Does your child’s behavior make you feel out of control? Do you find yourself walking on eggshells so that you don’t “set him off?” It might be your five year old who has tantrums and acts out, or perhaps it’s your teenager who fights with you all the time.

Your consequences mean nothing to him, and in fact seem to make him more defiant. Whatever the reason, you’ve got the kid who simply doesn’t react to parenting the way you thought he would.

Debbie Pincus, creator of the Calm Parent: AM & PM, explains how you can change the way your family interacts.

When a child becomes the “anxiety sponge” for the family he or she will often develop some problems.

If you have a “problem” child, you are not alone. Many families struggle with difficult, acting-out kids who act like nothing matters to them, which in turn leaves you feeling baffled and lost. You lose sleep most nights wondering, “How did my family get here? What’s going on and how can we change things so our lives aren’t a battle zone?”

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While there are many helpful techniques parents can use with their kids—in fact, Empowering Parents is full of articles that will help you parent more effectively—I’d like to view this problem from a slightly different angle today. So let’s step back and look at the big picture: What really happens when a kid acts out chronically in a family and the attention all goes to them? And how can parents turn this around?

The Big Picture

In order to turn things around with your child, I believe it’s helpful to widen the lenses that we use to view our difficult kids. Let’s say you’re focused on your acting-out child—attempting to fix and change him—only to find that his behavior is worsening. (Or perhaps it changes, but only temporarily.) To a certain extent this happens because you’re looking at your child as the “problem” rather than seeing the way the family operates as a whole.

When you can see your family in this new way you’ll recognize that your child is only part of this unit—a fragment of the whole.

What do I mean by this? Think of it this way: Each family member is only a part of the larger group. Children with problem behaviors are rarely the underlying problem, though some kids are more defiant and rebellious from the start, and therefore more difficult to parent. They may come this way, genetically predisposed to act out more and be rebellious.

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As a result of their difficult behavior, you naturally begin to focus on them. For the most part, kids who act out are symptoms of something much larger—often, it’s an emotional or relationship problem. This does not lay the blame on anyone; it simply means every member of the family group is a contributor in some way.

I believe that if you want to go about changing the problem, you need to get the focus off the “symptomatic” one and instead onto the relationship patterns in the family. I also want to add here that if this is going on in your family, it’s not too late: it’s possible to change your family’s pattern no matter what stage you’re in with your child.

Let’s consider how anxiety travels in a group of people. If Dad comes home from work upset about a deal that didn’t go through, he may automatically take it out on Mom by criticizing her about the messy house. Mom may react to this by shutting down or defending herself, but either way the anxiety has moved to Mom. Next Jack, the two-year-old, seeing or feeling Mom’s distress, starts crying. The anxiety has moved to him. Now Chloe, the six-year-old, experiences this emotional intensity and feels uncomfortable and upset. She runs to her room and starts yelling and acting out.

In this way, anxiety moves from person to person in a family unit. This is a natural and automatic response. Most of the time, rather than disturbing everybody in the family, anxiety seems to settle in one person—often a child. In the family just described, the original anxiety exchange was between the two parents. If they don’t get it worked out over time, the six year old might continue to react to the intensity by acting out more and more—and the adults will begin to focus on her. Not realizing that their child’s response is an expression of anxiety that came from the family unit, they may come to see her as the problem and begin worrying about her. The more she is fretted over, the more anxious and symptomatic she will become—and the more symptomatic she becomes, the more focused they will become on her. The cycle has now been set in motion.

When a child becomes the “anxiety sponge” for the family he or she will often develop some problems. If the adults put the focus on the child and not on themselves, they never get to resolve their own problems or ineffective patterns—instead, the over-focused child will develop problems.  Take into account that when anxiety collects in a person, their brain and body chemistry becomes changed. As a result, the child may show hyperactivity, learning issues, or behavioral or social symptoms. Once a disorder develops, more and more intense focus is drawn to their problems at home and at school. It becomes a vicious cycle that’s hard to stop.

