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

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I am having trouble knowing when to implement and when to not...


I ordered your book and the CD's... I am having trouble knowing when to implement and when to not...

My son is probably going to be diagnosed Bi-polar soon.. it runs in the men's side of our family (grandfather, father, brothers, cousins)... he is taking risperdal now because he cycles into an agitated depression in the winter months... he is 17 years... a can see it coming on and this is the 2nd year that is is very noticeable....

He starts the school year doing his work and happy and by November he starts slacking down, starts having trouble sleeping and appetite starts to go down, and has to be pushed to finish the semester.... he gets C's and B's ... but then after christmas break... he gets worse... more argumentative... feels everyone is picking on him... and stops working completely... this year when i saw the anger and argumentative behavior. I asked the teachers if they were seeing anything different ... and they all agreed that after christmas this was not the same kid they had in class the previous semester... so i contacted his psychiatrist and restarted his meds

My problem is that he has to do catch up work ... to keep from failing this quarter... and he doesn't want to .... he has trouble accepting that he gets depressed and it takes all of us ganging up on him to get him to the doctor... once there he agreed to start back on the medicine ... i don't know how to discipline in this case when part of the problem is not due to his resistance but due to his body chemistry it takes two to three weeks to notice a difference when the meds finally kick in... his teachers for the most part are willing to let him do make up work...

In this last week i started taking the internet cord with me to work... and told him he has to start doing some of this make up work or can't be on the computer... he did some of the work but then by the third day... he doesn't come home because I am "treating him like a 4 th grader"...

It has been difficult for him in high school so far... in his freshman year I started him in a school that had special programming for boys with ADD and he was doing well... but then some boys at the school started a pornographic web page and put my sons face on the pictures and then sent it around to the other kids... it became a place where all the kids were looking it up and commenting some pretty ugly comments.... I could not get Face book to remove it, and had to have the FBI step in and force them to take the page down.... due to the severity of the harassment my son changed schools in the middle of his freshman year to a new school.... although he wanted to change schools.. he did not do well 2nd semester because of the disruption in his classes / routines / new teachers... it was hard for him to adjust to it all... but he did make all C's that semester

In the 2nd school (sophomore year) it turned out that many of those kids had seen the site and continued the harassing comments and nasty e-mails to my son.... even when I took this information to the school ... little was done about it.... in the midst of this problem my son suffered a grand mal seizure, stopped breathing and was resuscitated and hospitalized... and after that he started having problems with his mood and depression... last spring during the last week of school... kids were still writing and saying nasty things to him about being gay... or he should be "sucking someone’s dick"... and when I took the information to the school they just looked like ... all we can do is ask them to stop... I decided to transfer him again for fear that he would kill himself due to the stress...and depression ... or kill one of them. (he is being followed by a neurologist for an AVM on his brain found after he had the seizure)

Now my son is in his third high school... Junior year... and started as i said doing well but then is having trouble with depression again... he feels that he has had to put up with so much crap from other people in the past two years... that people should put up with him....he has lost motivation to do well for himself... he has made some friends... and does work a part time pizza parlor job that he likes. He recently had an episode of fainting, and is again being worked up by the neurologist and he will also be evaluated for possible syncope.

I want to get him on track with his education.... but am fearful to take too much away from him because of all that has happened this last two years... and for the most part he comes home on time... does his chores.... except for his room being a mess 3/4 of the time.. he does his laundry or other things i ask of him...

I believe that my son is out of control due to his ADD, due to me, due to circumstance that have happened... and due to choices he is making now because he feels entitled to act out since he feels he was unjustly picked on by kids he thought were his friends... he has many of the traits you describe on your CD's....

I just need some direction oh how to set expectations when all these issues are going on at the same time....

Sorry for the lengthy letter.... but i didn't know how else to go about it....

Looking forward to your response...




Hi C.,

Re: poor academic performance—

I guess you didn’t read the recommendations for poor academic performance yet. It is located in the section of the online version of the eBook entitled “Emails From Exasperated Parents.”

Re: cyber bullying—

More and more, kids are using the Internet to antagonize and intimidate others. This has become known as cyber bullying. Today's young Internet users have created an interactive world away from adult knowledge and supervision. Because bullies tend to harass their victims away from the watchful eyes of adults, the Internet is the perfect tool for reaching others anonymously - anytime, anyplace. This means for many children, home is no longer a refuge from the cruel peer pressures of school.

The anonymity of online communications means kids feel freer to do things online they would never do in the real world. 60 per cent of students pretend to be someone else when they are online. Of those, 17 per cent do so because they want to "act mean to people and get away with it". Even if they can be identified online, young people can accuse someone else of using their screen name. They don't have to own their actions, and if a person can't be identified with an action, fear of punishment is diminished.

Technology can also affect a young person's ethical behavior because it doesn't provide tangible feedback about the consequences of actions on others. This lack of feedback minimizes feelings of empathy or remorse. Young people say things online that they would never say face-to-face because they feel removed from the action and the person at the receiving end.

There are several ways that young people bully others online. They send e-mails or instant messages containing insults or threats directly to a person. They may also spread hateful comments about a person through e-mail, instant messaging or postings on Web sites and online diaries. Young people steal passwords and send out threatening e-mails or instant messages using an assumed identity. Technically savvy kids may build whole Web sites, often with password protection, to target specific students or teachers.

An increasing number of kids are being bullied by text messages through their cell phones. These phones are challenging the ability of adults to monitor and guide children because, unlike a computer placed in a public area of a home, school or library, mobiles are personal, private, connected - and always accessible. Kids tend to keep their phones on at all times, meaning bullies can harass victims at school or even in their own rooms.

Built-in digital cameras in cell phones are adding a new dimension to the problem. In one case students used a camera-enabled cell phone to take a photo of an overweight classmate in the shower after gym. The picture was distributed throughout the school e-mail list within minutes.

Schools are struggling to address the issue of cyber bullying among students, especially when it occurs outside of school. When real world bullying occurs in a schoolyard or classroom, teachers are often able to intervene, but online bullying takes place off the radar screen of adults, making it difficult to detect in schools and impossible to monitor off school property.

Young people should be aware that some forms of online bullying are considered criminal acts. Under the Criminal Code, it is a crime to communicate repeatedly with someone if your communication causes them to fear for their own safety or the safety of others.

It's also a crime to publish a "defamatory libel" - writing something that is designed to insult a person or likely to injure a person's reputation by exposing him or her to hatred, contempt or ridicule.

A cyber bully may also be violating the Human Rights Act, if he or she spreads hate or discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, color, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, family status or disability.

Internet service providers (ISPs) are the companies that provide Internet access to consumers. Most ISPs have Acceptable Use Policies (AUPs) that clearly define privileges and guidelines for those using their services, and the actions that can be taken if those guidelines are violated.

ISPs and cell phone service providers can respond to reports of cyber bullying over their networks, or help clients track down the appropriate service provider to respond to.

Cyber bullying is everyone's business and the best response is a pro-active or preventative one.

What parents can do—

1. Create an online agreement or contract for computer use, with your kids' input. Make sure your agreement contains clear rules about ethical online behaviour. MNet's research shows that in homes where parents have clear rules against certain kinds of activities, young people are much less likely to engage in them.

2. Encourage kids to develop their own moral code so they will choose to behave ethically online.

3. Encourage your kids to come to you if anybody says or does something online that makes them feel uncomfortable or threatened. Stay calm and keep the lines of communication and trust open. If you "freak out" your kids won't turn to you for help when they need it.

4. Learn everything you can about the Internet and what your kids are doing online. Talk to them about the places they go online and the activities that they are involved in. Be aware of what your kids are posting on Web sites, including their own personal home pages.

5. Talk to your kids about responsible Internet use.

6. Teach them to never post or say anything on the Internet that they wouldn't want the whole world - including you - to read.

7. If the bully is a student at your child's school, meet with school officials and ask for help in resolving the situation.

