How To Get Your Child To Stop Cursing

My 13-year-old is picking-up on some terrible language. He has started dropping the “F” bomb on a frequent basis. Do you have any suggestions on how I can stop this cussing before it gets any worse?

Is your child starting to use some shocking words? And have your attempts to get it stopped angered your child – and made a bad problem worse? Then we need to talk...

Cussing is almost a developmentally normal behavior for kids during middle childhood and early adolescence. For these children, swearing is often a sign of being worldly (i.e., wise and unafraid to be a little "bad"). Profanity is used to impress peers and can become a part of peer-relationships. Quite frequently, younger kids do not know the meanings of the words they are using, but they will say them anyway simply because they have heard others use them.

Fortunately, cursing seems to lose its attraction as kids become more mature. Until then, however, children often delight in shocking their moms and dads with the swear words they have learned away from home. (Note: moms and dads who swear in the home are teaching their kids to do the same and should not be surprised when their children copy their behavior.)

Clearly, there is a smaller group of "defiant" kids who swear. In addition to cursing, they have many other difficulties, personally and socially. These children may be more prone to swear and rage at other people (a completely different situation than using a few swears words during times of frustration). Profanity directed at another person should never be tolerated.

Because some cuss words are more problematic than others, it is necessary to sort language into 3 categories: acceptable, unacceptable, and inappropriate.
  1. Acceptable language is what we read in a magazine or hear in a news broadcast. It is a formal or conventional level of speech that we hope our kids will eventually learn and use.
  2. Unacceptable language is that which must be forbidden for legal reasons. Unacceptable language includes harassment, libel, threats, gender or racial discrimination, and obscenity.
  3. Inappropriate language is the gray area between acceptable and unacceptable language. It is language that depends heavily on context, because different contexts pose different standards or restrictions on language and behavior. What constitutes appropriate speech on the playground may not be appropriate within the classroom.

Moms and dads should anticipate kid’s dirty language. Most normal kids will experiment with dirty words and dirty jokes in the course of growing up. They will also repeat powerful or offensive words that they hear grown-ups use. Kids may even make up unique words to use as insults. Kids enjoy using language in jokes, puns, and stories that grown-ups find "gross". Kids will freely make references to body products (e.g., poop), body processes (e.g., fart), and body parts (e.g., butthole). As kids mature, they become more aware of social and psychological aspects of human interaction, and their name calling will show their new awareness when you hear them using words such as weirdo, retard, fatty, jerk, and chicken.

School-age kids learn appropriateness when they are intellectually able to appreciate the impact of language on listeners and can empathize with them. Egocentric kids do not fully comprehend why words are offensive to listeners, but can be trained not to use offensive words. One might simply tell a 2- to 3-year-old not to use a word without much explanation. 5-year-olds, on the other hand, can be given an explanation for language restrictions. The 8-year-old is capable of empathy and is able to see that words can hurt others' feelings.

The first question to ask a youngster who has cussed is, "Why did you say that?" In other words, determine what caused the incident in the first place. Is the youngster seeking attention, bullying another youngster, or expressing anger? Was the youngster provoked by a peer or was the cursing more spontaneous? You also have to distinguish kids who have problems with language from kids who have emotional problems with anger or aggression (i.e., kids who use cursing as a general way to express anger).

Cursing is evoked by a small and predictable set of variables. Some kids are positively reinforced by siblings or moms and dads for cursing. Giving kids attention, such as laughing or asking them to repeat a dirty word, is enough to increase cursing behavior. One common source of cursing is exposure to inappropriate adult role models, either parental figures or grown-ups in the neighborhood. Popular culture in the form of television, movies, and music lyrics are also common sources of bad language. Kids who are allowed access to media without restrictions or supervision are likely to use bad language.

What a youngster hears at home or in the neighborhood may get repeated at school. In this case, cursing may reflect the youngster's home life. Similarly, teachers must address moms and dads' perceptions that bad speech at school reflects school life. Moms and dads who believe their kids are learning bad language from someone at school will usually complain. Both school and home speech contexts affect a youngster's vocabulary.

Many grown-ups have trouble with bad language from time to time. Unfortunately, some moms and dads have difficulty controlling their kid’s inappropriate language. Hearing racist, sexist, or offensive language may be a common experience for some kids.

Some kids may exhibit cursing as a symptom of underlying, severe psychological problems, such as child abuse or physiological disorders. Kids with psychological problems or uncontrollable anger outbursts may need special attention or counseling. Determining the cause of cursing is the first step in a comprehensive behavior modification process.

Here are some suggestions to help parents manage the problem of swearing:

1. Because young kids are little language vacuum cleaners ready to collect and repeat what they hear, parents and teachers should be careful to attend to their own language so that they are good role models. Don't be caught off guard. Don't overreact or laugh when kids cuss. What you do when a youngster sends out a "test" bad word may have a lasting impact on the youngster. When a youngster cusses intentionally or accidentally, be sure to act in the youngster's best interest. Work to establish a warm, positive relationship with him/her, so that he/she will seek you out for information and advice about words.

2. Control the physical environment and you control the behavior in it. Change factors which cause conflicts or disputes. Eliminate frustrating situations such as having too few toys to share. Remove frustrating furniture and barriers. Create areas that provide for smooth transitions between activities and eliminate confusion and arguments.

3. If you feel it is appropriate, establish a rule that "no swearing will take place in our home." Do not - under any circumstances - tolerate swearing that is aimed at someone in anger. If this occurs, a youngster may be sent immediately to his room for a timeout.

4. Minor swearing in frustration is almost a natural human behavior. Although perhaps inappropriate, it is commonplace in some families. If that is your own personal style, you will find it hard to teach your youngster something different.

5. On occasion, you may feel that your youngster is using profanity in an attempt to provoke a response from you. In these instances, ignoring him may be the most effective strategy.

6. Reinforce good language skills in the context of broader character building lessons which teach respect, reason, and responsibility. Kids should learn that calling a person a name is both hurtful and disrespectful. The particular word used is a secondary issue; the act of verbally abusing another person is the main problem. Kids must learn to take responsibility for the language they use. What you say can get you in trouble at home or at school. Kids need to learn that there is a cost to breaking language rules. On a practical level, kids need to learn to use reason or good judgment regarding when and where to use offensive language, knowing that some name calling or insults may lead to physical retaliation against the speaker. Using bad language might make other listeners perceive cursing as a sign that the speaker is uneducated or out of control. Teaching good language skills and building character when kids are young help prevent problems from developing later on.

7. Reward your youngster for expressing his frustration appropriately without swearing. Star charts and money are helpful approaches. For example, use a jar of quarters that he can earn at the end of two weeks. For each day that he doesn't swear during this time, two additional quarters will be placed in the jar; but each time he swears, quarters will be removed. Your youngster will catch on quickly.

8. Some kids play well alone but have difficulty suppressing name calling and bad language when playing with particular peers. When two kids consistently get into trouble together, separate them as much as possible during free play periods.

