Many days I feel like I am talking to a brick wall when communicating with my teen. And those are the good days when I actually get the chance to talk with her. How do I break down this barrier?
When children reach their teen years, they start doing things that they never have done before. They pull away from their parents and get upset when their parents try to talk with them. They are no longer the sweet little children who hung on their parents’ every word. The good news is that this is normal. The only thing you can do is to keep trying. Persistence is key.
Talking with your children is very important. It is important to stay current on what they are doing and with whom they are doing it. You must be creative and find ways to stay involved, even if that means making a required designated family time each day. It can be an evening meal, a Wednesday game night, Sunday brunch or a Thursday movie night. Whatever works for you, make it mandatory for all family members. No excuses.
During these family nights, conversation will flow. Casually ask questions about your children’s day or what is going on in their lives. One child may be quieter than others. If this is the case, one-on-one activities may be necessary to get communication flowing. Make these events enjoyable, not pressured.
If you suspect that your child is hiding something from you, monitor his or her interactions with their peers. As a parent, you have every right to investigate. You are not invading their privacy. You are doing your job, which is to ensure their safety. Monitor texting on cell phones and their Facebook pages. Have access to their passwords. If they refuse, take the privilege away. Cell phones, e-mail and Facebook are not rights. If they don’t have anything to hide, they should not refuse to show you.
I am a single father, and I have been raising my 10-year-old son for most of his life. He has learning disabilities and speech disorders. He also has ADHD as well as a gene deficiency. I feel, however, that we have addressed these issues pretty successfully. One thing that does bother me is the fact that he likes to sleep in my bed with me. He has his own bed and he sleeps there occasionally, but when he asks to sleep with me I allow it. Am I doing him a disservice as others have suggested?
You say that the current sleeping arrangement “bothers” you. Any behavior that your son does that “bothers” you needs to be addressed and substituted with an alternate, more socially acceptable behavior. After all, it is just a behavior. By using some of the same techniques that you have found effective with him, gradually teach him that there are benefits to him sleeping in his own bed.
First, identify why he comes to your bed. Is he scared or does he feel lonesome? Prepare a plan that will help him feel more comfortable and secure in his own bed. Follow that plan every single night. It may include reading a bedtime story or saying prayers, but it needs to be done in his bed – not yours. Make sure there is a night light in his room. Turn on relaxing music. Prepare a chart that records how many nights he goes to sleep in his own bed, and perhaps another that records the number of nights he remains in his bed all night.
Together, set a goal and reward him when he attains this goal. You are forming and shaping new behaviors and habits. Be patient. This takes time. It took 10 years to learn the old habit. New habits cannot be established in just a few days.
We parents do what we feel is best for our children. Others can be so judgmental. It is doubtful that there will be long-term effects of this behavior. But it is our goal as parents to develop independence in our children as they get older. Your new plan will do just that.
I am a single mom of a good 11-year-old girl who is spreading her wings lately by pulling away from family influences and turning more to her friends. Here is a specific example of what I mean: I suffered from several severe sunburns while growing up. My siblings, my parents and I have all had skin cancer. So my daughters know the importance of wearing sunscreen. They have always worn SPF 50, and they have never had sunburns.
Today my daughter went to the pool with her friends. She put on sunscreen before leaving the house except for the area where her swim top covers. She didn’t wear the top, and she came home with a burn on her shoulders, back and upper arms.
How or what do you say when your child does the exact opposite of what you have told her to do, and as a result suffers a negative consequence? I don’t want to be an “I-told-you-so” mom.
You are right about her age being a time of demonstrating new independence. This is a very tough time in parenting. You will see her make choices that are the opposite of what you have instructed her to do, and this is frustrating.
We encourage you to use this understandably sensitive issue as a teachable moment for you and your daughter. She has already earned her consequence – in this case a natural consequence – by getting sunburn. We hope this will be enough to prevent her from repeating her mistake.
To make the most of this teaching moment, we encourage you to calmly explain why sun block is so important and that by choosing not to use it, she has earned a natural consequence. Then explain to her what she could have done differently. Ask her why, with the hope that she will take responsibility for her actions and be able to verbalize her understanding of what she did wrong.
