HELP FOR PARENTS WITH STRONG-WILLED, OUT-OF-CONTROL CHILDREN AND ADOLESCENTS

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

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Dealing with Parenting Conflicts

Question

My husband and I often disagree on how to discipline our defiant ADHD son. How can we find ways to agree?

Answer

As you and your husband share the responsibilities of parenting and managing a defiant child with ADHD, problems will arise. Here are a few of the most common difficulties that today's moms and dads encounter with such a child -- and how you can handle them:

1. Competition— Sometimes rivalry can develop between parents over their kid's attention and love. If dad wants his daughter to spend Saturday afternoon fishing with him, but mom wants her to go shopping with her, they may struggle to get their way, putting the youngster in an unenviable position, right in the middle of the conflict. The two of you need to find ways to cooperate, not compete, with each other. That doesn't mean you have to agree on everything; but it does mean that you are committed to working together toward a more harmonious relationship and family life, and you are not going to let differences undermine your common goals. Each of you needs to demonstrate some flexibility. As you form ground rules for the family, identify the areas in which each parent excels. That parent should then exert leadership in the areas of his or her strength, so the decision-making responsibilities are divided within the family.

2. Confusion— Uncertainty about what stands to take and what rules to impose can create turmoil within the family. Too often, moms and dads are perplexed about issues like the degree of supervision required for their kids and the amount of freedom to give them. Mothers/fathers frequently do not make decisions at all, and that can leave their kids puzzled and dismayed over what is expected of them. You and your husband need to resolve your own ambivalence on important family matters and agree on a position on these issues. Then you must clearly inform the entire family about your decisions and how their own lives will be affected by them.

3. Inconsistency— Often moms and dads differ in their rules and expectations for their youngster. Mom might say, "You can't watch TV until your homework is finished"; but when she's away, Dad may say, "Go ahead and watch TV if you want to." Dad might insist that the youngster's bedtime is 8:30; Mom may say that stretching it until 9:00 is fine. Similar conflicts can develop over issues like approaches to discipline or a youngster's choice of friends. When these inconsistencies occur, one parent inevitably undermines the authority of the other. To begin to resolve this problem, you and your husband need to be explicit with each other about what your rules and expectations are. If necessary, write them down, review them and be sure they are workable. In areas in which you differ, find a compromise that you both can live with - and stick by it.

4. Non-Communication— If you and your husband do not talk about the issues the family faces, one of you may be left out of important matters you should be informed about. To avoid this situation, you and your husband need to commit yourselves to communicate about every significant issue in your family life. At least once a day the two of you need to check in with each other and discuss what happened that day that was important. At the same time, talk about long-term issues that may be confronting the family.

5. Overt Conflict— Too often, moms and dads argue and openly challenge each other on family-related matters. Perhaps their youngster has gotten into trouble at school, and the parents disagree about how to handle it; the mother may think the youngster should be grounded, while the father believes it wasn't her fault. They start to argue - sometimes for hours or even over a period of days - and eventually, rather than resolving the problem amicably, one parent wins out because the other ultimately gives in, at least for the moment. Nevertheless, the parental power struggle often begins all over again at a later time with a different issue, with some of the same anger from the previous conflict resurfacing. The wounds never fully heal and the animosity builds. Clearly, this is not a healthy situation. Mothers/fathers need to learn the skills of conflict resolution. These include:

• Clarifying points of difference
• Generating alternative solutions together
• Listening
• Negotiating
• Taking each other's feelings seriously

Remember, the way you handle conflict in your family is how your youngster learns to manage disagreement. Many community colleges offer seminars and courses on conflict resolution.

Interpersonal relationships do not exist in a vacuum. If you and your husband are having marital difficulties, they are likely to disrupt the entire family. When your marriage is not going well, your parenting skills and your kids will suffer.

Parents in the most successful families do not neglect marital problems. They commit themselves to spending time together as a couple and working together to resolve any misunderstandings, jealousies or conflicts. They make a commitment to communicate, praise, and forgive each other; they try to understand each other; and they routinely examine their relationship and how it can be improved.

Sometimes kids are a convenient excuse for not dealing with serious marital difficulties. Moms and dads may think, "The children require so much of our attention now; once they're grown, we'll have a lot of time to talk about the problems we have in our own relationship." But that is a prescription for marital and parenting disaster. Problems tend only to become worse with time, and once your kids are grown, you may not have much of a foundation to build on - if you are still together at all. So don't be complacent and let problems persist without attempting to solve them.

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

How To Get Your Child To Stop Arguing

All behavior is purposeful, and as such, it is critical that you understand your youngster’s goal. Everything our kids say and do has a purpose. At its most basic level, your youngster’s focus is to have some significance and establish a place in his various environments.

