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How to Stop Arguing and Start Talking with Your ADHD Child

by Dr. Robert Myers, Child Psychologist
How to Stop Arguing and Start Talking with Your ADHD Child

I often joke that kids with ADHD would make great politicians or lawyers, because they never give up a fight!† Trying to cope with a child who argues at the drop of a hat can test the patience of any sane person. Not surprisingly, over the years many parents have asked me what they can do to make the arguing stop. What you can do is help your children turn their ability to argue into a positive trait rather than a negative one.

When the word ďnoĒ is heard by a child with ADHD, it registers a ď10Ē on their emotional scale, while it probably would be a ď5Ē or less for the average kid.


Here’s a way to understand what’s happening in your ADHD child’s brain: Many experiences of kids with ADHD are amplified or more intense than those of average kids. So when the word “No” is heard by a†child with ADHD, it registers a “10” on their emotional scale while it probably would be a “5” or less for the average kid. Quite a few of them also have a lower-than-average tolerance for any departure from what they consider to be fair, whether it’s rules for a game or requests for doing something around the house. Added to this is the fact that most of these kids are also not known for their patience or low-volume voices!†

To help your child learn better coping and communication skills, the first step is to have a discussion about the level of arguing in your home. Now, doing this in the middle of an argument—or even right afterward—is certainly not the best time.† Pick a moment when things are peaceful. Be sure to include all involved parties: the child with ADHD, any siblings and your spouse.† Start the conversation by discussing how each person feels about the constant arguing.† The goal here is to get everybody to agree on these three basic concepts:

1. The Importance of Good Listening.
Discuss what you’ll do together when your child interrupts you to argue, or vice versa. You could use a phrase such as, “Please let me finish my thought, and then it will be your turn to talk.” If you tell an ADHD child to stop arguing, many will come back with, “I’m not arguing, I’m just disagreeing with you.” This just prolongs the argument—or starts a new one! A good solution for this problem is to agree ahead of time on a nonverbal prompt to remind your child to listen and not interrupt. Because your ADHD child is already in the arguing mode and starting to escalate emotionally, nonverbal gestures often work better than words. A neutral sign you’ve agreed upon ahead of time is perfect because it won’t get them more upset. An example of a nonverbal prompt you could use would be to hold up three fingers or to make the peace sign. Make coming up with the prompt into a fun exercise you and your child do together.

2. It’s OK to Disagree. You can “agree to disagree” on various topics with your child. You might even discuss what examples of these might be. With teens, this could include not supporting the same presidential candidate. For younger kids, you can explain how it’s OK for two people to disagree on their favorite flavor of ice cream, for example,†to get the point across. It’s healthy to allow these kinds of disagreements in your home because it teaches your child that his or her opinions matter, and that people can love each other even if they don’t see everything the same way. Practicing healthy disagreements at home also helps ADD kids learn how to master this skill in the outside world.

3.† Mom and Dad are in Charge:† It’s essential for kids to realize who’s in charge. I tell the ADHD teenagers with whom I work, “When you get a job, what’s going to happen when you argue with your boss? They’ll just fire you.” Explain to your child that you’re responsible for their health and well-being. Remind them that you are the boss. You can say, “You don’t have to like it, but that’s the way it is. It’s the same way at work when you have a supervisor you don’t like. You still have to do what they say because they’re the one in charge.”†

The next step is to define the problem that prompted your discussion about arguing in the first place.† Is it not taking “no” for an answer, not wanting to comply with reasonable requests, or always having to be right? Once you have agreed on what the problem is, you can move on to the solution phase.† Here are some basic suggestions on how to handle these three types of arguing:

