Extreme Misbehavior – Conduct Disorder

Even before stepping into high school, John had already accumulated a laundry list of offenses. He had been involved in bullying, vandalism, fire setting, stealing, and fighting, among other aggressive or illegal activities. As if these antisocial behaviors weren’t enough, John also had other issues like abusing alcohol and prescription drugs, and threatening his parents with violence.  At 14, he was arrested for assault, and placed in a juvenile correction facility.

John has Conduct Disorder, a mental health condition believed to affect 3-10% of American children and adolescents. Conduct Disorder or CD is characterized by persistent patterns of antisocial behavior, behavior that violates the rights of others and breaks rules and laws. While most kids have natural tendencies towards episodes of lying, belligerence and aggression, children and teenagers with Conduct Disorder exhibit chronic and inflexible patterns of gross misbehavior and violence. Conduct Disorder is a serious disorder of behavior and not simply an overdose of the sort of ordinary mischief or misbehavior that all children get into. It is characterized by repetitive, consistent antisocial behavior that is not responsive to normal parenting interventions.

Conduct Disorder manifests in aggression to people and animals, destruction of property, deceitfulness or theft, and serious violations of rule such as running away, using dangerous weapons, skipping school and classes, ignoring curfews and so on. Symptoms cause severe impairment in the child’s personal, academic or social life. Conduct Disorder occurs more often among males than among females and usually coexists with other mental health conditions such as substance abuse, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder or ADHD, learning disorders, and depression.

What it’s Like for Parents
Conduct Disorder poses one of the greatest sources of grief and stress among parents. Symptoms can start out looking relatively normal, involving “misbehavior” such as chronic arguments with parents, disobedience and even hyperactivity. But as time goes by the gravity of the symptoms tend to escalate, alongside with their frequency. Temper tantrums can become actual episodes of violence and assault; lying to parents can become stealing from friends and classmates; and lack of respect for privacy at home can become breaking and entering somebody else’s home. Conduct Disorders can lead to cases of rape and sexual abuse, even homicide. If left untreated, Conduct Disorders can evolve into the adult disorder known as Antisocial Personality Disorder.

Receiving calls from teachers, principals and even the local police station, are common occurrences for parents of conduct disordered children and teens. Usually, there are many fruitless attempts to discipline or moderate a child’s behavior. Even counseling is insufficient because the biological nature of the disorder necessitates medical treatment as well. Because kids and teens with Conduct Disorder  suffer from a lack of empathy and emotional responsiveness, parents rarely get through to their child on their own.

What can Parents Do?
The good news is that there is hope for treating Conduct Disorders, and many programs have been found effective in both managing symptoms and restoring functionality. However, treatment is usually slow and complex. Indeed, Conduct Disorder is one of the most difficult behavioral disorders to treat. Recovery generally requires time and a combination of many different treatment approaches including different types of therapy, education, behavioral interventions and medications.

What can Help?
Early intervention helps increase the likelihood of successful treatment, which is why parents should act promptly when they notice antisocial behavior in their children. CD often begins as ODD or Oppositional Defiant Disorder, a condition characterized by lack of respect for authority. Lack of empathy is also a risk factor, alongside a family history of antisocial and/or criminal behavior.

As part of a comprehensive treatment program, traditional counseling and therapy interventions can go a long way, particularly those that aims to teach positive social skills such as communication, empathy and conflict management. Emotional management techniques, such as anger management interventions can also help. Sensitivity training, especially those at residential camps where kids and teens can interact with peers (and sometimes animals like horses), have also been known to be effective.

Parents are also encouraged to join family therapy sessions and Parent Management Training or PMT. Family therapy can surface systemic factors that cause and reinforce antisocial behavior in children. Family therapy can also help parents establish more effective forms of guidance and discipline, and teach parents how to respond to disruptive and defiant behaviors.

Because of the biological factor in Conduct Disorders, getting pharmacological help is important as well. A psychiatrist can help plan the appropriate drug therapy for a child or teenager with Conduct Disorder. In addition, a psychiatrist can help manage the child’s overall program of therapy and specific interventions. Sometimes the best source of help for children with Conduct Disorder is a specialized children’s mental health treatment center where many different types of professionals offer services under one roof and the child’s program can be coordinated through one department. Ask your doctor for a referral to such a center for diagnosis and treatment of your child.

Defiant Behavior (ODD)

“I’m not eating that!”

“I can leave class anytime I want to. You don’t own me.”

“No. Make me!”

Do you have a child who is consistently negativistic, argumentative and hostile? Does it seem that every little issue in your household turns into a major battle? If so, you are probably exhausted! Parenting has turned out to be a struggle rather than the pleasure you expected it to be. And you are probably also confused – why is your child acting this way? Is there something you have done wrong? Or is there something wrong with your child?

There are  many reasons why your child may be this way, ranging from normal temperamental issues and  periods of intense emotional stress all the way  to various mental health diagnoses. In this article we will examine one possible cause of consistent defiant behavior: ODD – Oppositional Defiant Disorder.

Why Do Kids Misbehave?
Misbehavior is normal for any child; part of the natural developmental process involves testing parental limits. In addition, stress can make kids irritable and less able to control their behavior or their mouths. Sick, overwhelmed, hungry or tired kids disobey, talk back, argue or even deliberately trample parents’ authority. Sometimes, simple lack of knowledge or inexperience is the culprit behind misbehavior.

However, when a child defies authority regularly and consistently – across all situations and independent of other factors like stress, fatigue and so on – it is possible that he or she is suffering from a condition called Oppositional Defiant Disorder or ODD.

What Is Oppositional Defiant Disorder?
Oppositional Defiant Disorder is a chronic, pervasive pattern of being uncooperative, defiant and hostile to authority figures like parents, teachers and most adults. ODD symptoms are far more intense than ordinary misbehavior, impairing a child’s ability to function well at home or school. Sibling relationships and friendships are also affected.

