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When ODD Kids, Entitlement Mentality and Verbal Abuse Collide

by Kim Abraham LMSW and Marney Studaker-Cordner LMSW
When ODD Kids, Entitlement Mentality and Verbal Abuse Collide

Over the years, as technology has evolved and material things have become more readily available, our society has developed a strong sense of “the wants.” In this modern world, we don’t like to wait for things like computers, cars and houses—delayed gratification is a thing of the past. Our children have embraced this sense of entitlement likes ducks to water; most of them have grown up with it from the time they were born. They often expect that they will get what they want (not necessarily what they need) when they want it. Their attitude seems to be one of, “What do you mean I need to earn things like a cell phone, expensive clothes or an iPod? I deserve them, simply because I’m here!With their low frustration tolerance, poor coping skills and tendency to react impulsively, ODD kids are especially prone to the belief that parents are here to meet all of their desires. Faced with disappointment or the prospect of not getting what they want, an attack of verbal abuse (swearing, name-calling, yelling, intimidating, threatening, belittling or demeaning) may erupt that can leave parents feeling as if they’ve been hit by a tsunami and wondering what just happened.

"Would you respect someone who let you walk all over them, then gave you whatever you wanted?"

Related: How to handle a verbally abusive ODD child or teen.

The Effects of Verbal Abuse
Verbal abuse can leave you feeling worn out, devastated, hurt and afraid to assert yourself. It can lead to a sense of vulnerability because the more it’s experienced, the more we can get “used to it.” We start to tolerate being talked to by our child in ways we never thought we would. On the flip side, verbal abuse can also trigger anger. As parents we can find ourselves using the same type of verbal aggression. Either way, the effects of verbal abuse can be long-term if left unchecked.

Sometimes verbal abuse can become a cycle in the home: a family member (your child) experiences something that makes him uncomfortable (your child doesn’t get his way or doesn’t get what he wants). He responds with verbal abuse (either out of anger, frustration or in attempt to get what he wants through intimidation or bullying). The parent either doesn’t respond to the verbal abuse (allows it to go without consequence or correction) or reinforces it (gives the child what they want or continues to buy/give things to the child that are “wants” rather than “needs”). The child is satisfied until another instance arises that leads to discomfort, at which point he falls back on what worked before: verbal abuse.

Related: How to talk to your child without a nasty fight.

If you’re in this pattern with your child, what can you do? As a parent, the best chance you have of changing this cycle of verbal abuse is at the point of your response.

How Do I Respond to My Child’s Verbal Abuse?

1. Know your boundaries. In a calm moment, think about what your boundaries are. If you’re experiencing the behaviors listed above, you’re being verbally abused. If the way your child is talking to you feels demeaning, shaming or leaves you feeling as if you’ve been attacked, it’s a good sign your boundaries are being crossed.

2. Set your boundaries. As parents, we sometimes fail to tell our kids exactly what our boundaries are: “It’s not okay for you to swear or yell at me. I’m not going to stand here and tolerate that.” As James Lehman says, “There’s no excuse for abuse”—and it’s vital that you communicate that to your child.

3. Make clear how you will respond if your boundaries are violated. Our job as a parent is to teach our kids “Real Life.” In the Real World, if someone is verbally abusive (as long as there isn’t a direct threat of harm being made), there aren’t legal consequences. The police don’t get involved. But when you verbally abuse others they aren’t usually quick to do favors for you. If you scream at your neighbor and call him names and then ask to borrow his car, he’ll probably respond with a great big “No!” Let your child know that if he or she is verbally abusive toward you, not to expect you to do any favors or “extras” (giving rides, driving through the fast food restaurant for lunch, buying designer clothes, make-up, etc). Don’t make this indefinite—instead, give your child a chance to earn back the privilege of extras. For example, if your child yells at you, then asks for a new pair of jeans, you may say, “You know, you were pretty disrespectful to me earlier. I’m not going to buy those jeans for you today. If you can talk to me and treat me respectfully for the next week, I’ll consider buying them.” Look at it this way: If you buy the jeans after being verbally abused, you’re teaching your child that it’s okay to verbally abuse others and that she’ll still get what she wants. The message is, “It’s okay to treat me this way. Even if you verbally abuse me, I’ll still do things for you.” But that’s not how the real world works. Also, kids don’t respect us when we allow them to treat us poorly and then buy them things. Would you respect someone who let you walk all over them, then gave you whatever you wanted?

