I have an out-of-control 11-year-old who refuses to do what we ask and always seems to do the opposite of what we tell him. He frequently argues, screams, yells and throws fits. How can we help him get his behavior under control?
It’s never too late to help a child change his behavior and gain control of his emotions. Expressing thoughts, feelings and ideas in a calm, controlled manner is an important social skill that all children need help learning. The key to helping an out-of-control child learn self control is providing clear and concise expectations and consistently enforcing those expectations every day. Sometimes, kids are dealing with a wide range of emotions and the only way they know how to express themselves is verbally, through yelling and screaming.
Children need to be raised with expectations, rules and consequences. It is natural for kids to test limits, which is why it is important to teach them right from wrong. It is never too late to set boundaries with children of any age. Here are four simple steps for establishing positive boundaries in your home:
- Come up with three to five basic household rules everyone (including parents) must abide by. These rules should be written down and everyone should sign the paper to indicate they understand and agree with them.
- Create a list of privileges that can be used as both positive and negative consequences (time outs or loss of privileges as negative consequences; a later bedtime or a special treat for positive consequences).
- Refuse to reason with your child when he is out of control. Don’t argue, stay calm and simply tell him he needs to go to the room that you have designated as his “calm down” place. Save the explanation of why his behavior is inappropriate for a later time, when he is calm and able to listen to you.
- Praise, praise, praise! Compliment your child when you catch him doing something good. Say things like "Good job!" or "I knew you could do it!" Praise guides kids to self-reliance and independence.
Remember, it will take time and a lot of patience before you see a change in your child's behavior, but your investment will be well worth it for everyone.
Our 9-year-old daughter is dealing with the fear of being alone in her own room. She refuses to sleep in her own bed and will often join us in our bed when she wakes up during the night. We’ve been taking her to a therapist for six months, but he’s been no help. What can we do to get her to stay in her own bed?
Being scared is a horrible feeling and we want our children to feel safe and happy in their own homes and in their beds. It’s good that you’ve sought out a counselor to help your daughter work through her fear of sleeping in her own bed. If you’re concerned about not seeing results, ask the counselor what alternative techniques or “calming down” techniques he is teaching your daughter. If you don’t feel confident in the therapist’s rationale, consider finding another therapist; it may just be that your daughter is not connecting with this person and a new counselor would be a better fit.
Meanwhile, if your daughter wants to bring her pillow and sleeping bag to your room and lay on the floor beside your bed, let her. She is at least getting her sleep and so are you. Assure her that it’s okay, but that she should try to fall asleep in her bed, perhaps doing some relaxation exercises or Yoga breathing exercises. Sometimes teaching her a prayer or song she can say in her head when she feels scared can be helpful.
My 12-year-old daughter has become very defiant. She refuses to do her homework or help out around the house and often screams at me. How can I get my daughter to listen to me and stop fighting with me?
Your daughter is testing you, and from what you have shared, she is winning.
There are times when parents need to go back to "square one." When you have some time alone, sit down and list your expectations for your daughter. Expectations could include doing chores around the house and using good social skills like asking for permission before making plans with friends. Another expectation could be calling to tell you where she is if she goes to a new place while she’s away from home.
Next, list privileges she can access by meeting your expectations. Privileges could be using the phone or computer, watching TV, playing video games or spending time with friends. If she does not meet your expectations, she will lose these privileges, perhaps one at a time. She cannot regain access to them until she demonstrates she can meet those very expectations that caused her to lose them.
If your daughter is behaving the way you described, she should have NO privileges until her behavior changes. If you feel this is something you can’t handle on your own, a professional counselor can help you implement this process in your home. Unless you take action now, your daughter’s behavior will most likely only get worse as she gets older.
I have three children, two boys ages 11 and 9, and a girl who is 6. The two boys fight regularly and it is a challenge to get them to do their chores. It is difficult to be patient with them. What can I do to establish a routine for them?