8. If your child is bullied through a cell phone, report the problem to your phone service provider. If it's a persistent problem, you can change the phone number.

9. Report any incident of online harassment and physical threats to your local police and your Internet Service Provider (ISP).

What schools can do—

·Change the school or board's bullying policy to include harassment perpetrated with mobile and Internet technology.

·Educate teachers, students and parents about the seriousness of cyber bullying.

·Integrate curriculum-based anti-bullying programs into classrooms.

·Update the school or board's computer Acceptable Use Policy (AUP) to specifically prohibit using the Internet for bullying.

What kids can do—

Because most incidents of bullying occur off adults' radar screens, it's important that young people learn to protect themselves online and respond to cyber bullying among peers when they encounter it.

Take a stand against cyber bullying with your peers. Speak out whenever you see someone being mean to another person online. Most kids respond better to criticism from their peers than to disapproval from adults.

Guard your contact information. Don't give people you don't know your cell phone number, instant messaging name or e-mail address.

If you are being harassed online, take the following actions immediately:

1. If the bullying includes physical threats, tell the police.

2. If you are being bullied through e-mail or instant messaging, block the sender's messages. Never reply to harassing messages.

3. If you are being harassed, leave the area or stop the activity (i.e. chat room, news group, online gaming area, instant messaging, etc.).

4. Save any harassing messages and forward them to your Internet Service Provider (i.e. Hotmail or Yahoo). Most service providers have appropriate use policies that restrict users from harassing others over the Internet - and that includes kids!

5. Tell an adult you trust - a teacher, parent, older sibling or grandparent.

One last thought— Bipolar teens tend to respond very well to mentors, or Big Brothers. Find a trusted adult (preferably not a family member) who will be willing to be your son’s friend and confidant, and who will work with him for many years to come.


Online Parent Support

Our life has been hell for the past 2 years...

Dear Mark,

My name is E___, and our son's name is J___ (he is 15 yrs old). J___ has been sentenced to a four month open custody at the Young Offenders Centre and 2 month community supervision sentence which may be served at home or in a group home, we don't know yet. The judge ordered child welfare to be in contact with us 45 days prior to his May 30 release date from open custody to be involved to find a home for him for assessment and treatment. We had a case conference at the Centre last week as he is eligible for a group home during his open custody. It was decided by them to keep him there for 2 months as a stabilization time before he is moved.

His sentence was for breaching the conditions of his probation (he had 3 breaches)...not following the rules of the house, drug (marijuana use), and not going to school. His involvement with the law started last spring when he was running away and not coming home for days. In that time he was charged with shoplifting a skateboard and the police put conditions on him, which he had no regard for. One month later he was also charged with stealing our motor vehicle. We charged him after the third time taking it. The courts then put more conditions on him and he was arrested several times for breaching his conditions and held in custody for 2 - 3 days 3 times. He was finally put on house arrest while he waited for a pre-sentence report and actually did pretty good in that time. He was put on a year probation last August and as soon as probation started he began not following his conditions. After several times in court - sometimes dates being moved, etc. He was to be sentenced on Dec 6 of last year and went to court stoned and they held him for a week so that he wasn't under the influence at sentencing. At that time he was sentenced to 90 hours community service and told one more breach and he would be sentenced to some time. He kept putting it off and asking for update on his sentence report, which happened in fall as well, but was unable to comply and continued to not follow his conditions (it was myself who reported his breached to the probation officer. His sentence came on Jan 31/08. That's the background.

J___ is not angry with us and realizes to some degree his consequence. He calls us everyday (he only has 10 minutes) and we have been visiting on the weekends at the centre. He says he realizes that his marijuana use was coming before everything else. He says he wants to make changes, change some of his friends. We are going this weekend to see him along with the drug addictions for a counselling session. What he is not understanding is the length of his sentence because there are other people who have less sentences for worse things. We have tried to tell him its not just for the 3 breaches but all the other breaches (probably about 20 plus) since last summer, and that when the same judge sees you 10 times. We try to tell him he was given lots of opportunities by the courts and us. We tried to have house rules and you didn't follow them as well as not following your probation. He has put in appeal for the length of his sentence and we did tell him a couple of weeks ago that we don't support and we won't go against the judge's decision.

I've started reading through your book online, and yes we've been through tons of counselling. Eventually he will come home and I feel the changes need to start happening now even though he is not at home, even in our conversations. He does have a mentor that he calls and talks to (he talked to you last week - Tom Barthel). I would like some suggestions on how we can communicate with him effectively so that he realizes that people care about him and that when rules aren't followed like you say in your book, society will control him. Also so that we support him but can't enable him. He is a good kid at heart, very intelligent and polite, but defiant and making some bad choices and his life was definitely heading down the toilet. My husband and I love him dearly. Our life has been hell for the past 2 years especially the last year.

I would love any immediate suggestions.

Thank you,



Hi E.,

Re: I would love any immediate suggestions.

I would simply "let go" and allow him to experience his natural consequence (i.e., the sentence). Other people are taking care of the discipline side of things for now. I don't think you need to do anything additional in the meantime (other than accept his phone calls and making your weekly visits).

During his first week home, implement Session #1 Assignments. Week two, implement Session #2, and so on.

Re: I would like some advice on how we can effectively start communicating.

First of all, implement Session #1 Assignments when he returns home as stated above.

Also, the strategies in the eBook entitled "The Art of Saying Yes" ..."The Art of Saying No" ..."When You Want Something From Your Kid" ...and "I See - I Feel - I Want" will be effective in weeks 2, 3, and 4.


Online Parent Support

Which is more difficult to treat, ODD or Conduct Disorder?

Online Parent Support

3 Strikes?


What do you think of the “3-strikes-you’re-out” rule. We thought we would give our 15-year-old son one verbal warning for misbehavior, if the problem continued, give him one written warning, if the problem continued, issue the 3-day discipline. Have you heard of anyone trying this? Do you think it will work?

Thanks in advance,



Hi M.,

I don’t think this method will hurt anything, but I don’t recommend it because it will be a waste of your time and energy. The “3-strikes method” is just another traditional parenting strategy that makes little – if any – change in the child’s behavior.

I find that when you give a kid 3 strikes -- he uses all 3. Teenagers, by definition, push against the world to see how it will push back …they test the limits …they spend a lot of time figuring out how much they can get away with. This is normal for a teenager. Thus, you can count on your son using all 3 strikes.

A better method would be “When You Want Something From Your Kid” in the eBook (a “1-strike-and-your-out” method).


Online Parent Support

Parents Are Not On The Same Page With Parenting Strategies

Q: Well we just joined your program so we haven't even read all the way through the information, but the question I have is how do you convince your spouse to try this program? The reason I ask is his patience are at the end. We have a 14 year old that has ADHD, ODD, is bi-polar and has separation anxiety disorder. He is quite a challenge and there are days when we feel like there is NO hope. He is failing 3 of his required classes in school also? Just wanting to know how to get my spouse on the same page and to help him have some patience!


A: When mom and dad are not on the same page with their parenting strategies, several negative outcomes result:

1. One parent is forced into playing the role of the "bad guy" (this is probably you mom).

2. The child is always able to play one parent against the other (e.g., if he gets a "no" from the more assertive parent, he will go to the indulgent parent to get a "yes").

3. The child is always able to convince the indulgent parent that the more assertive parent is "mistreating" him.

4. Due to the above outcomes, resentment builds in the more assertive parent, thus creating tension between husband and wife.

Thus, it will be important for you and your husband to sit down together and come up with a united plan. A weaker plan supported by both parents is much better than a stronger plan supported by only one. When husband and wife do not develop a united front, it is often the kiss of failure (i.e., the child continues to suffer emotional and behavioral problems).

