Parenting Articles

Positive Parenting

Positive parenting is a parenting strategy that focuses on encouraging and building good behaviors by being involved in children’s and teens’ lives. Though positive parenting can’t solve every problem with a troubled teen, it may be able to offset some of the negative factors in a teen’s life and help parents intervene when their teen has a problem.

Positive parenting is about being involved in teen’s lives and encouraging their positive traits while giving them room to grow and helping them develop the self discipline to avoid negative behaviors. Positive parenting techniques may vary somewhat depending on a family’s situation, but some of the general principles include:

  • Tell your teen you love them and find something positive to say about them every day. Teens respond better to positive statements than negative ones, and most teens will start to act more positively if their parents focus on the positive.
  • Talk to teens every day about things that are going on in their lives. Don’t interrogate your troubled teen, but have a conversation with him or her. Allow teens to have their own opinions, but tell them if you are concerned about something.
  • Talk to teens directly about sensitive topics like sex, drugs, alcohol, violence in the media, depression, and suicide. Tell teens what your values and concerns are about these topics, and ask them if they have any questions. Teens listen to their parents’ opinions when making choices, and should feel like they can talk to their parents if they have a question or concern.
  • Set rules that are clear and consistent and establish fair consequences for breaking the rules, like losing driving privileges for a week if the teen breaks curfew. Be consistent in enforcing the consequences when teens break the rules. Avoid using harsh verbal or physical punishments as consequences. Explain the reasons for your rules, and let teens help come up with the rules and consequences.
  • When correcting negative behavior, don’t criticize or belittle your teen. Instead, focus on what the problem is and why you are concerned about it, and involve the teen in finding a solution.
  • Don’t over-schedule your lives; make sure both you and your teen have some time to relax, and give your teen the opportunity to make his or her own decisions about activities and interests.
  • Take an interest in your struggling teen’s interests and encourage them in their positive activities.
  • Get to know your teen’s friends. Don’t forbid teens from seeing friends you don’t like, but tell your teen why you’re concerned about that person.
  • Try to eat at least one meal together as a family without the TV or other media. This encourages families to talk and to develop healthier eating habits, and has been shown to reduce negative behaviors in teens.
  • Try to have realistic expectations; not every teen gets straight As or excels at sports. Focus on appreciating the person your teen is and helping them appreciate their own good qualities as well.
  • Find things you can do with teens that you both enjoy, even if it’s something simple like watching a favorite movie or going for a walk.
  • Give teens reasonable responsibilities around the house so they feel involved with the family and have a sense of responsibility.
  • Don’t make comparisons between your teen and anyone else, especially not siblings.
  • Set a good example of the kind of behavior you expect from your struggling teen, including getting help if there’s a problem you can’t handle on your own. 

Remember that even with positive parenting techniques, teens may still make choices their parents don’t like, and some parents may still need outside help from professionals to deal with teens’ problems. By using positive parenting, however, parents can have more impact on the choices their teens make, and may be better able to spot problems that their teens need help with.

Positive Parenting Tips Sources:

Nemours Foundation, KidsHealth, Positive Parenting, “9 Steps to More Effective Parenting” [online]
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Child Development, “Positive Parenting Tips” [online]

Parenting Articles

Rebellious Teens

Rebellious and Defiant Teens

One of the most difficult parenting situations that come up around the world is that of rebellious and defiant teens. It is true that most teenagers rebel to some degree. They are testing their limits, and learning to be individuals. It is only natural to rebel a little bit in order to develop a sense of self. However, asserting individuality and testing the boundaries is a different proposition from outright rebellion and defiance.

Rebellious and defiant teens have a disdain for authority, and show little desire to work with parents, teachers and others. They repeatedly cross the line, and may show outright disrespect, flouting rules constantly, or ignoring your strictures. Dealing with rebellious and defiant teens is difficult, and you can only do your best. Here are some ideas for trying to deal with rebellious and defiant teens:

Do what you can to enforce boundaries

It is important to show your rebellious teenager that there are still rules. This means doing your best to enforce consequences. No, you probably can’t stop him or her from sneaking out the window at night. However, you can take away computer privileges or video games. You can also remove car privileges and make it clear that if your child wants to benefit from the extra, “fun” things you have as a family, he or she needs to be a functioning and respectful part of the family. Try these teen behavior contracts.

