Positive Parenting Tips for Step-fathers

Positive Parenting with stepchildrenYou’ve married the love of your life.  You’re ready to step into a new role and move into the next phase of your life.  The only problem is your wife has an oppositional defiant child and you’re a new step-father.  You didn’t create the oppositional defiant child.  Your step-child’s behavior up until this point is not your fault, but you still can’t help noticing the stares you get from the people next to you at the grocery store while your oppositional defiant step-child has a tantrum.  So what do you do?  How do you step into the role of being a step-father?

The first step in learning to discipline an oppositional defiant step-child is to NOT discipline the child.  You are not the child’s parent.   You don’t have the natural bond that the child has with his or her biological parents.  Your new wife may be expecting you to suddenly take up the role of disciplinarian, but that is a recipe for disaster.

The first thing you need to do is develop a positive parenting relationship with your new step-child.  Figure out what it is that your step-child likes to do and participate in those activities with the child.  Say your step-son plays baseball.  Even if you don’t like baseball, attend his games.  After the game take him out for ice cream.  Tell him what a good job he did.  Show your new step-child that you’re interested in him.  Play with your new step-child.  If you both love video games, play a video game together.  Let him show you how to beat a game (Even if you’ve already beaten the game yourself 20 times!)

The key to ultimately being able to help manage your oppositional defiant step-child is to build a Positive Parenting relationship from the start.  You need to take the back seat when it comes to disciplining your step-child until you’ve solidified a positive parenting relationship with the child.  A positive parenting relationship with your step-child should start with showing your step-child that you are genuinely interested in him and then move on to a place of mutual respect.

Need more ideas on how to create a positive parenting environment in your new blended family?   Becoming a Great Step-Dad offers some realistic advice for your role as a new step-dad from a new step-dad.

  1. Don’t be Dad. Your step children (in most cases) already have a father. Whatever you do, don’t try to step into his place! And don’t’ ask them to call you “Dad.”  And don’t ever badmouth their dad, no matter how much you don’t like him.
  2. Be a Dad. While insisting on being called “Dad” is a bad idea, that doesn’t excuse you from actually being a father-figure. Act responsibly, be there for the kids when they need you, share their joys and sorrows with them, build them up as much as you can, help them with their homework, offer advice, explain how things work, organize their day, and so on — all the things you’d do if you were their actual father.
  3. Have one-on-one time. It’s easy to avoid getting close to your step-children; take some time alone with your step-children to interact with them as individuals instead of just as a “family”.
  4. Don’t talk down to them. Involve the kids in decisions, let them know what is going on each day, and just generally treat them with respect in conversations.
  5. You’re in this together, you and your step-children — both of you have to work out the whole step-relationship thing, and it’s not easy. Make sure you listen and respond to their concerns.
  6. Take cues from mom. Keep in mind that mom and your step-kids have worked out a living arrangement over years that may not make much sense to you at first but which makes sense to them. Deal with major disagreements out of earshot of the kids.
  7. Can’t Buy Me Love.  Don’t try to win them over with gifts.  Most kids are pretty savvy and will end up using your over-eagerness to manipulate you.  Plus, you’ll rest your relationship on a foundation that you can’t possibly keep up — eventually you’ll run out of gifts to give.
  8. Be open about your life, career, likes and dislikes, and interests — and make an effort to learn about theirs. Take part in their activities and involve them in yours.

Step-fathers have a lot going against them when they first become part of a blended family.  The key to building long-term success in your role as a new step-father is to make the parenting as positive as possible from the start.  As the years go by and your step-child learns to respect you, the discipline will naturally fall in place.

Behavior Management Coaching can help families develop positive parenting plans to help blended families develop stronger relationships.  Talk to us Today to learn more!


Defiant Children and POWER STRUGGLES!

Does this sound familiar to you?

“Matthew, it’s cold out  — you have to wear your mittens.”
“Put on your mittens like a good boy and Mommy will give you a cookie.”
Now Dad, in a commanding tone: “Matthew, put on your mittens right this instant.”
“I won’t!”
Dad to Mom: “Hold him while I shove them on.”
Matthew starts wailing in earnest.
Mom to Matthew: “Fine, don’t wear them. If your hands get cold, it’s your problem.”
Dad to Mom again: “It’s freezing outside. He’ll get frostbite.”
Mom to Dad: “If his hands get cold, he’ll put the mittens on. Come on, everybody’s staring. We have to get him out of here.”

Do you have a defiant child?  Do you feel like no matter what you tell your child to do, your defiant child won’t follow through with requests?  One key to managing your defiant child is to END THE POWER STRUGGLE!

Most simply put, a power struggle is a battle for control, with parent and child duking it out over which one gets to decide what the child eats or wears, how he spends time or what he plays with, where he goes and when. The key ingredient, though, is that the actual object of the dispute is often not its crux. Usually, either the child is pushing for control beyond his years or capabilities, or the parent’s holding on tight to control something that would be better ceded to the child.