It is not unusual for parents to have different approaches to discipline. You are influenced by different personalities, different gender-related perspectives, and different experiences as children. It is important to understand the roots of the differences and to try to find some acceptable middle ground. For example mothers spend much more time interacting with children. This contributes to a more practical approach to parenting; find what works and go with it. Mothers are also the parenting "experts" and fathers feel very vulnerable when sharing this responsibility. They are likely to be criticized for either not doing enough or doing it wrong. This sometimes causes fathers to be rigid in their approach. Rigidity is often there for mothers as well because of the sense of urgency; too much to do, not enough time to get it done.

These parenting-style differences contribute to one of the primary issues between mothers and fathers: polarization. In a healthy marriage, husbands and wives are accepting of each other and communicate frequently enough about their differences so that over time they "converge", i.e., grow closer. In more conflicted relationships, the couple "diverges" over time. In other words, they don't simply become stuck in a position but, instead, exaggerate that position in response to the other spouse. Thus, a more lenient parent becomes even more so in response to perceiving the other parent as too strict. Of course, then the strict parent becomes more so in response to the increased leniency. And so it goes. Throw into the pot, children who learn to play off these differences to get what they want, and you have a recipe for turmoil.

So what do you do? Do not criticize or change the other parent's discipline in front of the child, nor undermine that discipline when the other parent isn't around. It is okay to acknowledge a difference of opinion, call a time-out, go off to discuss it, and come back with a joint solution. You are modeling one of the important lessons for children when parents can have a disagreement and come back with a solution.

Your problem, like many other parents, is that you have not settled your different views on discipline and shouldn't be doing it via a specific situation where the child gets put in the middle. You need to make time to discuss and understand each other's perspective about discipline, how it is affected by your personal experiences and your gender roles, and how you can take advantage of the differences by having a place in the process for each parent.

Here's to a better home environment,

Mark Hutten, M.A.

==>  Online Parent Support

How long? How long?


It's been a while since I updated you on our family. M is in intensive probation as you recall. He had his first court hearing yesterday. They couldn't bring up the fight or the driving past curfew (from 9/07) since they did not have the completed paperwork from the prosecutor. He has started back to work, going to his counselor once a week, taking his ADHD rx (that I know of) is attending school every day (I am transporting to/from however) and he is maintaining all A's and B's with a C in psychology. Our home life, however is slower to come around. He is keeping himself very isolated in his room. He is either playing with his laptop, PSP, I-pod, etc. He will cook food for himself and leave a mess. Whenever he is asked to help out in the home, he either just says "no" or says "in a minute" and then never does it. The littlest thing will get him angry and then the F#*& come rapidly. They are aimed usually at me, and not just in conversation.

He misused his laptop the other day, I asked him to put it away, he didn't and the F bombs started, he threw his pillow at me (I believe he showed restraint here as his bedroom was recently painted and with new furniture), but I told him if the behaviour did not stop he would lose his laptop (we are blocking his "Myspace" and he keeps trying to find a way around it, and was very mad that it was blocked again). He was at school the next day, and I locked up his laptop. He immediately went for it (it was gone) and then starting trashing the house looking for it. He turned over my bed, upturned all the chairs, sofa, etc. He started throwing things out of my china cabinet, and when I warned him, he did show restraint and not break any dishes/glassware. I took my keys, told him to clean up his mess, and the 24hrs would start when it was clean. I left. When I got back, younger brother had put back all the furniture/bed but not the contents of china cabinets and some papers I had that were scattered. M was just laying on sofa. I calmly told him he had 5 minutes or I would take pictures and loss of computer would be 7 days. He chose to do nothing. Within a day or so, he was talking to me again, etc. and has NOT asked for computer. Husband however, told M "I would give you back your computer and Myspace". He has not been backing me as he has done before. I feel he has given up. He gets angry, shows the anger, blows over the top, and then furiously back pedals. This is definitely not helping.

Last counseling visit, we parents were not called in (parents are usually included first or last 10-15minutes). Dad has only recently agreed to go with us, (it is VERY difficult) and the counselor did not call for us. Husband very upset, yelling, and probably will never go back. He says M is the one with the problem, not him, it is a total waste of time, etc, etc.

Mark, I realize that we probably won't see any REAL genuine improvement until M accepts responsibility for all of this, but how long before we see improvement in the home? His behaviour has been a real issue for almost 2 yrs now. Bosses at work, co-workers, teachers, etc. say he is polite etc. to them. The devil only shows himself at home. Counselor and PO say it will take time for him to "adjust". How long?

Also, husband and I truly believe M is just waiting until he is off probation and then he will go back to his old behaviors/old friends. He is 17 now and knows we don't have much "power" to control him anymore. We would like to ask the referee to keep him on probation until he is 18 (2/2009)--currently scheduled to be off 4/3/08 if he continues to do well. Have you heard of anyone asking this before and how was it accepted?

I should mention that M doesn't talk to us. When we try to talk to him about anything other than superficial he gets angry and the F bombs start to fly. When do you think he will start to open up to us?




Hi J.,

Re: How long before we see improvement in the home?

When significant improvement – at home or elsewhere - is not evidenced within a 3-month period, it is too often due to (you already know what I’m about to say – don’t you?) the parent(s) missing a few (or a lot) important pieces.

In the first week (when parents first join OPS), I simply want them to work only on the objectives outlined in Session #1 assignments – nothing more. The goal of week #1 is to re-establish the broken bond between child and parent. We, as parents, must build a bridge back to our kids FIRST – then, and only then will they accept discipline from us. Thus, concentrate on re-establishing trust and developing a renewed commitment to the parent-child relationship by reviewing Session #1 objectives and implementing Session #1 assignments again. There’s no shame in going back to the blackboard now-and-again.

The most common mistake I see time and time again is as follows:

The parent, out of a sense of desperation, (a) prints out a hard copy of the eBook, (b) skims through it in one sitting, (c) can’t find a magic bullet, and (d) says to herself – or to me – that she’s tried all this before and it doesn’t work. These parents will never, ever see success because they hop from one strategy to the next without giving any one strategy enough time to be effective. Please do not make this error. Be patient with the process, and you, too, will experience success with this program – sooner than later.

Bear in mind that the goals of this program are to (a) foster the development of self-reliance in the child and (b) provide intensity (e.g., attention, interest, energy) ONLY when the child is behaving according to expectations.

Below is a checklist for you:

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.Do you use "The Art of Saying Yes" whenever your answer is yes?
2.Do you use "The Art of Saying - and Sticking With - No" whenever your answer is no?
3.Do you catch him in the act of doing something right at least once each day?
4.Do you use the "When You Want Something From Your Kid" approach as needed?
5.Do you give him at least one chore each day?
6.Do you use the "I noticed ...I felt ...Listen" approach when something unexpected pops-up?
7.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 son, 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!
8.Is he EARNING ALL of his stuff and freedom?
9.Have you listened to ALL the audio in the Online Version of the eBook?
10.Are you putting on your best poker face when “things are going wrong?”
11.Are you and your husband united and bonded on most issues (remember: a weaker plan supported by both of you is much better than a stronger plan supported by only one)?
12.And perhaps most importantly, are you doing things to take care of your mental and physical health?

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 -- you can't be expected to remember everything! But 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.

Re: Have you heard of anyone asking this before and how was it accepted?

Yes. Probations Officers usually want to get kids off their caseloads as quickly as possible. Thus, I doubt that anyone will want to work with your son any longer than absolutely necessary.

Re: When we try to talk to him about anything other than superficial he gets angry and the F bombs start to fly. When do you think he will start to open up to us?

You have bigger fish to fry than “talking.” Put this one in the “pick your battles carefully” file. Having said that, he’ll open up to you after he’s been out in the real world – on his own – for a while. Some time AWAY FROM home will be a huge change-factor. Are you preparing him for “the launch?”


Online Parent Support

Don't Procrastinate!

Dear Mark:

Our daughter refuses to meet us half way. Today she left the house to go to a friend’s. Without permission! The list goes on and on. Will your book really help with this kind of problem child? We feel helpless as to what to do. We can’t lock her up. We can't forcibly restrain her - and don`t dare strike her. She is 15.



