Education and Counseling for Individuals Affected by Oppositional Defiant Disorder and ADHD

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Showing posts sorted by relevance for query rebellion. Sort by date Show all posts

How to Tell the Difference Between Normal Rebellion Versus a Psychological Problem

"My seventeen year old daughter is so very angry. She is involved with drugs and has gotten in some legal trouble as well. She is verbally abusive to me and to my husband who is her stepfather. The problem is that other times she is a joy to be around. She is funny, and very bright and creative. I wonder if she may have a psychological problem or may be an opposition defiant child. Not sure what to think right now."

How can a parent tell the difference between normal rebellion and the signal that an adolescent is troubled? Ask yourself these two questions:

1. Is this behavior change drastic for my adolescent? Normal rebellious behavior develops over time, beginning with an adolescent wanting to be with friends more and disagreeing with moms and dads more frequently. Problem rebellion is sudden and drastically out of character. For example, a normally rebellious "A" student may get a few "Bs" and cut a class or two, but if he suddenly starts failing or refuses to go to school, this can be a sign that your adolescent is experiencing an emotional crisis.

2. How frequent and intense is the rebellion? Normal rebellion is sporadic. There are moments of sweetness, calm and cooperation between outbursts. If on the other hand, rebellion is constant and intense, this can be a sign of underlying emotional problems.

Dealing with Normal Rebellion—

The main task of adolescents in our culture is to become psychologically emancipated from their moms and dads. The teenager must cast aside the dependent relationship of childhood. Before she can develop an adult relationship with her moms and dads, the adolescent must first distance herself from the way she related to them in the past. This process is characterized by a certain amount of intermittent normal rebellion, defiance, discontent, turmoil, restlessness, and ambivalence. Emotions usually run high. Mood swings are common. Under the best of circumstances, this adolescent rebellion continues for approximately 2 years; not uncommonly it lasts for 4 to 6 years.

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

How do I deal with my teenager's rebellion?

The following guidelines may help you and your teenager through this difficult period:

1. Treat your teenager as an adult friend— By the time your youngster is 12 years old, start working on developing the kind of relationship you would like to have with your youngster when she is an adult. Treat your youngster the way you would like her to treat you when she is an adult. Your goal is mutual respect, support, and the ability to have fun together.

Strive for relaxed, casual conversations during bicycling, hiking, shopping, playing catch, driving, cooking, mealtime, working, and other times together. Use praise and trust to help build her self-esteem. Recognize and validate your youngster's feelings by listening sympathetically and making nonjudgmental comments. Remember that listening doesn't mean you have to solve your adolescent's problems. The friendship model is the best basis for family functioning.

2. Avoid criticism about "no-win" topics— Most negative parent-adolescent relationships develop because the moms and dads criticize their teenager too much. Much of the adolescent's objectionable behavior merely reflects conformity with the current tastes of her peer group. Peer-group immersion is one of the essential stages of adolescent development. Dressing, talking, and acting differently than adults helps your youngster feel independent from you. Try not to attack your teen's clothing, hairstyle, makeup, music, dance steps, friends, recreational interests, and room decorations, use of free time, use of money, speech, posture, religion, or philosophy.

This doesn't mean withholding your personal views about these subjects. But allowing your adolescent to rebel in these harmless areas often prevents testing in major areas, such as experimentation with drugs, truancy, or stealing. Intervene and try to make a change only if your teen's behavior is harmful, illegal, or infringes on your rights (see the sections on house rules). Another common error is to criticize your adolescent's mood or attitude. A negative or lazy attitude can only be changed through good example and praise. The more you dwell on nontraditional (even strange) behaviors, the longer they will last.

3. Let society's rules and consequences teach responsibility outside the home— Your teen must learn from trial and error. As she experiments, she will learn to take responsibility for her decisions and actions. Speak up only if the adolescent is going to do something dangerous or illegal. Otherwise, you must rely on the adolescent's own self-discipline, pressure from her peers to behave responsibly, and the lessons learned from the consequences of her actions. A school's requirement for punctual school attendance will influence when your adolescent goes to bed at night. School grades will hold your teen accountable for homework and other aspects of school performance. If your adolescent has bad work habits, she will lose her job.

If your teen makes a poor choice of friends, she may find her confidences broken or that she gets into trouble. If she doesn't practice hard for a sport, she will be pressured by the team and coach to do better. If she misspends her allowance or earnings, she will run out of money before the end of the month. If by chance your teen asks you for advice about these problem areas, try to describe the pros and cons in a brief, impartial way. Ask some questions to help her think about the main risks. Then conclude your remarks with a comment such as, "Do what you think is best." Teens need plenty of opportunity to learn from their own mistakes before they leave home and have to solve problems without an ever-present support system.

4. Clarify the house rules and consequences— You have the right and the responsibility to make rules regarding your house and other possessions. A teen's preferences can be tolerated within her own room, but they need not be imposed on the rest of the house. You can forbid loud music that interferes with other people's activities or incoming telephone calls after 10 p.m.

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

While you should make your adolescent's friends feel welcome in your home, clarify the ground rules about parties or where snacks can be eaten. Your adolescent can be placed in charge of cleaning her room, washing his clothes, and ironing his clothes. You can insist upon clean clothes and enough showers to prevent or overcome body odor. You must decide whether you will loan her your car, bicycle, camera, radio, TV, clothes, and so forth. Reasonable consequences for breaking house rules include loss of telephone, TV, stereo, and car privileges. (Time-out is rarely useful in this age group, and physical punishment can escalate to a serious breakdown in your relationship.)

If your teen breaks something, she should repair it or pay for its repair or replacement. If she makes a mess, she should clean it up. If your adolescent is doing poorly in school, you can restrict TV time. You can also put a limit on telephone privileges and weeknights out. If your adolescent stays out too late or doesn't call you when she's delayed, you can ground her for a day or a weekend. In general, grounding for more than a few days is looked upon as unfair and is hard to enforce.

5. Use family conferences for negotiating house rules— Some families find it helpful to have a brief meeting after dinner once a week. At this time your teen can ask for changes in the house rules or bring up family issues that are causing problems. You can also bring up issues (such as your adolescent's demand to drive her to too many places and your need for her help in arranging carpools). The family unit often functions better if the decision-making is democratic. The objective of negotiation should be that both parties win. The atmosphere can be one of: "Nobody is at fault, but we have a problem. How can we solve it?"

6. Give space to a teen who is in a bad mood— Generally when your teen is in a bad mood, she won't want to talk about it with you. If teens want to discuss a problem with anybody, it is usually with a close friend. In general, it is advisable at such times to give your adolescent lots of space and privacy. This is a poor time to talk to your teen about anything, pleasant or otherwise.

