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

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I have finally done it!

Hi Mark,
It has taken longer than necessary for me to complete this program, but I have finally done it! During these past few weeks, my husband and I have been implementing many steps, successfully. Our son, Daniel, has been completing his weekly chores with not much complaint. The times that he forgets, or for some reason doesn't complete the chores, we deduct from his allowance. There haven't been any big blow ups around here, and the few irritable times we've had have been much less stressful. Once school begins in a couple of weeks, we might have some tense times, but I do feel prepared for them now. Also, I re-took the quiz; the first time I scored in the 80s, today I scored a 56. I really do thank you very, very much. This is a great program and I will be re-reading it many times.
I would love the certificate as well. I hope it's ok to email you from time to time to say hi and fill you in on our progress.
Enjoy your summer

I can see already that with our "over parenting & over indulging" that it hasn't done Scarlett any favours at all.

Hi Mark,

Your web site has given me and my partner a great deal of hope with our daughter. She is 12 but I can see already that with our "over parenting & over indulging" that it hasn't done Scarlett any favours at all.

I thought that one of the key areas you wrote about was very interesting to me, was the topic that as parents you shouldn't feel guilty for trying your very best & to take time out to look after yourself. I constantly feel guilty for being a working mum etc etc.My mother was very strict and i was afraid that i was treating Scarlett the same as i was quiet frightened of her as a child and didn't want to make Scarls feel the same ever. I guess I have again over done the indulging side.

A thing that makes me laugh to myself is that I teach in a further eduction college here in the UK and I can get my kids at work to literally eat out of my hand and are as good as gold. Even the ones it ADHD etc but my very own 12 year old girl well thats another matter!

I love the site and have read the material over and over. I will stick to the 4 weeks with vivid interest, and i can see how the techniques you promote would help me in my job as a lecturer too.

Keep the good work, with kind regards


Online Parent Support

She was released from the Singapore Girls Home, a juvenile prison on the 22nd after 1 months stay...

Dear Mark,

I read with interest your parenting book, we are one of those parents that tried everything including the Beyond Parental Control juvenile help in Singapore.

Our daughter has a history of running away as soon as she does not get her way, the last time for 25 days, with the threat of killing herself and or over dose on drugs.

We finally put her in a very disciplined structured boarding school in Malaysia. It is her 16th birthday on Saturday, and she needs permission to go out.

As this is a privilege she has not earned, nor the trust, we refused the permission. The threats of running away and killing herself were howling in the phone.

I am going thru your book, as to be ready for her first home leave, 2 weeks from now, and the problems are back, before we can implement anything. As soon as she gets a negative answer or a way to earn a privilege - she runs away, does not care if she has no bed, food, as long as she can decide herself how to spend her time.

She was released from the Singapore Girls Home, a juvenile prison on the 22nd after 1 months stay. Tears and promises made us decide to take her out of it and into a boarding school.

This is the 5th school in which we hope she can finish secondary 3. She got expulsed from the others due to bad behavior.

Any advice? If you need more info, we will gladly supply.

Many thanks

Mr. & Mrs. G.


Mr. & Mrs. G.,

First of all, be sure to watch ALL the Instructional Videos in the online version of the eBook. If you only read the printable version of the eBook, you’ll only get about 40% of the total material.

The advice I have is simple and straightforward:

When she returns home, implement session #1 during the first week …session #2 during the second week …and so on. If she chooses to ignore your house rules, then she will also choose to continue her involvement in the Juvenile Justice system. There’s no way around this.

If you can’t control your daughter – the world WILL control her. Let her decide which controlling entity she wants to answer to. It’s not a question or whether or not she will be controlled, rather it’s a question of who will do the controlling – parents or the law. Again – let her decide which. Then, whatever her decision – let go of the outcome. (Easier said than done – but you have no other choice as I see it.)


My Out-of-Control Teen

How to Motivate Your Teenager to Find Employment

"Hi Mark, I am so glad I found your web site, my husband and I have just started reading it and we are putting assignment 1 into place this week. I am actually a stepmother to my husband’s eldest boy (16yrs old) that we have been having terrible trouble with for many years but in the last 2 months things have become quite horrendous. To help you with the overall picture, his two brothers (12yrs & 15yrs) and himself live with us week about, 1 week with his mother and the other week with us and my 11yr daughter lives with us full time.

He is a very bright boy, but school just didn’t interest him and was getting into trouble, didn’t want to go, wouldn’t do any work, unmotivated and incredibly addicted to computer games – exactly what you have outlined in the start of your web site, it explained so much. It’s the old scenario his Dad felt sorry for his kids after the divorce and indulged them way too much, but he did the best he could at the time. He has since left school around 2 months ago, wants to go into the Police Force when he is 21 because in Australia to get into the Police Force you need to finish your Higher School Certificate or have a trade or certificate 3 in some sort of profession.

He is currently working part-time at McDonalds and some weeks only getting 1 shift a week and he feels this is enough and eventually McDonalds will give him a management role which will help get into the Police Force. But he would sit around all day, meet his friends after school and not look for another job. His father has offered him help with his resume, he has offered to take him to different organizations to find work. But he refuses to go. We have taken the internet off him altogether in both houses, because that would encourage him to stay home play computer games and not look for a job. Our question to you is how do we motivate him to work?"

There are many reasons why teenagers lack motivation to do what moms and dads want them to do. (You'll notice they don't lack motivation to do what they want to do, such as talk on the phone, skateboard, shop, party, etc.) For now, I'll mention just a few:

  1. Parents need to be kind and firm while holding teenagers accountable once they have agreed upon a plan. It is just as easy to be kind while reminding as it is to be unkind -- actually it is easier, because everyone feels better and the job gets done without a power struggle.
  1. Kids aren't allowed to explore the relevance for themselves. They are "told," but they don't explore. How many moms and dads "tell" their kids what happened, what caused it to happen, how they should feel about it, and what they should do about it? It is much more effective to ask what and how questions.
  1. Moms and dads are more interested in short-term than long-term results. For example, "I'll make you do your homework now - even if it means you will never do your best because you are too busy rebelling."
  1. Moms and dads don't allow their kids to learn from "failure," which is an excellent motivator. Paradoxically, one of the best ways parents can help kids learn to be responsible (i.e., motivated) is to be consciously irresponsible. Allow them to fail, and then be empathetic and help them explore what happened, how they feel about it, what they learned from it, and what they could do in the future if they want another outcome.
  1. Moms and dads don't help kids learn time management skills through involving them in the creation of routine charts. The key word is "involving them."
  1. Moms and dads don't know how to say, "I love you, and the answer is no."
  1. Moms and dads don't teach their kids problem-solving skills through family meetings and individual barnstorming sessions.
  1. Moms and dads expect teenagers to "remember to do their chores" as though it were an indicator of responsibility. Most responsible adults were not necessarily responsible teenagers. Even though teenagers are "more" motivated to follow a plan they have helped create, they will still forget because it is not high on their list of priorities. This does not mean they are irresponsible. It means they are teenagers. A friendly reminder doesn't have to be a big deal. Use your sense of humor and remind with your mouth shut (e.g., point, use charades, or write a note). If you have to say something, ask, "What did we agree to that you have forgotten?"
  1. Moms and dads give their kids too many privileges and material things and then wonder why they fail to be appreciative -- and instead just want more, more, and more.
  1. Moms and dads "nag" and invite resistance.
  1. Regarding motivation to do chores, work, etc.: Again teenagers are too often “told” instead of “invited to brainstorm” and come up with a solution that works for everyone. Teenagers are much more motivated to follow a plan they have helped create.
  1. Teenagers feel "conditionally loved" (e.g., "I'm okay only if I live up to your expectations"). This hurts and they get revenge by failing to meet parental expectations.

I had taken away my son’s computer game and nintendo privileges ‘until things improved at school’ (which I know is a bit vague)...