Hi D.,

I can – and will – help you, but you're the one who will have to take some action.

In answer to your question, "Will your book really help with this kind of problem child" absolutely will help! I'm not going to bullshit you, though. The work will be tough -- but the reward will be well worth the effort. It all depends on how serious you are to implement change. Don't procrastinate!


My Out-of-Control Teen

It works, it really works!


I wanted you to see what the teacher has said since we last spoke! We have had a victory- hopefully the beginning of many! It works, it really works! You are a God send!


Teach writes:

So far today he has continued to surprise me. He has done wonderfully. Way to go mom. Now we know the rest of the story and what needs to be done to get his attention. He is a great kid!!!



I wanted you to know that D___ had a terrific day yesterday. He finish all the assignments he was missing and he raised his hand the correct way to get help. He followed all the rules just like he was supposed to do. He earned his behavior clip and he seemed to be very proud of it. He has come in this morning and without my telling him he started to work. I am seeing a totally different kid and I love it. I will try to let you know more later.

Thanks, B.I.

Let Go?

I’ve purchased your online book and have a question. I was reading towards the end of the book about School which is a huge deal for us. Over the years I’ve tried working it both ways as far as no consequences for grades – leaving my son to be responsible, to being involved and enforcing consequences for F’s. Like the person in your book, I am presently enforcing restriction of cell phone and activities off the block with friends until grades are brought up to the next grading period (6 weeks).

Although I can understand letting go, and have felt the relief of letting go myself in the past, I do have a bipolar kid. I feel like if I don’t maintain involvement that because of the disorder he won’t succeed. My guilt always draws me back in. My involvement, or what I’m doing now is not working though – he just gets progressively more depressed and angry as time goes on. So, bipolar and all, do I still let go? My son is 15 years old and is a sophomore.



Can I answer your question in 3 points:

1. Yes
2. Definitely
3. Absolutely

O.K. I'm being sarcastic. But bipolar or not, you will do well to follow the recommendations as they are outlined.

Thanks for the email,


Online Parent Support

Daughter Is Too Comfortable


I recently signed up for your teenage help programme and have found it very useful in certain situations as well as controlling and making me think about the way I react to things.

My daughter decided a month ago to drop out of school, basically this is because she is too lazy to get up in the mornings or to do the homework. She says that she wants to start college in September, although she hasn't got round to applying in the four weeks she has had off, nor has she seriously looked for a job for the meantime.

To stop her lazing in bed all day watching TV I have disconnected her aerial, I also disconnected her phone as she recently run up a HUGE phonebill which she was unable to pay as she has no money! However I have since comprimised and allowed her phone to receive incoming calls as she said that she had left her phone number with jobs that she'd applied for.

This evening I asked her casually what her plans were for tomorrow she said "dunno, nothing really", and I said "well it would be helpful if you could vacuum round for me", she replied "NO WAY! Why should I when you've stopped me from making calls on my mobile? and anyway I hate you!" (that bit hurt)

I felt this was totally uncalled for and felt like shouting at her for being so ungrateful and spiteful, however I managed to keep my cool and said calmly well I think that’s very unfair. With that she went upstairs to bed, I have since text her as I fear I will get angry and hurt if I speak to her, in the text I said well if that’s how you feel and you won't even help around the house then maybe I should send back those new wardrobes I just bought for you. She hasn't replied!

Am I doing the right thing? I feel as though I am just thinking what else can I take away from her!

How else can I address her lack of motivation and laziness, she’s not on drugs but has no ambition or get up and go!

Many Thanks



Hi J.,

Please refer to the section of the eBook entitled “When You Want Something From Your Kid” [in the Anger Management chapter – online version].

With all due respect Dear Mom, I can see by your email that you are still using “soft love” as opposed to “tough love.” I’m concerned for you that she may never leave the nest, as she is too comfortable in there.

If she is contemplating college in September, then I’m guessing she is 17-years-old or so, which means she is an adult (at least in the physical sense). The latest parenting challenge is dealing with emerging adults who have no intention of leaving the nest. Many 17- to 24-year-olds either return home after college or they've never even left home. The media refers to them as "Boomerang Kids." Parents are worried that their kids won't leave home.

This new phenomenon is highlighted in the movie Failure to Launch. Matthew McConaughey plays Tripp, 30-something bachelor whose parents want him out of the house. They've hired Paula (Sarah Jessica Parker), an interventionist, to help him move out. Paula has a track record of successfully boosting men's self-confidence to cause them to want to be independent.

Interestingly, this story line is not as far-fetched as it may seem. Young adults are indeed becoming more difficult to coax out of their comfy childhood homes.

Since the '70s, the number of 24-year-olds still living at home has nearly doubled! Here are the top 4 factors contributing to this change:

1. They Are Unprepared

They are overwhelmed or unmotivated to live independently. They would rather play it safe by occupying the family home, playing computer games and delivering pizza.

These kids often grow up living the life of the privileged. Here, well-meaning parents provide their children with all the amenities congruent with an affluent lifestyle. The parents are focused on doing more for their children than what their parents did for them – at the expense of keeping them dependent. Kids don't move out because they've got it made!

When your financial generosity isn't combined with teaching kids how to become self-sufficient at an early age, we cannot expect them to automatically possess adequate life skills when they reach legal adulthood. How will they gain the skills to confidently live their own life when they haven't had the opportunity to do things for themselves?

2. They Are Cautious or Clueless

They are committed, but unsure how to discover their ideal career path. They approach college with the same trial and error mindset their parents had only to find out that it no longer prepares them for today's competitive world.

Parents do their kids a disservice by waiting until they are 17 or 18 before initiating career-related discussions. In our dynamic society where change is a daily diet, this is much too late! It's best to start young, at age 13. This stage of development is the perfect time to begin connecting the dots between what they love to do and possible career options. It can take years to prepare for the perfect career. Beginning early will help teens maximize their opportunities in high school and make college a much better investment.

3. They Have Personal Problems

They don't have effective life coping skills, have failed relationships or are grieving some other loss or wrestling with a challenging life event.

In Failure to Launch, we learn that Tripp's parents indulged him largely because the woman he loved died, and he hasn't gotten over his loss. When Tripp falls in love with Paula – the new girl of his dreams – his self-sabotaging habit of dumping a girl before she can get too close gets reactivated. Finally, his friends intervene and Tripp eventually faces his demons, to everyone's delight.

If your teen is struggling emotionally, don't make the mistake of thinking it will somehow magically get better without an intervention. Tough love requires that you insist your adolescent get professional help so that he or she can move forward. If you don't know how to have that kind of conversation, consider getting help from a parenting expert.

4. They Have Mounting Debt

They've accumulated significant credit card debt and moving back in with their parents is a way to pay it off. According to the National Credit Card Research Foundation, 55 percent of students ages 16 to 22 have at least one credit card. If your teen falls into this group, make sure you monitor spending together online. Helping your teen understand how to budget and manage credit cards will be important for handling a household budget in the future.

Kids can't learn to manage money if they don't have any or if parents always pay for everything. If your offspring moves back home, I recommend you charge a nominal amount for room and board. As an adult member of your household, it's important for your young adult to contribute to household chores and expenses.

If the purpose of your child's return home is to pay off bills or a college loan, have a realistic plan and stick to the plan to make sure your young adult moves out of the house.

Determine Goals and Stick to Them— Most parents enjoy having their children visit and will consider offering some short-term help. However, indulging an adult child's inaction does not help your son or daughter begin his or her own life. If your child defaults on your agreement, be willing to enforce consequences to help him or her launch into responsible adulthood.

Mark Hutten, M.A.

Click here for more help ==> Online Parent Support


I've read thru the online book thru the 1st set of assignments. I feel like I have so many problems with my child that I don't know where to begin. He has ADD, ODD, depression and presently refusing to attend school....Actually reading your information so far has me confused as to what i should work on. Help! He's 15yrs old, and even routine simple requests turn into major issues.


