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How to Give Your Teenager an Attitude Adjustment

Once a youngster reaches adolescence, many moms and dads may think it is too late to help him or her change a negative attitude. This is not the case, and while it may take longer, it is possible to help your youngster develop a positive attitude. Having a positive attitude is essential to your child’s happiness and success. A negative attitude can result in him or her feeling unloved, frustrated and easily led.

How to Give Your Teenager an Attitude Adjustment:

1. Avoid harsh criticism, especially if it includes humiliation and mockery. Sometimes it will be necessary to provide “constructive criticism” to your adolescent, and as a mother or father, you are right to do it. However, if the criticism is harsh, this will have a negative effect on the adolescent's attitude. The way you word constructive criticism is important. Using "I" instead of "you" statements is a good way to communicate with your child. For example, "I would like you to clean-up your room" is better than "You never pick up after yourself." The result should be the same; however, the first statement is more an opinion, whereas the second is negative and insulting.

2. Encourage your teen to do something good for herself. It could be going for a run, reading a book or seeing a movie with a friend.

3. Encourage your teen to take up new hobbies or pursue new interests. This gives him the opportunity to do something by himself and encourages him to work toward achievements. The fact you trust him to be independent will make him feel positive. Doing something he enjoys will also increase his confidence, especially if he receives any official recognition. Activities based on cooperation or working together rather than competition is also a good way to build a positive attitude.

4. Encourage your adolescent to display cards and gifts from friends. Re-reading cards or letters from good friends can remind her that plenty of people like her.

5. Encourage your adolescent to write down his good qualities. He should include qualities that others like about him, too.

6. Encourage your teenager to surprise someone else with a thoughtful gesture. She could take cookies to a new mother or an elderly neighbor. Delighting another person is always a good way to feel better about yourself.

7. Evaluate your own attitude. A youngster's attitude is a learned behavior. Adolescents watch their moms and dads and how they react to certain experiences and events. Kids learn a good portion of their belief system from their moms and dads. Therefore, a parent's attitude and a loving home environment are important to help develop positive attitudes in adolescents.

8. Give your teen a sincere compliment a few times each week – and don’t let her brush it off.

9. Let children know they're nearing the disrespectful zone with some pre-arranged signal. This red flag gives them a clear warning that more-drastic action will follow if they don't stop what they're doing, and, in public, it also allows them to save face in front their friends, which makes them more likely to be compliant than if you had barked out a direct order.

10. Let your adolescent select the chores for which he will be responsible. He should then pick something he doesn't mind doing and something that fits with his time schedule.

11. Offer leniency. If she has finals, give her a week off from her chores. Keep in mind that today's adolescents are often as strapped for time as we are.

12. Praise your child when he deserves it. Show him you appreciate him and recognize when he makes positive choices. Most adolescents will bask in their parent's praise, so be sure to give credit when credit is due. Your adolescent's attitude will be much more positive if you also show him respect as well as command it from him.

13. Set up a natural reminder system – a chart or a note left on the kitchen counter for the adolescent. Unemotional memory jogs will help him succeed at his chores.

14. If your youngster doesn’t respond to some of the more gentle methods, step-up your response. Spell out the consequences of breaking the rule beforehand, and make sure that you can – and do – follow through.

15. Teach the chore. You may think an adolescent has watched you run a garbage disposal a thousand times, but some of them won't have paid any attention.

16. Teach them how to do positive self-talk. This is the little voice in our heads which we use to communicate with ourselves. Positive self-talk will have a direct influence on how positive a person's attitude and actions are. Tell your adolescent instead of using negative statements, replace them with positive ones. For example, "I can do this right, I just need to concentrate" is much better than "I failed again, I never do anything right." If you promote positive self-talk you should notice a distinct change in the child’s attitude.

17. Teach your adolescent to aim high, while showing her how to acknowledge her limitations. There is no problem having dreams and aspirations, as long as they are realistic. If your adolescent wants to achieve the impossible, this will only make her feel negatively when she fails to do it. Unrealistic expectations are one of the biggest causes of negative attitudes in our kids.

