Help for Single Moms Raising Defiant Teens

Raising adolescents is challenging, and naturally so. As they become increasingly autonomous, so too can they become somewhat more oppositional. However, dealing with adolescent defiance can be even more challenging for single mothers. The most difficult situation with defiance may be the following scenario: a single mom with a male adolescent - especially if she has more than one adolescent male and there aren’t any father-figures around!!!

Some single parent statistics show the prevalence and challenges of single parenting in America:
  • 23% of teens live with only a mother, 4% live with only a father, and 4% live with neither parent.
  • 3% live with unmarried parents.
  • About 40% of teenagers are born to unmarried mothers.
  • Black teenagers are the most likely to be raised by a single mother, followed by Hispanic, then white teenagers.
  • Teenagers living with only one parent have financial and educational disadvantages compared to teenagers with both parents, especially if their parent is the mother and if she did not finish high school.
  • Slightly more than 1 in 4 teenagers in America is being raised by a single mother.

Parents may be single due to separation, divorce, or death, or they may have never been married. Also, some parents may have a partner who is not able to help with parenting due to a disability or a job that takes them away from their family most of the time. Parents in different situations face different challenges, but in all of these cases, it is hard for both the mother and her teenagers to parent alone.

Having a single parent can be hard on teenagers, who often wish they could have more of their parents' attention and may have emotional issues to work through. Though every situation is unique, here are some tips that may help a single mom with a defiant teen:

1. Be aware of signs of aggression, drug or alcohol abuse, gang affiliation, depression or suicidal thoughts in your adolescent. Talk to him about concerning behavior, and seek counseling if you are still concerned. Many communities have free or low-cost counseling for those who do not have insurance that covers the costs.

2. Be patient with your adolescent when you are starting to date again or getting remarried. This can be a difficult process, and it may take time for her to adjust to it. Keep talking to her about her feelings.

3. Do as much as you can to be supportive of your adolescent’s positive activities (e.g., sports or music). You may not be able to be there for every game or performance, but go when you can, and talk to him about his interests to show that you care.

4. Don't be afraid to seek outside support. Support groups like Online Parent Support can help single parents feel encouraged. Family and friends can also help, and being involved in community or church groups can relieve loneliness for single mothers and give adolescents positive role models.

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

5. Don't say negative things about the absent father. This may be very hard, but it's not good for teenagers to hear their mothers say bad things about their fathers, which may lead to feelings of anger and resentment. This doesn't mean the mother should “make up” good things, but they should refrain from saying bad things.

6. Emphasize the importance of education to your teenager. Get help if she is struggling in school.

7. Encourage your teenager to recognize and express his feelings. Younger teens especially may need help recognizing feelings (e.g., sadness, hurt, fear) that can come as a result of the loss of one parent. Even adolescents who grew up not knowing their other parent may at times feel a sense of loss over his absence. It's okay to get help from someone else to talk to your son or daughter, including a relative, clergy member, or professional therapist.

8. Have clear, consistent rules, and enforce the consequences when the rules are broken. It may be especially tempting for a single mom to "let things slide," but it’s very important for adolescents to have clear rules and consistent consequences.

9. If you work in the late afternoon and/or evening when your adolescent is out of school, make sure she has somewhere to go and positive activities to do. The time right after school is when adolescents are most likely to get into trouble, but if they are with a responsible relative or neighbor, or in an after school program, they are less likely to get into trouble. Summer programs are also available in many communities for times when the parent is working while school is not in session.

10. Let your adolescent ask questions and give him honest, age-appropriate answers. Be honest when you don't know an answer (there are some questions only the absent parent will be able to answer).

11. Tell your teenagers every day that you love them.

12. While you may be too busy working and trying to be both a mom AND a dad to spend as much time with your adolescent as you would like, make time for special activities together. Try to eat at least one meal together as a family every day, even if it's breakfast or a late dinner. Also, consider finding one time each week that you can set aside as family time to do fun activities together. Activities don't have to be expensive or elaborate to have a positive impression on your “defiant” teen.


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

Teens Who Ignore Curfews: Tips for Parents

“My 17-year-old son thinks that just because it’s Christmas break he can come and go as he pleases and stay out as late as he wants. Any thoughts on how I can get him to comply with his curfew (which is 11:30 P.M.)?”

