Spanking is not effective in getting kids to follow rules or change their behavior.

Experts at the University of Texas and University of Michigan agree. Just last month, researchers released a compelling study on spanking, considered to be the most thorough analysis to date.

After combing through 50 years of research involving over 160,000 children, the study found that spanking increases the likelihood of child aggression, anti-social behavior, mental health issues and cognitive problems.

Science supports what we’ve been saying all along: problem solving, effective consequences, and holding kids accountable is more likely to give you the results you want from your children.

Yet, even the most easy-going parent can be tempted to spank their child—kids know exactly how to push your buttons, in hopes of getting what they want.

How can you get your child’s attention and set limits without spanking?

As James Lehman wrote, you can’t punish kids into better behavior.

Physical punishments like spanking don’t teach kids how to solve their problems differently. A more effective strategy is to focus on one or two behaviors you most want your child to change, and be clear and consistent with both your expectations and your consequences.

As you shift your focus away from parenting the “right way” and instead look towards what’s effective, you may find your journey gets a little easier.

 

source: EmpoweringParents.com

Helping Your ADHD Child

If your child has been diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), he or she is not alone. The National Institute of Mental Health reports that in a classroom of 25 to 30 schoolchildren, at least one is likely to have the disorder. ADHD poses a particular challenge for parents. “In a way, ADHD requires you to be even more of a parent than the average mom or dad because your kid is more active and has less control over his or her behavior than other children,” says Kathryn Brandt, M.D., of the Family Medicine Institute in Augusta, Maine. Here are 12 ways to help your child with ADHD achieve his or her full potential.

1. Learn as much as possible about how ADHD affects your child, and how you can troubleshoot and structure situations to make life easier for your kid. Remember, not all kids who are hyperactive, inattentive, and impulsive have ADHD. This is why both Brandt and her colleague Cheryl Seymour, MD, recommend having your child formally tested and assessed by pediatric specialists if ADHD is suspected. They also encourage you to work with trained professionals to learn strategies and skills for helping your child overcome the difficulties associated with the disorder.2. Seymour stresses the significance of self-care when dealing with ADHD. “One of the most important things you can do for your ADHD child — and the rest of your family — is to take care of yourself,” she says. “Dealing with ADHD is often stressful, and finding an outlet for your own stress will help keep you from taking it out on your child.” Consider seeking individual counseling or joining a support group for ADHD parents. You can also take up a hobby, practice relaxation techniques, meditate, or even work out – exercise is a great stress reliever.

3. Try to patiently explain instructions to your child in simple and direct terms, and break tasks down into specific steps. “It’s not enough to give a single command like ‘Brush your teeth,’ because a child with ADHD will get distracted on the way to doing that task,” says Seymour. “Try breaking the task down: ‘I want you to go to the bathroom, take out your toothbrush, wet it and put toothpaste on it, and then brush your teeth.'” This will help your child stay focused and be better able to understand what is expected of him or her.

4. If your child has a regular routine, he or she will know what to expect each day. So wake your child at the same hour every morning, keep meal and play times consistent, and allow time for getting ready for school in the morning and going to bed at night. Account for homework, chores, TV time, and computer or gaming activities when developing this routine. Make sure your son or daughter is aware of any additional weekly events that will disrupt the schedule. If you need to make any changes to the routine, be sure to alert your child in advance. Some experts also suggest posting the schedule where your child can check it.

5. Because kids with ADHD are prone to losing things, you can help your child stay organized by designating places for his or her clothes, shoes, school stuff, toys, and so on. Be sure to encourage your child to always return things to their correct spot. You can also organize schoolwork with accordion folders, binders, or color coding for each subject. Even if you don’t consider yourself to be a particularly organized person, do your best to maintain organization in your home to set a positive example for your child.

6. Too many options can overwhelm children with ADHD, so present your child with only two options when it comes to things like getting dressed, choosing snacks, or picking out a movie, storybook, or game. You may also consider limiting playmates to one or two children at a time, because a child with ADHD is likely to become overstimulated when playing with more than just a couple of friends.

7. The world is full of enticements that will sidetrack your child’s attempts to focus. So do your best to limit any kind of distraction that could disrupt homework or study time. For example, turn off the television, remove toys and games from your child’s study area, and keep the workspace tidy. Also, train your child not to stray from your instructions. For example, if you’ve asked your son to go to his room, pick up his toys, and put them away, make it clear that this is not an opportunity to play with the toys. The mission is just to put the toys back where they belong.

8. Children with ADHD tend to have an impulsive nature and have difficulty developing social skills, so they need to be watched more closely than other kids their age. Keep playmates to a minimum and supervise your child’s social interactions. Step in and guide him or her when necessary, and be sure to reward good behavior. If trouble starts — for instance, your daughter grabs toys from her sibling — the NIMH suggests giving your child a short time-out in a quiet place to calm her down.

9. Encourage your child to find something he or she is good at. It could be a sport, music, drawing, creative writing, martial arts, or even cooking. Honing a child’s natural talents can boost his or her confidence and help him or her develop valuable social skills. Just be sure to remain sensitive to any special needs. For instance, if team sports are too competitive, encourage your child to try something that’s more individually focused, like swimming or karate. If learning to play an instrument frustrates your child, singing, dancing, or one of the visual arts might be a better choice.

10. A great way to keep your child’s attention focused on learning is to make the process fun. For instance, connect boring facts to interesting trivia, invent funny stories that make details easier to remember, make up silly songs, act out historical events, and supplement homework with relevant movies, stories, or trips to museums. Do your best to involve your child’s teachers in this attempt. Let them know how you’re approaching homework so they can support your efforts.

11. “You must be rigid when dealing with ADHD,” says Brandt. “You can’t expect a child with this disorder to apply what’s learned in one situation to another; you have to keep teaching the same lessons until your child learns them.” Because of this, discipline can sometimes feel futile. However, there are helpful methods to use with children who have ADHD. For example, fight the urge to discipline your child constantly, and save stronger punishments for truly abominable behavior. Avoid yelling, spanking, or losing your temper — it’s better to remove your child firmly from a disruptive situation and give him or her a time-out. Many experts also suggest using a points or token system with rewards and penalties. Emphasizing good behavior and rewarding the completion of simple tasks have been shown to help modify the behavior of children with ADHD.

