How To Parent: Inspiration For Parents

A Message from Janet Lehman: Does Parenting Feel Like a Thankless Job? (Then Read This.)

I was having coffee with a friend recently when she leaned across the table and said, “No matter what I do as a parent, I feel like I’m being taken for granted. All my child seems to do is yell at me, ignore me or ask me for things. I just feel so unappreciated.”

Let’s face it—parenting is often a thankless job. Before we have kids, most of us have unrealistic expectations of what it’s going to be like to give birth and become a parent. Maybe you watched family members raising their kids, or witnessed frazzled parents in the grocery store whose kids were acting out and thought to yourself, “I’ll never do it that way.” But as every parent eventually finds out, that ideal image we have pre-kids is not reality. It’s hard work to raise children, and most of us are simply trying to do our best.

If you are searching, longing and looking for appreciation from your child during the tough times, you’re really going in the wrong direction.

Related: How to stop feeling judged and blamed—and start parenting more effectively.

It’s not easy to set limits, give consequences, and stay consistent as a parent—and your child isn’t going to show appreciation to you for doing it. If you’re feeling taken for granted, remember that one of your main goals is to teach your child to be a responsible adult. And, as every parent knows, this is a tough and constant job. In some ways, kids are like little Neanderthals—they don’t come programmed knowing what’s right and wrong, or how to be thankful and appreciative of what’s given to them. We have to teach them how to behave appropriately in each situation. They rely on us to set limits, teach them and guide them. They may not always like it when we lay down the law or give consequences, but they ultimately do need those limits set—not only for their behavior, but because it makes them feel safer.

Their Thanks Will Come Later

When I was working in residential treatment centers with kids, I was one of the people who had to set limits on their behavior. I was often insulted, sworn at and challenged, especially in the first few months after a teen first arrived. At the end of their stay (usually a year-and-a-half to two years later), we would all do a group session prior to their discharge from the center. Some of the most hardcore kids I worked with would say, “I hated you when I first got here, but I’ve really grown to respect you. Now I understand what you had to do to help me change.” These kids had extreme experiences with crime, drugs and physical violence, and needed a therapeutic environment to help get them on track in their lives. With the help of the adults at the center, who acted as teachers, limit setters and coaches, they were often able to do so—and in the process, they began to understand the role of the adults in their lives.

I think this experience translates to the role parents play in their child’s life. Most of the time you really can’t expect appreciation from your child, especially when you’re going through tough times with him, but when he matures, he may understand and appreciate what you’ve done for him.

Look at it this way: No one really likes to be told they need to behave differently. As an adult, you probably don’t like it if your boss wants you to change how you do your work—and you certainly won’t say “thank you” when he or she asks you to do things differently. The same holds true for your child. The less you personalize things and expect validation, the easier it becomes to do your job as a parent. It also is easier if you act in a businesslike way and separate yourself from your child’s response. You’re not going to get verbal appreciation for setting limits, but you will see good results in their improved behavior.

Related: How to give consequences that work for your child.

A Thankless Job: Parents of Kids with Behavior Problems

For parents of kids with ADHD, Oppositional Defiant Disorder or other behavioral issues, it can be extremely exhausting and difficult to feel confident as a parent and keep going. Let’s say your child has problems with anger and impulsivity and gets in your face, swears and says terrible things like, “I hate you,” and “You’re the worst mother in the world.” Maybe he has a good side, but along with that comes an aggressive, mean, awful side. Imagine you’re trying to help your child with his homework but end up having a big fight, where he starts screaming at you and calling you names. This may be one of those moments when you say to yourself, “I don’t know if I can do it. I’ve done so much for this kid and all he does is treat me like garbage.” Know that we all—every one of us—have bad moments where we think, “This is really hard. I don’t know if I can do it.” If you’re trying your best, and your kid is still screaming in your face, it’s natural to feel exhausted, unappreciated and overwhelmed.

Related: Does your child scream at you and call you foul names?

If you are searching, longing and looking for appreciation from your child during the tough times, you’re really going in the wrong direction. You may feel lost and want to get some acknowledgement from him, but realize that he’s probably not able to give it. I understand why parents want and need validation, but I think you’re going to be in trouble as long as you’re looking to your kids in any way to fulfill this need.

