Life Is Fulfilling through Education

Parenting Skills

Tips for raising teens

Helping an adolescent become a caring, independent and responsible adult is no small task. Understand the parenting skills you need to help guide your teen.

By Mayo Clinic staff

Adolescence can be a confusing time of change for teens and parents alike. But while these years can be difficult, there's plenty you can do to nurture your teen and encourage responsible behavior. Use these parenting skills to deal with the challenges of raising a teen.

Show your love

One of the most important parenting skills needed for raising healthy teens involves positive attention. Spend time with your teen to remind him or her that you care. Listen to your teen when he or she talks, and respect your teen's feelings. Also, keep in mind that only reprimanding your teen and never giving him or her any justified praise can prove demoralizing. For every time you discipline or correct your teen, try to compliment him or her twice.

If your teen doesn't seem interested in bonding, keep trying. Regularly eating meals together may be a good way to stay connected to your teen. Better yet, invite your teen to prepare the meal with you. On days when you're having trouble connecting with your teen, consider each doing your own thing in the same space. Being near each other could lead to the start of a conversation. You might also encourage your teen to talk to other supportive adults, such as an uncle or older cousin, for guidance.

Minimize pressure

Don't pressure your teen to be like you were or wish you had been at his or her age. Give your teen some leeway when it comes to clothing and hairstyles. It's natural for teens to rebel and express themselves in ways that differ from their parents.

If your teen shows an interest in body art — such as tattoos and piercings — make sure he or she understands the health risks, such as skin infections, allergic reactions, and hepatitis B and C. Also talk about potential permanence or scarring.

As you allow your teen some degree of self-expression, remember that you can still maintain high expectations for your teen and the kind of person he or she will become.

Encourage cyber safety

Get to know the technology your teen is using and the websites he or she visits. If possible, keep the computer in a common area in your home. Remind your teen to practice these basic safety rules:

·         Don't share personal information online.

·         Don't share passwords.

·         Don't get together with someone you meet online.

·         Don't send anything in a message you wouldn't say face to face.

·         Don't text or chat on the phone while driving.

·         Don't plagiarize.

·         Talk to a parent or trusted adult if an interaction or message makes you uncomfortable.



Set limits

To encourage your teen to behave well, identify what constitutes acceptable and unacceptable behavior at home, at school and elsewhere. As you establish appropriate rules, explain to your teen the behavior you expect as well as the consequences for complying and disobeying. When setting limits:

·         Avoid ultimatums. Your teen may view an ultimatum as condescending and interpret it as a challenge.

·         Be specific. Rather than telling your teen not to stay out late, set a specific curfew.

·         Be concise. Keep your rules short and to the point.

·         Put rules in writing. Use this technique to counter a selective memory.

·         Be flexible. As your teen demonstrates more responsibility, grant him or her more freedom. If your teen shows poor judgment, impose more restrictions.

·         Be prepared to explain your decisions. Your teen may be more likely to comply with a rule when he or she understands its purpose.

·         Be reasonable. Avoid setting rules your teen can't possibly follow. A chronically messy teen may not be able to maintain a spotless bedroom overnight.

Not sure if you're setting reasonable limits? Talk to your teen, other parents and your teen's doctor. Whenever possible, give your teen a say in establishing the rules he or she is expected to follow.

Prioritize rules

While it's important to consistently enforce your rules, you can occasionally make exceptions when it comes to matters such as homework habits, TV watching and bedtime. Prioritizing rules will give you and your teen a chance to practice negotiating and compromising. Before negotiating with your teen, however, consider how far you're willing to bend. Don't negotiate when it comes to restrictions imposed for your teen's safety, such as substance abuse, sexual activity and reckless driving. Make sure your teen knows early on that you won't tolerate tobacco, alcohol or other drug use.

Enforce consequences

Enforcing consequences can be tough — but your teen needs you to be his or her parent, not a pal. Being too lenient may send the message that you don't take your teen's behavior seriously, while being too harsh can cause resentment. Consider these methods:

·         Active ignoring. Tell your teen that you'll talk to him or her when the whining, sulking or yelling stops. Ignore your teen in the meantime.