9. When your child swears, do not overreact with your own outbursts of rage and cursing. Also, washing a youngster's mouth out with soap is clearly improper, extreme and ineffective.

10. Your goal is to eliminate unacceptable language while at the same time increasing the use of acceptable language. Give rewards in the form of positive comments for kid’s good speech. Comments such as, "I like the way you say that" and "You used a good word today" are effective reinforcers. Remember that while praise works, over-praise does not.

Cussing has been around since the beginning of language, and there is no reason to believe that it will disappear on its own. What moms and dads can do is to understand the nature of cussing and how the total language environment influences kid’s use of cuss words -- and our reactions to it.

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

Taming Toddler Tantrums

Sometimes it's tough to reel in a toddler in the middle of a tantrum, but it can be done. And setting rules and limits now — when your youngster is learning what behaviors are acceptable — will help prevent bigger tantrums down the road. Here are some ways to help you keep your child from having a meltdown:

1. By now, you've figured out that your toddler wants to explore and investigate the world. Toddlers are naturally curious, so it's wise to eliminate temptations whenever possible. That means items like TVs, phones, and video equipment should be kept out of reach, as well as choking hazards like jewelry, buttons, and small items that children can put in their mouths. And always keep cleaning supplies and medications stored safely away where children can't get to them.

2. If you need to take a harder line with your youngster, timeouts can be an effective form of discipline. A 2- or 3-year-old who has been hitting, biting, or throwing food, for example, should be told why the behavior is unacceptable and taken to a designated timeout area — a kitchen chair or bottom stair — for a minute or two to calm down. As a general rule, about 1 minute per year of age is a good guide for timeouts. Shorter timeouts can be effective, but longer ones have no added benefit and can sometimes undermine your efforts if your youngster gets up (and refuses to return) before you signal that the timeout has ended.

3. If your youngster throws a tantrum, keep your cool. Don't complicate the problem with your own frustration. Children can sense when moms and dads are becoming frazzled and this can just make their frustration worse. Try to understand where your youngster is coming from. For example, if your child has just had a great disappointment, you may need to provide comfort.

4. If your roving toddler does head toward an unacceptable or dangerous play object, calmly say "No" and either remove your youngster from the area or distract him or her with another activity. It's important to not spank, hit, or slap your youngster. At this age, children are unlikely to be able to make a connection between the behavior and physical punishment. The message you send when you spank is that it's OK to hit someone when you're angry. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) discourages spanking, which is no more effective than other forms of discipline, such as timeouts.

5. Ignoring tantrums is one way to handle them — if the tantrum poses no threat to your youngster or others. Continue your activities, paying no attention to your youngster but remaining within sight. Children who are in danger of hurting themselves or others during a tantrum should be taken to a quiet, safe place to calm down.

6. Some children will have a hard time stopping a tantrum. In these cases, it might help to say, "I'll help you settle down now." But whatever you do, do not reward your toddler by giving into desires. This will only prove that tantrums are an effective tactic for getting what he or she wants. Instead, verbally praise your youngster for regaining self-control. As their language skills improve and they mature, children become better at handling frustration and tantrums are less likely.

7. When it comes to discipline, it's important to be consistent. Moms and dads who don't stick to the rules and consequences they set up don't have children who do either. For example, if you tell your toddler that a timeout is the repercussion for bad behavior, be sure to enforce it. Only issue warnings for things that you can follow through on. Empty threats undermine your authority. And don't forget that children learn by watching adults, particularly their moms and dads. So make sure your own behavior is role-model material. When asking your youngster to pick up toys, you'll make a much stronger impression if you've put away your own belongings rather than leaving your stuff strewn around the room.

8. Even the best-behaved toddler can have a tantrum from time to time. Tantrums are common during toddlerhood because children can understand more than they can express and this often leads to frustration when they can't communicate their needs. Toddlers get frustrated in other ways, too, like when they can't dress a doll or keep up with an older sibling. Power struggles can ensue when your toddler wants more independence and autonomy too soon. The best way to deal with tantrums is to avoid them in the first place, whenever possible. Here are some strategies that may help:
  • Consider the request carefully when your youngster wants something. Is it outrageous? Maybe it isn't. Choose your battles; accommodate when you can.
  • Give your toddler control over little things. This may fulfill the need for independence and ward off tantrums. Offer minor choices that you can live with, such as "Would you like an apple or banana with lunch?"
  • Know your youngster's limits. If you know your toddler is tired, it's not the best time to go grocery shopping or try to squeeze in one more errand.
  • Make sure your youngster isn't acting up simply to get attention. Try to establish a habit of catching your youngster being good ("time-in"), which means rewarding your little one with attention for positive behavior.
  • When children are playing or trying to master a new task, offer age-appropriate toys and games. Also, start with something simple before moving on to more challenging tasks.

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

When Your Teenager Is Pregnant

If your adolescent is pregnant and planning to have the baby, many changes await your family. And though it's certainly not what most moms and dads expect, it happens every day – in fact, nearly 1 million teenage girls in the United States give birth every year.

If your adolescent is about to become a mother (or your son has fathered a child), it can be overwhelming for all of you. How can you support your youngster through the challenges that lie ahead?

If you have just learned that your adolescent is having a baby, you're probably experiencing a wide range of emotions, from shock and disappointment to grief and worry about the future.

Some moms and dads feel a sense of guilt, thinking that if only they'd done more to protect their youngster this wouldn't have happened. And although some parents are embarrassed by their adolescent's pregnancy and worried about how family, friends, and neighbors will react, others are happy about the news of a soon-to-be grandchild — especially if the adolescent is older and in a mature relationship.

Whatever feelings you're experiencing, this is likely to be a difficult time for your family. The important thing is that your adolescent needs you now more than ever. Being able to communicate with each other — especially when emotions are running high — is essential. Adolescents that carry a baby to term have special health concerns, and your adolescent will have a healthier pregnancy — emotionally and physically — if she knows she doesn't have to go it alone.

So what can you do as the mother or father of an adolescent having a baby? Recognize your feelings and work through them so that you can accept and support her. Does that mean you don't have the right to feel disappointed and even angry? No. Such reactions are common. You might have a strong flood of emotions to deal with, especially at first. But the reality of the upcoming baby means that you'll have to get beyond your initial feelings for the sake of your adolescent and her youngster.

If you need help coping with your feelings about the situation, talk to someone you trust or seek professional counseling. A neutral third party can be a great resource at a time like this.

Just a short time ago your adolescent's biggest concerns might have been hanging out with her friends and wondering what clothes to wear. Now she's dealing with morning sickness and scheduling prenatal visits. Her world has been turned upside down.

Most unmarried adolescents don't plan on becoming pregnant, and they're often terrified when it happens. Many, particularly younger adolescents, keep the news of their pregnancies secret because they fear the anger and disappointment of their moms and dads. Some might even deny to themselves that they are pregnant — which makes it even more important for moms and dads to step in and find medical care for their adolescent as early in the pregnancy as possible. Younger adolescents' pregnancies, in particular, are considered high risk because their bodies haven't finished growing and are not yet fully mature.

