How To Get Children To Do Homework

How can you get your child to do his or her homework with little or no fuss? Take the advice of the following parents who have "been there and done that"...

I find that a routine really helps. Letting them unwind for a while helps too. I know I like to rest or relax between jobs. School is their job, so sticking them with another right away seems like a sure way to agitate them. My kids are in 1st and 4th grade, so homework is still relatively easy. I stay in the same room and usually do dishes or get dinner ready so if there are any questions, I can answer them. I also look over their homework after they're done and help them work through any mistakes until I believe they understand the material. YOU are their primary teacher. You are the one responsible for them when they leave school. Passing it off on the teacher is shirking your responsibility to your kids and just being the good guy. Your kid might like you better, but you're not doing them any favors in the long run. It also helps you to see how your kids are doing in school - where they need extra help or where they need to be challenged more.


I try to get my son outside right after school, because it gets dark earlier now and he can't go out after dinner and he needs exercise. But I won't let him use the computer and things until he is done.


I think of school as a kid’s job. What would happen if you did not do your job would not get paid and therefore could not buy things. I would say no extra things for that child. If it is that bad and the child is young, I would reward them for good grades, which is a result in doing homework. 


I'm pretty tough on my son when it comes to his grades and homework. So to help, we try and make the stuff he really enjoys a privilege – like playing video games, watching TV, and having a yummy dessert after dinner. In order to do or have any of these things, he has to earn them, so if he doesn't do his homework or comes home with bad grades, he can't have certain privileges and that seems to work for me and my husband.


It was suggested to me to let my son not do his homework, but also don’t let him do anything that he enjoys doing, for example, watching TV, playing etc. And when it came time to hand his homework in at school, let the teacher punish him. I actually spoke to my son’s teacher and now if he doesn’t do homework, he gets kept in at playtime to complete it.


Maybe what is wrong with your child is not that he doesn't want to do homework. Maybe he either doesn't understand or wants attention from you. Sit with him or answer his questions if it seems like he is struggling. Also, if you have other children, try to spend 10 minutes every night just you and him talking or reading to him. You will see his negative reaction to homework will diminish with time.


My 7 yr old son hates homework. Yet, when he sits down to do it, it only takes about 5-10 minutes to complete it. I have found with my kids that if I give them a snack when they get home and about 30-45 minutes of time to unwind, they fight me less about doing homework. We have a routine. We stick to it and adapt only when necessary. Get home at 2:25, discuss their days while having a snack until around 2:40, then bathroom and free time until 3:30, at that time homework starts no matter what they were doing before. I help each one as they have questions, but I won't do it for them. If they don't want to do it, I don't force them. I simply remind them that they must sit with their homework until it is done. NO soccer practice or game, no chorus, no playing, no TV, etc. Even if they have to sit in the car with their homework while a sibling is at a game or practice. They now know what I expect and they do their homework at the designated time. They even remind me that it is 3:30 when I get busy and don't notice right away. Routines are a must.


My 8 year old last year just wouldn't bring his homework home; he would throw it in his desk. I started taking away his play time. He liked to play the play station every day, so I took the play station away for 2 days for every one day he forgot his homework. He stopped putting his homework in his desk.


Natural consequences: if he doesn’t do his homework, he will be in trouble at school.
My boy was the same …absolute nightmare every night then I was told by a well educated and experienced lady that homework is a contract between child and teacher. My headstrong boy learned the hard way if it's not handed in on time and without appropriate parental note, that he has to stay in at lunch time to complete it. Works so well!


Usually if my son doesn't do his homework, it means no play station. Most times in the afternoon we have a routine which goes like this: afternoon tea, a little play outside, start homework, then dinner/bath etc., then he is free to do what he wants. I think he has figured out that if he keeps delaying the homework, it eats into his free time and then there is no time left for play station, reading, playing, Lego, etc. I let him have a short play when we come home as he is only 7, and I think they still need a bit of a break to refresh after school.


We set up a routine, time and place for homework. Also, either my husband or I will sit at the same table and do some of "our work." For example, could be paying bills, balancing a check book, writing out a grocery list, thank you notes, or reading the paper, so they know everyone has work to do – homework is theirs. Also being with them. We are right there if they have questions. My boys are 10 and 7. I also often tell them that I loved school, but forget a lot as it was so long ago, and ask them to teach me something they are going over in school. It helps them study without them knowing it, and they are proud about what they've learned. I usually pretend I didn't know anything about it, and sometimes I didn't. Lastly, I agree with the advice of letting them suffer the consequences of not doing their homework. I would contact the teacher to let them know what you are doing so they know you are involved and care. At our school, if you don't do your homework, you must stay in at recess to finish it. Try to stay calm though …it certainly is frustrating, as you don't want to make ‘homework time’ negative. Also, instead of giving punishments, you could try catching your kids being good. When they DO their homework, give them a positive reward …play a game with them, read a book with them, let them do a privilege.


What we do in our house is that if homework is not done, then they lose the other rights of the house, TV time, game time, toys, etc. Then they also have to live with the consequences of whatever the teacher gives them, no arguments from mom or dad. They learned early that if they don't do their homework, there is a penalty for it. One other thing that works for us is that as soon as they get home from school, they use the bathroom, get to their designated area for homework and get started. I get them a snack and a small drink. This way they have no excuses for getting up and it gets done more quickly. Then when the homework is done, they have the rest of the afternoon and night to play or do what they want to until dinner and bath. It helps because they realize when they do what they are responsible for, they have more freedoms.

Discipline for Stubborn Teenagers

Discipline for stubborn teenagers requires a firmer hand, often with a greater show of love than her obedient, well-behaved sibling. Don’t despair if you have a stubborn teenager with intense opinions and a demanding nature. Although your teenager’s determined attempts to control her own life can frustrate and exhaust you as a parent, there’s hope. You can come to understand your teenager and learn to shape her will without breaking her spirit.

Here’s how you can help your stubborn teenager:

1. Always follow through. Understand that your stubborn teenager can take advantage of you if you do not follow through because you are too busy or too tired to stand firm on what you have previously stated. If, for example, you have said that you will not allow your teenager to watch television if she does not cooperate, then you must take this privilege away from her for some time.

2. Avoid power struggles by using routines and rules.  That way, you aren't bossing them around, it’s just that, "In our house, we finish homework before computer, TV, or telephone time."  In this way, the parent stops being the bad guy.

3. Direct your stubborn teenager's energy into constructive activities like volunteering in the community or playing on sports teams.

4. Discipline through the relationship, never through punishment. Teens don’t learn when they’re in the middle of a fight.  Like all of us, that’s when adrenaline is pumping and learning shuts off.  Teens behave because they want to please us.  The more you argue with and punish your teenager, the more you undermine his desire to please you.

5. No matter how hard the battles become, never give up. Understand that your teenager doesn’t hate you – she is just more persistent in testing you than a more compliant teenager would be. Know that your teenager longs for you to provide consistent, firm, and loving discipline, because that provides the security needs.

6. Choose your battles wisely, considering what truly matters and what doesn’t affect your core values. Be as clear about instructions as you are about consequences.

7. Do your best to exercise patience in the midst of conflicts with your stubborn teenager. Recognize the fact that your yelling will only add fuel to the fire. Stand firm without provoking your teenager to fight against you.

