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Avoiding Power Struggles with Defiant Children Declaring Victory is Easier than You Think

by James Lehman, MSW
Avoiding Power Struggles with Defiant Children Declaring Victory is Easier than You Think

How do you nip escalating fights over power in the bud? In part two of our series, James shows you three powerful techniques for defusing defiant power struggles.

"Remember, when you engage in an argument with your child, you're just giving him more power."

How do you know if you’re entering into a power struggle with your child? Any time you’re asking your child to do something and he’s refusing to comply—when you find him “pushing back” against the request you’ve given or the rules you’ve set down—you’re in a struggle. If the push for power is appropriate, you should be able to sit down with your child and talk about it in a fairly reasonable way. If it escalates into an argument or fight, you are in a defiant power struggle—and make no mistake about it, parents need effective ways to dial that back immediately.

In my opinion, defiant power struggles between parents and children have become more common in recent years. I believe this is a direct result of the glorification of power we see all around us: on television, in music, in politics, in the movies. In our culture, kids are taught from early on that power—and brute force—will get them what they want. As a result, we see a lot of kids who don’t know how to solve social or functional problems constructively. A social problem is “How do I get along with others?” And a functional problem is, “How do I meet my responsibilities without getting into trouble?” So if your child has not learned to solve these types of problems, he'll refuse to do his chores by throwing a tantrum. Or when he gets older, he’ll say mean things to you and tell you it's none of your business when you ask him to comply with a family rule. If the defiance becomes more entrenched, he might try to intimidate you physically to get you to “back off.”

If your child is trying to draw you into these kinds of defiant power struggles, realize that he needs to develop more appropriate problem solving skills as soon as possible. Kids who use this type of behavior to get their way are headed down a dangerous path that only leads to serious difficulties later in life.

The good news is, there are real and effective things you can do besides going to war with your child.

Avoid the Fight: Don’t Attend Every Fight You’re Invited to
A key skill I teach parents to use when they are confronted with a child who wants to drag them into a fight is the technique of “Avoidance”. Think of it this way: when you engage in an argument with your child, you're just giving them more power. In effect, you're increasing your child's perception that they have the power to challenge you. Even if that perception is false it still carries a lot of weight. Why is that? Because your child often doesn't realize that this empowerment they’re feeling is not real. The danger here is that the more powerful they think they are—and the more defiant behavior gets them what they want—the more they will use it as a shortcut to solve their problems.

Make no bones about it, parents have to make every effort to learn how to manage this type of behavior in their kids. I’m not saying this is easy—in fact, I believe it's one of the most difficult lessons parents have to learn. And the lesson is, “How can I let my child mature, individuate and become appropriately empowered with the least amount of fights possible?” Remember that genuine empowerment comes from the development of appropriate life skills, such as communication and learning how to meet responsibilities-- and developing age-appropriate problem-solving skills.

As a parent, it’s easy to slip into a fight with your child over small and large issues: power struggles can occur over everything from refusal to pick up dirty laundry to how late your child is allowed to stay out on the weekends. But I tell parents they don't have attend every fight they’re invited to. That's my way of saying that you don't have to get involved with every fight each time your child begins to escalate. You can just declare victory and walk away.

So next time your child tries to draw you into a defiant power struggle over something either minor or major, just say, “We’ve discussed what is going to happen. I don’t want to talk about it anymore,” and leave the room. When you leave, you take all the power with you—you just suck it out of the room, and your child is left yelling at a blank wall. Know that the more you engage your child in an argument, the more power you’re giving him. So again, just walk away and declare victory.

Give Your Child a Choice
I recommend that parents give kids some choices around their responsibilities when possible. So if there’s an issue around doing chores or homework, for example, a good way to avoid a power struggle is to offer some options. During summer, you might say, “You can start your chores when you get home from day camp or other activities, or you can wait till I get home. You can text message all you want between 3:30 and 5:30 and then do them when I get home. Or you can do them between 3:30 and 5:30 and then text message during your free time at night. So decide when you would rather be text messaging, talking on the cell phone, or going on the computer: between 7:00 and 8:30 p.m. or between 3:30 and 5:00 p.m. Those are your choices.”

