Quote of the Week

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

What a Week! - submitted by Wilma
Posted by:Jenn--Saturday, January 28, 2012

WHAT A WEEK !! by Wilma

Just a quick update since Sunday – so how can so much happen in just a few days??

We did confirm that Bam was having a little "party" on Friday night and probably both Saturday and Sunday while he was "studying" for mid-terms. All this while on Electronic Home Monitoring and probation.

Sunday night I noticed Bam's skin was really red and asked if he had taken niacin, but he adamantly denied taking it. He was red from using old acne wash – hmm, how did it cause not only his face but his whole body to turn red?? He didn't look quite right and went to bed about 8 PM and was asleep in 20 minutes. I checked his phone and found text messages telling someone he was red as an apple from taking niacin to get weed out of his system. I guess he was a LITTLE worried about the drug test he was to have the next day at rehab.

On Monday, my gut told me to check his room. I found water and Gatorade bottles that smelled like flavored vodka, a shoe box with empty beer cans, and a baggie with a little bit of weed left in his closet. Add this to the tiny bag that smelled like weed that I found Sunday morning. I also accidentally found the niacin stash in a bag that had waterproofing stuff in it. What a start to the week!

Bam was mad at me, and on the way to his dual-diagnosis program he was telling me to turn around and go back, but I refused. He left the appointment after about 15 minutes, mad at the counselor and refusing the drug test. On the way home he kept changing the story of how the vodka bottle from Saturday (I mentioned this in a previous post) got into the house. I know he was trying to get the girls back to our house and I think Fred was caving on this again.

He was really agitated and kept asking me not to tell his P.O., so I just told him to stop talking and that I was not discussing this in the car. All I could think of was that he was going to grab the steering wheel while were driving in rush hour traffic, and kill not only us, but some poor souls trying to get home from work! When we got home, I felt like a wrung-out dishrag.

Fortunately on Tuesday we had our first meeting with Bam's P.O. I gave him the box with the evidence from the weekend, and we found out that on E.H.M. he was NOT supposed to be having company, even to study!

And I found out today, not even to drop by. (Monday Bam had a couple kids drop by because he supposedly owed the girl $5 for a t-shirt and the boy had to use the bathroom). Fred was on duty for this incident. Interestingly, Bam then had a new can of Copenhagen.

Yesterday he told his dad that a girl was dropping by with more chew EVEN AFTER we told him he is not to have it in the house, but we kept firm that was not happening, (and of course I found out that was a violation of his E.H.M. too). Bam was not happy with this, but Fred and I were ecstatic.

My thoughts all along were NO FRIENDS, but I think Fred feels bad that Bam is stuck in the house, and also Bam just wore him down so he gave in to letting the friends over. And what was supposed to be 2 girls turned into 3 girls and another boy.

Then the P.O. went over the rules and conditions with us, and Bam just sat with a stormy expression on his face. Time to drug test, and Bam was pulling the old I-can't-pee-maybe-next-time routine. I think he thought he could outlast the P.O. and dodge the test, but the P.O. just told Bam to drink up! (Bam always tries this in outpatient and, I think, with some success.) NO WAY! The P.O. was not leaving until the test was done, and what a lot of stuff to test for.

And, not surprisingly, Bam tested positive for WEED just two weeks after being in court. He also tested positive for something else found in prescription pain killers, but Bam denied taking anything like that. I'm not so sure. Sunday night he just seemed so out of it – who knows what he got his hands on!

Didn't we talk recently about how it gets worse before it gets better??

Boy does it ever. It still amazes me that he is pulling all this while under supervision. But he now knows I am not keeping secrets from his P.O. He's already learned that I'll speak up in court. Of course it's all MY fault his life is so miserable, and has nothing to do with his actions or behaviors. Last night we had big arguments over chewing tobacco and money. At 17 he thinks he should be able to do whatever he wants, and I told him he's just going to have to find a place where he can live by his own rules if he doesn't like ours. And in just over 4 months he will be 18.

One of the sad things is he has been accepted to college (I am happy for him about this) – however – will he be able to get it together enough to follow the stipulations of his consent decree, to get off probation, to be able to function on his own away from home, and to get out of the cycle he is in where his focus is on getting money to buy the weed/alcohol/whatever, get high, and do it all again tomorrow?

On Wednesday I accidentally discovered his Facebook page open and found disturbing behind-the-scenes messages that, in addition to text messages he's sent, indicate he is involved in dealing. Some of the messages are about him paying money owed or things will get rough for him. Very scary. I still can't believe he's put himself in this position. Also, last night he talked Fred into helping him take the storm window out in his room so he can get some fresh air! Life is tough on house arrest, but I think the Shuman Resort would be a little less comfy than it is here.