8. Don't push your teenager into opposing you.  If you take a hard and fast position, you can easily push her into defying you, just to prove a point.  You'll know when it's a power struggle and you're invested in winning.  Just stop, take a breath, and remind yourself that winning a battle with your teenager always sets you up to lose what’s most important: the relationship.  When in doubt say, "Ok, you can decide this for yourself."  If she can't decide, then say what part of it she can decide, or find another way for her to meet her need for autonomy without compromising her health or safety.

9. Keep in mind that your teenager is a gift with great potential. Realize that a stubborn temperament can be an asset just as much as a drawback. Know that a stubborn teenager can apply his determination to something as noble as finding a cure for cancer, or as destructive as organizing a crime ring. Recognize that the key lies in directing your teenager’s stubbornness toward positive purposes rather than negative ones.

10. Give your stubborn teenager choices.  If you give orders, she will almost certainly bristle.  If you offer a choice, she feels like the master of her own destiny.  Of course, only offer choices you can live with, and don’t let yourself get resentful by giving away your power.

11. Give your teenager responsibilities. Remember that stubborn teenagers are born leaders with exceptional abilities to solve problems. Give him as many responsibilities as you can that are appropriate to his age, such as pet ownership, household chores, and a paper route or other part-time job. Show your teenager that you respect his abilities.

12. Know that you’re not alone. Understand that a stubborn teenager isn’t an anomaly. Recognize that plenty of other stubborn teenagers exist, and get to know the moms and dads of a few of them to support each other.

13. Leave the room when your stubborn teenager losing his temper (as long as he is not in danger of being harmed if you do so). Understand that once your teenager realizes that his anger does not affect you, he will eventually stop this behavior on his own.

14. You, as the parent, might reasonably presume you know best.  But your stubborn teenager willful partly as a result of his integrity. He has a viewpoint that is making him hold fast to his position, and he is trying to protect something that seems important to him. Only by listening calmly and reflecting his words will you come to understand what’s making him oppose you. Encourage your teenager to express himself. Show a genuine interest in his thoughts and opinions as you discuss them together.

15. Look your stubborn teenager right in the eye when you speak to him to block out any surrounding distractions. Do this whether you are disciplining him or engaging in a normal conversation. Understand that your teenager needs to know he has your full attention.

16. Most stubborn teenagers are fighting for respect.   If you offer it to them, they don’t need to fight to protect their position.  And, like the rest of us, it helps a lot if they feel understood.  If you see his point of view and think he's wrong, you can still offer him empathy and meet him part way while you set the limit.

17. Recognize the tender teenager underneath the tough behavior. Remember that your teenager, like everyone else, wants to be loved, appreciated, and respected. Catch your teenager doing something right as often as you can, then encourage him to keep it up. Affirm your teenager through your words and actions. Show him regular affection. Be your teenager’s advocate in challenging situations at school and elsewhere. Help prevent him from being mistreated or ridiculed. Surround your teenager with grown-ups who understand and encourage him. When helping your teenager deal with a conflict, don’t always assume that your teenager is either right or wrong. Instead, carefully evaluate the situation to search for the truth, and discuss it honestly with your teenager.

18. See it from her point of view.  For example, she may be angry because you promised to take her and her friend to the Mall.  To you, she is being stubborn.  To her, she is justifiably upset, and you are being hypocritical, because she is not allowed to break promises to you.  What should you do in circumstances like this?  Apologize for breaking your promise, reassure her that you try very hard to keep your promises, and take her to the Mall.  Just consider they way you would want to be treated, and treat her accordingly.

19. Let your teenager save face.  You don’t have to prove you’re right. You can, and should, set reasonable expectations and enforce them.  But under no circumstances should you try to break your teenager’s will or force him to acquiesce to your views

20. Understand that stubborn teenagers need to experience the consequences of their actions (instead of simply listening to your reasoning). Figure out what matters the most to your teenager to create the most appropriate consequences for him when his behavior gets out of control.

21. Your stubborn teenager wants mastery more than anything.  Let her take charge of as many of her activities as possible.  Teens that feel more independent and in charge of themselves will have less need to stubborn (not to mention they take responsibility early).

Discipline for Defiant Teens: Parenting Course

Discipline for Smoking Marijuana

Most moms and dads try to focus adolescent discipline on choosing the right consequences to stop an adolescent from smoking marijuana again. But disciplining adolescents doesn’t address the real reasons behind an adolescent’s pot use. Using mood-altering chemicals often fills a need for theses teens, and they are NOT going to stop just because they got caught and received some form of punishment from parents.

So what is a parent to do about teen drug use? Here’s how parents can effectively get their teenagers to “choose” to stop smoking pot:

1. Begin a dialogue with your child about your feelings about marijuana smoking. Ask her questions about why she does it, how long she's been doing it, how many of her friends do it, etc. Let her tell you the story of how the marijuana smoking began and how it fits into her life. This discussion - and the ones that follow - should focus on what's going on that concerns her the most, what worries her, what gives her pleasure, her social life, etc. rather than just talking about why she's been illegally smoking marijuana.

2. Don't freak out. A vein-popping lecture will drive your teen away and shut down any chance of a meaningful discussion. After you've cooled down and talked about the issue with your spouse, meet in your child’s room (she'll be more receptive on her own turf). Explain that you're concerned she's not making smart decisions. Reinforce the message that she needs to stay clear-minded and focused in life, and that mood-altering chemicals will knock her off those paths. If she asks whether or not you smoked marijuana or drank alcohol when you were her age, don't let her steer the conversation away from herself. Telling her what you did or didn't do isn't important. This is not a 'true confessions' moment.

3. Be careful not to judge your child – or your parenting skills. If she's using drugs, there are probably many reasons for this, only a few of which you might have control over.

4. Keep in mind that if your child is afraid of your reaction to her pot smoking, you are less likely to get the truth from her. Keep your emotions in check and don't focus on consequences. You'll have plenty of time to figure out appropriate consequences later. Let her feel safe enough to talk with you. Keep your focus on helping her with this situation, not on coming up with the proper consequence.

5. Understand that mood-altering chemicals feed the teenage brain’s limbic system. Research has lead scientists to better understand the brain’s unique stage of development during the teen years. Throughout adolescence, the limbic system is on alert and craves novelty. Engaging in new experiences feeds the limbic system’s high need for spontaneity during the teen years. After reading any of the new research about adolescent brain development and its hyper-aware limbic system, it’s easy to see how smoking marijuana satisfies a strong need in the teen brain. Disciplining adolescents computes to the brain’s cortex or “thinking brain,” but the limbic system’s intense need for sensory stimulation often overrides the rational cortex. Understanding the adolescent brain doesn’t mean that moms and dads should let their adolescent “off the hook” for using mood-altering chemicals, but it does help them see how “what makes sense” to the adult brain doesn’t necessarily hold true for the teen brain.

6. Disciplining adolescents may make moms and dads feel better in the sense that they are “doing something” about an adolescent using a mood-altering substance or that an adolescent isn’t “getting away with” smoking marijuana. But disciplining adolescents only focuses on the symptoms of pot use and doesn’t address the real reasons that an adolescent is smoking marijuana. Effective adolescent discipline requires an understanding of the behavior combined with strategies that teach adolescents alternative methods to get their needs met. Some adolescents say they want to experiment and find out what effect that pot has. Others say they like to be part of the group. And still others say they think using drugs makes them less shy, less boring, freer, faster, sexier, and happier.

