Teenagers and Their Bedrooms

Teenagers and Their Bedrooms

An issue that comes up daily with teenagers in psychotherapy is their bedroom. Many parents tell me that their teenager’s bedroom is like a junk yard. Parents are embarrassed by the bedroom and feel the teenager is being disrespectful. Many parents ask me should they demand that their teenager clean their bedroom. Also many parents ask about is it appropriate if they search their teenager’s bedroom. Let’s deal with this one issue at a time.

Parents it is very important to remember to pick and choose your battles. There are a lot of issues you will need to discuss with your teenager. Therefore, it is important to ask, is it worth an argument? Teenagers are at a point in their life where they do need their privacy. They are also at a point where they are trying to find their own identity. Their bedroom is a place they use for part of this process. Also you want your teenager to learn responsibility. Their room is something they can be responsible for.

My recommendation is not to make an issue of their bedroom. You have more important issues such as school, how late your teen wants to stay out, where they want to go and the common issues of alcohol, drugs and sexual activity. Therefore, their bedroom really is a minor issue. In my opinion it is not worth the fight. Arguing about their bedroom, which they view as their private space, can lead to bigger problems with some of the other issues I listed above. Also remember these are only some of the issues you will need to set guidelines and expectations about your teenager’s behavior. This is why I strongly recommend leaving the bedroom alone.

Many parents ask me, “then I should just let them live in a junk yard?” The answer is yes. However, there are some guidelines I do set with teenagers. I tell them that Mom and Dad are not going to clean their room as long as they comply with the following guidelines:

1. The bedroom door must be able to be closed so no one else has to look at the mess.

2. People can walk by the room without smelling anything such as rotting food.

3. There are no ants or bugs going into or coming out of the room.

4. They do not keep dishes in their room so Mom has dishes when she needs them.

5. They are responsible for getting their clothes out of the room and cleaned. They are also responsible for putting away their laundry.

If they do not follow these guidelines, then they are giving Mom and Dad permission to go in and clean the room as they see fit. I ask the teenager and parents to both agree to these guidelines. I also recommend writing down the guidelines. Therefore, two months from now if someone remembers the agreement differently, you have a document you can refer back to which states what everyone agreed to.

Therefore, I recommend to parents if their teenager can agree to these guidelines, let them live in a junkyard. If they forget to get their clothes to the washer then they will be the one wearing dirty clothes. This is helping them to learn responsibility. It also gives them a sense of independence which they need.

I remind teenagers, if you do not want Mom and Dad cleaning their room then they need to abide by the guidelines. I also remind them it is their responsibility to get their clothes to the washer. If they don’t then they will be wearing dirty clothes to school. I also remind them that they cannot stay home from school because they do not have any clean clothes. I am basically telling the teenager that their parents and I feel they are responsible enough to take care of their room. This again helps the teen feel more mature and understand that they have to start assuming more responsibility for theirselves.

Now for the next issue, searching your teenager’s room. I do not think it is something parents should do on a regular basis just because their child is a teenager. As parents you have a responsibility to make sure you are raising a responsible young adult and if they need help, you have an obligation to provide them with the help they need. Therefore, if you have valid reasons to believe your teenager is using drugs or alcohol on a regular basis, then yes search the room. A valid reason would be noticing the smell of marijuana on their clothes or coming from their room. Finding marijuana or alcohol bottles in their backpack or car that they use. Other signs could be changes in their behavior and grades that are associated with drug use. However, before searching the room, I would recommend when your child enters middle school that you discuss with your child about the conditions which would make you search their room. If you feel it is necessary, tell your teen that you will be searching their room. Obviously, you do not tell them a week a head of time so they can hide things. I suggest you calmly inform them when they are home that you will be starting to search their room in a few minutes. It is important you explain the reasons why you are searching their room.

Parents may be concerned about an argument. This may start an argument, but this argument is worth it. Remind your teen about the agreement the two of you had made about searching their room. If you feel your teenager is not mature enough to abide by the agreement and is likely to start a physical fight, then you do not tell them and search it when they are out of the house. Remember you are only searching the room if you feel your teen is having a serious problem and need professional help. As a parent, it is your responsibility to get them help when they need it. You will want to remember this fact because your teenager may be very angry with you. However, it is better to have an angry teenager than a dead teenager. Many of the drugs teens are using today can kill someone very quickly and teenagers are not usually aware of all the risks.

Therefore, in general respect the privacy of your teenager’s bedroom, however, if you notice signs that indicate your teen is having difficulties then search the room.

Dr. Michael Rubino has over 20 years experience as a psychotherapist who teats teenagers and children. For more information regarding Dr. Rubino’s work or private practice visit his website at www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page at www.Facebook.com/drrubino 3.