Related: Use “Real Life” consequences to set boundaries and limits around your child’s behavior.

4. Enforce your boundaries. Identifying and communicating boundaries to a child is only helpful if you maintain those boundaries in the face of your child’s negative behavior. This means following through with whatever you’ve told your child the consequence will be for verbal abuse. If your daughter wants a new pair of jeans after she’s just sworn at you (as in the example above), and you give them to her, you’ve just reinforced that verbal abuse is not only tolerated, but rewarded. If your son wants a ride to his friend’s house and you take him after he’s just yelled and threatened you, he’s not likely to begin respecting your boundaries.

5. Model positive boundaries. We all have moments when we lose our temper, saying things we don’t mean (or do mean, but wish we’d said more kindly – not in the heat of our emotion). Take a look at your own communication style. Are you respecting the boundaries of others—not just your child’s, but your spouse’s, your parents’, your cousin’s and all your other personal relationships? If not, put effort into communicating with others in a way that respects their boundaries. Model the same effort you hope to see from your child.

6. Know your emotional buttons. When your child is disrespectful to you, how do you tend to respond? Many parents are afraid of enforcing boundaries with their ODD or Conduct-Disordered child for fear of what will happen. Will my child respond with physical aggression or destroy my property? Will my child stop loving me or give me the silent treatment if I don’t give him what he wants? Fear can keep parents captive in the cycle of verbal abuse.

It’s also important to understand how your history may impact your life now. Some parents were verbally abused by their own parents when growing up, or are currently in relationships where boundaries are violated. This can leave you vulnerable to tolerating this type of behavior from your child. Experiencing verbal abuse can lead to being “numb” to it, so be aware of this if you’re having difficulty maintaining your boundaries with your child.

Enforcing your boundaries is one of the most important things you can do when faced with a child who is exhibiting signs of entitlement and talking to you in a way that is disrespectful or verbally abusive. Take a few moments when you’re alone, or talk with someone you truly trust who supports you about anything that might stand in your way when responding to your child.

Related: There’s no excuse for abuse—verbal or otherwise. Learn how to stop it.

Kids may act like they are entitled: to things, to privileges, to be angry or disrespectful when experiencing stress or frustration. That doesn’t mean that they are entitled. Just because it’s your child does not mean you lose the right to set boundaries. In fact, it’s especially important to set those boundaries with our kids. It models how to have healthy relationships with others, including with their friends, teachers, bosses, significant others—and someday, their own children.

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Kimberly Abraham, LMSW, has worked with children and families for more than 25 years. She specializes in working with teens with behavioral disorders, and has also raised a child with Oppositional Defiant Disorder. Marney Studaker-Cordner, LMSW, is the mother of four and has been a therapist for 15 years. She works with children and families and has in-depth training in the area of substance abuse. Kim and Marney are the co-creators of The ODD Lifeline for parents of Oppositional, Defiant kids, and Life Over the Influence, a program that helps families struggling with substance abuse issues. Their first children's book, Daisy: The True Story of an Amazing 3-Legged Chinchilla, teaches the value of embracing differences and was the winner of the 2014 National Indie Excellence Children's Storybook Cover Design Award.


It is a shame but I'm having this exact same thing going on with my 16 yr old. Except when I used this technique she didn't like it & hit due to me not giving her what she wanted. Police were called & they did nothing!

Comment By : Tina

I like this article because it addresses verbal abuse, but sometimes its not so much a form of verbal abuse, it's more like a strong opposition to do what is requested, even if it is a small thing. So there are really two problems: 1) the wrong tone of voice used 2) their unwillingness to do what they are supposed to do. Then what?