Instead of looking to your child to receive appreciation for parenting, here are a few things you can do instead:

Take a time out: If you’re feeling upset, taken for granted and overwhelmed, try to take some time for yourself. Go for a walk or a drive and listen to music. Regroup and calm down.

Reach out: Reach out to a friend or family member— and here’s the important part—find someone who won’t judge you. Talk to someone who’s supportive, who can listen without laying blame, and who might even have had a good idea or two for you.

Acknowledge what you’re doing right. Congratulate yourself for what you are doing well—no matter how small that thing might be. Maybe you set a limit and stuck to it this week. Or perhaps you gave an effective consequence. The point is to acknowledge any instance when you did the right thing: “Today I gave my son an appropriate consequence and followed through.” Or “Today we made it to bedtime without a fight.” The very fact you are on EP reading our articles says that you’re taking active steps to be effective as a parent. You should feel good about that. So don’t beat yourself up over the mistakes you make—instead, celebrate the successes.

Find your sense of humor. As a parent, having a sense of humor really helps. When my son misbehaved, after we’d dealt with the incident, in private my husband James and I would sometimes laugh over what had transpired and just shake our heads. I also had friends I could call who would help me see the humor in these difficult situations. If you can laugh off some of the behavior and not take it too seriously, it relieves a lot of tension.

Find other parents who have been there: I always say that parents won’t get thanks from their kids, but that’s where Empowering Parents comes in. Other people who come to this site really do relate and often understand what you’re going through because they’re going through the same things with their own kids. You’ll notice that when you leave a response after an EP article, we answer you. Why? Because we understand. The community can and should be a support network for you. Other resources you might try are support groups, trusted friends or family members, parenting classes, programs like The Total Transformation and The Calm Parent, and parenting books. Don’t think that you’re all alone in this—there are many, many parents out there dealing with the same things that you’re grappling with right now.

And the truth is, we can feel so alone as we go through these challenges with our kids. Sometimes we’re harder on ourselves than we are on anyone else—we feel like we’re supposed to have all the answers. It’s important to cut yourself a little slack. It might feel like you’re always going to be in this horrible place with your child, but the reality is, kids change. I know it doesn’t feel like that in the moment your child is screaming in your face—it probably feels like this is your life forever, and it’s a horrible feeling. I know it’s tough. But remember that the goodness you and your family have given your child is there. He’ll be able to use those tools at another time, when he’s ready. Rest assured that whatever else is going on in his life, that knowledge will always be there.

If your kids aren’t able to thank you or appreciate you for setting limits during these tough times, know that you really are doing the right thing. It’s important to respect and appreciate yourself for that. Kids aren’t going to like it when you set limits and hold them accountable. But if you can use coaching, teaching and limit setting to guide them toward better behavior, you’re on the right track. No matter how much your child complains, know that you’re doing the right thing. When we’re setting limits, we’re doing our job as parents and we’re letting them know we love them. They may not like it, but they know it’s our job. Think of it this way: if your child’s behavior has improved or changed, it’s really a form of thanks to you for what you’ve done.

A Message from Janet Lehman: Does Parenting Feel Like a Thankless Job? (Then Read This.) reprinted with permission from Empowering Parents. For more information, visit

Janet Lehman, MSW has worked with troubled children and teens for over 30 years and is the co-creator of The Total Transformation Program. She is a social worker who has held a variety of positions during her career, including juvenile probation officer, case manager, therapist and program director for 22 years in traditional residential care and in group homes for difficult children.

Children Manipulating Parents

Does Your Child Act Out to Manipulate You? How to Stop Falling for It

Does your child use anger or threats to get what he wants? Does he pick fights and blackmail you emotionally? Or maybe he acts helpless or plays sick to get out of doing chores or homework. Whether kids manipulate us aggressively or passively, this behavior makes most of us feel out of control and “played” by our kids. Debbie Pincus, creator of The Calm Parent: AM & PM, tells you how you can break this cycle while staying calm and in control.

