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Why Your Teen Is So Ungrateful

"My daughter doesn't appreciate anything I do for her!"  Have you ever said something like that?  If so, you may need a wake-up call...

Over-indulged teenagers are not born, they are created.  Moms and dads create teenagers that are over-indulged by giving them an over-abundance of what they want, but don’t need. However, it’s not always the material things that lead to over-indulgence.  It may be a permissive parental approach in which the youngster is allowed to read things that are not age-appropriate.  It might also be over-permissive and over-protective parenting of the youngster (e.g., doing everything for the teen in a protective manner). 

Overindulging is:
  • a form of child neglect; it hinders teenagers from performing their needed developmental tasks, and from learning necessary life lessons
  • doing or having so much of something that it does active harm, or at least prevents a youngster from developing and deprives that youngster of achieving his or her full potential
  • giving a disproportionate amount of family resources to one or more children in a way that appears to meet the teenager's needs but does not, so they experience scarcity in the midst of plenty 
  • giving teenagers things or experiences that are not appropriate for their age or their interests and talents
  • giving teenagers too much of what looks good, too soon, too long
  • the process of giving things to teenagers to meet the adult's needs, not the teen’s

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

Recent research finds that over-indulged teenagers were likely to grow up to become “externals” rather than “internals.”  “Externals” want to become rich and super wealthy, to become famous, to achieve a unique look and have a deep need to have people comment on how attractive they are.

“Internals” want to grow and learn new things, to be able to look back on their life as meaningful and with satisfaction.  They also want to share life with someone and have a committed intimate relationship.  “Internals” want to work to make the world a better place and to help people in need.

Teens who are over-indulged tend to grow-up to be oppositional.  This is of course frustrating for the parent, and it’s rather sad as well.  Parents want their youngster to be happy, and they want what’s best for him or her, but the more parents try, the more things turn out badly because their efforts are misguided.

Amazingly, it’s counter-intuitive. The more the parent gives to the youngster, the more he or she wants and is ungrateful. It’s a self-perpetuating cycle. If the parent takes a stand, usually the youngster knows, “If I get mad, my mother will give-in.” In that regard, it can be quite a challenge for the parent to finally stand firm after years of over-indulging.  

Over-indulgence can be in terms of the relationship (e.g., moms and dads acting as “friends” as opposed to a parent).  Also, emotionally there’s a tendency to be overly doting and emotionally intrusive with the teen.  All of which tends to develop the tendency in the son or daughter to respond with anger, resentment, over-inflated self-esteem, as well as a loss of compassion for others. 

The youngster grows up with a sense of entitlement.  They develop this perspective not only regarding the relationship with their moms and dads, but that the world should give them all the things they want.  This can lead to having problems with friendships and, later, with dating and maintaining meaningful relationships. 

Moms and dads created the problem usually by having any number of irrational beliefs. For example:
  • in order to make the youngster happy, they must give her everything she wants
  • their youngster cannot be punished
  • they cannot implement any consequence that involves discomfort
  • they cannot subject their youngster to any sense of pain or discomfort

Of course, this is contrary to what happens in the real world.  Teenagers need to be disciplined appropriately and learn from their misbehavior and mistakes through logical consequences.  In the absence of such discipline, much of the time you will end up with a youngster who is oppositional and defiant. 

Another irrational belief of moms and dads, which is targeted in treatment, is this tendency toward unconditional positive regard. Of course, such admiration and love is wonderful; however, these moms and dads will demonstrate such positive regard no matter the behavior of the youngster. Moreover, these parents see “love” as “giving” to the youngster and not carrying out discipline.  These parents tend to rationalize and “look the other way” rather than discipline. 

The extent of “over-indulging” a youngster is on a continuum. Most teenagers are, at times, demanding and ungrateful. If moms and dads respond accordingly, then their son or daughter can move toward appreciation and cooperation. However, if such behavior is tolerated, or “indulged,” then demanding and ungrateful tendencies can worsen.

Parents can begin a “change process” by changing their irrational beliefs, which then fuels the parent making the necessary changes in discipline of their youngster. The important thing is “balance” between “giving” and “discipline.” It’s important for moms and dads to not feel guilty for not giving their teens everything they want. In that regard, a frequently repeated motto is that “parents should give teenagers everything they need, but only a small portion of what they want.”  Moms and dads need help to understand that, by giving everything, the youngster only becomes more resentful rather than grateful.

