Academic journal article Family Relations

An Essay for Practitioners-Solution Focused Strategic Parenting of Challenging Teens: A Class for Parents

Academic journal article Family Relations

An Essay for Practitioners-Solution Focused Strategic Parenting of Challenging Teens: A Class for Parents

Article excerpt

This parenting class combines concepts and interventions associated with solution focused and strategic family therapy. The class continues to evolve after two years of delivery. The original goal was to combine didactic and group processes to assist parents in reducing escalations and crises, decrease the "fix my kid" attitude, and create prevention strategies. The target population for this class was parents of high-risk teenagers. Class participants have expanded to include all types of families and parenting situations. Parents report finding the class content very useful. Surprisingly, many parents report little exposure to this content from other parenting classes they have attended.

The "Solution Focused Strategic Parenting for Challenging Teens" was created in response to common themes observed by family therapists within our agency working with families involving high-risk adolescents. Some of these characteristics include hopelessness, easily escalative families, parents with a "get a bigger hammer" mentality, and the continued use of ineffective parenting strategies out of desperation (e.g. grounding, Tough Love strategies). The targeted population involved families with teenagers engaged in behaviors considered high risk: drug and alcohol abuse, violence, gang involvement, suicidal and homicidal situations. As an adjunct to family therapy, the class provides additional psychoeducation and support.

We created this class to achieve three specific goals when working with highly escalative families. First, our agency wanted to "stop the bleeding." Characteristic of these families is the inappropriate use of a therapist's pager, parents wanting more than one session per week or requesting very long sessions. Trying to convince these parents that their requests may be inappropriate can create alienation because they are not receiving the attention they feel is needed. The class quickly gives them additional support as well as some interventions to try at home. The second goal was to decrease the "fix my kid" mentality that many parents hold. Parents who have challenging teens typically also have a long standing history of legal involvement, school problems, drug and alcohol issues, or assault (verbal or physical) in the home. These parents seem to have a very difficult time understanding how their role in problematic behavior can escalate or decrease a crisis. The final goal of the class was delivering prevention strategies. Over time, parents have started using information to help them prevent negative occurrences in the family. While some material may not be suitable for their preteen children, parents appreciate having ideas to try with their younger children.

Class Components


The population attending this class is varied. The socioeconomic range is very affluent to very poor. Intelligence and level of functioning ranges from high to low. Parental constellation has included stepparents, single parent households. gay couples, and both biological parents.

Class design

The material presented in the class is continuously evolving depending upon societal occurrences. When there was a violence outbreak within a school, we added material to help parents assess the level of violence within their adolescent. The entire class consists of four modules. Two modules are presented per month, each module is gO minutes. The module includes 45 minutes of didactic information and another 45 minutes of group discussion. Parents can start the class with any module. They need to attend all four modules consecutively in order to complete the class.

Modules and Module Content

Throughout the modules we try to maintain some common themes. These themes include: unpredictable response patterns, having a strategy for parenting, delaying responses, modeling/ shaping, noting non-problem time, and creating a positive "seven-year" relationship.

Parents commonly make statements such as "My son sure knows how to push my buttons," or "That daughter of mine is so manipulative. …

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