Confronting a Child Who Has Lied

Kids sometimes lie. They do so for many reasons (to avoid punishment, because of embarrassment, because of an overactive imagination and so on), but no matter why they do it, parents must know what to do to help them stop doing it. The way a parent confronts a lying youngster can make the difference between whether that child lies less or more in the future.

If you know or suspect that your child has been lying, consider the following tips:

Consider Your Child’s Motivation for Lying
Is your child lying in order to protect someone else (“Sarah’s parents don’t want her spending time with her boyfriend so I agreed to pretend that she and I were going to Karen’s house to sleep over.”)? Is he or she lying in order to avoid an unpleasant task (“No I don’t have any homework tonight”)? Is the lie designed to avoid punishment (“No I didn’t break the vase.”) Perhaps the lie is meant to avoid embarrassment (“Yes I passed all my subjects”).

Think about the possible reason for the lie BEFORE you confront the child. This can help you be more effective in using Emotional Coaching – the naming and accepting of the child’s feelings. Emotional coaching makes the child feel understood and accepted instead of defensive. It helps the child WANT to hear what you have to say and WANT to cooperate with you. Emotional coaching reduces defiance and deception. An example of emotional coaching for a child who wants to protect her friend, might be the following, “You’re a very good friend to Sarah and of course you don’t want her to get into trouble with her parents. I know you are trying to help her.”

After providing this kind of acknowledgment of her motivations and feelings, you can then go on to give instruction and correction: “The problem is that Sarah’s parents love her probably even more than you do and they make certain rules for her because they want to protect her. This issue is really between Sarah and her parents and it’s not right for you to get involved. Most importantly, Sarah is asking you to lie for her, which isn’t what a good friend does. Good friends bring out the best in each other and don’t encourage each other to become worse people. Sarah is asking you to harm your relationship with US in order to help her continue to defy her parents. I don’t think that this is fair of her to ask you, but you have to decide that for yourself. The only thing that we want you to know is that if you lie to us in the future, you will certainly erode our trust in you and that will not be good for your relationship with us. Right now we give you lots of privileges and free reign because we trust you –  but that could all change if you continue to be dishonest.”

Notice that this approach appeals to the parent-child relationship and also appeals to logic. The “punishment” implicit here is damage to the relationship. This approach works particularly well with adolescents. It is possible to combine Emotional Coaching with discipline, however, as might be appropriate for a child who lies about his uncompleted homework. “I know you don’t enjoy doing homework and I fully sympathize with you. It’s a lot more fun to play games on the computer. However, when you lie about completing your homework you may be compromising your grades and I don’t want that to happen. Therefore, in the future when I find that you are lying about the amount of homework you have you will lose computer privileges for 48 hours.”

Avoid Anger
One of the most common reasons kids lie is to avoid parental wrath. Often kids grow up and become adults who lie to their spouses because they expect – based on childhood experiences with their parents – that making mistakes can get them into BIG trouble. Encourage truth-telling by keeping your confrontations quiet, respectful and low-key. Effective discipline (like the 2X-Rule described in detail in Raise Your Kids without Raising Your Voice) replaces the need for anger. You can use the 2X-Rule to give appropriate, moderate discipline when necessary. Consider the following example:

You discover that $100.00 is missing from your purse. You are certain your son took it because you see that he has a new gadget that he told you his friend bought for him as a gift and you know that this particular gadget costs around $80.00 – and you are pretty sure none of his friends would spend that kind of money on him. How do you get him to acknowledge what he did and make restitution? Not by getting mad! In fact, the madder you get, the more likely it is that your son will lie to you in the future in order to avoid your anger. Instead, you can follow these steps:

  • Speaking very quietly and slowly, refraining from drama or emotion, you confront him by saying something like, “I have good reason to believe that you took $100.00 out of my purse last week.”
  • If your son denies it, look him in the eye and very slowly repeat your statement with minor modifications: “It’s possible that I’m wrong – I didn’t have a camera rolling – but I’m fairly certain you took it. I put the money in the purse late Wednesday night, didn’t move the purse, and discovered it missing Thursday morning at sunrise, before anyone came into the house. Only God knows for sure what happened to it so I’ll just say this: If you did take that money, I’m going to assume it was a mistake and that  you will find a way to put it back in my purse some time over the next few  days and that  you’ll never do such a thing again. However, if you really didn’t take it, then I don’t want you to replace it. Just be honest with yourself and with me. I’ll assume that if you don’t replace it, you never took it to begin with and this is my mistake – for which I am apologizing in advance. However, if money ever goes missing from my purse again, the whole family will have to go for family counseling to discover what is going on in our house.

