HELP FOR PARENTS WITH STRONG-WILLED, OUT-OF-CONTROL CHILDREN AND ADOLESCENTS

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

We're expecting a battle...

Hi Mark,

We're expecting a battle on our hands as the 3-day grounding has just been imposed. My daughter scoffed when she was told last night, even though we had already warned her that if she chose the behaviour, she chose the consequence. How long do we keep starting it from day 1 if she refuses to see the 3 days through?

At 4 o'clock this morning I woke up to some noise and found that she had taken one of the computer monitors from the study room (we have 2 which my husband needs for his work) and was trying to fix up an old CPU so that she could set it up in her bedroom. We have always made it clear to the kids that no computers will be allowed in bedrooms. I told her that I expected her to put everything back the way she had found it. It was still in her bedroom this morning before I left for work and she was asleep so I left her a note.

Should we just stick to the 3-day grounding for the initial reason or impose additional restrictions for this new situation?

J.

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Hi J.,

Re: Should we just stick to the 3-day grounding for the initial reason...?

Yes, absolutely!

There are several important factors to consider when implementing the 3-day discipline. These factors are outlined on the page entitled The Art of Saying ‘Yes’ and The Art of Saying ‘No’ where you see Points To Keep In Mind [online version of the eBook].

Also, be sure to read the answer to How Do You Eat An Elephant?

Mark

My Out-of-Control Teen

He has tried everything in the book...

Hi Mark,

Wondering if you can advise me if what is happening in our house is in the realm of normal with the out of control teen.

We are into the 3rd week and are using the anger control etc. He was grounded last week and came off it on Sunday. Monday morning arrived and by 8.00am he was grounded again for refusing to get in the car to go to school with other contributing factors as well. He was furious! This afternoon he has been highly defiant, the annoying he loves to do towards us has intensified with threats to go along with it. I guess he feels he is not winning and is pulling out all the stops. My husband and I have remained calm throughout!! - amazing -when we are tried to our limits and beyond! He has remarked that the grounding is too harsh, etc etc.

He has tried everything in the book and now refuses to do his homework. I told him that was fine it was up to him if he wanted to fail. He said he can't see why we are treating him like this. I replied that it is his choice if he wants to be grounded - he can decide when he doesn't want to be grounded any more. Is there anything I should be doing differently or are we on the right track.

Thanks for your help (HELP!) From a desperate mother!

J.

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Hi J.,

I think you are greatly on track. I’m not sure how long he was grounded last week – or this most recent time.

Just bear in mind that we want to start with the least restrictive consequence first. For example, grounding for one evening with no iPod. If he refuses to accept the least restrictive consequence, then you boost the consequence to 3 days with NO privileges.

Don’t pull out your big guns too soon. Start small …let him decide to choose the small consequence or a larger one.

Mark

My Out-of-Control Teen

My husband and I are psychotic...

First of all, my son refused to sit down. I asked him to do so twice, and it made for a very uncomfortable situation. But, on we went anyways.

We are all given choices in life. And it is up to each of us to face the consequences of whatever those choices may be.

For example, if I choose to drive my car too fast, I may or may not get caught, but if I do get caught, I am sure that I will get a speeding ticket, and I have no one to blame buy myself.

That is responsibility.

Freedom comes with responsibility. That is the price of freedom.

Do you agree?

When Dad and I told you that you could not go to Ray's party, (because you lied (your choice) you decided to act out. You decided to destroy your bedroom, after I had it fixed up and painted. You decided to punish us?

Do you agree?

Well, you thought you painted us into a corner…

If anyone is painted into a corner, the first thing they do is to try to find a way out?

Do you agree?

Well, as a consequence of your behavior, Dad and I chose to go to District Court and apply for a CHINS. It is a court hearing for teenagers who choose to be rebellious. On Tuesday we will be going to speak with a judge in regards to your choice to be rebellious. This is only a hearing. If you choose to come with us and cooperate, the judge will speak to you and explain consequences to rebellious behavior, such as destroying our property. If you choose not to go, you will have to be escorted/ and /or arrested. This is very serious.

The outcome of the conversation is that my husband and I are psychotic. The biggest thing that we can take away from him, is his opportunity to get his permit. Why should we give him his license or permit when he can't be trusted.

This is the consequence of his behavior. His attitude and lack of respect for either of us is a real issue here. So, we are letting the dust settle this evening. He can earn it back if he changes his attitude.

So, we decided to go to court, just so he will sit down and listen to us, and what we have to say. If he would have sat down this evening, I would not have had to go this far. Consequences to poor behavior.

Please let me know what you think? Your opinion is very valuable during this process.

Sincerely,

C.

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Hi C.,

Wonderful job.

I do have a couple comments.

At one point, you said, "He can earn it back if he changes his attitude." This is fairly vague. You need to be more specific when conveying to your son exactly what he must do to earn his permit.

If I were to videotape him having a "change of attitude," what would I see? Would I see that he's not using profanity ...not raising his voice in anger ...not tearing up furniture ...what?

Whatever it is, state it. Be very specific. For example, "You will be allowed to get your permit in 7 days if you (a) get home by curfew, (b) avoid calling me names, and (c) do not damage any property."

I'm just using the above statement as an example. You'll come up with something that actually applies to your particular circumstances.

Re: sitting down.

This is turning into a power struggle. If he wants to stand, let him.

Pick your battles carefully. You have bigger fish to fry than whether or not he is sitting.

My last point is this. We as parents want to foster the development of self-reliance in our children. Thus, the question becomes, If I do not allow my son to get his permit, will those foster the development of self-reliance - or inhibit such development?

Clearly, it will inhibit self-reliance. As such, I strongly recommend that do not lengthen the consequence (i.e., no permit) beyond a 7-day time limit. If the consequence goes longer than 7 days, your son will not be able to see light at the end of the tunnel and will likely feel as though he has nothing else to lose (a dangerous frame of mind to be in).

Mark

Online Parent Support

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Mark,

Thank you so much for your input. I am listening to you and implementing your ideas. So, rest assured you have an open ear with me.

It was difficult to talk last night, because he would not sit down.

Last night, after the conversation, he was angry. I reminded him that I loved him very much, and that this court thing had to be taken care of. We were not sure if we could cancel it, and that he had to know what was coming.

He felt it was stupid. What did he do?

I remained calm when he called me psychotic, and told him he was entitled to his opinion, but that I knew that I was not psychotic. The fizz went out of the battle.

My husband was able to cancel the CHINS appointment, and I would rather have it that way. I don't want an intermediary.

I will get more specific on "change of attitude". Also, the permit issue. I understand what you are saying …will get more specific.

Thanks so much for your time.

I love your book, and your input, ideas, etc.

We caught him using drugs...

Hi,

My son is 15 years old and is out of control. After we caught him using drugs in 9th grade. By the time he was in 9th grade, his grades fell etc. At that time, I asked him if he was glad he was caught, he said that he was. He even went to stay with his Aunt and cousins to get away from the influences, etc.

He came back home six months ago, and has been doing well for the most part. However, he is still acting out and has been hooking up with his old buddies again, which makes me very nervous. I started with my poker face, and have been plugging along.

When we said no to hanging out with his friend, he proceeded to destroy his room. My husband and I actually locked our bedroom door at night. We just didn't know what to think. And I went to court to file a CHINS.

This weekend he is at his Aunts house, and it is quiet, calm, and I can think. I intend to talk to him about the CHINS and explain why I did it. I want to give this program a shot. Even if we go to court, it is only to let him know that we are not afraid to call the police
if need be. It is not a scare tactic, it is a reality at this point in time. He continues to push and lie, and on it goes.

