Child Pulls Down Another Child’s Pants

When you go to pick up your 4 year-old from daycare, the teacher gives you some unpleasant news: your little pre-schooler has pulled down a playmate’s pants. Embarrassed, your child’s victim cried till his mommy picked him up a little while ago. Meanwhile, your son is still running around the classroom laughing. Even though he was reprimanded immediately and sent to the “thinking chair” for 15 minutes, he doesn’t seem to be remorseful.

How should you react? Is a child pulling down other kids’ pants a serious matter? Is your child a deviant? Has he been sexually abused? Why isn’t he feeling guilty or ashamed of himself?

First off, the good news. When it comes to really young children like toddlers and pre-schoolers, pulling down another child’s pants rarely has anything to do with sexual malice or sexual maladjustment. In all likelihood your child thought that it would be a funny thing to do, and the ensuing laughter by peers probably confirmed his or her belief. Targets of pants-pulling tend to be random playmates; in young children, attacking someone in this way is not generally an act of deliberate aggression against someone they do not like. (This is not equally true for older kids, however. For instance, a 10 year-old who pulls down another child’s pants may very well be targeting an “enemy” or otherwise engaging in angry, bullying behavior.)

This said, it’s still a behavior worth correcting. Correcting the behavior is an opportunity to educate your child about issues of privacy, in a way that is appropriate to his or her age. Most importantly, a child who pulls down a playmate’s pants is lacking in the trait of empathy. To help a child acquire more empathy, use the technique of “emotional coaching” on a regular basis. This skill essentially involves naming a child’s feelings BEFORE solving problems or addressing issues. Naming feelings can take place all day long. For instance, when a child says, “I don’t want to wear my gloves today,” a parent can name feelings BEFORE deciding what to do about the gloves. It might sound like this, “I know. It’s a bother to pull those gloves on and off all the time. It can be annoying, right?” Then the parent can “solve” the glove problem any which way he or she desires. For instance, “You’ve had a cold this week and I really think the gloves are important to help you get better and stay better. I’d like you to put them on anyways.” Or, “You don’t have to wear them, but I’d like you to take them so that you have them in case you get cold.” When you tell a child to stop calling his brother names and the child says, “He broke my model!” you can name feelings FIRST before solving the brother problem. “That must be so frustrating! You really worked hard on that model. No wonder you are upset with him!” Now solve the problem whichever way you want. For instance, “However, you still can’t call him names. You can tell him you don’t like what he did and you can tell me if you need help. You can tell him that you aren’t going to play with him tonight because you’re upset. You just can’t insult him or hurt him, do you understand?” Of course, you may also use discipline to discourage the child from name-calling. You can discipline the child who broke the model and so on. The step of emotional coaching has been shown in large research studies to help improve a child’s emotional intelligence, making him more empathetic to others and more socially aware. This helps prevent misbehaviors like pulling down people’s pants!

The following are some tips on how to deal with a child caught pulling down another kid’s pants:

Find Out Where Your Child Learned to Do It
Start by asking your child where he or she got the idea to pull their playmate’s pants. Did your child see it on television? Then explain that certain things on T.V. are not O.K. (and perhaps try to supervise your child’s T.V. experience more closely till he is a little older). Did someone else in the playground start it, and your child just followed along? Then maybe teaching them about not joining unacceptable behavior is in order. Or was your child dared by an older sibling? Then you may need to have a talk with your other child as well.

Explain Why Pants-Pulling is Wrong
Young children are likely still unaware that their behavior is wrong. Take the opportunity to teach them about privacy, and emphasize why it’s important for kids to respect it. Explain that people wear clothes like pants and underpants because they don’t want to be naked around people who are not in their family (keep in mind that toddlers and preschoolers are often naked in their own homes while they are getting dressed and undressed and when having their baths). Share how pulling down another child’s pants at school or in the park can make that child feel exposed, upset, emabarrassed and uncomfortable.

Ask How They Would Feel if Someone Else Pulled Down Their Pants
To encourage empathy, ask your child how he would have felt if the situations were reversed, if it was HIS pants that were pulled down. How would he feel if other kids laughed at him? More often than not, your child will say that he will not like it. Teach him “The Golden Rule” – do not do unto others that which you don’t want done to you!