So, I'm sure he will continue to test and push us, but how far will he go?


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Teenagers & Control
Posted by:Jenn--Friday, January 27, 2012

Mitt Romney recently compared his campaign for the presidency to a teenager, saying “There are things you can do to improve the odds of a teenager making it through those teen years and being a productive adult. But it’s not entirely in your control.” How right he is!

While a teen is in placement, he can choose to follow the rules & earn his release, or he can choose to remain stubborn and find himself there for months longer than expected. He can embrace his recovery and a return to normalcy, or he can just go through the motions. He can commit himself to following home pass rules long enough to be successful, or he can go home with the intent to fail. He can agree to follow the rules of probation, or he can earn himself a stay in another placement. For a teen desperately in need of maintaining control, he is constantly deciding if he is willing to accept the consequences of his self-destructive actions, and so often the answer is YES.

Our son Dylan has been in placement now for 9 months. He has struggled mightily, breaking rules regularly and suffering the consequences. He earned Guide status & then lost it again. He has earned home passes, but refused some of them and failed the others. It is inexplicable to us, but he is following his own path. We don’t know if that path will lead him back to us or not. It’s not really something that we can control.

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Posted by:Sally--Thursday, January 26, 2012

I got this in a fortune cookie yesterday and I think its for all of us PSST parents and anybody else going through what we are going through: "Use your instincts now."

Wow, when I opened that I knew it was the perfect fortune. With everything that has been happening with Bam Bam it is right on the money. My instincts told me there would be trouble this past weekend and I was trying to ignore them, have Fred be responsible for Bam's visitors but trouble there was. So for all you out there listen to your gut, intuition, whatever you call it because it will be right. - Wilma

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Lyrics by Cisco
Posted by:Sally--Thursday, January 26, 2012

When we tested Cisco on December 5th and the drug test turned up positive Rocco and I told Cisco he could not live at our home. He lived haphazardly for over a month; going from one friend's house to another, using drugs and spiraling downward until he hit bottom and could not find a place to lay his head. He asked for help and on January 17th he went back to First Step to detox. He did well all week and they think he has turned the corner. I say, time will tell.

I was going through some paperwork today and found this poem that Cisco wrote about a year ago. I felt good when I read this poem and it helps me to see Cisco for who he truly is. My son first, an addict second.


Sensitive, caring, honest and sharing.
Cautious and humble, get back up when stumble.

Responsible, hardworking, successful, all earning.
From you guys I'm learning, to you guys I'm turning.

No genes, no hair color, eye color don't matter,
You were there when I climbed to the top of the ladder,
Got stuck in a rut with defeat so apparent,
...this man and this woman, these people, my parents.

So cold and so lonely, so high and unaware,
Thought I was alone,
Not acknowledging you were there.

I went down those stairs,
Closed my door from your love,
Not knowing how bad,
I was hurting those above.

Pushing and shoving and swearing and breaking,
Smoking and drinking and cutting and taking.
Leaving and fighting and crying and shaking.....
You never gave up and for this I am thanking.

Mom and Dad, you've got stronger as parents,
As people, you're soldiers, not weak, not embarrassed.

Some day when I'm older,
And you're given a break,
With me and Joe's children playing down by the lake,
Our blankets our baskets,
What dreams once seemed fake,
We'll be the ones,
Serving food on your plates.

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WIlma's Update on Bam-Bam
Posted by:Sally--Saturday, January 21, 2012


Since the meeting was canceled due to the bad weather conditions here is Bam's update for this week....

This week I relapsed-Bam Bam had been using his dad's cell phone as his had been damaged after a swim in the toilet. Fred will let Bam use his phone when Bam's is out of commission but Bam switches out the sim card so that his friends call him on his own number. I was checking to make sure Bam had put Fred's card back in the phone and saw there were text messages Bam forgot to erase. I couldn't help myself-I looked at them.

And did not like what I found.

Bam-Bam had some texts going back and forth about purchasing/selling alcohol and wanting to buy an e-cigarette since he is not allowed to smoke at home. For those who hadn't heard Bam Bam is on home detention.

Finally on Thursday he got the ankle braclet. I confronted Bam about the texts and of course he is the innocent party and he isn't buying anything but this kid is thinking Bam is selling and THERE IS NOTHING TO WORRY ABOUT!

Nothing is going on! I'm not so sure.

Just two months ago Bam Bam was contracting by text messsaging to purchase vodka (Pinnacle Whipped) and we found the state store bag, receipt and a water bottle of the stuff BUT he was innocent! He was just "holding" it for someone.

According to him "It was all a misunderstanding." Don't think so.

I was upset with myself for caving in to the temptation of checking the phone. I want to get out of constantly feeling like I have to check the phone, his room, his bags. If he messes up again the consequences are steeper. He has home detention right now and is on probation even though we haven't yet heard from his probation officer. And in five months he will be eighteen.