This snowball effect can start simply: Let’s say every time a mother is upset, she offloads her stress by complaining loudly. The father shuts down and withdraws and then the child picks up on his distress. Kids are very tuned in. If you have a child who’s particularly vulnerable to moods, he might absorb or take on the stress and become the sponge. You’ll see him becoming anxious in some way; he’ll be the one with the “symptoms.” While there’s no one to blame for this, it’s ultimately our responsibility as parents to keep an eye out and not let our stuff spill onto our kids.

How to Stop the Cycle

If you see this cycle happening in your family, the first thing to do is recognize it for what it is. Stop it by taking the intense focus off your acting-out child and pay more attention to yourself and your relationship patterns. Ask yourself some hard questions, like the following:  “By putting so much focus on my child, what do I get to avoid in myself and in my own adult relationships?” Consider what he might be expressing through his behavior. Are these expressions of tension in the family, or ineffective relationship patterns that need more attention paid to them?

Remember that your family, not your child, is the emotional unit. This will help you see that you are a part of the problem, and also part of the solution. Work to change what is under your control instead of worrying, over-focusing and trying to control your child. If you begin to see that your child is the symptom-bearer of the family unit rather than a “problem child,” you’ll be more understanding and empathetic rather than angry and frustrated. Don’t get me wrong, you still need to hold him accountable for his poor behavior. But now, instead of seeing him as “broken” or the problem, you’ll hold him to higher expectations.

Don’t get me wrong, when our kids are acting out, we need to hold them accountable rather than anxiously focus and fret about them. What’s the difference between anxious parenting versus being parental? Being responsible and standing our ground is being parental, because we’re doing what our child needs to guide him to a better place. Anxious parenting happens when our emotionality slips in and we start reacting to our child rather than responding to his behavior thoughtfully, and most of the time we don’t even realize we’re doing it.

Pause and ask yourself some important questions.

  • Why aren’t I taking a firmer stand right now when I know that would be best?
    (Do I want him to like me or validate me? Or am I just trying to contain my child’s anger so my husband doesn’t get mad at him or me?)
  • Am I acting from my best principles that might cause some short-term pain for some longer-term gain?
  •  Is the consequence I’m giving my child right now actually a disguised punishment to get back at them for their awful behavior? (Is this really the best way or does it just feel good in the moment because it relieves my distress?)
  • Am I afraid to discuss some issues with my spouse? To avoid each other do we instead deflect onto our kids? Are they getting caught in the middle and acting out this adult tension?

Most of the time we think we’re being thoughtful in our responses to our acting-out kids but often we’re actually being reactive, adding fuel to the already hot inferno.

What Can Parents Do?

Take care of yourself. Take care of yourself emotionally and physically, so your children don’t end up with that job. Pay attention to and attend to your adult relationships. Instead of being irritable and upset, say what’s on your mind. Resolve issues so that your unresolved anxieties don’t get spilled on to your kids.

Observe. Observe yourself and your relationship patterns: your own thinking, feelings and behavior. See how your family’s (both nuclear and extended) emotional pressures contribute in producing your child’s negative behavior. Consider what’s going on from wider lenses. See the whole family drama.

Set limits and give enforceable consequences. If your child is acting out, set limits and give him enforceable consequences. Take charge, not control. Be parental; don’t parent with an “anxious focus” on your child.

Recognize your own contribution. Start with yourself and go from there. After all, you’re the only one you really have control over in life. Look at what’s in your hands, not what’s not in your child’s hands. Watch what you’re doing and try to be as clear and direct as possible. You’re not responsible for your child’s outcome and you’re not the cause of the problems. If you can look at your contribution then you can change that part of yourself that’s adding to the cycle of anxiety and bad behavior.
Try to parent from your principles, rather than from your deepest anxieties. By understanding how your family operates—and how anxiety operates in your family—you can use your principles to guide your thinking and responses. This will help to stop the reactivity that often gets moved from one family member to the next. Your principles, rather than your anxieties, will lead the way. And when you see your child as separate from you, you will also see yourself more clearly and more objectively.