Use Discipline
To help reinforce the lesson, tell your child that you do not want this to happen again. Let your youngster know that if you find out that he has done this again, he will have a punishment at home (tell him exactly what punishment you have in mind – for instance, losing dessert, going to bed early, losing T.V. or computer privileges or whatever you think is appropriate and would act as a deterrent).

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.

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.

Child Doesn’t Answer Cellphone

Parents can find comfort in modern technology. Whereas “in the olden days,” letting children and teens go out into the night might have caused parents extreme worry and anxiety, today parents can keep in touch with their kids 24/7 through mobile phones. Of course, there’s still no guarantee that all is well, but the ability to check in does provide some peace of mind.

But what if your child doesn’t answer his or her cell phone? Should parents become immediately alarmed? Does not picking up mean that your child is in danger or hiding something?

Not always! There are many possible reasons why a child might not answer a parent’s call. The following are some of these reasons, alongside tips on how parents can handle the situation:

Your Child is Not Mindful of the Phone
Although this one is rare, it is still something to be considered: some kids are so attached to their cell phone, it’s practically welded to their palm. But there are also children who barely pay attention to their mobile, and merely have it on silent or vibrate mode somewhere in their bag. If your child is not expecting a call from you, it’s not unlikely that he or she just didn’t bother to check if anyone is calling.

If this is the case, the best thing for parents to do is to advise their child that they plan to ring, so that the child knows to always keep his or her phone handy.

It’s Not Convenient for Your Child to Answer the Phone
Sometimes, it’s just not the right place or time to answer the phone. Your child can be inside the cinema with friends, out in the field playing football, or crossing the street on a busy road. In the same way that you can’t be expected to answer your phone during these times, it’s unreasonable to expect your child to accommodate you.

What’s best is to ask your child where he or she is going so that you will know if ringing is advisable. If you know your child’s itinerary, then you would know when to ring. True, your child can always lie about the location in order to avoid your calls. But this is also a great exercise in trusting your child. Unless your child has a history of lying about his or her whereabouts, there’s really no reason not to take what your child says at face value.

You can also establish a rule on call backs. For example, you can contract with your child an agreement to call back within 30 minutes of a missed call. With such a rule in place, you won’t immediately panic when you don’t get a response. Of course, the 30 minute rule won’t necessarily solve the problem if your child is out watching a movie with friends, but it can still be helpful in most cases.

Your Child Already Knows That He or She is in Trouble
Sometimes kids don’t answer their cell phone because they sense that you are probably already angry at the other end of the line. If they’re out way after their curfew for example, it’s possible that they would avoid responding to your calls to avoid further stress.

If this is the case, explain to your child the effect of their behavior on you. Sometimes, kids don’t realize that parental anger is born out of being worried sick and fearing the worst. Tell them that whatever their offense may be, it would still be outweighed by relief in confirming that they are well and safe. Emphasize how answering your call at all times is a must.

In order to encourage your child to answer even when he or she is past curfew, be careful to avoid raging and unpleasant criticism. When your child answers be calm, polite and concerned. Take up discipline issues the next day, when everyone is awake and relaxed.

Your Child is Embarrassed to Answer the Phone
It’s also possible that your child is embarrassed to be seen talking to a parent. This is especially likely during the teenage years when kids are experimenting with their identity and their autonomy. Peers can tease them about always being “on a tight leash” or “being a mamma’s boy.” When this happens, your child may prefer to switch off his or her mobile rather than be caught talking to a parent.

Parents who are respectful of their kids’ feelings will have better communication and cooperation in the long run. Therefore, show understanding if your child claims to be embarrassed. Ask your child to suggest reasonable solutions. Keep in mind that teenagers are almost grown up and like grownups, they don’t want someone checking up on them every few hours. Perhaps you should be using the phone only for true emergencies and not to find out where your child is and what he is up to. Let your child go out and come home – don’t call! However, if your child is young or inexperienced, you can ask that he or she calls you when he or she arrives safely at a destination. For older teens, this isn’t necessary. In short, avoid acting like your child needs excessive supervision unless the child has already shown you through repetitive irresponsible behavior that this is truly the case. If your child has already established a track record of reasonable behavior, responsibility and appropriate maturity – let him or her go out and have a good time. There’s no need to call.

