Charles D. Weinstein, Ph.D.: Licensed Clinical Psychologist


Parenting 101 - This Job Ain't That Easy

Charles Weinstein, Ph.D., A.B.P.P.

Tommy Lasorda, former Dodger manager, was once asked about a call he made which resulted in a Dodger loss. He responded, “This job ain’t that easy.” So it is with parenting- a most wondrous, fulfilling, challenging, and at times, frustrating experience.

Although nothing is simple when it comes to parenting, two concepts are crucial-know yourself and know your child. Attempt to understand yourself as you truly are and resist the temptation to view yourself as you would like to be. Also resist the temptation to feel guilty about the gap between whom you want to be and who you are. Accept yourself without giving up on the concept that change can occur at any given time in your life.

Regarding your child, understand him or her as s/he truly is. Resist the trap of thinking you know better than your child. If your child is resisting you in any given situation, take a time out. Think about why that resistance is there. Observe your child without judgment. Listen to your child. If you can remove your own filters about whom your child should be or ought to be, you may be able to help to serve as a mirror for your child. Through this process you can help him or her to accept him or herself without being harshly self critical.

Brain research tells us that each of us comes into the world with a unique hardwiring. That same research has informed us that how the world around us responds to us affects our brain development and ultimately how we feel about ourselves and how we respond to the world. One of the greatest gifts we as parents can give our children is self awareness. Without judgment, we can help our children to understand their strengths and weaknesses, how to use their strengths, and how to overcome or manage their weaknesses. The place to start this process is with ourselves as parents. If we understand and accept ourselves, we can better view our children is an unbiased manner, as well as serve as positive role models for our children.

Is this process easy? Of course not. However, everyday we awaken, we are given a new opportunity to start fresh. The opportunity to begin anew each day is one of the great gifts of life.

Anxiety and Oppositional-Defiant Behaviors

Charles Weinstein, Ph.D., A.B.P.P.

Not infrequently parents consult with me regarding their child or adolescent who has become resistant, angry, and defiant in certain situations. The parents naturally are frustrated and angry, trying to understand why their child is refusing to comply with simple requests like going to stores or restaurants with them. Sometimes the parents look at each other and try to discover what each of them as individuals or as a couple have done to create this difficult situation.

Some children do have oppositional-defiant disorder. These children are angry, easily frustrated, hypersensitive, and uncooperative. However, not all children who display these behaviors and emotions have oppositional-defiant disorder. Many of these children and adolescents are experiencing fear and worry. Many of these children and adolescents may be hesitant to discuss their worries. However, if given permission to express their fears, it becomes clear that their noncompliant behaviors are due to the fact that they are attempting to avoid situations which are fearful for them. Once these fears and worries are expressed and understood, healthy alternatives for dealing with these worries can be developed.

So, if you are struggling with your noncompliant child, he or she may be sending you a message the best way she or he can that she or he is frightened about something. Try to figure out what that fear is all about and help empower your child by giving him or her tools for fighting that fear.


Charles Weinstein, Ph.D., A.B.P.P

Given the title of this article, a number of individuals probably have stopped reading and have moved on. I hope that I am mistaken.

Two months ago I spoke with a close friend. Although he lives in another part of the country, we have watched our children grow up over the past twenty plus years. He told me a sad story about his youngest child, a story my wife and I continue to feel in the pits of our stomachs.

This 16 year old boy lived and attended public high school in a community much like San Marino. He had some attention problems and learning difficulties which his parents identified early and addressed. A year or so ago, they discovered that their child was smoking marijuana. At first they were convinced that it was recreational-only at parties and never anytime else. As time passed, their concerns began to increase. The parents contacted parents of their teenager’s friends. Those parents seemed to think that these kids were “just being kids”. Despite mounting evidence, these parents continued to believe that there was no problem and their teenagers reinforced that belief.

A few months ago, as the problems became too obvious to ignore, my friend and his wife one more time attempted to speak to the other parents. Again these parents felt that my friend and his wife were overreacting. Knowing that they must act, they consulted with a drug and alcohol expert in their community. The final decision, after much emotional struggle, was to place their son in a  residential rehabilitation program. He will be away from home for the next two years.

What were the symptoms? Declining school performance, staying out well beyond curfew, withdrawal from friends who were achieving, refusal to communicate with family, drug related problems with the school.

These symptoms can and often are rationalized by parents and teenagers. Sometimes they are a part of growing up, when poor judgment is part of the learning process. However, there are too many times when drugs and alcohol are condoned by parents believing that it is an innocent part of growing up. These parents often will talk about their days of youth. What these parents mistakenly recall is college days. Many of them did not have much access to drugs and alcohol in high school. Those parents’ experiences often were truly experimental. Today, there is more access to drugs and alcohol. Teenagers and adults use drugs and alcohol to self medicate for anxiety and depression.

What is recommended? Be a strong parent. Listen to your gut. Confront your denial. Set healthy boundaries with your children. It is OK, if not important, for your children to be angry with you at times. If you are your child’s “buddy”, you cannot be your child’s parent. Be honest and educated about your own drug and alcohol use. Openly discuss your usage and let your teenagers know why it is not be good for them. Seek help. There are several resources for parents to educate themselves about what to look for and how to communicate with their children. Parents are not alone.


Charles Weinstein, Ph.D., A.B.P.P.

Much of the fanfare regarding media attention and the internet has passed. Yet for those living with pre-teens and teens, the issue is a daily one. Concerns regarding exposure to graphic sexual material continue. In addition, risks regarding predators are ever present. There may not be any new solutions, but in consulting with parents I have arrived at a few conclusions.

-There are options for parents. However, the essential first step is for parents to become computer savvy and internet savvy. Read a book, ask a friend, hire a computer consultant. You must know the technology. You do not need to be an expert and the technology is less daunting than you imagine.

-Speak honestly and with knowledge to your teens regarding your concerns. Scare tactics or exaggerated stories will either turn them off or make the internet even more alluring. Speak from a values point of view(“These are my values. You may not agree with all of them, but these are values we live by in this family. I want to hear your opinions, but the bottom line is we all try to live by these values in this home.”). Discussions regarding good judgment, the risks of contacting people online, and concerns regarding graphic sexual material are crucial to helping your teen understand your issues and to encouraging an ongoing dialogue.     

-As a parent it is important to decide how you will monitor your teen’s internet usage.
      A good faith approach assumes that your teen will abide by your limits without much monitoring. In addition, it assumes that you will find out if your teen does not follow those limits. The positives of this approach include trying to give your teen an opportunity to make wise choices and building trust between you and your teen. The negatives include that you may not discover if your teen is not following your limits and is exposed to situations that are not healthy.
     A monitoring approach includes purchasing software that will block access to certain websites and will allow you to monitor which websites your teen is visiting. This approach puts less responsibility on the teen and gives the parent some sense of assurance, but it can create conflict (“You don’t trust me.” “You are treating me like a child.”)

There are several options which lie between those two options. If you think about the internet and your teen as you think about alcohol and your teen, you might come to some consistent approach. Some parents lock up the alcohol in their home. Some take a good faith approach. While the internet offers endless positive opportunities, like alcohol, it has potential serious negative consequences. As with all child rearing situations, there are some basic truths:  Know your teen and respond in a manner that will be most effective with your teen. Communicate openly and with respect. Remember that you are the parent who sets the values. Be knowledgeable about a topic before you discuss it with your teen.