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

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

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Kicking Out a Minor

My son was told he could not stay at home if he continued his behaviour so he went out on Saturday but came back tonight, Tuesday, because he had to go to work. My husband said he can’t stay here. What do I do when he comes home at 11pm tonight?

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Re: Kicking Out a Minor—

You didn’t say how old your son is.

The legal age of majority in all but four states is 18. When a person reaches the state's age of legal majority, parents are no longer financially or legally responsible for them. In which case parents wanting their adult child to move from the family residence is well within their legal rights to take such action. If the person refuses to leave voluntarily the parents may if they so choose enlist the aid of their local police.

States with higher ages of majority than 18-years are: Alabama and Nebraska 19, Mississippi and Pennsylvania 21. In these states parents can petition the court to be released from parental responsibilities if said child is at least 18-years of age.

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Son Skipping School

Grrrr.... my 14 year old has started his freshman year and is constantly skipping school. I have received a phone call almost everyday regarding either his behavior or his skipping classes or skipping the whole day. I take him to the door of the school every morning!!! He's rude, hateful, defiant...refuses to listen to me. Talks back and over me everytime I try to have a calm discussion with him. Smart kid being really stupid! The school is of no help!

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First you need to make sure your son has an understanding of the relationship between school, grades and going to class and real life and what he will do in the future. By now he should be thinking about college or career choices. He cannot hope to achieve those goals without a decent school record...and that record is more than just grades.

I think you need to start doing some serious thinking about these things, too. It is not always fun to be a parent and give firm guidance, but you need to think about him long-term best interest and the life skills he will need to pursue him goals. Although it may be hard for you to follow through, your son needs to learn to be responsible for him behavior and to accept the consequences of that behavior. That is what grown ups do, and he's nearly a young adult now. He needs to see that school is, in a sense, like a job; in a real job he cannot just skip work because its' a nice day and you don't want to go.

Online Parent Support

Re: Regaining Custody of Son

My question is that I've only started following the 2nd step of your program when my son decided he was moving in with his father. He fought with his father and refused to see him for the past year and now he is refusing to see me. When I demanded that he be here, he accused me of "stealing a bottle of wine" from his father's house. His father and I discussed this as I have no means of entering his home nor would I steal a bottle of wine that I bought him over 8 years ago. My son said that is the way I work. I'm an "Indian Giver". I give things and then take them back, meaning that I recently took his cell phone away. He is extremely not making any sense and I'm devastated. His guidance councilor told me that the wine thing was told to him by his father. His father wants nothing more than to have custody of my kids so he won't have to pay support. I am giving him his child support for A__ since A__ is living there, for the past 2 weeks. A__ lived with me the entire last year. I don't want this to continue. We are seeing a councilor tomorrow night and I want this to end. I am asking you for some understanding as to what is going on because I'm confused and I have no family except for them. Please give me your opinions.

Sincerely, P.

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If I understand you correctly, your issue here is that you want your son back. I must, of course, issue a disclaimer that what I write here cannot be construed as legal advice. It is, in fact, just general information.

You didn’t say who has legal custody currently.

When you agreed to let him stay with his dad, was there some sort of written agreement giving him temporary custody?

Is there a divorce decree giving you custody, and was there ever a court date to re-modify custody changing from you to him?

If there is a divorce decree giving you custody and it was never changed -- and the agreement giving him temporary custody was verbal -- only then notify the police and give them details.

You may have to go back to court to regain custody -- and he has to prove you are an unfit parent.

You can also petition the court to let your son decide who he wants to live with - but don’t coach him -- it has to be totally his idea, and if the judge senses he’s been coached, he won’t honor anything.

This is kind of hard to give an exact answer without knowing the above answers to my questions. Too many variables, but hope this helps. Good luck.