When to Get Involved in Your Child’s Social Life

Everyone has social challenges – even adults! It’s not surprising then, that kids have plenty of social issues. Sometimes they fight with others, sometimes others fight with them. Sometimes they are bullied. Sometimes they are rejected. Often, they experience some kind of shyness, insecurity or even social anxiety. Kids form cliques; there’s the in-crowd and the out-crowd. There’s peer pressure to contend with. The challenges are endless! Parents often worry about their kids, naturally wishing to save them from the pain that can be caused by social problems. When should parents step in? When should they stay back?

If you’re not sure whether or not to get involved in your child’s social life, consider the following tips:

Consider Whether or Your Child Does or Does Not NEED Your Help
Saving your child from pain is not the only consideration you should have. Keep in mind that a little pain is tolerable for children and it might even be a useful source of learning and positive development. Instead of rushing to rescue your child from a difficult social situation, ask yourself whether or not your child is able to rescue him or herself. How old is your youngster? Two year olds usually have limited resources. If a bigger child is teasing them or – worse – hurting them, they are sure to need adult intervention. On the other hand, if another two year old is not being nice to them, it is possible that they can find ways to defend themselves or solve the problem on their own (i.e. move away or frighten the offender). Similarly, older kids can usually learn to handle everyday difficulties perpetrated by their same-age peers. Being bullied, however, is a different story. When there is a serious emotional or physical threat, adults usually do need to step in.

If you feel that your child lacks the skills to solve a social problem, it’s preferable to provide the skills rather than to solve the problem for her. For instance, suppose your 10 year-old daughter is the only girl in the class who has not been invited to a classmate’s sleepover party. Your child is devastated. You might be tempted to call the classmate’s mother and let her know how your daughter feels. However, why not help your daughter to tackle the problem herself? She can either speak to the girl directly or write a brief note. For instance, “Dear Sue, I know that you are having a sleepover party and have invited everyone in the class except me. I know that you and I are not really friends, but I don’t think we are enemies either. If I had a party, I would invite you if I was inviting everyone else. I know you are a good person and you would never purposely hurt anybody. I’m sure you did not realize how much this would embarrass me and hurt my feelings. I haven’t spoken to anyone about it. I am wondering if you could change your mind and invite me to the party. I would be happy to bring some snacks along for all the girls and I would really be so grateful to you for including me. Sincerely, Tanya.” If “Sue” doesn’t change her mind, then you would help your child come to terms with the fact that there are mean people in the world. You would help her to learn from this how important it is to include everyone.

Helping your child find a way to deal with a social challenge is appropriate when your child has the necessary communication skills (like the ability to write a short letter). A younger child will need more of your help and often, more parent-to-parent intervention. A teenager can almost always be taught what to do and do it by him or herself.

Choosing Your Child’s Friends
Children choose their own friends. However, parents can make introductions. Parents often move into a specific neighborhood or choose a specific school in order to provide certain kinds of friends for their kids. Parents may also make play-dates for toddlers, preschoolers and other very young children. However, children decide who they like and don’t like. This poses a challenge for parents as the kids get older. Some children choose friends that their parents don’t approve of. Sometimes, parents feel that a particular child is having a bad influence on their own child. In such cases, parents often attempt to discourage the friendships in one way or another – sometimes even forbidding associations out of school. The problem with this approach is that forbidden relationships are all the more tempting. Moreover, it’s not the child’s fault that he or she is drawn to the wrong crowd. Preferences for people are made at the subconscious level; something draws a child to another person or group of people. If you think that your child is making poor choices, try to help your child’s inner world. The healthier a child is psychologically, the healthier choices he or she will make in friends. To bolster your child’s psychological health, make sure you follow the 80-20 Rule (See Raise Your Kids without Raising Your Voice by Sarah Chana Radcliffe) – or the 90-10 Rule for teens. This ratio ensures that you have a positive, warm, loving relationship with your child and this is very conducive for your child’s emotional health. Reduce anger and criticism to nearly zero! The more your child likes you and identifies with you, the more he or she will choose friends that YOU would approve of.  If you feel that you must forbid a particular social connection, then make sure you explain exactly why to your child. Make sure that your child experiences your love, rather than your controlling side. For instance, instead of “I absolutely forbid you to see Terry again.” try, “I know how much you enjoy being with Terry. However, I have to ask you not to spend any more time with Terry because you are learning things that can get you into serious trouble. I feel that I have to help you stay away from this person and if I find that you are spending time with Terry, you and I will have to talk about negative consequences. I hope that you know how much I love you and I hope that by now, you trust my judgment.” When you have a good relationship with your child (which is why the 80-20 Rule is vital), you have much more power to influence your child’s choices.