Related Content:
Calm Parenting: How to Get Control When Your Child Makes You Angry
Losing Your Temper with Your Child? 8 Steps to Help You Stay in Control

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For more than 25 years, Debbie has offered compassionate and effective therapy and coaching, helping individuals, couples and parents to heal themselves and their relationships. Debbie is the creator of the Calm Parent AM & PM™ program and is also the author of numerous books for young people on interpersonal relations.

Comments (32)
  • M
    Great article, but I wish there was some sort of tips for those of us in single parent households, because my child's behaviour definitely doesn't have anything to do with the relationship between myself and non existent spouse. His father died when he was 3, he is almost 6 nowMore and his behaviour is almost more than I can handle. He's kicked out of everything; daycare, school, camp, swimming lessons, babysitters, you name it. This has made it extremely difficult, if not impossible for me to work, and as a single parent , me not working is absolutely critical to our survival. this just multiplies the problems because the misery of living in poverty and barely being able to afford to live, constantly having things cut off and going without many necessities takes a serious toll on me and I know he's absorbing it all , and it's just a never ending cycle that I can't seem to break. Before My husband died I was a stay at home mom, I have very little work experience or skills and nothing to fall back on. I'm only 34 and trying so hard to find employment but I keep getting fired because I constantly have to get my son from where ever he is kicked out of. I know it's not right and it's not his fault but at the same time It's really hard not to resent him for being in this situation. If I could work our life would probably start to improve but since I cant manage to get thru the probation anywhere without his behaviour causing issues, it feels like I'm just running in place getting nowhere
  • Tanzeela
    Hi I have a 3.11 year old daughter and she is very difficult to handle. Whenever something happen against her will she will just start crying so bad . She will make me reach to that point where I gets annoyed by her and then she will come to meMore after crying that she is sorry and wants a hug. I just cold heartedly try to hug her but deep inside I got really sad and felt like crying because I myself is trying my best to not have any situation that upsets her. I felt she has got some anxiety issue but I am not sure about it . My husband is a loving father we both have a good house environment .
  • Totally confused
    My wife and I both have taken psychology classes. She's in college now for psychology. However, since the day we were married, she and my six year old have had relationship issues. She's pretty strict with him but definitely not anything unreasonable. She and I have a great relationship. ButMore my son, her stepson, seems fine one day and completely out of control the next. It seems there's no ryme or reason either except the day he leaves for his mom's house or comes back from there he's always moody and screaming. He hits his stepmom regularly despite my every attempt to stop it. We have tried changing our behavior and interaction with him and nothing seems to make a difference at all.
  • Lost and done
    This artical is a nail on the head. Problem though...how do you make structure out of chos because your husband won't follow through and your own relationship is a mess? My 8 year old son is affected by my husband's and I relationship. I'm honestly at my wits end andMore no matter how hard I try to ignore the belittling comments I admit fully I react for my life has been a never ending cycle of abuse. I try so hard to take care of myself to in turn take care of my two boys and I'm exhausted mentally and physically with zero help rom my husband. I already know it's toxic and have lost all patience with everything to the point I'm close to a 4th nervous breakdown thinking about checking myself into a hospital but what good will that do when nothing changes. I know there are no quick fixes but what am I to do? Any choice I make can make things worse so where and how does this cycle end? I appreciate the article but I've read many that give me no sense of what do I do because nothing is helping and only getting worse. Any thoughts suggestions would be great!
    • Denise Rowden, Parent CoachEP Coach

      Thank you for reaching out to Empowering Parents with what sounds like a very distressing situation. It's not uncommon for parents to not be on the same page, or even for one parent to undermine what the other parent does. A parent really only has control over their own actions and choices. In situations when the other parent is not on the same page, or actively working against you, it can help to focus on what you have the most control over, namely how you react or respond. It sounds like your situation is really starting to take a toll on your mental health, though. I encourage you to see what types of local supports are available to help you and your family. If you are in the US or Canada, the 211 National Helpline is a referral service available 24 hours a day, nationwide. They can give you information on the types of support services available in your area such as counselors, therapists, support groups/kinship services as well as various other resources. You can reach the Helpline by calling 1-800-273-6222 or by logging onto 211.org (211.ca in Canada.)

