Tag Archives: Gotcha Wars

When your kid throws down the gauntlet

A post about control – from the first temper tantrum until they leave home, your kids seeks control. The hardest battles for parents are those I call Gotcha Wars.
Teen rolling eyes at parents in a Gotcha War.WWW.THEAUSTRALIAN.COM.

Parenting thoughts

Fingers of blame and shame point regularly at parents.  Parent advisor do it, but so do your little angels. Whether it is a pre-schooler throwing a temper tantrum that makes you feel frustrated and out of control or a teen the blaming and shaming  the child wants you to march to her drummer.  That my friend is what I call  a Gotcha War.

Gotcha Wars  are  used by Good Kids to gain control of you and your feelings.   Their goal, consciously or unconsciously  is to make you act and look like an idiot, so they can feel righteous and  “Holier than thou.”

When you don’t react strongly enough to whatever provocation is hurled you way, your basically good kid starts pushing  other buttons to get you angry.  The older the  Gotcha Warrior the more likely he can push buttons  you didn’t know existed.

Quick mental health fact: The shrinks say extreme Gotcha Warriors suffer from a mental health disorder called  Oppositional Defiant Disorder. Supposedly a disorder of childhood only, I bet you know a few adults who meet the criteria. 

I have worked with children who have been labeled ODD.  They are the kids who you see being chased by a group of adults in various places mostly in school corridors or parking lots.  The kids have a look of glee on their faces and the adults ones of anger and frustration.

If you have not had all your buttons pushed by a Gotcha Warrior you have been blessed by all the benign forces of the universe.  Say a million and one “Thank you’s.”  Still most of you need a little help when a kid throws the gauntlet your way.


  1. Keep cool.  EFTI’s Twelve Daily Emotional Fitness Exercises  promote calmness. Here’s is a link to a  free EFTI poster coach reminding you of ways to practice those exercises
  2. Have few rules; the more rules, the more opportunities for the child to argue.
  3. Rules that must be obeyed include: Those involving safety of people and property; those that involve obeying the law; those  involving the sanctity of your home.
  4. Have known consequences for violating these and other rules.   Most effective consequences are the lost of privileges.  Do not assign work, unless it is how the child gets back a privilege.
  5. Make certain the consequences  can be enforced without a fight.
  6. Use the TAG strategy when a rule is violated a rule. T = Tell the child the rule has been broken; A = Announce the consequence; G = Get on with your life.  Do not argue.
  7. Overdose the child on love, real praise and respect for what does properly.  Under all the fighting and struggle is a child who wants and needs praise to combat the feelings of powerlessness s/he feels.
  8. Build the child’s self-esteem.  Find something the child excels at and make that an important part of the child’s life.


Life as a parent is probably the hardest job in the world; count your blessings for every good moment you can savor.

This post was inspired by this Word Press  Daily Prompt: With you or with out you: Tell us about the time you threw down the gauntlet and drew the proverbial line in the sand by giving someone an ultimatum.

As suggested above life as a foster parent to teens in trouble with the law found me throwing down the gauntlet often and just as often having it thrown at me. Sometimes I had to send a child back to a lock-up; the kids often showed their power by running away.

As always thank you for all you do to support EFTI’s efforts to help others stay strong. Kindness is karma and comes back to bless you. Care and share.




Fingers of blame and shame point regularly at parents. When your kid is doing the blaming and shaming  you are dealing with a Gotcha War.


A Gotcha War is my term for a nasty tool used by Good Kids to shrug off their own mad, bad, or sad feelings.  Their goal is to make you act and look like an idiot, so they can play “Holier than thou.”

When you don’t react strongly enough to whatever provocation is hurled you way, your basically good kid starts pushing  other buttons to get you angry.  A skilled Gotcha Warrior can push buttons  you didn’t know existed.

I learned to become a Gotcha War negotiator during my years as a foster parent trying to live peacefully with an every changing group of teens.  All were sent to us by the Juvenile Justice System.  Some were juvenile delinquents, but a great many were what were called Status Offenders.  These had not committed a crime, but were considered beyond their parent’s ability to control and provided me with a major lesson:  Status Offenders were expert  Gotcha Warriors- good kids, not into law-breaking, but for a thousand different reasons out to put parents on a hot seat.

Quick mental health fact: The shrinks say extreme Gotcha Warriors suffer from a mental health disorder called  Oppositional Defiant Disorder.  Supposedly a disorder of childhood only, I bet you know a few adults who meet the criteria.

