Child Gambles

If you think that gambling is still a “strictly for adults only” enterprise, you are sadly mistaken. Unfortunately, gambling is fast becoming an epidemic among children and adolescents, with kids as young as 9 years old getting hooked. The American Psychiatric Association estimates that around 4% of American children are already addicted to gambling, with an anti-compulsive gambling advocate calling the situation a “hidden epidemic.”

Gambling and Kids
Gambling refers to the betting of money or anything of value on a game with uncertain result. Traditional gambling mediums include card games, casino machines, and betting on the outcome of sporting activities like soccer, boxing or horse racing. Gambling used to be a highly regulated (albeit multi-billion dollar) adult industry. But because of the advent of the internet, the relaxation of some state’s gambling laws to accommodate children, and the proliferation of lotteries and gaming arcades open to the general public, gambling has reached the younger population. Loss of parental control and financial difficulty in the family also add to the phenomenon. The situation is so bad that some kids end up owing bookies hundreds of thousands of dollars long before they even step into high school!

Gambling in itself is not bad; many people enjoy social gambling as a past time, a way to relax and unwind. But children are particularly vulnerable to becoming pathological gamblers – gamblers who are unable to resist the urge to gamble despite the serious consequences of their behavior. This is because young children and teens have yet to develop skills in managing impulses, assessing risks and chances, and appreciating the financial value of money surrendered to gambling hosts. Most of the time, children (like adults with gambling disorders) are stuck in the excitement of risk-taking and the thrill of a winning streak, with no awareness of the long-term negative consequences.

What can Parents Do?
As a parent, it’s important that you are aware of the signs and symptoms of compulsive gambling in children. Remember, in this age of technology, gambling behavior can be easy to hide (there are even betting agencies that collect simply by cellphone texts!). But like any addiction, the more serious it becomes, the more difficult it is to conceal.

What should parents look out for? Be mindful of secretive internet or newspaper browsing; your child may be following the results of an event he has a stake on. Watch out as well for unexplained loss or gain of money and material possessions. Check for sudden or gradual drop in grades, absences in school or loss of interest in tasks and activities that used to interest them before. Monitor their language; see if they are more prone to using gambling terms during conversations. Be aware of the people they interact with everyday — they might already be setting regular appointments with bookies.

If you’ve discovered that your child has a gambling problem, it’s best to confront him or her about it right away. Impulse control disorders rarely go away on their own, as kids have lost the ability to regulate their own behavior. Parental control and intervention is necessary. If the problem is only recent and mild, parents may be able to handle it on their own. However, when gambling is already more entrenched, professional intervention will be necessary. In some cases, parents may directly contact the casinos or the bookies to ensure that a child will not be allowed to gamble anymore. Implements can also be confiscated, such as credit cards, computers and cellphones. A child may also be grounded for awhile, allowing the compulsion to “cool off.” For serious young gamblers, mandatory visits to a mental health professional must be included along with these types of restrictions and guidelines. It is also very helpful for parents to attend twelve-step programs for family members of addicts while the child him or herself, attends similar regular meetings for addicts. Often, family therapy will be a useful adjunct to other interventions. Doing everything possible as soon as possible can help young gamblers heal their compulsion. On the other hand, ignoring the behavior or simply telling a child to “stop it” may lead to a lifetime of debilitating, destructive gambling activities.

Substance Abuse

One of the strongest fears among parents today is that their child will develop an addiction to a drug or illegal substance. This fear is understandable; addiction is a progressive, life-threatening disorder that affects both physical health and mental functioning. All parents want to see their children live the life that they deserve; addiction is a one way path to destruction.

Addiction, also called substance dependency, typically begins with substance use followed by substance abuse.

Substance Use and Intoxication
Substance use is simply choosing to partake of a substance, whether it’s something found in everyday meals (e.g. caffeine, sugar) or something more threatening such as lifestyle drugs (e.g. alcohol, nicotine from cigarettes), regulated medicines (e.g. cough syrup, pain killers, ADHD drugs), or illegal drugs (e.g. cocaine, marijuana in some states, hallucinogens). In the case of non-illegal substances, substance use means eating or drinking within acceptable limits or within the amount prescribed by a medical practitioner. In the case of illegal drugs and some regulated chemicals, substance use refers to the “experimentation stage”, when kids decide to try “just once” a prohibited substance.

Substance use can lead to a condition called intoxication, or the experience of the natural effects of substance use in the body. Alcohol intoxication, for example, results in poor vision, impaired judgment, blurry speech, loss of memory and poor sense of balance. Stronger psychoactive drugs, like hallucinogens, can cause temporary feelings of euphoria and loss of reality. Not all feelings produced by intoxication are pleasant ones. Intoxication can also cause overwhelming anxiety or even psychotic episodes. Intoxication is a usually a temporary state that goes away after the substance is flushed out of the body.

Substance Abuse and Dependency
Substance use has progressed to substance abuse when the dosage of the chemical taken is no longer within reasonable limits (for instance, drinking 5 cups of coffee with every meal every day), or when a person continues to use an illegal substance to get some positive effect, such as a feeling of euphoria or relief. Abuse is the choice to use a substance despite experiencing negative effects of the behavior, such as poor grades, interpersonal problems or loss of money. The key word in this definition of abuse is “choice”; the person is not yet dependent on the substance. Dependency occurs once tolerance sets in (see below), and withdrawal symptoms (see below) result from abstinence from the drug or chemical.