Thank you so much for that Mark. I understand. I’m definitely working the program, not jumping ahead, and believe me I know from experience there is no magic bullet. I’m into week 2 now and have read/watched both articles. But I do need clarification on how to proceed with this week’s assignments, if that’s ok:

So do you mean you think I should just forget school issues and the moment and let them deal with it in order to just focus on the program at home? For example, before I started the program I had taken away my son’s computer game and nintendo privileges ‘until things improved at school’ (which I know is a bit vague). Should I therefore scrap that consequence in order to just focus on the saying yes/say no practice?

Kind regards


Hi L.,


Start with a clean slate. ONLY implement session #1 assignments during week #1 ...session #2 assignments during week #2 ...and so on.


Online Parent Support

He doesn't seem interested in any type of "plan"...


Thanks. Any tips on getting my husband to support ANY consistent plan? He doesn't seem interested in any type of "plan". He just criticizes me when one or both of my daughters get in trouble. He's seldom at home. He rarely talks to them, except to criticize them, usually to me. I know it's important for him to be involved, but again, I can't force him either. I feel very frustrated. Also, I have told them to keep their facebooks clean. This is where I find out most of the stuff that they are doing. How should these websites be handled. I can't seem to block the site without blocking the whole internet. This is stuff that the "whole world" can see. I told them I don't want anything about drug use or foul language on them. How do I control this? The computer is in the kitchen, but their sites have passwords?



We use PC Tattletale at our house. We can pretty much control everything with this software: PC Tattletale.

Re: Any tips on getting my husband to support ANY consistent plan?

One lady (going through the same thing with her husband) played the audio CDs in the car whenever the two of them were out and about. She used the "captive audience" approach. (Sneaky!)

You can get the CDs here if you want: Audio CDs.


The biggest problem that we are having is trust...

Dear Mark,

I've been listening and reading the program for four weeks, and doing the assignments. I have two daughters 18 and 16. This has been the most trying summer of my life. My husband has not been involved for most of their lives, although we are together. I am left to do all the parenting myself. The biggest problem that we are having is trust. I have caught my older daughter smoking, drinking, taking drugs, sneaking out of the house, stealing and lying to cover it up. It has now affected my younger daughter, who has decided to "gang up" against me.

My husband also blames me, and tells me to back off. Every time I do that, the same problems or others arise. I have issued the 3-day discipline, and the day it was lifted, there was another incident. This happened 3 times. My daughter was told no smoking. Is this something I can enforce? I told her I know that I can't stop her from smoking, but I can insist that it doesn't happen on my property. I also told her that when I find things like lighters, I'm going to assume that they are hers, and that she is smoking. I also told her no smoking in her car. She paid for the car, but it is in my husband's name. She "swears" that she is not smoking, but I am still finding lighters, and her car stinks. The stories that she tells me are very hard to believe. I told her that because of her track record of lying to cover things up, I'm having a hard time believing her. My younger daughter backs her up with every story.

They both resent that I don't trust her, but my gut feeling is that they are both lying. Her car has been limited to work only until she pays off the money she owes us from stealing. My husband allowed her to take the car to the beach the other day. I have begged him to also listen to the program, and he is always too busy, and basically doesn't care. I feel this is one of the main reasons why we are in this situation, because there is no unity. I really want this problem solved!

I have tried family counseling, and my daughter has been diagnosed with depression, and has started taking lexapro. I was against this at first, but am willing to try to see if she really is unable to control her emotions. I have always had a close relationship with both daughters, and have done most of the things that you suggest, before I started this program.

My older daughter's plans of living away at college were taken away when she didn't get the cheerleading scholarship that she was hoping for. When that fell through, we agreed to a year of community college and living at home was best for her, until she pulled up her grades, and matured a little. (She was not self-reliant enough to live away without answering to someone ie. coach, and also a network of friends). Instead of maturing this year, she regressed and rebelled, blaming me for not allowing her to live away.

My husband lost his job, and I couldn't pay for her to live away without the scholarship. She was only 17, and not eligible for a loan without my cosigning. She still cannot get a loan until 21 without our cosigning. I told her that living away at school is not out of the question, but it is a privilege that needs to be earned. Please advise? Sorry so detailed.


Hi M.,

Re: My daughter was told no smoking. Is this something I can enforce?

You will not be able to stop her from smoking. Pick your battles carefully - and this is not a battle you should fight. In fact, the more you worry about it or lecture her, the more she will smoke! But you can stop her from smoking on YOUR property. Here's what you can say to your daughter:

"I can't keep you from damaging your health by smoking. But it's your health - not mine! However, I don't want you smoking in my house or anywhere on my property. If you choose to smoke on my property, you'll choose the consequence, which his grounding for 3 days without privileges (e.g., use of phone, T.V., computer, etc.)."

If your daughter smokes on the property, follow through with the consequence.

Re: I have begged him to also listen to the program, and he is always too busy, and basically doesn't care.

A weaker plan supported by both parents is much better than a stronger plan supported by only one.


My Out-of-Control Teen

Should you put your teenage daughter on birth control?

Parent's Question:

"My daughter has become sexually active with 'her boyfriend'. She was sneaking out on the nights my husband works. We have had one pregnancy scare already. Do I - or do I not - put her on birth control? We are currently on Week 2 of your program."

My Response:

YES! Just do it. Wherever you stand on pre-marital sex, you need to address the reality of your daughter engaging in sexual activity and it's consequences. Be honest with your daughter starting first with the science of how the various forms of birth control work. Don't forget to address all those myths floating around. You want to make sure your daughter has heard it from you before she hears it in the locker room. She is more likely to value your advice if you offer it freely. It's okay to be uncomfortable. It's not okay to hide your head in the sand.

Parents are often in denial …they may fervently want children to delay sexual activity, but if you know for a fact that your daughter is having sex, then the responsible thing to do is to warn her about sexually transmitted diseases and help prevent her from getting pregnant.

Parent's Next Question:

"Thank you. We struggled with the "giving her permission" part of it. Considering the cost, is it one of those things she has to "earn"? In other words, should she pay for it with her "chore" allowance?

Also, she has become interested in piercing and tattooing to the point of piercing her own lip with a safety pin and is now engaging in trying to create her own tattoo gun and cutting into her skin. The lip piercing she did a few months ago and we were "secretly" hoping it would infect and we would have to take her but she read up on how to take care of it, too. We discovered last night that she was on the internet finding directions on self-tattooing. The type that prisoners do. My husband found the paperwork on a couch in the living room. We almost think she wanted us to find it.

I monitor her IM and limit it as well. I found she shared this tattooing info with "her 15 year old boyfriend" and was hiding her initial markings with a wristband. I left for work this morning, told my husband about it (who is now home sleeping). He is thankfully on vacation this week but we are both a bit distraught over this. What do you recommend for how we handle this today?

You are a godsend right now. Thank you."

My Response:

Re: ...should she pay for it with her "chore" allowance?

I'd have her pay half. Her willingness to go along with the whole birth control thing is worth much more than the cost of a month's worth of pills.

Re: tattooing. If she's going to get a tattoo, she really should consider having it done professionally. Professional studios usually take pride in their cleanliness. Here are some things to check for:
  • Make sure the tattoo studio has an autoclave (a device that uses steam, pressure, and heat for sterilization). You should be allowed to watch as equipment is sterilized in the autoclave.
  • Check that the tattoo artist is a licensed practitioner. If so, the tattoo artist should be able to provide you with references.
  • Be sure that the tattoo studio follows the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's Universal Precautions. These are regulations that outline procedures to be followed when dealing with bodily fluids (in this case, blood).
Tattoos and piercings really fall into the "pick-your-battles-carefully" category. Most parents have bigger fish to fry (i.e., more serious problems to address).

Mark Hutten, M.A.

My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents

We have told him come next month he is paying for his bills...

Hi Mark

Well our son turns 18 this week and worked 10 days this summer in a temporary position. He now is not working as he has money. He says he will find work soon but does not actually look, just talks about it.

Of course we have told him come next month he is paying for his bills. This does not seem to jar him, in fact, the more we encourage (he calls it nagging) to get work, the more he pulls back (control).

So, he will get money for his birthday (grandparents) and he says he will use this to pay us back and pay for his cell phone etc. Do you think this is acceptable as the money is a gift, intended for him to buy something for himself? I told him the bills he has should be paid with work money and not gift money. (We are not planning on giving him any unearned money).

