My 14-year-old son has recently developed a very troublesome attitude, which is new for him. For example, he recently called a female student bad names at school and refuses to follow instructions at home. How do I address this and discipline him in a positive way?
The teenage years are some of the most difficult to navigate. Keep communication open and talk with your teenager on a regular basis. We always encourage families to eat dinners together each night if possible; this time together is critical to good communication and healthy parent-child relationships. It's also a perfect time to reflect on the day, confront certain issues and discuss positive events. Your son has made some poor choices, but it's not uncommon for kids his age to test the limits and boundaries of others around them. It's also quite common for freshmen to try to fit in at school, and sometimes go to great lengths to be accepted or gain respect from upper classmen. Talk with your son about positive values like respecting others and how they shouldn’t be compromised just to fit in. Discuss what it means to be a follower and the strength it takes to be a leader.
Strongly encourage your son to make a personal apology to the girl he called bad names, either in person or in a letter. This will make him take accountability for his actions and help him understand how his actions affect others.
If he refuses to apologize, then take away his privileges until he does so. If his negative attitude and behavior continues, have him start working as a volunteer in your community. This is a good way to instill empathy, acceptance and giving back.
My 14-year-old daughter announced that she intends to have sex with her boyfriend and that there is nothing I can do to stop her. I do not want her to do this, but she won’t listen to me. I am a single mother and feel like I am losing control of my daughter.
I have tried talking with her, and I have grounded her. She has seen a few counselors, but she has made up her mind about having sex with her boyfriend. I keep a close eye on her and limit her opportunities to follow through on her intentions, but I know I can’t control her environment at school or when she is with her friends.
It sounds like your daughter is testing her limits and seeing how far she can push you. As parents we cannot control our children; that is not our role. Often, the more we try the more we fail and are frustrated.
Our primary role is that of a teacher. We teach them skills, such as respecting authority, following instructions and accepting consequences, because these are life skills that we use on a daily basis.
When our children make poor choices and do not use the skills we have taught, we must issue a consequence and re-teach the skill. This hopefully sends the message that poor choices result in negative consequences, and thus it is important to think of the consequences of our choices before acting. Doing the right thing is something that they must choose.
You mentioned that you have spoken to your daughter about the consequences of sexual activity. That is great! Knowledge is power. She must be made aware of the risks involved with such behavior at an early age. This is a very important decision that your daughter is making.
Rather than having her shut you out, you want to be a part of it. So instead of telling your daughter what she SHOULD NOT do, talk to her about what she SHOULD do. Talk to her about what it means to be in a healthy relationship. Hopefully she will start to assess whether or not her relationship resembles a healthy one and whether she is ready for this level of intensity.
You cannot force her to make the right choices. But if you have established clear boundaries and she crosses them, then consequences need to be issued. Don’t give up thinking that there is nothing you can do. And don’t think that your consequences don’t matter to her. Continue to issue them. Let her know that you are the parent and this is part of your job.
Is it appropriate for a 14-year-old boy to share a bedroom with his 7-year-old half-sister and 10-year-old half-brother?
Children need their own space as a refuge, so it would be ideal if your children could each have their own bedroom. This is not as important when children are young, but it becomes increasingly important as they get older.
It is not always possible, however, for children to have a room of their own. We recommend that at the least, genders are separated if possible. In your family, if the two younger children are used to being together, that would be fine. But as time passes, we recommend putting the boys together and allow the girl to have her own room. Developmentally, there is a big difference between a 14-year-old boy and a 7-year-old girl.
If your home does not have the space, consider a divider in the room to create a sense of privacy. A bookcase would work well, as would a freestanding screen.
My 14-year-old daughter has developed an unhealthy relationship with a boy from her school who is the same age. She has snuck out of the house to see him, has invited him into our home when we are at work and has been suspended from school after the two of them were caught together in the boy’s locker room. I have found letters from him asking her not to talk to certain boys at school.
I have moved her out of state to live with her father. He has enrolled her in school there. She says she is very sorry and wants to come home. She says she never wants to see the boy again. We don’t know if we can trust her. We do plan to have her eventually move back with me. What should I do to prepare her to return to her old school? Am I doing the right thing?
The choices your daughter has made to be alone with this boy are concerning and go beyond interest in the opposite sex that is typical at this age. It might be that the meetings were the boy’s idea or that she even felt pressured to meet with him. But ultimately, she made the choice too.
Lack of maturity and insecurity may be playing a part, but the fact that he is telling her who she can and cannot talk to indicates that he is a controller. This is not a trait you want to see in a guy to whom your daughter is attracted.
Too much privacy for a young couple at this age is dangerous. It puts individuals in a compromising position and tempts them to engage in physical/sexual activities that are difficult to resist during the hormone-driven teen years. The fact that she partook in risky behavior at school and snuck out of the house raises safety issues as well.
