Strained Relations

Strained Relations: Help for Struggling Parents of Troubled Teens

Archive for October, 2009

Rewarding Kids’ Good Behavior

Posted by Marcia on October 31, 2009

My last post discussed consistency in parenting and I focused on punishment.  Linda, a friend I’ve known since our kids were small, responded to that post with some interesting thoughts.  I had intended to talk this week about rewarding good behavior and how important that is, and Linda’s responses gave me a lot to think about.

Linda pointed out that sometimes you have to look really hard for some way to compliment your child, to comment on something good he or she is doing.  Kids can get into streaks of behavior where all you see are things that are driving you nuts, that you worry about or are outright dangerous.  It’s so easy to slip into criticism and forget to say anything nice.

I’ve been guilty of that at times.  I hate to admit it, but that’s the case.

When I wrote the book, I interviewed a woman who had some interesting things to say about managing behavior, both her own and her son’s.  Sue has two grown children from a previous marriage and their relationship is cordial.  She was eager to share what she had learned and some of the changes she’s made in her parenting style with her young son.  I’ve edited Sue’s remarks for this blog to share a bit of what she said.

“Charles is seven, and in the last year, I recognized that what I was doing wasn’t working.  With Tom it wasn’t working, but I wasn’t fully cognizant and I wasn’t willing to change it, so with Charles, I try more to understand what might be causing his misbehavior.  I studied some of Alfred Adler’s work, he is a psychologist in Austria, and he says that all people have two basic needs: to have significance and to feel like they belong.  All behavior is motivated by those two things.  When a child is misbehaving, it is in a mistaken attempt to get that significance and belonging, so if I can figure out what is going on for Charles, I can work with him.   I have a chart and it is based on how I’m feeling about his behavior.  If he is annoying me or irritating me, more than likely he wants attention.  Then I spend time with him or assure him I will give him special time. 

I might need to finish what I’m doing.  But it goes back to how can I help him see his significance and belonging, so that he doesn’t have to misbehave?

Parents are constantly nagging the kids. With Tom and Alan, it was just the constant nagging, and micromanaging, and me getting more and more upset, wondering why don’t they just do it? What I have learned is to have Charles create a morning routine and make a chart for it, and he is responsible for the chart.

When you involve people in decisions that affect their lives, they are more likely to go along with it, and you are more likely to get the behavior you want if they had a say in it.  I try as much as possible to let him make the decisions about when he will do things and how, because I really care about the end product, and how he gets there is his decision.   He is a unique person so whatever works for him.”

Do you have some tips you can share or some thoughts on the matter?

Posted in changing parent's behavior, chart progress, compliment your child, nagging the kids, Parents and teens, rewarding good behavior, Troubled teens | Leave a Comment »

Consistency in Parenting: It’s Not Always Easy

Posted by Marcia on October 24, 2009

I met a woman who had been a professional nanny for several years. I asked for her thoughts about successful child-rearing. She said parents must be on the same page, be consistent, and have appropriate rewards and punishments.

It seems like such a simple and obvious message, but it’s so important to remember yet so easy to “forgive and forget” a little too soon.

Have you ever looked at your child’s face, knowing he or she deserves to be grounded and you start feeling sorry for them? Maybe you cut them a little slack, let them watch a little TV or play a game. Before you know it, they’re not grounded and not thinking about whatever they did or didn’t do.

Maybe you had a family party planned and you felt the punishment could wait till after the party, and once the party is over, you start to forget the child’s punishment or it seems silly to enforce when you’ve just had a great time.

It isn’t always easy to be consistent as a parent and it is very easy to feel sorry for your child, to identify with the feeling of punishment rather than remember to correct the child’s behavior.

It’s important to keep your eyes on your child’s future, not just the current situation. If you want your child to eventually understand the rules of society, how to be a good employee, how to be a good spouse and parent, that child needs to first understand your family rules and parents must have the rules and enforce them consistently.

Your child will test you at times – that’s what they do! Having these rules won’t prevent every problem but this will help avoid many issues.

Posted in Parents and teens, Troubled teens, worried parents | Tagged: , , , , | 3 Comments »

Kick “Meth Kid” Out

Posted by Marcia on October 17, 2009

Recently, a woman called to talk about her son. She knew what she should do but doesn’t have the courage to do it.

