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Pre-Teens: Anger & Negativity

Berkeley Parents Network > Advice > School-aged Kids > Pre-Teens: Anger & Negativity


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Angry 10 year old yells, throws things, and lies

July 2011

My son is ten and a half years old and he is already being treated for ADHD. I know I don't have to say it but I love him with all my heart and actually think he is in pain. We had counseling four years ago when his father and I divorced, and I remarried and we became a blended family. Over the last 18 months he sneaks food in the middle of the night, lies about things he has done. I don't know when he is telling the truth or lies. He won't brush his teeth or wear his ortho gear, or do homework without practically sitting on him. Then there is the anger issues. You can ask him to do the most simple of tasks and he gets mad. Yells, throws, and refuses with huge gestures. When we slow things down and talk to him we discover that all the little things he experienced from when he got up that morning attributed to his outburst. We are rational parents with education and have been able to get him to a place to discuss his outbursts and lying. He says he wants to change. He says he wants to be a contributing member of the family. I so want to believe him. I know there are many issues wrapped into this. But, is there an a youth anger management class here that would give all of us tools to help him control his anger? I worry about what kind of an adult he will be if we don't help him learn how to control it NOW. Andy


Call West Coast Childrens Center. They were a huge help to our family
I was so moved by your post. I have been in a similar position with my 10 year old son. I am a single mom - I thought I was going to lose my mind. I was afraid for him as well. There has not been a singular solution. I have tried a myriad of ''tools'' including creating a support network of family and friends. We both had ''emergency numbers and used them numerous times. That ''village'' has been a godsend.

I would encourage you to consult with Joanne Yeaton. She is a therapist with Children's Hospital Oakland. (428- 3359) She also is in private practice (655-5612). She specializes in bio-feedback therapy. It is not a magic bullet or a quick fix, but we have seen significant progress over the last six months. I am hopeful and much less afraid for him. I heart and prayers are with you. Please contact the administrator for my contact info if you would like to talk. Mom who loves her son


I don't know your son, but the behavior is familiar. My son, now eleven, was diagnosed with ADHD about four years ago, not long after his father became severely disabled. We've had anger, frustration, opposition, lying, sneaking food, all of it and more. Your child is simultaneously processing the family situation, his ADHD challenges and his normal developmental changes. Your email doesn't say if you've tried therapy; the anger may only be a symptom of his combined issues. My son is doing much better these days. I attribute his improvement to a wonderful therapist, appropriate medication, changing schools (Raskob), specialized summer camps (Trails to Success, SOAR) and time. It all takes energy and money. I don't think there are any magic bullets and you may find a answer or combination of answers, but I'm sure that you can make it better. Good luck. Ann
Hi, Wow - this sounds very, very challenging and heartbreaking. I hope you will get a response from someone about a truly helpful anger management class that will help your son. I wanted to reply because of something else I picked up on. You did say that you believe he's in pain. My sense is he's in a world of pain. It sounds so so sad to me that he feels like he's failing to be a ''contributing member of the family.'' Maybe it's just not time for him to ''contribute'' as he's going through this. He needs something and doesn't know how to ask for it (maybe the family needs something unspoke?). I agree that some useful tools to help him with behavior, particularly in his social relationships, could help him from becoming more alienated (it's not clear how this affects him at school or in his friendships and in settings outside the home). But my overriding sense is that judgment about how he's not measuring up only feeds the fire and what seems like desperation. I really think he needs help. He's still quite young. You did mention receiving some counseling in the past. There is something that is very loudly calling for attention now. Something needs to be heard, and it's beyond what he can consciously communicate. The other thing that struck me as how he could start to see himself (or be seen by the rest of the family) as a bad seed or the problem child etc. I think this is so dangerous, as he is likely acting out something that is more of a family issue, not something wrong with him. Maybe he's just more fragile or volatile than the others in the family, so if something is askew in the family as a whole it will manifest in him. It's easy for me to say from here, not having been lied to etc. but your son needs as much compassion and attention as you can muster. I don't mean lulling and enabling. But this needs to be addressed truly, not punished and not just repressed by behavior modification. Please find an appropriate therapist, books, something to help you listen and attune to what is at work here. I wish you well. anon
I recently read a book you may find helpful---Hold on to Your Kids by Gordon Neufeld and Gabor Mate. The authors consider many behavior problems at all ages as attachment problems that go unrecognized because of our culture's normalizing of ''independence'' from parents and the way it skews the parent/child relationship. Kristine

