Positive Parenting 101

Want to know how to be the best parent that any child could have?

Here are the secrets to positive parenting in a nutshell:

1.       Listen
2.       Praise
3.       Gain compliance
4.       Use effective consequences
5.       Have family meetings
6.       Create win-win solutions
7.       Build your child’s self-esteem

Now let’s look at each of these individually…

1. Listen--The most valuable gift you can give your youngster is to listen to the little and big things in her life. Begin early so that the lines of communication will be open during the adolescent years:
  1. Stop what you are doing.
  2. Look at your youngster.
  3. Pay attention to your youngster's nonverbal language (e.g., does the youngster look happy, sad, or afraid?).
  4. Be silent.
  5. Use simple acknowledgement responses that show you are listening (e.g., "I see. Oh. Uh-Huh. Hmmm.").
  6. Use door-openers, phrases that encourage further talking (e.g., "Tell me more. Go on. How do you feel about that? I know what you mean. Then what?").
  7. Listen for and name the feelings you think you hear from what your youngster is telling you (e.g., "That made you pretty mad, didn't it? You seem really happy about that!").
  8. Use problem-solving phrases when needed (e.g., "What do you wish you could do? What do you want to happen? What do you think will happen if you do that?").
  9. Don't feel that you must advise or help your youngster come up with a solution all the time. The value of listening is in the listening itself.
  10. Listening helps moms and dads and kids avoid the power struggle cycle. Instead of arguing, listen. Show your understanding while maintaining your position.
  11. Don't try to deny, discount, or distract the youngster from the feelings they are expressing.
2. Praise--The behavioral effect of praise is to reinforce your youngster's correct behavior and self-discipline. Praise increases the bond of affection between parent and youngster and builds self-esteem:
  1. Look your youngster in the eye.
  2. Move close to your youngster.
  3. Smile.
  4. Praise a specific behavior (e.g., "You did a great job cleaning up your room.").
  5. Speak with feeling and sincerity.
  6. Touch your youngster affectionately, maybe a pat on the back.
  7. Praise immediately, as soon as you notice commendable behavior.
  8. Praise should be honest and specific.
  9. Don't dilute the effectiveness of praise by overdoing it or being insincere.

3. Gain compliance--Following these steps to gain compliance from your youngster will prevent frustration, anger and resentment between parent and youngster:
  1. Stop and decide what you want your youngster to do.
  2. Get the youngster's attention. Move closer to your child or call him to come to you. Make direct eye contact.
  3. Tell your child what to do directly and firmly. Don't ask, though you may offer a choice if you wish. Don't end your instruction with "OK?"
  4. Don't let your child sidetrack you with whining, excuses, or arguing. Restate your instructions one more time if necessary then watch to make sure he begins.
  5. Praise your child when he does the task quickly and well (e.g., "You did a good job with those dishes.").
  6. If he doesn't begin doing what you said or doesn't finish, say: "What did I tell you to do?" When he answers correctly, say, "Good, now do it."
  7. If he doesn't do it, then stop the world. He doesn't do another thing until he does what you told him to do.
  8. Decide the consequence you will impose and go to the youngster to warn him of the consequence.
  9. Move closer to your child than normal, conversational distance. Make direct prolonged eye contact and tell your child the consequence of not doing what you asked.
  10. Give your child the opportunity to complete the task now. When he does, praise him.
  11. If he still doesn't comply, send him to his room to cool off while you do the same.
  12. Go into his room and tell him that the consequence you stated earlier is now in effect (e.g., grounding, no TV, extra chore, removal of privilege, etc.).
  13. Do not let your child return to the family group until he has completed the original task that you gave him.
  14. Use your facial expression and tone of voice to convey your disapproval if your youngster does not comply with your instruction in the time frame that you set.
  15. Don't become distracted so that you overlook compliance or non-compliance. Remember to praise compliance or follow-up on non-compliance.
  16. Remain calm and unemotional when you implement consequences. That is the reason to take a short break while he is in Siberia before you implement the consequences.