Do Not Trap a Child into Admitting the Truth
Suppose you just learned that your daughter lied to you about the location of a party she was attending. She knew that you didn’t want her to go to parties with certain kids and in fact, the party she wanted to go to was at one of those kid’s houses – so she gave you a different address. When a friend telephones for your daughter, she accidentally reveals the actual address of the party. Now you know for a fact that your daughter lied. When your daughter returns home, DO NOT play questioning games designed to trap her in her lie. For instance, let’s say she told you that the party was at Erica’s house. Do not do something like this: “How’s Erica? How’s her mom and dad? Were they at the party? Did you say hello to them for us?” and so on. Being sneaky with your kids just encourages them to be sneaky back to you!

Instead, be straight: “We know that the party was not at Erica’s house – it was at Ian’s place. You lied to us.” Continue with Emotional Coaching: “I guess you knew we wouldn’t be pleased and you felt you just had to go, so the only way to make it happen was to lie.” Continue with education and information: Do you think that we are trying to hurt you when we ask you not to go to parties with those kids? What do you think our motivation is? Do you think we are too protective?” Do not be hostile or sarcastic when asking these questions. You are simply trying to help your youngster think through what she has done. You want her to conclude that you love her and you are trying to help her. If she insists that you are well-intentioned but misguided (“You don’t know them Mom! Sure they drink too much, but they’re really nice and they don’t drive when they’re drunk so there’s really no problem!”), let her know that you cannot agree to allow her to do things you think are life-threatening, illegal or immoral. If she does these things, there will be negative consequences, but if she lies and does them, the consequences will be much greater. This method works only when the relationship between you and your child is a good one. If you are too strict, controlling or critical, your child will be more likely to defy you because there is very little to lose. If, on the other hand, you are loving, warm and positive, the child will not want to risk losing your affection and support and will be more likely to comply with your requests.

Avoid Excessive Punishment
Even when you have to discipline a child for lying, be careful to choose moderate negative consequences. Always warn the child before giving a punishment (“From now on, if I find that you have lied, such & such consequence will occur.”). Punishments that are too intense are more likely to backfire, causing the child to lie more in the future in order to avoid harsh punishments (see “Avoid Anger” above for a similar problem). For a selection of reasonable punishments, see Raise Your Kids without Raising Your Voice.

When There is a Chronic Pattern of Lying
If you find that your child is lying frequently rather than on rare occasions, your child has a problem that requires your attention. Again, anger and upset on your part will be counterproductive – destructive instead of helpful. Instead, express sadness that there is a serious problem. (“It seems that you don’t feel comfortable being honest with me. I can see we have a serious problem here that we have to address.”) Arrange for professional assistance in the form of family counselling. A therapist can help help discover the reasons for a child’s persistent dishonesty and develop an effective treatment plan.

Stealing in Very Young Children

Your little pre-schooler just took his brother’s wallet and put it in his own drawer. Your little toddler hid the neighbor’s paper weight on her shorts pocket. And you’ve been looking for your brand new hairbrush all day, only to find that your 6-year old has taken it without permission to use for her dolly’s hair.

What’s the best way to handle stealing in young children?

Parents are right to be concerned about unethical behavior in their kids. It is, after all, a parental task to properly socialize their children, ensuring that they have appropriate behavior and good values. Clearly, “stealing” is a highly inappropriate behavior that must be stopped in its tracks.

But here’s the good news: stealing among very young children, 6 years old and below, is actually quite normal and common. More importantly, “theft” among members of this young group does not necessarily indicate future problems with the law!

Why Do Young Kids Steal?
There are many possible reasons why young children steal. Consider the following:

They Want to Explore
As children make the transition from infancy to toddlerhood, they begin to seriously explore their environment. Their curiosity drives them to touch everything around them – even objects that are forbidden to handle. They will try to break apart their toys, just to see what makes them tick.  Anything and everything is fair game for touching – even a hair brush might be interesting to a particular youngster. Consequently, when kids are very young they might take something, not because they have the intention to steal, but because they just want to examine or manipulate that object. And if they never give it back, it’s simply because they have no sense of natural order – they never return things they take for the same reason they never pick up after themselves! They’re not yet socialized and civilized.