Please advise of your thoughts on this.


Things are slowly getting better with the program. Thank-you.



Hi S.,

Re: Do you think this is acceptable as the money is a gift, intended for him to buy something for himself?

Receiving money as a gift from grandparents on one’s birthday is certainly acceptable. And if he wants to pay bills with that money – fine. However, his bills will continue to come in – but his birthday money will eventually run out.

The larger issue here seems to be as follows: What is he doing to prepare for living away from the nest.

The latest parenting challenge is dealing with emerging adults who have no intention of leaving the nest. Many 18- to 25-year-olds either return home after college or they've never even left home. The media refers to them as "Boomerang Kids." Parents are worried that their kids won't leave home.

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

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

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

1. They Are Unprepared

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

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

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

2. They Are Cautious or Clueless

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

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

3. They Have Personal Problems

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

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

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

4. They Have Mounting Debt

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

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

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

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


Online Parent Support

What to do when you think your teen "may" have lied to you - but you have no proof:


Hello Mark, I recently started your online program and am so glad I found it! I have a question involving lying that cannot be proven. I am 99% sure my 14 yr old son did these things but I have no physical proof that he specifically is the one that did it. My husband says without that proof we cannot punish him. I disagree, but I am afraid it may cause him to resent me on that 1% chance he is not lying. Issue 1: porn downloaded on my computer during 1 hour while I was away. I have a spyware program that showed this, and he says Limewire auto downloads stuff and he didn’t do it. Issue 2: 30 presc pills of mine are missing and he has been caught with other drugs/alcohol previously. Besides my husband and myself, the only person in the household is my 19 yr old daughter and we have no reason to believe she would have done either of these things as #1 she has her own computer, and #2 she has not had problems with this kind of thing, and #3 we can always tell if she lies and she says she didn't do these things. Should we punish my son? Thank you, T.


Your husband is right. If you don’t have proof, you shouldn’t issue a consequence – BUT you should safeguard your prescription meds and limit/monitor use of the computer.

As with ALL parents, there will come a time when you will catch your teen in a lie. It may be about something small, like telling you they have no homework when they are actually behind in school, or it could be something as big as saying they are spending the night at friends and staying out all night. When a teen gets away with a small lie, they tend to move onto bigger lies, so it's important to not let them get away with even the first small lie. It's about setting boundaries and using discipline to educate your child as to what you will not put up with, and drawing clear expectations of their behavior.

It's harder than it looks. You found out, you talked to them, you feel hurt and betrayed, but you pass it off as a youthful indiscretion and let it pass. They promise not to do it again, but the consequences did not match the action, and therefore they will continue to test and push to see how far they can get. Your job is to set clear expectations with your teen about lying, and set clear consequences.

This is a natural part of youth development, seeing how much they can get away with. But constant lying can lead to bigger problems, such as petty theft. So stay strong, set clear boundaries, and let the discipline (notice the word used here is discipline and not punishment) fit the lie.

How can you tell if your teen is lying to you in the first place? Listed below are a few ways therapists and other professionals use to spot when someone is telling a lie:
  1. If your teen avoids looking at you when telling you a story or looks at you too long without blinking, this is an indication that he/she may be lying. People tend not to look at the person they are lying to in the eye when lying, unless they know this fact and then they tend to look at you for too long. If you talk to your teen on a regular basis, you'll see a deviation in how he/she behaves while communicating to you during a lie.
  1. Many times when a person lies, they look down. When a person tells you what happened and it’s the truth, they tend to look up and ‘see’ the event happening as it did. But when someone is using their creativity to ‘make up’ what happened, they look down.
  1. People who are lying fidget. But this is also a sign of stress, so don’t go by this alone. Ask to check up on the story.
  1. People who are lying touch their face and mouth. This type of body language is something that happens often when someone is lying. It isn’t easy to pick up until you know to look for it.
  1. Teens who are lying avoid details, or have well practiced details, and change the story in the second telling. Again, this doesn’t happen as often with highly intelligent teens. Ask to check up on the story and see how he she reacts.
  1. The faster you get over the shock that your teen will lie to you, the better you will be at spotting when he/she is lying. Your teen will not be trying to hurt you by lying, so try not to emotionally attach yourself to that action.
  1. There will be a pause. This one would tell me something is wrong when I had a teen on the phone. If I ask for details on what he/she was doing, there is always a pause before the answer. It’s time for the teen to make something up. This happens face to face too.
  1. When someone lies, they get defensive and will not be happy if you chose to check-up on their story. It has been my experience when a teen is not lying, they offer ways for you to check up by giving you the phone numbers or names you need. They may be a little insulted – I fall back and regroup later – but they aren’t defensive. Being defensive and pitching a fit when asked to help you check the story is a sure sign something is amiss and the teen is lying.

Mark Hutten, M.A.

My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents

We are thinking we need to jump the chain of command and talk to the Superintendent...

Hi Mark,

It's been awhile since I last wrote to you. Your help thus far has been wonderful and so appreciated.

When Last I wrote, Our oldest son (P___ 21) was still living at home, and our younger son (J___ 16) was having school problems and more.

P___ is now living in Flagstaff, working and taking college classes at Yavapai Community (on line) and a Summer Biology class at Coconino Community in Flag. He is planning to apply for the nursing program and getting his pre req classed done.

J___ is doing better, but we have some hurdles yet to overcome. As last school year was drawing to a close, he was failing two classes. We had allowed him to get his drivers license but was only able to drive with us in the car as we were looking into insurance et. He was told that if he did not pass all classes, he would only be allowed to drive to and from work this Summer. He really did not believe us until the final two weeks of school and then kicked into gear and managed to pass all classes.

So as P___'s move out date was close in Early June and J___ was out of school and ready to start driving, My Dad had a serious Fall with head Trauma in Phx. I was having a relapse of my MS (actually been in relapse since last Summer but was hoping it would go back into it's box again) I already had an appt with my Neuro at Barrows set up that week and had already had my MRI's completed. M___ (husband) and I headed down to Phx, leaving J___ In charge of the dogs and puppies. My Dad was in ICU for almost 3 weeks. I stayed down there with my Mom, spending our days and evenings at the hospital, I had a 3 day infusion of Steroids to tamp down my M.S. and decided to start a new Therapy Med, Tysabri, as my MS had progressed alot over the past year.

My Dad had to be moved to Hospice, where he passed away on June 21st. Then we had to plan, make and proceed with his arrangements and his memorial was on June 27th.

As you can imagine, we were unable to get insurance arrangements made at that time for J___ to be able to drive. He was at times understanding and other times, felt we were dragging our feet.... Over all J___ did a good job of holding down the fort while I was gone but did very little once Mike came home from work etc.

J___ is now driving and we are happy for that as is he. Next will be getting a job and hopefully a successful coming year. He will be a Junior this year.

P___ is doing well in Flagstaff so far and liking having his own apt. Not too sure how things will continue to progress as he is still in the mind set of getting financial aid or loans to support himself and go to school full time. We are open to other options, but are waiting to see how he figures things out on his own and talk other options when and if the time comes. I will most likely be seeking your advise on this in the near future.

I'm sorry for the long e-mail.... But here is where we are now.

Focusing on J___..... We have made him responsible for 1/3 of his insurance and totally responsible for his cell phone… this alone will lead to his need for a job, so we are comfortable with that aspect of his life at this point.

We went to his school for registration yesterday. J___ is not strong in Math abilities and last year was failing Geometry and after much fighting with the school, was put in Math fundamentals. He has to have one more math credit to graduate. The schools stance is that he has to take Geometry and won't budge at this point. He has passed his AIMS test in Math, although he failed the algebra and Geometry portion, has met the state requirement to graduate. To make matters tougher... his school has adopted a grading scale that makes C the lowest passing grade.