Not taking “no” for an answer: If the problem is not taking "no" for an answer, you can start with a system to reward the child for improving their ability to accept the answers they do not want to hear.† Why “reward,” you may ask?† Well, you have probably been rewarding the opposite behavior from time to time by giving in.† Now you need to stand your ground and say something like, “I know you don’t like my answer, but you need to take a deep breath and accept it because I believe this is the best decision.”† If the child accepts this without the prompt, they should be given praise such as, “Thanks for accepting my answer without arguing. It helps us to get along and makes it easier for me to say 'yes' sometimes.”† If this simple approach works, great!† If not, move on to saying that for every day that goes by without an argument,†your child†will get a star on†his chart.† When all 30 squares are filled, he will receive an agreed upon reward.† If this does not resolve the problem you may have to “kick it up a notch” and add a time-out for arguing or have him write, “ I will calmly take no for an answer even though I don’t like the answer” five times. This works well for ADHD kids because it’s shorter and takes less time than writing out a few paragraphs on what they did wrong, an effective approach for non-ADHD†kids. With a child who has ADHD, they’re apt to write a paragraph explaining why you’re wrong! All in all, having them write sentences helps you avoid a power struggle.

“I won’t do it!” If the problem is noncompliance with a reasonable request, make your child a member of the "First Time Club".†This is similar to the reward chart above.†In the First Time Club, your child is given a point or star each time they comply with a request without an argument the first time they are asked.† When the thirty squares are filled, give them a reward. Periodically, give verbal praise or a pat on the back when your child complies the first time they are asked. You can do this while they are on the reward chart system, and keep it up less frequently after the chart has been completed.

I’m Right, You’re Wrong:
† Finally, for kids who always have to be right and feel the need to have everyone agree with them on every issue, some coaching on listening skills is in order.† Practice discussing issues with your child, teaching them how to be a good listener, and showing them how to understand others points of view by asking questions such as, “That’s interesting, what made you think of that?”† Practice phrases that show respect for others even when you have a different point of view.† For example, “That’s an interesting point of view and I can tell you feel strongly about it. I think I understand what you’re saying, but I have a different take on it.”† Coach your child by saying that if the other person asks for his or her “take” they can briefly share it.† If they don’t ask for it, tell your child that they need to let the subject drop.

Your ADHD child may like to argue, but it doesn’t have to become the main method of communication between the two of you. As a psychologist and the father of a child with ADHD, I’ve used these techniques to teach hundreds of kids how to stop arguing and communicate more effectively. Remember that the point is not to stifle individuality or assertiveness, but to teach our children how and when to exercise these qualities in a positive, appropriate way.


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Dr Robert Myers is a child psychologist with over 25 years of experience working with children and adolescents with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and learning disabilities and is the creator of the Total Focus Program www.trytotalfocus.com. Dr Myers is Associate Clinical Professor of Psychiatry and Human Behavior at UC Irvine School of Medicine. "Dr Bob" has provided practical information for parents as a radio talk show host and as editor of Child Development Institute's website, 4parenting.com which reaches 3 million parents each year. Dr. Myers earned his Ph.D. from the University of Southern California.

READER'S COMMENTS

Perfect timing on the article. My 11 year old son has ADHD and I just recently sat down with him and tried talking about the fact there is too much arguing going on and in the end this conversation ended in an argument. I'm beyond frustrated and don't know what to do.

Comment By : TSO

This article was right on for our PDDNOS diagnosed son. Thanks for the suggestions.

Comment By : Want to help

I think a lot of it has to do with having patience and separating your adult self from your childs argument. As soon as the argument starts to arise recognize it and say in a calm voice "we can discuss this issue when you calm down and can talk about it in a normal toned voice. Until then this argument is over." There also should be a consequence. I don't care how old the child is. If it wasn't done when they were a child, it should have been done. A connection needs to be made that when I argue, or act in a hurtful manner towards others, it is unacceptable. Start taking away privileges, cell phone, computer usage etc. If this is something new and your trying it with an older child. Set up a family meeting with the child involved and lay it all out on the table for them. Telling them exactly what the rules are, and what the consequences will be. Your voice should never be raised and you should never fall into the intimidation, argue with me because I know what buttons to push, trap with your child. Remember your the adult, this child should be learning from you and you need to teach them. The only way you can do this is to be consistent, never deviate from the rules, and always, always follow through. If this hasn't been your way...in the meeting with your child tell them you've decided that things haven't been working the way you thought they were in the past and now it's gone too far. Things will be changing and this is how. Then explain the rules and consequences.

