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my oldest son hates school, his friends are a bad influence because they smoke weed. and they hang out alot. hes a good boy but he has a habit of arguing with me about when i tell him to come home. i dont want to get social services involved. i ground him but its causing rebellion. he just likes hanging out with his friends and its hard to get him to do things with me. what can i do?


You don't actually say how old your son is and so I am presuming he's a teenager;  13-16yrs.  Do you know why he hates school?  Is it the work too hard, too easy, teachers strict or lax, what would encourage him to see the benefit of completing his education; does he have thoughts on what he'd like to do when he leaves school.  You don't say whether he is going into school or bunking off?

It is certainly difficult when we disapprove of the peers our teenagers are hanging about with and quite an emotive subject to approach with them, particularly as they are now trying to find their way in the world;  what exactly are your fears... that he will also smoke weed and hang about a lot also?  Many teenagers rebel against time limits put on them especially if they are having a good time with their friends; made worse if those friends don't appear to have to be home at set times.

One of the best ways to negotiate with teenagers is to hold a 'Family Meeting' at a time that is suitable for ALL family members to join in.  Each person has a role to play (chair-person, note taker, time-keeper, etc.) and each person brings an agenda to the meeting.  Each has about 5-10 minutes to discuss and negotiate what is on their agenda and then it moves on to the next person and so on.  The first meeting may simply be an opportunity to discuss how each family member may benefit from the meetings and what rules, as a family, you want in place... i.e., speaking politely to each other, listening to each other without interrupting etc.  Remember this is a joint exercise not just parent stipulating what will happen.  Finish each meeting by setting the next date and then do something nice together as a family; favourite meal, watching a DVD etc.  These meetings should be used to not only organise boundaries but positive things like holidays and are an opportunity for all to learn negotiation skills.

For all age groups, teach respect by showing respect, pick up on and praise all good things family members do (even the smallest of things) this in time makes it easier to speak about what is not OK and we all rise to praise. You don't say how long you ground your son for but it needs to be short and sharp, not endless. There comes a time in teenagers' lives when they don't want to do stuff with their parents and we need to acknowledge that.  To get him to do stuff with you it needs to something of interest to him also, this could be discussed at a family meeting.

Remember change takes time and the key is to be persistent and consistent.


The mother of my child is incapable of constructive and positive conversation, which makes it difficult for me to co-parent with her. She has taken my 4 year old daughter to Tennessee, and it has been 2 years since. When my daughter visits me, I notice that she does not do well with me telling her to go to sleep at what should be her bedtime. Her mother is very inconsistent with my daughter's bedtime. Now, my daughter will cry for her mother when I lay down the law. This is very discouraging. Do you have any advice.


Whether together or not, for one reason or other it often happens that parents do not agree on parenting style.  This can be tough for both parents, and especially where the child spends so much more time with one than the other.  It is not surprising that your young daughter cries for her mother when she is with you, if for no other reason than she is more familiar with her mother and her ways.

When your daughter is with you a kindly and positive routine will work best.  Start the wind down to bed-time early enough to give your daughter a chance to finish what she is doing, perhaps she then has a bath, a little story or similar.  Please don't demand she goes to sleep as no one can sleep to order, but instead ask her to stay quietly in bed.  If she gets up, gently pop her back in bed and softly repeat "stay in bed quietly please" and leave; you may have to do this several times.  If she asks/cries for her mother, tell her reassuringly when she will see her Mum again.  It may be of comfort to her to look after something of her mother's for the duration she is with you or to have an item of her mother's clothing which may have her mother's smell on to snuggle with and be comforted by in bed.  Try not to "lay down the law" with your daughter, she is the vulnerable and innocent party in the situation between you and her mother.

Kind regards, Joy Hazlehurst


I am a single father to a 3 week old son.  His mother left 4 days after he was born and when he cries it takes hours to calm him.  Does he know who I am?  Or does he just want his mum?


Firstly I need to say that my 'parenting training' is for children from 2+half years upwards and any worries you may have for under this age is more appropriately addressed by your Health Visitor.