12. Be your child’s number one fan and supporter. Give praise and extra attention to the things he or she does well. Advocate for your child at home and at school. Communicate with teachers about special needs, and work with them to optimize your child’s educational experience. Finally, help your child develop social skills and healthy relationships with peers and adults. ADHD may make life challenging for you and your child — and the rest of your family — but with the right combination of love, care, attention, and perseverance, you’ll make progress together.

source: Jen Laskey

Handling Teen Complaints

It’s another day and another battle. The alarm goes off, and your child yells, “School sucks. Why do I have to go? It’s not fair!” He hasn’t
done his homework (again) because, as he sees it, the teacher didn’t explain the assignment to him. He adds, “Besides, my teacher is a jerk,
and she doesn’t like me, anyway.” You find yourself yelling, “Hurry, you’re going to miss the bus,” but instead of getting ready, now your
child is dragging his feet and shouting, “Leave me alone!” As on countless other days, he misses the bus and starts pleading with you
for a ride to school, saying, “You don’t want me to be late, do you, Mom?” Before he gets out of the car, he reacts to your speech about
trying harder tomorrow by screaming, “All right, get off my back. Why are you always yelling at me?” and slams the door. At school, he
gravitates to the wrong group of friends and goofs off in class; even worse, he talks back to the teacher instead of paying attention. When
he comes home in the afternoon, he grunts at you before getting onto his video games (you think they’re way too violent, but he loves them)
listens to music which you find offensive, and talks openly about admiring people who are crooks and criminals. That night, you know your
child is probably going to stay up until all hours playing more of those video games you can’t stand, but you’re so tired of fighting with
him that you just fall into bed exhausted.

As a parent, you live this kind of situation every day when you have a defiant or “difficult” kid, but have you ever wondered what’s going on
in your child’s head when he’s fighting with you? Although it may feel like he hates you, that’s usually far from the truth. Rather, kids get
caught up in a long chain of what we call “thinking errors” that can tangle up their emotions and behavior—and make no mistake, unless they
get help, thinking errors can dominate a person’s thought processes throughout their entire lives.

Here’s how some of the thinking errors used by the child above break down—and what you can do to challenge these faulty ways of thinking in your own child.

Thinking Error #1: “School sucks. Why do I have to go? It’s not fair.”

What It Means: One of the thinking errors this child is using is called “Injustice.” Realize that many kids see things as being unfair. The
danger is that once they label something as “not fair” they feel like they don’t have to follow the rules or honor your expectations. This is
pretty common in our society. If you’re on the turnpike and the speed limit is fifty-five miles an hour, you’ll see many people going
sixty-five and seventy. It’s because they think fifty-five miles an hour isn’t fair—and once they decide it’s not fair, then in their
minds, the speed limit rules don’t apply to them.

We all use thinking errors to justify doing things we know are risky or unhealthy. People use errors every day to gamble, lie, steal and
cheat—or simply to justify having that second helping of pie. The problem is when kids use thinking errors to avoid taking
responsibility. When they do this, they’re not realistically preparing for the adult world which awaits them. Remember, it’s not what the
thinking error does—it’s what the thinking error justifies or permits.

What You Can Do: It’s important for you as a parent to challenge the error in thinking in a non-confrontational way. One thing the mother in
our example could have said was, “You know school is your responsibility. If you don’t get up, you’re going to get an earlier
bedtime. And it looks to me like you need to get more rest so you can get up on time.”

Thinking Error #2: “The Teacher is a jerk—and she hates me.”

What It Means: When a child says something like this, he’s using a thinking error called “The Victim Stance”. Some kids see themselves as
victims all the time and in almost every situation. What they’re doing is trying to reject the idea that they’re responsible for anything.
You’ll ask them a question and they’ve always got a sad story. Part of that sad story is who they blame for not meeting their
responsibilities. That’s because when you’re a victim, you blame other people. So these kids blame the teacher, they blame you, or they blame somebody else—and what they learn is if they stick to their story long enough, they won’t be held accountable.

What I try to tell parents is that there is a sad story, and then there’s a behavior story. The sad story is your child playing the
victim; the behavior story is what your child did to other people or to property. And as parents, we always have to focus on the behavior
story. Every child has to be responsible for the behavior story, not the sad story. Don’t forget, when kids see themselves as victims, that
gives them the justification they need to not meet their responsibilities. If you’re a victim, they reason, you shouldn’t have
to do anything you don’t want to do. And focusing on the sad story somehow supports their right not to meet responsibilities.

What You Can Do: When your child adopts the Victim Stance, what he needs to be hearing from you is, “You’re not a victim. You’re
responsible for your actions.” In this case, the parent could also say, “It sounds like you’re blaming your teacher for not having your
homework done. But you’re the homework-doer—that’s your responsibility.
And it’s not your teacher’s job to get along with you; it’s your job to get along with your teacher.”

Thinking Error #3: “You don’t want me to be late for school, do you?”

What It Means: This is the thinking error I call “Concrete Transactions”. The Concrete Transactions mode is a way of thinking
about things in which relationships with people in authority are simply vehicles your child uses to get around the rules. What he is saying is,
“I’m your friend, and since I’m your friend, you’re going to help me get away with things—or help me get things I’m not entitled to.” So in
your child’s mind, relationships are designed to help him get around rules, expectations and responsibilities. In other words, he thinks,
“If I have a relationship with you, then you won’t make me follow the rules. You’re going to let me stay up past bedtime and sleep late in
the morning.” So to your child, rules and the rights of others are seen as obstacles in relationships. The use of “Concrete Transactions” is
designed to make you remove those obstacles instead of helping your child develop the problem solving skills he needs to manage the
challenges he faces.

Know that if you’re in this kind of relationship with your child, you’re not really a person—you’re a role. Simply put, your child will
treat you the right way as long as you stay in your role. If you try to leave it and be more responsible and hold your child accountable, you
will often get a very nasty reaction.

By the way, whenever I hear parents say they want to be their kid’s friend, I become concerned. If parents want a friend, they should seek
it outside of the home or get a puppy. These kids don’t need their parents to be their friends. They need direction, limits, coaching,
teaching and structure. Look at it this way: if you define friendship as a mutual relationship where two people really try to take care of
each other, then the best way to be your child’s friend is by being an effective parent.

What You Can Do: It’s important that children face the true consequences of their behavior. And when an authority figure such as a
parent or teacher lets them off the hook, it doesn’t matter what they say to the child to justify it. As far as the child’s concerned, it
works: He won.

In the example above, I would suggest that if possible, and if it’s safe, the mother should leave her child at home. Most kids complain
about going to school, but they have no place else to go. And remember, if you leave him home, take the video game, cable box and computer control panel with you in the trunk of your car—and don’t forget his cell phone.

Thinking Error #4: “This video game is cool. Mom doesn’t know what
she’s talking about—she’s so uptight.”

What It Means: This child is using a thinking error called “Pride in Negativity”. Defiant kids often take a lot of pride in their knowledge
of unhealthy, secretive things. They have a fascination with negative role models because they see them as being powerful. These kids might
hint at having a secretive, negative life. They may also take great pride in telling you that they know about different drugs and where to
get them, and in their knowledge of crime—and how to shoplift and steal.

Kids who have low self esteem and no way to solve problems will gravitate towards peers who don’t expect anything out of them. Those
kids in general will see negative behavior as a solution to their problem. In the end, “Pride in Negativity” means self esteem and
identity from negativity.

