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Posts Tagged ‘teenagers’

Overcoming Defiant Behavior: Keys to Parenting Defiant Teens

Sunday, November 6th, 2016

Blog post by therapist Jason Davis MA, LPC (read post on Jason’s website here)

After a long day at work or running errands, you finally are able to come home. Is your teen an expert at pressing your buttons? Do you feel like each day is a battle? It doesn’t have to be that way. Believe it or not, it is possible for you and your adolescent child to coexist peacefully.

Developmentally, your adolescent’s brain development is not complete. They are very egocentric. Don’t worry, this is normal. Their thoughts are still in the phase of concrete thinking; they see the world in black and white, a strong and idealistic sense of what is right and what is wrong. “How does the world apply to me?” or “How do I fit in this world?” These are the questions that your adolescent has which guides their behavior each and every day.

As a part of this development, their friends and peers will become a significant part of your teenager’s life for the next few years. Do not take this personally. This is part of the process of their development, socially. Unfortunately, defiance can become part of this process of development. So what can a parent do?

  1. Create a Parenting Manifesto. What is your family about? What does your family stand for? Let this family philosophy guide your expectations for your children, and especially your teenager. When defiance comes, this Parenting Manifesto helps reduce conflict and arguing.
  2. Have effective Communication with your Teenager. Do not argue with your adolescent. This includes, yelling, making threats, and blame. Remember, they are learning from your examples. Arguing with your teen will only creates more conflict and resistance. When resistance comes, give them a choice for the outcome. Offer choice A or Choice B and let them make the choice. The more a parent argues with a teenager, the more frustrating it becomes, and the greater the chance that your teen will get their way.
  3. Set boundaries and stick with them. Children and Teens like structure. It gives them a foundation to grow and act upon. Setting boundaries helps them understand that their decisions have consequences.
  4. Spend time quality time with them. Have fun. Have casual conversations with them. Ask their opinions about topics that interest them. Have lunch with them or a cup of coffee. Your chats can be about school, life, social media, spirituality, games etc. The better relationship you have with your teenager, the less resistance you will experience.

Taking Your Stuff [disability, addiction, anxiety, etc.] to College Part 2

Monday, August 17th, 2015

When a child has struggled with issues such as eating disorders, cutting, and substance abuse, it’s important to think ahead before they go off to college. Last week I wrote about the services that are available at most colleges and universities. This week I will discuss ways to maintain clear communication with your student once he or she is away at school and construct a plan ‘B’ if you see they are struggling.

Your child may not like it, but there are ways to maintain clear communication without crossing that boundary into becoming a helicopter parent. In fact, if you have a history of helicopter parenting, you may struggle with these tactics. Here is how I explain the difference to parents: Helicopter parenting implies that you are actively trying to impact outcomes and control your child’s behavior. Instead I want you to observe, and when you discover immanent danger, intervene with natural logical consequences.

How do you observe your adult child away at school and have clear communication without controlling? First, before your child goes away, as parents you must clearly define priorities and expectations. Let your child know coping with his or her struggle or learning difference takes precedence over academics and social life. Encourage your child to suggest strategies to cope with her struggle or difference and then discuss the natural logical consequences for ignoring those healthy strategies. Let your child know you will be observing her purchasing behavior. Form a relationship with your child’s resident advisor or other student advocate on campus let your child know you will be asking them to report any concerns. Finally, let your child know you will be dropping in unannounced on occasion to see how she is doing.

Natural logical consequences are the keys to intervening without controlling. Here is an example: John and Joan are parents and they discover their daughter Jan, who is a recovering alcoholic, has been skipping classes and she stopped going to the student alcohol recovery group. Before Jan went away the family agreed her recovery was the most important priority and Jan even picked out the recovery group on her own. Now, Jan tells Joan that the recovery group is full of people she doesn’t know and she doesn’t really have time for it because her studies are so intense. She tells her mom she’ll go, “if you want me to fail all my classes.” If Joan and John were still helicopter parents they might tell Jan she doesn’t need to go to her recovery group and just focus on her studies. They might lecture Jan or try to guilt or bribe her into going to the recovery group. They might worry that setting limits with Jan would stress her further and even make her start drinking again.

