Parenting a teen whose behavior is unacceptable is like hugging a cactus. Nothing seems to work to improve things? Not even hugs? Laugh if you can and then read on.
Parents are told teen angst is a phase, but when it goes too far, parents need to think lots more. What is too far? Criminal behavior, chemical addictions, physical cruelty to animals, small children and other people, self-destructive behavior.
If you feel this is what you are dealing with, the following tips will help:
Parenting Tip One: Is it as bad as your think? Use this five point scale to decide just how out of control your teen is.
5 Your child has been arrested for a felony, has run away more than once; drinks or drugs; has no friends; dropped out of school; threatens suicide; harms self with cutting or head banging; beaten up by others or has unexplained bruises.
4 None of the above but has been stealing from you, lying, breaking curfew and out all night; possibly having unsafe sex; travels with peers who have been arrested or are known drug users; diets although not fat; sullen and depressed most of the time.
3 None of the above, but lies: at least one friend doing drugs or arrested; breaks curfew and has been out all night at least once; won’t tell you where going or what doing: appears depressed half the time; school problems.
2 None of the above, may tell white lies; needs nagging to do what needs doing; rude to you; depressed some of the time; some school problems, but passing most things; breaks curfew, but never stays out all night; has only one or two friends.
1 You are worried but after taking the test realize you child is basically okay. This may be a sign you are over worrying. Start working on you. Get my eBook Parents Are People Too.
Parenting Tip Two: Make sure you have done all you can do, then let go. When you have done all you can do and a child is continuing to spiral out of control, adults must stop trying to control. That is what is meant by “Letting go.” This does not mean letting go of concern or love for the child; it mainly means holding to house rules, and not rescuing if the child s/he gets in trouble.
Parenting Tip Three: Get support. Letting go is not easy and once you start making the necessary changes, the child will become even more difficult as a way of testing your resolve. You will need lots of help from people who care for you and the child. Some of these service providers may want to serve on the team and this is acceptable only if you feel they are supportive of you as well as the child.
The best way to garner support is to create a Child and Family Team. Such a team should be made of family, friends, various service providers, professionals, and any one else who knows the child and will support you. Any school counselors, therapists, or social workers working with child should know you have formed a team and be kept informed of it’s actions.
You might also want to tell the principal of your child’s school. Why? The child may complain and try to get you reported to the child abuse hotline.
If the child appears to be engaging in criminal behavior outside the home, adults should befriend the local community affair’s police officer and tell him/her of the above plan. It would also be wise to share your concerns that the child is engaging in criminal activity, although some parents and care-givers will be reluctant to do so.
Parenting Tip Four: Be very clear about what matters: safety and respect tops the list. An out of control child is not safe, endangers others,, and has no respect for self, others, or reasonable laws. Worry when these rules are broken, worry lots less about the smaller rules.
Parenting Tip Five: When rules that matter are broken, strip away a privilege. No money even for lunch at school; no use of telephone including cell phones; no house key; no use of no goodies in his/her bedroom—radio, tv, games.
No listening to explanations, which is a privilege to those who respect others.
If you have been doing the above to no avail, move on to the next tip.
Parenting Tip Five: Write and deliver a Declaration of Emancipation. Such a document give the child freedom from your rules, but make the child fully responsible for her or his life. Detail the responsibilities you will be turning over to your child. Say something like:
”You seem to feel you are old enough to set your own rules. I am granting you that right, but know that as an adult you will have to take care of your own needs and accept whatever consequences life hands you.”
“Because you are not yet eighteen, I am obligated by law to provide you food, minimal clothing, and shelter. I will not do anything more, including bailing you out if you get arrested or caring for your child should you get pregnant or get someone else pregnant. You also need to know I will contact the police if you bring any criminal activities into the house or engage in criminal behavior while at home.”
“I will provide you with life’s necessities, not only because it is required, but because I do care about you. I cannot support some of your behaviors, but I will always work with you when your requests and behavior are responsible.”
“I do have to lock the door to stay safe, and I will let you in when you come in at my set curfew or if I hear you, but as you know I sleep soundly. Also know that the neighbors have told me they will call the police if you create too much noise in trying to wake me. I understand Covenant House has a shelter that will put you up if you can’t get home by my bedtime or you might sleep out at a friend’s house. Do keep yourself safe.”
Use you Child and Family Team to plan when and how to deliver this to the child. Do not do it alone, you need team members with you when you deliver the Declaration to your child.
Parenting Tip Six: Whenever the child says s/he will straighten up, do not cave in too quickly. Privileges need to be earned back one by one. Have the child meet with one of the other adults on your team and draw up a plan for winning and keeping your trust.
Schedule a time for you to hear the plan within a reasonable time frame. Meanwhile, the child must continue living as an adult.
Parenting Tip Seven: Show you care with small “niceties” such as:
- Cooking a child’s favorite food once in a while. Saying, “I thought you might like this.”
- Putting on child’s type of music or TV show once in a while.
- Leaving small and unexpected presents on his/her room on the bed.
- Inviting to movies or other family outings.
- Celebrating birthday and other holidays as if the child was behaving.
- Considering a very small “love allowance.” Such allowances are given no matter what the child’s behavior.
Parenting Tip Eight: Consider having the child live somewhere else.
- If you and the child’s other parents are not living together, and the child has been living with you, consider vesting custody with the other parent. This might work, particularly if that is what the child would like and the other parent agrees and has not been previously found to be a child abuser. If the child wishes to live with the other parent and the other parent does not agree, don’t get drawn into a fight. Just tell the child to discuss that idea with the other parent.
- A relative who wants the child and the child wants to live with; a friend’s family.
- If you are wealthy, try a private school or a good camp or wilderness experience. Proceed with caution, as many are unregulated and sometimes abuse their residents.
- Placement in a private psychiatric facility – insurances including Medicaid often cover the costs.
- Consider a drug rehabilitation program if a child drinks or drugs. Works best when the child admist to using and is willing to go. However, sometimes works when forced on the child.
- Job core has worked in some situations.
- Child welfare agencies might provide placement. The downside? You might be found to be neglectful, but that is preferable to allowing the child to continue to rule the roost in your home in dangerous and unacceptable ways.
- If the child is arrested and in detention, most often Juvenile Justice authorities will want you to take the child back home. You will need to be in immediate contact with the discharge planning staff. Make it clear that without lots of support from juvenile justice, you do not feel you can keep him/her out of trouble. With the support of the court and fear of detention, some youth straighten up.
- You will do best at brokering for the child to live else where, if a lawyer represents your interests: the courts will provide one to protect your child’s interests.
- Make the probation department part of your Child and Family Team.
- Some children want and can be declared emancipated minors. They can seek help from their lawyer if this is their choice.
Parenting Tip Nine: Control your feelings. Out of control children are comforted if you show upset. Some even want you to blow and get abusive. Why? It lets them rationalize their behavior. If you are crazy or abusive then their bad behavior is excusable. I call that Gotcha War.
Staying calm when a child is defiant is not easy. My eBook Self-soothing to Create Calm is full of quick and easy exercises that properly learned and practiced keep you from blowing your cool.
Remember you can read Amazon eBooks on any of your devices by using this free application.
Parenting Tip Ten: Not sure this is what you need, but still worried? Remember this is a last resort. You may not need to follow the advice given above.
However, I suggest taking what might be helpful and keeping the rest for future reference. Hopefully, you won’t need to go the whole ten yards.
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Thank you and work at staying strong until next time,. I work hard to do the same as life is often difficult but staying strong lets me find the good.