What You Can Do: One of the big mistakes parents make is to argue with their kids about the negative things their child is fascinated with.
But fighting about those issues only gives the child more power. I personally think parents should have a structure in their home that
forbids the games they’re not comfortable with. You should also really ignore any Pride in Negativity statements by saying, “Look, I’m not
interested in that stuff,” and then walk away. In other words, give it no power. Remember, if you show your child that certain behaviors have
power over you, those behaviors are going to be repeated. Conversely, behaviors that have no power over you will diminish.

It’s important to remember that kids believe in the thinking errors they’re using. As a parent, I believe to be overly confrontational is
not the way to go. What’s preferred is a corrective response that challenges or refutes the thinking error. After all, these errors are
part of every day life. You’ll find that people use them all the time. In fact, I find myself using thinking errors, and you might find
yourself using them, too. But here’s the risk for your child: kids, and especially teens, use these errors in thinking to avoid doing things
that are difficult for them, and that’s what makes them dangerous. Remember, adolescence is one of the most critical times in your child’s
development for them to learn how to solve life’s problems—not avoid them by using excuses, manipulation or lies.

source: James Lehman,LCSW

Coping with Back Talk

When your kids start to talk back, you might as well welcome them to adolescence. Back talk, however disrespectful and obnoxious it is in the moment, is your child’s way of learning how to assert herself. As every parent of a teen knows, adolescents often aren’t thinking things through; they’re just beginning to learn how to stand up for themselves, and most of the time they’re not going to do it very well. Your job is to help your child change rude behavior by teaching her how to state her viewpoint in a more respectful and appropriate way. This doesn’t mean she’ll always get her way—but she’ll eventually learn to voice her opinions without being disrespectful.

Understandably, most of us become reactionary to back talk. It’s annoying, it challenges our authority, and it pushes all our buttons. When this happens, the back talk and our reaction to it can take on a life of their own. Suddenly, you’re stuck in a full blown power struggle with your teen. You’re angry and frustrated, and your child is fueling that fire by continuing to talk back until the argument escalates into a screaming match.

If it becomes a habit and your child is talking back regularly, it’s not healthy and you really need to start dealing with it. Sometimes parents let it go because they’re overwhelmed—they’ve already got so much on their plates and it becomes just one more thing to worry about. Sometimes they’re reluctant to intervene because they think their child will just get angrier. But simply avoiding back talk doesn’t work, because then your child won’t learn how to express himself differently.

Choose Your Battles: I think it’s important to choose your battles. Let’s say your child is swearing at you and is also mumbling every time you give her a chore to do. You’re going to want to deal with both behaviors eventually, but the swearing is probably going to be more important to you than the mumbling. So start by setting limits and giving consequences for it, then move on to the next behavior you want to change. If you try to tackle everything at once, it becomes overwhelming and it’s easier for you to throw your hands up and give up.

You also may decide that mumbling is something you can put up with. My husband James always said that kids need an outlet for their anger just like we do. If they express their frustrations in a way that is fairly harmless—like mumbling or eye rolling—you might want to simply ignore it. The bottom line is that every family is different; you have to decide for yourself what you will and won’t put up with from your kids.

When my son was in high school, he wanted to go to a concert out of state. His plan was to sleep in the car overnight with his friends. When we said no, he got angry and mumbled under his breath and ran upstairs and slammed the door. Now that wasn’t acceptable behavior by any means, but he didn’t punch walls and he didn’t do anything harmful. We chose to set the limit around the concert and not his response to being told he couldn’t go. We chose to manage the situation this way because it was more important for us to deal with the concert and the safety issues around it than his reaction to us. When he calmed down we were able to talk about it.

Define what is—and isn’t—acceptable to you: If swearing or being rude is not acceptable, state that clearly to your child. Do this during a calm time. Let your child know exactly what he can and can’t do, and tell him what the consequences will be if he crosses the line. You might say, “If you swear at your sister, I’m taking your cell phone away for 3 hours. If during that time you swear again, that 3 hours will start over again.” That way, you’re helping your child work towards good behavior by earning his cell phone back.

Sometimes parents avoid dealing with back talk by not being clear about expectations and by tiptoeing around their kids. If your child is talking back all the time and you’re not setting firm limits around it, make no mistake, you are training him to do it more often.

Overreacting to back talk: Most of us will lose our cool and overreact to back talk at one point or another. We’re overwhelmed, frustrated, and tired of our child’s attitude. In the heat of the moment, it’s easy to have an extreme reaction to something that isn’t that important. If your child is behaving fairly well in other areas and is just starting to talk back to you, take it into context. You still want to set limits and be clear about what’s acceptable, but you don’t want to blow things out of proportion. By overreacting, you’re giving that back talk more power than it really should have—and you’re giving your child more power than he should have.

Don’t take it personally: If your pre-teen is screaming and yelling, “I hate you! You can’t make me do it,” it feels personal, but it really isn’t—it’s just angry talk. Try to think about a time when your child has been angry and said things he didn’t mean. Imagine that’s what your child is doing when he’s yelling at you. It’s important to remember that no matter how upset your child is, he still loves you and needs your approval. Whether he shows it or not, he cares about what you say.

So don’t take it personally. As soon as you get into an argument and engage with the back talk, it becomes your problem and deflects the responsibility from your child. At the same time, your maturity level sinks down to your child’s level and you become peers. It’s very likely that you’re going to overreact in this situation because you’re reacting to angry words instead of what’s behind those words.

Walk away from the fight: When tensions start to escalate and you feel yourself getting drawn in, it’s important to use the “acting stance.” Even if you don’t feel calm, try to act that way. Say, “I’m not going to talk with you right now. We’ll talk later when you’ve calmed down.” If your child continues to try to engage you, then you really need to step away from the situation. Leave the room, or go for a drive if your child is old enough to be left alone. It certainly helps your child to have no one to back talk to. She can back talk to the cupboard, but it’s not going to have much effect. If you’re not there, that target isn’t there for your child. It also allows you time to calm down.

How we present ourselves makes all the difference with kids. If we don’t get involved in the argument, then we don’t take it on as part of our own problem. If we do, you start diminishing your child’s responsibility.

Set the limits around back talk. Set limits around back talk in a firm yet gentle way. Say clearly, “I don’t accept you talking to me this way. This isn’t the way people talk to each other, and this isn’t the way we talk to each other in our family.” Or, “It’s hard to listen to you when you’re talking like this.”

Set clear, firm limits on what is allowed and not allowed. Be specific about what is respectful and disrespectful. Young teens especially really need to know that. They see things on TV that are pretty disrespectful but are made to look like they’re acceptable. Having that calm clarity and firmness about limits is really useful. Again, this is a test. You need to come through with clear rules about what kind of behavior you need to see. And keep reinforcing your rules as your child continues to test.

