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Sunday, November 7, 2010

Closing the Gap Book Review

This book is written for parents and teenagers to read together. For once, you'll be on the same page! Don't despair if your teen (or parent) won't read this book with you. There's lots you can do to improve the relationship on your own.

I love the advice Jay gives to both parents and teens in the introduction
“Teens: If you want something from your parents, you won't get it by rebelling. You will get it as soon as you start talking to your parents and not a minute sooner.

Parents: If you want something from your teen, you won't get it by being a totalitarian dictator. Communication and mutual participation are the key. So turn off the television, unplug the earphones, and start working on forming a bond as a family.”

But just how do you talk to your teenager when he only grunts in reply to your questions? That's what CLOSING the Gap explains. Jay also emphasizes that teenagers need their parents time and active involvement in their lives in order to stay out of trouble and to develop to their full potential.

The book switches back and forth from addressing the parents to addressing the teens. I felt that the book would have flowed better if it were divided into two distinct sections – one for parents and one for teens.

Closing the Gap : A Strategy For Bringing Parents And Teens Together
also dispels common myths that sabotage the relationship between parents and teens. A few of the myths that the book tackles are
“My parents have no idea what it's like to be a teenager.”, 'You can't fix your teen.' and 'My parents control my life.'

Jay also encourages parents to stick with their teenager no matter how much they want to throw in the towel. He shares a formula for reconnecting parents and teens that works equally well for both parties.

He offers parents this great advice “Remember that parenting is not a popularity contest. You are not doing this to get votes for Parent of the Year. Don't give your teen what she wants, give her what she needs.”

The chapters “Discovering Your Needs” and “Tuning into the needs of others” had me wishing that someone had taught me this way back when I was still a teenager. It would have certainly made things a lot easier.”

After reading Closing the Gap the first time from the library, I purchased a copy for myself and my teenage daughter and I would encourage you to do the same.

Your teenager might also enjoy these books:

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Born To Fly Book Review

Born to Fly is very different from other parenting books that I've read. The focus of most other parenting books is how to get your child to do more of what you want – eat his peas, do his homework, stop fighting with his siblings and so on.

Born to Fly: How to Discover & Encourage Your Child's Natural Gifts, on the other hand, focuses on your child and helps you to see him as a unique person with his own strengths and weaknesses.

The rest of the book goes on to help parents identify their child's strengths and weaknesses. Then it helps parents to build on the strengths.

Born to Fly: How to Discover & Encourage Your Child's Natural Gifts is filled with delightful, fun illustrations and is very easy to read. After reading the first section of the book, I realized that much of what we misconstrue as misbehavior stems from misunderstanding your child's unique personality and temperament.

If you associate discipline with punishment, then you're very wrong. Thom says that discipline means teaching and correction and not punishment.

A common mistake that stems from this misconception is that parents punish a child when he's made a mistake, rather than providing guidance and loving correction. For example, spanking a child who has spilled his juice, instead of teaching him how to clean up and be more careful next time.

Thom says that discipline is only required for willful misbehavior, notfor innocent mistakes.

Choices are part of everyday life, from the cereal your child eats for breakfast to the clothing that he wears. In order to be an achiever your child needs to know how to make good choices. Born to Fly shows you how to guide your child through the decision making process and how to encourage your child to make the right decisions.

“Smart decisions balance what a person wants done with what ought to be done.” says Thom.

I loved the book and its message – Appreciate your children for the unique people that they are instead of trying to mold them into your idea of perfection. The copy that I reviewed was lent from the library.

You may also enjoy:
How to Sucessfully Develop Your Children's Unique Potential (Turning Point Library, 4)

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Writer Mama Book Review

This is a wonderful little book aimed specifically for busy moms who want to be freelance writers or book authors. It shows you how to balance the myriad responsibilities of motherhood with the long-term and short-term goals you have as a writer.

It's chock full of great ideas for improving every aspect of your writing. Ii is also the perfect size for slipping into your bag and is very attractively presented.

It has been divided into 4 main sections :
PREPARATION: In this section you learn more about the attitudes and tools that successful mommy writers use and how to adapt them for your unique style of writing.

PRACTICE: This section shows you how to build your basic writing skills and is filled with lots of helpful tips on writing anything from full-length articles to essays. You will also learn how to submit your work with a basic cover letter. This chapter was very useful to me as a fledgling freelancer.

PROFESSIONALISM: Here you will learn how to query for assignments and when to send a query letter instead of a cover letter as well as how to complete longer assignments without losing your balance.

POISE: If you've ever wanted to be a well respected and recognized author then this chapter is definitely for you. This chapter will show you how to develop yourself and your talents so that you become recognized by agents and editors alike.

All in all this is a wonderful book for all writer mama's out there. No matter how experienced you are you are bound to learn something from this fabulous book.

You might also enjoy:

Saturday, August 7, 2010

The Happy Family Book Review

When I saw the title of the book at the local library, I knew I had to borrow it to read, learn from and of course, share with other parents.

The book is written by an Australian couple, Ken & Elizabeth Mellor and covers all aspects of healthy child development. It is both well thought out and well written.

Here's a taste of what's inside the pages of this slim volume:-
Chapter 1 “Your Job As A Parent” covers the 6 basic tasks all parents need to perform in order to prepare their children for adulthood.

They then go on to cover the 7 ingredients of being a successful person.
I felt that they also addressed the quality time versus quantity time debate very well.

Ken and Elizabeth also encourage parents to follow their own God-given instincts when it comes to their children rather than always relying on the 'experts'.

Have you ever opened your mouth and heard the words of your mother of father come out? Then you'll know that the way you parent today is influenced by the way you were parented and the family dynamics of your childhood.

Happy Family discusses common dysfunctional family patterns that could make you a less than functional parent. They then go on to offer suggestions for altering your own childhood programming so that you can become a better parent to your children.

You are encouraged to think through the patterns that are occurring in your family today, as well, by answering a list of twenty questions. I worked through the list and became aware of many issues that I was neglecting.

The chapter on “Balancing work and Family” deals with the pressures and challenges facing parents today and how best to deal with them.

The Happy Family
 has something I haven't come across in other parenting books  - How to successfully co-parent your children with your spouse/partner. It shows you how to overcome differences and how to form a successful, cohesive and powerful parenting unit.

I was also introduced to a technique called 'Grounding'. This is a way to calm kids who are upset and overexcited. There's also an entire chapter on how to teach your children to relax, a skill that is becoming increasingly important in the stressful world we live in.

If your child is pushing your hot buttons, Ken & Elizabeth will show you how to stay in control and how to manage your anger in a constructive manner.

All in all this is a great book. I've read many parenting books, but I've learned so much from this one. If you are serious about having a Happy Family, then I encourage you to pick up this book.