That's when you put the responsibility on your child to make choices about how they're going to spend their time. I think you have to learn how to present these things in a way which makes it your child’s responsibility to complete his tasks. When the choice is, “When do you want to instant message? Now or later?” you’re establishing a structure and giving them some appropriate power. This teaches your child good problem solving skills, because he’s looking at his choices and picking the best one. In my opinion, that skill is the most important thing a child can learn as he develops; there is nothing more positively empowering than learning problem solving skills.

The Key to Increasing Your Child’s Autonomy Wisely (And the 4 Little Questions You Should Always Ask)
Remember, with every increase in autonomy for your child, there should be an increase in responsibility and accountability. For instance, let's say your child wants to stay up till nine o'clock at night instead of eight o'clock. You decide that staying up an hour later isn't going to interfere with your child’s need for sleep and that he’s old enough to handle the later bedtime. So you both reach a compromise of 8:30 p.m. to see how that goes.

Most parents will think the case is closed at this point—but if you leave it there, I don't believe you've done enough to teach your kid how to solve problems. You need to make clear to your child how you expect increased responsibility with increased autonomy. So I think the end of any conversation that centers around a change or an increase in power has to include these four questions:

    1. How will we know it's working?
    We'll know staying up later is working if you still get up on time in the morning.
    2. How do we know it's not working?
    If you have a hard time getting up on time and don’t have energy during the day.
    3. What will we do if it's not working?
    We'll go back to the old time, 8:00 p.m.
    4. What will we do if it is working?
    We'll continue with this new bedtime.

     

    Those four questions are really important, because what they say is, “If you want to stay up later, how will we know that it's okay? Because you'll still meet your responsibilities.” What's the accountability piece? “What are we going to do if it's not working? We're going to return to the earlier time.”

    By the way, if it’s not working, parents should not give a consequence. Just say, “It’s not working because you’ve had a hard time getting up. No hard feelings. We'll try it again in 30 days.” The chance to increase autonomy doesn't stop forever for your child, so he or she is still able to earn more independence later. You can say, “We're going back to bedtime at eight o'clock and then in 30 days, let's sit down and talk about it again. Meanwhile in those 30 days, get your rest, practice what you need to do and then we'll take another shot at it.”

    That's how negotiations are supposed to go. They are carried out through the use of proposals, compromises and ways of measuring outcomes to make sure everyone is doing what they agreed to do. Understand that all these gradual gains in power for your child are really rungs on a ladder that leads to independent functioning, or adulthood. And what you want your child to know at the top of the ladder is how to solve social problems and functional problems, how to get along with other people and how to live the right values.

    So remember, even though it’s quite possibly the most difficult balance we have to maintain as a parent, we don't want power struggles to go away. We don't want limits and limit testing to go away. Rather, it's the way kids push that's important. Think of it this way: If children don’t get engaged in power struggles with their parents, they won’t learn how to advocate for themselves later in life. So what we want to focus on are the techniques they should use. And the appropriate techniques are ways to say, “Mom, I don’t like this, can we talk about it?” Or “Dad, I don't think you understand what I mean, can we talk about it?”

    Obviously, the expectation is for parents to be willing to sit down with their kids and talk about it. Nothing ensures a power struggle like your child’s belief that he can’t talk to you reasonably about something. I think when times are good, it’s important for parents to sit down with children and say, “When you don’t agree with me, this is how we should handle it.” Invite them to talk to you about it. At the end of that conversation remember to say, “Whatever decision is reached, it’s going to have to be acceptable. I’m not going to keep arguing with you. I’m just going to walk away.”

    This is a good way for you to establish the ground rules around challenges to your authority, and to make sure that those challenges are appropriate. Plainly and simply, if your child doesn't push boundaries or tests limits, they won't be adept at living in the adult world. They won't develop the problem solving skills of negotiation, compromise and sacrifice in a way that empowers them and prepares them to solve real life problems. And I believe that’s one of our main goals as parents—to empower our kids appropriately so they’re able to navigate independently in the adult world.

     


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James Lehman, MSW was a renowned child behavioral therapist who worked with struggling teens and children for three decades. He created the Total Transformation Program to help people parent more effectively. James' foremost goal was to help kids and to "empower parents."

READER'S COMMENTS

I need to read this article, as there are some power struggles going on in my extended family...the work I do as a school social worker also involves many kids having these issues at school and home. I believe power struggles are the basis of much of the inappropriate behavior we are seeing in schools!

Comment By : suse

So what do you do when your spouse has fought most of these battles and lost. What do you do when step parent and child want nothing to do with each other and fight at the sight of the other? Can the family be saved or should it be disolved?