If you have not had all your buttons pushed by a Gotcha Warrior you have been blessed by all the benign forces of the universe.  Say a million and one “Thank you’s.”  For those of you who know the drill here is a bit of advice.


Tip one:  Temporarily disown the kid.  When a kid flipped me the bird in public I had an easier time of it, because they were not my kids.  That became my advice to a parent engaged with a Gotcha Warrior who destroyed every diner out   by pushing her buttons during the meal.   I told her when he started shouting at her  to turn to the next table and say loudly,

“Not my kid.”

Not what the parent advisers would suggest, but it worked.  After twice stumping away from the table and missing out on two dinners, this Gotcha Warrior stayed at the table and ate in sullen silence.  Mother could handle sullen silence.

She used the same ploy at home, “When the kid I know and love can talk to me kindly I will listen, but for now I disown you.  I have better things to do then to let you abuse me.”

Tip two: Reframe the battle.  The kid doesn’t hate you.  You are not a failure as a parent. Quite the opposite, the kid feels safest with you; he knows in his heart you will not abandon him.  Understand the battle is mainly within him.  He is finding the real world painful.

Tip three:   Stay strong. Don’t let sympathy woo you back to trying to use comforting words when he or she is throwing spears at you.

Tip four:   If you do want to talk kindly, pick another time.  If you have been a Soft Love parent, you might even consider apologizing for not adequately preparing your teen for life in the real world.

One parent wrote a note of apology that also declared she was becoming tougher on how she let her precious one treat her.

Tip five:  Follow this blog, use its comments to tell me if my advice works or ask for advice. 


Life as a parent is probably the hardest job in the world.  Count your blessings for every good moment you can savor.

Here is my thank you or welcome to the my blog  gift – a quick introduction to The Daily Twelve Emotional Fitness Exercises.  For more details about staying strong as a parent buy any one of my books by going to my Amazon Author’s page.  Scroll down to see the ones available on kindle.

You don’t need a kindle to read ebooks from Amazon. You can download a free Kindle reader to your computer when you buy the book.  If you read one of my books please help me by reviewing it. Reviews matter and you will once again

DISCLAIMER: FORGIVE MY GRAMMATICAL ERRORS FOR I HAVE DYSGRAPHIA. If you need perfect posts, you will not find them here. I have dysgraphia which means that sometimes my sentence structure is not that easy to follow or I make other errors. Still, most people understand me. All of my books are professionally edited, but not all of my blog posts are. Thanks for your understanding and reading my work.

IMAGE BY Agents of awesome


If you live with a teenager, chances are you have been a victim at least once or twice. What do I mean by a Gotcha War? It is a battle of opposing wills.  One person has right on their side. The other person doesn’t care about right or wrong; he or she wants to keep you arguing until you blow it and look like a fool.

Even dogs can play a Gotcha War game. We have had Punky the pup for about two months now. He plays a hard and fast game of Gotcha War when off leash at the dog park. When you want to put him back on the leash he’ll run up to you prancing and dancing, but  not near enough for you to get the leash on. You can almost hear the little rascal laughing as he dances away. Unlike human Gotcha Warriors, however, he can be bribed with a piece of cheese.

Now most of our foster children hated rules and regulations and were seasoned Gotcha Warriors. To learn more about Gotcha Wars go to this  How to Win a Gotcha War Wikihow, or better yet, buy my book.

Why do kids play this game? For many reasons, but I think the majority of my foster kids had a strong sense of honor and often had to pick what I call “A Guilt-driven Gotcha War” when torn between honor and wanting to do something forbidden.

I describe Jamie in the book.  He wanted to go to a party back at his home town. His probation officier had nixed all home visits. The morning of the party Jamie began his Gotcha War. He didn’t get out of bed when called, he didn’t do his chores, he refused to leave the house when we wanted to go to the local swimming pool. All the time he was breaking  our rules, he moaned and groaned about how awful it was living with us.

Now I knew what was up and worked hard to remain above the fray and follow the advice I give most when a Gotcha Warrior is out to get you.  I shrugged my shoulders, I sent the others to the swimming pool and retired to do some work on my computer. Jamie kept up his harrassment, I kept my cool until I was heading for the bathroom and Jamie grabbed my arm.

He said plaintively pulling on me, “I need to talk.”

I replied a angrily, jerking my arm away, “And I need to go.”

