Solution Focused Strategic Parenting of Challenging Teens: A Class for Parents

DOIhttp://doi.org/10.1111/j.1741-3729.2000.00165.x
AuthorTracy Todd
Date01 April 2000
Published date01 April 2000
2000, Vol. 49, No. 2 165
An Essay for Practitioners
Solution Focused Strategic Parenting of Challenging Teens:
A Class for Parents
Tracy Todd*
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.
*Tracy Todd,Ph.D., LMFT, is President of the Brief Therapy Institute ofDenver, Inc.,
aff‌iliate faculty at the University of Colorado at Denver, and a clinical member of the
American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy. Tracy has presented this material
to professionals throughout the United States so that others can offer a similar class. Hise-
mail address is: DrBrief@btid.com
(Family Relations, 2000, 49, 165–168)
The ‘‘Solution Focused Strategic Parenting forChallenging
Teens’’ was created in response to common themes ob-
served 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 con-
tinued use of ineffective parenting strategies out of desperation
(e.g. grounding, Tough Love strategies). The targeted population
involved families with teenagers engaged in behaviors consid-
ered high risk: drug and alcohol abuse, violence, gang involve-
ment, suicidal and homicidal situations. As an adjunct to family
therapy, the class provides additional psychoeducation and sup-
port.
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. Try-
ing to convince these parents that their requests may be inap-
propriate can create alienation because they are not receiving the
attention they feel is needed. The class quickly gives them ad-
ditional 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 esca-
late or decrease a crisis. The f‌inal goal of the class was delivering
prevention strategies. Over time, parents have started using in-
formation to help them prevent negative occurrences in the fam-
ily. While some material may not be suitable for their preteen
children, parents appreciate having ideas to try with their youn-
ger children.
Class Components
Population
The population attending this class is varied. The socioeco-
nomic 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 as-
sess the level of violence within their adolescent. The entire class
consists of four modules. Two modules are presented per month,
each module is 90 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 ‘‘sev-
en-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.’’ In each module we emphasize that parentsare
often frustrated and angered because their child is better than
they are at manipulating a situation. Parents typically have one
response pattern for a wide variety of behaviors from their teen-
ager. We emphasize that being predictable is the equivalent of
showing your hand in a poker game. The emphasis is on becom-
ing less predictable. In order to be less predictable, parents need
to develop a strategy about how they are going to respond to a
negative event. The emphasis is on developing a non-emotional
response so the situation is less likely to escalate. By delaying
their responses they may develop a more effective response pat-
tern. This combination of developing a plan and responding in
a nonescalative manner is very good role modeling for their teen-
ager.
Shaping is a very important concept to introduce because
many parents want instant change and improvement. When im-
mediate change does not occur, they often drop out of treatment

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