Girlfriends and Boyfriends Are Not Necessary to Live

Girlfriends and Boyfriends Are Not Necessary to Live

“You Complete Me”

Many people are familiar with this line from the movie, Jerry McGuire, starring Tom Cruise. A deaf couple signs this message to each other in an elevator and Tom Cruise’s character assumes they must really be in love. However, this may not be the reality. In reality it may be an unhealthy relationship.

As a psychotherapist with 20 years experience treating couples and teenagers, I have observed a common mistake that many people make regarding relationships. Many people tell me they feel an emptiness inside themselves and describe it as a “big empty hole.” They assume that a relationship will fill this emptiness. In other words, they are relying on their partner to eliminate that empty feeling they are experiencing.

This is a mistake. The only person that can fill that emptiness you feel is you. When I work with couples or an individual who is experiencing this emptiness, they usually are upset with their partner. They are upset because their partner is not filling the emptiness. Also the other partner is frustrated because they are tired of having to constantly reassure their partner. They report they are tired of always having to worry about meeting their partner needs and that their needs are constantly being pushed aside.

This type of pattern is very common in relationships where there is domestic violence or a substance abuse problem. Also jealousy is a major issue in these relationships. The person who is experiencing the emptiness is very sensitive to feeling rejected or abandoned. This is usually a result from childhood issues that have never been addressed. However, as an adult, if they sense these feelings in their relationship they tend to over react to them. The person may drink excessively to reduce their fears and men often result to verbal or physical abuse. Anything that will keep their partner in the relationship and continue to fill the empty space.

This tends to occur because as we grow up there is a great deal of pressure for people to be in relationships. You see this in children in first grade or kindergarten when adults jokingly ask children if they have a boyfriend or girlfriend. If a child doesn’t they often feel there is something wrong with them.

I see this issue a lot with teenagers. I have teenagers who feel they are defective because they never had a girlfriend or boyfriend. This defective feeling increases significantly, if the teenager never has been on a date. They believe if they are going to be a “normal” teenager, they must at least be dating. Boys tend to believe they must be sexually active too. I have had teenagers tell me they felt suicidal or were using drugs because they did not have a girlfriend or boyfriend. They are willing to risk their lives using drugs or believe they are better off dead, if they don’t have a girlfriend or boyfriend. They are so tied up trying to live the stereotype, they can’t believe that many teenagers do not have a girlfriend or boyfriend and do not date in High School.

This pattern continues into adulthood. Many women feel defective if they are 30 years old and not married. Men feel as if they are not men if they do not have a girlfriend. Both men and women often settle for anyone as long as they can say they are in a relationship.

As children, we never learn how to love and care for ourselves. Ask someone if they would go out to dinner by themselves and most people look terrified by the idea. They have no idea what they would do and they are afraid about what other people with think. This is a sad state that we cannot love ourselves. If we always need someone to reinforce we are lovable, we turn our power over to strangers. If someone says something nice about us we feel good, if they say something hurtful, we feel unworthy as a person. But, why should someone else determine our value? We should be the one who judges if we are lovable or not. A relationship should add to our life like a bottle of wine adds to a meal. A relationship should not define us as a person.

As a result of this problem, many couples end up divorcing because a partner is tired of having to reassure their spouse daily. I have seen these divorces become very nasty and costly. So both parties are hurt even more and so are the children. They only people benefiting are the attorneys.

We also have this same issue with teenagers. However, when they break up it tends to be more dramatic. A teenager may start to use drugs, developing an eating disorder, start cutting, become depressed and may attempt suicide. The behaviors are not uncommon after teenagers break up.

How do we handle this issue? We need to start to acknowledge as a society that a relationship doesn’t make you a complete person. Only you can make yourself feel complete as a person. Also we need to remove the stigma of seeking mental health care. We need to encourage adults who feel incomplete without a relationship to seek psychotherapy and deal with their issues. Parents, if you notice that your teenager is desperate to be in a relationship, help them get psychotherapy so they can deal with the pain they are feeling.

Again, please remember a relationship should add to your life, it should not make you a person or define you as a person.

Dr. Michael Rubino has 20 years experience working with families and teenagers. If you would like more information about his work or private practice visit his website at http://www.rubinocounseling.com.

Help My Teenager is Out of Control

Help My Teenager is Out of Control

As a psychotherapist who works with teenagers, I see out of control teenagers daily. I also see parents who feel overwhelmed and are not sure what to do. Sometimes I even see parents who are so overwhelmed that they are willing to let the teenager have their way. This is a very dangerous attitude.

If a teenager is out of control, the best time to act is when they are teenagers. If you wait, teens become accustom to their behavior. This increases the likelihood they will end up in Juvenile Hall or dead. They may get into a fight with another out of control teenager and often the end result is someone dying. In addition to these consequences, who will these teenagers become as adults? The research indicates they will be violent abusive men. The research does indicate this out of control behavior is more common in boys, but it does occur in girls too.

