Does your child run the show at your home? Have you lost control over your child’s behavior? Do they tell you what they are going to do? Are they aggressive, sarcastic, and oppositional? Are they actually breaking the law now? While you are probably like most parents, very good, and love your children very much, you have allowed yourself to use less than effective approaches in parenting. Unawares, your children have trained you to respond to their obnoxious, aggressive, sarcastic, illegal and otherwise inappropriate behaviors in ways to get what they want, or avoid what they don’t want.
GETTING PARENTS ON BOARD IS KEY
Many parents of oppositional children want a quick fix (i.e. medication), or otherwise want to relinquish responsibility to the therapist for yet more intensive therapy interventions. Some wish to cast blame (maybe unknowingly or maybe not) the child’s behavior on pathology (i.e. ADHD, ODD, OCD, abcdefj…), or the teachers. Essentially, and maybe unknowingly, parents simply have taught the kid that it’s okay to act the way they do because they have this or that label. Other parents simply are not proactive but reactive in their approach. For whatever reason (sheer laziness, unwillingness to invest their time, money, efforts or other resources, stressful schedules, or simply being worn out or exasperated, etc.), parents find themselves reacting to the child’s behavior (the tail wagging the dog), instead of being proactive. One thing for sure, if the parents are not on board, little can be done to change the maladaptive behaviors. We do not believe that we feel our ways to better behaviors, but behave our way to better feelings. A qualifier/disclaimer needs to be inserted here, as diagnoses need to be attended to. Indeed, therapy is assistive, and allowing the youth/child to identify and articulate their thoughts and feelings has its place. With that said, talking about one’s feelings can reinforce them, and consequently the maladaptive behaviors with these kids does not change. Regardless of our situation in life, family of origin, past experiences, and various diagnoses, we have to learn to be productive persons in society, which entails the need for regulating our emotions and behaviors. Oppositional behavior is a continuum from simple adolescent rebellion (which has to be considered within the framework of development), to serious sociopathic behaviors.
I personally have dealt with kids across this continuum. The common denominator is these kids were all oppositional. What was different about each is that some came from well to do, and some from very poor circumstances; and all in between. Some parents actually worked at being better parents, others did not see it as their problem, but simply wanted their kid “fixed.” One thing was consistent, and that is when the parent actually applied these principles, sometimes against a lot of blow back, the kid’s behaviors changed for the positive. If parents are willing to work hand in hand with the therapist, a practical program for real change can realize amazing results.