Setting a curfew for an adolescent is one of those things that must be done carefully and enforced completely from the beginning. Being allowed to roam around with buddies is most definitely a privilege, and chances are if moms and dads aren’t remaining aware and informed at all times, their adolescent will get into some sort of trouble eventually.

Parents would do well to set early curfews in the beginning. Having younger teens come home around 9:00 P.M. ensures that they are given freedom, but are also expected to be home at a reasonable hour. This not only allows you to get your rest, but also allows them to display their trustworthiness.

As time progresses and your adolescent has adhered to curfews, you can begin to push it back by 30 minute increments. When you get to around midnight – it may be time to stop. No matter how old your son or daughter is, there really is no good reason to stay out past midnight. Most states have laws restricting adolescents to drive after a certain time unless they are coming to and from work, and most states do not allow adolescents to drive around with a car load of peers. If your youngster questions your curfew judgment, blame it on the law.

Most moms and dads feel pressured and cave-in to the complaining adolescent who asserts that all his buddies get to stay out later than him. Chances are the young people who can stay out are completely unsupervised, and those that are staying out later are not following their curfew. Don’t be afraid to ask other mothers and fathers what time their teens are supposed to be home in the evening, and always keep in the forefront of your mind that the longer your adolescent is allowed to stay out, the more trouble he can get into.

Adolescents are well equipped to know exactly how many beers they can have at a party and still make it home by curfew without their mom or dad noticing they have been experimenting with alcohol. Shorter curfews also ensures that your son or daughter can’t travel too far away from your home, town or neighborhood where he or she might be hanging out with groups of young people you don’t know very well.

As you begin setting a curfew for your adolescent, it is crucial that you enforce it. It’s absolutely necessary that some consequence be suffered for missing curfew - and even more important - that your adolescent knows the curfew is non-negotiable. Make adjustments for things like homecoming or proms – but nothing else. If your youngster is consistently late, ground her completely, or make her curfew so early that it isn’t worth leaving the house (although she still will).

The life of an adolescent gets more dangerous and tempting as time goes on. The young people that are allowed to stay out late are usually not the best influence, possibly have moms and dads who are out of town, and may be much older than your youngster (most adolescents don’t mention the 19-year-old boy who graduated last year, but still hangs out with them).

Although spying is not permissible in your teen’s eyes, YOU SHOULD DO IT ANYWAY! It’s your job to check up on your youngster to make sure he is telling you the truth, and so that you know for certain he is being responsible. Think back to when you were an adolescent. Remember? Don’t discount the fact that your adolescent will try the same tricks.

Another way to enforce curfew - and drive home the importance of it - is to ‘show up’ where your teen is if she is late coming home. Most adolescents would rather die than have their mother waltz into a party at 12:30 A.M, pulling them by the ear and taking them home. Do it once, and chances are your youngster will have incentive to abide by her curfew in the future.

If your youngster is going to be late due to an extenuating circumstance, make sure he calls. When he does, yelling, screaming or threatening on your part is not wise. Your adolescent needs to know that he can count on you and trust you to not overreact when he is trying to do the right thing. For example, there may come a time when your child’s buddy may get drunk and offer to drive him home. If you handle things right, your teenager will feel safe calling you for a ride instead. If something comes up that seems a reasonable excuse, make an allowance once – but don’t fall victim to constant issues. Remember the old phrase: “Fool me once – shame on you, but fool me twice – shame on me.”

Setting a curfew for adolescents is very important. The US Highway Safety Administration concludes that more adolescents are killed in car accidents after midnight than at any other time. Also, after midnight most establishments that cater to young people are closed. Insist that your teenager call you when she changes plans or moves locations, and if you don’t approve with what she is doing – require that she come home NOW! When adolescents begin to shift their plans and make excuses, your parental radar should be high – they are more than likely up to something. Even good teenagers, “straight A” students and athletes who have never given their mom or dad a problem are privy to peer pressure and ‘normal’ adolescent antics.