They are Selfish by Nature
Young kids steal because they are born egocentric: that is, they think the world revolves around them. It is only when a child gets older that he or she develops empathy, or the realization that another person may have a different point of view. Thus, a child may feel justified to take something he  wants or likes, without regard for another’s feelings. He cannot imagine the upset and grief of the one who has now lost the object.

They Don’t Understand Ownership
The concept of ownership is too abstract for a very young mind. Kids only understand presence and absence; things are either in front of them or they’re not. They do not understand the idea that property belongs to others even when the others aren’t around. They also fail to understand that others may choose NOT to lend their items. Every object around them is just part of the world — there for taking!

They are Looking for Attention
Lastly, parents may not be aware that they might be reinforcing stealing behavior, by reacting with upset or anger, or even by reprimanding or punishing. They may also have accidentally indicated that stealing is funny, when having a good laugh over a long-missing object that turns out to be under the child’s pillow. Since small children are prone to do anything for attention, it’s important that parents minimize attention around the issue of taking other people’s belongings. A simple, “that belongs to your sister” followed by getting up and giving it back to the sibling, is sufficient for really small children.

How to Educate a Young “Thief”
When a child is really young, – say around 3 years old and less –  the best intervention is to just ignore the taking behavior, apart from giving instructions to give the item back (i.e. “This is Katie’s toy – let’s give it back to her.”). Reprimanding or punishing a behavior that will most often disappear on its own may even be counterproductive; it might shame or frighten the child for no  reason. Simply “childproof” your environment during these early years – keep valuables out of sight and reach and handle episodes of inappropriate touching and taking on a per-case basis.

As a child gets older, you can take the opportunity to teach him or her that stealing is wrong. You can start by introducing your 4 or 5 year old to the concepts of private property and personal ownership. You may also begin teaching which objects are objects are “public property” and which ones require permissions. Bibliotherapy – the reading of relevant story books – can be helpful at this stage. Ask your local librarian for some titles. You can also teach a young child important communication skills, showing them how to get  what they want or need by asking for it in an acceptable fashion. For example, you can teach them how to ask permission to play with a toy that they don’t own. Teaching them to return an object to its original location or owner and apologizing if they took something they shouldn’t, are also a good interventions. Again, a simple “We don’t take what isn’t ours,” is enough for this age group. “Please give it back right now.” If you suspect that your child is stealing in order to get extra attention, try offering more attention in healthier ways. If the problem doesn’t clear up, do seek professional intervention.

As a child grows a bit older – certainly by 5 and 6 years of age – go ahead and begin employing negative consequences for stealing. Follow the 2X-Rule formula for discipline (see Raise Your Kids without Raising Your Voice by Sarah Chana Radcliffe for details on this quiet, firm and respectful way to discipline children). In addition, encourage more appropriate behavior by remembering to acknowledge or even reward appropriate behaviors like asking permission before touching things and refraining from touching what shouldn’t be touched.

Other Interventions
Do keep in mind that each child is different and sometimes, children have an “itch” to take what isn’t theirs to take despite the best educational strategies of home and school. Characteristics like impulsivity, jealousy and even neediness are often inherited along with other traits and characteristics. If your child has a tendency to take things despite your best efforts, don’t blame yourself or even him! Simply work with this challenge patiently and lovingly. That will help a lot in itself. Consider Bach Flower Therapy for a little extra help: remedies in this system that may be helpful are Chestnut Bud (for impulsive, dishonest behavior), Holly (for jealousy), and Vine (for strong will, wanting what he wants). Read more about Bach Flower Remedies and how they can be used on this site (see Bach Flower Remedies).

If the problem is persistent or severe, do consult a child psychologist for further help. Breaking the taking habit early is the best approach!

Understanding Your Teen

Teenagers can be challenging to raise. However, knowing what “makes them tick,” can make the job far easier. Let’s look at the typical characteristics of teenagers in order to better understand this period of life.

The following are some of the hallmarks of the teenage years, and some tips on how parents can help navigate them:

Rapid Physical Changes
Adolescence is a time of many physical changes as children gradually transform into young adults. For boys, there is a “growth spurt” — a rapid increase in height and weight, sometimes followed by changes in bone structure. Hair starts to grow in different places: the face, the armpits, the legs and the pubic areas. The adolescent’s voice deepens, and sounds more “grown up.” There are increases in muscle mass and strength as well.