If Your Child Mismanages Friendships
Sometimes you may feel that your child is mishandling a social relationship. You want him or her to strengthen a friendship but your child seems to be careless, not bothering to treat the friend properly. You worry that the child will lose the friend; perhaps you even lose sleep over it. It’s fine for parents to offer their child information. For instance, go ahead and talk to your child about how friendships are built and maintained. Explain your concerns about his or her current behavior. However, be mindful not to repeat yourself. Assume that your child heard you the first time! If your child does not choose to heed you advice and, as a consequence, loses the friendship, he or she will know better for next time. No matter who this friend is, he or she is NOT the only human left on the planet. Your child can make other friends. Even if this particular person was an excellent kid, the best you could hope for in a child’s friend, keep in mind that there are other good kids out there. You simply cannot control your child to the extent that you run his or her social life. Instead of trying to do so, give your “normal” child credit where credit is due: he or she can learn to build relationships in his or her own good time.

Sometimes, parents find themselves worrying far into the night about their child’s friends and relationships. In this case, professional consultation might help to determine whether there really is something to worry about and if so what sort of interventions and strategies might be helpful.

Clothing and Fashion Issues in Teens

Fashion means a lot to teenagers – either in the sense that they desperately need to wear the latest and greatest styles that their peers are wearing, or in the sense that they just as desperately want to rebel against peer pressure and refuse to wear what everyone else is wearing. Either way, parents must take their teen’s feelings about fashion seriously. We adults have equally strong feelings about what we’ll wear or not wear in our own social settings; we certainly shouldn’t make light of our children’s issues about clothing. Moreover, it is likely that teens will want you to supply them with at least some of their clothes. You will be involved not only in paying for clothing but also in endorsing or veto-ing it as well. Fashion can be the subject of much parent-adolescent conflict or the venue for happy shopping sprees and positive bonding. Let’s take a look at how parents can help avoid the former and increase the frequency of the latter.

Consider the following:

Respect Your Teen’s Quest for Individuality
Has your teen been sporting purple hair, a nose ring and an all-black ensemble? Good! The get-up may be giving you the shakes, but remember that at this point in your teen’s life, experimenting with different “identities” is a healthy part of the journey towards individuality and autonomy. As long as your child’s safety and health are not compromised, opt to be supportive instead of critical. In most cases, kids do outgrow their teenage fashion taste and end up wearing sensible clothing in adulthood (remember what YOU used to wear?)

Teach Your Teen to be a Smart Shopper
Peer pressure is strong during the teenage years, and many marketers of teen clothing know this. They will package their wares as something that is ‘in”, “must have” and patronized by practically all other teenagers in the planet. Teach your teen to be a wary consumer, capable of independent research and independent thinking. Help your child learn the in’s and out’s of bargain hunting by giving him or her a set amount of money to spend on whatever clothing he or she needs for that season (“Here’s X dollars. Buy as many shirts and pants as you can with it.”). Your child will soon discover that it is fun to figure out how to get 3 outfits for the price of 1 or how to get brand-name products at bargain basement prices.

Take the Opportunity to Teach Your Child about Healthy Body Image
Eating disorders are gaining prevalence today, mostly because the media portrays thinness as the universal standard for beauty. If you can, shop for clothes with your teen. Teach your child how to pick clothing that flatters his or her body type. If you can make your teen feel attractive without having to succumb to a distorted standard of what is ideal, then you might help prevent him or her from succumbing to an eating disorder. You can also bring books home from your local library that offer fashion advice for different body types. Leave such materials around the house or in the bathroom and just let your adolescent pick them up and scan them. It’s great for kids to learn about fashion at this tender stage of life – to know what colors might flatter their own coloring, what styles might flatter their body type, what accessories can make all the difference and so on.