As a mother or father, the first responsibility is to keep teens safe and alive, and the only way you can do this is to remain vigilant and stay consistent in your rules, curfews and expectations – and back them up with enforcement.


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


Mark – this describes my 17-year old son spot on.  In addition to not coming home on curfew (which used to be 12:00am) – he now pushes it to 2:30am – 3am – 3:30am.  That is not bad enough – when he does come home, he thinks it is his god given right to have a huge munch fest at that time of the morning (usually comes home “baked” and doesn’t even try to hide it anymore.  He is so inconsiderate – there is no talking to him about his behavior, his disrespect for myself, my husband, and my 20 year old son!  We all work and he totally disregards any calm or peace in our house anymore.   He has been in trouble with the law in the past and as a matter of fact, is back in the court system right now as my husband and I had to call the police on him back in April as he has gotten to the point of breaking things in our home.  He has stolen from us and has done damage to our home with his temper.  The case has been postponed twice already and I suspect the same will happen tomorrow.  His legal aid lawyer tells him not to worry, that nothing will come of this!!!  I cannot believe I am even speaking of my son this way – it sounds like I am describing a monster!!!  He has become the child that other parents do not want their children around!!!  How sad is that!!!  We have tried so hard to bring him up with good morals and values.  He is from a good home, with a loving family.  I have a large family, many of whom live in the same town that we do – as well as my husband’s family.  Both of his grandmothers live here in town.  Everyone is worried about him – except for him!  He thinks it’s ok to live his own life, he is 17 now and no longer needs rules or a curfew!!!!  What do we do or where do we go from here – life has become unbearable for us as a family …..

Teaching Children and Teens to Have Respect

We want our kids to develop respect for others. We want them to be honest, cooperative and responsible. The payoffs for encouraging a youngster to show respect are huge.

Below are some tips for promoting a respectful attitude in your child (some of these tips may seem obvious – others may not):

1. Respect for money: Giving your youngster an allowance is a good way to help him respect and understand the value of money. But you must decide how much the allowance will be, taking into account your resources, your youngster's age, and what expenses the allowance will cover (e.g., lunches, clothes, church donations, entertainment, etc.). An allowance can help your child learn how to save and use money wisely.

2. Respect for sacrifice: If a youngster sees her mom and dad making sacrifices (e.g., "We're buying a used car so that we can save more money for a trip to Disneyland"), she picks up the cues.

3. Respect for sportsmanship: If you accept a loss on the basketball court graciously, your youngster can learn that winning isn't everything.

4. Respect for the law: If you say "no" to drinking alcohol before heading out on the highway, your youngster takes note.

5. Respect for honesty: If you tell a sales clerk that he gave you change for a twenty-dollar bill and not a ten, your youngster sees honesty in action.

6. Respect for good will: If you volunteer at a soup kitchen, your youngster will be more likely to have compassion for others who are less fortunate.

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

7. Respect for differences: If your son senses that his mother and father appreciate people of all races, he is likely to become more open to peers of all races and backgrounds.

8. Respect for choice over chance: Many of the major threats to our kids today are not a matter of chance, but a matter of choice (e.g., drinking and driving, smoking, drugs, sex, dropping out of school, etc.). Research tells us that children and teens who engage in one risky behavior are more likely to participate in others, so moms and dads should help their kids understand the potential risks and consequences of their choices. Fortunately, most kids share the values of their moms and dads about the most important things. Your priorities, principles, and example of good behavior teaches your children to take the high road when other roads look tempting.

9. Respect for needs over wants: Of course, meet your youngster's “needs,” but also guide her to set them apart from her “wants.”

10. Respect for values: Talk to your kids about good values and why they matter. Just as kids need to be guided academically, so too must they be educated in the values of society (e.g., take responsibility for your decisions, love your neighbor, do an honest day's work for an honest day's pay, tell the truth, respect others, respect their property, respect their opinions, and so on).

11. Respect for people over possessions: The way that you view money and material goods molds your youngster's attitudes. If you see your self-worth – and the worth of others – in terms of cars, homes, furniture, nice clothes and other possessions, your youngster is more likely to develop these attitudes as well.

12. Respect for marriage: When a youngster sees her mom and dad treating each other with respect, she is more likely to follow this example in dating and marriage.