Today he has a couple kids coming over to study for midterms (they really are next week) so for now I will take that at face value. And as always hoping for the best.


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Love You Forever - submitted by Wilma
Posted by:Jenn--Monday, January 16, 2012

How many of you have read the book "Love You Forever" written by Robert Munsch and Illustrated by Sheila McGraw??

This is one of my favorite books to buy for new babies. It was given to us when Bam Bam was born and I just recently purchased it for Bam Bam's nephew. Bam is adopted and his sister gave birth to a son in September, so earlier this month I decided to buy a gift. As I figured the new baby was probably inundated with clothes, I bought a few books that were our favorites.

The first time I read this book, Bam was probably a couple months old and I read it to him while holding him in my arms - and cried. As my tears were falling on his face, he kept blinking them away (probably thinking "who the H#!! is this nutcase?!).

But here is the part that I am crying for now: "The boy grew. He grew and he grew and he grew. He grew until he was a teenager. He had strange clothes and he listened to strange music. Sometimes his mother felt like she was in a zoo! But at night time, when that teenager was asleep, the mother opened the door to his room, crawled across the floor and looked up over the side of the bed. If he really was asleep she picked up that great big boy and rocked him back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. While she rocked him she sang: I'll love you forever, I'll like you for always, As long as I'm living my baby you'll be."

I still look at Bam Bam when he is sleeping and wonder where is that little boy? Of course, he is way TOO BIG for me to pick him up, but I wish I could pick him up again and rock him in my arms and smell that baby smell. That of course has been replaced by the smells of Copenhagen, Marlboros and weed.

My hope is that SOMEDAY he will come back to me. I miss the old Bam Bam, and even though he is really mad at me now, maybe at some point we can have something of the relationship we once had.


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Pierre's Attempt to Avoid Shuman by Brigitte
Posted by:Sally--Sunday, January 15, 2012

Pierre's Attempt to Avoid Shuman by Brigitte

Thank you everyone for your sound advice and support today at the meeting.

Here is an update (if you weren't at the meeting this post might be hard to follow). We ended up finding Pierre a mere 1/4 mile away sleeping at a friend's house. We took him home for a shower and were getting ready to take him to Shuman. He told Francois he was going inside to tell me goodbye. He came in the house, said goodbye and walked out the back door unnoticed.

It took several of his friends, the manager of Foodland, and the local police to help us locate him 4 hours later. He is now sitting in Shuman. He will have a walk-in hearing on Tuesday. We are hoping that he will be admitted to Outside In soon.

Francois and I are taking this all in but in a somewhat bewildered state.

It all transpired so quickly from our point of view, although it's obvious that things were happening that we were unaware of. He won't own up to the missing $400. His friend told me that Pierre said he came into money because of a mistake in his paycheck.

Really? Because last time I looked, he didn't have a job.

Even more amazing was that the mistake from his nonexistent job amounted to $400. What a coincidence!

It's been a long day and Francois and I are both feeling dejected. The good part is that we are no longer wondering IF he needs inpatient. He let us know loud and clear that he does.


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Online resource, Empowering Parents- Bridgette
Posted by:Lloyd Woodward--Thursday, January 12, 2012

Click this caption to go to online newsletter
Hi all,

I don't know if any of you are familiar with the late James Lehman, but his practice sends out a free newsletter for parents, mostly dealing with oppositional behavior. They advertise a program that they sell, but there is no obligation to buy anything. I've found some of the articles in the newsletter to be helpful, lots of PSST stuff in it.


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What Goes UP . . . written by Brigitte
Posted by:Jenn--Monday, January 09, 2012


What goes up, must come down, especially when you are dealing with drug-addicted teens. Pierre has proven this theory repeatedly since he came home from inpatient 5 months ago. He has only been clean for a span of 6 weeks at a time. Relapse, consequences, relapse, you get the picture. Most recently, he tested positive on a home screen and swore on his mother's life (YIPES!) that he was innocent and something was wrong with the test. Took him to the dr. to get a gas chromatography test and it was . . . positive. I was ducking lightning bolts and black cats the whole week.

He is back on home detention, spends weekends at Shuman resort, no car, no phone, no friends. He has outpatient treatment daily and goes to NA meetings 3-4x/wk. The good news is that he is not abusive or defiant and we are not missing money. He treats family members and counselors respectfully and even went to his grandmother's house and cooked her dinner. The bad news is, well, that could change at any time if he continues to use. His goal seems to be to get off probation, not weed. Francois and I feel that a third round of inpatient may be around the corner. Either that or, when he turns 18 in May, he moves out and tries out his fantasy life of working, living with "friends" and smoking weed when he wants to. That may be the epiphany he needs to see life without the safety net. I wish we knew the best route to take.

