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


Daughter just scoffs at parent...

Hi J.,

Please look for these arrows throughout your email: ===>

Hi Mark,

We are having trouble enforcing the 3 day discipline because my daughter has yet to complete it even though I keep saying that if you break the 3 day grounding, you will have to start it from day 1. She just scoffs at it and goes out whenever she wants. This has been going on all week. What can we do so that we don't end up looking stupid because she is not taking it seriously at all.

====> Say, "If you choose to walk out on your 3-day-discipline, you'll choose the consequence, which is we will call the police and file run away charges as well as go to juvenile probation and file an incorrigibility complaint." Then if she leaves, follow through with this consequence.

The other issue is that we don't seem to be able to have a normal conversation anymore without her shouting or swearing. As an example, yesterday I asked her to fold the washed towels and put them in the linen cupboard. She refused to do it. I said that if she didn't complete that task, she would not be allowed on the computer. My husband disconnected the keyboard but she just disconnected another one from a different computer and used that. When my husband told her that she did not have permission to do that, she just yelled at him but by then she had already done what she wanted to do which was to send her friend a message.

====> If this situation occurs again, simply make sure ALL the computers are disabled.

I've tried to talk to her to find out why she is behaving this way and have told her that it is really hard to function as a family when we cannot even talk to each other in a civil manner any more. All I get back is more yelling and bad language but never any hint of a reason as to why she is behaving this way. We feel like we're walking on egg shells.

=====> Trying to "reason with" your daughter is just another traditional parenting strategy. Simply state the house rule, then follow through with the consequence when the rule is broken.

She has also removed the door handles from her bedroom door so that we can't go in. I've told her that she is entitled to her privacy but she is not allowed to destroy property in the process. In fact, we haven't even been going to her bedroom because we've decided to give her some space in the hope that she will calm down and come to certain realisations about how her behaviour is affecting our family.

====> You are way off base here. She is NOT entitled to anything other than basic needs (e.g., clothes, food, shelter, education). Privacy does not fall into the "basic needs" category. Put the handles back on the door and tell her that if she chooses to remove them again, she'll choose the consequence, which is you will remove the entire bedroom door for a period of 3 days.

===> I can see that you are having great difficulty implementing "tough love." Also, I can tell that you are afraid of your daughter. Until you stand up to her, she will continue to be in charge.


She is now in the custody of DHS, and I'm afraid I won't get her back...

Dear Mr. Hutten,

My 12 year old daughter just went off the deep end and started defying, disrespecting, etc., etc. I did not know what to do, and did not turn to the internet for help. She is now in the custody of DHS, and I'm afraid I won't get her back. She has refused to talk with me or see me since she left in Sept of last year. DHS will want to decide on a permanent placement soon, and we haven't made one step toward each other this whole time. How can I convince her I've changed when she won't let me talk with her and DHS doesn't seem to be doing anything that has made a positive difference. I don't know what to do. When I saw your video, I was identifying with everything you said about my reactions to her bizarre behaviors. I am so sad, and my daughter seems to be forging a new way for herself, supported by DHS, and isn't looking back.

C. in Colorado.


Hi C.,

You may be surprised to hear that I often get parents in my parent program who are court-ordered to attend because they got into a physical altercation with their child, or the child called the cops on the parent. Then the parent is in the unfortunate position of being investigated by a caseworker.

They go through the program, get a certificate and show the certificate to the powers that be (e.g., judge, case worker, etc.). And in most cases, they get their child back.

You can have the same result.

Join Online Parent Support. Do the four-week program. Then I'll give you a short and simple quiz to verify that you actually studied the material. Then I'll email - or mail - you a certificate of completion.

This certificate will show others that you are an invested parent who wants a fresh start with your child.

Don't delay. There's too much at stake. Your child needs you!


My daughter stated that she does not like lacrosse...

My daughter was just recently diagnosed with ODD and today she shows up at my office and she should have been at lacrosse practice and I could tell when I said I would take her to practice that she was ready to explode. I diffused the situation but I am not sure really what to do as she quits everything she starts and I dont want her to think that is okay. My daughter stated that she does not like lacrosse, sucks at it and doesnt want to play. She only did so to please her dad who is very sports oriented and pushes her to do her best. Please advise.


If your situation is like most parents' situation, you have bigger fish to fry than worrying about Lacrosse.

I'm sure sports is an important activity to her father, but I would say this one falls into the "pick your battles carefully" category.

Save your time and energy for the more important issues that are likely to pop-up.

You asked,

My Out-of-Control Child

This was a huge step in the right direction...

Dear Mark,

I wanted to thank-you for revising your website to better reflect the 4 sections of the program. I had asked about this a few weeks ago and was pleasantly surprised when I noticed this change today.

I wanted to let you know we have completed the first section of program and are starting on section 2. Today I had the challenge of saying no and sticking to it when my son wanted me to make an exception to a consequence he was given for skipping school = (Car is parked) and dishonesty when he told me he would take my truck to the gym, only to find out he did not go to the gym at all = (Loss of cell phone). This morning he told me he hated me and that he wished I would get into a car accident on the way home from driving him to school. I was able to apply the art of removing my myself from his comments emotionally and better yet, when he called me later to ask again if he could go to his girlfriends (because he was doing better in school and really trying) I was able to say no, and that I am proud he is doing better in school, however, I gave the reason for the continued consequence. I was ready to say, I will not argue, and didn’t have to as he said okay and then apologized for saying what he said to me this morning. I then was able to tell him that he gets angry and says those things as he has trouble expressing emotions. (I had written ALL the points down today and they were in front of me when he called.) I said we would need to work on this and that I love him very much. We ended the conversation without further problems.

You have to understand that he has been out of control for almost a year now so this was a huge step in the right direction.

I know this is just a start, but it feels so good to have some tools to use that really work. Thank-you so much and I will keep you posted.


My Out-of-Control Teen

Is Tourette's a Behavior Problem?

Dear Sir,

My son is very hot tempered and cannot control his behaviour when he is angry or frustrated. He tends to throw things away away or kick on the wall. He always shout and always put the blame on me.

I have heard about tourette syndrome and I am not sure if his behavior is related to this problem. His father and grandfather had the same problem.

Could you pls give some information about it.

I am also interested in your book but am based in Mauritius. What is the easiest way to get access to your book?

Thanking you in advance,


Tourette's is not usually associated with the problems you are describing. Oppositional Defiant Disorder is however.

On another note, your geographical location is not a factor. This is an online program that can be accessed anywhere in the world.


I have decided to send D___ to a boot camp...

Hi Mark-

I have not been in touch for a while. I am still working the steps of the course but I still fall short. I almost need daily reminders of what I am supposed to be doing because its so easy to get caught up in the drama- I have to step back and think Ok what have I learned! I am doing better with sticking to what I say and not getting as emotional when he is pushing me. I am taking alot of time outs. But the bad behavior and defiance still continue just as strong from him.

A few weeks ago he shoved a boy into a wall at school this resulted in a bump on this kids head- his parents called the police and are pressing assault charges. D___ was sent to alternative school. While in alternative school he got in a fight on the school bus along with some other boys and was written a ticket for disorderly conduct and assault.

I have decided to send D___ to a boot camp ...its juvenile behavior modification program. i am a nervous wreck about it - but truly don't know what else to do. I know you work with the courts in your state and was curious if you have seen or had kids go thru these programs and how you feel it works or does not work with your program.



Hi S.,

Boot camps work well as long as the child is involved in programming, but the "positive behavior changes" do not seem to have longevity. That is, the child returns home from boot camp, then after a two-week honeymoon period in which the parent gets the impression that the child has actually made some improvement, the child reverts back to original behavior.

Boot camps are military-style institutions for defiant and disrespectful teens who have a problem with authority. They learn discipline and structure through military exercises, and rigorous physical training.

The theory of boot camp is that a swift "kick in the ass" will turn around a child who has probably been acting out for years. But in a lot of cases, just a short-term boot camp will not be enough for a teen to turn his or her life around. Boot camps work great if they are followed by a boarding school or other longer-term program.

Privately owned boot camps seem to have a greater affect on teenagers. Surprisingly, the recidivism rate of juveniles who attend state-run boot camps has been said to be as high as 94%, while overall privately owned boot camps have a much lower rate. Boot camps can also be long term (military based boarding schools) or short boot camps (summer boot camps).

Overall, boot camps usually have a definite impact on a teen especially the defiant and disrespectful ones. However, for a lasting change to take place, a boot camp usually needs to be followed by a longer-term program such as a boarding school.