When I speak to him about the changes we are making due to this program, is when I will also bring up CHINS. Even if I use it as a parenting mistake, he will have something to think about.

I am being cautious not to be deceived by his behavior any longer. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

C.

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Hi C.,

I’d say you’re right on track. Just be sure to word the warning exactly as follows: If you choose to _____________ (the poor choice goes here), you’ll choose the consequence, which is __________ (the consequence goes here). Then be sure to follow through with the stated consequence in the event he makes the poor choice.

Also, when issuing the above warning, do not provide any intensity (e.g., lecturing, threatening, getting angry, etc.). Otherwise, your son will turn it into a game (i.e., he’ll push the limits just to get another reaction out of you).

Stay tough …your son will benefit.

Mark

My Out-of-Control Teen

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Mark-

Thanks for your input. What happened is when that behavior went so out of control, I went to the court and set up the hearing. Now, since it is on Tuesday, I am not sure if we can get out of it. So...............that is why I am letting him know about it. He has to go, or they will come get him.

He is such a player that he drove me to do this. I became resolved to do whatever it takes to put an end to bad behavior.

I plan to begin by talking about choices. We all make choices. I could choose to speed in my car, but the consequences are that I would get a ticket. You made a choice to destroy your bedroom. to lie to us, be sneaky, etc. These choices have consequences.

Yesterday began with a simple discussion about blue jeans. He destroyed a pair of his jeans while working. I suggested that he should not throw them out because he made need them next time he works, etc. He got defensive. Instead of blowing up, I remembered the discussion about pain. In order to be heard, I calmly said, I just don't want you to ruin another pair, since they cost money.

Afterwards, he apologized to me for getting upset.

He knows that we are changing, but he does not know the extent of it. He will know tonight. I thank you again for your time.

C.

20-years-old ...and still living at home.

Thank you Mark!

This book is full of great info… I wish I had read it sooner.

My son is 20 years old now with the mentality of 16. He moved with his father with all the great dreams of how he can start fresh. Unfortunately he still shows disrespect to the rules of his father's household and never at fault, being late for work, staying out late and does poorly at college. His new family is very irritated at him and his dad has been considering moving him out on his own. I am not sure if it is a great idea. He is not on drugs or alcohol, but he got some bad character traits that we as his parents keep fighting against for a long time now. What should we do?

As per my ex and myself, we have been working as a team and never fight. So, he can’t play us against each other.

I am lost. Should we just let him go and let him fall?

Any ideas?

Your advice would be greatly appreciated!

Thank you very much,

N.

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Hi N.,

Wow! This is an easy one.

Re: Should we just let him go and let him fall?

Allow me to answer this in three parts:

1. Yes
2. Absolutely
3. Definitely

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

The latest parenting challenge is dealing with emerging adults who have no intention of leaving the nest. Many 18- to 25-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 begin his own life. If your child defaults on your agreement, be willing to enforce consequences to help him launch into responsible adulthood.

Mark Hutten, M.A.

Click here for more help: My Out-of-Control Teen

Bullying

Hi Mark,

Thanks so much for your support. We are using the "Yes" and "No" responses. The "Yes" response is working a treat and I am very pleased with the results. Of course the "No" response is getting a lot of protest but we are persisting. It is working even though the child is flatly saying I will not etc. I allow him a little time to think about it and he eventually goes and does what he is told instead of accepting the consequences. Of course the hardest thing for my husband is keeping a poker face but he is improving every day.

A little off the subject - I am wondering if you have any miracle strategy for getting bullies off my son's back. My son is not street wise and is constantly "set up" etc. The school is useless at addressing the issue.

Thanks so much.

J.

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Hi J.,

Here are some other strategies to discuss with your son that can help improve the situation and make him feel better:

  • Act brave, walk away, and ignore the bully. Firmly and clearly tell the bully to stop, then walk away. Practice ways to ignore the hurtful remarks, like acting uninterested or texting someone on your cell phone. By ignoring the bully, you're showing that you don't care. Eventually, the bully will probably get bored with trying to bother you.
  • Avoid the bully and use the buddy system. Use a different bathroom if a bully is nearby and don't go to your locker when there is nobody around. Make sure you have someone with you so that you're not alone with the bully. Buddy up with a friend on the bus, in the hallways, or at recess — wherever the bully is. Offer to do the same for a friend.
  • Hold the anger. It's natural to get upset by the bully, but that's what bullies thrive on. It makes them feel more powerful. Practice not reacting by crying or looking red or upset. It takes a lot of practice, but it's a useful skill for keeping off of a bully's radar. Sometimes kids find it useful to practice "cool down" strategies such as counting to 10, writing down their angry words, taking deep breaths or walking away. Sometimes the best thing to do is to teach kids to wear a "poker face" until they are clear of any danger (smiling or laughing may provoke the bully).
  • If it feels safe, try to stand up to the person who is bullying you. If the person who is bullying you thinks you won't do anything about it, they are more likely to keep picking on you. This doesn't mean you should fight back or bully them back. Instead, tell the person bullying you that you don't like it and that they should stop! Keep it simple. You might just say, "Cut it out, Miranda!", and then walk away. If possible, try to talk to them in a calm voice. Kids who bully often like to see that they can make you upset. If you're afraid to talk to the person who is bullying you by yourself, then you might want to ask someone else to be there with you. Kids who bully are more likely to listen, and less likely to bully you, when you're with someone and not alone. If you're not comfortable standing up to someone who has bullied you, that's definitely OK! Just walk away. But be sure to tell an adult.
  • If you are being bullied on-line, don't reply. This may actually make the bullying worse. Instead, be sure to tell a family member or another adult you trust. If possible, block any more communications from this person. (For example, it might be a good idea only to accept messages from people you know.) Save evidence of the bullying. If you get a nasty e-mail, print it out or save it so that you can show it to an adult.
  • Join clubs or take part in activities where you'll meet other kids. Sometimes, it can help to join clubs or take part in activities that interest you. Think about joining a sports team, taking an art class, or joining a scouting group, for example. You can meet other kids who share your interests and you might make some good friends!

  • Remove the incentives. If the bully is demanding your lunch money, start bringing your lunch. If he's trying to get your music player, don't bring it to school.
  • Stay in a group. Kids who bully like to pick on kids who are by themselves a lot— it's easier and they're more likely to get away with their bad behavior. If you spend more time with other kids, you may not be an easy "target" and you'll have others around to help you if you get into a difficult situation!
  • Talk about it. Talk to someone you trust, such as a guidance counselor, teacher, sibling, or friend. They may offer some helpful suggestions, and even if they can't fix the situation, it may help you feel a little less alone.
  • Tell an adult. Teachers, principals, parents, and lunchroom personnel at school can all help stop bullying.

What NOT to do if you are bullied.

DON'T...

  • fight back or bully a person back. This probably won't make things any better and it might get you into big trouble. Besides, you should try to act better than the person who bullies you.
  • hurt yourself. Some kids who are bullied get so sad and depressed that they may try to hurt themselves because they think there is nothing else they can do. This definitely isn't the answer. Talk with an adult immediately and tell them how you are feeling. They can help stop the bullying.
  • keep it to yourself and just hope the bullying will "go away." It's normal to want to try to ignore bullying and hope that it will stop—or hope that the person will start to pick on someone else. But, often, bullying won't stop until adults and other kids get involved. So, be sure to report the bullying.
  • skip school or avoid clubs or sports because you're afraid of being bullied. Missing out on school or activities that you enjoy isn't the answer. You have a right to be there!
  • think it's your fault. Nobody deserves to be bullied!
  • think that you're a "tattle tale" if you tell an adult that you've been bullied. Telling is NOT tattling! It's the right thing to do.

