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

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Grandma Plays "Mediator" in the Family

With Christmas almost here, i was hoping you could give me some advice. I have been trying the tough love approach with my granddaughter, who's 11 and has been a handful. She had been living with her dad in a blended family along with her 9 yr. old sister. They were having week-ends with their mom, which didn't always work out. The last time her dad went to pick her up she refused to go with him, he was getting annoyed and yanked her by the coat sleeve, now the mom and her have claimed that he hit her and have charged him with assault. Until all this is settled in court they can't speak or see each other. The mom is unstable, chronic liar and trouble-maker since day one, i don't think she even has a conscience. She also lets her dress provocatively and she smokes. The whole family has always spent Christmas Eve together at our house so i'm finding it hard. I'm so very tired of all the mom’s games and would like to follow this through ...but i've be told by my oldest son that i might live to regret it. Thanks for any help you can give....


Let me make sure I understand:
  • Your granddaughter and her father are court-ordered not to have contact.
  • Now there is some division in the family.
  • But you want to have the usual Christmas Eve get-together.

Actually I don’t see how this is possible, because someone will have to be left out (i.e., either your granddaughter or her father).

You didn’t mention where your granddaughter is living. Also, is her father your son?

In any event, Christmas time is especially important to children. Therefore, the right thing to do is to work it out so that your granddaughter can spend Christmas Eve with you. Also, you could have 2 get-togethers -- one that includes the father, and another one with the granddaughter (different times of course).

I can see you’re stuck in the middle. Choose to stay out of the business of playing mediator. In situations like these, the mediator tends to make a bad problem worse by attempting to control things that are not controllable.

Mark Hutten,, M.A.

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Son Is In The Juvenile Justice System Now

Mark, Well, it's been 11 days since M has been in the JJS. The visit was awkward to say the least. And our dismay to see that another "friend" who we have been discouraging (and being pretty successful with) was also in!! Needless to say, our emotions are still on a roller-coaster. M has been seen by a counselor while there and FINALLY there has been exchange of information between his counselor and the JSS. (We had been requesting this for over a year/sent in the paper work and still not done). Well, the JJS counselor called me on Tuesday and we talked for a while. She feels M is in a deep depression. He has not felt loved since very small, we love our other children, he doesn't make eye contact, no inflection of voice, apathy, etc. (This is VERY hard to hear). Our regular counselor has recently told us of this too.

==> Not to minimize his feelings, but most “out-of-control” teenagers feel unloved and mistreated – this is nothing new. And of course he’s depressed – he’s locked-up. Who wouldn’t be?

Also, counselors do NOT get a true reading on a child’s general attitude while the child is in a facility. I regularly visit my juvenile probationers who happen to be incarcerated. They all have a different attitude in jail compared to when they are out. When they return home, there’s about a 2-week honeymoon period in which the child behaves appropriately. After the honeymoon though, the child returns to his original problematic behavior (unless, of course, the parent is making parenting-changes on her end).

As harsh as it sounds, out-of-control teens need to feel an element of discomfort before they will change – this is not cruel and usual punishment however – it’s tough love (which is often tougher on the parent than the child).

An easy trap for parents to fall into at this point is to (a) feel sorry for the child, (b) to doubt their decisions and parenting strategies, and (c) to feel like a failure as a parent, etc.

CAUTION: Beware of falling into this trap. Stay the course. Positive change is occurring!

M has been approached about meds and had refused them. The new counselor T (who unfortunately is quitting JJS) has been pretty confrontational with M and really pushed him for answers (not I don't know/care). The regular counselor A has been seeing him for over a year and has not shared that they are doing any of this. What is your advice on the direction this should take? If we need to change counselors we will. This also may be an act. Who knows anymore?

== > Go with the counselors who will challenge your son and who will not fall for the usual manipulations that teens cough-up during these rough times.

Yesterday he was seen by a psychiatrist who has dx him with ADHD and has prescribed adderall. When I re-read the info on it, I can see LOADS of characteristics. We had 1 teacher in elementary school suggest this, but the physician and subsequent teachers did not find any basis to this. Again we feel horrible if this is what is causing his difficulties. She feels the rx may help with the depression also. Again, your input on this would be great.

== > I’m not a proponent for ADHD meds or antidepressants for adolescents. My experience reveals that (a) insisting the child take meds is just another potential battle zone and (b) they end up either selling them to friends or abusing them. Behavioral modification is a much better course than pharmacotherapy.

Anyway, my biggest dilemma is how to handle things when he is released back home (we won't know until 1/3/08 but seem to think from the counselor and M tells us the PO also that he will get "intensive probation" whatever that is).

== > Intensive probation means he will have weekly contact with a PO, possibly have weekly urine screens, have stiffer consequences for violating the probation contact, etc.

My husband wants to give almost everything back (no cell phone or car) as he has "done his time" and to make a fresh start. He would get all of his clothes, computer (no internet), TV/playstation in his room, use of house phone. I am OK with this if this is what should happen. He did not EARN this back in the home, but is staying @ JJS for 24 days enough? Again, we have never dealt with this before and really want to do the right thing.

== > I agree with your husband. Your son has received a “natural consequence.” A fresh start would be in order.

Christmas will be really hard--do we have a "do-over" when he comes home and leave all the decorations up and have baked items, etc? We are not allowed to bring him ANYTHING for our visit on Christmas.

== > No. Missing Christmas is part of the natural consequence. You can give him his gifts when he comes home however. Do NOT over-indulge out of a sense of guilt however.

Bottom line: Your son is developing emotional muscles that he would never have developed had he not gone through this very uncomfortable experience. Remind him that this is just the beginning of his pain [now that he is in the radar of probation] if he doesn’t get with the program.

Thanks for your wisdom and experience and have a peaceful, wonderful holiday. I am sure to e-mail you again soon.

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Is There Such a Thing as Too Many TVs in the House?

I have read through the printed e book and was wondering what you recommend. Terrible to say all of our kids have TV's in their rooms. We have thought about taking them all out and having them earn them during the week for use on the weekends. Our 12 year old is a very good student and has given us NO problems what so ever. I feel that she may think we are punishing her by taking her TV away. The other kids are the one's that are the problem. What do you think?


The number of TVs in the house is not as important as what they are watching on their TVs. The problem with having TVs in the bedrooms is you can’t monitor what they are watching.

Love your kids equally, but parent them differently. Let your 12-year-old keep her TV. The others should “earn” TV privileges as you suggested. If you want to go the extra mile, have only one TV is a central area where you can monitor content.

Children in the United States watch an average of three to four hours of television a day. By the time of high school graduation, they will have spent more time watching television than they have in the classroom. While television can entertain, inform, and keep our children company, it may also influence them in undesirable ways.

Time spent watching television takes away from important activities such as reading, school work, playing, exercise, family interaction, and social development. Children also learn information from television that may be inappropriate or incorrect.

They often can’t tell the difference between the fantasy presented on television versus reality. They are influenced by the thousands of commercials seen each year, many of which are for alcohol, junk food, fast foods, and toys.

Children who watch a lot of television are likely to:

· Have lower grades in school
· Read fewer books
· Exercise less
· Be overweight

In any event, I would strongly suggest that you have only one TV – and have a house rule that prohibits watching programs containing violence. Hundreds of studies of the effects of TV violence on children and teenagers have found that children may:
  • become "immune" or numb to the horror of violence
  • gradually accept violence as a way to solve problems
  • imitate the violence they observe on television
  • identify with certain characters, victims and/or victimizers 

In addition, children with emotional, behavioral, learning or impulse control problems may be more easily influenced by TV violence.

Mark Hutten, M.A.

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