This is a private boot camp (not state run) and D___ is most certainly the defiant type. This camp is for a weekend only but when the child "graduates" from camp at the end of the weekend, he is placed on a 3 month probation. They are given certain expectations and if in that 3 months they are messing up I can call his assigned counselor and they will come to my house or call and see if they can turn the situation around. If D___ continues the bad behavior I can have him sent back to camp for a refresher so to speak. The cost is only 200.00 or 100.00 if court ordered and if they have to go back in the 3 month probation period its 25.00. D___ was not court ordered but when we DO go to court for his tickets I can tell the judge what I have dont to try to help D___.

My hope is this boot camp will be an eye opener for him and then along with your program working on the long term changes in the family D___ can have success in changing his life around.

I have had a great deal of frustration lately that so many kids are falling thru the cracks. There just seems to be very little resources for parents in my area that have troubled kids. I am frustrated with summer coming and nothing for them to do that is positive to keep them out of trouble that parents can afford. I am seriosly thinking of approaching the police department or city or schools or all the above in my city to see if we can get some sort of program together that provides activities for kids -volunteer work - swimming whatever to help them belong to something good.

Parents like me that have to be at work have no way to get kids to and from stuff during the day and no money so I am hoping to maybe get volunteers to provide transportation.

I am just in the beginning stages of the idea. I dont know who/where/how/whats but I am growing a passion for it. I thought maybe a website too so programs (like yours) could possibly be referenced as resources for parents. Any thoughts or suggestions? All I know is it took 10 yrs to even find you or any thing like what you offer ..there are just too many people that dont know what to do where to go and we are losing the kids.



My Out-of-Control Teen

What To Do When You Think Your Teen Is Using Drugs

"Our son is 17 and out of control, we have noticed lately his rudeness is getting worse. I fully intend to implement your methods but I am worried at the moment that he may be experimenting with drugs. I have found something in his room and have organised to have some tested. I have spoken to a few organisations and have a meeting with one this afternoon but they are so wishy washy with their advice. If we confront him, he may lose trust in us and not communicate etc. I want to take your direct approach but the feedback I get is I need to be careful with that.

I know I need to find out what the substance is before I get too upset, but if I gather some more info and involve a family friend who has done counselling and run our approach by you, would you be able to advise if you think it is along with your methods? I am preparing a contract at the moment and trying to find out all the legalities within Queensland so I know my rights (as he is now threatening to be emancipated from us, and we will have to pay him till he is 18). Does this sound like I am following the method? If I push too hard and he runs on the streets and becomes involved in harder drugs, are there intervention programmes to rescue him? Please advise."

I think you may be a bit too panicky at this point. Let’s start with some very specific tips to help keep your son safe. We will try this first, and then address your other questions as needed. Simply implement the following strategies for now:

1. Begin to more closely monitor your son’s activities. Have a few conversations. Ask: Who? What? Where? When? Reflect with your son on why some teens may be using drugs – and try to understand the reasons why. When you get a better idea of the situation, then you can decide on the next steps. These could include setting new rules and consequences that are reasonable and enforceable (e.g., a new curfew, no cell phone or computer privileges for a period of time, less time hanging out with friends, etc.).

2. Especially ask questions when your son makes plans to go out. Who will he be with? Where is he going? What will he be doing? Then check up on him. Call the other moms and dads, and do this together.

3. Be a role model. If you drink, drink responsibly (and of course, don’t ever use illegal drugs).

4. Be party smart. If your son’s party is elsewhere, confirm with the mom and dad of the teenage host that a responsible adult will supervise to ensure that no alcohol will be served. If the party is at your house, set the rules in advance and make sure your son knows what’s expected. Limit attendance, and set a time for the party to end. Keep your alcohol locked up. Know your legal responsibilities. Invite other moms and dads to chaperone, and do not hesitate to call the police if things get out of control.

5. Be specific about your current concerns. Tell your son what you see and how you feel about it. Be specific about the things you have observed that cause concern. Make it known if you found drug paraphernalia or empty bottles or cans. Explain exactly how his behavior or appearance (e.g., bloodshot eyes, different clothing) has changed and why that worries you. Tell him that drug and alcohol use is dangerous, and it’s your job to keep him away from things that put him in danger.

6. Be there for your son when he needs to get out of a bad situation. For example, be the parent who will pick up your son without repercussions if he finds the party he’s gone too has drugs available.

7. Connect with your son by doing things together as a family. Make this a routine outing and have your son help plan it. Also, eat family meals together. Studies have shown that kids who enjoy dinner together with their mom and dad on a regular basis are less likely to become involved with drugs.

8. Consider finding a therapist who specializes in teen substance abuse. I’m only giving you some very general ideas. It is no substitute for talking with someone who can help you take a look at the total situation. If your son won’t go, go yourself. An experienced therapist will be able to help you figure out how to approach your son and what you can do for him - and for yourself.

9. Figure out what you will and won’t do if your son gets into legal trouble. Will you get a lawyer to help, or is he on his own? Calmly tell him what those limits are – and mean it! Then be prepared to follow through. Some kids seem to need to test all the limits. You can’t force him to be a law-abiding citizen, but you can go with him to court and quietly be there for him while he deals with whatever the justice system decides to do. Although I would never recommend jail time as therapeutic, it’s an unfortunate truth that it is what it takes for some kids to “get it.” Maintaining the relationship with your son in the event he is jailed for possession of a controlled substance will give you a shot at helping him turn things around when he gets out.

10. Find out who the other moms and dads are. It generally helps when parents band together. There are probably at least a few of his friends with a mother or farther who is as concerned as you are. Get together and brainstorm ways to get your kids busier with positive things. Take turns taking the kids to events, or tutoring them, or coming up with jobs. If you can agree on consistent rules about curfews and responsibilities, the kids will be less able to use the old excuse of “everybody else’s parent let’s their kid go to parties until midnight.”

11. Get your son involved in extra-curricular activities. Schools offer sports or clubs and community organizations offer classes and youth groups. These will help him mold his identity in a positive way and give him less time doing nothing and becoming bored. Studies have shown teens that have less time to just hang out are less likely to do drugs.

12. Keep connected in the after school hours. If you can’t be home with your son, call and leave notes. Have another adult supervise your son, or sign him up for an after school program. If these things aren’t possible, establish a routine for him and keep him busy during this time.

13. Know your son’s friends. It may not be your job to parent his friends, but they will influence your son's decisions.

14. Let your son know, calmly, that the rules are the rules. You don’t want him engaging in illegal and risky behavior. Remind him that it is a parent’s job to help their kids grow up physically healthy and emotionally strong, and you intend to do your part. You don’t want him to go to jail, overdose and get sick, or die. You will therefore never get off his back about drugs or alcohol.

15. Limit unsupervised time. Teens are great at finding parks, woods, open fields, or other places to hang out. These unsupervised areas provide opportunities for drinking and drug use, so try to limit the times your son has to explore such areas on his own.

16. Pick a curfew that is reasonable for both you and your son. Make sure he knows there will be consequences for violating curfew, and then follow through if rules are not followed.

17. Try to find out if friends or others offer your son drugs at school. Did he try it just out of curiosity, or has he used marijuana or alcohol for some other reason? That alone will be a signal to your son that you care, and that you are going to be the parent exercising your rights.

18. Unite your family against drugs using strong family beliefs. Establish that your family doesn’t use drugs. Not that you will shun your son should he make a mistake, but that your family believes there are other healthier ways to enjoy life and fix problems rather than escaping into a drug haze.

19. Be prepared for your son to deny using drugs. Don’t expect him to admit he has a problem. Your son will probably get angry and might try to change the subject. Maybe you’ll be confronted with questions about what you did as a kid. If you are asked, it is best to be honest, and if you can, connect your use to negative consequences. Answering deceptively can cause you to lose credibility with your son if he ever finds out that you’ve lied to him. On the other hand, if you don’t feel comfortable answering the question, you can talk about some specific people you know that have had negative things happen to them as a result of drug and alcohol use. However, if the time comes to talk about it, you can give short, honest answers like these: 

“When I was a kid, I took drugs because some of my friends did. I wanted to in order to fit in. If I’d known then about the consequences and how they would affect my life, I never would have tried drugs. I’ll do everything I can to help keep you away from them.”

“I drank alcohol and smoked marijuana because I was bored and wanted to take some risks, but I soon found out that I couldn’t control the risks — the loss of trust of my mom and dad and friends. There are much better ways of challenging yourself than doing drugs.”

20.    Lastly, here are some suggested statements to tell your son:
  • “If there is a problem, I want you to be a part of the solution.”
  • “I love you and I’m worried that you might be using drugs or alcohol.”
  • “I know that drugs may seem like the thing to do, but doing drugs has serious consequences.”
  • “I am always hear to listen to you whenever you need to talk.”
  • “We will have these discussions many, many times. Talking to you about drugs and alcohol is not a one-time event.”
  • “I feel worried and concerned about the possibility that you may be using drugs.”

I trust this information will get you started on the right track in dealing with this issue.

My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents

What to do about grandparents...


