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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

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

4 Tips For A Happy Family

Eating together bonds a family together like nothing else. Strive to make mealtimes a positive experience, where family members can laugh, talk, and share what's important to them. The family meal is the perfect time to reconnect with one another. for teaching kids good table manners and the basics of good, nutritious eating habits.

Are you tired of constantly hearing your kids whine and complain " I'm bored." As the old saying goes "An idle mind is the devils workshop." Fill your children's time with fun activities so that they don't get a chance to be bored.

An organized, smoothly run home is a happy home. Eliminate arguments and tension by having a place for everything and everything in it's place. It's especially important to get the day off to a good start because the first few minutes of the day sets the tone for the rest of the day. The key to getting each day off to a good start is to prepare as much as possible the night before. Prepare a basket for each child and then either you or your child can place in it everything that is needed for school the next day - signed permission slips, completed homework and so on. This simple step eliminates lost items and makes getting ready in the morning a breeze.

Don't just assume that your kids know that you love them. Show them and tell them just how much they mean to you and how special they are.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Save Big Money On Your Grocery Bill

Saving Money On Groceries and Food
This article is an excerpt from Cash Stretching 101

Here are some ways to save money on food without having to sacrifice quality, nutrition or taste.

"1.Grow your own. Most people can set up at least a couple of tubs for some herbs and vegetables that will help to enhance and stretch the vegetables that you buy at stores and markets.

2. If there are just a couple of you, try to cook larger quantities of food that you both like and freeze the left-overs. That's much better value and probably more nutritious than packaged frozen meals.

3. Make your own soup, using fresh ingredients as much as possible.

4. Make reasonable quantities and freeze them. It’s much nicer than canned soup, so very few people leave home-made soup in the freezer very long.

5. Prepare your Food Yourself.
I'm not good at cutting up, say, a quarter of lamb. So, I'll get the meat pre-cut. But, I can carve a cauliflower, carrot or even a potato.
Buying salads and other vegetables that have been cut up and mixed will cost you extra money and really save very little time. Some people feel the convenience of frozen vegetables is worth the extra cost.
That's for you to decide.

If you like a tasty cheddar but have a cheese slice budget, buy some cheap block cheese and refrigerate it for a few weeks. Okay, it probably won't be as tasty as the best, hand-crafted cheddar but it will improve with just that little bit of time to mature.

6.Get a small vegetable steamer. Steamed vegetables and fish taste great and get high marks for nutritional value. Vegetables that are steamed in an electric steamer are claimed to retain more food value than vegetables that are steamed in a microwave oven."

This article is an excerpt from Cash Stretching 101 by Jerry McColl
Cash Stretching 101 is filled with dozens of practical, painless, and quick tactics to get you better value when you have to spend money, and to help you save more money without affecting your lifestyle.

If you’d like to find out how to live a rich, comfortable and happy life regardless of the size of your paycheck please visit
Free money stretching tips delivered straight to your inbox. Find out how to get the most out of every dollar you spend on everything from food to insurance, education, travel and more.

Monday, April 5, 2010

7 Ways To Regain Your Parental Authority

Are You Afraid of Your Acting Out Child?
Part II: 7 Ways to Get Back Parental Authority

Are You Afraid of Your Acting Out Child? Part II: 7 Ways to Get Back Parental Authority In part two of this series, James gives you 7 ways to get back parental control and stop living in fear of your child’s acting-out behavior.

Most people aren’t afraid of their children; rather, they’re afraid of their child’s behavior. It’s important to understand that this fear undermines your authority as a parent because it’s hard to set limits successfully when you’re afraid. You lose more of your authority each time you give in after your child has acted out. And as soon as he realizes that, you’ll only have the authority he gives you. You may get him to bed on time, he may eat his dinner and get ready for school, but those will be the things he’s allowed you to have authority over.

These kids tend to gravitate toward a “no accountability” way of life, where “no accountability” equals “no authority.” And in order for your child’s system to work for him, he has to keep all the authorities around him in check. Soon this becomes one of his primary goals in life.

You may get him to bed on time, he may eat his dinner and get ready for school, but those will be the things he’s allowed you to have authority over.

In my opinion, even though you might have fears about your child’s acting-out behavior, you need to learn how to deal with those thoughts and feelings so they don't have power over you—that they don't dictate your behavior. So while you may be afraid your child is going to throw a tantrum, don't let that fear derail your decision to be firm. Remember, it's not what you're afraid of, it's how much power you give that fear. I don’t know if people truly ever “master their fears,” but I think that over time, the fear of your child acting out will have less power over you if you stick to a game plan of setting limits and holding your child accountable.