A well-adjusted youngster has found his way toward social acceptance by cooperating with the requirements of the group and by making his own useful contribution to it. The misbehaving youngster is still trying, in a mistaken way, to feel important in his own world. For example, a kid who has never been allowed to dress himself (because the mother/father is in a hurry), or who has not been allowed to help around the house ("you're not big enough to set the table"), may lack the feeling that he is a useful, contributing member of the family, and might feel important only when arousing a mother/father's anger and annoyance with misbehavior.

Most kids are not aware of the goals or purposes of their behavior. But their behavior, while appearing senseless and illogical to adults, makes complete sense in terms of his own perception of his place in the family, school and community. As such, when children misbehave, they are frequently trying to fulfill one of the following four primary goals:
  1. Attention-getting— She wants attention and service. We, as moms and dads, respond by feeling annoyed and that we need to remind and coax her.
  2. Display of inadequacy— She wants to be left alone with no demands made upon her. We respond by feeling despair (e.g., “I don't know what to do!").
  3. Power— She wants to be the boss. We respond by feeling provoked and get into a power contest with her (e.g., “You can't get away with this!").
  4. Revenge— She wants to hurt us. We respond by feeling deeply hurt (e.g., “I'll get even!").
If, as you read over these primary goals, you found the behavior and the parental response resonating with situations and events in your life, you have probably discovered the goal or purpose of your youngster's misbehavior. And once you understand the goal or purpose of a behavior, you can use the following principle to effectively change it:

==> Important Principle: If a given behavior isn’t fulfilling its goal or purpose, every youngster will opt for a different behavior.

Once we know why our children are doing what they are doing, and once we understand the goal or purpose of a given behavior, we are given a tremendous lever for inducing behavioral change. Let’s look at an example so that you can understand what I am saying here…

A lot of family’s that I have worked with over the years presented with a common complaint: “My youngster won’t listen to me anymore. Any time I try to get him to do something, all he wants to do is argue. My home has become a war zone and I just can’t stand living this way anymore.”

At this point, my question to the mother/father is this, “How do you react when your youngster becomes belligerent and begins arguing with you?” In most cases, the parent says he/she gets into an argument with the youngster. There is a “debate” with the situation escalating to the point that the mother/father gets fed up and says, “Go ahead, do whatever you want. You’re not going to listen to me anyway.”

Referring back to the list of goals of misbehavior listed above, why is this kid - or any kid - choosing to escalate the situation and argue with their mother/father? Isn’t that a perfect example of a kid who is acting up in order to take power and get what he wants? And by choosing to engage in the process, the mother/father is playing right into the kid’s hands.

Now what do you think would happen if the mother/father, rather than taking the bait, simply refused to get angry and refused to argue? What would happen if the mother/father said, “I’m not going to fight with you, and I’m not comfortable even discussing this with you until you calm down.”

First of all, the kid would probably have a heart attack because this isn’t the way he is used to doing business. Mom/dad has done something different, acting in an unpredictable way, and that is very confusing to the youngster. Predictably, once the initial shock wears off, the youngster might redouble his efforts to get the mother or father to engage. But what would happen if mom or dad held the line and refused to argue and fight with the youngster? What would happen if the parent went so far as to suggest that the youngster needed to go to another part of the house and come back when he has been able to get himself under control?

With a kid that is used to playing the anger card to get his way, he is likely to refuse this suggestion and continue to try to escalate the parent. This is the way he has always played before! But what would happen if mom continued to stick to her guns and withdraw from the situation? What would happen if she refused to have the conversation until her youngster spoke to her in an appropriate and civil manner? Right! Her youngster is going to have to change his behavior.

Let's use the example of ping pong. What would happen if one of the players put down her ping pong paddle? Game over …right!? Well, the same is true in terms of our children and their negative behaviors. If we refuse to engage, to tolerate and respond to the negative behavior, they are going to have to do something different. They are going to have to select another behavior in order to achieve their goal. And as moms and dads, we can go a long way toward guiding this choice into more appropriate and respectful areas.

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

The Pros and Cons of Abortion

Question

We recently discovered that my 16-year-old daughter is pregnant. This has been a real shock for us. The alleged father no longer lives in our hometown and is supposedly a heavy pot smoker. My daughter has talked about having an abortion, but both she and I are torn on this issue. I know this is a touchy subject, but I am asking for your advice on which way to go with this decision. Thank you!

Answer

My conviction is very much against abortion, but you’re not asking for my opinion. I‘m assuming you want the facts in order to make an educated decision.

Facing an unplanned pregnancy can be very difficult and scary for an adolescent, and deciding what to do will be even harder. No matter what her political or religious persuasion, it always comes down to a very intimate, personal decision that no adolescent makes without some degree of emotional trauma. All of the options: abortion, or raising the baby, or allowing another individual to adopt the baby carries emotional pain and personal sacrifice.