Having said that it is generally acknowledged that such young babies can be notoriously difficult to settle and very trying, which is one of the many reasons why new parents need as much support as possible.... and rest! 

My understanding is that your son will have become used to his mothers sound (heartbeat and voice) when in the womb and then possibly her smell and head shape once born, the latter depends on how much time she spent with him.  He won't literally know at this stage that Mum is his Mum, or you are his Dad  but he will know who is the one that attends to him whenever he needs it, therefore that person becomes the most important one to him in his tiny demanding world.

I don't believe you can spoil a baby so give him lots of cuddles.  Let him lay on your chest so he can hear your comforting heartbeat. Lay him in the crook of your arm (this is thought to be the distance babies can make out shapes in the early weeks) and reassuringly talk to him, smiling at him.  Sing calming repetitive songs to him; it's OK to make them up as you go along, your son won't know nor does it matter if your voice isn't brilliant, your son won't mind.  Steadily rock him or gently pat his back.  Note: different babies will have their favourite way of being held and can get restless in the same, even favourite, position. 

Remember that babies grow very quickly and so their needs seem to change rapidly, it sometimes feels like we have just got them into a good routine when it all changes again!  The basic needs of young babies are to be fed, clothed appropriately, kept safe and comfy plus most importantly feel loved by at least one person. 

The important thing is that you try to relax and enjoy your son, if you're relaxed he will generally become relaxed too.

Kind regards, Joy Hazlehurst

Q. my 17 years step daughter always starts trouble in our family then make out im the bad guy,she tells lies to her nan and grandad and twist thing to make me look bad ive been with my wife 6 years but married for 2 she got another daughter of 14 which have no problems with me ,i got her laptop for xmas but all she does is say nasty thing without people being there to here it,but i tell her off for something she twist it im just sick of it now my family great when she not here most of the time she stay at friend or family houses saying that i said i dont wont her there but its all lies dont know what to do there more thing that she done to me to long really
A. I would suggest it is more about looking at what is going on within this difficult relationship and would suggest counselling for you instead. We cannot always change the situation we find ourselves in, but we can learn to change how we perceive the situation and so react differently; emotionally and behaviourally. Sometimes hard to get our head round I know. Please do not compare the two young ladies as they are unique in their own special way.
Q. I have never done any thing like this but i need some help so here goes ... I have been my my wife for 9 and half years she walked out last week to live with another man. she has left me with 2 young children aged 5 and 2 they are my world, im so very depperesed because i loved my with all my heart and never did wrong by her. i am finding it very hard to keep my emotions to my self so the kids dont see me cry beacause im thier rock. she left me out of the blue, my 5 year old keeps asking me why mummuy doesnt love me and why we arnt a happy family and why has mummy gone. i dont know how to answer these questions. when the kids go to bed i litrually fall apart i havnt slept in four days i have cried all night every night please give me some advice.
A. It is very early days in the split of your marriage and it is no wonder you are feeling so desolate. As grim as crying makes us feel, tears are actually healing - "Biochemist William Frey, who studied tears and their function, says that “emotional tears (from sadness, anger, fear, etc.) actually remove toxins from the body. On the other hand, tears of joy or happiness contain far fewer biological by products. It is not an exaggeration to say that crying can keep you healthy." - so those tears are washing harmful toxins out of your body which could otherwise make you physically ill.

Where your children are concerned keep their lives as near normal routine as possible. It's difficult to suggest how to answer your child as I do not have all the information, however it is important that you do answer in an age appropriate way, keeping it general, without being blaming of or detrimental to their mum: "Mummys and Daddies sometimes decide not to be together any more and that is very sad", "we both still love (care about) you very much", "although we're unhappy at the moment, the three of us will be OK one day". I understand these answers don't fit with how you feel, but remember when talking to your children it is about them and not you, so take a deep breath. It may be useful to think of a sound single-parent family your child knows and talk about them. There are many young childrens story books about divorce on Amazon you might find helpful; check the library too. Advise your childs' school of the changes at home (no need to go into any detail) so that they can be aware of and understand any mood or behaviour changes. It will not harm your children if they see you sad or shedding the odd tear, it normalises this natural outlet, and often gives them permission to cry too - you can hug each other better. Remember that youngsters are very tuned into atmosphere and so no matter how brave you are in front of them they will 'sense' the distress, ensure you remain their rock and watch they don't fall into become yours by protecting you from their distress.