“Jane” and her husband are professionals and successful in their fields. They live in a very expensive area and many people would assume they have a perfect life, but their 20 year old son lives in a guest house on their property and he is into meth. She knows he smokes it and sees people coming and going into the guest house at all hours. I asked why they tolerated this, and she said at least she knows where he is and he’s safe.

I remind people I’m not a therapist; I’m another parent looking at difficult situations. If someone asks me for my thoughts, I give them. She asked, and here’s my advice: kick him out.

She was shocked and asked how I could suggest such a harsh measure.

This kid isn’t “safe” and won’t be safe as long as he’s on heavy-duty drugs. Meth houses can blow up. He’s got people coming and going so it’s likely he’s dealing. She has a drugged-out kid, strung-out strangers on their property, and the possibility of a home explosion or police busting this kid.

I asked, “If you have a choice, would you prefer to kick him out or watch his descent into drugs and endure the probable disaster coming your way?” For me, the decision to kick the kid off the property is difficult, but it’s the better of the alternatives. And she’d heard similar advice from others.

You have to make a lot of difficult decisions as a parent, and this is one of those situations that should never be tolerated, no matter how harsh the alternative may be.

Do you have thoughts or experience in a similar situation? What happened? You’re welcome to comment confidentially.

Posted in out of control teens, Parents and teens, Troubled teens, worried parents | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Download: My Interview with John Rothmann of KGO Radio

Posted by Marcia on October 13, 2009

Until I can find another way of uploading, I have an MP3 of my interview with John Rothmann. It’s been edited down to 32 minutes.

If you listen to the program, please let me know what you think.

Posted in Troubled teens | Leave a Comment »

John Rothmann’s Show on KGO Radio

Posted by Marcia on October 11, 2009

I had the privilege of being a guest on KGO Radio’s John Rothmann’s show Friday night.

How’d it happen? I’m a long time fan of KGO Radio and had seen John do a presentation about his book, Icon of Evil: Hitler’s Mufti and the Rise of Radical Islam. (That’s a fascinating book, by the way.)

I emailed him last Monday about my topic of parents dealing with troubled teens and hoped for the best. He left a message that night requesting a copy of the book, and he said he couldn’t promise anything. I mailed the book Tuesday and John called Thursday evening, inviting me to come on the show Friday at 11 PM. He had read the book and felt this was an important topic.

Bill and I drove to San Francisco and found the station offices. It’s a nice building and their lobby has a case filled with broadcasting awards.

John was so warm and welcoming to both of us. He’s got a ton of energy and a big booming voice! He’s also (dare I say it?) a sweetie-pie. He asked if I’d been interviewed on the radio before and the answer was no. I’d called in occasionally on talk shows, but being a guest is a different matter. He assured me he’d lead me through the process.

I was not intimidated by the broadcast booth. After all, I watched Frasier for years! Have to say this was different. More desks and huge microphones along with computer screens and three TV screens on the wall, too. The hosts have a lot of information they can review as they’re talking, and that was another interesting thing to learn.

I was a little concerned that no one would call in as many people with difficult teens do not want to identify themselves. John said not to worry if no one called, we’d still have plenty to talk about.

Being a guest for one hour on a commercial radio show is not like being on an NPR show for an hour. KGO is a news talk radio station, and there are two news breaks per hour, traffic, weather and commercials. Because I’m a regular listener, I knew I had limited time in which to make the points I hoped to make and answer questions, too.

John was FANTASTIC! Now let me share why: he knew I was a novice, he cares about the topic, he advised me during commercial breaks about the topics he’d like to touch on next, and he gave me a little information about callers. My husband was sitting in the room, too, and we both enjoyed getting to know John a little. He lives close to work, has two kids and is happily married. He had arranged his work-life to spend a lot of time with his kids, and they’re very close. You can just tell he’s a kind person.

There’s a link to the edited podcast on my website. John suggested I edit the commercials out and upload onto my website.

If you’ve heard the podcast, please let me know what you think and if anything struck you in particular.

If you know someone I should contact to appear on more shows or speak in person, please let me know. You can find more information about that side of my work at

Posted in out of control teens, Parents and teens, Troubled teens, worried parents | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

I’ll be on the radio tonight.

Posted by Marcia on October 9, 2009

I’ll be on John Rothmann’s show on KGO Radio tonight at 11 PM.

You can tune in at 810 AM radio or listen at

If you miss the show, they have an archive page at Just click on Friday 11 PM. It should be up for one week.

I invite you to listen and call in.

Posted in Troubled teens | Leave a Comment »

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