Comment By : caught

My 15 year old son is masterful at drawing me into a power struggle. His new tactic is to mock me to the point that I cant even get a word out of my mouth. It has been going on for weeks. It is impossible to ignore unless I lock myself in my room, and then he has really won. I have withheld privledges until 'he can go an hour without mocking', and now he just says he does not care about the privledges. Short of striping his room and every freedom, I dont know where to go from here. Reason does not work. Punishment does not work. What do I do? I can't take it anymore...

Comment By : Need A. Vacation

I have a 15 yr old son also who has PDD and is in a power struggle with me every day. Most of the time we avoid each other because interaction invariably leads to a fight about SOMETHING. The other day he even started yelling at me while I was PRAISING him for bringing his dishes into the kitchen. That is one chore he has that he never seems to accomplish unless there is a threat of a consequence(which I DO follow through with) or a bribe when I am exaperated. The other 2 chores are garbage and recycle and dirty laundry in the hamper. He calls me the "B" word all the time. I am trying to use the TT program and these articles to help me, but it seems like one step forward and two steps back. I am a single parent. My husband passed away 6 yrs ago and although I have a relationship with someone he likes, he is not the disiplinarion and does not live with us. Help! I guess this is a common problem among teens.

Comment By : Gourmet gal

My 17-year old is one credit short of being a junior. He fits into the very category you mentioned in your article concerning power struggles, including he tries every trick in the book you mentioned. He has refused to go to summer school. I can tell him I am taking his vehicle unless he goes to summer school, or go with his suggestion, which is to take the credit during the school year at night so that he doesn't lose his summer. Of course, that will create a schedule for his junior year that I believe he will not be able to maintain, considering his last year's school performance. So should I force him to summer school, or let him do it his way and learn the hard way about how procrastination in this instance will make his next school year harder?

Comment By : In for the Long Haul

* Dear In for the Long Haul: It is tempting to allow our kids to have the summer off to enjoy. We want them to have fun as much as they do. James Lehman talks about three important parenting roles. Teaching and Coaching, Problem Solving and Limit Setting. We have to take on these roles for our kids and teach them to gradually do these tasks for themselves. What you want to ask yourself is “What do I want my son to learn?” and “What seems to be the best way to teach that lesson?” It sounds like you have evaluated the situation and believe he will not be able to manage his fall schedule unless he takes a course this summer. Using your Limit Setting role and requiring him to make up this class sounds like a reasonable consequence for his last years efforts and it will be ‘learning the hard way’ now the consequences of not staying up with his work from last year. You might give him daily incentives for attending, such as “You get to use your car each day you go to class.” I’d encourage you to call into the Support Line and let us know how it’s going. We may be able to give you more specific ideas and things to say as you work through solving this problem. Keep in touch. We’re here to help.

Comment By : Carole Banks, Parental Support Line Advisor

* Dear Need a Vacation: This is a hard one. No one likes to be mocked. It feels horrible and makes you want to defend yourself against it. It’s good that you’re starting with one hour consequences for this. James does suggest starting with a small amount of time when doing consequences, but you don’t have to stay there. You don’t want to go too long with a consequence, but find that balance he’s talks about. Let’s say you’re trying to have a problem solving conversation with your son, he tries to prevent you by mocking you. What you can say at that point is. “Don’t talk to me that way. I don’t like it. Talking to me that way will not solve this problem. Until you can have a conversation with me that doesn’t include a lot of attitude, you have no privileges. Let me know when you’re ready.” (When your son does come to you for that conversation, drop what you’re doing and discuss your concerns). When you don’t need to have an important conversation you can simply say, “It’s not okay to speak to me that way.” Don’t say anything else even though he might mock you here. The idea is to try and make his attitude be ineffective, to not let him get the rise out of you that he’s going for. This part is really hard but really key. He keeps it up because of the pay-off. It gets to you. It may cause the argument to continue that he wants to have. He’s get to lay his anger at your feet. It’s normal that this bothers you—everyone dislikes being mocked, but try to disconnect soon after. If his mocking has crossed a line and it feels nasty and abusive, give your regular consequence--1 hour without privileges. During that hour he is not to be abusive to you. If this occurs again later on in the day, you can give him 2 hours of restriction. Try not to go beyond the current day so the next day he can get up and try to do a better job. I’d encourage you to call into the Support Line and let us know how it’s going. We may be able to give you more specific ideas and things to say as you work through solving this problem. Keep in touch. We’re here to help.