“Caving in to your child’s demands in order to steer clear of his tirades will only teach him that manipulation works.”

Many, if not most, parents feel manipulated by their kids at times. Teens in particular can be very adept at manipulative behaviors that run the gamut from flattery and charm to downright abuse to get what they want. And most kids, by the time they get to adolescence, are skilled at arguing, debating and raging to get their way.

Related: How to stay calm and in control when your child argues, throws tantrums and rages at you. (Yes, it’s possible.)

Let’s step into your child’s shoes for a moment. Imagine your 13-year-old daughter wants the boots that all her friends are wearing; she’s sure that wearing them will establish her as part of the popular group. Of course, she’s desperate for you to say “yes” and buy them. Hearing the word “no” will seem intolerable and unfair to her. But let’s say you’ve given it some thought and your answer is no. You explain further by saying, “You don’t need another pair of boots, and besides, they’re way more than I’m willing to pay.” And then you brace for what you know is coming. Your daughter pulls out the big guns. She pleads, argues, sulks, gives you the silent treatment, debates, and rages in a desperate attempt to get what she wants. This is a much more likely outcome than your daughter saying, “Okay, I understand Mom. Your reasons make a lot of sense to me.” I’ve been working with kids and families for decades, and believe me, it’s the unusual kid who takes “no” for an answer the first time she hears it.

Why “No” Doesn’t Mean “No” to Most Kids

Why doesn’t “no” mean “no”? You might be sitting there saying to yourself, “I would never have spoken to my parents like that.” And that’s probably true. Back in the ’50s, ’60s and even ’70s, most parents valued obedience and used hitting, withdrawal of love and fear to scare kids into submission. If we used those tactics today, we probably could get our kids to stop at our “no.” The problem is that this parenting style does not lead to good long-term connection, trust and security and can easily backfire and cause serious rebellion. Don’t get me wrong, parents still value obedience nowadays, but we also put value on connection, independent thinking and communication. So in many ways, the new norm is for kids to try to persuade us to get what they want—which, when you think about it, is not always such a bad thing. Good persuasion skills can work effectively in life. But when would we say it’s simply persuasion versus emotional manipulation? When does the behavior cross the line?

Related: Does your child’s behavior cross the line into name-calling, threats and verbal abuse?

Once our “no” is said, most kids will persist and try to persuade and convince you to go with what they want. And, in the course of this discussion, perhaps you’ll even hear their argument and be persuaded to “yes.” Let’s say your daughter wanted to stay out a bit later one night for a special event, and you were willing to hear her reasons and give her extra time for a dance or the late showing of a movie—not because you were worn down, but rather because your child’s reasoning made sense to you. That ability to persuade and negotiate in a healthy, respectful way is a good thing—and it’s a helpful skill for your child to learn.

But let’s say your child is asking you for something you’re not willing to let her do, like sleep over at a friend’s house whose parents work nights. Your 11-year-old daughter tries a few of her persuasion tactics, you consider her point of view but decide to stay firm with your no. She tries a few more tactics, and you continue to hold the line. At this point, many kids are able to disengage and let go: They’ve tried and didn’t get what they wanted, so they give up and stomp off. But maybe your child is the type who won’t stop. Essentially, she’s saying, “If you don’t give in, I will wear you down until you do.” Or “If you don’t give in to my demands, I will subject you to my emotional tirades. I will make you suffer.”

Does Your Child Use Emotional Blackmail on You?

Part of what divides persuasion from emotional blackmail is how long your child persists—and how intense this insistence becomes. But I think manipulation also has to do with intention. There are kids whose sole intention is to try to manipulate you into giving them the answer they want, even if it means making you suffer with their behavior. And the message is, “I will wear you down and get what I want. My gain at your cost; I win, you lose. And when I win, I’m in control.” These kids have learned a dangerous lesson—that their emotional blackmail works. Eventually you will be worn down because you’re afraid of their outbursts. You might attempt to contain your child’s rage and unpleasantness by giving in. Your child will have learned that manipulation works.