      We appreciate you being part of our Empowering Parents community and wish you all the best moving forward.

  • Tryinmybest
    Wow knowledge is power and Iam very thankful for coming across this I am a mother of 4 , I originally was trying to find answers for how to get control back because my children ages 5 to 12 are out of control, my husband is a very angry agressiveMore person and target's my 8 year old who has adhd and ODD since he is fine at school I have realized it is environmental , my 1st step has always been to keep a calm environment, but my problem is my husband refuses to see his part in the whole thing by putting all his anger and aggression toward our children which forces them to react the same , I recognize my part in the big picture because I am constantly frustrated with my husband who "turns the switch on" so I react to him then it's like ground hog day over and over I don't know how to stop him no matter what he can't control his emotions my kids are out of control and now I have lost my control to keep things peaceful, how can I begin to change my children's behavior if there is always a set back? Thank you for this article I will continue to try and make my husband see how we are the ones that need to change wish me luck!
  • Twinmamma

    First of all... THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR THIS ARTICLE!!!! It has really opened my eyes and set an entire new perspective for me.

    I have shared this with my partner and we have decided to try and implement some changes to see if this makes a difference.

    I have twin boys, 4 years old and the one is extremely "difficult" we actually have an Appointment scheduled with an OT for the 3rd of June, because we couldn't understand what was going on and his behavior has started rubbing off on his brother, who is now becoming more and more anxious as well.

    Your article has definitely helped and I am so grateful for this. Thank you very much

    With regards to TV Time and Playing Games on a Phone/Tablet, are there any suggestions of Programs/Games to not watch/play? Is there any programs/games that will help calm him more if he is feeling anxious?

    Thansk so much:-0

    • Denise Rowden, Parent CoachEP Coach
      Thank you for reaching out and sharing your story. There aren't any specific programs/games we are able to recommend for helping a 4 year old calm down. We do have several articles about parenting younger children you may find helpful: https://www.empoweringparents.com/article-categories/ages-and-stages/younger-children/. We appreciate you being part of the Empowering ParentsMore community. Be sure to check back and let us know how things are going. Take care.
  • Alanna

    I have a 8 year old boy with Adhd and we have good days and bad days. His dad has never been in the picture and we live with my parents.

    My mom has gotten to the point that she can't see him as a 8 year old and continues to excessively baby him. When I try to intervene I get screamed at, toys thrown at me, and punched and kicked. When I try to talk to him he screams he hates me, he wishes he was dead, he wishes we weren't his family, etc.

    My mom constantly blames me for this behavior and my son totally disregards me because he knows he can avoid a punishment. When I talk to my mom about the situation, we both agree he's headed for serious trouble, but she says she is unable to stop her behavior when it comes to babying him since that is her only grandchild.

    If I tell him no at the store for toys or just tell him no in general he goes directly to my mom to get his way and he's very manipulative.

    I don't know what to do anymore with this situation and I hate feeling this frustrated over my mom and my son's behaviors.

  • 1999
    I have 2 boys aged 10 and 7 years, both high functioning ASD. I am separated now and they live with their mother. The 10 year old is on his tablet almost all day long either playing aggressive shooting games or watching inappropriate YouTube videos. I was unable to getMore him to stop either of these activities. His mother would correct me in front of them if was trying to discipline him and consequently they don't listen at all to me. If I were to tell him to go to his room he would swear at me and refuse go. He did not listen to anything I asked. He would act aggressively toward his brother, hitting him and wrestling him. If he were in his room and I'm telling him off he would throw himself on the floor and say what did I push him down for loudly so his mother can hear. She would then come and ask why I pushed him down. He defies anything I tell him, swears at me and his mother speaks poorly about me to him. The situation is a mess like I have never seen before and I am so hurt because his mother speaks badly about me to anyone who will listen. What is worse is that she exaggerates everything and lies and slanders my name everywhere. I really am at a loss and apologize if this sounds like I am rambling a bit. Any suggestions would be really appreciated because I am so lost in this situation I really don't know what to do. Thank you in advance
    • Denise Rowden, Parent CoachEP Coach
      Thank you for reaching out. We have several articles that offer tips for parenting after divorce you may find helpful: https://www.empoweringparents.com/article-categories/non-traditional-families/divorced-parents/.
  • Bea

