My boyfriend and I live together with his three children. I thought this situation was going well until his oldest daughter (age 10) started acting out against me. When I sat her down to discuss this, she told me that she hates me. How should I respond to this? Should I curtail my time at the house?
We are glad you talked with your boyfriend’s daughter about her behavior. For her to say she “hates you” as a reason for her behavior is not that simple. If she doesn’t like you in the home and hopes to instigate your leaving, this may be the purpose of her behavior. If she is jealous of the time and attention her father gives to you and wants more of his attention, this could be another cause of her behavior. If she would rather be living with her mother and is striving to frustrate her father into sending her to her mother’s, that may be the purpose of her acting out.
Every behavior has a function or purpose. Once you determine what her purpose is, it will be much easier to deal with her and make changes.
Does her father recognize the current situation, and is he attempting to stop it from happening? Are there consequences for her behavior? Have you and your boyfriend come up with some ideas on how to address and improve the current situation?
Being raised by one parent is hard on children. They often take on responsibilities that are not typically given to a child their age. At age 10, your boyfriend’s daughter may have placed herself in the role of the family caretaker to support her father’s efforts to keep a home and care for his children. She may see you as someone who is threatening this role. She will fight to protect it.
If you can provide a little more information on her acting out, including concrete examples of her misbehavior for instance, we can offer you suggestions and strategies to improve the behavior and the overall situation in the home.
I am a single mom of a 15-year-old girl. I am a police officer and I work nights. I am not with her most nights, but one of my older nieces stays with us so she can be with her. I have raised my daughter to have morals. We have always been active in our church, and she has attended a Christian school from kindergarten until the present.
I have a problem with her wearing inappropriate clothing, wanting facial piercings and gouging her ears. Though I tell her that I do not approve of these things, she goes behind my back to do them and then lies about it.
I recently found cigarettes in her purse despite the fact that I have discussed with her the harmful effects of smoking. I am an advocate of exercise and eating healthy. My girl is my life, and I don’t want to see her ruin her life with these harmful behaviors.
Adolescence is a stage in which teenagers start testing their independence. They start to make their own decisions, and you can’t tell them that their decisions are wrong. Sound familiar?
Unfortunately, it is our job as parents to do just that. Our end goal of parenting is to have our children become successful young adults in society. We help them reach that goal by teaching them right from wrong.
We do this by providing consequences. They earn positive consequences for behaviors we want to see and negative consequences for those we don’t. If your daughter is making poor choices for herself, there needs to be follow-through from you in the form of negative consequences.
The tricky part is figuring out if your daughter is making poor choices or if she is simply trying to express herself and is finding out who she is. How does a parent determine if a child is making a poor choice or just a different one from what we would make? A good rule of thumb is safety. Ask yourself if this decision will put her in an unsafe situation. Sometimes we have to be supportive of their independence while in the back of our minds we are thinking, “What is she doing?”
This doesn’t mean that smoking and putting extra holes in her body are decisions with which you have to agree. Those do propose a safety concern. It sounds like you set an expectation that piercings are not allowed, and she broke that expectation. Thus, there needs to be a consequence.
Sit down with your daughter and decide together if there is a healthier, safer way she could express herself without doing permanent damage to her body. Temporary hair dye, a specific clothing style and even redecorating her room are all safe expressions of self, and nothing is permanently changed.
If you continue to worry about her rebellious stage, it sometimes helps to have someone other than you talk to her. Sometimes teenagers don’t want to listen to their parents just because they are their parents. Having someone other than Mom talk to her about her decisions might mean that she will listen.
I am the stepmother of a 17-year-old boy who has been living with my husband and I for two years. Prior to this, he lived with his mother and then his grandmother. Both women were unable to handle him, so he came to live with us.
He is not doing well in school. He often skips school and earns failing grades. He is an 11th-grader with the credits of a ninth-grader. I smell marijuana in his room, but he denies smoking it. I also find cigarette butts in his room, which he admits to smoking.
He says he is old enough to determine what is good and bad for him. He sneaks out of his window when we tell him that he has to stay home. Friends sneak in as well. When he stays at friends’ homes, we won’t see him for a few days. He won’t text or call us during this time. We’ve almost reported him missing to the police.
He steals money and other things from us. I don’t know what to do other than placing him in Boys Town. But I don’t want to do this because he has already been in and out of juvenile centers while staying at his grandmother’s home. What should we do?
Raising a young man who repeatedly makes poor choices and disobeys you is extremely frustrating. It sounds like he has been engaging in numerous illegal and dangerous activities. It is great that you have considered calling the police. This is a difficult choice for parents to make, but sometimes it is the best choice.
The important thing is that he gets on the right track with school and leads a safe and healthy life. Stealing, drug use, truancy from school, leaving without permission and smoking cigarettes are all illegal activities of which you should make the police aware. You are not calling simply to get him in trouble. Calling the police could provide safety for your family and stepson. Also, the police could take legal action and put your son in drug treatment, which would benefit him.