4. Use effective consequences--The purpose of discipline is to teach self-control and self-discipline. Using effective consequences can break the cycle of non-compliance by your youngster:
  1. When you notice non-compliance, first give a reminder. Remember to make direct eye contact. This simple strategy will work most of the time.
  2. Begin to think of an effective consequence if the reminder doesn't work.
  3. An effective consequence is: (1) clear and specific; (2) logically related to the misbehavior; (3) time-limited; and (4) varied.
  4. Continued misbehavior requires a warning of the consequence. Move closer to the youngster than normal conversational distance and make direct and prolonged eye contact.
  5. Be very specific about your expectation and the time frame for compliance. Tell your child exactly what the consequence of noncompliance will be.
  6. Walk away and give your child the opportunity to comply.
  7. If the warning doesn't work, send the youngster to his room while you both cool off.
  8. Ignore arguing, whining, or expressions of anger.
  9. After a few minutes go to the youngster's room. Speak calmly and without emotion. Explain that the consequence is now in effect and how long it will last.
  10. Avoid power struggles by listening to your youngster and helping him plan how he will do what it is that you ask of him.
  11. Don't let the consequence slide. Enforce it.
  12. Forgive your youngster for his misbehavior. Start with a clean slate. Don't dwell on past mistakes.
  13. Don't use yelling, sarcasm, name calling, insulting or hitting. Keep your own emotions in control.
  14. Show respect for your youngster and recognize his good intentions. Let your child know that you know he wants to do the right thing and you are here to help him learn how.
  15. Don't keep a running tab of your youngster's misbehavior. Implement consequences for misbehavior then let it go.
5. Have family meetings--Family meetings help busy families stay connected. Other benefits of this simple tool are improved communication, self-esteem, emotional support and problem solving:
  1. Moms and dads decide together to begin holding family meetings.
  2. Tell kids that you will begin holding family meetings to talk about what's going on in everyone's life.
  3. Let everyone decide together when and where to hold meetings.
  4. Mom and dad should be the co-moderators for meetings at the beginning. Share the moderator duties with kids as you go along.
  5. At the first meeting remind everyone to contribute to the conversation, listen to others, and be supportive not critical.
  6. Use the "Around the Circle" method. Go around the circle giving each family member the opportunity to respond to the topic.
  7. Around the Circle Subject 1 - Something that made you feel good this week.
  8. Moms and dads offer praise, encouragement, and support for the good things that each person mentions.
  9. Around the Circle Subject 2 - Something that bothered you this week.
  10. Moms and dads listen for and acknowledge the feelings that are expressed, ask open-ended questions to clarify the problem, and then brainstorm solutions with the entire family.
  11. Around the Circle Subject 3 - Something that you want to work on or accomplish next week.
  12. Moms and dads model making an action plan and help kids set a specific goal to continue positive experiences or address problems identified this week.
  13. Around the Circle Subject 4 - Your schedule for the week. What meetings, appointments, tests, special events or projects you have this week.
  14. Moms and dads identify any scheduling conflicts and individual responsibilities necessitated by the week's schedule. Plan your week. Teach good time management.
  15. Set a scheduled time for meetings, post it where everyone will see, and keep the time. If moms and dads are committed to the project, it will have more impact.
  16. Make the meetings fun too. Tell a story or a joke, play games, have contests.

6. Create win-win solutions--Use the family meeting to work on family problems in a structured and non-threatening way. The objective of the meeting should be to arrive at a Win-Win solution for everyone:
  1. Clarify the problem. The parent moderator should introduce the general nature of the problem, and then use the "Around the Circle" technique to get each person's view of the problem.
  2. Around the Circle Questions: "What is the problem as you see it? How does it affect you? What is your contribution to the problem?"
  3. These are challenging questions. The family should listen to each speaker with respect and an attempt at understanding. Avoid interrupting or becoming defensive.
  4. The moderator should write down the points of agreement and disagreement as they arise.
  5. Brainstorm solutions. Go around as many times as necessary to come up with a list of possible solutions to the problem. Don't analyze the solutions now. Just write them all down.
  6. Go through the list of possible solutions to narrow them down to the best solution for all family members.
  7. Use the "Around the Circle" technique to get each person's view on what is the best solution for everyone. Ask, "Which of these do you think is the best solution? Why? Is it fair to everyone?"
  8. Select the best solution. Get commitment from each person to make the solution work.
  9. Decide what each person will do to implement the solution. This is the time to come up with responsibilities, rewards, limits, consequences, and other agreed upon commitments.
  10. Now you should go around one more time with each family member stating what specific action they will take to solve the problem.
  11. Follow up on each person's commitment. Meet again when needed to evaluate and strengthen the solution.
  12. For the solution to work, everyone has to be convinced that their input has been considered and that it is the best thing for each of them.
  13. If someone's comments hit your emotional hot button, don't respond defensively. Remain silent then communicate your position while maintaining respect for the other's viewpoint.
  14. Use the open-ended questions, restatement; reflection, clarification, and I messages when disagreements arise.