Moody 10-year-old who gets real angry

Feb 2006

I am concerned about our child who has been challenging for years, but he (10 years old) gets into very funky moods where he says ''shut up'' all day long, calls everyone ''stupid'' and worse things all day long, and refuses to take time away from people when he does this, and if we can somehow get him up the stairs for time out for this, he slams doors, etc. He is seeing a good counselor now, and this may or may not be helping, but has anyone has any experience with this? He is also ultra sensitive to pain, too, so even if he has a molar coming in, he will be really out of sorts. Does this sound even somewhat familiar to anyone? Thanks for any advise. concerned parent


This doesn't sound like a psychological problem to me, it sounds like a kid who is acting out some enormous, mysterious discomfort with the world. I suggest that you immediately contact a neurodevelopmental pediatrician to get the opinion of someone who knows what developmental issues might be making your child react so oddly. Kids who have been traumatized might act out like this, in my experience, but you don't say anything about that. It's important to rule out that your child might have some cognitive or sensory issues that are making life really unpleasant. anon
Hi, I saw your post and wanted to reply. Behavior is a tough issue and and because you said he has intense pain sensitivity, I would suggest you read a book called ''hearing equals bahavior by Dr. Berrard. It is not technical and a easy read. Your sons anger may be related to a sensory processing issue that can be corrected fairly easily. Hope all the best, if you have any more questions on sensory integration, please e-mail. Bryan
A homeopath in Emeryville has done good work in treatment/cure of children with mood and attention problems. She also is a naturopath and chiropractic doctor. Her name is Dr. Owen Jonice. Her website is www. owennaturalhealth.com Nimo
Mine, now halfway through high school, was like that, too. Turned out a lot of it was due to his unhappiness/frustration at school or at home. He found school ''boring'' and ''stupid'' every day of every year he was not challenged. It was depressing/alarming listening to this turned-off little kid every day. (He read at middle school level in 2nd grade). In retrospect, I wish I had taken him out of the good quality (supposedly) public school district he grew up in and put him into a smaller, more caring private school that could have nurtured and legitimized his interests instead of denying them, as it was the case in his public school experience. At his insistence, we switched to a private school in high school (he now attends Maybeck HS, in Berkeley and loves it---- does 4-5 hours of homework a night and doesn't complain!----we cannot say enough fine things about the teachers there). The same may be happening with your son. At 10 years old, he doesn't have the skills or life experience to deal with creepy teachers, mean kids, feelings of not being loved enough, etc. Plus, for my son, not sure about yours, he was usually ''off'' schedule------his moodiness can be a result of his being out of synch with food or sleep. Ours needed extra vigilence for making sure he got proper nutrition. After he eats well, or sometime when he's in a good mood, sit down and have a nice talk with him. Mine would open up when he was in the right mood. Also, I took my son to movies (just the 2 of us) , the zoo, rides, whatever---tried to spend time with him alone (demanding, needy, or competing siblings can really be a problem, too). These helped. Good luck. Anon
Waldorf education talks about developmental stages a little different than traditional schooling does. My son's waldorf teacher says that emotional outbursts are very typical for the 10 year old, and I have seen my quiet son rage and cry with his strong feelings. I notice that his feelings can be much stronger if he has gone too long without eating, especially after school if he didn't eat all he should have. another stage to pass thru

10-year-old having tantrums

July 2002

How can I deal with my 10 year old daughter: she is a delightful child 95% of the time - but her explosions of anger (directed at me, her mum) are enormous, intense and quite alarming considering her usual mature demeanor. I knew how to deal with these overwhelming emotions - although she did not have many tantrums as a young child : but she will not respond to cuddles or reason and the smallest thing can spark these tirades off. This is happening up to twice a week and she will go on for hours (2) crying shouting and full of tears - she is extremely articulate - but very unreasonable.

