Strained Relations

Strained Relations: Help for Struggling Parents of Troubled Teens

Archive for the ‘rewarding good behavior’ Category

Are You Bullied by Your Child?

Posted by Marcia on April 11, 2011

As parents, we want our children to be respected at school and most of us would be upset if they were being bullied. We teach our children to stand up for themselves and we may enlist the aid of the teacher and principal. We don’t want children to be bullied, so why would we allow them to bully the parents?

A father and teenage son were at a table in a restaurant near my friends. The son was berating the father, being sarcastic, talking back, insulting his father and using foul language.

My friends were shocked to hear a teenager talk to a parent like that. The father didn’t reprimand the son and didn’t do anything other than hang his head. Frankly, given the people I’ve interviewed and the people who have contacted me, I find this shocking but I am not surprised.

I imagine the father has been bullied by his child for years and did not address it when it started. When you overlook this behavior or give the child a “pass”, the child can assume it is okay to be disrespectful to parents. Bad behavior that is allowed will often escalate, and once escalated, parents may feel helpless to stop it.

Bullying comes in many forms, but experts agree that it is repeated behavior that is intended to intimidate, humiliate or demean another person. It is intentional disrespect. It may take the form of verbal abuse like the father and son in the restaurant. The bully has a pattern of behavior that may include yelling, intimidation or humiliation, criticism, insults or even personal sabotage. This emotional abuse and may escalate into damaging personal property or even physically harming family members with the idea of further intimidation.

Victims of bullies usually do not confront the bully or react aggressively. They may have different reasons behind their decisions not to confront, and it could be that they don’t want to stoop to the other person’s level. Maybe the victim is startled, upset or angry and decides to walk away; hoping that will prevent reoccurrence of bad behavior, but the bully sees this as a victory. You’ve just given your child a lot of control over you by not speaking up for yourself.

Whatever form it takes, the parents have to consider this to be intolerable behavior and must put a stop to it. Clearly define what bullying is, talk about it in your family, explain it will not be tolerated and the disciplinary action that will be taken to those who violate the family rules. Train your children about what is and is not appropriate behavior and what constitutes a healthier environment in the home. Teach kindness and sympathy, acknowledge and reward small steps in the right direction with praise and a hug.

Children learn from the model you present and the way you talk with them, the corrections and guidance you give them. It’s in your family’s best interests to stop bad behavior, don’t let it slide and don’t avoid confronting it. Help your child to stop the bullying and stop being a victim.

Posted in bullies, changing parent behavior, changing parent's behavior, compliment your child, emotional abuse, enabler, enabling, family difficulties, family violence, out of control teens, parenting adult children, Parents and teens, repaired relationship, rewarding good behavior, teen intervention, Troubled teens, worried parents | Leave a Comment »

How to Listen to Disclosure of Family Estrangement or Difficulties

Posted by Marcia on March 2, 2011

In my last post I wrote about the process of deciding to share difficult information about one’s family. This post is devoted to receiving this information.

Some of the richest and most heartfelt conversations I have had have been when someone decides to confide in me or when another person listens to my story.

When your family member or friend is having family problems and decides to share these issues with you, it takes a lot of courage, hope and trust that you will not judge, will listen carefully, offer help if asked, will not gossip. This is a confidential and difficult conversation.

Truly listening means that you turn off distractions: this is not a time for watching TV, texting and taking calls. Turn off your phone and give that person your attention. Listen with your head and your heart. Don’t ask a lot of questions, just a few to clarify the situation if needed.

Don’t change the topic unless you’re very uncomfortable hearing this news, and if you are, it’s better to just say you’re uncomfortable.

This conversation is about the other person, not you and your family, unless you’ve experienced a similar situation. Then it’s appropriate to share but limit your input: this person has a lot to say.

Be private and confidential. If the person wanted all of the family and friends to know, there are many ways to alert everyone. It can hurt the person’s feelings if you talk about this to others and damage your own credibility as a confidante.

Don’t judge the people involved. You’re hearing a part of the story and you’re hearing it for the first time. It may be shocking news, but all of it is in the realm of the human condition: the things that happen to people and the decisions we make.

Ask if there is anything you can do to help and provide resources if you have them. One woman called me regarding her son and after listening to her story, I asked if she wanted resources or how I could best help her. She was looking for resources and I gave her a few places to start, indicating there were additional resources in my book and on the blog if she needed them. It’s easy to become overwhelmed when you’re already dealing with a stressful situation. I also keep in touch, ask how things are going, and remember her on Mother’s Day and Christmas, two really hard holidays for her.