Q. 4 years after our divorce and my children's Dad has slowly but surely decreased his contact with them. My 15 year old daughter is still exceptionally angry and feels rejected by her Dad which makes parenting her as a single mum very difficult, especially when her anger is often directed at me. Is there any help or support available for her in South Devon please?
A. I can understand the difficulty of having to deal with the backlash of your daughters anger regarding her feeling rejected by her Dad. It is also important to consider that her current anger may be partly down to her age, teens are notoriously bad tempered as they grapple with hormones and endeavour to establish themselves in this world. Depending upon her maturity, she might not be emotionally literate enough to understand and express her feelings in an appropriate way, hence it coming out as anger. Please understand that behind her anger is hurt.
It is important that you continue to set firm fair boundaries whilst being empathic to her, acknowledging her anger is important for her to feel heard but try not to take it personally. A fine line to tread I know but vital one. Please do not put your ex down in front of her but stay neutral and remain with her feelings.
It might be useful to consider whether she would benefit from counselling. The best way to find a Young Persons Counsellor in your area is to visit either the BACP (British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy) or The Counselling Directory websites.
Q. My husband of 8 years and I are separating after 8/9 weeks of trying to explore each avenue to mend it we have come to the end. Been an intense and emotionally draining time for me, and I am dreading this bit. We are discussing what to tell our 5 year old daughter, and I just wanted some advice on what to say. I know we must keep it basic facts, and only about her. We love her, its not her fault etc. Do you have any advice on what we could say ?
A. As you say it is important to keep your personal reasons for separating to yourselves, all your daughter needs to know is that Mummy and Daddy have decided to live in different homes but still love her very much and that non of this is her fault. Remember a day to a child is like a year to adults, so timing is crucial and there is no way I can advise on this as it is so dependent on individual circumstances. Remember: the fantasy is generally worse than the reality. Children are very tuned into atmosphere and, no matter how careful you have both been, she'll probably be aware that something is wrong. It will be difficult I know, but try to keep calm when you broach the subject, if she senses you are OK'ish then this will help her greatly.

If it is the case, assure her that she will continue to see and be able to telephone the missing parent loads; tell her the arrangements as soon as decided and be as flexible as possible about this. Be clear about who she will live with and where she will keep the majority of her toys, clothes and so forth. She'll need to be told whether she is to remain at the same school and contine to be able to see her friends.

Sometimes the child is angry about what is happening, accept and understand this but still put in boundaries regarding inappropriate behaviour; don't over compensate, boundaries keep us safe. Remember young children still feel the feelings but are not emotionally literate enough to explain them, therefore it frequently comes out behaviourally.

Depending on the nature of the child, they are sometimes concerned about the welfare of the missing parent, and only if she shows/voices concern, as much as possible reassure her that they'll be OK and be open to her discussing this with you both (individually or together). Also some children struggle with split loyalty, which can add pressure and be very confusing for them; parents who use the child as a pawn in their break up add to this already difficult time for the child.

Where possible, once new homes have been chosen give your daughter the opportunity to see them, even before moving in, and be enthusiastic about her bedroom, talking about decorating it and where her bed and toys will be etc.

If the split is acrimonious, be honest with her about whether she'll see the missing parent or not, but keep it age appropriate and about her not the missing parent, giving her lots of loves and cuddles.

Don't forget to adivse her school of the change in home situation so that they can watch for any changes in her behaviour and support her.

Q. Hello, I am not a dad, but a mom looking for advice or some kind of insite into how men think when it comes to parenting. I basically raised my 6 year old son from birth with little involvement from his father. When we split up my ex initally said i would have primary custody/time with my son because we have a better bond. He changed that when he found out he doesn't have to pay child support if we have a shared parenting agreement. He insists he wants the time with our son, but within only a few months he introduced his new girlfriend and she is now doing way too much in my view and taking on the responsiblities that my ex should have as a parent - caring from him, additional care such as giving medication when my son is sick, cooking, playing, teaching - all things
his father should be doing. My son has maybe an average bond with his dad - recently my son has said he wants less time with his dad - but likes it when the girlfriend is there whom he talks about more than his dad (that's kinda of annoying
A. This is not actually a parenting question, i.e., how to change a child’s unwanted behaviour.