7. Seek out drug programs in your area, as well as a talented therapist who deals with teenagers your child’s age who have had drug problems. Don't jump to the conclusion that your child is a drug addict and needs to put into an institution. Treat your discovery of her marijuana smoking as a call to you as a parent to seek the help of professionals, trusted family friends whom your child likes and respects, and any other adults who have had a positive influence in her life. The goal here is to understand why she's doing this and getting her the help that she needs to stop.

8. When you have evidence that your child is using, or you suspect she's using, share that with her. Often we think it's our duty to trick our kids into telling us the truth, when in fact we're simply setting them up to lie to us. For example, if you were to approach your child and say, "Have you been smoking pot lately?" …there is a strong likelihood that she will say no – even if you have evidence that she has been using it. A much better way to handle the situation is to tell your child everything you know – and then be quiet. In this case you would say, "When I was cleaning your room today, I found marijuana in the pocket of your pants." That's it. That is all you say. Simply wait for her reply. Most adolescents have a need to argue with parents in an attempt to take them off topic. Don't fall for that trap. She might reply, "What were you doing in my room and going through my stuff? You have no right to be there." Parents should acknowledge that, and then get right back to the topic (e.g., "Perhaps you're right. I shouldn’t have been looking in your pants pocket. I'm sorry for invading your privacy. Now please tell me about the marijuana.").

9. Using mood-altering chemicals may be an efficient method for adolescents to fit in among a peer group. If adolescents are smoking marijuana to be part of a group, adolescent discipline strategies (e.g., grounding or restriction) won’t take away an adolescent’s need to fit in. Feeling a sense of belonging among peers is an extremely important goal for the developing teen brain. As well, disciplining adolescents doesn’t help them seek new and different strategies to belong to a peer group. A study at the University of Iowa points to an “image is everything” belief among adolescents. Although moms and dads may have well prepared an adolescent to “lead instead of follow,” the need to fit in is monumental for the teen brain. Many adolescents will sacrifice loftier goals and use the tool of smoking marijuana in order to gain peer acceptance. Effective adolescent discipline includes teaching friendship skills, coping skills and healthy methods to fit in to their peer group.

10. Your end result should be to find a consequence that will help her to make better choices the next time she's faced with the situation of using mood-altering chemicals. Include her in that process. If you threaten to take the car away or some other consequence, how do you know that will be effective? She may be already thinking of other forms of transportation. Or maybe taking the car away will actually get in the way of helping her get to her job and thus completing her required work to get her diploma. So think this through. Don't focus on consequences. Focus on helping her.

Discipline for Back-Talk

It can feel like a real kick to the groin when your youngster speaks to you in a nasty tone of voice. For all you've done for her, it would be nice to get some respect in return! But responding with your own rude comment (though satisfying) isn't the best strategy, no matter your youngster's age. Bite your tongue while you pinpoint what's prompting the sassiness.

Ages 3 to 6: You're witnessing the first signs of autonomy. He's figured out that he's different from you — and he's letting you know it. At this age, he doesn't know that those defiant comments aren't so nice (after all, people on TV call each other "stupid" all the time – and maybe those words have also slipped from your lips). Don't overreact, but do let him know that he's hurt your feelings. Keep cool, and then move on.

Ages 7 to 11: Now, she's talking back to test your rules and reactions. Instead of stooping to her level, model respect so she learns how to express her needs and thoughtfully negotiate for what she wants. Call her immediately on offensive behavior (e.g., "Telling me to 'shut up' in that rude manner is unacceptable"). Humor can tickle the funny bone of school-age children (e.g., "Okay, would you like to try saying that another way?"). If the insulting behavior continues, ignoring it is the surest route to ending it. She's trying to get a rise out of you. If you don't engage, she'll get bored and stop.

Ages 12 to 17: Insolence peaks at this age, and you need a thick skin to resist the temptation to fight fire with fire. That smart mouth he has is exactly that — he's more articulate and aware. And your opinions, once viewed as the absolute truth, are now highly debatable. One way to figure out who he is and what he stands for is to challenge you on just about everything. But at this age, back-talk may also be a cover-up for feelings of inadequacy, anxiety, or fear. Perhaps he flunked an algebra test, had a fight with his girlfriend, or didn't get a part in the school play. So he takes it out on you. Surrounded by critical, sarcastic schoolmates, he may simply be treating you the way his peers treat each other. Instead of dwelling on his disrespectful attitude, try something similar to the following statement: "You seem really mad lately. I'd like to find out what's bothering you and how I can help." Children this age respond to genuineness.

What if he's consistently disrespectful? Refuse to respond until he changes his attitude. Ground him or take away privileges (e.g., no cell phone, no TV, an early curfew, missing an important social event, etc.). That will tend to get his attention fairly quickly.

Discipline for Defiant Teens: Parenting Course

Discipline for Sibling Abuse

Sibling abuse is the physical, emotional or sexual abuse of one sibling by another. The physical abuse can range from more mild forms of aggression between siblings (e.g., pushing and shoving) to very violent behavior (e.g., using weapons). Often moms and dads don’t see the abuse for what it is. As a rule, parents and society expect fights and aggression among brothers and sisters. Because of this, parents often don’t see sibling abuse as a problem until serious harm occurs. Besides the direct dangers of sibling abuse, the abuse can cause all kinds of long-term problems on into adulthood.

Research shows that violence between siblings is quite common. In fact, it is probably even more common than child abuse (by parents) or spouse abuse. The most violent members of American families are the kids.  Experts estimate that three kids in 100 are dangerously violent toward a brother or sister. One study puts the number of assaults each year to kids by a sibling at about 35 per 100 children.  The same study found the rate to be similar across income levels and racial and ethnic groups. Likewise, many researchers have estimated sibling incest to be much more common than parent-child incest. It seems that when abusive acts occur between siblings, family members often don’t see it as abuse.

At times, all siblings squabble and call each other mean names, and some younger siblings may play “doctor.” But here is the difference between typical sibling behavior and abuse:  If one youngster is always the victim and the other youngster is always the aggressor, it is an abusive situation.

Some possible signs of sibling abuse are:

•    A youngster acts out abuse in play
•    A youngster acts out sexually in inappropriate ways
•    A youngster has changes in behavior, sleep patterns, eating habits, or has nightmares
•    One youngster always avoids their sibling
•    The kid’s roles are rigid (i.e., one youngster is always the aggressor, the other, the victim)
•    The roughness or violence between siblings is increasing over time

We need more research to find out exactly how and why sibling abuse happens. Experts think there are a number of possible risk factors.

The kids:
  • are exposed to violence (a) among their peers or in their neighborhoods (e.g., bullying); (b) in the media (e.g., in TV shows or video games); (c) in their family (i.e., domestic violence)
  • have access to pornography 
  • have been sexually abused or witnessed sexual abuse 
  • have inappropriate family roles (e.g., they are burdened with too much care-taking for a younger sibling)

The parents:
  • accept sibling rivalry and fights as part of family life, rather than working to minimize them
  • are in denial that there is a problem 
  • are not around much at home 
  • are not very involved in their kid's lives, or are emotionally distant 
  • do not stop kids when they are violent
  • may assume the violence was an accident (i.e., part of a two-way fight or normal horseplay) 
  • have not taught kids about sexuality and about personal safety 
  • have not taught children how to handle conflicts in a healthy way from early on 
  • increase competition among kids by comparing kids, labeling or type-casting kids, and playing favorites

How can you prevent abuse from taking place between your kids?

