Education and Counseling for Individuals Affected by Oppositional Defiant Disorder and ADHD

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Hello Mark--how much of an impact will divorce have on a 12 year old? Is there an age that is better than others?


As with most things, there are pros and cons with divorce.


The tide seems to be swinging in the direction that parents in low-conflict marriages should stay together for the sake of the kids. Even a good divorce restructures children's childhoods and leaves them traveling between two distinct worlds. It becomes their job, not their parents', to make sense of those two worlds. If you are in a low-conflict marriage, the idea of a good divorce is really very misleading. It makes you think that, so long as you divorce the right way, your children will be fine.

Contrary to the wisdom of pop psychology, it is not essential to your children's well-being for you to have a great marriage. Imperfect harmony in a home allows each parent to love and care for the children full-time. No matter what the level of conflict, a divided family often requires children to confront a whole set of challenges that children in married-parent, intact families do not have to face.


There will always be couples who need to divorce. There are two elements to a good divorce:

1. One is that the parents get along sufficiently well that they can focus on their kids as parents.

2. And the other element is that children continue to have relationships with both parents.

While a great many young people from divorced families report painful memories and ongoing troubles regarding family relationships, the majority are psychologically normal. There is an accumulating body of knowledge based on many studies that show only minor differences between children of divorce and those from intact families, and that the great majority of children with divorced parents reach adulthood to lead reasonably fulfilling lives.

It's not divorce per se that causes all the damage. Children can usually cope with separation and adapt to new living arrangements. It's the ongoing high level of conflict after the divorce that hurts them.

Divorce is a personal issue. Only you will know if it is the right thing to do. Sometimes divorce is a mistake – other times, it is an appropriate and healthy decision. Trust your gut on this one.


Online Parent Support

Too many TVs?

I have read through the printed e book and was wondering what you recommend. Terrible to say all of our kids have TV's in their rooms. We have thought about taking them all out and having them earn them during the week for use on the weekends. Our 12 year old is a very good student and has given us NO problems what so ever. I feel that she may think we are punishing her by taking her TV away. The other kids are the one's that are the problem. What do you think?


Hi S.,

The number of TVs in the house is not as important as what they are watching on their TVs. The problem with having TVs in the bedrooms is you can’t monitor what they are watching.

Love you kids equally, but parent them differently. Let your 12-year-old keep her TV. The others should “earn” TV privileges as you suggested. If you want to go the extra mile, have only one TV is a central area where you can monitor content.

Children in the United States watch an average of three to four hours of television a day. By the time of high school graduation, they will have spent more time watching television than they have in the classroom. While television can entertain, inform, and keep our children company, it may also influence them in undesirable ways.

Time spent watching television takes away from important activities such as reading, school work, playing, exercise, family interaction, and social development. Children also learn information from television that may be inappropriate or incorrect. They often can’t tell the difference between the fantasy presented on television versus reality. They are influenced by the thousands of commercials seen each year, many of which are for alcohol, junk food, fast foods, and toys.

Children who watch a lot of television are likely to:

· Have lower grades in school
· Read fewer books
· Exercise less
· Be overweight

In any event, I would strongly suggest that you have only one TV – and have a house rule that prohibits watching programs containing violence. Hundreds of studies of the effects of TV violence on children and teenagers have found that children may become "immune" or numb to the horror of violence; gradually accept violence as a way to solve problems; imitate the violence they observe on television; and identify with certain characters, victims and/or victimizers. Children with emotional, behavioral, learning or impulse control problems may be more easily influenced by TV violence.

Mark Hutten, M.A.

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Her son is intolerable to me...

I have been involved/partnered for 3 years with a wonderful woman. But her son is intolerable to me. Despite a variety of diagnoses from doctors who see only his mood disorders and not his daily behavior, the most obvious diagnosis (that they all missed) is ODD. You can not do or say anything that he doesnt like w/o him jumping up screaming, sometimes for hours. Three years ago he was 5150’d for putting his fist through several windows, making numerous suicide threats, throwing things all over the living room and more. I pushed his mom to call the police and they took him to the hospital. The hospital kept him for only one night. If it was my kid, he’d have had to clean the mess he made and sign a contract about future behavior and professional help (including anger mgmt) before I would take him back to live in my house. But his mother never holds him accountable for anything, for fear of him hurting himself or screaming at her (which he does anyway.) He tore up the contract that I had helped her compose and she let him back in anyway.

The next day while she was at work, he smashed up her entire kitchen with a baseball bat. Then the hospital kept him for 3 weeks. To this day, his mother has not asked him to reimburse her the $2000 it took to replace the sliding glass door, the cabinets, etc. (It would have cost more, but a friend gave her a free stove, I gave her dishes, and she chose not to replace the microwave).

His mother vacilates between feeling sorry for him and being afraid of him. In fact, now she thinks she made a mistake sending him to the hospital (because he talks endlessly about how bad that made him feel and how horrible it was that we “did that to him”).

He fails at school, wont keep a job, smokes pot, and constantly complains about what a victim he is and how everyone owes him an apology. His mom has done everything (too much) for him, but he appreciates nothing and rails about his victimhood. He has issues about being a mixed-race child who was adopted (at 4 months) and his mother buys into all his excuses. I am a social worker with an MSW and a BA in psychology. I know plenty about the hurt children endure being seperated from birth parents etc. But I don’t believe for a minute that that is the cause of his outrageous behavior that she tolerates and rewards with nurturing attention.

He is very verbally abusive and incapable of listening. He is in charge of his mother instead of the reverse. He batters her verbally until she feels like dying. She appeases, accomodates, over-protects & over-indulges. She rewards his misbehavior and seems puzzled at the cause. I love her very much and don't want to leave like all her prior partners. But I am at my wits end. I can not stand to be around him; he is so hostile and cruel and she cant or wont take charge.

I have been searching through the internet seeking help with this problem. Personally, much as I love her, I think mom is a big part of the problem. Her son is no longer living in her home, but she pays his rent. Because he is completely financially dependent on her, she is the one person with real leverage, but she wont use it, due not just to insufficient info/strategies, etc. (I’ve given her plenty of good advice, which she uses on occasion.) But she rarely puts her foot down (even though he acts better on the rare occasions when she does), due to deeply ingrained emotional barriers like fear, misplaced guilt, and I don’t know what else.

If you have techniques that really work, how can you get her to consistantly use them?

--in love but desperate in California


I have to be honest here (of course). If she's NOT willing to work a program - and if she's the only one in a position to effect change - then don't waste your money purchasing the eBook.

Having said that, a weaker strategy supported by both caretakers is much better than a stronger plan supported by only one (you did say you have offered some advice in the past, which she uses on occasion).

In any case, you don't risk anything if you decide to try the program. If the strategies I've outlined don't provide you with any benefit [or very little benefit], just email me and I'll forward your invoice to ClickBank for your refund - and you can keep the eBook and everything that comes with the package.

Fair enough?

I know you're in a tough spot,


Online Parent Support

Take some quiet time each day and read God’s word...

Thank you for all your encouragement.

I find the one of best ways to relax and meditate is to take some quiet time each day and read God’s word the Bible.

In Joshua 1: 8, 9 Just after the death of his best friend and leader the mighty Moses, Joshua was given the responsibility to then take over the leadership of several hundred thousand people (very demanding strong willed people). He was encouraged to take time each day to meditate on God’s word. As you have encouraged us to do with our needy strong willed kids. Mine is conduct disorder & bi-polar needy. At times I feel overwhelmed, but then your words and the words of other’s in my life come ringing in my ears, don’t give up, be of good courage, you will get through this. So I keep going, each day, one day at a time.

This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.

Keep up the great work, and take some time to meditate on the words of the creator of the universe who is not too busy to think about us.

Yours faithfully,


==> Go to Meditation Center

M has been in the JJS (kid jail)...

==> Hi J. Please look for my responses below.


Well, it's been 11 days since M has been in the JJS. The visit was awkward to say the least. And our dismay to see that another "friend" who we have been discouraging (and being pretty successful with) was also in!! Needless to say, our emotions are still on a roller-coaster. M has been seen by a counselor while there and FINALLY there has been exchange of information between his counselor and the JSS. (We had been requesting this for over a year/sent in the paper work and still not done). Well, the JJS counselor called me on Tuesday and we talked for a while. She feels M is in a deep depression. He has not felt loved since very small, we love our other children, he doesn't make eye contact, no inflection of voice, apathy, etc. (This is VERY hard to hear). Our regular counselor has recently told us of this too.