Comment By : Carole Banks, Parental Support Line Advisor

Certainly a timely article for my household. I'm curious about something that's not addressed -- consequences. I may choose to avoid the battle but what if the outcome I want doesn't happen? (Picking up clothes, putting away dishes, getting chores done). I've started to quietly say OK the concept is you earn things you want -- laptop, other forms of "screen time," by doing these things. But those activities are rewards for the actions I want, not entitlements. What do you think about that specifically and the consequences aspect in general?

Comment By : Denver Dad

I like the 30 days option, however, I'm trying to figure out here where you don't give a consequence yet he's told he's going to bed early again and then try again in 30 days. Or is that one of those trick ones? Because I've always used 1-2-3-Magic I will use the counting to get him back in line as he will respond instantly to the counting. However, as we are approaching our 14th birthday I'm finding that at times his defiance has escalated and he will not always comply with the counting. I have responded to this by telling him each time argues back and won't go to his room that he is grounded for either the rest of that day or the next day. If he continues to defy me I add another day and another. We sometimes get to 7 days of grounding before he will back off. The time that reality bites for him is when each day comes along and he can't go anywhere. I'm aware that really I should walk away. There are times when he will follow me but as you say, I shouldn't respond. However, to me that is outright defiance when he does this so I'm all for the grounding, but by the same token I'm aware that he is really keyed up and on a short leash as far as physically challenging me next. From my experiences with my older sons, now in their 20's with no behavioral issues, they did become more agressive at that age. I presume it's the hormonal thing! So, we really need to tweak this stuff before he does really lose control.

Comment By : khar59

First, thanks for this article. I have a 9 year old son who is very sweet at times but his defiant ways definately overshadow the sweetness. You have described him perfectly in this article. At his young age, he believes that he is in charge and he believes that his way is the best. He just causes so many problems. He knows the rules about keeping his room clean, doing homework, keeping his hands to himself, using kind words,etc and he chooses to do what he pleases on most occassions. When spoken to in correction or punished for his behavior, he tears up, may throw a tantrum, then says that he forgot the rules or didn't know the rules to begin with. This is very frustrating for me and it is causing problems within our family. He has a rocky relationship with his older brother because he refuses to listen to him or he feels it necessary to lash out at him. This behavior has carried over to school, church and other social situations when I am not prosent. The negative behavior has caused problems in school and has caused him to have problems making friends and maintaing friendships. As a single mother, I feel bad for him at times and then on the other hand, I am tired and exhausted with trying to teach him the right way to behave. I have tried counseling, talking to him and I even had him tested for special needs. He does have ADHD but that is still not an excuse for bad behavior. I am starting to lose hope and am wondering if things will ever change. I refuse to fight and argue with a 9 year old but he just doesn't seem to get it.

Comment By : Exhausted

My life has become a nightmare with my 16 year old. I've always been one to make sure there are consequences for actions and until about 8 months ago we was a model son. Where things become difficult for me is with his after-school and weekend job he has bought everything he owns. He bought himself a flat screen tv, x-box elite, computers, he bought his double bed, a fridge for his room,his i-phone and the credit for it, he bought all his guitars and with all this buying he still saved for 3 years of working to recently buy his own car. The only things I provide are a roof, food and power. Now I can take away his privileges only to the extent of telling him I pay for the power he is using and he can't use that. To actually make that happen I need to disconnect power for the whole house because he won't just do what I say - and that isn't feasible because of refrigerators, etc. Oh and also because it's so darn extreme and effects everyone else's quality of life. My son now argues with me continually, even when I'm praising him, he swears at me, he calls me names, he ignores m and he doesn't do anything in the house whatsoever. Not a single thing - his room is a pigsty. He went from being a good student getting As and Bs to just giving up on doing all assignments and schoolwork. He recently cheated on an English test and got an E and got Ds for everything else. Of course drugs is the first thing to come to mind however after lots of searching, watching, monitoring and assessing him (without him knowing) I've ascertained there is no drug activity. He still goes to his job without fail and is one of their most capable and hardest workers. I'm left with very few options now, including asking him to leave. I know if I do that though his life will be very, very difficult and he's likely to start doing bad things. It also means the dream of him getting a good education will also be out the window. I hate being at home with him and he is not a pleasure to be around. He has put on lots of weight and now has acne and absolutely refuses to do anything about it. He says he "doesn't care what anyone thinks about him". This is a nightmare and I am extremely unhappy. His father died when he was 4 and there is no other male role model. I'm trying not to let him control whether I'm happy or not, but he does. And he's winning. And I just stay in my room when he's home now because I dislike being around him so much.

