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.
My 10-year-old son found $80 in the bushes in a parking lot. Should we have allowed him to keep the total sum? With strong urging, I convinced him to purchase $25 worth of goods for the local food pantry. Should he share some of the money with his sisters? What lessons can be effectively taught to a 10-year-old? How do I best respond to this situation?
I admire your desire to raise a socially conscious and responsible child. There are several ways to answer this question. Here is one option: You can encourage your child to divide the sum into three amounts: one for charity, one for savings and one for spending. This division of money provides a valuable lesson in giving to those in need, responsibility and enjoying your luck.
Another option is to share it with your other children, and then discuss why this is important. You sound like a very conscientious parent who will take advantage of opportunities to help your children grow and learn.
My 11-year-old son shows little emotion except frustration and anger toward his three younger sisters. He has been this way for a very long time. He also shows little compassion for others. We try to instill positive values but he just doesn't seemed to have nice feelings for others. How do we get him to show compassion? We are afraid he’ll grow up to be an angry, selfish adult. It's breaking our hearts and although he's has seen a counselor and we've read many books, we are still seeking help.
This sounds like it's been very hard on your family; we're glad that you're reaching out. It's understandable that this would be heartbreaking as a parent, and it sounds like you’ve been taking the right steps to get your son the help he needs.
Depending on what the counselor found, your child may have issues which could be addressed with anger management classes or assertiveness training.
If you feel that this started when your oldest daughter was born, we suggest you speak with your son about this if you haven't already done so. He may be acting out to get attention because to a child, all attention is good, even if it's received for bad behavior. Bad behavior needs to be handled, but once it is, change your focus. Praise your son for the positive behavior you see. Consider taking him to volunteer at homeless shelters to instill a sense of empathy for others. Sometimes actually seeing an unfortunate circumstance will trigger an empathetic response.
My 17-year-old son threatens to run away, is verbally abusive, destroys property and is manipulative. I have two younger children at home, and I have difficulty focusing on them. My son rages until everyone gives in to his demands. I don’t know what to do for him, short of throwing him out of my house
You are in a very difficult situation, and it took courage to reach out for help. You did the right thing. You are not alone. Unfortunately, many parents are feeling the same types of emotions and frustrations that you are right now. You mention that you want to do something for him; it is great that you are focused on this; he needs your help now.
It is important to find the positive things he is doing and remind him of his value and importance to you and your family. Many kids who are angry and violent have gotten the label as the “bad kid” from others as well as from themselves. They end up living up to that expectation.
Try to remind him that he is a great kid. Give him choices and responsibilities; when he completes them, praise him, but try to minimize your praise if he chooses to not complete the tasks. Some examples may be to work in the yard, do the dishes or clean his room. Point out even the smallest things he does that help you. If he takes off his shoes at the door or comes home on time let him know that you noticed.
If your son sees a therapist or is on any medication, it may be time to reevaluate his treatment to help him learn proper ways to get what he wants and express his anger.
Also, sit down with him at a time when things are calm and establish a plan. Make a family contract stating what rewards he can earn by showing respectful behavior. Rewards can include his cell phone (if he has one), driving privileges or going out at night. These are rewards/privileges he should earn, not just have handed to him. If he is rude and disrespectful or “raging,” as you mentioned, then he loses these privileges for a period of time. But let him know how he can earn them back so he can be successful.
Your situation can be frustrating. It is important to take care of yourself, as well as to find help for your son. Do you have support — friends, family or a therapist to talk to? We encourage you and your son to call us at the Boys Town National Hotline (1-800-448-3000). Please keep in touch and let us know how you are doing or if there is anything else we can help you with. He is still your little boy in there, and this, too, shall pass.
I’m not sure if I am on the right path; I’m not even sure where to begin. I am having trouble with my 10-year-old son. He is becoming more difficult to discipline. I have tried grounding him and talking to him. Nothing his father or I say to him fazes him. All their lives, both of my children have had everything they have ever wanted, and I am trying to make them understand that there is value to having things. However, my son does not appreciate anything and thinks that he can do and get whatever he wants at any time.
He also has a social problem at school, and I have tried seeking guidance from the school, but they were no help. He is about to enter middle school, and I don’t know what to do.
Today, when I told him he had to earn something he wants, he said he thinks it’s OK to take it from his sister and he shows no remorse. What can I do? I am very afraid of where this is leading. Please let me know if I have contacted the correct place.
Thank you for contacting us for help. Parenting is a tough job, and we sometimes recognize that we have done things along the way that lead to even more difficulty as our children grow and develop.
It is counterproductive to look back and blame ourselves. It is productive to look back and learn from our mistakes and make changes in our own behaviors.
Children who are given everything without having to earn it often feel as though things are owed to them. They appreciate very few things, and they appreciate the people who provide these things even less. It sounds as though you have reached a point of realization that things must change.
If you can, sit down and establish clear expectations for behaviors. This includes using social skills as well as chores around the house. Also, plan in advance what can be earned when the child meets expectations and what the consequences are when he fails to meet the expectations.
Start by teaching him some basic social skills:
- Follow instructions
- Look at the person who is speaking to him
- Say OK to show understanding
- Perform the task immediately and let the other person know when the task is finished
- Accept consequences
- Accept a “no” answer
- Ask permission
Describe these skills step by step to the child, and give him good reasons for performing the tasks the way you are describing. Then, have the child practice.
Let your children know that things must change and it may be uncomfortable for a while but you are going to stick to it. When your son is grounded make sure there are no privileges available to him that he enjoys, such as telephone, TV, DVD, I pod, computer, etc...
During the time he is grounded make sure he has things to do, extra chores, learning and practicing social skills, helping his parents. He will have to complete these assignments to re-gain his privileges.
Do not let your son talk you out of sticking to your plan and your consequences. In the situation you described, he didn’t accept consequences, and he took other’s property without permission.
These are both negative behaviors and should be confronted by teaching him more acceptable alternatives and negative consequences for engaging in them.
Boys Town has a parenting program called Common Sense Parenting that teaches the very techniques described above, and more. Parenting education can offer additional strategies and techniques when what you are doing isn’t working. A book by the same name can be purchased at local bookstores or at www.boystownpress.org.
If you feel your son has gotten to the point that he needs to be assessed by a counselor or therapist, then we can help you find one in your area. It is good that you are recognizing that his behaviors are getting in the way of his success in the social settings that life will present him with. Time is of the essence.