1.    Create a family atmosphere where everyone feels at ease talking about sexual issues and problems.

2.    Don't give your older kids too much responsibility for your younger children. Instead, use after-school care programs, rather than leaving older kids in charge of younger ones after school.

3.    Keep an eye on your children’ media choices (e.g., TV, video games, and Internet surfing), and either join in and then discuss the media messages or ban the poor choices.

4.    Know when to intervene in your children’ conflicts, to prevent an escalation to abuse.

5.    Learn to mediate conflicts.

6.    Model good conflict-solving skills for your kids.

7.    Model non-violence for your kids.

8.    Reduce the rivalries between your kids.

9.    Set aside time regularly to talk with your kids one-on-one, especially after they've been alone together.

10.    Set ground rules to prevent emotional abuse, and stick to them (e.g., make it clear you will not put up with name-calling, teasing, belittling, intimidating, provoking, etc.).

11.    Teach them to say “no” to unwanted physical contact.

12.    Teach your kids to "own" their own bodies.

When one sibling hits, bites, or physically tortures his/her sibling, the normal rivalry has become abuse. You can't let this dangerous behavior continue. Here's what to do:

1.    After a cooling off period, bring all the children involved into a family meeting.

2.    Brainstorm many possible solutions to the problem, and ways to reach the goal.

3.    Continue to watch closely your children' contacts in the future.

4.    Gather information on facts and feelings.

5.    Help the children work together to set a positive goal (e.g., they will separate themselves and take time to cool off when they start arguing).

6.    Help your children learn how to manage their anger.

7.    Make sure you don't ignore, blame, or punish the victim—while at the same time, not playing favorites.

8.    Make your expectations and the family rules very clear.

9.    State the problem as you understand it.

10.    Talk together about the list of solutions and pick the ones that are best for everyone.

11.    Whenever violence occurs between kids, separate them.

12.    Write up a contract together that states the rights and responsibilities of each youngster. Include a list of expected behavior, and consequences for breaking the code of conduct.

In the last few years, more researchers have looked at the lasting effects of early experiences with siblings. Brothers and sisters can have strong, long-lasting effects on one another's emotional development as grown-ups. 

Research indicates that the long-term effects of surviving sibling abuse can include:

•    Alcohol and drug addiction
•    Depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem
•    Eating disorders
•    Inability to trust; relationship difficulties
•    Learned helplessness

Even less extreme, sibling rivalry during childhood can create insecurity and poor self-image in adulthood. Sibling conflict does not have to be physically violent to take a long-lasting emotional toll. Emotional abuse, which includes teasing, name-calling, and isolation can also do long-term damage. The abuser is also at risk for future violent or abusive relationships (e.g., dating violence, domestic violence, etc.).

How to Discipline Bipolar Children and Teens

Discipline is difficult when a youngster has any type of mental or neurological illness. Not only do the old rules not always apply, you have to be flexible about behaviors that are due to your youngster's illness.

Because bipolar disorder waxes and wanes, this is particularly hard to do if you want to maintain consistency. If your youngster is a rapid cycler, the challenge of responding properly is even bigger.

Here are some important tips for disciplining a child or teenager with bipolar:

1.    Avoid physical fights: Physical punishments (e.g., hitting, spanking, pushing, etc.) really have no place in managing the behavior of a child with bipolar, regardless of age. They simply teach that pain and force are a good way to impose your will on others, and that's not a lesson you want to teach someone who already has problems with impulsivity, limit-setting, and aggression. If you're having a hard time managing your youngster's behavior without getting physical, you're not alone.

Almost every parent of a youngster with a bipolar has crossed the line sometime (and felt tempted to do so many more times). Reach out for help to increase your repertoire of techniques through consultation with a behavior expert, or with parenting training that is geared toward working with mentally ill kids. You should be able to access help through your school district, a government mental health agency, a hospital with a psychiatric care department, or private programs.

2.    Avoid power struggles: Verbal abuse is very common during depressed or manic phases, and may occur at other times as well due to the increased impulsivity and thought errors that characterize bipolar. To the best of your ability, simply end the conversation, and refuse to react to taunts and insults. Realize that these words are coming out unbidden, and that your youngster will probably be shocked at what he has said later. Don't demand an apology on the spot, as it will only escalate the situation. Wait to discuss the verbal abuse later, when your youngster is well and calm. Don't be accusatory. Simply let him know that your feelings were hurt and that you love him anyway.

3.    Be an example: Moms and dads of a bipolar youngster may occasionally find themselves about to "break" because of stress. These times of stress are prime opportunities for moms and dads to set a good example for the bipolar youngster. Hearing a parent say, "I am feeling angry and about to lose control of my thoughts and words, so I am going to go to my room and count to 10," demonstrates to the youngster that stress-relieving techniques are effective for everybody.

4.    Build a support system: Try to build a personal support system made up of friends and family members, an online or in-person support group, or even a telephone crisis line for moms and dads. It's tough to discipline any strong-willed youngster, and having someone to talk to can really help you keep up the struggle without resorting to violence. This advice goes double for single moms and dads.

5.    Choose battles wisely: The moms and dads of a bipolar youngster shouldn't completely stay away from disciplining the youngster's misbehavior, but the response to misbehavior may need to vary based on the cause. Moms and dads can become educated enough about bipolar to eventually be able to distinguish the difference between symptomatic behaviors and intentional bad behavior. Consequences for the outcome (e.g., going to "time out" for hitting) may still be the same, but moms and dads who know that their youngster's behavior is probably due to a manic episode should hold back on immediate lectures, or else the behavior may escalate instead of cease.


6.    Be prepared for change: Disciplining teens is difficult under the best of circumstances, but it's doubly so when your child has mood swings and the other behavioral challenges associated with bipolar. The techniques that worked when your son or daughter was younger may seem babyish now, and physical control is tougher when your youngster is larger and more crafty about telling lies, slipping out of the house at night, and acting independently in the world.

7.    Seek outside assistance: Don't be afraid to call in reinforcements (e.g., the parents of your youngster's friends, your neighbors, educators and other school personnel, mental health professionals, sometimes even the juvenile authorities) if your child’s behavior is bringing him into conflict with the law.

8.    Establish rules: Standard discipline methods (e.g., time outs, grounding, taking away privileges, earning privileges, spanking, etc.) often do not work with bipolar kids. Nevertheless it is important to establish rules and abide by them. As with any youngster, stability is important, but for a bipolar youngster, stability is essential. Bipolar kids thrive on routine; however, for a parent of a bipolar youngster, providing that stability requires creativity and flexibility.

9.    Protect yourself: Kids and teenagers with bipolar may themselves be physically abusive when in a depressed, manic, or mixed state, or even when a regular confrontation escalates into a tantrum or rage. Your first duty is to protect yourself and others from harm. This can mean removing the youngster to a time-out area, sending a teen to her room (and possibly locking her inside), using protective physical holds, and in some cases seeking emergency medical and/or law enforcement help.

10.    Provide written rules: Write the rules down on paper so that when rules are broken, the argument of injustice is not valid. The agreed upon rules are simply being enforced. If rules are questioned after they have been written down, set up a family time to discuss them and perhaps change them. Remind a youngster that you are the parent and you will listen to their concerns, but ultimately it is your role and job to make the final decision.