7. Build your youngster’s self-esteem--
  1. Build your youngster's sense of connectedness. Physical touch and loving words from moms and dads are the first step.
  2. Provide opportunities for your child to feel that he is a functional and important member of his family, school class, friends, sports team, church, neighborhood, and community.
  3. Teach your youngster good social and conversational skills by modeling, direct teaching, and guided practice. These skills will enable him to have positive interactions with others.
  4. Tell your child your family stories and talk about his ancestors, heritage, and nationality in a positive way.
  5. Build your youngster's sense of uniqueness. Kids need to feel that others think they have special qualities and talents. Find opportunities to point these out to him.
  6. Let your youngster express himself in his own way. Show respect for his thoughts and feelings so he will learn to do the same.
  7. Encourage your youngster's curiosity, creativity, and imagination. Teach your child to satisfy curiosity with learning and convey the joy of learning in everything you do.
  8. Build your youngster's sense of power. Help your child succeed by providing the support, teaching, and resources he needs to accomplish what he sets out to do.
  9. Give your child responsibilities in the family and allow his input into decisions that affect him.
  10. Provide many opportunities for your child to practice new skills he learns. Teach him to cope with failure by analyzing it, setting reasonable standards, and not overreacting.
  11. Teach your child good problem-solving and decision-making skills. Teach him to prioritize, think about consequences, and plan a course of action.
  12. Build your youngster's sense of models. Show by your own actions the appropriate way to behave.
  13. Teach your youngster right from wrong. Discuss your own values as you encounter dilemmas and decisions. Encourage your child to apply those values to his own decision-making.
  14. Provide a broad range of experiences for your youngster so he will have more confidence in facing new experiences. At the same time maintain structure and order in your day-to-day life.
  15. Teach your youngster to set minor and major goals. Be specific in your expectations and the standards and consequences for his behavior.
  16. Poor self-esteem can often be traced to a deficit in one of the four conditions of self-esteem – connectedness, uniqueness, power, or models.
  17. If your youngster shows signs of poor self-esteem determine the deficit condition and make a plan to improve that condition. 


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

How To Be A "Bad" Parent

Have you ever been to a friend's house, the Mall, or a restaurant and witnessed a very disturbing parent-child interaction that caused you to have the thought, “Oh my God …that parent should be arrested!” or something similar? Unfortunately, there are a lot of good people out there who are just plain “bad” parents. And here’s how they do it…

12 ways to be the best “bad” parent out there:

Bad Parenting Method #1: Don’t build strong bonds.
Corrective Measures: If you want your youngster to be more cooperative, change your focus from improving him to improving your relationship. When you dwell on the ways he's misbehaving, it just discourages both of you (you feel like a bad parent, and he feels as if he can't do anything right). Besides, all that energy you're using to correct him could be channeled into something more uplifting and effective. So try to give him positive feedback several times a day (i.e., a specific compliment on something you see him doing).

Bad Parenting Method #2: Don’t change your “parenting practices” as the son or daughter grows older.
Corrective Measures: When discipline doesn't seem to be working for your family, you want to step back and look again at the problem. The first step is to learn “what is normal behavior” for your youngster's age and stage of development. Some misbehavior is an expression of transitions in the school-age child’s rapid development. Parental expectations may be beyond what the youngster is able to achieve on a consistent basis.

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

Bad Parenting Method #3: Don’t change yourself first.
Corrective Measures: When your youngster misbehaves, ask yourself, “What is it that I need to know?” “How am I contributing to this behavior?” “What could I do differently that would help my youngster?” Seek first to understand the situation, the contributing factors, and how you can change yourself. You may discover that you need to add a few tools to your parenting tool box.

Bad Parenting Method #4: Avoid having good family communication.
Corrective Measures: Giving instructions and consequences, planning for good behavior, listening to your youngster, holding family meetings, and resolving conflict are just a few of the opportunities moms and dads have to encourage self-discipline and maintain good family relationships. When confronting a problem, your style of communication will help or hinder a successful resolution.

Bad Parenting Method #5: Don’t increase the number of tools in your parenting tool box.
Corrective Measures: When you develop a well-stocked parenting tool box, you increase the likelihood that you will match the most effective tool with the appropriate situation. The more you learn the more options you have when a difficult behavior arises.

Bad Parenting Method #6: Don’t learn what best fits your kids.
Corrective Measures: Some kids are visual learners, some are auditory learners, and some are more tactile in their learning. When your youngster behaves in a way that calls for your correction and guidance, stop to ask yourself what would be the best way to deliver the guidance. Choose the method that fits their learning style and the odds that your youngster will learn more efficiently increases

Bad Parenting Method #7: Avoid reinventing yourself and learning from others.
Corrective Measures: Take parenting classes. Read parenting books. Consult parenting experts. Actively seek information and ideas from the many ways it is provided today. One can find parenting techniques on YouTube, in books stores, or by attending workshops in your community.