Here’s more info on the website...

Daughter Won't Talk About What's Bothering Her

"Thanks for allowing me to join Online Parent Support. My question is how can I get my 16 year old daughter to open up about what is going on in her life. When I ask her, I get the same old response "Nothing". I can clearly see that something is terribly wrong."

This is normal. Your daughter confided in you when she was young, but those days are gone for now. She will confide in you again when she becomes a mother herself someday.

It sounds like she may be depressed. But again, this is a fairly normal emotion – especially for teenage girls.

Let her know that you’re there for her, fully and unconditionally. Hold back from asking a lot of questions (teenagers don’t like to feel patronized or crowded), but make it clear that you’re ready and willing to provide whatever support she needs.

Don’t give up if she shuts you out at first. Talking about depression can be very tough for teens. Be respectful of your child’s comfort level while still emphasizing your concern and willingness to listen.

Resist any urge to criticize or pass judgment once she begins to talk. The important thing is that your child is communicating. Avoid offering unsolicited advice or ultimatums as well.

Don’t try to talk her out of her depression, even if her feelings or concerns appear silly or irrational to you. Simply acknowledge the pain and sadness she is feeling. If you don’t, she will feel like you don’t take her emotions seriously.

If your daughter claims nothing is wrong, but has no explanation for what is causing the depressed behavior -- and she starts talking about suicide -- you should trust your instincts. Remember that denial is a strong emotion. Furthermore, teenagers may not believe that what they’re experiencing is the result of depression. If you see depression’s warning signs, seek professional help. Neither you nor your teen is qualified to either diagnosis depression or rule it out, so see a doctor or psychologist who can.

My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents

Do you need help disciplining your child?



Do you need help disciplining your child? If you're constantly arguing and fighting with someone more than half your age, tune in for a "Reality Check" with Life Coach and Contributing Author for MyOutOfControlTeen.com, Chandra Alexander, and learn why when you feel out of control - your child will be out of control as well.

1. If you have boundaries and discipline, so will your child. Boundaries make children feel safe.

2. Both parents need to be consistent and in sync with one another - children naturally play one against the other.

3. Do not say you are going to do something and then not do it. Children listen when they respect.

Online Parent Support

Ex-Husband Undermines Mother's Parenting Efforts

I have a 13 year old son, who has ADD and ODD. His father and I are divorced. D has 2 sisters ages 22 and 18. We had been going to a wonderful Doctor who was helping both houses deal with the issues that D has and giving us the skills you speak of. He wanted certain things to be the same in each house, but then the houses would run differently based upon each parent.

It was working so well and everyone has seen such a huge change in D. Unfortunately, his father could not follow the program and was not following it in his house. I was and the conflicts were dealt with and D was less defiant etc... There was harmony for the first time.

This was the third therapist, and was the only one of the 3 that was able to figure out why my ex husband has undermined and sabotaged each and every one of them. We are under and have been under the court order for the kids to seek therapy, and each time my ex would not make the appointments, not listen to the advice of the therapist, and tell the kids that they didn't need therapy etc...

He didn't know who to believe after each of us had our initial meeting at the beginning back in April 2007. Our 3rd doctor, was able to take my son out of the middle by being the go between for myself and my ex and try and see which parent actually was telling the truth and who would follow through or not. Well, he apologized to me for not believing me from the start, as I was the one that followed through and dove into the program. It was hard, but I knew that I had no other choice if I wanted to be able to survive with my son.

He was doing his chores on his own, would listen when and if he had to have the consequences for not doing homework, chores, talking back or being rude etc...

He was 14 assignments behind, as part of the program was to let him suffer the consequences of his own doing. That was one of the most difficult things I had to do. Knowing that he was not doing his homework, but I did it. My ex went on his honeymoon and I had D for 2 weeks. D got caught up in that time span with all of his homework, but I was called all the names in the book for following through and not letting him practice or play soccer (as this was one of the consequences spelled out). My ex got back from his trip and in less than 48 hours, dismantled 6 months worth of work, by letting D go to soccer when his rough draft of his major report was to have been completed before the soccer game.

I had a funny suspicion that he was not going to follow through and I contacted the doctor to let him know what I was feeling. He contacted my ex at 2:30pm, and was assured the doctor that D was not going to be going to soccer that day.

The next day my ex, his new wife and D had an appointment with Dr. M and they all sat there and did not mention to him that D had played in his soccer game the day before (his rough draft was not completed) letting Dr. M think that D did not go to soccer.

Dr. M once he found out that he was lied to, tried to get my ex to come back in and get back on track with the program. He refused to, so Dr. M had no choice but to terminate.

Oh, by the way Dr. M figured out that my ex portrays himself on other people. Example: Tells people that I am the bad parent, when it really is he that is the bad parent.

I also just found out from both of my daughters that their father was telling them starting at the age of 8 or 9 that I didn't love them, and that he was the one that raised them. Now he is doing this to my son. The girls have stated that they were brainwashed by him, which I had been saying all along. All 3 of the kids all have said the same lines, which came directly from their father.

So, my question(s) to you are how do I get back on track in my house, when dad has undermined my efforts in my house to follow the program?

D will not listen or do anything in my house. He wants me to ask him nicely each time I want him to take out the garbage, recycling etc... When I try to send him in his room for speaking to me so disrespectfully he refuses.

D is on a 50/50 split, which I believe is the worst thing for him, as he is now stuck in the middle once again. When we were with Dr. M, D was out of the middle and was able to have a 3 neutral party to find out what parent was actually telling the truth and which one of us did what they said they would do. Because D was able to finally know and see what his father was doing, I believe his father did not like D telling knowing that he was the one that couldn't follow through, was a wimp in D's eyes and D knew that he could make his father do what he wanted him to do. For this reason and others, his father really bucked Dr. M and the program. I have now found out that his father only followed through with D and consequences once in the entire 6 months.

Help if you can. I am open to suggestions.

Sorry for the long e-mail, but I am so afraid for my son if we continue this way.

Sincerely,

S.,

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Hi S.,

Re: … how do I get back on track in my house, when dad has undermined my efforts in my house to follow the program?

There are some families in which the parents’ beliefs about changing children’s behavior are so different that their attempts at discipline become more of a problem than a solution. A child whose mother is strict but whose father is a consistent pushover, for example, receives confusing information about what’s expected.

A parent who gives in to his children’s every demand in the hope of satisfying them almost always finds that the opposite happens: Instead of letting up, the children continue to push for more and more, looking for a sign of how much is too much.

A similar thing happens if the parents cannot decide how to discipline and set limits on their children. It’s healthy for children to see how their parents reach a compromise or settle a disagreement if it’s done peacefully and effectively. But if the parents can’t reach an agreement, the children’s behavior often gets worse as they search for the reassurance of stable boundaries to their lives.

In those situations, the main issue of using discipline to teach children appropriate behavior gets lost in the battles between parents for an illusion of control. The children become confused and respond by continuing to act out, both to assert their own power and to figure out which rules are really important.

Realize that disagreeing with your ex about child discipline is normal and inevitable. It doesn’t mean that you are incompatible as parents. It does mean that you are not clones of each other. Don’t let lack of agreement evolve into more than it is. Agree to disagree.