Girls are also have sudden increases in height and weight. Breasts develop, hips become more defined, and body hair grows in the pubic and armpit areas. This is also the time when menstruation begins, often bringing along hormonally induced mood swings.

In both genders, the skin becomes more sensitive and sweaty, making adolescents more prone to pimples or acne. Kids develop at different paces – some making early changes and others making later ones. Often, kids are self-conscious about where they are in the normal distribution. Everyone wants to be “average” but of course, that isn’t possible. As a result, teens can feel embarrassed, inadequate or otherwise troubled by their physical changes: boys with squeaky voices and girls with flat chests can feel temporarily inadequate or self-conscious. Sometimes, the lingering consequences of insecurity can last for decades. Parents can help by being sensitive to their teens, never making rude jokes or unkind remarks. After all, every human being must go through adolescence on his or her way to adulthood. The gentle support and guidance of a parent can make the transition easier.

From Parent Approval to Peer Approval
At this stage of development, your child’s main focus of attention will shift from you to their same-aged classmates and friends. They may now prefer to spend more time with friends than with family members. Some kids don’t even want to be seen with parents in public! It’s all part of the push toward independence. Their “cutting of the apron strings” is a temporary phase: as your child journeys to adulthood, a healthy balance between family life and social life will emerge — and you’ll regain your place in their heart.

Testing Limits
As mentioned, kids at this time are exploring their identity and independence. Testing of rules and limits is all about pushing the borders now, bursting out of the protective shell. Teens might violate curfew, disobey house rules, experiment with various risk-taking behaviors, and constantly negotiate their “rights.” You might bring books home from the local library on subjects like smoking, alcohol, sex, drug use and so on. There are many books for this age group designed to be appealing to teens – with pictures and simple explanations this literature can provide the warnings and education your child needs in a teen-friendly way. Books can be a better method than dire warnings from an anxious parent.

At this point, parents should strike that balance between being understanding of their child’s need to be autonomous, and setting reasonable and consistent rules for their child’s safety and well-being.. As a rule, try to accommodate the new freedoms they ask for, for as long as safeguards are in place. Take the opportunity to teach about responsibility and accountability. It’s important NOT to establish rules that none of their friends have. Instead, allow your child to be a normal teen within his or her community and try to put your own fears to rest. It can be helpful to access the help of a parenting professional or mental health professional to get normal parameters such as age-appropriate curfews on weeknights and weekends, dress codes, use of alcohol and drugs and so on. If you have an accurate frame of reference, your rules will be more appropriate – and your child will probably have a greater respect for your decisions, which might lead to greater compliance with your rules.

An Increased Interest in Sexuality
Your child will now be showing an interest in all things sexual including advertisements, internet porn, and real people. Don’t be surprised if you see your normally “plain and simple” son or daughter dolling up a bit, and taking an interest in grooming, fashion and flirting. This is all a normal part of the growing up process. Modern teenagers may be more open about sexuality than older generations and may want to be sexually active and more sexually active at earlier ages. Many kids in today’s society are confused about their sexual orientation and some may benefit from professional guidance. Your job is to share your values, provide information and establish clear expectations. You probably don’t want your child to be making babies just quite yet but teenagers don’t automatically know how to prevent that from happening. Teach responsibility and safety in sexuality – don’t assume that your child has learned this at school or on the street. Your child needs to know about sexual diseases as well and how to both prevent them and identify early symptoms. Some parents arrange for the child’s doctor to explain the details of contraception and sexual protection from pregnancy and disease.

Curfew

Teenagers are getting ready for independent adult living. They have a strong drive to explore the world and gain greater control over their time and actions; they yearn for greater freedom. Although parents may feel insulted or hurt, cialis their kids are not so much trying to escape from home as they are trying to run toward their own futures.

A much sought-after freedom at this point in a young person’s life is the freedom to stay out late with friends. Parents, however, remain loving and protective – they are concerned about their child’s safety and well-being. For this reason, they still want to set curfews – times that their child must be home by. Parents also tend to want to know where their teens are going and who they’re with. Adolescents, on the other hand, are often loathe to provide this information, feeling that it is an intrusion on their precious privacy. It’s important to find the middle ground between the child’s developmental needs and the need that parents have to be responsible guardians. The curfew issue must be negotiated in some sort of win-win way.

