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Out of Control Teens

Hi Mark,

I'm the step-father of two teenage boys, ages 17 and 15. Their mom and I have been married for 5 years. Both boys decided that they weren't interested in academics (duh) and began failing their classes. We pulled them from public school and put then into on-line school. Even with the reduced studying demands they continue to perform poorly.

A___ routinely ignores his curfew and C___ has a significant problem with truthfulness. Both are in trouble with the authorities. I have 3 court dates this month alone. His mom and I have been working on the 3-day-grounding rule, but even that gets ignored.

We need to have some sort of significant wake-up call that doesn't alienate them. I told their mom that a few days or months behind bars might be just what they need -- she's concerned that they'll just increase in their poor behavioral choices.

Any suggestions?


Hi S.,

You’ve raised 5 issues: poor academic performance, curfew violation, lying, legal difficulties, and refusing to accept consequences.

1. Re: Poor academic performance—Please refer to my recommendation on the webpage entitled “Emails From Exasperated Parents” (online version of the eBook).

2. Re: Curfew violation—If your son is required to be home by a particular time and he does not come home, then he is considered to be a ‘runaway.’ File a ‘runaway complaint’ with police as well as juvenile probation.

3. Re: Lying—Please refer to “When Your Kid Lies” (online version of the eBook).

4. Re: Legal difficulties—I’m glad you are getting assistance from Juvenile Court. This will be a good thing. I’d rather your sons experience some mild, short-term pain now (in the form of probation) rather than a lot of major, long-term pain later (possibly in the form of adult jail – or worse yet, prison).

5. Re: Refusing to accept consequences—Again, if a child is unwilling to accept consequences for misbehavior, the parent has to be willing to enlist the help of an outsider (i.e., probation).


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