I am in the middle of session 1 and have done the parent quiz to find out that I am moderately indulgent.

My question is: What to do about grandparents or other family members who wish to indulge your child?

My son treated my Mother badly 3 days ago which really upset her, but she is now talking about paying for him to join scouts, which is something he wishes to do & my mother & I feel would be good for him. But I also feel that he should have to wait till he deserves a second extracurricular activity.

They have not spoken to each other since the incident; therefore there have been no apologies. I was brought up to think that this would be incorrect.



Hi C.,

As you will discover when you get a bit further in the eBook, you child should earn ALL privileges. Thus, it will be important for you to set some boundaries with other family members who may be working in the opposite direction. If possible, inform the others what your program goals are so that everyone can be on the same page.


Online Parent Support

Help For Resentment Toward Your "Hateful" Teen

"Assignment #1 in your program requires me to tell my daughter that I love her. I used to do this every day, but can't do it now because it's no longer true. I can't stand her. She is so rude and hateful to me. If I can't do this, is it worth me going on with the rest of the exercises – you said 'no half measures'?"

What we’re talking about here is resentment. This is not uncommon (i.e., parents not liking their out-of-control, disrespectful teenagers). In fact, I often had parents tell me (in my former roll as a probation officer) that they simply want their kid out of the house (e.g., “Just get him out. I don't want him living here anymore …take him and lock him up!”).

I don’t think you hate your daughter – I think you hate her behavior. In any event, if you cannot bring yourself to say to your daughter “I love you,” it is not going make much difference in your ability to effectively work the program. The larger issue here is resentment, which WILL get in the way of successfully working the program. You’ll need to work on that, and the best time is now!

Resentment will make it nearly impossible to stay objective throughout the four-week program. And without objectivity, you run the risk of getting emotionally tangled-up in the day-to-day conflict that must be weathered with a poker face. Forgiveness is the cure for resentment. Let’s talk about that for a minute...

  • is a way to let go of resentment
  • means letting go of the past
  • is for you, not your "hateful" daughter
  • is a gift you give yourself
  • lets you get on with your life
  • takes time (maybe you’re not able to forgive yet; perhaps the pain is too fresh - you don’t have to hurry)
  • is a process (it doesn’t happen 100% overnight)
  • allows you to feel better about you
  • is a choice (it’s not something you do because you “should” forgive, or because someone tells you to)
  • allows you to heal old wounds so you can get on with the really important things in life
  • gets you un-stuck

Forgiveness does NOT mean:
  • forgetting (you need to remember what happened so you can protect your mental health in the future)
  • you’re letting anyone off the hook (except yourself)
  • you have to tell your daughter that you have forgiven her
  • you have to trust her again (trust is earned; she will have to earn your trust back before you can trust her again)
  • you’re saying to your child, “What you do and say to me is O.K."
  • you’re trying to alleviate her feelings of guilt
  • you’re trying to make her feel better about herself
  • you’re trying to make her feel better about you

Forgive your daughter - not because she deserves it, but because you deserve to be set free from that emotional pain! You may need to forgive yourself too. Sometimes we can’t forgive others until we forgive ourselves. I offer you the following exercise in forgiveness. With your hand on your heart, take a deep breath and affirm:

“I completely forgive my daughter. I know I have done the best I could given the circumstances. If I had been in a different state of mind, or if I had more information when my child started acting out, I probably would have parented her differently. I ask God to help me reach the place of forgiveness for myself and for my child. I love and accept myself with all of my problems and perceived limitations. I am letting go of resentment. I am now able to replace it with forgiveness and hope.”

My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents

When Your Teen's Best Friend is a Negative Influence

"I am reading and reading your eBook, and I like it so far - makes a lot of sense - but the biggest problem for me with my teens especially the 16 year old girl is who her friends are. She has one best friend, and doesn't seem to hang around or call too many others - only one or two on the phone. But this girl is NOT one that is a positive influence in my daughter's life. While she is basically a sweet girl, she has had problems with drugs (in rehab type program) smokes (and now so does my daughter) has run away from home over night she is depressed and says she takes meds for her mood swings as well, and her parents that aren't as stable as would be preferred - and most sad is often accused by other kids of her "cheating" with my daughter's boyfriend, which kills my daughter but she always ends up believing her or at least saying so.

My daughter is often depressed and she says things like "I can't take any more" and she says I will kill myself when I tell her I think the other girl is a bad influence. She says she doesn't mean it but it scared me so now she sees a therapist. She had a different friend of exactly the same type but she "left" her for this girl. While she was friends with the other one, she "tried" drinking wine coolers and experimented a lot with sex. I have let her continue to hang out with her supervised at my house - but - I let her go to the movies with her the other night - telling her I decided to trust her - and specifically asked her to "do the right thing" - and stated that meant she was not to leave the movie theatre for any reason and I specifically said don't leave the building to go and smoke. She came home - I asked to smell her breath - and sure enough she smoked outside in front of the theatre - or so she says.

I can't figure out whether I am to allow her to hang out with this girl - I want her so badly to be friends with people who are on the HAPPIER side of life. I understand teenage angst, but these girls are really dark and down. How do I find advice about this? I am so desperate about this."

The need for acceptance, approval, and belonging is vital during the teen years. Teens who feel isolated or rejected by their peers — or in their family — are more likely to engage in risky behaviors in order to fit in with a group. In such situations, peer pressure can impair good judgment and fuel risk-taking behavior, drawing a teen away from the family and positive influences and luring into dangerous activities.

For example, teens with ADHD, ODD, learning differences or disabilities, depression, etc., are often rejected due to their behavior, and thus are more likely to associate with other rejected and/or delinquent peers. Some experts believe that teenage girls frequently enter into sexual relationships when what they are seeking is acceptance, approval, and love.

A powerful negative peer influence can motivate a teen to make choices and engage in behavior that his or her values might otherwise reject. Some teens will risk being grounded, losing their parents' trust, or even facing jail time, just to try and fit in or feel like they have a group of friends they can identify with and who accept them. Sometimes, teens will change the way they dress, their friends, give up their values or create new ones, depending on the people they hang around with.

Some teens harbor secret lives governed by the influence of their peers. Some — including those who appear to be well-behaved, high-achieving teens — engage in negative, even dangerous behavior when with their peers. Once influenced, teens may continue the slide into problems with the law, substance abuse, school problems, authority defiance, gang involvement, etc. If your daughter associates with peers who are using drugs or displaying self-destructive behaviors, then she is probably doing the same.

It is important to encourage friendships among teens. We all want our children to be with peers who will have a positive influence, and stay away from those who will encourage or engage in harmful, destructive, immoral, or illegal activities. Parents can support positive peer relationships by giving their teenagers their love, time, boundaries, and encouragement to think for themselves.

Specifically, parents can show support by:
  • Be genuinely interested in your teen's activities. This allows parents to know their teen's friends and to monitor behavior, which is crucial in keeping teens out of trouble. When misbehavior does occur, parents who have involved their children in setting family rules and consequences can expect less flack from their children as they calmly enforce the rules. Parents who, together with their teens, set firm boundaries and high expectations may find that their teens' abilities to live up to those expectations grow.
  • Encourage independent thought and expression. In this way, teens can develop a healthy sense of self and an enhanced ability to resist peer pressure.
  • Have a positive relationship with your teen. When parent-teen interactions are characterized by warmth, kindness, consistency, respect, and love, the relationship will flourish, as will the teen's self-esteem, mental health, spirituality, and social skills.

You may not be comfortable about your daughter's choice of friends or peer group. This may be because of their image, negative attitudes, or serious behaviors (e.g., alcohol use, drug use, truancy, violence, sexual behaviors, etc.).

Here are some suggestions:
  • Check whether your concerns about your daughter's friends are real and important.
  • Do not attack your her friends. Remember that criticizing your teen's choice of friends is like a personal attack.
  • Encourage reflective thinking by helping your teen think about her actions in advance and discussing immediate and long-term consequences of risky behavior.
  • Encourage your teen's independence by supporting decision-making based on principles and not other people.
  • Get to know the friends of your teen. Learn their names, invite them into your home so you can talk and listen to them, and introduce yourself to their parents.
  • Help your teen understand the difference between image (expressions of youth culture) and identity (who he or she is).
  • If you believe your concerns are serious, talk to your daughter about her behavior and choices -- not the friends.
  • Keep the lines of communication open and find out why these friends are important to your daughter.
  • Let your teen know of your concerns and feelings.
  • Remember that we all learn valuable lessons from mistakes.

No matter what kind of peer influence your daughter faces, she must learn how to balance the value of going along with the crowd (connection) against the importance of making principle-based decisions (independence).

My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents

For the most part she does what she’s asked to...