    I am a mother. Well stepmother of 2 children a 14yr old boy and an 8yr old girl. I have been with them for 5 years and I love them like no other thing on earth. In my eyes they are my children and I will bare hand fight a bear for my kids. And that is exactly what I am doing at this moment.

    The boy I have no trouble with he is autistic and an amazing kid. So sweet.

    The 8yr is a totally different story. She is agressive, abusive, cruel. Yesterday was my birthday and I had to hide all day because I had asked her to put up her laundry. I literally had to run from her and lock myself in the bedroom while she screamed and kicked on the other side yelling terrible things. I am terrified of her. I endure this every day I am alone with her. I have begged her father and mother to not leave me alone with her but they tell me they have no one and I need therapy.that I'm overreacting. It has gotten so bad I have panic attacks even if I think I am going to be left alone with her. Which I am. No one seems to understand how serious this is. I try to set boundaries, I reward good behavior greatly. I dont give into her demand no matter how physical she may get or how loud she screams or how much she refuses to do anything I ask and I only get answers in insults. I have tried behavior charts and taking privileges away. I have literally done everything I know to do. Even money. I will pay you to be nice to me. Her grades are terrible. But she doesn't act out anywhere else. She is sweet and plays and asks for stuff. With everyone else but me.

    I have begged my husband to put security cameras in the house so they can actually witness what really goes on. My poor baby girl is miserable and I cant find away to fix it. I finally talked her dad into going to therapy with all of us. It only took 3 years. I am extremely exhausted I cant eat, I cant sleep, I am terrified to leave my house my anxiety has gotten so bad and fear That my 8yr old may explode in public. I'm desperate to save my beautiful family.