Therefore, I encourage parents not to give up and continue to impose consequences and to seek help for their teenager. Research shows the early treatment is provided, the more likely there will be a positive outcome. Research also shows teenagers who do not receive help are unlikely to seek help as an adult unless they are court ordered. I understand it is difficult, but as a parent you need to keep imposing the consequences and seeking help for your out of control teen, if you want them to have a chance.

In reviewing studies for this article, I reviewed work by James Lehman, MSW, who holds similar beliefs as I do and makes similar recommendations as I do. I have included recommendations below to help parents who are dealing with an out of control teenager, so they have some ideas on how they can cope as parents and hopefully encourage them to seek help from a mental health clinician.

1. Stop Blaming Yourself for Your Child’s Behavior:

I very directly tell parents who blame themselves to cut it out. Remember, it’s not whose fault it is—it’s who’s willing to take responsibility. So if you’re looking for answers in Empowering Parents, and otherwise trying to improve your parenting skills, then you’re taking responsibility. Maybe you messed up in the past, but let’s start here, today, with what you are willing to do for your child now. The next step is to try to get your child in a position where he becomes willing to take responsibility for his behavior.

2. Avoid Confrontations:

I always tell parents that they don’t have to attend every fight they’re invited to. Don’t let children suck you into an argument when they slam their bedroom door loudly or roll their eyes at you. I think the best thing to do is say, “Hey, don’t slam the door,” and then leave the room. Give your child a verbal reprimand right there on the spot, and then leave.

3. Use “Pull-ups”:

I think it’s also a good idea to be very specific with instructions in order to avoid a fight later. You can say, “Hey listen, when you put the dishes in the dishwasher, rinse them off first.” That’s called a “pull-up,” because you’re actually just giving your child a boost. It’s like taking them by the hand and helping them get on their feet. You may need to do ten pull-ups a night, but that’s okay. There are no hard feelings there. You don’t hold a grudge, you don’t cut him off when he’s talking, you’re not saying, “I told you so; I warned you about this.” These responses—blaming, speeches, criticism—all cut off communication. And I think if you can have a relationship with your adolescent where you’re still communicating 60 or 70 percent of the time, you’re doing pretty well.

4. Don’t Personalize It:

If you get angry when your child stomps off to his room or doesn’t want to spend time with you, you’re personalizing his behavior. That gives him power over you. I understand that this is easy for parents to do, especially if your teen used to enjoy spending time with you and was fairly compliant when he or she was younger. But I think if you take your child’s behavior as a personal attack upon you or your values, you’re overreacting. Your child is in adolescence; it’s his problem and it’s not an attack on you, it’s where he is in his developmental cycle. Your teen is not striking out at you—believe me, teenagers will strike out at anybody who’s there. Put a cardboard cut-out of yourself in the kitchen, and most teenagers will yell at that. I’m joking, but my point is that there is so much going on in your adolescent’s head—he’s also so self-involved at this stage in his life—that he doesn’t see things clearly. Adolescence distorts perception.

So if your teenage daughter comes home late, don’t take that personally. If she told you she wasn’t going to do something and then she did it, don’t personalize that. It’s not, “You let me down.” It’s, “You broke the rules and here are the consequences.” Just reinforce what the rules are and let your child know she’ll be held accountable.

The only time I think you should take something personally is when a child is being verbally or physically abusive. If your teenager calls you foul names and is destructive to others or to property, you need to respond very strongly.

5. Run Your Home Based on Your Belief System:

I believe parents should run their homes based on their own belief system, not on how other people operate, or how it appears families on television do things. It doesn’t matter if “Everybody’s doing it.” You need to tell your teen, “Well, I’m not ‘Everybody’s’ parent, I’m yours. And in our family, this is not allowed.” So if you believe it’s not right for 16-year-olds to drink beer, then that’s what you believe—and you need to run your home accordingly. If you believe that lying and stealing are wrong, then make that a rule in your house and hold your children accountable for that behavior if they break the rules.

6. Be a Role Model:

If you tell your child the rules and then you break them, how do you think your adolescent will react? Do you think he’ll respect what you’ve said, or do you think the message will be, “Dad says that I shouldn’t lie, but he does sometimes, so it’s okay.” It’s imperative to be a good role model and abide by the rules you make yourself—or risk having them be broken over and over again by your children.

7. Try Not to Overreact:

Believe me, I understand that it’s easy to overreact to normal teenage behavior. They can be really annoying, and they are often unaware—and don’t care about—other people’s feelings very much. But I think some objectivity on the part of parents is vital. So if your child makes a mistake, like coming in past curfew, you don’t want to overreact to it. Don’t forget, the idea is not to punish—it’s to teach, through responsibility, accountability and giving appropriate consequences.

I think you should always ask yourself, “What does my child need to learn so he doesn’t make that same mistake next time? What can I do about that?” When a teen fails a test, the question should be, “So what are you going to do differently so you don’t fail the next test?” You may hold your child accountable, there may be a consequence, but you should always try to have a conversation that solves problems, not a conversation that lays blame—because blame is useless.