You may also want to read:

Monday, June 7, 2010

Moms Town Book Review

I love Life Makeover Type books and enjoy working through one every few months. But most of these books had sections that didn't apply to me as a stay at home mom. What drew me to the Moms Town book was that it is a lifestyle makeover designed specifically for stay at home moms.

Moms Town is divided into ten chapters and you have to work through 1 section a week. There's quite a bit to do in one chapter so you might want to spread it over a longer period of time. I worked on one chapter every fortnight.

It's perfect for Moms who want to make the most of their role as stay at home moms but are also sometimes left wondering "Is this all there is?" It's also great for moms who want to start a home based business or a way to make some extra cash from home.

Authors Mary Goulet and Heather Reider say "Staying at home doesn't mean you have to put your life on hold while you raise your children. Your growth and your children's growth is not mutually exclusive. If you've already lost some of your spunk to the doldrums of grocery shopping, dropping 'em off and picking 'em up, and scrubbing yet another juice stain out of the carpet, all you need is some help breaking the spin cycle. We have good news: You've picked up the right book. Using the MomsTown Program, you are going to figure out what those desires are."

A quiz in the beginning helps you to figure out just where you stand and exactly what areas of your life need a makeover.

Mary and Heather use the acronym GAL throughout the book - GAL stands for Get A Life. "Throughout our program we use the acronym GAL, for Get A Life, to describe the transformation that happens when a mom has her own life, pursues her own passions in addition to raising her children. Gals have it all. It's that simple. A Gal becomes her own person - outside the identity of being a stay at home mom (SAHM). Getting a life means finding your passion, your dreams, making it through your daily routine with more energy and confidence. In the process, you become a MomsTown Gal."

I loved the GAL Truths - 10 Truths all Stay at Home Moms must ask if they are going to be successful. It's great to know that it's not greedy or selfish to want more money, because money buys freedom and privilege. Other GAL truths include "To get more time, get busy." and "You can have it all, you just can't do it all."

They say and I quote "You can have it all; you just can't do it all. Even though we have the ability to do many things at once, we don't have the ability to do everything. Accepting help is not an admission of failure. It's being smart enough to to recognize your own limitations. It's true that someone else might not do things exactly the way you would, but at least those things are getting done. Delegation is the key, and you don't have to control everything all the time. Delegate to your husband and children."

Week by week I worked through different aspects of my life. I did everything from throw away my frumpy sweats and unflattering clothing to focusing on and finding my passions to exploring what sort of home based business would best suit me. I even organized my home, tackled paper clutter, re-started an exercise program and reconnected with my husband. Even though I felt that some areas of the makeover were skimpy and didn't provide enough detail, overall it was excellent and covered all major aspects of my life as a stay at home mom. I would highly recommend it to all stay at home moms and work at home moms. In fact, I think even working moms will benefit from this great well-thought out book.

You might also enjoy:

Friday, May 7, 2010

Your 6 Main Responsibilities As A Mom

In order to be an effective mom, there are 6 basic areas that you need to focus on.
1. Keep Your Children Safe.
This is the primary task during the early years. I’ve heard a child development expert say that your main job during the toddler and preschool years is to ‘stop them from killing themselves.’ In the first few years you have to worry about the dangers of drowning, sharp objects, poisoning, falling, stranger danger and so on.

In later years, you have to worry about keeping them away from drugs, alcohol, bad friends, and sexually transmitted diseases etc.

2. The second responsibility is giving your child the skills needed to live healthy, happy lives. This encompasses good nutrition, healthy living habits, exercise and forming good relationships with others.

3. The third important task of parenting is providing your child with the life-skills needed to succeed. This encompasses manners, reading, writing, cooking, laundry, balancing a checkbook and a host of other skills needed to function well in the modern world.

4. The fourth task that you need to perform in order to be an effective parent is to stay involved throughout all the different stages of childhood. From all animals, humans have the longest period of dependence. Parents need to be actively involved until kids have reached adulthood.

5. The fifth responsibility of effective parents is that you need to take care of yourself. You can’t care for your loved ones properly if you don’t make self-care a priority.

6. The sixth responsibility of effective parents is that you, not the kids, need to be in charge.

Home By Choice Book Review

Reading this book made me feel like I was talking to an older and wiser friend. Donna Otto writes this book from a Christian perspective, which some readers may feel uncomfortable or turn them off altogether.

Donna wisely points out that nobody, not even the most highly trained and paid professional nanny or babysitter can raise your child as well as you can. And she provides the research to back up her claims.

Donna makes a rather compelling case against daycare and backs it up with study after study. This book will probably make working mothers feel extremely guilty but Donna acknowledges that and says that "God has given us the emotion of guilt to redirect us."

The book takes a detailed and in-depth look at how your life will change when you make the transition from working mom to stay at home mom and she offers advice and suggestions on how to best cope. There's also some sound advice on how to deal with criticism from your boss, co-workers, family members and friends with regards to your decision to become a stay at home mom. There are also many useful tips on personal goal setting as it applies to stay at home moms. And if you're concerned about losing your personal identity once you give up your job, Donna offers some great advice and support as well.

There was also an unexpected section on dressing well (I agree, no frumpy sweats!)

The section on time-management was also full of great advice. And Donna shared some old-fashioned (but great) advice on both marriage and parenting. I found the chapter on organization really useful, even though I consider myself to be quite organized.

If money is an issue (and it almost always is!) then there's a section devoted to making money from home. It's rather basic but it does point you in the direction of other resources if you would like to pursue this avenue further.And the chapter on saving money helps you to stretch your money even further.

Even though I didn't particularly like the overtly Christian flavor to the book, I found it to be well worth the read. The copy I read and reviewed was borrowed from my local public library.

You might also like to read:

Sunday, May 2, 2010

A Day In The Mind Of Your Defiant Child

A Day in the Mind of Your Defiant Child

A Day in the Mind of Your Defiant ChildIf you’re the parent of a defiant child, you’ve probably wondered what makes him so angry at life—and angry at you. With the school year approaching, are you gearing up for another difficult year with your child, just hoping that he’ll make it through—and that you’ll be able to manage without falling apart? Realize that it doesn’t have to be a daily battle of wills once you understand what’s actually going on in your child’s head. Here, James Lehman MSW breaks down some of your child’s thinking on a typical school day.

Although it may feel like your defiant child hates you, that’s usually far from the truth.