Children with ODD have frequent temper tantrums and other dramatic displays of displeasure, engage in excessive arguments with adults, constantly challenge or question rules, and deliberately attempt to annoy or upset other people. They’re also prone to blaming others and exhibiting vengeful behavior. Symptoms usually occur at both home and school. ODD most frequently  occurs along with other diagnoses such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), learning disabilities, mood disorders and anxiety disorders. ODD is estimated to affect 3 to 16% of the population of children and teens. It can manifest as early as a child’s toddler years.

What Causes ODD?
Experts point to a combination of factors including biological (e.g. an impairment on the area of the brain that manages impulse control and emotional management), social (e.g. harsh and punitive parenting techniques, stressful family transitions, difficulty relating with people) and cognitive (e.g. poor problem-solving skills, irrational thinking) issues. It is recommended  that interventions for a child diagnosed with ODD are also holistic, addressing the whole child.

What Can Parents Do?
If you suspect that your child may have ODD, consult a pediatric mental health professional for assessment, and if necessary, a treatment plan. Once a diagnosis has been made, there are strategies that parents can employ to help their child with oppositional behavior. Management of ODD may involve therapy, medication and behavior management programs to be carried out at home and school. Positive parenting styles have been found helpful as well in the treatment of children with ODD. In particular, taking the power struggle out of parenting can lessen the tendency for the child to fight authority. When parents don’t offer strong emotional reactions to provocation, kids lose interest in trying to provoke them. Parents of ODD children can take specialized parent education training.

Although many children with ODD will benefit significantly from medication, parents can also experiment with Bach Flower Remedies instead of or along with psychotropic medication. Behavioral and psychological interventions will still be required. The remedies Vine (for defiance and hostility), Chestnut Bud (for disregard for authority), Heather (for drama and the need for attention) and Cherry Plum (for loss of control) can be added together in one mixing bottle and offered 4 drops at a time, 4 times a day until the defiant behavior has significantly improved. You can find more information on Bach Flower Remedies online and throughout this site. Before starting your child on the remedies, note how many times a day he or she currently engages in tantrums and arguments. Record the child’s behavior for a month while the child is taking the remedies. If there is a positive effect, continue as is, but if no difference is noted, be sure to consult with your doctor and/or psychiatrist for proper assessment and medical treatment.

Natural Treatment for Stress Relief

Bach Flower Remedies are one-ounce bottles of specially prepared water (see below for details). Although they are only water, they can affect the way people feel emotionally. In fact, they can help balance emotions so that a person can release stress, upset, hurt, anger, fear, sadness, irritation, jealousy, impatience  and any other distressed emotion. Indeed,  many people report that they have successfully used Bach Flower Remedies to feel calmer, sleep better, worry less, recover faster from upset and heartache, handle parenting stress and work stress better and so on. Many have also reported that they were able to see a reduction in their child’s tantrums, aggressive behaviors, moodiness  or fears because of the use of the remedies.

But the remedies can do even more than help a transitory bad feeling : they can also help correct the tendency to fall into those feelings in the first place. When the remedies are used to treat a chronic emotional issue (like a tendency to be stubborn or a tendency to be explosive), they might actually be assisting in a processes now referred to as  “epigentic healing” – the healing of the gene that leads one to experience chronically negative emotional states. We now know that genes can be turned on and off and this is what appears to be happening when someone takes a long course of Bach Flower Therapy. This means that a child who tends to be very shy can take the remedies over time to reduce the shy tendency altogether. The Bach Flowers do not change personality, however. What they do is enable a person to be their own best self. A very strong-willed, obstinate child will retain his strength of character but instead of just being difficult to live with he will be his best self: a born leader, a confident person, one who can take appropriate action. When the Flower Remedies help a childhood overcome chronic separation anxiety, they leave the child’s personality intact: it is the same youngster without debilitating fear blocking the expression of his true self.

It’s hard to believe that these little remedies can work and it’s best not to even TRY to believe that they will; rather, just try the remedies yourself and observe how you feel while taking them. Or, offer a remedy to your child and observe the child’s behavior over the next days and weeks to see if there is any difference. Bach Flowers sometimes seem to have a dramatically positive effect on both behavior and mood and other times seem to make little difference. (Of course, there is no medical or psychological treatment either that works equally well for every single person who employs it.) In the latter case, it might be that the wrong mix of remedies is being used, but it can also be that a longer period is necessary before change will occur or even that a particular person is not responsive to the remedies at the particular time that they are being offered (i.e. this could change in the future). It can also be that while the Bach Flowers are having some positive effect, a complete treatment  requires other interventions as well including strategies like nutritional support, exercise, psychotherapy and/or medicine.

How are Bach Flowers Prepared and Used?
Dr. Edward Bach, a prominent physician in Britain who died in 1935, was interested in preventative medicine. In his search for something that could boost the immune system to ward off disease or to help the body recover more quickly and thoroughly from illness, he discovered a water-based method of healing that became known as “Bach Flower Therapy.” Modern physicists use principles of quantum physics to explain how water remedies can affect human emotions. Dr. Bach, however, understood the remedies on a purely intuitive level. He felt their effects and he could see what they were able to do to effectively relieve stress and emotional distress.

Bach Flower Remedies are prepared by taking the head of a certain flowering plant and placing it in a clear bowl of pure water. The water is heated in sunlight or on a stove for several hours (depending on which flower is being used) and then the flower is removed. The water is the remedy. It is bottled (and preserved with a bit of grape alcholol) and – in our times – sold in health food stores throughout the world as well as on-line.