==> Not to minimize his feelings, but most “out-of-control” teenagers feel unloved and mistreated – this is nothing new. And of course he’s depressed – he’s locked-up. Who wouldn’t be?

Also, counselors do NOT get a true reading on a child’s general attitude while the child is in a facility. I regularly visit my juvenile probationers who happen to be incarcerated. They all have a different attitude in jail compared to when they are out. When they return home, there’s about a 2-week honeymoon period in which the child behaves appropriately. After the honeymoon though, the child returns to his original problematic behavior (unless, of course, the parent is making parenting-changes on her end).

As harsh as it sounds, out-of-control teens need to feel an element of discomfort before they will change – this is not cruel and usual punishment however – it’s tough love (which is often tougher on the parent than the child).

An easy trap for parents to fall into at this point is to (a) feel sorry for the child, (b) to doubt their decisions and parenting strategies, and (c) to feel like a failure as a parent, etc.

CAUTION: Beware of falling into this trap. Stay the course. Positive change is occurring!

M has been approached about meds and had refused them. The new counselor T (who unfortunately is quitting JJS) has been pretty confrontational with M and really pushed him for answers (not I don't know/care). The regular counselor A has been seeing him for over a year and has not shared that they are doing any of this. What is your advice on the direction this should take? If we need to change counselors we will. This also may be an act. Who knows anymore?

== > Go with the counselors who will challenge your son and who will not fall for the usual manipulations that teens cough-up during these rough times.

Yesterday he was seen by a psychiatrist who has dx him with ADHD and has prescribed adderall. When I re-read the info on it, I can see LOADS of characteristics. We had 1 teacher in elementary school suggest this, but the physician and subsequent teachers did not find any basis to this. Again we feel horrible if this is what is causing his difficulties. She feels the rx may help with the depression also. Again, your input on this would be great.

== > I’m not a proponent for ADHD meds or antidepressants for adolescents. My experience reveals that (a) insisting the child take meds is just another potential battle zone and (b) they end up either selling them to friends or abusing them. Behavioral modification is a much better course than pharmacotherapy.

Anyway, my biggest dilemma is how to handle things when he is released back home (we won't know until 1/3/08 but seem to think from the counselor and M tells us the PO also that he will get "intensive probation" whatever that is).

== > Intensive probation means he will have weekly contact with a PO, possibly have weekly urine screens, have stiffer consequences for violating the probation contact, etc.

My husband wants to give almost everything back (no cell phone or car) as he has "done his time" and to make a fresh start. He would get all of his clothes, computer (no internet), TV/playstation in his room, use of house phone. I am OK with this if this is what should happen. He did not EARN this back in the home, but is staying @ JJS for 24 days enough? Again, we have never dealt with this before and really want to do the right thing.

== > I agree with your husband. Your son has received a “natural consequence.” A fresh start would be in order.

Christmas will be really hard--do we have a "do-over" when he comes home and leave all the decorations up and have baked items, etc? We are not allowed to bring him ANYTHING for our visit on Christmas.

== > No. Missing Christmas is part of the natural consequence. You can give him his gifts when he comes home however. Do NOT over-indulge out of a sense of guilt however.

Bottom line: Your son is developing emotional muscles that he would never have developed had he not gone through this very uncomfortable experience. Remind him that this is just the beginning of his pain [now that he is in the radar of probation] if he doesn’t get with the program.

Thanks for your wisdom and experience and have a peaceful, wonderful holiday. I am sure to e-mail you again soon.


Online Parent Support

Grand Daughter Problems

With Christmas almost here, i was hoping you could give me some advice. I have been trying the tough love approach with my granddaughter, who's 11 and has been a handful. She had been living with her dad in a blended family along with her 9 yr. old sister. They were having week-ends with their mom, which didn't always work out. The last time her dad went to pick her up she refused to go with him, he was getting annoyed and yanked her by the coat sleeve, now the mom and her have claimed that he hit her and have charged him with assault. Until all this is settled in court they can't speak or see each other. The mom is unstable, chronic liar and trouble-maker since day one, i don't think she even has a conscience. She also lets her dress provocatively and she smokes. The whole family has always spent Christmas Eve together at our house so i'm finding it hard. I'm so very tired of all the mom’s games and would like to follow this through ...but i've be told by my oldest son that i might live to regret it.

Thanks for any help you can give....



Hi M.,

Let me make sure I understand:

· Your granddaughter and her father are court-ordered not to have contact.
· Now there is some division in the family.
· But you want to have the usual Christmas Eve get-together.

Actually I don’t see how this is possible, because someone will have to be left out (i.e., either your granddaughter or her father).

You didn’t mention where your granddaughter is living. Also, is her father your son?

In any event, Christmas time is especially important to children. Therefore, the right thing to do is to work it out so that your granddaughter can spend Christmas Eve with you. Also, you could have 2 get-togethers -- one that includes the father, and another one with the granddaughter (different times of course).

I can see you’re stuck in the middle. Choose to stay out of the business of playing mediator. In situations like these, the mediator tends to make a bad problem worse by attempting to control things that are not controllable.

Also, be sure to read this week’s newsletter<==click. It is very relevant to your situation.


Online Parent Support

Failure As A Mother?

Hi Mark:

I'm interested in getting your book, is it sold at book store? My computer is really old and I can't download a large file and have no sound card.

I'm having a problem with my 16 year old son. He is disrespectful, smokes pot and sometimes gets very angry. I'm divorced and my new partner is having a very difficult time dealing with the disrespect in the home. I feel like I'm in the middle and am trying to make everyone happy.

I really need some help. My partner thinks it's my fault for how my son is acting. I am a failure as a mother? I have loved him, tried teaching him right from wrong, talked with him, and put him in a program for kids from divorced parents. I am a good role model, I don't drink, do drugs, I'm honest and loving. I don't understand why this is happening.

Thank you for taking the time to read this email.




Hi R.,

The eBook is a digital book not sold in stores. We have the eBook as a digital product so individuals can receive it instantly rather than waiting for shipping.

Even with an old computer, download time is only about 10 seconds. If for some reason you cannot download it, I'll send it to you as an attachment in an email.

Re: no sound card. You can purchase CDs and play the audio in your car or elsewhere.

==> Here's the link for the CDs.

Feel free to call me if you have any additional questions or concerns about the delivery of this package.

Thank you,


P.S. Of course you are NOT a failure as a mother. Are you beating up on yourself? If so, stop!

Online vs. Offline

Hi Mark,

I am glad to have found your site on this my precious son's 17th birthday. I have every intention of ordering shortly. I did want to ask though, since it is online, are we (my hubby too) able to view the seminars over and over? I am not particularly enthused about an online seminar but short of driving to Indiana it's a great option. I prefer to have a hardcopy of books, so I'll print it out.

I am the only person in a family of 5 who does NOT take medication for ADHD (husband included), so I hope that we are all able to gain help from this newly found insight.

Looking forward to your reply.




Hi D.,

Yes …you can go through the program as often as needed – and at your own pace. You can print out a hard copy of the eBook, and I also have 2 CDs of the seminar (an additional $17.00) if you want to go the extra mile (click here for details). Thus, you can go through all the material without sitting at the computer. If you don't want to spend the money to get both the eBook and the CDs, I would recommend just getting the CDs.

Mark @

ODD Boyfriend


I was just wondering if you could answer a few questions for me. My boyfriend is 19 years old and has oppositional defiant disorder and its driving me crazy. It seems like all we do is fight then he appologizes when he finally makes me cry. How can I make a simple convo not turn into an argument about nothing. For example I was waiting for him to finish getting dresses kinda watching him and he freaked out saying how he HATES when i watch him all the time it annoys him. What?! or another is we were talking about actors and I said that i didnt like a certain actor because he was too popular and he said that it wasnt a good enough reason and got really mad and the fight escalated to him calling me a bitch and me crying. I just cant help but "stick up for myself" but is this just fueling the fire? what are some techniques for dealing with this without feeling like im giving in or just agreeing with him all the time. I feel worthless and resentful alot but i also feel guilty for making him feel like he is a mean person all the time. He refuses to see anyone for help because he was pumped full of meds for adhd when he was just 5 and it really messed him up so is there anything i can do? please help. ive looked everywhere on the internet but i just cant find anything about dealing with a spouse or boyfriend with ODD. thank you for your time and i eagerly look forward to your relpy.