  • Lauren Jones
    Okay but what if I’m a single parent and it’s just me and my 5yr old? I’m sure anxiety can also stem from a single parents stress but what to do when a 5yr old child is ultimately the one in control? I feel like I lost control a longMore time ago and it’s so hard to try and get it back. At this point I just don’t have any options left. There have been 3 significant absences in his life also and I have wondered if this is one of the underlying issues.
    • Kimmy
      I can totally relate to this. I am a single mother of a 5yr old boy and we have the same issues. Lost control a long time ago. We have good and bad days :(
  • Jacky
    Im not the parent of the child, I’m actually the cousin, he is 13, about to be 14 in a few months, and I’ve been very aware of what has been happening I’m his house and his behaviors. We used to be very close too, but now, I don’t evenMore like seeing him. He also is addicted to his phone. And when something doesn’t go his way, he yells at his parents, try’s to hit them too, or sometimes he threatens to run away. Another time, in the middle of the night, he ran out of the house because he didn’t want to give his phone up because he was up all night on his phone. And a few weeks ago, his mom and dad together couldn’t take his phone away from him. I could go on and on and on. But I feel, I could be wrong, that some of the things that are influencing him, are his friends. I’ve never met them before, but I’ve heard talking in the phone. His sister also tells me things about them. His sister, who is older than him, is scared of him. I fear that his case could get extreme. I don’t want that to happen, and I don’t know how I can help. Or at least give advice to him and his family, sorry for the long comment, and thank you for reading this if you got this far, please give me advice on how I can help
  • Kayla
    My step son is six and no matter how hard we try his mother tells him everything and talks badly about us and everyone and everything. She tries to use his father and I against him and is manipulating him with what she says. She doesn’t include his dad inMore anything important until after it has happened. She has recently put him in therapy and she doesn’t tell him anything that is going on. When trying to call the therapist they aren’t really telling dad anything either because she didn’t put him down on the papers. My step son a lot of the time doesn’t want to go back to her house when it is time so the times she comes to pick him up she will through the biggest fits and she will say she isn’t dealing with it and yell at his father saying she is allying the cops on him every time and leaves. Same goes for when we have to bring him home too. I have text messages and videos of everything she does and evegtbing documented. My step son will say things that she says that a 6 year old shouldn’t be knowing. She uses him as if he is a pawn but it’s trying to make us look like the bad guys and make me look like I am nothing to him. Yes there are things we need to work on when he is with us too but like I said she tried to make us look like the bad guys and twist stories around to people. Like his therapist the couple things they said is how we need to be on the same bedtime schedule as her but yet when we have him We are trying to keep him on the same schedule but he will not go to bed with all the different things we tried to get him to sleep he just won’t he will fight it until sometimes midnight and then we find out she is giving him kids melatonin at night to go to sleep at her house but she doesn’t tell us that and she tells people we let him stay up until whatever time he wants to go to bed and there are multiple stories like that. we are trying to keep him on the same schedule but he will not go to bed with all the different things we tried to get him to sleep he just won’t he will fight it until sometimes midnight and then we find out she is giving him kids melatonin at night to go to sleep at her house but she doesn’t tell us that and she tells people we let him stay up until whatever time he wants to go to bed and there are multiple stories like that What should we do?!?
  • Cassandra
    Hello im 32 and my husband and I are going through a very rough patch, we actually feel like were just starting over or in need to rebute our family. We both have alot of growing up to do, we are seperated, he is staying with his dad, me andMore the kids are with my mom. I have 3 kids, my oldest daughter 11yrs, addy,who we have always had issues with, anger mainly. But since this new change she has gotten worse, she has been in cousling for 6 months now but still getting worse. i literally do walk on egg shells because im afraid of her. no she doesnt' hit me, but the things she does do, i let myself get so upset after trying to help or deal with it. Like today for example we have a game system, xbox, she is allowed 30 mins a day, then shes done, well today i come in and nicely tell her that her time is up. She says, no, nope, im not done i want to play long. i say, its been 30mins, we can find something else to do. she says, no im not getting off the xbox. i will say, sternly this time.. addy your done play on the xbox, put the controler down, then you can play tomorrow. again she says no, and your not going to make me. so i say either get off or i will turn it off. so to make this shorter i had to turn it off, she got up in my face and screamed, I hate You you ruin everything. At this time she has me backed aginst the