Comment By : parenting

I would like an article on interference from other members in the family when I an trying to relate to my child. This is very annoying and it needs to be stopped. Thanks.

Comment By : Lala

I have tried all of the above with my 19-year-old son throughout his life, to no avail. "No" is not an option with him, he is always right, and counseling/medication have produced little improvement. Sign me:

Comment By : tiredbear

Dead on accurate from my experience as the father of an "ADD" 20 year old son. My wife and I have benefited from the Total Transformation techniques and others over the years. After many difficult years our son is now doing great! Praise God. Held a job for over 3 years, best GPA ever 3.0 and this completing college units.

Comment By : Tom

I like your approach and the techniques all look good, for a younger child. Mine is 16 and no reward seems to be enough to get him to be interested in complying. I've tried the daily approach, a weekly approach, a "we trust you to show us" approach, nothing matters. It's all about video games, "having fun", and "Once I'm out of here I'll do what I want". He lies constantly directly to our faces without hesitation or remorse, and, he is very bad at trying to cover up so we always know when he is lying. I need a technique that can work with a 16+ year old, but everyone around me, including counselors, tell me it is too late and we will just have to let him fail on his own. Big Sigh!

Comment By : Ron

I'm sorry but this does not always work on kids mine is 4 be 5 soon and we have had nothin but trouble in just prek and I do the reward charts one day its cool the next he could care less

Comment By : tired mom

The article is excellent. I sometimes feel like my sixteen-year-old daughter has become a habitual liar. In a way she has, she was diagnosed this year with ADHD and I feel that she has compensated for so many years with a disability that she did not understand. She was diagnosed with just having anger issues. I stongly believe if you work with your child and include your entire family in the process your child will not feel alone, disabled or worthless. I have also heard from counselors that it is to late to change her behavor that it is unheard of to be diagnosed with ADHD in High School, some children are very independent and would rather suffer than ask for help. My sixteen year old never asked for help her grades started to dropp in 9th grade. I had a meeting at her school. The teachers one in particular had said that my teen was not honest with her or herself. Well now I know why, My child had become a habitual liar this is how she must have compensated throughout the years to get the extra time she needed for homework, schoolwork and exams. My teen is now @ a place where she recognizes when she looses her train of thought. My teen actually came to me for help, she needed more time to complete an exam. I have seen a difference in her in a short period of time. I would have to say that it is never to late to teach your teen the survival skills that are needed when you have ADHD. Remember how difficult it was being a teen and then try to fathom being a teen with ADHD that has been diagnosed late in life. It will be a great challenge to help the child alter their old habbits. I belive the key to succes for me will being able to alter my old habbits with her as well. Good luck to all, we have a lot of work ahead of us. " If we live in the past we will never have a future, nor wil our children."

Comment By : Saddie

Your article touched on so many of my problems with my teen daughter (17). But the star system is just not going to work for her age. Any sugestions.

Comment By : Sheril

My question is this...How to you apply all of these suggestions when you have ADHD yourself. The daily struggles are all something I feel myself.

Comment By : Mommyof3

* Dear Mommyof3: You are not alone. Many parents of kids with ADHD either have the disorder themselves or live with a spouse who does. I admit it can be a challenge. On the other hand, you are better able to understand and empathize with your child. You could find problems you have in common and work on them together. You may want to see if you have a CHADD support group in your area and meet monthly with other parents who face similar challenges. They usually have guest speakers who provide valuable tips. You can join an ADHD adult support group or find a coach. You are truly not alone. Support is available. Participate in the the discussions here on Empowering Parents. Also, I have links to support organizations on my website kidsadhd.com. Hang in there and both you and your child will benefit. I know, I have gone through this myself with my own son.