Tolerance and Withdrawal
Tolerance and withdrawal are the two hallmarks of an addiction.

Tolerance refers to the body’s natural adaptation to a drug or substance. When a person becomes tolerant to a drug, a dosage that used to produce a specific effect will fail to deliver the results it used to. For example, if 5 mg of a drug used to be enough to grant a feeling of high, now a higher dosage is required to achieve the same effect.  Similarly, if one pain reliever used to work sufficiently well to relieve a headache, tolerance can result in needing double or triple the dose to get the same amount of relief.

Withdrawal symptoms are the negative effects of not using a substance that one is already dependent on. Many people have experienced minor withdrawal effects from going off of coffee or sugar. When dependent on alcohol and drugs, however, withdrawal symptoms can be quite severe. They may include physical effects (headaches, insomnia, shaking, increased heart rate, vomiting, sweating), emotional (depression, irritability, panic, hallucinations) or mental (obsession, difficulty in concentrating). The un-ease that comes during withdrawal is what promotes the addiction; the user now feels compelled to take a drug or substance, not for its positive effect, but because he or she can’t live without it.

What can Parents Do?
Bring home drug-education books from your local children’s library. Books for children use lots of pictures and simple explanations about the effects of alcohol and drugs on the body and mind as well as the effects on a young person’s life. Such materials are designed to “speak” to kids in a way that they can really understand and relate to and they are often far superior to any “lecture” or education delivered by parents. Leaving these kinds of materials in the bathroom and around the house without comment is probably the best approach. Alternatively, read them to children (ages 9 – 12) along with other bedtime material. For teens, just leave the books out and perhaps discuss the material with them at the dinner table. Open communication helps. Also, maintaining a positive, healthy relationship with teens is protective to a certain extent.

If parents want to protect their children from substance abuse disorders, it’s important that they are present and alert as early as the “use” stage. Regulated drugs like pain killers must be carefully watched and monitored, so that they will not get abused. More importantly, children should be made aware than in case of many illegal drugs, there is no such thing as “just experimenting.” Because illegal drugs are addictive by nature, just one try may be enough to get a person hooked. This is especially true for children and teenagers who have a family history of substance dependency.

Once substance use has already progressed to substance dependency, a purely psychological intervention may not be enough to get a user to stop. Because the body’s chemistry is already altered by repeated abuse of medication, detoxification at a rehabilitation facility may be needed before any psychological intervention can be carried out.  If this is the case, it’s best to consult a physician and/or a mental health practitioner specializing in substance abuse disorders.

Understanding Self-Harm

Hurting oneself on purpose seems to be an odd thing to do, yet the practice is growing in popularity among today’s teens. There is a reason for this: self-harm is a “harmless” way to reduce feelings of anxiety and angst. Due to the ease of modern communication among teenagers, word has caught on that this strategy works. It is cheap, easy and always available – unlike other methods of stress relief like drinking alcohol, taking drugs or even accessing counseling services! As a result, this disorder is highly influenced by peer behavior; when children learn that others they know are hurting themselves, they often experiment with this stress relief strategy themselves. Unfortunately, self-harm is a very dysfunctional behavior that often causes feelings of deep shame, helplessness and inadequacy in much the same way as other addictive behaviors do. For instance, bingeing and purging (overeating large amounts of food and then vomitting or using laxatives) also temporarily dispels anxiety but then causes those same painful emotions of shame, helplessness and inadequacy. Some people feel that self-harm is a cry for attention or help. Parents are naturally distressed to learn that their child has been hurting him or herself. Nonetheless, there is some comfort in knowing that self-harming actions are not necessarily related to suicidality. The goal of sufferers is to inflict minor pain, release endorphins and communicate to family members. Suicidal teenagers don’t practice self-harm; they practice killing themselves and sometimes succeed.

What is Self-Harm?
Self-harm is any action taken to cause oneself pain. Some people hit themselves – slapping their head, their face, their limbs or their body. Some people burn themselves. Some bite their skin or pick at it till it bleeds. Some use a sharp object to make small cuts on themselves – most commonly on their arms but also on other parts of the body.

Understanding the Paradox: Why Do People Do It?
When we are pain, such as when we experience a cut or burn, our brain releases natural pain relievers – endorphins – into the body. The chemicals associated with pain relief are also managers of mood. Hence, cutting and other methods of self-harm does bring some form of temporary relief to a person in distress. This temporary relief can get so addictive, that self-harm becomes a person’s first line of defense against emotions he or she can’t handle.

Experts also believe that there are psychological reasons why self-harm makes sense to the people who do it. Many times, cutting becomes some form of displacement. When emotional pain is too much to bear, “transforming” the emotional pain to physical pain makes it more manageable. Engaging in self-harm is also a way of validating that the pain one feels is real. There’s no evidence of inner distress, but seeing scars and burns are an acknowledgment that one is suffering.

In some cases, people engage in self-harm as an unconscious way of punishing themselves or a cry for attention. There are also situations when self-harm is an attempt to “feel something”; too much pain or trauma can numb one’s self. For people who engage in self-injury, self harm is better than feeling nothing.

Is Self-Harm a Suicide Attempt?
Not usually. However, people who self-harm are at additional risk for becoming suicidal. Therefore, parents need to take self-harming behaviors seriously.