With regards insight into how men think as parents, I would not be so sweeping. As human beings we are all unique and your X an individual in his own right, to generalise would be incredibly unfair of me.

With regards to your X changing his mind and wanting more custody/time with your son, this could be an opportunity for their ‘average bond’ to become stronger. As you have raised your six-year-old from birth with little involvement from his father, his Dad maybe hasn’t learnt the basic parenting skills yet; parenting doesn’t come naturally to everyone.

I find it reassuring that your X’s girlfriend has taken over the additional care of your son when he is with them and the fact that your son talks more about her than his Dad sounds like they’ve warmed to each other. Quite the opposite could have happened which would have been a major worry. This also gives your son a taste of being in a different family situation.

I wonder if the real problem here is your discomfort at your son relating to another female, it can be difficult letting go and accepting that there could be someone else in his life. You have worked very hard over the last six years to provide plus care for your son and you will always be his Mum, no-one else can take that position in his life. It is possible that your son is saying he wants less time with his Dad because he is picking up on your distress, try to gently encourage their relationship.

This could now be an opportunity to have a little fun yourself whilst your child is safely with his Dad, having time for yourself is not a luxury but a necessity, make the most of it in whatever way gives you some rest and play. If you continue to struggle with this situation you may find it useful to speak to a counsellor, offloading in a safe place with a non-judgement professional can help greatly.

Q. Hi there I live with my partner and our 2 and a half year old. She has always suffered mental health problems and depression due to a tough childhood. She is back on anti depression medication and is becoming very difficult to live with. I have a lot of concerns, she sometimes suggests that she's leaving, I'm concerned she'd take our little boy, as I don't think she'd manage, she has trouble coping with him now whilst I'm at work. If I became a single father, what support is there, would I have to give up work, house mortgage etc....? What legal right do I have to stop her leaving with him, if I think it not in his interest? Thanks Dan

A. Hello Dan, this is not a 'parenting' query but one best suited to OnlyMums 'Family Law' expert. Regards, Joy

(Dan, we have passed this on to our Family Law Expert - OnlyMums)
Q. Dear Joy,
I divorced my wife two years ago for unreasonable behaviour. Since then I have been arrested and accussed of Assult, Burglary & Theft, Rape and sexually abusing my four year old. All of which has been investigated by the police and social service and found to be lies by the mother. In Court yesterday she even accussed by partner of watching me have sexual contact with my child. I have not seen my little girl now for 14 weeks and yesterday the court ordered a full trial and that I was to maintain contact with my daughter through a contact centre. But I cant do that. I am scared that my ex will accusing me of something else. Should I wait for the final trial that in February 2012. I have removed all my daughters pictures from the walls as it hurts to much.
Thanks You Trevor
A. Trevor this is not a parenting question. Your question has been answered by our Family Law Expert.
Q. My son of three has recently started addressing me by my Christian name, previously it was daddy or such like. I have been separated from his mother for literally 18 months now and because we live some 40 miles away I only have the viability of contact every second weekend, collecting him on a Friday and returning him on a Sunday. I am really noticing his dependence upon his mother and do try and convey, that, because of the infrequency that I am allowed to spend with my son, such a chasm is evolving. I do really try to convey to his mother that I personally do not think it very healthy that I have such little contact with my son. Initially on visits he would settle, now he is asking for his mother continually, I do just feel like a baby sitter and its very frustrating that his mother is happy with the situation, one which she does not have to endure and I am finding is progressively worsening.