Power StrugglesTypically, emotions run much higher than the issue  — whether eating peas or wearing a tutu to preschool  — would seem to merit. Your child objects to a simple request, and you (“It’s the principal of the thing!”) decide that you’re just not going to put up with this insubordination. Unfortunately, if the battles become a pattern and occur again and again without being resolved, they can come to characterize, and undermine, your relationship.

So make a commitment to end the power struggle today!  Everything doesn’t have to be a fight.  Some things are just not worth the battle.  So many parents get wrapped up in the idea that their defiant child must be MADE to listen to them—that every time their defiant child disobeys them, then the child must be punished.  I’m here to tell you that managing your defiant child’s behavior isn’t about disciplining every single thing your child does wrong.  Instead, it’s about having a parenting plan that will change your defiant child’s behavior over time.

Here are some guidelines to get you started managing your defiant child:

*Start tracking.  For a week or so, jot down in a notebook everything you and your defiant child fight over and when these fights occur.

*Categorize the data you collected and look for patterns.  Do you fight with your defiant child frequently over bed time?  Is your child more defiant when it comes to what they wear or what they eat?

*Rate the defiant behaviors in order of most important to address to least important to address.

*Focus your discipline of your defiant child on the behaviors you feel are most important to address, and let the other ones go for now.  This is where you begin to end the power struggles with your child.  It’s far more important to get your defiant child to stop hitting his sibling than it is to have him make his bed daily.  End the power struggle over the bed and focus on disciplining the hitting behavior at first.

As a parent you can’t fight your defiant child all of the time on every misbehavior that he or she engages in.  If you try, your life will be a constant battle, you’ll be exhausted, and your defiant child will never learn to respect you.  Learn to let some things go, for now at least.  Focus on what is most important.  Fix those things and the other smaller problem behaviors will begin to fix themselves over time.  Remember changing your defiant child’s behavior won’t happen overnight.  It likely took many months or even years for your child to develop these habits and behaviors and it will take several months of hard, focused work on your part as the parent to undo them.  But remember, the longest journey starts with a single step!  Get started today and in a few months your child’s defiant behaviors will most certainly be diminished and you will be a much happier parent in the process.

Behavior Management Coaching can help parents learn strategies to end the power struggle with their children.  End the cycle of endless battles with your children.  Talk to us today! 

Get Off the Couch!

Man relaxing on his couchHey there arm-chair parent!  GET OFF THE COUCH!  Get on the floor and start playing with your kids.  Yes, you’re busy.  Yes, you’ve got bills to pay.  Yes, life is much more stressful than when your parents were raising you.  But none of these are valid excuses for not spending time with your child!  Your children will be grown and out of the house before you know it.  You can watch TV then.  For now, make time to get up and play with your kids.

Child behavior problems most often occur because children are seeking their parent’s attention.  No child wants to be in trouble, but being in trouble is a sure-fire way to get one’s parents to pay attention to them.  To a kid, it’s better to be in trouble than to be ignored.

So you want to reduce your child’s behavior problems?  Start playing with them.  Show your child that you care about him and are interested in him.  Encourage activities that you both enjoy.  This will build a healthy foundation for your relationship and will do remarkable things in a short amount of time toward reducing the child behavior problems you face.

So what if you just don’t know how to play with your children?  Don’t laugh.  Don’t judge.  Just sit with this idea for a minute.  Do you really remember how to play?  Do you really know how to play with your kids and not just give a half-hearted half-hour to them?

If you don’t, you’re not alone.  TODAY had an interesting article about “Making the most of playtime when it doesn’t come naturally

I love this article!  I love that she’s brutally honest that some parents just don’t know how to play with their children.  Why does our society make this a source of shame for parents?  Instead, let’s encourage parents and help them learn to love playing with their kids.

Ideas for playing with your kids:

  1. Unstructured play. Get down on the floor with your kids and play. Get physical. Have a pillow fight. Have a tickle fight. Surprise them by playing on the floor with them!
  2. Structured play. For parents that find it hard to tap into their sillier side or who feel self-conscious having a dance party or pretending to play pirates, structured play is better than no playtime. Play a board game. Or make a craft together. Pintrest is awesome, but can be way too rigid and set up an ideal of perfection for you and your child’s finished product. Craft stores and Amazon have books. Check those out.
  3. Go on an outing. Do something physical. Go fishing. Go bowling. Go skating.   And actually bowl or skate with your child. Play catch at the park. Try exploring a children’s museum together and actually interact with your child in the exhibits. Whatever you do, don’t be the parent at the children’s museum texting on her phone. Can it get more pathetic than that?

Needs some more ideas or inspiration?  Need to feel like you’re not alone?  Check out this blog on 28 Days of Play.  Again, I love this piece.  I felt understood and inspired by lots of these stories.  But don’t get too lost in the blog that you forget to play with your children!

So let’s say you’ve started playing with your kids more.  Their behavior problems have reduced, but you still hear them fighting in the other room while you’re watching a movie.  Hit the pause button.  Get off the couch and go into the room where your kids are fighting.  Yelling from the couch does nothing to stop child behavior problems.  If you don’t care enough to get up, why should your child care enough to stop the behavior?