His school Councilor and I have a real conflict and a meeting with her, always turns out with her treating me like an irresponsible Parent that only wants to give J___ the easy road thru school. They want to see him "challenged" … little do they understand that he is challenged and what we want is to see him succeed and graduate and if he needs higher math in the future, he will at that time be more mature and focused to achieve it. At this point he wants to be a Fireman and wants to start taking his fire science classes next year while he is finishing up high school.

We have seen much improvement in his attitude (not perfect) and plan to continue to follow your advise that school is his job and hold to the consequences that if he fails classes, his driving will be restricted to work transport only. I do feel that it is up to me to help in getting his schedule worked out to make this achievable, am I wrong here?

I would like to hear your advice before I proceed with the school. We are thinking we need to jump the chain of command and talk to the Superintendent, who is a reasonable man VS the principal who is not.

We want J___ to succeed and his schedule minus the Geometry is going to be a real challenge as he will be working also. They do offer a Business Math class but say the pre reqs are Algebra and Geometry and not an easy class but I think will offer at least math that is geared towards life skills that he will need.

I'm sorry if I have rambled on... I look forward to hearing from you. If all this sounds jumbled, that is just how life is feeling for me :)

Thank you Mark,


Visit our website at


Hi A.,

Re: I do feel that it is up to me to help in getting his schedule worked out to make this achievable, am I wrong here?

Wrong? Probably not. Will you be effective? Probably not. So the question now becomes, “How much time and energy do you put into this?

If he has met the state requirement to graduate, then you may want to let go of it.

You would want me to be honest here – so I will. This sounds too much like you taking on too much responsibility, which has probably contributed to the problem at some level.

Bottom line: I think your son received a natural consequence for not going the extra mile (e.g., not getting a tutor, doing extra homework, etc.). If he wants it -- he’ll get it!

You can go to the Superintendent and try to work that angle, but this may send the wrong message to your son (e.g., “If you don’t get what you want, then play politics and try to manipulate the system”).


Online Parent Support

What is considered discipline and what is considered punishing?


I am on week 3, and have found your online counseling a huge help to our family and situation. I hope that if we follow this, that we will see improvements with our 7-year-old daughter that has gotten out of control at home. She has been diagnosed ADHD and ODD. Every doc has recommended medications for her. Mainly I am sure because of school and the fact that she does have problems with socialization at school. She is aggressive with kids, but a friendly aggressive like hugs and such. She has a heart of gold, and wants to do good, but she doesn’t have the tools she needs in order to be constructive.

I am wondering what is the difference between discipline vs punishing? What I mean is, what is considered discipline and what is considered punishing?

Thank you,



Hi J.,

Discipline is: 

  • "Time-outs" that are open-ended and governed by the child's readiness to gain self-control
  • Acknowledging or rewarding efforts and good behavior
  • Consistent, firm guidance
  • Directed at the child's behavior, never the child
  • Giving children positive alternatives
  • Listening and modeling
  • Logical consequences that are directly related to the misbehavior
  • Physically and verbally non-violent
  • Positive, respectful
  • Re-directing and selectively "ignoring" minor misbehavior
  • Reflection and verbal give-and-take communication
  • Teaching children to internalize self-discipline
  • Teaching empathy and healthy remorse by showing it
  • Understanding individual abilities, needs, circumstances and developmental stages
  • Using mistakes as learning opportunities
  • When children follow rules because they are discussed and agreed upon
  • When children must make restitution when their behavior negatively affects someone else

Punishment is:
  • "Time-outs" that banish a child for a set amount of time governed by the adult
  • Being told only what NOT to do
  • Children are punished for hurting others, rather than shown how to make restitution
  • Consequences that are unrelated and illogical to the misbehavior
  • Constantly reprimanding children for minor infractions causing them to tune-out
  • Controlling, shaming
  • Criticizing the child, rather than the child's behavior
  • Forcing children to comply with illogical rules "just because you said so"
  • Inappropriate to the child’s developmental stage of life
  • Individual circumstances, abilities and needs not taken into consideration
  • Negative and disrespectful of the child
  • Physically and verbally violent and aggressive
  • Reacting to rather than responding to misbehavior
  • Sarcastic
  • Teaching children to be controlled by a source outside of themselves
  • Teaching children to behave only when they will get caught doing otherwise
  • When children follow rules because they are threatened or bribed

Discipline is guidance. When we guide children toward positive behavior and learning, we are promoting a healthy attitude. Positive guidance encourages a child to think before he acts. Positive guidance promotes self-control. Different styles of discipline produce results that are different. Discipline requires thought, planning, and patience.

Punishment, on the other hand, is usually hitting, spanking, or any type of control behavior. Basically there are four kinds of punishment: 

  • Penalizing the child with consequences that do not fit the crime: Example: "Because you told a lie, you can't have your allowance."
  • Physical: Slapping, spanking, switching, paddling, using a belt or hair brush, and so on.
  • With words: Shaming, ridiculing, or using cruel words.

Punishment is usually used because: 

  • It vents adult frustration
  • It's quick and easy
  • Parents don't know other methods
  • Punishment asserts adult power

Punishment does not promote self discipline. It only stops misbehavior for that moment. Punishment may fulfill a short-term goal, but it actually interferes with the accomplishment of your long-term goal of self control. 

The consequences for children include the following lessons:
  • It is okay to hit people who are smaller than you are.
  • It is right to hit those you are closest to.
  • Those who love you the most are also those who hit you.
  • Violence is okay when other things don't work.


  • Address the situation; do not judge the child. This is important because diminished self-esteem leads to insecurity, even hostility.
  • Be firm. Clearly and firmly state that the child does what needs to be done. Speak in a tone that lets your child know you mean what you say and you expect the child to do it. It doesn't mean yelling or threatening. Being firm works for any age child and for many situations.
  • Be sure children know these limits. Be consistent.
  • Build self-esteem and respect. Avoid words that reduce self-esteem.
  • Guide through consequences. If a child leaves his toys outside and the toys are stolen or damaged--no toys.
  • Keep discipline positive. Tell children what to do instead of what not to do.
  • Keep your cool. Listen calmly to your child's explanation of the problem; talk about ways to deal with it. Come to a solution that's agreeable to you and the child--this helps the child learn to be responsible for his behavior.
  • Plan ahead. Prevent misbehavior by eliminating situations that spell trouble. For example, make sure children have been fed and are rested before going to the grocery store.
  • Set clear and safe limits.
  • Teach by example. Be a good example. If you hit children for hitting others, they won't understand why they can't hit.
  • When you discipline, explain why.

Sorry for all the bullet points. It makes it a bit impersonal, but also provides you with a digestible summary.

Thanks for the question,

Mark Hutten, M.A.

Problems That Result From Over-Indulgent Parenting

Hi Sheila,

== > I’ve responded throughout your email below:

Dear Mark,

I followed your parenting programme and found it helpful, especially the poker face scenarios which worked to some degree. The problem has been that I have felt afraid to carry out some of the scenarios which you advise ie the 'take everything away and ground for 3 days' as my son is 17 and quite strong.

== > Unfortunately, not following the program’s goals will make it nearly impossible to be successful with the desired outcomes.

I think he has an addiction to the computer and he can be on it for up to 14 hours a day. As it is Summer holidays for him (but not for me) he has been on it until 4am in the morning and never goes out. This makes it very difficult for me to get a proper nights sleep because altho he is not noisy his moving around disturbs me and I get up the next morning to do a full days work feeling very tired. When I try to talk to him about it he says that I keep myself up.

When I came back from work 2 weeks ago (after a poor nights sleep) I had lots of work to do on my laptop and was very tired. He had not done the jobs he had agreed to do and there was a mound of washing up in the washing up bowl which was his. I was a bit annoyed (which he hates) but tried to get him to do the jobs there and then so that we could move on. He wanted a chinese take-away and wanted me to drive him to the top of the road to collect it. When I said no, that I had lots of work to do and I was tired but I would give him the money for him to get himself a take away when he had done his jobs he got really annoyed.

== > What did he do to earn money for Chinese take-away?!