Expect a bipolar youngster to occasionally throw a tantrum after hearing “no.” It is not the time to enforce discipline when a youngster is in the middle of a tantrum. During a tantrum help him/her to get out of it. Hold him, make sure he is safe, restrain him if necessary, and help him choose wise ways of displaying his anger. Once he has calmed down, explain the rules that you had established on paper and enforce them with love.

11.    Teach responsibility: Since bipolar is an illness, it causes a youngster to exhibit behaviors that are direct symptoms of that illness. Moms and dads of a bipolar youngster should take special care to separate the youngster from the disorder and its symptoms, instilling in the youngster that he isn't to blame for having those symptoms. On the other hand, moms and dads should expect that youngster to have some responsibility for the illness.

Just as a diabetic youngster or asthmatic youngster would be expected to monitor behaviors and medication to some degree, a bipolar youngster should be expected to do what he can to curb his own behavior. Taking responsibility may include eating healthy foods, taking medication, and learning to recognize symptoms (e.g., rapid cycling thoughts or feelings of invincibility) before he gets out of hand and hurts himself or others

12.    Use natural and logical consequences: Make sure that consequences you apply for misbehavior, willful or otherwise, fit the description of "natural and logical consequences." Bipolar kids have a passion for fairness that often escalates into yet another battle if the punishment does not fit the crime. Parent Effectiveness Training (PET) and similar programs for helping moms and dads of nondisabled kids improve their discipline strategies won't fit your needs entirely, but they can help you learn more about identifying natural and logical consequences.

13.    Use positive reinforcement: Rather than punishing a bipolar youngster for bad behavior, focus on responding to good behavior with positive praise as well as some rewards. One example of a positive reinforcement system for moms and dads to use is a behavior chart that rewards the youngster with stickers for behaving well, with the ultimate goal of obtaining enough stickers to earn a prize such as a favorite dessert or a small desired toy.

14.    Use proactive discipline: Moms and dads of bipolar kids shouldn't wait for behaviors to erupt before trying to employ discipline methods. Instead, they should consistently use preventative techniques (e.g., writing in a behavior diary to log and anticipate mood patterns, getting the youngster medical care on a regular basis, setting up a clear daily routine, etc.) in order to reduce instances of moodiness and misbehavior.

15.    Use proper restraint procedures when needed: Knowing how to physically control your youngster safely is a must. Improper physical restraint can injure. Ineffective holds only end up causing harm to you or others in the vicinity. Surprisingly, your relative size doesn't make much difference if you know the right techniques. Call the nearest colleges and find one that offers a psychiatric nursing program. Ask them about Professional Assault Response Training (PART) or similar programs that teach psychiatric nurses how to protect themselves from violent patients. The PART program is usually a two-day course, and can teach you several physical control techniques that will be both effective and safe for your youngster or teen.

You may also be able to access PART training or a similar course through your local mental health department, a hospital that has a psychiatric staff, or even a police department. Your youngster's teacher or classroom aide may also need to have this training. However, if you are using physical holds or locking your youngster in a room for protection, you do run the risk of being investigated by child protective services. In fact, some troubled young people use allegations of child abuse to get revenge on their moms and dads. Your best strategy is to be proactive. Consult with your youngster's medical team, and have them put their emergency recommendations in writing. Get training, be careful, stay calm and kind, and if you are contacted by the authorities, bring in your experts to help.

16.    Use a signal: Another preventative measure may be teaching a youngster a signal that can help parents and educators recognize when he needs to take a "self time-out" (e.g., he may be allowed to leave something on his school desk that discreetly says, "I'm going to an agreed upon safe place to take a breather for a few minutes").

17.    Use medication: Moms and dads may also decide to obtain preventative emergency tranquilizing medications from their youngster's doctor.

The methods above sound so simple – though it is anything but. The road of parenting a bipolar youngster is difficult. There is no set way that works for every youngster. It is a game of trial and error. Flexibility is essential as a bipolar youngster is an individual whose personality is constantly changing. One method may work one day – and the very next day – the same method will not.

Discipline for Bad Grades

Below are some very effective disciplinary techniques specifically for dealing with your child's poor academic performance. Some of these techniques will work – some won’t. Some of these techniques are incompatible with the others – some work well in combination with the others. Use your good judgment to determine which technique(s) to try:

1. Allow your youngster to suffer the natural consequences of bad grades. He may find that he gets in trouble at school more and is kept for detention without a parent to come and smooth the situation over. Explain that if he wants to make his own choices concerning his education, then he will accept his own consequences, even if that means repeating a grade or not getting into the university of his choice.

2. Be consistent with your discipline so that your adolescent always knows what to expect. Setting down clear rules and responsibilities can ensure your adolescent's cooperation. For example, if you say that any grade below a "C" will cause you to take her cell phone away, follow through with that discipline (despite any begging or pleading). Following through on discipline shows her that you are serious and that there will be consequences for bad grades.

3. Consider logical consequences. Many times the shame of getting a bad grade is punishment enough. But if you feel that your youngster isn’t ashamed or unhappy with the grade that they achieved, then you should consider something that fits the crime. Cut back on extra-curricular activities until grades improve, or set aside time each day where your youngster has to do his homework – and then review it yourself each night.

4. Discuss the issue. You can lecture until you’re blue in the face, but not get through to your youngster. Instead of lecturing your youngster on what they should be doing, find out why they got a bad grade. For example:
·         Do they not like their teacher?
·         Do they find the teacher’s testing methods difficult?
·         Are they not motivated?
·         Are they having problems with the subject matter?

If your youngster finds the subject matter difficult, then it is time for you as a parent to reevaluate your expectations. You can’t expect every youngster to excel in every subject. As moms and dads, we all want to believe that our kids are gifted, but in reality many kids work hard and get only B’s and C’s. Also, consider the nature of the class. If your youngster is in an advanced class and gets a B, then they would have probably received an A in a regular class.

5. Don't allow the adolescent to go to any social events until she brings her grades up to a more acceptable level. Missing out on dances, parties, or sports events can be a great motivator for her to put more time into her studies.

6. Look for tutoring opportunities, and sign your adolescent up for them. You'll be disciplining her by taking away some of her time and freedom for tutoring, but it will also help her improve her grades. You can also look for your adolescent's summer school options and sign her up if her final grades are not up to par.

7. Remove the communication devices that your adolescent owns. Online messaging, social networking sites, and cell phones can all disrupt your adolescent's homework and learning in school. Take these items away, or block her from the computer until her grades are raised to an acceptable level. She'll most likely work hard in order to get her communication devices back.

8. Take away the adolescent's car or driving privileges. This can be a great motivator to get him to study more and to deter him from letting his grades drop in the future.

9. Talk to the teacher. Teachers want students to succeed. They hate giving bad grades, even when the student deserves it. So talk to your youngster’s teacher about their grade. Find out what the teacher believes is the problem. If it is different than what your youngster believes to be the problem, consider having a meeting with your youngster, the teacher, and yourself to resolve the problems and get your youngster’s grades back on track. In the future, ask the teacher to provide you with updates on how your youngster is doing. That way there will be no surprises the next time your youngster has a test or report card’s roll around.

10. Wait to respond to a bad grade. As parents we tend to overreact when first presented with something like a bad grade. So give yourself a little time before saying something drastic like “You’re grounded for a month.” Talk it over with your spouse before reacting.