Adolescent boys who are going to become fathers also need the involvement of their moms and dads. Although some boys may welcome the chance to be involved with their kids, others feel frightened and guilty and may need to be encouraged to face their responsibilities (the father is legally responsible for youngster support in every state).

That doesn't mean, however, that you should pressure your adolescent son or daughter into an unwanted marriage. Offer advice, but remember that forcing your opinions on your adolescent or using threats is likely to backfire in the long run. There's no "one size fits all" solution here. Open communication between you and your adolescent will help as you consider the future.

Even though most adolescent girls are biologically able to produce healthy babies, whether they do often depends on whether they receive adequate medical care — especially in those critical early months of pregnancy.

Adolescents that receive proper medical care and take care of themselves are more likely to have healthy babies. Those who don't receive medical care are at greater risk for:
  • anemia
  • fetal death
  • high blood pressure
  • labor and delivery complications (such as premature labor and stillbirth)
  • low birth-weight infant

The earlier your adolescent gets prenatal care, the better her chances for a healthy pregnancy, so bring her to the doctor as soon as possible after finding out she's pregnant. If you need help finding medical care, check with social service groups in the community or at your youngster's school.

Your adolescent's health care provider can tell her what to expect during her pregnancy, how to take care of herself and her growing baby, and how to prepare for life as a mother or father.

Medical Care—

At her first prenatal visit, your adolescent will probably be given a full physical exam, including blood and urine tests. She'll be screened for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and for exposure to certain diseases, such as measles, mumps, and rubella.

Her health care provider also will discuss:
  • how often prenatal visits should be scheduled
  • how to deal with some of the uncomfortable side effects of pregnancy, like nausea and vomiting
  • what changes she can expect in her body
  • what she may be feeling physically and emotionally

Knowing what to expect can help alleviate some of the fears your adolescent may have about being pregnant. Her health care provider will probably prescribe a daily prenatal vitamin to make sure she gets enough folic acid, iron, and calcium. Folic acid is especially important during the early weeks of pregnancy, when it plays a role in the healthy development of the neural tube (the structure that develops into the brain and spinal cord).

Lifestyle Changes—

Your adolescent's health care provider will talk about the lifestyle changes she'll have to make for the health of her baby, including:
  • avoiding excess caffeine (too much caffeine has been linked to an increased risk of miscarriage)
  • avoiding risky sexual behaviors (such as having unsafe sex)
  • eating right
  • getting enough rest
  • not drinking (alcohol causes mental and physical birth defects)
  • not smoking (smoking while pregnant increases the risk of miscarriage, stillbirth, low birth weight, and sudden infant death syndrome)
  • not using drugs (drugs are associated with pregnancy complications and fetal death)

If your adolescent smokes or uses alcohol or other drugs, her health care provider can offer ways to help her quit.


Fast food, soft drinks, sweets — adolescent diets are notoriously unbalanced. Eating well greatly increases your adolescent's chances of having a healthy baby, so encourage her to maintain a well-balanced diet that includes plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole-grain breads (use the U.S. Department of Agriculture's MyPlate as a guide).

Important nutrients include:
  • calcium (milk and other dairy products)
  • folic acid (green leafy vegetables, beans, peas, fortified cereals
  • iron (lean red meats, spinach, iron-fortified cereals)
  • proteins (lean meat, fish, poultry, egg whites, beans, peanut butter, tofu)

Drinking plenty of water is essential, too.

Pregnancy is not the time for your adolescent to go on a diet. When pregnant, some adolescents might be tempted to counter normal pregnancy weight gain by cutting calories or exercising excessively — both of which can seriously harm their babies. If you suspect that your adolescent has an unhealthy preoccupation with her weight, talk to her health care provider.


If your adolescent was physically fit before getting pregnant and is not experiencing any pregnancy complications, her health care provider will probably encourage her to continue exercising.

Most women benefit from getting some exercise during pregnancy, although they might have to modify their activity. Low-impact exercises, such as walking and swimming, are best. Have your adolescent discuss her exercise plans with her health care provider early on.


Most adolescents enter parenthood unprepared for the stress a new baby brings, and many experience frustration, resentment, and even anger toward their newborns — which may explain why adolescent moms and dads are at higher risk for abusing and neglecting their babies.

You may want to talk with your adolescent's doctor to discuss ways you can help her manage her stress levels so that she can better cope with changes in her life. She also may want to spend some time with other moms and dads of newborns to get a better sense of what caring for a baby involves.

Prenatal Classes—

Your adolescent's health care provider will probably recommend that she take classes on pregnancy, giving birth, and parenting. These classes (some of which are held just for adolescents) can help prepare her for the practical side of parenthood by teaching skills such as feeding, diapering, youngster safety, and other basic baby care techniques.

Preparing for New Responsibilities—

Many practical issues must be considered. Will your adolescent keep the baby or consider adoption? If she keeps it, will she raise the baby herself? Will she continue to go to school? Will the father be involved in the baby's life? Who will be financially responsible for the baby?

The answers to these questions often depend on the support your adolescent receives. Some adolescents raise their youngster alone, some have the involvement of the baby's father, and some rely on their families for support.

As a mother or father, you need to think about your own level of involvement and commitment and discuss it with your adolescent. How much support — financial and otherwise — are you willing and able to offer? Will your adolescent and her youngster live with you? Will you help pay for food, clothing, doctor visits, and necessary items like a car seat and stroller? Can you assist with youngster care while your adolescent is at school and/or work? A social worker or counselor can help you and your adolescent sort through some of these issues.

If at all possible, it's best for adolescents that are pregnant to finish school so they can get better jobs and create a better life for themselves and their babies. This is no easy task — 60% to 70% of all pregnant adolescents drop out of school. And going back after quitting is especially hard, so try to offer your adolescent the support she needs to stay in school — both she and the baby will benefit. Check for school and community programs that offer special services for adolescent mothers, such as youngster care, rides, or tutoring.

Help your adolescent understand that as rewarding as having a youngster is, it isn't always fun — caring for a baby is a huge responsibility and a lifelong commitment. Prepare your adolescent for the reality that she won't have as much time for the things she used to do — that her life is about change and the baby will take priority.

As a mother or father, you can have a great impact on your adolescent's life and on her baby's. You may still wish that she had made different choices. But by supporting your adolescent, making sure she gets good prenatal care, and listening as she shares her fears and anxieties, both of you may find that you're better moms and dads in the long run.

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

What To Do When Your Child Is Rejected By Peers

Your 12-year-old daughter comes home angry as a hornet because her “friends” are suddenly leaving her out and spreading rumors about her. She's upset and confused, because it seemed to just happen out of the clear blue. She doesn't know what she said or did to deserve this treatment, and she states that she is apprehensive about returning to school, unsure if she has any friends.

You, her parent, are not sure what to do about this dilemma. You've heard about children being snubbed, teased and bullied at school, but you didn't think it could happen to your child.

Given how common cliques are throughout middle and high school, at some point your youngster is likely to face the prospect of being in one or being excluded from them. There's little you can do to shield children from cliques, but plenty you can do to help them maintain confidence and self-respect while negotiating cliques and understanding what true friendship is all about.