By the way, when you decide that you're going to start dealing with your child’s pattern of acting out behavior differently, first of all, get ready for a struggle. Your child is not going to believe it; in fact, he's going to think that if he just tantrums a little harder or a little more, you'll give in. That’s because you've given in for so long; you've trained him how to treat you. Some of us train our kids to treat us respectfully. Others of us, through no fault of our own, train our kids to act out more in order to get their way.

Here are some of the important rules I taught parents who were afraid of setting off their child:

  1. Come up with a Game Plan

    The first thing I recommend is to come up with a game plan of what you're going to do when your child starts to escalate. This will give you something concrete to guide you. Decide how you're going to handle tantrums and acting out in the future. Ask yourself, “What am I going to do about this now? What's going to be different in my behavior, my response?” Write an "Instead" list for yourself. It might include things like, “I won’t back down when my child starts screaming, instead I’ll leave the store. I will give my child consequences and set limits.”

    And then get ready for some long tantrums, especially at home. Make no mistake, there will be a fierce battle for a while. Things will get better, but be prepared for your child to test you and test you and test you. Sometimes the tantrums and acting out will increase in intensity and frequency. That’s because your child is thinking, “If I just do this a little more, maybe she'll give in.” You've inadvertently trained him to do that and now you're going to have to do some work to undo it. In the end, the behavior often changes—it may re-emerge at different times, but you just need to handle it the same way.

  2. Explain How Things Are Going to Change

    When things are going well, tell your child what you’re going to do when he acts out or throws a tantrum. Say “Hey, I just wanted to talk to you for a minute. I've been thinking that you’re really too old to throw tantrums now. So from now on, when you do that, this is what I'm going to do.” And you tell them what consequences they will get. You can also say, “When you're in a tantrum or acting out, I'm not going to give in, I'm going to let you go through your tantrum. When you're done, then we can resume what we were doing. That means you're not going to get that toy or that candy bar just because you yell and scream and kick your feet.” Or for older kids, “I’m not going to give in to you just because you punch a hole in the wall or scream at me.” And I think that parents should articulate that information to their kids no matter how old they are. If your child is very young, he might not understand at first, but it will help you as a parent to focus. If your child does understand it, then he knows what to expect. When parents consistently tell their young kids what will happen, the tantrums often diminish in frequency and intensity as the child grows older. With older kids, talking to them in this way lets them know that you’re the boss now—and that you’re not going to give in to their acting out anymore.

  3. Let Them Know the Process

    Let your child know the process ahead of time. You can say, “Hey, when you tantrum in the store, I'm just going to move about five feet away and I'm just going to watch you tantrum until you're done. I’m going to bring a book with me and if you throw a tantrum I'm going to read it. I'm not going to talk to you or argue with you.” And by the way, bringing a book is really a good thing to do because it shows your child that you won’t be moved by their behavior. It’s like you’re saying, “Hey, have a ball, pal. Dance around on the floor all you want, I'm just going to read my magazine.” It takes the power away from your child’s inappropriate behavior, and that’s exactly what you want to do.

  4. After Your Child Has Acted Out

    After your child has had a tantrum or behavioral episode, it’s a good time to have a little talk with him about what he's going to do differently next time. If your child is old enough, ask him what he was trying to accomplish, and how he will handle it differently next time. These are the most important questions you can ask because they lead to your child learning how to develop other options. Remember, problem solving is based on coming up with other options to deal with the issue at hand. So don't ask “How did you feel?” or even “Why did you do that?” The only real thing you want to get out of it is for your child to come up with some other ways of handling his anger or frustration. In this way, your child also has his own little game plan to fall back on. When you help your child develop another response to that situation, he will learn problem-solving skills he can use for the rest of his life.

  5. Don’t Let Fear of Assumed Judgment Control You

    Dont' be a mind reader. Most parents have fears that other people are judging them when their child acts out, so they do things to appease their kids so they’ll behave. I think that’s a mistake. Realize this: people are going to judge you; people judge each other about all kinds of things all day long. But here’s the deal: you're trying to raise your child so he can learn the life skills he needs to be successful. If you let your fear of criticism and judgment control you, you're not going to be able to accomplish your task of raising your child effectively.

  6. Don’t Give in When Your Child Says, “I Hate You!”

    Fear that your child won’t love you if you set limits on him is something many parents have a hard time with, especially when their child is old enough to say, “I don't love you—I hate you!” But, again, if you give that behavior power, it's not going to change. If you don't give it power and instead understand that it's just a stage kids go through, you won’t be influenced to back down. Kids love their parents; it’s instinctual. (Unfortunately, even kids even love parents who hurt or abuse them.) So if your child says they don’t love you, instead of getting upset, try saying, “Maybe you don’t love me right now. But you still have to do your homework.”