I've been using this program for about 4 weeks now. My 9yo DD is doing her chores with out much complaint. However she is escalating her behavior in other ways. She has broken about 5-6 things in the past month. At the rate she is going she should get her allowance back when she’s 16. Tonight she gave our poor dog a hair cut. He looks awful. She has been grounded most of the last 3 weeks. I give her lots of positive attention. We eat dinner together almost every night. I spend probably 10-15 minutes talking to her after school. She is a straight A student. For the most part she does what she’s asked to she just also does a lot of stuff she knows she’s not allowed to. She really doesn't seem to mind the consequences. How long does it take before it starts to work? Any ideas on consequences she might really hate?


I find that when a parent is still experiencing difficulty after 4 weeks, she/he has missed a couple important pieces.

Let's trouble shoot...

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

Referring to the Online Version of the eBook:

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

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

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

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

5. Do you use "The Art of Saying No" whenever your answer is no?

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

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

8. Do you give her at least one chore each day?

9. Do you find something fun to do with her each week?

10. Do you use the "I noticed ...I felt ...Listen" approach when something unexpected pops-up?

11. When you are undecided about what to say or do in any particular situation, are you asking yourself the following question: "Will this promote the development of self-reliance in my daughter, or will this inhibit the development of self-reliance?" If it is supportive of self-reliance, say it or do it. If it is not supportive, don't!

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

13. Have you watched ALL the videos in the Online Version of the eBook?

14. Are you putting on your best poker face when “things are going wrong?”

15. Are you using the Fair Fighting Strategy?

16. 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 initially -- you can't be expected to remember everything! But don't get frustrated and give up. We must be willing to hang in there for the long haul.

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

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

The same can be true in your case. Continue to refine by emailing me as needed over the next few months. Refinement is a process, not a one-time event.


Online Parent Support

Teenage Tantrums and Destruction of Property

"Dear Mark, my strong-willed daughter seems to have a real hard time adjusting to the fact that if she chooses to leave the house during the 3 day grounding, the 3 days start over. On her second day of grounding she had a half-day of school but instead of coming home she went out with friends. When she came home I informed her that her three days would start over because she chose not to come right home from school. She had a HUGE fit - and preceded to trash the whole house. 

She left but came back two hours later and proceeded to continue her tantrum (turning on every light in the house, demanding that I give her stuff back NOW, hitting, and throwing stuff at me). I told her if she did not stop I would call the police. Well needless to say I had to call the police and had her charged with disorderly conduct and property damage. My question is who should clean up the mess. Should I make her do it, hire a maid, or just do it myself and make her pay me? During her fit I started taking things away. Does the three days start over again from the time she came home from the police station and do I keep her stuff until the three days are served."

First of all, I want to say GREAT JOB! You are a good example of the type of parent I can enjoy working with, because you are working the program as intended. And I know it was tough for you to call the cops on your daughter.

Re: My question is who should clean up the mess. Should I make her do it, hire a maid, or just do it myself and make her pay me?

Since she already received a consequence in the form of legal ramifications that she will have to answer to eventually, I wouldn’t heap on another consequence by insisting she clean up. If she hadn’t had the cops called on her and been charged – it would be a different story.

Re: During her fit I started taking things away. Does the three days start over again from the time she came home from the police station and do I keep her stuff until the three days are served?

Again, she’s already had a consequence. Of course the wheels of justice turn slowly though, so she will not feel the total impact of the consequence for some time.

Issue the following warning: “In the future, when you have a 3-day-discipline and you choose to break the law by throwing things at me and tearing up the house, you’ll choose the consequence – I will call the police again AND go to Juvenile Probation to file a complaint. Then you can answer to the Judge. Your choice!”

In the event she has another similar temper tantrum, follow through with your stated consequence.

I’m glad the tail is not wagging the dog in your house anymore.

Mark Hutten, M.A.

My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents

We have good days and not so good days...

Hey Mark,

We have been plugging along since M got out of the youth home 1/3/08. He is in intensive probation and meets with PO every week either @ school or @ our home. Also can't to go to counseling once per week. He is supposed to meet with the referee once per month also--more like every 6 wks though. He does have a court date May 6 for the fighting incident (btw, was charged with "robbery armed" since one on the boys picked up money off the ground that belonged to someone else. We decided to obtain the services of an atty for this, as we are fine with "assault with a weapon" or similar, but not robbery armed, which also is not dropped when an adult. This is his last assistance, as he was 16 at the time--[now 17 and considered an adult in MI] and we can feel good knowing we gave him every opportunity to try to turn his life around). He has not missed school (was late 2x I believe about 10minutes) and is now pulling 5 A's and 1 B+. Has a girlfriend that we like well enough, still has a job, and is usually home on time (if late usually less than 10 minutes). As you know and have taught us, we have good days/weeks and not so good days/weeks.

We have taken away his cell phone, computer, use of the car for misuse of these. This is when he still tries to bully us/swear/negotiate/threaten etc. but for the most part we have been very firm. He did sign a "contract" for both the phone and car use.

What I need help with though are the "get to it later" stuff and the not so major stuff. Examples:

1) swearing--I am getting VERY tired of the "F______ B____" used when he gets angry and now any profanity mixed in conversation. I would say this is increasing since we have not been reacting to it. We have a 10yr old and his friends over and this is NOT appropriate. I need some idea(s) of consequences for this.
2) having the girlfriend in the bedroom. Usually under blanket cuddling and tries to have lights out. I have come straight out and told them it is not appropriate/respectful and is uncomfortable for those around. (btw--20 yr old brother has his g'friend in room but usually not on the bed together and NEVER covered up, etc.)
3) eats in bedroom, cooks and leaves stuff everywhere,
4) very slipshod on chores
5) starting to NOT call when he gets somewhere like we've asked (he usually is where he is supposed to be but it is a safety issue)
6) joining us for some family time

Any ideas on consequences/motivators would be great.

Also, fyi--his "best friend" that he makes bad decisions with has been committed to a psych hospital by his Dad for 2 weeks, and last week a horrific accident claimed the life of a very close friend and 2 other friends, with the driver still in the hospital (all 4 together in the truck)

Thanks again, and lets hope things continue to go well.



Hi J.,

Re: What I need help with though are the "get to it later" stuff and the not so major stuff.

I recently answered an email from another mother who had the same question. I'll simply share that email with you if you don't mind -- I think it will answer your question:

Question: "What do I do when I've issued the 3-day-discipline (e.g., for violating curfew), but then my son creates a new problem before completing the discipline (e.g., calls me a "bitch", then breaks a plate by throwing it in the sink too hard)? Do I start the 3 days over even though the "broken plate episode" is unrelated to the curfew violation, or does this new problem get a different consequence?"

ANSWER: You only restart the 3-day-discipline if the original crime is re-committed (in this case, if your son violates curfew again).

When parents issue a 3-day-discipline, it is very common for kids to introduce additional behavioral problems (temper tantrums, threats, etc.) as a way to (a) get the parent side-tracked from the original consequence and (b) get the focus off of them and onto the parent's anger.

If the parent falls for this, she ends up issuing additional consequences on top of existing consequences, restrictions against the kid begin to pile up, and before long, the kid is grounded for 3 months with no privileges -- and both the parent and the kid have forgotten what the original problem was.

Don't let this happen to you. Do not let your son get you distracted from the original problem and the associated consequence for that problem. Here's how you do this:

If your son commits another "crime" (figuratively speaking) during a 3-day-discipline, put this new crime in the "Deal-With-It-Later" file. You literally write the problem down on a piece of paper (e.g., 'son called me a bitch and broke a plate') and put this note-to-yourself somewhere where you can find it after the original 3-day-discipline is completed.

After the original 3-day-discipline is completed, you then confront your son regarding the second problem he introduced by saying, "Just for your information, in the future, if you choose to __________ (in this case, "call me a bitch and break my dishes"), then you'll choose the consequence which is __________ (here you just follow the strategy "When You Want Something From Your Kid" in the Anger Management Chapter of the Online Version of the eBook).

So, does your son get "off the hook" for calling you a name and breaking a plate? In a way, yes -- but only for the time being. He will have to answer to you if the name-calling and plate-breaking occur again in the future.

Pick your battles carefully - but perhaps more importantly, pick them one-at-a-time. Do not try to fight 14 battles at once. You'll just blow a blood vessel in your brain, and your kid will be successful at getting you to chase your tail.

Use your "Deal-With-It-Later" file frequently. You'll save yourself a lot of time and energy that would otherwise be spent in chronic power struggles.

Q: How do you eat an elephant?

A: One bite at a time.


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Teenage Son Refuses To Go On Vacation With The Family

"Our son is refusing to go on vacation with us (me, my wife, two other teenage boys). We have planned this for some time now. He says we can't make him go - he wants to spend the week with his friend (who is a bad influence). What can we do? I'm worried he will come up missing on the day of departure."