John and Joan are not helicopter parents, however, and they discuss their observations. First they notice their daughter is not taking care of her addiction. Because that could mean life or death for their daughter, they decide to address that first. Second, they acknowledge their sadness that their daughter may not be ready for college. It was Joan’s alma mater and they both must grieve their dream for now. Finally, together they call Jan and remind her that as a family they decided that Jan’s recovery was more important than school and if she can’t do both then she is choosing to come home to finish her education. If Jan chooses to stay away at her current school, they let her know they love her and they honor her decision, but they will not support that decision financially.

Jan may feel like her parents are trying to control her, but in fact, Joan and John are setting a boundary. The boundary is unpleasant for Jan but it is teaching her than Joan and John will not enable her unhealthy coping. It also lets Jan know Joan and John will not lecture or shame her and they will love her no matter what she decides to do.




Taking Your Stuff [disability, addiction, anxiety, etc.] to College

Monday, August 10th, 2015

This month is all about ways you can help your child transition successfully to higher education and independence. My last article discussed helping your child make the transition, and this week I’m going over the services that are available at most colleges and universities. My next article will discuss ways to maintain clear communication with your student once he or she is away at school and construct a plan ‘B’ if you see they are struggling.

Sending a child off to college who has experienced emotional and behavioral struggles can be hard. Issues such as eating disorders, cutting, and substance abuse require the help of outside therapists and medical experts. Similarly, mood and behavior difficulties like depression, anxiety, or ADHD, may require additional educational interventions such as a 504 plan. Educational differences such as dyslexia and dysgraphia may also require special education interventions. By the time a child turns eighteen, most parents have become experts at accessing services that help their child feel better, stay healthy, and succeed in school. The question becomes, then, how do you help your adult child maintain the same level of interest in self-care and success when they go to college?

Depending on your child, you can start by looking at colleges that address his or her need. The University of Iowa offers students with intellectual, cognitive, and learning disabilities access to the REACH program. Through The Learning Center on the West Virginia Wesleyan College campus, students with learning disabilities, attention disorders and other special needs can find a wide range of support options ( If you don’t know where to start, educational consultants can be a tremendous source of information to help your child plug in to the right college or university.

If your child has his or her heart set on a particular university, then be sure to tour services such as the student writing center and campus TRIO programs (federally funded programs on many campuses that offer everything from free tutoring, writing help, to financial help). Your child’s campus will always have an ADA office so include that in your visit when you take your college tour.

Here are some tips from

  • While a high school is required to identify your requirements and provide free appropriate public education to meet them, a post-secondary institution is not required to waive or change academic requirements. However, colleges cannot discriminate on the basis of disability, and must provide the necessary adjustments for you to function academically. This includes housing for students with disabilities that is comparable, accessible and affordable.
  • While disclosure of your disability to a college is voluntary, it is necessary in order to qualify for assistance. You may apply for an adjustment at any time, but it is recommended that you do so early. Initiate contact with a school before the college application process begins, and ask questions. It may take some procedural time for your application to go through, and requirements may vary amongst different colleges.
  • You will also need to provide proof of your disability, so be sure to research what is necessary for different institutions, and start your evaluations before senior year. Neither the state nor your college is responsible for the cost of obtaining documentation of your disability, but your state vocational rehabilitation agency may provide funding.

Two Parenting Mistakes and Time Management

Thursday, February 28th, 2013

Nobody’s perfect. In an age of two working parents, single parent homes, co-parenting, blended families, and just plain normal moms and dads doing the best they can, mistakes will be made.
Mistake number one: Too tired to parent.