While many who engage in self-harm report that they have no plans to kill themselves (they just want the temporary relief self-harm brings), they are always mentally unhealthy. Healthy people don’t hurt themselves. The mental health conditions typically associated with suicide attempts (e.g. clinical depression, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, severe anxiety) are often the same conditions that trigger self-harm. It is possible that self-harm activities are not suicidal in and of themselves, but if people are left alone to wallow in progressive mental illness, self-harming tendencies can progress to actual suicidality. Parents and mental health professionals are therefore recommended to take the cautious view and always treat the underlying emotions and mental health conditions of those who engage in self-harm.

What can Parents Do to Help a Child Who Engages in Self-Harm?
First off, be alert. Children and teens who self-harms take extra pains to hide what they are doing; you need to be a conscious and attentive parent to spot what’s going on. Symptoms of self-harm includes persistent wearing of clothing that hide common targets of self-harm such as the wrist, the upper arms and the chest; frequent “accidents” that explains injuries, a high need for privacy, implements like cutters, ropes or lighters in the bedroom, and symptoms of depression.

When you’ve confirmed that your child does engage in self-harm, it’s important that you raise the issue with him or her instead of hoping the behavior will go away on its own. Provide unconditional acceptance and a listening ear. And most importantly, arrange an appointment with a licensed mental health professional.

Drives Dangerously

A parent’s worry increases tenfold the moment a child finds his or her way  into the driver’s seat of the family vehicle. The risk of experiencing an accident is a very real one, with consequences ranging from financial annoyances all the way to serious and even fatal injuries. This risk increases significantly when a teen drives dangerously or irresponsibly.

How can parents help ensure that their child drives safely and defensively? Consider the following tips:

Be a Good Role Model
Driving responsibly is not just a matter of skill but also a matter of attitude, so make sure that from an early age, your child sees that you take road safety very seriously. Show that there is nothing that can make you deviate from a safe driving plan — even if you are already late going to a very important event. Your child should never see you engage in risky road behaviors like speeding, racing other cars, rolling through stop signs or running lights. Although your good model of mature and safe driving practices will not guarantee that your kids will do likewise, your poor model of irresponsible driving sends a clear message that road rules are for others to follow and your family is somehow exempt. This gives kids permission to take chances that could lead to disaster.

Driving is Not a Right But a Responsibility
Teens may have the idea that just because they are of age to obtain a license, they are already eligible to drive. However, you can show them that they have to earn your trust first, before they will be given the privilege of driving. For instance, you may want your child to show consistency in arriving home by curfew. You may want to see that he can give you contact information when he is out and about or that he is reliable about calling when he arrives at distant or unknown locations. You may want him to answer his cell phone when you call. These sorts of practices are more important when your child is a driver. Some parents want their driving child to be able to pay for gas, insurance or car usage as well. They want their child to have a job before they get behind the (expensive) wheel. It’s up to you to determine criteria that show trustworthiness and responsibility. However, if your child shows neither, you can expect various car-related challenges to occur on a regular basis.

Educate Your Child About the Dangers of Irresponsible Driving
Perhaps your child underestimates the dangers of driving without a seatbelt, driving while texting, racing on public roads, driving after consuming alcohol or drugs or cutting lanes. After all, if they have so far managed to get away scot-free with these behaviors, they may have an inflated sense of control over the situation. Show them examples of other teenagers who have met the negative consequences of driving irresponsibility. You may even organize a visit to the local traffic control center. Education is always the best way to protect one’s self from avoidable hazards. For instance, did you know that drivers age 15-20 years old accounted for 12% of drivers involved in fatal crashes in 2008? A picture is worth a thousand words; you can do some car crash research on the internet and insist that your child look at it with you.

Get Your Child a Safe Car
If you have worries over your child’s driving behavior, it’s best to ask them to stop driving until the have better skills or attitude. You can request that they take further driving lessons – the kind that addresses advanced skills and defensive driving. If your child gets speeding tickets, make sure that HE pays for them himself. If he gets into accidents, make sure that HE pays for costs involved (or contributes according to his means). When the cost or danger is repeated on several occasions, take away your child’s driving privileges for a period of time. Let him know he can try again in a few months. If, when he has the car again, the driving is equally poor, take away driving privileges for longer – he can try again in 6 months or a year (or when he’s completed his “safe driving” course upgrade). In addition, consider making sure that the vehicle the child drives rates high on safety features. A car that is easy to maneuver, and whose safety features are displayed prominently on the dashboard of the vehicle is recommended.

Bad Manners in Public

It’s bad enough when kids display bad manners at home but all the more upsetting when they behave that way in public! Most parents are mortified when other people can see how their kids eat with their mouth open, speak disrespectfully to grownups or sneeze without the benefit of a tissue.