Friendship is an important part of children's development. Having friends helps them be independent beyond the family and prepares them for the mutual, trusting relationships we hope they'll establish as grown-ups.

Groups of friends are different from cliques in some important ways. Friendships grow out of shared interests, sports, activities, classes, neighborhoods, or even family connections. In groups of friends, members are free to socialize and hang out with others outside the group without worrying about being cast out. They may not do everything together — and that's OK.

Cliques sometimes form around common interests, but the social dynamics are very different. Cliques are usually tightly controlled by leaders who decide who is "in" and who is "out." The children in the clique do most things together. Someone who has a friend outside the clique may face rejection or ridicule.

Members of the clique usually follow the leader's rules, whether it's wearing particular clothes or doing certain activities. Cliques usually involve lots of rules — implied or clearly stated — and intense pressure to follow them. Children in cliques often worry about whether they'll continue to be popular or whether they'll be dropped for doing or saying the wrong thing or for not dressing in a certain way. This can create a lot of pressure, particularly for females, who might be driven to extreme dieting and eating disorders or even to ask for plastic surgery. Others may be pressured to take risks like steal, pull pranks, or bully other children in order to stay in the clique. Children also can be pressured into buying expensive clothing or getting involved in online gossip and teasing.

Cliques are often at their most intense in middle school and junior high, but problems with cliques can start as early as 4th and 5th grades.

For most children, the pre-adolescent and adolescent years are a time to figure out how they want to fit in and how they want to stand out. It's natural for children to occasionally feel insecure, long to be accepted, and hang out with the children who seem more attractive, cool, or popular.

But cliques can cause long-lasting trouble when:
  • a youngster is rejected by a group and feels ostracized and alone
  • a group becomes an antisocial clique or a gang that has unhealthy rules, such as weight loss or bullying others based on looks, disabilities, race, or ethnicity
  • children behave in a way they feel conflicted about or know is wrong in order to please a leader and stay in the group

What Can Parent Do?

As children navigate friendships and cliques, there's plenty moms and dads can do to offer support. If your youngster seems upset, or suddenly spends time alone when usually very social, ask about it.

Here are some tips:

1. Find stories they can relate to. Many books, TV shows, and movies portray outsiders triumphing in the face of rejection and send strong messages about the importance of being true to your own nature and the value of being a good friend, even in the face of difficult social situations. For school-age children, books like "Blubber" by Judy Blume illustrate how quickly cliques can change. Older children and teens might relate to movies such as "Mean Girls," "Angus," "The Breakfast Club," and "Clueless."

2. Foster out-of-school friendships. Get children involved in extracurricular activities (e.g., art class, sports, martial arts, horse riding, language study) or any other activity that gives them an opportunity to create another social group and learn new skills.

3. Help put rejection in perspective. Remind your youngster of times she has been angry with parents, friends, or siblings — and how quickly things can change.

4. Shed some light on social dynamics. Acknowledge that kids and teenagers are often judged by the way they look, act, or dress, but that often individuals act mean and put others down because they lack self-confidence and try to cover it up by maintaining control.

5. Talk about your own experiences. Share your own experiences of school — cliques have been around for a long time!

If your youngster is part of a clique and one of the children is teasing or rejecting others, it's important to address that right away. With popular TV shows from talent contests to reality series glorifying rude behavior, it's an uphill battle for families to promote kindness, respect, and compassion.

Discuss the role of power and control in friendships and try to get to the heart of why your youngster feels compelled to be in that position. Discuss who is in and who is out, and what happens when children are out (are they ignored, shunned, bullied?). Challenge children to think and talk about whether they're proud of the way they act in school.

Ask educators, guidance counselors, or other school officials for their perspective on what is going on in and out of class. They might be able to tell you about any programs the school has to address cliques and help children with differences get along.

Here are some ways to encourage children to have healthy friendships and not get too caught up in cliques:

1. Find the right fit — don't just fit in. Encourage children to think about what they value and are interested in, and how those things fit in with the group. Ask questions like: What is the main reason you want to be part of the group? What compromises will you have to make? Is it worth it? What would you do if the group leader insisted you act mean to other children or do something you don't want to do? When does it change from fun and joking around, to teasing and bullying?

2. Provide the big-picture perspective. As hard as cliques might be to deal with now, things can change quickly. What's more important is making true friends (i.e., friends they can confide in, laugh with, and trust). The real secret to being "popular" is for them to be the kind of friend they'd like to have (e.g., respectful, fair, supportive, caring, trustworthy, kind, etc.).

3. Keep social circles open and diverse. Encourage children to be friends with people they like and enjoy from different settings, backgrounds, ages, and interests. Model this yourself as much as you can with different ages and types of friends and acquaintances.

4. Speak out and stand up. If they're feeling worried or pressured by what's happening in the cliques, encourage your children to stand up for themselves or others who are being cast out or bullied. Encourage them not to participate in anything that feels wrong, whether it's a practical joke or talking about people behind their backs.

5. Stick to your likes. If your youngster has always loved to play the piano but suddenly wants to drop it because it's deemed "uncool," discuss ways to help resolve this.

6. Take responsibility for your own actions. Encourage sensitivity to others and not just going along with a group. Remind children that a true friend respects their opinions, interests, and choices, no matter how different they are. Acknowledge that it can be difficult to stand out, but that ultimately children are responsible for what they say and do.

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

"Best-of" Disciplinary Strategies for Defiant Children and Teens

No one discipline technique can be relied upon for all situations. The wise mother or father develops a functional set of skills suited to different situations. Remember that the best discipline is “prevention,” and there is "no one size fits all" when it comes to promoting positive behavior and self-responsibility – and responding to unacceptable behaviors.

Below is a summary of the most effective disciplinary techniques for the oppositional, defiant child.

Effective discipline:

• advances development
• encourages self-responsibility
• is proactive
• promotes positive behavior and self-control
• protects and strengthens the youngster's self-esteem
• responds to unacceptable behavior and a lack of self-control
• strengthens the parent-youngster relationship

Basic disciplinary techniques include, but are not limited to, the following:

1. "I-Message": It is more helpful to try to make kids aware of how we feel, but leave responsibility for behavioral change with the youngster. A proper "I-message" identifies: the behavior; how it makes you feel; and a concrete impact this has on your life. For example, "When the music is on that loud I get upset because I can't hear the person I'm talking to on the phone."

2. Attention-ignore: Catch kids being good! Kids repeat behaviors that get attention; they give up behaviors that get no attention.

3. Charts and Rewards: If not overused, the handy chart posted on the refrigerator (or elsewhere) can help establish good behavior patterns.

4. Consequences: Consequences can be of two types: those that happen if you do nothing and those that you arrange. For example, if a youngster willfully or carelessly breaks a toy, the youngster no longer has that toy to play with. If the youngster hits another with a toy, you may take that toy away. Both are consequences of the youngster's actions.

