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Responding to a Troubled Parent

Laura M. reacts to a Dear Abby letter.

Dear Abby,

I just read a heartbreaking letter in your column regarding a mother's battles with her teenage daughter. I identify with the mother's feelings of confusion, frustration, disappointment, anger, and powerlessness. Those are emotions I felt nine years ago with my three teenage daughters, along with extreme fear that if I did not do something different and do it quickly, my daughters were heading down a path much rougher than the one we were already on, and we were going to be separated. I couldn't just painfully watch them ruin themselves and their lives, so I looked for and found a program that I would like to pass on to this troubled mom.

A little background information: at the time my three daughters were 11, 13, and 15. We were suffering from a family crisis, very angry, confused, and fearful of our future. Family counseling, which you suggested, Abby, is important; however, my daughters would not go. I was willing to go, and it was the best thing I could do for them and the situation because it led me to this program, which resulted in the changes that took place in each of us as individuals and in our relationships with each other. My daughters eventually went to counseling, but it was my example, not my pushing them to go, that got them there. They never went continuously, but it became a tool in their toolboxes. They have used it over the years at college, and they know it is always available to them when they feel the need.

I went to counseling to take care of me. The therapist suggested this program called STEP, Systematic Training for Effective Parenting, which sounds like it is about the kids, but it was about me and my parenting style. Through the principles of the STEP program, I learned how to understand what it was my daughters were asking for by what I was feeling inside as we interacted, as they interacted with each other, and as they made individual choices that were affecting their quality of life and thus affecting our life as a family. As I learned to apply the STEP principles, I found that the more I said and did things the way the program suggested, the faster there was peace, calm, and communication. Using the principles of the STEP program, I was removed from the drama, and so when there was a struggle, there was no more "dancing" going on, and my daughter(s) would find herself/themselves standing alone with her/their drama. This was not easy, but it was a drastic change in my parenting style. It took a lot of work. I took the STEP workshop 3 times and it is a 9-week program. I had no money, but the woman who put this program together believes in it and really wanted to help us. She kept inviting me back and asking me to call her for the direction I felt so desperate for. Applying the principles took great FAITH because it is tough love at its best and I had to believe something greater than myself was going to make it all work. I want this mother to know that I did exactly as this program suggested to the best of my ability, and it was really sloppy sometimes, but I said or did whatever principle applied in each situation (let me say, I have some funny stories to tell and fortunately my daughters, counselor, and I see them as funny today), but I applied the principles of STEP and they WORKED!

My daughters are celebrating their 20th, 22nd, and 24th birthdays in the upcoming months. They are doing really well and we are united. Yes, we are together with respect for one another, and with a peace, love, and understanding for each other that we never had before this horrific time in our lives. It took a lot of years, but with a huge dose of Faith and the principles found in the STEP program, my daughters and I are healthy and maintaining blooming and promising lifestyles. My oldest daughter is graduating this week with a master's degree in music performance and has an undergraduate degree in music education. She is an amazing trumpet player and, more importantly, an amazing life player. My middle daughter is in the fifth year of a five-year dual certification program at a private college studying to earn a degree in special and elementary education. She is the most humble, loving, gentle, independent, and selfless person I know. My youngest daughter is completing her second year of college studying toward a degree in music education and is a clarinetist. This young woman is the toughest, bravest, and most loving person I know.

I wish the mother in your column could read this essay and be inspired to learn the principles of the STEP program. It not only helped me develop respectful, communicative, and loving relationships with each of my daughters, but it helped me to communicate better with everybody in my life. It really works, and if it can work for me, it can work for anybody.

Thank you in advance for passing this on to "Troubled Mom in [another state]." Please send her the links that have the information about STEP: and and also let her know I am available, if talking with a regenerated STEP mom would help.

Thank you,
Regenerated STEP Mom in NY

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