But don’t worry: good manners can be learned (and taught!). If your child displays bad manners in public, consider the following tips:

Consider the Child’s Age
Bad manners are more common in certain age groups. For instance, pre-schoolers are quite impulsive and have trouble waiting. Consequently, this age group is prone to interrupting adults in order to get what they want or need at the moment. Since the behavior is age-appropriate, parents need to be gentle when offering education. “I know it’s hard to wait sometimes. When you see Mommy or Daddy speaking, just sit nearby and tap your fingers on your knees. Soon, Mommy or Daddy will stop talking and see you there and will be happy to help you with whateer you need.” If the child continues to interrupt despite the gentle instructions, parents might consider that the child is not yet ABLE to wait patiently. Older kids, however, have developed more impulse control and can be expected to be more restrained. Also, young children are used to shouting in the school playground and may not realize that shouting in a shopping mall or place of prayer is not equally acceptable. Some kids may slurp up their drinks in a noisy manner without realizing that there is another way. In general, young children must be taught how to display good manners – they’re not born knowing the rules of civilization. Patient guidance from parents is important. Using encouragement and positive reinforcement to encourage good manners is always the first route. Only if these fail to attain the desirable results would one move on to discipline.

Model Good Manners
The best way to teach good manners is for you to display them on a constant basis. If saying “good morning” or “good afternoon” is part of the family culture, then expect that your child will be greeting people courteously outside the home too. If some formality is present when you dine at home, then kids will practice table manners in public settings too. You can demonstrate how one answers a telephone politely, how one introduces oneself or other people, how one eats and so forth. You will still need to TEACH in addition to modelling. However, it will be very difficult to teach if you fail to provide the model of the behavior you are looking for!

Consider That Your Child is Misbehaving for Attention
Does your child have impeccable manners at home, but horrible manners when there’s an audience? If this is the case, consider the possibility that your child’s poor etiquette is his way of getting negative attention. When this happens, just ignore the bad manners; don’t reprimand or laugh. Also, be sure to give your child more positive attention both when he is behaivng appropriately and when he is just doing nothing wrong. When a child gets enough positive attention, he usually doesn’t try to get negative attention. However, if he feels that the only way he can get a parent to talk to him is to misbehave, then that is exactly what he’ll do.

Don’t Reprimand in Public
When a child shows bad manners in public, it’s tempting to reprimand — after all, people are watching! But reprimanding a child in public may backfire on you; your kids might feel embarrassed at being lectured or punished with an audience. Worse, you may be reprimanding when your child didn’t deliberately misbehave, but acted based on what they thought was right in that situation.  Indeed, it is ironic how ill-mannered a parent can appear when reprimanding a child publicly – some parents raise their voice, use unpleasant language or act gruffly. Such behavior can never instill good manners in a child! Instead of giving in to other people’s disapproving stares, wait until you both get home and gently teach alternative, more appropriate behaviors.

Reward the Exercise of Good Manners
You’d be surprised at how well a child will adapt a practice or behavior when he or she knows it pleases you! Praise your child when they practice courtesy and good manners, and provide a smile when they behave well. And if they did something really considerable, such as made a grandparent or a visitor feel good, then you can go for big rewards, like taking a visit to the ice cream parlor or buying a small gift.

Bad Manners at Home

Sometimes children have trouble following basic etiquette or displaying good manners. During meals, for instance, your child may eat with his hands or burp out loud (without so much as a “please excuse me!”). When playing with a friend or sibling, he may grab a toy without asking or refuse to share. When a parent speaks he may interrupt. He may pass wind when at home, without caring about whether anyone is present. However, no matter what specific issue your child has with manners, there is a way to help remediate it. Even though these behaviors may occur in the privacy of your home where no one might be upset by them, addressing them is still important. It’s a parent’s job to help socialize a child, giving the youngster the essential skills that will help him in life. Possessing good manners is one life skill that will always serve your child well.

If your child displays bad manners consistently consider the following tips

Be a Role Model and Educator
This is obvious, but important enough to state anyways. We aren’t always aware of ourselves, so we may not realize that we eat with our mouth open or talk with our mouth full – especially if no one ever complains to us. It’s easier to see such behaviors in our kids. When you correct your child you may occasionally hear something like, “You do the same thing!” If this happens, thank the youngster for pointing it out and then say something like, “I guess we’ll both have to work on this habit.” This goes for any form of bad manners: putting your shoes on the sofa, grabbing things out of people’s hands, eating before the others have arrived at the table, taking portions of food without offering to others and so on and so forth. It can be a fun project to get a book on etiquette (there are many excellent ones available) and read tiny sections of it to the family at dinner time (it might take a year or longer to finish!). It can be used to stimulate discussion as well as to learn about social standards of behavior.

Use the CLeaR Method and Other Positive Strategies
The CLeaR (comment, label, reward) Method can be used when your child has a real problem with manners. In the CLeaR method, a parent reinforces the child’s behavior through the use of positive comments, positive labels and, for a very short period, a simple reward. This method feels better and actually works better than the nagging method – the technique most parents use to correct their child’s poor manners. It is also more pleasant than using punishment to correct the negative behavior. Suppose you were trying to teach your youngster to eat with cutlery instead of his hands. The CLeaR Method might look something like this: If the child begins to eat inappropriate food with his hands, hand him a fork and then make a comment (“You’re using a fork!”) Then offer a label. (“You have good manners!”) Then offer a small reward. (“I think that deserves a special treat for dessert for everyone!”) When using the CLeaR Method to teach a behavior, refrain from using discipline for that behavior at the same time. (Learn more about how to use the CLeaR Method to replace punishment, nagging and ineffective interventions, in Raise Your Kids without Raising Your Voice by Sarah Chana Radcliffe.) In fact, it is best to refrain from correcting the child when he is doing the wrong thing (i.e. talking with his mouth full) altogether. Correction is a form of attention that can accidentally reinforce the undesirable behavior. For instance, every time a child uses his talks with his mouth full, the parent tells him “finish chewing before you speak.” This comment – even though it is a correction – is a form of attention for the child and, as such, can have the consequence of INCREASING the inappropriate behavior! Instead, either use the CLeaR Method for that child or give specific praise to another child at the table who happens to be eating with his mouth closed (“I like the way you are eating quietly with your mouth closed”). (By the way, you can “set the child up” for the CLeaR Method by quickly and quietly asking him to talk only after he’s finished chewing and then giving loud and clear CLeaR Method attention to him when he does that.)

