#MSCS Parent Support: Managing Friends, Boundaries & Talking with your Teen
Some parents who attended our Triple P® Level 2 Webinars sent in their pressing parenting questions. Here are our Family Wellness Trainers’ answers and parenting tips:
Jump to the parenting topic you’re interested in:
1. Dear Trainer, How to teach our children to accept people as they are rather than avoiding them? For example, I have noticed my kid does not get along well with all her friends, and she tends to avoid them. — Sociable Mummy
Dear Sociable Mummy,
We understand that it is worrying when our children do not get along with their friends. Based on the assumption that a discussion regarding your daughter’s behaviour has not happened before, we would suggest finding a time and date to speak with your daughter to find out the reason she is avoiding her friends, getting to the root of the situation, before moving forward with strategies to change the behaviour.
As for teaching your child to accept people as they are, perhaps you could try coaching your child in developing empathy. This would come from a place of trust in your relationship. Talk with your child about her emotions to help her put words to them, then find opportunities to discuss how others might be feeling in a certain situation— you could do this while watching a show together or using real-life situations. This would help your child put herself in others’ shoes and learn to accept them with understanding.
2. Dear Trainer, My boy has no friends in school. He stays in class alone during recess. He doesn’t share anything about school. He refuses to invite any friends home. Doesn’t do school work, even for compulsory ones. This behaviour was triggered by the Circuit Breaker. He refuses to go for counselling. Any suggestions how to handle and help him? — Counselling Parent
Dear Counselling Parent,
It seems there might be background reasons for this behaviour. We would suggest arranging for a discussion time with your son to find out the reason why this behaviour was triggered. We understand that this is a tender situation which might need more help outside of the home. You could request for the School Counsellor to assist in finding out more about your son’s behaviour during school hours without having to meet him in the context of counselling.
3. Dear Trainer, My kid chooses not to participate in school activities that are not compulsory. He does the minimum and won’t tell me about such activities. It’s a similar situation for school work. When Teachers provide additional practices which are not compulsory, he chooses not to do it and keeps mum about it. Teachers nowadays will communicate directly with the teenagers and there are no ways parents know unless you check through their phone. How do we get them to be more involved voluntarily? — Lively Mummy
Dear Lively Mummy,
We would suggest having a discussion with your teen on what his motivations are, and the reasons behind his behaviour. Then you could using positive consequences to encourage him to join in these voluntary activities. Another way you can find out about these voluntary activities in school is to check directly with the Teacher. If your son does not want to participate in these activities, you could try exploring other activities of interest together at community centres or doing workshops at external art studios or organisations.
4. Dear Trainer, My kid is more on the heavy side, and sometimes other kids laugh at her. How can I teach her to manage such difficult situations? — Concerned Parent
Dear Concerned Parent,
It is not at all nice to be teased for one’s appearance, whether weight, height or facial features. A common response to being teased for one’s weight is to feel upset, leading to anger and a dent in one’s self-esteem. If your child gets angry with the other kids, you can have discussions with her on how she can manage her emotions during such situations.
Here is our suggestion for a discussion with your daughter:
Step 1: Identify which situation triggers her anger or frustration
Step 2: Identify signs of anger or the emotion before it fully unfolds— it could be a clenched jaw or fist, ears feeling hot or furrowed eyebrows
Step 3: Identify what your child can do to effectively cope with her anger— try taking 10 slow, deep breaths, or imagining a calm scene like a peaceful beach
5. Dear Trainer, Will dishing out negative consequences frequently (not intentionally but because the child repeatedly breaks ground rules) undermine positive parenting? — Balanced Papa
Dear Balanced Papa,
With Triple P, we encourage parents to start with positive affirmations and rewards to reinforce appropriate behaviour. Only when your child displays repeated inappropriate behaviour even after discussions and coaching, do we use negative consequences.
Besides looking for the final outcomes to praise or reward your child, do look for opportunities to praise and acknowledge when your child tries to make any effort to behave as expected. You will be able to give more positive consequences to your child if you catch him or her doing right (look for the effort and process) rather than the final outcome or result as this may not come so quickly.
As long as your child understands that you love them and want the best for them, the negative consequence should not lessen the positive parenting that helps to build up your relationship.
6. Dear Trainer, When do we employ the traditional caning as a form of discipline, and should we do it in the first place? — Positive Parent
Dear Positive Parent,
With Triple P, we do not encourage the use of caning as a form of discipline. We would always recommend parents to try other effective alternative consequences instead, such as hearing out your child before giving meaningful related consequences for misbehaviour, stating clearly your expected behaviour and using effective praise when your child follows through with the positive behaviour.