In this first week, I simply want you to work only on the objectives outlined in Session #1 assignments – nothing more for now. The objectives are pretty straightforward.

The goal of week one is to re-establish the broken bond between child and parent. We as parents must build a bridge back to our kids because, only then, will they accept discipline from us. Thus, concentrate on establishing trust and developing a renewed commitment to the parent-child relationship by following the Session #1 objectives.

The most common mistake I see time and time again is as follows:

The parent, out of a sense of desperation, (a) prints out a hard copy of the eBook, (b) skims through it in one sitting, (c) can’t find a magic bullet, and (d) says to herself – or to me – that she’s tried all this before and it doesn’t work. These parents will never, ever see success because they hop from one strategy to the next without giving any one strategy enough time to be effective. Please do not make this error. Be patient with the process, and you, too, will experience success with this program.


My Out-of-Control Teen

David 's Story

This is the true story of a man who has Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) and ADHD. His name is David.

David was diagnosed with ODD at the age of 3 and ADHD at the age of 6. His mother had him tested by a psychiatrist, because he would often lose his temper, argue, refuse to comply with rules, deliberately annoy his playmates, and blamed others for his misbehavior. This disturbance in behavior caused significant impairment in his social and academic functioning.

No one knows for certain why David got ODD plus ADHD. His parents divorced when he was 5. His father is an alcoholic and has been in trouble with the law many times [currently in prison – 2008].

When David was 3 years old, his mother thought that the terrible twos were finally over. They were not. His mother was very grateful that the grandparents were nearby. The grandparents were grateful that David's aunts and uncles lived nearby. David's aunt was grateful that this was her nephew, not her son. Why? David required an incredible combination of strength, patience, and endurance.

In elementary school, David's day usually started out with arguing about what he could and couldn’t bring to school. His mother and his teacher made out a written list of what those things were. David brought a PSP to school and told his teacher that his mother said it was alright. At first his teacher wondered about this, but David seemed so believable.

When David was 15 and in the ninth grade, he seemed to have one problem after the other. His teachers always commented that he was capable of much more if he tried. David's best friend, Alex, was currently doing a 6-month sentence for vandalism and shoplifting. Since David had almost no other friends, he would do anything to be Alex’s friend. David thought it was "cool" that Alex was at the Madison County Youth Center. David wanted to be just like his good friend Alex.

When David was 16, his mother had to work a lot because she wasn’t getting any child support from her ex-husband. David could pretty much go wherever he wanted to - whenever he wanted to since no one was home to keep a check on him. During this time, David found a lot of “cool” friends like Alex to hang around.

When David was 17 and in high school, his mother would not let him go to a dance. He broke all the windows in her car. He lasted two months in 11th grade before he was suspended for fighting. David lost the few “good” friends he had by getting kicked off the football team. He swore at a judge during a probation hearing and got two months in the Madison County Youth Center, which was extended to six months after he tried to attack a guard.

After his release from the Youth Center, he wanted to be able to drive. His mother said no, and he decided that was it and went over to a friend’s house and got drunk out of his mind. He also took a bunch of pills – and ended up over-dosing. His mother still remembers those words, "You'll be f-ing better off without me and if you come after me I'll f-ing kill you".

That horrible day was the turning point. It took five police officers to get him to go to the hospital. It took a careful evaluation to figure out that he wasn't just ODD and ADHD - he was very depressed, too.

David is now an adult. Life is not easy. He has already been to prison twice and is following in his father’s footsteps. When he’s not incarcerated, he works by himself [doing little construction jobs here and there] because he cannot get along with co-workers and doesn’t like to be told what to do by bosses. He leads to a very lonely life because he cannot keep a girlfriend for more than a few months.

David has made several suicide attempts, has seriously assaulted two individuals on two different occasions while at the local bar and grill, and makes a little side money selling drugs [he also carries a gun]. David is unaware that he has an increased risk of dying prematurely by violent means.

David never sees his father. His mother has made herself sick worrying about David. But David doesn’t really care whether he lives or dies. He is consumed with finding his next “high” and will bulldoze over anyone or anything that stands in his way.

Don’t happen to run into David on the streets.

If your child has Oppositional Defiant Disorder, seek help sooner than later.

Treatment of Oppositional Defiant Disorder includes:

·Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy to assist problem solving and decrease negativity
·Family Psychotherapy to improve communication
·Individual Psychotherapy to develop more effective anger management
·Parent Training Programs to help manage the child's behavior
·Social Skills Training to increase flexibility and improve frustration tolerance with peers

Parents can help their child with Oppositional Defiant Disorder in the following ways:

·Always build on the positives, give the child praise and positive reinforcement when he shows flexibility or cooperation.

·Maintain interests other than your child with ODD, so that managing your child doesn't take all your time and energy.

·Manage your own stress with exercise and relaxation.

·Pick your battles. Since the child with ODD has trouble avoiding power struggles, prioritize the things you want your child to do.

·Set up reasonable, age appropriate limits with consequences that can be enforced consistently. Take a time-out or break if you are about to make the conflict with your child worse, not better.

Online Parent Support

What's the difference between ODD and ADHD?

She DID the dishes...

"It was a Godsend to speak to you, and again -- I thank you!

I am better today. Lia is home. I tried your the technique you teach of "give some praise through a wired shut by anger mouth"... :-) ..., yesterday on Lia. She DID the dishes, 1st time out and good.

After she finished them I said "TTTttttttthhhhhhaaannnnnkkkkk (aaarrrgggggggaAAaag) Yyyyyoooouuuu.

You did the dishes great and even put them away without being asked. Want to help with dinner?"...

I swear she stood frozen, like a deer cemented in headlights, and eventually said "sure". So today is a new day. A thankful while hopeful day for the ONE day of peace I had yesterday and for the hope of adding another day today. It is at least a start. Thank you!"

Take Care,


Online Parent Support

E-book is proving very helpful...

Dear Mark,

I just want to say your ebook is proving very helpful. I am almost 57 (A___) and have an adolescent son my height (14 in May) and another son 13 in August (who's shoulder height). I am a single mother - I agreed to 50/50 childcare on the divorce application 2 years ago, but have been dumped with 90 - 95% childcare, because my ex-husband took off to a place a 2-and -a-half-hour drive away, and sees the sons he wanted, only in holidays and a weekend a month whenever he dictates. When he left our home, and had bought a new place with a new partner BEFORE our divorce application was even lodged, I had the relief that my 'eldest dependent son' had left home. Yes, I was bullied and intimidated into doing everything - earning all the money, paying all the bills, doing the main bulk (deliberate redundancy there) of childcare (getting children to school en route to my job) and housework. And burning out. I see from your book I was the over-indulgent wife. Yes, indeed (due to intimidation, and his lack of educational skills, I think.)

And my ex-husband, March 2 is now in my elder son. I have no family in this city, all 5 uncles are in different countries, both grand-dads are dead, the father is a long way away, there are no male first cousins, so all in all I lack on-the-spot male role models for my sons, other than their school teachers. I tried to get them into scouting, but my ex-husband who actually was an Assistant Scout Leader, and scout-leadered other people's sons, just took off 3 months after our separation and ignored that request / necessity. There was a scout club hardly one kilometre from where his first flat was...OK, it sucks. I feel sad for my sons on this one, but without a car, can't do anything about it.

I bought your book last Friday, and we started a new era of parenting. I think I'm the HERO and the lost child - the one that hid in poplar trees, away from her father's almighty painful excessive use of the cane. I write peaceful music, and publish CDs and sheet music. That strong side of me has continued unabated throughout this pattern, I now see from your wise book, of being bullied and intimidated.