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Bam Bam Goes to Court - by Wilma
Posted by:Sally--Monday, January 09, 2012


Well today Bam Bam had another hearing in court again for ACT 53 and the charges we filed.

The paperwork we had gotten in the mail for the charges said it was for a "Pre-trial" conference. We had this in November and nothing really happened. I thought it would be the same today and that we would have to wait another couple months for some action but fortunately it wasn't.

Bam was not happy and his face showed it but he did not have any outbursts in court.

The cast of characters included the judge, TWO attorneys for Bam - One for ACT 53 and one for the charges, a D.A., the P.O., me (Fred stayed in the waiting room), our H.S.A.O. coordinator and the ACT 53 case manager.

I was prepared, after talking with ACT 53, that Bam most likely would not be going into placement as his dual dx program had said in a letter he was making moderate progress. Also, our judge doesn't like to send kids to placement. (I wish we had Judge Daisy from PSST)!

There was a lot of back and forth among the lawyers and the judge. The lawyers and PO had a few things more to iron out and the judge left for a little break.

Then he came back and we continued. The DA really wanted to send Bam to placement however the P.D.'s and the judge really didn't want that. They got testimony from ACT 53 and then asked me to speak.

I led with the statement that Bam was out of my control and that I was fearful for our lives. That got notice from the judge and he asked me to continue. So I went through the Thanksgiving weed ordeal and how Bam told me if I didn't give him money to pay people for the weed they would kill/hurt him and me. I talked about how Bam IS NOT following any guidelines from when we were in court before, mentioned him becoming verbally abusive when I wouldn't give him money or a check.

I was asked EXACTLY what Bam said so I told them how he called me a f##ng piece of s#!!.

I also talked about the text messages on his phone that seemed to me that he not only is using but dealing. I also explained that he isn't going to school like he is supposed to. I mentioned the "x-box/i-pod incident" from April where Bam told us people might be coming to shoot us and our house so we took him to file a police report.

I also said that I was concerned that Bam is using weed and I don't know what else and taking (5) psychiatric drugs.

The judge was not happy with Bam and made it very clear to him. I was asked what I thought would happen today and I did say I thought with everything that was happening Bam would go to placement but you could tell that IS NOT what the judge wanted.

The DA tried many times to get that to happen. She did seem very convinced that he was in trouble. I wonder if the police would have done something when I found the weed and took it to them if it would have made a difference?

There had been some talk about the ankle bracelet so when they said Bam wasn't going to placement I asked if he was getting an ankle bracelet and the judge ordered one.

So the verdict that came down today is that Bam Bam is going to have a consent decree, probation, an ankle bracelet, court ordered D&A re-evaluation, community service, some fines to pay and court ordered family based counseling.

We were supposed to have family based counseling before this but I found out last night that Bam wouldn't give permission to his outpatient counselor to fill out the form for referral. Even though the judge said at our last hearing that we were supposed to have it.

Bam-Bam was ordered by the judge to have a drug test before we left court. When we went for that Bam was saying of course he couldn't do it. As we had to wait for the male screener he said he was hungry so I took him to the little cafe.

When we came back he said he just wanted a positive and to not have the test but he was told no way. Then he asked if he could just go talk to the judge! I thought we were going to be there until 4:30 but someone said he had to do it or go to Shuman.

Anyway, I was on the phone calling Verizon to set up the line for the ankle bracelet and they came up with an oral swab test which he did. And it was positive.

I could have said I didn't want to bring Bam home but I honestly did not want to get into an ordeal with CYF. I was already drained and exhausted from just getting him to court and going through the hearing. It's so difficult being the parent and the person filing charges.

Yesterday Bam told me and his counselor he wasn't going to court. She told him a warrant would be issued for his arrest and a deputy would come for him but he didn't care.

On the ride home he told me he wasn't going, I said a deputy would come for him and he said he would just shoot him. I asked how was that happening and he told me he could get a gun if he wanted to! (I did tell this to the judge).

I think he was just trying to show he was in control of the situation but thankfully this morning we had no problems getting him to court.

So, for now, we wait and see.


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Is the Skinner Box broken?
Posted by:Lloyd Woodward--Sunday, January 08, 2012

A lab rat in a Skinner Box, a controlled environment designed
to reinforce desired behavior, photographed in 1964 by
 Lina Neen/ Time and Life Pictures/ Getty Images.
Click here to go to source.
Things tend to get worse before they get better. The time frame is an individual thing; however, one pattern seems to hold true: as parents quit enabling the teenager's behavior regresses. One way to look at it, is that the teenager is trying, using his old methods but at a higher level of intensity to remain in control.

