Google+ Badge

Monday, February 27, 2012

Gonna Get In Trouble, Just You Wait and See: "Why's Everybody Always Picking On Me?"

What causes bad child behavior?
It happens because children 
don’t yet know how
to solve problems effectively.

- James Lehman, behavioral therapist
and the creator of The Total Transformation Program for parents

To put it another way, they're trying to handle many of the situations that life throws at them by acting out. They do this because it's working for them. Lehman says,

"But here's the truth:
If you don't find out what problem
your child is trying to solve with his behavior
and offer him a new solution,
the acting out will most likely continue
or even get worse over time."

Lehman believes if your child can learn to master three tasks with your help, he will be well on his way to functioning successfully as an adult. Three of the most important skills for children to learn as a foundation for good behavior are:

1. How to read social situations

Can your child walk into a social environment, gauge what is going on, and decide how (or if) he is going to interact in an appropriate way?

He must be able to (a) identify how other people may be feeling and (b) try to identify other people's emotions.

2. How to manage emotions
Can you give your child appropriate consequences for bad behavior in order that he will know that if the inappropriate behavior happens again, he will be held accountable?

Consequences for bad behavior alone are not enough. Rather, it’s the learning process associated with the consequences that changes a child’s behavior. Why? The problem is actually not the behavior -- the problem lies in the way kids think. This faulty thinking then gets externalized into how they behave.

If you punish them for the behavior and neglect to challenge the way they think about the problem -- or discuss what their options are for dealing with that problem effectively in the future -- then really, what are you doing? Punishment without learning is not effective.

When you have this talk with your child, it should be a pretty businesslike conversation and not all smiley and touchy feely; it shouldn’t be abusive or negative, either. Stick to the facts and ask, “What can you do differently next time?”

3. How to solve problems appropriately

Do you help your child to continually adjust his problem-solving skills and learn new ones to solve ever-tougher problems while managing his behavior and social life?

There is no such thing as "good kids" and "bad kids." A child is often labeled “the bad kid” when he’s developed ineffective actions to solve the problems that other kids solve appropriately. So this child may turn to responses that are disrespectful, destructive, abusive, and physically violent.

Talk to your child about the problem at hand and how to solve it --not just about the emotion your child is feeling at the time.

Lehman On "Out of Control" Teens And Calling the Police

In a frank interview in "Impowering Parents," James Lehman tackles the tough question about when parents should call the police on their abusive child. The interview is very thought provoking. (James Lehman, "Is It Time To Call the Police on Your Child?", July 8 2010)

Here are some points from the article:

Lehman states, "To parents who tell me 'I’m afraid of my teen, I say, 'I believe you. These kids can be very scary and threatening. But I think if your child doesn’t respond to your authority, there’s another authority you can call upon if you choose to.'”

Lehman believes the important thing is to understand that teens make choices. For example, the teen made the choice to hit a parent, take drugs or destroy the neighbor’s property. Lehman urges that the parents should hold him accountable for that by using whatever appropriate means they have at their disposal.

Calling the police involves a a social stigma: many parents are embarrassed by what their neighbors will think if they see the police at their house. They also may feel ashamed of themselves; they question themselves and wonder why they can’t handle their own teen.

Lehman emphasizes, "I want to be very clear here: it’s tough for parents to call the police and it’s a very personal decision. It’s not for everyone, and if this option does not work for you or your family, then I think you should listen to your gut feeling. I really think everybody has to honor the choice of the parents. After all, you have to live with yourself for a long time. 30 years from now, your child’s teachers and counselors won’t remember him, but you will, and you want to act in a way that you won’t regret later."

So, when does Lehman believe it is imperative that parents call the police? He says, "I think you call the police when safety is an issue or when the behavior crosses the line and becomes criminal. This includes when things are getting broken and when people are getting threatened or hurt. To be more specific, if your child grabs a book and throws it across the room, I don’t think you call the police. But if he punches holes in the wall or breaks something on purpose, I think you tell him “Next time you lose control like that, I’m going to call the police.'”