Comment By : puzzledmom

I going through the same thing puzzledmom added. Respectful Good 15 yr old Daughter however the strong opposition and tone of voice can really hit a parent the wrong way, What to do then?

Comment By : couriousmom

THANK you for your continued articles! This happened exactly at my house with my 16 year old one this weekend and my husband was out of town. Because of consistently reading your acticles, I was able to stand strong and not get pulled into it AT ALL! He used every name in the book, and threw everything that he could. However, I walked away, told him the consequences if he continued, since he continued, I followed through with the consequences. Never, have I felt so empowered after an attack. Yes, it still happened, but I do not have anger, guilt, or a sick feeling in my stomach because I was firm, although kind, and I do not have resentment towards him. I did my job, and he has decide if he is going to do his!

Comment By : bevann

What about YOU?!! When they become defiant and begin to use the "wrong tone", IGNORE them. Do not seem like you're bothered. They want to know that they have affected you; it's part of their pay off. They want ALL of your attention (and not in a good way at times), and they WILL be selfish. YOU deserve to have inner peace. YOU belong to yourself, not them. They need to know this. Put on some music that you like; wear headphones ,or have the music on out loud. It distracts them. They are most likely used to you not doing anything for yourself. Turn the television on to a show that you like, and have your favourite snack or magazine in hand while doing it. If you don't have your favourite snack or magazine, or whatever you LIKE .., then that's the beginning of the problem. Have you forgotten about what YOU like to do?! Put yourself first again, and continue to do it. It will make YOU feel better and also show them that they are losing at their "attempt to control you game". Instead of telling them to leave and to go to their room (if that usually causes them to not listen) YOU prepare yourself to leave and go and do something nice for yourself. Do not be predictable, and do not be mean. Buy something for YOURSELF. Be sure that they know (see) what you did for yourself. They will see that you are putting yourself first and they will NOT like that. They want to control you and want EVERYTHING from you.., it obviously is affecting your mind, emotions and probably your body. Take it all back. This YOU deserve. Do not give it to them. Take care of yourself. Get your life back. Live again. Please don't forget about YOU! Peace, love and blessed energy! Don't forget you still are a young girl in an adult body and world. Have fun again. You do not need their permission for that! xoxo

Comment By : Notjustamom

Im have a child whos a 11 years old..And im going threw this with him especailly he dont get his way and telling i make his life misserable and he hates me. he was supposed to go to a valentines dance but his attitude was so bad he really got ugly with me

Comment By : angelamrani

I have the same problem with my 16 year old son. I am shocked at how he talks to me lately. His reaction is like a bomb just blow up. I tried all kinds of ways to ignore or talk to him. I think my husband is right, the best thing is to ignore him and not give in to his demands.if you have any other ideas please let me know. I don't think i have ever been this sad or depress in my life

Comment By : shocked mom

Full marks for this article - excellent. My stars allocated went wrong and gave a low score instead of full marks.

Comment By : impressed

This is a very interesting write-up.