Bad Parenting Method #8: Punish and shame rather than teach and guide.
Corrective Measures: Your role as a mother or father is to help your kids learn how to manage their own behavior. When you shame, threaten and punish your kids, ask yourself, “What is my behavior teaching my kids?” Consider that the main lesson you are teaching them is that shame, threatening or physical force is an appropriate way to get what you want in this world. Is that the lesson you want your kids to learn?

Bad Parenting Method #9: Show disrespect for the youngster.
Corrective Measures: Discipline techniques that belittle or shame a youngster are truly harmful. If your relationship with your youngster has become a power struggle, then control – not discipline – has become your goal. Defuse this toxic relationship with good listening skills. Show respect for your youngster's feelings and thoughts, while standing firm on your expectations for good behavior. Respect for moms and dads and other authorities is crucial to self-discipline and healthy development. Help your youngster learn respect for authority by making your own words and actions as a parent worthy of respect.

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

Bad Parenting Method #10: Parent the way you were parented.
Corrective Measures: Most moms and dads use similar techniques and strategies to those their moms and dads used with them. “Well my parents did it this way with me – and I’m fine,” some parents offer as an excuse to keep from learning alternate ways of managing kid’s behavior. Much has changed in our world from when we were growing up as kids. Be open to seeing new ways to approach your important role as a mother or father.

Bad Parenting Method #11: Parent your children the way you wanted to be parented as a child.
Corrective Measures: Many parents did not get the love and acceptance they wanted - and needed - as children. As a result, they make the mistake of parenting the opposite way they were parented. For example, “My parents were just plain mean, so I am going to try to be my child’s best friend.” …or… “We were always poor as dirt, so I’m going to see to it that my child has everything he needs!” You may have been parented poorly by your parents, but that doesn’t mean they did everything wrong. Take the good parts – and keep them. Trade-in the not-so-good parts for something better.

Bad Parenting Method #12: Forget about using "I" statements.
Corrective Measures: Children learn early on to tune-out their moms and dads' endless "no's" and nagging. So if your requests and commands aren't producing results, avoid using them. Using "I" statements, tell your child what his actions do to you: "I get upset when I see you throwing food because I have to clean up the mess" (try not to whine when you say this!). When you give a warning, continue to emphasize what you'll do: "You’ll go to your room without dinner if you throw your food again," and then follow through so it's not an idle threat. As you focus on your own actions instead of harping on your youngster's behavior, you'll feel more in control, and so will he. He'll begin to see the connection between his actions and their consequences. Of course, no discipline strategy can make children behave perfectly all the time. But if you and your youngster are caught in a bad cycle, sometimes all it takes is a change in your behavior to bring out the best in his.


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

Why Teens Make Poor Decisions and How Parents Can Help

Teenagers smoke, take drugs, have unprotected sex and ride with drunk drivers, not because they think they are invulnerable or haven't thought about the risks. In fact, they are more likely to ponder the risks, take longer weighing the pros and cons of engaging in high-risk behavior than grown-ups, and actually overestimate the risks. It's just that they often decide the benefits (e.g., the immediate gratification, peer acceptance, etc.) outweigh the risks.

While grown-ups scarcely think about engaging in many high-risk behaviors because they intuitively grasp the risks, teenagers take the time to mull-over the risks and benefits. In other words, more experienced decision-makers tend to rely more on fuzzy reasoning, processing situations and problems as a “general idea” rather than weighing multiple factors. On the other hand, emergency room doctors (for example) make better decisions by processing less information and making sharper black-and-white distinctions among decision-making options. This leads to better decisions, not only in everyday life, but also in places like emergency rooms where the speed and quality of risky decisions are critical.

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

Interventions that use risk data regarding smoking or unprotected sex, for example, may actually backfire if teens overestimate their risks anyway. Instead, interventions should help them develop "general-idea-based" thinking in which dangerous risks are categorically avoided rather than weighed in a rational, deliberative way.