You sent a strong message to her by moving her away for a while. Do you have a date for her return? You and her father need to be on the same page and present a united front on whatever you decide. Disruptions in the school year and social agendas can be pretty tough on kids. She may be truly sorry for her actions and not want to see the boy again. But it would be wise to set up very specific house rules and expectations in regard to her relationships when she returns. You can even talk about future consequences if she breaks the rules again.
It is appropriate to change the rules or add new ones as she gets older. For example, a child at age 13 probably does not need specific driving rules, but at 15 some very specific rules such as curfew, seatbelt usage, passengers, etc. need to be discussed and agreed upon before she can actually drive.
Boys Town has published some good books on boundary setting. One such title is “Boundaries: A Guide for Teens.” Maybe reading this book could even be a requirement before she is allowed to move back with you.
Trust will have to be built again. Her actions and her good behavior together will help build that trust again. It takes time to heal wounds once trust is broken. Start by letting her have a few privileges at a time. Eventually she can earn the privilege to go out with a group of friends to a movie, for example. It really is in her hands. Be sure to praise her when you see that her behavior has changed.
In time, she will earn back that trust. We all make mistakes. Look at the mistakes our children make as teaching opportunities.
I am a single parent. My 12-year-old daughter does not have any boundaries at my ex-wife’s house. She is permitted to stay home by herself with no one checking on her. Additionally, she is home alone in the evenings when I pick her up since her mom doesn’t come home.
Because there is little accountability at her mother’s house, she likes to challenge my rules and boundaries. This is especially true when it comes to the use of technology and Facebook.
My fiancé and I have observed very reckless behavior when it comes to my daughter’s Facebook usage when she is not under our care. I approached my ex-wife with my concerns and asked if we could establish consistency between our two homes in how we handle technology use. My ex-wife responded that she is too busy to follow her on Facebook, but that she would talk to our daughter. She then proceeded to shame me for dragging our daughter into the middle of it.
What can my fiancé and I do? We will be raising five children together, and we want to do everything to provide a safe and healthy environment for them. We want them to be successful in life, and we are aware that it will take strength of character to swim against the current of my ex-wife’s household.
Having a child who is parented with two completely different sets of expectations is difficult for the parents and child alike. The only thing you can do is make your expectations very clear, and back them up with many good “kid” reasons. These are reasons that show your daughter the benefits of doing things according to your expectations. She has to be able to relate to these reasons and see how they fit into her world.
Along with expectations, establish consequences that are consistently used when she does not meet your expectations. These are privileges like cell phone use, going out with friends and watching TV. If she does not meet your expectations, consistently assign negative consequences, such as the loss of a privilege or an added chore.
This type of structure teaches young people responsibility and good decision- making skills. Pre-teaching will also help ensure your daughter’s success. Use her reckless Facebook use as an example. Before she goes to her mother’s, talk to her about her recent Facebook activity that you deem is reckless and how it could be dangerous or have damaging results for her. See if she can think of what possible negative things could result from her Facebook activity. Then talk to her about more appropriate postings that would not put her at risk or give others a negative impression of her.
Let her know that you will be doing whatever is necessary to keep her safe. Continual monitoring of electronic communication, including her cell phone, e-mail and Facebook will take place. There are very strict laws in some states about “sexting,” as well as large costs for being involved in that activity. Assure her that she should report it to you if and when she receives anything that could be considered sexual in content.
Talk to her about the responsibility that accompanies electronic communication. If a good level of responsibility is not demonstrated, that privilege can be lost, whether the behavior occurs while she is with you in your home or elsewhere. Location has nothing to do with whether she makes good decisions or not.
This approach, if used calmly and consistently at a neutral time, will have great benefits for your children and you and your fiancé.
My five year-old daughter is calm, generous, fun, caring and sensitive. We’ve always had a good bedtime routine and she has always slept in her own bed without any problems. After reading, I bring her to bed and spend 10-15 minutes with her, but over the last few months she is increasingly unhappy sleeping by herself and only wants to sleep in her younger sister’s bedroom. She says she’s afraid of tigers and fire. I think she’s very content and happy and secure in general but wonder if she has some underlying insecurities. Once she's asleep she sleeps all night but I don’t want the fears to escalate.
Many parents go through this exact situation. It’s so good that you are reading to your daughter and making it part of her bedtime routine. When kids are afraid of something it is important to explore what they're afraid of and why. If having the five year-old in the room sleeping with your two year-old messes up both of the children's routine then we suggest changing or decreasing the behavior.
From what you described, it sounds like reading time happens in a place other than the child's bedroom. Perhaps reading to her in her own bedroom would give her the extra 10 or 15 minutes to get comfortable with her surroundings. Another suggestion would be the increase the amount of time that you spend with her in her room after reading and before turning out the lights. This is something that can gradually decreased if her fears start to subside.