  7. Get Outside Help

    I recommend that you get some outside help when dealing with this issue. The simple truth is that you can't trust your willpower alone to get you through. Willpower is fine when it works—but as we all know, it doesn't always work. Try to get a support system in place, whether that's training, effective parenting classes, books you read, programs in your home, counseling, or a support group. You should have some outside support. It’s good to make the commitment to change, but in my opinion it's much more important to get the tools from outside and then try to use them one day at a time. And give yourself a break: realize that some days are going to be easier than others.

  8. Appeal to the Authorities

    If your child is behaving criminally, the sooner you can get him into the juvenile justice system, the better. Although the wheels of justice turn slowly, your child will eventually get a probation officer who will then have the power to hold him more accountable than you can. So when your child doesn't go to school, he will have to answer to his probation officer as well as you. If he misses school enough times, hopefully the probation officer will take some action. I worked with some parents who had a probation officer behind them who supported them. The probation officer would lock their child up in the youth center for a weekend if he or she violated the rules. I saw changes take place in those families. The kids started going to school; they stopped hurting others and damaging property. Their behavior changed because there was an accountability system in place that didn't let them slide.

I always tell parents to understand that there is no quick solution to this problem, especially as the child grows older. Rather, you have to learn how to manage your child’s behavior in a way that diminishes the power of their acting out. The end goal is that your child will learn other ways to solve problems besides using power or intimidation. Just remember, kids don't surrender power easily; neither do adults. Nobody likes to give up power, so it’s not going to happen over night.

In the thirty years I worked with kids, I saw families make progress all the time. They stopped letting their children box them in with their acting-out behavior; these parents instead worked toward the goal of helping their kids learn new skills. Remember that no family is perfect. People make progress, fall back, make more progress, and even fall back again. But in the long run, families changed and these kids learned other coping skills.

Some people say that the parents are the problem, but I don’t think that’s right. I think parents are the solution, and they need training and support.

Are You Afraid of Your Acting Out Child?
Part II: 7 Ways to Get Back Parental Authority
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

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Why Giving In To Your Demanding Child Is The Worst Thing You Can Do.

Are You Afraid of Your Acting-Out Child? Part I: Why Giving in is a Dead End

Are You Afraid of Your Acting-Out Child?  Part I: Why Giving in is a Dead EndDo you walk on eggshells around your child, afraid of doing anything to set him off? Do you appease him when you notice he’s winding up to throw a tantrum? In part one of a two-part series, James Lehman, MSW explains how fear of acting-out behavior sets up a dangerous pattern for your child—and the whole family.
"Now you’re negotiating on your child’s terms; your fear that he's going to act out is going to dictate how much you give in."
All parents experience fear for their kids. They worry about their children getting sick, doing well in school, and whether or not they’ll be able to get a job and succeed in life. Being afraid for your kids is very normal, but being afraid of your kids is a phenomenon that has developed over the past several decades, and something that parents need to look at closely. And by the way, sometimes these two fears are actually tied together—fears about their child being able to make it in life actually will cause some parents to think they have to give in more; they become a cushion for their kids because mastering life skills seems so difficult for their child. But let me be clear: that’s exactly what you don’t want to do.
Young Kids: How the Pattern Starts

When a child is two or three, he learns to respond by saying “no” all the time. He starts resisting and asserting his individuality from his mother and father and often manages his anger and frustration by throwing temper tantrums. Some parents learn that you just have to wait those tantrums through, but others begin to worry that they're not able to manage their child or that they are not in control. Others worry that if they don’t give in—if they say “no” to their child—their child won’t love them anymore. In effect, these parents become afraid of their child’s acting-out behavior and are held hostage by it. They get worn down and often begin caving in to inappropriate demands as they try to appease their child instead of remaining firm and waiting the tantrum out.
So their young child develops a pattern of acting out because it works for him—it gives him power and gets him what he wants. When the tantrum happens in public, the parent feels embarrassed, humiliated, and ashamed. When it happens in private, they feel stuck in this negative cycle with their child: they're alone in the house and their child is screaming and yelling and kicking. Their life seems crazy and out of control, but they don’t know how to stop it without caving in to their child.
These kids soon learn to blackmail their parents with the threat of throwing a tantrum. Pretty soon, the parent starts giving in as soon as their child starts to signal that they're going into a tantrum: maybe their child’s voice escalates or becomes shrill, or maybe they stomp their feet and scream “no.” Once that happens, a very serious pattern has begun. Now the child has actually trained the parent to give in to their demands, no matter what. If your child knows he can get you to give in by behaving inappropriately or destructively, he's going to learn to give you those cues. It’s just like being in a play: when you get your cue, you're going to read your lines: “It’s OK, don’t do that, I'll get you the toy.” Or you're going to bribe him: “Well, if you can hold off for five minutes, then I'll get you a candy bar in the car.” What you're really doing is negotiating on your child’s terms; your fear that he's going to act out or that you can't handle the tantrum is going to dictate how much you give in.
And by the way, parents don't know this pattern is forming while it’s happening. This is not a conscious thing where people say “I'm going to give in to my kid and then he's going to become a monster.” They’re saying, “Oh man, I can't handle this right now.” And their child learns from that lesson that when you can't handle something, he'll get what he wants. So his goal then, when he wants something and you tell him no, is to set up situations you can't handle. Remember, this is not a moral issue for your child: it's not about being good or evil. Your child is not really conscious of the effects of his behavior other than it gets him his way. Children, like all living things, learn to take the easy way out. The important thing is not to blame your child or assign diabolical motives to his behavior.
It is important to realize that if your child is using inappropriate behavior to get his way, it's not a phase that will magically stop when he turns ten or twelve or even fifteen. That pattern of behavior may continue on through adolescence and into young adulthood.
Acting Out in School: When Your Child’s Behavior Controls Others