Understand that manipulation can come in many forms, not only that of negative outbursts. Kids can learn that picking a fight works, playing sick works, playing dumb works, charm works, and threats work. So if your child has goaded you into doing things, here are six things you might do to break the cycle of manipulative behavior.

  1. Manage your expectations. Expect that it’s unlikely that your “no” will be followed by your child saying, “Okay, thank you.” Persuasion will probably follow instead. Don’t freak out. As annoying and unpleasant as it is, it’s what most kids do nowadays. We can expect better as parents, but don’t be surprised if you don’t get it. And as difficult as it is to say “no” (because of what you know will follow), it’s also extremely important to learn to say it and stick with it.
  2. Realize the behavior is normal. I think it’s important to realize that your child’s attempt to get you to change your mind and say “yes” is normal. When you realize he’s not doing it because of some terrible pathology or evil inside of him, it will help you relax and deal with the behavior. Rather than reacting to their pushing with panic or worry, if you’ve thought things through and are comfortable with your decision, just stick to your guns. Caving in to your child’s demands in order to steer clear of his tirades will only teach him that manipulation works.
  3. It doesn’t matter what you say after “no.” Once you’ve said “no,” any attempt on your part to justify it will not matter. All your child is listening for is whether or not your decision still stands. If you continue the conversation, all it will be about is him trying to get you to change your “no” to a “yes.” So don’t get hooked into trying to get your child to understand and be okay with your decision. As far as he’s concerned, any “no” is totally unfair. Simply saying “no” and stating your decision with a brief, clear position is enough. You will get nowhere trying to make your “no” palatable. And teens in particular are very good lawyers. If you aren’t careful, you can soon be defending your position and led off on all sorts of tangents. Your child may feel completely justified in giving you a hard time because after all, you’re being a pain by not giving him what he wanted.
  4. Don’t be wishy-washy. Try your best not to let your child push you into changing your mind. Learn to say “no” with some strength behind it when you mean it. If too often your “no” becomes a “yes” because your child has been successful at wearing you down, a pattern of emotional blackmail can result. Your child has learned that being relentless works; if his relentlessness still hasn’t gotten him what he wants, in his mind it means that he should be more relentless until he’s successful. He won’t see anything wrong with his behavior, either, because it’s what he’s used to. The greatest danger is that he’ll be in charge instead of you. So say “no,” state your reason, make it short and to the point, and walk away. (More on this next.)
  5. Disengaging from the discussion. If your child is asking you for something you have some flexibility on, you might listen to his argument as long as he’s respectful. If it seems reasonable to you, you might decide to change your “no” to a “yes.” However, if you don’t change your mind, only discuss it with him to a certain point. Stop giving him your counterpoints and disengage. You’ll know when it’s time for you to stop when you feel the early signs of your adrenaline rising—your heart will beat faster, your face may get hot, and you might start to feel shaky. Pay attention to this and swiftly end the conversation and disengage. How do you disengage when your child does not? Don’t say another word. Walk into another room or out of the house if your child is old enough; ride it out. Engaging at all, in any way, will only add fuel to the fire. Holding onto yourself with your “no,” despite what your child does, communicates something important: “No matter what you do, I will not lose myself. No matter how long you carry on, I will not give in. Your behavior will not be effective.”
  6. Related: Find out why kids don’t feel their way to better behavior, but behave their way to better feelings.

  7. Look closely at yourself. Do you tend to be too rigid? Do you think you make it particularly difficult for your child to get anything other than a “no” from you? Are you in any way contributing to his need to manipulate you to get anything for himself? Look at your own behavior and ask yourself the following questions:
    • Is it hard for you to get out of your comfort zone and let your child grow?
    • Do you hold your child back too much? Do your own anxieties prevent you from letting your child do things?
    • Are you too dominant? Do you have a strong need to control others or often find yourself in power struggles?
    • Are you a “one truth” thinker? Meaning, is it difficult for you if other people don’t think the same way you do?
    • Are you afraid to have a backbone—and therefore always give in?

Take a close look in the mirror and see if you’re doing any of these things with your child, and if your behaviors are contributing to your child learning ineffective ways to handle himself. Help your child learn to be able to effectively come to the bench and negotiate for what he wants and then to accept the limits of “no” as well. Change what is in your control to change.