Lehman stresses that if a teen does it again, parents must follow through. Lohman explains,"To put it another way, I think you should consider calling the police when you see a pattern of behavior that’s unsafe and threatening to others. Make it clear to your child that 'This is the consequence for abusive, destructive or criminal behavior.' And hopefully he will learn from that consequence and make a different choice next time."

In Lehman's eyes the decision is clear. He explains, "I think it’s very black and white. When you have a child who is willing to violate the rules of your household -- a child who’s willing to climb out the window and stay out all night, break his sister’s iPod, punch holes in the wall or push his father or mother or siblings -- you need to take very strong action. Believe me, you have a child who’s really in an awful lot of trouble as a person."

According to Lehman, it's imperative for parents to let a teen know what they're planning to do. When things are not going well, they can say, “The other night you pushed your mother. If that happens again, I’m calling the police.” He believes it's very important to have a plan in place.

He contemplates the alternative, "Let’s say you don’t have a plan and you wind up hitting your child in self-defense. You’re the one who will be arrested and penalized. And not only may you wind up in jail, but the courts are going to blame you for all your kid’s previous problems."

Lehman discusses the consequences of not following a plan: "I think you should tell your child you’re planning to do this and I think you have to be very clear. But remember, if you tell him you’re planning to do it, you better well do it. If you don’t, then it’s just another joke; it’s just another bluff. And every time that you bluff your child, he will get more contemptuous of your authority -- that’s just human nature."

But, what if abusive, destructive or criminal behavior continues? Lehman believes the main thing that parents should want is for their child to be held accountable on another level. One way the courts do that is by putting a teen on probation. Having a probation officer adds another dimension of accountability.

Lehman says, "Now if your child punches a hole in the wall, not only do you tell him to stop, but you call his probation officer. When your teen meets with him, the probation officer says, 'Your mom told me you punched a hole in the wall. I thought we said you were going to work on that. I thought you promised me you weren’t going to do that anymore.'" People should think of the probation officer as another level of authority.

Another issue that many parents have to think about is crime. This would include possession and selling of drugs or stolen property. Lehman says, "I think you can say ahead of time, 'I can’t stop you from using drugs and if you’re high, you’re high. I can’t tell the difference and I’m not going to play detective. But if I find drugs, I’m calling the police.'”

Calling the police should be something people consider, and either reject or accept. "Remember, you have the same right to protection from crime in your home as you do out of your home. It’s not as if the law is different. We should have the same expectations of our children, concludes Lehman.

Special Note: Mr. James Lehman
James Lehman was a remarkable man with a remarkable story. He went from being abandoned as an infant in a tenement building in New York City, to being a teen runaway and drug addict. By the time he was in his twenties, he had served seven years in prison. A judge sent him to an accountability- and responsibility-based rehabilitation program, where inmates were responsible for helping others beat their addictions.

It was there that James discovered he had a knack for helping teens. “Most people forget what it’s like to be a kid, but for some reason, I never have,” he would tell me. “I think I was given a gift in this life to be able to explain that to people, and to help parents and kids. I don’t take credit for it—it’s a gift.” And it was indeed a gift, one that has helped hundreds of thousands of kids and families, and will no doubt continue helping people for years to come.
Lehman went to several schools including Fordham University and Boston University where he graduated with a Master’s Degree in Social Work.

For three decades, behavioral therapist James Lehman, MSW, worked with troubled teens and children with behavior problems. He developed a practical, real-life approach to managing children and adolescents that teaches them how to solve social problems without hiding behind a facade of defiant, disrespectful, or obnoxious behavior. He taught his approach to parents, teachers, state agencies and treatment centers in private practice and through The Total Transformation Program--a comprehensive step-by-step, multi-media program that makes learning James' techniques remarkably easy.
The entire article used for the blog may be found here:
Post a Comment