If curfews are an issue in your house, consider the following tips:

A Good Negotiator Listens Well
Invite your teen to express his or her needs and wishes around a curfew. Let the child talk openly. Repeat and summarize what you hear. Go slow – don’t rush to correct, advise or reply. It’s more important to listen well, naming the feelings that are being expressed (see Raise Your Kids without Raising Your Voice by Sarah Chana Radcliffe for tips on Emotional Coaching – the best way to listen). Your goal is to understand your child’s needs and respond to them as best you can. It’s important to be flexible and to give your child a chance to prove that he or she can be responsible. Your flexibility and the child’s responsibility are a great team when it comes to curfews!

Respect the Normal Need for Increasing Independence
Except in unusual circumstances, it’s best to allow the curfew itself to do the work. Don’t call your child when he or she is out – that behavior directly contradicts the child’s need for increasing independence. Don’t ask the child to check in with you either. Assume that a teenager can take care of him or herself when out for the evening, just like you don’t have to report to anyone every half hour just to show that you’re still alive! Unusual circumstances that might justify breaking this rule might be that your child is taking a long road trip and you want to know if he arrived safely at his destination, or your child is going to a place where there is likely to be some unsavory people and you have legitimate safety concerns. Obviously the need to hear from your child during his or her time away from your home should be an exception to the usual rule of “See you later!”

Experiment and Adjust
Try making tentative curfews. “We can try this curfew for this month and see how it goes.” If the child is responsible – coming home on time without trying to renegotiate the curfew each time – then that curfew can become more permanent or it might be extended by 15 minutes to see how that works. As the child proves him or herself again and again, you can continue to move the curfew to the maximum point that you feel is safe and healthy for that youngster.

Stick with Your Agreements
Although your child can have an “emergency” once in awhile, regular weekly adjustments to a curfew should not be occurring. If the curfew is midnight, for example, last minute calls home to “please extend it till 12:30” need to be discouraged by your negative response. A curfew that turns out to be impractical can be renegotiated once the child is home. Sit down and talk about the challenges of the current curfew and readjust as necessary. Do not readjust it every time the child is out! However, do try to be flexible when there are special occasions – graduation parties, New Year’s Eve and other special occasions may require a temporary extension of an otherwise static curfew.

If Necessary, Use Discipline
Once you and your child have agreed upon a reasonable curfew, expect it to be honored. The first time there is a problem (arriving any time later than 10 minutes past the curfew), apply Step 1 of the 2X-Rule (see Raise Your Kids without Raising Your Voice for more details about this form of discipline). Tell the child that curfew must be honored. The second time lateness occurs, issue a warning that further breaches of curfew will always result in a punishment (name the specific punishment you have in mind – i.e. losing driving privileges for the week, losing cell phone for the day and so on). Apply consequences for every further breach, but also sit down with your teen and discuss the problem – why is curfew hard to follow? What would work better? Work together as a team – don’t make it a game or worse, a battle. In a positive relationship, it should be easy and pleasant to establish an appropriate curfew. If it is simply too difficult, then consider some professional help – a family counselor or psychologist can often help you solve the problem quickly.

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.

Kleptomania

People often assume that a thief steals for a reason. However, link the truth is that stealing doesn’t always have a practical purpose and not everyone who steals is a “thief” in the true sense of that word. A child may be caught stealing something he doesn’t really want nor need, pharm something he already has, or something of very little value. A child may also steal for the sake of stealing, not because of a need for attention, a desire for revenge or a show of inadequacy. When someone steals without any obvious gain, it is possible that he or she is suffering from a mental health condition called kleptomania.

What is Kleptomania?
Kleptomania is a mental health condition characterized by a strong urge to steal, and a feeling of relief after stealing. It’s an impulse-control disorder, similar to Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, where the patient suffers from persistent thoughts and repetitive patterns of behavior. Kleptomania usually has its onset in young adulthood, but there are cases of kids as young as 5 years old with Kleptomania.