To cut a long story short, we had a row, I was unable to maintain a poker face, I turned the computer off, which ruined the on line game he was playing, things went from bad to worse, he took my lap top from me. I tried to go to bed and said I was going to bed in a calm (but very tired) voice he turned the sound up on the computer - therefore I was unable to either work or sleep. I refused to leave his room until I got my lap top back …he started to drag me out of the room etc etc. to cut a long story short, he put a hole in the wall, pushed me over and turned his sound up again, he continued to throw things around the flat and break some of my things. - I called the cops. They took him to his father’s house for one night and that is the last I have seen of him.

== > I’m glad you called the cops. (I was beginning to wonder if you had any backbone.) You sent a very clear message to your son that violence against women is unacceptable.

It has taken 3 years of this to reach that scenario. I was at my wits end, I cannot seem to handle this on my own as he is too strong for me and NO-One has ever told him to stop. His father always says that I must be doing something to provoke him and will not talk to him and will Never agree with anything I say or back me up. He doesn't want to deal with it. Mediation services say he is crossing the boundary of 'normal teenager behaviour' and we need to talk to him. His father refuses to co-parent. In fact his father hates the cops so much and was furious I called them, that he now is forbidding me from seeing my son saying he needs protecting and he is to move in with him and threatening me with child protection and accusing me of abuse - but mark my son is 17 years old and 5ft 10, I am 5ft 4 and 54kg. I am the one with the bruises and although I have got into some tussles with my son, I have never used physical force to punish or control him!!! It is ludicrous.

== > It sounds like you have 2 teenagers to deal with – your son AND your husband. I’m sorry to hear that your husband is a jerk.

However this brings me to my final point and question…

I feel that my son will not learn a good lesson from this. He will, like his father, blame me and I have come to the point where I have been unhappy with him living with me for some time and cannot see a way forward if he came back.

== > This is where I thought we were going with this conversation – and I am glad to see that you are finally getting some insight into what YOU really need to do with this dilemma. I’ll read on…

I love my son desperately and miss him terribly, but there is some relief that he has gone, which I feel guilty about.

== > HOLD IT! Re: “feeling guilty”—

This is why you got so deep into this problem to begin with – that is, your “relationship” with your son was more important to you than it was to him; you took on WAY too much responsibility for that relationship. Of course you’ll always love him, but to AVOID setting healthy boundaries in order to protect your physical and mental health would be insane.

I feel at this moment in time I just dont want to see either him or his father for a very long time - because there will be too much anger from him that is not being addressed by him. Am I doing the right thing?

== > Absolutely! How does it feel to have an “awakening”?

I know you say never give up but I have tried everything under the sun from parenting classes to mediation and nothing works because I am the only one doing anything.

== > I don’t see your need for respite as “giving up” – rather, I see it as you finally realizing that if you don’t take care of you – nobody else will.

The other two just will not play ball... I have tried to be a good mum and things used to be wonderful but as my boy has got older there has been a lack of co-parenting and myself and his dad, have argued around him and have completely different ideas about parenting. He must be confused and there has been a lack of boundaries as we both say different things. I feel I just need to be out of the picture and hope some day that he might realise all the things I tried to do for him and the sacrifices I made.....Is there anything you could suggest that I could do or should I just leave it???

== > I’d leave it -- with one huge caveat:

When your son wants to come back to live with you because he and his father have had a meltdown, your temptation will be to welcome him with open arms. BUT, what you will be doing is setting the whole unfortunate thing in motion again.

You have described over-indulgent parenting on your part throughout this email. If you take your son back at some point – but continue to parent using an over-indulgent parenting style, your son will eat you for lunch …then spit you out.

Mark Hutten, M.A.

My Out-of-Control Teen

He knows exactly how to push her buttons and she gets so upset she usually just explodes in anger followed by tears...

I first want to start out by saying THANK YOU. Although I have only completed the first weeks session I already feel like there is hope for our family.

I have a 15 year old son (will turn 16 in one month) who was diagnosed with ADHD in first grade and diagnosed with Bipolar disorder in the 6th grade. Currently his ADHD is stable with Adderall and his bipolar is being treated with Abilify. I dont think the Abilify is the answer however. I have learned to cope with alot of his 'difficulties" but there are 2 problems that I would call a "emergency."

I also have a 14 year our daughter who is a basket of nerves. My son and her HATE each other. He knows exactly how to push her buttons and she gets so upset she usually just explodes in anger followed by tears. When she is upset there is no reasoning with her until she calms down. I can almost see the "excitement" in my son’s eyes when he makes her cry. She is so vulnerable right now. He knows she is very aware of her figure and looks so he is constantly calling her fat (although she is not fat at all). She then comes back at him with retard and why don’t we "send him away". I fear what this is doing to her self-esteem and emotional needs.

My second problem is his vulgar language. He is constantly using fowl language on a daily basis usually with no rhyme or reason. He just yells out a long string of bad language for no reason. He is also very open about sex. He talks about it a lot and constantly makes "sexual noises".

Please believe me when I say, I will continue with your program but right now I feel like 3 weeks is a eternity and I fear our family will fall apart before I get to the end. Do you have any quick advice to help us cope?

I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Thanks so much for your help!



Hi C.,

Re: He knows exactly how to push her buttons and she gets so upset she usually just explodes in anger followed by tears.

You’ll want to use the strategies in Sessions 3 & 4 for this. But allow me to elaborate a bit before you rush through those sessions in search of a magic bullet.

Mothers of teenagers or preteenagers may be troubled by the amount of fighting, both verbal and physical, that goes on between their children. This is a common problem in homes with adolescents and one many mothers find particularly difficult and upsetting. One mother said, "They are constantly bickering and yelling. There's no peace in the house anymore. They won't listen to me, and nothing I do seems to have any effect on them. Why do they hate each other so?"

If mothers experience these kinds of problems and concerns, it may help if they try to gain a better understanding of sibling battles and then develop a plan for dealing with them in their home.

In this society, people have the expectation that they will love and get along well with everyone in their family. They always expect to feel positive toward their mothers, brothers, sisters, spouse and children. Most people, however, have at least some times when they don't feel very loving toward each other.

Relationships within a family are close, both emotionally and physically, and very intense. When the television show mothers have been looking forward to is being drowned out by the cheerleading practice in the basement, or when the turkey leg they were saving for a snack is missing from the refrigerator, or when their spouse is gleefully telling a crowd of friends how they dented the car fender, they are not likely to feel loving. Because they are so close, family members have a greater power than anyone else to make other members feel angry, sad, confused -- and loving. This is as true for children and adolescents as it is for adults.

Most siblings have probably been good friends and good enemies as they have grown. Having a sibling provides an opportunity to learn to get along with others. Especially when siblings are younger, they may fight bitterly, but they will probably be playing together again an hour later.

For example, a child will say something hateful to a sibling, knowing full well they will still be siblings and friends when the fight is over. If the same thing was said to a playmate outside the family, that playmate might take his or her marbles and go home for good. Thus, children learn from relationships with siblings just how certain words or actions will affect another person without the fear of losing the person's friendship.

Siblings fight for a number of reasons:

  • They fight because they are growing up in a competitive society that teaches them that to win is to be better: "I saw it first." "I beat you to the water."
  • They fight because they are jealous: "He got a new bike. I didn't. They must love him more than they love me."
  • They fight because they want a parent's attention, and the parent has only so much time, attention and patience to give.
  • They fight over ordinary teasing which is a way of testing the effects of behavior and words on another person: "He called me..." "But she called me...first."

Children need not weeks or months but years to learn some of the socially approved ways to behave in relationships. Lessons about jealousy, competition, sharing and kindness are difficult to learn, and, indeed, some adults still haven't learned them.

Adolescents fight for the same reasons younger children fight. But adolescents are bigger, louder and better equipped physically and intellectually to hurt and be hurt by words and actions.

From a parent's point of view, they "ought" to be old enough to stop that kind of behavior. What mothers may forget is that adolescents are under pressure from many different directions. Physical and emotional changes and changes in thinking cause pressures, as do changing relationships with mothers and friends.

Teenagers may be concerned about real or imagined problems between their mothers. They feel pressure about the future as adults and about learning to be an adult.