7. Use "I" messages for rudeness— Some talking back is normal. We want our teens to express their anger through talking and to challenge our opinions in a logical way. We need to listen. Expect your teen to present her case passionately, even unreasonably. Let the small stuff go — it's only words. But don't accept disrespectful remarks such as calling you a "jerk." Unlike a negative attitude, these mean remarks should not be ignored. You can respond with a comment like, "It really hurts me when you put me down or don't answer my question."

Make your statement without anger if possible. If your adolescent continues to make angry, unpleasant remarks, leave the room. Don't get into a shouting match with your teen because this is not a type of behavior that is acceptable in outside relationships. What you are trying to teach is that everyone has the right to disagree and even to express anger, but that screaming and rude conversation are not allowed in your house. You can prevent some rude behavior by being a role model of politeness, constructive disagreement, and the willingness to apologize.

When should you seek outside assistance?

Get help if:
  • you feel your teen's rebellion is excessive
  • you find yourself escalating the criticism and punishment
  • you have other questions or concerns
  • you think your teen is depressed, suicidal, drinking or using drugs, or going to run away
  • your family life is seriously disrupted by your teen
  • your relationship with your teen does not improve within 3 months after you begin using these approaches
  • your teen has no close friends
  • your teen is skipping school frequently
  • your teen is taking undue risks (for example, reckless driving)
  • your teen's outbursts of temper are destructive or violent
  • your teen's school performance is declining markedly

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

"Punishment" Creates Problems -- "Discipline" Resolves Problems

“Punishing” teenagers often creates more discipline problems than it solves. I define punishment as anything that causes blame, shame or pain. When moms and dads focus on blaming, shaming and causing pain to their teenager, his or her brain's limbic system reacts with intense defense. When a parent punishes teenagers, they don’t react with remorse and a “how can I make it better” attitude. Instead, they react with one of the "Four R’s", which leads to increased discipline problems.

Moms and dads use punishment because it “appears” to stop misbehavior immediately (and sometimes does). Sometimes we must beware of what works when the long-term results are negative. The long-term results of punishment are that children usually adopt one or all of the Four R’s of Punishment:
  • Rebellion
  • Resentment
  • Retreat (avoiding contact/conversation with the parent)
  • Revenge

When a teenager reacts with one or more of the "Four R’s", he is not focused on “life lessons” (e.g., making restitution, realizing how his actions affected others, learning how to repair damage, learning from mistakes, etc.). Instead of thinking about a mistake or misbehavior, the teenager is usually stewing with negative thoughts (e.g., “My parents are mean” or “How can I not get caught next time?”).

Many parents view typical “autonomy-seeking” (i.e., a teenager trying to be independent) as “teenage rebellion,” which is viewed by the parent as a discipline problem.

It is normal for a teenager to deliberately do the opposite of what her parents value most as a way to show that she is an individual. When moms and dads don’t understand the natural autonomy-seeking process, they take a teenager’s actions personally and react with strong punishments. Autonomy-seeking behavior may turn into all-out teenage rebellion if parents fan the flames of rebellion.

Not punishing teens does not mean that parents should instead be permissive. Parents should first allow time for both parties to cool off. Next, parents meet with their teenager and ask “what and how questions” (e.g., “What can you do to make up for me having to take the garbage to the street because you forgot?” … “How are you going to pay for this speeding ticket?” … “How are you going to pay for the increase in the car insurance?”) so that the teenager can problem solve how he will make restitution, pay for amends, or rectify the situation. Teenagers will learn more life lessons by “making up” for their mistakes than they will by being punished – blamed, shamed or caused pain.

The problem with punishing teenagers is that it doesn’t work in the long run to teach life lessons. Instead, punishment usually increases rebellion and doesn’t involve teenagers in solving problems and making amends for mistakes.

What is the difference between discipline and punishment?

Discipline means to “teach.” Discipline helps teenagers learn self-control and confidence. With discipline, parents use strategies to prevent problems plus guidance to manage conflict. Punishment is a parenting tool used after a problem surfaces.

Discipline means:
  • Assisting the teenager to accept natural or logical consequences of the misbehavior.
  • Focusing on what the teenager needs to do in the future.
  • Helping the teenager develop self discipline and learn how to become responsible.
  • Relating the strategies directly to the misbehavior.

  • Consists of penalties or restrictions that often have nothing at all to do with the misbehavior.
  • Focuses on what’s wrong instead of what needs to be done right.
  • Is concerned with making the teenager “pay” for what she did wrong.
  • Puts responsibility for enforcement on the mother or father instead of encouraging the teenager to become responsible for her actions.

Take the example of a teen skipping school regularly and “hanging out” at the mall in a nearby town. Possible punishments could include: revoking driving privileges, cutting off the teenager’s allowance, prohibiting phone use, grounding, banning TV and forbidding the teen to go to the mall.

There are several possible discipline strategies. Parents need to listen to the teenager’s feelings and concerns about school. Together, parent and child discuss options for addressing the problem. Parents, teen and teachers could meet to figure out what needs to be done about missed classes. That doesn’t mean there won’t be some privileges taken away for a time, but that alone would do nothing to solve the core problem.

Moms and dads can also use the if/then parenting tool. This means helping the teen understand that if he attends school and completes the work, then other privileges will be available (e.g., being able to go back to the mall).

==> My Out-of-Control Teen: Effective Disciplinary Strategies for Out-of-Control Children and Teens

Dealing With Your Out-of-Control Teenage Daughter

 Here are some quick tips for all you parents with an out-of-control teenage daughter...

• Ask yourself, “What have I done to contribute to the rift between us?” Think about when the trouble began. How old was she and what was going on in your family life? I have counseled hundreds of father/mothers and daughters whose relationships were badly damaged and getting worse. For healing to begin, it was important for the father/mother to understand what part she had in fueling the fires of defiance. If you’re willing to take an honest look at yourself, you will find some answers.

• Avoid Blame. While some people claim that when a daughter is rebellious her father/mother is to blame, this usually is not true. Blaming the daughter for the difficulties does nothing to fix the problem either. There are many circumstances that contribute to the predicament.

• Be Willing to Negotiate. The “fix my daughter” approach won’t work. Both father/mother and daughter have to be willing to negotiate and find solutions they can both live with. There are times when there’s nothing you can do to get your daughter to cooperate except wait until she’s ready. If your daughter obstinately refuses to work with you, realize that you can’t control her behavior, but you can control your own.

• Distinguish between Healthy and Unhealthy Rebellion. Rebellion takes many forms, from harmless talking back to defiant acts of drug and alcohol abuse or sexual activity. As a father/mother, you have to determine which acts fall under the healthy category and which cross the line into unsafe territory. Talking back is a clue that your daughter is in the throes of her first teenage rebellion. It signals that, while she’s not yet articulate enough to express herself effectively, she’s struggling to find ways to assert her autonomy.