18. Teach your adolescent how to laugh at himself. People who are too serious tend to find something negative in everything they do. Having a sense of humor will encourage positivity.

19. Understand that your teen is going through a difficult period of physical and emotional changes. Be patient as you help her learn to respect grown-ups and avoid growing weary or irritated if she slips up. Instead of growing angry if your teenager is disrespectful, use the moment as an opportunity to teach her further. Talk about ways she can respond the next time the issue comes up and talk about why she responded the way that she did.

20. Use the BAM method. BAM stands for (a) Build on strengths, (b) Awareness, and (c) Model:
  • Build On Strengths: In discussions with your teenagers, begin by building on the strengths that they have shown, the positive behaviors in which they have engaged, and how to improve the undesired behaviors.
  • Awareness: Talk with your teens at those times when they demonstrate behavior that is less then respectful. Showing them in the moment is most beneficial. 
  • Model: Show your teens how to respect by interacting respectfully with your spouse and with others.

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

Helping Children Deal With Disaster

A catastrophe, such as recent hurricanes, is frightening to many kids – and even adults. Talking to your kids about the event can decrease their fear.  It is important to explain the event in words the youngster can understand, and at a level of detail that will not overwhelm him or her. 

Several factors affect a youngster's response to a disaster.  The way kids see how their moms and dads respond to such an event is very important. Kids are aware of their parent’s worries most of the time, but they are particularly sensitive during a crisis. Moms and dads should admit their concerns to their kids, and also stress their abilities to cope with the disaster.  Falsely minimizing the danger will not end a youngster's concerns.

A youngster's reaction also depends on how much destruction and/or death he or she sees during and after the disaster. If a family member or friend has been killed or seriously injured, or if the youngster's school or home has been severely damaged, there is a greater chance that the youngster will experience difficulties.

A youngster's age affects how he or she will respond to the disaster. For example, 5-year-olds may show their worries by refusing to attend school, whereas teens may minimize their concerns, but argue more with moms and dads and show a decline in school performance.

Following a disaster, some children may develop Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), which is a set of symptoms that can result from experiencing, witnessing, or participating in an overwhelmingly shocking event. Kids with this disorder have repeated episodes in which they re-experience the traumatic event. Kids often relive the trauma through repetitive play. Upsetting dreams of the traumatic event may turn into nightmares of monsters, of rescuing others, or of threats to self or others. PTSD rarely appears during the trauma itself. Though its symptoms can occur soon after the event, the disorder often surfaces several months or even years later.

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

After a disaster, moms and dads should be alert to these changes in a youngster's behavior:
  • Behavior problems (e.g., misbehaving in school or at home in ways that are not typical for the youngster)
  • Chronic sadness
  • Decreased activity
  • Intrusive thoughts or worries
  • Jumpiness or being startled easily
  • Listlessness
  • Loss of concentration and irritability
  • Persistent fears related to the catastrophe (e.g., fears about being permanently separated from mom or dad)
  • Physical complaints (e.g., stomachaches, headaches, dizziness) for which a physical cause can’t be found
  • Preoccupation with the events of the disaster
  • Recurring fears about death, leaving mom or dad, or going to school
  • Refusal to return to school and "clinging" behavior
  • Shadowing the mother or father around the house
  • Sleep disturbances (e.g., nightmares, screaming during sleep, bed-wetting) persisting more than several days after the event
  • Withdrawal from family and friends

With the occurrence of hurricane Sandy, mothers and fathers – as well as educators – are faced with the challenge of discussing this overwhelming natural disaster with kids. Although these may be difficult conversations, they are very important.  There is no “right” or “wrong” way to talk with kids about such tragic events.  However, here are some suggestions that may be helpful:

1. Acknowledge and validate children’s thoughts, feelings, and reactions. Let them know that you think their questions and concerns are important and appropriate.

2. Be prepared to repeat information and explanations several times.  Some information may be hard to accept or understand. Asking the same question over and over may also be a way for a youngster to ask for reassurance.

