My 6-year-old daughter is impossible to control. We’ve done all we can to try to manage her behaviors but nothing seems to work. She uses very bad language and states that she wants to kill herself. How can we get her under control?
When correcting harmful behavior in a child, it’s important to have very clear expectations and consistent and meaningful consequences when those expectations are not met. Addressing problem behavior early on is critical; while it takes more time up front, it will pay off in less resistance against established expectations as the child grows up.
That being said, your daughter’s comments about wanting to kill herself are very concerning and should not be ignored. At this young age, she should be monitored at all times. Even if she is in her room, you should check on her at least every 15 minutes. Even at age 6, she could put herself in danger if not monitored.
Communicate clear boundaries to your daughter and patiently yet firmly correct her when she crosses those boundaries. You also should seek help from a professional counselor to find out why your daughter is expressing a desire to harm herself.
My 7-year-old granddaughter refuses to use the bathroom. If my son or I ask her to go use the bathroom, she refuses and regularly messes herself. What can we do to help her?
When an older child suddenly struggles with potty issues, the first thing you should do is take the child to the pediatrician. A physical issue may be the reason for a change in bathroom habits. If the child continues to refuse to use the bathroom and continues to have accidents once any physiological issues have been addressed and treated, it’s possible that an emotional cause may be driving the physical behavior.
A professional counselor can help uncover the emotional root of the issue and help the child overcome any fears or anxieties that may be driving the behavior. A counselor can also help parents and children establish healthy bathroom routines. For your granddaughter’s health and emotional well-being, it’s best to get her to the doctor and a counselor, if necessary, as soon as possible.
My 15-year-old daughter refuses to attend school. I’ve taken her to a psychologist but she is uncooperative. She was always a good student, liked by her teachers and active in sports. That all changed when she started high school. I know changing schools can be challenging, especially for shy children, but I am at a loss as to how to help my daughter.
Your daughter's behaviors are unacceptable regardless of the reasons behind them. In many states, it is illegal to not provide your child with an education. If a youth misses school, the parent is contacted by the county attorney and a court hearing is scheduled.
Your daughter's status in life at this time is a full-time student. She should not be getting a message that she can "call the shots" in your family and can break the law without consequences. As a parent, you want her to grow up healthy, physically and emotionally, and to be happy in the world in which she lives. That’s not going to happen if she doesn't get back on track.
If she had a medical issue and refused to go in for treatment, would you allow that? If she is not willing to go to a counselor, perhaps you could have someone come to your home. Another suggestion is to make home a less fun place than school. Require her to get up and begin working on her studies at the same time school is in session. During a break, she should complete chores. There should be no TV, computer, video games or other fun activities.
Your goal must be to help her control herself and go back to school. Your attempt to schedule follow-up therapy is exactly what needs to occur to help her make that decision if she can't get there without help.
Our 12-year-old son has undergone a drastic change in his personality. He used to earn straight As and was in the gifted and talented program at school. He had plenty of good friends and was responsible. Now he does not care about school, which is reflected in his falling grades. He is openly defiant and challenges authority in a rebellious, disrespectful manner. He still has his old friends, but he is also hanging out with a group of kids that we have deemed to be a bad influence. Now he is stealing from us.
We have tried every conceivable consequence: removal of privileges, removal of electronic devices and removal of all items in his room except his bed and clothing. We have talked to him frankly about the value of hard work and earning what you have.
He has basic household chores, and he will work this summer at my husband’s business sweeping floors, etc. We are also placing him in a Bible/mentoring program to reinforce a sense of morals and personal responsibility. We are at a loss about how else to handle this situation.
You mention many good strategies, but you did not say what your son is doing with the money he is stealing. Is he buying things with it or giving it to other kids? What is he doing to make up for the stealing? If this behavior continues, he runs the risk of earning jail time. There has to be consequences and restitution.
Do you suspect that he is smoking pot or using any other illegal substances? There are kids all over the country taking advantage of a substance that can be purchased online or possibly at a mall. It is called K-2. It affects each child differently, mostly because it is a manmade chemical that is applied to natural leaves. This may be the cause of your son’s personality change.
Since he is not responding to traditional consequences, have him evaluated by a counselor or someone who works with substance abuse. Sometimes parents are too emotionally close to a situation to see what is really going on.
My 15-year-old son has difficulty focusing, and this deficit is affecting both his schooling and his life outside of school. For instance, he just failed his driver’s test this morning. I have talked to him about focusing on one step at a time to prevent him from getting overwhelmed with the “big picture.” But when he becomes flustered or when something gets out of kilter, he disassociates from the situation as a coping mechanism.
I know that I need to spend more time with him. I can relate to his issues, but I need some ideas on how I can address this problem with him.
Your son’s lack of focus will not likely get any better on its own, and so professional intervention is recommended. You have a few sources of help to pursue. The first is his school. Nearly all school districts have school psychologists who can help pinpoint what is going on with your son’s lack of concentration. Tutoring services may also be an option to help your son stay on track with his schooling and to learn some new study skills.
Another source is a counselor or therapist who specializes in helping young adolescents who struggle with self-confidence, goal-setting and follow-through. Your family doctor can make a referral. You can also call the Boys Town hotline at 800-448-3000 for a referral in your community.
My 17-year-old son is an angry young man who experiences dramatic mood swings. He has become so angry in the past that he has punched and kicked holes in a wall. He calls me names, is disobedient and flips me off on a daily basis. He refuses to participate in family holiday gatherings – including his own birthday – and he is earning either failing or very low grades in school.
