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Paradoxical Parenting-Strategies Work With Out-of-Control Teens

Mark Huttenlocker

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My toughest challenge currently is discipline and understanding the behavior of my children’s actions, as well as getting them to listen and understand what we have to say to them.

The problems I'm experiencing currently is getting my children to be obedient and to understand the consequences of their actions when they do something wrong - or good - but most of all the bad actions, which just don't only affect them, but ourselves as a parent and others.

Speaking to them with honesty and explaining some actions that they have taken has had no results. We feel lost and we have had enough of THEIR consequences.

Please could you advise?



The strategies needed in dealing effectively with ‘out of control teens’ are paradoxical in nature (i. e. , actions that a parent would NOT typically take).

In working with intense, strong-willed pre-teens & teens, I find the following:

1. Most of what you think WILL work effectively DOES NOT WORK AT ALL.

2. Most of what you think WILL NOT work – and is an outrageous idea of sorts – DOES WORK.

Think of my recommended strategies as a set of paradoxical strategies. For example, one typical parenting strategy is to attempt to “reason” with the child in the form of a well-stated lecture ‘chock-full’ of wisdom. As you may have found, these well-intended monologues do not “go in one ear and out the other" – they don’t even go in one ear. It's about as close to a total waste of time as you can get. Thus, I won’t be recommending “lectures” or “reasoning” as a viable strategy.

Children learn best when parents allow them to make mistakes - and when parents allow children to receive emotionally painful consequences associated with their poor choices. But this must be done in a way that does not accidentally reward negative behavior.

Remember: “If You Keep Doing What You've Always Done, You'll Keep Getting What You've Always Got. ”

If you have a strong-willed, out-of-control teenager, I have to ask: How much longer are you going to allow yourself to be tricked, bullied, lied to and stolen from? How many more temper tantrums and arguments are you willing to endure? Haven't you already wasted enough time and energy trying to make your children change?

Imagine today you put into motion a few small actions that in just a few weeks resulted in receiving the respect and obedience you always wanted, but thought was impossible.

There’s hope, and there’s help – and it’s never too late to get either.

Mark Huttenlocker, M. A. , is a family therapist who works with teens and pre-teens experiencing emotional/behavioral problems associated with ADHD, Oppositional Defiant Disorder, Conduct Disorder, Bipolar Disorder, Autism, etc. He works with these children and their parents – in their homes. You may visit his website here:


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