3. Be reassuring, but don’t make unrealistic promises. It’s fine to let kids know that they are safe in their house or in their school. But you can’t promise that there won’t be another natural disaster.

4. Don’t let kids watch too much television with frightening images. The repetition of such scenes can be disturbing and confusing.

5. Give kids honest answers. Kids will usually know, or eventually find out, if you’re “making things up.” It may affect their ability to trust you or your reassurances in the future.

6. Kids learn from watching their moms and dads and educators. They will be very interested in how you respond to world events. They also learn from listening to your conversations with other grown-ups.

7. Kids who are preoccupied with concerns about natural disasters weeks after the disaster is over should be evaluated by a mental health professional. If worries persist, ask your youngster’s doctor or school counselor to help arrange an appropriate referral.

8. Kids who have experienced trauma in the past are particularly vulnerable to prolonged or intense reactions to news or images of natural disasters. These kids may need extra support and attention.

9. Let kids know that lots of people are helping the families affected by hurricane Sandy.  It’s a good opportunity to show kids that, when something scary happens, there are people to help.

10. Monitor your child for physical symptoms (e.g., headaches and stomachaches). Many kids express anxiety through physical aches and pains. An increase in such symptoms without apparent medical cause may be a sign that a youngster is feeling anxious or overwhelmed.

11. Natural disasters are not easy for anyone to comprehend or accept. Understandably, many kids feel frightened and confused.  We can best help by listening and responding in an honest, consistent and supportive manner. Fortunately, most kids – even those exposed to trauma – are quite resilient.  By creating an open environment where they feel free to ask questions, we can help them cope with stressful events and reduce the risk of lasting emotional difficulties.

12. Remember that it’s best not to force kids to talk about things unless – and until – they’re ready.

13. Remember that kids tend to personalize situations. They may worry about their own safety and the safety of immediate family members.  They may also worry about friends or relatives who travel or who live far away.

14. Some kids may not want to talk about their thoughts, feelings, or fears. They may be more comfortable drawing pictures, or writing stories or poems about the traumatic event.

15. Use words and concepts kids can understand. Gear your explanations to the youngster’s age, language, and developmental level.


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

Dealing With The Attention-Seeking Child

Attention seeking behavior is basically your son or daughter regularly misbehaving to get attention from you, the parent. It may be as simple as doing things to annoy you and disobeying any house rules.

Your youngster is acting this way not because he likes to get yelled at, but because he enjoys the attention his misbehavior brings. He knows that you don’t like it when he misbehaves, and there is only so much you can do to stop him. This gives him a sense of power. The problem here is, sometimes moms and dads let the youngster have his way so he will stop acting-out. This is the worst approach since he will then realize that misbehaving also comes with bonus! Therefore the attention-seeking behavior pattern continues and will be used more often.

Here are some of the traits of the attention-seeking child. He or she:
  • Is frequently out of his or her seat at school
  • Is late in getting school assignments turned in
  • May use profanity or crude language
  • Often tries to be nonconformist in order to gain attention
  • Often wears unusual or attention-getting clothing
  • Picks on siblings and other children
  • Responds negatively to authority
  • Says the wrong thing at the wrong time
  • Tries to force his or her way into peer groups
  • Usually asks unnecessary questions
  • Is usually loud

Here is how the attention-seeking child’s behavior affects other people at home and school:
  • The concentration of the teacher and class is often broken.
  • Other kids may begin putting the attention-seeker down or avoiding him or her at every opportunity.
  • Other kids may react by excluding the attention-seeker from peer groups.
  • Parents and teachers are antagonized.
  • Parents and teachers are forced to give additional time to this youngster.
  • Parents often lose track of what they are trying to say.

Here are some ways to deal with the attention-seeking child:

1. Avoid power struggles by picking and choosing your battles carefully. In other words, if you don’t have the time and energy to respond effectively and avoid giving in, say yes from the start.

