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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When Your Teenager's "Best Friend" is a Negative Influence

"I am reading and reading your eBook, and I like it so far - makes a lot of sense - but the biggest problem for me with my teens especially the 16 year old girl is who her friends are. She has one best friend, and doesn't seem to hang around or call too many others - only one or two on the phone. But this girl is NOT one that is a positive influence in my daughter's life. While she is basically a sweet girl, she has had problems with drugs (in rehab type program) smokes (and now so does my daughter) has run away from home over night she is depressed and says she takes meds for her mood swings as well, and her parents that aren't as stable as would be preferred - and most sad is often accused by other kids of her "cheating" with my daughter's boyfriend, which kills my daughter but she always ends up believing her or at least saying so.

My daughter is often depressed and she says things like "I can't take any more" and she says I will kill myself when I tell her I think the other girl is a bad influence. She says she doesn't mean it but it scared me so now she sees a therapist. She had a different friend of exactly the same type but she "left" her for this girl. While she was friends with the other one, she "tried" drinking wine coolers and experimented a lot with sex. I have let her continue to hang out with her supervised at my house - but - I let her go to the movies with her the other night - telling her I decided to trust her - and specifically asked her to "do the right thing" - and stated that meant she was not to leave the movie theatre for any reason and I specifically said don't leave the building to go and smoke. She came home - I asked to smell her breath - and sure enough she smoked outside in front of the theatre - or so she says.

I can't figure out whether I am to allow her to hang out with this girl - I want her so badly to be friends with people who are on the HAPPIER side of life. I understand teenage angst, but these girls are really dark and down. How do I find advice about this? I am so desperate about this."

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The need for acceptance, approval, and belonging is vital during the teen years. Teens who feel isolated or rejected by their peers — or in their family — are more likely to engage in risky behaviors in order to fit in with a group. In such situations, peer pressure can impair good judgment and fuel risk-taking behavior, drawing a teen away from the family and positive influences and luring into dangerous activities.

For example, teens with ADHD, ODD, learning differences or disabilities, depression, etc., are often rejected due to their behavior, and thus are more likely to associate with other rejected and/or delinquent peers. Some experts believe that teenage girls frequently enter into sexual relationships when what they are seeking is acceptance, approval, and love.
 

A powerful negative peer influence can motivate a teen to make choices and engage in behavior that his or her values might otherwise reject. Some teens will risk being grounded, losing their parents' trust, or even facing jail time, just to try and fit in or feel like they have a group of friends they can identify with and who accept them. Sometimes, teens will change the way they dress, their friends, give up their values or create new ones, depending on the people they hang around with.

Some teens harbor secret lives governed by the influence of their peers. Some — including those who appear to be well-behaved, high-achieving teens — engage in negative, even dangerous behavior when with their peers. Once influenced, teens may continue the slide into problems with the law, substance abuse, school problems, authority defiance, gang involvement, etc. If your daughter associates with peers who are using drugs or displaying self-destructive behaviors, then she is probably doing the same.

It is important to encourage friendships among teens. We all want our children to be with peers who will have a positive influence, and stay away from those who will encourage or engage in harmful, destructive, immoral, or illegal activities. Parents can support positive peer relationships by giving their teenagers their love, time, boundaries, and encouragement to think for themselves.

Specifically, parents can show support by:
  • Be genuinely interested in your teen's activities. This allows parents to know their teen's friends and to monitor behavior, which is crucial in keeping teens out of trouble. When misbehavior does occur, parents who have involved their children in setting family rules and consequences can expect less flack from their children as they calmly enforce the rules. Parents who, together with their teens, set firm boundaries and high expectations may find that their teens' abilities to live up to those expectations grow.
  • Encourage independent thought and expression. In this way, teens can develop a healthy sense of self and an enhanced ability to resist peer pressure.
  • Have a positive relationship with your teen. When parent-teen interactions are characterized by warmth, kindness, consistency, respect, and love, the relationship will flourish, as will the teen's self-esteem, mental health, spirituality, and social skills.

You may not be comfortable about your daughter's choice of friends or peer group. This may be because of their image, negative attitudes, or serious behaviors (e.g., alcohol use, drug use, truancy, violence, sexual behaviors, etc.).
 