·         Scolding and disapproval. Make sure you reprimand your teen's behavior, not your teen. Avoid using a sarcastic, demeaning or disrespectful tone. Also, avoid reprimanding your teen in front of his or her friends.

·         Imposing additional responsibilities. Assign your teen additional household tasks.

·         Imposing additional restrictions. Take away a privilege or possession that's meaningful to your teen, such as computer time or a cell phone.

·         Asking your teen to suggest a consequence. Your teen may have an easier time accepting a consequence if he or she played a role in deciding it.

Be consistent when you enforce limits. Whatever disciplinary tactic you choose, relate the consequences to the broken rule and deliver them immediately. Limit punishments to a few hours or days to make them most effective. Also, avoid punishing your teen when you're angry. Likewise, don't impose penalties you're not prepared to carry out — and punish only the guilty party, not other family members. Never use physical harm to discipline your teen.

Set a positive example

Remember, teens learn how to behave by watching their parents. Your actions generally speak louder than your words. Set a positive example and your teen will likely follow your lead.


Underage drinking: Talking to your teen about alcohol

The time to start talking to your teen about underage drinking is now. Follow these tips to help prevent underage alcohol use.

By Mayo Clinic staff

It's easy to underestimate how early underage drinking starts — sometimes even in the preteen years — as well as the amount of alcohol teens drink and the risks involved. Still, underage drinking isn't inevitable. You can encourage your teen to avoid alcohol by talking to him or her about the risks of underage drinking and the importance of making good decisions.

Why teens drink

Teens are particularly vulnerable to alcohol use. The physical changes of puberty might make your teen feel self-conscious and more likely to take risks — such as experiment with alcohol — to fit in or please others. Also, your teen might have trouble understanding that his or her actions can have adverse consequences. Common risk factors for underage drinking include:

·         Transitions, such as the move from middle school to high school or getting a driver's license

·         Increased stress at home or school

·         Family problems, such as conflict or parental alcohol abuse

·         A history of behavior problems or mental health conditions

Consequences of underage drinking

Whatever causes a teen to drink, the consequences may be the same. For example, underage drinking can lead to:

·         Alcohol-related fatalities. Alcohol-related accidents are a leading cause of teen deaths. Teen drowning, suicides and murders also have been linked with alcohol use.

·         Sexual activity. Teens who drink tend to become sexually active earlier and have sex more often than do teens who don't drink. Teens who drink are also more likely to have unprotected sex than are teens who don't drink.

·         School problems. Teens who drink tend to have more academic and conduct problems than do teens who don't drink. Also, drinking can lead to temporary or permanent suspension from sports and other extracurricular activities.

·         Alcoholism. People who begin drinking as young teens are more likely to develop alcohol dependence than are people who wait until they're adults to drink.

·         Being a victim of violent crime. Alcohol-related crimes might include rape, assault and robbery.

In addition, research shows that alcohol use may permanently distort a teen's emotional and intellectual development.


Talking about underage drinking

It can be tough to talk to your teen about underage drinking. You might be unsure of what to say, and your teen might try to dodge the conversation. To increase your odds of having a meaningful discussion, choose a time when you and your teen are relaxed. Don't worry about covering everything at once. If you talk often, you might have a greater impact on your teen than if you have only a single discussion.

When you talk about underage drinking, you might:

·         Ask your teen's views. Find out what your teen knows and thinks about alcohol.

·         Share facts. Explain that alcohol is a powerful drug that slows the body and mind, and that anyone can develop an alcohol problem — even a teen without risk factors for alcohol abuse.

·         Debunk myths. Teens often think that drinking makes them popular or happy. Explain that alcohol can make you feel "high" but it's a depressant that also can cause sadness and anger.

·         Discuss reasons not to drink. Avoid scare tactics. Instead, explain the risks and appeal to your teen's self-respect. If you have a family history of alcoholism or drinking problems, be honest with your teen. Strongly discourage your teen from trying alcohol — even as an adult — since there's a considerable chance that your teen could develop an alcohol problem, too.

·         Plan ways to handle peer pressure. Brainstorm with your teen about how to respond to offers of alcohol. It might be as simple as saying, "No thanks" or "Do you have any soda?"

·         Be prepared to discuss your own drinking. Your teen might ask if you drank alcohol when you were underage. If you chose not to drink, explain why. If you chose to drink, you might share an example of a negative consequence of your drinking. If you drink today, be prepared to talk about why social drinking is OK for you and not for your teen.

