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 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 7-year-old acts like she cannot hear. The only time she does hear is when I yell. Her doctor conducted a hearing test and says her hearing is fine. What else can it be?
With children, we should always check out medical causes that may be contributing to the problem before we assume that it is a behavioral problem.
First, we recommend that you make a few simple adjustments to your communication techniques:
1. Remove any distractions such as TV, radio and video games that have her attention.
2. Get on your daughter’s level so you can have eye contact.
3. Monitor your voice tone and body language. Children pay more attention to those than the words we use.
Second, monitor your overall communication with her to make certain you are praising her for the good things she is doing four times more than you are correcting her. If your child hears criticism the majority of the time you communicate with her, she will learn to “tune out” what you are saying.
You can turn this around by consciously focusing on the positive things she is doing or has done. Sometimes this alone can be a miraculous cure for “hard-of-hearing” children.
My 12-year-old daughter has become angry and violent toward her younger sister. She tells her that she hates her, calls her names, hits her and recently said that she wants to kill her. I just made an appointment with her pediatrician because I am terrified. She does get angry with me, but she only acts this severely toward her younger sister. Any suggestions would greatly help at this point.
Sibling conflicts can disrupt the entire home environment. Both of your children have the right to grow up in a safe environment, and it is not safe in your home for your younger child if she is being yelled at and threatened by her sister. “Hate” is a strong and hurtful word, and it is not easily forgotten.
When your 12-year-old gets angry at her sister, what has occurred? What have you attempted to do to change the environment so this does not continue? What has been done as a result of the yelling and threatening? Is the 12-year-old required to apologize and do something nice for her sister as a consequence? If these consequences are not in place, we encourage you to work on this right away.
Sit your 12-year-old down when she is calm and inform her that her behavior is not tolerated in your home or anywhere else. It is OK to be angry, but that anger must be expressed in a socially acceptable manner. When she gets angry, she needs to go to her room to calm down. Once she is calm, she can talk to you about why she is angry and what she can do about the situation that caused the anger. Formulate a plan with your daughter on how to improve the situations that give rise to her anger, as well as ways to handle her anger when it occurs.
Let her know that these are your expectations all the time. If she meets those expectations, she will continue to have the privileges she enjoys. If she does not and falls back into her old ways of yelling, saying she hates people or is threatening them, she will be required to apologize and lose one of the privileges she enjoys. If she continues, she will continue to lose privileges.
Monitor the girls as closely as possible. Let them know that you will be watching for them to get along. Find a task for them to do together in your presence so you can watch how they interact, and then do some teaching to improve their relationship. Consulting your pediatrician is an excellent idea. He or she knows your children and can talk with them individually. He or she can assess the seriousness of the situation and offer recommendations for outside intervention if necessary.
My 12-year-old daughter is totally out of control! She is openly defiant, and she is putting herself in very scary situations. I just discovered that she is sexually active. She disappears for hours, sometimes even days at a time. She has even started making up extensive lies. Please help!
Keeping your daughter safe sounds like a difficult task and one that may require professional intervention.
Increase the monitoring of her whereabouts so that you can accurately report to the police when she leaves your home without permission. Ultimately, you are responsible for her and her safety no matter where she is. If you don't know where she is, then reporting that to the police is the responsible thing to do.
The other suggestion we have is to get your daughter into counseling. There is something going on with her, and unless she can be redirected to follow the right path, she will only get herself into greater trouble. Sometimes her school counselor can be helpful, and there are also numerous counselors available in nearly all communities. Many times these counselors charge according to the client's ability to pay.
If this behavior continues to the point where you feel she requires a higher level of care than you can provide in your home and family, a residential treatment program may be appropriate. But the program leaders will want to know that you have already tried other avenues. If you would like help in accessing services, counselors or out-of-home placements, let us know what city and state you are in and we can provide referrals.
My 15-year-old son acts inappropriately. He says he will do what we want him to do, but then he does what he wants all the time. He lies, telling us he has done what we’ve asked when we can clearly see that he hasn’t. Many of his actions are endangering the well-being of his infant sibling. How can I help him change his behavior?
This situation with your 15-year-old is very concerning. We recommend that you immediately increase your monitoring of your son around the baby. Do not allow him to be around the baby without a responsible adult present. And when given a task, have him work where he can be continuously monitored.
Your son has shown that he cannot be trusted. Teach him that following instructions does include saying that he will follow them, but the next step is to begin the task immediately and to complete it to the best of his ability. The final step is to check back with the person who assigned the task.
If you are unsure how long it will take him to complete a task, ask him that question prior to giving the instruction. When the task is completed, compare what he told you to the actual time spent.
If you continue to have concerns, it may be helpful to schedule an appointment for him with a counselor. Sometimes as parents we try everything we can think of, but professional intervention is needed to make the necessary changes.
My divorced friend's 4-year-old son regularly punches her in the face when he does not get what he wants. He doesn’t seem angry, but he punches hard enough for it to hurt. After punching, he is given a time-out to think about it, and he destroys the room. After an hour, he returns to the sweet little boy that he is most of the time. How can we correct this behavior?