2. Avoid triggers for the behavior such as the word “no.” Instead of telling your youngster what not to do (e.g., no screaming), tell him what to do (e.g., ask nicely). Similarly, instead of telling him he can’t have something (e.g., we are not playing with toys now), tell him when the desired item will be available (e.g., you can watch TV after dinner).

3. Be constantly aware of the times you give attention to the attention-seeker. Be aware of the youngster's strong need for attention and provide it for positive actions—not just for disruptions.

4. Bolster your youngster's confidence at every opportunity—in a quiet way. You must find a constructive way for the attention-seeker to meet his or her need for attention. Above all, attention can’t be denied, or he or she will go to extremes to get it.

5. Change the timing of specific undesirable activities to come before more desirable activities. For example, if your youngster resists brushing her teeth, plan something fun to do afterward, such as special reading time with mom or dad. When she begins to exhibit resistant behavior, say, “First brush your teeth, then we will read a book together.” If you use a visual schedule, you can say this while pointing to the pictures.

6. Create a visual schedule with pictures to represent your daily routine. Sometimes challenging behavior occurs because young people don’t know what is going to happen next or when the activity or item they want will be available again. Instead of telling your youngster what to do or what he can’t have, use the schedule to show him what he needs to do and when enjoyable activities are available. For example, when your youngster is misbehaving because you asked him to stop playing, instead of focusing on the behavior, direct his attention to the schedule and say, “Play time is finished. It is time for bed. We will play again tomorrow morning.”

7. Give him or her additional responsibilities.

8. Help your youngster find visibility or leadership roles.

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

9. When the behavior is not aggressive or harmful to others, ignore inappropriate behavior used to get attention or to obtain something that was denied. The benefit of ignoring is that your child will learn that positive behavior has a powerful pay-off, while his negative behavior is ineffective and therefore no longer necessary.

10. In order to keep yourself from going insane, take adult time-outs. Sometimes you need a moment to step away from the situation, take a deep breath, and then come back when you feel calm and in control of our own emotions. Only then are you able to respond and assess the situation effectively.

11. Increase the positive attention provided, especially at times when less attention is usually available (e.g., have him help with dinner preparations or praise him from a distance for playing nicely while you are busy changing his sister, etc.).

12. Make the task or demand easier to accomplish successfully. Sometimes young people misbehave because the task is too difficult or overwhelming. For example, it might be too much to expect a youngster to clean up all of their toys when we ask; however, they may respond very well when we ask them to put one toy away at a time with some praise along the way (e.g., “Please put the red block in the box” … “Great job putting the block away” … “Put the green block in the box”).

13. Model the behavior you want, and speak softly and quietly.

14. Offer choices to increase motivation and interest in performing less desirable tasks. For example, if the youngster usually resists getting dressed, instead of saying, “It’s time to get dressed,” give choices such as, “Do you want to wear a red or blue shirt,” or “Which do you want to put on first, your shirt or pants?” Also, increase your youngster’s opportunity to make choices throughout the day so that he feels more control over his environment and learns to be responsible for the decisions he makes.

15. Reinforce appropriate questions when your youngster asks them. This will help the attention-seeker and your other children to realize which questions are constructive and relevant.

16. Seek help from psychologists and counselors as well as teachers to reinforce changes in this behavior, not only at home but at school.

17. Set aside special alone time with each parent (e.g., ten minutes of special play time per night or a special weekend outing).

18. Take time to talk to this youngster to discover the real problems and insecurities that he or she may feel.

19. Teach your youngster to ask for what she wants in a more appropriate way. If she is seeking attention, teach her to ask you for a hug, help, or a turn playing with you. If she wants an item, teach her to ask nicely. Remember to praise her for asking you for attention or items appropriately, even when it may not be the best time (e.g., “Great job asking nicely. Mom is on the phone right now. I’ll help you when I’m finished”).

20. Watch for improvement, and then relate how pleased you are with the improvement in behavior.

21. You may wish to consult with a mental health professional to determine whether your child’s behavior falls within normal developmental limits and to help you select strategies that may work best for your child.


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

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