In the U.S., teenage abortion accounts for 19% of all procedures of this nature. The average age of those receiving abortions is dropping from 19 to 17. Over 50% of abortions performed annually are on women under the age of 25 with the ages of 18 and 19 accounting for the highest number performed.

There are currently twenty-one states that require parental permission for a teen abortion and eighteen states that do not. There are also fourteen states that require a parental notification before performance of an abortion on a minor. The notification law requires that parents be notified, but permission of a parent is not necessary to go ahead with the procedure.

At this time in the United States, abortions are legal. Teen abortion facts reveal that though the teen pregnancy rate has declined in the United States over the last ten years, the percentages have actually increased.

Adolescents:

• are at higher risk for post-abortion infections such as pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) and endometritis (inflammation of the uterus), which may be caused either by the spread of an undiagnosed sexually transmitted disease into the uterus during the abortion, or by micro-organisms on the surgical instruments which are inserted into the uterus

• risk further injury or death because they are unlikely to inform parents of any physical complications

• who abort are 2 to 4 times more likely to commit suicide than adults who abort, and a history of abortion is likely to be associated with adolescent suicidal thinking

• who abort are more likely to develop psychological problems, and are nearly three times more likely to be admitted to mental health hospitals than adolescents in general

The most common reasons an adolescent chooses abortion are:

• cannot afford a baby
• doesn't want anyone to know she has had sex or is pregnant
• doesn't want to be a single parent
• her partner or parent wants her to have an abortion
• not ready to become a parent
• she is too immature to have a child
• she or the fetus has a health problem
• she was a survivor of rape or incest

Medical conditions and indications may develop after the first trimester (12 weeks) of pregnancy that could threaten the mother's life and/or health. Late-occurring medical conditions can include:

• heart failure
• severe or uncontrollable diabetes
• serious renal disease
• uncontrollable hypertension (high blood pressure)
• severe depression

Some of the consequences of 'compulsory pregnancy' or 'forced motherhood' (i.e., unwanted children) are as follows. The child:

• does less well scholastically; is a low achiever
• has more emotional handicaps
• has poorer relationships with parents
• is 4x as likely to have adult criminal record
• is 6x more likely to receive welfare between 16-21
• is at a higher risk to be abused or neglected by parents
• is more likely to abuse alcohol and drugs
• is twice as likely to have record of juvenile delinquency

Some of the disadvantages of going through with an abortion are:

• creates feelings of regret and grief
• does not give the child that is in the womb a chance at life, thus it is looked down upon by many religions
• having an abortion always lessens your chances for having children later in life
• adolescents who have participated in abortion repeatedly report feeling deceived by those selling abortions and become preoccupied with concern for 'God's judgment and punishment'
• the "would-be-mother" will always wonder 'what if' and may feel some level of guilt for the rest of her life about the child she could have had

Adoption vs. Abortion—

With adoption:

• You can have continued contact with your baby
• You usually feel positive about your choice
• You will have plenty of time to plan you and your baby's future
• You will remember giving birth
• Your pregnancy ends with giving life

With Abortion:

• Abortion is final; you can't go back on your decision
• You may feel guilt and shame about your choice
• You will miss the opportunity to see your child develop
• You will remember taking a life
• Your pregnancy ends with death

Adolescents are more likely to make a snap judgment and try to cover up their pregnancy from their parents by having an abortion. Adolescents are also more likely to report having wanted to keep the baby, higher levels of feeling misinformed in pre-abortion counseling, less satisfaction with abortion services and greater post-abortion stress. Adolescents were also more likely to use immature coping strategies such as projection of their problems on to others, denial, or "acting out", than older women, strategies researchers speculate might become permanent.

Despite the fact that supporters without parental consent continually leave the spiritual devastation component out of the discussions, teen abortion facts tell us that adolescents who have participated in abortion repeatedly feel deceived by those selling abortions and become preoccupied with concern for God's judgment and punishment.

Teen abortion is an especially difficult thing to deal with, especially when having to possibly confront your parents and hoping that your partner will be supportive.

Adolescents are encouraged to involve parents in their decision to have an abortion, and most do have a parent involved. In most of these states, if she can't talk with her parents - or chooses not to - she can appear before a judge. The judge will consider whether she's mature enough to decide on her own. If not, the judge will decide whether an abortion is in the teen's best interests. In any case, if there are complications during the procedure, parents of minors may be notified.

Before an adolescent makes decisions in haste, or as an attempt to undo a wrong, adolescents and parents on both sides of the parental consent debate should get the teen abortion facts and found out as much about abortion and post-abortion procedure complications. The most important thing to remember is that you do have a choice. There are three main paths: parenting, abortion or adoption.

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

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