A. It is very common for very young children to start calling one or both parents by their Christian name, after all that is what they hear others call them all the time; they are just copying. Rather than get upset or make an issue over it just kindly say “Daddy” each time he says your first name. Little ones are naturally dependent on their significant carer, in this case (and most cases) Mummy and I am pleased that he has a healthy bond with her, this would probably be the same if you’d stayed together; you’re missing him makes it seem much worse. At three he is still very young and will obviously miss Mummy when he is with you, to help him settle I’d suggest Mummy gives him something of hers to care for during his time away from her; a T-shirt is ideal as he can snuggle this in bed. Please remember to such a little child a day will feel like a year, so a weekend away from Mummy is an eternity. I am unsure from your question whether contact with your son is fortnightly due to logistics or because that is what you have been granted. Do not take these issues personally, try to have quality time with your son whilst he’s with you as it used to be. It sounds to me as though you are still grieving the loss of the family and suggest you may find counselling helpful in exploring and coming to terms with your new life.




Hi Joy I have a 15 year old son. I am divorced from his mum. He was staying a week with me and a week with her. This went on for 4 years. Two years ago he decided he wanted to live with her full time. We went to court and concluded in November 2010 when we agreed a consent order that he would stay with me for 5 nights and with her for 9 nights. In about May of this year he said he wanted to live with me full time. On Monday he had a row with his mum and came to stay with me. He has been here since. He is visiting his mum now and saying to me that he is coming back here tonight. She thinks he will be staying there. What are your thoughts on all of this?

A. Goodness I felt confused reading your question and I think that is a reflection of how your son is feeling. I am wondering where he feels home is. I understand why parents split the care of their youngsters when they divorce i.e., a week with Mum and then a week with Dad but there is little grounding in this for the young person; difficult for them to put down firm roots. You give no indication of how close you live to his Mum. Your having to go to court to change these arrangements indicates that perhaps you and his Mum are either not amicable or flexible; it’s hard to get a sense of this from your question. At 15years teenagers are generally forging a life for themselves (I hope) i.e., friends and interests, and wanting to spend time with them rather than their parents (frustrating for the absent parent). Whilst teenagers need a roof over their head and must adhere to family rules and boundaries, it is not OK to use them as a pawn in a battle between parents or vice versa.



Q. My boyfriend is divorced and his 4 year old girl and 5 year old boy have an extremely hard time with bed time. They have to call their mom every night and cry for about 45 minutes after they talk to her. Nights
that they are not able to get in touch with her (if she is working) there are minimal problems - they cry for about 15 minutes and then go to sleep.
Is there any way we can help them through this? We follow Supernanny's bedtime routine, but it breaks our hearts to listen to them cry. Any advice would be helpful!

A. You don't say whether the children are living with you and their Dad or visiting, but hopefully the three of you can work together on this.

I would suggest that when they leave their Mum she has a big hug good-bye with each child telling them when they will be returning to her e.g., "see you Sunday tea-time" adding how many sleeps that is. Ask Mum to give each child something special of hers to look after until they are back together again, a piece of clothing like a top with Mum's smell on will be particularly comforting to them as they can snuggle in bed with it, plus it confirms that they WILL see Mum again; because she cannot be without the item for long and that she trusts them to look after the it for her. Maybe get them to do a picture type calendar of what they'll be doing with you whilst away from Mum.

Gently discourage the children from phoning Mum when they are with you, offering them the special item that Mum has given them and re-assure them when they'll see their Mum again; remember a day to a child is like a year to us! Do not tell the children Mum is working every night or that it is because they are grown-up and don't need to speak to her; neither of these are true. If they say they miss their Mum or want to speak to her, acknowledge what they are saying (they need to be heard and understood) but again be firm and gentle about not phoning Mum, in time they'll get used to not calling her.