Decision-making is the process of choosing what to do by considering the possible consequences of different choices. Reasoning skills are utilized in the decision-making process and refer to specific cognitive abilities, some of which include assessing probability and thinking systematically or abstractly. The basic process that decision-makers use when confronted with a decision involves:
  • listing relevant choices
  • identifying potential consequences of each choice
  • assessing the likelihood of each consequence actually occurring
  • determining the importance of these consequences
  • combining this information to decide which choice is the most appealing

Many different factors influence how teens make decisions. These may include cognitive, psychological, social, cultural, and societal factors. Cognitive factors refer to the mental processes of reasoning and perception. These decision-making processes mature with age and experience and are influenced by a teen’s brain development and acquisition of knowledge. Social and psychological factors refer to those influences from within a teen’s family, peer group, or self (e.g., self-esteem, locus of control, etc.). Some cultural and societal factors which influence a teen’s decisions include religious beliefs, socioeconomic conditions, and ethnicity.

Teenagers face a number of challenges in making healthy decisions due to the following:
  • they may be influenced by their emotions and fail to use decision-making processes
  • they may favor their own experience over probabilistic evidence when determining the likelihood of the consequences of their actions
  • they may focus more on the social reactions of their friends when deciding to engage in or avoid risky behaviors
  • they may have a hard time interpreting the meaning or credibility of information when making decisions
  • they may lack the experience, knowledge or feeling of control over their lives to come up with alternative choices
  • they may misperceive certain behaviors as less risky
  • they may be overly optimistic about their ability to recognize and avoid threatening situations
  • they may not be able to accurately estimate the probability of negative consequences
  • they may see only either-or choices rather than a variety of options

The issue of decision-making becomes increasingly important during the teenage years because adolescents are developing greater autonomy and encountering more choices independent of adults. The choices adolescents make may drastically affect not only their own lives, but the lives of others as well. Some of these choices may include which career to pursue, whether or not to have sex or use contraceptives, whether or not to use alcohol, cigarettes, or other drugs, or whether or not to engage in violent or risky behaviors. Concern about these "risk behaviors" has led to the development of prevention and intervention programs that strive to help adolescents better protect themselves with effective decision-making skills.

Research has repeatedly demonstrated that youth development programs are successful in promoting positive behavior and preventing problem behavior when these programs help teenagers learn the following:
  • coping strategies
  • decision-making
  • problem solving
  • refusal strategies
  • resistance strategies
  • social and self-regulation skills
Programs that incorporate decision-making skills have been found to delay the onset of sexual activity, reduce the frequency of sexual activity, and increase safer-sex behaviors. Research has also shown that teens armed with sound decision-making skills are better able to refuse alcohol and other drugs. Moreover, teens who perceive themselves as having better problem-solving skills are less likely to be depressed and have fewer suicidal thoughts.

Adolescents also need strong decision-making skills because the U.S. economy requires workers that are capable of thinking and making decisions at higher levels of sophistication than preceding generations. Furthermore, a successful democracy relies on citizens who can think critically about diverse issues and intelligently decide how society should address these issues.

Research has not yet answered how best to teach decision-making skills to teenagers, but some concrete methods include:
  • assisting them to recognize their own biases
  • encouraging them to search for new information when making decisions and helping them to avoid overestimating their knowledge and capabilities
  • having teens work in pairs or small groups on relevant decision problems
  • helping teens understand how their choices affect others
  • providing accurate information to teenagers about the actual number of other teens engaging in risky behaviors to counteract media messages
  • providing teens with opportunities to practice and rehearse decision-making skills
  • teaching them about how their emotions may influence their thinking and behavior
  • using a general heuristic framework to help teens learn how to think critically about decision problems
  • utilizing concrete situations and decision problems that reflect the teens’ interests and have relevance to their lives

When teenagers are unsure of themselves, they are more likely to give in to peer-pressure. When a teenager feels good about herself, it improves the odds that she will make good decisions. Moms and dads can build teenagers’ self-confidence by teaching them to think for themselves. Ask your teenager for her opinion, even about small issues. Urge her to make decisions. Praise her for positive choices, and let her know that you appreciate her – and her achievements. Expose her to activities, people, places, and ideas, because doing so will broaden her outlook and help to limit the influence of negative peers. The likely result is a teenager that doesn’t worry about what others say, thinks things through, and chooses wisely.

The teen needs to know her “self.” This calls for a set of rules about what she is willing - or not willing - to do. If her rules apply to a situation, then the decision will be automatic. Moms and dads can show the way to good conduct through example and by promoting values, explaining those values, and showing how they fit specific choices. Starting early ensures that standards have deep roots, but it is never too late to lay out a guide for conduct.