Mark

Online Parent Support

Kids & Poor Academic Performance

Hi Mark,

I am writing for advice on how to get my 7th grade son to do his best in school. He is very intelligent, yet does not seem to care about his schoolwork. He easily makes it on the honor role, but with effort he could be on the top honors. Recently, I discovered that he got a 40% on a Spanish quiz. I asked if he could retake it and he made up some story. After emailing the teacher I discovered that he did retake it during his detention time (which I knew nothing about) and he received the same grade. So now he is lying about his work and about having detention. He is a constant disruption in class. Though the teacher has moved his seat several times he still turns around and talks w/others. What can I do about this??? In general, he is liking 7th grade more because he moves from class to class every 40 minutes. I know that he is easily distracted and we try to give talk w/him about things he can do to focus. The problem is that he doesn't seem to care! He is very active in sports. He is on the soccer team and is doing well with that. He is also playing on a town baseball team. I wanted to take him off of the baseball team, but my husband thinks that will only make matters worse. The busier he is, the better his behavior is, but how do I get him to focus more on his schoolwork??

Thank you again for all of your time and support.

J.

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Hi J.,

Poor academic performance is addressed in the section of the eBook entitled Read these Emails from Exasperated Parents.

Please look toward the bottom of that page where it reads:

"My 16-year-old son brought home straight F's on his last report card. I grounded him for the entire grading period, but he continues to fail in nearly all subjects. I know he is a bright kid and can do the work when he wants to. What can I do to motivate him?"

Let me know if you need clarification,

Mark

Online Parent Support

It is a difficult time at the moment...

Hi Mark - thanks for 'being there' in cyberspace.

I look forward to improving the home environment and relationships here. It is a difficult time at the moment. I have sought help elsewhere locally, but have been placed in a queue - which doesn't help when thing are 'happening'.

Regards,

S.

Online Parent Support

Teen Doesn't Want To Work

HI Mark - thank you again - your online lessons are very valuable! I feel much more at peace and hope they will make a difference soon. Need your advice.....

Our 16 year old was all gung ho to get a job at the local Y as a lifeguard (he is certified) - he filled out the application, got called for an interview and agreed to go tomorrow at 3pm for the interview - now he is decided he doesn't want to work there - we have tried to find out why - lots of excuses (he knows someone who did that and hated it, the water test will be too hard, the pay will be too low etc) We think he is making a big mistake - we tell him he will have no issues passing the text and he should go thru with it and it will be a great job a couple of days a week to get extra gas money. He's says he is going to call and cancel the interview - he claims he will look for another job later..........we don't want to get in a fight and have tried to talk to him calmly about it - I think he just afraid he won't do well or something..........what to do?

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I would say this one falls into the "pick-your-battles-carefully" category. You're right in not wanting to fight about this. I presume you have bigger fish to fry (or will).

He's not going to tell you what's up ...and the more you pry, the more he will make up his mind to not follow through with this job.

Sometimes less is better. That is true in this case. Let go of YOUR NEED to have him be a lifeguard. He'll do well in whatever he sets HIS mind to.

Mark

Online Parent Support

Teens & Alcohol Abuse

I am writing this e-mail hoping that you might be able to shed some light on where it is that I should start your program with our son. I purchased your e-book My Out of Control Teen and found it to be very resourceful and helpful, although I am not quite sure where to start with our son. He will be 17 next month. We recently moved to a new home that we built which is closer to his school and friends. Within 2 days of our move from an acreage to the city he brokeup with his girlfriend of 1 year, quit his job, ranaway to a friends house, pierced his lip against our wishes, threatened suicide in a letter where he wrote that after being gone 5 days he went and pierced his lip and we would have to accept this and his other personal problem being suicidal thoughts. At this point I went at midnight searching for him and found him and brought him home. Since prior to this event things seemed great, he was on the honor role at school, happy, working good to his brother and sister, which is still good. We had to assume he might be on some kind of drugs. I insisted that he be drug tested and hormone testing for depression. I met with school counsellor and explained the situation. One week later he snuck out on a school night through his bedroom window and got drunk. Same thing one week later. After this we nailed his window shut. Which I should say when he returned home the first time his car was parked and phone taken away. He did not care that these privileges were gone. After the third time he ran away, because I confronted him about his report card and marks all in the 60's which is very poor for him.