Comment By : BANANN

My severe ODD child is 19 now. My son is 17. I can't believe what I have lived through. My daughter started out of the hospital. I am not kidding. She started with colic, biting and on to not being able to take a time out. She would bang her head on the floor. She was the most intense screamer I have ever heard. And as she got older I noticed a pattern of having to win - wish usually meant cheating. I took her to every doctor I knew to take her. I took a discipline class with her father, my husband at the time. And the conversation was so long ... when you do this, i feel this, and i am asking you to do this... by that time, she was having a body tantrum. My son was about three years younger. He did not have quite the insanity that my daughter had. But the bad part is she was peeved that he was here. She took out quite a lot of rage at him. Most of my friends have lived amazed that I am alive. THe fits of rage were huge. Their father was a complete NO HELP. In fact, I think he was part of the problem. He was always rude about other people and rude with me. I had unfortunately gotten used to it. And yes, I was a child who had crazy, verbally abusive parents. I think the husband thing was the most cruel because he made it where he walked on water. I do have to say that he was not a giver the way I was. And the kids would never call him names. But he did not support me or stop the kids from speaking horribly to me. In fact, he didn't notice it. During the 19 years of horror, I have somewhat concluded those years with a daughter who is ok. Now that she is an adult, I walk out on her. I don't care where it is. Last time, it was Miami. It got so horrible that she wanted me to stand in a corner because of her stuff. She was working and stressed and she took it out on me. And my son had to me placed in a school for emotionally disturbed children. He is doing well NOW. He played football and is in perfect health. His esteem has returned. I fear I could not get him off the computer. I remember his insanity. And I look back on why I couldn't cope when I was screamed at and recall the absolute fear of losing my mind and life. I was traumatized. I took drugs and drank to cope. Funny, but I don't know what I would have done if I did not have those two coping drugs. When I got some norm, I walked away from them. I read that parents who have spent a long time in extreme abusive situations may live out their life with issues. I get so upset when I look at my 20 years of living with my horrible daughter and what I gave up. I had a masters in education. I was an artist. I barely could go to the bathroom with this child. I feared leaving her alone but I couldn't stand her either. 20 years. All gone. I am sure I would not have had children if I knew how horrible a ride it would have been. What I would like from anyone is to tell me how to look back on 20 terrifying years and somehow walk away with some peace that I didn't waste my life on pure insanity. I don't even know who I am. I just finally felt like substitute teaching because I need money so badly. I dream of not having their father to support me. But frankly, I have been an absolute shell. I am 53. How can I live the rest of my life?

Comment By : aquadog

I am the parent of a 22 year old with ODD. I have to say I wish I had information long before now. We have horrible confrontations. He is at home because he got into trouble and can't get a job now. I'm saying all of this because I want you to know what later is like. My home is my nightmare.

Comment By : karenhp

Notjustamom Thank you for the pep talk, Looking at my complicated situatio, living with a limited income, surviving on Social Security Disability have to use food banks to make ends meet, I already have stress. Add to that my son and the way he demands things from me and my parents. Not only can I not afford it but I don't do anything for me, I go without to make sure the boys aren't as impacted by our situation but my mother gives in, says it will keep the peace. The damage he has done to my house is going to prevent me from getting my deposit back, 2 door frames are cracked, 3 doors have holes in them, the wall in his bedroom will have to be replaced, at least 1/2 a sheet of sheetrock. He has thrown his bike at my truck and thrown phones, one night he slammed his own laptop on the floor and shattered the screen when he recognized what he had done the horror on his face was unforgettable but that was the only time I've ever seen him pause and show remorse, he never bothers with apologies. I'm disabled with extreme spinal damage after several failed back surgeries, it is like a shark and blood, he can smell my weakness. When he was younger and smaller I used to restrain him to keep him from damaging things but at 13 he is over 6ft tall and 200lbs, he is huge and my Dr has made it clear I'll be paralized if I continue. Last night I tried to give myself a pedicure but as soon as I said "I'll be in my bathroom doing my feet" he kept yelling for me then when I got frustrated after the 4th time he yelled "MaaaaaaaM" said I wasn't a good parent. I've been single since 2008, my boys dad and I had tried a reconciliation after almost 5 years apart, it didn't work and I know now never will. He was emotionaly abusive and some of my sons behaviors are mirrors of his father, he tries to humiliate me at every turn, on Facebook with family and I'm afraid to date in the event I meet someone and it gets serious and then he meets my son and runs the other direction. I'm going to start small but I am going to start doing for me for a change, he isn't going to intimidate me into giving him what he wants, sod it. Thanks again Notjustamom I needed that!

Comment By : MsFelicity

My sixteen year old grandson is so much like this article, it is freighting, and i fine myself sometime trying to defend myself, in the same response. i i need help. it can get so so bad. for most part i give in after taking his phone because i don't want anything to happen to him, and he not be able to get help.

