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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How To Change Your Defiant Child’s Behavior

"Normal" behavior in kids depends on your youngster's age, personality, and physical and emotional development. A youngster's behavior may be a problem if it doesn't match the expectations of the parents or if it is disruptive.

Normal or "good" behavior is usually determined by whether it's socially, culturally and developmentally appropriate. Knowing what to expect from your youngster at each age will help you decide whether her/his behavior is normal.

Many kids tend to continue a behavior when it is rewarded (with parental attention) and stop a behavior when it is ignored. Consistency in your reaction to a behavior is important, because rewarding and punishing the same behavior at different times confuses your youngster. When you think your youngster's behavior might be a problem, you have 3 choices:
  • Attempt to stop the behavior, either by ignoring it or by punishing it.
  • Decide that the behavior is not a problem because it's appropriate to your youngster's age and stage of development.
  • Introduce a new behavior that you prefer and reinforce it by rewarding your youngster.

One way to stop unwanted behavior is to ignore it. This way works best over a period of time with younger children who exhibit defiance. When you want the behavior to stop immediately, you can use the time-out method.

Decide ahead of time the behaviors that will result in a time-out (e.g., tantrums, aggressive or dangerous behavior). Choose a time-out place that is uninteresting for your son or daughter and not frightening (e.g., a chair or corner). When you're away from home, consider using a car or a nearby seating area as a time-out place.

When the unacceptable behavior occurs, tell your youngster the behavior is unacceptable and give a warning that you will put her/him in time-out if the behavior doesn't stop. Remain calm and don't look angry. If your youngster goes on misbehaving, calmly take her/him to the time-out area.

Try to keep track of how long your youngster has been in time-out. Set a timer so she/he will know when time-out is over. Time-out should be brief (generally 1 minute for each year of age), and should begin immediately after reaching the time-out place or after your youngster calms down. You should stay within sight or earshot of your youngster, but don't talk to her/him. If your youngster leaves the time-out area, gently return her/him to the area and consider resetting the timer. When the time-out is over, let your youngster leave the time-out place. Don't discuss the bad behavior, but look for ways to reward and reinforce good behavior later on.

One way to encourage good behavior is to use a reward system. Defiant kids who learn that bad behavior is not tolerated and that good behavior is rewarded are learning skills that will last them a lifetime. A reward system can take up to 2 months to work. Being patient and keeping a diary of behavior can be helpful to moms and dads.

Choose one or two behaviors you would like to change (e.g., bedtime habits, tooth brushing, doing homework, etc.). Choose a reward your youngster would enjoy (e.g., an extra bedtime story, delaying bedtime by half an hour, a preferred snack, earning points toward a special toy or game, a small amount of money, etc.).

Explain the desired behavior and the reward to your youngster (e.g., "If you get into your pajamas and brush your teeth before this TV show is over, you can stay up a half hour later."). Request the behavior only one time. If your youngster does what you ask, give the reward. You can help your youngster if necessary, but don't get too involved. Since any attention from mom or dad – even negative attention – is so rewarding to defiant kids, they may prefer to have parental attention instead of a reward at first. Transition statements (e.g., "In 10 minutes, play time will be over") are helpful when you are teaching your youngster new behaviors.

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

This system helps you avoid power struggles. However, your youngster is not punished if she/he chooses not to behave as you ask; rather, the child simply does not get the reward.

More tips for changing defiant behavior:

1. Accept your youngster's basic personality, whether it's shy, social, talkative or active. Basic personality can be changed somewhat, but not very much.

2. Allow your youngster to make her/his own choices whenever possible (e.g., "Do you want to do your homework before or after dinner?”).

3. As kids get older, they may enjoy becoming involved in household rule-making. Don't debate the rules at the time of misbehavior, but invite your youngster to participate in rule-making at another time.

4. Ask your youngster to do a task. Set a timer. If the task is done before the timer rings, your youngster gets a reward. To decide the amount of time to give your youngster, figure out your youngster's "best time" to do that task and add 5 minutes.