Are Kleptomaniacs Criminals?
Kleptomania must be distinguished from the criminal act of stealing, or the willful and knowing theft of someone else’s property. People with Kleptomania steal not because they want to, but because they feel they have to. They experience extreme anxiety when they do not give in to the behavior of stealing, and stealing is the only way they can get relief. They know that what they do is wrong, but they can’t help it. In fact, many kleptomaniacs steal things that have little value, such as paper clips or tissue paper rolls. They may also return what they have stolen afterwards, as they are not particularly interested in the stolen object itself, but rather the act of stealing.

How is Kleptomania Treated?
The dynamics behind Kleptomania point to how the condition should be handled by parents, teachers and helping professionals.

It’s recommended that Kleptomaniacs (those who suffer from Kleptomania) not be punished for their stealing, as they have a mental health condition that needs help and healing – not punishment. In fact, many researchers argue that Kleptomania, like all impulse-control issues, may have a physiological origin. Abnormally low amounts of the neurotransmitter serotonin in the brain may be the cause of Kleptomania.

Counseling is an appropriate first response to a child with Kleptomania. Except for really young children, people with Kleptomania are aware that what they are doing is dysfunctional and they are often stressed, even depressed, about what they are going through. Helping a child vent his or her feelings over the inability to control impulses is a good start.

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy has been known to assist children with Kleptomania in managing their urges and compulsion. Skills in stress and anxiety management are also helpful, as it is stress and anxiety that often compel a kleptomaniac to steal. Gradually sensitizing a child to the impact of stealing on other people can also be a way to help kids with Kleptomania manage their condition.

When therapy alone fails to cure the condition, psychotropic medicine of the type used for obsessive-compulsive disorder may be prescribed.

Child Lies to Parents

It is very disappointing for a parent to discover that his or her child has lied. There’s anger at having been deceived and also a sense of betrayal; all parents want a trusting bond with their kids. And then there’s the constant doubt: if my child can lie to me about one subject, what other things has he lied about in the past and what is he lying about now? Indeed, a child’s first incident of lying can snowball into many other issues.

The good news is that lying to parents is something that can be addressed. Lying is a behavior, not a character trait. Parents can address this behavior in many ways, helping their youngster to become a more honest human being.

To help your child who has been lying, consider the following tips:

Confront Your Child with an Open Mind
If you suspect that your child has been lying to you, approach the subject cautiously. Don’t just rush up and call your child a liar! This is not the time for drama. Instead, consider the possibility that your child was confused or was given inaccurate information or forgot to give you pertinent information or made a simple mistake. The best approach is to objectively confront the inconsistencies in his story and ask for clarification. “I don’t understand… you’re telling me that you were with Jason at 9 p.m. but Jason called here at 8:45 looking for you. His phone showed a long distance number. Didn’t you tell me that Jason was going to the country with his parents this weekend? Was he calling from there?” This gives your child a chance to straighten things out for you: “Yes Jason’s family went to the country, but Jason stayed here in the end. He was calling from John’s phone which has a long distance number on it because John lives in Idaho but is in town for the weekend for his Aunt’s 90th birthday party. Jason was calling at 8:45 to tell me that he’d meet me at his house at 9 p.m. but I was already waiting for him on his porch by then. He showed up right at 9.” Of course, your child is not always innocent. However, your gentle confrontation will make it easier for him to confess when he has to. For instance, if the child in this scenario had lied about being at Jason’s house at 9, he could now straighten that out: “Yeah, I said I was with Jason because I thought you’d be mad if I told you the truth. I was with Sara. I know you told me not to see her again, but I really, really want to. I don’t want to have to lie about it because I feel crummy when I do that. I want to be able to tell you without you getting all upset.” Because you had been gentle in your approach, the child is not frightened into excessive defensiveness or worse, more lying.

Try to Find the Reason for the Lie
When a child lies, it’s important for parents to try to find out why. Addressing the reason why a child lies is a good way to prevent future lying behavior. Note that not all lying has a malicious intent. Sometimes children lie because they fear their parent’s reaction. Others lie to avoid conflict or confrontation. There are kids who lie to protect a sibling, or save themselves from embarrassment. If you can create a home atmosphere where telling the truth is always preferred compared to telling a lie, then your child will feel less of a need to lie to you the next time. One way to create this atmosphere is to be careful never to show intense anger when a child acknowledges wrong-doing. When the child sees that it is natural for people to make mistakes and correct them, then he won’t be afraid to confess to his own errors. However, when making a mistake in judgment and/or actions leads to parental rage and abuse, the child will be sure to try to avoid admitting errors at all cost. He’ll lie.