5. Encouragement: Encouragement is a means to promote positive behavior and some argue that it is more effective than praise or reward. It implies reasonable expectations (one step at a time), and that we accept the youngster's mistakes, as well the successes.

6. Modifying the environment: This refers to steps the parent takes to change or structure the youngster's environment in a way that helps the youngster to succeed at tasks and remain safe. Be creative in how you organize, enhance, sooth, redirect, and childproof the environment to help promote the youngster's self-control.

7. Role modeling: Kids learn more about behavior by watching adults than in any other way.

8. Rules: Indeed rules are useful for providing predictability, consistency, and stability. They can be used for a variety of reasons that range from preventing problems from happening to responding to them when they do occur.

9. Setting limits: Kids need to know where the limits are and that these limits stay the same all the time. They feel secure when they know where the boundaries are. They test them frequently to find out.

10. Time out: Sometimes kids need time to calm down and collect themselves. (Adults do to!) Used sparingly, with consistency and repetition, it must be viewed as teaching the youngster, not punishing.

Moms and dads need the following skills to be effective with discipline:

1. An understanding of development & the factors that affect development
2. An understanding of the goals of effective discipline
3. An understanding of the meaning of behavior
4. Confidence
5. Determination
6. Effective communication
7. Friendly firmness
8. Genuineness and concern
9. Openness
10. Patience
11. Separateness

When considering what disciplinary method to use, moms and dads need to think about the following factors:

1. Factors affecting our ability & willingness to respond effectively
2. Our feelings about the behavior
3. Our relationship with the youngster
4. The behavior itself
5. The purpose we assign to the behavior
6. The youngster
7. Where the behavior is occurring
8. Who is present in the setting


1. Focus on contributions and appreciation, not judgments (e.g., “I appreciate the help you gave me. Your hard work sure did help the family.” vs. “What a good job you did!”).

2. Focus on effort and improvement, not winning or competition (e.g., “I can see the progress you've made. You have really been practicing hard.” vs. “I'm so proud of you for winning!”).

3. Focus on internal evaluation, not external (e.g., “You must be very proud of yourself. How do you think you are doing?” vs. “I'm so proud of you.”).

Ground Rules for Ignoring Misbehavior—

Many moms and dads don't realize that even scolding and yelling are forms of attention. Kids would rather have unpleasant attention than no attention at all. Therefore, when you get angry and punish kids you may actually be teaching them to do the exact things you don't want them to do. Ignoring behavior is simply pretending that the behavior is not occurring. The parent does not look at, talk to, or respond to the youngster until the inappropriate behavior ends.

There are three basic guidelines for ignoring:

• Be consistent with your approach. Ignoring once, and paying attention the next time, will likely increase the intensity of the behavior. The youngster will think he or she must escalate the behavior in order for you to respond. Expect the intensity of the behavior to increase before it decreases.

• Give the youngster no recognition when exhibiting unacceptable behavior. Don't have eye contact, physical contact, or in any way acknowledge the youngster.

• Recognize the youngster as soon as the unacceptable behavior stops. Ignoring must always be combined with supporting and encouraging positive behaviors.

Points to remember:

• Ignoring does not always render immediate results.

• Ignoring is difficult.

• Other adults and kids in the family (and community) may continue to recognize the behavior, jeopardizing the success of the technique.

• There are situations where ignoring would NOT be appropriate (behaviors that could harm the youngster, others or property, and those that are not motivated by the desire to create a reaction).


Some moms and dads like to use charts to instill good habits in their kids. You could, for example, use a chart for brushing teeth. Even the youngster too young to read understands a star. Rewards can be given for the achievement of a certain number of stars.

Suggestions for using charts include:

• Determine ahead how to end their use. For example, a youngster needs to learn how to brush her teeth without a reward.
• Don't overdo charts.
• Keep them small and simple.
• Use them for one behavior at a time.


Rewards do not have to be part of a behavior modification technique. Rewards can be used to express approval for certain behaviors or actions. Rewards are positive responses to positive behaviors and they don't have to be tangible or concrete actions. Like praise, some moms and dads may not think about rewards as a discipline technique.

Some examples of rewards include, but are not limited to:

• Increasing responsibility is similar to granting privileges. To reward kids for keeping their room picked up, you may increasingly give them total responsibility for the care and cleaning of their room. While this involves work for them, it also says, "You are able to do this on your own. You do not need me coming in your room."

• Privileges are rewards that allow a youngster to experience greater freedom or opportunity. Privileges might involve extending bedtime, giving extra play time, or allowing a youngster to borrow or sue a valued object. They are most effective when they are connected to the behavior being recognized.

• Supporting interests and talents acknowledges the youngster's efforts in pursing interests. It is important that you reward the youngster for interest, desire, ad effort. Be clear that the behavior you are rewarding is the youngster's interest, participation, and efforts, not the youngster's performance, talent, or ability.

• Tangible rewards may be what come to mind when we hear the term reward. A tangible reward may be money or a toy. Rewards need to be small. They are "gestures" of approval. Kids should not get expensive gifts, or large sums of money as a reward. Nor should kids always get tangible rewards. You do not want to promote the sense that a youngster needs to be good in order to receive gifts. In fact, most tangible rewards have their greatest value in the praise that accompanies them.


Sometimes the best form of discipline is to let the youngster experience the consequences of his or her action. What happens if you fail to put gas in your car? Are you likely to forget to put gas in again? Experience really is the best educator.

Natural and logical consequences are effective ways to intervene while maintaining respect for the youngster's ability to make decisions. Consequences rely to some degree on the natural order of life itself to teach lessons about the world. In some instances you might have to arrange for a consequence to happen.

Natural consequences are things that happen in response to a behavior. No one has to make these things happen. They are often the result of the "rules of nature". For example when a youngster does not eat his dinner, he will get very hungry before he goes to bed. Sometimes a natural consequence is the result of human nature. The youngster who hits his friends will lose playmates.

A disadvantage of relying on natural consequences is that sometimes they take a long time to work. Also, young kids may have difficulty understanding them. Some natural consequences are not desirable.

Logical consequences require that the parent impose a consequence for a given behavior. The consequence connects to the behavior that is not acceptable. For example, if the youngster leaves the bike out, the parent restricts bike riding the next day.

In order for consequences to be effective you must use them correctly:

• Be calm and firm in your efforts.

• Be patient and don't jump in and "save" the youngster. It may be hard for you to watch the youngster experience the consequences. But this is necessary for the youngster to develop good self-control.

• Be sure to provide choices and allow the youngster to make the decision. For example, you may turn down the volume of your radio, or listen to it in your room without disturbing others."

• Make sure the consequence holds meaning for the youngster.

Time Out—

Time out involves physically removing a youngster from a situation that is dangerous and/or a situation where the youngster is exhibiting behavior that is not acceptable. The purpose of time out is to allow the youngster to reestablish self-control, to end unacceptable behavior, and to provide an opportunity to think about behavior and its impact.