Present the Line Between Tasteful and Tawdry
Teens dress up to impress the opposite sex. You might notice your child wearing very tight or very skimpy clothing that you think is more appropriate for the bedroom than the classroom. Be careful as to how you convey this information! You want to maintain a positive parent-child relationship as you teach your youngster the basics of good taste. Start off with praise, as in “You really know how to pick the right colors!” Then ask for permission to give feedback, as in “Would it be O.K. if I shared some thoughts I have about this outfit?” This puts the child in a “yes” frame of mind. Then, cautiously and carefully offer feedback and advice, as in “I honestly think that showing that much skin gives the wrong message. I think it tells people to focus on your body parts instead of on you. I mean, I think you have a great body, but you’re so much more than that! And I know that this is just how kids like to dress nowadays and your friends wear this too. Still, I think that you can convey that you’re attractive and with it, but that you’re also a person and not just a body. For instance, if you cover this up here, the overall look is the same great look, but the message is quite different. What do you think about what I am saying?” Obviously, this kind of approach is very different from the yelling-at-the-top-of-your-lungs approach that “NO CHILD OF MINE IS LEAVING THE HOUSE LOOKING LIKE THAT!”  It is more respectful and it attempts to elicit understanding and cooperation on the child’s part. However, if your child just doesn’t get it, it’s certainly fine for you to set limits. However, you can still be respectful. If necessary, it might sound like, “Sweetheart, when you’re a grownup you can wear whatever you want, but while you’re a teenager in this house, I reserve the right to prohibit certain outfits that I think are just not appropriate. I can’t let you wear that. Now I understand that you are a free person and when you leave the house you can go borrow the same outfit from your friend and wear it out and there’s little I can do about that except appeal to your better judgment. I’m asking you not to wear it because I love you, not because I hate you! No matter what you decide to do, however, I cannot have you wearing it in this house at any time.” If you have a good relationship with your teen, chances are good that he or she will respect your wishes. That is why it is so important to always be respectful and maintain a good relationship. As soon as you lose the relationship, you lose your power to influence your child in the right direction.

Child Won’t Wear Glasses

Corrective eye wear – glasses or lenses – are often prescribed for children to help correct their vision problems. In some cases, a child needs eyeglasses because he or she is near-sighted; that is, the child has difficulty seeing objects that are far away. In other cases, the opposite is true. A child may be far-sighted (also called long-sighted); he or she has more difficulty clearly seeing objects that are close (like books). Nearsightedness is often accompanied by astigmatism, a condition that causes sometimes causes blurry vision, squinting and/or headaches.

If your child needs glasses but won’t wear them, what can you do about it? Consider the following tips:

Ask Them Why They Refuse to Wear Their Glasses
Different kids have different reasons for refusing to wear prescription eyeglasses, so don’t immediately assume defiance or misbehavior! Some kids just find it irritating to wear something on their face. Others think it makes them appear “nerdy” or “un-cool.” Some kids may be reacting to teasing by peers; being called “owl-face” or “four-eyes” can be very upsetting to sensitive souls. And some kids are experiencing physical side effects – they feel dizzy, suffer from headaches, or experience other symptoms. If you can surface your child’s specific concern regarding eyeglasses, you are in a better position to address the issue.

Check the Fit
If your child is physically uncomfortable with his or her glasses, consider a return trip to the optometrist for a re-fitting or even a return! Is your child’s pair too tight? Too heavy? Too loose? Are there any sharp or hard edges? Are the lens’ grades accurate? Well-fitting eyewear can be worn effortlessly, almost unnoticeably. 

Make it an Adventure
If your child is really young, consider making the wearing of eyeglasses exciting. Did you know that there are children’s story books specifically designed to help younger children adjust to having to wear eyeglasses? A quick search engine query will unearth some titles. You can also point out their favorite glasses-wearing TV and movie heroes (i.e. Harry Potter). And if you have a well-stocked family album (and a family history of wearing eyeglasses!), then identifying aunts, uncles and grandparents who wear a pair can be a fun exercise.

Educate Them About the Need to Wear Eyeglasses
If your child is old enough, arranging a friendly chat with their ophthalmologist or optometrist may be helpful. Knowing the actual health reason behind the prescriptive eyewear can make the wearing of them less of an imposition and more of a choice. The eye care professional may emphasize how common the need for eyeglasses is; it will make your child feel less alone. Identifying concrete benefits of an improved vision — no more waving to the wrong person across the playground, better grades, fewer headaches, more accurate dart games — can also help.