• Try Everything. Father/mothers often feel that they have tried everything. They are convinced that nothing will work. These negative stances won’t get you out of the rut. Even though you’ve tried everything you can think of, that doesn’t mean there isn’t a solution. Often we are so close to our own problems that we can’t find the obvious answers. But if you’re willing to stay open and seek help, the answers will come. Get outside opinions, but be sure they apply to your situation. Listen to your daughter and your own intuition and you may be surprised with the solutions you’ll discover.

• Uncover the Roots of the Problem. Out-of control behavior is a symptom of deeper problems. Consider how the two of you got to this point. Take a guess at the reasons your daughter is acting out. By identifying the reasons for your daughter’s undesirable behavior, you’ll be more apt to find the keys to correcting it. If you treat just the symptoms, the underlying trouble will still be there and will erupt again.

How to Create Win-Win Outcomes Rather than Power Struggles: Tips for Parents

We see the main problem is he has turned on us... he is angry and is baiting us... he just came in from soccer and hit me with a tirade of swearing. He was angry because he wanted takeaway food and he was told that there was food at home. He has now taken off – it is 11pm. How do we make him realise that he needs to conform to our rules. He has no friends and we are the only people who support him. The punching of the walls and threatening to tell people that his father rapes him etc are just his way of punishing us. Will keeping the screws on him keep making the situation worse or will it eventually break him?


Re: Will keeping the screws on him keep making the situation worse or will it eventually break him?

First of all, we're not in the business of "breaking" children. This implies a power struggle with one winner and one loser. Rather, we're in the business of fostering the development of self-reliance.

Secondly, as long as you are complying with the strategies as outlined in the eBook, you should expect things to get worse before they get better. But hold on a minute…

It sounds like you are in a power struggle here. Power struggles create distance and hostility instead of closeness and trust. Distance and hostility create resentment, resistance, rebellion (or compliance with lowered self-esteem). IT TAKES TWO TO CREATE A POWER STRUGGLE. I have never seen a power-drunk child without a power-drunk adult real close by. Adults need to remove themselves from the power struggle without winning or giving in.

Create a win/win environment. HOW?

The following suggestions teach kids important life skills including self-discipline, responsibility, cooperation and problem-solving skills instead of "approval junkie" compliance -- or rebellion.

1. Ask what and how questions: How will we eat if you don't set the table? What is next on our routine chart? What was our agreement about what happens to clothes that aren't picked up? What happened? How do you feel about what happened? What ideas do you have to solve the problem? (This does not work at the time of conflict, nor does it work unless you are truly curious about what you child has to say.)

2. BONUS: HUGS! HUGS! HUGS! A hug is often enough to change the behavior -- theirs and yours.

3. Create a game: Beat the clock or sing songs while getting chores done.

4. Decide what you will do. I will cook only in a clean kitchen. I will drive only when seat belts are buckled. (I will pull over to the side of the road when kids are fighting.)

5. Distraction for kids and lots of supervision. Punishment decreases brain development. Kids are often punished for doing what they are developmentally programmed to do -- explore.

6. Do it WITH them. You may even want to go to the positive time out area with them.


8. Get kids involved in cooperation. Say, "I can't make you, but I really need your help." (10 words)

9. Get kids involved in the creation of routines (morning, chores, and bedtime). Then the routine chart becomes the boss.

10. Limited choices: Do you want to do your homework before dinner or after dinner. Do you want to set the table or clean up after dinner?

11. Make a "Wheel of Choice" together. Draw a big circle and divide into wedges. Brainstorm lots of solutions to problems. Draw illustrations for each solution. During a conflict, invite child to pick something from the wheel.

12. No words: Use pantomime, charades, or notes. Try a hug to create closeness and trust -- then do something else.

13. Non-verbal signals. These should be planned in advance with the child. An empty plate turned over at the dinner table as a reminder of chores that need to be completed before dinner; a sheet over the television as a reminder that homework needs to be done first or that things need to be picked up in the common areas of the house.

14. Positive Time Out. Create a "nurturing" (not punitive) time out area with your child.

15. Put the problem on the family meeting agenda and let the kids brainstorm for a solution.

16. Use reflective listening. Stop talking and listen. Try to understand not only what your child is saying, but what he means.

17. Use ten words or less. One is best: Games. Towels (that may have been left on the bathroom floor). Homework. (Sometimes these words need to be repeated several times.)

Every child needs discipline, and the discipline style can provide connection or disconnection in the relationship.

The goals of discipline are:

1. To instill values.
2. To protect the child.
3. To teach the child lifelong skills for good character, such as responsibility and self-control.

Effective Discipline is:
  • As fair and consistent as possible.
  • Be Proactive. Moms & dads find underlying causes of misbehavior as well as teach future desired behavior. Punishment tends to be reactive and aims to just stop behaviors. Discipline connects the parent and child in their relationship. Punishment disconnects them.
  • Kind, firm and safe.
  • Mutually respectful: "Do unto others as you would have done to you." Although moms & dads have far more experience and knowledge than their kids, both moms & dads and child have the same right of having their feelings and dignity equally respected.
  • Never includes punishment. Common examples of punishment are grounding with no time-limit, unrelated consequences, spanking, and threats of any kind.
  • Ninety percent prevention and ten percent correction.
  • Teaches and guides kids how to think for themselves. It doesn't just force them to obey. The world is a different place than 30 years ago. We don't want our kids to just blindly obey anyone — especially adults that may not have their best interests in mind. We want them to think for themselves and make good decisions.
  • Uses real world "cause and effect" learning experiences.

Re: Power Struggles:

• Power struggles are generally about meeting needs: the needs of the parent and the needs of the child. Both aim to get their way, but at the expense of the other person not getting their way.

• Power struggles are often the result of the use of punishment. Kids will often react to punishment in the forms of rebellion, retaliation, fear, and/ or passive resistance.

• When moms & dads and kids are locked in a power struggle, it is important for the parent to stay calm and let go for the moment. They have more experience in self-control and can switch gears easier. Refuse to participate. The time to re-examine the needs of the moms & dads and child causing the power struggle is later, when the emotional temperature in the relationship has gone down. Be sure to address it though. Don't let it go unresolved forever.

Kids don't really misbehave. They act in inappropriate ways to get their needs met. The job of moms & dads is to meet those needs and teach kids how to get them met in socially appropriate ways. Kids are like icebergs. We see the tip of the iceberg (behavior) protruding out of the water. Most of the time, we don't even look at the massive ice part under the water (which are the needs and feelings) that supports the behavior. As moms & dads, we need to jump out of the boat, and into our submarine to look at what's happening with the child underneath the iceberg tip. Once the underlying needs and feelings of the child are recognized and addressed, the behavior often improves.

The most effective discipline tools used for older, school-aged kids and teens are active listening, "I" messages, time in, changing the environment, modeling, related consequences, and problem solving. Family meetings are also especially effective for this age.