Time out is not punishment. It is simply providing the youngster an opportunity to regain control of his or her behavior. You are helping in that process by removing the youngster from the situation or the stimulation that brought about the loss of control. If you are angry or yelling, it is doubtful that the time out will be effective. Some basic guidelines for using time out include:

• Take time to gain your composure and self-control.
• Give the youngster an opportunity to change the behavior.
• If this effort fails, tell the youngster where to go for a time out.
• Select a quiet and safe time out area away from other stimuli.
• Tell the youngster how long the time out will be, but explain that you will only begin timing when the youngster becomes quiet.
• Ignore the youngster's behavior while in time out.
• Focus the youngster on a positive activity after the time out.


There are many ways and opportunities to convey our expectations to kids. Talking to kids and clearly conveying expectations involves communication skills. Modeling the type of behavior you expect is also important. Rules can be used as a means to convey expectations.

Rules can be used to:

• eliminate a lot of discussion and decision-making about ordinary life events
• help make the world feel safe and predictable
• prevent problems from happening
• replace ineffective ways of dealing with situations
• respond to problems that happen repeatedly

The following are guidelines to consider in using rules:

• Be consistent.
• Involve family members in setting rules.
• Make only those rules that you are confident you can enforce over time.
• Make rules clear.
• Make rules positive and action oriented. Save "don't" for specific safety situations.
• Make sure kids understand the exceptions to the rule.
• Make sure kids understand the reasons or rationale for the rule.
• Make sure rules "grow" with the youngster.
• Make sure the rule addresses the issue it is intended to address.
• Prioritize and establish a few rules that are most important to the well-being and safety of the family.

Modifying the Environment—

Modifying the environment can be supportive in helping kids develop self-control. It is precautionary in that it attempts to prevent difficulties from arising. It is reactive in that it can be done in response to a problem.

The following list includes techniques for building success into the youngster's environment. Think of some concrete examples or ideas for every category that you may use. You can be creative in how you wish to modify the environment to help promote the youngster's self-control.

• CHILDPROOFING is something you probably do and don't even think about it. This is critical in terms of making the youngster's world safe. If you are concerned about the youngster breaking something, it is best to put it away. It is the job of the toddler to grab and explore. Help the youngster do that job well. Don't be concerned that the toddler will be unable to learn not to touch or break things. It would be impossible for you to control the youngster's entire environment to the extent that the youngster would never be exposed to forbidden items.

• ENHANCING the environment involves those activities that make the youngster's world full of age-appropriate and interesting items. Posters, books, wall hangings, and toys enhance the youngster's environment. This helps kids learn how to spend time alone, occupy themselves, develop hobbies, focus, and concentrate.

• ORGANIZING helps kids learn how to sort, pick up, and find their own things. Organizing increases the youngster's ability to accomplish self-care tasks.

• REDIRECTING does not restrict activities, but rather structures them to occur in a different way. Establishing certain rooms for certain activities is one way to redirect. Exchanging a safe item for an unsafe one is another way.

• SOOTHING is a technique used most often with babies, particularly babies who are born cocaine-affected. Essentially sources of stimulation are removed from the environment. These may include light, noise, activity, bright colors, etc.

Do time outs in a firm, matter-of-fact way. As with other forms of discipline, consistency and repetition are crucial. If you find yourself using time out very often, you need to reexamine your expectations. Maybe they are unrealistic for a youngster that age. Time out should be used sparingly or it will cease to be effective. If you decide to use it, select a single behavior and use it for that behavior.

Time out can be an effective tool for anyone feeling overwhelmed or angry. But, we know it will not be an effective tool with a youngster if it is used in anger. There will always be situations where you find yourself overwhelmed with feelings. It may be helpful to you to think about whether you need to give a time out to the youngster, or take a time out for yourself.

Reasons Kids Lie—

1. To achieve power
2. To appear more important, glamorous and exciting to others
3. To avoid creating an awkward situation
4. To avoid feeling trapped, embarrassed and/or threatened
5. To avoid punishment
6. To avoid rejection
7. To belong
8. To challenge authority
9. To compensate for not having the factual information
10. To conceal an unintended mistake
11. To deny painful feelings and/or memories
12. To experience fun/excitement
13. To fulfill someone's expectations
14. To fulfill wishes
15. To get something which couldn't be gotten otherwise
16. To increase one's status
17. To protect friends from trouble
18. To protect oneself from harm
19. To protect privacy
20. To test the limits


I. Responding to Lying:

A. Ask yourself the following questions:

1. Are my feelings/responses a clue to why the youngster might behave this way?

2. Are there certain situations in which this behavior seems to occur?

3. Should I gather more information about the situation before I react?

4. What might be the reason for lying?

5. What need(s) might the youngster be attempting to meet?

6. Are my actions encouraging the youngster to lie?
  • Am I invading the youngster's privacy?
  • Am I overprotective?
  • Are the rules too strict?
  • Do I tell lies in front of the youngster?

B. In response to the reason for lying, consider doing one or more of the following:

1. Assist the youngster in meeting underlying needs without addressing the lie (e.g., by exploring alternatives, problem-solving, etc.).

2. Don't overreact to the behavior by calling the youngster a liar.

3. Explain how lying affects trust and how hard it is for people who live together to get along without trust.

4. Focus on solutions to problems instead of blame.

5. Give the youngster accurate information so the youngster won't have to rely on imagination to fill in any gaps.

6. Help kids to understand that mistakes are opportunities to learn so that they won't believe they are bad and need to conceal their mistakes.

7. Ignore the lie and show appreciation when the youngster does not lie to meet a specific need.

8. Respect kid's privacy when they don't want to share it with you.

9. Set rules and be consistent in enforcing them if the youngster is testing your response to certain behaviors.

10. Use an I-message to share your feelings about his or her behavior and to describe the effects of it on you and others.

11. Use consequences related to the original wrongdoing.

12. Use reflective listening to show your understanding of the youngster's underlying needs.

II. Planning Ahead to Prevent /Reduce Future Problems:

A. Be certain the youngster understands that you do not accept lying and the reasons why.

B. Build and help maintain the conditions for positive self-esteem.

C. Distinguish between what you would like to know about the youngster's behavior and what you have to know.

D. Don't ask set-up questions that invite lying.

E. Establish and clearly communicate expectations, limits and rules and make sure you enforce them.

F. Focus on building closeness, openness and trust in your relationships instead of on the problem behaviors.

G. Let kids know they are unconditionally loved.

H. Look at lying as a developmental phenomenon.

I. Model honesty.

J. Rather than focusing on trapping the youngster in a lie, develop a trusting relationship by focusing on the reason for the lie.

K. Remember that who the youngster is now is not who he or she will be forever. Don't overreact and expect that the youngster will lead a life filled with antisocial behavior. Remember that kids will behave as they are expected to.

L. Set an example in telling the truth. Talk about times when it may have been difficult for you to tell the truth, but you decided it was more important to deal with the consequences and to maintain your self-respect.

M. Show appreciation when the youngster tells the truth. For example, "Thanks for telling me the truth. I know it must be hard. I like the courage you show in being willing to face the consequences. I know you can handle them and learn from them too."

