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My Child is now Twenty


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Dear Warwick Dyer,

I know the website said you only assist with children up to 16 years but my daughter Christine is now 20 and we have given each other a difficult time for the past 7-8 years.

I love her very much and would like to see her feeling happy and us not hurting each other which we seem to do often.   If I had only known that you existed when things got difficult we could have got the help we needed years ago and my daughter could have avoided so much pain and upset (and me too).

I wonder if you can still help us? Or are there any books, etc you could recommend?   My daughter does not live with me but we talk everyday on the phone but when we are together it is awful.   It may all be my fault, maybe my parenting was not very good when I thought it was.

Whatever the reason, I really wish us both to have a good relationship and for her to find life easier.  She seems to have low self esteem and I feel she has underachieved even though she is a beautiful and intelligent young woman who is loved very much.

Please can you help?

Why do you only help up to 16 years of age?
Is it because you would need the consent of the child if they were over 16 years?

Please help.


A Desperate boy

Our son, aged 20, is in such a lamentable state and we do not know how to help him.

He is in debt, out of work, dependent on cannabis and incapable of breaking the cycle of depression he is in.   He is aggressive towards the rest of the family and is burying his head in the sand about his problems.   If we talk to him about them, he "flips", blaming everyone else for his situation.

It has come to light in some of his most heated outbursts that he was bullied terribly at school.   We, or the school, had no idea. He now seems to think the whole world, including us, is against him.

We have spoken to our doctor, counsellors etc. but all without him knowing.   He would "freak out" if he knew.   The doctors tell us that they have to have his compliance before they can act and the drugs counsellor tells us to put him out since our health and morale are also suffering.

Can you help?

We want to save him.

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Dear Agnes,

You will be pleased to hear that because of your letter and many more like it in the past I have decided to change the policy of having an age limit for the children that are causing worry for their parents.

How do parents attempt to move past the strong child-parent/parent-child dependency that is sometimes created when they have not be able to train their children about consequences when they were at home.

Children cannot resist the contest to avoid consequences and the arguments about their choices and the arguments about how they speak to their parents and this can continue into adulthood if the parents are not careful.

If parents haven't managed to train their children about consequences and ways of relating when they are younger what can they do when it becomes evident that conflict over these same problems is compromising their maturity?

I can see clearly both the ways in which this could continue to be a problem for parents and how the skills that I successfully use to change behaviour of children and adolescence could be applied.

The behaviour change principles are the same but the framework and the goals are different and will need to be analysed carefully.

I will need more information from you but your email gives me strong clues and I may well be able to help you.    One of the strongest is that you wrote to a "child" behaviour expert about a twenty-year-old adult and already at least partially understand that both you and your daughter are locked a way of relating that was probably not even appropriate when your daughter was an adolescent.

She will probably not listen to or agree with anything that you say to her ... but... she rings up each day to have a thoroughly negative conversation with you.   Why?

I may well be able to help you with this.

I don't feel there is an ethical problem with my talking to you about your relationship with your daughter whom I will never actually meet.    I will have to tell you now though,  so that you are prepared

I will be very unlikely that I will be criticising your daughter or telling you that she is capable of changing her behaviour in the short term whilst yours stays as it is.

If you have looked carefully on the internet at my fees and the way in which I work please phone me if you would like more information

0208 771 5589

Hope to hear from you soon.

Warwick Dyer
Behaviour Change Consultancy


If we work together you will need to clear what we are attempting to achieve.    Although it may well be achieved by my intervention I will not see as my objective to either

get your son off cannabis or

get him working.

What I do see as my objective is the way he relates to his parents and to other siblings and his half-full attitude, his attitude to himself (self esteem) and his propensity to blame others.    The fact that he is 20 is not an issue for me, but it may well be that you have been rewarding the wrong attitudes and behaviour for 20 years and these will very much be the issues we will be working on.

If you are interested in my working with your family please first have a look at the parents page on the website and read the whole page carefully.

As you may realise I work with your (the parents) responses to these problems.    If you were to decide to work with me you would probably have to look at the problem very differently from your current perspective and you will probably find this an uncomfortable process.

I never work with just one child in a family as the interactions between you/your partner and each of your children will probably need to be changed.    Even if you feel that your son (or another child) has always been the "problem" child experience tells me that this is rarely true in spite of the fact that all the bad behaviour appears to stem from a single individual.

Give me a ring (both you and your partner) and we will talk but please first have a look at this     list of behaviours     that are associated with "interactional" difficulties - and make sure that these apply (or applied) to your son or another child in the family.

Also download     my ebook     as the principals (with variation for an older child) will be the ones that you will be applying with my support.

I would not necessarily believe that his being bullied has very much to do with his current problems apart from being a convenient method of diverting blame.    The fact that he diverts blame is probably the real problem not the fact that you all missed the bullying.

If he has got into the habit of diverting blame and still cannot accept even small disappointments or setbacks and is still doing this at 20 then this is what the two of you need to be working on.


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