We decided that this was the last straw and we were going to send him to Turnabout Residential Ranch for three months. He was very terrified of this, after talking and agreeing to see professional counsellors, we opted for a behavior contract and counselling. Things have been better but he is still angry and the counsellor said he is not depressed and that he is closed off at the appts. and as long as things are good at home he can have a break from counselling since he sits there not speaking anyway. He did get a job, but is working with his friends, and not focusing on school work. I feel that according to your e-book that he is at a stage 5. He also came home drunk both nights last weekend. I fear he is drinking way too much. He was not allowed out the next two days of the long weekend for this behavior. Our home life has always been good. We have been blessed with a wonderful family. There has never been any abuse. We are guilty of spoiling our kids to a degree, but have always expected them to work and helpout. I feel if I impose too many restrictions on him he will runaway again, even though that is one of the rules in the behavior contract. He is quiet, but has always been that way. He was never disrespectful until the last two months. He also lying about where he is going sometimes. His drug test was negative and he was tested for everything. He also took the earring out at our insistance, which was appreciated. I have always told him that we have rules because we love him. If you have any suggestions, they would be very much appreciated. I am still seeing the counsellor.

J.

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Hi J.,

You’ve listed numerous problems here. Alcohol abuse seems to be the most pressing issue. Moms & dads often assume that teenagers try alcohol and drugs to rebel or to "fit in" with their peer group. However, teenagers with undiagnosed emotional or behavioral problems often use drugs and alcohol as a way to relieve their frustrations. A depressed teen may self-medicate with alcohol to escape the terrible sense of hopelessness. Unfortunately, alcohol only exacerbates the problem.

Drugs like ecstasy and other club-drug uppers may even make them feel "normal" when for weeks they have felt miserable. The impact of such drugs on serotonin, dopamine, and endorphins, chemicals in the brain that regulate mood, can be devastating for teenagers and adolescents. The damage they do to receptors in the brain can make the road back from depression even harder.

Often moms & dads approach the issue of drug and alcohol use as simply a discipline issue for a teen who is "bad." However, your teen may be sick. They may be unable to express to you exactly how they feel. Therefore, contacting a mental health professional such as a psychologist or psychiatrist who specializes in the treatment of adolescents, is your first step in nailing down the source of the problem. If your teen is self-medicating to treat depression, anxiety, or other emotional or behavioral disorders, simply applying more discipline and creating more rules will not impact the underlying problem that led to substance abuse in the first place.

While some teenagers self-medicate to treat depression, other teenagers end up with a serious mental disorder due to abuse of drugs or alcohol. Abusive drinking or drug use can seriously undermine your teen's physical, emotional, and psychological health. Some drugs, such as methampetamines, can seriously affect the neurotransmitters, which are known as the "messengers of the brain." Recent studies suggest this damage can be long-lasting and even permanent. Many teenagers have the mistaken notion that club drugs are benign. In fact, while they might feel "good" while taking them, they can make it difficult for the teen to feel good naturally for a long time to come. The longer teenagers use these drugs, the more difficult treatment and the higher rate of relapse due to their inability to "feel good" or even "normal" because of the damage to their neurotransmitters.

Mark

Online Parent Support

When Parents Disagree On Discipline

"My husband and I have very different parenting styles and that has really worked against us over the years …I tend to be strict while my husband is not and I feel that I need to compensate for his lack of discipline and follow through. I'm constantly clashing with my kids and tired of being the wicked witch."

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When parents have different disciplining styles, there's bound to be dissention and arguing. Tension's a given anytime two or more people work on the same project but each take a different approach.

Co-parenting is similar to any other partnership. Each person brings to the table what's been learned along the way. As parents, we're influenced by the disciplinary approaches we experienced growing up, and we tend to apply them to our children-often without first talking them through with our partner.

Imagine a baseball team-eager to win a game-but guided by two coaches who follow different rules and dish out contradictory information. Imagine the tension and the reactions of the players as they witness the coaches quarreling. If you and your husband fight in front of the children, you may not be aware of the ways in which they are affected. Some children may learn "that must be the way people resolve conflicts." Others may learn how to play one parent against the other, which causes even more confusion and distress in the family.

