Quote of the Week

"If I cannot do great things, I can do small things in a great way" ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

Defiance: The Tie For Third Place- Part II
Posted by:Lloyd Woodward--Friday, April 24, 2009

Defiance and intimidation- tactics that work because we become afraid. As parents we must face our fear first before we can effectively face our teenagers. An analogy that works is terrorism.

Terrorists base everything on fear. They are not really strong enough to win what they want through conventional warfare. Therefore, they attack the Towers in New York. We lose a ton more people to automobile accidents each year than we do to Terrorism. So why do we suddenly become afraid of terrorists and not afraid to get in our car and drive to the store? Because Terrorism is designed to cause fear. That's the whole idea. To impress the victims with ruthlessness.

It seems that the Defiant Teenager has a similar goal, albeit on a much reduced scale. The Defiant Teen hopes to also impress his parents that he is capable of quite a lot in order to have his or her own way. Similarly, the teen is not powerful enough to win his objectives conventionally. He has no real income. He has no real employment other than perhaps ground-level part-time work. He has no real education. We can go on and on. He has no real housing, other than what his parents provide. He has no real transportation except that his parents might help him get a car and help him pay insurance etc. The teenager is absolutely not in a conventional position of power; therefore, he resorts to fear tactics to get what he wants.

Your teenager might be six feet tall and weight 180 lbs. In that context he may seem powerful. Likewise, the terrorist has explosives that can take lives. However, this does not win the day for either one. Once they employ that power the armed forces and the police will respond in force. Once a Terrorist or a Defiant Teenager acts against citizens, including parents, there is going to be heck to pay.

Of course, as a parent you are not just afraid that your teenager will hurt you. That may or may not be a concern of yours. As parents, what other things are you afraid of?

1. Are you afraid that your teen if he acts out his threats, might be arrested? And if he is 18, he could start an adult criminal record?

2. Are you afraid that your teen will get hurt if his defiance leads him to run away?

3. Are you afraid that your teen will be hurt by his own substance abuse or by his own hand in some other way?

4. Are you afraid that your teenager won't love you if stand up to him/ her?

5. Are you afraid that you will carry the guilt if any of that actually happens? Are you afraid that it will be your fault or that you could have done something to prevent this awful thing from happening?

Are these realistic fears? Yes. Still, if you capitulate and allow your teenager to be in control, does it really lessen the likelihood that any of that stuff will happen? No. Once he has control of your house won't he be more likely to employ his defiant tactics elsewhere?

Bottom line: similar to how countries interact with terrorists, once parents allow their fear (or guilt) to dictate their responses, the Defiant Teen has already won. Now we have taught them that Defiance is a great way to get what they want. Now we have taught them that their Defiance is effective.

Meanwhile, we keep waiting for them to "get it." We keep waiting for them to feel bad about what they are doing. We hope that they will come to their senses and realize that they have treated their families horribly. After all, eventually they will see that, right?

The problem with this approach is also analogous to the problem countries have with Terrorists. Neither of them care. In fact, interviews with teens suggest the opposite: that they often have a sense of power and accomplishment when their defiant tactics work to get them what they want. Allow yourself to think about this for a minute. Not only does your defiant teen not feel bad for terrorizing you, but he probably takes some pride in being able to manipulate you so effectively.

As a parent we struggle with this idea. We are in denial. We want to believe that our teenager really cares about our feelings but that he just doesn't understand. He is confused. No- your defiant teenager does not care how his defiance effects you. If he did care, he would not do these things. This is especially true if your defiant teenager is deep in his addiction. Until they get off drugs the only thing they care about is getting more drugs.

I see this time and time again. The teens who threaten to hurt their parents, who threaten to run away, who threaten to commit suicide, who threaten to have a temper tantrum and start breaking up stuff just don't care what effect their behavior has on their families. They don't see themselves as culpable. They really believe that it's your fault. You make them resort to these extreme tactics and if you would just do things differently there would be no problem.

Like the teen that I met for the first time at Abraxas. I asked him want went wrong that he got sent to Abraxas. He said that it was a problem that he had with his mother, but now they have it all worked out and everything will be fine when he goes home. I asked him how that worked. He replied that his mother didn't trust him because she busted him using substances. After that she refused to let him out of the house. Because she didn't trust him to go out, he just went out, angry about the lack of trust that his mother had in him. Then he did every drug he could get his hands on. If she had only trusted him he would not have had to go on that drug binge. Now they had it all worked out because she realizes that she should have trusted him more.