This is probably our oldest parenting mistake. Back in ‘the day,’ parenting after a long day hunting and gathering probably looked more like an episode of ‘Survivor’ rather than ‘The Waltons.’ Older siblings were put in charge of younger siblings, children who could prepare food were put to work, while Mom and Dad protected the clan from predatory animals and neighbors. In true Darwinian fashion, children who did not conform to family norms probably did not survive.

Today, well-meaning, tired, parents know they should not ignore misbehavior, yet sometimes it’s just easier to allow the TV and the PlayStation to do their job. Tantrums are met with concessions. Children learn to act rather than ask permission because they know consequences from tired parents can be negotiated away through whining, manipulation, persistence, and even good behavior.

This leads us to mistake number two: I can’t keep up the consequence because now he’s being so good (washing my car, vacuuming, setting the table)! Time off for good behavior only works in prison. In the home, children are in charge of their behavior choices, and parents are in charge of the consequences. If children are permitted to choose the behavior AND manipulate the consequences by acting ‘good’, this can lead to power struggles, confusion, and more manipulation. Kids soon learn tired parents crave love and happiness (and a clean car) and they’ll do anything, including shorten a punishment, if their child rewards them with good behavior and attitudes.

Parenting is not for the faint-hearted and perfection is a myth. Always keep an eye out for good parenting tips and do your best!

Electronic Media Boundaries with Teens

Tuesday, August 14th, 2012

Summer is ending and it’s time to develop some good back to school habits. Your child’s school is developing policies regarding the use of cell phones, electronic readers, and smart pads during the school day. Take a cue from them and start now devising your own rules about your child’s use of electronics at home. Call it a ‘family social media policy’, or give it the bravado of calling it an Electronic Manifesto: putting reigns on gaming, texting and facebooking is a smart thing to do. Some important things to consider are bedtime use, and social networking.

Recently researchers at Columbia University concluded that “adolescents and teens with strict bedtimes of 10 p.m. or earlier were less likely to be depressed and to have suicidal thoughts than classmates whose parents allowed them to stay up until midnight or even later.” If your teen likes to use his phone or ipad to play games, text, or use social media in bed, he may be staying up later than you think. Eliminating bedtime use by creating a ‘electronics parking spot’ in a central location in the home could help your teen not only get to sleep earlier, but also improve sleep quality.

It is absolutely normal for teens to try on different personalities (jocks, Goths, Emo, etc.) and sites like Facebook, and Instagram allow teens to portray their different selves through words and pictures. Not all teens know how to share appropriately, however, and what they share on social media sites can have lasting effects. Raising teenagers in the electronics age means holding them accountable for how they are accessing the online realm. Insisting your teen share passwords to social networking sites will not be popular but it is a must for parents who want to keep their teens safe while they explore.

Addressing bedtime electronics use and social media passwords is a great way to start designing your ‘Electronics Manifesto’ for your home. Remember that half of setting boundaries with kids is to take into account their thoughts and concerns. So listen to your teen, don’t use the manifesto to be controlling, and as always, practice what you preach.

Dr. Kate Walker Ph.D. is owner and CEO of found in The Woodlands TX.

Getting Ready for School

Tuesday, August 7th, 2012

About this time of year the talk amongst parents of school age children turns to bedtime rituals, earth-friendly lunch containers, and shopping for school supplies. Not to be outdone, we at decided to dedicate an article to the top 10 ways parents can smooth the transition from summer to fall. Supporting your child from a youth mental health standpoint is all about making sure your child is equipped with knowing the ropes Here is the top ten countdown for mentally getting ready for school this fall:

10. If you are transitioning your child to a new school, take time to visit the campus and ask for a tour.

9. Find out what kind of food is served in the cafeteria and allowed for snacks. Many schools have a policy against nuts and foods of minimal value (FMV).