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

Ways parents can change habits of overindulging:
  1. “No” means “No.”
  2. Attach good and clear thinking to your teenager’s emotions. 
  3. Counter your teenager’s manipulation where you feel guilty by simply practicing saying “I won’t get that for you, but I have a way you can earn it!”   
  4. Do not soothe your teenager’s painful emotions with gadgets and luxuries.  Sooth them with your calm presence, voice and tenderness. 
  5. Hold onto your better judgment and avoid thinking, “I know I shouldn’t have done such and such…”  Stop your own unhealthy sway of emotions. 
  6. Let the emotional sting of discipline happen. The emotional sting has a lesson. 
  7. More than discipline, you should guide your teenagers to make amends. 
  8. One television per household creates better family gatherings.  Research indicates that teenagers who have TV’s in their room spend less time with family and friends.
  9. Over-indulgence is an impulsive act.  So, slowly contemplate how to respond to your teenager’s misbehavior, guilt trips, etc. 
  10. Parenting is not a popularity contest!  Want to create a living hell for yourself?  Become a buddy to your teenagers.  They don’t need a friend in a parent – they need a mentor.  Parent-child friendship is for later.
  11. Take time to help your teenagers manage difficult emotional times. 
  12. Whatever the consequence, consider ¼ time off for good behavior.


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

Putting An End To "Homework Refusal": 25 Tips For Parents

Another school year is about 50% completed, and many parents have already had numerous "do-your-homework" battles!

Kids do not consciously choose to fail, but your daughter refuses to do her homework, which causes her to fail. Why is she sabotaging herself? Demanding that her educators provide you with her homework will not solve this problem. Complaining that the educators won't give you her assignments will have a negative impact on your relationships with these individuals. Her educators are likely to view you as an over-protective "helicopter parent" – and you don't want that identity!

So what can parents do when their child refuses to do homework? Here are some tips:

1. Communicate early on when homework issues arise. The earlier the problem is addressed the more likely it is you will be able to find solutions that work. The rest of the school year can be easier for you and your youngster.

2. Back up your words with action. Be realistic in your expectations. Stick to your demands. However, realize you should only demand things you are willing to follow through with. It may take your youngster several days to realize that you mean business. Say, "You can choose either to do your homework or to lose privileges. You will sit here until all of your homework is done. The choice is yours." For example, you may take away watching television, listening to music, using the telephone or computer.

3. Define a work space. Although a desk is nice, younger kids may do better at the kitchen table, closer to you while you’re preparing dinner. Just make sure it’s clear of clutter, including the daily newspaper, junk mail, or any other distraction. You can also construct a “learning station.” A tri-fold cardboard such as the kind used for science project displays would do the trick. On the right side of the panel, hang a folder for pending homework. On the left side, hang a folder for completed assignments. In the middle, post a list of activities your youngster can enjoy in five-minute breaks after completing a designated amount of work. That could be five minutes of her favorite prerecorded TV show or a chance to roll around on the floor with the dog after she’s worked steadily on her spelling words for 20 minutes. Create a bar graph and post it in the center of the tri-fold learning station. Use it to illustrate to a youngster the progress he’s making on an assignment by coloring in little squares with one of the magic markers. If there are 10 math problems to do that night, make each one a square. Five colored squares later, he’ll get a sense of accomplishment and most likely make it through to the end. Once assembled, this kind of learning station can really help center a youngster who has difficulty completing homework.

4. Do a reduced number of problems. If a youngster works very slowly even while paying attention to the task at hand, he may benefit from doing fewer problems that still cover the concepts.

5. Encourage independence. Moms and dads need to fight the temptation to fill in those last remaining answers themselves just because it’s late and everybody’s tired. Never do for your youngster what your youngster can do for herself. You’re not doing yourself or your youngster any favors by doing the homework for her. She’ll only come to expect it on a regular basis, and you may come to resent your involvement.

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

6. Getting and staying in touch with educators is important. Send them an introductory email and don’t hesitate to express concerns as the term progresses. If you think homework assignments are too hard or even too easy for your youngster, discuss it with the teacher so adjustments can be made. Encourage your youngster to speak up in class, as well. He needs to ask questions and tell his teacher when he doesn’t understand something.