Unfair fighting is never a good life lesson. Witnessing parents sniping, bullying, screaming or giving the cold shoulder is frightening to children, and teaches them to avoid or to abuse disagreements. Don’t go there, no matter how tempting it is to hit below the belt.

Decide in advance (as in right now!) what’s really important in your family. I’m sure that you and your ex can agree on at least a handful of issues that you’ll always concur are important and should be handled in a certain manner. Many families consider health (ranging from wearing bicycle helmets to banning substance use), education (completing class work and homework in an appropriate manner), respect (at home, school and in the public), and honesty to be “givens.”

The bottom line is that the best disciplinary decision is made, not who made it. This is not about notches in the gun belt — it’s about giving consequences that will lower the child’s frequency of inappropriate behavior and raise the odds of acceptable behavior in the future, pure and simple. If you feel that your ex is working against you, try giving a preset signal that means “we need to talk.”

Forming a united front on discipline is often more easily said than done. Here are some ideas that may help:

Don’t be trapped by your past. That includes both your own childhood and the style of discipline you may have used in an earlier marriage. Look for ways to explore, with your ex, your unquestioned assumptions about disciplining children. One good way to do that is to take a parenting class together. That does two things: It helps you realize how differently other people respond to the same situations you face as parents, and it gives you and your ex a common base of information from which to develop your shared approaches to discipline.

Be prepared for behavioral problems. Remember that many changes in children’s behaviors are linked to their stage of normal development. Talk ahead of time about how each of you would handle predictable situations. That way you’ll have fewer conflicts when they occur.

Agree on a signal to alert both of you that the conversation is – or is about to get — too heated and needs to be halted.

Make a commitment both to honor and act on the signal. You might walk away and have an agreed-upon cooling off period. Or set a time to revisit your differences in opinion. Or write down what you’re feeling and later share it with your partner, who might better understand where you’re coming from.

Create your own family “rule book.” Write clear, reasonable, attainable rules (for both parents and kids) about what behavior is acceptable and what isn’t. Your family, like a baseball team, will be more successful when you have clear guidelines.

Remember your successes. You and your ex have undoubtedly successfully negotiated many situations – with each of you both giving and taking a little until you reached some middle ground. You also be successful at ending arguments in front of the children if you really want to. It won’t be easy, but it will be rewarding. And your children will be the ultimate winners.

Having said all that, it’s important not to go overboard in trying to avoid arguments. Having small squabbles in front of the kids – and then resolving them peacefully – can actually be good for them; it shows that it’s possible to disagree with someone, and that relationships don’t end just because people are quarreling with each other.

Lastly, a weaker plan supported by both parents is much better than a stronger plan supported by only one parent.

Mark Hutten, M.A.

JOIN Online Parent Support

She’s 14 and extremely difficult. ..

Hi Mark,

I’ve spent most of my day on your website, you have some wonderful information there. I will be doing the lessons week by week, but I admit to reading ahead. What I have not come across is any solution to what if the child does everything in their power to keep you from taking their things.. for example.. My daughter right now is without internet access, no cell and no t.v but she has an Itouch that she claims is in her locker, however I know it’s not, I’ve gone to her room and searched it to no avail. There are even times where she won’t actually hand over the things and I try not to let it get physical but it does sometimes. I took her computer power cord and she threw the keyboard across room smashing it into pieces. I told her she would not get another one until she paid for it herself. But I know she’s got that itouch somewhere. She’s 14 and extremely difficult.

Thanks!

L.

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Hi L.,

This type of issue is addressed in the Anger Management chapter [Online Version]. But I do not recommend trying to implement a bunch on new parenting changes too quickly.

It sounds like you are in a power struggle over the Itouch. The more you focus on it, the more it becomes an interesting cat-and-mouse game to your daughter.

The best thing to do at this point is to simply continue to work the program one week at a time. Email me if you need any clarification once you’ve digested most of the material.

I look forward to hearing back,

Mark

Online Parent Support

I am not sure where we should go now...

---Hi M.… please look for my comments throughout your email below:

Thank you for your previous email. I know you said things will get worse and they have and I am not sure where we should go now… Our son is 17 years old and has just recently had more behavioral issues….we have had them all along but now they are getting more out of control and it is starting to have more of an impact on the entire family.

We have been working on assignments 1 and 2 and things were good for a while until yesterday. House rule is he is not allowed to sleep over at his girlfriend’s house and curfew is at 11pm. He went to an 18 and under club and was suppose to come home after (we knew it might be later than his curfew) instead went to his girlfriend’s house and when we called at 12:30 am her dad said he was asleep. My husband went over to get him to come home when things got bad and my husband threatened to call the police. Her dad intervened and our son left reluctantly.

Situation worsened at home and he won’t let us even say anything to him…even after a suggested time out on our part. We did not yell or raise our voice and we used a poker face but he won’t even look at us. How do you get your child to let you get a word in ... he just keeps talking and yelling…we get “shut up, I’m not talking to you…I don’t care and I hate you… I’ll walk out and you will never see me again…”

---Actually your son was right, you should have shut up (no offense). What I mean is, he knows what the rules are, and he knows he violated a house rule. There is nothing that needed to be said …and nothing that should have been said. When these situations arise, do not do any of the following:

  1. Explain your decision
  2. Defend your position
  3. Attempt to “reason with” your son
  4. Lecture (e.g., trying to “get a word in”)
  5. Argue
  6. Display any emotion whatsoever (e.g., anger, frustration, irritation, worry, concern, fear, etc.)
  7. Fall for the accompanying manipulation strategies that your son is likely to employ

…if we tell him a consequence is that he will not get his cell phone then he says “Oh well, you will never here from me again”.

---Bullshit.

Do we tell him that is his choice?

---Yes.

Now I can’t even get the consequences in? Does he have to acknowledge that he heard the consequence?

---No.

How can we change house rules at this point…he left already this morning 5am to go to her house and said he would be back at 11pm. Those were the past house rules…do we impose a discipline anyway? When do you involve the police? Please let me know what you suggest I can’t live like this and I don’t want to push him out the door but I guess that would be his choice? Thank you for your time.

---I can see that your son successfully accomplished the goal of getting you to chase your tail.

Please refer to the strategy entitled “When You Want Something From Your Kid” [Anger Management Chapter – Online Version of the eBook]. This is the technique you’ll need to use in the future. If you need any clarification on this technique, do not hesitate to email me again.

Hang in there. I think you are beginning to see a bit of success, even though it’s not traceable at the moment.

Mark

My Out-of-Control Teen

My son is in a rage...

I cannot get beyond week #1 intro [of the program]. My son is in a rage ever since I refused to allow him to go to a party that I knew would include some of his old "druggie" friends. Some police friends have suggested placing a CHINS order (in MASS) on him through the court to scare him into compliance but I am nervous about having court involvement.

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Hi H.,

1st Do not allow anything to get in the way of you completing the 4-week program. Keep moving forward! Change is hard. Your son’s resistance is expected.

2nd Do not get cold feet just because he’s having a temper tantrum. Stand your ground. This is tough love. If you are willing to suffer through a few weeks of pain associated with the positive change that’s coming, then you’ll get over the hump and begin to see a gradual reduction in the intensity and severity of the parent-child conflict.

3rd I doubt that he would qualify for CHINS. I wouldn’t waste time with it. Your police friends are suggesting that your use fear-based motivation with your son. Fear-based motivation is just another traditional parenting strategy that will have no positive outcome - and could make a bad problem worse.