It’s another day and another battle. The alarm goes off, and your child yells, “School sucks. Why do I have to go? It’s not fair!” He hasn’t done his homework (again) because, as he sees it, the teacher didn’t explain the assignment to him. He adds, “Besides, my teacher is a jerk, and she doesn’t like me, anyway.” You find yourself yelling, “Hurry, you’re going to miss the bus,” but instead of getting ready, now your child is dragging his feet and shouting, “Leave me alone!” As on countless other days, he misses the bus and starts pleading with you for a ride to school, saying, “You don’t want me to be late, do you, Mom?” Before he gets out of the car, he reacts to your speech about trying harder tomorrow by screaming, “All right, get off my back. Why are you always yelling at me?” and slams the door. At school, he gravitates to the wrong group of friends and goofs off in class; even worse, he talks back to the teacher instead of paying attention. When he comes home in the afternoon, he grunts at you before getting onto his video games (you think they’re way too violent, but he loves them) listens to music which you find offensive, and talks openly about admiring people who are crooks and criminals. That night, you know your child is probably going to stay up until all hours playing more of those video games you can’t stand, but you’re so tired of fighting with him that you just fall into bed exhausted.

As a parent, you live this kind of situation every day when you have a defiant or “difficult” kid, but have you ever wondered what’s going on in your child’s head when he’s fighting with you? Although it may feel like he hates you, that’s usually far from the truth. Rather, kids get caught up in a long chain of what we call “thinking errors” that can tangle up their emotions and behavior—and make no mistake, unless they get help, thinking errors can dominate a person’s thought processes throughout their entire lives.

Here’s how some of the thinking errors used by the child above break down—and what you can do to challenge these faulty ways of thinking in your own child.

Thinking Error #1: “School sucks. Why do I have to go? It’s not fair.”

What It Means: One of the thinking errors this child is using is called “Injustice.” Realize that many kids see things as being unfair. The danger is that once they label something as “not fair” they feel like they don’t have to follow the rules or honor your expectations. This is pretty common in our society. If you’re on the turnpike and the speed limit is fifty-five miles an hour, you’ll see many people going sixty-five and seventy. It’s because they think fifty-five miles an hour isn’t fair—and once they decide it’s not fair, then in their minds, the speed limit rules don’t apply to them.

We all use thinking errors to justify doing things we know are risky or unhealthy. People use errors every day to gamble, lie, steal and cheat—or simply to justify having that second helping of pie. The problem is when kids use thinking errors to avoid taking responsibility. When they do this, they’re not realistically preparing for the adult world which awaits them. Remember, it’s not what the thinking error does—it’s what the thinking error justifies or permits.

What You Can Do: It’s important for you as a parent to challenge the error in thinking in a non-confrontational way. One thing the mother in our example could have said was, “You know school is your responsibility. If you don’t get up, you’re going to get an earlier bedtime. And it looks to me like you need to get more rest so you can get up on time.”

Thinking Error #2: “The Teacher is a jerk—and she hates me.”

What It Means: When a child says something like this, he’s using a thinking error called “The Victim Stance”. Some kids see themselves as victims all the time and in almost every situation. What they’re doing is trying to reject the idea that they’re responsible for anything. You’ll ask them a question and they’ve always got a sad story. Part of that sad story is who they blame for not meeting their responsibilities. That’s because when you’re a victim, you blame other people. So these kids blame the teacher, they blame you, or they blame somebody else—and what they learn is if they stick to their story long enough, they won’t be held accountable.

What I try to tell parents is that there is a sad story, and then there’s a behavior story. The sad story is your child playing the victim; the behavior story is what your child did to other people or to property. And as parents, we always have to focus on the behavior story. Every child has to be responsible for the behavior story, not the sad story. Don’t forget, when kids see themselves as victims, that gives them the justification they need to not meet their responsibilities. If you’re a victim, they reason, you shouldn’t have to do anything you don’t want to do. And focusing on the sad story somehow supports their right not to meet responsibilities.

What You Can Do: When your child adopts the Victim Stance, what he needs to be hearing from you is, “You’re not a victim. You’re responsible for your actions.” In this case, the parent could also say, “It sounds like you’re blaming your teacher for not having your homework done. But you’re the homework-doer—that’s your responsibility. And it’s not your teacher’s job to get along with you; it’s your job to get along with your teacher.”

Thinking Error #3: “You don’t want me to be late for school, do you?”

What It Means: This is the thinking error I call "Concrete Transactions". The Concrete Transactions mode is a way of thinking about things in which relationships with people in authority are simply vehicles your child uses to get around the rules. What he is saying is, “I’m your friend, and since I’m your friend, you’re going to help me get away with things—or help me get things I’m not entitled to.” So in your child’s mind, relationships are designed to help him get around rules, expectations and responsibilities. In other words, he thinks, “If I have a relationship with you, then you won’t make me follow the rules. You’re going to let me stay up past bedtime and sleep late in the morning.” So to your child, rules and the rights of others are seen as obstacles in relationships. The use of “Concrete Transactions” is designed to make you remove those obstacles instead of helping your child develop the problem solving skills he needs to manage the challenges he faces.

Know that if you’re in this kind of relationship with your child, you’re not really a person—you’re a role. Simply put, your child will treat you the right way as long as you stay in your role. If you try to leave it and be more responsible and hold your child accountable, you will often get a very nasty reaction.

By the way, whenever I hear parents say they want to be their kid’s friend, I become concerned. If parents want a friend, they should seek it outside of the home or get a puppy. These kids don’t need their parents to be their friends. They need direction, limits, coaching, teaching and structure. Look at it this way: if you define friendship as a mutual relationship where two people really try to take care of each other, then the best way to be your child’s friend is by being an effective parent.

What You Can Do: It’s important that children face the true consequences of their behavior. And when an authority figure such as a parent or teacher lets them off the hook, it doesn’t matter what they say to the child to justify it. As far as the child’s concerned, it works: He won.

In the example above, I would suggest that if possible, and if it’s safe, the mother should leave her child at home. Most kids complain about going to school, but they have no place else to go. And remember, if you leave him home, take the video game, cable box and computer control panel with you in the trunk of your car—and don’t forget his cell phone.

Thinking Error #4: “This video game is cool. Mom doesn’t know what she’s talking about—she’s so uptight.”

What It Means: This child is using a thinking error called “Pride in Negativity”. Defiant kids often take a lot of pride in their knowledge of unhealthy, secretive things. They have a fascination with negative role models because they see them as being powerful. These kids might hint at having a secretive, negative life. They may also take great pride in telling you that they know about different drugs and where to get them, and in their knowledge of crime—and how to shoplift and steal.

Kids who have low self esteem and no way to solve problems will gravitate towards peers who don’t expect anything out of them. Those kids in general will see negative behavior as a solution to their problem. In the end, “Pride in Negativity” means self esteem and identity from negativity.

What You Can Do: One of the big mistakes parents make is to argue with their kids about the negative things their child is fascinated with. But fighting about those issues only gives the child more power. I personally think parents should have a structure in their home that forbids the games they’re not comfortable with. You should also really ignore any Pride in Negativity statements by saying, “Look, I’m not interested in that stuff,” and then walk away. In other words, give it no power. Remember, if you show your child that certain behaviors have power over you, those behaviors are going to be repeated. Conversely, behaviors that have no power over you will diminish.