Try to avoid big fights

This can be difficult, but you need to try to avoid big fights. Part of the reason that defiant and rebellious teens act out is to get a reaction from you. One of the best things you can do is react calmly. Explain that the poor decision that a teenager has made is resulting in a specific consequence (try to choose consequences that you can actually enforce), and that he or she can earn back your trust.

Big fights over a teenager’s hair or clothes will only put you in a losing position. Calmly state that you do’t approve of something your teen is wearing, saying, or listening to, and leave it at that. If the behavior is offensive, you can enforce consequences.

Be available to talk

Try to be available to talk. Listen to your teenager. If he or she comes to you with a problem, or confesses something he or she did, hold your tongue until he or she is done. While it may be difficult, try to avoid making judging statements. If your teen wants advice, give to him or her candidly and calmly. If he or she is admitting wrong-doing, calmly point out that there is a consequence attached to all such actions, and that it will be enforced. Try to help your teen, or just listen on occasion.

Be clear in your unconditional love

It is difficult, but when dealing with rebellious and defiant teens, you need to be clear about your unconditional love for your teenager. Make sure that you are clear that it is the behavior you do not approve of. Also, do your best to avoid comparisons between your troubled teenager and others. These comparisons will most likely only provoke more efforts to rebel as teens feel unloved.

Continue to invite your troubled teenager to family activities, and express a desire for your child to join the table at meal times. Be sure that you continue to provide the basics of life: Shelter, food and clothing. However, you do need to make it clear that you will not tolerate violence in your home, and that your teen should not endanger anyone else in the family.

Programs for rebellious and defiant teens

If your teenager has become so unmanageable that he or she is engaged in illegal activities, or becoming violent, you might have to look into programs for your teenager. Make it clear that you love your teen, and you want to help him or her, but you can’t have destructive behavior in your home. Programs for rebellious teens can help your teenager learn techniques to manage his or her anger issues and problems. In these cases, your teen might still have problems when he or she gets back from the program, but they might be more manageable.

It can be difficult to know what to do if you have a troubled teenager. You should do what you can to re-establish a good relationship with your teenager, and show that you are concerned and loving. In the end, though, all you can do is try your best, since rebellious and defiant teens make their own decisions.

Troubled Teen Issues

Sibling Rivalry

Sibling rivalry is very common in families with more than one child, and it’s part of growing up for most kids, but it can be destructive to families and individuals. Parents can’t stop all sibling rivalry, but they can help make it a learning experience rather than a traumatic one.

Sibling rivalry occurs when siblings fight or act out against each other. Most kids experience sibling rivalry from time to time. Even when they love their siblings they may still have episodes of sibling rivalry as part of the growing up process. There are some common reasons for sibling rivalry in children and teens:

  • They are discovering their own identities and need to establish their independence from family members
  • They have conflicting personalities, such as one sibling who is laid back while the other is very active
  • They feel like one sibling is getting an unfair amount of attention. This can be especially challenging if one sibling has an illness, disability, or other problem that requires more attention
  • They feel like it is unfair that one sibling gets different privileges, such as an older sibling who has more freedom, or a younger child who has fewer chores.
  • They have not yet learned positive ways to solve conflicts
  • They are bored, hungry, or tired
  • There is stress or aggression in the family, such as parents getting a divorce, a teen who fights frequently with parents, or financial problems in the family 

Regardless of the reasons for sibling rivalry, the fighting can cause stress and unhappiness for everyone in the family. Parents may be frustrated not knowing how to react when siblings fight. Some general guidelines for parents while siblings are fighting include:

  • If possible, don’t get involved in the fight and let children resolve their own conflicts unless someone is getting hurt.
  • If you must intervene in the fight, separate the children until they are both calm enough to talk about what happened.
  • Don’t yell at the siblings who are fighting, since this may only escalate the aggression.
  • Don’t assign blame or try to figure out who started it – both siblings were fighting so both are responsible for the conflict.
  • Don’t appear to favor or protect one child.
  • Don’t assume that the younger child is always the victim. Younger children are just as capable of older ones at starting fights, and older siblings still may not have the maturity to handle the situation well. 