A crucial discipline tool often overlooked is meeting the needs of moms & dads. Moms & dads who are hungry, tired, stressed, need support and a time-out don't often make their best parenting decisions.

You can't raise a child in a dictatorship and expect them to function as an adult in a democracy.

Mark Hutten, M.A.

Stepdaughter Hates Stepmother

Hello, before I waste anymore time I thought I'd cut straight to the point and just ask if you cover teens loving in split homes with step-parents. My step-teenager lives one week with her Dad and I, and one week with her mother (and boyfriend). Issues seem to come from the fact that she all of a sudden hates me, even though I've been around for 8 years and she's 15. Do you cover anything like that because every book. Other therapist try to treat me like I'm a "parent" when she does not see me that way, so none of the tactics work. Just curious, as this teen is destroying my marriage and seems to be enjoying herself while she is doing it. Thanks for your time. Sincerely, B.


Hi B.,

I can promise you that you will benefit from my program.

You are more of a mentor than a mother. You are an adult male in your stepdaughter’s life, much like an aunt, a scout leader or a teacher, but you live under the same roof and sleep with her father. Being one family unit will require careful planning with your husband. 

Set rules and boundaries together, but try to disrupt the family karma as little as possible. Decisions about finances need to be made with your partner as well, and not in a vacuum.

One of the major roads to failure as a stepmother is to take on the role of disciplinarian. The teenager tends to resent this new gal with new rules who comes in to disrupt her family. Successful stepmothers and family relations experts suggest that bio-dad should continue his role as the dispenser of discipline when required to maintain some consistency with the children. 

Your job as stepmother is to support his role, to make sure he is treated with respect, and to show solidarity. If you disagree with something, discuss it in private and reach a common understanding with your husband so as not to undermine his role.

Don't take rebellion personally. The teenage years are the transition time from dependence as a child to independence as an adult. Rebellion in some form is to be expected from all teens, even in intact families. 

So don't get offended when your stepdaughter is rebellious; take it in stride and focus on the behavior exhibited. It is less likely to be focused at you than it is to be focused on their changing world.

If you are consistent, stay within your role, and show that you care about and love her and her dad, the barriers will eventually come down and a positive relationship will become the pattern.

All the above is easier said than done, but very possible none-the-less.



Defiant Behavior versus Normal Teenage Rebellion

Many families of defiant teens live in a home that has become a battleground. In the beginning, the daily struggles can be expected. After all, we knew that problems would occur because teens are naturally rebellious, to a degree. Initially, stress can be so subtle that we lose sight of a war, which others do not realize is occurring. 
We honestly believe that we can work through the problems. Outbursts, rages, and strife become a way of life (an emotionally unhealthy way of life). We set aside our own needs and focus on the needs of our teenager. But what does it cost us?

There is a significant difference between normal teenage rebellion versus defiance:
  • Defiant teens are destructive and disagreeable by nature
  • They like to push their parents' anger-buttons
  • Every request results in a power struggle
  • Lying is a daily habit, and stealing is a favorite hobby
  • Getting others to react strongly pleases and amuses them
  • They blame others for their mistakes and misbehavior
  • And they have no remorse for the hurtful things they say and do

The majority of the population does not understand the dynamics of parenting a defiant child. Family and friends may think that you -- the parent -- are the one with the problem. Parents of defiant teens are frequently turned in on false abuse allegations. Support is non-existent, because outsiders can't even begin to imagine that children can be so destructive. Where does that leave a parent?

Without strong support and understanding, the parent will become isolated, demoralized, hurt, confused, and often held accountable for the actions of her/his teenager.

Families are simply not prepared for the profound anger that lives in the heart and soul of the defiant teen -- he/she sees YOU, the parent, as the enemy. Small expectations on the parent's part can set the defiant teen off in ways that are not only indescribable, but also often unbelievable.

Your home becomes a war-zone and you feel totally inadequate. You begin to question your parenting abilities -- and your own sanity. Your heart's desire is to provide your child with untold opportunities, a future, and all the love in the world. You want to soothe your troubled teen. You want him/her to have a fulfilling life and to grow up to be a responsible adult. Yet, you are met with hatred and fierce anger.

In war, the battle lines are drawn; an antagonism exists between two enemies. In our homes, we are not drawing battle lines; we are not prepared for war. We are prepared for parenting. Consequently, the ongoing stress can result in disastrous effects on our well-being, literally causing our emotional and physical health to deteriorate.

In parenting a defiant teenager, you will not escape adverse effects. It is essential to recognize that your feelings are typical under stressful conditions. It is just as essential to accept the fact that extensive stress is unhealthy. By recognizing the symptoms and seeking support, you will strengthen your abilities to cope.

The strains a defiant teen puts on your family can be enormous.

Effects on the family:
  • A defiant teen will play one parent off the other, which could result in  a rift between parents.
  • Dreams of the perfect, loving, caring family are squashed. There is no such thing as perfect family, but a family with a defiant child can become quite dysfunctional.
  • Due to the child’s disruptive behavior, parents often withdraw from social functions.
  • Family events, like Christmas, can be filled with anger and frustration.
  • Parents appear to be unfair, strict and sometimes hostile, as parenting skills used with healthy children do not work with defiant children.
  • Siblings and pets can often be targeted and threatened.
  • Siblings often feel ignored or overlooked as the defiant child takes up so much of the parent’s time.

Defiant teens are not bad -- but they are very intense.  And they seek intensity from others as well -- especially their parents!

Unfortunately, they have discovered that their parents are the most intense and exciting when things are going wrong.  What parents may have viewed as punishment for their defiant child was actually a reward (i.e., he/she received a bigger payoff for misbehavior).

Discipline Methods That Make a Bad Problem Worse

D___ is beyond out of control. He is still grounded from his computer until he has completed his 10 day sentence to alternative school (he tries constantly to get them back- just for 1hr cause I am being good type deal). But the real issue is at school. He is in alternative school right now and the teacher today says D___ is being so bad that if he does not stop they are going to have the police write him a ticket!!!! This is up to a 500.00 fine that I DO NOT HAVE OR WILL EVER HAVE and WILL NOT PAY so i don't know what happens then?? !! The teacher asked him to stop talking and D___ says she has no right to take away his freedom of speech, he refuses to do this work, told the teacher she is horrible at her job! HE IS A NIGHTMARE. I got him on the phone and told him he had better keep his &%&)%$(&)^% mouth shut and i mean NOW! So what do I do know that I blew it again? Strip his room to a mattress and make him earn every piece back? Or take everything and give it all back when he is done with this school or what? I still have no idea what the heck I am doing. All I know is he is killing me. I am so upset. 


Hi S.,

10 days is too long. I recommend a 1 - 3 day discipline – not 10. 