When they snuggle-down in bed with their item of comfort from Mummy, leave them with lovely thoughts of the day you've had together or are going to have tomorrow. Read them a story, kiss them good-night and leave. Never allow a child to cry for 45 minutes this will just make them feel abandoned. After five minutes of crying go into them, do not put the lights on or get into conversation with them. Make sure they are comfy, kiss them, say "good-night" again and leave, keep doing this upping the length of time you leave them (5 mins; 7 mins; 10 mins etc) until they drop off to sleep. You'll probably have to do this for several nights or weeks, length of time is dependant on how you as adults work together and the personalites of the children
Q. I am concerned about how I keep the lines of communication open between my 13 year old daughter who is becoming more independent by the day. I don't want to come across as neurotic but I know that since has moved to a much bigger school she is being exposed to a whole host of new potential influences.
A. This is a very difficult time for you both. It’s natural that your daughter wants to become more independent and yet at 13 years she is still very young so you’ll be concerned for her well-being. On top of that it’s hard to begin to let go and become the safety net she’ll always need; though she may not realise the last bit!
The most important thing is that you continue to talk to her in a positive and warm tone with loads of descriptive praise (see previous questions/answers) whenever you see her do something you like. Plus show her as much affection as possible; hug, smile, wink, thumbs up etc., in order to keep reaching out to her without overwhelming her. Don’t expect the affection to be reciprocated. If she has become a grumpy grunter then rise above it and keep giving the love, though this doesn’t mean you have to put up with unwanted behaviour which must be dealt with appropriately.
It’s time to rely on all your years of guiding your daughter and with all the above in place you’ll hopefully keep the lines of communication open with her and she will feel able to turn to you for advice and support whenever she needs to.

Q. I type this while crying! I am a single Mum with one child. Bethany. She's six. The thing is last week I shouted at her in such a horrible way (really scremed at her), that she turned white white with fear. I was stressed with money problems. my ex gives me no money to look after her and it looks like we may need to move from our rented flat too. But the way I shouted at her is horrible. I feel so guilty I keep on crying. Bethany is OK now. But it's me who feels like i am just the worst mum ever. How can I make it up to her?
A. Goodness you are being hard on yourself! You are not the first or last lovely Mum to scream at her child through frustration and exhaustion, so please let the guilt go as it is a waste of your precious energy.
As for making it up to Bethany, you are clear on the fact that she is OK now. Just lots of affection at a level you are both comfy with; hugs, smiles and telling her you love her plus descriptive praise whenever she does something you want to see more of “thanks for helping me put the shopping away, it’s done in half the time”, is all that is needed.
My concern is for you. I wonder if you have emailed the Finance or Debt Experts our ‘Only Mums Panel’ or had a chat with the Citizens Advice Bureau regarding your financial situation. Any chance of a little job in Bethany’s school or similar to fit in with her school hours?

More importantly what do you do just for you? Time for you is not a luxury it’s a necessity to prevent burn-out. This does not have to cost you anything either. Whilst Bethany is at school: a long gorgeous bubbly bath; walk in a park (nature is a wonderful healer); coffee morning with some friends; have a look in the local library to see what free groups are running that you may be interested in. What support systems do you have, family, friends, neighbours that you can call on for a bit of emotional, physical or financial help? I am not kidding; time-out just for you is vital, so please look after Your-Self.
Parenting tips taken from Triple ‘P’
Q. I need some advice, I am loosing control of my three year old! She has two older brothers and has become so difficult, one of the things she does is just scream at an incredible pitch for what appears to be no particular reason. She just thinks it's funny if I ask her to be quiet. She has also just started to be really difficut about going to bed, after putting her to bed, reading stories etc she comes down stairs three or four times. I am at my wit's end and exhuasted!

A. I am splitting your query in two and answering the ‘screaming’ and ‘bed-time’ difficulties separately. I understand how exhausted you must be feeling right now and the solutions will take a good deal more patience and energy but if you hang on in there it will be worth it.

As far as the screaming is concerned I suggest instead of telling her to be quiet, just say “I will talk to you when you speak to me quietly” and just ignore the screaming (or laughing) until she stops, then immediately interact with her. Initially, she will probably up the decibels but in time she will learn that screaming does not get your attention; talking in a quiet voice does. This will take a lot of resilience on your behalf but as long as she is not in any pain/danger ‘planned ignoring’ is the best policy.