13. Respect for life’s challenges: When you accept disappointments as a part of life, and when you pick yourself up and keep going through the tough times, your youngster stands a better chance of becoming a survivor.

14. Respect for humility: When you can laugh at your own mistakes, your youngster is more likely to accept her own imperfections.

15. Respect for work: When you stick with a tough job until it’s done, your youngster will be more inclined to finish homework and chores.

At some point in their parenting career, moms and dads find themselves disheartened and aggravated. (e.g., "I can't believe my daughter is so rude and disrespectful. Where did I go wrong?!") Generally, there is no reason to fall to pieces if your youngster behaves impolitely from time to time – as long as she doesn't do it repeatedly. Disrespect needs to be recognized and dealt with. But you, as a parent, would do well to remember your own childhood – you turned-out OK. Your child will too.


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

Lack of Motivation During Middle School: Tips for Parents

Having motivation is synonymous with having a love for learning and challenge. Motivation is often more important than initial ability in determining academic success. However, the motivation-level of many young teenagers often takes a nosedive in the middle grades. The child may begin to grumble about assignments and educators, ask to drop out of a favorite activity, complain that she's bored, or show signs of being lost in the educational shuffle.

Here are some issues that may contribute to your child’s lack of motivation:

• Kids in elementary school tend to believe that the harder you try – the smarter you get! But, as kids move into the early teenage years, they may begin to believe that ability is “fixed” (e.g., “Why try hard if it won't help you to do well?”)  They also start to compare their ability with that of others. This view can dampen motivation. 

• The onset of puberty (e.g., getting her period, or being 4 feet 2 inches tall when your best friend is 5 feet 10 inches tall) distracts many young adolescents. Distractions make it hard to think about the basketball team or the science project that's due. It takes extra effort to concentrate on a social studies test when the child is preoccupied with physical insecurities or concerned about being excluded from the peer group.

• Some youngsters lack opportunities to take the classes or participate in the activities that they need to spark their enthusiasm. This is most likely with children from disadvantaged families or who are at risk, contributing to perceptions that they are unmotivated. 

• Some educators report that it's hard to get children to focus on a long history project when they're used to TV programs and media presentations that are fast, short and entertaining.
• A youngster may be influenced by peers who believe that academic success isn't "cool," or that females aren't good at Math. 

• A young adolescent may lose motivation after moving from elementary school to a middle school (or junior high school). The loss of motivation can be fueled by insufficient support in the new school, or by an increased workload and expectations to which the child hasn't yet adjusted.

• Some unmotivated youngsters may not have learned that school success takes time and effort. Many attractions compete for a child’s attention. Some young people expect school and activities to be consistently exciting. They aren't aware of the fact that - both in school and daily life - they can learn valuable lessons from activities that aren't always fun, and that achievement usually requires serious effort. You can encourage your youngsters, but ultimately your daughter is responsible for seeing that her homework gets done, and your son must be the one to practice his violin.

Here are ways to encourage your youngster's motivation during the middle grades:

1. Steer your youngster toward appropriate classes and suitable activities. Young adolescents need opportunities to excel and be useful. Success can be a powerful motivator, and boredom may be a sign that your youngster hasn't enough opportunities to develop his talents. He may need an advanced English class, a music class, or the chance to volunteer at a nursing home.

2. Insincere praise or praise for poor efforts is no help, but young adolescents need to be reassured that they can do something. Sometimes young people will say they are bored, but it's because they haven't done a particular activity yet. Your youngster may need hints about how to get started with a new project from you, another grown-up, a teacher, or a book.

3. Let your youngster know that sustained effort over time is the key to achievement. Teach her to set high goals and to work hard to achieve them. Help her to see the value of tackling challenges and of finding ways to meet or exceed those challenges.

4. It's important to hold kids to high standards. But when young adolescents are asked to do the impossible, they may stop trying. Don't pressure your 5-foot 3-inch boy to try out for center on his basketball team just because he played center for his elementary school team. Instead, reassure him that, in time, he'll grow taller, and help him to look for other activities in the meantime. In addition to physical attributes, holding realistic expectations requires that you consider your youngster's personality and temperament. Your 6-foot 2-inch boy may not enjoy playing basketball, even though he has the height for it. Make sure that your youngster knows, deep in his heart, that you love him for what he is – and not for what he does.