When you see or talk with the person in the future, ask about his or her child. I know from personal experience that the concern people show is helpful. It helps me to know that they haven’t forgotten I am a parent, and birthdays and some holidays in particular are really difficult.

Keep in touch and show concern and compassion. That’s the best way you can help anyone.

Posted in adopted kids, apology, behavior of someone using drugs, changing parent's behavior, cope at the holidays, defiant adopted kids, enabler, enabling, estranged, estranged from dad, estranged from father, estranged from parents, family difficulties, FASD, feelings about Father's Day, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, file restraining order against son, forgiveness, juvenile hall, kid on meth, listen to family problems, mental illness, mentally ill son, mentally ill teen, meth addict, missing our son, Mother's Day avoid, Mother's Day dread, Mother's Day sadness, orders of protection, orders of protection against son, out of control teens, Parents and teens, repaired relationship, restraining orders, return adopted child, rewarding good behavior, sadness at the holidays, signs of drug use, step-parent, teen and addiction, teen intervention, teens and consequences, Troubled teens, truancy, truancy and penalties, violence in mentally ill people, worried parents | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Dore Frances’ Radio Show 8/30/10

Posted by Marcia on August 26, 2010

I’ll be on Dore Frances’ “Family Solutions Today” live radio show on Monday. You can listen live (call-in to talk) or download from iTunes later.

Details and a link are on her press release. http://tinyurl.com/29v3qxv

Posted in adopted kids, alcoholic father, author, book talk, changing parent's behavior, chart progress, compliment your child, defiant adopted kids, enabler, enabling, entitled, estranged, estranged from parents, family difficulties, juvenile hall, kid on meth, meth addict, missing our son, nagging the kids, out of control teens, Parents and teens, return adopted child, rewarding good behavior, self esteem, step-parent, Troubled teens, truancy, worried parents | Leave a Comment »

How do you feel about Father’s Day?

Posted by Marcia on June 20, 2010

This blog is devoted to people who are struggling with their children’s behavior, but today I’d like to open the discussion to additional situations.

My dad died when I was almost 13, and Father’s Day since that time has been…odd. When my son was young, this day became something to celebrate again. His dad and I separated when J. was small, and again it was odd for a few years. I married Bill and then J. had Father’s Day with his dad and then with Bill. There seemed to be a lot to celebrate, but it lasted only a few years.

In his teen years, J. was more sullen than most, difficult at best, unpredictable: would we see the charming and funny son or the one with the quick temper?

J. has not lived with us for 3 years, and the last year he was at home was very rough. We don’t speak, although I hope he’ll be ready to have some kind of a relationship soon.

I’d love to celebrate the efforts my husband made in being a step-dad. It’s probably one of the more difficult and thankless family roles you can be in, and he did try to be a good father-figure. At a certain point, I think he felt it was wasted energy, but he still tried. Being the step-parent means you have rules in your head but sometimes the kid/kids don’t think you have the right to enforce the rules. You’re not the “real” dad.

I know what a “real” dad is as far as biology is concerned, but being a real father is more than biology. It’s caring about that child, loving the child no matter the circumstances, guiding the child and knowing that the child may fall and you’ll have to determine if you help that child get up or watch the child help himself/herself. That’s what parents do.
Some dads have to give their kids “tough love” and watch them fail, take drugs, go to jail, be estranged, and hope for better days.

Today I honor all of the real dads out there.

Here are some questions for you, and I hope you write some responses. What’s your best memory of your dad? What did he teach you? If you’re in a difficult situation, how do you cope?

Posted in adopted kids, changing parent's behavior, compliment your child, confidence, defiant adopted kids, enabler, enabling, entitled, estranged, family difficulties, Father's Day, feelings about Father's Day, missing our son, out of control teens, Parents and teens, rewarding good behavior, self esteem, step-parent, Troubled teens, worried parents | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Speaking at Campbell Library 5/13, 7 pm

Posted by Marcia on May 12, 2010

I’ll be speaking at the library Thursday night and I’ve really been looking forward to this opportunity. A PDF flier about the event can be viewed here.

The last time I spoke, we had around 20 people in the room. Most of the people had a son or daughter who going through a terrible time, and the adults were worried about how to handle the situation.

I can’t provide the answers, just some experiences from my life and the interviews from my book. I also mention some of the calls and emails I’ve received. There’s some comfort in knowing you’re not alone in this situation, and it’s helpful to know many kids grow out of that terrible stage and that there is help.

If you’re in the Silicon Valley, I hope you can come to this event. If you know of another venue interested in this topic, please contact me.