For behavior modification to work, the program must have certain properties:
  1. A few important behaviors need to be targeted. Rather than targeting "being good," you might try “no talking in class.”
  2. It must be consistent. There is no bending of rules in this sort of thing: no difference between the mom or dad or teacher.
  3. It should be simple and straightforward so that your child easily understands it. If your child can read, it should be written down. If possible, your child should sign it and agree to it.
  4. The behavior must be clear cut and not fuzzy. Things like "listen when I tell you something" won't work, because it is too unclear. A better idea would be, "If you choose to ______________, then you’ll choose to be grounded for 3 days with no game privileges."
  5. The rewards and punishments need to be geared to the individual.
  6. The rewards should not be money or things that are bought, but rather should be privileges, which you can grant or activities, which the child can do. Behavior Modification should not require a bank loan.
  7. There needs to be an even mix of negative and positive reinforcers. A typical Positive one would be a later bedtime on the weekend or a choice of dinner. A typical negative one would be going to your room or no cell phone.
Here are some examples of good vs. bad behavior modification programs:
D___ talks in class when he is not supposed to. This drives his parent nuts and she would like to kill him when he comes home. The behavior she wants is to have D___ not talk during class.
The Assertive Parent-- The positive reinforcer would be if he does not talk during class for 5 days, he can have a friend stay over and they can stay up late. The negative reinforcer would be that if the parent gets another complaint from school, D___ will be grounded for 3 days with no games.

The Passive Parent --If you don’t talk in class, I will pay you five dollars or you will be able to stay up as late as you want at our house that night. If you DO talk in class, nothing bad will happen.

The Aggressive Parent --The next time I get a call from school, you’ll be grounded for 10 days.

Another important point is to AVOID POWER STRUGGLES AT ALL COST. One of the reasons you continue to struggle with D___ is because you are in a power struggle with him. Kids ALWAYS win power struggles because they have less to lose in the long run. Power struggles create distance and hostility instead of closeness and trust. Distance and hostility create resentment, resistance, rebellion (or compliance with lowered self-esteem). Closeness and trust create a safe learning environment. You have a positive influence only in an atmosphere of closeness and trust where there is no fear of blame, shame or pain.

I have never seen a power drunk child without a power drunk adult real close by. Adults need to remove themselves from the power struggle without winning or giving in. Create a win/win environment. HOW?

The following suggestions teach children important life skills including self-discipline, responsibility, cooperation and problem-solving skills -- instead of "approval junkie" compliance or rebellion:
  • Be consistent with the limits and rules.
  • Determine what the consequences will be before an inappropriate behavior happens.
  • Expect non-compliance. Testing the limits is normal behavior for a teenager.
  • Learn to speak in a calm but firm tone. Keep the lines of communication open. Yelling and screaming never helps.
  • Listen to their feelings and keep an open mind. You still have the ability to say no, so why not listen to what they have to say.
  • Stay rational – you are the adult. If need be, take a 'time out' yourself.
  • Take deep breaths, count back from 100, and remember the goal is to have a happy, healthy young adult when you are done.
  • Use an Action Plan (see below) if necessary.
  • Use natural and logical consequences (see below). Be firm and stick with them.

Here’s an example of an Action Plan. Let’s use the example of Internet use:

Internet Privileges

I know that the World Wide Web is not a toy. It is as interesting, and dangerous as being able to walk down any street, in any town or city, in the world. It reflects all parts of life today, which is fascinating and scary.
  1. In order to have the privilege of using the World Wide Web, I need to follow these rules, so I can keep myself and my family safe.
  2. I will never give out personal information to anyone online, including but not limited to:
    • my full name, or anyone else's
    • my address, or anyone else's
    • my passwords, or anyone else's
    • my phone number, or anyone else's
  3. I will always be polite when chatting online, I will treat them with the respect that I expect to be given. If I am treated unkindly, I will not reciprocate in the same manner. I will leave the chat room if I get too angry.
  4. I will never personally meet anyone I have meet online without the permission of my parents. If this opportunity should arise, I fully expect my parents to come to the meeting.
  5. I will never call anyone I have met online without the permission of my parents.
  6. I will report all incidents in chat rooms to my parents and to the room administrators.
  7. I will not go surfing in areas that are not appropriate including, but not limited to websites:
    • that are of a sexual nature
    • that promote hate
    • that are offensive in language
    • that are of a violent nature
  8. I will not go surfing around looking for new places without my parents permission.
  9. I will follow these rules whether I am at home, at school, or at a friends. If my friend is not following these rules, I will leave.
  10. I will not purchase anything online without permission of my parents. If I do not follow these rules I expect that (here's where you put the consequence, ie... to lose computer privileges for one week.)

Child's Signature:__________________________________

Parent's Signature:________________________________

Deciding Between Natural or Logical Consequences—

When parents want their children to learn from their mistakes, they have the choice of allowing the child to deal with the natural consequences or set up logical consequences. But how do you choose between the two types of consequences? When is one more effective than the other?

When natural consequences are immediate they are very effective. If your teen touches a hot pot, he/she will get burned and is not likely to do that again. Many times, however, natural consequences are not immediate or are too dangerous to allow. Running into the street without looking does not always have immediate consequences. Either does not wearing a seat belt when driving. Both actions, though, could have dire natural consequences that no one wants. Therefore, the natural consequences aren’t what a parent should use to teach their teen the responsibility of their own safety and it is up to the parents to sort out a logical consequence that will promote the desired behavior – in this instance not running into the street without looking or wearing a seat belt.

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

Another instance of when logical consequences will be more effective than natural consequences is while your teen is getting a high school education. The benefits of good grades in school are so far off into the future that teens do not fully comprehend them. While your teen can repeat what he/she has been told: ‘good grades will get you into a good college and you’ll make more money’, until he/she sees the type of job or paycheck a college education can get, he/she will not understand the difference. Logical consequences, including rewards for good grades and privileges taken for poor grades work best as your teen can fully understand these.

There are times when the natural consequence is the better choice for the parent to make. One excellent example is when your teen is dating or making friends. Finding out what type of person your teen wants to be with and how your teen wants to be treated is going to be his/her choice. Dating or making friends with someone who isn’t his/her type is going to show that to him/her. Barring any mistreatment from a friend or a date, parents will need to hold their tongue and refrain from giving their opinions in order to let the natural consequences – positive or negative – happen.

Discipline choices are never easy. Hopefully knowing the difference between natural and logical consequences will help you make the right choices for you and your son.

Mark Hutten, M.A.



Thanks Mark!

I agree the 10 days is too long and against the programs suggestions - I chose the 10 days more out of pressure from my live in boyfriend that is more of the opinion that my son should be grounded for a month for getting into alternative school with nothing but a bed in his room and not allowed to leave his room other than to eat so the 10 days (the length he is in this school) was more of a peace maker on my own part (yes there are other issues at play here). But since that is what I told my son I figured it better for me to stick to it even though I know its too long rather than backing out of it like I typically have done in the past. I know next time the importance of keeping it simple and the boyfriend will have to deal with it.