We recently moved in with my sister. She lives 10 miles away from his close group of friends, whom he still sees about three times a week. His father has drug and anger problems and is not present in our son’s life. There is much sorrow and instability in my ex-husband’s life, including the murder of his daughter from a different marriage. When I was attending school full-time, his father and older siblings cared for him.
I have called the police twice. They have taken my son to mental health facilities, where he acts calmly and says he will accept counseling. Both times he reverted back to his angry ways once he was home. I have also taken him to counseling, but he refuses to go back and will not have the necessary blood work done for the doctor to prescribe medication.
You will need to establish guidelines for behavior and enforce consequences when these guidelines are not met. It is not OK for him to show you disrespect and disobey rules. When he does these things, take away a privilege and make him earn back the privilege by proving that he can be respectful and follow the rules. Since his friends are important to him, you can take away his time spent with them.
It sounds like your son has been through quite a bit and has unresolved feelings about the upheaval in his life. His initial willingness to open up with counselors indicates that he wants help even though he reverts back to his unhealthy behavior once he is home.
Given the situation, consider in-home family services. An in-home specialist actually comes to your house and works with your family as a whole, while paying individual attention to family members as well. He might be more willing to talk to and open up if someone comes to him. He would not be able to opt out.
Boys Town can help you find services of this nature in your area. Just give us a call. You can also always talk to one of our counselors at 800-448-3000.
My 18-year-old daughter has “checked out” of life. She quit school in the tenth grade and is continuing her schooling via online courses. She does not have friends and shows no interest in making any. She sleeps most of the day and stays up late reading Internet blogs.
Her father and I were divorced 10 years ago, and she blames most everything on the divorce. I am remarried and have a second child who is 5 years old. My older daughter will have nothing to do with her half-sister and is rude to her.
I have suggested counseling, but she has declined. I have tried to help her get a job, make friends and sign up for more schooling. She lacks social skills and refuses to help around the house. I am afraid for her future.
Your daughter’s online schooling is an unnatural social setting for a teen. Without interaction with her peers, she is missing out on the discussions that teens share about preparing for their future and transitioning into the next phase of life.
At 18, your daughter would typically have a job, be making plans for college, maybe considering entering the military or receiving training to enter the workforce.
She needs responsibilities and chores around the house. Put her in charge of preparing the family’s evening meal once a week. Make the Internet and other electronic communication off-limits for the entire family at a certain time of the day. Help her become more adapted to normal work and school schedules. Have her explore viable job options. Insist that she get this vital experience while you are still supporting her. She cannot wait until she is out on her own and financially responsible for herself.
Your daughter can decline counseling if she can prove that she does not need it. So, let her know what she is required to do to prove her normalcy and if she does not comply, ensure that she attend counseling sessions. This is not optional.
My family is experiencing numerous problems, but today I need help with my stepdaughter. She lies often, and it is becoming increasingly problematic at home and school. Her school counselors say that it has escalated to the point where they cannot help her anymore. She lies about things that don’t really matter, such as what she had for lunch. She is losing friends, and even her family members do not trust her anymore. What kind of help does she need? What are the differences among a psychiatrist, a psychologist, a counselor and a therapist? I am worried that if she does not receive the proper help now, she will have a very unhappy life ahead of her.
We, too, feel that professional intervention is imminent. Here are answers to your question about mental health professionals:
- A psychiatrist is qualified to prescribe and monitor medication, and is a doctor- level Ph.D.
- A clinical psychologist is a doctor-level Ph.D. He or she often conducts psychological evaluations and makes diagnoses based on the results of the evaluations. He or she typically provides information to a psychiatrist if they feel that the patient would benefit from medication.
- A therapist typically has a master’s-level education. Depending on his area of education, he can provide therapy to children, individuals, families and couples. Therapists do not typically offer diagnoses, but they are often able to recognize characteristics and symptoms that fit certain diagnoses.
- Counselors usually have a bachelor’s-level education and have been trained in a specific area. They are often not licensed.
If the school counselor has a recommendation, he or she would be a good resource. Your family physician may also be a good resource for referrals in your community. We can make referrals based on your city and state as well.
I have recently gone through a divorce, and it is greatly affecting my 18-year-old son. He is a senior in high school, but he may not graduate due to poor grades. I am tired of well-meaning advice on how to “shape him up,” but I don’t know what to do myself.
It sounds like your son is struggling emotionally with the divorce and this is reflected in his deteriorating grades. The first thing we recommend is making an appointment with a counselor. Your son may have a lot on his mind that he needs to talk about before he can focus on what is important, such as his grades.
If you’ve tried counseling, consider why it did not work. Sometimes kids do not click with their first counselor. It is not uncommon to try a second or third counselor before you find someone to whom your son responds. Consider counseling even if you have tried it before.
You can also try to assess your son’s feelings about his father to see if he needs to spend more time with his dad. Arranging more visits and phone calls with his father may provide the emotional support that he needs right now.
In the meantime, make sure you are spending quality time with your son as well. This does not mean that you force him to open up to you or convince him to complete his homework. It means setting aside time to just talk about what is on his mind and inquire about his day. Go to a movie. Grab a bite to eat. Take him on a hike. Encourage him to participate in hobbies that he enjoys. Small, pleasant conversations can be priceless.
Lastly, we recommend that he contact the Boys Town National Hotline if he’d like to talk. He can email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1-800-448-3000. That goes for you as well!