Saturday, 5 October 2013

Why Reading For Kids Needs To Be Encouraged

According to one child expert, Dr. Christakis, the extensive use of video games, computer games, and even fast moving cartoons on TV could be damaging to a child’s neural development .

He and his researchers have found that these activities may rewire a very young child’s brain. The result can be that the child just cannot focus at all on a slower activity like reading or doing simple tasks at school later on.

There is also some research that suggests the pre-frontal cortex of the brain may become less active over time if a child is always on computer games and watching TV. That part of the brain is vital in helping kids to organize their thoughts especially when it comes to planning or doing tasks in a certain order.

Reading should not be neglected
Parents should be limiting the time spent on media. It is impossible and unwise to ban these altogether but kids will need reasonable limits. Any child up to the age of two or three years old should not be watching TV at all. But figures in the US show that kids are exposed to the TV screen at a very tender age.

Reading and storytelling is a great activity for kids especially if they are more auditory type of learners. But actually most kids will have a mix of kinaesthetic, auditory and visual learning styles although one type of these may be dominant.

Storytelling to resolve anger issues.
Parenting experts tell us that we should help kids verbalize their feelings about anger and other strong emotions. But this is neither easy nor practicable in many cases. An easier and much more accessible approach is to use reading or storytelling which outlines what a character does and how he or she reacts to angry moments

This is exactly what happens in a new kids’ story which has just been  published on Kindle. The title is Ziger The Tiger Never Gets Angry. The tiger has anger issues and his mother tries to help by focusing on physical activities and also trying to verbalize or illustrate his anger.

Children can easily relate to the character in the story and that is much more memorable than just telling them not be violent or aggressive but to channel their feelings into much more acceptable activities.

Thursday, 27 June 2013

ADHD in Girls Often Goes Unnoticed – 6 Things To Look Out For.

Everybody knows that ADHD in boys is much more common and statistics seem to indicate that there are three times as many boys as girls who are suffering from this disorder.

But is that really true?  Actually, the fact that ADHD in girls manifests in several different ways means simply that the whole ADHD scenario is swept under the carpet or just simply goes unnoticed until the later teen years when trouble with keeping up with homework assignments makes it a bit more obvious. Alarmingly, the number of girls missed could be up to 75% of cases.

The boys with ADHD are much easier to observe especially as they seem to suffer more from the hyperactive type. That certainly makes it a whole lot more obvious.

In girls, however, their dreaminess and forgetfulness seems to fly under the radar. There is also some discrimination in that teachers seem to think that boys need more help with ADHD than girls.

If you think your daughter or female sibling has ADHD, there are some typical warning signs that may indicate that ADHD might be the cause. Being alert to these is very useful in getting as early a diagnosis as possible.

1.      She seems to need a lot more help with homework and expects you, the parent, to be always there to     help her out.
2.      She does not like going to school at all. There is no enthusiasm so this may be a warning sign although here could be other reasons.
3.       There is lots of evidence that she does not feel confident and there are lots of remarks which reflect that she has very low self esteem. She will often talk about the subjects she is not brilliant at.
4.      She has difficulty in making friends at school. She often displays anxiety about this although some girls become rather aggressive and tend to be domineering in order to hide their anxiety.
5.      Girls with ADHD also suffer from impulsivity but this may manifest itself in interrupting continuously in class. This may be more than just being a chatterbox.
6.      Girls withADHD are often more liable than other girls to be oversensitive and break down crying at the smallest thing. This is another sign of impulsivity in that she is finding it hard to keep emotions under control.  But it could also be a sign that she feels more vulnerable because of lack of social success or because of poor academic achievement.

If you are a teacher and have observed some of these traits among the girls in your classes, then it is time to approach the parents and find out what they are experiencing at home and if they have noticed any similar signs. This will be a great help in getting an early and accurate diagnosis.

Thursday, 23 May 2013

ADHD Parenting – Risks Associated With Study Drugs.

