A Systematic Approach to Parenting

steventobiasPresenter: Steven E. Tobias, Psy.D.
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Dr. Tobias gave us insight on how to parent our children systematically rather than emotionally. He helped us understand that what worked for one child may not work for another and to get the results we want means taking a different approach.


  1. NJCTS says:

    My 15 yr. old son’s most disabling disorder is Executive Function but he has other milder forms of disorders that are comorbid. Nothing suggested or tried so far works w/ him being responsible for his own basic daily needs. I have been consistent, firm and follow up w/ consequences. Though he is sorry, it will happen, again. Days blend into each other & struggles w/ micromanaging are creating conflict & stress. He forgets and reminded, he is not respectful. I don’t do well w/ it and though he knows better, he doesn’t get it. I could go on and on. Anything that actually works for motivation and my son actually being successful at daily hygiene, chores, homework, etc. would be appreciated. I am a single parent & though my son’s dad is in his life, he works all the time and does not see him consistently. He has a younger sister who is going to be 7 whom he likes to micromanage so this is another stress daily. He is being dishonest, argumentative and does not want to be held accountable. I started taking him to therapy at 3 yrs. old. He wants things to get better but he does not follow through or have the motivation after the first couple of times.

    • DrTobias says:

      Therapy is definitely necessary as his self-esteem is low. It is difficult to recommend more without knowing your son better. He may benefit from a very detailed behavior modification system of earning points for rewards but this may also depress him further. It is important that you maintain a relationship with him.

  2. NJCTS says:

    With regard to logical consequences, what would you suggest a logical consequence is for not studying for a test and therefore failing the test?

    • DrTobias says:

      I would consider having him continue to retake the test until he passes. If failure does not motivate him, you need to do something else. Either the school or you could give him the test again. I would not allow electronics or some other favored activity until he does pass the test.

  3. NJCTS says:

    Any thoughts about how to use these strategies when you have a hormonal teenager who is head strong and defiant?

    • DrTobias says:

      That is certainly a difficult situation. Praise, empathy, and natural and logical consequences are important. Try not to get engaged in arguments. Although that is what teens often want from their parents, it is obviously not good for them.

  4. NJCTS says:

    We as school professionals deal with anxiety in schools. We are seeing this with students as young as 4. We know that most of this is coming from pressures and other things at home. We can only suggest to parents to seek outside help but most times they do not. They want us to solve. How do we help these families? This is becoming a major problem in schools today.

    • DrTobias says:

      I would say to stop testing students so much but I know this is not under your control. I would also recommend more recess and less homework but this too is beyond your control. There are school programs which focus on children’s social-emotional development that help with this. casel.org is a website that has a lot of excellent information about this.

  5. NJCTS says:

    My 10-year-old son has ADHD, medicated during school hours, displays eye-stretching and blinking, and his OCD shows up as a compulsion to pick his fingers until they bleed. Once he’s home, the meds are wearing off, he still has homework, and this is our area of constant issue. We use positive discipline techniques and praise him all the time for even the simplest acts, but he doesn’t understand consequences. Do you have any suggestions for our after school through bedtime home-time?

    • DrTobias says:

      I would consider modifying his homework. There is no correlation between homework and academic achievement until high school. Try minimizing homework and then working back up.

  6. NJCTS says:

    How do you handle a child who’s distressed by bullying?

    • DrTobias says:

      First, report it to the school or where ever the bullying is taking place. Then, you must arm your child with strategies for responding. Walking away is effective but the most difficult strategy to use. Discuss and problem solve strategies with him. Then role play them to be sure he can use them.

  7. NJCTS says:

    Son (9) with TS becomes very angry at times when told no, or given a schedule for homework, etc. Says thiings like..”.you are so mean, you dont love me”, I have tics, etc. My husband and I sometimes get very upset and we dont know if this is all part of the TS or a 9 year old being manipulative. Any suggestions?

    • DrTobias says:

      I would empathize with him but also, at another time, discuss why you are asking him to do these things. He needs to understand that if you did not get him to do these things then that would be “mean” to him. Also, teach him about disappointment. If he is unable to hear these things from you, therapy could be helpful.

  8. NJCTS says:

    When my son’s tics are very active it impacts him greatly. He has a much more difficult time focusing, he fatigues easily and his level of frustration is quite high. How can I support him during these most difficult times without enabling poor behavior?

    • DrTobias says:

      I would empathize and problem solve with him how to handle this. Problem solve when and how to do his work, and how to handle frustration. If both you and he work on this together, you may find a solution.

  9. NJCTS says:

    Would Dr. Tobias addresses incentive/consequence charts and programs to use for the whole family.

    • DrTobias says:

      This is a very complex system. You start by identifying goals and a monitoring system. For example, if you are working on “Doing chores” and “Getting ready in the morning,” you could use a daily rating point system of one to five points for each goal. At the end of the day, tally and add the points. These points are then cashed in for rewards the next day. You can use both long and short-term rewards. Develop a “menu” of rewards, each costing different points depending on whether you want to encourage or discourage the activity. For example, a reward of playing a game with a parent may cost five points, and extra TV time might cost eight. Keep score without rewards for at least a week to work out the bugs. Children often buy into it at first but then test it. A chart is also a lot of work and needs to be done consistently.

  10. NJCTS says:

    How does a parent begin to handle an adolescent with Tourette’s who is self medicating?

    • DrTobias says:

      Get therapy. If the adolescent won’t go, you go and talk to the therapist. And do everything you can to prevent any form of illegal drug use. This is a very high risk behavior.