It’s important to remember that kids believe in the thinking errors they’re using. As a parent, I believe to be overly confrontational is not the way to go. What’s preferred is a corrective response that challenges or refutes the thinking error. After all, these errors are part of every day life. You’ll find that people use them all the time. In fact, I find myself using thinking errors, and you might find yourself using them, too. But here’s the risk for your child: kids, and especially teens, use these errors in thinking to avoid doing things that are difficult for them, and that’s what makes them dangerous. Remember, adolescence is one of the most critical times in your child’s development for them to learn how to solve life’s problems—not avoid them by using excuses, manipulation or lies.

A Day in the Mind of Your Defiant Child reprinted with permission from Empowering Parents. For more information, visit

James Lehman is a behavioral therapist and the creator of The Total Transformation Program for parents. He has worked with troubled teens and children for three decades. James holds a Masters Degree in Social Work from Boston University. For more information, visit

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Creating Time For Your Family In A Hectic World

Creating Time For Your Family In A Hectic World.

Happy, healthy families don't just happen. It takes time and effort to create and maintain a good, solid, healthy family.
 Just because individuals live together under one roof doesn't mean that they are a well-functioning family unit.

So often we let the urgent crowd out the important. The doorbell, the phone and chores get our attention and the truly important gets forgotten.

Here are 3 suggestions for re-connecting with your loved ones.

1. Give your children the gift of your presence instead of presents. You are far more important to your child than expensive vacations, designer label clothing or the latest Wii game. Give them the gift of your time, rather than attempt to fill the gap in their hearts (created by your absence) with material things.

2. When you plan your daily routine, remember that most of the 'action' in families takes place during the following times:
* Breakfast
* Dropping and picking kids up from school
* After school
* Dinner time
* Bedtime
Leave these times free of other chores and obligations so that you can focus completely on your children's needs for time and attention.

3. If you work outside the home, speak to your boss about allowing you to leave in the event of an emergency with your child.

Your children and spouse need you. Carefully re-consider if the extra material goods you acquire from working is worth what you have to give up in order to get it.

I've never heard of a person on their deathbed who wished that they had spent more time at the office. Have you?

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

How To Keep Your Young Child Safe In An Increasingly Dangerous World

So many accidents and deaths of toddlers and children could easily be prevented. Here are 9 suggestions for keeping your children safe, no matter what their age.


1.Keep young children within sight whenever the possibility exists for them to get into trouble.

2. Teach toddlers and pre-schoolers about the dangers associated with fires, stoves, electricity, knives, guns and so on. But don't let this make you lax. Keep an eye on them and keep them out of harms way until you know they can handle these dangerous elements safely.

3.Teach them road safety as soon as they are old enough to understand.

4. Make your children aware that all strangers are not friends and show them how to react in case a suspicious stranger wants to pick them up.

5. Teach your children that their body belongs to them and that nobody has a right to touch them in inappropriate ways. The following books are a great way to get this discussion started.


1. Teach your children about online safety. Two good books to do that are

2. Teach them to stand up for themselves and to resist peer pressure.

3. Speak to your teen about the risks of things like drugs, drunk driving, sex and so on.

4. Know your kids whereabouts at all times. If they are out with friends, be clear on the arrangements that are in place for them to get home.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Run Away Kids - When Your Child Is On The Streets & Wants To Come Home

Running Away Part II: "Mom, I Want to Come Home."
When Your Child is on the Streets

Running Away Part II: Mom, I Want to Come Home. When Your Child is on the StreetsIn part two of this series on running away, James tells you how to handle it when your child is on the streets, and what to say when they come home—including giving them consequences for their actions.

For kids, running away is like taking a long, dangerous timeout. They may use it to avoid some difficulty at home, or to hide from something that’s embarrassing to them. You can also look at running away as a power struggle, because kids will often run instead of taking responsibility for their actions or complying with house rules. Above all, as a parent, what you don't want to do is give it power. That's the cardinal rule: do not give this behavior power.

The forces that drive your child to run are more powerful than the thought that he might get a consequence.

In the last article, I discussed what you can do before your child leaves, and how to create an atmosphere of acceptance at home. In part two, I’d like to talk about what you can do when your child is out on the streets, and how you should handle their re-entry back into home life.


Leave a Paper Trail

If your child has run away, you need to call the police, plain and simple. I understand that not all parents want to do this, but I think it’s imperative that you take this step. I can’t stress this enough: you want to have a written record that your child is not under your supervision, and that should be recorded at the police station. Also, if you call and report your child missing, know that your call will be recorded. I hate to say it, but one of the paradoxes for parents is that the authorities will often ask, “Why did you let your child run away?” when in fact, there's no way they can make them stay at home. Do your best to answer as honestly as you can, because it’s very important to document what’s happening. You should also call the Department of Human Services to create a paper trail there, too. They may very well tell you that they can’t give you any help, but the point is, you documented it. Be sure to write down the name of the case worker you talked to for future reference.

Should You Look for Your Child on the Streets?

I personally don’t believe in going and looking for your child on the streets if they are children who chronically run away. I don’t think you should give that kind of behavior a lot of power. The rules should be really clear in the family: “If you run away, you’ve got to make your way back here. I'm not going to come looking for you or call all your friends. If you're not home, I'll call the police.”

There are those parents who look for their kids to make sure they’re okay. I understand that impulse, but again, I don't think you want to give your child too much power or special status when they run away. If they get too much attention and too much power, you're just encouraging them to do it again the next time there's a problem. Unintentional reinforcement is something you have to be very careful about.

If you do find your child, you can say, “Look, when you're ready to come home, we'll talk about it.” I'm personally very leery about parents who chase after their kids and beg and plead. If you do beg them to come home, when your child comes back, they will have more power and you have less. From then on, whenever they want something or don’t want to be held accountable for their actions, they’ll play the runaway card.

The Sad Truth: Lack of Community Support for Parents of Runaways

Remember, it's your child’s responsibility to stay at home since you legally have no way to keep them there. In fact, I know of kids who’ve actually left while the police were there. They just said, “I'm not taking this anymore,” and they walked out. And the cops said to the parents, “We can't do anything until he commits a crime.”

In the states where I've lived, if your child runs away and you call the police, by law they can't do anything. Part of the obstacle that parents face is a lack of community support. Amazingly, there's no statute that requires kids to live in a safe place. That really puts parents in a bad place because society won't make your child stay at home or even in a shelter. When I was a kid, if you ran away from home they would take you to court and put you on probation; you were simply not allowed to run the streets and be a delinquent. Unfortunately, that law has changed. Today, it’s estimated that there are between one to three million kids on the street in this country. You have to wait 24 hours before you file a Missing Persons report—and even if you file the report, the police might find your child living on the street but they can't make him come home. Now your child is no longer a missing person, and you have even less power in some ways. When that happens, you just have to wait until your child wants to come home.