The message that you want to send your kids is that they are an important part of your life.  This will create a home built upon mutual respect and positive energy, and one that is faced with far fewer child behavior problems and less parent stress in the meantime!  Behavior Management Coaching can help make your home environment a positive one and end the power struggles today!  Talk to us today to see how we can help!

Help! How Do I Parent My Strong Willed Child?

Strong Willed ChildSometimes you notice it as soon as you leave the hospital with your new bundle of joy.  Some children just seem to be born strong willed.  As infants they’re difficult to comfort.  They insist on holding their spoons or refuse to eat when you’re ready to feed them.  As toddlers, you battle frequent tantrums.  Parenting the strong willed child is not easy task.  It takes courage and a lot of strategic planning on your part, as the parent.  Lucky you, eh?

Some great guidance can be found at The University of Alabama’s Parent Assistance Line.  Here is a summary of some practical and simple advice for parents of a strong willed child that is covered in the article.

What should I know to better understand and help my willful child?

  • Children enter into the world with their own unique temperament. It is an inborn trait that cannot be changed. However, parents can learn to understand it, guide it, and mold it in positive directions!
  • Sometimes a parent’s temperament conflicts with that of their child. Naturally this is going to become a battleground if your parenting style is not suited to this particular child.  You may need to modify your parenting style to meet the needs of your child.  Just because a particular style worked on your other children or worked for your parents as they raised you, doesn’t mean that that specific parenting style will be effective for your child.
  • Misbehavior is more about reaction than attention. Children have built in energy detectors. If we consistently give louder and more intense reactions to misbehavior than we do compliance, children will go for the “fireworks” every time.
  • Although sometimes it may seem like it, your child is not out to “get you” or make your life miserable!
  • Children can be taught self-control and parents can learn how to starve misbehavior by not feeding it with our energy.

So what can I do to manage my strong willed child’s behavior?

It doesn’t have to always be a power struggle.  You have the ability to end the power struggle today!

  • A strong willed child loves being in control.  So give your strong willed child something to control.  If getting dressed in the morning is a power struggle, then let your child pick out his own clothes.  Who cares if they don’t match?  The school isn’t going to send your child home for uncoordinated clothing.  If eating vegetables is a constant struggle, let your child pick out the vegetables for dinner.
  • The key to giving your strong willed child choices and therefore ending many power struggles is to limit what your child is choosing from.  Select two things that you would be agreeable to and let your child pick between the two.  For example, “Cory, should the family eat peas or green beans with dinner tonight?”  Chances are if your child has made the choice for himself, he’s more likely to eat the vegetables, and you’ve won because he’s eating vegetables.  Who cares if they are peas or green beans?  The point is your strong willed child is actually eating the VEGETABLES!  He thinks he’s in charge, but you know that secretly you are!
  • Another parenting tip for parents with a strong willed child is to know what battles are worth fighting.  Some things just aren’t worth the fight.  Say you have a strong willed child who refuses to brush her hair.  Every day you have a power struggle over brushing her hair.  (I’ve known of parents who actually held their daughters down while the other parent brushes it out!  Don’t do this!)  End the power struggle today!  Tell your daughter (if she’s old enough) that brushing her hair is now her responsibility.  You can even make this a big deal—take her shopping and let her pick out a new hair brush.  Then drop the power struggle.  Don’t nag your strong willed child to brush her hair.  Don’t remind her.  Don’t even talk about it at all.  She probably won’t brush her hair for a few days.  Remember, a strong willed child wants to feel in control.  But if you stick firm to ignoring the behavior, consistently, all of the time, then chances are eventually she’ll begin brushing her hair on her own.  Again, she may think she’s won the battle, but you know that you have.

The strong willed child doesn’t have to be in charge (in fact they shouldn’t be), but it hurts no one if they think they have won the battle!  Just remember… let your Strong Willed Child win the battle so you can win the war!

Behavior Management Coaching can help parents of strong willed child design effective discipline strategies to manage their child’s defiant behaviors.  We tailor our programs to meet your individual child’s and family’s needs.  Talk to us Today!

Tips on Positive Parenting

I hate you!  You’re so unfair!  Riley’s mom is so much cooler than you are!  Do you feel like you’re stuck in a never-ending fight with your child?  Do you feel that each day just goes from bad to worse?  Break the cycle of negative parenting and create a Positive Parenting program in your home.

Positive ParentingYou, alone, have the power to change the environment of your home from negative to positive parenting.  You are the parent and you are in charge.  So make a commitment to yourself and your children to turn around the atmosphere in your home and become what we call a “Positive Parent.”

Before you do this, you’re going to want to spend some time gearing up.  Take a walk, go out for dinner by yourself, get your nails done— whatever you enjoy that allows you quiet time to think.  During your thinking time, list out what it is that you love about your child.  This is the first step toward becoming a positive parent.

Ask yourself:  What does your child do well?  What qualities about your child do you admire?  What hidden talents do you see in your child that makes him a good person?  (Depending how deep you are in the negative cycle, this may seem difficult, but it’s in there!  We love our children, and as parents we see qualities in our kids that no one else can see.  Sometimes we just get so wrapped up in the day to day that we lose sight of these positive things.)