One can see this same behavior in laboratory rats who have been trained to push a bar. When the scientist changes things so that the reward is no longer dispersed when the bar is pushed, the rat will go crazy at first pushing the bar with abandon. Eventually, he learns that pushing the bar, no matter how hard, no matter how fast, is to no avail. Until he "gets it" he does what he knows best: push, push, push.

Dispersing the reward is called reinforcement. There are two types of reinforcement: "Intermittent Reinforcement is given only part of the time the animal gives the desired response. It is often used instead of Continuous Reinforcement once the desired response is conditioned by Continuous Reinforcement and the reinforcer wishes to cut down or eliminate the the number of reinforcements necessary to encourage the intended response."- Intermittent Reinforcement Wikipedia.

Which type of reinforcement do you think is more powerful? Continuous or Intermittent?

If you said Continuous you would be right. But wait. If you said Intermittent you would also be right. It's a trick question. In the beginning Continuous Reinforcement is more powerful in shaping new behavior. However, Intermittent Reinforcement is more powerful in setting behavior.

We are interested in extinguishing negative behaviors in our teenagers. We are also interested in shaping new behaviors. Let's look at extinguishing negative behaviors first.

If there has been only Continuous Reinforcement, which means that every time the teenager acted out he got what he wanted OR he got serious attention then his behavior would theoretically be easier to extinguish than if he was only Intermittently Reinforced.

Take teenager Joe. He got what he wanted OR he got serious attention every time he acted out- it was Continuous. Suddenly, his parents went to PSST and when they returned home after the meeting, they immediately quit enabling. They completely quit capitulating AND they quit giving serious attention because they also quit arguing about things. Theoretically, teenager Joe's acting out behavior would be easier to extinguish than teenager John, who only got what he wanted OR got serious attention one out of three times that he acted out. Teenager John's behavior should be significantly harder to extinguish.

Think of it this way. The rat who has had Intermittent Reinforcement knows that the bar only works part of the time. To him, it's not that weird that it's not working because there have been other times when it didn't work. The rat who got something every time he pushed the bar can more easily see that the bar is broken. It always worked before, now it doesn't, therefore it must be broke. This rat's bar pushing behavior is extinguished faster.

What does this have to do with extinguishing teenager's negative behavior?

It is relevant because of this: most parents that begin to attend PSST don't stop enabling immediately after the first time they attend. The process of change might begin right away but it's not an overnight change. That sounds normal enough. Change is after all perhaps the hardest thing we humans do; however, by changing over time the parent is actually now switching from what might have been Continuous Reinforcement to Intermittent Reinforcement. The parent is now unwittingly, "setting" the negative behavior making that behavior harder than ever to change. In other words, the parent is paying for inconsistent application of a new parenting technique.

Now lets look at shaping new behavior. Continuous Reinforcement is actually the best and once established, changing to Intermittent Reinforcement to "set" the behavior. Now it becomes more important than ever to catch the teenager doing something right, and then reinforcing it every time the parent sees that behavior, at least for a while.

For example, you see your teenager being nice to his younger sister with whom he usually fights and argues. You make your move. You approach him and say, "Joe, I'd like to speak to you alone please." Joe probably wonders if he is in trouble. Once you get him alone it might go like this:

Parent: Joe, I saw what you did.

Joe: What? what did I do?

Parent: Well, you surprised me.

Joe: I did?

Parent: Yes, you did. When you told Julie that if it was that important to her to watch Survivor on TV, then she could change the station even though you were watching one of your favorite's DR. Who. That was very mature. Very adult. I'm impressed.

Joe: Oh, really?

Parent: Yes, I think that was a huge thing for a big brother to do for her little sister. You were being a great big brother Joe.

Joe: Not really.

Parent: Oh?

Joe: Naw, I saw that one before and it's not one of my favorites. I really thought Survivor might be more interesting.

Parent: Nevertheless.

Joe: No, I'm just tired of Dr. Who, that's all, don't make such a big think out of it.

Parent: Ok, OK, I hear you. Very modest about it huh? Good for you cause that also shows me you're growing up Joe.

Joe: It does?

Parent: Yes it really does. I remember a time when you would have argued with Julie about that even though you might not have cared what you watched. You would have tortured her just for fun.

Joe: Yeah, you're right.

Parent: Look, I didn't want to embarrass you- that's why I took you aside, but I just want you to know that I see what you're doing, OK?

Joe: OK, can I go now? I want to watch Survivor.

Parent: sure, [big hug and the parents holds it for a half second longer than usual and then gives her teenager an knowing look before she unhands him and he scampers away.

OK, what happened here? First, the parent's mission was accomplished: This parent caught the teenager red-handed doing something right.