Giving consequences for backtalk: Whether or not you want to give consequences for back talk depends on the situation. Let’s say it’s the first time something disrespectful or rude ever flew out of your kid’s mouth. You’re probably going to set a limit and say, “This is not okay,” but might decide not to give a consequence because you’re going to expect him to learn from it. If this keeps happening and you have set those limits and been very clear about what’s allowed, then it makes more sense to look at consequences. You’ve done your part as a parent, you’ve set a verbal expectation but your child has chosen to break that rule.

Know your own triggers: It’s important for you to know your own reactions, or the “triggers,” that push your buttons. There are probably things your child could say that aren’t going to affect you at all, but then there are other things that really upset you. In order to change your response to your child, you need to know yourself. For example, in the heat of the moment, your child might say something like, “You’re the worst mom in the world. I hate you!” Instead of overreacting by screaming or getting upset, take a deep breath and try responding in a different way. Stay calm, state that you will talk later, and walk away.

If you’re in the pattern of getting into arguments or reacting in a charged way to back talk, and all of a sudden you do something different, it shows your child that behavior can change. It can be very surprising to kids when you respond differently. Sometimes your child might try to push you further, but when they realize they’re not going to get a reaction out of you, they will let go. This effectively takes away the power of back talk.

As James said, “You don’t have to attend every argument you’re invited to.” Take time away for yourself, giving your child clear directions that you’re going to come back and talk about this situation when you’re both calm. You could recommend to your child that while you’re taking time out, he could think about what he was trying to say in a respectful way.

Take a time out: Does back talk and fighting tend to happen around the same time? If you find that’s the case, ask yourself a few questions. Do fights always seem to happen around homework or chores? Or do they occur when you’ve just come home from work, feeling stressed and overwhelmed? I always made sure to have some break time between getting home and dealing with my son. I would either take a minute to decompress and change clothes after work before sitting down and talking again. Again, look at your own self in these situations and see what you might do differently.

Remember, for your child the lesson around back talk is how to resolve conflicts, how to express anger and how to problem solve—in short, how to have a discussion about things, even when you’re angry or frustrated. And a discussion is when two people are listening to each other; they’re expressing themselves and coming to some shared closure, even if they don’t agree 100 percent with each other. Back talk is not healthy. It’s generally talking at someone; it’s very one-sided and usually disrespectful. This is why you’re teaching your child not to do it—and why you’re setting limits around it. You want to handle this as objectively as possible, and view your role as that of a teacher and coach. As parents, we teach our kids to do so many things in so many different ways to prepare them to be healthy, respectful and responsible people. The lessons that you have to teach around back talk often have a lot of feelings connected to them. But if you can teach your child healthier ways to express anger and show him how to problem solve, it diminishes the power that anger and back talk have.

source: Janet Lehman,MSW

Are Military Schools and Wilderness Programs Effective?

When you have a defiant, out-of-control teen, the idea of sending him to a boot camp or wilderness experience program can sound attractive—and also scary. Perhaps you’ve heard some amazing stories, with claims of wildly successful, life-saving results. On the other hand, you’ve probably also heard the horror stories: allegations of abuse and mistreatment that have, in some tragic cases, resulted in injury and death. This, coupled with the fact that sending your child away is heartbreaking and difficult, makes it the hardest decision a parent ever has to make.

“Your child isn’t a digital camera that you can mail away and get fixed and returned to you in working order. You have to change the dynamic within your family if you want to see results.”

Parents often ask, “What do you think about boot camps and military schools? Are they effective?” The truth is, that’s a tough question for us to answer because there’s very little independent research on what are collectively called “troubled teen programs.” What it really comes down to is that in general, these programs get very mixed results.

This article deals with military schools, boarding schools, reform schools, boot camps, wilderness camps and other troubled teen programs intended as an intervention for troubled youths and their families. These programs differ from in-patient substance abuse programs or mental health facilities where children and teens who may be a risk to themselves or others get treatment for addictions and serious mental illnesses. More intensive treatment programs, as well as programs that are reserved for foster children or wards of the state, will not be discussed here.

Boot camps and Military Schools: Are They Safe?

Allegations of abuse, neglect or improper management tend to be associated with programs that are not licensed by the state in which they operate, or accredited by any sort of national accreditation organization. If you are considering sending your child or teen to one of these programs, remember that essentially there’s no oversight or accountability without accreditation or licensure—and even if the program is accredited, this isn’t an insurance policy against human error and poor judgment. In other words, no program is perfect. Be sure to have a good, clear understanding of both the benefits and the risks associated with any program that you’re considering.

Here are some guidelines for choosing a program for your child:

1. Accreditation and licensure: First and foremost, make sure the program is accredited by an accreditation agency such as the Joint Commission (JACHO) or the Council of Accreditation (COA). You should also make sure the program is licensed in the state in which it operates.

2. Is it appropriate? Make sure the program and its methods are appropriate for your child and will meet his or her needs. If you are not certain what your child’s needs are, work with a local professional who can help you understand, such as your child’s physician, school guidance counselor, or mental health professional. Their evaluation can help you better understand your child’s needs. If your child has other health concerns, such as asthma, diabetes or allergies, for example, make sure the program understands his medical issues and will be able to make appropriate accommodations.

Wilderness programs may be more likely to fall into the category of relying on natural consequences to teach kids in a very literal way. So for example, if your child refuses to make a fire, he’ll be cold, or if he doesn’t build proper shelter, he’ll sleep in the rain. This approach doesn’t always have the desired results for every child. Before sending your teen or pre-teen to wilderness camp, ask yourself this question, “Would my child actually benefit from having more structure, with tangible rewards and consequences?”

3. A Cognitive Behavioral Therapy approach: Look for a program that offers a Cognitive Behavioral Therapy-based curriculum. While some boot camps or schools may not offer counseling, often a defiant or acting-out adolescent can really benefit from behavioral therapy to teach him the skills he needs to change his behavior. The National Institute of Justice did a research study that indicated that the most effective programs use Cognitive Behavioral Theory as an approach to counseling which focuses on changing faulty thinking as well as behavior. While many programs include or even require therapy, they might not use behavior modification.

4. Victims of abuse: Understand that boot camps are not appropriate for children or teens who have been victims of abuse of any kind. Research shows that this type of environment causes increased stress in this population of children. If your child has suffered abuse, consult with a mental health professional to find the appropriate treatment for him.

5. Is it personalized? Find out whether or not the program you’re considering is personalized. The National Institute of Justice suggests that programs are more effective when they take into account your child’s individual learning style, personality and behavioral characteristics. If the program is personalized and doesn’t simply operate by a cookie cutter standard—if it’s geared toward unique needs in the individual in some way—it will probably be more successful. If you’re afraid you don’t have a full understanding of your child’s needs, it’s a good idea to consult with a local professional who knows your child, such as a school counselor or a therapist, for example, and ask for input.

7. Get references: Ask for references from the troubled teen program you can check or contact. Are there parents you can contact and speak to whose children have been through the program already? You want to get those references and call them; ask everything you can think of to get a really clear picture of how the camp or school operates and what their child’s experience with the program has been like—even after their child returned home.

