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

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Using Reverse Psychology as a Parenting Strategy

In order to really take advantage of “reverse psychology” as an effective parenting tool (and not have anyone catch on to it), parents really need to have a clear understanding of what it is and how it works.

Parents are using reverse psychology when they intentionally argue in favor of a decision or behavior while secretly wanting their child to endorse the opposite decision or behavior. The technique makes use of the psychological phenomenon of “reactance” (i.e., an emotional reaction in opposition to perceived restrictions on a person’s behavioral freedoms).

Reverse psychology is an important tool that parents can use to influence the decisions of their children. The technique tends to work best when parents reinforce independence with resistant teens. In order to reinforce independence in a reverse psychology format, parents argue against themselves versus the behavior they would like their teenager to engage in.

Here are some examples of “good” reverse psychology:
  • You tell your defiant teenage daughter that you can’t make her do anything that she doesn’t want to do – even if you feel you have evidence to back up your advice – and that only she can decide what’s best for her. Now you are arguing against yourself as the “person of influence” – and reverse that to say that your daughter is in the driver’s seat, free and autonomous to decide for herself. If reverse psychology works its magic, this may make your daughter argue in favor of YOUR expertise and the validity of YOUR advice.
  • Your 12-year-old son refuses to eat because he is engrossed in watching television, so you tell him that it’s “bedtime” since he’s done with “dinnertime.” This may spur some positive action from your son who is yearning to have more television time on his schedule. 
  • Your 7-year-old child hates vegetables, so you say, "I bet you can't eat all of those peas in 30 seconds." 
  • Your preschooler doesn't want to take a bath in the evening, so you say, “Okay, let's just go straight to bed then.” This will probably work, because most children would rather do almost anything than go to bed early.

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

So, you’re basically trying to get your kids to do the exact opposite of what they think you really want them to do.

Here is an example of “bad” reverse psychology:
  • Your trying to get your child to put his toys away, so you say, "I'll put these away for you. You probably don't even know how to fit them all back in the box anyway." Now, even though he will probably insist that he can do it all by himself, you may have also hurt his self-esteem a bit by insinuating that he is not smart enough to put toys away. Make sense?

Reverse psychology often works well with defiant children, because many just want to do the opposite of what parents are telling them. Use reverse psychology techniques sparingly, though. Choose your words and situations carefully. Whatever reverse psychology technique is used, be sure to practice and make it believable. Having a reputation as a “manipulator” is not good.

If you haven’t used reverse psychology on your kids yet, it’s time to add it to your parenting toolbox. Kids are notorious for waiting for you to tell them something – and then doing the exact opposite. They thrive on doing the opposite of whatever they know is expected of them (which may very well be a version of reverse psychology in and of itself).

By telling your kids the opposite of what you want them to do, they may (after being slightly confused) do exactly what you want them to. It’s important to keep in mind, however, that kids are very impressionable. Only use reverse psychology in special circumstances, and avoid using it in ways that could harm your youngster’s self-esteem.

No matter when or how you decide to use reverse psychology, know that there is a major difference between psychology and manipulation. Using reverse psychology every once in a while is okay (so long as no one is going to be injured by it). If you take it too far, or use it too often, you will quickly become known as a manipulator. Remember that once tarnished, your reputation is something you can never get back. Also, if you are dealing with compliant kids (as opposed to resistant ones), it may be better to ignore reverse psychology altogether and just be direct.


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

House Rules for Children with Oppositional Defiant Behavior

There are hundreds of ways to present and describe house rules, but there are only a few core issues. In dealing with defiant child behavior, providing a lot of structure is paramount. Putting this structure in the form of a detailed “house rules” list will be your key to successful behavior modification.

When drafting your list, be sure to use the child’s first name rather than the word “you” (e.g., “Michael is expected to …..” rather than “YOU are expected to …..”). Also, use the word “will” rather than “may” (e.g., “Parents will specify a time for …..” rather than “Parents may specify a time for …..”).

The following are rules that moms and dads should consider for children with oppositional defiant behavior:

1. Michael is expected to be a self-manager. As his parents, we will become involved at the appropriate level of need, become more involved as necessary, and help Michael when he appears to need help. Michael’s behavior determines whether or not we need to make decisions for him and give him more directions.

2. Michael is not an adult yet, and has no authority over his parents. That means he has some choices and some freedom, but only those that his parents give him. We have a responsibility to raise Michael the best we know how.