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


For the past two years our lives have been nonstop drama and this past Sunday I made him leave. I had a complete and total melt down and said things to him that I have never ever said to him and which I now deeply regret. I sent him two text messages with heartfelt apologies, but he did not respond. I took him a change of clothes yesterday and he looked very tired, but I did not stay and I did not try to get him to come home, because I just do not think I can stand to be lied to or treated so disrespectfully anymore. So now he is staying with his adult brother, who allows him to smoke pot and has encouraged my teen to quit school and come work with him at his automotive shop. This has been going on for months now and my son has quit school because of his older brothers influence and has even overdosed on something my adults son's wife gave my teen last August. I have tried to keep him away from my teen because he is a horrible role model and influence, but his shop is 4 blocks from our home and every time my teen and I have a disagreement, he runs to my adult son who confirms to him that I am a horrible mother. I raised both of them on my own, their fathers were pretty much no shows, and we had little family support, so I did the best I could. It just never seemed to be enough. 

 The oldest got in a lot of trouble when he was younger too, and after helping him get out of it all, I allowed him to live with me until he was 25 and he and my teen bonded very tightly, so breaking that bond is impossible, but I feel like the oldest is jealous of his baby brother and is deliberately giving him poor advice hoping he will fail and continuously undermines me as a parent and does things to deliberately sabotage any progress my teen and I might make ~ such as being the one to keep him out after curfew and then act like I am being ridiculous by telling him it is time for him to come home. My adult son is very passive aggressive and will smile in your face while stabbing you in the heart and pretend that he is doing you a favor. My mom and dad do not even have anything to do with him because he has dealt so deceitfully with them in the past. Right now my teen has two court dates, one for paraphernalia and another for forgery and submitting fraudulent documents to the court. And like I said, last Sunday night I made my teen leave after he broke curfew again and stayed out until 1 a.m. while being on probation. He had been sneaking out his bedroom window just three days prior to that and I had told him that if he broke the house rules again, that there would be dire consequences. But he does not care. He didn't even TRY to call me to tell me he would be late and refused to respond to my texts messages until I threatened to turn his "friend" in that helped him forge his community service records. We have to be in court on the 19th of June and I was going to ask the judge to put him in a treatment center for 30 days instead of Juvie or a fine. I have already written her a letter as such, but the courts tell me that they are a municipal court and do not really have that "kind" of jurisdiction. So I have nowhere to turn for help with him. 

We have been in counseling for months now with a family crisis counselor but she says that my son is master manipulator and she is wasting her time with him because he won’t "do the work" that’s required for us to resolve all his problems. So right now, he is truant, on probation, not at home but with an adult sibling that lives in the back of his automotive shop in an office cubicle, with the same woman that gave my teen drugs that he overdosed on. And I am lost as to knowing what to do. My teen seems so sweet and loving and polite to my face, but is very sneaky, deceitful and disrespectful behind my back, He has stolen from me, lied to my face and allowed kids to come in my home and use drugs and trash my home when I was gone. He did not even make them leave before I got home even though he knew I was on my way. When I had a meltdown after walking in to the damage, he responded that it was not "that bad" and that I "over reacted". His behavior reminds me of his father who is extremely bi-polar and most of this erratic behavior began after the overdose episode where he smoked something called "Purple Chronic". So I think he needs to be evaluated by someone, but he refuses to get treatment. So I am lost here and wonder if it might be too late for us.

Turning Disputes Into Teachable Moments

When moms and dads avoid disputes and disagreements at all cost with their adolescent (i.e., they do anything and everything to keep the peace), they are ignoring some of the greatest teaching moments they will ever have. Disagreement in and of itself is not what produces change for the better – it is how we, as parents, respond to it. Disagreement can be a force for good in families, but only if it is dealt with properly. The way we react can either deepen the relationship with our teens – or it can tear it down.

Most children simply want to know that they are being heard! Refusing to understand this principle and shutting-down any form of disagreement or conflict can build a wall between the two of you. Also, walls can build-up when you belittle your adolescent’s thoughts and feelings. The issue may seem like a small or “black and white” deal to you, but it could be confusing and all-encompassing to them. You can say something like, “I think I understand what you are saying, but let me try to repeat it so I’m sure.” Then, calmly repeat back what their issue and position is.

You can’t expect your adolescent to respect you - or your rules - if you don’t show respect to them. It’s important to acknowledge your adolescent’s viewpoint even if you don’t agree with it. Their view may be short-sighted, self-focused, and just plain irrational – but it is still one that they are going to want to defend to the end. Your response to their “point of view” needs to be respectful rather than reactionary or judgmental. Even so, if their position conflicts with your house-rules – and it’s an important matter of character or morality – you can say something like, “I understand now, but I don’t agree with your viewpoint, so we’re not going to follow that path. But let’s keep talking about it so I can better understand why you feel this way.”