5. Avoid power struggles, no-win situations and extremes.

6. Describe your youngster's behavior as bad, but don't label your youngster as bad.

7. Develop little routines and rituals (especially at bedtimes and meal times).

8. Don't criticize your youngster in front of other people.

9. Make a short list of important rules WITH your child and go over them weekly.

10. Praise your youngster often when she/he deserves it.

11. Provide transition comments (e.g., "In 10 minutes, we'll be eating dinner.").

12. Put a mark on a chart each time you see our child performing a good behavior. For instance, if you see her/him playing quietly, solving a problem without fighting, picking up toys or reading a book, you would mark the chart. After a certain number of marks, give your youngster a reward. You can also make negative marks each time a bad behavior occurs. If you do this, only give your youngster a reward if there are more positive marks than negative marks.

13. Touch your child affectionately and often. Kids want and need attention from their moms and dads.

14. Try to avoid situations that can make your youngster cranky and irritable (e.g., becoming overly-stimulated, tired, bored, etc.).

15. When you think you've overreacted to your child’s “bad” behavior, it's better to use common sense to solve the problem, even if you have to be inconsistent with your reward or punishment method. Avoid doing this often though, because it will confuse your youngster.

16. Write a short list of good behaviors on a chart and mark the chart with a star each time you see the good behavior. After your youngster has earned a small number of stars (depending on your youngster's age), give her/him a reward.


 

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

Teaching Self-Control Skills to Defiant Students

Teaching oppositional, defiant kids to manage their own behavior allows educators to spend more time teaching and less time dealing with challenging behaviors in their classrooms. Managing one’s own behavior is called self-control. Self-control skills are used to help “uncooperative” children to engage in instructional activities, keep track of whether or not they complete tasks, use appropriate play and social interaction, participate in classroom routines, and pay attention to their own behavior.

Kids can learn to monitor their own behavior and control their own actions through using self-control techniques.  In order to help kids learn to monitor their own behavior, educators should ask themselves the following questions:
  • Are there any factors or challenges that the youngster faces that need to be considered before implementing a self-control plan?
  • Is the youngster able to make an accurate self-assessment of his/her behavior? 
  • What goals do I have for the youngster and the classroom or home environment in using a self-control plan? 
  • What is it that interests or engages the youngster that may be used to begin a self-control program? 
  • What is the youngster’s current level of self-control?

Here is how a "self-control skills" training program works:

1. Educators should assess the youngster’s current level of self-control to accurately report on his/her behavior. For instance, the educator may ask a youngster as he sits to eat snack, “Did you wash your hands?” If the educator has just observed the youngster sit at the table without washing his hands, yet he responds that he did wash his hands, the educator will know that the youngster can’t accurately assess his behavior. It’s easier to have kids assess behaviors around activities in which they are currently engaged. Some kids may not be able to accurately assess their own behaviors and may need to be taught how to self-assess prior to using a self-control program. Educators may need to teach kids to correctly report if they did or didn’t perform a task that the educator asked about (e.g., getting a drink of water, putting away a backpack, returning a book to the shelf, etc.).

2. Educators can identify what observable behaviors they want the youngster to learn to self-manage. Each step needs to clearly describe what the youngster should do. For instance, a younger child may be taught that when told to “clean up,” she should stop playing, pick up toys, place them on the shelf, and take a seat in the circle area.

3.  Once the behaviors have been identified, they are visually displayed for the youngster using photographs or drawings on a poster, a sheet of paper, or in a booklet. The youngster is given a way to monitor his/her behaviors using a checklist or chart that shows the activity with a place to indicate whether the youngster performed the step correctly (using a check mark, smiley face, sticker, thumbs up/thumbs down, etc.). Teachers can laminate the chart or checklist and use a wipe-off marker so that it is reusable, or make a chart that the youngster can take home to share with his/her parents. A goal of the chart or checklist is to teach the youngster how to independently engage in appropriate behavior. It isn’t used to punish or withhold activities. It may be used to chart special activities or materials that the youngster earns. Sometimes kids respond well to the use of an earned “special” activity if they complete the chart (e.g., reading a book with the teacher, playing with a specific game, having time on the computer, etc.). If the self-control chart includes a special activity or material, the youngster can choose the special activity. A visual representation (e.g., a photo or picture cut out from a catalog or magazine) of the special activity can then be placed on the chart as a reminder of what the youngster can earn when the chart is complete.