4th Let him have his “mad time.” Is he destroys property or becomes physically aggressive, then you absolutely must be willing to (a) call police and file a report and (b) go to your local juvenile probation department and file a complaint. Anything less than this is using half-measures, which WILL be the kiss of failure.

Mark

My Out-of-Control Teen

When You Disapprove of Your Daughter's Boyfriend

"We have a beautiful seventeen year old daughter who has just started to become rebellious. Her grades have been up and down over the past several years. She currently is doing okay (all b’s and c’s). However, she will only be attending junior college because her grades aren’t good enough for a state school. Our biggest issues have been a boyfriend last year who we did not approve of and eventually ended the relationship for her because we were concerned for her safety. This year we caught her online talking to a new boy very late at night and a text messaging session that was sexual in nature with the phone in her bed after midnight. As a result, we told her that she was no longer allowed to see him. We feel very lucky that she has not been experimenting with alcohol or drugs. Her only “brush with the law” has been a speeding ticket in February. However, she has insisted on maintaining a relationship with this new boy and caused such a scene yesterday because I refused to let her hang out with him that I had to cancel her senior portraits. I don’t think we are probably in as severe a situation as many of your clients, but I’m wondering if your program is appropriate for our situation. Any information you have will be helpful."


All parents dread the day when their son or daughter comes home with a new love interest. There will be many relationships that you know will not work out. And while you might be tempted to share your opinion with your child, I would suggest you don’t.

One point I can’t stress enough is to never tell your child you disapprove of her boyfriend. This will only make her that much more attracted to him. If she asks your opinion, you can say that the boy isn’t the person you would have chosen for her, but it’s her life and she has to figure that out for herself.

If you keep telling her how bad of a person her new fling is, he could turn out to be your son-in-law. I know this from first hand experience. My wife hated my daughter’s high school boyfriend - even forbid her from seeing him. All this did was make her want to see him even more. At one point my daughter said to me, “When my boyfriend and me would have disagreements, I would not see that the relationship wasn’t working. I would only see that I had to make it work to keep mom from knowing she was right about him all along.”

Boy teenagers can be hardheaded and stubborn. This can also lead to trouble. Some girls might stay in a relationship that is abusive either mentally or physically just to avoid hearing “I told you so” from her parents. Arguing over boyfriends can cause a great strain on the relationship with your child and keep her from being open with you about other things.

You have a Romeo and Juliet phenomenon on your hands that will need to be diffused (if not, they will work harder at sneaking rendezvous behind your back).

Unfortunately, if your daughter wants to be with someone, she'll find a way -- no matter what you say or do. Parents can only guide their children in the right direction and hope for the best. If they do a good job, their daughter will make the right decision all on her own. Since you will not be successful at keeping those two apart, you must adopt a philosophy of “if you can’t beat ‘em - join ‘em.” In other words, they should be able to see one another within limits, and you decide what those limits are. Maybe your limits will look something like this:
  • They can be together at your house only during those times that you are home and can monitor their behavior (if not, he has to leave)
  • Or you could schedule some activity for them in which you would be a distant chaperon (e.g., take them to a shopping plaza and tell them to meet you back at the pizza place in exactly one hour)
  • Or your daughter is allowed to go over to her boyfriend’s house for a designated time period (if she violates the time limit, there is a consequence that is commensurate with the “crime”)

Figure out a way for your daughter to see her boyfriend in a way that will keep her safe. This is the best you will be able to do. Otherwise, you are likely to get sucked into weeks – if not months – of power struggles.

My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents

I work with families in their home when a report of abuse has been made...

Hi Mark,

I’m glad have purchased your book on “My out of control Teen.” I am actually a survivor of raising my own teens. One was gifted and one was learning disabled. What I do now is work with families in their home when a report of abuse has been made. I do intensive therapy with them for about 90 days 3-6 hours a week. I have found your book to help me help them in ways to ease the tension that has built up for a long time. The family that guided me to your book was a family with different mental illnesses (hate the labeling). Anyway I just want to thank you for your help and support. Parent’s need this kind of support since raising children is much harder now then in the past.

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Hi S.,

I'm glad that you are working with families this intensely. Feel free to use me as a consultant if need be.

Mark

My Out-of-Control Teen

Dealing With Teen Girls Who Run Away From Home

Hi Mark,

I’m sure you’ve heard it all before when it comes to teens etc everything you state in you initial page about teens and their out of control behaviour really does apply to my 15 year old girl…. And I do mean ALL of it. So thank you firstly for being a point of contact and believe me that I will do everything to gain more knowledge and power within my own family unit to enable my daughter to be able to make better choices in her life.

One question I do have is concerning persistent runaways – my 15 year old has runaway from home 5 times we had the police, authorities and even the school involved with trying to “help” her but to no avail, after the fourth time I ended up packing up and moving 1400 km away from everything we had known even becoming separated from her father (who she initially blamed for running away) thinking that a fresh start would help – obviously this hasn’t helped as the initial problem is still there (now she admits that it wasn’t anything to do with her father) and has not been dealt with effectively….

After only 5 weeks of being here, she is fighting and in trouble at school even a threat of suspension – has had ignored my “consequence” of not being able to go and stay over at her friends house for her continued violent and aggressive behaviour, instead smashed up her room, cussed as me with a fair few profanities and simply walked out stealing money and cigarettes on the way out!

I have not on this occasion contacted the police as I have previous times, instead I issued an ultimatum via text message (she wont answer my calls) that if she did not return by 6.30pm then the police would be called. She texted back to say she was fine and will return home in 2 days when she’s calmed down!!! I issued the ultimatum again…… and left it – as I say needless to say she has not returned and I have not contacted the police yet. The question is how do I deal with her on her return?????????

I need to get this right from the very start.

Thank you

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Hi L.,

Teens run for a multitude of reasons:
  1. To avoid an emotional experience or consequence that they are expecting as a result of a parental, sibling, friend or romantic relationship/situation.
  2. To be with other people such as friends or relatives who are supportive, encouraging and active in ways they feel are missing from their lives.
  3. To change or stop what they are doing or about to do.
  4. To escape a recurring or ongoing painful or difficult experience in their home, school or work life.
  5. To find companionship or activity in places that distract them from other problems they are dealing with.
  6. To keep from losing privileges to activities, relationships, friendships or any other things considered important or worthwhile.

As parents or guardians we strive to create positive, loving households in order to raise respectful, successful and happy adults. In order to achieve this, rules must be put in place. Teens who run away from home are often crying for attention. Some teens will attempt to run away just once, after an unusually heated argument or situation in the household, and return shortly after. More serious cases, however, happen with teens in extreme emotional turmoil.

Parents also need to be extremely aware of the symptoms, warning signs and dangers of teenage depression. Far too many teens are suffering from this disease and going untreated. Often, runaways feel they have no other choice but to leave their home, and this is in many cases related to their feelings of sadness, anger and frustration due to depression.

There are many causes of depression, and every child, regardless of social status, race, age or gender is at risk. Be aware and be understanding. To an adult juggling family and career, it may seem that a young teenager has nothing to be "depressed" about! Work for a mutual communication between the two of you. The more your teenager can confide his/her daily problems and concerns, the more you can have a positive and helpful interaction before the problems overwhelm them.

Teens who become runaways will have shown symptoms and warning signs prior to running away. Knowing these signs is the first step to prevention; the second is learning how to prevent symptoms all together. Communication is KEY!