Best Regards


At the risk of turning this email into a sales pitch, I have to say you would greatly benefit from my eBook. I regularly recommend to parents that, in the case where one spouse acts more like a child and less like an adult, the more mature parent simply use the same strategies - except on the other parent.

You'll find a lot of ways to deal with your boyfriend. Just use the strategies in the same way you would with a child, because your boyfriend may be 19-years-old chronologically - but emotionally he's more like a 12-year-old (if he is ODD). There's a huge maturity-time-lag with ADHD/ODD individuals.

I'm serious, download the eBook and try the techniques on him. If you don't get any benefit from the eBook, just email me and I'll give you a refund. It's that simple. You'll drive yourself nuts if you don't know how to deal with an ODD personality - I promise.

Mark @

Low point for M___.


Monday evening was hopefully the low point for M. He did not go to counseling. Later on he "stole" my cell phone off the counter and would not give it back (10:45pm). I told him calmly he had until 11:30pm then I would shut off the service and purchase a new one the next day (on his dime) and I would take his laptop until then. He refused, and kept trying to demand things. He started with the F words, then he was told he lost the computer for 24hr (to begin when the swearing stopped). I asked him at 11:30pm for my phone. House phone not working as we believe he tried to hook his laptop to our desktop internet service (cable modem and disabled our house phone) so took husbands cell to call. He now is trying to grab phones. I am leaving the house to move the laptop to safekeeping (not our home). I am in garage and he is trying to come after me. Husband tries to block his exit and gets hit in the eye--a HUGE shiner (he thinks from an elbow). 911 called and now M taken to Juve.

Court yesterday and they obviously detain him. His next hearing is 1/3/08. Whole nuclear family is reeling and the emotions change often. Oldest son now does tell us M has used drugs. He confiscated some vicodin and a short straw from him a week or two ago and caught him another time he thinks rolling a joint with 2 friends (who are NOT supposed to be in our home). He did not tell us because he did not want to be the "snitch" as he feels I betray his confidences (I may sometimes but really try not to). He also had a straw and a bag of pills (the police did not feel they were illegal or rx) when he was caught shoplifting and I also caught him with some pale yellow powder and a straw on Saturday. Now I'm wondering if he is on drugs. Can you tell me any more information on snorting vicodin? His urine test was clean. (dont know what was included or how long vicodin lasts).

Yesterday after court I get a phone call from some woman I've never heard of. She proceeds to tell me M was at her house Saturday night (when he went AWOL), no adults were home, and is told by her son that M (who she had never met before) threw her dog into a wall, broke it's leg and the bill is $500. She is wanting compensation. She says M is denying it. He also was with 2 maybe 3 other boys who I have not met but are bad--into drinking, drugs, fights, gone all night etc. (Don't know them so don't know the home situation). I won't get to see M until Monday, and frankly don't believe a word he says anymore even if I do ask him about it. I have my attorney friend looking into this from a legal standpoint. (Heresay and not 100% sure of the facts etc. do we pay or wait for a police report, etc.) as $500 on top of everything else is almost too hard to take, but if he's guilty of course we would pay.

Mark, what do we do now that he's gone? Yes, we are finally relaxed and safe in our home. We will go see him on visiting days. What do we say? Do we keep it casual, or ask about his school and sessions and how things are in juve? What if he does not want to see us? What do you do/get him for Christmas? What do we tell the relatives (who we really don't wish to share all the details with)?

This is a totally new situation for us and our family as no one in our family or close friends have had this difficulty.




Hi J.,

First of all, you handled the “cell phone theft” incident very well. That’s you being successful – again!

Re: snorting vicodin—

Vicodin and other prescription narcotics constitute the most-abused group of prescription drugs, according to the National Household Survey, released in 2006. Of the 6.4 million Americans who reported misusing prescription drugs in the previous year, more than 73 percent misused prescription pain relievers.

Vicodin is NOT time released, so people who abuse can swallow the pill or snort it for immediate effects. The risk of both physical and psychological dependence on Vicodin is high. Users may experience withdrawal symptoms after as few as 5-7 days of continuous use. Withdrawal symptoms include chills, irritability, severe anxiety, headaches, and insomnia.

Chemically similar to heroin, Vicodin increases the activity of a key neurotransmitter, dopamine, triggering such an intense euphoria that users keep coming back for more -- and still more, after that.

Re: pay or wait for a police report—

Wait until all the facts are in.

Re: what do we do now that he's gone?

Be thankful he’s where he should be for now. He was about to destroy himself. At least he’s alive!

Re: What do we say? Do we keep it casual, or ask about his school and sessions and how things are in juve?

I think you should say whatever is on your heart – but DO NOT display any emotion of regret, guilt, feeling sorry, etc. Otherwise, he gets a big payoff by knowing he has successfully pushed your buttons (again).

Re: What if he does not want to see us?

Let him have his “mad time.” After he cools down, he’ll have a change of heart.

Re: What do you do/get him for Christmas?

At our juvenile detention facility, kids can have their own toiletries (shampoo, tooth paste, etc.). And these little items mean a lot when one is incarcerated.

Re: What do we tell the relatives (who we really don't wish to share all the details with)?

When family inquires, say “he’s going through some difficult times right now, we’ll have to update you on it later.”

==> I’m glad your son was given a mandatory time-out before he did some permanent damage to himself or others. Other juveniles who have gone this deep into self-destruction have not been as fortunate.


Online Parent Support

"I am moving out..."

Morning Mark,

Thank you for always heading me in the right direction. Our home is really better since following the online e-book suggestions. My daughter turns 18 in Jan. and she has used the “I am moving out” deal. I am keeping my poker face and letting her know that will be her choice. The thing that I am having a question with is, if she stays in our home and persists to see this boy, who has gone against us and done some pretty awful things, how do we proceed? Also, she is not wanting to get on birth control. How do you feel about the sex issue?

Thanks again,



Hi M.,

Re: “…how do we proceed?”

First of all, I would encourage her to move out. Talk about it with her …make it sound exciting …it’s a new beginning …maybe go apartment shopping, etc. Remember: self-reliance is key. If she’s thinking about moving out on her own, she’s wanting to develop self-reliance at some level.

You will not be able to keep her from seeing her boyfriend. And, unfortunately, the more you make an issue of it, the more appeal that boy will have in her eyes. Thus, you really only have two options: (a) insist she move out, or (b) let her live at home without trying to control the “boyfriend problem.”

Re: “How do you feel about the sex issue?”

It sounds like she may want to become pregnant. The only person she will truly listen to will be another female approximately her age who got pregnant at an early age. If you know anyone like this, maybe she can fill your daughter in on the huge responsibility associated with early pregnancy (e.g., immature father who bails out of the relationship due to the stress involved; financial strain; inability to further education, etc.). Here are the stats (share these with your daughter):

Teen pregnancy is bad for the mother...

· There are serious health risks for adolescents who have babies. Common medical problems among adolescent mothers include poor weight gain, pregnancy-induced hypertension, anemia, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), and cephalopelvic disproportion. Later in life, adolescent mothers tend to be at greater risk for obesity and hypertension than women who were not teenagers when they had their first child.

· Teen pregnancy is closely linked to poverty and single parenthood. A 1990 study showed that almost one-half of all teenage mothers and over three-quarters of unmarried teen mothers began receiving welfare within five years of the birth of their first child. The growth in single-parent families remains the single most important reason for increased poverty among children over the last twenty years, as documented in the 1998 Economic Report of the President. Out-of-wedlock childbearing (as opposed to divorce) is currently the driving force behind the growth in the number of single parents, and half of first out-of-wedlock births are to teens. Therefore, reducing teen pregnancy and child-bearing is an obvious place to anchor serious efforts to reduce poverty in future generations.

· Future prospects for teenagers decline significantly if they have a baby. Teen mothers are less likely to complete school and more likely to be single parents. Less than one-third of teens who begin their families before age 18 ever earn a high school diploma. Only 1.5% earn a college degree by the age of 30.

Teen pregnancy is bad for the child...

· Children of teenagers often suffer from poor school performance. Children of teens are 50 percent more likely to repeat a grade; they perform much worse on standardized tests; and ultimately they are less likely to complete high school than if their mothers had delayed childbearing.