You can do one of two things:

1. Issue a warning: “If you choose to go AWOL when we get ready to leave, you’ll choose the consequence, which is I’ll stay home with you – and you’ll be grounded with no privileges.”

This option stinks however, because in the event he can’t be found at time of departure, you have to follow through with the consequence (or kidnap him and follow behind the others in a separate vehicle).

2. In the event you have a trusted family member or friend, you could allow your son to stay with them while you’re gone – with one caveat: that is, make sure his temporary caretakers are willing to call the police in the event your son comes up missing from their residence. Advise your son accordingly of this potential consequence.

My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents

We have been ignoring behavours for 5 weeks now and still he persists!!!

Hi Mark,

I wanted to thank you for the programme that you have set out and the positive results we are having. I am finding that the "make them earn everything" is working very well. In the assignment for session 4 you recommend ignoring bad behaviours etc. Our child has always been one to want attention any way he can get it. I guess he has been getting it for negative reasons in the past. We have been ignoring these behaviours - the annoying, the disrespect, the swearing etc etc. Can you help me understand how long we have to ignore these behaviours before they start to die - the desire for the child to keep doing these behaviours lessons? We have been ignoring behavours for 5 weeks now and still he persists!!! It is like he realises he is not getting the attention he so much wants and so tries even harder to get our attention!! Some days it is very difficult to keep ignoring it!!

Our teenager also loves forming habits, which are not positive. He forms these habits very quickly and they are very hard to break. Last week he decided to start using every swear word he could think of as often as possible. It got to the point where I grounded him for a day with items removed because I could see how quickly these words would have become a habit. It's seems to have worked so far. The swearing has certainly lessened. He has this habit of making movements with his face. I took him to hypnotherapy and it did nothing to break the habit. Do you have any suggestions? We have been completely ignoring it. Apart from that he has only had 3 groundings in 5 weeks and we are noticing that his behaviour has improved in many areas. Thanks so much and I look forward to hearing from you.



Hi J.,

Re: Can you help me understand how long we have to ignore these behaviours before they start to die…

As I mentioned in the audio portion of the eBook, “ignoring misbehavior” is an over-rated parenting strategy, but when it comes to siblings bickering back and forth, it is probably the best strategy. I don’t suggest ignoring disrespect or swearing however. These behaviors need a consequence as outlined in the eBook.

Re: He has this habit of making movements with his face. I took him to hypnotherapy and it did nothing to break the habit. Do you have any suggestions?

You are describing motor tics (i.e., quick, uncontrollable movements or vocal outbursts, but not both). About 1 to 2% of the population has chronic motor tic disorder. The condition is more common than Tourette syndrome. However, it is not as common as transient tic disorder. All types of chronic tics are believed to be forms of Tourette syndrome (e.g., excessive blinking, grimaces of the face, quick movements of the arms, legs, or other areas, sounds: grunts, throat clearing, contractions of the abdomen or diaphragm).

People can hold off these symptoms for a short period of time, but they feel a sense of relief when they carry out these movements.

The doctor can usually diagnose a tic during a physical examination. Tests are generally not needed. To be diagnosed with the disorder, one must have had the tics nearly every day for more than a year, and one has not had a tic-free period longer than 3 months

Treatment depends on how bad the tics are and how the condition affects you. Medicines and psychotherapy are used only when the tics have a major impact on daily activities, such as school and job performance.

Drugs used to treat tics include dopamine blockers, such as pimozide and risperidone. However, these drugs are not always successful and can cause side effects.

Children who develop this disorder between ages 6 and 8 do very well. Symptoms may last 4 to 6 years, and then stop without treatment in early adolescence.

When the disorder begins in older children and continues into the 20s, it may become a life-long condition.

There is usually no need to see the health care provider for a tic unless it is severe or disrupts your life.

Bottom line: I wouldn’t worry about it too much. It’s just your son’s weird way of dealing with stress.


My Out-of-Control Teen

Poor Academic Performance Is A Different Animal

Dear wife and I continue to refer to your notes over and over again. We are making progress with our 14 year old son. He has been more compliant lately. My wife and I are being transformed in the process as well. We hardly ever nag about chores or homework, etc. We are less confrontational. We have been encouraging each other as well as our son. We are more graceful and listen better.

Our struggle is not yet over. Our son is in the 8th grade and his grades have dropped significantly. He received (2) Ds and (1) F on the last report card a few weeks ago. The consequences were loss of his cell phone privilege Monday - Friday afternoon and loss of privilege to have friends over or go out with friends on Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday evenings. He can participate in our church teen midweek service which is mostly a fellowship activity.

Our son has accepted these consequences; however, there has been no noticeable improvement in his grades and we are holding him totally accountable. We have made it clear that we are available to help. We have told him that his poor grades are hurting him and no one else.

Yesterday, he started using the Instant Messenger feature on the internet to stay connected with his friends. I had blocked his access to the AOL instant messenger but he is now accessing it via Internet Explorer. I can remove the wireless adapter on his computer and he will not be able to access the internet if I choose to take this step. I can use the security password feature on the two other computers in the home to prevent him from accessing them if I choose to do so.

Question: We are expecting a progress report in the next few days and we do not expect much improvement. What should we do to help our son realize that his poor academic performance will only hurt him in the long run? Apparently the consequences are not changing his behavior or attitude? Apparently his ODD tendencies have created a technology contest that I prefer not to engage in.

Many thanks in advance.



Hi J.,

Grades are kind of a different animal (as if we didn't have enough twists and turns).

Please refer to the page entitled Emails From Exasperated Parents [Online Version of the eBook -- Session #4].

On that page, scroll near the bottom and look for where it reads:

"My son brings home straight F's on his report cards. I ground him for the entire grading period, but he continues to fail in nearly all subjects. I know my son is a bright kid and can do the work when he wants to. What can I do to motivate him?" -- B. R.

NOTE: If your teen has a history of poor academic performance, and if poor academic performance is an ongoing source of conflict, then follow the recommendation.


Online Parent Support

Child abuse rises when dad is away at war—

Mothers are twice as likely to physically hurt kids, government study finds.

Murdered woman’s husband: 911 botched call

Neighbor saves three after plane hits house

A killer's 26-year-old secret may set inmate free

Govt. acknowledges accidents at virus lab

The bottom line on Iraq

Most viewed on

Children in some Army families are vulnerable to abuse and neglect by their mothers when their fathers are away at war in Iraq and Afghanistan, a large Pentagon-funded study finds.

Mothers were three times more likely to have a substantiated report of child mistreatment when their soldier husbands were deployed than when the fathers were home, according to the research. Mothers at home were nearly four times as likely to neglect their children and nearly twice as likely to physically abuse them during deployment periods.

Army officials said the study confirms what they’ve seen at large military bases for nearly two years, overwhelmed and depressed mothers neglecting their children.

This is another recognition of the stress that families are experiencing with multiple deployments, and that shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone.

Army to hire more people to support families—

The Army recently announced it will hire more than 1,000 additional “family readiness support assistants” to help families of deployed active-duty, Army Reserve and National Guard units. The Army also recently added $8 million to its respite child care program and increased home visits to parents of young children at 13 bases with the highest rates of neglect, said Delores Johnson, the Army’s director of family programs.

The study appears in Wednesday’s Journal of the American Medical Association. Army staff reviewed the manuscript before its submission to the medical journal.

The researchers analyzed information from two large Army databases from 2001 through 2004. Since then, the pace of deployments has increased, making the findings even more important.

Only families with at least one report of child mistreatment were part of the analysis, so the findings apply only to families with some underlying risk.

The researchers found reports of abuse and neglect for nearly 3,000 individual children. The mistreatment included neglect, abandonment, physical abuse, emotional abuse and sexual abuse.

Dads at home may be more likely to get help—

Women accounted for about nine out of 10 incidents by civilian parents during deployments. For fathers at home while their soldier wives were at war, the effect of deployment on the likelihood of abuse or neglect was insignificant, suggesting men may be more likely to get help from extended family or other resources.

Overall, the study of almost 1,800 Army families worldwide found that reports of child abuse and neglect were 42 percent higher during times when the soldier-parent, regardless of gender, was deployed.

Experts cautioned that situations not generally considered neglect by most city child welfare workers would be called neglect by Army social workers. Robichaux, a former Houston child welfare worker, said Army families tend to get help sooner than civilian families.

Two previous studies have found increasing rates of child neglect in Army families between 2001 and 2004, and increasing rates of child mistreatment in Texas military families during a time of large-scale deployments.

The new study was hailed by a researcher involved in the Texas study. It is important, especially given the current military and political situation in which deployment occurs more frequently and deployments can be longer.

Stacy Bannerman, a member of the anti-war group Military Families Speak Out and the wife of a National Guardsman who fought in Iraq, said she’s seen mothers neglect their children while their husbands are in Iraq.