Use Consequences
Children can misbehave for many reasons. Your child may have bad manners, not because he doesn’t know what to do, but because he is choosing not to do it. Always check that your communication with a youngster is within the ideal 80-20 Ratio – that is, 80% of what you are communicating, feels good to the youngster (90% for teenagers – see Raise Your Kids without Raising Your Voice for details on the 80-20 Rule). A good ratio reduces defiance and behavior problems in kids and teens. In addition, positive, good feeling, techniques should always be tried first when you want to educate a child. However, while such techniques will do an excellent job of education in most cases, they don’t ALWAYS provide a timely cure. If a child repeatedly displays a particular bad manner despite your positive efforts at eradicating it, it is time to try more traditional forms of “bad feeling” discipline such as the 2X-Rule (see Raise Your Kids without Raising Your Voice for details). Suppose, for instance, that your child enjoys burping at the table. You will inform the child that burping is not acceptable (except on rare accidental occasions, during which you say, ‘excuse me.’). After your information is delivered, the child will likely burp again at some point. Now you go to Step 2, telling him “from now on, when you burp at the table, you will have to leave for 5 minutes and then you can come back and try to behave at the table appropriately.” The third time the burp occurs and every time thereafter, a negative consequence will be applied. Use the same consequence for 3 or 4 occasions in order to see if it is being effective in reducing the rude behavior. If it isn’t, just announce that there will be a different consequence from now on. Use the new consequence for 3 or 4 times to see if the burping is happening less often. Continue to switch consequences only if you fail to see any improvement.

Use Bibliotherapy
Take some books or videos out of the library on the subject of good manners and read and discuss them with your kids. There are materials suitable for every age group, from the very young right up till adult! Explain the role of good manners. There are special films showing children of dignitaries how to behave appropriately. These can be entertaining as well as educational. As suggested above, you can read “Miss Manners” type books at the table and discuss with the family.

Consider Professional Help
If the bad manners are 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 mental health practitioner. Parents can also seek additional tips on how to deal with bad manners from a parenting professional.

Interrupts Frequently

Whether it’s because of poor manners or difficulty in impulse-control, kids often interrupt adults. It is the parents’ job to teach children how to wait patiently or, in case of true emergency, interrupt properly. After all, social skills are integral in a child’s personality development. Kids will find more social and relationship success when they know how to behave politely.

If you have a child who tends to interrupt others, consider the following tips:

Inform Kids Early That Interrupting is Not O.K.
Interrupting starts early and is best addressed early. Babies can interrupt conversations with their cries and there’s not much parents can do about that! However, toddlers can begin to learn that they are not the only one with needs. Two and three year-olds can be taught to recognize when adults are talking. “Mommy is talking with Daddy right now. Please wait a minute” or “Mommy is talking on the phone. Please wait a minute.” As the child grows, even more can be required of him. For instance, a pre-schooler can be taught to say “excuse me” – and can also be taught when to use this phrase and when to just wait instead. “If you need help you can say “excuse me” but if you just want to tell me something interesting, then please wait until you see that I have finished speaking.” School-age children are capable of distinguishing between true emergencies and “I want something right now,” so you can raise the bar even higher: “If there is a fire or something else dangerous that is happening, go ahead and say “Excuse me but there is a fire in the kitchen!” or something like that. Or, if someone is waiting for you at the door and you have to leave right away, you can say, “Excuse me, but someone is waiting for me – I need to ask permission for something right away” On the other hand, if you want to know if you can eat something or do something, then please wait until you see that I’ve finished speaking and then say, “Excuse me, can I ask you something?” Hopefully, by the time your child is an adolescent, you won’t need to to offer any more lessons on interruption! (Although, you may need to review what you’ve taught previously!).

Teach Kids How to Recognize Cues Signalling their Turn
Make sure that you child knows what  “interrupt” means! Use role-playing, puppets or dolls to illustrate what happens in a conversation. Demonstrate what a pause or “lull” in the conversation sounds like. Explain how to say “excuse me” and wait for a response.

Don’t Reward Interruptions with Attention
Some kids are prone to interrupting because they know that it is a strategy that “works” – they’ll get what they want. If this is the case, then it’s best to send the message as soon as you can that interrupting is not an effective way of getting needs met. Tell your interrupting child “I’m talking to so & so right now” and then ignore him until you are ready to deal with his concern. Try to refrain from giving attention even if the child starts to tantrum. Try not to show irritation or upset (since that is also a form of attention). Don’t reprimand or punish. Instead, reward the behavior that you approve of (waiting patiently and saying “excuse me” at the right time). If parents consistently reinforce the behavior of waiting for one’s turn, then they will eventually see more of it in their children. If after using this strategy for some time, your child still interrupts, then change strategies. You can use discipline to eradicate interruptions. Make a rule: “From now on, when you interrupt me to ask a question, the answer will be an automatic ‘no.'” Or, “From now on, when you interrupt me when I am speaking with someone, I will not answer you and you will have to write out ‘I wait my turn before speaking’ ten times” (or pick any other negative consequence that you want to use – see Raise Your Kids without Raising Your Voice by Sarah Chana Radcliffe for appropriate suggestions). Be consistent with consequences if you decide to use them and your child will quickly learn not to interrupt.