So let’s say your child went to the mall without your permission. You hold him accountable and give him consequences for that breach of family rules. Then you should say, “What can you do differently the next time the other kids say, ‘Let’s go to the mall’ and you want to be cool and not ask me if it’s okay?” Then help your child look at the range of options. They could say, “No thanks.” Or they could say, “I have to call my mother, she’s a pain in the neck, but I have to check in.” I actually used to tell kids to say this. It’s a great way for teens to follow the rules without looking weak or childish. When they say, “My mom is a pain,” all the other kids nod and shake their heads, because their parents are pains in the neck, too. Sometimes kids just don’t know what to say in a sticky situation. Part of solving that problem with them is coming up with some good responses and even role playing a little, until it feels comfortable coming out of your child’s mouth.

8. Physical Abuse, Substance Abuse and Stealing:

I believe if your child is stealing, being physically abusive or destructive of property or using substances, you have to hold him accountable, even if it means involving the police. The bottom line is that if your child is breaking the law or stealing from you, you need to get more help. I know parents who say, “I can’t do that to my son,” and I respect that—it’s a very difficult thing to do. But in my opinion, you’re doing your child a favor by telling him that what he’s doing is unacceptable. He is not responding to parental authority or to the school’s authority, so you have to go to a higher level. Your child has to learn how to respond to authority if he’s going to go anywhere in life. You may worry about your teen getting a record—but if he’s under 18, I think you should worry more about him not changing his behavior.

I think that all children, but especially adolescents, have to be held accountable for their behavior. Ideally, we teach them how to behave. We model it ourselves and then we hold them accountable through giving consequences and helping them learn problem-solving skills.

Whether your child is a normal adolescent or he’s an out-of-control teenager, you need to hold him accountable. That means you tell him he’s responsible for his behavior; he’s making choices. And I’m going to tell you something: kids who are getting high, stealing, shoplifting and acting out are making very bad choices that may affect them for the rest of their lives.

Accountability creates change. It doesn’t guarantee a complete inner change right away, but it sure forces behavioral change. And here’s the truth: nobody ever changed who wasn’t held accountable.

The above recommendations do not guarantee that a teenager will change their behavior. A teenager needs to make that choice themselves. The above recommendations are provided to offer assistance to parents in this situation. Finally, if you are a parent with an out of control teenager, it is not your fault. There are many reasons why teens act out of control. If you are in this situation, do not be embarrassed to seek help from a psychotherapist who specializes in working with out of control teenagers.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years experience working with out of control teenagers. For more information about Dr. Rubino’s work with such organizations as Alive and Free or his private practice visit his website www.RubinoCounseling.com.

Using Consequences with Teenagers

Using Consequences with Teenagers

Dealing with teenagers can be very difficult for parents. In my experience working with teenagers as a psychotherapist, I am a strong believer in using consequence with teenagers. James Lehman, who also works with teenagers, recommends consequences too.

Consequences help teach teenagers that their actions have consequences. They also put responsibility on to the teenager. They have the consequence because of the choice they made. They cannot blame you as easy. I also recommend that you set up and written contract with your teenager which spells out their consequences.

While I believe contracts and consequences work well with teenagers, some parents have difficulties. I often hear from parents that their teenager doesn’t care about the consequences or the contract. They find this very frustrating to parents. Therefore, I have listed below suggestions that can help you improve the odds of consequences working with your teenager.

1. Use Consequences That Have Meaning

It’s almost never effective to give your child a consequence in the heat of an argument. Often, parents will be either too harsh or too lenient, because nothing appropriate comes to mind immediately. I advise parents to sit down and write a “Consequences List.” You can think of this as a menu of choices. When compiling this list, keep in mind that you want the consequence to be unpleasant, because you want your child to feel uncomfortable. If, like most teens, your child’s cell phone has meaning for him, don’t be shy about using it as leverage. It’s also important to think about what you want him to learn—and this lesson should be attached to the consequence. So let’s say your child curses and is rude to his sister, and you want him to learn how to manage his feelings. I think an effective consequence might be that he would lose his cell phone until he doesn’t curse and isn’t rude to his sister for 24 hours. In those 24 hours, he might also have to write a note of apology to his sibling stating what he’ll do differently the next time he gets frustrated. If he fails to write the letter, he doesn’t get his phone back—and the 24 hours starts all over again.

2. Don’t Try to Appeal to His Emotions with Speeches

Remember, your job is not to get your child to love his sister or to appeal to his emotions with a speech, because all he will hear is, “Your sister looks up to you, blah, blah, blah.” Your job is to take his phone and say, “Hey, we talk to each other nicely around here. And if you can’t do that, then you can’t use the phone. We’ll talk about giving it back to you after you talk nicely to your family for 24 hours.”