7. Help kids see how they are benefiting from the homework. Moms and dads can tell their youngster what kind of homework the assignment is. "This looks like some good skill practice" …or, "Wow, you get to explore a whole new topic tonight."

8. Help your child understand that it is okay for some things to be very hard to do. If your child says things like, “I am stupid. I can’t do math” …tell her that she is not allowed to say that any more—and gave her a list of alternatives she can say (e.g., “I am not good at math” …“I hate math” …“I have to work harder at math than anyone else in the world” …“Math is hard for me”).

9. If homework is taking way too much time to do, your youngster’s teacher may need to be involved in helping to problem-solve. Kids who struggle in school may need their homework assignments to be modified in some way.

10. If the problems are the result of absences, your youngster’s teacher may be able to set up a schedule that allows the work to be made up within a reasonable amount of time.

11. If your child is really stumped by an assignment, demystify directions by having him pretend to be the teacher and explain to you how it should be done. This role reversal often yields surprising results as the objective of an assignment suddenly becomes crystal clear.

12. Keep a positive attitude. Kids learn by watching the grown-ups around them. If you have a good attitude (e.g., excitement about the material, enthusiasm about the new skills, etc.), then your attitude will rub off on your kids.

13. Keep communication lines open. Picture a triangle with the sides representing your youngster, the teacher, and you (the parent). We’ll call this configuration a “homework alliance.” In specific terms, it’s the maintenance of good relationships between parent and youngster, parent and teacher, and youngster and teacher. Keeping these three lines of communication open will smooth the whole homework process.

14. Make homework a game. There are plenty of ways to teach various skills using games. For example:
  • Try following homework up with an entertaining game of Scrabble Junior
  • There’s no shortage of fun educational computer software available
  • Hand them a new set of magic markers to liven up an otherwise mundane social studies report
  • Geography games can help commit all those state capitals to memory
  • Flash cards are a reliable and fun way to reinforce sight words and multiplication tables

15. Offer options for how to complete the homework. Many creative kids can demonstrate their knowledge through posters, brochures, or presentation software, and offering these as a choice when appropriate can help resolve at least some of the issues.

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

16. Point out resources on the Internet or at the library and create checklists for both long- and short-term assignments.

17. Praise your youngster when homework is completed. Say, "You've been getting all of your homework done. You should feel proud of yourself."

18. Schedule time in the day for homework. It helps if everyone in the house is quiet during homework time. The television, video games, telephone, and other distractions should be minimal. Kids should not accept social calls during homework time. Moms and dads can plan time for paying bills, organizing files, folding clothes or something else that is relatively quiet. If there is no time in the day for homework, then consider dropping some extracurricular activities from your youngster’s schedule.

19. Set it to music. Research has shown that music is a great motivator. Children complete more homework with background accompaniment – and kids with ADHD show markedly better performance when they’re listening to music. Since so much of homework is rote or simply completing unfinished class work, music can help relieve the tedium, and in the case of children with ADHD, can even help them focus. But skip tunes with lyrics. It’s best to limit the child’s choices to music that’s mostly instrumental so the words won’t interfere with his/her thoughts.

20. State clearly how you expect homework to be completed. Say, "I expect you to do all of your homework every night.  I will not tolerate your refusing to do your assignments."

21. Use a homework contract. This motivator is a written, signed agreement between you and your youngster that states a reward or a point toward a prize will be earned for each day that homework is brought home and completed.

22. When kids consistently have difficulty with homework, it is important to communicate this concern with your youngster’s teacher. With the teacher’s help you may be able to identify the source of the problem and figure out the best way to address it. Even though these meetings can be uncomfortable, it is best to approach them with a positive attitude while believing the problems can be solved by working together.

23. Your monitoring of homework communicates to your child an interest in what he’s learning, but don’t let homework disputes come between you and your youngster. Consider hiring a tutor if things reach an impasse.

24. Stay the course. Eventually there comes a time when children have to face up to the fact homework is just that—work to be done at home. Nobody likes it, but in reality, everybody gains something. For a teacher, homework extends instructional time. For a mother or father, it provides a window into the classroom. For a youngster, it’s an opportunity to acquire real organizational and study skills that will serve him over a lifetime. This is why it’s so important to maintain a firm, serious attitude about homework. Sure, it’s fun to mix it up with games and even rewards, but ultimately your youngster needs to know that homework has to be done well.