That was all he needed, “You’re paid to care and you won’t even talk to me.  I’ve had it. F… you.”

And out the door he went.

I managed to yell, “Come back when you’ve calmed down and thought things over.”

Come back he did, the next morning. He was in trouble with his probation officer, but he had gained lots of respect from his peers, spent time with his girlfriend, and forced me to get angry enough so he could use me as an excuse to do what he wanted.

What Is A Parent to Do?  The less the better. Minimal response, an indifferent or bemused air. Quiet restatement of rules. Timing yourself out by absenting the scene. The more you argue or get upset, the more the Gotcha Warrior is fueled.

When I directed crisis teams we were called to an elementary school to help deal with a Gotcha Warring ten year old. His favorite trick was to run out of the classroom and head for the roof saying “I’m going to jump.” Scary stuff for any one to deal with. He would often end up restrained and hustled off to the psychiatric emergency room.  The consensus was that he was not at all suicidal, but attention seeking.  I was able to convince the school  not to react. I stationed staff where they could see and not be seen.

With everyone ignoring him, the young man wandered the hall for a few minutes and then returned to the class room. This youngster had major problems, and was referred for a full evaluation. Turned out, he had an undetected learning disability and when that was properly treated, he stopped being a Gotcha Warrior.

Think staying above the fray is easy? Not if you have ever met a determined Gotcha Warrior. Through the years it has helped me to remember these lines from the movie Bull Durham:  “Some days you win. Some days you lose. Some days it rains.”

Every good kid will play a few Gotcha Wars, if it is constant and destroying the family atmosphere, help is needed.  Find a good family therapist.  Things can be better.

[Image source]


Thank you Fiona Gatt of MetaPlume.  She has made this electronic issue of my first book possible.  It takes a village to raise a child,  and this book is one of my children.  Fiona has been the doctor, mid-wife, cheer leader and peditrician for the this newest blessed event.   Blessed for me at least, and I hope it will provide at least a few others with some strategies.

One of the things Fiona would like me to discuss are the Gottcha Wars.  These are not specific to teens.  I watch my two year old grandson’s eyes light up when he “Gets Grannykat Going.”

Any situation where you know you are in the right, your reasoning is dead on, but you end up feeling like a fool, usually signals you have been drawn into a A Gotcha War.  A dedicated Gotcha Warrior  sees himself as caught in a will struggle, and winning matters more than anything else. Here’s an example:

Girl in therapy.  Tells therapist she wants an allowance.  Therapist tells family to offer one at the next family session.  Parents offer a really nice allowance.  Girl refuses arguing, “Now you are just trying to bribe me to do things your way.”

A common place to spot a Gotcha Warrior is in the parking lot of most elementary schools when school lets out.  Often you will see one of two things that says a Gotcha War is brewing.  Often, two teachers will be tightly holding onto one kid’s arm.  He is smiling and struggling.  The teachers are grim faced and probably cursing under their breath.  Other times,  you will see a kid running in and out of the cars and buses followed by several grownups.  The kid is smiling, the grown ups panting and angry.

Determined Gotcha Warriors often feel powerless, over-controlled. They turn the tables and make the adults feel powerless and out of control.  Causes abound. Some Gotcha Warriors are from large families where attention is only paid when the behavior goes against the parent’s grain.  Some kids are just born more needy when it comes to getting attention.  Others are overly sensitive to efforts to control.  Some are very strong willed and their nagging or needling gets them what they want.

Teens have several different reasons for provoking a Gottcha War.  The most common is to save face among their peers. “You should have heard my father go off when I asked him to buy a keg of beer for my birthday party.  I’m lucky he didn’t cancel everything.”

Another need is to avoid doing something tempting that their better self doesn’t want to do.  One girl whose boyfriend was pestering her to have sex, managed to get herself grounded every weekend.  He broke up with her in time and suddenly her picking a fight every Friday stopped.

Finally some feel free to mis-behave if you provide an excuse by blowing it.  This was often the case if a child in our care wanted to violate our rules or the rules set down by his or her probation officer.  Going to a weekend party at home often led to behavior designed to push our buttons so the kid could run.

What’s a parent to do?  The general rule is respond as little as possible.  Non-verbal shrugs, nods and head shakes.  Humms, or nothing more than a “yes” or “no.”  Easier said then done, but a skill that can be learned.

Practice kindness: Share if you know someone who might find this helpful. Help me, help them, help yourself for  kindness always  circles back.