Comment By : chev

* Dear chev: This can be tough, but try not to get hung up on the idea of ownership. Kids own the things we give to them and also own what they buy for themselves. Look at it instead as he has to follow house rules when he uses any technology. He is not allowed to watch the family television after bedtime or listen to his IPOD after bedtime--even if he bought the IPOD for himself. Kids need us to set limits on their behaviors because they do not have a good capacity to do this for themselves. James Lehman recognizes that it can be difficult to maintain parental authority around teens because part of their developmental process is to become more independent of their parents. Despite that drive for independence, teens still need their parents to maintain appropriate authority in the home. A good place to start your work in the Total Transformation program is by listening to ‘The One-Minute Transformation: 10 Ways to Turn Around Your Child’s Attitude In One Minute or Less’. James will show you how to ‘Assume Control’ by being self-confident without being hostile. You’ll give simple directions to your son that give an air that you’re in control, instead of making requests of him. “Where are you supposed to be?” “Go there.” Say this instead of asking, “Why aren’t you there already?” Don’t justify yourself, or over explain yourself, or ask your child for an explanation because this is asking kids for an excuse. James says, “If you sound like you’re in control, you’re on your way to being in control.” Having a schedule that the kids can count on can reduce the stress in the home. Internalizing a structure and a system, such as a schedule, is an important skill that oppositional kids need to develop. You might try telling your son that you’re going to have him adhere to a more structured day so that he accomplishes what he needs to. If he does not comply with the new time structure, say something like, “It’s homework time now. You’re not starting your work. I need you to hand me your IPOD and you can have it back when you’re finished.” I hope you are finding information and support from the Empowering Parents community. If you subscribe to the Parental Support Line, try giving them a call. The specialists can work with you to find program tools to apply to your situation. Good luck to you! Keep in touch and let us know how it is going.

Comment By : Carole Banks, Parental Support Line Advisor

I have two daughters, ages 2 & 5. Both are on the verge of having birthday's, so they're almost 3 & 6. My husband and I work opposite schedules and try our best to keep it all going while giving our girls our undivided attention. I work during the day while my husband minds, so he is the one disciplining during the day, and me at night and on weekends. Ever since our youngest was born, our oldest has had jealously issues, and control has become more of an issue. She rarely shares with her sister, and wants whatever she has at the moment. She calls us stupid, hits us, screams at us, gives us dirty looks, tells us we are horrible parents. We do time outs and they do work. When she has a meltdown and she is sent to her room you can hear her screaming and pounding on things. She does great in school, her teacher always comments on how great she is to have in class and how she is excelling. She's great for friends parents. One good example is she will allow others to brush her hair, including grandma and the hair dresser. But, the minute we need to brush her hair, it's like she's in for the fight of her life. Why is this? She can be such a sweet girl with such a warm and considerate heart, I want to help her, but I don't know how. With our hectic lives maybe she's feeling the pinch of us not being there 100% and she's lashing out? She complains about us yelling at her. Please help. Any advice would be appreciated.

Comment By : confused

* Dear ‘confused’: Sometimes the best way to help kids increase their use of kindness and consideration is to pay attention to them when they’re being ‘good’. As James Lehman says in the Total Transformation program, “Pay attention to the behavior you want to increase and ignore the behavior you want to decrease.” As you say, she can be sweet and has a warm and considerate heart. And it’s pretty normal for kids to want what another child has and be reluctant to share. Help her learn to ‘ask before she acts’, using problem solving language such as, “Ask your sister if you can take a turn next”. When she does, smile and tell her, “I like the way you asked for that.” In order to help kids get better at managing their behaviors, parents need to role model how they use coping skills when they are frustrated and upset. To decrease the times she is screaming at you and you’re yelling back at her, try to find ways for the family to experience less stress in your household so that you can be calmer when you parent her. Your feelings that your lives are ‘hectic’ can spill over to the kids. When parents are anxious, the kids are anxious. The difference in your daughter’s behavior around having her hair brushed could be explained by her experiencing a lot of stress when you ‘need’ to brush her hair to get out the door compared to when others brush her hair during a calmer time. Reducing stress is not an easy thing to do. It can be very hard to manage work and family these days. Talk to your husband and other family members to find out what supports you can tap into. And remember, you can always call us here on the Support Line for encouragement and more ideas on how to use the techniques in the Total Transformation program. Keep in touch.