Again her constantly coming down at bed-time has taught her that she can get your attention for just a few more minutes; even though it may be negative attention! Once the usual bed-time routine is complete and when she comes down stairs do not get into conversation with her, simply take her back to her bed and the first time say “it is time for bed, please stay in your bed” then leave the room. Thereafter say nothing; just return her to her bed. Do not switch lights, make a fuss or get into conversation with her. You will probably have to do this many times over several nights, try to be patient as it does work. Needless to say ensure that your daughter has not had a nightmare, is wet or needs the loo but do not put these thoughts in her head by asking, as her Mum you will know. Once she starts to stay in her room, in the morning make a big fuss of her saying how proud you are that she stayed in her bed/room.

Keep instructions positive; say what you want to see her doing rather than stopping and as much as possible use your own words to make it sound and feel more natural.

Strategies taken from Triple P – Positive Parenting Programme.

Q. My 14 year old daughter has starting hanging around the village with a young girl that all parents think is 'bad news', I can't stop her from seeing her but I am very worried about the influence she is already having on her, her language and attitude has really changed and I don't know how to talk to her about what is happening.
A. You do not say why this girl is considered ‘bad news’ by all parents so it is difficult for me to understand fully what your daughters change in attitude is. I guess when you talk of her language changing you mean swearing.

For teenagers it is a very fine line between parents parenting and nagging. The best way initially to win your daughter over is to give her loads of descriptive praise, which means every time you experience her doing or saying something you would like to see more of, tell her in a very genuine way: “thanks for helping me put the shopping away love” or “the way you spoke to your brother/sister/Dad/me was lovely just then, thanks” etc., of course it needs to be in your own words. Believe it or not parents are still very important to teenagers and they do want to feel they are pleasing and loved by us; we all respond well to praise and want more!

The other important thing is to give your youngster quality time which means to be interested and available whenever she wants to tell or show you something, if it is impossible to stop what you are doing immediately then tell her you just need to finish “?” and you will be with her in 5/10 minutes ... then be there!

When there is plenty of descriptive praise and quality time the teenager will be more open to accepting anything else you want to say. For instance, “it may be acceptable when hanging around with your mates to swear (nearly all do it) but please talk politely to family and friends”. If she does continue to swear at you then just say “I will talk to you/help you when you speak to me politely” then blank her (unless of course it is dangerous to do so!) The same goes for the change in attitude; this is such a broad word it is difficult to help you with examples. Try not to slate the offending girl as this will probably get your daughters back up and make her rebel.

The most important things to remember when doing any of the above is to stay calm, be genuine and understand that teenagers frequently fall in with a friend or crowd that we would not choose for them if we had any say in the matter. Being there for our youngsters does not mean we have to accept inappropriate language and behaviour towards ourselves or those around us. Finally it does not matter what all parents think, families have different standards and values to which they are entitled, what matters is what is important within your family.

Regards, Joy
My 10 year old son is aggressive and hyperactive; he is constantly in trouble at school. I have tried to be calm and understanding, I have tried shouting at him and grounding him, I am at the end of my tether and don’t know what else to do, he is out of control. He’s been a nightmare for as long as I can remember and I cannot pin-point a reason for his being like this; do you think he has ADHD, the G.P. says not?

A. Whenever a parent brings a child to me for counselling who displays this negative behaviour and where there is no underlying issue like the birth of a sibling; a traumatic event; being bullied etc., the most likely cause is his diet. A diet which is sugar rich, processed, laden with preservatives and long words we cannot pronounce let alone understand what they mean is destined for disaster. If you imagine our bodies as a mass of finely tuned chemicals and each of us has a unique and perfect balance for our needs and we start adding unnecessary chemicals to our system then our balance becomes upset and this generally comes out in our emotions and/or behaviour, sadly the most common being aggression and hyperactivity; not just in children either! It is also important that we get the daily food intake right and rule of thumb is to ‘Breakfast like a King, Lunch like a Prince and Dinner like a Pauper’, i.e., eat heartily in the morning with smaller meals as we go through the day. In a nutshell make sure what you feed your child is as natural as possible, read labels and don’t buy anything with added extras we simply don’t need but have been put in to either heighten the flavour or extend the shelf life of the product. Equally important is what we drink, water, water, water please! Did you know a can of a popular fizzy drink contains around 10 teaspoons of sugar plus caffeine; no wonder we are on the ceiling and then drop like a bomb!