Suggestions for preventative conversation:
  1. Always use direct eye contact when speaking.
  2. Anger is difficult to subside. However, it is important to never raise your voice or yell/scream at your teen, especially when they are already doing so. A battle of strength doesn't get anyone anywhere.
  3. If both parents are involved in the conversation, it is very important to take turns, rather than gang up on your teen together. Make sure each parent allows time for your teen to speak in between.
  4. If your teen is demanding or threatening you, be sure to get professional advice or help from a qualified mental health professional.
  5. Keep a calm demeanor and insist that your teen does as well. Do not respond to their anger, but instead, wait until they are calm.
  6. Keep in mind that it is possible to agree with your teen, without doing whatever they want you to. For example, you might agree that there are little differences between 17 year-olds and 21 year-olds, but that doesn't mean you agree with having a party serving alcohol at your house.
  7. Let's say you are sure you understand your teen's point of view and they understand you understand. If you still don't agree with their statement, tell your teen "I think I understand, but I do not agree. I want to think we can understand each other, but we don't have to agree."
  8. Make sure that you comprehend what your teen is saying, and when you do, let them know. Simply stating "I understand" can go a long way to making your teen feel as though you are respecting their feelings and thoughts, as well as taking them in to consideration.
  9. NEVER interrupt your teenager when they are speaking or trying to explain their feelings or thoughts. Even if you completely disagree, it is important to wait until they have finished. Keep in mind that just listening and using the words "I understand" does not mean that you agree or will do what they want.
  10. Never use threats or dare your teen to run away, even if you think they wouldn't do it.
  11. Refrain from using sarcasm or negativity that may come off as disrespect for your teen.
  12. Take a break if you get too overwhelmed or upset to continue the conversation with a calm attitude.
  13. Talk less, slower, and use fewer words than your teen.
  14. Under no circumstances should you use derogatory names, labels or titles such as liar, childish, immature, untrustworthy, cruel, stupid, ignorant, punk, thief or brat. Continue to be respectful of your teen, even if they have been disrespectful to you.
  15. When your teen has finished speaking, ask politely if they have anything else they'd like to talk about or share with you.

When parents begin to implement appropriate discipline for broken house rules, some children may respond by threatening to runaway from home if they do not get their way. If this occurs, defuse the situation, but do NOT threaten or challenge your child.

For example: Daughter, you know that I cannot control you. And if you really want to run away from home, I cannot stop you. I cannot watch you 24 hours a day, and I can’t lock you up in the house. But no one in the world loves you the way I do. That is why we have established these house rules. Because I love you, I cannot stand by and watch you hurt yourself by _______________ (e.g., not going to school, using drugs or alcohol, destroying house property), and running away from home will not solve the problem. You and I know it will only make matters worse.

Teens who run away are not bad. They have made a bad decision. They got themselves caught up in pressures that they felt the need to escape from. Instead of facing their problem and solving it, they chose to run from it. We need to teach our teen how to face their problems, even if the problem is us. When they have the right tools to fix some of the things that may be going on in their lives, the pressure lessens, and there is no more need for them to escape.

Every teen either has tried or knows another teen who has run away. I haven't met a teen yet who didn't know of someone's experience of running away. This can be a real problem, considering most teens will glamorize the experience.

Parents of teens who run away are not bad parents. You cannot lock them in. As much as you would like to build a wall around them, it is their choice whether or not to walk out the door.

If your teens runs:
  1. Call the Police, IMMEDIATELY! Don't wait 24 hours, do it right away.
  2. Get the name and badge number of the officer you speak with.
  3. Call back often.
  4. Call everyone your child knows and enlist their help.
  5. Search everywhere, but do not leave your phone unattended.
  6. Search your teen’s room for anything that may give you a clue as to where he went.
  7. You may also want to check your phone bill for any calls they may have made recently.

When your teen comes home:
  1. Take a break from each other. Do not start talking about it right away. Your emotions are too high at this point to get anywhere in a conversation. Go two separate directions until you both have gotten some rest.
  2. Ask and Listen. Why did they leave? You may want to evaluate a rule or two after speaking with them, but do not do so while having this talk. Tell them you are willing to think about it, and you will let them know.
  3. Tell them how you felt about them going. Let them know that they hurt you by leaving. Let them know that there isn't a problem that can't solve. If they ever feel that running away might solve something, have them talk to you first. You could always offer other choices, so they can make a better decision.
  4. Get some help. If this isn't the first time or you have problems communicating when they get back, it's time to ask for help. This could be a person that your child respects (e.g., an aunt or uncle), or you may want to seek professional help.

Mark Hutten, M.A.

My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents

Dealing With Attention-Seeking

I'm trying to do the "art of saying yes & no." My 9 yo has 10-20 request from me a day. How do I handle it when I run out of chores or ways for her to earn what she wants? It seems like she makes the same requests over and over even though the answer is always yes and has been for years. (Like can I have an after school snack.) She wants my attention from the time she gets home until bedtime. Although I spend 15-20 mins listening to her and responding thoughtfully she never gets enough. I have 2 other children I can't give her every second of my day. How do I get her to quit?


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The attention-seeking child is in need of more attention than most. She seems to have something to prove and doesn’t take as much pride intrinsically as she does extrinsically. This child may not have a sense of belonging. Try and understand the need - this child may have a low self-esteem and may need some confidence building. Sometimes the attention seeker is simply just immature.

Interventions—

· Always commend the child on her achievements.

· Provide her with a time that is just for her. Even a 2 minute period before or after dinner or a 5 minute period before bedtime that is "her time" can be very beneficial. Stick to it! Each time she looks for the attention, remind her of her specific time alone with you. In time - if you're consistent - you will see that this strategy works quite well.

· During the child's special time, take time to boost her confidence.

· Promote intrinsic motivation. Ask the child what she likes about what she did.

· Provide the child with responsibilities and a leadership role from time to time.

·Sit down with this child and explain to her that you have a number of children to work with each day.

Never forget that ALL children need to know you care about them and that they can contribute in a positive way. It took the child a long time to become an extreme seeker of attention. Be consistent, patient and understand that change will take time.

Mark

Online Parent Support

My son has been moved to a group home...

Hi Mark,

Further to my e-mail, my son has been moved to a group home dealing with kids in the juvenile justice system this weekend. We had the opportunity to pick him up and transport him (4 hours). It went pretty well, he was looking forward to getting out of the institution type setting. He will be there until May 30. We (me and his father/husband) are supportive of him, but we definitely want things to be different. Your online book so far couldn't hit closer to home. We are allowed to take him out on a weekend pass this weekend for 4-6 hours (we have to drive for 2 hours to get there). I have to admit I'm a little nervous and want to enjoy our time together without getting into conflict. I have been working through your book and am at the "high energy kid".

I was reading the part about medications for ODD & ADHD. He is on 2 types of medication and has been for 3 years. I've always been uncomfortable with it. My son does want to go off of it when he comes home and he's said he knows that at some point he has to learn to manage without it. While he was in the juvenile jail, they were going to try taking him off of it entirely and see how he manages, but they decided that this program would be more beneficial for him and didn't want to take him off once moved and have him possibly crash. Any suggestions on how to assist him on this or exploring it while he is there?

We were thinking of seeing a movie and going out for something to eat. He would like to go to the mall and have us buy him something - ie. sunglasses which he doesn't need as he has 4 pair at home. I told him I would talk to his father and of course my husband told me "have the balls to say no" - you don't need to ask me because you already no the answer.