wall, I tell her to let me through but she wont, so im trying to get around her as she is grabbing me and trying to keep me there, but at the same time i dont want to hurt her, by moving her out of the way. eventually i get out of the way and she is still yelling at me, my youngest daughter has seen this all and is crying. I had to bring my youngest daughter downstairs with me, i no there have been times addy takes her anger out on her sister. so i came downstairs to look on the computer for a hotline or for some help, and found this. I know most of this is my fault, our family has never had much stability to it. But im trying to fix our family, my husband and i are seperated because we were hoping to try to better ourselves and thought it may have been easier seperated but we also lost our house due to money problems so we had to move anyway. So she has gone through all these changes and i know that can't be easy. But im at a loss, i just dont know what to do. i hope this all makes a little bit of sence, cause my heart is still racing, so i no my spelling is way off. But yea if anyone has any advise
    • Rebecca Wolfenden, Parent CoachEP Coach
      I’m so sorry to hear about what you experienced with your daughter last night, and I’m glad that you were able to find our site and reach out for support. It’s great that you have been working with a counselor locally to help you with your daughter’s anger, thoughMore it’s unfortunate that you have not seen an improvement in her behavior as a result. Something to keep in mind is that inappropriate behavior often stems from a lack of effective coping and problem-solving skills. It sounds like your daughter has experienced quite a few significant changes in a relatively short period of time, and she might be coping with this instability by becoming aggressive and defiant. This doesn’t excuse her behavior, though, nor does it mean that you cannot teach her more appropriate skills. You might find some helpful next steps in How to Manage Aggressive Child Behavior. I recognize how difficult all of this must be for you and your family, and I hope that you will write back and let us know how things are going for you. Take care.
  • siobhan
    Found this very interesting
  • ASGMommy
    i have an almost 4 year old daughter who is out of control, constantly throwing tantrums. EX. if i say its bedtime and she doesn't want to go to bed she will throw herself all around scream kick her door. It seems to have gotten very bad the past 3More or 4 months. I don't know what to do to help her. I'm loosing it. We often find a baby sitter just to go to the store because she does not listen what so ever, (gets out of the cart running around, screaming bloody murder and throwing herself around if we try and stop her.  if she doesn't get her way she goes crazy. I'm afraid if we don't figure this out it will only get worse as she gets older. i could really use some advice or tips on how to handle situations.
    • RebeccaW_ParentalSupport
      ASGMommy Tantrums can be quite challenging to address for many families, so you are not alone.  These outbursts are also pretty common for kids your daughter’s age.  This is because kids this age tend to have a low tolerance for frustration, poor impulse control, and few appropriate coping skills toMore use when they become upset.  This doesn’t mean that you cannot change this pattern of behavior, though.  You might find some helpful information in our articles, https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/stopping-a-temper-tantrum-in-its-tracks-what-to-do-when-kids-lose-it/ and https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/explosive-child-anger-taming-your-toddlers-temper-tantrum/.  Please be sure to write back and let us know how things are going for you and your daughter.  Take care.
  • Gramma Jo
    I have a 10 1/2 year old grandson who is completely out of control.  Every night, regardless of whether it is his parents or me if asked to do his homework, do his chores (he hardly has any) or to be told 'no' he cannot do something he flies intoMore a rage.  Calling us names, saying I hate you, I wish I were dead, I wish I lived in an orphanage, why are you part of my family and then if he is outside will start hitting rocks with boards or throwing things,  etc.  He will never be quiet long enough to try and talk to him.  Ultimately he'll go to his room slamming the door and screaming for hours.  Once he even ran away from me and I'm partially disabled and cannot go after him.  Every night my son goes through his.  I'm afraid that my grandson is headed for REAL trouble.  They found a therapist but she won't take their insurance but she works on Saturdays which is what the kids need as my son drives truck and never knows what time of day/night he will be off.  They've had 4 appointments in 4 months and the therapist says she's trying to get him to trust her.  Yet week after week after month and......well no change.  This is critical.  I'm afraid he will hurt someone with the hitting of rocks and throwing things.  Can you maybe recommend a treatment center or someplace where he can get help now?  I'm usually a calm person but after hours of this I even loose my temper.  I've tried sitting down and reading but this just fuels his anger saying no one listens to him.  I give him a chance to talk as long as he does it without screaming but then when I try to reply I get the 'screw you' or your stupid or your lazy.      Scared Grandmother!
    • RebeccaW_ParentalSupport

