FAQ
 
 

Here are some of the questions that Dr. Norm is frequently asked. Select any question to see the answer.

Questions

  1. What do “bad” parents do that is wrong?
  2. What causes the Uncaring Child Syndrome?
  3. What are the earliest signs of the Uncaring Child Syndrome?
  4. Are there any telltale signs of Uncaring Child Syndrome to be aware of in an infant or toddler?
  5. My boy is four years old.  Is he too young for me to begin working on his temper outbursts?
  6. I am the mother of a six-year-old boy.  He has had behavioral problems since he was two.  My pediatrician told me, “He will grow out of it.”  What do you think?
  7. I am the parent of a fifteen-year-old girl.  She refuses to listen to me.  She’s failing all of her subjects at school. She’s disrespectful.  I believe she is using drugs.  I have tried cutting off all of her privileges, but she sneaks out of the house late at night.  I have received calls from the school about her lack of attendance.  We tried counseling, but what a joke.  Nothing that we have tried has worked.  What can we do?
  8. My teenage son punches and kicks holes in the wall when he gets mad.  He is verbally abusive, makes threats to leave home, and blames us for his unhappiness.  What do you suggest we do?
  9. My sixteen-year-old daughter has threatened to kill herself on two occasions, but she has never attempted to do it.  Should I take her threat of suicide seriously?
  10. If I discipline my daughter too much, I am afraid that she will run away, use drugs, or take up with sleazy characters.
  11. How can I get my children to understand that they are responsible for their own behavior?
  12. What will uncaring children characteristically become when they are adults?
  13. Do uncaring children come from specific socioeconomic levels?
  14. Does psychiatric treatment help an uncaring child?
  15. Do I need to see a therapist for my child’s problem behavior, or can I do this on my own?

Answers

1. What do “bad” parents do that is wrong?
Oftentimes, parents may unintentionally evoke negative behaviors in their children through rejection, abuse, deviance, or traumatization. With determination and therapy, however, parents can change their actions. (Back to top of page)

2. What causes the Uncaring Child Syndrome?
Evidence suggests Uncaring Child Syndrome (UCS) may have genetic and inherited roots. While behaviors can be controlled, it is important to examine whether a child has a genetic predisposition to bad behavior. (Back to top of page)

3. What are the earliest signs of the Uncaring Child Syndrome?
Children with UCS often begin displaying warning signs at about two years of age. These signs may include lack of patience, inability to concentrate, not listening to parents, sudden mood swings, and lack of care for the rights of others. A more complete list is offered in Chapter 4 of Bad Children Can Happen to Good Parents, and it is important for parents to understand the signs in order to be able to recognize them in their children. (Back to top of page)

4. Are there any telltale signs of Uncaring Child Syndrome to be aware of in an infant or toddler?
Not until children are approximately two years of age are we able to identify consistent patterns and early warning signs. Therefore, it is not recommended that parents look for signs in infants or toddlers under the age of two as doing so may prove confusing and potentially misleading. (Back to top of page)

5. My boy is four years old.  Is he too young for me to begin working on his temper outbursts?
No. You should teach your children proper habits and actions during every stage of early development. Children who are old enough to understand what you are saying are old enough to change their misbehaviors. (Back to top of page)

6. I am the mother of a six-year-old boy.  He has had behavioral problems since he was two.  My pediatrician told me, “He will grow out of it.”  What do you think?
Many professionals often assure parents their children will “grow out of it.” Unfortunately, however, the opposite is usually true. Patterns of behavior that persist for more than two weeks despite attempts to change them can lead to serious behavioral problems later on in life, and it is important to address any behavioral concerns before they become lifelong patterns. (Back to top of page)

7. I am the parent of a fifteen-year-old girl.  She refuses to listen to me.  She’s failing all of her subjects at school. She’s disrespectful.  I believe she is using drugs.  I have tried cutting off all of her privileges, but she sneaks out of the house late at night.  I have received calls from the school about her lack of attendance.  We tried counseling, but what a joke.  Nothing that we have tried has worked.  What can we do?
Behavioral problems can be changed even in older children, but as a parent, you must first honestly assess how far you are willing to go in changing your daughter’s behavior. For example, you may find it necessary to place her in a residential treatment facility, but if you tell her you are planning to do so, you must be willing to follow through. I would first recommend, however, following the treatment program outlined in Chapter 8 of Bad Children Can Happen to Good Parents. If, after doing so, you find that the difficulties persist, a residential facility would be my recommendation. (Back to top of page)

8. My teenage son punches and kicks holes in the wall when he gets mad.  He is verbally abusive, makes threats to leave home, and blames us for his unhappiness.  What do you suggest we do?
The first thing to do is determine if any emotional illnesses or genetic symptoms exist that may predispose your son to this type of behavior. To do so, I would recommend contacting a family therapist who is qualified and skilled to make this determination. If an illness does not exist, I would suggest following the Improvement Program for Bad Children, presented in Chapter 8 of Bad Children Can Happen to Good Parents. (Back to top of page)

9. My sixteen-year-old daughter has threatened to kill herself on two occasions, but she has never attempted to do it.  Should I take her threat of suicide seriously?
YES! Threats of suicide should never be disregarded. Your daughter’s actions are an indication that she is feeling extreme pain and may be willing to take any steps to end it – even if that step is self-destruction. If she is serious, she must be treated accordingly, but even if it is determined that she is not serious in her threats, I would recommend hospitalization to treat the underlying causes of her threats. Additionally, she should be made aware that you will always take her threats seriously, and if she continues to make them in the future, you will hospitalize her again. (Back to top of page)

10. If I discipline my daughter too much, I am afraid that she will run away, use drugs, or take up with sleazy characters.
In addressing this concern, it is important that you understand the alternative – i.e. the effects of not disciplining your child. If you allow her to continue in destructive behaviors, the results can be ruinous both to her and to others. As a parent, you must determine to do the best thing for your child (i.e. discipline) despite your fears of losing her. (Back to top of page)

11. How can I get my children to understand that they are responsible for their own behavior?
The one-word response to this is “consequences.” By establishing consequences for your children’s actions, you are giving them a choice and making it clear that they choose their results by choosing their actions. For example, if you take away privileges as a result of a certain action, your child will soon recognize that his or her behavioral choice affects whether he or she retains or relinquishes those privileges. (Back to top of page)

12. What will uncaring children characteristically become when they are adults?
If left untreated, uncaring children rarely change their behavior. Instead, they mostly likely grow into adults who are unable to handle responsibilities, relationships, and families and children of their own. Additionally, they may display mood swings and/or mental instability and may even become suicidal. (Back to top of page)

13. Do uncaring children come from specific socioeconomic levels?
No. Children who display UCS come from all types of socioeconomic and environmental backgrounds. (Back to top of page)

14. Does psychiatric treatment help an uncaring child?
While psychiatric treatment may appear to make a positive difference, I have found that it does not make a lasting impact as it is not able to incorporate lessons learned from the past. Therefore, children often continue to persist in unhealthy behavioral patterns even with psychiatric treatment.  I believe the best treatment is a comprehensive approach that begins with the parents and focuses on reshaping parental paradigms so parents can then influence and reshape their children’s actions. (Back to top of page)

15. Do I need to see a therapist for my child’s problem behavior, or can I do this on my own?
I would recommend first seeking to address your child’s behavior through proven childrearing principles, which can be found in many parenting books or learned through parenting groups such as those offered by churches and community organizations. If the problem persists, however, it may be beneficial to work with a qualified family and child therapist to evaluate and understand the reasons for your child’s behavior so you can address it accordingly. (Back to top of page)