8. Ask for proof of success and credentials: Ask the contact person at any program to provide you with evidence of success. Get proof that their program works, that the staff possesses appropriate credentials and has adequate training and supervision to successfully perform the interventions used by the program.

When Your Child Comes Home: Can You Expect Good Behavior to Continue?

Many parents call the Support Line and say, “I sent my daughter to a wilderness program last summer. She had an amazing experience, but within the first week of being home, her bad behavior was back. I broke the bank sending her there. What should I do now?”

Contrasted with the regimented schedule your child experienced in a camp or at school, back home, within the chaos of everyday life, no single day is exactly like another. Things come up, parents get stuck at work, schedules are hectic and varying. And unlike a wilderness camp or military school, there are usually only one or two adults in charge—and as we all know, ample outside distractions for most teens. The bottom line is that any positive changes made in the unique setting of a troubled teen program can be very difficult to maintain in the home. After all, how can you turn your house into a military school or boot camp?

I believe that most parents can benefit from education and training while their child is away. So ask yourself these questions: “What tools from the troubled teen program can I use at home? What skills do I need as a parent to ensure a successful transition for our child when she comes back home? How can we maintain the progress that has been made?” It’s really important that parents and families are part of this process and that there is support and consultation available for you once your child is back. Look for a program that involves parents and siblings and that provides parent training or family therapy.

Why Do Troubled Teen Programs Fail?

Why do some programs fail to teach kids how to change their behavior? In some cases, there’s a lack of adequate training and support for families and parents. The program you choose should do a follow-up meeting or phone call with you a few months after your child comes home to see how things are going, and it should provide you with more assistance if needed. A Cognitive Behavioral Therapy program is also a good way to learn skills as a parent and set up a structure for your child when he or she comes home.

Many times, parents send their kids away thinking that they’ll be fixed by the boot camp or school. They’re surprised when they come home and fall back into old patterns. But think about this common expression: “What’s the definition of insanity? Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting the results to be different.” Not only does your child need to undergo some kind of change, you as a parent need to change your approach as well if you want to see a successful outcome. Again, you need to have a structure in place when your child gets home from the school or camp. Remember, your child isn’t a digital camera that you can mail away and get fixed and returned to you in working order. You have to change the dynamic within your family if you want to see results. That’s why the family therapy treatments that take place with the child in the home are recognized by many experts as being most effective.

Deciding to place your child in a troubled teen program is always a very personal choice that you should make on your own and/or with the support of a local professional who knows your family and your child. We strongly encourage parents to take their time and do some research and really dig deep into the inner workings of several programs if you decide to go that route. Have your list of questions ready. Do not be afraid to ask these organizations to provide proof of their claims, proof of the results they’ve obtained, proof of staff credentials, proof of life insurance and accreditation. And remember: have that plan in place for when your child comes home.

Other Resources:

The Federal Trade Commission published a really helpful consumer guide called, Considering a Private Residential Treatment Program for a Troubled Teen: Questions for Parents and Guardians to Ask. It gives a great list of questions to ask when you’re considering entering your child into a troubled teen program. I would strongly encourage any parent considering a military school, reform school, boot camp, wilderness camp or any similar program to refer to this guide as early as possible and follow the suggestions provided.

source: Sara Bean, M.Ed.

Why Harsh Punishment Does NOT Work

Have you ever punished your child in the heat of the moment, when you’re angry and upset? If you’re like most parents, the answer is probably “yes.” In fact, this is one of the biggest, most common parenting traps that you can fall into. But often when you do this, you’re focused on winning the fight rather than working towards teaching your child to choose to do the right thing.

Overly harsh punishments do not create regret; they only serve to create resentment in your child.
While understandable, that mindset of “winning” over your child just isn’t helpful. That’s because when you get into that wrestling match, you’re playing the wrong role: you become your child’s peer rather than his parent. Remember, you already do have authority over him. So don’t get engaged in a tug of war—it will only set up a power struggle. It’s important to understand that overly harsh punishments do not create regret; they only serve to create resentment in your child. He will only be thinking about his anger toward you—and believe that you’re unreasonable and unfair.
Believe me, I know as a mother and grandmother that it’s very easy to fall into that trap. Don’t be too hard on yourself when you’ve had a moment where you’re exhausted and upset and you shout out, “You’re grounded for the summer!” just to feel like you’re in control again. It happens to all of us. So give yourself some slack—it’s not easy to be a parent, and you’re learning, too.

Why Long-term Grounding Doesn’t Work

Why doesn’t long-term grounding work? This type of grounding is usually interpreted as “house arrest”—in other words, the message to your child is something like, “You have to be home and you can’t talk to your friends.” But long-term grounding is not effective in teaching your child the lesson you want him to learn. In fact, James Lehman says that grounding just “teaches kids how to ‘do time’” and doesn’t show them how to change their behavior—and ultimately, they’re not going to learn the lesson you’re trying to teach them.

Learn how to give more effective consequences to your child

Short-term grounding does make sense when it’s used as a consequence given to the child after a problem solving discussion. It’s a consequence that happens because of your child’s actions. So the logical thought process is, “I lost this privilege because I didn’t come home when I should have; I am not trusted to be where I’m supposed to be and have lost the right to go out this weekend.” Understand that your child has to have opportunities to make choices—this is the best way to teach better behavior. If you restrict your child so much that you’re making all their choices for them, they have no opportunities to learn how to evaluate and make decisions. No freedom is no growth.

When Disciplining Your Child, Focus on the Skills They Need to Learn

There is no such thing as a magic punishment or consequence that changes behavior. Instead, focus on teaching your child the skills he needs to learn—and look into why she made the choice to misbehave in the first place. After all, your goal is for your child to make the right choices by herself, even when you’re not there. So use consequences to require your child to practice the skill they need to improve their behavior. Understand thata consequence given without that focus is just a punishment that won’t teach your child anything new.

Here’s an example of how you might deal with your child when she misbehaves. Let’s say your teenager keeps breaking curfew and you want her to come in on time.

Here are the steps you’d take to work on changing their behavior:

1. Wait: Don’t give her a punishment at 1 a.m. when she comes in. Instead, wait until you’ve calmed down. Sleep on it and talk to her in the morning.

2. Talk: When you do talk, sit down together and say something like, “You didn’t make it home when you were supposed to last night. Tell me what happened.” Your child might say, “My friend was upset and she needed to talk.” But challenge her reasoning by responding, “If your friend is upset, does that mean you get to break the curfew rules?”

3. Challenge: When challenging your child’s bad choices, always ask a variation of this question: “How can you do it differently next time?” So in our example, you might say, “How will you make it back on time even if your friend is upset?” Your teen might answer with, “I guess I could text you next time and let you know what’s going on.” You might respond by saying, “Okay. Next time, I want you to do that and I will come and get you. You cannot break the curfew rules. So regardless, your responsibility is to get home.”