Today I refused to write my son a note to his history teacher asking for an extension. He's had 3 days to do it. My heart has become poker-faced, knowing I have to develop my sons' educational paths (which I accepted, and knew my marriage would disappear in order to achieve it) but now I'm aware I have to face up to the social / behavioural training for them as well to be acceptable to society. I know my elder son is pulling away from me - yes, I'm fired as the manager - and this is utterly necessary, but from now on, rather than my reacting to the bad manners (e.g. throwing an envelope on the floor at my feet - for school photos) and insisting on good manners, I have to PROACTIVELY set the limits and my expectations. And do the cheating - of positive verbal affirmation when things done well - which I have always done to a large extent, just like to the pets.

I will be reading up on Parent Traps at lunchtime. You can see I'm basically 2 generations older than my sons, with no family support anywhere around - the 2 grandmas are in a different country. It's good to have your invitation to on the odd occasion say how useful your material is. I used to be a high school teacher, and knew theoretically about Tough Love - even recommended it to the parents of out-of-control kids who ended up as suspensions on the school I was at. Now, I'm learning about the social necessity for this (gentler) form of Tough Love myself. Vital. There's a Big Brother Big Sister network I've found - my sons don't want anything to do with it, but as Mum, I've decided I do! So, that will be underway today. Google is very helpful.



Online Parent Support

House Rules Contract: Cell Phones

"Many thanks for the work that you have done. We are making progress with our teen son. Please advise if you have any home rule teen contract templates that you can share? Please advise any guidelines on cell phones?"


Hi J.,

Re: home rule teen contract templates—

A Home Rules Contract is a written set of expectations that adults have of their teens (and preteens). The contract includes basic rules, consequences and privileges.

The primary purpose of a Home Rules Contract is for teens to be held accountable for their behavior while allowing parents to maintain a reasonable amount of control. A Home Rules Contract will teach teens that there are consequences to breaking rules, the knowledge of which hopefully will transfer in the teen's mind to school rules as well as the legal system.

A Home Rules Contract will not resolve the issues of feelings and emotions involved within the relationships between parents and teens. It can only act as a basic agreement that may allow you to work toward a resolution for problem behaviors, minimizing the disruption and interference that can many times occur during the process of getting bad behavior under control and restructuring a family's rules.

We recommend that ALL PARENT FIGURES with whom the teen has contact be involved in the creation and enforcement of the Home Rules Contract. This includes biological parents, step-parents, adoptive parents, custodial persons, non-custodial persons who are responsible for the teens for all or part of a day, and legal guardians. It is very important for divorced parents to put their differences aside and come together for the purposes of creating a unified front for the child, so that one parent does not end up sabotaging another's efforts to bring the child's bad behavior under control. Kids will manipulate and undermine parents who are at odds with each other, but will conform much more readily to a unified front. Even if the divorced parents do not agree on other issues, it is tremendously important for them to agree on how to manage an out-of-control teen. In situations in which two divorced parents really don't get along, the Home Rules Contract can sometimes best be accomplished with the help of a third party, such as a qualified therapist. Again, parents must put aside their differences for the sake of their wayward teen!!

Other adults who may be present in the home but are not actively involved in limit setting and the process of raising the teen should be excluded; for example, an aunt or uncle who is staying with the family. Adults will tend to have different expectations of a teen depending upon their own outlook, and many times, adults who are not ultimately responsible for the teen may not enforce the rules and consequences which you are taking the time to carefully plan, in essence, undermining and making your contract ineffective.

ALL TEENAGERS AND PRETEENS in the family should be included in the Home Rules Contract. In order to be effective, all children need to see the Home Rules Contract as fair. Therefore, it may not work to single out the child with the bad behaviors and exclude siblings, as the offending child will see it as unfair and will most likely refuse to follow it. If the compliant siblings protest their involvement as they are already following the rules, remind them that this is a family effort and they are part of the family. They can be told that since they are already following the rules, this home contract should be a piece of cake for them and that you value their input. By including all siblings, you are firmly establishing the fact that you are a FAMILY, and that getting the family to work as a functioning unit requires the input and cooperation of each family member. This also establishes that children of all ages need to be held accountable for their behavior.

A copy of the blank Home Rules Contract should be given to every person who will ultimately be signing the contract, including the teens and preteens, for them to fill out with rules, consequences and rewards they feel are appropriate for the Home Rules Contract. Teens who feel that they are being heard by their parents and are allowed to participate in this process are far more likely to be compliant than those who are handed a set of rules and told "Do it or else." Parents are often amazed at what rules the teens think they should be following and at the severity of punishments they assign for themselves. Many parents have had to actually decrease the punishments that the teen has stated he or she should have for not following certain rules. Other parents have found that their kids will think of very important items that they, the parents, didn't even consider or overlooked. When kids contribute significantly to a good working contract, their contributions should be openly acknowledged and/or praised. It should be cautioned that parents should go over their childrens' suggestions alone, before presenting them to the family, and they should eliminate those suggestions, which are made with the sole intent of belittling other family members with whom siblings making the suggestions are not getting along.

Sometimes your teen will refuse to participate, and if that's the case, then you may let him know that this contract will be implemented with or without his cooperation, and if he makes the choice not to participate, you fully intend to follow the contract to the letter. If he ultimately doesn't like something that is put in the contract, then that will be his problem because he didn't participate in writing it. Again, the participation of each person in the family who will be involved, if at all possible, is vital to the success of your contract, but don't allow yourself to be undermined by a teen who is threatening non-cooperation!

Your final contract should be the results of negotiation and compromise, taking everybody's ideas into consideration. If the whole idea of a Home Rules Contract threatens to break down when an agreement cannot be reached between two or more parties, particularly parents, the entire family should strongly consider visiting a social worker or family therapist, even if only for one visit, to get an objective third party to help break the log jam and create a Home Contract that everybody can live with. However, some items should not be negotiable, such as a teen demanding a curfew that is later than what the law in your area would allow for his or her particular age group.

Parents should provide progressive consequences for refusal to follow rules and directions. Unfortunately, some parents, in an effort to "get tough" on their wayward teen, will go overboard and ground the child for weeks and weeks for a single incident. The rationale behind punishment should be primarily to offer an unpleasant learning experience so that the teen will learn to correct his own behavior and not repeat the offending action. For most teens, a punishment that consists of weeks of grounding on a first offense is too long and will cause further resentment rather than be a learning experience for the teen.

Steps to Creating a Home Rules Contract:
  1. Identify a maximum of five (5) problem behaviors that you feel need to be improved. These behaviors could be priorities, and some should be related to the behaviors that are causing the most problems, i.e., legal problems, school problems, or medical problems (such as illness due to drug abuse or an overdose, or medication compliance issues if the teen is on psychiatric medications such as Ritalin).
  2. Specifically identify what the expectation is for each behavior. Be clear and concise when identifying expectations so that there is no chance for a teen to tell you he or she didn't understand the expectation.
    • Example: Teen will attend all therapy sessions, including weekly individual and weekly family therapy, and teen will take medication as prescribed).
  1. Specifically state what the privileges and consequences will be when a teen is either following the rules or chooses to break the rules. These privileges and consequences should be natural and logical. In other words, when possible, set a consequence that is related to the misbehavior. Be sure you, the parent, are willing and able to enforce the consequences that you set or your contract will be worthless.
    Example (for the expected behavior listed above):
    • Consequence: Teen will not be given any privileges until he complies
      (car, phone, TV, radio, going out with friends, etc.) THIS IS NOT NEGOTIABLE.
    • Privilege: Teen will earn parents' trust and be better equipped to cope with stresses.
  1. Set a date that the contract may be revised and/or negotiated. Renegotiation is based on the amount of progress. Inform teen that he/she may earn more or fewer privileges based on behavior in the interim. Encourage dialogue with your teen regarding privileges he or she may want to earn in the future.
  2. VERY IMPORTANT - Consult with other parental figures to make sure that ALL ARE IN AGREEMENT AND WILLING TO ENFORCE THE CONTRACT AS WRITTEN. If parental figures do not agree on some of the items, it is imperative to make the necessary revisions to come to an agreement. Again, a qualified therapist may be able to help you get over the hurdles of differing opinions.
A Sample Contract with three items is included below. The items below are only suggestions to get you started. Parents must take their own individual circumstances and priorities into account when setting up the individual items in a Home Rules Contract. Some items that might be considered priorities, other than those listed below, might include profanity or abusive language towards other family members, homework issues for students with poor grades, and violent behavior towards family members, including pushing, shoving, and slapping.