She is a great student at school - her teachers think she is wonderful - an example to all - but these tirades frighten me: what should I do? I feel bullied. Should I try to walk away (she will follow me and shout). I have never believed in smacking and never have - but I feel close to it for the first time too.

I am most disturbed - parenting so far seems to have worked with love and reason and cuddles - still works for my 7 year old son: what now? Linda


This is advice to the mother of the 10 year old girl who is sweet 95% of the time and anything but during the other times. Although boys and girls are very different, they both undergo enormous hormonal changes starting around 10 years old, plus or minus a couple of years. My son's occasional outbursts started at 10. They were miserable for everyone, including himself.

Recognizing it was hormonal, I chose a time when he was his sweet self and explained to him the physiology of puberty (emphasizing hormonal changes in language he could understand) and framed the issue as something that was happening to him that would eventually stabilize. I reflected back to him what it was like for me to go through it (I recall that being 13 years old was hell!) and empathized that he must really feel awful inside when he was going through it. In other words, I didn't just think or talk about it's impact on me and others in the family, I empathized with, and brought into his awareness, his internal struggles.

It also helped that around that time there was an "Ask Beth" article in the Chronicle's Sunday Pink Section in which a teen had written about her turmoil. Beth's answer was similar to mine. So by showing him that others were going through it, it helped to normalize the whole thing.

Therefore, the next time there was an outburst, we named the incident for what it was (hormonally induced anger and frustration), gave each other distance until the surge passed, and then dealt with the particular issue at hand when cooler tempers prevailed.

This still happens on occasion (outbursts and tantrums), but I can count the number of incidents per year on one hand. Invariably later on after the outbursts, he apologizes for the tantrum (or we do, if we provoked them)and then we respectfully address the real issues at hand.

It's a blessing... Peggy M.


Reply to parent with angry child. Hearing your story, I would suggest homeopathy. I would recommend contacting either the store, Birth & Bonding on lower Solano Avenue for a recommendation, or contacting: Nancy Herrick, who works with her husband, Roger Morrison, M.D. I recommend either of them. 412-9040 in Pt. Richmond.

Often homeopathy is very effective in providing a remedy for irrational or excessive or uncontrollable behavior. While I know that some people will advise counseling, I find that children don't know why they behave how they behave, and even if at some point they understand that their behavior is wrong, they are unable to control it, and counseling is not effective in changing the behavior. I have seen homeopathy to be very effective in just this type of situation, especially with children. Yolanda


Reply re tantrums. There is a book that was of enormous help to us as parents of a child very much like what you describe. It is called The Explosive Child by Ross Greene. There is also a website called Explosivekids.org, founded by parents who have read the book and found it helpful. Good luck. Anonymous

Obstinate, sullen 10 1/2 year old

June 2004

Greetings - Our daughter is now 10 1/2 and is becoming a changed person before our very eyes. Up until now, sweet, grounded, cooperative, flexible. Suddenly obstinate, inflexible, often running late, a bit sullen and rude, easily bored, and so on. It's like putting one kid to be and waking up to another. And there are times when she says things that actually make me, her mom, feel quite hurt, which I know she doesn't intend, but they just seem to have that effect. Is this just the beginning of adolescence? How do I prepare myself to not be so hurt and how do I collect enough patience to be gracious about all of this? I love her madly and actually can remember far enough back in time to recall that my teens were fairly torturous, so this could just be part of the package. Is 10 1/2 on the young side or are we on schedule? Thanks!!