Last night I decided the discipline for refusing to do his work at school and talking back and arguing with the teacher would be him losing the privilege of his TV and stereo for 2 days. I told him he can earn those privileges back in 2 days by 1. doing his work as requested in school and 2. not getting into a verbal confrontation with anyone at school (teacher, student- no one!) I did explain to him that if he chooses not to do what is required the 2 days will start over. I then told him he must go clean his room until dinner was done then he could shower and go to bed for the night. He took it very well and before he went to bed he apologized to me for how he acted at school. I told him I loved him and asked him to sit down for a minute. I told him that I wanted him to understand that freedom of speech is a blessing we have in this country and our forefathers did not intend that right to be used as an excuse to be hurtful and disrespectful to people. I let him know freedom of speech was created so people could not be imprisoned for speaking their beliefs however it does not protect those from being punished if they use speech to disrupt the public or harass people. He seemed to really listen - I hope he gets it!!

I emailed his teacher today and told her what his discipline is and asked her if she could please let me know if D___ is doing the 2 things required to earn his tv and stereo back. I guess for the ps4 and computer I need to stick to giving them back after the 10 days is up since that is what I told him???

So I know I have blown it a few times but I am still trying :) I have faith and hope but boy I do get discouraged sometimes. I appreciate your patience with that. I have never really had someone try to help me in a productive way. I have been told "YOU NEED TO BE A PARENT" and "YOU NEED TO GET HIM UNDER CONTROL" and that has been the so called help I have gotten so far. So I thank you!


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

How To Set Effective Boundaries With Defiant Teens

As a youngster grows into an adolescent, parents often discover that their usual disciplinary methods are no longer effective. Many parents come to realize that they are no longer “in charge” – and that positive change needs to happen soon as their teenager is seemingly on a course of self-destruction.

When old disciplinary techniques no longer work, the parent may be tempted to try and be her teen's “friend” in a last ditch effort to maintain the peace. But, even when teens are rebelling, they still need the parent to be the parent (not a “buddy”) and let them know what the rules and boundaries are. Adolescents need to figure out what being a young adult means for them, and this will inevitably lead to some clashes with the parent.

If the parent’s way of setting boundaries used to be to “lay down the law” with her children (e.g., to insist, “Because I said so!”), she may find it more difficult now with her teenagers. It's much easier to exert pressure on youngsters who look up to the parent than it is over adolescents who are seeking their autonomy. Younger kids have a vested interest in maintaining the security that comes from them feeling that the parent knows best. Adolescents are not like that!

One of the major tasks of adolescence is to learn to “take control” and to decide what is right and wrong. One of the first things adolescents may discover is that the sanctions that the parent can impose are not that powerful. Teens may be the parent’s size – or bigger. What keeps teenagers in the house when they're grounded is mutual consent and mutual respect – not pressure tactics from the parent.

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

The only thing that might (emphasis on “might”) make teens do what the parent says is the thought of what it may do to the parent-child relationship afterwards if they defy the parent. But if the relationship is already going downhill, and if the sense of defiance is greater than the need for parental approval, then the “parent-child relationship” takes a back seat (in the mind of the teenager).

So what can parents do in this situation? While boundaries are important, parents will find that it's much more effective to enforce them by considering the various needs being expressed when they clash with their teenager. This may mean swallowing their pride and need to be in control. A younger kid needs parental approval. An adolescent wants parental approval too, but he or she wants “respect” even more!

The physical, mental, emotional and social changes that happen to an adolescent can have a profound effect on the entire family. As the mom or dad, it may feel important to keep things the same (e.g., the parent being the one giving the orders). But at a time when adolescents are developing and looking to a new self, having the parent give the orders and trying to put the brakes on the change often provokes even more rebellion than they might have shown anyway. Thus, when adolescents defy the parent, she will do well to reach for a new way of exerting discipline. 

Discipline is something parents do to help their teens learn (the original meaning of the word is “to teach”). The best way to get adolescents to behave in ways that please the parent is to help them understand what they actually want and need, and to see how they can get those needs met in ways that don’t disrespect the parent.

Parental punishment and control is not what adolescents need when struggling with their conflicting emotions. When adolescents act up, they are often fighting to get parental attention, acceptance and appreciation – as well as independence. The parent can help her teens by talking openly about the changes they are going through, helping them express their feelings, giving them plenty of time and attention, as well as providing love, reassurance and support.

Boundaries work far better if they are made and agreed together with adolescents. When adolescents understand the reasons behind the parent’s decision, and see that she has taken their opinions into account, they may be more motivated to co-operate.

Boundaries help the parent to keep her children safe. But as they get older, the parent will need to negotiate and let them take more responsibility for their own safety. There may be times when the parent’s values conflict with the values that her teens are learning from other people and the media. This may be when she finds herself negotiating.

The parent should talk to her adolescents and let them know what is important to her and why, then give them a chance to respond – and really listen to what they have to say. When the parent is genuinely willing to compromise, she may find that the conversation is much more effective, as her adolescents gain a sense of responsibility. Parents need to figure out what is really important, and what could be let go of. Too many rules cause resentment and are impossible to maintain. Thus, striking a balance and being prepared to re-negotiate is crucial to the success of raising teenagers.


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

I feel abandoned by my husband and am embarrassed by my son's behavior...

Hi T.,

== > I’ve responded throughout your email below:


Thank you so much for the MOOCT website. Our son is 15 and we love him to bits - he is incredible, and he drives us crazy. Most of what we've found at your site is not news to us, but it's an organized and concrete approach that gives us tools, not idealisms. I am especially grateful for the dialogue you give us to repeat over and over; so much easier to not say the wrong things when we have a script to follow!

The Kid is just starting on High Risk diversion (county program) for multiple unruly filings and escalating behavior over the past 9 months. No drugs (multiple clean tests), no physicial violence, worst "community" crimes are curfew violations (regularly) and a couple of fights (rarely - last >1 year ago). Our major problems with him have been school (passed all classes this semester, at last, but with HUGE support from the school), outright refusal to follow house rules/parental edicts, and "loud and hurtful language" coupled with intimidating behavior (punching walls, slamming doors, blocking path) at the most minor of provocations (ie, the word "No.") In the past eight weeks he's progressed to staying out all night or two, (three occasions). And has stolen money from my husband's car the first two times (~5 bucks or so each time).

== > Here you would want to use the strategy entitled “When You Want Something From Your Kid” – Session #3.

This is new behavior around our house; odd as it might sound, he has attempted to respect *some* boundaries to this point. I should say, too, that this is an intelligent and socially well-developed kid that most people mistake for a better-educated young person several years older than he really is. Which means his behavior is willful, and more frustrating.