Comment By : what to do ,

So, you go though the ringer with 50 questions asked, your credit checked, your house evaluated and mandatory obidient classes before you can adopt a dog, but you can have a child and no one advises that you should do some mandatory reading on ODD - amazing. If only we all would have known.

Comment By : amazed

Great idea, but what if this has been going on so long the kid never has privileges and has nothing to lose?

Comment By : frustrated mom

Frustrated mom, My son was in the same boat. I finally had to find small steps for him to accomplish and earn some time for some priviledges. He is striving and doing alot better now.I am still having a problem with him losing his temper when he doesn't get what he wants, but its not to the degree it was;

Comment By : my2brats

Im a single mom with 3 children,9,8&7. My 9yr old son has ADHD,anger issues and insomnia,my 8yr son has ADHD/BIPOLAR as well as anger issues,my 7yr old daughter is mouthy and disrespectful... this being said,I have had no luck in finding a sitter so I can have some me time and when I do I feel guilty. Im overstressed and have to take anti-depressants,I get NO HELP. Dr's have put them on meds but they dont seem to work and the Psychologists try to pick my brain to see if "my past" reflects on their behaviors,REALLY??? I have taught my kids how to respect others and property its funny how they can be good all day at school and when they arrive home all HECK breaks loose, they fight and they get hurt,they destroy property and dont even care. My 9yr old cries like an infant when he cant have what he wants and intentionally hits the others,my 8yr old is extremely verbally abusive towards me, he makes me feel worthless and hopeless he also detroys property and threatens other people outside our house but they took him off his meds saying he was too young. I have to work alot to make sure they are taken care of i dont recieve child support. my 7 yr old is mouthy,she threatens me with DFACS she has already had them called once and lied about it. She is manipulative. PLEASE dont get me wrong I LOVE MY KIDS and I wouldnt trade them for anything but when you cant focus on the "POSITIVE" because of all the "NEGATIVE" what else can i do?

Comment By : lost and confused

I know exactly how you each feel, I'm in the very same boat!!! And it's a very rough, swift ,stormy ride ,to say the very least! I have a 17 yr. old daughter who I dont feel like I day she was a sweet lovable 7 she started being defiant,I TRIED Being Loving INSTEAD OF STERN..GAVE In because of the hard times her and I had already been through...her seeing me being verbally and a few times physically abused by her father for years...and so the verbal abuse continues now from her! I Tolerated alot because of my depression which I've had as long as I can remember, and now its worse than ever! It's sad but comforting to know that I'm not alone in going through this traumatic experience! I wish noone was going through this,including myself! I,ve been called names, told I,M hated several times, seen cell phones shattered, cried more times than I can recall...and I dont know if I'll ever come out of this depression now...I can only pray I will and I pray for the others who have said there depressed in there comments as well! Depression is a nightmare within itself... let alone having to cope with a defiant and verbally abusive child! If theres not such a group, it would be nice if there were support meetings for people who are dealing with defiant and abusive children all over the U.S.! GOD BLESS YOU ALL! Thank you for your helpful articles and comments!

Comment By : sadANDdismayedmom

I filed a CHIPS petition - a Child in need of protective services with my daughter for these types of behaviors and called the police and had her removed. I told her that if she wasn't willing to respect my authority in when I said no, then I had to find someone she will have to listen to and called the police and asked to have her removed. I asked the county social workers to help me. It did help her realize I wasn't going to put up with it and also I had help and support in dealing with her.

Comment By : mom3

I had an employee tell me one time when he saw my son acting up, that the best thing his father ever did was to kick him out of the house (he was past 18). It finaly came that that for my son now that he is 18. He was a week from graduating from high school (and did). He knows where the homeless shelter is. Knows the military will take him with his diploma. And is not living with a friends family. One abusive word to any one of them and he knows he is out. He is a big boy now. Time to grow out of the abusive treatment that we have never tolerated, yet he continued. I would have never dreamed that could have happened with a child raised by the book so to speak, yet it did. I love him, and want him to be successful. The world does not put up with this type of behavior. And having kicked him out is the best thing for him. Time to swim.