25. Try a number of different approaches to homework. It may take a while before you hit upon the solution that works best for your youngster. Of course, if you suspect a particular problem, always seek advice from an appropriate professional, be it a pediatrician, optometrist, school psychologist, or similar. Homework doesn’t have to be a drag for all concerned. Mix some creative problem solving with a little bit of effort, and your family will reap the benefits.


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

The Power of Descriptive Praise

In an effort to enhance their kid's self-esteem, moms and dads often use praise to recognize the efforts and accomplishments of their kids. Of course, recognizing your kid's positive behavior is more likely to build self-esteem than dwelling on problems. But praise is not always uplifting.

Praise like “you're impressive …brilliant …amazing” can be too much for a child to believe. It is hard to accept such exaggerated praise. Have you ever noticed how uneasy you feel whenever anyone evaluates you? When someone tells you that you're “attractive” or “clever” -- all you can think about are the times you felt unsightly or did something stupid.

Kids also become uncomfortable with praise that evaluates them. They often dismiss it. Sometimes they will deliberately misbehave to prove you wrong. Instead of evaluating what your youngster has done, it is usually better to describe it. Describe in detail exactly what your youngster did. Then your youngster, hearing the description, is likely to recognize the truth and credit himself/herself.

The kind of praise a youngster can “believe” and that truly builds self-esteem comes in two parts:
  1. the parent describes what the youngster has done (e.g., “I see you are all ready for school. You picked up your toys, put on your jacket, and even turned off the light in your bedroom”)
  2. the youngster, after hearing his accomplishment described, praises himself/herself (e.g., “I know how to be responsible”)

Descriptive praise is harder and takes longer, but the payoff is usually greater. Descriptive praise helps kids become independent, creative thinkers and doers. They do not look to others for approval. They trust themselves and their own judgment. They have enough confidence to say to themselves, "I'm happy with what I have done." They learn to make changes or improvements based on their own evaluations.

Evaluative praise is a way of making - and keeping - kids dependent on parents. It gets children to conform to the parent's wishes. It sustains a dependence on the parent's evaluations and decisions about what is good and bad rather than helping children to begin to form their own judgments. It leads kids to measure their worth in terms of what will make parents smile and offer the positive words they crave. It leads to a dependency on approval. The evaluative praise, “You are a very helpful person,” makes the youngster dependent on the judgment of the person doing the praising. But the descriptive praise, “When you saw that Sally dropped her books, you stopped what you were doing and helped her pick them up” gives a youngster a sense of his own abilities and accomplishments.

Descriptive praise lets a youngster evaluate himself. If you want your son to focus his attention more on the impact he had on Sally, you can say something like, “Look at Sally’s face! She looks very happy because you helped her pick up the books.” You can help your youngster see how his actions affect others.

Parents should ask themselves, “Does my praise make my kids more dependent on me and my approval, or do my words help them see their strong points and give them a clear picture of their skills and accomplishments?” The goal is to help your kids get in touch with their own abilities such that they can praise themselves. The person your youngster needs to please is himself/herself.

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

Descriptive praise, then, has two parts:
  1. the adult expresses appreciation for some specific contribution or effort
  2. the youngster draws conclusions about himself/herself based on this specific statement from the adult

For a father to tell her daughter, “You're so smart” is not as effective in building self-esteem as saying “Math can be hard, but I see that you completed all your Math homework pretty quickly.” This girl can then think to herself, “I must be really smart. Dad thinks Math is hard.” These internal conclusions will be much more believable to the youngster than a father’s general value judgment of the youngster as an individual.

Evaluative comments are often unnecessary. In the long run, moms and dads can become less judgmental and controlling, and help their kids become more independent and motivated simply by acknowledging what their kids do. For example, simply pointing out an aspect of a youngster's handwriting that seems interesting (without saying that it's nice or that you liked it) will probably be enough to encourage further efforts.

For example, if your first-grader makes you a home-made birthday card, instead of saying “It's lovely,” you can describe it: “I really like your drawing of a birthday cake and the red candles on top. This card makes me feel happy!”

It takes some effort to use descriptive praise rather than evaluative praise. It takes skill to encourage children in such a way that they remain interested in what they are doing – but don't feel controlled.

Remember descriptive praise has two parts:

1. describe what you see and hear
2. describe what you feel

Name three things your youngster does that you might want to praise:


Now, describe what your youngster does, and share your comments with him/her.


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

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