Your daughter is still exploring her world and it's boundaries. She is in a continuous state of learning, and research shows that our brains aren't fully developed until we're in our mid twenties. Her ability to conceptualize and rationalize is not at the same level as an adult. As parents the best thing we can do is teach our children and offer comfort as they try to make sense of everything. As with potty training and feeding, it can take multiple repetitions for a child to understand something. Be consistent and patient. Your daughter will outgrow this!
My daughter’s friend of 10 years appears to have stolen an old cell phone of ours. After weeks of trying to get it back, my daughter’s friend finally returned it. I tried to teach both girls a lesson about responsibility by not allowing the friend to come to my daughter’s birthday party. I confronted the mother about this and asked if we could sit down with the girls and talk about it. I was told yes but it never happened. It's been three months since it happened and my daughter hasn’t seen her friend. My daughter is still very upset, she misses her friend. I feel like it is my fault for ending the relationship.
The fact that you are trying to teach both girls a responsibility lesson is great. But remember, you only have control over teaching your own daughter, not the other child. It sounds like you have already taken the time to talk with your daughter about what her friend did and why that wasn't appropriate. Good job!
It's understandable that you wouldn't want the girl back in your house but you feel stuck because your daughter is really missing the friendship. Talk with your daughter about what important friendship qualities are and let her make the decision if she feels this friend is a good friend or not. Then if she makes the decision to continue her friendship, teach her how to be assertive with her friend if a situation like that should arise again. Talk about things they can do to rebuild trust in their friendship and how setting boundaries might be appropriate until the trust is back.
My four year-old son hits others. When I tell him to stop he yells at me saying that he doesn’t have to do what I tell him to do. Sometimes, he will run away from me into his uncle’s room. How can I help him change his behavior?
There's reason behind every behavior. At four years-old, your son is still testing boundaries and exploring his surroundings. When he hits it's important that you act on the unwanted behavior immediately after it happens. For example, take his hand and say "no, we don't hit" and then explain that hitting is wrong because it hurts others. It may take several repetitions before he actually understands what you are trying to teach him. His ability to comprehend and make sense of things is much different compared to that of a teenager or an adult.
Effectively utilizing consequences can be a helpful way to change unwanted behavior. Consequences can be positive and negative. A positive consequence, like more playtime or a treat, increases the chances of a behavior happening. A negative consequence, like a time out, decreases the chances of a behavior happening again.
When administering consequences it's important to keep four things in mind:
- Keep it important to the child (a special toy or book)
- Make it immediate (directly following the unwanted/wanted behavior)
- Keep it appropriate (not too big and not too small)
- Make it relate to your child's behavior (if he hits with a toy, take the toy away)
It sounds like just telling him isn't working, so now is the time to try something new. If he is not supposed to talk back and if he's not supposed to go into his uncle's room then those are both unwanted behaviors and appropriate consequences need to be applied. Be consistent. If you stick with your new routine, his behavior should change.
My four year-old has slapped his teacher, kicked her, doesn't listen when she instructs him to pick up his toys, and has even called her stupid. He is a sweet little boy half of the time, but the other half of the time you never know what you are going to get. I have tried tactics for positive and negative behavior. I feel completely lost with him. What can I do to change his behavior?
Parenting young children can be the most frustrating thing you ever do in your life. However, it also is the most important thing you will ever do. Helping them form their behaviors, their boundaries and their ability to get along in this world is invaluable. All of our children have unique and individual emotional makeup that forms their personalities.
If you have not had his pediatrician check him over with the specific goal in mind of ruling out physical issues that might be affecting his behavior, do so to make sure there is not a contributing medical cause. If that is eliminated, then we encourage you to look into some possible programs that work specifically with young children who have continued to fail in spite of different approaches to modify their behaviors. Your frustration level, his and his teacher's are not making things better. In fact it is more difficult for all of us to control our behaviors when we are frustrated.
My five-year-old son suddenly becomes clingy, bashful and unwilling to participate whenever I introduce him to situations where there are groups of children present. When his mother takes him to class, he does not behave this way. The other night at a karate class he buried his face in my shirt for 15 minutes and refused to participate. He couldn’t tell me why he didn’t want to go to class and when I pressed him about it, he started crying. I am extremely accepting and noncritical and regularly affirm his self-worth. Is this normal?
Thanks for writing to us about the difficulties you are experiencing with your son. Children succeed the most when they feel secure in their environment. Security takes root when the rules, boundaries and consequences are consistent.
The change in your son's behavior may be a result of the variation between parenting expectations. Perhaps you and your wife have different expectations that encourage your son to act differently. This doesn't necessarily mean that your ways are wrong and her ways are right; it just means they could be different. This also doesn't mean that your son is manipulating because he may not even know he is doing it. As a solution to this problem, maybe you and your wife should go together to a karate class to see how your son responds.
One of two things will happen: He'll either do just fine and go ahead with class, or he'll become clingy towards you and start crying. If he does fine, then he'll know you saw what he is capable of doing, and you can hold him to this expectation every time. If he becomes clingy, perhaps his mother can intervene and help you and your son reach a positive experience.