Too Late for You? Breaking the Pattern of Child Manipulation

What if you’ve already gotten into the pattern of being manipulated and emotionally blackmailed by your child? Perhaps you’ve been giving in since he was little—maybe it started with temper tantrums, and escalated to the point where your 15-year-old started breaking things in your house, threatening people and calling you foul names. In other words, what do you do if you already have an emotional manipulator and you’re stuck in this destructive pattern?

I won’t sugarcoat it: It’s going to be difficult to change a pattern that’s already in place, especially with a teen, but it’s certainly not impossible. Expect the typical “pushback” or “change back” that comes when you start to take a different position as a parent. Be prepared because your child will escalate before he stops the behavior.

If you want to start breaking out of this pattern, be clear and stick to your “no.” With kids who are already blackmailing you emotionally, you have to continue to stand your ground harder because they’re going to fight harder. It’s worked in the past, so they naturally think they can get you to bend to their will. But you’re going to do whatever it takes to hold on and not give in. Your child will learn limits and boundaries when you have the courage, strength and backbone to provide them.

Eventually they’ll get the message that you can no longer be broken down. For any parent who’s trying to stop child manipulation, I would recommend that you create a guiding principle for yourself. A guiding principle might be, “I want my child to learn to accept limits in life,” or, “I want my child to learn that he can’t have everything he wants.”

Here’s the bottom line: Most people will do whatever it takes in that unpleasant moment with their child to get rid of the distress, and that’s why they give in—they can’t stand it. Picking short-term relief is understandable—many times that’s the choice we’ll make because we just have to get on with the day. But if you want to stop being manipulated, instead of going for the short-term fix, look at the long-term gain. Keep your mind on that larger goal rather than on short-term relief. If you’re really looking at changing manipulative behavior and you want to work on developing your child’s character, then you’ll have to try and make a different choice in that moment when he’s testing you.

Related: Stop being manipulated by your child’s behavior and learn how to stay focused on long-term parenting goals.

Keep in mind that with our older kids, we are consultants, not managers. And with all kids, think about relating to them, not controlling them. Hold onto your position if it’s well thought-out, but try to do it with kindness, respect, openness and understanding. Don’t see your child as the enemy—think of being on his side and relating to him side-by-side, rather than toe-to-toe—even when you’re setting limits, holding the line and being firm.

Does Your Child Act Out to Manipulate You? How to Stop Falling for It reprinted with permission from Empowering Parents. For more information, visit

For more than 25 years, Debbie has offered compassionate and effective therapy and coaching, helping individuals, couples and parents to heal themselves and their relationships. Debbie is the creator of the Calm Parent AM & PM program and is also the author of numerous books for young people on interpersonal relations.

Black, White and Shades of Gray in Children’s Literature

This guest blog post comes from author V. A. Jeffrey. In the post she mentions that her latest book, The Lady Moons, will be released in February 2012. It is now available.

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Navigating The Gray

I have a new novella out in my children’s fantasy series, Secret Doorway Tales and I’m having a lot of fun writing this series of books. The newest book in the series, due out in February is called The Lady Moons (Secret Doorway Tales)

While the last three stories were what I would call straightforward adventure stories, the fourth book is slightly different in that it deals with dreams and gray areas and what these can mean and how a child might feel about them.

The other stories deal with issues of black and white, which is a good thing. That’s usually how kids see the world. Things are either Right or Wrong and I believe that much in life falls on either one of these sides. However, in life we also encounter quite a few gray areas and we have to learn how to navigate them and understand them, even if we don’t always feel comfortable with them. I believe that children encounter gray area issues as adults do and they must learn how to confront them.

I felt that dreams would be a great setting for exploring this issue because in dreams what we see isn’t always what we see. Things aren’t immediately clear; some dreams we may never understand. Ever had a dream where nothing made sense?

We’ve all experienced that, if we can still remember them. But some dreams do have meaning. Usually it’s a reflection of some past experience or a string of events in our life that should be dealt with. The protaganist in the story, an eight year old girl named Anne, is used to seeing things as Right or Wrong and she encounters allies and villains that neatly fit into her view of the world. And she isn’t wrong or mistaken about that but in The Lady Moons, she encounters a fairy queen who is unusually difficult for her to understand.