      Gramma Jo 

      I’m so sorry to hear about the outbursts you are experiencing on a nightly

      basis with your grandson.If you are

      looking for local resources, one place to start is by contacting the http://www.211.org/ at 1-800-273-6222.211 is a service which connects people with

      services in their community.In the

      meantime, I encourage you to use some of the articles and other resources

      available on our site.Here are some you

      might find useful for your situation: https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/anger-rage-and-explosive-outbursts-how-to-respond-to-your-child-or-teens-anger/

      and https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/is-your-defiant-child-damaging-or-destroying-property/I recognize how difficult this must be for

      you and your family, and I wish you all the best moving forward.

  • Cmerri
    I'm a father of 3 my middle daughter seems out of control we moved in to my parents to help with my mom because she has cancer it seems the longer we've lived here the worse he behavior has gotten me and my wife are lost with how to handleMore this were moving in a week since my mom has recovered but I'm worried with all the negative attention she has received wondering if this is long term or will this go away with a more structured environment
    • RebeccaW_ParentalSupport



      common for kids to act out more when they are in a situation which feels

      unstructured and scary, so you are not alone in experiencing this with your

      daughter.  From our perspective, https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/its-never-too-late-7-ways-to-start-parenting-more-effectively/ an ineffective parenting pattern.  While it

      might take some time, being consistent and structured with your rules and

      expectations can go a long way to turning around inappropriate behavior.  Please

      let us know if you have any additional questions.  Take care.

  • Gita prasad


    I'm mother of 12 years girl child and saying with deep sorro that my doughter doesn't listn anything, talking loudly, misbehave and thieves money and even books of her couligue. I don't understand what to do. Feeling helpless. So, plz, give me any advise.

    • Marissa EP

      Gita prasad 

      I am sorry to hear about the challenging behaviors you are

      seeing from your daughter. When you have so many valid concerns, it can be

      tough to know where to start in addressing these behaviors with her.I often suggest to parents to start by making

      a list of all the concerning behaviors, and prioritize them starting with the

      most serious or disruptive ones at the top. It can also be helpful to both you and

      your daughter, to just focus on one or two behaviors at time.Carol Banks, an Empowering Parents author, has

      a great article with some additional tools to help you get started https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/my-childs-behavior-is-so-bad-where-do-i-begin-how-to-coach-your-child-forward/.

      Best of luck to you and your daughter and please let us know if you have any

      more questions.

  • Savta123
    I am a grandmother to 2 beautiful grandchildren that are getting totally out of control.  I feel helpless because there is nothing I can do about it.  I recognize the problem is in the adults not the children, but feeling powerless.  This article only validates the source of the problem,More but as a grandparent, gives me no solutions.  Any advise?
    • RebeccaW_ParentalSupport


      Many grandparents

      find themselves in a similar situation where they feel powerless to address the

      patterns they observe between the parents and their children.  You are not

      alone.  As Debbie Pincus advises in her article, https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/grandparents-and-parents-disagreeing-11-tips-for-both-of-you/, one tactic you might try

      is to ask the parents how you can be helpful or supportive as they try to

      address your grandchildren’s behavior.  I recognize how tough this must be

      for you, and I hope that you will check back and let us know how things are

      going for you.  Take care.

      • Savta123
        RebeccaW_ParentalSupport Savta123 Thank you Rebecca.  I just read the article you mentioned with some of the comments.  It was quite helpful.  I feel better knowing I am not alone.
  • Alisha
    This may be the most helpful parenting article I've ever read... and I've read many! This was eye-opening for me. I feel like you identified the thought in the back of my mind that I've been struggling to put my finger on for years. Much appreciated!
  • DeniseR_ParentalSupport


    I am sorry to hear you are facing these challenges with your

    teenage son. It sounds like he has been making some poor choices and responding

    to limits in ways that put both himself and others at risk. I know it can be

    worrisome as a parent to think about your child having to face incarceration

    for his behavior. Truthfully, going to court and having to face possible time

    in a detention center are natural consequences of the choices he has made. As

    tough as it may be to have to handle, we would recommend not trying to rescue

    him from any possible consequence or outcome. It can be helpful to look at this

    situation as not only being about your son taking accountability for his

    actions but also about your son getting the possible help and assistance he

    needs to guide him to better behaviors. I can hear the toll this situation is

    starting to have on you. It may be helpful to find support services in your area for you as well. It can be tough to stand by and

    watch your son go down a possibly destructive path. Finding resources who can

    offer a listening ear and suggest ways of taking care of yourself could be

    beneficial. The 211 Helpline would be able to give you information on resources

    such as counselors, parent support groups, and other services. You can reach

    the Helpline 24 hours a day by calling 1-800-273-6222 or by going online to

    211.org. Hang in there. I know this is a difficult time but you can get through

    this. Be sure to check back and let us know how things are going. Best of luck

    to you and your family.

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