In many ways, teenagers are in greater need than ever for parental love, attention and concern and for a belief that they are as good as their siblings. The adolescent may not recognize these needs or may be too embarrassed to express them verbally, so fighting with siblings as a way to get parental attention may actually increase in adolescence.

In truth, children don't really hate each other, at least not all the time. As children mature and learn to control their energies and anxieties, chances are they will be good friends.

Mothers can recognize the reasons for the fighting and make up their minds that they will not tolerate it. It's not easy to stick to that resolution! However, many mothers have found that sticking to that resolution is the most important factor in bringing peace to their home.

Mothers should tell adolescents that while it's normal to have disagreements, the constant fighting upsets them and they value peace at home. They can say they will no longer be the judge and jury over the siblings' disputes and they will not stand for it! Then, they must stand by the resolution.

One mother reported that every time a fight started, she would say to his adolescents, "You're fighting. I'm leaving." And then she would go out to work in the yard or take a drive or run an errand -- but she simply walked away from the fighting. Another mother used a similar tactic. When the fighting began, she said, "Call me when it's over." Then she went to her bedroom, slamming the door to emphasize her point. Another parent made his adolescents leave the house when they began fighting.

In each of these cases, the mothers demonstrated that fighting would not get their attention and they would not get involved in the fight. Other mothers have had success in imposing penalties for fighting, such as fines deducted from allowances or a certain amount of grounding for each fighter. These mothers are showing adolescents the cost of fighting is higher than the reward. Whatever tactic mothers use, if they are consistent and stick to their guns, they will almost certainly be successful in reducing the amount of fighting between their children.

Living with fighting adolescent siblings is not pleasant. If mothers can remain calm in the face of battling teenagers, if they can retain their sense of humor and if they put up a determined and united front, they will find the war in their living room will end before long.

As a parent, do you:

  • Avoid initiating competition among children?
  • Be sure older children are not usually forced to give in to younger ones because "he's little" or "she doesn't know better?"
  • Believe there can be something good in sibling fighting?
  • Make sure your adolescents realize they are each unique and have a special set of strengths?
  • Praise adolescents for being who they are not just for what they can do?
  • Realize adolescents and younger children need to be given the right to decide not to share at least some of the time?
  • Recognize that each child is different?
  • Set aside some time to be alone with each child?
  • Talk to the adolescents about their fighting?

Here’s some more tips:

  1. Be available to listen patiently to the problem and control your emotions. Typically mothers have more insight into solving a problem, so give them positive suggestions they can use to work the problem out with their sibling.
  2. Don't intervene, but do give them guidance.
  3. Don't take sides -- remain neutral.
  4. Encourage teenagers to work out issues constructively. Do not allow aggressive behavior such as name calling or hitting.
  5. Express to each of your children that you care for each of them as individuals and love them unconditionally.
  6. Give them the opportunity to work out their problems on their own.
  7. Help enforce the rules by outlining consequences when rules are broken.
  8. Help them recognize each other's individuality.
  9. Insist that they try to cooperate first.
  10. Overcome your own competitive nature.
  11. Share an interest in their activities.
  12. Spend time with them individually.
  13. Teach your children good communication techniques, problem solving skills, and the importance of compromise.

Re: My second problem is his vulgar language.

Teens equate swearing to a rite of passage. As parents we can help them learn healthier ways of expressing and developing maturity. The first step to cleaning up teen talk is listening to your teen. When you ascertain in what scenarios and environments he typically swears, you can help him find alternatives to express himself.

Does your son try to project confidence or superiority when he swears? Does he demonstrate anguish, disgust or disdain in himself or peers with cursing? Do you hear your son causally and subconsciously dropping profanities intermittently throughout casual conversations? Knowing the prime times your son swears will help you choose a course of action to clean up the cursing.

Teens frequently opt for strong language as the result of peer pressure. When she asked her fifteen-year-old son James why he selects such strong language to convey his point of view, Julie from Indianapolis was astonished by her teen’s straightforward answer. “I talk just like all my friends. We don’t mean anything and it’s not like adults don’t say those things” was James' enlightening response. Although it may appear cavalier, James' explanation is familiarly synonymous with beliefs of his peers.

Realizing that her son and his friends were trying to out-do each other in a ritual game of whose language packs the most shock value, Julie decided she wanted to break her son’s habit of vulgarity. “We talked about better ways he could grab his friend’s and acquaintance’s attention,” states Julie “I tried to impress that acting older didn’t automatically mean someone would believe he’s mature.”

Many parents like Julie also find explaining that swearing is not an impressive trait or something that is respected and admired provides clarity. When teens realize that vulgarity or excessive slang has an affect that is ironically opposite than their desired perception of maturity, they are less inclined to taint their vocabulary with swearing. Helping your teen find an intelligent means to express himself, and thus demonstrate true maturity, will both curb swearing and help him achieve his desired goal.

I also suggest parents model the language they expect their teens and tweens to utilize. Reinforcing positive expressions of various emotions lets teens know there’s another way to same the same thing. Of course, we’re all human and can possibly accidentally or occasionally let a slang word slip. The frustration of stalled traffic or of dropping a heavy can on top of your foot can cause the most restrained individual to use an inappropriate word.

Acknowledging that you’re aware you made a regrettable word choice helps teens respect the lessons you’re aiming to instill. Demonstrating your remorse for using a curse word offers your teen a glimpse into your humanistic persona.

Additionally helping your teen realize there are consequences to all of his actions -- including swearing -- provides another deterrent. If your teen has to pay a predetermined ‘fee’ or ‘toll’ for every profanity used, he may think twice about spending his hard earned allowance on curse words. A curse word cookie jar worked miraculously for Karen’s son. “After a few weeks of paying for his language, he decided he’s give up swearing. It was just too expensive,” Karen happily proclaimed.

Good luck …stay in touch,


My Out-of-Control Teen

What do you think about boarding school to get her away from the bullshit...

hi mark

i didnt call the police until i would have another episode but i let this guy back into my house because he was staying with my sister and my daughter would keep going over there so i said he could come over …well my daughter and him got the impression that he is going to live here and after a few days i told him he has to go and he got all puffy, and my daughter got an attitude, but he told her he was going to leave in a couple of days

…i told him there wasnt enough room here and i needed to get a handle on my daughter… He got pissed off and said i had more than him to worry about in my daughters life - that i should be concerned about who she would be with when he left and didnt give me a chance to talk to him before he took off….

Well the next day he was at my (supposed to be supportive sisters) and i dont know if he was there all night or not …she said they all showed up after she got out of court for being evicted, but a boy staying there said he was there when he got there at 8 o clock.

Now my daughter went to her house at 11 she was with a friend whose 20 and finally called me at 4:30 …anyways they were tooling around with this guy Joe who i kicked out. Then i got my dish network bill and there were adult movies on ppv at the times i was at work, so i called the police and they said they couldnt prove he was watching them with my daughter so they couldnt arrest him …he was at my sisters house when the police came and my sister almost got arrested for defending him. She was all-supportive for him, and said i am crazy, and said they make mistakes all the time. What do you think about boarding school to get her away from the bullshit …and im afraid Joe has been molesting my daughter.

I didnt mention that my daughter and Joe denied watching adult movies and my daughter took the policeman aside and told him she didnt want to go home with me causes she was scared id beat her up and that i drink all the time and beat her up …but he said he couldnt do anything because she had no marks …then he saw right through her and said she had to come home.


Hi S.,

Below is an email from one of my teenage clients – along with my response. I think this discussion applies to your daughter as well. Maybe you can convince you’re her to read it:

Email from client:

I’m 16 and in love with a much older man. He’s 34 and treats me like gold but I worry about how my parents will react when they learn how old he is. He doesn’t look 34, more like 24, so I could lie to them and say he is younger but I just don’t know if I should. Advice?

My response:

Too many teen girls, some younger than 16, have written in asking me to tell them that their love affair with a much older man is “OK” or normal, and that their parents and all of society are wrong for putting an age limit on love, but I just can’t do this. Sure, love doesn’t always make sense, but the bottom line on this situation is simple: it is weird.

