Online Parent Support Chat

14 year old son has ADHD and ODD and is completely addicted to online gaming...

Parents_Support_One_Another_@_MyOutOfControlTeen_com/support = I need help with the following issue: My 14 year old son has ADHD and ODD and is completely addicted to online gaming. He is in trouble a lot at school and has poor grades. He is disrespectful and horrible most of the time. He stays up very late and is sleeping through the day (is school holiday time now) and will not participate in any family events (even Christmas). Any advice for how to help him with this? thanks Tracey


Online gaming is a very popular obsession. However, don’t completely forbid your son to engage in this obsession. His use of the computer can be a great bargaining chip for you (i.e., he won’t work for what you want, but he will work for what he wants – and he wants to play computer games).

Breaking an obsession is like running a war campaign. If not planned wisely, or if you attempt to fight on many fronts, you're guaranteed to fail. The real issue here is the fact that your son spent too much time playing games, which resulted in poor academic performance. This resulted in a second issue, namely, his behavior took a turn for the worse after you took his computer away. Thus, he should be able to play video games, but within limits.

To make his games less seductive, find ways to minimize your son's downtime at home, especially those times when he is alone. Maybe he would be interested in arts and crafts, theater, martial arts, bowling, swimming, or movie-making. Maybe a social-skills group would be a good idea. Maybe he could join a youth group at your church or synagogue. Help your son find some activity that he likes and a place where he can do it.

Teens often lack the "internal controls" needed to regulate how much time they spend playing computer games. It's up to moms and dads to rein-in the use of the games. The first step is often the hardest. Both parents must agree on a set of rules:

•    How much time may be spent on a weekend day?
•    How much time may be spent playing the games on school nights?
•    If the child plays Internet-based games, which sites are acceptable?
•    Must chores be done first?
•    Must homework be done first?
•    Which games are taboo, and which are O.K.?

Once parents agree, sit down with your son and discuss the rules. Make it clear which rules are negotiable and which are not. Then announce that the rules start right now. Be sure you can enforce the rules (e.g., if your child is allowed to spend 30 minutes at computer games on school nights - and only after homework and chores are done - the game and game controls must be physically unavailable when he gets home from school). If games involve a computer or a television set, find a way to secure the system until its use is permitted. When the 30 minutes of playing are up, retake the controls. If he balks, he loses the privilege to play the game the following day. If you come into his bedroom and find him playing the game under the covers, he might lose the privilege for several days.

Give warning times: "You have 15 more minutes... You now have 10 minutes... There are only five minutes left." A timer that is visible to your son can be helpful. When the buzzer rings, say, "I know you need to reach a point where you can save the game. If you need a few more minutes, I will wait here and let you have them." If he continues to play despite your step-by-step warnings, do not shout or grab the game or disconnect the power. Calmly remind him of the rules, and then announce that for each minute he continues to play, one minute will be subtracted from the time allowed the next day (or days). Once you get the game back, lock it up. When he finally regains the privilege to play, you can say, "Would you like to try again to follow the family rules?"

For those who have been working the program for awhile...

Question: Parents_Support_One_Another_@_MyOutOfControlTeen_com/support = I need help with the following issue: For those who have been working the program for awhile . . . what advice can you give someone who's just starting? What is one or two things that really help you be consistent?

Answer: Just work one session per week. That makes things feel less overwhelming. Then, email Mark after you complete the program for support and added advice over the subsequent months.

RE: 14 year old very defiant and angry...


I need help with the following issue: 14 year old very defiant and angry. Argues constantly. Found out recently he's been doing cannabis. Big clampdown. Think he's stopped. Now kicking off about school. Sleep problems etc. taken away electronics. Refusal to go to school except part time.


RE: defiant and angry

Consequences may be used to discourage unacceptable behavior of defiant teenagers. Usually this will occur after other techniques have been tried unsuccessfully with the defiant teens. Consequences should not be confused with punishment; nor should they ever be given in anger. They should be applied consistently. That means that the behavior consequented today, will again be consequented next week. Also, behavior consequented for one youth will not be allowed for others. This consistency lowers anxiety by making the environment predictable.

RE: cannabis

Please refer to session #4 in the online version of the eBook.

RE: school refusal

Parents can do several things to help their child who refuses to attend school:

· Firmly getting the child to school regularly and on time will help (see “When You Want Something From Your Kid” – Session #3). Not prolonging the goodbyes can help as well. Sometimes it works best if someone else can take the child to school after the parent or caregiver says goodbye at home.

· It truly helps to believe that the child will get over this problem; discuss this with the child (the parent or caregiver needs to convince himself or herself of this before trying to convince the child).

· Listening to the child's actual concerns and fears of going to school is important. Some of the reasons for refusing to attend school may include another child at school who is a bully, problems on the bus or carpool ride to school, or fears of inability to keep up with the other students in the classroom; these issues can be addressed if they are known. On the other hand, making too big a deal of school refusal may promote the child's behavior to continue.

· Supportive counseling is often made available at school in these circumstances so as to minimize reinforcement of school avoidant behaviors and to prevent secondary gain from school refusal and should be encouraged for any student who wishes to have it. If the child simply refuses to go to school, some parents have found that decreasing the reward for staying home helps, for example, do not allow video games or television, or find out what work is being done in the school and provide similar education at home, when possible. This is especially if the "illness" seems to disappear once the child is allowed to stay at home.

· The parent or caregiver should reassure the child that he or she will be there upon the child's return from school; this should be repeated over and over, if necessary. Let the child know that the parent or caregiver will be doing "boring stuff" at home during the school day. Always be on time to pick the child up from school if you provide transportation rather than a school bus.

· Whenever events occur that could tend to cause students to miss school (for example, traumatic events such as terrorism, school shootings, or other traumas) all attempts should be made to help students return promptly to school and to help them to feel safe at school.

In addition to parental intervention, teachers and school staff should help the student identify and recognize the triggers for school refusal.

Many children with school refusal have an earlier history of separation anxiety, social anxiety, or depression. Undiagnosed learning disabilities or reading disorders may also play a significant role in the development of school refusal.

Signs of a psychiatric disorder called separation anxiety disorder can include the following:

· Excessive reluctance to be alone at any time
· Excessive worry about losing a parent; excessive worry that a parent might be harmed
· Persistent refusal to go to sleep without a parent or other caretaker present
· Repeated complaints of physical symptoms whenever the child is about to leave a significant parental figure
· School refusal

These behaviors must begin before the child is aged 18 years, must last for 4 weeks or longer, and must cause serious problems with academic, social, or other functioning in order to be called a disorder.

Some commonly cited reasons for refusal to attend school include the following:

· A death in the family of a friend of the child
· A parent being ill
· Being bullied by another child
· Feeling lost (especially in a new school)
· Jealousy over a new brother or sister at home
· Moving from one house to another during the first years of elementary school
· Not getting along with a teacher or classmates
· Not having friends
· Parents separating, having marital problems, or having frequent arguments
· Parents worrying about the child in some way (e.g., poor health)

Helpful tools to confirm the diagnosis of an anxiety disorder and the level of impairment include the following:

· Children's Global Rating Scale
· The Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL)
· The Children's Manifest Anxiety Scale

I hope this helps,