If Your Child Says They are Ready to Come Home…

If your child has dropped out of school and is abusing substances and living on the streets, I don’t think they should be allowed to come home without certain conditions. And if it’s decided that they can return, their re-entry to home life should be very structured.

I know it’s hard, but I think that even if your child is crying on the phone, what you want to get clear is, “We love you very much and you can come back again, but the rules aren't changing.” I've seen parents with abusive kids tell them very simply, “You can't come home until we have a meeting and agree to some rules. And until then, stay with your friends.” It’s difficult for parents to do, but I support that.

Have a Frank Discussion: What to Say When Your Child is Back Home

One of the main things you want to talk to your returning child about is what they’re going to do differently this time. Ask, “What’s going to be different about the way you solve your problems, and what are you going to do the next time you want to run away?” I recommend that you have a frank discussion with them. Let them know that running away is a problem that simply complicates their lives and makes their other problems worse. Again, we want running away to be viewed as a problem your child has to learn to deal with. We know as adults that once you start running from something, you may run for the rest of your life. Running away is one of the ways kids solve problems, it’s just not an effective way to do so. And in fact, most solutions that depend upon power and control are ineffective.

The Consequences for Running Away:

If your child has run away to avoid consequences, he should do them when he comes back—immediately. That's what he ran away from, and that’s what he needs to face. Running away is a very dangerous and risky behavior, and I believe there should be a consequence for it, as well. The consequence doesn't have to be too punitive; keep it task-oriented. One of the problems with consequences is that if they're not lesson-oriented, then the concept you’re trying to teach is lost. I like a consequence that says, “Write out the whole story of how you ran away. What were you thinking, what were you trying to accomplish? And then tell me what you're going to do differently next time.” Sit down with your child and get them to process it with you, and then talk about what your child can do differently next time together. Always hold them accountable. For kids who run away chronically, if you send them to their room, they won't learn anything. But if you ground them from electronics until they write an essay, make amends, and tell you how they’re going to handle it differently, eventually the behavior will change.

Here’s the truth: nobody ever stopped running away because they were afraid of punishment. Nobody ever said, “I'm not going to run away because the consequences are too severe.” If you’re a parent of teen who is in danger of running away, realize that the forces that drive him to run are more powerful than the thought that he might get a consequence.

Use Repetition and Rehearsal to Change Behavior

If your child writes an essay about why they ran away and tells you they are sorry, whether they mean it or not really doesn't matter. The important thing is that the learning is going to change. Think of it this way: if you had a spelling test every day, whether you tried or not, you're going to learn to spell. It’s the same way for your child—he has to write those words out. One of the primary ways kids learn is through repetition and rehearsal. Part of that, by the way, is giving them task-oriented consequences, over and over again. It’s much better to have your child write an apology five times than to send them to their room for five hours. Eventually, that learning will sink in—I’ve seen it happen time and time again.

Should You Ever Tell Your Child to Leave?

Sometimes kids come home and start falling into their old patterns of behavior. I know parents who have told their kids to go to a shelter or to go couch surf for a week. I am sympathetic to this approach, but I think there’s a very high risk involved; each family has to make decisions like these very seriously. If you're going to tell an under-age person to go couch surf, you have to think that through carefully. This is not because you’re going to be held criminally responsible or go to jail, but because bad things can happen—and you're going to have to live with the consequences, no matter what. Parents of girls often worry more because of the simple fact that it’s riskier for girls to run than for boys—more harm can come to them. Remember, each family has to live with its own decisions when it comes to safety—and there's no joking about that.

The Key to Dealing with Kids Who Run Away

In my opinion, the key to dealing with kids who run away both chronically and episodically is teaching them problem-solving skills, and identifying the triggers that lead to risky decisions. Kids have to learn coping skills that help them manage their responsibilities in the here and now, so they don't have anything to run away from in the future. That means doing their homework and chores, being honest and not lying about responsibilities and schoolwork, getting clean and sober if they have a substance abuse problem, and being able to face the music when they’ve done something wrong or publicly embarrassing. The bottom line is that kids need to learn how to take responsibility, be accountable, and not run away from consequences. Kids are not told enough that life is what you make it—and that means now, not when you're 25.

Running Away Part II: "Mom, I Want to Come Home." When Your Child is on the Streets reprinted with permission from Empowering Parents. For more information, visit

James Lehman is a behavioral therapist and the creator of The Total Transformation Program for parents. He has worked with troubled teens and children for three decades. James holds a Masters Degree in Social Work from Boston University. For more information, visit

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Why Kids Run Away and How To Stop Them

Running Away Part I: Why Kids Do It and How to Stop Them

Running Away Part I: Why Kids Do It and How to Stop Them It’s every parent’s worst nightmare—you go to check on your child in the middle of the night, and she’s not there. Your heart starts pounding and you fly into panic mode, calling her friends, your relatives, and the police.

Whether or not your child has run away or threatened to do so—or you fear that she might—it’s vital that you read this article. James Lehman has worked with runaway teens for many years, and in this new EP series he explains why kids run away, ways you can stop them, and how to handle their behavior when they come home.
"Kids who threaten to run away are using it for power."
Any child can run away at any time if the circumstances are right. Believe me, if they’re under enough stress, any kid can justify running away.
Don’t forget, running away is like any action. In order to do it you need three things: the ability, the willingness and the opportunity. And let’s face it, kids have the opportunity and ability to run every day—so all it really takes is the willingness to do it. That willingness can develop for a variety of reasons. It could be a stressful situation your child is under, a fear of getting consequences for something they did, a form of power struggle, not wanting to go to school, or a substance abuse problem.
Another factor is that kids often idealize running away and develop a romanticized view of life on the streets. In reality, it’s awful: you’re cold, you’re hungry and it’s dangerous, but adolescents often see it as an adventure or the key to freedom, where “No one is going to tell me what to do.”
Why Kids Run Away

Many kids run away because of drug and alcohol abuse. When teens and pre-teens get involved in substance abuse, they may leave home to hide it so their parents don’t find out. These kids are often using a lot more than their parents know; they want to use more freely and openly, so they run away.
In addition to fear or anger, feelings of failure can also cause kids to leave home. Some children run away because it’s easier to live on their own than to live in a critical home. I remember being 15 years old and living in a hallway in the Bronx in winter. I didn’t miss home at all because I felt like such a failure there. Sadly, kids with behavior management problems or learning disabilities often get tired of the feeling that they just can’t get it right; it’s easier for them to run than to fix the problem. Often, they don’t know that what they’re facing can be dealt with using other strategies.
In my opinion, the main reason why kids run away is because they don’t have good problem-solving skills. Running away is an “either/or” kind of solution; it’s a product of black-and-white thinking. Kids run away because they don’t want to face something, and that includes emotions they don’t want to deal with. The adolescent who runs away has run out of problem-solving skills. And leaving home—along with everything that is overwhelming them—seems to solve their immediate problems.
Episodic vs. Chronic Running Away