After you’ve developed your starting point, begin being a positive parent!  One great thing to do is keep a small notepad with you during the day and write down every positive thing your child does during the day.  These don’t need to be complete sentences, just ideas (Trust me, your child isn’t going to critique your grammar!).

For example:
*brushed your teeth this morning without being asked
*gave your sister the last cookie
*got a B+ on your spelling test
*didn’t tease your sister when she spilled her milk at dinner
*and so on. . .

Then, at the end of the day, when you tuck your child in for bed, read over the list.  Let your child know that you were watching and caught him doing good things that day.  Your child will love the special time you’re spending together and will relish the positive praise.  Need some tips on what you should be able to realistically expect from your child at his stage of development?  Check out the CDC’s website at  http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/childdevelopment/positiveparenting/
This website allows you to pick your child’s age range and has great suggestions on age-appropriate positive parenting as well as information about developmental milestones and the health and safety of your child.

Tips for Toddlers:
• Play matching games with your toddler, like shape sorting and simple puzzles.
• Encourage your child’s growing independence by letting him help with dressing himself and feeding himself.
• Respond to wanted behaviors more than you punish unwanted behaviors (use only very brief time outs). Always tell or show your child what she should do instead.
• Give your child attention and praise when she follows instructions and shows positive behavior and limit attention for defiant behavior like tantrums.
• Teach your child acceptable ways to show that she’s upset.

Tips for Preschoolers:
• Be clear and consistent when disciplining your child. Explain and show the behavior that you expect from her. Whenever you tell her no, follow up with what she should be doing instead.
• Help your child through the steps to solve problems when she is upset.
• Give your child a limited number of simple choices (for example, deciding what to wear, when to play, and what to eat for snack).

Tips for Middle Childhood:
• Show affection for your child. Recognize her accomplishments.
• Help your child develop a sense of responsibility—ask him to help with household tasks, such as setting the table.
• Make clear rules and stick to them, such as how long your child can watch TV or when she has to go to bed. Be clear about what behavior is okay and what is not okay.
• Do fun things together as a family, such as playing games, reading, and going to events in your community.
• Use discipline to guide and protect your child, rather than punishment to make him feel bad about himself. Follow up any discussion about what not to do with a discussion of what to do instead.
• Praise your child for good behavior. It’s best to focus praise more on what your child does (“you worked hard to figure this out”) than on traits she can’t change (“you are smart”).
• Support your child in taking on new challenges. Encourage her to solve problems on her own.

Positive Parenting is possible!  It just takes commitment on your part and a starting point.  Behavior Management Coaching helps frustrated parents develop positive parenting strategies to reduce defiance and build stronger family relationships!  Talk to us today!   

ADHD Symptoms in Kids and how you can Prevent your Child from being the Next “Statistic”

We all know that most children have at least some symptoms of ADHD.  So how do you know if your child truly has ADHD or is just going through a typical childhood phase?  How do you protect your child from becoming the next over-diagnosed ADHD statistic?ADHD symptoms in kids

I’ve found some insightful information regarding the ADHD Epidemic.  What’s more, I found the causes for the over-diagnosing of ADHD interesting, and more than little scary! According to a recent Huffington Post article titled How Parents Can Protect Kids From the ADHD ‘Epidemic’,  there are 3 events that occurred about 15 years ago that triggered the over-diagnosing of ADHD in children:

1. Drug companies gained the right to advertise directly to consumers.  (How many drug commercials did you watch the last time you actually watched the commercials and didn’t skip over them?)  Apparently, these drug companies then used misleading marketing to convince parents and teachers that ADHD was EVERYWHERE!  Those ADHD symptoms in kids weren’t just a normal reaction to being trapped in school all day.  No, those ADHD symptoms in kids were a medical problem that could be fixed by a magic pill!

2. Drug companies brought to market new and expensive drugs for ADHD.

3. A study gave the impression that ADHD drugs were more effective than therapy in treating ADHD and that ADHD medication was “safe” for children.  All of this compounded to make these drug companies billions of dollars… and lead to a massive increase in ADHD diagnoses in our children!

So while all of this may be interesting, what can parents realistically do to address the symptoms of ADHD in their kids without falling for the drug companies’ marketing schemes?