Posted in adopted kids, author, changing parent's behavior, chart progress, compliment your child, confidence, defiant adopted kids, entitled, estranged, family difficulties, meth addict, missing our son, nagging the kids, out of control teens, Parents and teens, return adopted child, rewarding good behavior, Troubled teens, worried parents | Leave a Comment »

Catching Problems When Children Are Young

Posted by Marcia on March 3, 2010

Here’s a note from a woman who just read my book.

“I like to read different parenting books, and you mentioned your book at a workshop so I bought a copy. My kids are small and they’re pretty good with minor issues, but I worry about the future. I am also curious about what other parents go through. I wasn’t a very easy teenager and wondered about the parent’s point of view. I had a lot of reasons to buy the book.

I expected to find more information about right when they are teens, and I did find that, but I did not expect to have a better look at when things start to go wrong and how fast things went bad in the families. I was surprised and glad to find something about the younger years.

I have started to see some small problems with my older child, and I thought I could let some of it ride, but now I see I have to start now before it gets worse. I really liked the chapter where the person talked about how she stopped nagging her child as she had done to her older kids, and how their home is more peaceful and her son is more cooperative.

I have more insight about what I put my parents through and am sending them a copy of the book. We had a good discussion about it and this was the first time we talked about those years. I had some apologizing to do. Reading about the professionals was really helpful, too.

Thanks for your book and all of the resources you provided there and on your website.”

I love this kind of feedback! It’s always good to know the information is useful, and I hope this parent can avoid some of the problems other parents have experienced. It was interesting to hear that she has a little more insight into her own life and the impact it had on her parents.

Posted in changing parent's behavior, chart progress, compliment your child, confidence, family difficulties, nagging the kids, out of control teens, rewarding good behavior, self esteem, worried parents | Leave a Comment »

Beth Proudfoot, MFT: Teens and Behavior Modification

Posted by Marcia on February 18, 2010

Thank you, Marcia, for inviting me to be a guest on your blog! May I use this opportunity to get on my soapbox about an issue I feel passionate about?

Parenting teens, as all of your readers know, is a challenging and complex job, and unfortunately we seem to have this idea in our culture that if parents could only do the Rewards and Punishments thing right, then the problems would be solved. Frankly, I’ll bet that all of your readers have tried Rewards and Punishments, and they haven’t worked. There’s a reason for this, and it’s not because the parents aren’t tough enough or aren’t doing it right.

I was a psychology student at Stanford in the late ‘70’s when Behavior Mod was all the fashion. My goodness, we had some well-trained pigeons in the basement! Unfortunately, since then, the idea that rewarding behavior we want and punishing behavior we don’t want will actually change the behavior of humans has been overwhelmingly disproven.* People, it turns out, just really don’t like to feel coerced.

Now, most people, if the punishments aren’t too severe and the rewards are pretty good, will get with the program and comply, because they see that following along is actually good for them in the long run.

Your rebellious teen is not one of these people. For a rebellious teen, anything with a whiff of coercion, even when it’s a great reward, will have to be rejected in order to prove “you’re not the boss of me.” Setting up a system of rewards and punishments with a rebellious teen will always fail.

I think the reason the Behavior Mod concept has had such a long life, despite all of the evidence to the contrary, is because it’s so simple. We’d like to believe it was this easy! Unfortunately, teens are not pigeons. They need the space, outside of a power struggle, to foresee the consequences of their actions and make choices in their own self-interest. Figuring out a way to create that space is challenging and complex. Darn it!

*Please see Alphie Kohn’s Punished by Rewards, and Murray Strauss’s Beating the Devil Out of Them, for extensive reviews of the literature on this.

Beth Proudfoot, MFT, is a child therapist, parent educator and parenting coach in Los Gatos, Ca. Her website is http://www.bethproudfoot.com.

Posted in changing parent's behavior, compliment your child, family difficulties, nagging the kids, out of control teens, Parents and teens, rewarding good behavior, Troubled teens, worried parents | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »

Difficult Kids: Sometimes it’s the Parents’ Fault

Posted by Marcia on February 15, 2010

I’ve written before about consistency in parenting, and I was thinking about that when talking with another woman.

This woman and her husband divorced several years ago and the kids are now teenagers. Both of the kids are wild: running around with a bad crowd, drinking, smoking, doing drugs, mouthing off to the parents and disrespectful toward authority figures at home and at school. Both are on the verge of failing school, and the mother does not know what to do next.

She is going to counseling to find out how to deal with them in more effective ways, but the kids’ dad will not go. He’s part of the problem as there are no rules at his house. He wants to be a friend, doesn’t want to challenge them in any way as he says he’s fearful of losing contact and he’s not involving himself as a parent.