With any defiant behavior in which your child does not follow your rules or instructions, there should be a consequence. It should be meaningful to your child, and the punishment should “fit the crime.” You shouldn’t overreact, as in grounding her for five years for not doing a chore. If you feel additional consequences must be earned for not following your instructions, these guidelines should help.
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.
It is summer vacation. How many nights a week is it reasonable for my 17- year-old son to go out? Is two nights a week appropriate or too strict? He works part-time and completes all of his chores he is asked to do each day.
Your question is an interesting one because your son is of an age where he likely wants to make his own decisions and should be managing parts of his own life in order to develop good, independent choices.
That he meets your expectations regarding his chores and holds a part-time job indicates that he is responsible. Does he play summer sports? During the summer months, teenagers are often very busy with activities that take them out of the home, providing a nice contrast to the schedule they keep during the school year. At the same time, their responsibilities at home increase because they have more time to complete chores.
Whether two nights a week plus weekend evenings is too strict is up to you and your son to determine together. If his behavior meets your expectations, then an increase in privileges typically follows suit. These privileges are motivation for him to continue to meet your expectations. They are rewards for good behavior. If he makes poor choices or ceases to meet your expectations, then the privilege of spending one night out with friends can be removed.
Time away from home during the summer months is reasonable if you know where he is, what he is doing and whom he is with. If your family has a designated family day, then maintain that tradition.
My husband and I are leaving in a week to celebrate our anniversary in Jamaica with another couple. I was voted three to one against bringing our children. I have a difficult time leaving our son. It seems as though we both have separation anxiety when we’re apart. When I think of the fact that I'm leaving for a week without him, I feel physically ill. How do I explain this to my son, and how do I actually enjoy myself while on our trip?
Thanks for writing about your concern. You are far from being the only mother who prefers to not leave her child. It seems with some of our children that the connection is both physically and emotionally inseparable. You did not share with us the age of your child, so it is difficult to understand how traumatic this may be for the two of you.
Many parents who have similar concerns have shared what they have done in situations like these. They include:
• Call home during the time your child is able to talk.
• Select a caretaker who is familiar with your child’s normal schedule and routine. When a certain time of day occurs, you can take comfort in knowing what your child is engaged in at that time.
• Leave notes or little "prizes" for your child to find in your absence.
• Leave a piece of clothing with your fragrance on it for the child to have at night since that is something he is used to sensing before he sleeps.
• Leave a card or piece of paper with a lipstick kiss and a note under it stating "I love you."
Remember that your ultimate goal as a parent is to help your child become independent and confident. Sometimes it truly is more difficult for the parent than it is for the child. Doing whatever you can to prepare for the separation will ease your anxiety. Good luck and have fun! Bring home pictures and tell your son all about it. Have fun shopping for an awesome souvenir for him.
I am a single mom with a 5-year-old daughter who is not happy unless my full attention is always focused on her. I have tried explaining to her that mommy is not always able to play with her. I've also tried to play for a little while then leave her to play on her own. Usually when I do this, she immediately stops and insists I join her again. Can you suggest some parenting tips that would enable her to be more comfortable playing on her own, which will give me the ability to focus some attention on the other responsibilities I have?
Being a single mother is hard work. Adding a child who needs a lot of attention doesn't make your job any easier. It sounds like your daughter loves having you around. It's difficult if it's just you two at home because her only option for attention is from you. Rather than playing with her for a little while and then leaving, try having her play on her own first. When she is able to do that successfully, reward her by having one-on-one time with her. That will teach her to seek your attention by doing positive things such as playing on her own. Remember, set your expectations low at first -- five minutes and then gradually increase her alone play time to 10 minutes, 15 minutes and so on.
While she’s playing on her own, make sure you’re near enough to verbally interact with her. Praise her throughout for playing nicely and also comment on things she is doing. For example, "You're doing such a great job of playing with your toys. I see you built a very big bridge with your blocks. That's great!" This lets her know that even though you aren't on the floor playing with her, you are still acknowledging her.