Though parents cannot prevent all sibling rivalry, there are things they can do to reduce the frequency and severity of fights, depending on the causes. Some of these things include:

  • Talk to each child alone every day, and tell them that you love them. Even spending ten minutes with a child can reassure them that you care about them and give you a chance to find out what’s going on in their lives.
  • Spend positive time together as a family. Try to eat one meal together every day without the TV, and find time to do fun family activities like playing games or going for walks. This will strengthen family relationships and make kids more willing to work out their problems. Be sure, however, that the activities address the interests of all the children so they don’t feel like they are being forced to participate in one child’s activities.
  • Appreciate each child as an individual, and don’t compare children to their siblings.
  • Hold family meetings to set rules, like no hitting or name-calling, and explain what the consequences will be for any child who breaks these rules, regardless of who starts a conflict. Remind children that they are all part of the family and that you love each of them.
  • Help children to understand that sometimes being fair does not mean being equal. A teenager may have more freedom, but also may have more responsibilities. A child with special needs may get more attention because he or she needs the extra help.
  • Let children and teens have some time and space to themselves, and let them have some special possessions they don’t have to share.
  • If children are fighting over something like a computer game or the TV, create a schedule so each gets equal time using it. Let them know if the fighting continues that whatever they are fighting over will be taken away. Giving each child their own TV or computer may not be a good solution because it doesn’t teach compromise and may lead to family members being isolated in their rooms without supervision or family interaction.
  • Set a good example. When you are angry, don’t yell, throw things, or call others names. If you need help with anger management, don’t hesitate to get help. 

If sibling rivalry is causing serious problems in the family, is physically or emotionally harmful to one or more family members, or is caused by an outside source of stress like parents’ divorce, loss of a job, or an illness in the family, consider getting counseling for your family. Most communities offer low-cost or free family counseling services for families who cannot afford counseling on their own.

Also, be aware of sibling abuse, which is when one sibling is always the victim and is frightened of and being hurt by the other, physically or verbally. This may look different from sibling rivalry because the victim usually won’t fight back or defend him or herself and may become depressed or anxious. Remember that older children and teens can be the victims of younger siblings. In cases of sibling abuse, parents should seek immediate help for both of the siblings.

Sibling Rivalry Sources:

University of Michigan Health System, YourChild Development and Behavior Resources, “Sibling Rivalry” [online]
Nemours, KidsHealth, “Sibling Rivalry” [online]
The Ohio State University Extension, Backpack Buddies, “Understanding Sibling Rivalry” [online]

Parenting Articles

Single Parenting

Parenting is a hard job, and single parents face extra challenges. Though every family’s situation is unique, there are some tips that single parents can try to overcome some of their challenges.

Some single parent statistics show the prevalence and challenges of single parenting in America:

  • Slightly more than 1 in 4 children in America is being raised by a single parent.
  • About 40% of children born in 2007 were born to unmarried mothers.
  • 23% of kids live with only a mother, 4% live with only a father, and 4% live with neither parent.
  • 3% live with unmarried parents.
  • Black children are the most likely to be raised by a single parent, followed by Hispanic, then white children.
  • Children living with only one parent have financial and educational disadvantages compared to children with both parents, especially if their parent is the mother and if she did not finish high school. 

Parents may be single due to separation, divorce, or death, or they may have never been married. Also, some parents may have a partner who is not able to help with parenting due to a disability or a job that takes them away from their family most of the time. Parents in different situations face different challenges, but in all of these cases it is hard for both the parent and his or her children to parent alone.