Here are some suggestions:
  • Check whether your concerns about your daughter's friends are real and important.
  • Do not attack your her friends. Remember that criticizing your teen's choice of friends is like a personal attack.
  • Encourage reflective thinking by helping your teen think about her actions in advance and discussing immediate and long-term consequences of risky behavior.
  • Encourage your teen's independence by supporting decision-making based on principles and not other people.
  • Get to know the friends of your teen. Learn their names, invite them into your home so you can talk and listen to them, and introduce yourself to their parents.
  • Help your teen understand the difference between image (expressions of youth culture) and identity (who he or she is).
  • If you believe your concerns are serious, talk to your daughter about her behavior and choices -- not the friends.
  • Keep the lines of communication open and find out why these friends are important to your daughter.
  • Let your teen know of your concerns and feelings.
  • Remember that we all learn valuable lessons from mistakes.

No matter what kind of peer influence your daughter faces, she must learn how to balance the value of going along with the crowd (connection) against the importance of making principle-based decisions (independence).

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

Is your defiant teenager depressed or extremely manipulative or a combination of both?

My 14 (almost 15) yr. old son is dating a 17 yr. girl. Just about the time he started seeing her, my almost 17 yr. son came to me because he felt his brother was showing signs of depression. The oldest son is very mature, kind, very religious, and sensitive towards others, particularly his brothers. He showed me how to access his brother's instant messaging e-mails. I was then able to get into my son's head (he's not very talkative) and find out what is going on with his girlfriend because I had some concerns about their relationship. Also in his e-mails, he told his friends that he was very sad but didn't know why and that he doesn't believe in God. I kept on eye on it and didn't see anything more in the e-mail about him being sad nor did I notice him looking down until I grounded him. The younger one has had his moments of bad moods over the years, and with the combination of hormones and having a girlfriend in the picture, I decided to monitor it.


Long story short, I told him I didn't want him to be alone in the car with her. That's what started the terrible outbursts. My husband and I came home to them in our driveway and I knew they were doing more than kissing. I found out more on the e-mail. They are not there yet (physically) but will be if I don't try and prevent it. He doesn't know about the e-mail, of course. After I told him my concerns about being alone in the car with her, he had a major temper tantrum like I never saw before. He swore at me, threw things and screamed at me. I grounded him over the weekend. That meant more tantrums. My husband was out of town so I had to do this all by myself. My son took full advantage of his dad not being around and let it all out. Screaming and crying for hours begging and begging to go out.

He was telling me how very sad he was and that he needed to talk to his friends. Normally, he is a very good kid. Does very well in school (except after I told him about the car issue and the straight A student received a D on a test recently) and has great friends (including his girlfriend). I stood my ground with the grounding, but he was wearing me down. He followed me throughout the house crying and begging. I felt like a prisoner in my own home. I went into the bathroom a lot that day (yesterday) to get away from him. Sometimes he would get into a fetal position. At one point he grabbed a knife and said he was going to use it on himself. I didn't let on but I didn't believe him. The 17 yr old got it away from him. My older son was so upset that he broke down sobbing. I ended up calling the police after he threatened to take some pills. They talked to him and got him on the phone with a crisis center and recommended that he see someone. He told the counselor that if he had had a gun, he would have used it.

Afterwards, he was very tired and calm after 8 hrs of crying and went to bed (it was rather late). I was exhausted. At 6:45, he woke me up (it was a Sunday) to ask if it was now all right for him to see his friends that day. Technically, he was still grounded. After the scare from the night before, and the fact that I didn't want to go through it again...I told him yes. He ended up telling me his plans (his girlfriend was going to pick him up) and they were going out to eat and then her parent’s house to watch a movie. He was smiling when he walked in the door after being with her. He then asked me when dinner was because he wanted to go for some ice cream with her. I was waiting for the other shoe to drop when he was going to approach me again to tell me what his plans were. I didn't want to get into because I wasn't sure what stand to take. Apparently, she couldn't go, so instead of eating dinner, he went to be at 7pm. 
 
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I am so confused. Is he depressed or extremely manipulative or a combination of both? Regardless, I know he has a problem of some sort but....... it’s difficult to parent because I'm afraid of what he might do. I am going to seek help. I've already tried someone today but he wasn't available. On Friday, I did put a call into the guidance counselor but he wasn't available. Who should he see?