Parenting can be tough and often requires you to re-establish rules, guidelines and consequences. We all need reminders to keep us on track and within acceptable boundaries; that’s why we have speed limit signs posted at regular intervals along our roads and freeways. If there was only one sign, we would soon find ourselves traveling too fast or not adjusting our speed when driving through certain areas for safety. When speeding occurs, there are negative consequences such as fines and warnings.
It’s no different in your home. As a parent, you should have expectations for your children. You are responsible for setting the rules and stating your expectations clearly and specifically. Set routines and keep your kids on track with reminders such as charts or schedules. If they do not comply or meet your expectations, you must re-teach skills and issue negative consequences to discourage their negative behavior.
At a neutral time, record your home rules, behavioral expectations and privileges on a chart that can be posted on the refrigerator or somewhere your kids can see it. Tell your children that if they don’t meet your expectations, they will lose these privileges. Ask your children if they understand your expectations and the consequences, then have each child sign at the bottom of the chart. Begin enforcing the posted house rules immediately.
Now, before all of this is in place, develop a Staying Calm plan for yourself. Identify what your kids do that really upsets you and what you experience when you feel angry. Next, come up with some ways to calm down when you begin to feel yourself getting upset. These may include taking several deep breaths, lowering or softening your voice, or perhaps walking away for a few minutes to remind yourself that you are the adult and won’t allow your kids to control your emotions. Be consistent and stick with it; over time, you will see positive results!
Two of my children are ages 11 and 12, which I believe is the stage for puberty. What emotional, social and mental changes should I expect for both boys and girls?
Erik Erikson's stages of human development are widely known and have been studied in many different courses. Google “Erikson's Stages of Human Development” to find a number of very informative websites.
Explore parenting support groups in your area to gain advice, tips and encouragement from other parents. Even with a library full of books, parenting teens is still a challenge. Support groups expose you to child care help and good friends for your children. There is a saying that it takes a village to raise a child, so start creating a village for your family by networking with like-minded parents.
Another great resource is www.education.com. There are loads of articles and resources there that pertain to education and social skills.
Learning as much as you can about how your children are developing, including the developmental milestones and physical and emotional changes they’re experiencing as they approach and start their teen years, will give you a better idea of what to expect as they go through puberty. It will also help you answer the tough questions your kids might have about what’s happening to them.
What are some age-appropriate chores for a 10-year-old and a 6-year-old?
Chores are a great way to help children learn a variety of skills. Kids can learn and practice skills such as responsibility, following instructions and accepting feedback by regularly completing chores. Chores give children skills that they will use throughout their lives. When assigning chores, make sure you focus on completion rather than substance; it’s more important that your child completes a task than what the specific task is. Also, let children be part of choosing chores by asking them to help you come up with helpful tasks they can complete.
Sit down together and have a "Family Meeting" to discuss some possible chores for everyone. Make it fun and create a "Job Jar." Have your 6-year-old write his chores on a piece of purple paper and have your 10-year-old write his chores on a green piece of paper. Then put all the chore slips in the Job Jar. Each morning (or night), have your children pull their jobs for the day out of the jar.
There are probably a million tasks around your house that sometimes don’t get done because of your busy schedule! Here are a few ideas for your Job Jar to get you started:
- Wipe off all door knobs in the house.
- Wipe off all baseboards in (list specific room of house).
- Vacuum couch.
- Wipe out inside of trash cans.
- Collect trash on trash day.
- Make beds.
- Sweep porch or garage floor.
- Shake out rugs.
- Empty out one kitchen cupboard and wipe down the inside.
- Go through personal toys and pick out one that isn’t played with much. Give the toy to Goodwill so another child can enjoy it.
You’re the best judge of what will work in your home. Just remember that your focus should be on teaching your children to follow instructions and complete the chores. Try to be creative and make it fun!
My 12-year-old son recently started seventh grade and is struggling to follow his teachers’ rules at school. He loses his temper regularly, says he hates himself and shouts back at his teachers. He may have ADHD and I know he’s hurting, but I don’t know how to help. Can you recommend a therapist or counselor for me?