I think it’s very important to distinguish between kids who run away episodically, and those who are chronic runners. The reasons behind the actions are quite different, and it’s crucial to know what they are.
  • Episodic Running Away: When your child runs away after something has happened, it can be viewed as episodic running away. It’s not a consistent pattern, and your child is not using it as a problem-solving strategy all the time. It's also not something they use to gain power. Rather, they might be trying to avoid some consequence, humiliation or embarrassment. I’ve known kids to leave home because they were caught cheating in school or because they became pregnant and were afraid of their parents’ disapproval.
  • Chronic Running Away: Kids who consistently use running away to gain power in the family have a chronic problem. Realize that chronic running away is just another form of power struggle, manipulation, or acting out; it's just very high risk acting out. They may threaten their parents by saying, “If you make me do that, I'll run away.” They know parents worry; for many, it’s one of their greatest fears. Some parents may engage in bargaining and over-negotiating with their kids over this when they shouldn't because they're afraid. But you need to understand that kids who threaten to run away are using it for power. This not only gives them power over themselves, but power over their parents and their families as well. When a parent gives in to this threat, their child starts using it to train them. For example, a parent in this situation will learn to stop sending their child to their room if he or she threatens to run away each time it happens. I want to be clear here: kids who chronically threaten to run away are not running away to solve one problem. They're running away because that is their main problem-solving skill. They’re trying to avoid any type of accountability.
Are there Warning Signs?

Unfortunately, there are no real hard-and-fast signs that indicate your child is about to run away. Certainly, you can look for secretive behavior, the hoarding of money, and things of value disappearing around the house. If you ever notice this happening, don’t turn a blind eye: trust your gut. You probably already know that something is up, whether it’s substance abuse or your child’s desire to leave home.
A Step-by-Step Way to Teach Your Kids that Running Away Won’t Solve Their Problems
  1. Teach Problem-Solving Skills

    The most important thing you can do is teach your children problem solving skills. Ask them, “What can you do differently about this problem? What are some ways we can deal with this problem?” Always approach something as a problem that needs to be solved, and reward your child when they are able to do it successfully. Be sure to say things like, “I liked the way you solved that problem, Josh. The teacher was upset, but you went up and apologized. That took guts. And now she has a better opinion of you. I’m really proud of you.” As much as possible, praise your child when he does something positive.
  2. Create an Atmosphere of Acceptance

    Unconditional love is an idea that is used a lot in parenting, but different people mean different things by it. Some people say “unconditional love” but what they mean is “co-dependency.” When I say unconditional love, I mean “I can't love you any less if you do poorly and I won't love you love anymore if you do well. If you get an A I won't love you any more. If you get a D I won't love you any less. I love you.” I think it's important for parents to have that kind of atmosphere in their house and to reinforce it with their kids. It's also good for parents to say, “It's okay to make mistakes around here.” Make it clear to your child that “the way we handle mistakes in our home is by facing up to them and dealing with them.”
  3. Check in with Your Child

    All parents should have a system where they check in with their kids frequently. Just stop and ask, “How's it going? Anything you want help with?” You can say this two or three times in one day; go by their room and knock on the door. That way you're constantly giving your child hypodermic interest and affection. You’re saying, “I'm interested in you, I care.” This is a skill that parents can build; it doesn't always come naturally. I understand that parents who have worked all day come home and they're tired. My wife and I were both social workers and when we came home, the last thing we wanted to do was talk some more. But we trained ourselves to do that so our son would know we were interested and that we cared. You never lose when you show that to a child.
  4. Talk to Your Child if You Think He’s at Risk of Running

    If you think your child is at risk of running away or you know that his friends have done so, you want to sit down and talk with him. Always temper your comments about other kids’ behavior by what your child might be thinking. They hear you when you say, “Oh, that little hoodlum, if my kid ran away, he'd never come home.” As a parent, you need to be careful about who's listening. What you really want to say to your child is, “If you screw up and run away, don't hesitate to come back and we'll talk about it.” And if your child says, “Talk about what?” I would say, “Talk about how to solve the problem differently.”
  5. Responding to Threats

    When your child threatens to run away, I think you should respond by saying, “Running away is not going to solve your problems. You're going to have to take responsibility for this. And by the way, if you do run away, you're still going to have to face this problem when you come home.” And then tell them what will solve their problems: “These are the family rules and learning to deal with the family rules is going to solve your problems. Not running away from them.”

    I think you can give warnings, as well. You might say, “Listen, if you run away, I can't stop you, but it's dangerous out there. I won't be able to protect you. So not only will you not solve your problems, you'll also be putting yourself at risk. Bad things happen to kids and that's the risk you're taking. I don't think it's worth it, Jenna.” As I mentioned before, you can also try to get them to take a time-out by saying, “Why don't you just calm down for five minutes and then let’s talk about it.”

    Many families I've worked with wound up dealing with constant threats by saying, “Look, if you run, you run. But these are still our family rules.” At some point, they stopped giving in because they realized it wasn’t effective or healthy for their families or their child.
“I’m Outta Here!” When Your Child is about to Leave:
3 Things Parents Can Do in the Moment
Many kids leave home in the heat of an argument with their parents or after some major event. This action is probably not spontaneous—your child might have been considering how they will run away for quite some time. If you sense your child is about to leave, here are a few things you can do or say to stop them:
  • Try to Get Them to Calm Down

    Try to get your child to calm down for five minutes. You can say, “Why don’t you sit right here in the living room and take a timeout. I’ll be back in five minutes.” I wouldn't tell your child to go to his room; have him stay right there in the living room or kitchen. It’s not a good idea to send him to his bedroom. This is because if he goes there and gets the impulse, he's going to climb out the window.
  • Ask “What’s Going on?” Not “How are You Feeling?”