Other ways to prevent underage drinking

In addition to talking to your teen, consider other strategies to prevent underage drinking:

·         Develop a strong relationship with your teen. Your support will help your teen build the self-esteem he or she needs to stand up to peer pressure — and live up to your expectations.

·         Know your teen's activities. Pay attention to your teen's plans and whereabouts. Encourage participation in supervised after-school and weekend activities.

·         Establish rules and consequences. Rules might include no underage drinking, leaving parties where alcohol is served and not riding in a car with a driver who's been drinking. Agree on the consequences of breaking the rules ahead of time — and enforce them consistently.

·         Set an example. If you drink, do so only in moderation and explain to your teen why it's OK for adults to drink responsibly. Describe the rules you follow, such as not drinking and driving. Don't serve alcohol to anyone who's underage.

·         Encourage healthy friendships. If your teen's friends drink, your teen is more likely to drink, too. Get to know your teen's friends and their parents.

Seeking help for underage drinking

If you suspect that your teen has been drinking — you've noticed mood changes or behavior problems, for example, or your teen has red or glazed eyes or unusual health complaints — talk to him or her. Enforce the consequences you've established so that your teen understands that using alcohol will always result in a loss of privileges.

If you think your teen might have a drinking problem, contact your teen's doctor or a counselor or other health care provider who specializes in alcohol problems. Teens who have alcohol problems aren't likely to realize it — or seek help — on their own.

Remember, it's never too soon to start talking to your teen about underage alcohol use. By broaching the topic, you'll help give your teen the guidance and support necessary to make good choices.


Teens and sex: Protecting your teen's sexual health

Teens and sex can be a risky combination. Find out how to talk to your teen about abstinence and contraception.

By Mayo Clinic staff

Few parents want to face the idea that their teens are having sex — but research shows that many teens are sexually active by high school, potentially putting themselves at risk of pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs). When it comes to teens and sex, the key is discussing the importance of contraception before sexual activity begins.

Promoting abstinence

When broaching the topic of teens and sex, it's never too late to talk about abstinence. Whether you feel strongly that sex before marriage is wrong or you simply want your teen to postpone sex until he or she is more mature, explain your feelings to your teen. If you share the reasons behind your beliefs, your teen may be more likely to understand and adopt your values.

Also ask your teen to think about his or her own values and hopes for the future — and consider how sex might affect them. Explain that teens and sex can be a risky combination. The only sure way to prevent teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections, such as chlamydia, gonorrhea, human papillomavirus (HPV), herpes and HIV, is to practice abstinence from sex — oral, vaginal and anal. Abstinence can also save your teen some emotional stress if his or her relationship ends. Remind your teen that there are many nonsexual ways he or she can show feelings for someone.

Discussing birth control options

Understanding birth control methods is an important life skill for everyone. Whether your teen decides to have sex or wait, make sure your teen knows how to prevent pregnancy and protect himself or herself from sexually transmitted infections. Discuss with your teen:

·         Condoms. Consistent and correct use of condoms is the most effective way for sexually active teens to protect themselves from sexually transmitted infections. Condoms also help prevent pregnancy. Make sure your teen understands the importance of always using condoms during sex.

·         Prescription birth control. Various prescription contraceptives — such as combination birth control pills, the contraceptive patch (Ortho Evra), vaginal ring (NuvaRing) and contraceptive injection (Depo-Provera) — can help prevent teen pregnancy. Your teen will need to see a doctor to get a prescription for these types of contraceptives. Explain to your teen that the doctor will review her medical history, conduct a pelvic exam, and go over the risks and benefits of different types of birth control. For instance, Depo-Provera isn't recommended for young teens because it may affect bone mass. Make sure your teen understands that prescription birth control isn't a replacement for condoms. Prescription birth control helps prevent pregnancy, but doesn't offer protection from sexually transmitted infections.