If the measures above do not work, consultation with a learning specialist may be warranted. Have the adolescent tested for learning disabilities. If the adolescent continues to have bad grades there may be an underlying problem. Finding out if he has a learning disability can help determine the steps that are needed to help him get better grades.

How to Avoid "Curfew Conflict" with Your Teenager

It is hard enough that your teenage son or daughter wants to go out all the time, hang out with friends until all hours of the night, and worry you to death. And now you have to consider an appropriate curfew. Setting a curfew for an adolescent is one of those things that must be done carefully and enforced completely from the beginning. Being allowed to socialize with peers is most definitely a privilege, and chances are if moms and dads aren’t remaining aware and informed at all times, their teenager will get into some sort of trouble.

Tips for Avoiding Curfew Conflict—

1. Communicate clearly what the agreed upon times are, through written and verbal reinforcements. This means, post it on the refrigerator and reinforce with a verbal reminder (e.g., "I look forward to seeing you around 10:30 tonight"). Also, be careful how hard and fast you make that curfew. Allow for a small buffer (maybe 10 minutes) so that your teenager does not drive faster in order to be home by curfew and avoid receiving a consequence.

2. Consider “flex-time.” Vary the curfew depending on the activity, the season, or night of the week. Your adolescent may stop arguing if you agree to a later curfew when he goes to the movies or a party. You also might impose a stricter curfew during the school year and more lenient rules in summer.

3. Despite the sometimes relentless pressure you'll feel from your teenager, it's important to start conservatively and work up from there. For example, a 15-year-old who consistently abides by a 10:30 p.m. curfew should be rewarded at age 16 with at least a 30-minute extension. About every six months thereafter, sit down with your adolescent and review the record. If it's good, tack on another 15 to 30 minutes. What do you say to the adolescent that continually misses curfew? Except in extreme cases, a combination of discipline today and reward tomorrow works well. For example, you might say something like, "Over the past 3 months, we've talked to you numerous times about coming in late. We had planned to extend your curfew until 10:00 by this time, but because you haven't cooperated with 9:30, we're going to keep it there for another month. If you can stick to the curfew, then we'll talk about extending it." On special occasions (e.g., prom night), curfew can be more flexible. Also, you should always know where your adolescent is going and with whom.

4. Draw up a contract. An adolescent with a strong sense of independence may find this business-like approach to the problem appealing. Make sure the adolescent has a voice when the terms and conditions are drawn. Otherwise, a contract may appear manipulative and controlling.

5. Ease up for good behavior, and crack down for tardiness. Many adolescents break their curfews by a few minutes, and this creates tension and leads to arguments. While moms and dads usually tighten the leash when an adolescent is late, they forget to loosen their grip for punctuality. Consider increasing privileges to reward your adolescent, just as you would take them away to punish.

6. End the curfew battles by ending the curfew. Sometimes a curfew causes adolescents to feel like they are prisoners in their own homes. For some teens, it may be best to set boundaries nightly.

7. Execute the consequences of broken rules. When he is late, give him the freedom and opportunity to comment and explain. Maybe there were unplanned events (e.g., a flat tire, a surprise party, etc.). Try to find a solution to the problem together. If an adolescent still breaks the curfew rule, let the agreed-upon consequences fall into place. Since you and your son or daughter have already discussed these consequences and set them up together (e.g., take away car keys, remove home privileges, etc.), you are not forced into the position of playing the "bad guy" or creating a consequence on the spot.

8. If your adolescent has missed curfew because drinking or drugs were involved, then the consequences are more serious. Simply enact these more serious consequences that you and your adolescent set up together.

9. Involve your adolescent in setting her nighttime boundaries. Reach an agreement together as to a curfew time that is age-appropriate. Compromise if necessary. You don't always have to be the "boss."

10. Keep the lines of communication open. Moms and dads and adolescents who talk frequently are much less likely to experience fights over curfew guidelines. Don't let anger keep the two of your from discussing the subject.

11. Sometimes it is okay to say yes. But, it never hurts to check on your adolescent from time to time. If your adolescent says he is going to be at the Mall at 6 p.m. with his friends, drop by and see for yourself. You don’t have to let your adolescent know. If he sees you, just wave and keep on walking. Teens need to know that there will be some unscheduled checking by you. If they are spending the night at a friend’s house, call and ask to speak to your teenager at an unusual time. Parenting is active, and that means you have to make that effort to check on your adolescent. This takes courage, but it is the price of making sure he or she is safe. This doesn’t mean you should follow your adolescents around or attach a tracking device to their clothing. But as a parent, you should listen to your intuition. If something sounds sketchy, then it’s at least worth taking a closer look. If you are open and honest with your adolescent about the house rules, there will a lot less “sneaky-behavior” going on behind your back.

12. Utilize your adolescent's friends. Most curfew battles begin when an adolescent feels that her friends are staying out later. Talking to other moms and dads to synchronize a "community" curfew makes everyone happy. Your adolescent will have an easier time heading home if everyone else must keep a similar curfew.

Discipline for Defiant Teens: Parenting Course

25 Mistakes to Avoid When Disciplining Your Teen

On one hand, the word "mistake" may be too harsh. Every teenager is different, and only you really know if your son or daughter is happy and flourishing. Therefore, who is to say what a parenting mistake is and is not?

On the other hand, "mistake" may not be harsh enough. Raising a teenager is the most important job in the world, and if you err as a mother or father, the word "mistake" may not fully convey the seriousness of the situation.

Chances are though you're not making any of the 25 mistakes listed below. Maybe you're close on one or two, but nothing to really worry yourself about. So use this list as a reminder of what not to do as a parent. However, if you realize you're making many of these mistakes, it's probably time to sit down with your husband or wife and reevaluate your roles as mom and dad. Remember, it's never too late to change.

25 Mistakes to Avoid When Disciplining Your Teen—

1. Accepting any behavior because of age – Although it's a scientific fact that adolescents undergo traumatic emotional and physical changes, that fact should not be an excuse to be allowed to behave inappropriately. Often, adolescents who are allowed to behave badly do not grow out of that behavior as grown-ups. Character is character at any age. Behavioral expectations should be related to what is right, not the age of the teenager.

2. Attack the child rather than the behavior – It’s essential to make sure your adolescent knows that you love him despite anything he does. Even greater, you love him enough to not let him develop behaviors that may be harmful to him or anyone else. Direct your criticisms and comments at the behavior, not the adolescent. If your adolescent fails a course due to lack of effort, don’t use phrases like “You’re lazy” or “You’ll never do well because you don’t try.” While you may even feel that these thoughts are accurate at the time, they only condemn and don’t solve the real issue. Focus on the behavior that created the problem (e.g., not studying, not asking for needed help, etc.). Be sure to express that you’re not only confident that the behavior can change, but you’re expecting it to change. Then work together on specific restrictions and actions that need to take place for the behavior to improve.

3. Bargaining with your teenager – “If you do ____, then I will get you/allow you to do _____.” Manipulating your teenager to make your life easier will only reap short-term benefits. Give them choices, but make sure you let them experience the consequences when they choose poorly.

4. Being a friend rather than a parent – Adolescents usually have more than enough social outlets. They need boundaries and safe, secure situations in which to grow. You are the provider of both, and when you act like a friend, your adolescent will lose security. Adolescents who view their moms and dads as authority figures and providers are more likely to be close to them in adulthood. Despite what appearances might suggest, adolescents do not respect moms and dads who behave like adolescents. Relating to your adolescent, based on your own experiences, can be a successful method of working through challenging situations, but at no time should you lose your parent status.