Change comes out of relationship. Failing to listen during disagreements with your teen makes it difficult – if not impossible – for positive change to occur. Work to keep the lines of communication open, and make sure the relationship stays intact. If there is a smaller issue where you can give-in without compromising something very important, do it (just so they know you are listening). You don’t want your son or daughter to feel that you’re constantly turning a deaf ear to their way of thinking. They need to know that their concerns are being heard, and if there is NO hope of that, they will either become deceitful and just stop talking, or try other tactics (e.g., raging, acting-out their anger, ignoring you, etc.).

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

How to Handle Disputes and Disagreements—

1. All of the positives associated with having a dispute break down when disrespect creeps in from either party. Name calling, screaming, slamming doors, etc., are all acts that your youngster – and you – should avoid. When these things happen, the discussion needs to be put on hold until cooler heads prevail. That way, adolescents know they won’t get their way just by being angry or disrespectful. In fact, they end up shooting themselves in the foot because they lose the chance to make their case (at least until they can calm down). But be sure to come back to it and discuss it later that day. Don’t let disagreements fester too long, or they will eventually explode.

2. Deal with disagreements WHEN they happen – not after resentment has set-in. A problem that you overlook doesn’t just go away; instead, it becomes a building block in a wall that can grow and prevent both you and your youngster from properly responding to future disagreements. Each one that you address and resolve provides training for future “difference of opinion.”

3. Disagreement gives you a chance to get to know your youngster better. Sometimes during a dispute, children are more willing to open-up and express themselves. Be sure you don’t close the door during the conversation (even if it is heated) and allow them to say how they are feeling. They may blurt-out things they don’t really mean, or that could snap at you, so don’t take offense. We’ve all said things we wish we could take back. Adolescents do this more often because they haven’t learned how to manage their emotions. So try to understand the meaning behind the words, and give an element of grace to the actual words that are being said.

4. Having disagreements is great preparation for your adolescent in dealing with future conflict. The skills for dealing with disagreement that your adolescent learns from you will be needed throughout his/her life. The adult world is going to require them to resolve issues and disagreements with others, so you need to be sure you are giving them the tools they will need. And one day, they will have children too, so you can show them the way to the positive resolution of a disagreement.

5. Disagreement may show you a place where you are wrong. It’s a huge relationship builder to admit a mistake and to tell you teens that you are changing your position because of what they said. This will show them you value them as independent people. If you’re wrong, own up to it. If you’re right, don’t cave-in just to keep the peace and avoid an argument.

6. Disagreement presents a wonderful opportunity to reinforce your values and beliefs. All the things you have been teaching your teens before are brought into focus through applying your values to real-life situations. They may not agree with it, but they can at least begin to think about it.

7. Don’t let conflict spill-over and contaminate the rest of the relationship. It’s easy for the disagreement to take over every conversation. Be willing to press the pause button – not to overlook or ignore the problem, but to have time to take a break and re-establish connections over a meal or shared moments that have nothing to do with the dispute in question.

8. The relationship that you have been building with your youngster will bear fruit over time as long as you protect it. The dispute the two of you are having WILL challenge you, but you need to approach it as an “opportunity” rather than as a sign of “disrespect” or “defiance”. Don’t allow it to create a permanent crack in your relationship.

9. The symptoms of disagreement are not the problem …so you can’t resolve the problem by dealing with the symptoms. Keep the lines of communication open and the relationship strong, and you’ll successfully resolve any disputes that arise in the family.

10. Lastly, have plenty of patience as your teenager learns “the fine art of logical debate.”


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

How to Keep Teens from Dropping-Out of High School

Teen: “School sucks. I’m not going anymore!”
Mother: “What!?” 
Teen: “I hate school …I quit!!”
Mother: “You can’t just quit, Michael!!” 
Teen: “Why not? People quit and get a GED all the time!!!”
Mother: “You have to finish high school. You don’t want to work at McDonald’s the rest of your life.”
Teen: “Whatever… I'm quitting, and you can't stop me.”

Whether your adolescent is being bullied at school or is struggling with classes, dropping-out of school should never be an option. Statistically speaking, high school drop-outs earn approximately $260,000 less than those who have their diploma and cost the U.S. over $319 billion in lost wages over the course of the drop-out’s lifetime. High school drop-outs often struggle to find happiness because, in most cases, career choices are relegated to low-income jobs with no advancement. The best way to keep an adolescent in school is through support, motivation and letting him/her see firsthand what would happen if he/she decided to quit.