I guess that's my issue - he always comes to me and I do have a hard time saying no especially when he "gets in my face". As I won't be able to complete the entire book by the weekend, what would you recommend in dealing with any conflict that may come up?

Also, how would you suggest handling a situation where he hangs up the phone on me because he "doesn't" like that I've said no and got mad. I had told the staff he was not allowed to smoke (he's receiving treatment). He phoned me angry and tried everything under the sun for 10 minutes (he's quit for 6 wks while in the juvenile facility and wanted to) to change my mind, but I did stick to no without getting in too much of debate. I just hate that anger and manipulation. Its easier to say no on the phone. He doesn't seem angry anymore and still calls home.

Also, my husband isn't terribly interested in reading this book and is tired of always everything focused on our son, but like I've said to him, eventually he will come home and I don't want to continue doing things the way were doing them and for the miserable life we were living. I get the rolling of the eyes and "I don't want to talk about it right now". I know I can't change him, but how does only one parent make changes and have things change. He's at a point where he would like to throw the towel in and makes comments like "he hasn't made any changes" "he's just pulling the wool over everyone's eyes"

Thanks for your help and I'll keep reading - I wish I knew this 3 years ago.

E.

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Hi E.,

Re: Any suggestions on how to assist him on this or exploring it while he is there?

I need to know exactly what medication he’s on before I can make a recommendation here. There are some drugs that you must be extremely careful with when it comes to “weaning off.”

Re: what would you recommend in dealing with any conflict that may come up?

I guess you haven’t got to the part of the program that talks about “self-reliance.”

In short, if you’re going to work the program as intended (which I know you want to do), your son must EARN everything. Thus, to buy him a pair of sunglasses goes against the grain of this program and is considered to be over-indulgence (a core issue and huge contributor to the problem).

Re: he hangs up the phone on me because he "doesn't" like that I've said no and got mad.

Pick your battles carefully. Ignore it. Move on.

Re: but how does only one parent make changes and have things change.

My good guess is that your husband is being a hard ass in response to your being too soft. If you will toughen up a bit, your husband is likely to soften up a bit. Also, keep in mind that a weaker plan supported by both of you is much better than a stronger plan supported by only one parent.

Mark

Online Parent Support

She confessed that she had some pot in her room ...

Hey Mark-

I have been following the program and for the most part things have been going pretty well lately. D did get in a little trouble one day at school but that is way better than the daily calls I was getting!!!!! He has moments but over all doing much better.

However we had a major situation happen last night that I am at a loss of how to handle it!

I came home last night and my teenage daughter (18) approached me and confessed that she had some pot in her room (which by the way was a total shock -this is the "good kid") but the reason she came to me was that it was now gone- she said she left it on her bed on accident and left the house for about 15min and when she came back it was gone.

She said the only reason she was telling me and risking being in major trouble is because she was concerned because she certainly did not want her brother or any of his 3 friends he was playing with to have it- she said they are all to young Mom and I am so sorry.

Well I approached D and he swears he knew nothing about it- that him and his friends just played outside (because no one is allowed in the house if I am not home) except for he did let 2 of the kids on separate occasion come in and use the bathroom. My daughter did say that the boys did play outside for the short time they were at the house yesterday and the only time they came in the house would have to be when she left for that short period. I searched D and his room and did not find anything. I then called the other boys mother (who is one of my best and closest friends) and told her what happened. She approached her boys and they acted shocked but she searched their rooms and did find it in one of her son’s closets.

We are at a loss as to what to do- her sons are saying that D took it and must have hidden it in his closet (because after they all played at my house they went back to the other boys house to play). D is saying he does not know anything about it period- he did not know his sister had it - he did not take it- he does not know who took it. We are at a gridlock where no one knows anything. Isn't that amazing!

My question to you is - how do you get the truth in a he said - she said situation. Do you have any tools on how to flush the truth out?

Needless to say we are all in shock and embarrassed - we are all really really good friends and its so hard that our kids have chosen to do this- hers / mine or all of them- its equally upsetting! Neither of us beleive that this was done alone and they are all in major trouble right now. BUT we are also very concerned about accusing all of them and treating all of them like lil stealing druggies if someone *is* telling the truth. One of her sons in particular has a jaded past so its easy to assume it was him - but we don’t want his past to precede him - cause its possible he did not do it- there were 4 boys after all.

We are *not* going to be passive parents on this but it very tempting to be very aggressive on this one!

The only person I know that is telling the truth - as ugly as it is- is my daughter. I am glad she did tell but I am furious that she even had it and had it in MY HOUSE and left it to where these 11-12-13 yr old kids somehow got it and it mysteriously landed in my friends kids closet!

Any idea you may have on how to find the truth would be greatly appreciated! Also how to discipline on something like this. Would this be take EVERYTHING for 3 DAYS type deal- is that too light? Also any ideas on how to earn back their privileges on something like this? We can’t say if you don’t have pot in your room for 3 days you can have your privileges - ya know? :) ... again just looking for some direction.

Thanks!!

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Hi S.,

Re: how do you get the truth in a he said - she said situation. Do you have any tools on how to flush the truth out?

I wouldn’t believe a word anybody said. Your daughter acted as though she was trying to be moral and ethical by telling you that she was concerned about the others using pot. The bottom line – she got busted and wanted her pot back. Her motive was purely self-serving.

Until you have hard evidence regarding who took the pot, you should not implement any consequences. The likelihood that you will get “the truth,” as you say, is very slim. I think you have lost focus on the original problem – your daughter was in possession of an illegal substance. You have bigger fish to fry than “flushing out truth.” I would shift the focus to your daughter’s potential drug abuse issue.

Please refer to the section in the online version of the eBook entitled “Questions From Exasperated Parents.” On that page, you will see what to do about Drug Abuse.

Mark

My Out-of-Control Teen

He became involved in recreational drugs...

Dear Mark

Thanks very much for sending the parenting sessions through. I have read and watched most of the sessions now and see how they can be effective. Our situation is that my son C (although never completely diagnosed) I have always felt shows signs of ADHD. He has always been immature in comparison to his peers but none the less feels that he is and should be treated as an adult.

As soon as he was 16 he decided that he wanted to leave home and since that time we have had one disaster after another. He became involved in recreational drugs but within a space of about 8 months was doing them to such a large degree he started to have psychotic episodes and now suffers from residual paranoia. He (I believe) has not taken anything now since about last October and is under the supervision of the Early Intervention Team for Psychosis and is taking an anti psychotic medication.

In the last 18 months he has started to take his A Levels twice, the first time dropped out due to his distractedness with the drug taking and repeatedly leaving home, then last September started at another college to try again and has now had to drop out on medical grounds because of the paranoia. The current situation is that he is at home most of the time, rarely goes out and uses his paranoia as (I feel) an excuse not to have to do anything that he does not want to, (which is most things other than occasionally meeting a friend for a couple of hours). He seems to have made an alternative world for himself on the computer on MSN and online games and if we are not at home I know he can easily spend 10 hours a day on line.

We have tried to help him find alternative interests but is not interested in trying anything so therefore has no other interests. When he was involved in the drugs he became almost obsessed with them and spent most of his time and energy when not taking them finding out as much as he could about them and even now sees this as something that he is proud of as he feels his knowledge on the subject is second to none.

We have another 10 year old son and for obvious reasons we are keen to make the atmosphere at home a happier one as C creates a huge amount of negative energy where he is angry and belligerent and sometimes depressed or swings to being silly, difficult and annoying. C wants to go back to college in September to start a media course but i do not want him to sit at home for the next 4 months as I feel that if he does he will fail again as he will not be ready to cope.