Comment By : Carole Banks, Parental Support Line Advisor

just had it, Im writing cause Im at the end of my rope with my 16yr old nephew who was dropped off @ my home in Jan/10, his dad my brother passed away 9yrs ago and his mom just abandoned him and left the country. I have gottten coustody of him and found out that he is a terror he has been in troudle with the law since he was 14yrs old, no one bothered to let me know. h has felaneies that range from very serious charges to need subtance abuse counseling ETC.. he also runs away doesnt want to follow rules or school.. And i dont know how to help so Im just trying to just end being his costodian and let the system deal with him...

Comment By : beanie1

* Dear ‘beanie1’: We’re sorry to hear you’re in this difficult situation. It does require a lot of effort to work with a teen who is acting out. Because he is involved in the juvenile justice system, consider asking the courts to help you. For example, report him to the police every time he runs away. In some instances, judges or probation officers will take action if a child is not attending school or getting acceptable grades. Our Support Line service can offer you encouragement and more specific ideas on implementing the techniques from James Lehman’s Total Transformation Program. Give us a call. We’re here to help.

Comment By : Carole Banks, Parental Support Line Advisor

It seems that most of your advice is to the older child. I have a 3.5 year old daughter. She becomes quite angry, physical and verbal when she does not want to do something that she is asked to do. For example, bedtime. I will say it is bed time. We will go through our routine - bath, brush teeth, books and bed. At the bed point, she will become angry. She has told me that she does not love me. She will walk up to me and scratch or kick me. (I do not physically touch her...I just tell her to go to bed.) We have never spanked so there is no history of this in the house. She will display this hostility at other times too when we stop doing something fun before she is ready. She is an only child. Any advice?

Comment By : nola1130

This article provides some insight into my struggles with my very willful four-year old. I am concerned though that those four questions are a little beyond her comprehensive reach right now. Our struggles are over things like cookies for dinner, not wearing a seat belt, and taking a shower. These are non-negotiables; I don't know how to compromise. But maybe offering her more choices would empower her more. Anyway, thank you for the article.

Comment By : GsMommy

This advice is easier said than done. What do i do when my 9 year old makes my other kids lives hell? I let them work it out at times but sometimes my maternal instincts tell me to defend my kids who were not causing trouble. I can walk away and ignore but not when my younger kids are begging me to help.

Comment By : anonymous66

* To anonymous66: It can be extremely difficult to let kids work things out between themselves. We recommend letting the kids work it out between themselves unless the situation becomes abusive. If it does get to that point, we advise stepping in and separating the kids until everyone is calmed down, then doing problem solving and holding the aggressor accountable. Another tactic you can try is to do some problem solving with your other children about what they can do if your 9 year old is teasing them, or making them miserable-they can go to their room, go outside, or try something else. I am including some links to articles I think you might find helpful: http://www.empoweringparents.com/Abusive-Sibling-Rivalry-Families-Children-Teen-Behavior-Problems.php?&key=Sibling-Rivalry The Lost Children: When Behavior Problems Traumatize Siblings http://www.empoweringparents.com/Sibling-Rivalry-Good-Kid-vs-Bad-Kid.php?&key=Sibling-Rivalry Sibling Rivalry: Good Kid vs. Bad Kid Good luck to you and your family as you continue to work through this.

Comment By : Rebecca Wolfenden, Parental Support Line Advisor

My situation is similar to Lindas. I am a single mum, my 17 year old is rebellious, lazy, and making life so miserable. She has much of the issues, I read on this page. Stays up all night. Bbming, tv, and sleeps all day. She use to be a straight A student, but dropped out of school. The last year, she lied about many things, stole from my wallet, and is now downright rude, keeps her space like a pigsty, I have tried some techniques, which has helped but the hell in our home still continues, depends on her mood. If she doesnt get her way, all hell breaks loose. I have just had enough of being dictated and controlled by her. She is manipulative, and pushes especially when I hace work commitments, then since its harder to argue, she gets her way. She already preparing me for when she turns 18. I have decided to try again and sit her down, and work out a mutally acceptable situation,I tried many times, but she always avoiding to discuss. I have come to the stage, to save myself, my sanity, to walk away. Even if it means the law intervenes and puts her into state custody or foster care. I know it sounds harsh, but I can no longer take the abuse, bullying, disrespect and work my hind off to provide a normal life for her. Please anybody in a similar situation, share. I am thinking maybe when shes out there, shes understand how good she had it. Frankly I have had enough, and after raising her single handed for 17 yrs, with no support from the father, I want MY life back. Am I being selfish