Consider Trendier Styles – even Contact Lenses
For older children (especially for teens and pre-teens), who are concerned mostly about what eyeglasses do to their appearance, try to let your child choose a more fashionable pair — or even contact lenses. As long as the eyeglasses are within your budget, and style doesn’t trump frame and lens quality, do encourage your child to express him or herself. Also keep in mind that even very young children like 5 or 6 year olds are quite self-conscious about their appearance. Make sure that your little child also really likes his or her glasses. Never decide for the youngster what glasses look good. As long as your child doesn’t pick something totally inappropriate or absolutely ugly or impractical, then let him or her have the choice. In other words, if your daughter wants pink frames on a normal looking pair of glasses, let her have them even though YOU think metal or clear frames will go with “everything.”

Make Eyeglasses a Normal and Expected Part of Life
Place your child’s eyeglass case alongside their school supplies and “expect” him or her to use them in a matter-of-fact way. “Please put your glasses when you’re doing your homework.” Don’t give up just because your child seems to be trying to avoid the issue. Persist, as if to say, “there’s no going back; you are wearing glasses now.” Of course, don’t use anger to get your point across. However, feel free to use positive reinforcement (“hey – you remembered to put your glasses on!”) or, if necessary, negative consequences (“if you don’t wear those glasses in school, I’m going to ask every teacher to place your seat in the front row so you can see the board.”)

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.

Teen Peer Pressure

As kids grow up and reach their teen years their peer relationships are one of the most important aspects of their lives. The social groups that teens attach themselves to are signals to other peers of who they are and what their values are. Others judge them based on their social group. Teens form their own little worlds – small groups of like-minded friends. They have a specific dialect, distinct way of dressing and do similar activities. They think that adults, particularly parents, don’t know what’s going on and “don’t get them.” There is a lot of pressure for teens to fit in and be cool. Many times teens will do something that they know is wrong just to appear cool and be accepted by others. Teens who have low self esteem or lack confidence and those who lack real friendships and are therefore lonely and depressed, are more likely to give into peer pressure.

Peer pressure can sometimes be good. For example, a friend might be able to convince another friend not to get into a car when the person has been drinking. However, negative peer pressure is very common amongst teens because of the need to be part of a group and also because of their natural curiosity to try out new things.

What’s Your Teen Being Pressured Into?
Peers can pressure each other into all sorts of dangerous, unhealthy, immoral and/or illegal activities. Here are some of the more common pressure points:

  • Smoking can be tried as early as 13 years old
  • Having too much alcohol
  • Trying drugs
  • Having sex before they are ready
  • Shoplifting
  • Pushing off school work to have fun or to party
  • Giving up extracurricular activities
  • Allowing friends to cheat off them
  • Bullying others

How Parents can Help

  • Talk to your teen. Tell them that you respect their friends and understand that they can make mistakes just like you do. If you identify problems with the friends, explain your concerns clearly.
  • Talk to other parents and exchange ideas and work together to help keep your teens safe
  • Help your teen come up with strategies on how to say no and fight peer pressure using techniques such as blaming it on parents, say no and leaving, suggesting other “cool” ideas and so on. Brainstorm with your teen. Ask them if they’ve seen other kids resisting social pressure. How did they do it?
  • Teach your teen to be accountable for what he did wrong. Even though friends can sometimes be wrong also your teen must know that he is always responsible for his actions
  • Invite your teen’s friends over and get to know them. Your teen might not admit it but he/she feels good when parents show that they approve of their friends and that they can relate to them

Keep Calm
It is normal for teens to feel like they are being judged so when you speak to them make sure your tone is non-threatening but rather understanding and calm. If they see you getting upset then they will also. Try to relate to them by telling them issues you faced as a teen. An open line of communication is one of the most valuable things you can offer your teen. Do not force them to talk but let them know that you are always there when they need you. As teens grow up and explore who they are, this time period will be a positive experience for them. Your teen will probably be involved in some form of negative peer pressure at some point but with the help of your expert parenting skills, they’ll be just fine!