Fairy queens are rather elusive by nature but this one especially so. This fairy queen behaves strangely to her and says things that she finds disturbing, though she doesn’t actually come off as evil. Anne doesn’t know what to do with these feelings and she isn’t sure what value this experience has for her own life.

She also meets other creatures on this journey that aren’t what she immediately assumes them to be. Things are resolved but not in quite the way that you’d expect if you’ve read the previous books in the series.

That is not to say that the book is dark and scary. In fact, I think that The Winter Wolves is the darkest book of the series to date and the ending for that book was triumphant. This book ends on a more subdued note.

To be honest, I never thought I would be writing children’s middle grade fiction, it just sort of happened as a happy accident. With children’s fiction you can explore important themes without getting down into despair, deep darkness or adult themes.

You can still keep things light, inject a sense of innocence, wonder and awe in the writing. Writing these books brings me back to when I was a kid, reading some of my favorite stories, like the Narnia series and the Ramona Quimby series.

With the right kind of book, a child can be transported to another place, all the while, learning how to navigate the one he/she actually lives in.

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Matthew says:

Thanks to V.A. Jeffrey for providing a detailed blog post which really makes us think as all good literature should. I like books for children that make them think about issues as well.

Ms. Jeffrey is definitely on to something with the idea that children are faced with ethical dilemmas and it is to their advantage to have previously considered the concepts of right versus wrong and shades of gray.

Also, once again, I have to complement the cover art on a novel. We have been very lucky here to be featuring work lately from talented writers as well as talented cover artists.

The Lady Moons (Secret Doorway Tales) definintely fits into that category.

Total Transformation Program Parent Training

This is a guest post with opinion about the Total Tranformation Progam. Please watch for additional entries in my already lengthy Total Transformation Review series coming soon.

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The Total Transformation Program is specifically designed for parents that require assistance with raising children, especially when a particular behavior or set of behaviors has gotten out of control. This comprehensive program has produced incredible results for hundreds of thousands of families and continues to to help more parents every day.

Children that act out in an obnoxious, disrespectful or unreasonable way can benefit from using the techniques that are suggested. The Total Transformation Program can benefit all members of the family unit when put into practice correctly. The invaluable tips for managing children that have behavioral issues such as ADHD are impressively helpful. Realistically, most children act out at one time or another in various situations, especially at home. As with most children, the everyday things such as parental manipulation and mind games can be dealt with confidently by the parents if they have a clear and precise direction. When given the right tools, a positive total transformation is likely to be the outcome.

Children have different issues that affect their behavior and finding a more effective way of parenting is vital to changing children’s behavior for the better. The Total Transformation Program has helped literally hundreds of thousands of parents take control of their children’s inaoopriate behavior as well as bring peace and harmony to the family household. It is essential to the ongoing success of affirmative and supportive child and parent education.

We all know that open communication is crucial in keeping children comfortable with coming to parents with any problem they may have. Many parents have found the Total Transformation Program to be “the answer” they were hoping for. When dealing with children that have ADHD or any behavior difficulties, this program has produced amazing results. The parents are very thankful for these results and sometimes they cannot believe it is actually their child that is now behaving in such a respectful manner.

Many parents have been in situations where the frustration of not knowing how to discipline a disobedient child has led them to their wits end. One method of improving their children’s behavior that is favored by parents is for their children to learn problem solving techniques and be accountable for their own actions. Also, most parents are aware of the fact that they are the role models that their children learn from and copy. The Total Transformation Program has glowing reviews as a testament to the success of the techniques.

Some of the highlights of the Total Transformation Program are:

Don’t allow your children to get you involved in an argument.

Never negotiate, beg or explain until you are blue in the face.

Never allow your children to physically abuse you.

Stick to a routine.

Patience and vigilance reap rewards.

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I hope you found this guest post with a Total Transformation opinion helpful. Check out more about The Total Transformation Program including their current free trial offer.