Apparently when you ask white parents about the dangers of their high school kids using ‘study drugs’, only about 1% seem to think that this is a risk. These figures were released by the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health after they did a survey on the problem of using Adderall and other ADHD meds to help with study. 

If your child is on ADHD meds, you have to make sure that they are not tempted to selling their meds to other kids and that there is a close check on where the meds are kept. Just another thing to remember about ADHD parenting

ADHD Parenting

In fact, earlier studies done show that the percentage of kids taking these study drugs is much more likely to be around 10% -12%.. That is alarming enough but even more worrying is the fact that they are not only illegal but also could lead to dangerous side effects down the line.

·        Heart palpitations and irregularities
·        Exhaustion
·        Drug dependence

The Mott Hospital findings also show that those 1% of parents were aware of the problem, less than a third of them would actually broach the subject with their teenage children.  Black parents were much more clued up and were therefore more likely to actually talk to their teens about the risks.

The bottom line is that all parents need to be much more vigilant and also much more open about talking to their teens about the risks associated with these meds whether they have ADHD or not. 

Sunday, 9 October 2011

What Are The Best ADHD Treatment Options?

Many parents ask what is the best ADHD treatment option. They often do not realize that THEY are the best resource available and that with smart parenting, a lot of the problems of ADHD can be resolved.

Another aspect is how parents should never really feel any guilt about the cause of their children's ADHD. There are many causes and certainly bad parenting is NOT one of them. We are talking about a mild mental disorder which has both genetic and biological roots.

They should be looking at how they can NOW help their kids through ADHD behavior therapy. This simply means effective parenting skills and is an essential part in any ADHD treatment.

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Am I A Bad Parent?

"Am I a Bad Parent?" How to Let Go of Parenting Guilt

Am I a Bad Parent? How to Let Go of Parenting Guilt Countless readers write in to Empowering Parents and say, “I’m supposed to know how to make my child behave, but I don’t. He’s out of control and people blame me for his behavior. I feel guilty and ashamed most of the time, and very alone. It’s the worst feeling in the world.” The truth is, you’re not supposed to know everything about being a parent—it’s a skill you have to learn, just like anything else. While there’s no one “right way” to parent, there are more effective ways to handle your child’s behavior.

You’re probably not waking up in the morning saying, “I think I’ll really mess my kid up today.”

Related: Stop blaming yourself for your child’s behavior and take on more parental authority today.

I’ve worked with some of the toughest, out of control adolescents imaginable and really understand where people are coming from when they say they feel like a “bad parent.” As a therapist in residential treatment centers for troubled teens and at-risk youth, part of my job was also working with parents to teach them new skills. The moms and dads I met were beaten down and guilt-ridden by the time their kids arrived at the residential center. The vast majority had really tried to do their best as parents, but they were up against difficult odds with their kids—including behavior disorders, mood problems and other stressors in the home. It was extremely difficult for them to dig out of the hole of blame, shame and guilt, because their kids had such a long history of acting-out behavior. But over time, these parents learned to stop taking their children’s behavior personally, and to parent more effectively by using techniques that stressed responsibility and accountability. So remember, no matter what has gone on before or what your child is like now, it’s never too late for them to change.

If you have an acting-out child, it’s common to feel a chronic sense of shame over his behavior, or like you’ve “failed” as a parent. The important thing to understand is that these feelings don’t help anyone; they won’t help you, and they won’t help your child. Questions about who’s to blame don’t really matter when parents are working to become more effective. The real question is, what can you do differently to help your child change his behavior? After all, it’s not about whose fault it is—it’s about who is willing to take responsibility.

I understand that feeling judged and blamed by others is uncomfortable and upsetting. And perhaps you are being judged by others, but keep reminding yourself that they haven’t walked in your shoes. Even if you’re being blamed, you’re still trying to do your very best. You’re probably not waking up in the morning saying, “I think I’ll really mess my kid up today.” So give yourself a break from blame and guilt, and focus instead on what you can do to change the situation.