8. Call the bus facility if your child is a bus rider to see what the commute time is in the morning and afternoon. Help your child prepare if the commute is long and the weather is extreme.

7. Create your list of emergency contacts. Schools always ask for them and its good for your child to know who may pick them up if you can’t. Teach your child never to go with anyone who is not on this list.

6. Donate to the local backpack/school supply drive while you are picking up your own supplies.

5. Talk to other parents about age-appropriate bedtimes. Everyone doesn’t have to be the same but it will be much easier to get your kids to go to bed on time if everyone in their group of friends has close to the same bedtime.

4. Check the school handbook before you go clothes shopping. Most schools without uniforms have rules about school clothes.

3. Get your child’s input on school lunch ideas.

2. If your child is having anxiety about the start of school or has trouble separating from you, check your own attitude and make sure you don’t seem fearful too.

1. Celebrate the end of summer and the start of school by doing something fun! Make it a new tradition you and your child can look forward to.

Parent, child, school…success!

Dr. Kate Walker Ph.D. is owner and CEO of found in The Woodlands TX.

Parent Counseling and Counseling for Teenagers: Attending the First Session

Thursday, June 14th, 2012

Asking for help from a marriage and family therapist is a serious decision. Even if the problems at home are heartbreaking, the thought of sharing family issues with a stranger can be scary and intimidating. Knowing what family therapy can look like starting with the first appointment can help alleviate those fears. Here’s one fictional family’s story that includes parent counseling, and counseling for teenagers.

Joanne and John sat nervously in the waiting room. Julie, the family therapist they had decided to see after using their local therapist finder, had scheduled an initial meeting with both of them. She told them this first session would take about 90 minutes and it was a chance for everyone to get to know one another, identify some issues, and decide if she would be a good fit for their family.

When Julie appeared they handed her their completed paperwork and went back to her office. The service agreement outlined Julie’s background and philosophy, limits of confidentiality, fees and meeting times, and contact information for both Julie and the state therapist licensing board. Joanne and John had also signed a release of information so Julie could talk with John’s psychiatrist.

Joanne and John were slow to share at first, but eventually the dam broke and they shared what their family had been and what it had become. Julie listened and assured them they were resilient and she would help them work on a plan to capitalize on their strengths, not just focus on their weaknesses. It was agreed that Joanne and John would meet with Julie weekly at first, and then taper to an as-needed basis.

Joanne and John left that first meeting with hope. Neither had felt that way in a long, long time.

When you decide to seek help for your family, it is important to familiarize yourself with the different mental health professions and choose the professional with whom you feel the best fit. And remember, it’s okay to keep looking if your family is not making progress.


Friday, October 21st, 2011

I read a blog post (Change your Thinking Change Your Parenting by John Rosemond) last week that was posted by one of my Facebook friends. This was a friend I knew from high school because he was my younger brother’s best friend. Seeing a post from him about parenting was a little weird because I can only imagine the grief he caused his own parents…but that’s another story.
The fact is the blog was really good. The author John Rosemond argued that parenting now is different from parenting in the pre-1950s due to the fact parents now want a ‘great relationship’ with their kids and parents back then chose to be leaders and settled for just ‘satisfactory relationships.’ The trade off, the author posits, was necessary back in the day because great relationships “shoot leadership in the foot” and kids need leadership more than a great relationship with their parents.
Nothing I’ve studied ever said a great relationship is necessary for correction or leadership. Correction is only received and acted upon in the context of a good relationship. Leadership is only received and responded to in the context of a good relationship. In fact, a completely equal system (a great relationship) doesn’t allow for leadership at all because once a hierarchy emerges the relationship by definition will no longer be great. But it might still be good.
So maybe having a good relationship with your child and excellent leadership skills is what parenting is all about. The author seems to think so. I’m not sure I agree with the author’s implication that discipline problems and diagnoses such as ADHD would go away if parents changed their thinking and became better leaders, but I believe he gives us parents something to think about.

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