Take a good look at the kind of relationship we're talking about here. There are nearly two decades of life dividing the two of you and I have to ask, “What on earth can you guys possibly have in common???” I ask this with extreme caution because I, along with every parent reading this answer, fears you will say there is a bond in the worst possible way (yep, I mean sex) and that will force me to retort with words like; statutory rape, lecherous intentions, borderline pedophilia and ewww gross. Honestly the whole thing makes me want to yell, "Get out of this relationship, date guys closer to your own age and enjoy your youth!" Chances are good he enjoyed his youth, a youth he lived 15 years ago!

I can state with great confidence that most normal well-adjusted 30+ year old men (and more than a few men in their late 20’s) would run to the nearest psychologist if they ever seriously thought about having that kind of a relationship with a 16 year old child. Yes, when there are 18 years between you and you live in the 21st century a 16 year old is still a child where any normal 30-something is concerned. Sorry, I know how much teenagers hate being called children but really, you’re not an adult by any legal or socially accepted definition of the word so get over the child label and just accept that this 34 year old who treats you like gold probably has some really unsettling demons lurking in his closet and that those demons are just waiting to jump out and scare you back into a reality where teenagers date teenagers, or at least young adults, and 34 year old men don’t troll for dates at the local high school.

I wish I could tell you that love conquers all, that age ain’t nothing but a number and that men more than twice your age make great life partners and loyal companions, but I can’t. Any man that old involved with a girl who is so much younger most likely suffers from one, some, or all of the following personality quirks; he is immature, he is an under-achiever, he has low self esteem, he is a control freak, he is in an early mid-life crisis, he is emotionally confused, he routinely strays from socially accepted norms, he’s creepy, etc… When all is said and done the dude is just not right.

Consider the following:

  • Teenagers who date older partners had a lower likelihood of consistent contraceptive use. For each year a partner is older than the respondent, the likelihood of always using contraception decreases by 11 percent.
  • A recent study found that 6.7 percent of women aged 15-17 have partners six or more years older. The pregnancy rate for this group is 3.7 times as high as the rate for those whose partners are no more than two years older.
  • "Teenage girls with older partners are more likely to become pregnant than those with partners closer in age," Planned Parenthood (2004) reported. Further, girls who get pregnant are more likely to have the baby rather than get an abortion if their partners are older.

The characteristics of adult men and the teenage women they date are clearly not ideal. Compared to teenage fathers, adult fathers with teen partners were significantly more likely to have a history of school failure, to smoke, and to have been arrested.

Although studies of adult-teen relationships are sparse, there has been some anecdotal effort to understand them. The National Center for Policy Analysis (2001) suggests four main reasons:

  • An older man may be better able to care for a family than a teenager.
  • Older men may expect the woman to take responsibility for contraception.
  • Teenage women are not as likely to use birth control pills as women a few years older.
  • Teenagers may want to become "adults" more quickly to escape an unhappy or deprived home environment.

Older men also carry liabilities that can be closely related to what seem to be their attributes. Greater independence means greater mobility, which makes it easier for older partners to abandon girlfriends. Greater experience with life increases the odds that older men will have problems with substance abuse, emotional disturbances, criminal behavior, abusiveness, STI and HIV infection, and unresolved past relationships (including ongoing ones). In particular, the HIV infection rate is nine times higher, and gonorrhea and syphilis rates are three times higher, among teen girls than among teen boys, indicating infection of younger women by older male partners (Centers for Disease Control 1990-2002; Sexually Transmitted Disease Control Branch 2002). Older male infection of younger females may be even more pronounced if, as several studies indicate, HIV-positive teenage males also tend to have had adult male partners.

A substantial percentage of younger teenagers who have had sex appear to have been forced. "Some 74% of women who had intercourse before age 14 and 60% of those who had sex before age 15 report having had sex involuntarily," as do 40% of those who had sex by 15, and 25% by 16 also reported, the Guttmacher Institute said. Sex among young adolescents is often involuntary; it frequently involves a man who is substantially older than the woman, which may make it hard for the young woman to resist his approaches and even more difficult for her to insist that contraceptives be used to prevent STDs and pregnancy.


My Out-of-Control Teen

I am a counsellor and have recently started getting more calls from parents with difficult to manage teenage children...

Hi Mark,
Thank you for your email. I am a parent of three children..however they are all grown up now. I could have done with your course some years ago!
I bought your course because I am a counsellor and have recently started getting more calls from parents with difficult to manage teenage children. I think your course may help me with my work as it looks very well structured. I am looking forward to working with it. I hope you have no objection?
I will let you know how I am getting on with it..if you are interested!
Warm Regards


Hi J.,

Good for you!

Many of the members of Online Parent Support are professionals (e.g., teachers, juvenile probation officers, therapists, social workers, etc.) needing assistance in this particular area (i.e., dealing with out-of-control children and adolescents).

And please do let me know how things go.



Online Parent Support

When is this power struggle going to end?

Hi Mark,

I did what you said below and it worked. Afterwards he and I agreed that he could sleep over at Grandma's, when I went to class.

He ran away again, once in June and once in July. Last weekend when he ran away, I went down to the police station and filed a runaway/missing person report. I told them that he usually ends up at Grandma's house, that he gets in my face, yells at me and pushes me around. The officer said that when they pick him up, they will call me and ask me if I want them to take him in. She didn't give me specifics as to if it was a hold cell, etc. My son is still living at Grandma's and has yet to be picked up.

My son has a key to the back door. I have been blocking the door so he can't enter it as he would come in the house while I am at work for 'his stuff'. But I know that if he can't find something or anything that sets him off, he will break something.

The last 2 months have been really hard. My son calls me stupid F___Bitch all the time. He is mad that I signed him up for summer school and refused to do anything. I refused to take him to ride his dirt bike until he hands in his assignments.

He always looks for a fight so he has a reason to get mad and break something. I am trying very hard to stay calm. How do I get him to calm down and realize his inappropriate actions? When is this power struggle going to end?




Hi L.,

Since you are a single parent, you are the designated "bad guy." Your child probably directs most - if not all - of his anger and rage toward you. But his anger is displaced. He is upset about many different things for many different reasons. Thus, as difficult as it may be, do not take his attacks personally (although in most cases the attacks will need a consequence).

Kids love to argue. They want their ideas to be everyone else's ideas. They like to prove that they are right and you and everyone else are wrong. Kids like to control the situation. They enjoy having power over their parents.

Kids have a need for power. This need is normal; kids see adults as having power. We do what we want to do; at least, that's what our kids think. We appear self-reliant and secure. We are all grown up. We have power. Kids want to be like us. They want power, too.

Having a need for power is not a bad thing. It is only when a son uses power in a negative way that power can become a problem. Power-seeking kids try to do what they want to do. They refuse to do what you ask. Kids who seek power do not like to be told what to do. They resist authority. They like to make the rules. They like to determine how things are going to be done.

Why You Can't Win a Power Struggle? Most parents deal with power by emphasizing counter-control. This does not work. Efforts to control a power-seeking son often lead to a deadlock or power struggle between your son and you. No final victory is ever possible for you. Once you find yourself in a power struggle, you have lost.

If your son wins the power struggle, he is reassured that power caused the victory. You were defeated by his power. If you win the power struggle, your son thinks that it was your power that caused the victory and defeated him. He is reassured of the value of power. This results in kids striking back, again and again, each time with stronger methods. You win the battle but lose the war.

Every kid displays power differently. Most power struggles are active. Arguing is a good example of active power. Some kids have learned the value of passive resistance. Rather than argue, these kids will refuse to do what you asked. They nod their heads and just sit quietly. Some even smile a little. This type of power has a definite purpose-to push your buttons.

Stop being part of the power struggle. It takes two to have a power struggle. It takes two to argue. Make a firm commitment to yourself that you will no longer engage in arguments and lengthy explanations. State your expectations clearly and firmly and walk away. Tell your son exactly what you want him to do, when he must do it, and what happens if he does not. Then walk away.