· Children of teens often have insufficient health care. Despite having more health problems than the children of older mothers, the children of teen mothers receive less medical care and treatment. In his or her first 14 years, the average child of a teen mother visits a physician and other medical providers an average of 3.8 times per year, compared with 4.3 times for a child of older child-bearers. And when they do visit medical providers, more of the expenses they incur are paid by others in society. One recent study suggested that the medical expenses paid by society would be reduced dramatically if teenage mothers were to wait until they were older to have their first child.

· Children born to teen mothers suffer from higher rates of low birth weight and related health problems. The proportion of babies with low birth weights born to teens is 21 percent higher than the proportion for mothers age 20-24. Low birth weight raises the probabilities of infant death, blindness, deafness, chronic respiratory problems, mental retardation, mental illness, and cerebral palsy. In addition, low birth weight doubles the chances that a child will later be diagnosed as having dyslexia, hyperactivity, or another disability.

· Children of teen mothers often receive inadequate parenting. Children born to teen mothers are at higher risk of poor parenting because their mothers - and often their fathers as well - are typically too young to master the demanding job of being a parent. Still growing and developing themselves, teen mothers are often unable to provide the kind of environment that infants and very young children require for optimal development. Recent research, for example, has clarified the critical importance of sensitive parenting and early cognitive stimulation for adequate brain development. Given the importance of careful nurturing and stimulation in the first three years of life, the burden born by babies with parents who are too young to be in this role is especially great.

· Children with adolescent parents often fall victim to abuse and neglect. A recent analysis found that there are 110 reported incidents of abuse and neglect per 1,000 families headed by a young teen mother. By contrast, in families where the mothers delay childbearing until their early twenties, the rate is less than half this level - or 51 incidents per 1,000 families. Similarly, rates of foster care placement are significantly higher for children whose mothers are under 18. In fact, over half of foster care placements of children with these young mothers could be averted by delaying child-bearing, thereby saving taxpayers nearly $1 billion annually in foster care costs alone.

And bad for us all...

· Teen pregnancy costs society billions of dollars a year. There are nearly half a million children born to teen mothers each year. Most of these mothers are unmarried, and many will end up poor and on welfare. Each year the federal government alone spends about $9 billion to help families that began with a teenage birth.

· Teen pregnancy hurts the business community's "bottom line." Too many children start school unprepared to learn, and teachers are overwhelmed trying to deal with problems that start in the home. Forty-five percent of first births in the United States are to women who are either unmarried, teenagers, or lacking a high school degree, which means that too many children - tomorrow's workers - are born into families that are not prepared to help them succeed. In addition, teen mothers often do not finish high school themselves. It's not easy for a teen to learn work skills and be a dependable employee while caring for children.

· The U.S. still leads the fully industrialized world in teen pregnancy and birth rates - by a wide margin. In fact, the U.S. rates are nearly double Great Britain's, at least four times those of France and Germany, and more than ten times that of Japan.

A new crop of kids becomes teenagers each year. This means that prevention efforts must be constantly renewed and reinvented. And between 1995 and 2010, the number of girls aged 15-19 is projected to increase by 2.2 million.


Online Parent Support

Son's Poor Academic Performace

"One area that I'm dealing with regarding my 15 year old (almost 16) son is with his school work. He has not interest in school whatsoever. He's barely getting by. He skips classes (which after he did last week, I grounded him for three days, as you suggest). I just received a call yesterday from his science teacher letting me know that he hasn't turned in assignments, and currently has a D in her class. He has D's and F's in his other classes as well. I'm sure you've heard this before, but I know he is intelligent. He has the potential, but he doesn't see it and doesn't care to apply himself. In your ebook, you talk about handing over ownership of this area in particular to your children. So, I've started doing this, however, I wonder if you can tell me what my place is in his life in regards to this area. I will also let you know that he is also dealing with depression, and was recently put on an antidepressant at the suggestion of his doctor. I'm sure this plays some part in all of this. If you can offer me any suggestions/advice as to what my role is in this particular area I would greatly appreciate!"

Re: “…what my place is in his life in regards to this area.”

First of all, I’m glad to hear that you are letting go of ownership of your son’s poor academic performance. As long as you take responsibility for it – he won’t!

As far as your “place” goes, you will need to do the following:
  1. Let him know that his schoolwork is HIS job and that you are not going to take responsibility for it any longer.
  2. If teachers attempt to recruit you as a co-teacher, tell them to call you if the issue is behavioral, otherwise - it’s his problem now.
  3. Ask to see report cards, but only to show your son that you are interested in is school life – not to reprimand or take back ownership.
  4. Continue to make periodic statements such as “you’ve got what it takes” …“I know you’re more than capable” …etc.

Re: “…dealing with depression…”

Simply follow through with the nurturing pieces outlined in the eBook (e.g., asking one question each day to show you are interested in his day-to-day life ...saying “I love you” ...spending time with him in an activity that costs little or no money ...catching him in the act of “doing things right” ...etc.).

Most teens grow out of their depression. Don’t focus on – or show emotions of worry about – this condition (unless he begins to talk about suicide). And don’t try to “cheer him up” by over-indulging him.

Sometimes the hardest thing for parents to do is “nothing.” But often times, less is better.

My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents

I have actually gotten the words...

If I had had this program when B___ was two, I think our lives would’ve been so much easier. I have actually gotten the words that you use to turn his arguments around - and his behavior. It wasn't easy, and things are not perfect, but we have far more good days than bad.

I doubted for several months that this program would work. But on faith, I kept doing it and doing it and doing it. Now my new parenting strategies have become a habit - and my son knows it. We still have our ups and downs, but I know I'm finally over the hump - and I actually enjoy seeing the fruits of my tough love. Thanks again Mark. I don't know where I would be without your support.

Grateful mum,


Online Parent Support

Mom Needs Support From "The System"


It has been another crazy week in my home.

B was in a patrol car three times within 26 hours this week.

He did not come home four nights in a row, Th-Fr-Sat-Sun. Stayed at that Foster kid's house against my wishes. G (estranged and STRANGE husband) is no help.

Tuesday..he skipped school...the City Police picked him up at 11:00 A.M. with his delinquent ghetto friend by the mall, took him to school. He wore bedroom slippers to school to cause a scene and call attention to himself. I had to go and get him as he was obnoxious. He came home went to bed. He had been running around for four nights. Slept for hours. I went to check on him later, he had switched door knobs to put one that had a lock on it...swapped from another door) and I used a paper clip to open it. When I got it open, the black friend was on the bottom bunk and B was on the top. They had ripped the magnets off the window in his room for the alarm system. They were planning to sneak out.

He and I were arguing. He pushed me and everything spoken to me had an "F" in the sentence. The two of them walked out at 11:00 P.M. I had the cops bring him back and they could not find the other boy. B let the other kid have his cell phone and they were calling each other. I went to bed, as I had been up four nights prior in a row and it was past midnight at that point. A went to the lav at 2:30 and said she heard voices in B's room. B snuck the other boy back in. At this point, I called the cops to report that he was "found" and the foster dad. They got up at 5:00 A.M. and went to school.

At 1:00 P.M. Wednesday afternoon, B went to get on the public transportation bus instead of the school bus. The principal grabbed his arm and told him you go on YOUR BUS as your mother wants you home. He told the administrator to get his "fing" hands off of him and he got arrested for disturbance. He spent four hours in JDD.

Thursday and Friday (last night) he stayed at that kid's again. He does not listen and just walks out of the house. He is strong and violent and I do not want to mess with him. My husband has no control either. He has two arrests and two court dates now. We need some help. He is completely out of control.

I have been advised from a few counselors here to let him suffer the natural consequences and I will have some leverage once the courts (which are inundated) kick in.

I would appreciate any input.

Thanks and have a great weekend!



I agree …he needs to experience the full ramifications of his poor choices, which he will. I know the wheels of justice turn slowly – but they turn – and he will have his day in court. Your mission in the meantime is to muster up some patience with the process.

If he destroys property, pushes you, leaves without permission, etc., simply call the police so they can make yet another report. This will give the prosecutor more ammunition when you actually do get to court.


My Out-of-Control Teen

Tough Love for Unruly teens

"Well, I took the car away because he missed his curfew last night by 50 minutes. Total attitude all day. Now he has packed his things and left - after a big scene. I tried to remain calm, did not chase but am obviously concerned as to where he is. I think I am dealing with a child that is beyond what I can handle. We have tried counseling at a local level and were unsuccessful since he manipulated it. A lot of money and weak results. He refuses to go back. We may need an intervention program/boarding school. Suggestions on how we investigate that? Thank you again."