Bach Fower Remedies are a form of vibrational medicine, not herbal medicine. They are NOT medicinal. They do not act on the body at all. They don’t interact with other medicines or foods or health conditions or anything. They are the same as water is to the system. However, if someone cannot have even a minute amount of alcohol in their system, they should look for the newer remedies that are made using glycerin instead. In general, however, anyone can safely use Bach Flower Remedies – babies, children, teens and adults, pregnant women and elderly people. Even plants and animals respond well to the Bach Flowers!

How Does One Take Bach Flowers?
If a person is using only one of the 38 remedies, they can take 2 drops from the remedy bottle in a small amount of liquid. They should do so 4 times a day – morning, mid-day, afternoon and evening.

However, most people take anywhere from 2 to 7 remedies that have been mixed together in a “mixing bottle.” To prepare a mixing bottle, one places water in a glass bottle with a glass dropper – generally a  30 ml  (1oz.) amber bottle. (These bottles are sold wherever Bach Flower Remedies are sold and they are called Bach Mixing Bottles.) Then one adds 2 drops from each desired remedy bottle. If a person was using 7 remedies, they would be adding 14 Bach Remedy drops to their mixing bottle. To ensure that bacteria does not grow inside of the mixing bottle, a teaspoon of brandy or apple cider vinegar should be added to the bottle.

This Bach Flower Remedy Mixture is then taken, 4 drops at a time, in hot or cold liquid, with or without food. Ideally, these 4 drops are taken 4 times a day, for a total of 16 drops daily. A person takes them in the morning, mid-day, afternoon and evening.

Adults can put 4 drops of their Bach Flower mixture into coffee, tea, water, juice, soup or any other liquid. Children can take their drops in water, chocolate milk, juice, cereal or any other beverage.

A person takes their mixture until they start forgetting to take it and they no longer need it. (Or, parents give a mixture to a child until the child’s behavior or mood issues have resolved to the point where the parent is now forgetting to give it to the child)  If symptoms return (and they most likely will), the person starts taking the remedy again. In fact a person may end up using the remedy off and on for a year or two (less time in children) before the problematic tendency  disappears completely.

How Does One Know Which Remedies to Use?
Dr. Bach wanted to keep his healing method very simply. A person should be able to read the description of the 38 remedies and decide which ones he needs. Of course, some people feel that they need all 38! However, no more than 7 should be used at a time.

A person could pick up a book on Bach Flower Remedies and decide which flowers they need based on the description of who the remedy is for and what it can do. Also, most health food stores have a pamphlet that explain what the remedies can too. Alternatively, a person can make an appointment with a Bach Flower Practitioner who will be pleased to help them design a remedy for themselves or their child.

Arguments and Arguing

Everyone has an opinion: the toddler thinks she should stay up late while Mom thinks she should be in bed early. The 10 year-old thinks ketchup belongs on every food while the parents think not. One spouse thinks dishes can dry in the drainer while the other thinks they belong in the cupboard. Sometimes, we just don’t agree.

What happens when people disagree with each other? In some households, disagreements bring people to the verge of hysteria (and sometimes beyond). There can be shouting, pushing, throwing and other aggressive or even violent displays of opinion. In some homes, there is endless argument and debate, a verbal repartee that wears everyone down. In some homes, disagreements melt silently into the atmosphere; they are barely detectable, politely expressed as a difference of opinion. What’s it like in your home?

Arguments Hurt
Respectful disagreements are a necessary part of family life. However, arguments are not. Arguments cause stress, exhaustion and bad feelings. If they are frequent, they harm relationships. It is essential that people who live together learn to communicate without arguing. A peaceful home is not one in which everyone agrees about everything all the time; it is one in which people can make their point, be heard, be flexible, give-in, compromise, move-on and work together. It is one in which everyone’s needs are considered and respected.

Teaching Kids Not to Argue
Parents can help their children learn to handle differences peacefully. They do this in two ways – by modelling and teaching appropriate behavior.

Parents who argue with each other or with others teach their children to argue. These kids are likely to grow up to argue with their spouses and their own children. It will not be possible to teach your kids to handle conflict respectfully if you don’t do it yourself.

If you are providing a good model of respectful conflict resolution, you still have to TEACH the children how to handle their own negotiations in a respectful way. The combination of the parental model and parental instruction gives the child the best opportunity to acquire this skill. However, the child’s nature is also an important factor. Some people are born to argue! Their temperament is rigid and controlling. Other people are flexible and easy-going from birth. Whatever the inborn difference in their children, parents who provide the proper model and education are doing all that is in their power to help their kids enjoy peaceful and loving relationships. The desire to argue occurs frequently when a parent must deny a child or teen something that is requested. The answer “no” often leads directly to arguments. Let’s look at the “I Don’t Argue Rule” to see how parents can help children learn to accept this inevitable part of life without argument (you can learn about this rule in more detail in Raise Your Kids without Raising Your Voice by Sarah Chana Radcliffe.)

The “I Don’t Argue Rule”
The “I Don’t Argue Rule”  helps prevent escalation of conflict by ending combative conversations quickly. The entire conflict lasts only two rounds. For instance, a child wants to put ketchup on everything but the parent doesn’t want him to. The child enters “round 1” saying, “Can I put ketchup on my peas?” The parent enters “round 1” saying, “no” and offering one brief reason. For example, the parent might say, “No. It’s not healthy for you to put ketchup on all your food.” This reason is not meant to be a solid all-encompassing defense. The reason is a courtesy, to help the child understand that the parent is not simply a stubborn, mean dictator. When the parent usually answers “yes” the occasional, well-considered “no” must learn to be tolerated and respected by a child, not debated. (The child should have ample room to expand his mind in active debate at the dinner table over thought-provoking discussions about life, politics, religion and any other subject of interest: his creativity and intelligence will not be stifled by the “I Don’t Argue Rule”). In order to teach the “I Don’t Argue Rule,” parents must be reasonable people who are flexible and compassionate. They must be “yes” people, rather than “no” people. Unfortunately, “no” parents actually create the conditions under which children MUST argue in order to survive.