5. Criticism and comparison – No one enjoys criticisms or comparisons. Yet many moms and dads compulsively criticize and compare their teenagers daily. “Why can’t you be more like _____?” or “Why are you so _____?” This is a surefire way to impair your teen’s esteem and damage her fragile ego. Teenagers who are criticized grow up to think of themselves as outsiders and underachievers. They don’t celebrate their strengths because they were never taught to, a direct result of having internalized their parents’ negative voices. It only takes a thoughtless moment to hurt your teens with criticism or comparisons — but it can take a lifetime for them to recover.

6. Disregarding learning problems – Many academic and behavioral problems are the direct result of undiagnosed learning difficulties. Impatient moms and dads, too quick to label teens as being lazy, unmotivated, and apathetic about school, often fail to consider what might really be triggering their teens’ attitudes toward learning. Even exceptionally smart teens suffer from difficulties with processing speed, executive functioning and sensory and memory deficiencies. These under-the-radar complications often don’t emerge until middle school or high school. Such difficulties make learning a painful and exhausting experience. So save your money. Psychotherapy isn’t going to help resolve these problems in the least. If your son or daughter has even the slightest difficulty with learning, an educational evaluation is the first step to finding a solution.

7. Focusing on discipline rather than coaching – It is your job to correct misbehavior. It is also your job to coach your teenagers during times of good behavior. Parenting is not only reactionary, but proactive as well. Is your teenager lacking in a certain area of his character? Focus in training him in that area rather than disciplining him when it is absent.

8. Getting engaged in power struggles – In a game of tug of war, there is only tension on the rope when two people are involved. Drop your end, say your peace and walk away. Let your actions communicate your authority.

9. Giving in after saying “no” – Little lawyers often make impressive arguments as to why you should change your mind. But if you do so, you will only encourage them to do this more. Think first, and then talk. This will help you to avoid impulsive or irrational commands. Then stand your ground, even if you are shaking in your boots.

10. Ignoring problems due to parenting insecurities – “Hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil” only works if you are a carved monkey. If something is wrong, try to address it – even if you don’t have any clue what you are doing. If you make a mistake, try again. Often there is no “right” way to address a problem. However, doing nothing will never be right.

11. Invalidating feelings – When your teenagers reveal their feelings and insecurities to you, for goodness sake don’t contradict them, correct them, offer unsolicited advice, or use it as an opportunity to lecture about your experiences. Remember, they are taking a risk in doing so; therefore, your sensitivity is imperative. Teens want to feel understood, and they want to feel validated by their moms and dads. Many symptoms of hyperactivity, defiance, and mood problems are generated in teenagers of moms and dads who invalidate their feelings.

12. Irrelevant consequences – Whenever possible, the consequences should be reflective of wrongdoing. For example, if an adolescent returns home after curfew, limiting his nights out temporarily would be appropriate. An adolescent that doesn’t complete school work might be required to miss a social event to complete the work. If the adolescent misses the social event as a discipline, but doesn’t actually do school work, the consequences don’t make sense and just seem spiteful.

13. Lack of consistency – While all children need consistent discipline, it’s even more important for adolescents. They get frustrated when a behavior is acceptable one day and not acceptable the next. The established rules need specific consequences. Realistic and consistent consequences demonstrate a “real world” view for adolescents. Creating house rules with consequences, then responding appropriately, provides all teenagers with security and direction.

14. Lose your sense of humor – It’s not funny when your adolescent messes up, particularly when you’re left to clean up the mess. Losing your sense of humor won’t help. It may not seem funny at the time, but most challenging situations can eventually be viewed in a comical way. If your adolescent feels comfortable laughing and joking with you regularly, she’ll also be more likely to listen when you get serious.

15. Not listening – Moms and dads want to be respected but don’t always return that respect by listening to their adolescent. Not listening to your adolescent expresses that you don’t feel he has anything valuable to say. Even when disagreeing, adolescents should be given time to express their feelings and thoughts. This shouldn’t give an adolescent the right to be ugly or behave inappropriately, of course. Modeling and developing guidelines for how argumentative ideas should be expressed is essential. If you want to be heard, learn to listen.

16. Paying too little attention – Too much time with social media, TV, telephones and computers leaves little time for your teens or family. Shuttling everyone around in the dual DVD-equipped mini-van does not count. Put down the technology and get to really know your teens.

17. Paying too much attention – Micromanaging every detail of your teens’ lives will communicate that you think your teens would be lost without you. Give them a chance to fly on their own, but stay close by so you can send in the rescue team if need be.

18. Poor structure, limits and boundaries – Providing balanced boundaries, limits, and structure is essential to good parenting. What exactly are boundaries, limits, and structure? Here’s the breakdown:
  • Boundaries: honoring and respecting the physical and emotional space between people.
  • Limits: curbing destructive or risky behaviors by engendering good judgment.
  • Structure: consistent schedules and routines.

Some moms and dads are too strict with limits; some don’t provide enough structure or boundaries. Strive to find the right balance for your teenagers and they will be better prepared for relationships, jobs, and the world outside your door.

19. Punishing in anger – Sometimes moms and dads only discipline once they have reached the end of their patience. In reality, this allows adolescents to misbehave for a period of time before suffering any consequences. Not only is this confusing, it can also lead to abuse. Dealing with an adolescent emotionally often produces dramatic immediate effects, but ultimately it creates a communication wall in the relationship. Consistent parenting, as described above, prevents punishing in anger. Stepping away from the situation to recover emotionally also proves helpful.

20. Stopping your adolescent from failing at all costs – Some of life’s greatest lessons result from failing. Moms and dads who micromanage their adolescents because they are afraid of their adolescent failing prevent their son or daughter from developing important life skills. As much as you don’t want to have to discipline your adolescent, letting him fail and living with the consequences can teach him more than your chosen discipline.

21. Talking too much – Lecturing on and on past the point when your teens have stopped listening will accomplish little. Rational arguments in the heat of the moment will fall on deaf ears. Save your words of wisdom for times of peace.

22. Thinking “more” is the answer to your problems – Not all problems can be fixed by doing more of the same. More attention to an attention-addict won’t help. More toys for a chronically bored kid will backfire. Getting harsher and stricter for a non-compliant, controlling teenager will do you no good. If something you are doing is ineffective, do less. Better yet, try something else.

23. Using guilt rather than reason – Guilt may create an immediate response, but this style of discipline actually promotes internal emotional issues for adolescents that may not be dealt with until adulthood, if ever. Reasoning with an adolescent, providing a basis for your expectations and consequences, does not always evoke an immediate response, but the long-term results are typically more positive.

24. Wanting to be your teenager’s friend – Trying to jump right over the struggles of the adolescent years to the “chum years” of young adulthood will never produce desirable results. Teens need moms and dads, not friends. They have enough of those. Give them what they secretly want and need: structure, rules, traditions and values.

25. You become the enemy – At times, you may feel like the enemy, and your adolescent might actually refer to you as such. Remain the one individual who consistently stands by your adolescent – no matter how hurt you may feel. Peers and educators will come and go. You will always be the mother or father. By establishing rules and consequences, you’re the one person in your adolescent’s life that holds her accountable – no matter what. Even if we don’t like authority figures in our lives, they typically establish order and security.