Welcome to the world of tough love [which is often tougher on the parent than the child].

Counseling for "behavior problems" is just another traditional parenting strategy that rarely [if ever] has any positive outcome.

I disagree that he is beyond what you can handle, and I would encourage you not to entertain the idea of a boarding school at this point. I think you are wanting a quick fix, but as you know, there is no such thing.

I think you handled this situation very well. You followed through with a consequence put on your poker face and did not give your son an unhealthy dose of intensity when he needed it the most. You have been successful with this particular battle. But in order to win the war, you must take things one step at a time. Fight only one battle at a time. And do not allow yourself to roll over and simply accept feelings of being overwhelmed and defeated without challenging those feelings.

If you don't know where he's staying, you should call the police and file a run away complaint. If you do know where he's staying - and it's a safe place - let him discover for himself how it feels to be in a state of discomfort and alienation. Remember, you're in this thing for the long haul.

You son is trying - once again - to dangle a hook in front of your nose in hopes that you'll bite. He wants you to feel sorry for him re-think your new disciplinary strategies doubt yourself. Don't bite! When you bite, he wins - and you have to start all over again.

This is the time when parents are encouraged to hold their ground, to seek the support of other family members/friends, and to cultivate the art of taking care of themselves.

When you son comes to the realization that you're serious about these matters and that you're not going to cave-in [which you may have done a hundred times before], he'll be the one to do some re-thinking.


Join Online Parent Support

Bipolar Teen


The diagnoses is in - he's got bipolar. This is what we thought all along based on the info on your site and your emails. Do you know how this is treated?




Hi F.,

Once the diagnosis of bipolar disorder is made, the treatment of children and adolescents is based mainly on experience with adults, since as yet there is very limited data on the efficacy and safety of mood stabilizing medications in youth.

The essential treatment for this disorder in adults involves the use of appropriate doses of mood stabilizers, most typically lithium and/or valproate, which are often very effective for controlling mania and preventing recurrences of manic and depressive episodes.

Research on the effectiveness of these and other medications in children and adolescents with bipolar disorder is ongoing. In addition, studies are investigating various forms of psychotherapy, including cognitive-behavioral therapy, to complement medication treatment for this illness in young people.

Lithium is a naturally occurring substance. As a medication, lithium reduces chemicals in the body that cause excitation or mania. Lithium is used to treat manic episodes of manic-depressive illness. Lithium helps to prevent and control symptoms of mania such as hyperactivity, rushed speech, poor judgment, reduced need for sleep, aggression, and anger.

Valproate is also an excellent mood stabilizer and is superior to lithium for mixed, chronic, or atypical forms of bipolar disorder in children. It has also been successfully used to treat aggression in patients with FXS and in children with autism.

Good luck - stay in touch,


Online Parent Support

SUCCESS is sooooo sweet...

Just wanted to let you know about my success last night. J___ met at a little Italian restaurant me for dinner last night since we were the only two home. Nice dinner, some nice talk - college lacrosse recruiting, Christmas, etc. As we were leaving the restaurant to get into our separate cars he asked to go to the soccer game. I said no and that it was not open for discussion. I told him if he went I would take the car away for 3 days. He tried to call my bluff and said that never works due to inconvenience. I told him my good friend had agreed to help me since my husband is traveling so much. Of course he began to argue - even pulled the "that girl I really like is gonna be there!" routine. I kept a slight smile on my face (no scowling!) and repeated myself several times. He continued to negotiate and all I said was no and I am not going to argue. He threatened, told me I was acting like a robot, said this is - all the things you know he was going to do. I laughed at some of his antics to make it lighter but firmly held my ground. We stayed in that parking lot "discussing" for 22 minutes. (i would have left sooner but since I intended to FIRMLY hold my ground I needed to wait it out.) He left in a huff and threatened. We went in opposite directions and when I got home (probably 2 minutes after he did) his car was in the garage and he was watching TV. I came in and made a BIG deal about his cooperation - intentionally acting like an over the top fool so he would laugh.

SUCCESS is sooooo sweet.
THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!!


Kudos for a job well done!!

Bear in mind there will be more episodes like this one. Be consistent. Hunker-down for the long haul.


Online Parent Support

Transportation Issue

Love this product. It is as if someone sat in our house for three days and watched what was going on in order to write it! Job well done.

I agree with everything you have said, but I am stuck re: consequences. My husband works in a different city so he leaves Sun nite and returns Fri nite. Our 17 year old son has a car - we thought to make our lives easier. He is responsible for taking his sister to school, getting himself home from sports practices and running an occasional errand. I work full time, have little to no flexibility during the day and have two younger children who also have activities.

We did take the car away for one week and it was crazy. My younger ones were left waiting for me while I picked up Mr. 17 and then he started to get rides from friends and was showing up even later - they went to McDonalds, to someone's house, etc. When I told him not to do that he said, "I'm not the one driving. I have no control. So & so had to take Johnny home, go to the mall to pick up his new shoes, etc, etc, etc.".

You may ask what we did before he had the car. At that time none, of the kids had cars so parents carpooled. Now, since most kids have cars, there is no carpooling available.

The CAR is the greatest consequence we could impose. Especially since most of our fights are around his "excessive" use of freedom and disregard for curfews. But how do I make it work for ME!

Thank you,



It sounds like a compromise may be the best route to go.

On one hand, the car is your son's most valuable item, thus making it a great tool to use during consequences -- on the other hand, your life is easier when he's able to drive.

How about a partial consequence?

That is, whenever you would ordinarily like to confiscate his car for discipline purposes, is it feasible to simply put just enough gas in the vehicle for him to take sister to school, get to sports practice and run an errand - but no further? This will take a bit of calculation on your part (i.e., estimating mileage here and there). On those occasions when he abuses the partial consequence (i.e., makes a few extra stops along the way), I think you have to inconvenience yourself and park his car (1 - 3 days).

If this is not feasible, let me know and we'll come up with plan B.


My Out-of-Control Teen


I am seriously considering buying your book and online course. However, I am a single parent of extremely limited means and want to ask you a question first.

My 14 year old son Toby just fell asleep after being awake for more than 24 hours. Is this a possible symptom of bipolar disorder? I doubt it is the first time he has done this, but it is the first time I have verified it beyond doubt, or perhaps that I have believed him.

When he was a baby and toddler I don't recall him ever sleeping more than two hours at a time. I used to lock all the doors,turn off all the lights, take a sleeping pill myself, and bury myself under a pillow so I could sleep. He seems to be having a resurgence of this in adolescence. And, he has become quite hostile when I attempt to discipline him re schoolwork.

Yes, he definitely has phases of extreme irritability, hates rules & teachers, is highly intelligent, has had depressive phases, has been suicidal.

I am currently homeschooling with a charter school. I have definitely tried everything in the school department and am increasingly tempted to give up and send him back to his Dad and the juvenile justice system where his half-brothers were when I met them.

His father and paternal grandma are alcoholic, his mother, aunt, maternal grandma have all been diagnosed with Anxiety Disorder, his maternal grandpa was alcoholic and had an IQ of 176. I believe there is a relative somewhere on Mom's side who committed suicide. No one in my family of origin has ever been diagnosed with bipolar disorder altho a couple of my father's best friends were.

My son and I have both experienced counseling and schooling that were completely useless.

I personally have experienced counseling, schooling, and psychotropic medication that were quite useful, but my son refuses to discuss this.

I would appreciate your comments.

Thank you



Re: Is this a possible symptom of bipolar disorder?

Possibly. Sleep can be disturbed by mood disorders, PTSD, substance abuse, ADHD, and anxiety. Many children have sleep problems. Examples include:

· Bedwetting
· Difficulty falling asleep
· Feeling sleepy during the day
· Frequent awakening during the night
· Having nightmares
· Talking during sleep
· Teeth grinding and clenching
· Waking early
· Waking up crying

Many childhood sleep problems are related to poor sleep habits or to anxiety about going to bed and falling asleep. Persistent sleep problems may also be symptoms of emotional difficulties.

Nightmares are relatively common during childhood. The child often remembers nightmares, which usually involve major threats to the child's well-being. For some children nightmares are serious, frequent, and interfere with restful sleep.