If a child has successfully used inappropriate behavior at home, you will often see them trying it out at school. After all, if their strategy works on their parents, why shouldn’t it work on their teachers, too? In kindergarten and first grade if they don't get their way they may escalate. They may tantrum, call people names, throw things on the floor and walk around in the classroom when they’re supposed to be sitting down. It's important to note that for a significant number of children, the classroom structure that teachers utilize will be sufficient to change some of these behaviors.
I’ve found that many of these kids also have a learning disability or some other factor that interferes with their ability to learn to solve problems. Think of it this way: if you have dyslexia, Attention Deficit Disorder or auditory processing problems, you might perceive the world as a threatening place. For these kids, it’s often much harder to learn how to solve social problems through reasonable negotiating, being patient, and learning how to accept no for an answer. So what tends to happen is they solve their problems by acting out—and that becomes their one default skill. They've developed this one trick: “Agree with me or face my crappy behavior.” And that can become their strategy for solving all problems. “Give me my way or face my crappy behavior.” They do this in school, at home, and on the bus and as long as it works, they will continue to use it. Not only is the child controlling others with his behavior, he’s not learning the problem-solving skills that he desperately needs to learn to be able to make it in life. If everyone around him is backing down, all he’s learning is how to threaten and intimidate others through fear.
How This Affects Your Family

Realize that if you have one child who controls the house with inappropriate behavior, this is not just your problem: it's also a problem for your other children. Make no mistake, dealing with an acting-out sibling can have a great and long-lasting influence on your other kids’ personalities. When siblings don’t know when, how or why their brother or sister is going to explode, it’s overwhelming and scary because they can’t control it. What often happens in these cases is that kids develop their own sub-type of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. They will learn not to show their feelings. They may hide out in their rooms and submerge their emotions. That's because in their world, it's not safe for them to do so. It's not safe to show your feelings; it's not safe to say how you feel. After all, their sibling could explode and take it out on them at any given moment. So these kids wind up very flat emotionally; there seems to be no joy in their lives. There are things parents can do to correct these destructive patterns, but nonetheless, it's hard on everybody. [Editor’s note: for more on this topic, read James Lehman’s article, ”The Lost Children: When Behavior Problems Traumatize Siblings”.]
The First Step toward Changing Your Child’s Behavior

When parents used to come to me with this problem, I’d say, “We’re going to come up with a plan to change what’s happening in your house. Let's figure out some things for you to do when things get tough so you can empower and support yourself.” I think it’s nearly impossible for people to try to rely on willpower alone to change their parenting style. Here’s the truth: their child’s behavior wasn't going to change unless the parents’ behavior changed. I believe if you work at it, things will change; and if you don't, things will stay bad or get worse. The kid who's throwing a tantrum today is going to be throwing your chair across the room in ten years. And that's how he ups the ante as he gets older. Most kids escalate; it's a natural progression. They have to be more intimidating. When you're 13, it's very awkward to lie on the floor and throw a tantrum. It's much easier to throw something across the room and hit the wall. You see these kids punch holes in walls all the time; that is the evolution of their tantrum. Certainly as they get older, the intimidation becomes more real. There are kids who hit and push their parents. There are kids who intentionally break and damage things around the house. There are kids who hit their siblings or hurt them emotionally by calling them foul names. And make no mistake, this becomes a very real problem.
If your child has trained you to be afraid of him and back down when he acts out, realize that whatever authority you had originally has diminished over time. When these kids are really in flower—when they're really showing who they are—you can't tell them anything. They'll tell you to kiss their butts. You can't tell them when to come in at night; if you put them in their room, they’ll climb out their window. Basically, they’ll come and go as they please and they’ll say, “You can't stop me.” The sad part is that unless you change the way you parent and start holding them accountable, they’re right.
In next week’s article, James Lehman will give you 7 tips on how to stop living in fear of your child’s inappropriate behavior—and learning how to start parenting more effectively.

Are You Afraid of Your Acting-Out Child? Part I: Why Giving in is a Dead End 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
Defiant Child Behavior problems