When You Take on Blame for Your Child’s Behavior

When your child acts out or misbehaves, it can become a habit to say things to yourself like, “It’s my fault he lies—I spoiled him and allowed him to get away with too much when he was younger. It’s my fault he’s rude to his grandparents—I wasn’t able to teach him good manners. It’s my fault his grades are bad—I should have worked harder with him every night. It’s my fault he stays out past curfew—I allowed him too much freedom after my divorce because I felt guilty about breaking up the family. While it’s common to fall into the trap of feeling guilty, it won’t get you—or your child—anywhere. It’s important to understand that when you blame yourself, you’re taking on your child’s behavior—and you’re not helping him take responsibility. This is the opposite of what you want, because your child will just learn that he doesn’t need to be accountable for his actions.

Related: Hold your child accountable by using effective consequences.

Why do we get into these patterns with our kids? To put it simply, it’s painful to see our children struggle. Think of it this way: have you ever picked up your child’s room even though he was supposed to clean it? You probably told yourself, “It’ll be easier if I just do it myself.” In the same way, it can be easier to take on our kids’ mistakes than to hold them responsible. But just as you faced your own difficulties growing up and learned how to take responsibility, so will your child need to learn those same lessons. Along the way, he’ll face some challenges and disappointments. If he’s not allowed to face those difficulties, he’ll never develop into an adult who’s able to take responsibility and deal with life’s ups and downs; he’ll always be looking for someone else to take on his problems—or take the blame for his actions.

Here’s an example from my own life. I remember a time when our son was having difficulties in school. His teacher called about his behavior and my first reaction was to get angry and defensive and blame myself. But my husband James was so clear when he said, “This is not about you, Janet—it’s about our son.” This was helpful in prompting me to change and not take what was happening personally. I needed to remove myself from the picture and focus on my child and what he needed.

If you’re enabling your child by blaming other people—or yourself—you need to take a step back and really ask, “Is this a pattern that’s developed?” When you start looking at patterns of behavior in a non-blaming way, you’ll be able to help your child take responsibility and change that behavior. In order to do this, you have to be strong and not buy all the excuses your child may give you. Don’t let him try to put the blame on you by saying things like, “You made me mad so I kicked the wall.” Or “You took my cell phone away so I went out to meet my friends without telling you.”

Related: Is your child verbally abusive?

If you have a child who’s blaming others, you might start by having him write down what happened. (If possible, try to find out what happened yourself and have the goods on the situation by doing a little investigative work with the people involved.) What you want is to get your child to a place where he can be as objective as possible about what happened. Ask, “What was your responsibility and what were other people’s responsibilities in this situation?” This question is powerful to help him learn about his role in what happened and how to change. You might even write down the facts yourself. Be as objective as possible and don’t put yourself—or your feelings of guilt—into the equation. List the facts and think about them almost as a neutral party. This will help you to look at things with a clearer lens.

When Others Blame You

Does this sound familiar? You’re out somewhere in your neighborhood and your child starts acting out. Maybe he yells at you or calls you a foul name. Somebody sends you a blaming look or makes a comment about your child being out of control, and you immediately feel guilty. People will put that blame and shame on you, but you don’t have to accept it. When you finally become empowered as a parent, you’ll realize that nobody walks in your shoes. Those people who judge you don’t have a clue, because you really are doing your best every day. Here’s something that’s helpful to repeat to yourself: “No one understands unless they’ve walked in my shoes. I’m doing my best, and other people won’t always see or appreciate that.” Eventually, you’ll be able to change those tapes that are playing in your head that say you’re doing a bad job or that you’re a failure as a parent. Instead, you’ll be able to say honestly, “I tried my best today, and we made it to bedtime without a fight.”