A range of treatments is available for sleep disorders. Fortunately, as they mature, children usually get over common sleep problems as well as the more serious sleep disorders (parasomnias). However, parents with ongoing concerns should contact their pediatrician or directly seek consultation with a child and adolescent psychiatrist.

Online Parent Support

OPS Newsletter

I enjoy your newsletter and use the information provided. I have had some good results with the tools. I thought I would still be receiving the newsletter for one year and would like to do so. Please advise. Thank you, L.J.

Hi L.,

You can re- subscribe on the home page (subscriptions automatically terminate after one year). The newsletter is still free. CLICK HERE to go to the home page. Look for the sign-up box that reads:
I want to receive weekly newsletters from Online Parent Support (under the chat room).

There you will also find a link to the newsletter archive and can get caught up on all the past issues you may have missed.

Thank you,

My 14-year-old daughter...

Dear Mark,

I'm writing again about my 14-year-old daughter. I have really tried to follow your plan to the best of my ability but unfortunately my husband and I are not on the same page. He has gotten a whole lot better but will often overlook things to prevent any conflict or explosive behavior or retaliation. I cannot speak for him but I remain firm on my issues and even when he does back me up she does not cooperate. Consequences do nothing for her. We cannot force her to do anything such as go to her room, take a shower, etc. nothing too difficult to comply with. I feel we have lost control of our home to this girl. We have had her in counseling for the last few years and family counseling for the last six months and things seem to be getting worse with the total defiance. She really hasn't done any raging since August but the tension in our house is almost unbearable. I have actually considered leaving; there is only so much I can take.

We have considered boarding schools but many of them require her to want to go there and ask for some sort of writing sample on the application, which she does not cooperate with. She is very bright and very athletic and that is why we have considered regular boarding schools. I have also looked into specialty boarding schools and they are very expensive although she does not have to agree to go there. While I was on your website I seen a listing for boarding schools and many are the same as the ones I have seen. What I would like to know from you is if you have any recommendations for the schools. Are there some in which you've had more positive feedback than others?

She has never been a problem at school mainly at home. She wants everyone at school to think the best of her but is totally disrespectful to her parents and immediate family. She puts on a show for the extended family. No one has any idea what we live with every day. I know this sounds like we are giving up or letting someone else take over but this has been going on for the last four years and we all need a break. We adopted her when she was little and she is our responsibility and we are not ignoring that or throwing her away but nothing we do seems to work, and that is why we are searching for the best possible solution for all concerned.

Any suggestions or recommendations you can give would be greatly appreciated.




I think the best help I can be to you at this time is to provide you with a checklist of sorts.

Let's trouble shoot...

Below is a summary of all the assignments I gave you in My Out-of-Control Teen eBook. If parents do not implement most of these assignments, it is often the "kiss of failure." For example, the transmission in your car has hundreds of parts, but if just one little tiny part is not working -- the whole transmission does not work. The same is true with this "parent program." Omit just one strategy, and the whole plan runs the risk of failing.

1. Are you asking your daughter at least one question each day that cannot be answered with a simple "yes" or a "no" to demonstrate that you are interested in what is going on in her life? (page 20 of the printable version of eBook)

2. Are you saying to her "I love you" everyday and expecting nothing in return? (page 20)

3. Are you eating dinner together at least one evening each week -- either at home or out? (page 20)

4. Do you use "The Art of Saying Yes" whenever your answer is yes? (page 25)

5. Do you use "The The Art of Saying - and Sticking With - No" whenever your answer is no? (page 25)

6. Do you catch her in the act of doing something right at least once each day? (page 25)

7. Do you use the "When You Want Something From Your Kid" approach as needed? (page 31)

8. Do you give her at least one chore each day? (page 31)

9. Do you find something fun to do with her each week? (page 54)

10. Do you use the "I noticed ...I felt ...Listen" approach when something unexpected pops-up? (bottom of page 50)

11. When you are undecided about what to say or do in any particular situation, are you asking yourself the following question: "Will this promote the development of self-reliance in my daughter, or will this inhibit the development of self-reliance?"

If it is supportive of self-reliance, say it or do it. If it is not supportive, don't!

12. Is she EARNING ALL of her stuff and freedom? (see "Self-Reliance Cycle" - page 19)

If you answered "no" to any of the above, you are missing some important pieces to the puzzle. Most parents DO miss a few pieces initially -- you can't be expected to remember everything! But don't get frustrated and give up. We must be willing to hang in there for the long haul.

I'm talking about refinement here. Refinement is a necessary tool to use in order to truly be successful with these parenting strategies.

HERE IS THE GOOD NEWS: Parents who refine are, on average, 95% - 100% successful at getting the parent-child difficulties reduced in intensity and severity (i.e., the problems are easily managed).

The same can be true in your case. Don’t give up just yet. Please continue to refine by emailing me as needed over the next few months. Refinement is a process, not a one-time event.


Online Parent Support

My Out-of-Control Teens

Hi D.,

Please look for these arrows below: ==>

Hi Mark:

A lot has happened since my last email about 5 weeks ago.

Our son B, 15, was arrested for battery on a school official on November 2nd. (He threw a piece of candy at a teacher from a distance at lunch time horsing around.) He was arrested for battery on a school official and the teacher dropped the charges but he mouthed off to the cop and resisted arrest without violence.

He is in the juvenile system and as of today in a diversion program. As a result for this recent offense, he was up for expulsion but in lieu of that is assigned to an internet-based alternative school. He is very capable, making poor choices and hanging out with the wrong crowd.

==> This is a good thing. Most of my juvenile clients do very well in alternative school. The classroom is usually smaller and they get more one-on-one attention.

His latest "Buddy" is an Afro-American 15 year old who is already a FATHER!! He is a foster child, living with six other foster kids with a single adult male. He has been going there all too often, against my wishes. Walks out of the house without permission, lies about his whereabouts and takes public transportation hither and yon. He got picked up by the police for sleeping on a girl's doorstep with the one mentioned above, they were both warned and let go.

==> If he leaves without permission, go to probation and file a runaway complaint.

He was drug tested this morning. Negative except for a trace of marijuana and he admitted trying it three months ago.

He is non-compliant at home, makes threats and breaks things to manipulate. All of this will be coming to an end.

==> Call the police and file a report whenever he destroys property. This gives your son’s PO more ammunition in court.

Our daughter, A, 17, I found out today skipped school all day on Friday. I also found out today with a little research from a deputy, that her boyfriend is 21 and has his own apartment. Her Father signed a car loan for her on October 20th and now that she has wheels, it is harder to control her. She is grounded for a week and will lose driving privileges if she violates those terms. Her grades are great and she has maintained a job for over two years that she likes.

I was going to have her battery charges on me dropped, but with her recent antics, we are going ahead. She has skipped other days too and forged her Father's signature on a note to get out of school.

==> I’m glad to hear you are not dropping the charges.

I am hoping that they will both hit rock bottom and we will see some changes. They both have so much going for them, attractive, bright and I have already done their pre-paid college programs. They are making destructive choices.

If Bart violates the diversion he will go through the court system and be on probation. All up to him.

Any feedback appreciated...Thank you!

==> Well …as ugly as circumstances are right now, you’re doing what you should be (i.e., allowing natural consequences to take effect).


My Out-of-Control Teens

Hitting, biting, slapping...

What do I do when my child is hitting, biting, slapping. She wont go in her room cuz I took off the door. I restrained her till my husband came home. She only does this to me and some at her sister. what do i do?


While some biting can occur during normal development, persistent biting can be a sign that a child has emotional or behavioral problems. While many children occasionally fight with or hit others, frequent and/or severe physical aggression may mean that a child is having serious emotional or behavioral problems that require professional evaluation and intervention. Persistent fighting or biting when a child is in daycare or preschool can be a serious problem. At this age, children have much more contact with peers and are expected to be able to make friends and get along.

Many children start aggressive biting between one and three years of age. Biting can be a way for a child to test his or her power or to get attention. Some children bite because they are unhappy, anxious or jealous. Sometimes biting may result from excessive or harsh discipline or exposure to physical violence. Parents should remember that children who are teething might also bite. Biting is the most common reason children get expelled from day care.

What to do:
·Say "no", immediately, in a calm but firm and disapproving tone.
·Do NOT bite a child to show how biting feels. This teaches the child aggressive behavior.
·If biting persists, try a negative consequence. For example, do not hold or play with a child for five minutes after he or she bites.
·For a toddler (1-2 years), firmly hold the child, or put the child down.
·For a young child (2-3 years) say, "biting is not okay because it hurts people."