Second, the teenager didn't want to accept any credit. This parent is shaping behavior, and this teenager was not comfortable with the new label, "adult", and resisted. This teenager might not want to see himself the way that parent saw him.

Third, the parent used a power word, "nevertheless" to seal the deal. This parent continues to see the teenager in the new way- mission accomplished again, i.e., catch the teenager doing something right.

From what we said above, now the parent needs to follow this up by catching the teenager in other acts of "adult behavior." Obviously, the approach is going to streamlined:

Parent: Hey,

Joe: what?

Parent: You're doing it again aren't you?

Joe: Doing what?

Parent: Acting all grown up.

Joe: What the hell does that mean?

Parent: You took out the garbage.

Joe: That's my job.

Parent: I know. But usually I have to nag you half to death and tonight you did it without me becoming a total bi&ch. Nice move.

Joe: [blushing a little] ha ha you're funny.

Parent: Sometimes. Right now I'm serious as a heart attack.

As we mentioned above, at some point you wouldn't reinforce every positive act, but in the beginning it is more effective in shaping behavior to acknowledge things.

Keep in mind that this parent has accepted the mission of catching the teenager doing something good. This parent has accepted the challenge. There has to be some things the teen does that is a step in the right direction and the parent is going to find those acts and reinforce them. Other parents are going to miss those acts.

Let's be clear. Continuous and Intermittent Reinforcement of good behavior is only one tool in the box. If you teenager is still actively using drugs, then catching them doing something right isn't going to get him to quit drugs and fly right; however, it is a skill that some parents never develop and that can hurt in the long run.

Notice that the parent in this scenario only rewarded with praise and attention. Some people believe that attention is the most powerful reinforcement known to man. Some parents get into the rut of only really giving serous focused attention to their teenager when they do something wrong. That's a recipe for disaster. Positive attention giving is very important. It is also important that the parent sees the behavior first before they apply the reinforcement although as we saw above, the parent can loosely interpret "good behavior."

For example, if while a teenager is exhibiting negative behavior, such as not doing his chore, and the parent approaches the teenager and has a discussion about why he doesn't do his chores and does he realize that is he doesn't do his chores the whole family will never get to go to Disney Land, then he is not effectively applying these principals. First of all, the attention is applied when negative behavior is happening and that reinforces that negative behavior. Secondly, the positive materialistic reward is also applied (talked about) when the negative behavior is rearing it's ugly head. It is bribery. Bribery doesn't work to good because the good stuff either happens when the behavior is bad or the good stuff is talked about (introducing the idea of the reinforcement) when the bad behavior is happening- so unwittingly the parent is reinforcing the wrong behavior.

To summarize: when a parent begins to stop enabling and yet they still do enable part of the time, they have moved into Intermittent Reinforcement, which makes it even more difficult to help that teenager change their behavior. People don't change overnight but it just so happens that inconsistency is expensive.

Secondly, when shaping new behaviors it is the parent's challenge to catch the teenager doing something good and applying positive reinforcement right then. Once again, consistency is helpful here but only in the beginning. Once the behavior is established it's better to only acknowledge the good behavior part of the time.

No one changes overnight. Still, let's start by changing our awareness. What is happening when you give attention to your children? Do you give more attention to the negative behavior or more attention to the positive behavior? Are you inconsistent? Do you not enable nine times out of ten and suddenly find that you are too tired to fight the good fight and you just give in this one time and let them have their way even though you know it's not the right thing to do? That's human nature but the inconsistency is going to cost you and it's going to be expensive.

Take the challenge. How many good things can you catch your teenager doing? Can you be consistent? That's one heck of lot of good parenting if you can pull it off? It's easy to write about but the real challenge is to go out there in the real world and execute the plan.

Let's finish with this quote for teachers based upon Skinner's work:

"Implications For Teacher in the Classroom:

"The interesting thing that Skinner discovered about intermittant reinforcement and maybe one of Skinner's most important discoveries was that behavior that is reinforced intermittantly is much more difficult to extinguish than behavior that is reinforced continuously.

"This is why many of our student's undesirable behaviors are so difficult to stop. We might be able to resist a child's nagging most of the time, but if we yield every once in a while, the child will persist with it." (Crain, 187) Therefore, when we begin to teach a desired behavior it is best to begin with continuous reinforcement, but if you wish to make a desired behavior last it is best to switch to an intermittent schedule of reinforcement."

Footnote: Drug abuse is also an example of Intermittent Reinforcement: perhaps the teenager didn't have too much fun on three of his LSD trips, maybe even he had a lousy time, but if that fourth time turned out to be an absolute belly laughing until your sore highly euphoric time then the behavior is learned. Or even though part of the trip (the coming down part) might have been not so hot, the fact that there was a tremendously fun part earlier in the trip means that intermittent reinforcement has set the behavior.