Old Habits Die Hard: When You Catch Yourself Taking on Blame

What should you do when you’re able to actually catch yourself in the moment feeling guilty or taking on blame for your child? First of all, congratulate yourself for being aware of what’s happening. The first real step toward change on your part is that awareness of what you’re doing. Any time you can catch yourself and count to five, you’re probably going to do something different than your first impulse. If you can, take a moment and write down the facts. Ask yourself the following questions:

  1. What’s the situation? What actually happened?
  2. What’s my first inclination based on those findings?
  3. What could I do to be more effective?

It’s really all about gaining objectivity and then, as James said, taking yourself out of the picture. Step back physically and take a timeout if you need to. And keep telling yourself, “This is not about me, it’s about my child.”

“I feel so alone.”

Often families of oppositional, defiant, or acting-out kids become very withdrawn and start to pull away from other people. While it can protect parents and families from further outside shame and blame, it does nothing to improve the internal feelings the parents have about their own blame and their own failure. In other words, this isolation really magnifies their feelings of failure.

Related: Does your child’s acting out behavior make you feel alone?

When you reach out to others, it helps to reduce or remove blame and failure. You’ll get a better perspective and realize you’re not alone and that there are others who have similar problems. None of us knew how to parent when we had our children; we all learn as we go. The bottom line is that feeling blamed and feeling guilty prevents us from taking action; it keeps us stuck and feeling defeated. It becomes the lens we see things through, rather than through a clearer lens that focuses on behavioral change.

I recommend that you reach out to people who may also be going through some of the same struggles as you are. Keep reading Empowering Parents; join our Facebook community. It’s amazingly helpful, because you’ll see other parents who are having the exact same problems that you’re having with your child—and chances are you won’t blame or judge them. When you see yourself reflected in another person—who’s also trying their best to raise their child—you’ll have a much healthier sense of yourself.

Blame and guilt produce a lot of wasted energy and wasted feelings—the challenge is to get beyond these emotions. Your guilt usually has nothing to do with what’s going on with your child: his behavior can very possibly be beyond your control. You may really need some additional help, like The Total Transformation program or counseling, to implement change. The bottom line is that instead of feeling guilty or blaming yourself, what you need to do is move forward and change what you’re doing now.

"Am I a Bad Parent?" How to Let Go of Parenting Guilt reprinted with permission from Empowering Parents. For more information, visit

Janet Lehman, MSW has worked with troubled children and teens for over 30 years. She held various roles during her career as a social worker, including juvenile probation officer, case manager and therapist. Janet also worked as a program director for 22 years in traditional residential care and in group homes for difficult children.

Monday, 21 February 2011

Are You Sure Your Cell Phone In Your Pocket Is Not Damaging Your ----?

If you carry your cell phone in your pocket, you might want to move it! Why, you may ask.

Experiments and tests by Time Ferriss author of the The 4 Hour Body actully showed that prolonged contact with a man's testicles were affecting sperm count negatively and how! Tim did some experiments and decided to change the location of his cell phone to a back pocket.

Why not find out more about what happened when he did that! You will be surprised.

Mobile Phone Health

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Parenting Teens

Parenting Teens: Parental Authority vs. Peer Pressure

'ParentingIt’s one of the hardest things parents deal with: even if you’re trying to raise your child the right way, as soon as he walks out the door, you know he’s going to be exposed to all sorts of negative—even dangerous—influences. From dress to attitude to a popular culture that says it’s cool to drink and do drugs, parents have every right to be concerned. Are you afraid to send your child out the door? In this insightful one–on–one interview, James Lehman gives you some honest advice.

In this case, you are the outside influence your child is resisting. Get ready, because if you don’t like something, he’s going to like it even more.

EP: James, why do teens tend to do the very things we tell them not to do?

JL: Like it or not, adolescents often gravitate toward the very things you fear and dislike. Your child doesn’t do this to annoy you; he’s doing it because his friends are doing it and because that’s the developmental stage he’s in. It’s a simple fact that even before your child hits the pre–teen years, he begins to pull away from you. Unfortunately, one of the primary ways he may do this is by engaging in behaviors you dislike. Suddenly, you see your 13–year–old daughter’s clothing and style morph into something age–inappropriate—or you notice that your shy 15–year–old son has started listening to music with violent or rude lyrics.

