In the last section, we discussed the three dimensions that I consider when first becoming familiar with families with disruptive teens. These three dimensions included: contemporary developmental pressures on the family, Other-Person-Centered Responding, and structure.
In this section, we will discuss three key ways that a parent can become a confidence builder for their teen with oppositional defiant disorder. These three steps are: valuing the unique teen; building self-respect; and recognizing effort and improvement.
One reason that many teens dissociate from their parents is the fact that the parents are not a source of confidence, whereas other mediums such as sports or school, are. One way to create unity within a family unit is to enable the parents to be a source of confidence for their oppositional defiant teen. Once this relationship is established, communication is ameliorated.
3 Key Ways that a Parent can become a Confidence Builder
♦ #1 - Valuing the Unique Teen
The first way a parent can become a confidence builder to their teen is by valuing the teen as a unique person. This involves the parent believing that his or her teen has the resources in him or her to succeed. When a parent expresses to their teen in such a way as to indicate a conditional bond between them, the teen will more often than not pull away from that parent. In other words, too much pressure for self-improvement becomes overwhelming to an individual not quite developed. I prefer to emphasize that parents might consider accepting their teens the way they are.
Terry and Kim were the parents of Jeremiah, a 15 year old client of mine. In one-on-one sessions with Jeremiah, he told me, "My parents keep trying to make me what I’m not. Both of them are doctors, right? So, naturally, they want their son to be a doctor. They don’t understand why I have no interest in biology or chemistry, and they think reading so many novels the way I do is a waste of time."
I confronted Terry and Kim about Jeremiah’s concerns. Kim stated, "Reading and writing is merely a fundamental skill, not a path to success. Yes, we’re glad our son has an imagination, but that imagination has got to come back to earth! One day, he’ll thank us!" I explained to them that by not encouraging Jeremiah’s gifts and talents that they are in fact making it more difficult for him to form a separate identity. I also explained how this could affect his own healthy mental state by driving him into a feeling of immutability, or an inability to change one’s own life.
♦ 3-Step Technique: Get Involved
To help Terry and Kim accept Jeremiah for who he is, I asked them to try the "Get Involved" exercise.
-- Step # 1. First, I gave them a list of questions that could possibly engage their son in conversation about his interests and hobbies. For instance, "What was your favorite part about today?" or "What did you think about the book I saw you reading?" Although these are simple questions, I have found that they will often draw a reluctant teenager out into the open.
-- Step # 2. Next, I asked the parents to keep mental notes about what their son tells them. Instead of talking to him just to talk to him, I wanted Terry and Kim to actually listen to what their son had to say. This will also help them form a better idea of Jeremiah’s own character and identity.
-- Step # 3. Lastly, I asked them to get involved in their son’s interests. I stated, "If he likes Shakespeare, take him to a play. If he prefers a certain author, buy him a book by that author. Get him a library card or a notebook to write his thoughts down."
All these exercises may seem simple, but put into practice, I have found that it can begin to bring once distant families together again. Think of your Terry and Kim. Would they be brought closer to their teen through "getting involved"?
♦ # 2 - Building Self-Respect
The second way that I enable a parent to become more of a source of confidence is building up a teen’s self-respect. The goal here is to help the teen become more aware of his or her resources and contributions in their own lives. I advise parents to avoid comparisons, so the teen’s self-respect will not be based on overcoming others.
I suggested to Terry and Kim to let Jeremiah take part in the family decisions. Now, all three of them sit down at least once every couple of weeks and talk about certain household rules. Each person is heard, and every idea is considered. After the discussion, Jeremiah is empowered to make his own rules.
He stated, "I feel good about having my parents trust me to make my own decisions. I am glad they hear what I have to say and consider my thoughts and feelings." In their own way, Terry and Kim have put a little more responsibility on Jeremiah’s shoulders, which emboldens him to make his own decisions rationally.
♦ # 3 - Recognizing Effort and Improvements
In addition to valuing the unique teen and building self-respect, the third way that I like to help parents build self confidence in their teen is by recognizing effort and improvements. Realistic goals can be a key factor in practicing this type of improvement for your teen. As you know, if emphasis is placed on completed tasks then the teen will see perfection as the final goal. Checkpoints and working step-by-step is a good encourager.
For example, Mr. Wong does not recognize the effort and improvements of his teen employees. Jana, a 15-year-old high school freshman, just received her first job as a part-time cashier. Jana, elated about the position, always follows directions immediately, and she does everything her employer asks of her. Generally, her superiors are pleased with her work and uphold her as a good employee.
However, Jana’s parents compare her achievements to that of her older sister, Angelina. Several times a week, Jana will hear phrases such as "Angelina is so hard working," "Angelina makes more money than anyone her age," and even "try and be more like your sister, Angelina." As you well know, by not acknowledging her accomplishments, Jana’s parents diminish her self-esteem considerably.
In this section, we discussed three key ways that a parent can become a confidence builder for their teen. These three steps are: valuing the unique teen; building self-respect; and recognizing effort and improvement.
In the next section, we will discuss the five-step Redefining Parents’ Rules. These five steps include uncovering the facts; hearing the teen’s input; listening to reason; dialoguing; and compromising.
- Kann, T. & Hanna, F. (2000). Disruptive behavior disorders in children and adolescents: how girls differ from boys. Journal of Counseling & Development, 78(3). doi:10.1002/j.1556-6676.2000.tb01907
Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References:
Forcino, S. S., Nadler, C. B., & Roberts, M. W. (2019). Parent training for middle childhood conduct problems: Child opposition to timeout and token fines. Practice Innovations, 4(1), 1–12.
Harvey, E. A., Metcalfe, L. A., Herbert, S. D., & Fanton, J. H. (2011). The role of family experiences and ADHD in the early development of oppositional defiant disorder. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 79(6), 784–795.
Li, I., Clark, D. A., Klump, K. L., & Burt, S. A. (2017). Parental involvement as an etiological moderator of middle childhood oppositional defiant disorder. Journal of Family Psychology, 31(6), 659–667.
Online Continuing Education QUESTION 3
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