A list of possible priorities to include in a Home Rules Contract includes:
  1. Curfew
  2. Chores
  3. School behavior and grades
  4. Smoking
  5. Telephone use
  6. Computer use
  7. Use of the car
  8. Alcohol/drug use
  9. Expression of anger or violence, including profanity
  10. Conflict resolution (helpful when two siblings are at each other's throats)
  11. Running away
  12. Medication issues and compliance (for those who take regular medicines, such as Ritalin)
  13. Attendance at therapy sessions

NOTE: For the safety of everybody involved, police should be called for ALL violent episodes that occur on the part of the teen with the perceived intent of injuring a family member or destroying property that belongs to other family members. Violence that has no consequences will continue to escalate and could eventually result in a serious incident, so this type of behavior needs to be halted immediately by allowing the teen to experience serious consequences for the violent behavior (police, charges and possible court date). It sounds harsh to call the police on your own child, but it is better to have the teen learn from you that violence will never be tolerated, and that this behavior is absolutely forbidden, than for your teen to wind up in jail down the road because he never had any consequences for violence at home. An old saying states that if a parent does not properly discipline a child, eventually society will do the disciplining.

  1. Teen will not use any alcohol or drugs.
    • Consequence: Teen will be grounded for one week. Grounding consists of: staying home, no friends as guests, no phone calls, etc. etc.) Punishment will increase one week for each subsequent offense (i.e., if teen is caught using substances a second time, punishment will be for two weeks, etc.)

      Note: It is VERY important to clearly state what being grounded consists of so that there are no avenues for manipulation by the teen to get out of the punishment).
    • Privilege: Teen will be allowed to continue going out with friends and may have continued use of the car.
  1. Teen is expected to return home immediately after school except if prior arrangements are made with parents. Teen will inform parents where he/she is going and will be home by 8:00 p.m. on school nights and 11:00 p.m. on nonschool nights.
    • Consequence: Teen will be expected to come home twice as early as he was late for one week. (e.g., if 30 minutes late, then curfew will be one hour earlier for the next week).
    • Privilege: Teen will maintain current curfew and gain trust (some parents may want to allow their teen to work his/her way up to a later curfew by proving himself or herself, but parents should never set a curfew later than the legal curfew in their area).
  1. Teen will perform all assigned chores in a satisfactory manner, according to the standards set by parents.
    (It is helpful to provide a written list of daily chores so there is no misunderstanding - a dry-erase marker board hung in the kitchen or other family area works great for this purpose).
    • Consequence: Teen will not be allowed any privileges until required chores are completed, including TV, radio, computer, having friends visit or going out with friends.
    • Privilege: Teen will maintain access to all privileges of the house, including watching TV, using the computer, having friends visit, and going out with friends.
In summary, a Home Rules Contract that has been carefully thought out and agreed to by all parties can provide much structure to a teen who is having difficulty staying out of trouble.

A Blank Home Rules contract for you to get started is provided by clicking on the below link. 

Re: guidelines on cell phones—

Over 94% of parents agree that cellular phones are good for teens (according to a survey conducted by AT&T with parents and teens in LA and New York). Most teens have their very first cell phones by the age of 15 and in many cases 13. Like with all mod cons teenagers want them but they should be used in a practical manner.

Paying for the cellular phone is one thing but the on going costs thereafter tends to cost some friction in households. If you are the parent who insists that your son or daughter has a cell phone then understandable you should pay the bill once it’s within reason.

Teens who insist on having a cell phone should pay some part of the bill with their weekly allowance that you give them. Teens who are left without any supervision on bill phones will run riot and it will be you who foots out the bill. Even if you have the money to pay the bill monthly no matter how high you should draw the line, you may not always be there to pay for everything. Prepaid cell phones are a good idea to keep the expense down, the calls are more expensive to make on these phones but you can only make the calls once the credit is there. It is a great way for teenagers to learn about financial management of their own bills.

Camera cell phones are more popular with teens for the obvious reasons. It’s easy to use and fool around with and let’s face it they are harmless fun. There is a downside to having the camera phone and that’s the ongoing cost. If the phone is prepaid it’s simply, you can only text friends photo’s when you have the credit but if the phone is linked to monthly bill payments camera phones are by far the more expensive to operate. If your teen insists on sending SMS via the camera phone, why not encourage them to do so through email. Simply connect the phone to the PC via a usb cable (normally supplied with the phone), upload the photo’s and with broadband in most area’s email is much cheaper.

Knowing that your son or daughter is safe and sound is priceless. If ever they need your help you are only a phone call away. With many late teens driving cell phones are a necessity, let’s face it most cannot even change a puncture. Please remember if you allow your teen a cell phone in the car, make sure you or they purchase a hands free kit or earpiece. Teens have so many things to talk about and can get so wrapped up in conversation that the driving aspect takes a backseat. For a few more dollars play safe.

We live in a world of technology and it’s going to keep growing at a rapid pace, all teenagers are curious. Once you have gotten over the argument of bill payment your teen will be fine, they may overindulge on the first bill or two but by confiscating the cell phone for a day or two will soon teach them the importance of money management. You will always know where they are and from the sound of their voice on the other end of the phone your mind will be put at ease.

Family plans from cell phone carriers such as AT&T are ideal if there is more than one cell phone in the household. It helps keep the costs down and maximize the free talk-time minutes per month. If one person is not using up the free minutes the other can before they are lost. Some cell phone carriers are offering rollover minutes. Rollover minutes allow all the used free minutes from one-month travel over to the next so you are not losing out.

Mark Hutten, M.A.

Discipline Methods That Make a Bad Problem Worse

D___ is beyond out of control. I am following the plan so far - he is still grounded from his ps2 and computer until he has completed his 10 day sentence to alternative school (he tries constantly to get them back- just for 1hr cause I am being good type deal) But the real issue is at school. He is in alternative school right now and the teacher today says Dylan is being so bad that if he does not stop they are going to have the police write him a ticket!!!! This is up to a 500.00 fine that I DO NOT HAVE OR WILL EVER HAVE and WILL NOT PAY so i don't know what happens then?? !! The teacher asked him to stop talking and Dylan says she has no right to take away his freedom of speech, he refuses to do this work, told the teacher she is horrible at her job! HE IS A NIGHTMARE. I got him on the phone and told him he had better keep his &%&)%$(&)^% mouth shut and i mean NOW! So what do I do know that I blew it again? Strip his room to a mattress and make him earn every piece back? Or take everything and give it all back when he is done with this school or what? I still have no idea what the heck I am doing. All I know is he is killing me and I see no change. I am so upset. 


Hi S.,

10 days is too long. You said you’re following the plan, but I recommend a 1 - 3 day discipline – not 10. 

