job you are qualified for..." etc. I apologized for being hurtful. He still brings that up. He says he was happier when I was gone and he wishes my sister was his mother. I texted back that I loved him, always have, always will. That dad and I wanted him to come home; the door is always open. He actually called Wed. and said he wanted to come and get his allowance. I told him we would not finance his not living at home. If he were home, he would have access to a car and money but he has to be part of the family if he wants those things in his life. We have not cut off his phone even though I first thought we should. We discussed how that is the one way we can still communicate with him so we haven't disconnected it even though it is like part of his body. I think that would be the hardest thing for him to lose.

Several people called Charlie on Mon. and told him they would talk to Chase. It is now Sat., and none of them has called back. I guess Chase has convinced them that his life here was so bad none of them want to talk to us. The truth is he wasn't even home a lot when he was home. After school was out, he would come home to change clothes and head out and leave until he had to be home. He has a job. That angers him too. He is attending a baseball camp where he works--it cost $1,000.00. Even I was surprised when Charlie told him he had to work it off. He has been doing this job for months and all his pay is going towards paying for the camp. We have paid and paid for his sports through the years. As I said, even I was surprised Charlie said that and has held to it.

I realize Chase isn't the worst case you have ever heard about, but we are so saddened our son has left. We really don't know what to do. We want him to come home. It makes me so sad that our home isn't a happy place, and he doesn't want to be here. I don't know how to change that. 

Some evenings Chase and I would sit here and watch a movie together. I told him I miss my "movie buddy." I feel like such a bad mom. I teach middle school all day and seem to get along great with other people's kids but I feel like such a loser here. I miss him so much.

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Dealing With Teenagers: Preventing Problems Before They Start

One of the common stereotypes of the teen years is that the rebellious, wild kid is continually at odds with his or her parents. Although it may be the case for some (and this is a time of emotional ups and downs), that stereotype certainly is not representative of most adolescents.

But the primary goal of the adolescent years is to achieve independence. For this to occur, adolescents will start pulling away from their care-takers — especially the mother or father whom they're the closest to. This can come across as adolescents always seeming to have different opinions than their care-takers or not wanting to be around their care-takers in the same way they used to.

As adolescents mature, they start to think more abstractly and rationally. They're forming their moral code. And care-takers of adolescents may find that children who previously had been willing to conform to please them will suddenly begin asserting themselves — and their opinions — strongly and rebelling against parental control.

You may need to look closely at how much room you give your adolescent to be an individual and ask yourself questions such as: "Am I a controlling parent?," "Do I listen to my youngster?," and "Do I allow my youngster's opinions and tastes to differ from my own?"

Here are some tips that will help in preventing problems before they start:

1. Talk to Your Youngster Early Enough— Talking about menstruation or wet dreams after they've already started means you're too late. Answer the early questions children have about bodies, such as the differences between boys and girls and where babies come from. But don't overload them with information — just answer their questions. You know your children. You can hear when your youngster's starting to tell jokes about sex or when attention to personal appearance is increasing. This is a good time to jump in with your own questions such as: “Are you noticing any changes in your body?” … “Are you having any strange feelings?” … “Are you sad sometimes and don't know why?” A yearly physical exam is a great time to bring up these things. A doctor can tell your preadolescent — and you — what to expect in the next few years. An exam can serve as a jumping-off point for a good parent/youngster discussion. The later you wait to have this discussion, the more likely your youngster will be to form misconceptions or become embarrassed about or afraid of physical and emotional changes. Furthermore, the earlier you open the lines of communication, the better chance you have of keeping them open through the adolescent years. Give your youngster books on puberty written for children going through it. Share memories of your own adolescence. There's nothing like knowing that Mom or Dad went through it, too, to put a youngster more at ease.