Comment By : Shanel

* To “Shanel”: We appreciate you sharing your story with us. It sounds like you have had a difficult time with your daughter over the last couple years. It’s understandable to feel like you’re at the end of your rope when you have been dealing day in and day out with disrespectful and inappropriate behavior. It’s possible she may understand how good she had it once she’s on her own. Whether or not she comes to that conclusion, I want to reassure you that it’s not selfish to hold your daughter accountable for her choices. Actually, it’s exactly what we would suggest you do. You can’t necessarily control your daughter’s behavior or choices. You can control how you respond to her, including how you hold her accountable when she makes poor choices or behaves disrespectfully towards you. As a parent, I can understand feeling guilty or selfish when you start thinking about what you need in order to keep yourself on an even keel. In the end, in order to be an effective parent you need to take care of yourself as well as your child. Here are a couple great articles by Debbie Pincus that could be helpful for you in your situation: Adult Children Living at Home? How to Manage without Going Crazy and "Sometimes I Don't Like My Child." . Good luck to you and your family as you continue to address these challenging behaviors. Take care.

Comment By : D. Rowden, Parental Support Advisor

My 11 year old constantly argues. When we ask him to do something we get "just a minute, why, no, I don't want too". This is so frustrating. I feel like I am telling him to do the same things over and over again. He is a good kid. He is never argumentative anywhere other than at home. He always seems to negotiate with everything. I am laid back the majority of time and try to "pick" the right fights with him. I am concerned that he will become more agitated the older he gets. I dont want him to become a teenager and walk all over me. What can I do to get control back in our life and both of us have a little peace for a change?

Comment By : Lovemyson

* To “Lovemyson”: Thank you for writing in. Dealing with attitude can be VERY challenging. Many parents worry about what the future holds if they’re already dealing with attitude before their child becomes a teen; you’re in good company there. From what you have written, it sounds like your son’s behavior is pretty good overall and he only gets into power struggles at home. As James discusses in his article Power Struggles Part I: Are You at War with a Defiant Child, most kids will challenge parental authority as they grow up as a means of individuating and gaining more control over things in his life. So, even though this behavior can be extremely frustrating for parents, it is pretty normal behavior for an 11 year old. It’s great that you pick your battles; that is an excellent way of eliminating some of the power struggles. Something else you may want to try is linking what you’re asking your son to do to a privilege. For example, if you want him to clean his room, you can let him know that, as soon as he has finished that task, he can go outside with his friends or have time on the computer. James explains this technique in the article Does Your Child Say This? "I'll do it later." It’s also going to be important to use direct statements and only tell your son once. When we tell our children over and over again to do something, we are in a sense telling them they don’t have to listen to us the first time we ask them to do something. Expect compliance the first time and hold him accountable for not following through by withholding a privilege until it is done. We wish you and your family the best as you continue to address this challenge. Take care.

Comment By : D. Rowden, Parental Support Advisor

Ok. I see huge flaws. First of all you are assuming that the parent is right and always is. How about some admitting to their own faults and flaws? The truth is everyone has flaws. From my experience with my father and his complete inability to validate anything I feel I've learned that that is the path to ruin any relationship. I am now 25 and still struggle with him to this day! I have continued to grow more resentful towards him and have grown stronger and stronger as a person. I truly believed that my absolute defiance towards my father while growing up protected my individuality and self esteem. If I had conformed to each of his views the way he saw fit I would have never grown to be the person I am now. The biggest joy in my life is to tell someone I am wrong or have made a mistake as it is something my father never did. And come on people let's face the facts; teens aren't dumb. They will start to see your flaws and to not admit to them will only serve to grow resentment and toxicity in the relationship as there is no room for catharsis and conflict resolution. My father is now completely alone. He has ruined all of his relationships and will die alone. I used feel bad for him but you know what, I don't really care anymore. And to me that is the greatest tragedy of all.

Comment By : Eric

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