Give Your Child Quality Time
Kids love to share stories, and they may be constantly interrupting you because they like to tell you things. Make sure that you do give your child time so that they can tell you everything they want to tell you. If parent-child bonding time is regular, then there’ll be less need for frequent interruptions.

Provide Ways to Manage Excitement While Waiting
The behavior of interrupting frequently may be due to poor impulse control. Kids get so excited, they can’t contain what they want to say! As alternative to giving in to one’s impulses, parents can teach their children ways to manage frustration tolerance. For example, parents can give children a recorder so that they can document their stories during moments when there’s no one they can speak with. Parents may also teach children to count from 1 to 10 while waiting, write out their message (if they’re old enough to write!), or play with toys that are nearby until you are available.

Consider Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder or ADHD
If your child’s interrupting behavior is excessive, chronic and appears across all settings, then consider the possibility that your child may have ADHD. ADHD appears before a child is 7 years old, and symptoms typically last for more than 6 months. If you suspect that your child has ADHD, then do consult a mental health professional for an assessment. When ADHD is properly treated, it will be easier for the child to refrain from interrupting parents and others.

When Your Child is Wild

Some children have LOTS of energy! If they don’t literally hang from the chandeliers, buy they certainly do so figuratively – running around, shrieking, and maybe even being a little destructive in their impulsivity. While they may be happy, their parents are not. Parents of Wild Ones are always trying to figure out ways to calm their youngsters down.

If your child is wild, consider the following tips:

Excessive Energy is All Relative
Toddlers and pre-schoolers tend to have lots and lots of energy. Their wild behavior is actually normal for their age group. Since they are not yet totally socialized – that is, they don’t know the rules of proper behavior – they often follow their impulses. They’ll open cupboard doors, throw things around, experiment with whatever they find – not because they’re naughty, but simply because they are normal, inquisitive, small kids. However, this same kind of behavior in an older child may actually indicate the presence of a developmental disorder. For instance, ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) can cause wild behavior in both children and teens. Asperger’s Syndrome, autism, bi-polar depression and other syndromes can also lead to wild behavior. Of course, mildly wild behavior can just be a personality issue; a child may just be very active and a little impulsive without having any biological condition of concern. This latter kind of wild behavior should respond well to the interventions below. However, if it doesn’t, then speak to your pediatrician. A proper assessment may be helpful.

Avoid Negative Labels
Don’t call your wild child a wild child! Labels like “wild,” “destructive,” “immature,” and so on, have a way of sticking in the child’s brain. The more a parent calls a child “wild,” the wilder that child will tend to be. Labels affect self-concept and self-concept leads to behavior. Therefore, even when correcting a wild child, use words like “calm,” “restrained,” “slow,” “careful” and “self-control.” For instance, a parent can tell a child who is running madly and loudly around the house, “Jason, you need to go slowly, carefully and quietly right now. Please calm down. Use your self-control.”

Minimize Attention to Wild Behavior
Don’t get wild yourself! Speak quietly and slowly to a wild child – lower your voice. Your intensity can accidentally reinforce wild behavior by giving it too much attention, whereas your restrained and calm demeanor can rub off (a little, anyways) on your youngster.

Use Emotional Coaching
Let your child know that you understand his feelings. He wants to run around and enjoy himself. Show him that you understand that by articulating his feelings (i.e. “I know you want to run around now.”). Avoid using the word “but” after you speak his feelings (i.e. “I know you want to run around now but it’s making a lot of noise.”). Using the word “but” is akin to saying “I know you want to do this, but I don’t care!” Put a “period” after your acknowledgment and start a completely new sentence if you want to give your youngster instructions. It might sound like this: “I know you are having fun running around. You need to settle down now and play more quietly.”

Use the CLeaR method
Reinforce positive behavior with the CLeaR method. When your child plays normally and is not wild, make a comment to show you noticed his behavior. Then give him a positive label (and perhaps a reward) to reinforce such behavior in the future. A sample dialogue would be, “You’re walking slowly and carefully.” (Comment), “That’s very mature of you!” (Label), “You can play outside for a bit longer today because I see you are working on your calm behavior!” (Reward). 

Use Discipline (2X-Rule)
In the 2X Rule, the child is told to continue a behavior (in this case, being too wild.) Then if the child continues this behavior, he is warned that there will be a consequence issued the next time he ignores the warning. For instance, you might say, “You need to play quietly and calmly. If you continue to run around, you will have to sit in a chair beside me for a few minutes until you have calmed down.” When faced with a consequence, children are more likely to think about what they are doing before they do it. You can find more information on the 2X Rule in Raise Your Kids without Raising Your Voice by Sarah Chana Radcliffe.