Fastening my seat-belt as we speak


To the mom wondering if 10 1/2 is too early for adolescence, It goes without saying that every child is different. My personal experience was that my daughter went through her most difficult period between 10 and 12--way before I expected it. It felt like almost overnight, she went from being a great kid to being non-communicative, demanding, very easily upset when things did not go her way, and extremely difficult to reach. I kept thinking, ''Gee , if she's like this now, what's she going to be like when she's a teenager???'' The (wonderful) surprise was that by the time she became a teenager all of this was behind us. She's 16 now and I couldn't ask for a better daughter, or friend. She is highly responsible, considerate, thoughtful, caring, and makes excellent choices (way better than I did at that age). I basically don't worry about her at all. If I had known when she was 11 that her difficult stage would end as early as it began or that she would end up being such a lovely young adult, the transition would have been easier to take. So hang in there!!
Proud (and relieved) mom
Dear ''Fastening my Seatbelt'', My daughter is 13, and we've been having similar experiences for about a year. I don't know whether your daughter is ''early'' or ''on schedule'', but I really resonate with your comment about getting your feelings hurt by her. I, too, have struggled with really hurt feelings from things my daughter has said and how she has said them. I know, intellectually, that I am the grownup here, and that she is immature, and I have to rise above. But emotionally...it can really hurt. I have clearly seen that when I CAN be less emotionally vulnerable, everything between us goes better. Even when she is trying to hurt my feelings, it is an immature lashing-out that she does not mean in the bigger sense, and someone has to de-escalate things, and that someone has to be me.

Here are some of the things I am doing, with some effect (and I hope others will pitch in with their thoughts):

  • trying to talk to her less -- shorter answers, listen and don't volunteer so much, do things together that are not about talking (movies, ping pong..)
  • when I have to, ranting in a most unmotherlike way about how mean she is to me to a trusted friend
  • trying to care less about what she thinks-- pretending I am one of the martini-swilling moms of my youth. getting out more with my husband, so I can remember that I have other, more stable relationships in my life.

    The bottom line is that our adolescents need us to not be needy. This is about the hardest emotional transition I've ever made in my life, but it's part of the package. After a rough year, things in our home are going better. So good luck to you! also struggling


    10 1/2 is not too early for this change to occur, especially with girls. The thing that seems to hurt is the judgment--implied or stated. When my daughter (now 33) was 12, she hit this stage. Twice in one day she told me I was ''weird.'' The second time, all I had been doing was running across a grocery store parking lot with my younger son--not cool for a mother in her 40's! I realized that I had been labeled ''weird'' as a teenager. She could not have picked a harsher judgment. I didn't want to feel hurt like that for a whole adolesence! So I thought on it for a while, then told my daughter this: ''I've been thinking about the fact that you called me 'weird' twice yesterday. It was very painful for me to hear you call me that. In my thinking, I realized there is something I need to say to you. It is 'congratulations, you are growing up!' That's why you are saying things like this. Up until now, you have thought I am a pretty nifty person--you've tried to wear my makeup, my shoes, my clothes. You liked me well enough to want to be like me. Now, however, you have a different job. Now you are deciding which parts of me you want to keep, and which parts don't fit you very well, so you don't want to keep them. When you call me 'weird,' you have found a part of me you don't want to keep for yourself. This is an important part of growing up. I don't want you to stop deciding what you want to keep, and what you don't want any part of for yourself. But I do think it would be easier for me if you would just say that: 'I don't like this part of you; and I don't want to keep it to be part of me.' That's a lot less painful than a judgment or a 'you're weird.' Will you, please, just tell me when there is a part of me you don't want for yourself?'' With a few reminders, she just told me. Her adolesence was a LOT less painful as a result. Remember, too, no matter how rough things get, teens still need to be hugged and touched lovingly. Sometimes this is difficult to do. I sometimes had to remind myself that this ''alien being'' was my lovely child who desperately still needed the hugs and touching that was so much easier to give when she was younger. My best to you! Ilene
    Seems on target to me. I have 12 and 14 yr old daughters and I thought I was ready for the tweens and teens. But all that processing when my girls were small seems to have done no good. It does seem that your child changes overnight into someone you don't know (and wouldn't want to if you had the choice). In the roughest moments, I revisit my journal (fromm 7th grade) that my dad sent me (ha ha on me, huh) when he sold the family home. That is all it takes for me to remember being 12 and thinking I knew everything too. My only advice is to take it day by day, keep your ears open because there are sometimes clues as to what is really going on hidden in the babble of a tween. And remember, they don't stay this age forever! Also, my mom once told me that it really helps to have a close friend with a similar aged child to bond with... Good luck!
    Yes, I think your child is entering adolescence. The transition was also very sudden for our children: one day exceptionally happy, apparently well-adjusted, socially precocious; and the next day angry and critical and acting out. (The first ''changed'' at age 11, the second right after the 13th birthday.) What can be especially tough is if your child is the first in his/her peer group to begin this transition. In our experience, other parents suddenly seemed uncomfortable around our child, and less likely to extend invitations and welcome. Understandable, under the circumstances, as we all would probably like to postpone the change as long as possible! (But yes, somewhat confusing and painful for us and our children.) Also, parenting an adolescent is so very different from parenting a child, and advice from those who haven't been there just isn't that helpful anymore. I suggest that you start seeking information and reassurance specific to early adolescence--you will likely need some fresh ideas and also, it will help you to come to accept this new stage. It does take a while. Give yourself permission to grieve, over time, the not-so-gradual/gradual end of your daughter's childhood. But cultivate an appreciation for the entirely new developments to come.
    Taking it day-by-day