Emphasize Why Honesty is a Value in Your Family
It’s important that parents consistently explain to children why they prefer to hear the truth rather than a lie. Doing so can help prevent the “it’s-just-a-tiny-lie” mentality. Explain how your trust is broader than a small incident; for instance, share why saving one’s self from punishment is not worth a parent’s inability to trust a child’s word. Kids need to know that a rule is in place for a reason, a reason that is meant to protect not oppress. All information needs to be provided quietly and respectfully. It has to convey care and love. Do not deliver loud, angry sermons about the importance of truth-telling. All parental anger encourages rather than discourages, lying.

Reinforce Positive Behavior
Younger children are sometimes prone to thinking: “What’s the point of telling the truth? You never believe me anyway!” So reward and praise truth-telling as much as you can. And even if you have to implement negative consequences for misbehavior (for example, your child just admitted that he or she is the one who stole your money), still communicate how glad you are that they told you the truth. When children know that their effort to be honest is appreciated and they can trust that they won’t experience parental abuse or even harsh negative consequences, they are less likely to lie the next time. Instead of focusing on punishment for the wrongdoing, focus on correction or restitution. Help the child do better. If, despite your calm and positive approach, he continues to engage in undesirable behaviors, try to work out negative consequences WITH him – i.e. ask him to suggest what punishment should be in place for future episodes of incorrect behavior. If he still continues to behave badly, make an appointment with a mental health professional for more direction and intervention.

Discipline Lying
Give a penalty for lying. If your child does something wrong, he may require discipline. However, if he has also lied about his wrong-doing, the punishment can be doubled. The child will learn that he can save himself half the punishment by speaking the truth. For instance, suppose your child smoked cigarettes after you asked him not to. The punishment you already had set in place was that he would lose one week’s allowance if he was caught with cigarettes. If, when you question him about his smoking, he admits the truth (“Yeah, I was smoking yesterday”), then he loses one week’s allowance. However, if he swears up and down that he didn’t smoke (and you caught him on your cell phone camera with a cigarette in his mouth), then he loses two week’s allowance. In this way, the child can learn that truth-telling really pays off. Again, if despite your best efforts your child continues to lie, you should consult a mental health professional for further intervention.

Using Negative Consequences Effectively

Every Saturday is your child’s schedule to wash the dishes. But like many kids, he hates the chore. So every Saturday, there’s a slimy pile-up in the sink just begging to be cleaned. You decide to issue consequences for ignoring responsibility. The rule goes: until all the dirty dishes from lunch are washed, the whole family will have to forgo dinner (after all, there won’t be any clean plates!). You thought that if everyone had to go hungry, the pressure would motivate your youngster to do his job.

Unfortunately for you, this child is not so easily intimidated. Not only does he NOT wash the dishes, but he actually goes to the cupboard to pull out a clean one and makes himself his own dinner!

What happened?

In theory, the consequence to the misbehavior was perfect. You didn’t nag, yell or criticize.The consequence made it clear that you are instilling the rule in order for the whole family to be able to eat together on time. And the consequence was even logically related to the behavior you want to correct. It should have worked!

Perhaps there are other things missing from the equation, which is why your child doesn’t accept the consequence. Consider the following possibilities:

You Have Failed to Establish Authority
Parental authority plays a huge role in getting kids to accept consequences. If you’re inconsistent in setting rules and consequences, there’s a good chance that your child will not take you seriously. You may, for example, have let him off the hook before despite his misbehavior. Having done so would have convinced him that he doesn’t have to worry about actually receiving a punishment – in his eyes you are “all talk and no action.” Or you are strict on him, but lax on siblings. To ensure that setting consequences work, make sure that you are serious about consequences and will implement them.

Your Child is Misbehaving — Again
Here’s a thought: what if your child’s refusal to accept the consequence is also misbehavior? Remember, misbehavior has goals, and your child may be refusing to do the dishes and refusing to accept your consequences for the same reason. Find out what the reason is; perhaps your child is seeking negative attention, or going for revenge. Have you been too angry or too punitive lately? That tends to backfire, leading to more misbehavior. What is going on in your relationship with him? What are the stresses in the household? Is he experiencing stress at school or in relationships? When you address the need behind misbehavior, you’ll see less misbheavior. Moreover, your rules and consequences will work more effectively.