So we're several weeks past Week 4, and my husband and I are doing *fairly* well. Our son's fuse has gotten shorter; we give the simple "no" and single explanation and off he goes. He usually doesn't even try to negotiate now; just screams some predictable vulgarities as he proceeds to do whatever he wanted to do in the first place. The most recent occasion, yesterday, came after a week of few conflicts and general cooperation with no huge infractions. He had asked Thursday if he could "spend the night anywhere" on Friday and was told no by both parents. Friday, he left while we were at work and called late to ask again if he could spend the night at someone's house, and I told him no. When he (inevitably) raged about how it's not fair and he never gets to blah blah blah, I remembered my rules and told him I wasn't going to argue with him, and that I expected him home by 11pm (legal curfew). He swore again and hung up on me.

He did not come home.

== > Give him a warning in addition to telling him that you expect him to be home by 11:00 PM. “If you choose to ignore your curfew, you’ll choose the consequence. The police will be called. A runaway report will be filed. And I will go to Juvenile Probation and file an incorrigibility complaint.”

When I finally tracked him down today, he insisted that he thought I had reversed my decision during his self-pity party. Let me stress, here: This has *never* happened. And I sure didn't leave any room for misunderstanding last night. I followed the rules to the letter and did not engage in ANY discussion or back-and-forth. Also, he refused to tell me where he was and didn't come home for another five hours.

It seems to me that now he's lost the ability to get us riled up to give him an excuse to take off, he's desperate and turning to sheer invention. Does that seem correct?

== > Yes. We expect this to happen because the child’s ability-to-control-parents is waning.

Right now, of course, he's furious and hostile because I "got the police involved", and they actually called one of his friends this time to see if they could find him. I "got the police involved" the other times, too, but this is the first time they've actively tried to track him down. (Slow weekend here in suburbia, apparently.)

== > Good for you. You’re on track here.

I have three problems with this situation.

First is making sure that the way I'm handling this is correct. Although a part of me is touched by the kid's plea of ignorance, the rest of me remembers that forgetting and being confused and doing things poorly is how kids like this one show rebellion. So I've told him he'll be grounded from all privileges for three days, and that the clock starts ticking when he stops being hostile and stays where he's supposed to be. Is that appropriate?

== > Yes …but, be more specific. “Stop being hostile” is too vague. Plus you did not give a time limit.

Say, for example, “When you stop yelling profanities, the clock will start.”

Second is that my husband, when he gets back home tomorrow from his weekend getaway, will ask me ad nauseum to "let it go" and not punish him. Or punish him for only one day. And let him have his computer. He will "reward" the kid during the grounding period with computer time and money and treats from the store and friends at the house "for just a little while" and etc. He will do this, even though he says he is fully on board with the MOOCT program. How should I handle this?

== > He may be on board in word, but not in action. Having said this, a weaker plan supported by both parents is much better than a stronger plan supported by only one.

Remember your successes. During your marriage, you and your husband have undoubtedly successfully negotiated many situations-with each of you both giving and taking a little until you reached some middle ground. You can also be successful at ending arguments in front of the children if you really want to. It won't be easy, but it will be rewarding.

Agree on a signal to alert both of you that the conversation is, or is about to, get too heated and needs to be halted. Make a commitment to honor and act on the signal. You might walk away and have an agreed-upon cooling off period. Or set a time to revisit your differences in opinion. Or write down what you're feeling and later share it with your husband, who might better understand where you're coming from.

Create your own family "rulebook." Write clear, reasonable, attainable rules (for both parents and kids) about what behavior is acceptable and what isn't. Your family, like a baseball team, will be more successful when you have clear guidelines.

Don’t go overboard in trying to avoid arguments. Having small squabbles in front of the kids-and then resolving them peacefully-can actually be good for them; it shows that it's possible to disagree with someone you love, and that relationships don't end just because people are quarreling with each other.

Third is that I feel abandoned by my husband and am embarrassed by my son's behavior; when the police officer visited our house this evening to confirm that son was safe and sound, he was very rude to the officer. I apologized to the policeman, but can't help feeling guilty that they have to take time out from protecting our city to be subjected to such rude behavior. I know it's part of their job, but it's so unpleasant. I am ashamed of our home situation. Is it normal to feel this way?

== > Yes.

Re: husband. I’m guessing that at some level you feel as though you are “parenting” two children sometimes – your son and your husband. Plus it appears that your husband wants to remain “the good guy” in your son’s eyes.

Re: son. You need not be embarrassed by your son’s behavior. Remind yourself that he is just a kid who has a lot to learn – not a bad person with evil intentions.

Just keep doing what you’re doing, because you are really on track as far as I can tell! Don’t ignore your successes – and I’m sure there are many.

Thank you in advance for your input. I'm sorry this email is so long, and I appreciate your taking the time to respond to us floundering parents with your expertise and experience.



== > You’re very welcome. It was good to hear from you. Email again in the future if you need some support.


Online Parent Support

How do you suggest handling an unwanted friend?

Hi Mark,

First let me say that my husband and I feel that finding your website and ordering your ebook have been heaven sent. We will have our sit down discussion with our two boys, P___ 21 and J___ 16. We have already started the poker face and requesting a task or chore when they request a privilege. It has shown great results already and I hope paved the way a bit into our family talk.

J (16) was the one we were having anger issues with, P has always been very sweet...we realize now.... both were used to manipulate us. I would have never considered myself indulgent until I read your definition… oh boy am I!

I know I will have more questions for you as we go along but I have one now that I could really use some suggestions on.

J has a friend who has dropped out of school, no job and we feel not a good influence at all. He is from a broken family and just went to live with Dad, but that fell apart very quickly and he is back.... We thought our prayers were answered with him leaving the state. How do you suggest handling an unwanted friend?

Thank you in advance for taking the time to reply and thank you so much for the wonderful counseling you are offering to help us Desperate Parents,

A. and M.


Hi A.,

You may not be comfortable about your son's choice of friend. This may be because of his image, negative attitude, or serious behavior (e.g., alcohol use, drug use, truancy, violence, sexual behaviors, etc.).

Here are some suggestions:
  • Check whether your concern about his friend is real and important.
  •  Do not attack your son's friend. Remember that criticizing his choice of friends is like a personal attack.
  • Encourage reflective thinking by helping him think about his actions in advance and discussing immediate and long-term consequences of risky behavior.
  • Encourage his independence by supporting decision-making based on principles and not other people.
  • Get to know this friend if possible. Invite him into your home so you can talk and listen to him, and introduce yourself to his parents.
  • Help your son understand the difference between image (expressions of youth culture) and identity (who he really is).
  • If you believe your concerns are serious, talk to your son about his behavior and choices -- not the friend.
  • Keep the lines of communication open and find out why this friend is so important to your son.
  • Let your son know of your concerns and feelings.
  • Remember that we all learn valuable lessons from mistakes.

No matter what kind of peer influence your teen faces, he must learn how to balance the value of going along with the crowd (connection) against the importance of making principle-based decisions (independence).