  • First, ignore the extremes.  On one hand, you’ve got proponents of ADHD stating that 10% of all kids and almost 20% of teenage boys have ADHD.  And there are skeptics stating that ADHD doesn’t exist at all of that the symptoms of ADHD in children are just normal childhood “naughtiness.”  As with nearly everything else in life, the extremes are both wrong.  Yes, not everyone diagnosed with ADHD actually has the disorder.  But likewise, some children genuinely do have ADHD and their symptoms significantly impair their lives without proper treatment.
  • Parents need to know that an accurate assessment of ADHD requires comprehensive screenings and repeated interviews with the child and parents and teachers—and make sure that the screenings include information from your child’s teachers.  This is one of the most vital, yet most often overlooked components of diagnosing a child with ADHD.  Other diagnoses should be considered as well.  And the symptoms of ADHD in your children should be evaluated only if they are severe and persistent enough to be considered “clinically significant.”  While your child may have symptoms of ADHD, if they aren’t significantly interfering with his life, then ADHD medication may not be warranted.  Sorry drug company billionaires!
  • Research and ask your health care professional about the possibility of your child having Oppositional Defiant Disorder.  Many kids who are misdiagnosed with ADHD actually have ODD, which is best treated with parent training and behavioral therapy—not ADHD medications.
  • Understand that most pediatricians have very little knowledge of how to treat real ADHD.  Ironically most ADHD medication is prescribed by pediatricians.  So ask your child’s pediatrician what his training is in treating symptoms of ADHD in children and what screening tools he uses.
  • If you do seek help from an ADHD specialist such as a child psychiatrist, child psychologist, or child therapist, ask them the same questions you would ask your pediatrician.  What is their professional’s experience in treating ADHD?  What training does they have in treating ADHD?  What screening tools do they use?
  • If your child has been diagnosed with ADHD and treated in some way, yet still has significant problems in school or with peers, then it’s time to evaluate where you stand.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Is the medication being checked and adjusted as necessary?
  • Have you sought help for homework or school behaviors from a professional? o
  • Have you sought help for your child social skills and peer behaviors?
  • Does your health care professional seek out reports from your child’s teachers?

If the answer is no, you need to evaluate your options and possibly seek help elsewhere.

  • Get support.  Raising a child with symptoms of ADHD is very stressful.  Seek out professional help as you navigate through this challenging part of your life.

Behavior Management Coaching helps support parents who have children with ADHD symptoms.  We believe that parent training and support can help protect your child from becoming the next over-diagnosed ADHD child.  Talk to us today.

Intermittent Explosive Disorder: What every Parent needs to know

Explosive DisorderThe sky darkens, turning an awful mix of blues, blacks, greys, greens.  First come the winds, bursts of warm and cold.  Then the thunder and lightning, bursting through the sky, rattling the windows.  Finally the rain, pelting down thick drops in sheets of water.  Tornado warnings flash bright red across the TV screen.  Time to take shelter.

If you’re from the Midwest, then weather scenes like this are commonplace, but if you have a child with Intermittent Explosive Disorder, you can probably relate to the fear of impending destruction just as well!

As described on ChildMind.org, Intermittent Explosive Disorder is a behavior disorder characterized by brief episodes of disproportionate anger and aggression.  It typically appears in late childhood or adolescence.  A child with Intermittent Explosive Disorder simply can’t control his anger and will impulsively explode into rage with little or no cause.  Typically, children with Intermittent Explosive Disorder will have frequent anger outbursts such as tantrums, arguments, and fights.  These anger outbursts are typically severe in nature.  What sets Intermittent Explosive Disorder apart from typical tantrums or Oppositional Defiant Disorder is that these frequent anger outbursts are punctuated by less frequent, more severe outbursts that include injury to people or animals or property damage.  Intermittent Explosive Disorder greatly interferes with a child’s family life, his social relationships, and his academic performance.

Children with Intermittent Explosive Disorder have low frustration tolerance and are easily “set off” by small annoyances.  They often become physically and verbally aggressive, causing property damage or physical injury, such as breaking furniture or getting into physical fights with peers, siblings, or other family members.  Anger outbursts, or “explosions,” are usually brief and impulsive.  Children with Intermittent Explosive Disorder are typically unable to resist angry impulses and explode in a manner disproportionate to the preceding event/situation.

People with Intermittent Explosive Disorder describe the anger outbursts as feeling overcome with anger and out of control.  According to Childmind.org, some even experience a sensation of building tension in the head or chest that is released when they act out aggressively.

Who can be diagnosed with Intermittent Explosive Disorder? Anyone can be diagnosed with Intermittent Explosive Disorder, but children who have experienced physical or emotional trauma are at a higher likelihood of developing the disorder.  Also, children who have a close family member who has been diagnosed with Intermittent Explosive Disorder are more likely to develop the disorder themselves.

So what can parents do?

  • Children with Intermittent Explosive Disorder are at a higher risk of self-harm behaviors or suicide.  Parents should be aware of their child’s emotional triggers and be on the lookout for possible signs of self-harm or suicidal ideation.
  • Learn your child’s triggers.  While children with Intermittent Explosive Disorder are frequently set off by seemingly insignificant circumstances, there are probably triggers that you KNOW will set your child off.  Be proactive in avoiding these triggers or preparing your child for the possibility that such circumstances may occur.
  • Learn Positive Parenting skills.  If you have a child with Intermittent Explosive Disorder, you’re probably feeling like you’re at the end of your rope.  You probably don’t enjoy spending time with your child for fear of the “tornado.”

Behavior Management Coaching can help parents deal more effectively with angry, out of control, “explosive” children.  Contact us today to learn how you can better manage your child’s angry behavior and strengthen your parent-child relationship in the process!  Talk to us today.