Comment By : Dr. Bob Myers

My husband is a "DISNEY DAD", I am called "OGRE" at times, because I set rules ETC.,ETC., my daughter is now 17yrs old in 2 months she will be 18 yrs old, it has been for years like a roller coaster, as long as she gets what she wants when she wants she is happy and so is her dad, if I try to talk to him about problems with her he don't want to hear it. She is Bipolar and A.D.D. ( so am I ) I believe she is R.A.D. also she is nice when she wants something and the mean and hateful towards me when she don't (to the point I want to give up), so she'll call her dad and her dad tells me to give her money to go do whatever (no drugs or alcohol involved) normally it's for her to eat out, gas to drive to her friends, go shopping, while I'm told to save money and not drive all over the place. I know you have the big picture, I have tried counseling and the whole nine yards and have gotten nowhere. She will be graduating this Spring and wants to go to college, she attends a school special for kids that need one on one, even though she gets merit roll, the professors aren't going to be there to supervisor her on her work, but my husband thinks she can do it, I don't and this is why NO ONE ON ONE, SHE CAN'T EVEN TAKE CARE OF HER DOG, YOU HAVE TO TELL HER FOR 3 WEEKS TO CLEAN HER ROOM, SHE EXPECTS EVERYONE TO CATER TO HER, CLEAN UP AFTER HER, AND SO ON AND SO ON. I need advise on if we should spend thousands of dollars on her to attend college.

Comment By : ALWYAS THE BAD MOM : (

* To ĎALWAYS THE BAD MOMí: Itís clear that you are very frustrated with your daughter and that you have a tough decision to make. I personally think itís great that she wants to go to college and continue her education. That said, though, the decision about whether or not to pay for her to go to college is a personal one for you and dad to make with the assistance of some local supports that understand your daughter and her needs. It would be a great idea for you to schedule a meeting with your daughterís school counselor and her teacher to get their opinions and ideas. Your daughterís school counselor would be a good resource person to discuss financial aid options with. For example, is it possible that your daughter might qualify for state or federal grants that would pay for at least part of the cost of her post-high school education? You might also explore the option of a career school instead of a traditional university or community college, as they tend to be shorter term, less expensive, and focused on only the skills needed to work in a specific area such as medical assisting for example. Furthermore, many post-secondary education institutions do have support staff for students with special needs. I think itís important to talk with your daughter and discuss some optionsówhat are some schools and programs she is interested in? Then you can contact the institutions and see what kind of support they might have available for your daughter on campus. One final note: Be careful about telling your daughter she canít succeed, either through your words or actions. Sooner or later she may start to believe you and give up on trying to do good things for herself that will allow her to become more independent from you.

Comment By : Sara Bean, M.Ed., Parental Support Advisor

I have an 18 yr old and 16 yr old son who I love with my whole heart. They are ADHD and were diagnosed before the age of 5. Both have IQ's above 125, but they are low achievers at high school. The high school they go to my dog could graduate from, however, my 18 year old has 2 "F"s and may not be able to walk across with his class. He lies, runs with a bunch of hoods who drink, smoke black and milds, have group sex, social diseases etc. I moved away from the area when they were 12 and 15 and they whined to their dad about how unhappy they were and although it made no financial sense and certainly I moved them to a nicer area where they refused to do anything in school there. They worked on dad who demanded (I really had no choice in the matter I feel) to go back to the area where my sons acted like punks previously. Now my 18 year old wants to stay out and get drunk with his friends and high, my 16 year old has kinda straightened up and he found one of the only nice girls in the area I think and is doing better, but the first year he was here all he did was sit at a welfare apartment and get high, the end of that is when he turned over a table after I refused to give him money and he got himself together, along with his best friend went to juvie until hes 18. I cannot stand the area where my kids go to school. Recently a aquaintance of the kids died in a car accident at 16, turns out her mother was not even home that week that the little girl died. This is the norm around here, not the exception. I am so sorry I came back here and I feel responsible for my 18 yr old going down the tubes. I cannot help it, I should have stood up to the pressure I recieved from all of them! I feel like the worst parent in the entire planet! Now my son has his old peer group back that I took him away from. And this peer group has really no redeeming social qualities; they are sneaky, lie, have done stuff on property they know I would not approve of if I am out of the house, like smoke, drink and get high. I dont know what to do, I feel like getting in my car and driving away, I know if my 16 yr old breaks up with this girl, who insists apparently that my son has decent habits, he will go right back to the gutter he crawled out of. I told my 18 yr old (who wants to take the summer off to party with his friends) that he has a choice, either get a 40 hr a week job or go to college full time this summer (we have a community college with summer sessions) so that is his choice or we will not be supporting him financially or college wise if he moves out. I hate to do it, and I feel bad, but this is what his guidance counselor recommended. Thats if he graduates from HS. I just wish I could have, would have done something different. What more can i do? I feel wretchingly guilty.