Use Bach Flower Remedies
Bach Flower Therapy is a harmless water-based naturopathic treatment that can improve behavior. For a wild child, you can use the flower remedy Impatiens (for kids who race around). Chestnut Bud is the remedy for kids who act this way over and over again with no sign of improvement (and also for those who engage in dangerous and destructive activities). For children with too much energy, try the remedy Vervain. You can mix several remedies together in one treatment bottle. To do so, 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 (to prevent the development of bacteria). 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 should improve permanently.

Many “wild” children outgrow this behavior as they grow up. Even children with ADHD whose hyperactivity is wired into their brains tend to become fidgety, rather than racey, as they mature. However, many wild kids are not suffering from hyperactivity, but rather immaturity. Their condition simply improves as they mature. However, if your child is ten years-old or older and still very wild, consider consulting a mental health practitioner for assessment and treatment ideas. It is possible that social skills training may be helpful.

Is Your Teen Ready for a Car?

When teens get old enough to drive, the question arises: are they old enough to get their own car? Not every parent can afford to give their teenager the gift of a vehicle and not every teenager can afford to buy his or her own car. However, there are many parents and teens who can manage the expenses involved and for them the question becomes, should they do it? Is a teenager really ready to be responsible for a vehicle?

If you’re a parent considering getting or allowing your child to have his or her own car, consider the following tips:

Gauge His or Her Driving Skills
If safety is your concern, then the first thing to do is assess your teen’s driving skills. If your teen was able to get a license to drive, then at the very least you know he or she has the basics. However, many new drivers get into accidents simply due to lack of experience behind the wheel. How long has your child been driving? There’s a big difference between driving 6 months and 3 years. Ask the insurance companies! In fact, you can ask your insurance company to help you assess the accident risk of a teenager your child’s age and gender. That can help you decide whether to permit your child to have a car at all and also whether that car, if you decide to go ahead with it, should be a brand new luxury product or a clunker that you can afford to lose.

Suppose you are not quite confident that your child is road-ready, despite what the licencing bureau has said. Your child is not the only one at risk. Anyone who drives in the car with him or her (like your other children or others) is at equal risk, as are all the other “innocent” drivers on the road and pedestrians on the sidewalks. Driving is serious, life-threatening business. Therefore, you want to be very sure that your child can handle the responsibility of being behind the wheel. Do you want your child to have more experience before handing him or her a set of keys? If so, explain your concerns and give him or her opportunities to strengthen driving skills. Designate this child as family driver for a pre-agreed period of time, helping out with errands and short local trips. Once he or she is familiar with the roads in your neighborhood, then go ahead and extend the excursions. Drive with your child to get an idea of their driving abilities.

Note Your Child’s Attitude
Skill is one thing; attitude is another. Many accidents on the road are caused, not by drivers who lack skill, but drivers who are reckless. It’s important then to ask yourself, does your child have the right attitude for driving?

Parents can assess their children pretty accurately by asking themselves some simple questions such as the following: Are they prone to impulsive behavior? Are they competitive to the degree that they ignore their own safety, or other’s well-being? Are they temperamental, hot-headed, or unable to manage their emotions? Or perhaps they’re easy to distract, and can often be found unproductively juggling several things at once. Are they easily influenced by their peers? Are they more concerned about their social life than their responsibilities (like schoolwork, family responsibilities, jobs and so on)? Do they drink or take drug? Do they respect the law? Can they take serious things seriously? Are they trustworthy? Do they have a way to pay for vehicle-related expenses (including the cost of the vehicle, licences and permits, upkeep and repairs)? Have they managed to hold down a job and save up their money?

If you spot an attitude that might possibly pose as a driving risk, discuss it with your youngster. You have the right to say, “I feel that such & such behavior can pose a driving risk and I’m not comfortable at this time with you having a car. We need to wait until we see that this behavior is straightened out.” For instance, if your daughter has had difficulty respecting her curfew for the last year, and has been suspended from school recently for skipping classes with friends, you might feel that she is not ready for the responsibility of her own car. Or, if your son has borrowed money from you on several occasions and has had trouble keeping his commitment to pay it back, you may feel that he is not ready for the financial aspects of car ownership. Whatever your reason, remember that ultimately YOU will be responsible for whatever goes wrong on the road. Your teenager is still a dependent child even if he or she CAN drive! Make sure YOU are ready for your child to own a car.

It’s better that you teenagers know why you’re hesitant in getting them a car, rather than have them think that you’re being stingy or mean. Many things can be corrected, if you just invest time in teaching your teen the values and traits you’d like them to acquire. Send them for professional counseling if you feel that there are serious issues that require correction. And remember that each additional year of life brings another year of experience and, hopefully, maturity. Waiting a bit may be appropriate. You might even be able to employ the idea of a new  car as an opportunity to guide your child toward increased maturity. The vehicle becomes more than just as symbol of their journey to adulthood but an actual part of that journey!

Helping Teens Who Hurt Themselves

Self-injurious behavior is any action that is intended hurt one’s own body. Teens engage in all sorts of self-injurious behavior, vialis 40mg including cutting their body, vcialis 40mg hitting themselves, dosage burning themselves, pulling out their hair, picking at their skin, poking at themselves and so on.

Why Do Kids Do It?
A teenager may use self-injury after a devastating or stressful event. The young person doesn’t always know how to deal with deeply troubling feelings in a healthy way.  Physical injury acts as a visible representation of emotional (internal and invisible) pain. It can also show others, without the use of words, that nurturing and solace is needed. Unfortunately, the act of self injuring only provides temporary relief, and once the physical wound heals the emotional pain returns full force.