For behavior modification to work, the program must have certain properties:
  1. A few important behaviors need to be targeted. Rather than targeting "being good," you might try “no talking in class.”
  2. It must be consistent. There is no bending of rules in this sort of thing: no difference between the mom or dad or teacher.
  3. It should be simple and straightforward so that your child easily understands it. If your child can read, it should be written down. If possible, your child should sign it and agree to it.
  4. The behavior must be clear cut and not fuzzy. Things like "listen when I tell you something" won't work, because it is too unclear. A better idea would be, "If you choose to ______________, then you’ll choose to be grounded for 3 days with no game privileges."
  5. The rewards and punishments need to be geared to the individual.
  6. The rewards should not be money or things that are bought, but rather should be privileges, which you can grant or activities, which the child can do. Behavior Modification should not require a bank loan.
  7. There needs to be an even mix of negative and positive reinforcers. A typical Positive one would be a later bedtime on the weekend or a choice of dinner. A typical negative one would be going to your room or no ps2.
Here are some examples of good vs. bad behavior modification programs:
D___ talks in class when he is not supposed to. This drives his parent nuts and she would like to kill him when he comes home. The behavior she wants is to have D___ not talk during class.
The Assertive Parent-- The positive reinforcer would be if he does not talk during class for 5 days, he can have a friend stay over and they can stay up late. The negative reinforcer would be that if the parent gets another complaint from school, D___ will be grounded for 3 days with no games.

The Passive Parent --If you don’t talk in class, I will pay you five dollars or you will be able to stay up as late as you want at our house that night. If you DO talk in class, nothing bad will happen.

The Aggressive Parent --The next time I get a call from school, you’ll be grounded for 10 days.

Another important point is to AVOID POWER STRUGGLES AT ALL COST. One of the reasons you continue to struggle with D___ is because you are in a power struggle with him. Kids ALWAYS win power struggles because they have less to lose in the long run. Power struggles create distance and hostility instead of closeness and trust. Distance and hostility create resentment, resistance, rebellion (or compliance with lowered self-esteem). Closeness and trust create a safe learning environment. You have a positive influence only in an atmosphere of closeness and trust where there is no fear of blame, shame or pain.

I have never seen a power drunk child without a power drunk adult real close by. Adults need to remove themselves from the power struggle without winning or giving in. Create a win/win environment. HOW?

The following suggestions teach children important life skills including self-discipline, responsibility, cooperation and problem-solving skills -- instead of "approval junkie" compliance or rebellion:
  • Be consistent with the limits and rules.
  • Determine what the consequences will be before an inappropriate behavior happens.
  • Expect non-compliance. Testing the limits is normal behavior for a teenager.
  • Learn to speak in a calm but firm tone. Keep the lines of communication open. Yelling and screaming never helps.
  • Listen to their feelings and keep an open mind. You still have the ability to say no, so why not listen to what they have to say.
  • Stay rational – you are the adult. If need be, take a 'time out' yourself.
  • Take deep breaths, count back from 100, and remember the goal is to have a happy, healthy young adult when you are done.
  • Use an Action Plan (see below) if necessary.
  • Use natural and logical consequences (see below). Be firm and stick with them.

Here’s an example of an Action Plan. Let’s use the example of Internet use:

Internet Privileges

I know that the World Wide Web is not a toy. It is as interesting, and dangerous as being able to walk down any street, in any town or city, in the world. It reflects all parts of life today, which is fascinating and scary.
  1. In order to have the privilege of using the World Wide Web, I need to follow these rules, so I can keep myself and my family safe.
  2. I will never give out personal information to anyone online, including but not limited to:
    • my full name, or anyone else's
    • my address, or anyone else's
    • my passwords, or anyone else's
    • my phone number, or anyone else's
  3. I will always be polite when chatting online, I will treat them with the respect that I expect to be given. If I am treated unkindly, I will not reciprocate in the same manner. I will leave the chat room if I get too angry.
  4. I will never personally meet anyone I have meet online without the permission of my parents. If this opportunity should arise, I fully expect my parents to come to the meeting.
  5. I will never call anyone I have met online without the permission of my parents.
  6. I will report all incidents in chat rooms to my parents and to the room administrators.
  7. I will not go surfing in areas that are not appropriate including, but not limited to websites:
    • that are of a sexual nature
    • that promote hate
    • that are offensive in language
    • that are of a violent nature
  8. I will not go surfing around looking for new places without my parents permission.
  9. I will follow these rules whether I am at home, at school, or at a friends. If my friend is not following these rules, I will leave.
  10. I will not purchase anything online without permission of my parents. If I do not follow these rules I expect that (here's where you put the consequence, ie... to lose computer privileges for one week.)

Child's Signature:__________________________________

Parent's Signature:________________________________


Deciding Between Natural or Logical Consequences—

When parents want their children to learn from their mistakes, they have the choice of allowing the child to deal with the natural consequences or set up logical consequences. But how do you choose between the two types of consequences? When is one more effective than the other?

When natural consequences are immediate they are very effective. If your teen touches a hot pot, he/she will get burned and is not likely to do that again. Many times, however, natural consequences are not immediate or are too dangerous to allow. Running into the street without looking does not always have immediate consequences. Either does not wearing a seat belt when driving. Both actions, though, could have dire natural consequences that no one wants. Therefore, the natural consequences aren’t what a parent should use to teach their teen the responsibility of their own safety and it is up to the parents to sort out a logical consequence that will promote the desired behavior – in this instance not running into the street without looking or wearing a seatbelt.

Another instance of when logical consequences will be more effective than natural consequences is while your teen is getting a high school education. The benefits of good grades in school are so far off into the future that teens do not fully comprehend them. While your teen can repeat what he/she has been told: ‘good grades will get you into a good college and you’ll make more money’, until he/she sees the type of job or paycheck a college education can get, he/she will not understand the difference. Logical consequences, including rewards for good grades and privileges taken for poor grades work best as your teen can fully understand these.

There are times when the natural consequence is the better choice for the parent to make. One excellent example is when your teen is dating or making friends. Finding out what type of person your teen wants to be with and how your teen wants to be treated is going to be his/her choice. Dating or making friends with someone who isn’t his/her type is going to show that to him/her. Barring any mistreatment from a friend or a date, parents will need to hold their tongue and refrain from giving their opinions in order to let the natural consequences – positive or negative – happen.

Discipline choices are never easy. Hopefully knowing the difference between natural and logical consequences will help you make the right choices for you and your son.

Mark Hutten, M.A.



Thanks Mark!

I agree the 10days is too long and against the programs suggestions - I chose the 10days more out of pressure from my live in boyfriend that is more of the opinion that my son should be grounded for a month for getting into alternative school with nothing but a bed in his room and not allowed to leave his room other than to eat so the 10days (the length he is in this school) was more of a peace maker on my own part (yes there are other issues at play here). But since that is what I told my son I figured it better for me to stick to it even though I know its too long rather than backing out of it like I typically have done in the past. I know next time the importance of keeping it simple and the boyfriend will have to deal with it.

Last night I decided the discipline for refusing to do his work at school and talking back and arguing with the teacher would be him losing the privilege of his TV and stereo for 2 days. I told him he can earn those privileges back in 2 days by 1. doing his work as requested in school and 2. not getting into a verbal confrontation with anyone at school (teacher, student- no one!) I did explain to him that if he chooses not to do what is required the 2 days will start over. I then told him he must go clean his room until dinner was done then he could shower and go to bed for the night. He took it very well and before he went to bed he apologized to me for how he acted at school. I told him I loved him and asked him to sit down for a minute. I told him that I wanted him to understand that freedom of speech is a blessing we have in this country and our forefathers did not intend that right to be used as an excuse to be hurtful and disrespectful to people. I let him know freedom of speech was created so people could not be imprisoned for speaking their beliefs however it does not protect those from being punished if they use speech to disrupt the public or harass people. He seemed to really listen - I hope he gets it!!

I emailed his teacher today and told her what his discipline is and asked her if she could please let me know if D___ is doing the 2 things required to earn his tv and stereo back. I guess for the ps2 and computer I need to stick to giving them back after the 10 days is up since that is what I told him???

So I know I have blown it a few times but I am still trying :) I have faith and hope but boy I do get discouraged sometimes. I appreciate your patience with that. I have never really had someone try to help me in a productive way. I have been told "YOU NEED TO BE A PARENT" and "YOU NEED TO GET HIM UNDERCONTROL" and that has been the so called help I have gotten so far. So I thank you! I am still doing the online course but find my self having to go back quit a bit- I guess that is ok until I get it?

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