    Hostile 11-year-old son

    May 2003

    I am despondent over my relationship with my 11-year-old son. He is a good kid, gifted in many ways, but socially tone deaf, cruel to his little brother, and doing poorly in school. I try to accept him for who he is, but I am constantly disappointed/embarrassed by him. Despite my efforts to be kind and supportive, he experiences me as critical and demanding -- which I probably am, especially when he abuses our little one -- and he is nasty and hostile. It is affecting my marriage too; my husband is critical of my parenting, but is not stepping up and helping our son address his issues. Any suggestions for a therapist for me/us?


    Please don't walk, but run: first to your pediatritian for a thorough checkup and then to either a psychologist or a psychiatrist. It could be many things besides emotional issues: Non Verbal Learning Disabilities, ADD/ADHD, or even a mental health problem (depression for example). There is a wonderful MFT in Albany who specializes in kids and families, and runs social skills groups for kids with social/emotional issues. I find her empathic, experienced, and skilled.Her name is Toby Hendon.
    been theredonethat
    Dear Anonymous Mom of angry 11 year old son,
    I highly recommend Marlene Millikan, MFCC (510-845-2479). She is an excellent, highly compassionate therapist who works extremely well with angry kids. She will often spend (unbilled!) time on the phone doing check ins with the parents. She works as the child's advocate, while also allowing the child to express anger with her. My daughter was so angry at having to go to therapy, that for a while, she would leave in the middle of the session or stand outside the door, passing notes to Marlene. This faze ended, and over time my daughter came to trust her; in turn, my daughter came to trust others and began to make new friends. I can't recommend Marlene enough. She has restored my faith in early theraputic intervention.
    Mom of once very angry 11 year old daughter who is now almost 14 and thriving

    Advice:

    Stop blaming yourself! Get your son evaluated by a good developmental pediatrician and/or a speach pathologist who is well versed in social communication. The term ''socially tone deaf'' immeadiately brings to mind Asperger's Syndrome or Non-verbal Learning Disability (NLD). Both Asperger's and NLD fall in the realm of the autism spectrum (at the highly functional end of the spectrum). Because these kids are highly functional and usually bright and verbal, they often go undiagnosed. Children who are ''socially tone deaf'' (I like that description) mispercieve, and often respond inappropriately to social stimuli. Frequently they have trouble making friends, and despite being smart they often do poorly in school. Of course I can't know that this is what's going on for your son, but it is certainly worth evaluating. ''Asperger's Syndrome'' on Google will get you a wealth of information so that you can get a better sense. Good luck! Oh, and tell your husband to stop blaming you too!! Blame has never been a good parenting tool. Shastine


    PLEASE get your child tested for (1)asperger's syndrome, (2) non-verbal learning disabilities, and (3)ADD. Social difficulties and the other issues you mentioned are symptomatic of these issues. If you do nothing, you may find years later that your relationship has suffered over something you might have improved. It may not be something your child can control without assistance of some kind. He may not even understand why he acts the way he does...so for both your sakes, please rule out any cognitive or neurological causes. Even if you discover a ''cause'' it doesn't always make it easier to deal with day to day, but it can help keep the love alive.