2. Respect Children' Privacy— Some moms and dads, understandably, have a very hard time with this one. They may feel that anything their children do is their business. But to help your adolescent become a young adult, you'll need to grant some privacy. If you notice warning signs of trouble, then you can invade your youngster's privacy until you get to the heart of the problem. But otherwise, it's a good idea to back off. In other words, your adolescent's room and phone calls should be private. You also shouldn't expect your adolescent to share all thoughts or activities with you at all times. Of course, for safety reasons, you should always know where adolescents are going, what they're doing, and with whom, but you don't need to know every detail. And you definitely shouldn't expect to be invited along!

3. Put Yourself in Your Youngster's Place— Practice empathy by helping your youngster understand that it's normal to be a bit concerned or self-conscious, and that it's OK to feel grown-up one minute and like a kid the next.

4. Pick Your Battles Carefully— If adolescents want to dye their hair, paint their fingernails black, or wear funky clothes, think twice before you object. Adolescents want to shock their moms and dads and it's a lot better to let them do something temporary and harmless; leave the objections to things that really matter, like tobacco, drugs and alcohol.

5. Monitor What Children See and Read— TV shows, magazines and books, the Internet — children have access to tons of information. Be aware of what yours watch and read. Don't be afraid to set limits on the amount of time spent in front of the computer or the TV. Know what they're learning from the media and who they may be communicating with online.

6. Make Appropriate Rules— Bedtime for an adolescent should be age appropriate, just as it was when your youngster was a baby. Reward your adolescent for being trustworthy. Does your youngster keep to a 10 PM curfew? Move it to 10:30 PM. And does an adolescent always have to go along on family outings? Decide what your expectations are, and don't be insulted when your growing youngster doesn't always want to be with you. Think back: You probably felt the same way about your mom and dad.

7. Maintain Your Expectations— Adolescents will likely act unhappy with expectations their moms and dads place on them. However, they usually understand and need to know that their care-takers care enough about them to expect certain things such as good grades, acceptable behavior, and adherence to the rules of the house. If care-takers have appropriate expectations, adolescents will likely try to meet them.

8. Know the Warning Signs— A certain amount of change may be normal during the adolescent years, but too drastic or long-lasting a switch in personality or behavior may signal real trouble — the kind that needs professional help. Watch for one or more of these warning signs: talk or even jokes about suicide, sudden change in friends, sleep problems, skipping school continually, signs of tobacco, alcohol, or drug use, run-ins with the law, rapid, drastic changes in personality, falling grades, and extreme weight gain or loss. Any other inappropriate behavior that lasts for more than 6 weeks can be a sign of underlying trouble, too. You may expect a glitch or two in your adolescent's behavior or grades during this time, but your A/B student shouldn't suddenly be failing, and your normally outgoing kid shouldn't suddenly become constantly withdrawn. Your doctor or a local counselor, psychologist, or psychiatrist can help you find proper counseling.

9. Inform Your Adolescent and Stay Informed Yourself— The adolescent years often are a time of experimentation, and sometimes that experimentation includes risky behaviors. Don't avoid the subjects of sex, or drug, alcohol, and tobacco use; discussing these things openly with children before they're exposed to them increases the chance that they'll act responsibly when the time comes. Know your youngster's friends — and know their friends' care-takers. Regular communication between care-takers can go a long way toward creating a safe environment for all adolescents in a peer group. Moms and dads can help each other keep track of the children' activities without making the children feel that they're being watched.

10. Educate Yourself— Read books about adolescents. Think back on your own adolescent years. Remember your struggles with acne or your embarrassment at developing early — or late. Expect some mood changes in your typically sunny youngster, and be prepared for more conflict as he or she matures as an individual. Moms and dads who know what's coming can cope with it better. And the more you know, the better you can prepare.

As children progress through the adolescent years, you'll notice a slowing of the highs and lows of adolescence. And, eventually, they'll become independent, responsible, communicative adults. So remember the motto of many care-takers with adolescents: “We're going through this together, and we'll come out of it — together!”

==> My Out-of-Control Teen: Discipline Strategies for Out-of-Control Teenagers

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

"I have taken the quiz and surprisingly found that I was a severely over indulgent parent. This angers me because I didn't think...