==> My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents with Oppositional Defiant Teens

Top 10 Parenting Tips To Live By

Raising children is one of the toughest and most fulfilling jobs in the world — and the one for which you might feel the least prepared. Below are 10 child-rearing techniques that can help you feel more fulfilled as a mother or father — and enjoy your children more.

1. Children learn a lot about how to act by watching their moms and dads. The younger they are, the more cues they take from you. Before you lash out or blow your top in front of your youngster, think about this: Is that how you want your youngster to behave when angry? Be aware that you're constantly being observed by your children. Studies have shown that kids who hit usually have a role model for aggression at home. Model the traits you wish to cultivate in your children: respect, friendliness, honesty, kindness, tolerance. Exhibit unselfish behavior. Do things for other people without expecting a reward. Express thanks and offer compliments. Above all, treat your children the way you expect other people to treat you.

2. If you frequently feel "let down" by your youngster's behavior, perhaps you have unrealistic expectations. Moms and dads who think in "shoulds" (e.g., "my son should be potty-trained by now") might find it helpful to read up on the matter or to talk to other moms and dads or child development specialists. Children's environments have an impact on their behavior, so you may be able to modify that behavior by changing the environment. If you find yourself constantly saying "no" to your 3-year-old, look for ways to restructure your surroundings so that fewer things are off-limits. This will cause less frustration for both of you. As your youngster changes, you'll gradually have to change your parenting style. What works with your youngster now won't work as well in a year or two. Adolescents tend to look less to their moms and dads and more to their peers for role models. But continue to provide guidance, encouragement, and appropriate discipline while allowing your adolescent to earn more independence. And seize every available moment to make a connection!

3. Have you ever stopped to think about how many times you react negatively to your children in a given day? You may find yourself criticizing far more often than complimenting. How would you feel about a boss who treated you with that much negative guidance, even if it was well intentioned? The more effective approach is to catch children doing something right: "You made your bed without being asked — that's terrific!" or "I was watching you play with your sister and you were very patient." These statements will do more to encourage good behavior over the long run than repeated scolding. Make a point of finding something to praise every day. Be generous with rewards — your love, hugs, and compliments can work wonders and are often reward enough. Soon you will find you are "growing" more of the behavior you would like to see.

4. Face it — you’re not perfect. You have strengths and weaknesses as a family leader. Recognize your abilities (e.g., "I am loving and dedicated"). Vow to work on your weaknesses (e.g., "I need to be more consistent with discipline"). Try to have realistic expectations for yourself, your spouse, and your children. You don't have to have all the answers — be forgiving of yourself. And try to make parenting a manageable job. Focus on the areas that need the most attention rather than trying to address everything all at once. Admit it when you're burned out. Take time out from parenting to do things that will make you happy as a person (or as a couple). Focusing on your needs does not make you selfish. It simply means you care about your own well-being, which is another important value to model for your kids.

5. You can't expect children to do everything simply because you, as a parent, "say so." They want and deserve explanations as much as grown-ups do. If we don't take time to explain, children will begin to wonder about our values and motives and whether they have any basis. Moms and dads who reason with their children allow them to understand and learn in a nonjudgmental way. Make your expectations clear. If there is a problem, describe it, express your feelings, and invite your youngster to work on a solution with you. Be sure to include consequences. Make suggestions and offer choices. Be open to your youngster's suggestions as well. Negotiate. Children who participate in decisions are more motivated to carry them out.

6. It's often difficult for moms and dads and children to get together for a family meal, let alone spend quality time together. But there is probably nothing children would like more. Get up 10 minutes earlier in the morning so you can eat breakfast with your youngster or leave the dishes in the sink and take a walk after dinner. Children who aren't getting the attention they want from their moms and dads often act out or misbehave because they're sure to be noticed that way. Many moms and dads find it rewarding to schedule together time with their children. Create a "special night" each week to be together and let your children help decide how to spend the time. Look for other ways to connect — put a note or something special in your kid's lunchbox. Adolescents seem to need less undivided attention from their moms and dads than younger children. Because there are fewer windows of opportunity for moms and dads and adolescents to get together, moms and dads should do their best to be available when their adolescent does express a desire to talk or participate in family activities. Attending concerts, games, and other events with your adolescent communicates caring and lets you get to know more about your youngster and his or her friends in important ways. Don't feel guilty if you're a working parent. It is the many little things you do — making popcorn, playing cards, window shopping — that children will remember.

7. Children start developing their sense of self as infants when they see themselves through their parents’ eyes. Your tone of voice, your body language, and your every expression are absorbed by your children. Your words and actions as a parent affect their developing self-esteem more than anything else. Praising accomplishments, however small, will make them feel proud; letting children do things independently will make them feel capable and strong. By contrast, belittling comments or comparing a youngster unfavorably with another will make children feel worthless. Avoid making loaded statements or using words as weapons. Comments like "What a stupid thing to do!" or "You act more like a baby than your little brother!" cause damage just as physical blows do. Choose your words carefully and be compassionate. Let your children know that everyone makes mistakes and that you still love them, even when you don't love their behavior.

8. Discipline is necessary in every household. The goal of discipline is to help children choose acceptable behaviors and learn self-control. They may test the limits you establish for them, but they need those limits to grow into responsible grown-ups. Establishing house rules helps children understand your expectations and develop self-control. Some rules might include: no TV until homework is done, and no hitting, name-calling, or hurtful teasing allowed. You might want to have a system in place: one warning, followed by consequences such as a "time out" or loss of privileges. A common mistake moms and dads make is failure to follow through with the consequences. You can't discipline children for talking back one day and ignore it the next. Being consistent teaches what you expect.

9. As a parent, you're responsible for correcting and guiding your children. But how you express your corrective guidance makes all the difference in how a youngster receives it. When you have to confront your youngster, avoid blaming, criticizing, or fault-finding, which undermine self-esteem and can lead to resentment. Instead, strive to nurture and encourage, even when disciplining your children. Make sure they know that although you want and expect better next time, your love is there no matter what.

10. A youngster's sense of self-worth is a major factor in deciding your youngster's future. How they feel about themselves will affect their choice of friends, how they get along with others, and how they develop their potential. Their self-esteem influences all aspects of their lives. Your youngster's self-esteem is a precious thing and should be handled with great care. It is crucial for your youngster's healthy development and future well being. It is also has a great deal to do with how your youngster behaves now and later. Use the following tips to foster a sense of self-worth while protecting a youngster's self-esteem:
  • Avoid comparing a youngster to other kids.
  • Avoid compliments with riders, like, "You did this well but…" or "Fine, now if you would only…"
  • Avoid talking about your kids within their hearing. Even if the story is cute, it might be embarrassing to your youngster.
  • Cherish youngster's individuality.
  • Compliment, praise and encourage.
  • Don't call kids names or label them with derogatory words.
  • Don't do things for kids that they can do for themselves.
  • Don't use sarcasm.
  • Let kids answer some of their own questions.
  • Praise without words. Smiles and hugs are always well received by young kids.
  • Spend time with them & let them see that you enjoy being with them.
  • Use praise that lets kids know that they have been helpful.
  • When things go wrong, focus on the behavior that is unacceptable, not the youngster.