4. Consequences: After this talk, it’s time to give your child a consequence. James Lehman recommends that you choose something connected to the misbehavior that will encourage her to make better choices. Have her earn back the privilege she lost. So for example, you might say, “Because you weren’t home on time last night, you can’t go out with your friends this weekend. And, for the next week, your curfew will be a half hour earlier until you can prove that you can come in on time.” Dial back your child’s curfew by a half hour that week. If she comes in on time each night she goes out, she can have her old curfew back. That way, your teen is learning good behavior as she’s earning back a privilege.

By the way, you can and should adjust consequences depending on how serious the behavior was. If what your child did was very risky, then she really is going to need supervision for a while, and there should be a longer earning period. Additionally, another part of the consequence might be, “You have to come home right after school. I get to look at your computer and it will be kept in a public place. You can see your friends but they have to come to our house.” So it all depends on the misbehavior.

Why is this four-step process so important? If you simply say, “You missed curfew; you’re grounded this week,” and leave it at that, you’re missing out, because you won’t get to challenge your teenager’s faulty thinking. And believe me, there’s a huge amount of reasoning that is faulty with teenagers. Adolescents get in trouble with it all the time. [Editor’s note: For more on thinking errors in kids and teens, read 5 Common Thinking Errors Kids Make by James Lehman, MSW.]

Discover how kids use thinking errors to misbehave—and find out how you can challenge them in your child.

Remember, the important piece is to have that conversation and to make sure your child is learning what she needs to learn. Without that, you’re just trying to mold behavior through punishment—without teaching your child a new replacement behavior.

Physical or Corporal Punishment

Physical punishment uses pain in order to control behavior. There’s a lot of research and debate out there regarding spanking. The research tells us that physical punishment is associated with increased child aggression, antisocial behavior, lower intellectual achievement, a poorer quality of relationship between parent and child, and mental health problems (such as depression). It appears the only thing good about spanking is that it stops the behavior immediately. But I don’t think the cost justifies this technique. It’s been shown that when parents use physical punishments when trying to modify their children’s behaviors, it’s more likely their children will also be physically aggressive when they try to influence other people’s behavior. Simply put, the use of spanking is not as effective as having a problem-solving conversation with your child and giving out consequences to hold him accountable. Children need to learn to choose to comply, not be coerced into compliance.

You’ve Punished Your Child Too Harshly—Now What?

If you find yourself in a situation where you’ve given your child an overly harsh punishment, don’t feel you have to follow through with it. Remember, you are role modeling to your child how to manage yourself when you’re angry. It’s a fallacy to think that everything that comes out of our mouth as parents is ‘law’ and if we back down, we’re seen as inconsistent. Your child can see when you’re saying things in anger, and can sense you’re being unfair, unreasonable or even ridiculous in some cases. Decisions made in anger are usually wrong decisions—why lock yourself into them?

You’re the parent; you’re the teacher. You can say to your child, “I was pretty angry when I suggested grounding you for the summer. I’ve decided to handle this differently.” Then proceed with your problem solving conversation. Let her know what you would like her to do and what consequence decision you’ve made. This is role modeling a really important lesson for your child. And “I said it so I’m stuck with it” is role modeling that teaches your child that you don’t know how to correct yourself when you’ve been unreasonable.

I think you can do this even if you grounded your teen two weeks ago but you’ve realized you made a mistake. Don’t get so caught up in your words. You’re not stuck with them—they are not set in stone.

source: Carole Banks,MSW

When Parent and Child have A.D.H.D. or A.D.D.

Parenting a child with ADHD (and/or ADD) can be tough, but when a parent has the disorder too, the situation can feel almost impossible. Since it is thought to be genetic, dealing with double ADHD is a reality for many families. The good news is that there are steps you can take to control the chaos and be more effective as a parent.

Get Treatment

When a parent’s symptoms of ADHD mix with their child’s, there can be fireworks. As parents we often put our kids’ needs before our own, but one of the most important things you can do for them is to get your own ADHD treated. Having it under control — and keeping it that way — will make it much easier to deal with things like the endless pile of laundry.

Educate Yourself

Parenting’s a tough job any way you slice it. Parenting a kid with ADHD is even harder, so you may need a little extra help. Attend a parenting class geared specifically toward ADHD, join a support group, or read one of the many excellent books on the topic, like The Gift of ADHD Activity Book: 101 Ways to Turn Your Child’s Problems Into Strengths by Lara Honos-Webb.

Understand Where He’s Coming From

Kids with ADHD aren’t trying to drive you nuts — they’re just wired that way. Think of it as a brain short circuit rather than willful bad behavior. Understanding that your child has a disability he’s often unable to control will go a long way toward helping you be more patient.

Remember What It’s Like

Chances are you’ve been in your child’s shoes. Think about how you felt growing up with ADHD (even if you weren’t diagnosed at the time) — remember the feelings of failure and frustration? Recalling your own struggles can help jolt things into perspective when you’re banging your head against the wall.

Make It Routine

Consistency is key for ADHD families, so make sure a schedule’s firmly in place — and then follow it to a T. The more predictable your family life is, the easier it is for you and your child to get stuff done.

Share the Burden

If you have a spouse who doesn’t have ADHD, let him or her takes on the tasks that are harder for you to do well. However, be sure you are on the same page about expectations, rules, and discipline, even if one of you plays “bad cop” more often.

The ADHD File

Put together a binder of all child’s medical records and educational plans related to the ADHD, and automatically file things as they come in. No more rifling through piles of paper — everything will all be in one place when you need it for a meeting with the teacher or your family physician.

Outsource Your Paperwork

Does the paper wrangling in the previous tip sound like it would involve Herculean effort? Hire a highly-organized friend to help you pull together and file all of your child’s paperwork. Then all you’d need to do is maintain.

Catching Your Child in a Lie

When you catch your child in a lie, it’s natural to feel betrayed, hurt, angry and frustrated. But here’s the truth: lying is normal. It’s wrong, but it’s normal. In fact, we all do it to some degree. Consider how adults use lies in their daily lives: When we’re stopped for speeding, we often minimize what we’ve done wrong, if not out–and–out lie about it. Why? We’re hoping to get out of something, even if we know better.

I believe that with kids, lying is a faulty problem–solving skill. It’s our job as parents to teach our children how to solve those problems in more constructive ways. Here are a few of the reasons why kids lie. (Later, I’ll explain how to handle it when they do.)

Why Kids Lie

To establish identity: One of the ways kids use lying is to establish an identity and to connect with peers, even if that identity is false. Lying can also be a response to peer pressure. Your child might be lying to his peers about things he says he’s done that he really hasn’t to make him sound more impressive.

