Anger at the Boiling Point? How to Take Back Control This Summer!

Anger at the Boiling Point? How to Take Back Control This Summer!

“I was looking forward to summer, but it’s been a nightmare,” said an  exhausted mom I talked to recently. “The kids make messes around the house, play  video games and fight all day. My 16-year-old is defying me at every turn and  ignores me when I give her consequences. I’m at my boiling point every day—and  getting tired of hearing myself scream at them. Can I get a do-over on  summer?!”

Letting  your children know what is expected of them and holding them accountable  actually puts them at ease (even though they will probably never admit it!)  because they’ll know what to expect from you.


While  we’d all like a do-over once in a while, you can do the next best  thing—take  back control of your summer and take charge with your kids. You can  actually  take the first step right now by making up your mind that you want to  do so. In  the Total Transformation program, James Lehman talks about  importance  of “Realization”—recognizing and admitting that what you’re doing  isn’t working  right now and that you need to try something different.

The  next step is deciding what specific problems you want to focus on. On  the Parental Support Line, we always recommend coming up with a   plan for change and then working on just one or two key issues at a time before   moving on to the next problem area. With a little work and planning—and a  commitment  to regaining your sanity—you can get  your summer back.

How to Take Back Your Summer

Here  are 5 tips on how to get your authority back in your household as a  parent and  get your kids to listen and comply with requests—even if you didn’t  start the  summer off on the right foot.

  1.  Set  limits: Establish  some carefully-selected limits. When making changes, it’s  always most effective  to start with one or two target areas. Decide what one or  two limits you want  to start enforcing and communicate those to your child as  clearly as possible.  For example, you might say, “From now on, I want the video  games off by 10pm,”  or “I want you out of bed by 9am and your chores done by  noon.” You don’t have  to get into a big, long discussion or debate, but you can  offer a simple  explanation and then disconnect from the conversation. After  all, if you’ve  made up your mind that you’re not going to let your child  negotiate, why keep  that conversation going? Just stop and walk  away.
    Related:  Yelling all the time and at the end of your  rope?
  2. Enforce  the limits: Come up  with some logical consequences that you’ll put into place if your  child does  not respect your limits. If the video game is still on at 11pm, then  your child  loses an hour of game time the next day, or you lock up the game the  next day,  and he can try again the day after. If your feuding children can’t  stop  fighting over the computer, it’s off limits for both of them for the rest  of  the day, or they can earn it back by going 2 hours without arguing.   Consequences that are task-oriented (like the latter example) are far more   effective when you want your child to practice a new behavior because it  provides  them with the motivation to do so.
    Related: How to take back parental  authority, starting  today.
  3. Create  routine: Come  up with  a rough schedule that includes a time you’d like everyone to be up and  some  time for breakfast and getting dressed. You might also set aside a block  of  time for doing chores, for family activities, or for turning off the   electronics, as well as winding down and getting to bed. It doesn’t have to be  overly  regimented and strict, but at least write down some tasks or goals for  the day  in the order you’d like them to happen with some rough time  frames.
  4. Meet  defiant teens where they’re  at: Suppose you have the type of child who doesn’t care about  your limits,  consequences, or routines at all—they come and go from your home  as they  please, you have no idea where they are or how they got there, and they  do  absolutely nothing around the house. Whether your child has simply started   testing your limits or you feel you have lost your authority, then you will   want to take a different approach to hold them accountable for following your   rules.
    It’s going to be helpful to look at  what privileges your  child really values—and that you have complete control  over—and focus on those,  as Kimberly Abraham and Marney Studaker Cordner advise  in their program for ODD kids. If you can’t control the video game  access  100%, then don’t use it as a consequence—it won’t work. Kids who take  off  whenever they want to and ignore everything you say are going to try to  find  every way possible around your limits and consequences, so focusing on  what you can control is important, whether it  be the car, their cell  phone, giving them money for things, or cancelling the  cable or internet (yes,  you may have to make some sacrifices if you can’t find  anything else you have  control over).
    Related:  Learn how to give “fail-proof”  consequences.
    The point is, find something you have   control over and be prepared to follow  through. Defiant kids need to  know that you “say what you mean and mean  what you say,” as James Lehman so  aptly put it.
    Also,  when choosing areas to focus on with more  defiant kids, it might be wise to  start with behaviors that pose the biggest  safety threat first and “coach them forward” from there. Problem-solving is an   incredibly important tool to utilize with this defiant teens. It will be   important to talk with your child about the reason for sneaking out or not   listening—what are they thinking when they do that? Kids often use faulty   thinking to justify defiant behavior (like thinking that your rules are unfair   or you treat them like a baby), so find out what thoughts are at the root and   point out that they don’t justify their behavior. You can say, “It sounds like   you’re blaming me for the fact that you didn’t do your chores today. You’re   responsible to do your own tasks or there will be consequences. “Talk with them   about what they can do going forward to deal with their anger or frustration   with your rules, like listening to music while they do their chores, so they   can cope better and meet your expectations.
    Related  article: The surprising reason for bad child  behavior.
    That  brings me to another note: appeal to  your child’s self-interest. What’s in it  for them to follow your rules? How  will it make their lives better or easier? You  might say something like, “What  can you do to stay home when you don’t have  permission to be out, and therefore  keep from losing your _______ privilege?”
  5. Be  proactive: Younger  kids especially will need your help planning social activities  and finding  entertainment that offers enrichment. You can also sit down with  your child and  come up with a list of things he or she might like to do before  the end of the  summer that works for your family’s schedule and budget. (This  could include  simple activities, like having a favorite friend for a sleep  over, going to a museum  on a hot day, or visiting a favorite community pool or  beach.