==> My Out-Of-Control Teen: Help For Parents Who Are At Their Wits End

Dealing With Your Teen Daughter’s Bad Attitude

My daughter is 15, almost 16 years old. I have been having problems with her for about 2-3 years now. I divorced her dad just prior to this new development and have since re-married to a man who is total the opposite of her dad. Her dad was always soft when it came to his children, he allowed her to disrespect him and he was easily able to be manipulated by her, so that she could do what she wanted when she was with him.

Over this summer we moved across the country from her dad, which she really did not care that much, since she really did not have a relationship with him. I believe the only thing she missing is being able to do what she wanted.

My current husband and I have tried over the past couple of years to make her respect us and be accountable for her actions. My daughter steals from her step-sister, steals batteries out of the remotes and has taken money out of our wallet. What she wants she will get by any means. We have not allowed her to watch TV during the week due to her failing three classes and have not allow any out of school activities until her grades come up.

She states she is tired of us and her teachers nagging her and will not take responsibility for her failing grades..."her teachers are mean". She tries to make deals with us and her teachers so that she can get her way and promises to get better. She has already stayed back one year in fourth grade making her 8th grade right now, she has been told by her teachers if she does not pick her grades up she will have to go to summer school and if she does not pass that she will be retained again, no exceptions.

She keeps making empty promises to shut us up and does not want to hear it from us or her teachers when she shows no improvement. Her teachers are just about ready to give up on her, she is disrespectful in class and only cares about socializing...mostly with boys. She is lazy, has to be constantly reminded to do chores, watches TV when she is not suppose to, doesn’t hand in assignments that we have pretty much forced her to do, doesn't complete class work and has no remorse when she is caught in lies which is often. She will deal with the consequences because it will eventually be over and never learns after her punishment.

We are at a total loss with her; she has been through counseling and currently under counseling...but nothing is getting through to her. Her response is to allow her to do things and she will get better, for us to get off her back and allow her to do more. I refuse to make a deal with her and told her that these things will happen once she shows improvement. She has been told that she needs to make the changes...and she feels we all need to change first.

What else is there to do? I can't afford boarding school, military school...private school won't take her because of her IEP. Help....Please


If you are in the thick of a power struggle with your teenage daughter, you probably want her to listen to your speeches about having an appreciative attitude. Here’s the truth: That is not going to happen! No matter how great your argument is, you can’t force your daughter to think about the world the way that you do. You can’t make her have a “better” attitude.

Adolescents often have an apathetic attitude about anything other than what they want to do. When you focus on trying to change your daughter’s attitude, you are setting yourself up for failure. In order to feel effective and empowered in your role as a mother or father, you need to learn to ignore the apathetic, all-knowing attitude and focus on your daughter’s behavior. Let her know what is expected of her in your home, what your house-rules are, and what the consequences will be if she can’t figure out a way to comply with the house-rules and expectations.

Dealing with Teen Girls and Their Bad Attitude: Tips for Parents

1. Check your own behavior. It’s really not a good idea to run a red light or to do one of those “rolling stops” at the stop sign. Even if you don’t get a ticket from a cop, your daughter may come to believe that there are two sets of rules – one for your family and one for the rest of the world. Remember, she is watching how you follow the rules and will most likely behave in a similar manner as she grows older.

2. Connect consequences to behavior. There is a way for you to get a better attitude from your daughter. But there is only one way to do it. You must make it perfectly, absolutely clear that what she does will determine what happens to her. No amount of nudging, cajoling, or, worst of all, threatening, will do a lick of good until you connect consequences to her behavior.

3. Don’t assume anything! Presuming that your daughter will understand the connection between behavior and consequences just by attending school or talking with her peers is risky business. You may get lucky and have a parent down the street who points out the behavior-consequence connection to your daughter, but most will not. Adults tend to be restrained about disciplining other people’s teenagers. So if you hear that your daughter acted up at her friend’s house or misbehaved in school, do something about it yourself. Sure, it may be double jeopardy, but you would rather have the idea securely instilled in your daughter than take the chance of it not becoming part of her personal value system.

4. Don’t make the mistake of trying to get your daughter to “want” to have good grades, or “want” to get a job. That’s probably not going to happen. You are not going to transform her attitude about the world, or her place in it. Rather, it's your responsibility as a mother or father to help her learn the skills she needs to make her way in the world.

5. Don’t take sassy comments personally. When teenagers sass their parents, they feel powerful and in control, even if it's only for a few minutes. It has little to do with “disrespect” and more to do with “having a sense of power.” The best way for parents to react to a sassy statement is not to get angry but to remind their teenager who they are. You might say something like, "You are really trying to hurt my feelings here. I don't understand it. You are a better person than that."

6. Don’t try to convince your daughter that you are right and she is wrong. Don’t try to get her to stop resisting and start being “realistic.” Instead, focus on the behavior you would like to see change, and ignore the attitude. The happy byproduct of this approach is that she eventually develops a better attitude (which is what you want). Focus on the behavior now, and the attitude will improve later. Fair enough?

7. Focus on getting your daughter to meet her responsibilities in the here and now (e.g., homework, chores, curfew, etc.). Once she leaves your house, she is free to use the skills you’ve helped her learn—or not.

8. It’s never too soon or too late. If babies can make the connection between what they do and what they get (which they do!), then your 15-year-old daughter can surely understand the concept also. Don’t give up on your daughter – even if she professes to “forget” or to “just not get it,” don’t buy into that. She’ll figure it out quickly if there is something in it for her.

9. Take advantage of teachable moments. Although you don’t need to go on and on about the behavior-consequence connection, if you see an opportunity (and there’s probably at least one each day), bring it to your daughter’s attention. This doesn’t mean that you’re constantly criticizing her. You’re just teaching her that, for example, making fun of her friend may lead to retaliation or at least a lessened friendship, or that getting a speeding ticket on her record will mean higher insurance premiums for years to come.

10. Teen girls may communicate in action rather than word when they are frustrated. If your daughter comes in and throws down her backpack, it might be her way of saying, "I have such a heavy load to carry" (her backpack is a metaphor for her life). If the backpack lands on the ground, mom shouldn't scream: "Don't leave your backpack in the doorway." Instead, she might say in a matter-of-fact voice, "Looks like you have a heavy load. Let's put it in your room."

11. Watch out for feelings of entitlement. Be careful that your daughter does not take everything for granted — make her work for her allowance and privileges so that she sees that effort leads to results! If she complains that it’s unfair that she has to work more than their friends, call a family meeting to discuss why you are making such point about the behavior-consequence connection and why living it is so important to your family.

12. When parents make mistakes (which they do!), they have to be grown-up enough to say "I'm sorry." If a parent shows his teen daughter more kindness, respect and thoughtfulness, his daughter will be a lot less surly …she won’t feel like she has to put up a fence (or brick wall) so often.

==> My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents (who are at their wits end)

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...