To individuate from parents: Sometimes teens use lying to keep parts of their lives separate from their parents. At times it may even seem that they make up small lies about things that don’t even seem terribly important. Another reason children lie is when they perceive the house rules and restrictions to be too tight. So let’s say you have a 16–year–old who isn’t allowed to wear makeup, but all her friends are wearing it. So she wears it outside the house, then lies to you about it. Lying may become a way for her to have you believe she’s following your rules and still do “normal” teen activities.

To get attention: When your child is little and the lies are inconsequential, this behavior may just be his way of getting a little attention. When a small child says, “Mommy, I just saw Santa fly by the window,” I think it is very different from an older child who says, “I finished my homework,” when he really didn’t. Younger children also make up stories during imaginative play, or playing “make believe.” This is not lying but a way for them to engage their imaginations and start to make sense of the world around them.

To avoid hurting other’s feelings: At some point, most people learn how to minimize things in order not to hurt other people’s feelings. Instead of saying, “I love your new shoes,” we might say, “Those shoes are really trendy right now.” But kids don’t have the same sophistication that adults do, so it’s often easier for them to lie. I think as adults, we learn how to say things more carefully; we all know how to minimize hurt. But kids don’t know how to do that. Lying is a first step toward learning how to say something more carefully. In some ways, we teach them how to lie when we say, “Tell Grandma you like the present even if you don’t, because it will hurt her feelings otherwise.” We have a justifiable reason—we don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings who’s gone out of their way for us—but we are still teaching our kids how to bend the truth.

To avoid trouble: Most kids lie at one time or another to get out of trouble. Let’s say they’ve gotten themselves into a jam because they did something they shouldn’t have done. Maybe they broke a rule or they didn’t do something they were supposed to do, like their chores. If they don’t have another way out, rather than suffer the consequences, they lie to avoid getting into trouble.

Again, in my opinion, the overall reason why kids lie is because they don’t have another way of dealing with a problem or conflict. In fact, sometimes it’s the only way they know how to solve a problem; it’s almost like a faulty survival skill for kids.

I believe it’s really the parent’s job to differentiate the type of lie their child has told, and to make sure that it isn’t connected to unsafe, illegal or risky behavior. This gets to the whole point about picking your battles. If you see your child say to another child, “Oh I really like that dress,” and they later tell you in the car, “I really don’t like that dress,” you might say something to them, but you might also let it go, especially if this is unusual for your child. If they’re lying about something that’s risky or illegal or really unsafe, you definitely have to address it. And if it’s to the point of being really significant—like a lie about risky sexual behavior, drugs, or other harmful activities—you may need to seek some help from a professional.

So pick your battles. Decipher what’s really important versus looking at what’s normal. And again, that often depends on the developmental age of your child. A four–year–old is going to make up big whopping stories as a way to be creative and begin to figure out their world. It’s a normal developmental stage. Seven– and eight–year–olds are going to do some of that as well, but they may have more black and white thinking. So they might say, “I hated that lady” when they simply disliked something that person did. I think you can let those kinds of things slide or just gently correct your child. You can say something like, “Do you mean you didn’t like what she did yesterday?” This type of stretching of the truth is really the result of concrete thinking because kids in this age group don’t have good skills to say something else more neutral or tactful.

I don’t believe lying in children is a moral issue. I think it’s imperative not to take it personally if your child lies. Most kids don’t lie to hurt their parents; they lie because there’s something else going on.  The important part for you as a parent is to address the behavior behind the lie. If you’re taking it personally, you’re probably angry and upset—and not dealing with the more specific information concerning the behavior.

Here’s an example. Let’s say your child didn’t do his homework but he told you he did. When you find out that he’s lying, he admits he didn’t do it because he was playing sports with friends after school. If you yell at your child about being betrayed and say, “How dare you lie to me,” that’s all you’re going to be able to address. You’re not going to be able to deal with the real  issue of your child needing to do his homework before he plays sports. The bottom line is that your anger and frustration about the lie is not going to help your child change his behavior.

So lying is not a moral issue; it’s a problem–solving issue, a lack of skill issue, and an avoiding consequence issue.  Often kids know right from wrong—in fact, that’s why they’re lying. They don’t want to get in trouble for what they’ve done and they’re using lying to solve their problems. What that means is that they need better skills, and you can respond as a parent by helping them work on their ability to problem solve.

How to Address Lying: Staging a “Lying Intervention”

While it’s important to address the behavior behind the lying, if your child lies chronically or lies about unsafe, risky or unhealthy behavior, I think it makes sense to address the actual lying by having an intervention. A “lying intervention” is really just a planned and structured conversation about the lying behavior.  This lets your child know what you’ve been seeing, and gives you a chance to tell them that you are concerned. Here are some things to keep in mind:

Plan ahead of time: Think about how you’re going to intervene beforehand. Plan it out ahead of time with your spouse; if you’re single, ask another close adult family member to be there with you. When this issue came up with our son, my husband James and I planned out what we were going to say, how we were going to react emotionally, and even where we were going to sit. We decided we were going to be neutral and that we would be as unemotional as possible. We made a decision about what the problem behaviors we wanted to address were. We also decided what the consequences for our son’s behavior would be. We did almost all of this ahead of time.

Don’t lecture: When you catch your child lying, remember that lecturing is not going to be helpful. Kids just tune that out. They’ve heard it over and over—and when you start lecturing, the kids are gone. They’re no longer listening and nothing changes. So what you need to do instead is to identify what it is that you’re seeing and what you’re concerned about.

Be specific and talk about what’s obvious: When you’re talking with your child, be specific about what you saw and what the problems are. You can state calmly and in a matter of fact way, “If the lying about homework continues, this will be the consequence.” Or “It’s obvious you snuck out last night. There will be a consequence for that behavior.” Remember, it has to be a consequence that you can actually deliver on and are willing to follow through with.

Don’t be too complicated in your message: Keep it very focused and simple for your child; concentrate on the behavior. And then tell him that you want to hear what was happening that made him feel he needed to lie. (You are not looking for an excuse for the lie, but rather to identify the problem your child was having that they used lying to solve.) Be direct and specific. The intervention itself would be quick and to–the–point; you don’t want to lecture your child for a long time. This is just ineffective.

Keep the door open: Because the lie is most likely a way your child is trying to problem solve, make sure you indicate that you want to hear what’s going on with him. He may not be ready to talk with you about it the first time you raise the subject—and this is where the neutrality on the parent’s part comes in. You want to be open to hearing what your child or teen’s problem is. You want to create a safe environment for him to tell you during that intervention or that first conversation. But if your child is not ready, it’s important to keep that door open. Create this environment by being neutral and not attacking him.

If You Catch Your Child in a Lie…

If you catch your child in a problematic lie, I recommend that you not react in the moment. Instead, send him to his room so you can calm down. Talk with your spouse or a trusted friend or family member and come up with a game plan. Allow yourself time to think about it. Remember, when you respond without thinking, you’re not going to be effective. So give yourself a little time to plan this out.

When you do talk, don’t argue with your child about the lie. Just state what you saw, and what is obvious. You may not know the reason behind it, but eventually your child might fill you in on it. Again, simply state the behaviors that you saw.