Is there a link between Oppositional Defiant Disorder, ADHD and Childhood Bullying?

oppositional defiant childWhile researching information recently for a couple families I work with, I discovered an older article from Huffington Post “Bullying and Mental Health:  Study Links Anxiety, Hyperactivity in Kids to Bullying.”  While this article was written in October 2012, following a study presented at the American Academy of Pediatric’s National Conference, I still found the information thought-provoking.

As we all know, when it comes to bullying, the focus of most of the research out there has been on the victims of bullying.  Studies show that children who are bullied have a higher chance of developing mental health problems such as anxiety and depression.  However, this study focused on the relationship between mental health problems and the likelihood that a child will become a bully.  This study found that kids diagnosed with Oppositional Defiant Disorder were 6 times more likely to be identified as bullies than children with no mental health disorders!

This makes perfect sense to me when you consider many of the symptoms of Oppositional Defiant Disorder.  Children with Oppositional Defiant Disorder are more likely to have frequent tantrums, act out aggressively, engage in “revenge seeking” behaviors, and defy requests from authority figures.  This study also found that children with ADHD were more likely to be identified as bullies as well.  This also makes sense to me when you consider the fact that children with ADHD often act impulsively without thinking of consequences for their actions such as thinking how another child will feel if they call him a name.  Children with ADHD often have poor social skills and lack social restraint.  Thinking through the consequences of their actions is just plain difficult for these children, which falls right in line with the concept that these children may be identified as bullies—perhaps unbeknownst to the child himself.

So what can parents do if they suspect their Oppositional Defiant Child might be a bully?

1.  Help your child create healthy peer relationships.  Encourage your Oppositional Defiant Child to develop and maintain friendships.  If your child doesn’t have many friends right now, try enrolling him in a club or activity that he enjoys.  Then talk to him and listen to him as the two of you discuss the club or activity. Are there children he talks about more frequently than others?  If these children are positive role models for your child to be friends with, then encourage the budding friendships.  If your Oppositional Defiant Child creates meaningful friendships, then he’ll grow his self-esteem and begin to build some empathy for others.

2.  Set rules and follow them.  It’s difficult raising a child with Oppositional Defiant Disorder.  One of the best methods for improving your child’s negative behaviors is to set clear rules and consequences for breaking those rules.  Then follow them CONSISTENTLY!!!  It’s time to impress upon your child that there are rules in life.  Oppositional Defiant children often defy rules and requests from authority figures, making them prime candidates for bullying.  Do you really want your child to be a bully?  Do you really want your child to spend the rest of his life in trouble with authority, such as the school principal, police, court, etc.?  Is that the future you want for your child?  Make sure your child understands that bullying will not be tolerated and set firm boundaries and consequences for such behavior.

3.  Try to understand the reasons behind the bullying behavior.  Is your child angry?  Is he having difficulty expressing his emotions in a healthy way?  Perhaps your child simply needs to learn conflict-resolution skills or problem-solving skills.

4.  Set a good example.  Our kids are like sponges.  They watch, model, and internalize EVERYTHING we do.  Not necessarily everything we say.  So model good behavior with others.  Don’t ridicule or name-call others, even adults.  Your child will begin to think that this is acceptable behavior by watching you interact with other adults this way.  Verbalize your feelings and frustrations in healthy ways.  Explain to your kids that you’re frustrated or feeling angry.  For example, next time a truck driver cuts you off on the interstate, instead of screaming “M***** F*****” and blaring your horn, try taking a deep breath and calmly tell your child, “Boy, that really made me mad.  It’s not nice to cut someone off on the interstate.  Someone could get hurt.”  What a switch, huh?

5.  Establish a positive parenting environment in your home.  Catch your children doing positive things.  Praise them when they interact positively with siblings, friends, parents, and other people in their lives.  Give attention every time your child is being positive.  Establishing a positive parenting environment in your home is the key to putting it all together.  A positive parenting home will teach your child to be positive themselves and not find enjoyment in hurting others.  Show your child how being positive, looking for the good in people, and helping people is a healthier and happier way to live life.

Behavior Management Coaching helps parents of Oppositional Defiant Children learn to establish firm, clear rules and expectations for their children before it’s too late!  We can help turn the negativity of your home into one of mutual respect.  Talk to us today.

Are You a Bad Parent? 10 Habits of Bad Parenting

Do you feel like everything today comes with a warning label or instructions of some sort?  McDonald’s coffee cautions that it’s hot.  (At least it should!!!).  My wife’s hair dryer comes with a warning label taped to it that reads “Do not use while in the bath.”  (Seriously?) My new laptop came with 2 sets of instructions, the Quick Start Guide and the other one I’m quite sure no one ever reads.  Yes, absolutely everything, and I do mean everything, comes with warning labels and instructions today.

But what about our kids?

I’ve heard parents say “I wish my kid came with instructions” more times that I can count.  While we all want to be good parents, sometimes we forget there is a difference in being a good parent and practicing good parenting.