“We pretend the trauma of war can somehow be isolated and contained,” Bannerman said. “Nobody’s really taking care of the caregivers.”

Online Parent Support

It has helped reduced our level of "freak-out"...

Mark -

We are studying your web presence and it has helped reduced our level of "freak-out" with our 16 year-old, "out-of-house," but still near-by daughter.


Online Parent Support

Fear Of Going To The Bathroom

Thank you, your book is great and it's helping us with our 10 year old son. One thing I need to know. Our son holds on to his number 2 for weeks because he's afraid of going to the bathroom. How do we handle that?



Hi A.,

Children fear elimination for a variety of reasons. For example:

Some kids don’t like the splash...

Some see the toilet as a trap and they are afraid they will fall in or that something will pop out of there and get the... get them a smaller seat to go on top of the adult seat

It’s scary to be sitting on a throne in the middle of a room doing something so private...

Some kids say it’s like a part of them is falling off...

Sometimes it’s because their feet can't rest on the floor (ever try to poop with your feet off the floor?)... get them a stool

Some kids don’t like the bathroom because the toilet seat is cold... get seat liners / covers

In some cases, they simply have stage fright (you're staring at him, waiting, waiting, "you can do it", "come on big boy", etc.)...

A lot of times children hold it in because it's a form of control for them. They feel the rest of their lives are controlled by their parents - or other outside influences - but they can hold it in and control that one thing.

We may want to investigate the possibility that your son has Obsessive Compulsive tendencies (OCD):

OCD is characterized by recurrent intense obsessions and/or compulsions that cause severe discomfort and interfere with day-to-day functioning.

Obsessions are recurrent and persistent thoughts, impulses, or images that are unwanted and cause marked anxiety or distress. Frequently, they are unrealistic or irrational. They are not simply excessive worries about real-life problems or preoccupations.

Compulsions are repetitive behaviors or rituals (like hand washing, hoarding, keeping things in order, checking something over and over) or mental acts (like counting, repeating words silently, avoiding).

In OCD, the obsessions or compulsions cause significant anxiety or distress, or they interfere with the child's normal routine, academic functioning, social activities, or relationships.

A younger child with OCD may have persistent thoughts that harm will occur to himself or a family member, for example an intruder entering an unlocked door or window. The child may compulsively check all the doors and windows of his home after his parents are asleep in an attempt to relieve anxiety. The child may then fear that he may have accidentally unlocked a door or window while last checking and locking, and then must compulsively check over and over again.

An older child or a teenager with OCD may fear that he will become ill with germs, AIDS, or contaminated food. To cope with his/her feelings, a child may develop "rituals" (a behavior or activity that gets repeated). Sometimes the obsession and compulsion are linked; "I fear this bad thing will happen if I stop checking or hand washing, so I can't stop even if it doesn't make any sense."

If you need more info on OCD and its treatment, just let me know. I’m out of time for now.


Online Parent Support

Is he depressed or extremely manipulative or a combination of both?

My 14 (almost 15) yr. old son is dating a 17 yr. girl. Just about the time he started seeing her, my almost 17 yr. son came to me because he felt his brother was showing signs of depression. The oldest son is very mature, kind, very religious, and sensitive towards others, particularly his brothers. He showed me how to access his brother's instant messaging e-mails. I was then able to get into my son's head (he's not very talkative) and find out what is going on with his girlfriend because I had some concerns about their relationship. Also in his e-mails, he told his friends that he was very sad but didn't know why and that he doesn't believe in God. I kept on eye on it and didn't see anything more in the e-mail about him being sad nor did I notice him looking down until I grounded him. The younger one has had his moments of bad moods over the years, and with the combination of hormones and having a girlfriend in the picture, I decided to monitor it.

Long story short, I told him I didn't want him to be alone in the car with her. That's what started the terrible outbursts. My husband and I came home to them in our driveway and I knew they were doing more than kissing. I found out more on the e-mail. They are not there yet (physically) but will be if I don't try and prevent it. He doesn't know about the e-mail, of course. After I told him my concerns about being alone in the car with her, he had a major temper tantrum like I never saw before. He swore at me, threw things and screamed at me. I grounded him over the weekend. That meant more tantrums. My husband was out of town so I had to do this all by myself. My son took full advantage of his dad not being around and let it all out. Screaming and crying for hours begging and begging to go out.

He was telling me how very sad he was and that he needed to talk to his friends. Normally, he is a very good kid. Does very well in school (except after I told him about the car issue and the straight A student received a D on a test recently) and has great friends (including his girlfriend). I stood my ground with the grounding, but he was wearing me down. He followed me throughout the house crying and begging. I felt like a prisoner in my own home. I went into the bathroom a lot that day (yesterday) to get away from him. Sometimes he would get into a fetal position. At one point he grabbed a knife and said he was going to use it on himself. I didn't let on but I didn't believe him. The 17 yr old got it away from him. My older son was so upset that he broke down sobbing. I ended up calling the police after he threatened to take some pills. They talked to him and got him on the phone with a crisis center and recommended that he see someone. He told the counselor that if he had had a gun, he would have used it.

Afterwards, he was very tired and calm after 8 hrs of crying and went to bed (it was rather late). I was exhausted. At 6:45, he woke me up (it was a Sunday) to ask if it was now all right for him to see his friends that day. Technically, he was still grounded. After the scare from the night before, and the fact that I didn't want to go through it again...I told him yes. He ended up telling me his plans (his girlfriend was going to pick him up) and they were going out to eat and then her parent’s house to watch a movie. He was smiling when he walked in the door after being with her. He then asked me when dinner was because he wanted to go for some ice cream with her. I was waiting for the other shoe to drop when he was going to approach me again to tell me what his plans were. I didn't want to get into because I wasn't sure what stand to take. Apparently, she couldn't go, so instead of eating dinner, he went to be at 7pm.

I am so confused. Is he depressed or extremely manipulative or a combination of both? Regardless, I know he has a problem of some sort but....... it’s difficult to parent because I'm afraid of what he might do. I am going to seek help. I've already tried someone today but he wasn't available. On Friday, I did put a call into the guidance counselor but he wasn't available. Who should he see?

Thank you


Whether or not you feel that he is serious or just wanting the attention from it, you need to get him help. And I do not mean, talking to a counselor at school when he might be available next. I mean inpatient care if possible.

This can be done through a family doctor, or the ER. After any threat or attempt, it is best to have the teen evaluated by medical professionals.

This does several things. It helps to "feel out" if it was a threat or real. If it was real, it will be the first step in getting him help, and in helping him to understand that there are better ways to deal with his emotions. Second, if he was using it as a tool to get what he wants, he will learn very quickly that threatening to harm himself will not get him what he thinks it will - and is not ok to do.

Next time you do ground him, I would suggest to prevent what happened over this instance, don’t just ground him to your house. Take the phone, the computer, the cell phones, the pagers, and tell him he comes out of his room (a) to eat when you call him to eat, (b) to go to the bathroom (but no more than 10 minutes can be spent in the bathroom at a time), (c) for emergencies of course - but not self created ones.

While I don’t advise reading your kids emails, I feel that in this case you had reason to do so. I am not sure if you ought to read each and every email though. You might want to sit down with his girlfriend’s parents, and address some of your concerns about the physical part of your son's and their daughter’s relationship. It may very well be that they are unaware of the extent of it.

Remind your son, that due to federal and state law, once his girlfriend turns 18, the relationship with her will have to stop. She will be considered an adult, and he is still a minor.

But most important, I wouldn’t wait more then 24-36 hours before he sees someone. Admit him if you have to.


Online Parent Support

My son gets straight F's across the board...

Hi Mark,

The things that I’ve read about kids and school are great when the kids are trying or want to try, what if they refuse to do anything in school? My son gets straight F's across the board. No matter how hard the school seems to try he just won't do traditional schoolwork. Do you have any ideas?




Hi D.,

Please refer to the section of the eBook entitled Emails Form Exasperated Parents [Session #4 – Online Version].

When you get to that page, look for where it reads:

"My son brings home straight F's on his report cards. I ground him for the entire grading period, but he continues to fail in nearly all subjects. I know my son is a bright kid and can do the work when he wants to. What can I do to motivate him?" -- B. R.


Online Parent Support

Should you discipline a defiant teen who is also suffering from depression?

"Thanks…finally hope at the end of the tunnel, but need some help on dealing with someone who is also depressed. Should I change anything about the program, or just try to follow the first week and see what happens?"