3. Make Consequences Black and White

When you give a consequence, the simpler you keep things, the better. Again, you don’t want to get into legalese or long speeches. What you want to do is lay out your consequences for your child’s inappropriate behavior very clearly. It’s often helpful if he knows ahead of time what will happen when he acts out. Just like there are speeding signs on the highway, the consequences for your child’s behavior should be clear to him. Tell him, “If you talk nastily to your sister, this is what’s going to happen from now on.”

And whenever you’re going to introduce an idea to your child that may be unsettling, anxiety-provoking, or frustrating to him, do it when things are going well—not when everybody’s screaming at each other. Wait until a calm moment and then lay out the consequences simply and clearly.

4. Have Problem-Solving Conversations

I think it’s vitally important to have problem-solving conversations with your child after an incident has occurred. When things are going well, you can say, “If you get frustrated with your sister in the future, what can you do differently, other than to call her names? Let’s make a list.” You might help jump start some ideas by saying, “Instead of calling her names, how about going to your room and listening to some music for a few minutes? Could you do that?” And try to help your child come up with his own ideas. He might say, “If she follows me around the house, I’ll go to my room.” You can then say, “All right, why don’t we try that? For the rest of today, if your sister bothers you, pick one thing that you’re going to do from this list and see if it’s helpful.”

Conversations like these are how you get your child to think about alternative solutions other than yelling at his sister, name-calling, or acting out. Look at it this way: we all get frustrated, we all get angry, and we all get anxious. But everyone has to learn to deal with those feelings appropriately—and a problem-solving conversation is the most effective way to talk with your child about change.

5. Don’t Get Sucked into an Argument over Consequences

Don’t accept every invitation to argue with your child. Understand that he wants you to get upset so he can drag you into a fight. Your child also wants to show you that he’s not hurt by the consequence you’ve given him. Believe me, I understand that it’s annoying and frustrating as a parent. Kids will try to push your buttons by saying, “Who cares; whatever.” But don’t get sucked into it. Just say, “All right, it’s too bad that you don’t care—that means it’s just going to happen more often.” Then go do something else. And remember, while you don’t want to get sucked into a power struggle, you also don’t want to destroy your child’s pride by demeaning him, either—you just want him to stop talking poorly to his sister.

6. Don’t Teach Your Child How to “Do Time”

Many parents get frustrated and ground their kids for long periods of time in order to make the punishment stick. Personally, I think that’s a mistake. If you simply ground your child, you’re teaching him to do time—and not to learn anything new. But if you ground him until he accomplishes certain things, you can increase the effectiveness of the consequence by 100 percent. I always say to make your consequences task-oriented, not time-oriented. So if your child loses his video game privileges for 24 hours, he should be doing something within that time frame that helps him improve his behavior. Simply grounding him from his video games for a week will just teach him how to wait until he can get them back—not how to behave more appropriately. Remember, if you ground him for 30 days, you’ve fired your big gun. If you ground him for 24 hours, you still have plenty of leverage. Many parents believe the key to making consequences effective is to get a bigger hammer, but that’s not a sound teaching method.

Again, we want consequences to be learning experiences. A consequence that doesn’t fit the crime will just seem meaningless to your child, and won’t get you the desired result. Remember, you don’t want to be so punitive that your child simply gives up. That will never translate to better behavior.

7. Engage Your Child’s Self-interest

Learn to ask questions in ways that appeal to your child’s self-interest. So for example, you might say, “What are you going to do the next time you think Dad is being unfair so you won’t get into trouble?” In other words, you’re trying to engage his self-interest. If your child is a teenager, he won’t care about how Dad feels. Adolescents are frequently very detached from that set of feelings. They might feel guilty and say they’re sorry later, but you’ll see the behavior happen again. So learn to appeal to their self- interest, and ask the question, “What can you do so you don’t get in trouble next time?”

Put it in his best interests: “Understand, if you’re going to talk to your sister meanly or curse at her, things are only going to get worse for you, not better. I know you want to keep your phone, so let’s think of ways for you to be able to do that.”

8. How Will I Know If a Consequence Is Working?

Parents often say to me, “My child acts like he doesn’t care. So how do I know if the consequence I’m giving him is actually working?” I always tell them, “It’s simple—you’ll know it’s working because he’s being held accountable.” Accountability gives you the best chance for change.

9. Some Things Should Never Be Used as Consequences

In my opinion, there are certain things that should never be taken away from kids. For instance, you should never prohibit your child from going to the prom. Not ever. That’s a milestone in your child’s life; personally, I think that milestones should not be taken away. Your child is not going to learn anything from that experience—he’s just going to be bitter.

I also believe that sports should not be taken away. I have no problem with kids missing a practice if that’s part of a consequence, but taking away the sport entirely is not a good idea.

10. Don’t Show Disgust or Disdain

When giving consequences to your child, I think you should be consistent and firm, but don’t show disgust or disdain. In my opinion, you should never be sarcastic with your child because it’s wounding. What you’re trying to do is raise someone who can function, not somebody who feels they’re a constant disappointment to you. It’s very important to shape your behavior so that your child knows you’re not taking his mistakes personally. Remember, the look on your face and the tone of your voice communicates a lot more to your child than your words do. Positive regard is critical for getting your message across.