    Snarling 12-year-old daughter

    Jan 2002

    My 12-year-old daughter has been snarling at me for the last month or so. Not constantly, thank goodness, but her father and I hear her churlish side a lot more than we used to: e.g., "I'm bored, I'm not having fun, what should I DO about it, don't YELL at me [when one of us politely remonstrates with her], yada, yada." While I understand this is a fairly normal phase, it is incredibly irritating, and I sometimes have a hard time not slapping her. My usual response is to keep on quietly talking and ignore the rudeness, or to take her aside and give her a talking-to if she's getting nasty. She is doing well in school, has friends, etc., so I don't think anything seriously wrong is going on. Any suggestions about keep my cool and defusing the situation? Thanks, Melanie


    You are walking the tightrope, how much do you ignore, and when do you set a limit about how you are willing to be talked to? Good luck!! My daughter has finally become human again (she is 16). It was rocky. I am very grateful that I was able to not get too sucked into her nastiness. I tried to stay focused on my goal of not having every interaction become an argument despite her frequent goading. The two most powerful tools I had was my sense of humor (I mean some of what comes out of their mouths during this phase is so ludicrous it is funny), and remembering that even though she was pushing me away she didn't really want me to go far. Again, good luck!! And remember the fact that she is doing well in school and socially but snarling at you means she is doing really well and that she trusts you. (Lucky you :-).
    When my daughter started acting mean and nasty, the oft-repeated advice that "this too shall pass" just didn't help me much. I highly recommend the two books below; they have helped me to understand and deal with my daughter's hostility and rudeness. "Get Out of My Life" explains teenagers and suggests how to live with them and save your sanity. "Backtalk" takes a very practical approach . It uses appropriate consequences for bad behavior to establish a "norm of communication" in your home. The authors' premise is that "rude behavior needs parental intervention and being allowed to get away with backtalk is bad for your child." We still have bouts of bad behavior, but I now feel I have some control over the situation. It helps me to return to these for advice from time to time. You can read excerpts from them on amazon.com. If the links below don't work, just go to www.amazon.com, search for the titles, and click on the sample pages.

    Get Out of My Life, but First Could You Drive Me and Cheryl to the Mall? : A Parent's Guide to the New Teenager by Anthony E. Wolf

    http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0374523223//ref=sr_1_10_1/104-3014247-5029548

    Backtalk : Four Steps to Ending Rude Behavior in Your Kids by Audrey Ricker, Carolyn Crowder

    http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/stores/detail/-/books/068484124X/glance /104-3014247-5029548

    Cynthia


    My 13-year-old step-daughter suggests that the best way to deal with this is to "learn not to take it personally, as there is no way to stop it". Diane
    I have a 15 and a 13 year old, and when my 15 year old hit 7th grade, the snarling began. I think it is weird that in America, we compartmentalize people by their age and thing that abnormal behavior is "normal". Only in America is there is navel gazing on this artificial creationn of adolescence. Anyway, I thought my son was stressed out, and he agreed, and so we became proactive. Regular exercise, regular sleep, sensitivity to his diet (low sugar or white flour/refined carbohydrates, incrreasing fruits & vegetables and trace minerals), quality down time and I threw in 5-HTP (derived from vanilla seeds, Jarrow has a good formula), and it helped enormously! (It also helped his skin enormously too) This is not to say my son never snarls, but he is now recognizing the relationship of stress to his emotional state and we are working towards him taking more responsibility for his own health.!
    Teen Parent Support Groups is one solution.....meeting for coffee/tea to discuss whatever is frustrating you. Getting a chance to vent. Several years ago I was involved with Scouts. Of course this wasn't going to be a traditional scout group. There were 4 boys and 4 mothers. No one wanted to be the scout leader but everyone wanted their sons to participate. We worked out this arrangement. We took turns leading an activity for the boys. Better yet we decided to eat dinner (meals made by nonleaders for the night) before our meetings. The boys sat at one table and the mothers sat at another. During this time the mothers had a chance to meet and discussed issues. What was great was hearing that we were all going through somewhat the same issues. We shared "solutions". We were able to release some stress that way. Doreen