As I heard this I thought Huh? This line of thinking is incredulous; however, this is what your defiant teenagers often think even if they won't tell you that this is what they are thinking. It's all your fault.

Another way to try to see how your defiant teenager sees things is like this: they abuse you verbally, emotionally, and sometimes physically. Your teen may feel that if you allow yourself to be abused, then you deserve it. It is all about power, if you don't take the power then you don't deserve it. If the teenager can successfully seize it, then they deserve it.

Our only hope is to stand up to our teenagers. Find a way. Call the police if they are breaking the law. Take their car off of them. Call a rehab and get a Drug evaluation. Take their phones off of them. Take the door off their bedroom. Cut them off from all financial aid. Do it with love. Don't yell. Just act. Charge them with Terroristic Threats. Charge them with Assault. Charge them with Theft. Wake them up in the morning no matter what it takes. Do it every day. Get in their face but keep your voice down. Talk slowly and let them see your resolve. Mean every word of what you say. Surprise them with your determination and with your resolve. Often the outcome is decided by who wants it more. You can want it more.

Keep this in mind. Do you do all this for yourself? Not really. For yourself, you would choose the way of least conflict. You do it for them. You do it so that they can learn that their tactics are not effective. You show them, with as much love as you can muster at the time, that the way in which they are going about having their own way is not working. Not anymore.

Of course, many teenagers turn the corner, embrace recovery from addiction and try to change their lives. Until this happens don't expect your defiant teen to care very much about how you're feeling about all this. Once this turn-the-corner thing happens teenagers may begin to feel for other people and experience remorse for the things that they put their families through.

One last thought: In addition to standing up to your teenager you should make sure that you don't give them increased attention for some of the defiant acts. Temper tantrums draw attention. You can walk away. You can still hold them accountable in some way later, but get away from the yelling and/ or violent teenager. They aren't winning unless you give in so don't do that; but don't feel that you have to stand there in the middle of a temper tantrum. Just walk away. If it gets too out of control, call the police. Ask for assistance to "keep the peace." That is the best way to get a policeman quickly to your house. Or depending on what is going on, call 911 and report that your teenager is threatening to take his or her own life. Take an action. In general, take more action and talk less. Remember, when you engage in a yelling contest with your teenager, the terrorists have already won.

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UPDATE: The Three Most Effective Ways that Teens Manipulate. A new Tie for Third Place!
Posted by:Lloyd Woodward--Sunday, April 19, 2009

Once again, I had the opportunity to ask a room full of teens struggling with drug and alcohol problems to help identify the Three Most Effective Ways that Teens Manipulate. This was a different group; however, what these teens and a few parents came up with was very close to the first results. The top two were exactly the same- but this time there was a tie for third place!

As you may recall, the Top Three that have been previously posted on this blog are (1) Lying, (2) Guilting and (3) Doing Good Temporarily. This time half the teens thought that the Third Most Effective Manipulation was Defiance. The teens were not necessarily referring to the same type of Defiance, but rather there were several types that seemed to fit under this general category. The other half maintained that Doing Good Temporarily was still the Third Most Effective Way to Manipulate.

The several types of Defiance that the teens brought up are as follows:

1. No matter what your parents say, just do what you want. For example, if they tell you to stay in, make sure that you go out. This teaches parents who is in charge. If they can't do anything to stop you, they probably will quit trying to tell you to stay in because it is just a battle that they are going to loose anyway.

2. Let your parents know that if don't get your own way on something important, that you don't know if you'll be able to keep it together. You might just have to flip out- start yelling, throwing things, trashing the house by putting holes in the walls, etc. This over-laps somewhat with the second most effective way to manipulate because as you do this you will let your parents know that it is completely their fault that you are "loosing it."

3. Make threatening statements. This one is similar to #2. Threaten to run away. Threaten to get high. Threaten to break the law if you have to, to get money, when they won't give you any. Threaten violence towards your parents. Threaten to hurt yourself. Threaten that if they insist on not letting you have what you want, you will be the most depressed person in the world- and of course it's all their fault.

Sometimes the threat of violence is direct but often it is implied by the way in which you communicate, e.g., yell, clench your fists, or mutter under your breath so that your parents can hear certain violent words. For example, your parents may hear some of your words but not all of them. It might go something like this: "Blah blah blah f******** blah blah b***** blah blah kill someone blah blah ****-you-up blah blah." This way if you get confronted about what you are saying, you can claim not to have been speaking to your parents or claim not to have meant what they thought you meant. Similarly, if you can keep the threats "implied," then later it is easier to deny that you have actually made threatening statements.

