No matter how good a child therapist I might be, my therapy can't work if parents are not in control. I can not give that control to parents, they have to win it back from their out-of-control children. The case of a 13-year old, whom we shall call "Heath," illustrates the point. Heath's problems were truancy, smoking pot, and lying.
Heath pretty much came and went as he pleased. He did not follow the rules of the house. He would party hard and for long hours. He would cut school as he pleased. When his parents found out that he smoked pot and confronted him, he told them to "back off." Then he went on to assert his control and "normalized" his behavior saying, "all the kids in my school do it. I can buy drugs anywhere." There was never a consequence for his action. When the problem really got out of hand, his mother took him to the youth pastor of her church and a therapist, but it didn't improve the situation.
Then the mother came across a book, "Parent in Control" by Gregory Bodenhamer.
The mother realized that she had to gain control. She told Heath
that if she found out that he had cut one more class, she would accompany
him to school the next day and stay there from start to finish. When
Heath did skip school, she got permission from the principal and hung around
the library and the principal's office for the next three days.
Until then, Heath had not taken her threat seriously. Now he realized that she meant what she said. He begged her not to embarrass him any more, promising he would never skip school again.
In her drive to win back parental control, the mother realized that
Heath had a really strong bond with kids who had bad habits. She
concluded that she had to break his bond with anybody who smoked, drank,
or did drugs. She told Heath that he was not allowed to see them,
and they were not allowed to call or come by. She stressed that if
he broke this rule, she would do whatever it took to make sure that he
follows her instruction, which might include accompanying him everywhere
he went and pulling him out of school to do home schooling.
Bodenhamer offers parents this advice, "If you can't trust your kids to do what you are saying, go with them until you are sure they will do it. They have to start over with trust, responsibility and privileges."
Give them freedom when they show they can handle it, and then praise
them for a good job.
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