Kids need consistency. It’s not easy for both parents to always be on the same page, even when they’re in the same house, and it’s so much harder when the parents live apart. It’s easy to overlook bad behavior just because you want to see your child. It’s hard to punish the child at your house for something serious she or he did at the other parent’s home. But is has to be done.

A good system of rewards and punishment can help a lot, and there are many books on the topic.

As hard as it may be to come to agreement with your former spouse, you have to try and try again. Some people can come to agreement and others never will. The kids pay the price if you don’t.

Posted in compliment your child, family difficulties, out of control teens, Parents and teens, rewarding good behavior, Troubled teens, worried parents | Tagged: | 2 Comments »

Was on Dr. Joel Wade’s Radio Show, KSCO AM 1080

Posted by Marcia on December 17, 2009

Last night I was a guest on Dr. Joel Wade’s radio show. He has experience as a Marriage and Family Therapist in private practice in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Los Gatos and uses those skills as a Life Coach and author.

I called in early to be sure my sound was okay, and I had a chance to talk with Joel about his work and his radio show. He was very nice and it was easy to see how well he listened and how carefully he chose his questions. He had already read most of the book, so his questions during the show were completely on target and he cited specific examples from the book. We had a general discussion about parenting skills and teens, and it was interesting to learn from his style of interviewing. It was a pleasure speaking with him.

Joel’s website is www.drjoelwade.com, and at some time in the future, he hopes to have downloads of his shows. I hope he gets that running soon! Meanwhile, check out his book, etraining, ezine and other products on his website.

After the show, I wrote and thanked Joel for being such a gracious host. He wrote, “It was a lot of fun, and a very interesting conversation. You were a fantastic guest, and I think people listening got a lot out of what you had to say. I hope that a lot of listeners visit your site and read your book – it really is an excellent book, and a great resource for parents dealing with tough kids.”

This was a wonderful experience, and if you know of someplace I can speak in person, over the radio or on TV, please contact me.

Posted in changing parent's behavior, compliment your child, confidence, entitled, estranged, family difficulties, nagging the kids, out of control teens, Parents and teens, rewarding good behavior, self esteem, Troubled teens, worried parents | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Did the Self Esteem Movement Create an Entitled Generation?

Posted by Marcia on November 7, 2009

I’ve mulled over a lot of things I’ve experienced as a parent and a lot of things I’ve read, and would honestly say that I did do some things well and there are some things that I would absolutely change.

I have some serious concerns about the self-esteem movement and what the effects are on our kids.

Self-esteem is the way you think about yourself and this impacts the way you feel.  If you think you’re a good painter, you feel good about that skill and your confidence.  If you have a poor image of yourself and your abilities, it manifests in low self confidence and underachievement.

The self-esteem movement was a good idea run amok.  The idea of encouraging children to think well of themselves sounds like a good idea, but, like many things in life, it has to be earned to be appreciated.

Our son “J” was born in 1988, and I took him to Mommy and Me and toddler classes. I guess others were reading books I hadn’t read, but I remember the teacher and other moms saying “good job” whenever a child did anything. It didn’t matter what the child did, but the rewarding phrase was said. Kid finishes a project, eats his food, plays a game: “Good job.”

At home, if J picked up his toys, I said “thank you” or “that looks nice”. I felt that if I said “good job” to everything, then when he’d really do a good job of something, then what would I say and how would I make that meaningful?

We noticed that when he participated in team sports, even if their team lost, everyone got ribbons and sometimes trophies.  I guess the theory was that they wanted all the kids to feel like winners and therefore, it’d magically give them self-esteem and confidence, but I think that backfired.

If the ultimate goal of parenting is to raise a child who can operate in this world, overpraising for simply existing isn’t going to help. After all, how many managers stand around waiting to tell people they did a good job?  I can tell you from an HR perspective that some do but most expect you to do a good job, and if you do an extraordinary job, then maybe you’ll be noticed.  There are expectations that you’ll perform as you should, that poor work will be adversely noted and good work will be rewarded.

Young people steeped in the self-esteem movement resent not being continually verbally rewarded and when they simply complete a project.

I believe that good self-esteem and confidence result from completing projects, overcoming obstacles, leaping over barriers to success.  It can’t come as a result of continuous praise from others: you have to know it, to feel that accomplishment.

What are your thoughts?

Posted in changing parent's behavior, chart progress, compliment your child, entitled, nagging the kids, Parents and teens, rewarding good behavior, self esteem, Troubled teens | Tagged: , , | 13 Comments »

 
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