So the conversation would go something like, “I got a call from the neighbor; they saw you sneaking out of your window. You were falling asleep at the kitchen table this morning at breakfast. But you told us that you were home all night.”And you might then say to your teen, “There’s going to be a consequence for that. You’re not going to be able to stay over at your friend’s house next weekend. And we’re concerned about where you went.” Leave the door open for him to tell you what happened.

Remember, state what you believe based on the facts you have. Do it without arguing, just say it matter–of–factly. “We have this information, we believe it to be true and these are the consequences.”Keep it very simple and hear what your child has to say, but be really firm in what you believe.

A Word about “Magical Thinking”

Be aware that kids and adolescents are prone to engage in “magical thinking.” This means that when your child gets away with a few lies, he will start thinking he should be able to get away with them the next time. Often that just feeds on itself, and the lies become more and more abundant—and absurd. Your child might convince himself they’re true in order to get out of the trouble. I also think kids often don’t want to believe they’re lying; no one really wants to be a liar.

So you’ll see kids who’ve gotten caught smoking at school say, “No, I wasn’t smoking”—even though the smoke is still in the air. And when you’re a kid, you think that if you keep repeating the same thing over and over again, it will be true. But it’s your job as a parent to say as matter–of–factly as possible what you feel is the truth. Acknowledge the lie, but give the consequence for the behavior, not for the lie.

Realize that most kids are not going to lie forever and ever. There is a very small percentage of kids who lie chronically. That’s more difficult for parents to deal with, and it requires professional help. In all my years in working with adolescents, there were very, very few kids that I met who lied chronically for no reason. Usually, kids don’t lie arbitrarily; they have a reason for doing so, no matter how faulty that reason might be. Your child really does know right from wrong, but sometimes he overrides the truth.

I’m a parent too, and I understand that it’s hard not to take that personally or be disappointed. But just remember, your child is trying to solve a problem in an ineffective way. Our job is to teach them how to face their problems head on, and to coach them through these confusing years. Over time, I believe they will learn to do that without lying.

source: Janet Lehman,MSW

Treating ADHD with Anti-Psychotics

A new study adds further fuel to increasing concerns about overmedicating children suffering from ADHD. Many children suffering from ADHD who exhibit aggressive behaviors are currently being treated with antipyschotic medications. But recently released research published in the October issue of Pediatrics suggests antipsychotics may not always be necessary to curb aggressive tendencies.

The study, led by Dr. Joseph C. Blader, assistant professor of psychiatry at the Stonybrook University School of Medicine in New York, indicates that consistent and well-monitored use of stimulant medications alone can reduce or eliminate aggressive behaviors in at least half of ADHD cases accompanied by oppositional defiant disorder or conduct disorder.

Dr. Harold Levinson, director of the Levinson Medical Center for Learning Disabilities in Great Neck, N.Y., and author of “The All-in-One Guide to ADD and Hyperactivity,” says his own findings support the new study. “By controlling a lot of environmental factors and giving milder doses of medication, you can reduce the number of children who may need antipsychotics,” he says.

Levinson feels that a lot of the aggression some children with ADHD exhibit is the result of frustration associated with the symptoms of the disease, like inability to concentrate or learning disabilities, and that it’s best to first address those milder symptoms. If a child can perform better in school with less distraction, he might not be inclined to be aggressive.

Dr. Joseph Shrand, instructor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and an assistant child psychiatrist at Massachusetts General Hospital, agrees. “If a kid with ADD feels stupid, in trouble all the time, worthless and without value, then he or she becomes aggressive,” he says.

Levinson feels many children are being “sedated” by antipyschotics. “Use of these medications is only to save lives, not to sedate children,” he says. “We need to be armed with a better perspective on what the underlying causes of ADHD are.” He feels parents, teachers and even medical professionals are often too quick to treat ADHD with medication before trying other alternatives.

In his own research, Levinson has found that when he treats ADHD sufferers with inner ear-enhancing anti-motion sickness antihistamines and fish oil, he often sees improvements in concentration, coordination, balance and school performance, resulting in less disruptive and aggressive behaviors even without the use of stimulants.

That doesn’t mean, however, that all children will respond to alternative therapies. “Some kids may be overmedicated,” Shrand says, “but that does not mean medication is not useful when prescribed correctly.”

The Stonybrook study supports the idea that physicians need to monitor drug administration more carefully. With the consistent and closely monitored use of stimulants, many ADHD children with aggressive behaviors could forgo the use of antipsychotics and even reduce the dosage of their stimulants. The study followed 65 children, ages 6 to 13, suffering from ADHD as well as associated oppositional defiant disorder and conduct disorder.

“The best medicine in the world will not override bad parenting,” Levinson points out. “You have to recognize all the dynamics of the disease and not just put the kids on medication.”

source: Deborah Huso

Preventing Childhood Eating Disorders

Learning to spot early warning signs of eating disorders is the best way to prevent children from suffering the serious affects of long term eating disorders. Most experts agree that the sooner an eating disorder is identified, the better the chances for long-term recovery. People who struggle with anorexia or bulimia for many years are the hardest to treat and the most in danger of death or disability.

Researchers have identified some key behaviors and personality traits that can help identify kids, and adults, at risk. A study, published in 2005, found that people with eating disorders tend to be obsessional and perfectionistic, anxious, easily upset by their mistakes, and tend to have food-related obsessions. Often they are high achievers and people pleasers. This causes pressure to live up to unrealistically high expectations from parents who have a tendency toward anxiety and poor frustration tolerance. Manipulating one’s food intake gives the child a feeling of success, and of being “in control” of themselves when they would otherwise tend toward feeling out of control.

Certain behaviors can be a tip-off. A serious condition like anorexia begins with dieting. It’s very innocent at first and there is no reason for a parent to be concerned, but what happens is that the dieting accelerates very rapidly and, essentially, the child cannot stop dieting. At first a child may be complimented for looking thinner, but becomes obsessed with accomplishing even more, and doing “better” by limiting food intake. Often the child will also start to exercise for unusually long periods of time as a way to burn off additional calories. As the eating patterns become more dysfunctional, the child begins to try and keep the extent of the dieting hidden from others. They may try to eat all their food in their bedrooms to avoid being noticed. Exercise intensifies, but the child still feels “fat” and usually hates their appearance. They begin to stop noticing that they are hungry.

Here are some suggestions for supporting healthy eating habits and attitudes:

  • Make family dinners a priority
  • Be aware of the comments you make about the appearance of your children and others
  • Encourage diversity; acceptance of all people of all different shapes and sizes
  • Teach your children to enjoy eating healthy foods
  • Teach your children to listen to their bodies to better know when they are hungry and when they are full
  • Serve healthy, balanced meals for the entire family; do not serve special plates that cater to individual preferences
  • Be a role model in how you balance work and play

source: National Eating Disorder Association