3. Michael is to follow directions and requests made by his parents. We will discuss the matter and explain our reasons, but we are not required to explain or justify our decisions.

4. Michael has a legal “right” to adequate food, shelter, education, health care, clothing and protection from abuse. Michael’s parents are not required to give him anything else. However, we will provide Michael with some luxuries, but they will be considered “privileges” – not rights – and must be earned.

5. Michael must ask for permission at least 24 hours in advance in order to go out at night, participate in unscheduled activities, or stay over at a friend’s house. Parents will usually give permission, but we will say ‘no’ if a 24-hour notice is not given.

6. Michael is required to come to dinner and family meetings on time and wait until excused from the meeting or meal.

7. Michael will be required to discuss inappropriate behavior when this is pointed out by his parents. He will talk with us to resolve problems and misunderstandings as they arise.

8. Michael will do assigned house chores to earn privileges. Also, we will give him some extra chores that are paid, but he will not be paid for work that is not completed on time or as specified.

9. Michael will eat regular, nutritious and balanced meals at breakfast, lunch and dinner. Failure to eat properly is unhealthy and self-harming.

10. Michael will get up for school or work on time. Parents will specify a time and will help him get up if he is late or not on time.

11. Michael will not carry, hold or use drugs, alcohol or tobacco. Also, he will not ride in a car with anyone using - or under the influence of - drugs or alcohol.

12. Michael will not use physical force, spit, break, or throw anything to get what he wants or to hurt someone.

13. Michael will not take or use things that belong to others without permission. He will return all borrowed items as agreed – and in the condition he found it.

14. Homework will be completed on time and turned in to teachers. Parents will designate when and what must be done if Michael fails to manage this responsibility.

15. Hygiene will be daily and at an appropriate time. Parents will designate what must be done and will become more directive if Michael fails to manage this responsibility.

16. No friends will be allowed in the house without permission or unless a parent is present who gives permission. We can designate who can come into the house without permission during appropriate times.

17. The internet will not be used except for school, educational-related activities, and for e-mail to known friends and family. We will have access to the computer and will monitor all e-mail and internet use.

18. There will be no phone calls after 10:00 pm or before 8:00 am.

19. There will be no use of profanity, cruel, sarcastic or insulting remarks.

20. There will be no use of the car or outside activities (e.g., sports, parties, etc.) if the average grade in any class during a semester is lower than a "C". Also, Michael must maintain a "B" average to use a car.

21. There will be no visitors in the house after 9:30 pm without 24-hour notice and a parent’s permission. Also, Michael will be home at a designated time.

Failure to comply with the above rules will result in loss of privileges and/or grounding. Depending on the severity of the violation, privileges will be withheld anywhere from 1 to 7 days.

Tough Love for Pot Smoking Teens

No mother or father wants to believe that their teenage son or daughter is using drugs. The fact is that even the most careful parent can't always compete with peer pressure. Adolescents who are eager to fit in with the popular crowd may end up smoking pot because their peers do it or they just want to experiment.

If you suspect that your adolescent is using pot or may be tempted to do so, you need to take some important steps:

1. The first stage of dealing with this issue involves trying to understand what your adolescent is actually experiencing by engaging her in a helpful dialogue. Hold back on your warnings and threats. Instead, approach your youngster as the expert and ask for a greater understanding by asking questions such as: How much does it cost these days? I understand that the current weed is much stronger than what was around in my day …is that true? Is it easy to get pot? What different types of pot are out there now? What is it like when you get high? Why do you like to get high? What are the benefits to you?

2. Once you have a better understanding of the reasons for drug use and the patterns of use, you should express your displeasure in the following ways:
  • It is illegal. Your adolescent needs to be reminded that she can be arrested, and while not much happens to first time offenders, still it's no fun to end up on probation and to have to do community service.
  • Employers now routinely drug test all applicants. Since traces of pot remain in the system for about a month and it is not as easy to hide as commonly thought, your adolescent may be very disappointed when she gets fired from her local, part-time job because of a positive drug screen.
  • It impairs driving skills. If your adolescent has her license, the same rule about drinking and not driving apply to smoking pot and driving. The research is very clear that it delays reaction times and, therefore, increases the risk of accidents. 
  • You do not want illegal substances in your home, nor do you want your adolescent or her friends smoking pot in your home. It makes parents look bad and can get them arrested (contributing to the delinquency of a minor).