    Demanding and difficult 12-year-old

    Jan 2005

    My daughter has been a spirited child, demanding and difficult since infancy. Now at twelve, it seems our authority does not matter anymore. We can go through some good days, but she mostly makes fun and teases her sister, hits and mocks everyone in the family. When we threaten with punishment, she is indifferent. Yesterday it seemed she would not be getting out of bed for school and I felt helpless in making her move. It seems she thrives on negative attention. I have tried to use a rewarding system (works on and off) and humor, but with short term success. I am considering group therapy or a social group for her. Does any one else have an impossible teenager? Any suggestions of books, therapists or advice on dealing with these issues? Desperate mom


    Does my daughter live at your house?

    I don't have advice, really, just more of a vote of support! Our 12 year old has always been a handful and now that she is 12, she can border on being abusive some days. Mostly directed at me (mom). Most days she is a loving child, a mommy's girl. But the days when she is in a funk, it is very discouraging and disconcerting. I am watching carefully and going to therapy for ME. We will see how things go over the next year or so. I just wanted to say, hang in there and get support for yourself! We want to fix our kids, but I know it has helped me tremendously to let go of guilt and not take everything she does personally.

    Best of luck to you! Email me if you'd like. inga


    It's pretty late to start setting limits and asserting your authority over a 12 year old. But you seem to be aware that you don't want to live with her in charge, and that your own behavior needs to change too.

    No matter how bad the behavior is, make it clear that you love your child. Your emotional connection with her has to be strong to get you through the next 6 years together.

    Please try family therapy. Every relationship in the family is strained by such misbehavior-- you and your spouse may feel tension as partners, the younger sibling may feel unprotected and ignored. And other issues may be contributing or being ignored. It will be a good reality check for all of you to have an experienced and neutral third party involved.

    We have two very spirited and challenging but rewarding children, a teen and a tween. In the interests of living together peacefully, we have recently been clarifying family rules. Here are some ideas:

    Be Safe. Be Kind. Be Respectful (be polite, accept that some people have more power than you). Be Responsible (clean up your messes, keep your promises). Misbehavior is anything that breaks one of these four rules.

    Possible consequences: Loss of privileges. This can mean TV time, computer time, time with friends, time outside -- or inside-- her room, time on phone, rides to activities, music lessons, sports, family activities. Time outs. Apologies. Having to do something nice for the other person. Extra chores. ''Do overs'' ---''Try that again, there's a more tactful/pleasant/polite way to say that.'' Monetary fines-- we're considering this to curb the swearing.

    We are fully prepared to embarrass a disobedient child by showing up at afterschool events (''Sweetie Pie, you have to come home and do your chores right now'') or calling other parents (''We just wanted you to know that Sweetie Pie is grounded for a week and not allowed to go to friends' houses until next Saturday''). This is a powerful weapon.

    The next time your child refuses to get out of bed to go to school, can you leave her there and let the school administer the consequence?

    Go to the library or the parenting section of any bookstore and check out books like Laying Down the Law (Peters), Backtalk: 4 Steps to Ending Rude Behavior in Your Kids (Ricker), How to Make Your Children Mind Without Losing Yours, or Our Last Best Chance (on early adolescence). One of my favorites on parenting teens is a tiny book called Helicopters, Drill Sergeants and Consultants.

    One thing that helps us is to control our own tempers and always speak calmly. You can express disappointment and disapproval, and then claim time to calm down and think of an appropriate consequence, and then walk away.

    Good luck. Things can get better!

    concerned parent


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