Here are some strategies that can be helpful:

1. Agree on a signal to alert both of you that the conversation is, or is about to, get too heated and needs to be halted. Make a commitment both to honor – and act on the signal. You might walk away and have an agreed-upon cooling off period. Or set a time to revisit your differences in opinion. Or write down what you're feeling and later share it with your partner, who might better understand where you're coming from.

2. Be prepared for behavioral problems. Remember that many changes in kids’ behaviors are linked to their stage of normal development. It should come as no surprise that your toddler becomes defiant or your preschooler has an occasional temper tantrum. Talk ahead of time about how each of you would handle these predictable situations. That way you’ll have fewer conflicts when they occur.

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

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

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

6. Don't let negative childhood experiences determine your decision making about discipline. Keep your focus on the positive aspects of your family life in childhood to bring to your current parenting practices. This approach will free you to replace discipline strategies that don't work for both parents because of beliefs based in families of origin with solution-focused practices that respect and continue the positive experiences of both parents' childhoods.

7. Have a conversation about the ways childhood histories may be influencing the disagreement about discipline. Take a problem-solving approach to identify: (1) What is the specific child-rearing issue that is causing disagreement between parents? (2) What are the feelings and beliefs that each parent has about the issue that may be rooted in childhood family history? (3) What problem-solving alternatives can each of you commit to that will resolve the disagreement and unite both parents in adapting the beliefs and practices of your families of origin to your family life today?

8. Negotiate a Plan in Calm Waters. Sit down with your spouse and try to agree on ways to discipline at a time when nothing is wrong. When you discuss things calmly, you're more likely to come up with a plan you can both stick to. This will allow you to talk about what's best for your child, and not "who's right."

9. Present a Unified Front. Kids understand when their moms & dads feel differently about disciplining, no matter what their age. Kids will often get away with misbehaving simply by creating an argument between you and your spouse — and this not only lets them off the hook, it creates a problem between the moms & dads. Make sure that your child sees both parents following the same guidelines, no matter what the scenario. Once your kids start receiving the same treatment from both parents, they'll stop using your disagreements as a way to avoid punishment.

10. Put your childhood experiences in historical perspective. Gender roles, child safety issues, environmental factors, and cultural norms change dramatically across the generations. What worked for your family 'back in the day' may not transfer comfortably to your current family situation. What are the issues in modern family life that trigger a strong belief that the values and child-rearing practices from your childhood are important to uphold and continue in your own family?

11. Recognize that strong beliefs about child rearing may have their basis in childhood family experiences. At the same time, know that your spouse's beliefs have the same powerful roots.

12. Recognize What Your Arguments Do to Your Kids. No child likes to see his or her parents fight. When you argue about what to do with your kids, you create a troubling environment for them, which could have serious long-term effects. Fighting with your spouse shifts the focus away from your child — and how they can learn to stop misbehaving — and on to a "parent versus parent" situation.

13. Remember the positive experiences from your childhood. Think about your everyday life rather than the major events. What was going on around you during those happy times? It's fun to share these memories with your family, so make them a part of your traditions and family life. What are the positive values and childhood experiences that you want to uphold and continue in your family?

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

15. Seek professional help from a good Marriage & Family Therapist if you continue to struggle with co-parenting issues.

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How successful is house arrest?

Hi Mark,

I am planning on one lesson per week. I have not skipped forward and understand the process. My challenge is that L__ is in the hall for 30 days. On Oct. 9 we go back to court and the judge will decide if L__ goes to a foster home and out of our care. I find your lessons very informative and eye-opening. The DA wants him to spend 30 days in the hall and then 30 days under house arrest (ankle bracelet). If we can get through the next 3 months, he can start high school as his expulsion order expires. I am writing a letter to the judge explaining that we are on your program and do not want to lose L__ to the system.

Our challenge with the house arrest is that we think L__ will allow his friends in the house and he will still snoop around. I've had to take the phones with me when I go to work because he made over 400 hours of calls. He needs 100% supervision. How successful is house arrest?

Thanks,

M.

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Hi M.,

Thanks for committing to the program as it is intended.

Re: How successful is house arrest?