My 1-year-old boy is getting very aggressive. He hits, bites, head-butts, throws things and pulls hair. He also throws food to the dog when eating. He yells a lot when he talks. He gets in to everything even after you tell him not to touch something. I try diverting him with a toy, but he’s right back messing with what he shouldn’t be. He also throws himself on the floor when he can’t do what he wants. I’ve tried timeouts, distracting, showing how it should be and ignoring him in certain situations. I really need some advice.
Once we learn how to do something, it can be hard to think back to when we didn't know how to do it. When you were a little person, did you instinctively know how to ride a bike or write in cursive? No, we are taught how to do it, and this same principal needs to be in place with your 1-year-old.
Your son is beginning to realize that his is an actual person. His language is developing, and he’s starting to walk which leads to wanting more independence. He’s also entering a phase of exploring the world around him. Your son's behaviors are normal. We might see them as aggressive, but this is part of his development. He may be discovering he can have an impact on things around him. What an amazing revelation! It's all new to him, and the only way he’ll learn if a behavior is good or bad depends on you to constantly remind him.
When it comes to "disciplining" or teaching a one-year-old, it's difficult because they don't understand what you're trying to do. Timeout is not appropriate for his level of development. Instead, when he hits, take his hand and firmly tell him "no." When he bites, grab the place he bit and tell him "ow, no." Instead of thinking of your response as "distracting" him, try to think of it as redirecting him to a more positive behavior. If he takes a toy and hits someone with it, tell him "no" and show him how to use the toy appropriately. If he repeats this behavior, tell him "no" and try putting the toy in timeout and then let him try again. You may have to repeat this several times.
Continue this so he can start to piece together the sequence of events. Understand that it may take him more than one day to understand that he's not supposed to do this. Stay consistent and only show praise and attention when you want the chances of a behavior to increase.
I am having issues with my six- and eight-year-old daughters. We have tried every punishment in the book and always stick with it, but they just don't care. We don’t take them out in public because we are embarrassed by their behavior. We don’t give them everything because we cannot afford to. We try to reward good behavior, but that only lasts for a few hours. I am thinking about military school.
Thank you for contacting us. We receive messages and calls every day from parents like you who are looking for ways to help their children.
Children at this age are learning how to be more independent and to feel they’re in control of the house. Because of this, they constantly test limits set by parents and other authority figures. Parenting is a tough job, but you can regain your authority, help your daughters turn their negative behaviors into positive actions and feel like you can take them in public again.
Discipline is very important, but it is also just as important to praise children. For every one negative consequence, give your daughters four praises. Try catching them being good. That can be pretty difficult when it seems as if all they do is seek negative attention. Try spending 15 minutes a day with each of them alone; let them choose what you do during that time and be sure to praise, laugh and smile with them.
The school that your daughters attend can also be a resource for you. Every school district has counselors. Request that they come and observe your daughters in the classroom, conduct an evaluation and also inquire about their in-home services. You might be able to get some help when the girls are at home. If you'd like more advice about this situation or anything else, call us 24/7 at 1-800-448-3000.
My daughter is 16 and doesn't have any friends. She spends all of her time in her room, reading. She doesn't want a phone and almost never uses the computer. She doesn't spend time with her siblings and has never invited anyone over to the house. She's very smart -- uses words I can't even pronounce. She tells me that the people she does know are “veneers of humanity housing a certain quantity of volatility,”' but I don’t know what that means. I don't want her to go through life with NERD tattooed on her forehead, but I think she does. How can I tell my daughter to put down the books and get herself a life?
Parenting teenagers can be quite difficult. It’s a struggle to give them that independence to make their own decisions while also guiding them to make healthy life choices. It’s understandable that you want your daughter to be social and active. However, before you get alarmed, try talking with your daughter about her concerns.
Maybe she just doesn’t relate well with teens her age because she’s developed a higher maturity level. Try not to be too pushy and let her know your concerns come from a place of love and wanting her to be healthy and happy.
Instead of focusing on her lack of friends – try focusing on her positive attributes. You mentioned she’s very smart and enjoys reading. Maybe she could help younger children read at school or even read to children at the public library story time. Maybe there’s an academic club at school where she could meet others her age with similar interests. Your daughter may just be a late-bloomer or more introverted, and that’s OK.