Comment By : Peter Johnson

* To ‘puzzledmom’ and ‘confused mom’: Here on the Support Line, we receive many calls from parents expressing the same issues you present. You cannot make your child do anything; what you can do is hold them accountable for their choices. We find it is most helpful to tie doing a task with a privilege. For example, you might let your child know that s/he is not allowed to have their screen time until her/his chores are complete. In terms of your child’s tone of voice, we find that it is most effective to ignore that, and focus on the behavior. If your child is grumbling, yet is doing the chore, then focus on the fact that they are doing the chore. If your child is grumbling and refusing to do the chore, you are holding them accountable by withholding a privilege until it is done. I am including an article series you might find helpful: Power Struggles Part I: Are You at War with a Defiant Child? & Avoiding Power Struggles with Defiant Children Declaring Victory is Easier than You Think. Good luck to you as you continue to work through this.

Comment By : Rebecca Wolfenden, Parental Support Advisor

* To 'what to do': It can be scary when you see your teen behave in these ways, and you feel like you have to defend yourself. As Kim and Marney mention in the article, many times teens use those emotional buttons of fear or sadness to manipulate adults into backing off from consequences. It is going to be most effective for you to stick with your limit; otherwise, your grandson is learning that consequences don’t mean anything and he can get his phone back by continuing to intimidate and frighten you. If his behavior is crossing over the line from verbal abuse to becoming physical or destroying your property, we do recommend contacting the police for assistance. It can be helpful to contact police on their non-emergency line to find out what kind of help they would be able to offer you. I am including some articles I think you might find helpful: Setting Limits with Difficult Kids: How to Get Them to Listen & Is It Time to Call the Police on Your Child? Assaultive Behavior, Verbal or Physical Abuse, Drugs and Crime. Good luck to you and your family as you continue to work through this.

Comment By : Rebecca Wolfenden, Parental Support Advisor

I felt sad reading aquadog's comment. I can relate because my son also started his behavior from birth. He rarely slept, waking about every 45 min to an hour crying loudly. He had GI problems even tho I nursed him . He always had liquid stools and colic. I put a pillow over him when he was a week old to muffle the constant screaming and left the room. I had post postpartum blues,I was sleep deprived and completely alone after a c section with no one to relieve me. His father left me when he found out I was pregnant. I only left my son for a minute under that pillow before I came back to reality and realized I could have suffocated him. I couldn't believe I could do such a thing! A car ride, which put most kids to sleep, would make him scream. I would go to the grocery store and he cried the whole time, nothing consoled him. What I didn't know until a few years ago was he had sensory integration dysfuction. What consoles most kids made him scream, lights, sounds, textures of clothing, bouncing, even being held. One day I was at a check out when he was about 2 and a stranger said to me "you look really stressed"...I couldn't believe it was so obvious. I had gotten used to the feeling. There has only been one time in 11 years I have been able to relax. When he was 3 he needed to see the dentist. He had demerol so he could get treatment, he wouldn't let them near him otherwise. It knocked him out for the rest of the day. I had never seen him in such a peaceful sleep and I actually felt like a mom should feel when their child is napping. Typically I napped or tipped toed around afraid of waking him. He has no tolerance for anything when he's tired. He throws things and talks like he hates me. If I had him first I would never have had another child. My daughters were 19 and 25 when he was born. Both were talented and gifted graduating college with honors. Both are loving, kind and easy going. Their father was also pretty laid back. My son's father is abusive and suffers with bipolar. He came back when my son was 2 and left when I called the cops for him yelling and threatening me. He came back again when my son was 5 swearing he changed but he gradually got angrier each time he got mad at me choking me and pushing me into the walls always hurting me worse each time until 6 months ago I had no choice but to call the police. I didn't want my son to think it was ok to hurt another person. We talk about his dad and what he did. Some days he says he misses him because he has no friends at school but most days he resents him for hurting me and gets angry about what his father did. He's much better since starting Tenex in 2nd grade but it didn't happen over night. He was in the principal's office almost daily before the meds and was going to get expelled from kindergarten before I went to school and sat at his desk everyday to help control his ODD. He hasn't been in detention for 2 years. He still struggles in school and has to go to small groups because a big class is too much stimulation for him. He's been to a psychiatrist and 2 differet psychologist and a Dr who specializes in behavioral problems. Don't stop trying to find help. I knew there had to be someone who could help my son. I'm a nurse and work with Dr's.If you don't agree with their treatment or if it isn't working don't give up...I didn't and it paid off.I knew my son had Aspberger's and he was 10 before I found a counselor who referred us to the specialist who agreed with me. No one knows your child like you do. I know I may have a rough road ahead as a single mom of a son, but he has the right professionals who know how to help him. Don't give up.