Anxious and Stressed Teens

Anxiety is an unsettled, restless, uncomfortable state of mind that can affect people of all ages. Anxious teens may feel worried, stressed or panicky and can experience anxious feelings occasionally or frequently, mildly or intensely. Teenagers who have a lot of anxiety – the kind that interrupts their sleep, interferes with their functioning or causes them intense stress – should be seen by a mental health professional for assessment. Anxious feelings range all the way from normal levels of stress and worry that most people experience, all the way to symptoms of bona fida anxiety disorders – it takes a professional to determine what is going on when anxious feelings are anything more than minor and occasional.

What Triggers Teen Anxiety?
The teenage years are times of high stress, hard decisions and strong emotions. Teen anxiety can be triggered by many events in the teen’s life such as a broken relationship, a parental divorce or academic pressure in school. In addition, teenagers are living in a fast-paced, constantly changing world which creates its own pressure – there is no time to be still and settle in. Social pressures are particularly intense for this age group: kids worry about fitting in, feeling accepted, developing relationships, handling peer pressure and more.

What Parents can Do to Help?
Parents can be part of the problem or part of the solution. For instance, parents can put excessive pressure on teenagers by being too disapproving, too critical or too punitive. On the other hand, they can help relieve stress by being both accepting and gently guiding. They can offer encouragement, praise and validation, keeping the parent-child relationship primarily positive in the ideal 90-10 ratio that is healthiest for this age group (see Raise Your Kids without Raising Your Voice by Sarah Chana Radcliffe for details about building a positive relationship with teenagers). Empathetic listening, ready humor and general acceptance go a long way to helping teens feel confident and emotionally secure.

Moreover, parents can guide teens toward activities that provide stress relief such as sports, drama clubs, volunteer work, and even part-time jobs. Parents can also encourage downtime, family fun (board games, outings, hobbies) and even cooking! A short vacation or even a few hours out of the house for some one-on-one quality time can often work wonders with an adolescent. Parents can even play some relaxing music in the house to help set a calm mood. Of course, reducing family stress (no yelling, fighting, marital battles, etc.) will also help reduce teen anxiety. If parents are experiencing stress of their own, they shouldn’t share it with their teens but rather with other supportive adults.

Warning Signs
There is a difference, however, between normal levels of worry and stress and levels that would be best treated with professional help. If a parent notices the following symptoms of anxiety, he or she should discuss them with a doctor and/or ask for a referral for to a  mental health professional (preferably and adolescent specialist) for assessment:

  • Inability to follow through with usual routines  (like getting to class on time, doing homework, doing one’s household chores, keeping one’s room cleaned, grooming oneself properly and so on)
  • Compulsive thoughts (inability to stop thinking about/worrying out loud about certain topics)
  • inability to make a decision without excessive input from others
  • Peculiar habits (i.e. arranging things, checking things, excessive washing, lengthy praying, repeating words or phrases, needing excessive rituals, refusing to touch certain things, wearing gloves inappropriately, and any other strange behavior
  • Agitated behavior (shaking, inability to settle down, stay still, sleep)
  • Disturbed sleep patterns (insomnia, early waking, nightmares)
  • Strange or excessive fears or worries
  • Refusal to go certain places (like malls or parties) or be with certain people or engage in age-appropriate social activities due to anxious feelings
  • Chronic unhappy or irritable mood
  • Addictive behavior (may stem from anxiety)
  • Self-harm such as cutting oneself, picking at one’s skin (may stem from anxiety)
Anxiety Disorders
There are several different types of anxiety disorders, all of which are thought to have biological roots. GAD (generalized anxiety disorder) is a state of chronic worry about everything and anything. Panic Disorder is a focused type of anxiety that may involve panic attacks with or without fear of leaving home unattended. Simple Phobia can involve any intense fear of any one thing like fear of needles or heights or flying. Social Phobia is a type of anxiety that involves fear of being judged negatively by others. PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) is an anxiety disorder that is triggered by experiencing or witnessed a life-threatening event. OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder) can occur spontaneously or after a strep infection and involves anxious thoughts and compulsive rituals. Often teens with anxiety have other disorders as well – depression, ADHD, eating disorders and addictive disorders among others. Fortunately, all anxiety disorders respond well to treatment. Today there are many treatments besides medication that are quite effective – therapies, stress-management training, meditation-based interventions, alternative treatments and more. The sooner you get help for your anxious teen, the sooner your teen will enjoy peace of mind.