Dear Dr. Morris: We have two teenagers and one child who will almost be a teenager. Our young child is 10 years old and our older children are 15 and 16. We feel our children, particularly our teenagers, are either out of control or headed that way. It is hard for us to tell whether or not we have really lost control of our children. We have tried just about every form of punishment. Please help. J.W., Corinth.
Since you told me very little about your children in terms of specific behaviors, it is very difficult for me to answer your question, particularly as to whether or not you are still in control. However, some of the following are danger signals which should alert parents to children who are out of control:
- Being unaware of your child's daily activities, where he/she goes in the morning or in the evening.
- Any evidence of drug paraphernalia, such as pipes, “papers,” pills, marijuana, etc., in your child's room or drawers.
- Withdrawal and reluctance or outright refusal to join in family activities or get-togethers.
- Aggressive behavior toward nay family member, such as outright hitting or pushing.
- Your child is beginning to run with other children who have a history of either school behavior problems or legal problems.
- Any arrest for vandalism, aggressive behavior towards others, reckless driving or drugs.
- Feeling yourself that you are afraid of your own child.
- Disappearance of any family valuables, clothing, money or otherwise.
- Rebellious behavior, such as refusal to go to school, go to school without being tardy, or to do homework.
- A concern on the part of you and your husband that your child/children's behavior is creating a problem for your marriage.
Of course there are other danger signals, but these are critical. If most of these seem to fit your situation, then your children are out of control … and probably, you are, too.
Dr. Morris is a licensed psychologist in private practice in Tupelo. He welcomes letters which should be addressed to Stressline, 1018 N. Gloster St., Tupelo MS 38804.