The child then starts “round 2” with a variation on the theme (i.e whining, repeating the request louder, giving logical arguments or whatever). For instance, the child says, “PLEASE!! I WANT KETCHUP! PLEASE?” The parent pauses to think carefully on “round 2” then either changes his or her mind OR repeats the original reply. If the parent repeats the original reply, he or she adds the words, “and that’s the end of the conversation.”  For instance, the parent now says, “I’ve thought about it and I don’t want you to have ketchup on your peas – and that’s the end of the conversation.”  The child does “round 3, 4, 5 etc.” alone, whining, begging, protesting, threatening or whatever without any response from the parent. In fact, the parent does not continue the discussion in any form, but rather gets involved in some other activity. When this approach is used consistently, children soon learn that they might as well stop talking after “round 2” because nothing they say will make a difference. They therefore stop arguing completely.

While using the “I Don’t Argue” Rule, parents ignore the unpleasant tactics of their kids. The rule is meant to teach children only one point: do not go on and on and on. Debate can be fun at the right time (i.e. on the debating team!) but is stressful when it occurs in the course of normal family communication. By teaching children this important point, parents give them a skill that will help them maintain pleasant relationships throughout their lives. When parents focus on giving and accepting only respectful communication, they help their children guard their tongues and their happiness. Differences of opinion exist; fighting and arguing doesn’t have to.

Won’t Dress Properly for Cold or Wet Weather

Young people often don’t have the patience to put on layers of protective clothing – no matter if that includes jackets, scarves, hats, gloves or other items. Moreover, they frequently claim that they’re not cold – even when the thermometer clearly makes a dip. Many youngsters don’t seem to care about getting wet either: “I don’t need a raincoat,” “I don’t need boots,” “I don’t need an umbrella.” Oddly enough, mothers are often at the other extreme. This part of the population often feels chilly and is willing to layer clothing, wear extra coats and gear and do whatever is necessary to cozy up. Mothers just don’t understand why their kids don’t want to be warm and comfortable! Fathers, however, are a different story. Often, men are much like the kids, braving the elements with minimal protection (although, of course, there are many exceptions to this generalization!). However, whether it’s Mom or Dad that is concerned about the child’s lack of warmth, the underlying issue is usually about the child’s health and well-being. Parents worry that an under-dressed child may catch a cold, flu or worse. And in fact, some under-dressed children tend to do just that. There are kids who are vulnerable when they are chilled. Naturally parents don’t want a child to become sick (and feel awful and miss school and so on); just as importantly, parents may not want to be personally affected by their child’s sickness such as by having to take days off work to tend to a sick child or by catching the child’s sickness themselves. These are legitimate concerns: one sick child can cause the entire household (siblings, parents and whoever else is around) to become sick too.  Consequently, parents do really want to find a way to get their kids to look after themselves by dressing properly for weather conditions.

If your child refuses to button his coat, wear a hat, or otherwise dress appropriately for cool or damp weather, consider the following tips:

You are the Parent
Try to keep this in mind! You have both the responsibility and the right to direct your household. Your child’s behavior affects other people in the household, as explained above. You have every right to insist that he dress appropriately for the weather. Although this doesn’t guarantee that the child won’t get sick, it is one step that the child can take to protect himself. (You may have discovered other steps that the child needs to take as well such as getting enough sleep or eating enough healthy foods and so on. We’ll limit this discussion, however, to the issue of dressing warmly.) Some parents feel that it is up to the child himself to decide what he wants to wear. They reason that the child needs to learn through his own experience that under-dressing is uncomfortable and can lead to illness. In fact, personal experience IS an ideal way for the child to imbue this lesson of self-care. If you can allow your child to become a little uncomfortable (without rescuing him when he wants you to drive over to school with more clothing!), then you should. Experience is truly the best teacher. However, if this particular child gets sick easily (that is, sick enough to have to miss school) or if YOU get sick easily, then you may not have the luxury of allowing the child to experience the consequences of his own actions. In that case, remember that as a parent, you are allowed to insist that your child wear the appropriate clothing.

Use Your Regular Forms of Behavioral Management to Help Your Child Dress Appropriately
There are many ways to encourage cooperation in kids. Refer to other articles on this site (or the book Raise Your Kids without Raising Your Voice) for detailed explanations of the main interventions that encourage cooperation with parental requests such as the 80-20 Rule, The CLeaR Method, and the 2X-Rule. Positive techniques should be employed before bad-feeling interventions (like discipline with negative consequences) are used. Therefore, if the child is listening to you and decides to wear the boots or put the sweater on, be sure to offer positive feedback (“that’s great – I really appreciate your cooperation” or “that’s very cooperative of you!”).  If the child is not listening and you yourself will be layering heavily due to inclement weather, you can use non-aggressive discipline (i.e the 2X-Rule). On round two of this conersation, your message might sound like this if  you are speaking to a nine-year-old who is on the way out the door to school, while you are on the way to work with little time to spare: “I asked you to wear your warm coat and if you do not put it on right now, then when you get home today, you will have to write out ten minutes worth of lines ‘ I need to do what my mother asks me to do’ (or use any other slightly annoying negative consequence such as losing computer privileges, losing dessert, going to bed early or whatever you think will be annoying enough to motivate the child to wear the coat next time!).  The point is that a young child doesn’t have to understand all of the parent’s thinking processes and calculations. He won’t understand until he is much older. He doesn’t have to agree with the parent either. What he DOES have to do, is cooperate with his parent’s instructions. Giving the child negative consequences for failing to comply will help him to comply eventually – not necessarily right away. You are not looking for instant results. Rather, you are looking for positive results over the long run.

If your teenage child isn’t listening to you, it will be more helpful to strengthen your 90-10 rule with that youngster (the relationship-building ratio of positive to negative communications from you to your child). Application of this rule with adolescents greatly encourages their cooperation.