Comment By : badchoicemaker

* To 'badchoicemaker': Itís normal for parents to feel guilty, and take responsibility for their kidsí choices when they see a child seeming to throw it all away. Ultimately, these are your sonís decisions that he is making with his life, not yours. You cannot control his actions, only how you will respond to his choices. Only you can decide what you can live with, and what you cannot tolerate. We recommend setting some limits with your son around his behavior. We commend you for letting him know that he needs to either find a full-time job or continue with school at the end of the year in order for you to continue supporting him financially. You can also set some limits around his drinking and drug use if you feel comfortable doing that at this point. He may experience some natural legal consequences around his substance use, and we encourage you to let him experience those. I am including links to some other articles I think you might find helpful: Throwing It All Away: When Good Kids Make Bad Choices & My Child Is Using Drugs or Drinking AlcoholóWhat Should I Do? Good luck to you and your family as you continue to work through this. We know this isnít easy.

Comment By : Rebecca Wolfenden, Parental Support Advisor

I am reading this as I am at an all time low. My 20 year old daughter has ADHD and has never been an easy kid (though I do count my blessings that she has very good values, nice friends, doesn't do drugs, drink, or hang out with the wrong crowd). Daughter is provided a vehicle for her to drive and the expectation is in return she will do set chores in the time frame set up. We pay for all of her college expenses provided she keep her grades up to a B average. We have welcomed her friends into our home, have tried to be there for her when things don't go well for her, and have tried to encourage her when things have gone well. At one point she felt very close to me and pulled away around age 11. At this point, I feel that she feels entitled, is not willing to share any part of her life with us (not even I had a good day because...). If dad makes a decision that she doesn't like, she turns it around and makes it my fault and nags me about until I get angry. She has told me that I am controlling and mean and that if I do not change my ways we will never have a relationship, yet she calls me each every time she needs help (and I do help her). If I ask her to do the least little thing, she gets angry and nasty, but we are supposed to drop whatever we are doing to help her immediately. She will talk to my husband, will hug him, etc., but will not even acknowledge my existance other than when she needs me. She is angry that we have controls in place (keep your grades up or you own it, do your chores on time or leave the keys on the counter for the weekend). I recently had a birthday and she sat there until 1:00 PM not wishing me a happy birthday but instead nagging me about her dad telling her that she could not drive my car (hers was in the shop). When we had cake, she went upstairs to her room and ignored me. I have tried to talk to her about what is going on and she just tells me that I need to change my unrealistic expectations. Recently, things have escalated to the point that I have told her to pack her bags and leave. Not really an option as she has nowhere to go. I have also used foul language which I am not proud of. I am hurt, angry, and frustrated and I just don't see a way out of this. On top of that I am now dealing with the possiblity of breast cancer that has just reared its ugly head. HELP!