It’s important to remember that, as an adolescent, your child is learning how to be part of a group—and he’s terrified of not fitting in. Kids learn that to go along with others, you either enjoy what they’re doing or learn to hide your true feelings as a way to get by. And don’t forget, functionally, adolescents don’t want to just “get by” with their friends; they want to be popular and well–liked. In fact, the drive to be popular is probably the core value of most adolescents—and they often simply don’t realize what shaky ground they’re standing on when they take on that value.

Fitting into a group drives your teen’s development and defines who he is. Resisting authority makes him feel like an individual because he’s reaffirming who he is by resisting an outside influence. And in this case, you are the outside influence your child is resisting. Get ready, because if you don’t like something, he’s going to like it even more. Listening to music you don’t like feeds into his feeling of individuation—his sense of wanting to become his own individual. It’s not necessarily that he wants you to dislike his music, but if you do, that’s fine with him. The same thing happens with clothes, movies, and pop culture. The downside to that is that in our culture today, adolescents have access to very dangerous things—like drugs and alcohol—to a much greater degree than teens did 50 years ago. And that access gets easier as time goes on. Every year, younger and younger children can get drugs and alcohol. In my years of working with kids in high school, they would brag to me that they could get anything they wanted. And I’d question them. I’d say, “You mean like sleeping pills and barbiturates? Pain pills?” And they would answer, “Yeah, and heroin, crystal meth and coke.” Needless to say, these are very dangerous drugs—drugs where if you slip up and use too much, you die. Not only are they highly addictive, they’re fatal.

I think that children aren’t ready for that kind of temptation, and if their friends are doing it, they’re very much at risk. Now, in most areas, the peer pressure is not about hard drugs. In fact, I believe some of the peer pressure is against hard drugs. But certainly there’s a lot of pressure to use the drugs that kids see as “soft”: pot, ecstasy, and pharmaceuticals. And I want to clarify that I personally don’t see those substances as soft drugs—this is just how kids have presented the information to me.

So what’s going on in your child’s head? He thinks that nobody understands him but his peers. He thinks his parents are old–fashioned. He doesn’t like parental authority at this stage in his life. It’s an age where he’s actively looking for reasons to reject adults. Many times he’ll think, “If my parents believe something or like it, it’s automatically wrong.” Or he shrugs off whatever you say. All of these things factor into his readiness to test you, push the limits, and discard the opinions and insights of adults. You’ll find that you can hardly even give your adolescent child compliments—much less constructive criticism—without getting a defiant retort.

EP: If you notice that your child is changing and you don’t like it, how should you handle it?

JL: Understand that any criticism you give to the way your daughter dresses or uses makeup, or your son’s taste in music, only emboldens them further. In other words, any criticism you give makes it more urgent that they pursue these things. They may even be polite and not attack you for those opinions, and they may even consider them. But the effects of adult opinions are usually insufficient to cause kids to change. I believe this is because of the stress that’s on them socially. Don’t ever underestimate the power of peer pressure. When you hear the word “nerd,” think "parent." The truth is, you can tell your child something every day and just get an argument. Then one day, his best friend tells him the exact same thing, and now it’s gospel. That understandably drives parents crazy. You want to say, “I told you that!” But if you do, your child just says, “No, you didn’t.” He just doesn’t want to hear it.

Fifty or sixty years ago, there were still a lot of taboos about being rebellious or defiant to your parents. You could be a little rebellious, but you didn’t curse in front of them, much less call them names. You didn’t attack teachers or act disrespectfully toward them. But nowadays, kids say anything to their parents. They treat them any way they want to, and in many cases, they get away with it.