And you must ensure that your teen knows that he is loved and valued as an individual at home.


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One day you wake up and find that life has changed forever. Instead of greeting you with a hug, your little boy rolls his eyes when you say "good morning" and shouts, "You're ruining my life!" You may think you've stepped into the Twilight Zone, but you've actually been thrust into your son's teen years.

During adolescence, teens start to break away from parents and become "their own person." Some talk back, ignore rules and slack off at school. Others may sneak out or break curfew. Still others experiment with alcohol, tobacco or drugs. So how can you tell the difference between normal teen rebellion versus dangerous behavior? And what's the best way for a parent to respond?

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Many families of defiant children live in a home that has become a battleground. In the beginning, the daily struggles can be expected. After all, we knew that problems would occur. Initially, stress can be so subtle that we lose sight of a war, which others do not realize is occurring. We honestly believe that we can work through the problems.

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The standard disciplinary techniques that are recommended for “typical” teenagers do not take into account the many issues facing teens with serious behavioral problems. Disrespect, anger, violent rages, self-injury, running away from home, school failure, hanging-out with the wrong crowd, drug abuse, theft, and legal problems are just some of the behaviors that parents of defiant teens will have to learn to control.

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Parents' Troubleshooting Guide for Teen Behavior Issues

Is your adolescent rebelling, defying your curfew, or hanging out with questionable kids? Here's how to nip behavior problems in the bud:

To be fair, no one has ever pretended that parenting an adolescent was going to be easy. Still, until your own kids reach that stage, it's tempting to believe your family will be immune to teen behavior problems. No, you tell yourself, your adolescent will never talk back, stay out too late or pierce her eyebrow. Dream on...

Adolescents are basically hard-wired to butt heads with their moms and dads. Adolescence is a time of rapid change for kids both physically and cognitively. It's the task of the adolescent to fire their moms and dads and then re-hire them years later, but as consultants rather than managers. But that doesn't mean you have to take it lying down. With the right approach, you can troubleshoot the following teen behavior problems in a relatively civilized fashion.

Behavior Problem 1:

Your Teen Seems To Hate You—

One minute your sweet youngster is begging you to come on the class trip or to lie down with her while she falls asleep. Then, seemingly overnight, she starts treating you like dirt, discounting everything you say and snickering at your suggestions. If you look closely, you'll see that you've been through this before, when she was a toddler -- only instead of shouting "no!" like a two-year-old would, an adolescent simply rolls her eyes in disgust.

It's so hard for moms and dads when this happens. But part of adolescence is about separating and individuating, and many kids need to reject their moms and dads in order to find their own identities. Teens focus on their friends more than on their families, which is normal too.

Your Solution—

Sometimes moms and dads feel so hurt by their teens' treatment that they respond by returning the rejection -- which is a mistake. Adolescents know that they still need their moms and dads even if they can't admit it. The roller-coaster they put you on is also the one they're feeling internally. As the parent, you need to stay calm and try to weather this teenage rebellion phase, which usually passes by the time a youngster is 16 or 17.

But no one's saying your teen should be allowed to be truly nasty or to curse at you. When this happens, you have to enforce basic behavior standards. One solution is the good, old-fashioned approach of: "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all." By letting your adolescent know that you're here for him no matter what, you make it more likely that he'll let down his guard and confide in you once in a while, which is a rare treat.

Behavior Problem 2:

Communication Devices Rule Their Lives—

It's ironic that teenage forms of communication like IM-ing, text-messaging and talking on cell phones make them less communicative, at least with the people they live with. In today's world, though, forbidding all use of electronic devices is not only unrealistic, but unkind. Being networked with their friends is critical to most teens.

Your Solution—

Look at the big picture. If your youngster is functioning well in school, doing his chores at home and not completely retreating from family life, it's probably best to "lay off." It's also OK to set reasonable limits, such as no "texting" or cell phone calls during dinner. Some moms and dads prefer not to let teens have computers in their rooms, since it makes it harder to supervise computer usage, and this is perfectly reasonable. Many experts also suggest establishing a rule that the computer has to be off at least one hour before bedtime, as a way to ensure that teens get more sleep.

One good way to limit how many minutes your teen spends talking on his cell and texting: Require him to pay his own cell phone bills. And do your best to monitor what your youngster does when he's online, particularly if he is using networking sites like Facebook. You still own the home and computer -- so check into parental Internet controls and software to monitor use of any questionable web sites.

Behavior Problem 3:

Staying Out Too Late—

It's 10:30 p.m. and you told your daughter to be home by 10 p.m. Why does she ignore your curfew again and again? Part of what teens do is test limits. But the fact is that they actually want limits, so moms and dads need to keep setting them.

Your Solution—

Do some research before insisting that your youngster respect your curfew because it's possible that yours is unreasonable. Call a few parents of your teen's friends and find out when they expect their kids home. I suggest giving kids a 10-minute grace period, and if they defy that, to set consequences -- such as no going out at night for a week.

If it seems like your youngster is staying out late because she's up to no good, or doesn't feel happy at home, then you need to talk with her and figure out what might be going on. However, if your curfew is in line with what what's typical in your teen's crowd, then it's time to set consequences and then enforce them if your teen continues to break your rules. When you make a rule, you have to mean it. You can't bluff adolescents -- they will always call you on it.

Behavior Problem 4:

Hanging Out with Kids You Don't Like—

You wince every time your son blasts through the front door with his greasy-haired, noisy buddies. Should you suck it up, or say something?

Your Solution—

Kids can wear weird clothes, pierce their lips, act rudely and still be decent kids. Moms and dads should hold off on criticizing something as superficial as fashion in their kids' friends. Adolescents are so attached to their friends that it's like criticizing them directly.

On the other hand, if you know that your youngster has taken up with a group of troubled teens who skip school and do drugs, a talk is in order. Without putting him on the defensive, tell your youngster you're concerned about who he's hanging out with and that you're worried he's doing drugs. While you can't forbid your youngster to hang around with certain kids, you can intervene and try to nip dangerous behaviors in the bud. Don't be afraid to ask for professional help about hanging out with a crowd engaged in negative behavior. Counseling or family therapy can help.

Behavior Problem 5:

Everything's a Drama—

Every little thing seems to set your daughter off lately, and the more you try to help, the more she sobs or shouts or slams the door. Part of being an adolescent is feeling things intensely, so what may seem like no big deal to you is hugely important to her.

Your Solution—

Moms and dads tend to trivialize the importance of things in adolescents' lives. What happens is that kids feel misunderstood, and eventually they will stop telling you anything. Right now it is the most important thing in the world that her best friend is flirting with her boyfriend, and you need to take it seriously.

Don't offer advice, disparage her friends or try to minimize it by saying that one day she'll see how silly high school romances are. Just listen and sympathize. And put yourself in her position -- because, after all, you were once there yourself.

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