·         Emergency birth control. Explain to your teen that it's always a good idea to make a decision about birth control before having sex. However, emergency contraception — such as the morning-after pill (Ella, Plan B One-Step or Next Choice) — can help prevent pregnancy if your teen doesn't plan ahead or contraception fails. Plan B One-Step is available over-the-counter without prescription. Next Choice is available over-the-counter for women age 17 and older. Ella is available only with a prescription from your doctor or health care provider. Make sure your teen understands that emergency contraception must be started as soon as possible after unprotected intercourse, and within 120 hours to be effective.

·         Natural family planning. If use of contraception goes against your values, you might consider talking to your teen about natural family planning, which involves abstaining from sex during a woman's most fertile days. Keep in mind, however, that natural family planning methods aren't as effective as prescription birth control and don't offer protection from sexually transmitted infections. In addition, effective use of natural family planning methods requires diligence and planning — and teen sex is often unplanned. Teen girls also commonly have irregular menstrual cycles, which can make it difficult to assess fertility signs.

Don't be afraid that talking to your teen about contraception will encourage him or her to have sex. Your teen is likely curious about sex and contraception, whether or not you bring up the topic. By being open and honest, you can help your teen make informed decisions and act more responsibly when he or she decides to have sex — whether it's now or years in the future.

If you're having trouble talking to your teen about contraception, ask your teen's doctor for help. He or she may offer advice on how to talk to your teen and accurately answer questions about contraception.

Encouraging responsible behavior

Teens may lack the maturity to properly and consistently use certain types of contraception. If your daughter is thinking about using prescription birth control, make sure she considers frequency of use and convenience before selecting a method. For instance, combination birth control pills need to be taken at the same time every day, while NuvaRing is worn for three weeks at a time. Whatever birth control method your teen chooses, explain the importance of keeping track of doctor's appointments and how to make birth control use a part of her routine — such as by taking her daily combination birth control pill when she brushes her teeth. Make sure your teen knows what to do if she misses a dose or suspects that she may be pregnant.

If your teen is considering becoming sexually active, you might also provide practical tips — such as keeping condoms in a wallet or purse. Explain to your teen that use of alcohol and other drugs may affect his or her judgment and increase the risk of contracting a sexually transmitted infection.

The bottom line

Talking about sex and contraception with your teen isn't easy. However, your guidance can help your teen make informed choices that help protect his or her sexual health.


Teenage depression: Prevention begins with parental support

Teenage depression can affect nearly every aspect of your child's life. Understand what you can do to help prevent teenage depression, including possible mental health therapy.

By Mayo Clinic staff

Teenage depression is a serious health concern that can result in long-lasting physical and emotional challenges. Although there's no sure way to prevent teenage depression, you can take simple steps to make a difference — starting today.

Offer unconditional support

A strong parent-child relationship can help prevent depression.

To build — or maintain — a positive relationship with your child, you might:

·         Set aside time each day to talk

·         Find out what excites — and concerns — your child

·         Encourage your child to express his or her feelings

·         Recognize your child's achievements and praise his or her strengths, whether it's in academics, music, athletics, relationships or other areas

·         Offer positive feedback when you notice positive behavior 

·         Prepare and eat meals together

·         Respond to your child's anger with calm reassurance rather than aggression of your own

If your child is reluctant to talk, spend time in the same room. Even if you're not talking, a caring attitude can speak volumes.

Foster friendship and social networks

Encourage your child to spend time with friends and to get involved in extracurricular activities.

Positive peer experiences and strong friendships can help prevent depression. Playing team sports or taking part in other organized activities might help, too, by boosting your child's self-esteem and increasing his or her social support network.

At the same time, be alert to the possible issues associated with early dating. Even typical romantic experiences, such as flirting and dating, can be challenging for teens — and might contribute to symptoms of depression.

Monitor media use

Be wary of movies and TV shows that feature idealized characters and situations. If your child routinely gauges himself or herself against an impossible ideal, feelings of disappointment or depression might follow.

Repeated exposure to negative or violent content might also aggravate feelings of depression, perhaps by promoting a negative or fearful view of the world.

On the flip side, some research suggests that reading during adolescence might have the opposite effect — perhaps offering a buffer against depression.

Encourage physical activity

Regular physical activity — regardless of the level of intensity — might play a role in reducing teenage depression and anxiety.

For adolescents, the Department of Health and Human Services recommends one hour or more of physical activity a day. This includes aerobic activities — such as running, swimming, walking and jumping rope — and muscle-strengthening activities, such as climbing a rock wall or lifting weights.