Simply follow the program as it is. Here are some things to bear in mind though:
  • Validate feelings. Don’t try to talk your son out of his depression, even if his feelings or concerns appear silly or irrational to you. Simply acknowledge the pain and sadness he is feeling. If you don’t, he will feel like you don’t take his emotions seriously.
  • Offer support. It's important to let your depressed teenager know that you’re there for him, 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 he needs.
  • Listen without lecturing. Resist any urge to criticize or pass judgment once your teenager begins to talk. The important thing is that he is communicating. Avoid offering unsolicited advice.
  • Be gentle - but persistent. Don’t give up if your son shuts you out at first. Talking about depression can be very tough for teens. Be respectful of his comfort level while still emphasizing your concern and willingness to listen.
  • If your son claims that nothing is wrong, but has no explanation for what is causing the depressed behavior, 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 warning signs, seek professional help -- but DO NOT feel sorry for your son and attempt to save him from his sadness by over-indulging him. This will make a bad problem worse. Plus he will get a huge payoff for staying depressed. 
  • Lastly, don't make the typical parenting mistake that most moms and dads make when they have a teen who is behaving badly - but who is also depressed (e.g., "I know he violated his curfew, but we shouldn't ground him because it will just make him even more depressed"). Even a depressed teen should receive appropriate consequences for his poor choices, otherwise you will be giving him the following message: It's O.K. to make poor choices since you are depressed.

Note: None of the above considerations go against the goals of the four-week program.

My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents

The adults are back in Charge!

Hi Mark,

Thanks again for your speedy reply, sorry I did not get back to you yesterday. Things have been moving fast around here in a most unexpected way.

Thank you for the advise for both our Sons.

J___, the angry child, is responding wonderfully to our new methods. No arguments, very loving and receptive. He will be thrilled with our Plans to move into the driving phase. He won't hear about them until he finishes his Project, which will end his grounding. At this point we will start anew. He has accepted our terms of use on the computer with the understanding that any abuse will result in a 3-day ban. He came home from school yesterday in a pissy mood, I would normally try to find out what was bothering him, but I just asked about his day and went on like nothing was wrong and he pulled himself out of the mood and the rest of the evening was great.

P___ on the other hand is the one not adjusting too well. Of course he is the one who after our apology, felt no apology was needed.... He was just fine with everything staying status Quo :) Sorry... Things are changing and we don't know exactly what his reactions to that are going to be. We realize we have held him back with our past parenting and that is all about to change.

We always felt that as long as they went with the flow of the family they were welcome to stay at home... We have had a change of Heart and Mind :) It is time for him to be out on his own. This talk will be coming asap and his reaction is going to provide a growing season for us all. Mike and I both are prepared for some hurt feelings that may take awhile to get passed but we now know it is for his and our benefit.

Thank you again and again...... The adults are back in Charge!

A. & M.

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Gang Problem Hits Home

Elwood, Indiana—
Wednesday, April 09, 2008
From a very disturbed parent:

What’s with 9 people being killed in a week up there? Doesn’t sound like the safest place to be.

I wondered if that would make state or national news. NO, it is very crazy around here right now. Some of the shootings have been gang-related…others drug-related. There were actually six shootings in just two days last week…several of which occurred right during the day not far from my office! We have a HUGE gang problem here. A gang unit was established with the police dept last summer and just recently our probation dept. started a gang program where the court is identifying dangerous kids (gang) and putting them in this intensive program. There were about 200 threats received in the past week that some of the local schools are going to be targeted today. I’ve already had calls from parents saying they are not sending their kids to school today. The newspapers say none of the shootings are related, but there definitely were several related and have been rival gangs in retaliation for other shootings….

Any suggestions?


Many communities have serious problems with gangs. There are many kinds of gangs, but whatever kind you community is dealing with, gangs spell trouble. They cause fear, destroy property, threaten or hurt peaceable residents, and drive out businesses.

Parents can do a lot to prevent gang problems or top reduce gag problems already in place. Most important, there’s a lot that parents like you can do to keep your own children from joining gangs:

· Join with others to make or keep your neighborhood gang free.
· Learn about gangs and signs of gang activity.
· Sharpen your skills as a parent and use them.

Young people (as young as nine or ten) join gangs for reasons that makes sense to them, if not to adults. They give reasons like these:

· for excitement
· to be with friends
· to belong to a group
· to earn money
· to get protection

Gangs leave signs of their presence. Your child may adopt some of those signs as either a gang member or an imitator:

· gang symbols on walls as graffiti or on books or clothing

· major and negative behavior changes, such as worse grades, staying out without good reason, "hanging" with known or suspected gang members, carrying weapons, wearing certain kinds and colors of clothing in very specific ways, and possessing unexplained relatively large sums of money

· special hand signals

· specific colors or emblems

Many gang members say they joined because the gang offered them support, caring, and a sense of order and purpose - al the things that most parents try to give their kids. The odds are that the better you meet these needs, the less need you children will see for gangs.

Here are some parenting skills that are especially important:

·Do everything possible to involve your children in supervised, positive group activities

·Do everything possible to prevent dropping out

·Help your kids identify positive role models and heroes - especially people right in your community

·Know what your children are doing and whom they are with. Know about their friends and their friends’ families

·Praise them for doing well and encourage them to do their very best - to stretch their skills to the utmost

·Put a high value on education and help your child to do his or her best in school

·Talk with listen to your child. Spend some special time with each child

Don’t forget to talk about gangs. The best time is before there’s a major problem.

Tell your child that:

· family members don’t keep secrets from each other
· you an other parents are working together against gangs
· you disapprove of gangs
· you don’t want to see your child hurt or arrested
· you see your child as special, and worth protecting
· you want to help your child with problems

Everyone (except gang members) wants a gang-free community. Parents stand to lose the most -- the well-being or even the life of a child -- if gangs take or keep hold. But gangs are often violent and intimidating.

What can you do in the face of this?

· Develop positive alternatives. Are there after-school and weekend activities kids can enjoy? Can the school offer its facilities? Can parents organize clubs or sports? Can older kids tutor or mentor younger ones? Can the kids themselves help with ideas?

· Get organized against the gang organization. Use your neighborhood association or a new group. Get help from a variety of sources right in you community. Try these kinds of people in addition to the police, priest or minister, family counselor, community association, school counselor or principal, athletic coach, Boys & Girls Clubs, YMCA / YWCA, Scouts, drug abuse prevention groups, youth-serving agencies, and community centers - just to name a few.

· Talk with other parents. For one thing, you’ll find out what everyone else’s parent really said. For another, you can support each other and share knowledge that will help spot problems sooner than you can on your own.

· Work with police and other agencies. Report suspicious activity, set up a Neighborhood Watch or a community patrol; let the police know about gang graffiti, get (and share with other parents) the facts on the gang problem in your community, find out what local services - nonprofit as well as government - will work with communities against gangs.

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Behavior Problems at School

Recently my husband and I started your program. We started the program because of the problem of constant In School Suspension for my 10 yr old son. He is defiant. His last time in ISS was because of chewing gum in Music class. He was told to spit it out and then was later seen with gum again. He spent 3 days in ISS.

Yesterday he somehow exploded his milk at lunch and wet himself and his food. This resulted in him loosing lunch, it was not replaced at school, and the school gave him one week in the back of the lunchroom by himself. 2-3 hours later my husband was able to take him dry clothes. I try very hard to support the school in order to show my son my support for their decisions. However, I find some of the consequences from the school as excessive. Am I wrong and just being over protective? What sort of punishment should I do at home for his trouble in school?

The school is threatening to send him to a behavior school that even they think may do more harm than good. He was in 1/2 day ISS today for arguing with his teacher about a complete sentence. What can I do?



Hi J.,

Re: Am I wrong and just being over protective?

Over protective? Perhaps.

Wrong? Probably not.

Unfortunately, once a kid gets labeled a “problem child” (which I’m sure has happened to your son), things tend to take an ugly turn for the worse. Teachers (even though they will deny this) tend to view the “problem child” differently after he has “rocked the boat” excessively.

Let’s be totally honest here. Your son is a pain in their rear end – and they really would prefer that he attend school elsewhere. And if your son does leave that school, many will breath a sigh of relief.

Is this fair? No.

Is it right? Of course not.

Can you blame them? Not really.

They simply do not know how to teach an intense, strong-willed child. They are using traditional teaching methods with a “non-traditional” student.

Re: What sort of punishment should I do at home for his trouble in school?

If he’s receiving a consequence at school, you really shouldn’t issue another one at home. I’m sure your son is frustrated enough with how things are going.

Re: What can I do?

If the school is sending home complaints about your son's behavior -- and expecting you to do something about it -- put the ball back in their court by requesting a Functional Behavior Assessment (FBA) (see below). This will force school personnel to really think about your child's behavior, not just react to it.

An FBA examines what comes before bad behavior and what the consequences are for it; what possible function the behavior could serve for the child; and what sorts of things could be setting him or her off.

If a child finds class work too hard or a classroom too oppressive, for example, getting sent to the hallway or ISS could become a reward, not a punishment. Conducting an FBA and writing a Behavior Intervention Plan (BIP) (see below) based on it is probably the best way to head off discipline problems.