    When you talk to your child, don't ask him how he's feeling; ask him what's going on. All kids want to argue about how they're feeling—or they want to deny that they’re feeling anything at all. Often parents get stuck there. So instead of, “Why are you so upset?” try asking, “What’s going on? What did you see that made you want to leave?”
  • Use Persuasive Language

    A really good question to ask your child is, “So what's so bad about this that you can't handle it?” After he or she tells you, you can say, “You've handled stuff like this before. Kids your age deal with this all the time and I know you can do it. So you screwed up, it's not the end of the world. Face what you’ve got to face and then let's get on with life.” That kind of reasoning is called “persuasive talking.” As a parent, you're not giving in, but you're trying to persuade your child that they're okay. I used this approach successfully in my practice with kids all the time; I found that many teens yield to that type of persuasion.
Remember, kids run away from problems they can't handle. It’s in our culture. Adolescents often see running away as a way to achieve a sense of power and independence. They don’t understand that it's false power and independence, however, because they can't take care of themselves in a legitimate way on the streets. Still, those feelings can be very ingrained for some kids. Personally, I think the most important thing for a child to learn is how to solve his problems differently. Your child is going to have to face whatever he's avoiding eventually, and it's of the utmost importance that he understands that critical life lesson: “Eventually, you’re going to have to face this.”
When your child is out on the streets, you feel powerless, afraid and isolated. And if they decide to come home, your joy can quickly turn to dread as you see them fall into the old patterns of behavior that caused them to run in the first place. Look for Part II of "Running Away" in Empowering Parents the week of October 12th. James will tell you more about what you can do when your under-age child runs away, and how to handle their behaviorand give them consequences— when they come home.

Running Away Part I: Why Kids Do It and How to Stop Them reprinted with permission from Empowering Parents. For more information, visit

James Lehman is a behavioral therapist and the creator of The Total Transformation Program for parents. He has worked with troubled teens and children for three decades. James holds a Masters Degree in Social Work from Boston University. For more information, visit
Child Behavior

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

You Don't Have To Be Perfect In Order To Be A Good Mom

Part of being a good mom is to understand that you don't have to be perfect.

You need to realize that perfection is an impossible and unrealistic goal. Blaming yourself and feeling guilty when things don't turn out as you anticipated is unhealthy and counterproductive.

Here are 5 simple truths you need to embrace in order to break the chains of blame and guilt.

1. Your children WILL have their share of challenges and problems, just like all kids do. They'll get hurt, fall ill, fight with their friends and have trouble at school. This is all part and parcel of childhood, and no matter how good a mom you are, there's very little you can do to prevent it.

2. From time to time, you will do things that will make your child angry, hurt or upset. It's all part of being human and your child will learn that life isn't always perfect.

3. Your child may have problems that you fail to recognize at the time.

4. There will be times when you get angry, irritated upset and exhausted, no matter how much you love your children.

5. You may have discovered later on that you've created serious problems for your child without meaning to. While you may regret this, beating yourself up over it is a senseless waste of time.

If you feel that you've caused your child pain and inadvertantly harmed her in some way, then ask your child for forgiveness and do what you can to make amends. And most importantly, forgive yourself.
Realize that you were doing your best with what you knew and now that you know better you can do better.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

What To Do When Your Child Is The Class Trouble-maker

Acting Out in School: When Your Child is the Class Troublemaker

Acting Out in School: When Your Child is the Class TroublemakerEvery parent of an acting-out child knows that once your kid has a reputation for being a troublemaker at school, it's very difficult to undo that label. That’s because your child becomes the label; when the teacher looks at him, she often just sees a troublemaker. Sadly, it's very hard to change that image, because even when your child tries harder, the label is reinforced when he slips up. And then he's really in trouble, because not only is he still a troublemaker—now he's seen as a manipulator, too.

"It's your job to get along with your teacher, not your teacher's job to get along with you."
We all know that labels are assigned all the time and that they don't help the problem. Not only are they innately unfair, they are also subjective. In other words, one person's view of a troublemaker is not the same as another’s.

 School teachers, being human, will label kids. Make no mistake, teachers talk and are well aware of who the troublemakers are before they get to their class at the beginning of the year. After all, it’s part of their job to anticipate the behavioral issues they will be dealing with in their classroom and try to plan for them.

Part of what you have to do as a parent is try to distinguish between the label and your child's style of functioning in school. So if your child has been called a troublemaker, ask yourself what that means. How does he make trouble? Does he speak out of turn in class? Is he easily distracted and bothersome to the students sitting next to him? Or is he disruptive and rude?

I always advise parents to be honest with themselves about their child's behavior. Yes, it's important to assert yourself as a parent and advocate for your child at school. But it's also vital to your child's development that you not defend him when he's in the wrong. Make no mistake: defending your child when he has behaved inappropriately will not help him develop appropriate skills and to become right as a person. So if your child is known as a school troublemaker and is disruptive and rude in class, it's very important that you acknowledge that. Parents need to have an open mind about their children so they can help the school in changing their behavior. 

Don't forget, for many parents of kids with behavior problems, it's easier to fight with the school than it is to change their child. And when you do this, that only succeeds in letting your child off the hook, when in reality what they really need to do is learn how to change their behavior. Whenever possible, though it's sometimes difficult, parents and teachers need to work in tandem.

The New School Year: Starting Off on the Right Foot
If your child is in danger of having the troublemaker label follow him from grade to grade, you’re probably wondering how to start him off on the right foot this year. I think that at the beginning of any school year, you want to coach your child about the importance of first impressions. 

Let him know how important the first couple of weeks of school are in terms of getting along in class and doing well. Tell him that presenting himself as respectful and responsible will make a big difference for him. You can say, “Remember how we talked about what you would do differently in school this year to get along better? Well, one of the things we mentioned was that you should be polite to your teachers and not talk back. When you have the urge to talk back or be rude, what could you do differently?”

As a side note, if parents have a problem with a teacher or the school, they should never discuss it in front of their child. Make no bones about it, if you undermine the teacher openly at home, it becomes almost impossible at some later date to get your child to behave appropriately. I understand that parents won’t always agree with their child’s teacher. In certain cases, I thought my son’s teachers had some rules that didn’t make sense. My wife and I talked about it and discussed it with the teacher, but my son never knew it. That was because we were there to uphold the image of the school as an entity that has to be respected—and one in which our son knew he had to behave respectfully.

In my opinion, going to school is like having a job. You coach your child through their school career the same way you might give them advice when they start a profession. You can say, “You have to learn to get along. There are going to be good people and bad people. There are going to be good times and bad times. There are going to be people who don't like you and people you don't like.” The key is not to eliminate everything your child doesn’t like in life; the key is to help him manage things even when life is difficult. After all, there's going to be injustice in school and in life, though few parents acknowledge or talk about it with their kids. I think it's good to say, "That's an injustice and you'll have to deal with it." Because in fact, some things really aren't fair in life, and part of growing up is learning to deal with that fact.

When I worked with kids who didn’t get along with their teachers, I would often say, “Look, it's your job to get along with your teacher, not your teacher's job to get along with you.” A teacher’s job is to be respectful of their students and to help them learn. It's not their job to humor kids when they’re in a bad mood or act out. No place does that, so when kids complained about their teachers, I would say. “Whether you work at a gas station or a law firm, your boss and co-workers won't put up with that kind of behavior. You have to learn how to get along, that's part of becoming independent.” In fact, some of the most important criteria for independence are “How well does this person manage adversity? How well does he get along with people he doesn't like? How does he deal with supervisors who are a pain in the neck?” We're all going to have that in life. So the idea is to give your child the skills to get along no matter who he or she is dealing with.