5. Find strengths and build on them. Every youngster can excel in some area. Identify what your youngster does best, no matter what it is.

6. Young adolescents benefit from seeing their moms and dads putting forth their best effort, completing work, and meeting obligations. So, be sure to demonstrate that you value learning and hard work.

7. A kid’s motivation-level generally improves when moms and dads take the steps discussed. However, patience will be required. Many young adolescents need the gift of time to develop the maturity that allows them to complete homework assignments and chores with a minimum of supervision. 

8. Communicate with your youngster's educators, counselors or principal as needed. A drop in grades is very common when children transition from elementary to middle school. But if your youngster's grade drop is extreme, or if it persists for more than one grading period, contact someone at the school. It's good to be a strong, yet respectful advocate for your youngster. Since middle-grades educators have a very full schedule, you may need to show persistence. Call or e-mail the educators if you think that some of the assignments are inappropriate, or if your youngster is unable to complete them successfully. Be assertive if your youngster is placed in classes that you think are poor in content or that fail to provide him or her with sufficient stimulation.

When "Taking Away Privileges" Doesn't Work

“No matter what consequence I choose, there are always other privileges my son enjoys, or even loopholes. For example, I was specific in that he couldn't use the computer or cell phone during the 3 day discipline; but he still has other privileges during those 3 days--like video games. Also, I didn't specifically ground him, so he visited a friend in the neighborhood (where he probably used his friend's computer), and I specifically said he lost the use of his cell phone, so he used the house phone instead (although for shorter periods). I was uncomfortable with this, but I didn't say anything because I didn't want to alter the consequence mid-stream. What do I do?”

When implementing a 3-day discipline, it is best that the child have no privileges + grounding. That is, no use of cell phone, no use of computer, no use of video games, no leaving the house – and in the case where he enjoys hibernating in his room – no access to his bedroom except to dress and sleep. Otherwise, it is not an “uncomfortable” consequence. 
We want the consequence to “feel uncomfortable” to the child. 

If, for example, you put on an itchy sweater made of sheep’s wool and break out with a rash, you tend to take it off because it is uncomfortable – and you may never wear it again! If the child finds a consequence to be “itchy,” he may decide not to exhibit the behavior that initiated the consequence he’s allergic to.


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

What To Do When Your Teen’s Grades Start To Decline

"My 16-year-old son’s grades were in rapid decline in the last school semester. Should I get more involved in his school activities this next semester? If so, what would be the best way to go about it?"

Your teenage son needs you in his life more than he may admit – although he may want you present under different terms and conditions than he did previously. Some moms and dads misread the signals that their teenagers send and back off too soon. For example, for teenagers at age 13, about 75% of moms and dads report high or moderate involvement in school related activities, but when teenagers reach age 16, the rate of parent involvement has dropped to 55%. The rate continues to drop throughout high school.

Research shows that teens do better in school when their moms and dads are involved in their lives, and that education works best when educators and both parents work closely with one another.

Here are 15 crucial parenting tips for staying involved in a teenager’s school life:

1. Attend school events. Go to sports events and concerts. Attend back-to-school night, PTA meetings, and awards events. Remember, though, that many young people are often self-conscious and want moms and dads to be present, but in the background. They want you there, but they want you at more of a distance. They want to look out of the corner of their eye and see you there. On the track, they want to peek up into the stands to make sure somebody is watching them. Also, look for school activities that you can do with your teen (e.g., cleaning up the school grounds).

2. Find out about the school's homework policy. Knowing school policies for homework is important because by high school, homework generally plays a bigger role in a teen's grades and test scores than it did in middle school. Find out from educators how often they will assign homework and about how long it may take to complete. Do not do homework for your teen. However, make sure that he tries his best to complete assignments.

3. Go over your teen's schedule together to see if he's got too much going on at once. Talk with him about setting priorities and dropping certain activities if necessary or rearranging the time of some of them.

