"Mark, My husband and I read your e-book a couple of weeks ago and we have started making a lot of changes. Our daughter is not responding well. She took her tantrum to a whole new level last night, bringing a knife into her room and telling us that we make her want to kill herself. We have been giving her a lot of positive attention when she is good and spending time talking to her etc. But, she feels like she is always getting into trouble now. I realize now that we let her get away with so much in the past, and it is a difficult adjustment. We have sent her to her room at least once a day and taken away a lot of her computer privileges. We are not yelling or getting emotional, but being firm. I don’t know what else to do. I didn’t give her any attention when she had her tantrum last night, but I am worried that she will do something stupid. Also, she told us that one of her good friends has told her that she started taking drugs, but she is not sure if it is true and does not know what kind. Do we forbid her from spending time with her friend?"
It’s good that things are getting worse …that tells me you are working the program. Be patient with your daughter as she adjusts to the parenting changes you’ve made.
You’re in a precarious stage right now. This current ‘stage-of-change’ is the stage when many parents usually feel guilty (e.g., “I’m afraid I’m coming down too hard on my child”) as well as insecure (e.g., “I’m not sure I made the right decision when I decided to start using these new parenting strategies”).
When parents begin to doubt themselves, and when they fall for more manipulations (e.g., child says “I’m going to kill myself …”I’m going to run away” …etc.), they tend to revert back to their original parenting strategies, which is the “kiss of failure.” Reverting back to original parenting strategies puts the parent back in her “comfort zone” again (or should I say “discomfort zone”?), but the huge benefits associated with positive change are never realized.
Re: “Do we forbid her from spending time with her friend?”
No …otherwise, your daughter will feel betrayed and may never divulge information about her friends ever again. Reward her for telling the truth by saying something like, “We appreciate that you told us the truth about your friend …and we know you will be truthful about your friends -- and their possible drug use -- in the future. Since you’re honest, we trust you to see your friend.”
Do you really have all this trust in your daughter? No, of course not …but she will live up to – or down to – your expectations of her.
Mark Hutten, M.A.