For example:

P: "It's time to turn off the TV."
C: "I want to watch the next show."
P: "Sorry, it's time to get ready for bed."
C: "Can't I stay up for one more show?"
P: "Not tonight. We have to get up early."
C: "We always have to get up early."
P: "Turn off the TV. Get your shower and go to bed. Do it now, or you will lose TV for tomorrow night."

Do not stay in the situation and argue. Go to your room and close the door if necessary. Do not let your son push your buttons. If you get angry, you will be rewarding him. Your anger will give your son the power over you that he seeks. You may need to use punishment when dealing with power. Tell your son what to do. Be ready with a punishment if your son fails to cooperate. If you punish him because of a power struggle, remember two things.

First, do not punish in anger; this will only encourage your son to strike back with power.

Second, smaller punishments work better than bigger punishments. If your son thinks you have punished him too harshly, he will retaliate with power.

When your son does what you ask without an argument, thank him. Call attention to it: "Thank you. You did what I asked without an argument. I appreciate that. It shows you are cooperating." As a long-term solution, remember that his need for power can be a positive thing.

Look for independence, self-reliance, leadership, and decision-making. When your son shows these qualities, spotlight them. Catch him being good. As with most behavior problems, the positive approach is the best remedy for handling power.

The difference between power and authority lies within you. When you have to confront your kids, emphasize cooperation, not control. Stay calm and rational in spite of the situation. Guard your anger button. Stop and think. Do not react impulsively. Give clear and specific expectations. Explain what will happen if your son chooses not to cooperate. Do not give ultimatums. Focus on influencing your son's motivation.

Here is an example of a parent using power:

"Why can't I go?"
"Because I said so. I'm your mother."
"What has that got to do with it?"
"Well, I'm going anyway."
(Mother gets angry.) "I'm warning you. If you go to that party, you are going to be in big trouble."
"Oh sure. What are you going to do?"
"You just wait and see."

Here is an example of a parent using authority:

"Why can't I go?"
"I don't think it is going to be safe."
"I can handle it."
"There is going to be a lot of drinking at that party. Probably drugs, too. I don't want you there."
"I'll be okay. You don't have to worry."
"You don't understand. I trust you. That's not the problem. I don't trust some of those other kids. You can't control what they will do."
"Everyone else is going."
"I know you want to go very much. I know you'll be disappointed."
"I want to go."
"Sorry. You can't go. You can do something else. Have some kids over here."

How can you correct your kids and avoid arguments? Verbal corrections are part of good discipline. The purpose of verbal corrections is to teach better decision-making.

Here are some suggestions:
  1. Begin by validating your relationship: "You are my son and I love you. Nothing you do will ever change that."
  2. React appropriately to the size of the problem. If your son misbehaves while shopping, restrict him from shopping: "You can't go shopping with me for two weeks. You will have to stay home. I hope that when you can come with me again, you will behave."
  3. Remind your son of previous good behavior: "That's not like you. You are always very well behaved when we go shopping."
  4. Separate your son from his behavior. Say, "That behavior is unacceptable." Do not say, "Anyone who would do that is stupid."
  5. State your concern: "Your behavior at the store was not acceptable. I was embarrassed."

Do not ask why. Kids misbehave because they choose to misbehave. When you ask why, you are suggesting there may be an excuse: "Why did you do that?" "He told me to do it." Clever kids will search for excuses until they come up with one that you accept. If you don't accept it, you then have a power struggle on your hands.

Realize that an upset child is not a good listener. This is not the time for constructive communication. Wait until he cools off.

Teach your kids to learn from their mistakes rather than suffer from them. Point out things they do wrong by showing them ways to do it better: "You remembered to take out the garbage. Good going. The twist ties need to be a little tighter next time. I'll show you how."

Admit you are wrong once in a while. This is a tough one. Your kids will learn from your example. When you openly admit your mistakes and weaknesses, you are showing them that grown-ups are not perfect. We don't know everything.

Do not carry on about small mistakes; deal with it and then let it go. The purpose of verbal corrections is to have a more cooperative youngster. Misbehaviors and mistakes are normal. You can help your son best by minimizing problems. Do not dwell on them, or rehash the day's problems. Kids cannot build on weaknesses. They can only build on strengths.

When a child feels hurt or angry, he may want to get even. He wants to hurt you. Getting even takes away some of his hurt and anger. Getting even makes kids feel that justice has been served. Revenge is important to kids because of their keen sense of fairness.

Revenge can destroy relationships between parents and kids. This is especially true of teenagers. Some kids embarrass you in front of others. Some kids strike out at something that is special to you. Some kids hurt a younger brother or sister. Some kids run away. Some kids will break a window or break something of value. I once worked with a mother who had a vengeful teenage son. One day she came home to find that he had thrown all of her fine china and crystal glasses into the street. Revenge is not pleasant.

Revenge typically begins when you punish your child for something he believes is unfair. He decides to get even with you by misbehaving again. He pushes your buttons. You get angry and punish again. He strikes back again. The cycle of retaliation begins.

The target of your son's revenge is your feelings. A child who wants to get even wants to hurt you. If he does, he has achieved his payoff. Some parents lack self-confidence about their skills as a parent. Clever kids realize this and take full advantage of the parent's weakness.

Revenge-seeking kids know exactly where to strike. They say things such as, "I hate you. You're a terrible mother." The reason for these remarks is to make you feel hurt. You feel that you have failed your kids. They want you to feel inadequate and guilty.

When you feel inadequate or guilty, you begin to question your own judgments. Then you begin to give in. There is nothing a revenge-seeking child would like more than for you to become inconsistent. This is the payoff they are looking for.

Believe in your own abilities, and you will not become the victim of your son's revenge. Support yourself. When your son strikes at your buttons, remain strong. Tell yourself that you are a good parent – you are doing the best you can.

Be positive when disciplining your son. Do not criticize. Be sure that consequences are fair and that they make sense to your son. Consequences should not humiliate or embarrass your son. They should be mild. They should teach your son to make better decisions. Do not use punishment to get even with your son for something he has done that hurts you or makes you angry.

Many parents measure their worthiness by their kid's success: "If I am a good parent, why are my kids so bad?" They feel that if their kids are not perfect, then they must be less than adequate as parents. By believing this, you are making yourself vulnerable to your kids. You become an easy target for any child looking for a button to push.

Think about the reasons you might feel this way. Are you insecure about yourself? Do you feel this way because of your spouse? Is this a leftover belief from your relationship with your parents? Think about your strengths rather than your insecurities. The more you focus on your strengths -- the more confident you will become. Stay calm when your son says, "I hate you." Say, "I'm sorry you feel that way, but I have to do what's right."

Being a good parent does not always mean that you will be your child's best friend. There have been many times when my kids have been angry with me. I do not like how it feels, yet I am not going to give in to their demands. I am not going to criticize myself. Ten years from now they will not remember the time I would not let them watch an R-rated movie. But they will remember my commitment to them. I am going to support myself because I know that what I am doing is best.


My Out-of-Control Teen


•    Anonymous said… I have a 14 year old daughter who says the same thing to me. She was also just recently diagnosed with also having ODD. Although sooo hard sometimes not to engage, I have found if I walk away and ignore that works better. I will admit though that lately it's been so bad with her swearing and the wanted to do as she pleases that I have been having a hard time not engaging and have several times. Sometime it just makes you feel like such a failure as a parent and helpless. Hang in there mom and know your not alone
•    Anonymous said… Omg I thought I was alone. My 9 year old who has always been difficult but manageable has morphed into something I am struggling to daily manage without losing it. I know life is a struggle but so tired of being a punching bag....seriously considering giving full custody to her father.
•    Anonymous said… When I read things like this I become fearful. My son is only six now and I don't think that I could stand him calling me a b####. It would take my spirit away.
•    Anonymous said… When my son is like this I have to love him twice as hard, I find it is insecurities or something that has upset his balance. I try to help him find his peaceful place so take away the computer etc and go to the beach, the library somewhere calming to change the subject. I know it's hard in no way am I undermining your feeling, I feel this way sometimes too and he is very full time. But sometimes changing his environment changes the mood, something he is successful at and then we talk about how great he is at it.

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