4. Help him learn good study habits. Set a regular time for him to do homework. Talk about the assignments. Make sure he understands what he's supposed to do. Make sure he has a calendar on which to record assignments, as well as a backpack and homework folders in which to tuck assignments for safekeeping.

5. Help your teen get organized. Most teenagers are easily distracted. With so much to do and think about, it's not surprising. The amount of their school work and their extracurricular activities often increases at the same time that they are going through a growth spurt, developing new relationships, and trying to develop more autonomy. Young people respond to these changes in varying ways, but many of them daydream, forget things, lose things and seem unaware of time. It's not unusual for a high-schooler to complete a homework assignment, but then forget to turn it in. Some schools help kids develop organizational skills. Others leave the task to you.

6. Help your teen get started when he has to do research reports or other big assignments, perhaps by taking him to the library or helping him find sources of online information from appropriate Web sites.

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

7. Help your teen to avoid last-minute cramming by working out a schedule of what he needs to do to prepare for the test.

8. Keep in touch with the school and your teen's educators. Keeping in touch can be tricky when a teen has many educators, but at the very least, it's good to know your teen's counselor and a favorite teacher. The more visible you are, the more educators will be able to communicate openly and regularly with you. Attend parent-teacher conferences. Read school bulletins when they are sent home.

9. Learn about your teen's school. The more you know, the easier your job as a mother or father will be. Ask for a school handbook. This will answer many questions that will arise over the year. If the school doesn't have a handbook, ask questions (e.g., What classes does the school offer? Which classes are required? What are your expectations for my child? How does the school measure student progress? What are the school's rules and regulations?).

10. Make sure your teen takes classes that are needed to attend college. It’s never too early to plan for a teen's future. A two- or four-year college degree is becoming more and more important for finding a good job. Companies want employees who have taken certain courses and acquired a solid base of skills and knowledge. Good courses for college-bound teens include English, science (e.g., biology, chemistry, earth science and physics), history or geography, as well as algebra and geometry. Many colleges also require students to study a foreign language for at least two years, and some prefer three or four years of one language. Basic computer skills are also essential, and many colleges view participation in the arts and music as valuable.

11. Monitor how well your teen is doing in school. Report cards are one indication of how well a teen is doing in school. But you also need to know how things are going between report cards. For instance, if your teenager is having trouble in math, find out when he has his next math test and when it will be returned to him. This allows you to address a problem before it grows into something bigger. Call or e-mail the teacher if your child doesn't understand an assignment or if he needs extra help to complete an assignment.

12. Provide an environment at home that encourages learning and school activities. Provide a quiet time without TV and other distractions when homework assignments can be completed. If you live in a small or noisy household, try having all family members take part in a quiet activity during homework time. You may need to take a noisy toddler outside or into another room to play. If distractions can't be avoided, you may want to let your teen complete assignments in the local library. Let your teen know that you value education. Show him that the skills he is learning are an important part of the things he will do as a grown-up. Let him see you reading books and newspapers, looking at computer screens, writing reports and letters, sending e-mails, using math to balance your checkbook, measuring for new carpeting – anything that requires thought and effort. Also, tell your teen about what you do at work.

13. Set ground rules for your teen at the beginning of the school year. From the first day of school, make certain that your teen knows what time he is expected to go to bed and get up, what he needs to do to get ready for school each morning, and what time he needs to leave the house for school. Check that he knows his curfew both on weekdays and on the weekend. Make sure, too, that your teen knows that he is expected to try hard and do his best in school.

14. Volunteer in your teen’s school. If your schedule permits, look for ways to help out at the school. Schools often send home lists of ways in which moms and dads can get involved (e.g., chaperones are needed for school trips or dances, school committees need members, the school newsletter may need an editor, the school may have councils or advisory committees that need parent representatives, etc.). If work or other commitments make it impossible for you to volunteer in the school, look for ways to help at home (e.g., make phone calls to other moms and dads to tell them about school-related activities, help translate a school newsletter from English into another language, etc.).

15. Lastly, work alongside your teen to clean out his backpack periodically so he can stay organized.


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

RE: “I have a 16 year old who is failing school and has absolutely no motivation.”

In this article, we will be discussing an important issue that many parents face - when their teenager is failing at school and has no motiv...