If these techniques or interventions are not effective, parents should talk to their family physician.

Toddlers and preschool age children often fight over toys. Sometimes children are unintentionally rewarded for aggressive behavior. For example, one child may push another child down and take away a toy. If the child cries and walks away, the aggressive child feels successful since he or she got the toy. It is important to identify whether this pattern is occurring in children who are aggressive.

What to do:
·Do NOT hit a child if he or she is hitting others. This teaches the child to use aggressive behavior.
·For a toddler (1-2 years) say, "No hitting. Hitting hurts."
·For a young child (2-3 years) say, "I know you are angry, but don't hit. Hitting hurts." This begins to teach empathy to your child.
·If a child hits another child, immediately separate the children. Then try to comfort and attend to the other child.
·It is more effective to intervene before a child starts hitting. For example, intervene as soon as you see the child is very frustrated or getting upset.
·Parents should not ignore or down play fighting between siblings.
·When young children fight a lot, supervise them more closely.

When hitting or fighting is frequent, it may be a sign that a child has other problems. For example, he or she may be sad or upset, have problems controlling anger, have witnessed violence or may have been the victim of abuse at day care, school, or home.

Research has shown that children who are physically aggressive at a younger age are more likely to continue this behavior when they are older. Studies have also shown that children who are repeatedly exposed to violence and aggression from TV, videos and movies act more aggressively. If a young child has a persistent problem with fighting and biting or aggressive behavior, parents should seek professional assistance from a child and adolescent psychiatrist or other mental health professional who specializes in the evaluation and treatment of behavior problems in very young children.

Online Parent Support

Hitting, biting, slapping...

What do I do when my child is hitting, biting, slapping. She wont go in her room cuz I took off the door. I restrained her till my husband came home. She only does this to me and some at her sister. what do i do?


While some biting can occur during normal development, persistent biting can be a sign that a child has emotional or behavioral problems. While many children occasionally fight with or hit others, frequent and/or severe physical aggression may mean that a child is having serious emotional or behavioral problems that require professional evaluation and intervention. Persistent fighting or biting when a child is in daycare or preschool can be a serious problem. At this age, children have much more contact with peers and are expected to be able to make friends and get along.

Many children start aggressive biting between one and three years of age. Biting can be a way for a child to test his or her power or to get attention. Some children bite because they are unhappy, anxious or jealous. Sometimes biting may result from excessive or harsh discipline or exposure to physical violence. Parents should remember that children who are teething might also bite. Biting is the most common reason children get expelled from day care.

What to do:
·Say "no", immediately, in a calm but firm and disapproving tone.
·Do NOT bite a child to show how biting feels. This teaches the child aggressive behavior.
·If biting persists, try a negative consequence. For example, do not hold or play with a child for five minutes after he or she bites.
·For a toddler (1-2 years), firmly hold the child, or put the child down.
·For a young child (2-3 years) say, "biting is not okay because it hurts people."

If these techniques or interventions are not effective, parents should talk to their family physician.

Toddlers and preschool age children often fight over toys. Sometimes children are unintentionally rewarded for aggressive behavior. For example, one child may push another child down and take away a toy. If the child cries and walks away, the aggressive child feels successful since he or she got the toy. It is important to identify whether this pattern is occurring in children who are aggressive.

What to do:
·Do NOT hit a child if he or she is hitting others. This teaches the child to use aggressive behavior.
·For a toddler (1-2 years) say, "No hitting. Hitting hurts."
·For a young child (2-3 years) say, "I know you are angry, but don't hit. Hitting hurts." This begins to teach empathy to your child.
·If a child hits another child, immediately separate the children. Then try to comfort and attend to the other child.
·It is more effective to intervene before a child starts hitting. For example, intervene as soon as you see the child is very frustrated or getting upset.
·Parents should not ignore or down play fighting between siblings.
·When young children fight a lot, supervise them more closely.

When hitting or fighting is frequent, it may be a sign that a child has other problems. For example, he or she may be sad or upset, have problems controlling anger, have witnessed violence or may have been the victim of abuse at day care, school, or home.

Research has shown that children who are physically aggressive at a younger age are more likely to continue this behavior when they are older. Studies have also shown that children who are repeatedly exposed to violence and aggression from TV, videos and movies act more aggressively. If a young child has a persistent problem with fighting and biting or aggressive behavior, parents should seek professional assistance from a child and adolescent psychiatrist or other mental health professional who specializes in the evaluation and treatment of behavior problems in very young children.

Online Parent Support

What now?

Hi Judy,

Please look for these arrows: ==>


Once again I need your guidance and experience. I last e-mailed you beginning of November. Things have been going pretty well with the usual "falling off of the wagon" but overall we were feeling pretty good. If you remember we (husband and I) turned off M______ cell phone service and internet capabilities on his lap-top and we keep our desk top locked at all times unless we are using it. M______ has the potential of earning back the cell phone with parameters we gave him (proper house phone use and restriction of speaking with 2 people and passing with C grades [capable of A's and B's easily]). So far this has not happened--he keeps calling these people, but otherwise is OK. He has lost his TV in his room, playstation, and clothes when he left overnight with ability to earn them back. The items were kept locked in the back of my SUV. He was told if he wanted them back as he had earned them, to place them back in his room where they go and not just on the floor by Nov. 30 (told this 11/21 and reminded every few days of the deadline). If not, they would be given away to charity. He kept saying I should put them back as I took them, or I "would pay". I told him no with a straight face. Well, he chose charity--so far, no retaliation.

==> So for, so good. GREAT JOB!

We have seen him using an I-pod and a PSP system that do not belong to us. He says the I-pod is a friend's and he bought the PSP for $50 (highly unlikely as they are $200 and we dole out his weekly money from his job)--LIES, LIES, LIES. We are waiting to meet with these boys and their parents (will see at the upcoming school sporting events) to verify things. Yesterday I found a Rx patch for an ADHD drug that he is not on. Also after he returned from a sports event (we were unable to go) I found a digital camera in his sports bag along with a uniform from the opposing team. (I was emptying the gym bag as it smelled and found those items.) I began to look in his room and also found a men's watch, bracelet and cell phone. I took them. He was confronted about these and of course lied his head off about it. Later, he snuck into my bedroom, found my hiding space, and took them back. He then was denying ever having them as we had no "proof". Well, he lost the use of a car and we took back his license. He was told he could start to earn back the privilege of use of the car when the items showed up, and the consequence would start.

==>You’re still on track!!

This morning, I told him he needed to tell me the truth about the items. He did not want to, but I told him he needed to start to trust me, that I would listen, ask questions, but not yell, consequence, etc. for 24 hours. He said someone "gave" him a bottle Vicodin that he sold for the PSP, and he then traded it for the camera. He said the I-pod really was a friends. Also "found" the uniform, watch, and bracelet in the lost and found. Told he needed to produce them, and that we would return them to the school. He said he would "think" about it. Told the way he was acting was the person he would turn out to be, to really think about doing the right thing. Consequence would begin when the items were returned.

==> I think at this point I would tell him that if the items are not given to you within 24 hours, you will call police and file a report as well as call the school. We’re dealing with pure, unadulterated theft here.

His coach showed up this afternoon (I was planning on calling him to tell him about our "findings". The other schools coach called and complained that someone had pooped in a sports bag. He knew M______ was the only one with enough free time to do this. M______ was not here with us, as he was at work. We told the coach about the other things. He wants to see M_____ later today to ask him personally about it.

==> Good!

M______ has a counseling session tomorrow evening and a meeting with his PO on Wednesday. I did tell M_____ that I would not cover up for him and would report what I know/have seen and on his behavior. He constantly is taking things from his older brother so he is charged $5 for entering his room and $% for each item "borrowed". He is constantly using profanity and within the last week or so it is really escalating. He says F____ at least 12 times per day, usually aimed at me. He also says "Why don't you go kill yourself". I don't let him see me get angry, but I do tell him not to do this around 9 yr old brother. However I am getting REALLY tired of it. I told him today, if he swore at me or in general was disrespectful to me I would not be doing his laundry as he did not respect me and I didn't owe him this service.

== > Actually dear mom, he should be doing his own laundry anyway!!!!!!