It’s tough to be a parent, and when your children are not happy and healthy, it’s even harder. Anger is a normal feeling and we all have it. What we do with it and how we express it can either be helpful or harmful to ourselves and others. A counselor can determine if your son is a threat to himself, uncover the root of his anger and give him some calm-down techniques. Call the Boys Town National Hotline at 1-800-448-3000 so that we can refer you to a counselor in your area. Once your son starts counseling and is learning some anger control techniques, practice them at home with your son. Practice can involve having your son review his techniques, identify scenarios that set him off and talk through how he could handle them. At the end of each day, check with him to see if he had opportunities during the day to use his new skills.
Your son is hurting emotionally and is clearly not happy with himself and his inability to control his emotions. Thank you for recognizing that now is the time to get him help.
My husband and I have been married for seven years. My daughter was 3 and my son was 4 when we were married and my husband adopted my children. My daughter and husband are very close, but over the years, my husband and son have grown to hate each other. My husband snaps at my son for every little thing: what he says, how he walks, when he acts goofy, etc.
It breaks my heart to witness this tension. I love my husband, but I want to protect my son and thus, I feel torn. The constant fighting and cutting remarks need to stop. How do I help them do this?
There is a lot of societal pressure for the father-son relationship to be perfect, but as with any relationship, it rarely is. Relationships take time and energy to establish and nurture. You can help the men in your life do this.
If your husband has interests or hobbies such as playing golf, for example, ask him to take your son along and hit a bucket of balls at a driving range. Likewise, ask your son to explain one of his particular interests to his father and see if he would like to join him for an hour to experience it with him. You must lay the groundwork for these outings. Ask them both separately to be kind and patient with one another, even if they are not interested or do not perform the hobby well.
Another thought is that when your son needs you to take him to a team practice, a lesson or the store, make up an excuse why you cannot do it and have his father do it instead. Then tell your son to show his appreciation with a thank you or comment about how nice it is to spend time with his dad.
If your schedule allows, pick a night when you and your daughter make dinner and the men clean up. Then switch tasks another night so Dad and son make dinner and the women clean up. Of course, all of this takes planning, time and energy. But the relationships are worth it.
As far as the unkind comments go, tell them that when you hear either of them use a voice tone that is negative with one another that you are going to intervene. This simply has to stop. The negativity it is creating in your home is not healthy, and it is making home life unhappy for everyone involved.
Talk with them together about your plan to intervene. Perhaps they will agree to it and the consequences you establish. These consequences can be a simple apology followed by doing a chore together. You can either implement this part of the plan immediately or wait until some of the mutual activities mentioned above have taken place.
My 11-year-old daughter started cutting her arms in response to children making fun of her at school. Though she said she would not do it again because she didn’t like it, I am concerned that she will repeat the behavior. I am addressing the unkindness of her classmates with the school’s staff.
Unfortunately, there is no statistical data on whether children who say they stop cutting themselves actually do stop. Every child is different. Keep an eye on her, certainly. But instead of focusing on the cutting itself, focus on why she was cutting herself.
Many kids who cut are more emotionally sensitive than other kids. They truly feel their emotions much faster and become overwhelmed with those feelings. Desperate to find relief, they cut themselves. It is not clear why this brings relief, but cutting seems to help some people handle their emotional distress. But this is only temporary. The bullying at your daughter’s school is the powder keg that has ignited feelings that she is unable to manage.
So your goal right now is to teach your daughter how to cope with her feelings in a healthy way. Positive and negative coping mechanisms exist. Cutting is negative. Ask her how she copes with her emotions now that she does not cut. Offer some suggestions as well.
Seeking help from a therapist who can teach your daughter better ways to manage her feelings is another option. If your daughter is really emotional, therapy can help with emotional outbursts, cutting and feeling bad in general.
Our daughter is 12 and is in the fifth grade. She is much more mature than her classmates and is thus, having difficulty making friends.
Looking older or developing earlier than classmates can be difficult, and unfortunately is out of her control. But you can help her focus on her interests and talents. Encourage involvement in those areas of interest.
Her association with others who have similar interests will automatically create a peer group. Based on her interests, you can get her involved in athletics or perhaps art courses or music classes. Involvement in her areas of interest can be both in school and out of school.