Thank you

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Dear Parent,
 
Whether or not you feel that he is serious or just wanting the attention from it, you need to get him help. And I do not mean, talking to a counselor at school when he might be available next. I mean inpatient care if possible.

This can be done through a family doctor, or the ER. After any threat or attempt, it is best to have the teen evaluated by medical professionals.

This does several things. It helps to "feel out" if it was a threat or real. If it was real, it will be the first step in getting him help, and in helping him to understand that there are better ways to deal with his emotions. Second, if he was using it as a tool to get what he wants, he will learn very quickly that threatening to harm himself will not get him what he thinks it will - and is not ok to do.

Next time you do ground him, I would suggest to prevent what happened over this instance, don’t just ground him to your house. Take the computer, the cell phones, and tell him he comes out of his room (a) to eat when you call him to eat, (b) to go to the bathroom (but no more than 10 minutes can be spent in the bathroom at a time), (c) for emergencies of course - but not self created ones.

While I don’t advise reading your teen's emails, I feel that in this case you had reason to do so. I am not sure if you ought to read each and every email though. You might want to sit down with his girlfriend’s parents, and address some of your concerns about the physical part of your son's and their daughter’s relationship. It may very well be that they are unaware of the extent of it.

Remind your son, that due to federal and state law, once his girlfriend turns 18, the relationship with her will have to stop. She will be considered an adult, and he is still a minor.

But most important, I wouldn’t wait more then 24-36 hours before he sees someone. Admit him if you have to.

Mark

Passive versus Active Parenting

Hi Mark, Thanks for sharing and helping us parents who are frustrated and absolutely dumbfounded as to what to do with our little darlings. My question to you is how do parents who are divorced work together and stay consistent? My ex and I are equally worried and upset with our 17yr old boy. We however, have very different parenting styles. I'm more into boundaries and keeping the lines of communication open. My ex lets our son run the show. I cannot tell my ex what to do or how to handle situations because he doesn't like anyone doing this, especially his ex. He takes everything very personally.

I have raised my son for over 16 yrs. My son is now living with his dad. He needs to see if the grass is greener and in some ways it is through his eyes. Less structure, way more freedom, no chores, no sch. meals, girlfriend can sleepover, money magically appears in his bank acct., curfew not enforced. These are just a few examples that I cannot deal with. His father doesn't know how to parent, because historically his been the Disneyland parent and now he needs to be the real parent and he doesn't know where to begin. Can you give me some simple steps that will help us see eye to eye just a little? I do plan on offering your web page to him. Yes or No ...Thanks for your time and wisdom, D.

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Hi D.,

Yes …please do offer the website and eBook. Do your best to recruit your ex as a partner in problem solving in spite of the fact that he seems to be on the opposite page from you.

==> A weaker plan supported by both parents is much better than a strong plan supported by only one parent. <==

Your situation is far from ideal. Your husband is apparently doing a lot of things that contribute to the problem rather than help resolve it. However, that system tends to break down in the long run. 
 
Here’s the pattern I see quite frequently with divorced parents:

1. Child does not like the structured environment with the ‘active parent’ (i.e., the one in which the parent issues and enforces house rules).
 
2. Child moves to the least restrictive environment with ‘passive parent’ (i.e., the one in which the parent has few rules/expectations).
 
3. Due to low supervision/monitoring, the child gets into significant trouble (e.g., at school, with the law, etc.) – or -- child and ‘passive parent’ get into a huge argument, thus ‘passive parent’ kicks child out of his/her home.
 
4. Child returns to the ‘active parent’s’ home.

Your husband is trying to be the “good guy” – but the “good guy” usually only maintains “good-guy-status” for the short-term due to the following: The more free hand-outs of stuff and freedom the ‘passive parent’ issues, the more the child expects and desires (enough is never enough!). 
 
This strong sense of entitlement on the part of the child tends to grate on the ‘passive parent’s’ nerves over time, resulting in some serious parent-child conflict.

In any event, remember that a weaker plan supported by both parents is much better than a strong plan supported by only one parent.

Good luck,

Mark

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