I’ve worked with children and families for over a decade and the following bad parenting habits come up time and time again:

1.  Not Following Through
Guiding children’s behavior through rules and limits is a big part of parenting. Often in the toddler stage, children will test the limits with you to see just how serious you are about those boundaries. A bad parenting habit to fall into is to succumb to the limit testing.  Yes, you might not like punishing your child.  You don’t want to see him cry or miss out on his favorite TV show, but your child NEEDS discipline.  By not following through with your limits, your child will a.  Not see anything wrong with the misbehavior, and likely continue the misbehavior, sometimes escalating their bad behavior until it becomes dangerous and b. Begin to view you as unreliable and easily manipulated.
2.  Not Setting Limits
This bad parenting habit goes hand in hand with the previous example.  Limits not only keep your children safe but they also help your child develop a sense of responsibility for his or her actions.  Limits aren’t negatives. They’re expectations and behavior guidelines that promote safe, healthy growth. Children raised without limits are often fearful of exploring on their own, or they deliberately misbehave in an effort to find someone who cares enough to draw a line.   Keep limits simple and specific.  When establishing limits, keep in mind your child’s level of maturity and his or her ability to meet your expectations.  A toddler would have a hard time staying quiet and sitting still through a two-hour movie, but he or she can learn that we handle problems with words, not fists and teeth.
3.  Failing to Stretch Limits
Your sixteen year old may want the keys to the car, but is she ready to accept all the responsibilities of driving?  As your children mature, they need more flexibility in regards to your limits.  What was once a hard and fast rule for your child, may need to be adjusted for your teen.  Bad parenting is being too rigid with your rules so that your child’s growth is in reality inhibited.  It can be hard to accept your child’s growing independence and separateness, and hard to relax your need to protect him.  But in order to continue fostering a healthy parent-child relationship, you must give your child space to grow up.
4.  Consistently Giving In to Your Kids
Some kids are just plain good at negotiating.  You see them all of the time.  The child asks for something.  Mom or Dad says no over and over and over and over again, but in the end they give in.  Guess what?  Bad parenting habit!  It’s so much easier to give in to your child, but it does MAJOR damage.  Sure, you might earn a few minutes of peace, but you’re doing nothing towards guiding your child toward responsible behavior and sound decision-making. Likewise, your child loses respect for you and keeps arguing for outrageous privileges.
5.  Acting Like a Servant
You want your child to grow into a responsible, independent adult, right?  So why are sparing them of chores?  Kids need chores to feel mature and to feel like part of the family, as well as to develop the skills they’ll need for living on their own.  You may be very accustomed to doing everything for your children.  After all, you had to do everything for them when they were infants.  You may even have a selfish sense of being needed when you take care of everything for them.  But this is a bad parenting habit you need to break.  Truthfully, even preschoolers can be trusted with small tasks such as folding washcloths or placing utensils and napkins on the table before meals.
6.  Using IntimidaAngry, Frustrated Womantion
To put it bluntly, intimidation does not work.  We easily fall into the pattern of yelling at our children, standing over them threateningly or poking a finger at the poor kid. While “old schoolers” may think that these techniques will impress your child with your authority, they really just show that you’ve lost control of yourself and of the situation. Using intimidation techniques is just plain demeaning and it shuts the door to open communication.  When faced with yelling and threats, children are unlikely to feel that you’re open to their input. So they stay silent and rigid, and parental anger escalates, often ending with the parent demanding an answer or asking if the child is even listening.
7.  Being a Friend Before Being a Parent
Very few things make me cringe more than hearing a parent say that their child is their best friend.  You’re not a friend; you’re a parent. And that’s what your child needs and wants you to be. You can’t be both.  Sorry.  It’s a simple fact of good parenting.
8. Comparing and Criticizing
“Why can’t you be more like your sister?”  Negative comparisons and public shaming are just plain bad parenting, and can be considered verbal abuse.  While parents of a different generation thought that shamming their children into doing better was an effective parenting strategy, the reality is that comparing and criticizing have severe repercussions.
9. Doing Too Much
Remember that money doesn’t buy happiness.  While we want our children to be happy and have the types of things we didn’t have as a child, overindulging your children with material things is a bad parenting habit.  Another way that parents do too much is to solve every problem the child encounters.  How many times have you been tempted to do your child’s homework for him?  Now why would you really want to do that?  Your child isn’t learning the skill if he doesn’t do his own homework!  And your daughter isn’t learning how to problem-solve or navigate through life’s problems if you solve every peer spat she has.  Sometimes as parents, we’ve got to learn to back up, put our hands in our pockets and our mouths on mute and let our kids’ ideas unfold, let them fight their own battles, let them solve their own problems!
10. Not Listening Enough
Jumping off from number 9 is bad parenting habit number 10, not listening enough.  When we jump in and make decisions for our children or solve their problems for them, we’re being bad parents.  Instead, listening is a highly effective tool to helping your child work through problems and make his own decisions.  Instead of telling your kid what to do in a given situation, sit down and ask him to tell you what he wants the ultimate outcome to be. Pay attention to your child’s feelings and emotions. Listen and learn.  Then ask to hear your child’s thoughts on how to get to that endpoint. This brainstorming session helps your child explore possibilities, and it gives you a deeper understanding of how your child thinks and feels.