Comment By : noahzmommy

My 17 year old completely disregards our authority and our rules. We cannot ground him, send him to his room, turn off the tv -- he will go where he wants and do what he wants, and we're not physically able to stop him. What we can do, when he chooses to break our rules, is turn his cell phone off, and put a steering wheel lock on his car. However, when we do these things, he gets extremely angry. He gets in our face and yells for us to turn the phone on or unlock his car. He will go for hours trying to irritate us (turning lights off and on in the middle of the night, turning music up loud, slamming doors, etc - annoying but also problematic because of younger kids in the house) and will also break or ruin things that are important to us, like pictures. He has dumped dinner in the sink. He has pushed his dad, and he has broken small things like dishes. He has threatened to break other stuff everytime we turn his phone off. We know our rules and consequences are reasonable, but the outcome is miserable, and scares the heck out of our younger two kids. My gut tells me to stick with the consequences, and call the police when he breaks something significant, but I'm not sure (1) if we're ready to press charges, and (2) if it'll help. I've heard kids like this are like this because they can't cope with disappointment/frustration, etc., so we're supposed to help teach them to cope. Here are my two questions: (1) How can I help him learn to cope when he won't talk to us and won't attend any therapy sessions? And (2)James Lehmann mentions in one of his articles that it's perfectly understandable if you, as a parent, aren't ready to involve the police. What other choices are there if your kid refuses any rules and breaks things if you try to enforce them? Is there any way to get through to kids like this? I would call the police if I thought it'd scare him in to better behavior, but I'm afraid it'd backfire and get worse. HELP!!

Comment By : ready to give up---

* To ‘ready to give up’: It sounds like you have really been focusing on how you can be most effective with your son in spite of his anger at the consequences you give him. Your instinct is right—we do typically recommend that you stick with the consequences and contact the police if his behavior is destructive or threatening. If you give in and turn the phone back on when your son gets angry, you’re rewarding the behavior. If you say you’re going to call the police though, and then you don’t, he gets the message that you don’t mean what you say. So it is very important to be sure you are ready to take that step before you mention it to him or try it. Something we often recommend is contacting the non-emergency number for your local police department to find out how they typically handle those types of calls and what your options might be. You might also consider calling your local county courthouse to inquire about a CHINS or PINS program. The names stand for Children In Need of Services and Persons In Need of Services. Many states have these programs for unruly teens that can provide some support from the judicial system without necessarily having legal charges on the child. Your county court’s youth or family division should be able to tell you if this service is available in your state. Finally, you can contact 211, an information and referral service, for information on what other services are available near your hometown to help with your situation. You can reach them at 1-800-273-6222 or online at We wish you and your family luck as you continue to work through this.

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

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Related keywords:

Oppositional Defiant Disorder, Entitlement Mentality, Verbal Abuse, Kids, Teens, Teenagers, Child Behavior, Parenting

Responses to questions posted on are not intended to replace qualified medical or mental health assessments. We cannot diagnose disorders or offer recommendations on which treatment plan is best for your family. Please seek the support of local resources as needed. If you need immediate assistance, or if you and your family are in crisis, please contact a qualified mental health provider in your area, or contact your statewide crisis hotline.

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