I also believe there is too much propaganda on TV, in the movies, and in music that convinces kids that they’ve got all the answers deep inside of them. I think it’s a mistake to tell kids that “The answers are inside you—you just have to search for them.” In my opinion, that’s a lot of garbage. It’s misleading for kids who may feel confused, overwhelmed, and as if there’s something wrong with them because they aren’t able to dig deep enough.

Even so, I think it’s the message kids want to hear so our culture pounds it into them. Adolescents like hearing, “You’re in charge; you’re in control; your time has come.” Unfortunately, for many teens, it couldn’t be further from the truth. And when a situation comes up where they truly need guidance or help, it makes them more likely to feel as if they can handle it on their own—and as if they’re in control—when they really aren’t.

EP: Can you say anything to your kids when they start behaving in ways that bother you?

JL: Personally, I look for ways not to fight with kids and to avoid power struggles. Again, I’m big on letting kids make decisions and on letting them be independent on the soft stuff that’s in the middle. If you picture decision–making as a room, imagine that in the middle of the room are all the “soft” decisions—including what kind of music your child likes, what kind of clothes your son wears, who your daughter’s favorite movie star is. The walls of the room are the hard decisions around things like health, safety and academic performance. In my opinion, anything in the middle of the room is fine for them to decide for themselves, but if your child starts pushing on the walls, I think you should push back. And state the rules very clearly: “No, you can’t use drugs. No, you can’t drink. No, you can’t stay out all night.” Don’t change your story line. Things like drugs and alcohol, shoplifting, damaging people’s property and assault are easy to define—this type of behavior is very black and white. Doing any of these things is wrong, and there are laws to prove it.

On the other hand, generally I think kids should be able to pick their own music, clothes and makeup. Unless there’s some moral problem with the way they’re dressing, this is a fight you don’t want to have—and you want to pick your fights carefully. I know that sexuality and clothing is a particularly sensitive area. While I think clothing shouldn’t be a big argument, I think kids, particularly adolescent girls, often dress in a very sexualized way today. If it becomes problematic for a parent, I think they need to set limits on it. This is something I believe that each family has to decide for themselves.

When it comes to music, the only thing I would say is “Keep the music down”—or have your child get a set of ear buds if you don’t want to hear it. Certainly, just because they’re teenagers doesn’t mean you have to listen to them blasting their music; they don’t have the right to disturb anybody else in the house. And if their choice in music is offensive or violent, I also think you can say, “You don’t have a right to listen to this music in my house,” and many parents do say that. I don’t think that’s wrong, but I don’t think it’s always effective either, because it doesn’t change anything. Kids who aren’t allowed to listen to certain kinds of music aren’t any less affected by pop culture. Ultimately, though, I believe it’s the parent’s choice.

Don’t forget, your child may not do the stuff you want him to do—and he may do things you don’t want him to do. But you have to make your family’s values and positions very, very clear so that when your child looks to find solid ground later, he’ll have something to revert back to. In other words, if the day comes when your child wants to follow his family’s values, the model will be there—no matter what those values were.

EP: James, is there any way you can protect your kids, so to speak, when they leave for the day?

JL: In my opinion, you can’t insulate your children from the world. There’s nothing you can do about that. You might try to protect them morally, spiritually or mentally, but you can’t isolate them from the world physically. And when they go out into the world, if they’re attracted to something, the bottom line is that you are not going to be able to stop them. If they want to do something, you have no control and you can’t change that.

But let’s talk about what you do have control over. Many kids have cell phones, video games, and computers at their disposal. All of these things are capable of introducing concepts, ideas, and behaviors to your child that you don’t agree with. I think it’s very important for you to exercise whatever control you can over what happens in your home—and that includes all the information that comes into your home, including TV and the Internet.

EP: Do you think parents are justified in spying on their kids’ activities?

JL: I’m not against parents spying on their kids, but I am against parents searching their kids’ rooms unless they tell them ahead of time. I think it’s reasonable to say, “I’m going to look in your room sometimes.” But again, I do think kids have to be told.