Also, in the Total Focus program for kids with ADHD, Dr. Robert Myers  suggests making an  “I’m bored” collage that includes visual cues of all the  things your child can  do at home on their own if they are bored. You can direct  them to look at this  in those moments when they come to you whining about  having nothing to do.  Being out and about all day every day just isn’t likely,  and so this will help  for those times at home in between outings. And, while  it’s your job to provide  some options, remember that it’s not your job to  entertain your child every  second of every day.

For Working Parents

If  you’re a working parent, first let me say that summer can be very tough,  especially  if you have adolescents at home during the day. It’s difficult to  get your  children involved with home or family projects or to structure their  time in  any way when you’re not there. It’s not uncommon for parents to get  countless  phone calls or texts during the work day from their feuding children  who just  can’t seem to get along for five seconds. You begin to dread coming  home after  work only to hear each of your kids rant and complain about what the  other one  did or said. In cases like this, it’s vital to hold both children  accountable.  As the old saying goes, “it takes two to tango.” Talk with your  children about  your expectations and what they can do to stay busy, as well as  how to cope if  their sibling starts to push their buttons. What can they do to  avoid or get  out of an argument? Where can they go if they need a break?

Related:  Losing your temper with your kids? How to stay  calm and parent more  effectively.

Once  you’ve clarified your expectations and provided your children with some  skills  to solve their problems, it’s important that you hold them both  accountable as  well. Time and task-oriented consequences work very well here.  If your kids  aren’t able to avoid conflicts with each other, perhaps they lose  a privilege  until they can go a day without fighting. If you try this and it  doesn’t seem  to help, then it might be the case that staying home without a  parent is  something at least one of your children isn’t ready for. If you  decide this is  the case, then you might want to seek out some supports in your  community,  whether it’s a day camp program at a rec center or local church, or  another  parent or relative.

James  and Janet Lehman gives parents 4 questions to discuss with their  children to  evaluate whether a plan is working:

  • What will we see if this is working? 
  • What will we do if it works? 
  • What will we see if this isn’t   working?
  • What will we do if it doesn’t? 

Talking  these 4 points over as a family will help to clarify your  expectations and  inform your children of the potential consequences, which may  motivate them to  try a little harder to meet your standards.

Related: How to teach your child the skill of  good behavior.

Getting Your Parental Authority Back

Letting your  children know what is expected of them and holding them  accountable actually puts  them at ease (even though they will probably never  admit it!) because they’ll  know what to expect from you. Showing them that  you’ll follow through will also  help them learn to respect your boundaries over  time. When you include  structured recreation in your routine, whether it’s  community events, family  projects, or volunteering, you will not only add more  fun to your summer, but  offer your child opportunities to learn and grow as  well.

Also, make sure  you have support for yourself in the form of your mate, a  trusted family member  or a friend who you can laugh with or blow off steam. We  all need time to  ourselves, and finding someone to take your kids and give you  a day off every  so often is also invaluable! Just remember to stay calm, stick  to your plan,  and try to take some time for yourself each day to do something  that helps you  relax.


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