The bottom line is that even though your parents may not want to address what's going on- what's happening is that you know that your parents are afraid of you or are afraid of what you might do, either to them or to yourself. They know they are afraid but they might not want to admit it. That's your ace-in-the-hole because as long as they don't want to admit it, they really can't do much about it.

So what can a parent do in the face of defiance? First, pay attention to what is going on. You may need the help of a therapist or other concerned party to help you sort out just how your teenager is using defiance to stay in control.

Once you figure out how your teenager is using this technique the Second Step is to admit it. For example, if your teen refuses to stay home when your ground him, then admit that he is outside of your control. Without this admission, it is impossible to move towards any solution. If your teenager threatens violence whenever you attempt to wake him up in the morning and you are not willing to put yourself in that position, then admit that he is failing at school because he is outside of your control.

The Third Step is to realize that doing nothing is doing something. When you do nothing to address the situation, you passively approve of your teenager remaining outside of your control. You approve of them not attending school. You approve of their continuing drug abuse.

The Fourth Step is to try something different. There is a saying in 12-step that addresses insanity: "Insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results." Or, "If you do what you always did, you get what you always got." For example, you might involve others in the situation. Contact a School Guidance Counselor and disclose that your teenager has been operating outside of your control. Don't keep this a secret. Take a positive action after consulting with school professionals, therapists, probation officers or in some cases, police.

There is more to say on this subject. Stay tuned for more on this post or look for a follow-up post soon. In the meantime please leave a comment if you have had anything similar to this happen to you, and especially if found any solutions.

Parent Survival Skills Training: parents helping parents take back control!

The Top Three Ways Teens Manipulate Parents: Part I.

Approaches To Dealing With Teen Lying: Part II.

Guilting the Parent: Part III.

Doing Good Temporarily- Just to get privileges back- Part-IV

Doing Good Temporarily- Just to get privileges back- Part-IV

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Meeting at Alliance Office for 4-11-09 cancelled because it is Easter Weekend.
Posted by:Lloyd Woodward--Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Happy Easter weekend everybody. We'll be back at Wexford on April 24th.

(image from purchased CreataCard software)

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“Vigil of Hope” Wednesday, June 3,2009
Posted by:Ken Sutton--Monday, April 06, 2009

The Bridge to Hope Family Support Group
“Vigil of Hope”
Wednesday, June 3,2009
Kearns Spirituality Center


To bring comfort to those families and friends who have lost loved ones to addiction, and to support those who are actively affected by the chaos, anxiety and fear created by this disease, there will be a vigil at 7:00 PM on Wednesday, June 3rd at the Kearns Spirituality Center, 9000 Babcock Boulevard, Allison Park, PA 15101. Drug and alcohol addiction and its associated trauma have touched countless Americans from all walks of life and from all backgrounds.  Over the years, families and friends have felt very much alone as they sought ways to remember their loved ones; this year’s VIGIL OF HOPE is designed to bring these individuals together to call attention to the extent and nature of the drug and alcohol epidemic and end the isolation.  Sponsored by the Bridge To Hope Family Support Group, in partnership with Passavant Hospital Foundation, this year’s program will feature Mr. Lindsay Hargrove as the keynote speaker.  Please visit www.bridge2hope.org for more information.     

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Meeting at Eastern Probation on April 4th is another special meeting.
Posted by:Lloyd Woodward--Thursday, April 02, 2009

The parents that will be dropping their teens off for the Education Assessment Classes will be invited to attend PSST. We've had several meetings like this lately. Two weeks ago we had four new parents whose teens were being dropped off at the Assessment Classes. We had no "regulars."

While we thought the meeting two weeks ago went off really well, it would be nice to have some veteran PSST members help us out with the new parents.

We are going to meet on the Fourth Floor in a very nice, albeit slightly smaller room. Just follow the signs from where we usually meet on the first floor towards the back elevator-make a left off the elevator and you're there.

If you've never been to our meeting check out the link on the left to google maps.

Special Note: Two weeks ago we had Tom M as a guest speaker. Tom M has an inspirational message that goes along with his six months clean. He has started a whole new life and he may be willing to do a repeat performance for those that missed two weeks ago. We are not sure.

Note: the Education/ Assessment group is by invitation only so don't bring your teens with you on the 17th. Just expect that we will have some new faces in group.

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