Sometimes the Child Doesn’t Like His Outer Clothing
Sometimes your child’s lack of cooperation is not due so much to defiance as to simply not liking his clothing. You can always ask him why he doesn’t want to wear his coat, gloves or whatever. If he doesn’t like them, take this seriously. Kids are very sensitive to peer pressure. Perhaps their clothing isn’t “in.” Do whatever is possible to purchase clothes your kids like and are willing to wear. Even adults don’t like to wear clothing that their friends would not like. This social consciousness is actually healthy. Don’t tell your child that it doesn’t matter what other kids think; it actually DOES matter what other kids think. Being socially appropriate helps people succeed in their lives. Being out of sync with the crowd, doesn’t work well for most people. Remember the kid in your class who didn’t dress right? What did YOU think about him or her? While we’re not trying to encourage the development of a mindless, cookie-cutter kid, we ARE trying to encourage the development of a child who can read social cues and manage to fit in well with his or her peer group.

Sometimes the peer group just isn’t wearing scarves or hats, no matter what the temperature out there is. When this is the case, you may be able to find some acceptable alternative like ear muffs, 180’s, a coat with a high collar etc. Your goal is to help your child stay as warm as possible without looking “nerdy” to his peer group. Keep in mind that YOU wouldn’t want to be the only one wearing mittens in your office if no one else ever wears mittens there! Again, social norms ARE important. Of course, if your child has particular health issues, he may just HAVE to be different in order to be healthy. However, do not impose difference on a child who has pretty good resilience just because you think he should dress the way you had to dress when you were a child!

Sometimes the Clothing is Hard to Put On
A related but different reason for opposition may be that some articles of clothing are hard to put on or do up. If this is the problem, try to get easier clothing to put on.

When Your Child is Generally Uncooperative
If your child isn’t cooperating because your child just doesn’t cooperate in general, make sure you are following the 80-20 Rule and allow a week or two before seeing a turnaround in attitude. If you still don’t see improvement, consider trying Bach Flower TherapyThe Bach Flower Remedy called Vine (available at health food stores and online), will often melt away a defiant, uncooperative attitude – sometimes within 24 hours, or sometimes a little longer. The remedy is a harmless form of water, safe for infants, nursing moms, pregnant ladies and everyone else. Put 2 drops of Vine in a small amount of any liquid (water, chocolate milk, milk, tea, juice etc.) 4 times a day (morning, mid-day, afternoon and evening). Bach Remedies don’t interact with other medicines, herbs, foods or health conditions; they can be taken with or without food. If you still don’t see improvement after this treatment, you can consult a Bach Flower Practitioner for a more specific remedy mixture and try this method a little longer or, you can make an appointment with a mental health professional or parenting expert for further advice.

When Your Child is Rude or Disrespectful

There is a saying: “sticks and stone can break your bones but names will never hurt you.” How wrong that is! Verbal abuse can truly hurt – not only in the short term but also for extended periods of time, sometimes even a lifetime! Inappropriate verbal behavior in the form of verbal abuse is common in family members: sarcasm, name-calling, insulting, yelling, swearing and many other forms of hurtful and diminishing communications. Children and teens sometimes learn this kind of behavior from their parents, but just as often they pick it up in the schoolyard or on the block. They can also learn it online and through social media. Even television, movies and songs can teach kids how to use language inappropriately.

In order to help children stop engaging inappropriate verbal behavior, consider the following tips:

The Parental Model is Important
Children and teens will learn that people of all ages communicate very poorly at times. Their friends, neighbors and relatives will provide live demonstrations of inappropriate verbal behavior. Parents are always the most powerful teachers, however, so it is crucial that YOU model appropriate verbal behavior for your child. Even when you are frustrated, tired, irritable, sick, stressed or enraged, always speak in a respectful manner. If you give in to shouting and cursing, chances are very high that your kids will learn to express strong emotion that way too.

Appropriate verbal behavior is more than controlled anger. It is also behavior that shows the correct respect to others in all circumstances. For instance, children need to show an extra level of respect toward parents, grandparents, teachers and elders. Again, your own model of appropriate verbal behavior to this class of people will be important. Be aware of how you sound on the phone when talking to your parents, and watch yourself when you are speaking to them in person – no matter how frustrated you may feel at a given moment. Your child is listening and learning.

Your Home is a Training Ground
Don’t allow your child to practice verbal abuse. The more your child whines, yells, snarls or otherwise communicates inappropriately, the more likely it is that he or she will continue in that way throughout life. The more someone does something, the easier it is to do again. This is due to practice and the fact that more neural pathways are produced for repeitive behaviors. People don’t just wake up one day when they’re 30 years old and start yelling and swearing; this is something that they’ve learned in their formative years. Therefore, help your child to STOP inappropriate verbal behavior as soon as you see it. Use the full gamut of parenting techniques to encourage appropriate verbal behavior and discourage inappropriate verbal behavior (see Raise Your Kids without Raising Your Voice by Sarah Chana Radcliffe for a complete program). Whether your child is rude to you or to a babysitter, relative or sibling – get to work on it right away and nip it in the bud! If it has already been going on for a decade, you can still address it starting today. You need a zero tolerance policy for inappropriate verbal behavior. Any behavior that others would consider obnoxious or any behavior that would harm your child’s relationships should be targeted. This can include not only direct verbal abuse as described above, but also mumbling, repeating oneself, talking on and on and on without regard to the listener’s attention span, speaking too loudly and speaking too quietly.  All inappropriate verbal behaviors can cause your child pain in his or her own social world, therefore it is important not to ignore them and just hope that they will clear up by themselves. Do what you can do to help your child and when you’ve exhausted your own ideas, call upon professional help.