Having a single parent can be hard on children and teens, who often wish they could have more of their parents’ attention and may have emotional issues to work through. Though every situation is unique, here are some tips that might help a single parent whose child or teen is struggling:

  • Tell your children every day that you love them.
  • Encourage your children to recognize and express their feelings. Younger kids especially may need help recognizing feelings like sadness, hurt, and fear that can come as a result of the loss of one parent, and teens may also need help dealing with these emotions. Even teens who grew up not knowing their other parent may at times feel a sense of loss over his or her absence. It’s okay to get help from someone else to talk to teens, including a relative, clergy member, or professional counselor.
  • Let teens ask questions and give them honest, age-appropriate answers. Be honest when you don’t know an answer – there are some questions only the absent parent would be able to answer.
  • Don’t say negative things about the absent spouse. This may be very hard, but it’s not good for children or teens to hear one of their parents say bad things about the other, and may lead to feelings of anger. This doesn’t mean a parent should make up good things, but they should refrain from saying bad things.
  • While you may be too busy working and trying to be both mom and dad to spend as much time with your teen as you would like, make time for special activities together. Try to eat at least one meal together as a family every day, even if it’s breakfast or a late dinner. Also, consider finding one time each week that you can set aside as family time to do fun activities together. Activities don’t have to be expensive or elaborate to have a positive impression on teens.
  • If you work in the afternoon when teens are out of school, make sure your teens have somewhere to go and positive activities to do. The time right after school is when teens are most likely to get into trouble, but if they are with a responsible relative or neighbor or in an after school program they are less likely to get into trouble. Summer programs are also available in many communities for times when parents are working while school is not in session.
  • Have clear, consistent rules, and enforce the consequences when the rules are broken. It may be especially tempting for a single parent to “let things slide,” but its very important for teens to have clear rules and consistent consequences.
  • Emphasize the importance of education to your children. Get help for teens who are struggling in school.
  • Do as much as you can to be supportive of teens’ positive activities, like sports or music. You may not be able to be there for every game or performance, but go when you can, and talk to teens about their interests to show that you care.
  • Be patient with teens when you are starting to date again or getting remarried. This can be a difficult process, and it may take time for teens to adjust to it. Keep talking to them about their feelings.
  • Don’t be afraid to seek support for yourself or your teens. Support groups like Parents Without Partners can help single parents feel support. Family and friends can also help, and being involved in community or church groups can relieve loneliness for parents and give teens positive role models.
  • Be aware of signs of depression, aggression, drug or alcohol abuse, or suicidal thoughts and behavior in teens or in yourself. Talk to teens about concerning behavior, and seek counseling if you are still concerned. Many communities have free or low-cost counseling for those who do not have insurance that covers the costs. 

Single Parenting Tips and Single Parent Statistics Sources:

Nemours, KidsHealth, “Tips for Divorcing Parents” [online]
Nemours, KidsHealth, “Living with a Single Parent” [online]
U.S. Bureau of the Census, Census Brief, “Children with single parents – how they fare” [online]
Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics, “America’s Children: Key National Indicators of Well-being, 2009” [online]

Parenting Articles

Parenting Teens

F.A.M.I.L.Y. Rules / Positive Parenting with a Plan was developed by Dr. Matthew Johnson, a licensed psychologist in Oregon.

Dr. Johnson’s book has some excellent tools for parenting teens and developing family rules in your household. We will feature more from his book soon, but here is some quick ideas to get you on your way.

The Seven Cardinal Sins of Teen Parenting :

1. Talking Too Much (nagging, lecturing, etc)
2. Tirades and Temper Tantrums
3. Tears (sadness and guilt trips)
4. Terror (threats of violence)
5. Inconsistency (within and between parents)
6. Disagreeing About Discipline in front of Children
7. Treating your Children like they are Slaves (lack of reciprocity)

Some sample family rules (very abbreviated) :

Treat people and animals with respect
“No!” means “No!” Don’t ask again
You must receive parental permission before you go anywhere at anytime
No swearing or talking about inappropriate subject matter
Be on time
Setting curfews (more flexible on weekends)
Complete all daily and weekly chores on time

Family Rules is an excellent resource for parenting teens for under $30.00. Well worth it!!!