I think it’s important to remember that life is really a struggle for many kids. Going to school is difficult, both academically and socially, and there is tremendous pressure on children and teens to perform today. Personally, I think that kids should be recognized and respected for that. Think of it this way: what you’re really trying to do is work on your child’s behavior to get him to try to do different things. So if your child misbehaves and you ground him from everything indefinitely, you’re losing sight of all the other things he did right—and he will, too.

Consequences have shown to be an effective way to discipline teenagers and I strongly believe in them. Hopefully these tips will help you use consequences effectively with your teenager.

Dr. Michael Rubino has over 20 years experience working as a psychotherapist with children and teenagers. For more information about Dr. Rubino’s work or private practice visit his website www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page www.Facebook.com/drrubino3.

Ways for Parents to Reduce Their Stress

Ways for Parents to Reduce Their Stress

Today’s world can be very stressful for children and for parents. Parents worry about keeping their children safe with all the things that can happen to a child on the internet and then there are the mass school shootings parents worry about. All of these issues great stress but their is very little a parent can do.

In addition to the stressors above, parents worry about being able to afford things their children need now and in the future. As a result, many parents work a lot of hours. However, then parents worry that they are not spending enough time with their children. This results in parents who are very stressed and at times over react to what their child may do. This helps no one and adds to the problem. While I was reviewing articles about parental stress, I read an article by Jill Hope. She took a very similar approach to parental stress and makes many of the recommendations I make. I have included these strategies below that parents can use to help them decrease their stress.

Strategy #1: Apologize to your children

Children are very forgiving. By apologizing to your kids, they learn to take responsibility for their actions. You acknowledge that YOU were responsible for your own behavior, and you show that you are taking steps to make amends.

Strategy #2: Forgive yourself

As a parent, you are responsible for raising another human being. You are their role model. With that said, you are also human. And human beings make mistakes. In fact, mistakes are one of the best ways to learn and improve. When you continue to hold on to the negative energy of self-abuse after making a mistake, your children will absorb this energy. They will learn that when they make a mistake, it is okay to continue beating themselves up about it. By acknowledging your mistake, learning from it, and then forgiving yourself for it and letting it go, you are letting go of the negative energy field that has formed around you. And you are also teaching your kids to forgive themselves.

Strategy #3: Make time to be “present” with yourself

With all of the demands on you, the last thing on your mind is probably finding time for yourself. But finding a consistent block of time to become quiet and settle in to yourself can take the intensity off your reactions. It can take you down a notch. When you feel anger bubbling up inside, you may find yourself better able to “soften” before you blow up. You’ll find it easier to put some space between your angry thoughts and your true, peaceful and loving self. Again, this is about “quality” time and not “quantity” of time. Ten minutes a day of sitting with yourself, closing your eyes, and quieting your mind by focusing on your breath is a huge step in the right direction.

Strategy #4: Start each day fresh

Each day you have an opportunity to make a fresh start; to act in a new way. If you’ve behaved in a way that you are not proud of, don’t dwell on it. Before you get out of bed, spend a few minutes thinking about how you want to day to unfold. Don’t focus on what you ‘don’t’ want to happen, only think about what you ‘do’ want to happen. Don’t think “I am not going to yell today”. Instead, think “I am going to remain calm and peaceful today.” Focusing how what you want to see, instead of what you don’t want to see, attracts that. If you focus on the negative, you attract the negative. There is a saying “that which you give your attention to expands.” Put your attention on what you want to see and watch it expand.

Dr. Michael Rubino has over 20 years experience as a psychotherapist treating children and teenagers. For more information regarding Dr. Rubino’s work visit his websites www.RubinoCounseling.com or www.rcs-ca.com.

What Parents Need to Know about IEP’s vs. 504 plans

What Parents Need to Know about IEP’s vs. 504 plans


Dr Michael Rubino

Many parents do not know what an IEP is or what a 504 Plan is in regards to a child’s education. Also many parents are not aware of their rights or their child’s educational rights. I receive numerous emails from parents anytime I write about IEPs. Therefore, here is an article describing IEPs and 504 plans for parents.

Parents here is important information about Individualized Education Plans (IEP) and 504 agreements. Besides ensuring that your child receives a good education, you do not need to pay for items such as special computer programs that the school district should be paying for not you. If your child has an IEP the school district is responsible for most educational expenses even a private school if necessary. Please read this article so you understand your rights and your child’s rights.

The beginning of the school year is fast approaching. Besides the mad dash to get ready for school and schools are going to start assessing students to determine if they qualify for an Individualized Educational Program (IEP). I am already hearing from parents how school districts are misleading them and pressuring them to sign an agreement for a 504 before the parents clearly understand the difference between an IEP and 504 plan. The definition for both is further down in this article. An IEP and 504 are not the same. An IEP is legally enforceable and has legal guidelines and time frames. An IEP follows a student from school to school or state to state. A 504 is not legally enforceable and doesn’t follow a child nor are there legal guidelines.