Keep the Bigger Picture in Mind
Inappropriate verbal behaviors may reflect emotional issues that require attention. A child who expresses anger through inappropriate verbal behavior may need to learn better communication techniques but he or she may also need help to address the underlying anger itself. A child who mumbles or speaks too quietly may need to learn how to express him or herself in more attractive and age-appropriate ways, but he or she may also need help in addressing social anxiety or insecurity. In other words, both the behavior and the emotions often need to be addressed. Professional help can often help in the deepest, most thorough and quickest way, so ask your doctor for a referral if you have any concerns whatsoever about your child’s feelings.

Strategies for Dealing with Misbehavior

All kids misbehave from time to time. Parents need to know how to handle misbehavior WITHOUT harming their child. Frequent anger, excessive criticism, over-punishment and other harsh interventions are strategies that are likely to cause more misbehavior rather than less. Moreover, these strategies also cause various emotional difficulties in children and can, when intense enough, harm the parent-child relationship. Fortunately, parents can learn a set of tools that will help them correct their kids in positive ways. With these tolls, parents will find themselves taking firm but quiet control, finding ways to respectfully teach their kids right from wrong.

If your child ever misbehaves, consider the following tips:

Reasons for Misbehavior
Your child may misbehave for all kinds of reasons. Some misbehavior is actually accidental – like when a child just isn’t paying attention (i.e. when he runs around the house and breaks something). Or, he might be experimenting and testing the limits of what he can get away with. Maybe he seeks the intense attention his parents give to his negative behavior. Or maybe there’s a physiological reason for the misbehavior such as fatigue, hunger or illness – or a biologically based mental health condition like ADHD, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorder, etc. Your child (usually!) isn’t an evil person who consciously intends to make your life hard. There’s generally a reason for his or her misbehavior.

Attend to and Reinforce Desirable Behaviors
The CLeaR method is one super-charged way that you can reinforce positive behavior; it is described in full in Sarah Chana Radcliffe’s book, Raise Your Kids without Raising Your Voice. Use of the CLeaR Method involves 3 steps: comment, label and (sometimes) reward. An example using the CLeaR Method would be this scenario of a child who has a bad habit of climbing on counters to help himself to cookies. One day, the child remembers to ASK for a cookie, to which the parent responds“You asked me for a cookie instead of trying to climb on the counter.” (Comment), “That’s very mature of you!” (Label), “Yes, go ahead and take a cookie.” (Reward). The CLeaR Method requires forethought and actual planning, but it is truly effective when used consistently and correctly. With this method, your child learns to associate appropriate behavior with positive feelings, causing him to become more likely to do the “right” thing in the future.

Reward charts can also be used to encourage desirable behaviors. These are more fun and more successful than using tools like criticism, correction and punishment to address the negative behavior. For instance, instead of yelling at a child for leaving his shoes in the hallway, you can put up a star chart in front of the shoe cupboard and ask the child to give himself a star whenever he puts his shoes away properly. When he accumulates a certain number of stars, he gets a small prize.

Even praise, smiles and other simple signs of pleasure applied to DESIRABLE behaviors are preferable to negative feedback for undesirable behaviors. Nonetheless, positive strategies alone do not always eradicate misbehavior. See below for how to use discipline constructively when necessary.

Follow the 80-20 Rule (90-10 for teens)
In the 80-20 rule, 80% of communications between parent and child must be positive, while only 20% can be negative. Negative communications include criticism of any kind, behavior tips, and rebuke. For teens the ratio is 90%-10% as teens become less tolerant of criticism. Too much negative interaction with your child can lead to rebelliousness and damage the parent-child relationship. The 80-20 rule can dramatically decrease misbehavior while it fosters cooperation. Learn more about The 80-20 Rule in Raise Your Kids without Raising Your Voice.

Get in the Habit of using Emotional Coaching
Emotional coaching can be a great tool to help reduce misbehavior. It involves naming a child’s feelings. When your child misbehaves you can begin your intervention by acknowledging the feelings prompting his behavior (i.e. “I know it’s fun to throw rocks.” or “I know you want to have a cookie right now.”). Then, offer your correction (i.e. “Throwing rocks is dangerous.” or “You can’t take cookies without asking permission.”) Make sure not to join the acknowledgment of the behavior with the reason why he can’t do it with the word “but” (i.e. “I know it’s fun to throw rocks but it’s dangerous.”). Using the word “but” is akin to saying, “I know you like this but I don’t care.” so try to avoid using it here. Emotional coaching makes the child feel understood and accepted, even when his behavior is unacceptable. As a result, the child is more likely to want to cooperate with the parents’ requests. This method can greatly reduce misbehavior and encourages compliance.

Avoid Bribes and use Grandma’s Rule
Instead of saying, “If you clean up your toys, you’ll get a treat” (which is a bribe), try saying, “After you’ve cleaned up your toys, you can have a piece of cake” (which is the structure used in Grandma’s Rule). The word “if” denotes the option of doing or not doing something, when in fact you don’t want to give your child that option. The words “after,” “as soon as,” or “when” indicate that the behavior will be accomplished – it’s only a matter of when. The reward will be forthcoming WHEN the behavior is done, not “if” it is done!

Use the 2X-Rule When You Need to Discipline
Sometimes it is necessary to use discipline to reduce negative behavior. The 2X Rule (as described in the book Raise Your Kids Without Raising Your Voice) is a good rule to follow. When your child misbehaves (i.e. hits his sister) tell him that he should refrain from the improper behavior, tell him why he should refrain and tell him what he should do instead of that behavior. That is called Step One. If the child does the misbehavior again, you’ll be on Step Two of the 2X-Rule. Here, you’ll repeat Step One and then warn him that if repeats that behavior again he will receive a negative consequence. You could say something like, “The next time you hit your sister, you will lose your computer privileges for the rest of the day.” Children are more likely to think about what they’re doing before they do it when faced with a consequence. Make sure to follow up with whatever consequence you promised (be reasonable) so that your child takes you seriously. If the misbehavior happens routinely, use the rule version of the 2X-Rule, which, on Step Two, sounds more like this: “From now on, whenever you hurt your sister, such and such consequence will occur.”