More Reasons for Self Injury
Self-injury is often used to end the painful sensation of emotional apathy or numbness. It “wakes” a person up and allows some sort of feelings to flow again. Emotional numbing is an automatic defense process that occurs to people who have been badly emotionally wounded. For instance, many victims of physical, sexual or emotional abuse experience periods of numbing (sometimes alternating with periods of emotional flooding).

Moreover, the guilt and confusion that can occur from childhood abuse is often overwhelming. Sometimes adolescents “punish” themselves for being “bad” assuming that they must have deserved the abusive treatment they received. Self injury is then a form of self-abuse that is consistent with the youngster’s self-concept.

In addition, causing oneself pain can be a way of “taking control” of one’s situation. Sometimes a teenager feels very out of control, either due to abuse or due to other stresses. By initiating a physical injury, he or she has stopped being a helpless victim of circumstances. Instead of waiting for lightning to strike and burn them, these children strike the match themselves. In a superstitious sort of way, they might also think that the injury can prevent something worse from happening in their lives.

Teens also quickly discover that their behavior can control those around them. People react. Parents may stand up and take notice, seek therapy, feel guily. Friends may give extra attention or they may back off. The teen creates a tumult. It is a minor victory over helplessness.

Who Hurts Themselves?
Today, many kids hurt themselves. It is a social phenomenon. Once a teenager discovers a friend who engages in self-injury, she is more likely to try this form of communication herself. The most likely candidates for self injury include those whose expression of emotion (particularly anger) was discouraged during childhood, those who have a limited social support system, and those who have other mental health diagnoses such as OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder), eating disorders, substance abuse and depression.

What are the Most Common Ways that Teens Hurt Themselves?

  • Cutting – When one makes cuts or scratches on their body with sharp objects such as knives, needles, razor blades or fingernails. The most frequent parts of the body that are harmed are the arms, legs, and the front of the torso because they are easy to reach and can be concealed under clothing.
  • Branding – When one burns themselves with a hot object or, Friction burn which is rubbing a pencil eraser on one’s skin.
  • Picking at skin or reopening wounds (Dermatillomania) – This is an impulse control disorder which is recognized by the constant impulse for one to pick at their own skin. It is usually done to the point that injury is caused which acts as a source of gratification or stress reliever.
  • Hair Pulling (trichotillomania) – An impulsive control disorder which appears to be a habit, addiction, or an obsessive compulsive disorder. It involves pulling hair out from any part of the body. When hair is pulled from the scalp the results are patchy bald spots on their head. Usually they wear hats or scarves to cover up their baldness. Irregular levels of serotonin or dopamine play a possible role in hair pulling.
  • Bone breaking, punching, or head banging – Usually seen with autism or severe mental retardation.
  • Numerous piercings or tattoos – Can be a self injurious activity if it involves pain and/or stress relief.

Is Self-Injury a Suicide Attempt?
When a person causes injury upon themselves it is usually done without suicidal intentions, yet there have been cases where accidental deaths have happened. When a person self injures they do it as a means to reduce stress. People who self injure themselves usually possess a faulty sense of self value and these harsh feelings can whirlwind into a suicidal attempt. Often the intentions of self harm can go too far and it is at that point where professional intervention is necessary.

How to Help a Self Injurer:

  • Understand that self injurious behavior is a need to have control over oneself and it is a self comforting act
  • Show the person that you care about them and that you want to listen to them
  • Encourage them to express their emotions, especially anger
  • Spend quality time doing activities that are pleasurable
  • Help them seek out a therapist or support group
  • Avoid judgmental remarks

How Can Teens Help Themselves?

  • Realize that it is a problem and that there are probably issues that are hurting on the inside that need professional guidance
  • Realize that self harm is not about being a bad person, rather understanding that this behavior which is seemingly helping is becoming a significant issue
  • Seek out a mentor that can help. This could be a friend, Rabbi, minister, counselor, or relative or any other person you feel comfortable talking to about this issue
  • Seek help to understand what triggers these behaviors
  • Understand that self inuring behaviors are a way to self calm and learn better ways to calm yourself

Treatments for Self Injury
Psychotherapy is recommended for kids who hurt themselves. Sometimes medication will also be helpful. A psychological assessment by a qualified mental health practitioner can determine the most appropriate course of action in each case. Here are some of the common treatments for teens who self injure:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy. This helps a person understand why they hurt themselves in healthier ways.
  • Therapies that deal with post traumatic stress disorder such as EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing)
  • Hypnosis or self-relaxation
  • Group therapy which helps minimize shame, and helps express emotion in a healthy way
  • Family therapy which can trace back to history of family stress and helps families deal with their family member who self injures in a non judgmental way. It also teaches them how to communicate more effectively with each other and reduces parent-child conflicts and relationship difficulties.
  • Antidepressants or anti anxiety medications to reduce the impulsivity of the of the action while the self injurer is going for therapy
  • In critical situations, a self injurer needs to be hospitalized with various approaches along with a team of professionals

Do Teens Recover From Self-Injury?
Yes! With proper treatment, the prognosis is excellent. Self-injury can be the crisis that brings a family to therapy. This is often a turning point in the family’s life, helping not only the self-injuring teen, but also other members of the family to reach higher levels of emotional well-being than ever before.