Discipline for Defiant Teens: Parenting Course

Structuring Appropriate "Logical" Consequences

"How do I know if I'm being too strict - or too lenient - with my rebellious teenage daughter?"

The purpose of disciplining irresponsible behavior is to teach teens about the real world. There are basically two ways to discipline: naturally and logically. Natural consequences occur as a natural result of behavior and choices without parental intervention (e.g., the teen parks he car in a ‘no parking’ zone – she gets a ticket and has to pay it with her allowance money). However, there are times when allowing natural consequences to occur is much too dangerous (e.g., the teen experiments with drugs – she gets addicted). When natural consequences are too dangerous, it’s time to create logical consequences. In general, these involve some loss of privileges as a result of inappropriate behavior.

Here’s how to structure appropriate logical consequences:

1. The consequence should be delivered assertively. “It’s almost midnight! Where the hell have you been? You know you’re supposed to be home by 9:30!! Get your ass in that bedroom right now!!!” is not assertive. “Since you chose to violate curfew, you’ve also chosen to be grounded tomorrow evening” is assertive.

2. The consequence should be issued immediately. Parents and teens differ in their perception of time. As parents, if we are told a project is due in two weeks, we know we need to get moving right now. For many teenagers, two weeks is an eternity, which equals no motivation. For discipline to be effective, it needs to be closely “linked in time” to the inappropriate behavior. For teens, not being able to go on a trip 2 weeks from now for flunking a test last week is ineffective. Having to spend extra time during the next 3 days studying and therefore losing the privilege of afternoon free time is both immediate and effective.

3. The consequence should be reasonable. “That’s it! You’re grounded until you bring home a report card without and F’s” is unreasonable. ”Your behavior and choices have caused you to lose the privilege of going over to your friend’s house today” is reasonable.

4. The consequence should be related to the “crime” (i.e., the “bad” behavior). For example, if the teenager violates curfew, making her do extra homework or mow the lawn is not related. The temporary loss of the privilege of going out is related.

5. The consequence should be respectful. The disciplinary process should avoid two things: (1) humiliating the teen, and (2) inconveniencing the parent.

6. The length of the consequence should be commensurate with (i.e., equal to) the severity of the crime. For logical consequences to be effective, they need to be relatively short-term for small infractions and medium-term (i.e., no more than 7 days) for larger infractions. Again, this goes back to the issue of time. In a teenager’s mind, 7 days is an eternity (plenty of time to get the message across without creating a situation where the teen simply runs away because she feels like she is grounded for life). For most teens, anything lasting longer than 7 days becomes ineffective. Anything longer breeds resentment, contempt and revenge. Also, anything much over 7 days negates any lessons about life that might have been taught because, by the 8th or 9th day, the teen has forgotten why she is even being punished.

The purpose of disciplining teens is to prepare them for life on their own. Using the tips above will help parents to be in charge while teaching valuable “life lessons.”

Discipline for Defiant Teens: Parenting Course

What To Do When Your Defiant Teen Plays “Let’s Make A Deal”

As many parents of defiant teens have discovered, "Let's Make A Deal" is a popular game that teens play to manipulate parents. The prize for winning this game: the teenager gets to have his/her choice in important matters.

The parent says, “You need to finish your homework before you leave to go to your friend’s house.” The teenager responds, “If you let me go now, I’ll do my homework as soon as I get back. I have to go now!”

If the parent persists, the teenager will continue to try to “make a deal” (e.g., “I’ll do half of my homework now… I’ll only be over at my friend’s for ½ hour, and then I’ll come back and finish my homework”).

Defiant teens who are trying to make deals with parents are really saying, “I want to feel like I have control over what I’m doing and when I’m doing it.” If the parent interprets that sentiment out loud and points out that they do have control, teens often will comply.

For example, the parent can say, “You want to feel like you have control about the ‘what’ and ‘when’ of your choices? You do have control! No one can make you do anything you don’t want to – including homework. It’s your choice. You don’t want to do your homework? Fine. Then you don’t go to your friend’s house. You DO your homework – then you can leave. It’s totally up to you. You choose!”

Discipline for Defiant Teens: Parenting Course

How Can I Get My Defiant Teenager Into Counseling?

So you think your teen needs counseling ...but he/she refuses to go. What can you do?

Counseling adolescents can be tricky business. Often times, when a therapist receives a call for help to counsel an adolescent, it is from an exasperated mother or father who no longer can tolerate the behavior of their teenager. The adolescent is presented as being “out of control.” There may be concerns of drugs/alcohol, poor school performance, or the influence of the peer group. The adolescent may be described as depressed, anxious, angry – or even suicidal.

The parent usually wants the counselor to “talk some sense into their child.” The hope is that the counselor can wag an even bigger finger in front of the adolescent for an effect more profound than that of the parent – or miraculously get the adolescent to open up. But unfortunately, wagging fingers doesn’t work. If the adolescent isn’t talking to her mother or father, then dragging her off to a counselor as an agent of the parent likely won’t work either.

If the adolescent does meet first with the counselor and does talk, what is often heard is a litany of complaints about the mom and/or dad. The counselor is next in the middle between parents and adolescent playing “he said - she said”. So what is a parent to do?

Both parents (if still married) are advised to meet with the counselor together, ahead of their teenager. This achieves several objectives:

1. Moms and dads can provide a detailed description of their concern and the history of the problems. The counselor then has a broader perspective to understand the issues than what the adolescent would likely provide.

2. Moms and dads must understand that the counselor doesn’t live with the adolescent. The parents do. Even though the focus of what brought the adolescent into counseling may begin with his behavior and problems, at some point the counseling must take focus on a positive direction and look for solutions with parents as partners. The solutions should include not only what NOT to do, but include clear direction for what TO do. Dwelling on the problems will leave everyone immersed in the negative and living in the past. Re-focusing and developing positive strategies for improving relationships and behavior can redirect both parents and adolescent to positive ends.

3. Some adolescents (like grown-ups) view counseling as stigmatizing. The counselor may be able to avoid this by arriving at a clinical diagnosis of the problem. This means that on the basis of the parents’ description, the counselor may come to an understanding of the problem and can direct the parents accordingly. If the counselor can offer meaningful direction without even seeing the adolescent, then the adolescent may be spared feeling stigmatized. If need be though, the counselor can still meet with the adolescent directly.

4. The mother and/or father will have had the opportunity to check out the counselor and determine if they are comfortable trusting their teen’s care to this person. Not all counselors are alike, and parents may prefer the approach or values of one counselor to another.

So, if you are looking for counseling for your adolescent, consider the following:

1. Determine if your adolescent needs to be seen in discussion with the counselor at the first meeting. If not, only the parents should attend the first counseling session.

2. If your adolescent does attend counseling, your participation remains crucial.

3. After determining and addressing the problems, the focus must shift to positive working solutions that are “future-oriented” and facilitate parent-teen relationships.

4. Remember the goal: Relief from distress and well-adjusted adolescents.

5. Remember: The counselor doesn’t live with your adolescent. Counseling may be directed to help parents guide, manage or influence their adolescent – even if the teen never attends a counseling session.

Counselors who have experience and training with managing oppositional defiant behavior – and who understand the thinking that underlies this behavior – is the best option. Family therapy often assumes that the family is the problem, but it is usually the case that the family is the arena for change – it’s where change has to take place, and parents are agents of that change. This is why much can be accomplished when the counselor only works with the parents.

Discipline for Defiant Teens: Parenting Course