Consequences: Should I Give Them to My Child When He Gets in Trouble at School?
Let's face it: every parent whose child acts out in class gets sick of hearing from the school—even if they know their child is legitimately a problem. Parents don't want to go to work and hear about their kids during the school day; they want the school to handle it. And the school thinks parents should be more involved in dealing with inappropriate behavior.

So when should parents get involved? I think the answer to that is straightforward. In my opinion, it depends on whether the problem is “functional” or “relational.” A functional problem includes being late for class, chewing gum or running down the hall. I think schools should handle those problems; that is their community, and they need to manage it.

 I personally do not think parents should give more consequences at home for those types of things. But the whole game changes when it comes to relational problems. These are problems that have to do with inappropriate behavior towards people or property. If your child steals, if he's physically abusive, if he's threatening, if he gets into a fight, parents need to hold him accountable and give consequences at home in addition to the consequences the school assigns.

Again, one of the things parents have to avoid is insulating their child from the natural consequences of their behavior. If your child destroys property or assaults someone at school and you do everything you can to protect him so he doesn't have to face legal consequences, I think you're making a mistake. I think you can support your child through those consequences—I would. 

But the more you insulate him from the natural consequences of his actions, the less likely those actions are going to change. Because let's face it, people don't change until there's pressure to change. And unfortunately, that pressure often comes from negative consequences, whether that's for a speeding ticket or for being physically aggressive in school. We understand that fact as adults in society: people get tickets all the time for running lights and for speeding. You may not like getting a ticket, you may not think it's fair. But the bottom line is that it makes you look at your behavior and change it.
When a child gets in serious trouble at school, many parents become worried that it will go on their permanent record. Is that a legitimate worry for a parent? Yes. But you don't soothe those worries by sweeping the problem under the rug. Let me be clear: if your child assaults someone at school and doesn't get a record now, he's going to get one later—that's all there is to it.
  • How to Handle a Functional Problem
  • If your child tells you, “I got detention because I was running in the hall,” the thing to ask him is, “All right, so what are you going to do differently next time? What did you learn from that?” Don’t give speeches. Just ask simple questions that help your child clarify the whole object lesson. I wouldn’t judge him and I would be as matter of fact as possible. Just shrug and say, “Well, that's life; you can't run down the halls in school.” And teach your child, “Look, you know what you're doing. You made the choice. Now take your consequences and learn from them.”
  • How to Handle a Relational Problem
  • If your child has been caught destroying property, speaking rudely or obscenely, or hurting someone at school, as a parent you need to deal with that very strongly. I think you need to find out the facts and then you need to let your child know very clearly that there are consequences at home for that kind of behavior. And the first consequence is, “We're not going to fight with the school. You need to pay the price for your actions.” If your child has a fight in school and he's suspended, for example, he ought to have consequences at home. I would recommend no electronics for the length of the suspension. He should not be suspended from school and then allowed to goof off at home all day. Make the suspension unpleasant for him. If it's not unpleasant, it's not going to shape his behavior. The whole theory behind consequences is that the memory of unpleasantness will shape the person's behavior next time. So don’t undermine the school’s consequences by making the suspension a week of playing and vacation for your child.
Talking to Your Child's Teachers: Let Them Know What Works for Your Child
I recommend that you let your child’s teacher know how you deal with behavior at home. I think if your child has a history of behavior problems, you want to meet with that teacher early on in the year and say, “We know that Jake can be disruptive. This is how we deal with it at home. And if there's any way we can help you, please let us know.” Certainly you should tell a teacher what works at home and what doesn't work at home. 

This doesn't mean you're limiting them; rather, you’re helping them be more effective with your child’s behavior in the classroom. So if you have specific techniques you use, share them. An example might be, “We find Jake does his homework better when his door is open or he's sitting at the dining room table. 

So he might do better in school if you have him up close to your desk.” Or, “We find Jake does better at home when we get him started. So if you could take a minute to get him going on the assignment, it might work out better.” Be sure to ask your child’s teacher how you can be helpful to them. Be open to what they say—they might have some great ideas. And always ask the teacher, “How can we support you at home with this?”

Parents and Teachers: Getting on the Same Team
In this day and age, everybody is stressed and nobody's got time. Parents are working harder than ever, and teachers have larger classrooms and more responsibilities. Believe me, if everybody had time and more resources, there would be a lot less friction between parents and schools. But that's not the case, so we just have to live with that and figure out how to manage it the best we can.

After all, we have the common goal of wanting our kids to behave responsibly and get an education. Schools have a legitimate interest in kids being compliant and respectful. Parents have a legitimate interest in kids getting an education and learning how to become independent. Parents and teachers should be on the same team, but sadly, often they're not. There was a time when teachers and parents worked together—where if the teacher called a parent, the parent really worked on changing their child’s behavior. Kids were held accountable at home. It's not often that way anymore. Now parents are often blaming of teachers and teachers are blaming of parents—and children play both ends against the middle. Kids can be highly manipulative in this area.

I think parents and teachers should work hard at being on the same team. I think the parent's role is really, “How can we help the teacher do their job? What can we do at home?” And the teacher's stance has to be, “In what areas do I need the parents’ support and what is my responsibility? How can we work together to get this child on track?”
I've heard a lot of stories about bad teachers. I've met one or two myself, but by and large, I believe most teachers are trying their best. The truth is, you have to really try to work with the teacher your child gets. If there is an issue, I recommend you go to that teacher and talk about it. And if that doesn't work, then go to an administrator and try to set up some meetings. Just realize that the more adversarial the relationship between the parents and the school, the more your child is going to suffer—and the more they’re going to get away with. Don't forget, when parents and teachers fight, nobody wins. And the end result is that your child doesn't feel he has to change his behavior at all.

If your child has been labeled a troublemaker and he has chronic behavior or attitude problems, it’s crucial that you are able to communicate with his teacher and the school. I think if you can develop a working relationship around a child who has these problems, it becomes a lot easier to support that teacher in his or her efforts. The bottom line is, that is what is best for your child. It may not feel best for your ego, but that is what's best for your child. Is this a lot of work? Yes, it is. But I think parents need to try to find the time to do it. I know that sometimes I ask a lot of parents, but the fact is that kids need a lot of parenting nowadays. Communication and compromise are a huge part of parenting and working with your child’s school.

Acting Out in School: When Your Child is the Class Troublemaker reprinted with permission from Empowering Parents. For more information, visit

James Lehman is a behavioral therapist and the creator of The Total Transformation Program for parents. He has worked with troubled teens and children for three decades. James holds a Masters Degree in Social Work from Boston University. For more information, visit