You can get computer programs to track the websites your children have visited. If you want, you can see every text message your child has sent or received. I support that, as long as you say to your child, “I’m going to check your text messages sometimes; I’m going to check your Facebook account.” You can also screen video games, but tell your child, “Don’t buy it before I screen it, because if I don’t like it, I’m getting rid of it. You can return it to the store or sell it.” Remember, you have the right to screen anything that comes into your home.

Parents can do anything they want, but I don’t think we should be sneaky about it—I think we have to be up front. And if you tell your child that you’ll be checking up on him and he gets angry about that, that’s too bad. The main thing is that you want your child to know how important this is to you. You can say, “Your safety and health is important to me, so this is what I’m going to do. And if you don’t like it, I understand. But this is still what I’m going to do.”

I think that it’s good to respect boundaries, and I support parents who do that. But I also support parents who say, “Hey, I can’t worry about a concept like boundaries when my son or daughter is using drugs; this is life and death.” If you saw somebody falling onto the subway tracks or the railroad tracks, you wouldn’t think about boundaries, you’d grab them and save them. So I understand and support parents when the situation is too critical to worry about boundaries.

EP: EP: How much control do you have over the things to which your child is exposed?

JL: I think it’s important to understand that you have no control over what your children are exposed to when they leave for the day. I mean, if you drive them to school during the school year, then they won’t be exposed to stuff on the school bus. But make no mistake, they’re exposed to whatever happens once they get there. If they go to an all–boys or an all–girls school, then they won’t be exposed to the opposite sex there, and that’s a choice many parents make. There are some things you can manage, but basically if your child lives in the world, your child will be exposed to the world. And unfortunately, it’s the same world you and I are exposed to, even though kids don’t have the mental capacity or maturity level that we have to deal with it. It’s a risky proposition, and I understand that.

So the only secondary control you have is through the beliefs, values, and morals that you teach to your kids. As a parent, you hope they’re going to make good decisions and that those values will exert some force opposing the negative influences out there. But each child is different, just like each adult is different, and there’s nothing you can do about that. Personally, I think parents expect too much of themselves if they think their own behavior in the home will prevent their child from making any mistakes in life.

Listen, I understand that it’s the most vulnerable thing in the world to know that your child is out there alone making decisions, some of which may be life–threatening. I’m not only talking about drug and alcohol use, but also decisions about shoplifting, risky sexual behavior, and who your child talks to online. And make no bones about it, if your child is committing crimes, he’s going to be arrested for them, and when he turns 18, he will be tried as an adult. Believe me, that’s going to affect him for the rest of their his life.

So parents have every reason to be concerned and worried, and to feel vulnerable. There’s nothing you can do except run a home where values are promoted and talked about. Don’t get into fights about it with your child—just keep your values clear. Values like “If you cop out with drugs and alcohol, you’ll miss the things you need to learn.”

EP: So is there any hope for kids out there today?

JL: You can hope, but you can also plan for things. I think parents need to plan their response to certain behaviors and actions before their kids undertake them. So discuss ahead of time, “What are we going to do if Jake smokes pot? What are we going to do if we find drugs in his bed? What are we going to do if he gets arrested or brought home by the cops? What is our response going to be? What is our tone going to be? What are our words going to be?” Really think about what is going to be the most effective way to respond. Just because somebody uses drugs once doesn’t mean they’re lost forever. Certainly you want to have a way of responding to the situation that’s not hysterical, and nothing promotes that like parents talking about it ahead of time.

By the way, I see the plan as a set of guidelines that you come up with ahead of time. Talk about what you want to communicate as opposed to what you’re going to say. This is because when you are faced with this moment, you may not say what you thought you were going to say.

EP: What kind of conversations should you have with your child about what they’re seeing or experiencing?

