Michigan Family Institute Newsletter
www.mifamilytherapy.com        248-593-4784
July 2012
In This Issue
RESILIENCE Part II: The Gift of Persistence and Hard Work

Power and Compassion: Working with difficult adolescents and abused parents
Jerome A. Price

Take Control of Your Divorce
Margerum J, Price J, and Windell J 
Defusing the High Conflict Divorce
Gaulier B, Margerum J, Price J, Windell J

The Right to Be the Grownup
A Parent Skills Training Curriculum

Price J, Margerum  J 


Reducing the conflict in your divorce regardless of whether or not the other parent will cooperate   

Wednesday July 25
from 6pm to 7pm
Please rsvp 

THE RIGHT TO BE THE GROWNUP: Helping Parents Be Parents to Their Difficult Teens 
A Five-Session Skills Training Program for Parents

Times and Dates to Be Announced

Please call or email if you are interested in attending this program 


Teenage Rebellion is Not a Developmental Stage


Jerome A. Price, MA 


            When teens rebel and become oppositional and defiant this is a stage of development that is expected, right? No, this isn't necessarily the case. It is quite possible to raise children to be respectful, cooperative and kind right through the teenage years. As they grow older they certainly will assert their opinions more often and they may even challenge parents in ways that don't thrill the parents. Asserting one's ideas and alternative views of things is not rebellion. It's growing maturity. The belief that opposition and aggression in young children is a sign of their strength, though, is a dangerous belief.

             So, how do we raise children from the beginning in ways that foster this sort of maturity rather than fostering rebellion? The crucial concept for parents to teach their children is the difference between children expressing their points of view however they wish and them expressing their points of view in appropriate and effective ways.  

            We parents often respond to requests and demands from our children despite the manner of the child's presentation. A child may whine, scream, demand, accuse or demonstrate negative nonverbal expressions such as rolling their eyes or using a tone that makes it clear that parents are stupid.

            When we respond to the content of a communication that is inappropriate or disrespectful in its manner we support that this is an acceptable method for the child to use in getting what he or she wants. When a parent consistently responds to a child's unacceptable manner as if he or she never heard the request, the parent teaches non-rebellious ways the child can and must use for getting what he or she wants. For example, a parent might say, "Excuse me, but I don't hear you when you talk to me that way. If you continue you'll have to go to time-out." This approach must be used even if the child's idea is brilliant. Such a statement can be repeated like a broken record (for those of you who remember record albums). Rather than lecturing on what to say instead, a parent should block the inappropriate communication and then let the child's mind work on what he or she needs to do in order to be heard.  

            Children are like puppies. When they're little we have a great deal of power to modify their behavior, thoughts and feelings. Once they reach ten or twelve years old that power becomes harder to wield. My friend has a dog that, as a puppy, was difficult and he had to train him to follow commands. It turned out that it was lucky he trained him well. The dog unexpectedly turned out to be one hundred and twenty five pounds at full growth. Even though he is the size of a small horse, he still feels like a puppy in relationship to his owner. Therefore the owner's healthy control of the situation continues.

            What about parents who have teens and pre-teens who are demonstrating oppositional and defiant behavior? Is the technique I described above just closing the barn door after the horses have escaped? Actually, it's not. Parents will have to refuse to respond to the content for many more days or weeks before a teenager will relinquish control and change his or her manner. They do, however, change their manner unless they are so disturbed that they will resort to extreme actions to get what they want. In the case of more extreme actions by teens, therapy or use of the authorities may be necessary. Believe it or not, many teens whose parents think will do extreme things learn to modify their manner. When faced with no response to the content of their demands over a long period of time it's surprising how often things change for the better.


RESILIENCE Part II: The Gift of Persistence and Hard Work

Judith Margerum, Ph.D.

Last month I addressed how important it is for children and youth to have a strong emotional connection to an important adult to support their resilience in the face of normal and abnormal life stress. Another factor in resilience is a child's individual personality and strengths.

     Some children are born with resilient personality traits. They don't cry much, are laid back, smile and engage with everyone. Perhaps they are quick to learn, cooperative and try new things. Personality, character, and innate strengths can certainly make life easier. I want to focus on a particular trait that supports resilience. This quote from Michael Jordan says it well. "I have missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I have lost almost 300 games. On 26 occasions I have been entrusted to take the game winning shot...and missed. I have failed over and over again in my life. And that's precisely why I succeed." Persistence and hard work have no relation to actual talent or skill only a willingness to try over and over again until one succeeds.

     Some children seem born with this trait. The child who falls off his bike repeatedly yet gets back on to try again or the child who tries over and over to learn to tie their shoes without giving up may be children who are innately persistent. Even highly talented or bright children might give up easily because they don't like to fail. This unfortunately, limits them in many areas and can result in the belief that they do not have any power over life. I have tested numerous youngsters over the years whose intellectual functioning did not appear consistent with their goals (going to U of M, becoming a vet, getting straight A's) but with support to work as hard as they could a number of these youngsters succeeded and taught me how important hard work and belief can be. I have also seen many extremely bright and talented young people who were not very successful because they put little effort into life. Many people overcome adversity through persistence as much as any innate talent.

     It is better to start early but it is never too late to support persistence in our youth. Focus your praise more on their hard work and persistence than on the outcome of that persistence. If the child studied hard and got a "D" on an exam where they usually got an "E" then the hard work paid off. Do not focus on how sad it is that they did not do better. Help them connect hard work to outcome (but not by lecturing). Do not save children from failure too readily. Do not do it for them.  

     Allow them to try over and over again. Expect children to follow through with commitments whether it is a sport, a chore or a class. Do not let them off the hook because they have learning disabilities or ADHD. There are many examples of highly successful people who have struggled with and harnessed these same problems.   Working with these youngsters may require persistence of your own!




30233 Southfield Road Suite 109
Southfield, Michigan  48076