Comment By : stressed out mom

* To ďstressed out momĒ: Thank you for sharing your story with us. It sounds like you have a lot on your plate right now. Itís great your daughter has a lot of positive attributes. I know that doesnít make dealing with the negative behavior any easier. With adult children, itís important to have clear limits and firm boundaries as far as what your expectations are for her and how you will hold her accountable. It sounds like you already have some limits and consequences in place. Thatís definitely a great start. Keep in mind it isnít your responsibility to rush to help her every time she needs help. She is an adult and allowing her to figure some things out on her own can go a long way towards helping her to develop some independence. Itís also going to be helpful to focus on what you can control. Itís understandable you want your daughter to show interest in you and whatís going on with you. Unfortunately, that really isnít anything you have control over. The more you try to make her, the more she is probably going to pull away. Instead, focus on how you interact with and respond to her. I hear your regret at using foul language with her. As a parent of two teens, I can tell you itís not always easy to keep yourself calm in the face of their indifferent or disrespectful behavior. It can be really helpful to disengage and walk away when you start to feel your buttons being pushed. Debbie Pincus gives some great suggestions on how to be a calm parent in her article Calm Parenting: How to Get Control When Your Child is Making You Angry. Parenting adult children often offers very different challenges. I would also suggest reading some of our articles that focus on adult children. Here are a couple of links you may find helpful: Rules, Boundaries and Older Children Part I & Adult Children Living at Home? How to Manage without Going Crazy. I am sorry to hear about your health concerns. I would encourage you to take some time to think about what you are doing to take care of yourself because itís also important to keep your own self-care in mind while you are helping your daughter through some of these issues. Being an effective parent can be challenging when you are frustrated and exhausted. We wish you the best as you continue to deal with these issues. Take care.

Comment By : D. Rowden, Parental Support Advisor

My 8 year old son has recently been diagnosed with ADHD. He does great in school has been top of his class every year and enjoys school. He has lots of friends and wants to participate and be involved in everything. We have always noticed that he had a hard time losing at anything, he would pick up a board game and throw it if he was losing when he was just a toddler. The only way to keep him happy is to always let him win and that is exactly what I have always done. His dad on the other hand does not and therefore a fun game always ends in a major meltdown and him screaming and quiting the game. Then of course dad is ready to disclipine and that makes it even worse. Now these episodes are happening at school when he does not get his way, during baseball games if he strikes out or gets out, playing a video game, you name it if he is not perfect at it or the winner he is going to explode...and I mean explode. He will either get mad and explode or he will start saying how he is stupid and not good at anything. And then there is the "no" meltdowns. If he does not get what he wants it does not matter where we are or what is going on if he does not get his way he will go into a crying, screaming and kicking fit. We have had instances just in the last week where he laid in the floor in the middle of a store over a toy he wanted and then later that same day cried and screemed at us and then kicked a fence at a minor league baseball game that we had taken him too because he did not get to have a friend over to spend the night. I would love some advise on how to handle a situation like this in a public place when so many people are staring at you and you know they do not understand what it is like to go through this day after day. He is the light of my life and I want to help him so bad. I have tried so many things...I even bought the Total Transormation Program, the Total Focus Program, we are currently trying different medications (which is not making much difference) and I am waiting on an appointment for behavior management. I did not do very well with the Total Transformation Program or the Total Focus and it is my fault because I just don't seem to understand it all the way I probably should and I have not followed through good at all. I study and read about ADHD all of the time, but I am getting no where with him. I will take any advise I can get especially on the public meltdowns and the always having to be the best issues. Our homelife is so stressful because of him and this is not what I want for our family.