An IEP will not stop your child from getting a job or from getting into college. In fact and college because they still would be entitled to assistance and the State of California may pay for their books. Also educational records are confidential therefore, no one would know your child had an IEP in school.

Many schools say your child must be two grades below in order to qualify for an IEP. If you said your child had a math or reading disability this is true. However, if they have ADHD, Bipolar, school anxiety etc. they can qualify under OTHER HEALTH IMPAIRMENTS. All your child needs is a diagnosis such as ADHD which would interfere with their ability to fully benefit from their learning experience in the classroom. The 2 grade below level qualification doesn’t apply to this category.

Also if you have a child in private school and they would benefit from additional assistance, contact your child’s public school district. Even though they attend private school the public school district is legally obligated to provide your child with services.

One more issue, never pay for outside testing before the school district tests your child. They have the right not to accept any outside testing until they test the child. If you disagree with the district’s testing then you can request an objective testing from an outside professional and you can request that the school district pays for the testing and you can select the evaluator.

An IEP or an Individualized Education Plan is a document that outlines the specialized education services that a student will receive due to their disability. It ensures the student will receive the assistance necessary so they will receive an education.

When most parents hear disability, they usually think of a person in a wheelchair or a student wIth a learning disability. There are various condItions that can qualify as a disability. Depression, Bipolar Disorder or even diabetes. The disability is any condition that will interfere in the student receiving the same education as other students. The students who qualify for an IEP need accommodations which meet the criteria of needing specialized education. As I stated above their are numerous conditions which may qualify a student for an IEP.

if a student does qualify for an IEP, they also qualify for Special Education. Many parents hear this and are afraid or embassies. There is nothing to be afraid of or embossed about. If a student qualifies for Special Education, if the student needs speech therapy or special computer programs, the school district is obligated to provide the services to the student at no expense to the student’s family.

There is also an option called a 504 Plan. This was established in the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. The 504 plan ensures that a student with a disability will receive accommodations so they will receive the same education as other students. However, the 504 plan does not qualify a student for Special Education services and It is not overseen as closely as an IEP plan.

Currently, many districts are telling parents that their child does not need or qualify for an IEP and a 504 plan is just a good. This is not true. Many school districts are telling parents that their child does not qualify for an IEP because the IEP is more expensive for the district and most districts are trying to save money.The districts take advantage of the fact that as parents, you do not know all the differences between an IEP and a 504 so they can talk a family into a 504 plan easily.

If you find that your child is having difficulties at school due to a learning disability, health issue or emotional issue, consult an outside professional before you automatically assume that the school is giving you the appropriate recommendation.

I see many parents who have been told that their child is better with a 504 plan and that is not the truth. You can consult an educational consultant or a therapist who works with children. You can contact me at via my website http://www.rcs-ca.com. I help many families at their child’s IEP meeting. The main thing is, do not be afraid to ask if your child should have a 504 or an IEP. Also don’t let the district make you feel guilty because you want time to think and investigate the options. This is your child and you should never sign anything until you are sure it is in your child’s best interest.

I have added a link to a chart that will help you compare the two and understand the differences.

504 Plan vs. IEP – Education Centerwww.ed-center.com/504This pages lists the differences between an IEP and a 504 plan.

I have also added a link to a video which helps to explain the differences between an IEP and 504 plan.

Dr. Michael Rubino has over 20 years experience working with children and teens. He also has over 19 years experience working with children in Special Education and was an Intern for the AB3632 program which works with children in Special Ed and IEPs. For more information about Dr. Rubino’s practice visit his website at www.rcs-ca.com or his new website that deals specifically with IEPs, lucascenter.org.

Being a Parent in Today’s World

Being a Parent in Today’s World

Our world has become more complicated for children and teenagers. They have many more choices and technology that most parents never imagined. While this has made it more difficult to be a teenager, it has made it more difficult to be a parent. I have parents asking me every day what is appropriate or are they being too strict at home. I also have teenagers who complain every day that there parents do not understand today’s world and that they are not allowed to do what their friends are allowed to do.

Parents are in a very difficult position. They are trying to do what is best for their children, but they do not always know what is the best option. I typically tell parents to trust their instincts. Every child is different and requires different rules and guidelines. As a parent you know your child the best and what is appropriate or inappropriate for your child.

I was reviewing an article by Sara Bean, M.ed., which addressed this same parenting issue. I have listed some of her thoughts below. Above all, I remind parents you are not perfect so all you can do is your best. You cannot do better than your best. In order to help with the guilt and confusion, below is a list of things you are typically required to do as a parent and things you are not required to do.