7. Dear Trainer, Did a contract with my boy; he wrote “leave me alone and I will settle by myself”. He continues his behaviour and I do not know what to do next. Any suggestions? — Trusting Mummy
Dear Trusting Mummy,
We would need a little more information regarding the contract and the behaviour shown to be able to help you better. Based on the assumption that you have had a discussion with your son, and used positive consequences, there might be a need to follow up with negative consequences to decrease the inappropriate behaviours. Remember to show your son that you understand and empathise with how he feels and that you respect his privacy and desire to be independent.
8. Dear Trainer, My boy always tell me there is no homework, so how do I check? — Teacher Parent
Dear Teacher Parent,
It seems your concern might be coming from having received feedback from the school that your teen has a high frequency of not handing in his homework, despite him saying he has none. You might want to discuss this with him to get to the root reason for why he tells you that there is no homework, and let him know that there will be consequences for not doing his homework. You might also want to have a discussion with his teacher, to request if you could be informed of the homework so you can follow up appropriately.
9. Dear Trainer, My boy doesn’t say much. It is difficult to get him to talk. How to get him to open up? — Sharing Mummy
Dear Sharing Mummy,
It can be difficult to start a conversation with our teens sometimes. You can try arranging a date and time to have a chat with your son. Start the conversation with topics that are of interest to your son before moving on to other topics that you would like to share deeper about. Trust takes time to build, so remember to be patient and take it a step at a time. Even a short conversation every other day can be meaningful in strengthening your relationship before your boy will be willing to open up.
10. Dear Trainer, My child replies every time with “I don’t know” when asked questions, e.g. “Where is her bus card? Do you have any homework? What are your spelling words?” which leaves me very worried and frustrated. How to address this issue? — Conversational Parent
Dear Conversational Parent,
It seems that your child is replying, “I don’t know” in many varied situations. We would recommend looking into the follow-up actions after her replies. Some parents tend to follow up with assisting the child in finding her required duties. Therefore, after some time, the child learns that if he or she replies in that manner, he or she does not need to do anything because the parents will do it for them. This is what we call accidental rewards of a behaviour.
Instead of jumping to assist your child immediately, give your child some time to sort out the situation and come up with his or her own solution. Use effective praise when your child finds the solution or item after your instruction to reinforce the positive behaviour.
11. Dear Trainer, My son says “you think I don’t know” if I try to talk about finding solutions to some problems that he is facing, and he doesn’t want to talk further. He also says that he wants privacy and doesn’t want to talk. It’s a tough journey. Any advice? — Relational Papa
Dear Relational Papa,
Parenting is indeed a tough journey which requires lots of patience, grace and love. It is important to note the reactions that you might be giving to your teen during these situations. You might want to invite your son to tell you the solutions that he knows about, while listening, analysing and trying out these solutions together. There are many reasons that could have contributed to his behaviour and it is important to know the reason behind it.
Rules & Routines
12. Dear Trainer, What to do when the kids keep nagging at us when we tell them we cannot let them do certain things? How to stop it? — Patient Mummy
Dear Patient Mummy,
With this, we would like to check with your follow up actions for the kids after their “nagging”. Are the children receiving what they asked for after nagging? If so, there are chances that you might be accidentally rewarding their inappropriate behaviour. If your child persists in asking to do this restricted activity, you might want to have a conversation with them to discuss why your child wants to do the activity, and voice your concerns for not allowing them to do it at the moment. Hear out your child and they will be more willing to listen to you too.
13. Dear Trainer, What if my child is doing well in school, but I still wish to set a routine? — Consistent Papa
Dear Consistent Papa,
It’s great to hear that your teen is doing well in school! It is definitely still a good idea to set up a routine with your teen, as this would teach him or her to be more organised and prepared for his or her upcoming tasks daily. A balanced routine could even help your child get better sleep at night and experience less stress and anxiety during the day. You could follow a routine too, to set an example for your child before discussing about setting one that suits him or her.
14. Dear Trainer, My teenager doesn’t want to engage in any talk or discussion. And many times, she makes her own decisions and the only thing I get is her informing me, with no intention to compromise. What can I do? — Peaceful Parent
Dear Peaceful Parent,
As parents, it is important to be able to reinforce boundaries and family rules. It is recommended to follow up by letting your teen know that there will be consequences when rules and boundaries have been broken. To set boundaries at home, have a discussion with your daughter to find common ground before coming up with a list of rules that you can agree on. Let her know how you feel about her behaviour and be completely honest with her, so that she understands where you’re coming from. It might take time to find a compromise, so remember to keep calm and be patient.
Thank you, all, for your questions. I hope these answers will help you improve the situation in your home and bring your family closer together!
Family Wellness Trainer, Morning Star Community Services
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