Promote good sleep

A good night's sleep can help your child feel his or her best, both physically and emotionally.

In a recent study, teens whose parents enforced a bedtime of 10 p.m. or earlier were significantly less likely to become depressed than were teens who went to bed at midnight or later.

In addition to a consistent bedtime, also consider other principles of good sleep — such as following a consistent bedtime routine and limiting screen time just before bed.

Also keep in mind that the relationship between sleep and depression goes both ways. Lack of sleep might boost the risk of depression — and depression itself can make it harder to sleep.

Consider mental health therapy

Family-based depression prevention programs — often using a type of psychotherapy known as cognitive behavioral therapy — can be helpful, especially when there's a family history of depression.

During therapy, a mental health provider might help you and your child:

·         Learn about depression

·         Develop skills to handle stress in a positive way

·         Communicate with each other more effectively

·         Understand the effect that stress and depression can have on a person's life

Consult a mental health provider about the options and what might work best for your child.

Early Childhood Development

A Forum for LIFE, Inc. provides an expansive Early Childhood Development curriculum. These training programs are approved by the Office of Children & Family Services.  


Office of Children & Family Services Trainings Topics:


 Principles of Child Development

            Physical Development

            Ages and Stages

            Child Behaviors and Developmental Concerns

            Social Emotional regulation

            Language and Communication

            Best Practices in Early Childhood Servicing

            Developmentally Appropriate Practice and Child Guidance

            Teacher as the Educator- Child Centered Curriculum Planning

            The Individualized Plans: Understanding all children


Meeting Nutritional and Health Needs in early Childhood Consumers

            Safe Sleep Practices

            Health in the Curriculum

            Supervision in Child Care Settings

            Indoor/outdoor preventive care

            Family style feeding practices

            Music and Movement

            Active playtime


Program and Management in Child care programs

            Record keeping and program management   

            Continuum of care

            Mentoring and Coaching- Professional Supervision

            Daily Routines and Quality Interactions

            Language Based and Literacy centered Lesson Plans

            Promoting social and emotional competency

            Positive Interactions


Safety Practices

Health plans and safety precautions

            Parent centered Programs and Safety guidance

            Indoor and outdoor daily routines

            Health Care Practices


Protecting Children

            Mandated Reporter

            The health check

            Meet & Greet - Pick up, Dismissal and every interaction between

            Policy and procedures in action


CDA Course

            Understanding Early childhood Development: Birth to Five years

            Family Centered care and Parent involvement

            Health practices in Childcare

            Learning environments and Child Planned lessons

            Professionals in action 


A Forum for LIFE, Inc. strives to provide high quality training and professional staff development. Our curriculum is designed to facilitate trainings that are required by the New York City Department of Health & Mental Hygiene as well as raise the overall standard of child care for more than 100,000 families.


A Forum for LIFE, Inc. will post training topics and assist with serving the community by providing training services in the nine OFCS topic areas, five course topics leading toward the Child Development Associate Candidacy, and make available various topics to meet the needs of Head Start, U Pre K, and all Early Learning environments throughout Greater New York.


I. The following materials will be provided by A Forum for LIFE, Inc.; agenda sheet, program objectives, staff activities, and certification of participation. Original attendance sheets will be kept on file and used to generate certificates of completion.


Training can be in the form of handouts, small group interactions, learning stations, whole group discussions, thematic reflections, and workbooks are used to maximize the learning experience.


II. The following materials will be supplied by the program: Presenters table, audio/visual equipment (when available) and a training room with adult size chairs to accommodate an appropriate learning experience.


The following  is a list of programs aligned with the mandated OCFS training hours.