Experiment with Different Approaches
There is no one-size-fits-all approaches to parenting. What works with one child in the family may just not work with another. Therefore, read a few books, join a few forums, take a few parenting classes! You may learn a new strategy that really helps THIS child improve his or her behavior.

Try Bach Flower Remedies
Bach Flower Therapy is a harmless water-based naturopathic treatment that can ease improve your child’s behavior in addition to other things. Some flower remedies that can help a child who often misbehaves include Holly, Vine and Chestnut Bud. Vine is for the child who wants to do what he wants to do, no matter what you want him to do (strong-willed). Chestnut Bud is the remedy for the child that simply doesn’t learn from his mistakes and punishments, and repeats bad behavior over and over again. Holly is used for children who are jealous (i.e. jealous of a brother’s toy) and misbehave as a result. You can mix remedies together and take them at the same time. To do so, you fill a one-ounce Bach Mixing Bottle with water (a mixing bottle is an empty bottle with a glass dropper, sold in health food stores along with Bach Flower Remedies). Next, add two drops of each remedy that you want to use. Finally, add one teaspoon of brandy. The bottle is now ready to use. Give your child 4 drops of the mixture in any liquid (juice, water, milk, tea, etc.) four times a day (morning, mid-day, afternoon and evening). Remedies can be taken with or without food. Continue this treatment until the behavior improves. Start treatment again, if the behavior degrades. Eventually, the behavior will improve completely.

Consider Professional Help
If your misbehavior is part of a larger picture of negativity or defiance, and your interventions have not helped sufficiently, consider seeking out the help or assessment of a professional mental health practitioner.

Rudeness and Disrespect

It once was that children feared their parents; nowadays, it’s more likely to be the other way around. Parents are often afraid of their own kids. Modern parents frequently feel helpless with their children and all the more so with their bigger kids. While they try to set up rules, set limits and run a tight ship, they find that their kids ignore the rules, break the boundaries and do whatever they want. Their disregard for parental authority applies to both action and words. It is no longer uncommon for children ten years old and up (old enough to know better) to impulsively blurt out whatever they want to, however they want to. If they want to holler, they will. If they want to hurl insults, they will. They’ll swear, threaten, get physical and do whatever else they feel like doing when they are displeased, upset or outraged. Disgruntled teens talk back.

Naturally, if a parent responds negatively to a child’s request, the youngster will feel at least displeased, possibly upset and on occasion, outraged. Feelings happen. However, many young people don’t seem to know how to express negative feelings in a way that preserves their dignity, preserves the dignity of others and maintains healthy, loving relationships. Mouthy teenagers do not only harm their parents; they harm themselves as well. Out-of-control teens (adolescents who are not thinking of the long-term consequences of their words or actions) experience more daily pain than their in-control counterparts. When teenagers know how to express their upset with sensitivity to the feelings of others (in this case, parents), they will enjoy all the benefits that good communication skills bring: peace in the home, emotional well-being, emotional love and support, mental stability and even, improved physical health.

Insisting on Respect
Parents will actually do their kids the favor of a lifetime if they are willing to insist on respectful communication. Parents who let their adolescents talk back disrespectfully actually help these children build strong brain pathways for verbal abuse. When these young people get married, those pathways will be solid as rock. Consequently, when feelings of frustration, anger and disappointment are triggered by their new spouses, their abusive brain pathways will light up and BAM: out will spew rude and hurtful words that will burn a deep whole in the new relationship. Rude teenagers grow up to be rude spouses. Rude teens can even grow up to be rude parents! Maturity does not bring respect. Education and training does.

By insisting on respect, parents can help their children build strong brain pathways for self-control. While adrenalin is running, triggered by intense feelings of upset, the self-control pathways will light up. Although the young person may feel like slamming a door, screaming or ranting, he or she will quietly utter a statement instead. “I’m not happy about this” or “I want to talk with you about this again later” or “Is there any way you might reconsider?” or “Would it help if I did such & such?” and so on.

Let’s take an example. Suppose 13 year-old Suzy asks Mom if she can go to a party that 17 year-old Joey is making Saturday night. Mom feels that Suzy is too young for this kind of party and says, “I know you’d really like to go Sweetheart. Unfortunately, I feel Joey and his friends are too old for you. I don’t want you to go.”

Suzy is more than upset. She is hysterical. So she answers back: “I’M NOT LISTENING TO ANYTHING YOU SAY. I’M GOING AND THAT’S IT. THERE’S NO WAY YOU CAN STOP ME!”

Mom has two choices: either ignore the disrespect or address it. If Mom ignores the disrespect she has two choices: she can pretend nothing happened and simply respond to Suzy’s words (i.e. answering fairly calmly, “We’ll see about that.”) or she can actually join in the disrespect by shouting or insulting back (i.e. “TRY IT YOUNG LADY AND YOU’LL SEE WHAT HAPPENS TO YOU!). Either way, ignoring the disrespect ensures that more disrespect will be coming in the future. Ignoring allows the teen to build up the disrespect neural pathway in the brain. Failure to deal with disrespect is actually a form of parental neglect because when the child goes on to have trouble in other significant relationships, it will be due to the fact that no one ever taught her how to express displeasure sensitively. (In fact, if Mom actually screams back, she is actually modeling the dysfunctional communication strategy of yelling when upset).

