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How Do You Know If Your Child Is in Trouble?

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Changes in Behavior at Home

You know your child, and, if you stop to really look at him, you'll probably get a sense that something is not right. You may not know what is bugging him—that's a whole different subject. How is he treating you? (If he's an adolescent, he may be treating you terribly; that's often par for the course.) If his weight, appetite, or personal hygiene has altered drastically, if he's exercising frantically or spending all his time listening to death rock and painting the walls of his room black, if the tensions between you are unbearably strained, there may be some problems here, and your family may need some additional help.

It's a Good Idea!

You need outside help with your parenting when the health or safety of anybody in the family is threatened, and you are powerless to do anything about it.

It's a Good Idea!

The anger, angst, and despair of teenagers—and the behavior they express in their pain—is the darkest part of adolescence for parents, too. We want our kids happy and healthy, and it is extremely distressing when they are not. If life is very hard for your child right now, you need and deserve some support, too.

What You Can Do and What You Cannot Do

Positive parenting means persisting in showing your care, concern, and positive reinforcement, even when your child is treating you terribly. Often a child (even an older child) perceives his parents as an outside extension of himself. The worse he feels about himself (and the more trouble he is in), the worse he'll treat you. Yes, you do deserve to be treated with care, respect, and concern. Even as you protest the way he's talking to you, persist in treating your child as you would like to be treated. Believe me, he will hear the care in your voice, and it matters. Giving a child a sense of his own strengths will help him learn to respect his body, respect and care for himself, plus feel confident enough to resist peer pressures.

Many problems that kids have can be solved within the family, or by enlisting the aid of teachers, coaches, and other important adults in your child's life. Sometimes problems are larger than that. When do you go for outside help? The general rule is that you need help when the health or safety (of anybody) is threatened, and you are powerless to do anything about it. The hardest part is assessing the situation to figure out if you are powerless. Once you do decide to get help with your child's situation, you'll find that there are many resources available.

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Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to a Well-Behaved Child © 1999 by Ericka Lutz. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

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