He has been seeing a boy who we are very uneasy with. He says his parents (separated, currently newly with his Dad, and recently moved back to this area after being 5 hrs away with his Mom) don't care where he is, who he's with, etc. and doesn't go home for days. He was told until we could speak to a parent, he was not to spend the night again. We didn't think this was "cool", as we feel a parent should know where their child is as long as they were minors and living in the family home.

I guess Mark, what I'm asking is "what now?" We have taken away almost everything. Trust is totally shot and very difficult to even allow him to go places etc. He will have "natural consequences" but what else can we do? I need some insight on where to go from here as far as consequences, privileges, etc.

== > If he will receive natural consequences associated with the above problems, then I wouldn’t issue another consequence on top of it.

Regarding “we have taken almost everything”: Let’s lower the bar a bit by only fighting one battle at a time. The biggest issue currently seems to be “theft.” Put everything else in the “deal-with-it-later” file. The 3-day-discipline starts as soon as he returns the stolen items – and after 3 days, he gets all his stuff back.

I do get some support from friends but most of their children are preteen so I can talk/vent but they do not have the same life experiences yet. Thanks again. I will try to keep this all in perspective and just keep putting one foot in front of the other.

Have a good week.


My Out-of-Control Teen

She has turned up the dial on her defiance...


We are new to your service – and will be implementing the week 1 assignment with our 17 ½ year old senior daughter. We have observed problems for some time now (about two years to be exact – same time as she started birth control pills which has always made us wonder if that is coincidence or physiology). “We have read Parenting Your Out-Of-Control Teenager” by Dr. Scott P. Sells also – which seems to share many of the same pinciples. We’ve tried a contract and various approaches – but we (her dad and I – we are married) have not both consistently held to the contract information so weakened its affect, no doubt. We barely have been getting by – doing much enabling (making calls to school for her schedule problems, filling out college apps., etc.) just to keep her progressing through this last year of high school – but realize that is part of problem.

She just finished a successful high school tennis career and now that this is over, she has turned up the dial on her definance and disrespect for us and our rules. We have a rule that she be home by curfew (which we have lengthened to 1a.m. already) and not stay overnight. She can get a ride from us anytime. Well, she stayed overnight a week ago now on the weekend and lied about where she was as well – she sent a text message to tell us where she was and we were already asleep (she had been following curfew up to this time during this year). We found out she was at her boyfriend’s house (he is two years older and now lives on his own with a roommate or two) – we found this by seeing her online checking account purchase from his community on the following morning and also her online log of phone calls and text messages through our cell phone carrier – she had calls back and forth to the girlfriend where she was reportedly staying. We disabled the car we let her drive, when she returned home and she has been without a vehicle now for a full week.

Her stubborn defiance is amazing – and she dug her heels in and has decided to really show us. She said if she can’t have the car anyway, she does not follow the rules and she did not come home now, three nights in a row. She did tell us where she was AFTER the first night (last Thursday – there was no school this past Friday so it became like a weekend night) – it was her boyfriend’s again – supposedly – but who knows. She comes home in between and then gets someone to pick her up and leave – then tells us she is staying overnight again and again we are not sure where the second night – but she gets a ride home again and is here in the afternoon for a bit.

Her dad talked with her about getting her car back and gave her two terms: come home every night and agree to seeing a counselor with or without mom and dad. She was disrespectful and defiant to him and told him she would not do that. She left again and said she was going to a nearby town – then we didn’t hear from her again except to say she would not be able to get home due to the snow (it had indeed snowed here about 8 inches). We replied via text message (she refused to answer the phone on a call) that we would come get her by our 4 wheel drive vehicle – tell us where you are, we can be on our way. She did not respond at all. We then called friends and no one knew where they were.

I talked to her boyfriend who said he did not know where she was this time and that he told her to go home the night before but she said we had given her permission to stay that night (he is very laid back and has trouble dealing with conflict – but has always been respectful and basically cooperative with us). I asked him to call me if she arrived at his place and we would come to pick her up – told him in no uncertain terms that we did not want her staying overnight at his place, that she is too young, etc. He said he would call (but who knows if he would). I also called another friend to enlist help – but think that fell on deaf ears as this friend was at her older boyfriends place at the time I called – and this friend seems to have few rules (part of the problem is the group our daughter hangs with – either older than her or very limited parental supervision – parents who are being “friends”, it seems). I texted another few people whose phone numbers I have gathered – people who she had mentioned being with. No response or help from this endeavor.

Our next item to take away is cell phone – she was told in a text last night, the last one of evening, to call us in 30 minutes for a ride, or we would expect her home by 1 a.m. Told her we would disconnect cell phone in the morning if she did not respond or come home. Well, here it is morning and no reply so we will disable cell phone (which is her life line). Not sure where she is or if she will come home soon. She has a 3:30 pm appointment with an energy healer (Reiki) who she really likes and opens up with – this person is a positive influence and will talk with her about much of this. Our daughter will not talk with us at all and says she is making plans to buy a car, earn more money to have her own way and get her own cell phone, etc. so she does not have to deal with us, etc.

We are not sure what to do next if she doesn’t come home or keeps leaving and we don’t know where she is. We think she’ll go to school tomorrow and we thought we could call the police liaison officer there for some advice and help – she has a good relationship with him (he’s all for the teens and well received by most, etc.). She has good grades and has not been in trouble in school up to this point. Losing her cell tends to move her over the edge – so not sure what will happen next but it has to be done or it’s another idle threat. She can’t seem to find rides and function without her phone – but she also knows we are here to give her rides and she knows the terms to get the car back and avoid cell phone turn off – but is not willing to cooperate.

She exhibits most of the descriptors of oppositional defiant disorder. We tried a counselor this summer but she refused to go back and indeed we did not find a good match – it did shift energy though and she was willing to talk to us for a time – that’s passed. Found another young woman counselor who also is a clinical hypnotist and she saw her once – but didn’t like having to talk so much so refused to go back to her – again, didn’t find the “match”.

Are we on the right path? What else might we do to get her home or if we need to continue really “tough love” – do we have to let go and let things fall apart for her to get her to face this and take some responsibility for her actions?

Thank you for your help and information – greatly appreciated,



Hi B.,

After reading your email, I believe most of your questions will be answered by the time you get through the 4-week program. If after that time you need any clarification, do not hesitate to email me again.

I think in your case, the most applicable strategies will be in the following areas of the eBook (online version):

1. The Art of Saying 'Yes' / The Art of Saying 'No'
2. When You Want Something From Your Kid (in the Anger Management Chapter)
3. When Something Unexpected Pops Up (in Emails From Exasperated Parents)

Stay in touch. I'll look forward to hearing back from you to clarify.


Online Parent Support

Teenage Son Assaults Mother

"Hi Mark, I'm new to this site. I have a couple of questions and scenarios that I would like to run by you. I have just charged my 17 year old with assault and put him out of the house, I was informed that he could go to a shelter, however there are no beds available at the shelter and he is now trying to come back home, as he has burned his bridges everywhere else. There is a no contact order in place, he cannot be within 100 ft of the house, and he is only permitted to contact me by phone. This is part of the scenario, there is more involved, I desperately need some advice. Could you please get back to me?"

First of all, I am very proud of you for having the backbone to implement a consequence commensurate with your son’s behavior. You did NOT try to “save” him from uncomfortable emotions associated with his poor choices. As punitive as it may sound, out-of-control teens need an element of discomfort before they will change. But unfortunately, most parents think they are doing the right thing by rescuing their child from painful consequences, which does far more damage than good.

Just so you’ll know, you are on track! Your biggest battle now will be dealing with feelings of guilt – and having moments where you debate in your head whether or not you have made the right decision. You may also have times when you feel sorry for your son. This is O.K. – it comes with the territory.

Allow his consequence to take its full course. Then at some point in the future (when, in your gut, it feels right), tell your son that he’s welcome to come home – but under certain stipulations (here you will want to put a set of house rules in the form of a written contract).

Stay the course. Just for the short term, he needs to stay away from you. Where he sleeps is his problem. This is tough love (which is often tougher on the parent than the child).


My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents

The Strong-Willed Out-of-Control Teen

The standard disciplinary techniques that are recommended for “typical” teenagers do not take into account the many issues facing teens with serious behavioral problems. Disrespect, anger, violent rages, self-injury, running away from home, school failure, hanging-out with the wrong crowd, drug abuse, theft, and legal problems are just some of the behaviors that parents of defiant teens will have to learn to control.

Click here for the full article...


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