3. Express your disapproval of your teen’s use of pot in a calm, firm manner, without hysterics or unreasonable threats. You understand you can’t control her behavior, that if she chooses to smoke pot, you can't really stop her, but you will set some firm rules about this. For instance, if you suspect she is breaking the rule by bringing marijuana into the house, she is to understand that her right to privacy in her room will be suspended, that periodic room searches will take place, and backpacks will be searched.

4. If your teen denies using marijuana, but you doubt that she is telling you the truth, you can discreetly order a home drug test kit online. It can take up to 5 weeks for pot to get out of a person’s system, so it can easily be detected in the urine. While your adolescent is likely to balk at the idea of being drug tested by you, explain to her in a loving yet firm way that this is a new house rule. There is the very real possibility that she may refuse to take the test, but if you tell her that the only other option is taking her to the hospital to get tested, she is more likely to agree to taking the home drug test.

5. Find those occasional moments when your adolescent is actually in the mood to talk about drug use. Typically, driving somewhere together is one of the best times, which also implies that it is better to have only one parent involved in the conversation so it doesn't feel like a 2-on-1 confrontation.

6. Encourage your adolescent to get involved in something positive, such as special groups, sports, band and other activities that can prevent her from being bored and susceptible to negative influences.

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

7. For some adolescents, smoking pot is purely a social activity, not unlike having a pizza with their close friends when they are hanging out on a weekend night. But sometimes, the kids your teenager gets high with are not her regular peer group – and it's important to know if she's beginning to be influenced by some other adolescents that may be more of a fringe group who don't appear to share the values you and your adolescent have discussed as important. Why is she distancing herself from her usual social group? Are they "not cool" because they don't get high? Has her old group moved beyond her in some way? How much of the marijuana use is based on filling some personal need? Answers to these questions will be crucial in dealing with your child’s drug use.

8. If you discover that your adolescent is using pot, alert her school about her drug use so that teachers and administrators can be on the lookout for any indicators that she is getting high before class or obtaining the drug from other classmates.

9. If you discover that your adolescent is not smoking pot, that doesn't mean that she isn't still vulnerable. Take safeguards (e.g., find out who her friends are, who she is hanging around, where she is going, etc.).

10. Is your teen aware of the ways in which pot negatively impacts users? For instance, because it tends to create a sense of apathy (the "What, me worry?" syndrome), the negative effects of marijuana are often subtle and easy to miss. Research reveals that adolescents who use marijuana on some degree of a regular basis usually get their driver's license significantly later than non-users. This reflects the tendency to put things off and not care as much about things that are usually important. The adolescent that remains focused on her schoolwork, after school activities, and other interests, is clearly at less risk than the adolescent that starts letting things slip.

11. Lead by example. If you are abusing alcohol or smoking pot yourself, don't expect your adolescent to take you seriously when you lecture her about the evils of doing drugs.

12. Let your adolescent know that you are always available if she needs to talk. If you open the lines of communication, she will feel more comfortable with revealing that she is being pressured to smoke marijuana or has tried it. Yelling and scolding will make your adolescent less likely to share things.

13. One of the most frequent driving forces behind abuse of marijuana is when it is a form of self-medication. This is when adolescents who have undiagnosed ADHD use marijuana to calm down, or the depressed youngster smokes pot to shut off negative thoughts and feelings. This group of users is more likely to smoke alone as well as with friends, and that's an important distinction to make. If there is an underlying problem driving the pot smoking, it is important to identify that and encourage getting help for that problem.

14. One good question to ask is, "How would you know when pot smoking not a good thing to do?" This is easily asked when your adolescent is quick to point out she is “not a drug addict” like so and so who's always stoned. This question will touch on how often she actually uses marijuana and under what circumstances. It clarifies her ability to acknowledge that there are risks of abuse – and can she tell the difference? For instance, she may not be aware that chronic users (defined as those who smoke daily for a month or more) typically will become depressed when they stop using.

15. Look for signs that “use” is turning into “abuse.” Is your youngster's behavior or personality changing in negative ways? If you begin to believe that your adolescent is developing a serious addiction, then you can take much stronger steps (e.g., involving the police, requiring routine drug testing, and insisting upon individual and family counseling with a specialist in substance abuse).


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

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