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A Recipe
Posted by:Jenn--Sunday, January 08, 2012

No, it's not a recipe for saving your child or saving your sanity, but it's a recipe that has been asked for repeatedly at PSST meetings. Peanut butter bon bons!! (Thanks, Alice, for your recipe for an easy-to-make and delectable treat!)

Download Peanut Butter Bon Bons recipe in a Word document.

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Two steps forward...
Posted by:Lloyd Woodward--Wednesday, January 04, 2012

The better our teenagers do on probation, in recovery, and in their lives- the more we expect. However, the ebb and tide of the recovery process usually, if we are lucky, gives you two steps forward and one step back. If we aren't lucky, then one step forward and two steps back. As we often say at PSST, we learn from failure.

Also, sometimes we have to make the same mistakes over and over until we get it. In recovery people talk about "getting sick and tired of being sick and tired."

The positive thing for most of the teenagers of our parents that come to PSST is that when our teenagers make mistakes, they usually don't get away with it. We apply consequences for bad decisions. We allow the natural consequences for bad decisions to take place, refusing to rescue our teens from the predicaments in which their bad judgment or drug abuse has put them. That helps the learning from failure thing to work.

One question that comes up a lot is this: Why, if they knew they would probably get caught, do they do it anyway? And searching for that answer sometimes leads one to surmise this: there must be something bothering them, that if we could just figure out what that is, and sort of fix it, address it, treat it, whatever it, and then they would not relapse.

Let's look a bit closer at this logic. They relapse. Therefore we didn't get to the real issue. "None of the rehab people were able to get my teen to talk about what was really bothering him. If he could talk about what was really bothering him, if someone could just get him to talk about it- he could stay clean." What makes this logic a tough nut to crack, is that there is some truth to it.

Yes, indeed there are issues galore. No, the teenager had not talked about all the issues. Would it help his recovery if someone could help him talk about all these issues? Probably. However, in recovery from highly addictive drugs, we must factor in one other huge thing to this equasion: EUPHORIA.

The extreme high that the addict feels is such a powerful reinforcer that it can outweigh the certain consequences that will follow. At the time the teen wants to get high, he doesn't care about the consequences because he knows that for a short time he will experience the bliss of drug use. The drive to get high can also be more important than whether or not certain issues have been resolved.

So, what are we left with? Are we powerless over our teen's recovery from addiction? Yes, of course. Only our teenager can decide that they want to change their life.

But are we powerless over our own parenting activities? Hopefully not. We can send powerful messages to our teen addict by the actions that we take or fail to take. And sometimes that can help. For example, since we know that recovery from highly addictive drugs happens more often when the addict is working a strong 12-step recovery program, we can devise parent-strategies geared to enhance or support the recovery process. Can we work our teenager's recovery program for him? Of course not. But if we know that our teenager is not serious about his recovery, we can see the relapse coming down the road. If a parent chooses not to address this- then all one can do is wait for the relapse. Of course we all know how risky that can be. Each relapse is not only devastating in so many ways but each relapse runs the risk of death.

If the addict is taking two steps back, they're pleading for rescuing can accelerate. As the addict becomes more and more desperate to continue his addiction he needs a prime enabler. This can be misinterpreted by his loved ones who are also his potential prime enablers. In other words, it can look a lot like the addict finally 'gets it' when, in fact, all he really gets is that he has to be more insistent, more urgent, and more manipulative in order to keep getting enabled.

Keeping in mind how powerful euphoria is, the consequences, both those provided by parents and/ or by life has to be at least equally as powerful. If it doesn't cost the addict anything, he will not change.   Even if he has epiphany after epiphany, he may continue to abuse drugs and participate criminal activity.

"People change because they feel the heat, not because they see the light." (Ed from Gateway Greentree.)

It all comes down to this: the actions that a parent takes to stop enabling are the most important acts of love. Sometimes it's actions and sometimes it's just doing nothing at all except not rescuing. In either case, stopping enabling could be the hardest thing one does, watching while the addict tumbles and/ or spirals out of control.


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New Years Resolutions
Posted by:Lloyd Woodward--Sunday, January 01, 2012

Click here to go to original cartoon.

I resolve for 2012...

1. To stop having too large of an opinion of myself. I am not able to answer every one's problems. I am not that powerful even though sometimes I wish... I have to let people struggle with their own problems and offer help only within certain limits, and remember that if I'm trying to work on some one's problems harder than they are working on their own problems, something is wrong.

2. To remember to have confidence in people. When I assume that I'm the only one that can help, then not only have I exaggerated my own place in life but I have cast a vote of no confidence in others. They can rise to the occasion. They will find a way and especially they will find a way if I stop trying so much to find it for them.