What type of discipline have you been using at home? He needs an incentive to behave and make better choices. Taking away some of his privileges, such as limiting access to TV and the computer, is one option.
Reminding a child to make better choices often is not effective enough. Using consequences is difficult at first, and you will have resistance. But if you are consistent, you will see results over time.
When you do speak to him about his behaviors or you are disciplining him, do so CALMLY. It is easy to lose your temper, but getting upset will only make the situation worse. He is out of control, so you must stay in control. Pick a time to discuss his behaviors when he is calm as well.
Other than juvenile centers, what other services have you tried? Counseling with a trained mental health professional might benefit your stepson. Make use of all the available resources before considering out-of-home placement for your stepson.
What has his school done about his truancy? In many states, if a child is not going to school the police can get involved. In some cases, the parents can also get into trouble for their child being truant from school. You don’t want to get in trouble for the poor decisions he is making.
It is great that you are considering Boys Town placement for your stepson. The program is very effective for many young adults with behavioral issues similar to his. For more information, visit our website at www.boystown.org or call our Hotline at 1-800-448-3000.
I am a 51-year-old parent with a 9-year-old girl and a 5-year-old boy. My children have no focus. My wife and I often resort to yelling in order for our children to follow our instructions. We hate doing this. Though our children are spoiled, they do not get everything they want. But there is no urgency to do what we ask of them. What can we do?
Parenting is both rewarding and challenging. You are right on track when you mention that your children are spoiled. “Spoiled” does not necessarily mean getting everything that you want. When children whine, argue to get their way, do not take no for an answer or get several warnings or chances before they do a requested chore, they appear disrespectful or ungrateful, thus spoiled.
If they know Dad will repeat his request multiple times before the yelling starts or if they have not received immediate consequences in the past, they have learned to ignore adult directives.
You and your wife can turn your situation around with time and a consistent, concerted effort. First, you and your wife must agree on a parenting plan. Discipline is most effective when it comes from a united front, which means that you and your wife will be working together.
Discipline is not just delivering a punishment – it is teaching: 1. Teach them what behaviors you expect; 2. Model that behavior for them, even practicing with them; 3. Tell them the consequence of not abiding by that behavior; and 4. Offer either a reward or punishment appropriate for the behavior that they display.
Have a family meeting at which you state the new house rules. Given your children’s young ages, five minutes is long enough. Say something like this: “From now on when Mom and Dad call your name, this is what we want you to do: 1. Stop whatever you are doing. 2. Look directly at us and listen. 3. Repeat back what you need to do. 4. Go do it.”
Role-play a situation with them that is likely to occur in your house. If your son is playing a video game, for example, he will need to 1. Put the controller down. 2. Look at you and listen. 3. Say “You want me to turn the game off in two minutes.” 4. Stop the game in two minutes.
If your children know ahead of time that they will lose a privilege if they fail to follow your plan, you most likely will have success. But this won’t happen overnight. You must be consistent and patient. It took your children a long time to learn their poor listening skills. It will take a long time – a few months even – to unlearn them.
I am seeing destructive behavior in my 4-year-old, and I am having trouble understanding why this is. I have been unsuccessful at teaching him self-control.
Please know that all 4-year-old boys enjoy crashing their cars and stomping on sand castles. They turn sticks into swords and point them at undeserving objects. These behaviors do not necessarily result from exposure to violent acts. They are actually considered age-appropriate behaviors.
Because you don’t want them to continue or worsen, calmly stop the behavior and issue a consequence (perhaps taking the toy away or putting him in time-out). Teach a more appropriate way to play, and have him demonstrate or practice it by playing gently with a toy.
Teaching self-control to your son is a wonderful thing to be doing. Teach it at a neutral time when he is not upset. Validate that we all have strong emotions such as anger, but it is how we communicate these feelings that can be helpful or harmful. If we express ourselves in negative ways, we can get ourselves into trouble.
Offer him some examples of negative responses to which he can relate. If we express our feelings in positive ways, it can be helpful to us. Again, offer concrete examples of this concept to your son.
Then talk to him about some calming techniques that he can use when he gets upset. You can try deep breathing by “blowing out his birthday candles”: Have him hold up four fingers since that is how old he is. After taking a deep breath, he should blow on one finger and fold it down. Then he should do the same with the next three fingers until all four of them are folded down.
Another calming technique is to have him put himself in time-out by saying, “Mom, I am mad!” He then should close his eyes and count to 20 or 30. Teach him as many calming techniques that you can think of. Be patient and practice them daily. When you see him beginning to get upset, prompt or remind him to try one of these techniques. This will save him from getting into trouble in many situations because he can exhibit self-control.
I have twin girls and an almost 4-year-old boy. I am having discipline problems that are getting worse. I am getting frustrated and need some advice.