How do I help him to motivate himself to get back into the real world without pushing him before he is ready, and in the meantime differentiate between real fear and his manipulation of the situation. There is no doubt in my mind that he is a very unhappy and frightened young man but seems to see us as the enemy whenever we try to help in any way, although always expects me to be there on demand when he wants something or things go wrong. He still has hopes of going to University so can see a future for himself but does not seem able to understand that he has to put the effort in to get there. He has a very good mind and can be a funny end engaging young man but his anger and resentment are hiding his true nature.

Your thoughts on the matter would be greatly appreciated.

Kind Regards

S.

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Hi S.,

You’ve mentioned several problems here. I’ll try to address as many as I can in the time I have.

Re: “alternative world for himself on the computer” —

Obsessively checking e-mail, playing online games for 10 hours or more at a time, placing more value on chat-room friends than real friends neglecting family, work and even personal health and hygiene... these are all symptoms of a new form of addiction that has surfaced only in recent years: computer addiction.

Creating a single definition for computer addiction is difficult because the term actually covers a wide spectrum of addictions. Few people are literally addicted to a computer as a physical object. They become addicted to activities performed on a computer, like instant messaging, viewing Internet pornography, playing video games, checking e-mail and reading news articles. These activities are collectively referred to as Computer Mediated Communication (CMC). Computer addiction focused on Internet use is often called Internet Addiction Disorder (IAD).

The various types of computer addicts have different reasons for their habits. Obsessive chat room use or e-mailing might fill a void of loneliness, while excessive viewing of pornography might stem from relationship problems or childhood abuse. The matter is further complicated by the fact that a computer is a useful tool. It's not like heroin for example -- there are many legitimate reasons why someone might spend hours using a computer. Even if someone uses a computer extensively for purely recreational purposes, that doesn't necessarily represent a real addiction any more than someone who spends hours working on a model train set, making quilts or gardening is "addicted" to those activities. Even the agreed-upon definition of addiction itself has evolved over the decades and remains a matter of debate in the medical community. In fact, the American Medical Association and the American Psychiatric Association do not currently consider computer addiction a valid diagnosis, a controversy we'll discuss later.

As a result of all these complications, any single definition of computer addiction is necessarily broad and a little vague. If the computer use is so pervasive that it interferes with other life activities, and if the user seems unable to stop using the computer to excess despite negative consequences, the problem might be a computer addiction.

Much of our understanding of computer addiction comes from decades of research on other addictions, like alcoholism or gambling addiction. Psychologists have identified several danger signs for computer addiction. Any of these signs would be a red flag, and multiple signs could mean there's a real problem:

·Continued excessive computer use despite incurring negative consequences, such as marital problems or getting in trouble at work due to computer use
·Hiding the extent of computer use from family and friends
·Making conscious efforts to cut back on computer time and repeatedly failing
·Missing events or opportunities or failing at non-computer-related tasks because of time spent on the computer. This could include poor job performance or missing out on family activities
·Staying on the computer for much longer than intended, or not noticing the passage of time while using the computer
·Thinking frequently about the computer when not using it or constantly looking forward to the next opportunity to use it
·Using the computer as an escape when feeling depressed or stressed

Computer addiction can have a variety of negative effects on a person. The most immediate are social. The user withdraws from friends and family as he spends more and more time on the computer. Relationships begin to wither as the user stops attending social gatherings, skips meetings with friends and avoids family members to get more computer time. Even when they do interact with their friends, users may become irritable when away from the computer, causing further social harm.

Eventually, excessive computer use can take an emotional toll. The user gradually withdraws into an artificial world. Constant computer gaming can cause someone to place more emotional value on events within the game than things happening in their real lives. Excessive viewing of Internet pornography can warp a person's ideas about sexuality. Someone whose primary friends are screen names in a chat room may have difficulty with face-to-face interpersonal communication.

Over the long term, computer addiction can cause physical damage. Using a mouse and keyboard for many hours every day can lead to repetitive stress injuries. Back problems are common among people who spent a lot of time sitting at computer desks. Late-night computer sessions cut into much-needed sleep time. Long-term sleep deprivation causes drowsiness, difficulty concentrating, and depression of the immune system. Someone who spends hours at a computer is obviously not getting any meaningful exercise, so computer addiction can indirectly lead to poor overall physical condition and even obesity.

Eventually, the consequences of computer addiction will ripple through the user's life. Late-night use or use at work will affect job performance, which could lead to job loss. As the addiction takes its toll on family members, it can even lead to failed marriages.

If you're looking to curb your son’s computer use, here are some helpful tips:

·Enlist family members to help encourage your son to limit computer use. It might be too difficult to stop on his own.
·Install software to restrict access to Web sites that he visits compulsively. Keep the passwords for the software hidden.
·Make a list of things he could be accomplishing instead of wasting time on the computer, and post it prominently near his monitor.
·Make specific time limits. Set an alarm to go off in one hour and end computer time when it rings.
·Put the computer in a high-traffic area of the house. With others looking over his shoulder all the time, he'll be less likely to overuse the computer.
·Set aside "computer-free" parts of the day. If computer abuse starts after dinner and extends into the night, have him get all his computer work done in the morning – he can’t touch it after dinner.

Re: paranoia—

Are there any family members who have Bipolar Disorder? I would strongly recommend that your son get a comprehensive psychiatric evaluation – if he has not already had one. There may be some underlying mental disorder that needs treatment.

Re: “How do I help him to motivate himself to get back into the real world without pushing him before he is ready, and in the meantime differentiate between real fear and his manipulation of the situation.” —

You need to rule out any possible mental disorders (e.g., bipolar, chemical dependency, schizophrenia, aspergers, etc.). Then you will know whether or not he’s (a) manipulating people or (b) suffering with some form of mental illness.

On a side note, teens who have a genetic predisposition to bipolar or schizophrenia run the risk of “triggering” the disorder if they use hallucinatory chemicals. Also, anti-depressants can trigger bipolar in a child with a genetic predisposition to the disorder. Thus, I would think that an evaluation by a Child-Adolescent Psychiatrist would be paramount.

A less worrisome possibility is that he may simply have a social phobia. Teens with social phobia are less adept in social interactions. Peer relationships, school functioning and attendance, and family functioning all suffer as a result of a social phobia.

Social phobia may have a combination of the symptoms listed below:

·Anxiety attacks when anticipating or attempting social interactions Fearfulness with peers as well as adults
·Avoidance of social situations
·Consistent and extreme fear of situations involving new people
·Depression or thoughts of not wanting to be alive
·Extreme fear of social and performance situations
·Reluctance to participate in ordinary outings or activities
·Severe distress in routine social situations
·Difficulty transitioning from home to school
·Refusal or reluctance to attend school
·Avoidance of activities with peers
·Low self-esteem
·Difficulty concentrating
·Other anxiety disorders, mood disorders such as depression, or behavior disorders such as attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD
·Behavioral or cognitive side effects from medication
·Learning disorders and cognitive problems

Social phobia is treatable through ongoing interventions provided by a child's medical practitioners, therapists, school staff, and family. These treatments include psychological interventions (counseling), biological interventions (medicines), and accommodations at home and at school that reduce sources of stress for the child. Open, collaborative communication between a child's family, school, and treatment professionals optimizes the care and quality of life for the child with social phobia.

I would be willing to go into more detail regarding treatment of social phobia at a later date if you need more information.

Mark

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