With Defiant Teenager You Must Set Firm Boundaries

Dear Neil: I need some help with how to aid the relationship with my live-in boyfriend and my 14 year-old daughter. She once looked up to him, but is now negative and defiant toward him. She has been labeled in the special education realm as being emotionally disturbed and having Oppositional Defiant Disorder. She and I moved here from Montana in January to be with him, but it seems as if everything is getting unwound.

Frazzled in Denver

Dear Frazzled: You and your 14 year-old emotionally disturbed and oppositional-defiant daughter have been living with a man for six months, after your daughter had to change schools and leave all of her friends, and you expect things to be going smoothly?

An oppositional-defiant child, she will be in power struggle after power struggle with both of you, and the two of you are going to have to agree on rules, what’s expected of her and which behaviors are appropriate and inappropriate. The two of you are going to have to present a united front toward her, even if you disagree with each other privately. You’re also going to have to set very firm boundaries that have consequences for her, and you’re going to have to hold firm on those consequences. All the teenage freedoms—such as getting a driver’s permit and other such privileges—can be used as bargaining chips to keep her behavior in line.

Your boyfriend, if he wishes to be part of your family, needs to make extra special efforts to bond with her and do enjoyable and fun activities with her, and he must also enforce firm boundaries with her, hopefully agreed upon by the two of you in advance

You’re in a blended family situation, and blended families typically take many years to accept each member fully , and to run relatively conflict free. Many blended families never achieve such harmony. Add oppositional-defiant and emotionally disturbed into the mix, and I can reasonably suggest to you that you and your boyfriend are in a very challenging situation. Your daughter should be regularly talking to her school psychologist/counselor, and the three of you need on-going family therapy.

Dear Neil: I’m going with a man who drinks a lot and is much younger than I am. How do I tell him that I don’t want to continue a relationship with him, but that I’d like to remain friends? He is at my place a lot, and even though I’ve told him I don’t want him at my house so often, he just won’t leave. I live in a senior and adult building.

Powerless in London, Ontario

Dear Powerless: You’re having a hard time enforcing your wishes because you’re not being firm enough with him. Tell your gentleman friend you’d like him to leave your home and not come back unless you invite him back. If he defies that request, have the police escort him away. Your friendship probably may not survive, but you’ll get your wishes honored, and he’ll be less likely to show up at your place uninvited again. If he does, call the police again.

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