Here are some important tips to keep your teenager in school until graduation:

1. Are serious problems occurring in the home (e.g., abuse, financial distress, grief, illness, etc.)? If so, these issues will need to be addressed first.

2. Ask each teacher to provide a customized solution as to how he/she can help your teenager in the classroom.

3. Be present in your adolescent’s life. Supporting and celebrating victories is important to keeping a teen in school. The at-risk adolescent needs a cheerleader to promote and raise him/her up when he/she does well. Also, you need to be able to help pick your adolescent up and find solutions when failure occurs in order to teach resiliency and tenacity. A consistent, loving role model who lets the adolescent know that he/she isn’t in this alone will help the student find the courage to continue with his/her education.

4. Bright and gifted adolescents sometimes advance beyond the level of their classes in some or all areas. Depending on talents and personality, they may also learn better in less structured environments. Sometimes the best solution for this is to find a college with an early entrance program and let the adolescent complete high school concurrent with freshman year. Switching to college is not dropping out!

5. Bullying is a serious epidemic that can destroy an adolescent’s life. Bullying is not limited to physical assault on or off school grounds, but can also be through gossip and slander in social media channels. Investigate to make sure your teenager is not being bullied (in silence).

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

6. Consider your adolescent's support structure. Is there a stable grown-up who supports your adolescent? Does your adolescent come from a family that values education - or has a mom or dad somehow diminished the value of having a high school diploma? Sometimes there is a cultural issue where there is a fear that an adolescent that is educated beyond the abilities of other family members will stop identifying with their cultural roots. This type of pressure can be very intense. In the United States, your adolescent is under the age of 18, the mom and dad must sign the teen out of school and agree to allow him/her to drop-out. Your adolescent’s support system has a considerable influence on whether he/she finally drops out or not.

7. Consult with a professional. Before you can create a strategic plan, you have to dig deeper into why your adolescent wants to drop-out. Meet with the guidance counselor at the school to pinpoint the reason and then investigate what has been done to remedy the situation. For example, if your adolescent has been struggling with academics, determine if he/she has been tested for a learning disability or ADHD. Explore tutoring options. Often a student who struggles in class responds very well to one-on-one learning. If the guidance counselor provides little or no assistance, consult with a child psychologist to have your adolescent evaluated.

8. Design a collaborative mission, including short and long term goals to engage your teen and help him/her progress.

9. Find good sources of relaxation for your adolescent. While it's important for him/her to do well in school, it's also important for you to provide a little relaxation time for your adolescent so he/she doesn't get overwhelmed.

10. Identify why your adolescent wants to drop-out of school. For an adolescent to want to drop-out of school, the reason(s) have to be pretty serious. If you can first get to the root of the problem, you can start to cultivate a solution that may work to help keep him/her in school.

11. If teenagers need to drop-out because of a severe unsolvable issue like bullying, teenage pregnancy, or a serious medical condition, they should be encouraged to get a GED. Adolescents can still go to college and get a career with a GED certificate if regular high school will not work. Education and a teen’s well-being should come first rather than where they studied.

12. If your adolescent is extremely unhappy, consider transferring him/her to a new school or providing alternate schooling options. As a mother or father, you can effectively counter your adolescent dropping out by providing alternative schooling, community collaboration, or career education.

13. Invite your child to take part in the strategic plan and provide feedback about what might be helpful to him/her in the classroom.

14. Is the adolescent constantly in trouble with school officials and/or law enforcement? Students who are often in trouble may be hiding a deeper reason why they are acting-out.

15. Is your adolescent constantly struggling to keep up with the rest of the class and often receives poor or failing grades? Has any type of intervention been performed, or has the student fallen through the cracks? Parents may need to get their child on an IEP if there have been no previous interventions.

16. Making educators aware that your adolescent is at risk will provide them with information to offer more support in the classroom.

17. Meet with administrators to develop a strategic plan. Once you’ve determined the reason and have researched previous efforts (if any) to help, meet with the adolescent’s team of educators to obtain feedback and create a plan. Don't put the blame on the school or the educators. Keep it positive. Everyone needs to feel like they are on the same side.

18. Set up a schedule to meet with educators and your teen on a regular basis (weekly, monthly or quarterly depending on the progress).

19. Several common reasons an adolescent could drop-out range from school insecurity, not keeping tabs on school work, family turmoil or drug problems. So, research, research, research! Find out what’s going on behind the curtain.

20. Unfortunately, many adolescent girls drop-out of school in order to care for their newborn or young child. In this case, parents should do some research on what services are available in the community for the teen mothers.


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

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