JL: Again, you should tell your child how risky some of these things are. Ideally, you’ve been talking about this with him for five years already. At the age of eight, nine, and ten, you want to start introducing these topics. You might use smoking as an example. “See that guy smoking? That’s so bad for you. I don’t think people should do that. It makes you sick and it costs a lot of money.” Your child might answer, “Why does he do it, then?” You can say, “Because he didn’t listen to his parents.” Make that clear. Always throw in that his parents didn’t want him to do it, or that his parents told him not to smoke. It’s very important that your child has a sense of, “If I don’t listen to my parents, I could get into trouble.” In my opinion, that’s a really healthy thing for kids to fear.

EP: Is there anything else you would recommend to parents?

JL: Yes, I think one of the most important things for parents to do is avoid name–calling. Don’t make character references about your child because of some mistake in judgment that he made. In other words, let’s say you catch your child smoking pot. I think it’s one thing to tell him that the choice was wrong, that he’s accountable for what he did, and that there will be consequences. But parents shouldn’t be calling their kids “losers” or judging their character because they screwed up. That’s not healthy.

As parents, sometimes we think that somehow we have to hurt our kids in order for the behavior to stop. That’s the mentality behind smacking your child on his butt—that somehow he won’t stop misbehaving until it hurts. Personally, I don’t buy that. I think you can use consequences to make people uncomfortable. So in that sense, your child not being able to use his cell phone should hurt. I think when parents start viciously attacking or calling names, they’re really being ineffective. It doesn’t change the behavior, and it negatively affects your relationship, in addition to being hurtful and mean.

So let’s say your child is smoking pot, and you say, “You little scum bag, you really disappoint me, you lied to me you little jerk.” If you’re saying this to him now, what are you going to say to him when he’s 30? Remember, just because you have the power to say something doesn’t mean you should say it. What good is calling your child names ever going to do? Do you think he’s not going to shoot heroin because you called him a bum? Do you think he’ll say, “Oh, my God, I didn’t know you felt that way, Dad.” No way. Calling names doesn’t help—it just creates more bad feelings. If you’re disappointed, certainly say so. But saying hurtful things just takes away any influence you might have had on your child’s drug use.

I always tell parents “If being mean or angry helped, therapists would be out of business.” I state that very clearly and honestly. The fact is, therapists are in business because being hurtful, mean and angry doesn’t help and probably makes the problem worse.

EP: James, in your opinion is there anything about which a parent can be certain?

JL: I don’t think you can truly make sure of anything. Part of the sweet sadness of being a parent is that you do the best you can with your kids and then they go off on their own. They have tastes of their own and dreams of their own from a very early age, whether or not they let you in on it. As your kids individuate more, you’ll see them liking things you don’t like, and not liking things you do like; they just might not talk about it because they’re afraid to upset you. I know it’s a very hard thing to do, but I pity the parent who can’t let go. I believe that’s part of the reason why there’s so much fighting between parents and adolescents, because neither party is comfortable with what's happening. The parents are not comfortable with their child becoming more independent and the adolescent is not comfortable dealing with his parent’s disapproval, so they fight. Remember, for the first years of your child’s life, all he wanted was your approval. He feels a reaction when he's pushing you away, but he can't help it. And that’s where the frustration and anger comes in. It can be such an unhappy time in a family’s life.

There really are no easy answers. The idea of letting a child out into the world filled with dangers is a parent’s worst nightmare. One of the reasons it’s so hard is because you’re powerless over your kids. You spend all these years protecting your kids; you’re ready to jump in front of a bus to save them, but when the day comes when they do something risky, you’re powerless over it. It’s awful, but parenting is not for sissies. I think the best thing you can do as a parent is to recognize your own limitations and learn how to be more effective if you can. And then really put a lot into those areas where it matters and keep role modeling.

Parenting Teens: Parental Authority vs. Peer Pressure reprinted with permission from Empowering Parents. For more information, visit

James Lehman was a behavioral therapist and the creator of The Total Transformation Program for parents. He worked with troubled teens and children for three decades. James held a Masters Degree in Social Work from Boston University. For more information, visit