Health and Safety Training:

I.                   Emergency Procedures

II.                Child abuse and Neglect- mandated reporting

III.             Health and safe environments

IV.             Creating safe space for childcare environments

V.                Supervision of children- working together to maintain proper ratios

VI.             Health, behavior and medical alerts- service plans for intervention and prevention

Child Development and Environments:

I.                   Child Development

II.                Observation and recording child behavior

III.             Social emotional development

IV.             The outdoor classroom

V.                Play and the young child

VI.             Curriculum planning in early childhood environments

VII.          Art and creative activities

VIII.       Planning transitions for positive adjustments

Family and community partnerships:

I.                   Meeting and Greetings – Preparing for a programming

II.                Program resources and Community partners

III.             Power partnerships and parent teacher conferences

IV.             Family centered programming

Professional Development:

I.                   New Staff Training and orientation to the profession- (15hours)

II.                Caring for children in child care settings

III.             The Child Development Associate- The Childcare Professional

IV.             Best practice and developing a professional plan

V.                Mentoring and Coaching Professionals

Disabilities and Developmental Alerts

I.                   Typical and Atypical development

II.                Developmental Alerts

III.             Ages and stages-

IV.             Using assessment to understand, observe and plan in early childcare environments

V.                Meet the special needs of children – Including all in education

VI.             Differentiated instruction – Using curriculum in program inclusions plans

VII.          Implementation of services -  effectively using service plan


This component focuses on the development of infants, toddlers and children of varying developmental stages. Our information is tailored specifically to the young parent, placing emphasis on parenting dilemmas and the challenge of providing a positive environment for the family.

Why Positive Reinforcement Works

Sometimes my child is very aggressive. What is the best way to prevent this type of behavior? The best way to prevent aggressive behavior is to give your child a stable, secure home life with firm, loving discipline and full-time supervision during the toddler and preschool years. Everyone who cares for your child should be a good role model and agree on the rules he’s expected to observe as well as the response to use if he disobeys. Whenever he breaks an important rule, he should be reprimanded immediately so that he understands exactly what he’s done wrong. Self control Your youngster has little natural self-control. He needs you to teach him not to kick, hit, or bite when he is angry, but instead to express his feelings through words. It’s important for him to learn the difference between real and imagined insults and between appropriately standing up for his rights and attacking out of anger.

Supervision The best way to teach these lessons is to supervise your child carefully when he’s involved in disputes with his playmates. As long as a disagreement is minor, you can keep your distance and let the youngsters resolve it on their own. However, you must intervene when children get into a physical fight that continues even after they’re told to stop, or when one child seems to be in an uncontrollable rage and is assaulting or biting the other. Pull the children apart and keep them separate until they have calmed down. If the fight is extremely violent, you may have to end the play session. Make it clear that it doesn’t matter who “started it.” There is no excuse for trying to hurt each other. Your example To avoid or minimize “high-risk” situations, teach your child ways to deal with his anger without resorting to aggressive behavior. Teach him to say “no” in a firm tone of voice, to turn his back, or to find compromises instead of fighting with his body. Through example, teach him that settling differences with words is more effective— and more civilized—than with physical violence. Praise him on his appropriate behavior and help explain to him how “grown-up” he is acting whenever he uses these tactics instead of hitting, kicking, or biting. Always watch your own behavior around your child. One of the best ways to teach him appropriate behavior is to control your own temper. If you express your anger in quiet, peaceful ways, he probably will follow your example.

Discipline If you must discipline him, do not feel guilty about it and certainly don’t apologize. If he senses your mixed feelings, he may convince himself that he was in the right all along and you are the “bad” one. Although disciplining your child is never pleasant, it is a necessary part of parenthood, and there is no reason to feel guilty about it. Your child needs to understand when he is in the wrong so that he will take responsibility for his actions and be willing to accept the consequences. When to call the pediatrician If your child seems to be unusually aggressive for longer than a few weeks, and you cannot cope with his behavior on your own, consult your pediatrician. Other warning signs include:

• Physical injury to himself or others (teeth marks, bruises, head injuries)
• Attacks on you or other adults
• Being sent home or barred from play by neighbors or school
The most important warning sign is the frequency of outbursts. Sometimes children with conduct disorders will go for several days or a week or two without incident, and may even act quite charming during this time, but few can go an entire month without getting into trouble at least once. Your pediatrician can suggest ways to discipline your child and will help you determine if he has a true conduct disorder. If this is the problem, you probably will not be able to resolve it on your own, and your pediatrician will advise appropriate mental health intervention. The pediatrician or other mental health specialist will interview both you and your child and may observe your youngster in different situations (home, preschool, with adults and other children). A behavior management program will be outlined. Not all methods work on all children, so there will be a certain amount of trial and reassessment. Once several effective ways are found to reward good behavior and discourage bad, they can be used in establishing an approach that works both at home and away. The progress may be slow, but such programs usually are successful if started when the disorder is just beginning to develop.