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ADHD, Lack of Physical Activity, and “Magic Pills”

I recently read a blog that I’m sure you will find just as interesting as I did.  The blog links the rise of ADHD to the decrease in physical activity in children today.  The blog “Increase in ADHD Runs Parallel With Decrease in Physical Activity” makes a fairly convincing argument that the rise in ADHD diagnoses could be in part due to the fact that children today just aren’t getting enough physical activity.

Why is there such an increase in childhood ADHD over the last two decades?

Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that 11% of children are diagnosed with ADHD by the time they finish high school, a drastic increase since 1990.  I completely agree with many critics out there that suggest that the number of children diagnosed with ADHD is significantly higher than it should be, due in part to the fact that screening for ADHD is largely subjective.  Most screening tools ask parents and teachers a variety of questions in order to assess for ADHD.  However, if you’re a frustrated parent or a teacher who just wants this hyper kid to sit down and shut up, it’s not too easy to sway the data for these surveys.  My wife was a teacher for 7 years.  She knows from personal experience that a hyperactive kid can cause MAJOR disruptions in class.  Teachers are super stressed and getting a hyperactive kid medicated might really change their classroom dynamic for the better.  While I hope this is not common, I can see where a teacher-completed ADHD assessment scale might be swayed ever so slightly to promote medication and those zombie-like tendencies we have all heard horror stories about.

Temptations of the “Magic Pill”

Furthermore, many parents have been brainwashed to think that ADHD medication is the “magic pill” they have been looking for.  Let’s face it…it’s WORK to raise any child in this generation, much less a kid with hyperactive and impulsive tendencies!  Just imagine you’re a stressed out, frustrated parent of an impulsive, bouncing off the walls overactive 8 year old boy.  Wouldn’t you want a “magic pill” that could solve all of your parenting problems without raising so much as a finger?  And your child simply has to raise a cold glass of water and pop that little blue “magic bullet” that will make him listen like an angel and sit at his desk class like a plastic mannequin that will please even the most rigid teacher on the planet!   The little pill that will make their child magically behave and be a model child, the type of child that other parents will be envious over.  Guess what?  ADHD medication is NOT the “magic pill.”  I know this from working with children for over a decade.  When parents medicate their children, instead of finding a magically wonderful child, they often complain that their child is “Just not himself” or a “zombie” or even find that it works for part of the day (usually the part of the day that their child is in school) and then the child becomes the Tasmanian Devil from Looney Toons for the entire evening!

While there isn’t any clear resActive Childrenearch out there linking the rise in ADHD diagnosis to the lack of physical activity in children, this blog on the Huffington Post sure made me stop and think.  The rise in ADHD diagnoses certainly runs parallel to the decline in physical activity in children.  Kids naturally have lots of physical energy they need to expel.  How many times have you watched your children playing and thought, “Gee, I wish I had that much energy.”  So think about it—children are locked up in school for increasingly longer and longer hours each year.  Add to that the fact that schools are slashing their Physical Education classes, extracurricular sports teams, and recess time.  (Oddly enough, studies demonstrate that when kids are engaged in regular physical activity they show less anxiety, increased focus, and better academic performance—sound like ADHD symptoms to you?)  It makes perfect sense that children are hyperactive.  Of course they are!  They have tons of pent up energy and ZERO ways of constructively utilizing that energy on a daily basis.  And to top it off, I bet I can guess what your kids do after they get home from school.  Chances are, they plug in to the TV and begin a marathon of video games that is only interrupted by chips or a candy bar and a fast dash to the bathroom when they can’t hold it any longer.  Starting to see why ADHD is becoming more and more prevalent in today’s lethargic society?

According to the CDC less than 30% of adolescents meet the guidelines for daily physical activity.  Parents can list mountains of reasons to willingly keep their kids indoors—neighborhood safety, urban density, the lure of electronic devises—but the fact of the matter is that it’s healthy for kids to get outside and burn off some of their pent up energy!

How to Help Hyper Kids WITHOUT “Magic Pills”

I am a huge advocate to not medicate your child for ADHD unless you have already tried other avenues.  Don’t get me wrong, though.  There are children that legitimately need ADHD medication and can benefit greatly from taking it regularly.  But a better place to start is with encouraging physical activity, reducing video game time, and using some Positive Parenting skills to see what a difference you can make without relying on the “magic pill” first.  Start by taking your kids to the park, playing catch in the yard, signing them up for a gymnastics class—all of these will help your hyperactive child burn off some of their pent up energy and will make a drastic improvement in the way things go for the rest of the evening.  At Behavior Management Coaching, we teach many Positive Parenting skills that can help frustrated parents of hyper and impulsive kids who just aren’t quite ready for the medication path.  I have personally seen amazing results for ADHD children and their frustrated parents from these Positive Parenting skills.  Using these skills and making several other small changes can make a world of difference in your child’s hyper and impulsive behaviors without going down the “magic pill” path that often leads to even more side effects and other challenges for your already struggling child to overcome.

Behavior Management Coaching can help parents deal with the stress of parenting an ADHD child by teaching concise, proven Positive Parenting Skills to reduce childhood behavioral problems, improve the child’s self-esteem, and drastically reduce parent’s stress levels in the process.  Talk to us today.