If teachers and administrators refuse to go along with it, you might need to do a little behavior analysis on them.

A Functional Behavioral Assessment (FBA) is an attempt to look beyond the obvious interpretation of behavior as "bad" and determine what function it may be serving for a child. Truly understanding why a child behaves the way he or she does is the first, best step to developing strategies to stop the behavior. Schools are required by law to use FBA when dealing with challenging behavior in students with special needs, although you may need to specifically push for it.

The process usually involves documenting the antecedent (what comes before the behavior), behavior, and consequence (what happens after the behavior) over a number of weeks; interviewing teachers, parents, and others who work with the child; evaluating how the child's disability may affect behavior; and manipulating the environment to see if a way can be found to avoid the behavior. This is usually done by a behavioral specialist, and then becomes the basis for a Behavior Intervention Plan.

Examples: A student may act up frequently and be sent to stand in the hallway. However, a FBA may find that the student acts up only during times when a lot of writing is required in class, and that he has documented difficulty with fine motor skills. The misbehavior serves the function of getting him out of written work. Supports to reduce the amount of writing needed and tools to make writing easier may eliminate the behavior in a way that escalating punishments never will.

A good Behavior Intervention Plan (BIP) can make a big difference in how a student with special needs acts and reacts in a school setting. However, getting the appropriate school personnel to do the necessary behavior analysis and put a plan together can be a frustratingly lengthy process. You may want to try proposing a behavior plan of your own -- particularly if you have a good relationship with your child’s study team, and your child's teachers are as frustrated by the delays as you are.

At the very least, seeing behavior plans that others have put together can help you be an active participant in the planning process. Below is an example of successful behavior plan for a kid with ADHD:


Positive Behavior Support Plan


Behavior impacting learning is: impulsivity, kicking and throwing self to floor, disrupts class room, and recess/ unstructured activities

It impedes learning because: he is unavailable for instruction, disrupts others and teacher

Estimate of current severity of behavior problem: moderate to severe

Current frequency / intensity / duration of behavior: 3-4 / week, sometimes, up to 3 times/day

Current predictors for behavior: teasing / rejection by peers, over-stimulation, inability to express self, “sensory overload”, unexpected changes in routine, transitions, unstructured activities

What should student do instead of this behavior: learn to communicate frustrations with adult guidance either through story telling or drawing pictures about his feelings, learn to “walk away” from frustration

What supports the student using the problem behavior: misunderstanding or misinterpretation of his behaviors and communicative intent

Behavioral Goals/ Objectives related to this plan: development of age appropriate social skills, coping skills, and self-monitoring, increased tolerance to change in routine, and the development of positive replacement behaviors

Are curriculum accommodations necessary? yes / no

Is there a curriculum accommodation plan? yes / no

Teaching Strategies for new behavior instruction: validation of feelings and offering alternative replacement behaviors in the form of 1-2 choices, consistency of social skills development with “social stories”, consistent encouragement to “use words”, use clear, simple directions, ignore inappropriate behavior whenever possible............ By: teacher, aides, parents

Environmental structure and supports, time/space/materials/interactions: consistency in routine, designate a “safe place” to calm down, using favorite toys, books or activities engage him in a desired activity, avoid confrontation through calmness, negotiation, choices, diversion of attention, do not use physical force except for immediate safety concerns, anticipate predictors of behavior and avoid or prepare for intervention......By: teacher, aides, parents

Reinforcers/ rewards: immediately reward appropriate behaviors, lots of smiles, verbal praise, read stories of his choice, outside play, being a “helper”, “special “jobs”, seating next to a positive peer role model, “Social Stories’ book, puzzles, art projects, computer time/games....... By: teacher, aides, parents.....

Monitoring results and Communication:
options: daily, weekly reports
by phone: leave message, write in “Communication Book” to be sent home on Fridays, IEP Team should meet 4-6 weeks after implementation to discuss results of plan and make any necessary changes

Below is a blank form you can use for a Positive Behavioral Intervention Plan:

Positive Behavioral Intervention Plan
Planning Form - Blank
IEP teams can use this form to guide them through the process of developing the Positive Behavioral Intervention Plan.
Student _________________________________________
Age __________
Sex ___________
Teacher(s) _____________________________________________
Grade _________________
Case Manager __________________________________________
Date(s) ________________
Reason for intervention plan:
Participants (specify names):
( ) student___________________________( ) family member ____________________( ) special educator____________________( ) general educator ___________________( ) peer(s) ___________________________ ( ) special education administrator_______________( ) general education administrator ______________( ) school psychologist________________________( ) other agency personnel____________________________________________________________
( ) other (specify) _________________________________________________________

Fact Finding

1. General learning environment: Describe the student’s school class schedule, including any special programs or services.

2. Problem behavior: Define the problem behavior(s) in observable, measurable, and countable terms (i.e., topography, event, duration, seriousness, and/or intensity). Include several examples of the behavior.

3. Setting events: Describe important things that are happening in the student’s life that may be causing the behavior(s) of concern.

4. Review existing data: Summarize previously collected information (records review, interviews, observations, and test results) relevant to the behavior(s). Attach additional sheets if necessary.

Possible Explanations

5. Identify likely antecedents (precipitating events) to the behavior(s).

6. Identify likely consequences that may be maintaining the behavior(s).

7. Identify and describe any academic or environmental context(s) in which the problem behavior(s) does not occur.


8. Functional assessment: Do you already have enough information to believe that the possible explanations are sufficient to plan an intervention?

a. If yes, go to Step 9, if no, then what additional data collection is necessary?
( ) Review of IEP goals and objectives
( ) Review of medical records
( ) Review of previous intervention plans
( ) Review of incident reports
( ) ABC (across time and situations)
( ) Motivational analysis
( ) Ecological analysis
( ) Curricular analysis
( ) Scatter plot
( ) Parent questionnaire/interview
( ) Student questionnaire/interview
( ) Teacher questionnaire/interview (specify who) ______________________
( ) Other (explain) _______________________________________________
b. Summarize data. Attach additional sheets if necessary.


9. Formulate hypothesis statement: Using the table below, determine why the student engages in problem behavior(s), whether the behavior(s) serves single or multiple functions, and what to do about the behavior(s).
Internal - External
Obtain Something
Avoid Something

10. Current level of performance: Describe problem behavior(s) in a way the team will recognize onset and conclusion of behavior.

11. Describe replacement behavior(s) that are likely to serve the same function as the behavior(s) identified in Step 9.

12. Measurement procedures for problem behavior(s) and replacement behavior(s):
a. Describe how (e.g., permanent products, event recording, scatterplot), when, and where student behavior(s) will be measured.

b. Summarize data by specifying which problem behavior(s) and replacement behavior(s) will be targets for intervention.

13. Behavioral intervention plan:
a. Specify goals and objectives (conditions, criteria for acceptable performance) for teaching the replacement behavior(s).

b. Specify instructional strategies that will be used to teach the replacement behavior(s).

c. Specify strategies that will be used to decrease problem behavior(s) and increase replacement behavior(s).

d. Identify any changes in the physical environment needed to prevent problem behavior(s) and to promote desired (replacement) behavior(s), if necessary.

e. Specify extent to which intervention plan will be implemented in various settings; specify settings and persons responsible for implementation of plan.

14. Evaluation plan and schedule: Describe the plan and timetable to evaluate effectiveness of the intervention plan.
a. Describe how, when, where, and how often the problem behavior(s) will be measured.

b. Specify persons and settings involved.

c. Specify a plan for crisis/emergency intervention, if necessary

d. Determine schedule to review/modify the intervention plan, as needed. Include dates and criteria for changing/fading the plan.

15. Describe plan and timetable to monitor the degree to which the plan is being implemented.


Good luck. I trust the above will be helpful,

Mark Hutten, M.A.

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Parenting Rebellious Teens

One day you wake up and find that life has changed forever. Instead of greeting you with a hug, your little boy rolls his eyes when you say "good morning" and shouts, "You're ruining my life!" You may think you've stepped into the Twilight Zone, but you've actually been thrust into your son's teen years.

During adolescence, teens start to break away from parents and become "their own person." Some talk back, ignore rules and slack off at school. Others may sneak out or break curfew. Still others experiment with alcohol, tobacco or drugs. So how can you tell the difference between normal teen rebellion versus dangerous behavior? And what's the best way for a parent to respond?

Click here for full article...

Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD)

Many families of defiant children live in a home that has become a battleground. In the beginning, the daily struggles can be expected. After all, we knew that problems would occur. Initially, stress can be so subtle that we lose sight of a war, which others do not realize is occurring. We honestly believe that we can work through the problems.

Outbursts, rages, and strife become a way of life (an emotionally unhealthy way of life). We set aside our own needs and focus on the needs of our children. But what does it cost us?

Click here for the full article...

The Strong-Willed Out-of-Control Teen

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

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