Understanding Violent Behavior in Children and Adolescents

There is a great concern about the incidence of violent behavior among children and adolescents. This complex and troubling issue needs to be carefully understood by parents, teachers, and other adults. Children as young as preschoolers can show violent behavior. Parents and other adults who witness the behavior may be concerned; however, they often hope that the young child will "grow out of it." Violent behavior in a child at any age always needs to be taken seriously. It should not be quickly dismissed as "just a phase they're going through!" Range of Violent Behavior Violent behavior in children and adolescents can include a wide range of behaviors: explosive temper tantrums, physical aggression, fighting, threats or attempts to hurt others (including homicidal thoughts), use of weapons, cruelty toward animals, fire setting, intentional destruction of property and vandalism.

Factors Which Increase Risk of Violent Behavior Numerous research studies have concluded that a complex interaction or combination of factors leads to an increased risk of violent behavior in children and adolescents. These factors include:

• Previous aggressive or violent behavior
• Being the victim of physical abuse and/or sexual abuse
• Exposure to violence in the home and/or community
• Genetic (family heredity) factors
• Exposure to violence in media (TV, movies, etc.)
• Use of drugs and/or alcohol
• Presence of firearms in home
• Combination of stressful family socioeconomic factors (poverty, severe deprivation, marital breakup, single parenting, unemployment, loss of support from extended family)
• Brain damage from head injury What are the "warning signs" for violent behavior in children?
Children who have several risk factors and show the following behaviors should be carefully evaluated:
• Intense anger
• Frequent loss of temper or blow-ups
• Extreme irritability
• Extreme impulsiveness
• Becoming easily frustrated Parents and teachers should be careful not to minimize these behaviors in children. What can be done if a child shows violent behavior?

Whenever a parent or other adult is concerned, they should immediately arrange for a comprehensive evaluation by a qualified mental health professional. Early treatment by a professional can often help. The goals of treatment typically focus on helping the child to: learn how to control his/her anger; express anger and frustrations in appropriate ways; be responsible for his/her actions; and accept consequences. In addition, family conflicts, school problems, and community issues must be addressed. Can anything prevent violent behavior in children? Research studies have shown that much violent behavior can be decreased or even prevented if the above risk factors are significantly reduced or eliminated. Most importantly, efforts should be directed at dramatically decreasing the exposure of children and adolescents to violence in the home, community, and through the media.

Clearly, violence leads to violence. In addition, the following strategies can lessen or prevent violent behavior:
• Prevention of child abuse (use of programs such as parent training, family support programs, etc.)

Sex education and parenting programs for adolescents

• Early intervention programs for violent youngsters
• Monitoring child's viewing of violence on TV/videos/movies Children and TV Violence No. 13; Updated November 2002 American children watch an average of three to four hours of television daily. Television can be a powerful influence in developing value systems and shaping behavior. Unfortunately, much of today's television programming is violent.
Hundreds of studies of the effects of TV violence on children and teenagers have found that children may:
• become "immune" or numb to the horror of violence
• gradually accept violence as a way to solve problems
• imitate the violence they observe on television; and
• identify with certain characters and victims.

Extensive viewing of television violence by children causes greater aggressiveness. Sometimes, watching a single violent program can increase aggressiveness. Children who view violent programs are more likely to imitate what they see. Children with emotional, behavioral, learning or impulse control problems may be more easily influenced by TV violence. The impact of TV violence may be immediately evident in the child's behavior or may surface years later. Young people can even be affected when the family atmosphere shows no tendency toward violence.

While TV violence is not the only cause of aggressive or violent behavior, it is clearly a significant factor. Parents can protect children from excessive TV violence in the following ways:

• pay attention to the programs their children are watching and watch some with them
• set limits on the amount of time they spend with the television; consider removing the TV set from the child's bedroom
• point out that although the actor has not actually been hurt or killed, such violence in real life results in pain or death
• refuse to let the children see shows known to be violent, and change the channel or turn off the TV set when offensive material comes on, with an explanation of what is wrong with the program
• disapprove of the violent episodes in front of the children, stressing the belief that such behavior is not the best way to resolve a problem
• to offset peer pressure among friends and classmates, contact other parents and agree to enforce similar rules about the length of time and type of program the children may watch.