Comment By : aj\'smom

* To ďaj'smomĒ: Thank you for sharing your story with us. I can hear how much you want to help your son overcome this very challenging behavior. It can be so embarrassing when your child acts out or throws a tantrum in public. The embarrassment only adds to the anxiety and frustration youíre already feeling in having to deal with the behavior in the first place. Itís not unusual for children who have low frustration tolerance and limited problem-solving skills to behave the way your son is behaving. Still, it really can be a very difficult place to be as a parent. For that reason, many parents will avoid situations in which their child gets upset. Though itís an understandable response, it doesnít allow your son the opportunity to learn how to deal with being upset or frustrated. Instead of avoiding situations where your son may get upset, we would suggest focusing on helping your son develop better problem solving or coping skills. Itís going to be beneficial to problem solve with him ways he can calm himself down when he gets upset. Here is a great article that gives step by step directions on how to problem solve with your son: The Surprising Reason for Bad Child Behavior: "I Can't Solve Problems". You may also consider implementing task-oriented consequences when your son responds inappropriately or chooses not to calm himself down. Janet Lehman reviews consequences and how to use them effectively in her article Child Discipline: Consequences and Effective Parenting. I would encourage you to try and not be too concerned with what other people may be thinking. As Debbie Pincus points out in her article Dealing with Child Temper Tantrums from Toddler to Pre-teen,, you really canít be sure what other people are thinking. When we are in a negative space, we tend to interpret other peoplesí perception as negative too. Good luck to you and your family as you continue to work through these challenges. Take care.

Comment By : D. Rowden, Parental Support Advisor

My son has been diagnosed with ADHD in grade 1 - his now in grade 5. I'm almost certain that our daughter in grade 6 is ADD however not hyperactive. We haven't had her assessed as yet. The road with our son has been a difficult one and while I think with age it will change it just seems to get worse. It doesn't stop! He argues about everything, says whatever is on his mind, no matter how inappropriate, lies about everything, and now I'm afraid stealing has raised it's ugly head. His 11 and is such a handful still. With the latest episode of stealing I just feel hopeless! However this a loving, caring child who is so helpful and kind. He was diagnosed as chronilogically 2 years ahead of his peers so is very intelligent. He shows empathy after doing something wrong, like the stealing eposide, but then what happens in his head before he commits the act - boggles me. I'm afraid that his so draining and always the focus that we are not dealing with the obvious issues our daughter has. My husband and I just feel lost! It has been a long road with our son and we are so afraid for his future! How do we nip this stealing issue in the bud so that it doesn't escalate? We would be devestated if our son takes the wrong path in life and we just don't know how to prevent it.

Comment By : TERRIFIED AND DESPERATE MOM

* To ďTERRIFIED AND DESPERATE MOMĒ: Thank you for sharing your story. It can be worrisome when a child steals and you begin to predict possible outcomes based on the current behaviors. Itís going to be most effective to focus on whatís happening now as opposed to awfulizing about the future. One thing to keep in mind is that stealing isnít a moral issue for kids as much as itís a problem-solving issue. Thereís something your son wants, he doesnít know how to solve that problem so he takes it. Impulse control can also play a role in the behavior. The most effective way to address the behavior is probably going to be by focusing on problem solving. Now that doesnít mean you donít have a consequence for him. There absolutely should be a consequence for the behavior, either in the form of having him replace the item he stole or by making an amends to the person who he stole from. If the article he took is able to be given back, you could charge him rent for the item so to speak for the time it was in his possession. Itís great that your son shows remorse for his actions. That points to him knowing the behavior isnít OK. I wouldnít focus on whether or not heís remorseful though. Instead, we advise sitting down with him and having a conversation with him that involves 3 questions: 1) what were you thinking before you took the item, 2) who does it hurt and 3) what can you do differently the next time you are tempted to take something. We would suggest having him write an essay that encompasses those three points. If he refuses, you could withhold a privilege until the essay is complete. You might find this article James Lehman wrote on stealing helpful: Why is My Child Stealing and What Can I Do? Advice for Parents on Kids, Stealing and Shoplifting. Another article you might like is this one written by James where he discusses things parents can do when one child takes up most of the parentsí time and energy: The Lost Children: When Behavior Problems Traumatize Siblings. Good luck to you and your family as you continue to address these challenges. Take care.

Comment By : D. Rowden, Parental Support Advisor

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