3. To have faith that things are working out the way they are supposed to work out. This is part of Desiderada by Max Ehrmann: "Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness. Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should."

4. To set an example for my loved ones by taking better care of myself. I can be healthy, work out more, eat less, offer more love, and still do it while protecting myself with good boundaries from the people that I love. Remember that unconditional love does not mean that I have to be a door mat.

I will remember that it is often better to say "no" and feel the guilt than say "yes" and feel the resentment.

5. To remember to learn from everyone. Everyone has something to teach. I need to focus more on what I can learn from others rather than on what I can teach. It's nice to teach but the lucky ones are those of us that never stop learning. It's ironic that our teenagers are often our best teachers, even though what we learn from them may not always be what they intended to teach.

6. We say it all the time, but this year I'd like to do a better job of accepting things I can't change. When I close a door it helps God know that I need a window.

7.  To remember that the only person I can REALLY change is myself. And no doubt, that is "the universe unfolding as it should."

8. To appreciate what I have. Focus more on that and don't let a longing for what I don't have take over.

"A grateful addict won't get high." Hopefully, a grateful co-dependent won't enable. To finish this thought I once again will quote from Desiderada:

 "Therefore, be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be. And whatever your labors and aspirations in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul. With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams; it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful."

9. Don't focus on should-a, would-a, or could-a. My daughter taught me this when she was ten years old but I think I need to work on it some more. Of course I have regrets but I can't wallow in the past without missing the present.

The important thing is did I recover from the mistake, did I admit the mistake, did I make any amends on the mistake, and did I learn enough from making it that I didn't keep making the same one again and again? This is what will show my character.

Dude #1 who just made it into the afterlife: Wow! I think I'm in heaven! Or not. It's hard to tell. What do you think?

Dude #2 who just made it into the afterlife: I dunno. Look at that sign, man!

Sign says: "All ye who would enter here must leave all regrets at the gate. If you can not leave all regrets here, you must carry them with you until you learn to leave them behind."

Dude #1: I knew that was important! Aaaaaaaagh. I tried to leave my regrets, daaarn it I just knew this was important!  Now it's going to keep me out cause I never could quit wishing that things had worked out differently. I made so many mistakes, garsh, what am I going to do now!

Dude #2. Just drop em now. It doesn't look like it's too late!

Dude #1. I used to like that Sinatra song, you know where he casually sings, "Regrets, I've had a few - too few to mention." What does he mean by that? How can he drop em if he can't even mention them? I've got regrets, too many to mention so I never really did get that song.

Dude #2: Well, we've got another chance now to just drop em. I'm going in. I must have done OK if I got this far. Good luck, man, I'm going over.

Dude #1: [watches Dude #2 walk over the threshold and disappear] Ohhhhh crap, I should have gone when he went, now I'm all alone. I don't know what to do I'm afraid I'm carrying too many regrets to just 'drop' them now! Oh darn, I should have dropped these all along like we're supposed to do- now I'm afraid I just have too many. I'll never drop them all right here- but I'm going to try.

[Dude #1 sits down, makes a list of all his regrets. It takes up fifty pages. He reads each one of them and makes conscious decision to let each one go. He even imagines a pair of wings around each regret and he then visualized each regret flying away. Finally, he believes that he has purged himself of all regrets. It has taken three days. He stands up and tries to walk into heaven. He hits an invisible barrier and bounces back, trips and lands on his rear-end. Suddenly he hears Saint Peter's voice.

St. Peter: You are still regretful!

Dude #1: No! I let each and every regret go. I'm sure I got them all!

St. Peter: Just one big one here that apparently you couldn't let go of.

Dude #1: Was it leaving my first wife? That was a HUGE mistake and I paid for that one the rest of my life.

St. Peter: No, you visualized that one flying away- good job on that one.

Dude #1: Was it betting my house that the Pens would win the Stanley cup without Crosby? That one was really stupid.

St. Peter: Nope- you managed to get rid of that one!

Dude #1: Aaaaaaaagh, I don't know, it could have been any one of a hundred! Was it that relationship I had with my secretary years ago?

St. Peter: H'mm, interesting enough, you don't seem to regret that one too much at all! No, apparently, you aren't able to stop regretting that you carried all these regrets with you for years!

Wishing PSST and everyone a challenging meaningful exciting intense year that has enough exhilaration to balance out the disappointing things. I hope you all feel more alive and that each one of you smell the opportunity to find or remember that special thing in yourself that you value.

I wish you all to be surrounded by loved ones when you feel lonely, to be alone when you feel crowded, and to be at peace with yourself and with God, whatever your conception of him (or her) happens to be.

If you would like to share one of your resolutions or comment on these nine, please do so.

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