Parents can also use these measures to prevent harmful effects from television in other areas such as racial or sexual stereotyping. The amount of time children watch TV, regardless of content, should be moderated because it decreases time spent on more beneficial activities such as reading, playing with friends, and developing hobbies. If parents have serious difficulties setting limits, or have ongoing concerns about their child's behavior, they should contact a child and adolescent psychiatrist for consultation and assistance. "If a child lives with approval, he learns to live with himself." Dorothy Law

After a long day at the office, with more work facing you at home, the last thing you might feel like doing is being positive. But it is crucial that, even during conversations aimed at correcting behavior, you keep your tone positive. What is positive communication? Positive communication is a tool to reinforce good behavior and eliminate bad behavior; it builds self-esteem and inspires confidence in children. And it's easy — once you get the hang of it! A child's feelings of esteem is highly influenced by interaction and relationship with parents. All children need to feel loved and accepted, and you can communicate those feelings to your children by the way you speak. Once you develop the habit of consistent positive reinforcement at home, you'll see that communicating is easier, and you will also be helping your son or daughter learn to communicate with the outside world. By the time they are in elementary school, kids need the self-esteem boost gained when positive reinforcement is in practice.

Rules of the road

Face your child and maintain eye contact.

• Always allow your child to finish talking and complete his statements.
• "Labeling is disabling" — label the behavior instead of the child. Incorrect: "Billy, you are a bad boy." Correct: "Billy, it is irresponsible to leave your toys all over the place."
• Help your child learn to talk positively.
• Try to start your statements with a reinforcer, such as, "Sara, you are a very bright girl; now, let's talk about the best way to get your homework finished." People are more responsive to positive statements, but make sure your compliments are truthful. Children, as well as adults, will see through false flattery.

In the book Meta-Emotion: How Families Communicate Emotionally, by John M. Gottman, Lynn Fainsilber Katz, and Carole Hooven, the authors discuss educator and psychologist Dr. Haim Ginott's basic plan for positive reinforcement.

The four basic parts are: 1. Recognize and acknowledge the child's wish. 2. State the limit calmly and clearly. 3. Point out ways that her wish may be partially fulfilled. 4. Help the child express the resentment that arises when limits are imposed. "I know you would like to watch the TV show now, but we will tape it and you can watch it after your homework." by - Brenda L. Gargus Rewarding vs. bribing Reinforcers vary from child to child. You should be aware of the reinforcers that your child values, and use them. Extra TV time, phone privileges, a Saturday at the mall — most kids enjoy these things. Use rewards when you feel your child has finished a difficult task, such as making the honor roll at school, getting a B (or even a C+) on a difficult test, or not arguing with her brother for two weeks. Don't confuse rewarding with bribing! You should not offer extra treats, money, or gifts for tasks you expect your child to do on a daily basis. Instead, use reinforcers and positive communication — to encourage your child to use the same form of communication with others.

Try this at home Here are some time-tested hints for positive communication with your child.

• Be firm and consistent.
• Try not to force petty, time-consuming decisions, such as "Which color toothbrush do you want?"
• Give your child chores when she's young. Chores build self-discipline and a sense of responsibility, but remember that she may need many calm reminders to complete them.
• Accept the fact that children need to be told things over and over. If you have to repeat a direction, say it as if it were the first time.
• A short list of chores is better than a long, possibly confusing or frustrating list. In general, lists (in either words or pictures) are better than simply telling your child what to do, because a list addresses two learning styles — auditory and visual — and a list lets your child be in control by checking off each task as he completes it.
• Remember that some kids do not process multiple requests quickly or accurately.

Get your child's attention first, and never shout from one room to the other.

• Speak slowly; it will help your child absorb more of what you are saying.
• If your child has a learning disability, she may be disorganized, and may have trouble relating an event in proper sequence. Keep a calm, uncritical, and non-irritable manner when explaining something to your child.

James Baldwin once said, "Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them." By being positive with your child and reinforcing the behavior you want repeated, you give her the blueprint for interacting with people outside of your home.

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