Learning to apply effective consequences is one of the most difficult parenting techniques. When your children are young, it is even harder because you might not see the effect the consequence is having right away. All you can see are the temper tantrums and limit-testing.
It is important to discuss what discipline is. Many parents equate discipline with punishments. This is not true. Discipline means structure and instruction. We have to teach our children appropriate behaviors (sometimes repeatedly). Otherwise they learn from other “teachers,” such as TV, their peers and the media.
Once you identify an inappropriate behavior, stop the behavior immediately. Once the behavior is stopped, issue an immediate consequence (a time-out, removal of toy, etc.). Then discuss and practice a more appropriate behavior.
For example, if a child is throwing a toy, calmly stop the behavior by describing what he was doing. This might sound like, “Right now you are throwing your toys. Because you chose to throw your toy, you cannot play with this toy the rest of the day.” Then explain to him how he should play with his toys.
His behaviors show that he needs reminding. So set your expectations of how you want him to play by telling him what he SHOULD do and not what he SHOULDN’T do. Focus on the positive. Then ask him to show you how to correctly play with a different toy. This is his practice. If he plays nicely with it, praise him for following your instructions.
Boys Town does offer a parenting class for parents of toddlers and preschoolers. If you are interested, let us know and we can see if there is a class being held in your area. If not, you can always go online to the Boys Town Press and purchase the book titled “Common Sense Parenting: Toddlers and Preschoolers.”
I have a 16-year-old son who has become very mouthy and disrespectful. My husband and I have not been as consistent as we have needed to be these past few years. I don’t want to see our son head down the wrong path, but I don’t know what to do.
Parenting teenagers is different than parenting younger children. Manners we thought they have learned and social skills you have seen them use are all of a sudden no longer part of their behavior patterns.
You and your husband need to go back to square one. Write down a few basic house rules. Set clear expectations that you have for your son’s responsibilities and social skills. List the privileges available to him should he meet your expectations. Let him know that his current behavior is not acceptable and immediate changes are required.
Show him the rules, expectations and consequences. Ask if he understands, NOT if he agrees. Let him know that these are in place effective immediately, and they will continue because they apply to anyone who lives in your home.
Teenagers, unfortunately, test all the time to see if things apply to them. Make sure he knows that these do apply, and that both of his parents agree and will enforce them.
About a week ago, we found out that our 17-year-old son is cutting himself. My son doesn’t want to talk about it. He was originally hiding the cuts, but now he is hurting himself openly. How can I help him if he doesn’t want to get professional help or even acknowledge his problem?
The intervention needed for teenagers who cut themselves is to identify if this is an attempt to deal with difficult emotions and relieve tension or something worse. If they are doing it to deal with difficult emotions, it is helpful for them to learn the skill of identifying their feelings. Then they can learn how to express their feelings by talking about them or writing them down. This begins to help them decrease the pressure they are feeling and to lighten their emotional load. Similar to letting the air out of a balloon, it serves to deflate the crisis.
As he learns to identify and express his feelings, he will be better able to solve the problems that lead to the difficult feelings. Advocating for himself will build positive self-esteem and confidence.
He is welcome to call the hotline as a resource to talk about his emotions and to gain support and suggestions to successfully work through them.
My 3-year-old granddaughter refuses to wear socks that are not pink or purple. Her mother gives in to this demand. Shouldn’t she demand that her daughter wear all of the socks in her drawer and not just the pink and purple ones?
Parents must always consider in advance what message their children will "hear" from the response they have to their child’s behavior. They also must pick their battles. By this we mean looking at each situation or behavior and weighing it on a scale of importance.
Small children go through phases of things they like to eat, wear and do. It typically does not last long, and it seldom causes serious damage to their health or home. Our goal is not to control our children, but to teach them self-control.
This situation with the socks is something that could be written in your granddaughter’s baby book and be remembered with amusement for years to come. This issue is simply not worth fighting the child over.
My 10-year-old son is overactive at school. His teachers tell us that he won’t sit still, argues often with other children and is disruptive in class. This is despite the fact that he is smart. We have tried our best to talk to him, but I feel helpless about how to guide him. I am feeling very disappointed in myself, as our family is religious but our values don’t seem to be sticking with our son.
We recommend that you request that the school psychologist evaluate your son soon. Your tax dollars pay for this service, so it’s to your advantage to use it. Perhaps a behavioral Individual Education Plan (IEP) will be needed so that his goals are not only academic, but behavioral also.
Talk with his teacher to create a list of classroom skills that she expects her students to use. There are many skills expected of students, such as getting the teacher’s attention; staying on task; asking permission; following instructions; and accepting consequences. Find out the particulars of each skill, and work with your son on developing it.
For example, help your son practice raising his hand, holding it in the air and waiting patiently until he is called on. Help him see that if he can master that skill, his needs will be met more quickly and he’ll avoid getting in trouble.
Practice each classroom skill with your son, and be sure to watch for any improvement in his behavior. Praise him for even small improvements.