The Consequence Doesn’t Really Affect Him
For consequences to work, they must affect your child in a significant way. While they’re not supposed to bring pain,they must at least provide an inconvenience, or serve as a roadblock for something that the child wants. In the case above, the consequence was likely ineffective because the child knew there were other clean dishes to eat from! Choose consequences carefully, making sure that they are real deterrents. Consequences do not need to be “logical” in order to be effective – they need to be “the right priced ticket.” That is, they need to motivate the child to comply. You can remove possessions and privileges (for up to 24 hours for a child and up to 48 hours for a teen). Or, you can assign extra work (this only works once your child has learned to accept punishments). Study up on your discipline strategies and talk with other parents about effective negative consequences they have discovered.

Your Child Doesn’t See the Purpose of the Consequences
Consequences are there to teach the child the logical link between misbehavior and an unwanted event. Hence, some discussion must come alongside the implementation of the consequence. Perhaps your child just doesn’t appreciate why the punishment is needed. If you can explain the rationale of using a negative consequence, then he or she may be more likely to accept it. Indeed, any respectful communication about the misbehavior can help. In this case, explain to the child that everyone in a family has to help out. Explain how it makes you feel when you’re the only one doing everything. Explain how unfair it would be if everyone except this particular child had various household responsibilities. Explaining the issues with the child’s behavior, can help the child realize that he should cooperate and also help him realize that a deterrant for failure to cooperate makes sense because it is meant  to help him succeed in cooperating.

When Teens Reject Their Parent’s Values

During the teen years, patient a person makes the transition out of childhood and into adulthood. It is a journey from dependence to independence – one that involves are many changes in every area: physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and socially. During these years, teens question their identity, what they believe in, and their purpose in life. In short, they are people on a path of discovery who are trying to make sense of themselves and how they fit into the world.

During this process, it is common for teens and parents to experience some degree of conflict. Teens begin to recognize that their parents are not perfect and they make mistakes. Indeed, adolescents begin to focus their attention on the flaws in their parents. Many times teens will argue with a parent and say, “well if you do it then why can’t I?” They are constantly scrutinizing their parents’ actions; their friends’ opinions and acceptance are now more important than what their parents say or think. When teens are growing and learning more about who they are they often go through a period of rejecting their parents values – including those concerning religion and society. This is actually a very normal phenomenon. Teens are at a point where they are challenging what they have been taught so far.

Why Do Teens Not Always Believe What Their Parents Believe?

  • It is a normal part of the teen years to question parents especially kids with a strong personality
  • Sometimes a teen may have an undiagnosed problem such as a learning disability which may cause him to feel inadequate and not live up to expectation of elders – whether that refers to parents or teachers
  • Many times teens succumb to peer pressure, going with what their friends believe (even though their parents are right) in order to gain social acceptance
  • If a death or other tragedy occurs, or there is serious illness or financial burden within the family a teen may question the understanding they had of God when they were younger and more naive
  •  Many times teens will view their parents as hypocritical

Tips for Parents
Here are some tips parents should know:

  • Parents should always stay strong in what they believe. Teens tend to appreciate what their parents stand for later on in life when they mature and in the end they will thank you for being consistent
  • Practice what you preach. Teens resent when they see parents who have double standards
  • Love you teen unconditionally – even when they seem to be rebelling they desperately need your love
  • Guide them without telling them what to do
  • Be sure to keep your communication positive – limit criticism, punishment and other bad-feeling interventions

When teens rebel and act out against their parents’ ideals it is quite common for parents to think that their parenting skills are inadequate and that they have somehow failed as parents. Questions such as “why is this happening?” or “where did we go wrong?” can disturb their peace of mind. Parent need to know that raising teenagers is a tough job for everyone. If their teens are uncooperative, it’s more likely to be a developmental issue rather than a personal assault; it’s the child’s stage of life that is to blame. Parents can help themselves by building a support system – talking to other parents of teens, attending parenting classes for this age group and staying in close touch with their children’s teachers. Keeping lines of communication with their children open will make it easier for parents to understand what their teens are going through. Remaining calm and non-reactive will encourage open communication. In this way, parents can help to minimize their teenager’s  rebellious tendencies and maximize their own ability to help their youngster negotiate the challenges of adolescence.