So let’s hope that Mom decides to address the disrespect. If she does, she has two choices: either she can stop the conversation then and there and deal with the disrespect immediately, or she can wait until things are calmer later on and deal with the disrespect at that time. In this case, it is good to follow the concept of the “teaching moment” as described in the book Raising Your Kids without Raising Your Voice by Sarah Chana Radcliffe. A true “teaching moment” is one in which both the parent and the child are calm and relaxed. Since the child in this example is currently hysterical, the period cannot be called a “teaching moment.” Mom decides to wait until later to teach her daughter  how to express displeasure sensitively.

The Relationship Rule
If a child has been taught The Relationship Rule while very young, it is extremely unlikely that he or she will be rude to a parent in adolescence. Indeed, the younger the child is when self-control is taught, the less likely it is that the child will ever talk back, insult or otherwise hurt a parent’s feelings or diminish a parent’s stature. However, The Relationship Rule can certainly be taught to teenagers (or even spouses!). Some patience will be required, however, to allow time for new brain pathways to form and for this new mode of communication to become the fall-back position during moments of emotional stress.

The Relationship Rule can be put in two ways – the positive and the negative forms:

  • I only give and I only accept respectful communication.
  • I do not give, nor do I accept, disrespectful communication.

A parent teaches The Relationship Rule in 5 simple steps (see Raise Your Kids without Raising Your Voice for complete details). Step One involves teaching the actual rule by providing the rationale for the rule (especially for older children and teens) and by giving numerous examples, role-plays and re-enactments in order to see how this rule is applied under stressful conditions. After providing education and examples, the parent tests the teen. The parent asks, for instance, what is the wrong way for a son to respond to a parent who has refused to buy an MP3 player for him? What is the right way?

Step Five, the last step of the training program, employs negative consequences. Before this step, no punishments are used for disrespectful speech because all steps before this last one are designed to actually train the child’s brain to be respectful. The intervening steps allow the parent to be empathic and responsive to the child’s feelings. The last step is employed only to prevent regressing back to the old brain pattern.

Teaching The Relationship Rule means both teaching it through instruction and guidance, and also modeling it. Obviously parents themselves must have the self-control to continue to be sensitive to the feelings of others even when they themselves are intensely upset. Many parents will be challenged in this area since their own parents didn’t raise them with The Relationship Rule. However, the family that learns together, grows together. It’s fine for parents and kids to improve at the same time. All that is required is sincerity (i.e the parent acknowledges mistakes and actually reduces their frequency over time).

Sometimes, lack of education is not the only culprit in a teenager’s trouble with respect. There can be other issues such as undiagnosed mental health conditions and deeper emotional problems. If, after applying The Relationship Rule, improvement is not forthcoming, do arrange for a consultation for your family with a professional mental health provider.

Always Says No

Toddlers just have to say “no.” “Do you want an ice cream cone?” “No.” “Do you want your Teddy Bear now?” “No.” No matter how much the child believes, “yes” at two years old he just has to say “No!” Why is that?

Toddlers are just moving out of the symbiotic stage – the stage in which the child and Mommy blur into one. During infancy, infants and mothers live in the same rhythm almost seeming to share one body. This helps the mother sense when her baby is hungry, when she needs to be changed, when she is tired and all the rest. The baby has no words and everything must be communicated non-verbally. Mother tunes into the baby’s body language and little sounds to read her unspoken message. The better Mom can do this, the more successfully the baby’s needs will be met. Therefore, it is advantageous for mother and baby to share a oneness – a relationship that needs no language.

However, toddlers are beginning to speak. This marks the beginning of their independent existence. Now that they can articulate, they can offer an opinion, express a wish, or give positive or negative feedback. Now the child want to express himself or herself – the child needs to discover the “self” to express.

I am Not YOU
The child finds him or herself by distinguishing it from other selves. I know that something is warm only by comparing it to something that is cool. One thing is blue only if it is not any of the other colors. Differences define unique properties of things and people. Therefore, the toddler finds himself by distinguishing himself from his previously symbiotic partner – Mom.

If Mom wants the toddler to do something, the toddler finds herself by saying “No.” “No, I don’t want to do it whereas YOU want me to do it therefore clearly I am not you. I am me.” (The toddler, of course, doesn’t articulate the whole sentence – just the “no” part!)

Managing the Negativistic Toddler
As wonderful as this developmental stage is for the baby’s development, it can present a formidable parenting challenge. It seems that everything has become an argument. The child is no more Mr. Nice Guy. Now, everything is “no!” What’s a parent to do?

First of all, it can be very helpful to encourage the child’s independence. Instead of butting heads with a toddler (“I said, do it!”), a parent can acknowledge the child’s unique view. “Oh, YOU don’t want to do it. You want to sit here and suck your thumb. You are Joey.” This kind of response actually calms the child a bit, since you clearly understand his agenda and appreciate it properly. Sometimes, after hearing such a sentence, the toddler will end the battle and simply comply with the parent’s wishes. But don’t count on it.

Sometimes, the parent will have to insist – for safety reasons or other practical reasons, the toddler may have no real choice in a matter. However, even in such cases, the parent can first acknowledge the child’s opinion and then ease her into the correct spot. “I know you don’t want to get your shoes on now. That’s O.K. Mommy will come back in a few minutes and put them on you because we have to go soon.”

Giving a toddler some choices can help reduce the amount of nay-saying. “Do you want Cereal A or B?” can be less confrontational than “Mommy has some nice cereal B for you today.” Let the child pick out foods, clothes, toys and even some activities. This way the child can develop her sense of self without having to say “no” to your suggestions.

Most of all, just relax. This stage passes. Although children always need plenty of space in order to become themselves, the toddler’s dramatic negativity will eventually give way to a more moderate amount of dispute (until the teens years, that is). The more you can let your child make personal decisions at every stage of life, the better. Acknowledging his point of view, taking him seriously and showing consideration for his thoughts and feelings can go a long way toward preventing real rebellion later on. Help each child develop according to his or her unique needs and characteristics starting in toddlerhood: say “Yes!” to independent thinking!