What you are not responsible for:

1. Making sure your kids are always happy

Don’t get me wrong—it’s good for your kids to be happy overall. But that means there will be plenty of times, especially when you’re parenting responsibly, that your kids will be furious with you when you set limits or give them a consequence. That’s part of your job description as the executive officer—not to make decisions based on what your kids will like, tolerate, or be okay with, but to make the decisions that are best for them and your family business, then follow through.

2. Getting the approval of others

Rationally, you do not need other adults in your life to tell you that you are doing the right thing. Parenting is not a popularity contest in your family or in your community. Sure, it feels great when other adults, such as your child’s teachers, tell you your child is doing something well, but it’s not necessary in order for you to run your family business well.

3. Controlling your children

Your children are not puppets and you are not a puppeteer. There is just no logical way that you can control every move your child makes or everything your child says, especially outside of your home. Children have their own free will and will act on their own accord—and often in self-interest. It’s important to remind yourself that if your child is not doing her homework, for example, despite your best efforts to motivate her and hold her accountable, that’s her problem and the poor grade she earns is hers alone. The consequence she will get from you is that you will make sure she sets aside time every evening to study, you will be in touch with her teachers more, and you will monitor her homework more thoroughly until she brings her grade up. We can’t control our kids, but we can influence them by the limits we set and the consequences we give. As James Lehman says, “You can lead a horse to water, and you can’t make them drink—but you can make them thirsty.”

4. Doing for your children what they are capable of doing for themselves

Many, many times our children will ask us to do something for them that we know they are capable of doing on their own. Your grade schooler might not make his bed perfectly the first time, but practice (and doing it imperfectly several times) is what he needs in order to get to the point where he can do it on his own. I’m not saying to stop preparing breakfast for your child once she’s old enough to pour her own cereal, or to never do anything to help your kids out in a pinch. What I am saying is to let your kids struggle sometimes and try your best to balance the responsibility. Typing a child’s paper for him because you type faster and it’s getting close to bedtime is not striking a balance.

5. You do not have to be Superman, Wonder Woman, Mike Brady, or June Cleaver

These are all fictional characters that seem to do it all and do it perfectly, right? You’re not one of them, nor should you strive to be. Rather than focusing on addressing every behavior issue or adhering to a perfect schedule each day, try to hit the important targets and realize that you might have to let some smaller things go each day. We call this picking your battles.

What you are responsible for:

1. Making tough decisions that are not popular ones

If your child doesn’t get mad at you at least once in a while, you’re not doing your job. Along with this, remember that you are not required to give lengthy explanations of your decisions. “It’s not safe” can be plenty of explanation when your teen asks why he can’t jump off the roof and onto the trampoline. “It’s your responsibility” is enough justification for telling your child it’s homework time. You don’t need to get into all the possible “what-ifs” and “if-thens.”

2. Teaching your

It is your job to teach your child age-appropriate skills in order to allow them to become more and more independent. There comes a time when your child needs to learn how to emotionally soothe himself, tie his shoes, write his name, and cope when someone teases him. Over time the skills he needs get more and more advanced—typing a paper, saying no to drugs, driving a car, and filling out a job application, for example.

3. Holding them accountable

At the very least, this means setting some limits with your children when they are behaving inappropriately. For example, when your child is putting off their homework you might turn off the TV and say, “Watching TV isn’t getting your homework done. Once your homework is done you can turn the TV back on.” This could also be as simple as firmly saying, “We don’t talk that way in this house” to your child and walking away. Or, of course, it can also mean providing some effective consequences for something like having missing homework assignments, such as weekend activities being placed on hold until the work is completed.

4. Going along for the ride

On the rollercoaster, that is. We all know but often struggle to accept that life is full of ups and downs—and sometimes it gets turned upside down. There will be times when your child is doing well and times when he or she is really struggling. That is not a reflection on you, it just is. Don’t blame yourself when this happens. Focus on finding positive ways to cope, look for something new to try to help your child effectively, or get some local support.

5. Do your best

That’s really all you can do sometimes. It’s a perpetual balancing act—striving to find that balance between doing too much and doing too little, or giving consequences that are not too harsh but not too soft, either. Parenting can feel like a circus sometimes and there can be several balancing acts going on at one time. That’s when you have to go back to picking your battles and realizing you are not, nor will you ever be, June Cleaver or Superman.

Above all else, remember that your child is unique and you know him better than anyone else on the planet. You will always get input, no matter how obvious or subtle, from the world around you as to how you should parent your child. You, however, are the expert on your child and get to make your own decisions about how to parent her in a way that teaches her to be independent and accountable while also being loving and respectful of your child and her needs. When you find yourself personalizing, remember the tips here to help you be more objective and remember what your role as a parent really is.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist who specializes in working with children and teenagers. He has over 20 years experience and is a founding member of the Alive and Free National Advisory Board. For more information regarding Dr. Rubino’s work and private practice please visit his website www.rcs-ca.com or Facebook page www.Facebook.com/drrubino3.