Time-outs are a very effective way to change behaviors if they are used correctly. From what you have told us, there are a few things we would encourage your friend to modify when putting her son in a time-out to make it more effective.
Have your friend explain to her son what a time-out should look like. This conversation should happen at a time when he is not being corrected and everyone is calm. Have her explain why he needs to go sit in a time-out and for how long. Then have her explain in detail what he should be doing while in time-out.
For example, it might sound something like, "When you are sitting in time-out, I want you to quietly sit on your bottom with your hands in your lap. When you can do this, I will know that you are ready to listen and follow instructions again." Then have him practice sitting in a time-out so that he knows exactly what is expected of him. A time-out should be one minute in length for each year of age the child has obtained (4 years old = a 4- minute time-out).
A time-out should be in an area where the child can be monitored at all times, such as a chair in a hallway or a step on a staircase. Select a spot for a time-out that has little to distract the child. Bedrooms tend to not be good, especially if they are filled with toys.
One of the biggest mistakes when using a time-out is a lack of teaching at the end of it. When trying to change or correct a behavior, it's important to have a consequence (time-out), and then teach the new appropriate behavior. Even if it seems like common sense or you assume the child knows what the correct behavior is, his actions are obviously not showing that he knows so teach it to him again.
After a time-out occurs, discuss what happened (in a calm way), and remind him what he is supposed to do. Have the child practice the appropriate behavior so that he is constantly reminded what is expected of him.
Our six-year-old brings items home from school that are not his. He says that his friends give him these items or that they let him borrow them for a few days. We encourage him to return everything the next school day, but he often forgets. When I question my son, he sticks to his story but knows I'm not quite sure I believe him. How do we find out if he is telling the truth? How do I know if he’s borrowing or stealing?
Young children can have difficulty telling the truth. Sometimes it's just an attempt to avoid conflict, punishment or embarrassment. However, it is important to deal with the behavior as soon as possible so that it does not get out of hand.
Talk to your son in depth about the nature of his “borrowing” behaviors. Try to keep your questioning neutral so that he does not resort to lying to avoid punishment. Help him explore what he could do differently in the future. For example, before accepting anything from another child, instruct him to clear it with you first or be sure that the teacher is aware of what is going on. Meet with the teacher about your son’s behavior. It well may help determine a course of action.
If your son doesn't have a hobby, you may want to explore the idea with him. He may find it fascinating and become more focused on his own collection then picking up things at random, or bringing things home that belong to other children. Anything ranging from rocks to baseball cards are a collector's dream, especially for young boys. Let him give it a try; you may be surprised at the change in his focus.
I am a single mother, and I have a problem with 13-year-old son. He always wants to be with his girlfriend. I am afraid that he will have sex and get this girl pregnant at age 13. Please advise me about this.
It is very concerning as a parent to worry about our children, especially on the topic of teenage sexuality and pregnancy. Your son is definitely too young to be spending unsupervised time with girls. Make sure you know where he is and who he’s with at all times.
Do your best to talk to your son as a concerned parent. Talk with him about the dangers of early sexual relationships, including STDs, pregnancy and emotional problems, such as depression. Try to talk with him as calmly as possible, and take turns talking so it does not turn into an argument. Remember that you are the parent and he is your son; you have every right to keep him away from certain kids, including girls, who may be a bad influence on him.
For more support, please call our hotline to speak with a counselor. When you call we can talk in more detail about your son and find the best help possible for him. Take care and hope to hear from you soon.
My 5-year-old son is in kindergarten and having trouble with staying on task and listening to his teachers. He is also disrespectful and distracting the other children. He cannot sit still and is constantly moving. We discussed things we can do to help and none seem to be working. I discussed ADHD with his doctor, and he wants me to pursue different classes or counseling. Do you have any suggestions about what we can do as a family? I’m up for anything.
We are so happy you contacted us with your parenting concerns. It can be frustrating trying to correct school behaviors because you are not there to witness them. Do you see these same behaviors from your son at home? It helps to be in the environment where the behaviors are occurring so that you can get a clear picture of what’s going on.
Let’s look at your son’s behaviors at home, first. Does he stay focused on one activity for a period of time, or does he switch from toy to toy fairly quickly? Try giving him opportunities to practice staying on task, such as watching a family movie with you and Dad, or going to church with the family. Monitor how well he does and praise him for any efforts to stay focused.
Is it possible your child is bored during school? A lot of times a child who is more advanced than his classmates will become agitated and bored, so they find other activities to entertain them. Unfortunately, these other activities usually are not productive and often are troublesome.
However, the exact opposite could also be occurring. Is it possible that your son is not catching on to what is taught during class? If so, he may act out as a way of expressing his frustration. Talk to his teachers and find out about his progress and abilities in the classroom.
If you find that your son is doing just fine in the classroom, then it might just be that your son needs to be taught the skill of staying on task. This is common among children his age, especially when they are entering a structured and controlled environment, such as kindergarten, for the very first time. Ask for the school’s assistance in monitoring his progress while he is at school. It can be difficult to correct behaviors that happened earlier in the day when you weren’t there.
If you have any questions we can be reached 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You can e-mail us back or call one of our counselors. Good luck!