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

4.  The youngster is taught to engage in the desired behaviors and then to monitor his/her performance. Once the chart is prepared, the educator should review the chart with the youngster after the activity or routine has occurred. The educator can review the steps that are listed on the chart and explain how the youngster’s performance will be marked (e.g., “The third picture shows ‘I put the books on the shelf.’ If you put the books on the shelf, we are going to mark a ‘thumbs up.’ If you did not put the books on the shelf, we will mark a ‘thumbs down.’ Let’s think about what happened. Did you put the books on the shelf? Yes, you did. We can mark a ‘thumbs up.’”). Once the educator has reviewed the system with the youngster and the educator believes that the youngster understands it, the educator should try it out the next time the activity or routine occurs. During the activity, the educator can remind the youngster of the behaviors on the chart. When the activity is over, the educator can help the youngster mark the chart.

5.  The educator should provide positive attention or feedback to the youngster while the youngster is learning self-control. When the educator gives the youngster feedback for using the chart, the educator should praise him/her for engaging in the behavior and the accuracy of his/her ability to self-manage. Over time, the educator can gradually provide less assistance for using the chart. The goal will be to get the youngster to use the chart independently until he/she does the behavior easily and no longer needs the self-control system.

Self-control skills are designed to teach kids how to engage in appropriate behavior, independently. Over time, the educator should decrease his/her assistance and support kids to use self-control skills independently. If a youngster misses a step or does not complete the chart, the educator can gently redirect the youngster to complete the step and encourage him/her to try harder the following day or during the next appropriate activity.

When procedures to teach self-control skills are carefully implemented, positive changes in behavior can be expected. Self-control skills are most effective when the educator implements the self-control program systematically and monitors the youngster’s progress. When a youngster has difficulty with the process or is not making progress, the self-control system must be reviewed, and additional instruction or new procedures may be needed.


 

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

When Your Teen's Friends Are A Bad Influence

If your teenager was hanging out with the wrong crowd, how would you know? Have you noticed a change in your teen’s behavior or a lack of respect for what used to be important? Bad influence from hanging around the wrong people shows up in various ways, and peer pressure gives teenagers a new attitude about life that may not be to the liking of all moms and dads. 

If your teenager is associating with the wrong crowd, here are some tips that may help:

1. Come to terms with the fact that you can't pick your teen’s friends. In fact, if you criticize a particular friend – that’s the friend your teen will most likely want to hang out with. Teens are developmentally bound to defend their chosen peer group. During adolescence, your teen’s friends are more important than anybody else – including you! While your goal as a mother or father is to keep your teenager safe, your teen’s goal is to be with people who like him or her.

2. Don’t be afraid to set limits with your teenager. Remember, you have a right and a legal responsibility (at least until their 18th birthday) to make the rules for him or her.

3. Help your teenager find positive activities to engage in (e.g., youth groups or clubs, volunteering, sports, hobbies, etc.).

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

4. In the process of setting limits, allow your teen some input in establishing the rules. Draw up a written contact to eliminate any misunderstanding, and both of you sign it.

5. It’s important for your teenager to know that he doesn’t have to look a certain way, or act a certain way, or perform at a certain level in order to maintain your love. He needs to know that your relationship with him won't stop if he messes up.

6. Offer your teenager a “cool” activity as an alternative to going out with the wrong crowd (e.g., “movie-and-pizza night”).  If you just say, “You can't go out. I’m going to keep you at home and not giving you anything better to do,” you are inviting rebellion.

7. Open up your home and have your teenager's friends over periodically. Order in some pizzas and spend some time with them. Don't hover, but get an idea of who they are, their personalities and what makes them tick.

8. Parents tend to share their opinions far too often in the teenage years, because they don't want their teenager to make the same mistakes they did. However, it’s best to “back off” and offer your wisdom only when your teenager asks for it. So, be sure to talk with your teenager, but do so mostly with your eyes and ears – not your mouth.

9. Sit down with your teenager and give her reasons why you don't approve of a particular peer she is spending time with. But instead of “forcing” your teen to stop seeing this person, “ask” her to stop. Leave it to be her decision based on your conversation.

10. Understand that if your teen doesn’t feel valued and significant in your home, he will look for value and acceptance somewhere else. There are plenty of peers who can make him feel valued, but mostly from the wrong crowd and with the wrong motives. There are four things you can offer your teen to make her feel valued: your experience, your time, your unconditional love, and your wisdom. Each of these builds value. Being valued makes a teen feel like she belongs, builds her self-esteem, and helps her have the confidence to say "no" to those peers who are a negative influence.


 

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

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