First of all, "house arrest" is simply where the child must stay home under parental supervision. I think you're referring to "home monitoring" (different from house arrest in that probation will be notified if your son gets out of range).

In any event, there's good and bad news here--

The good news: Home monitoring has an excellent track record because the child knows there is always somebody "watching" to see if he steps outside the house -- even when parents/grandparents are away.

The bad news: Home monitoring is usually only effective for as long as the child is on the monitor -- and it cannot control who your son invites in the house while you're gone.

More bad news: House arrest (if that is what we're talking about here) is a miserable failure on all fronts as far as I'm concerned.

Bottom line: You can't depend on home monitoring, house arrest - or even probation to "solve" the problems. That why it's good you have some new parenting tools in your toolbox now.

Mark

My Out-of-Control Grandson

He loves to save his money...

Hi Mark,

Hope you are well. I've been meaning to email you for a while. I thought this was interesting. This is about the over indulgence section of your program. We used to take our son to Taco Bell after school, or just whenever he might ask. Now, though, when he asks if we're out and about, we tell him we'll be glad to drive by there for him, as long as he has money for what he wants. I can only remember once in the last several months when he actually ended up going. He usually passes on going when he realizes we won't be paying (he still asks every now and then thinking we will forget I guess). The one time he did go and use his own money, he couldn't stand spending that dollar. He loves to save his money, and this is certainly a great lesson on how easily it is spent.

Once in these last few months, we all went to Taco Bell for dinner. Therefore, we paid for him. It was what the family was having, so that's why we paid.

Anyway, thanks for this great tip. It's working out great!

I fear it is too late...

Dear Mark,

I Googled my 'problem teenager' and came up with your website. I bought the manual, and it is precisely what I needed.

I fear it is too late though, as my teen daughter is leaving home on the day she is 16 to live with a guy 25 years old, whom she said she met on holiday in Lanzarote, when she was 10. He is unemployed and has Diabetes. She is on the phone to him every day. She's flunked school, her exams, and thrown away an amazing singing/acting talent. Your book describes her behaviour precisely, 'Overindulged'.

I will put into practice that which is in the book and hope that we can turn her round before August.

Having been through family services, the police, social services and the courts and still not got a solution, what a relieve it is to know that there is somebody out there who seems to know what they are talking about. Many many thanks. You have at the very least given me cause for hope, thank you.

Hugh,

Great Britain.

My Out-of-Control Teen

She took $40.00 instead of $20.00 out of my account...

Mark,

My daughter is on three day restriction for disobeying me. On Saturday I gave her my debit card to get gas and 20.00 for spending -- both of which she earned. However I just saw on my bank statement ...she took 40.00 instead of 20.00 out of my account. Should I make her earn the other 20 or should I take 20 my brother gives her for taking their son to school?

Please help.

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Good question.

She was being sneaky, which should get a consequence. Earning the $20.00 that was basically stolen seems to be the best option. Also, give her a clear warning that if this happens again, she will not be able to use your debit card (just pay cash).

Sound O.K.?

Mark

My Out-of-Control Teen

Violence On The Rise Among Children?

Mark,

I'm a member of your program. As a middle school teacher (NY), it appears to me that children are becoming more and more violent over time. This greatly concerns me as well as the other teachers in my district. In your work, do you find that childhood violence is on the rise? If so, what can teachers do in the schools to intervene? Is there any research on any of this?

Thanks in advance,

T.J.

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Hi T.,

There is a great concern about the incidence of violent behavior among kids and teens. This complex and troubling issue needs to be carefully understood by moms & dads, teachers, and other adults.

Kids as young as preschoolers can show violent behavior. Moms & dads and other adults who witness the behavior may be concerned, however, they often hope that the young youngster will "grow out of it." Violent behavior in a youngster at any age always needs to be taken seriously. It should not be quickly dismissed as "just a phase they're going through!"

Violent behavior in kids and teens can include a wide range of behaviors:

· cruelty toward animal
· explosive temper tantrum
· fighting
· fire setting
· intentional destruction of property and vandalism
· physical aggression
· threats or attempts to hurt others (including homicidal thoughts)
· use of weapon

Numerous research studies have concluded that a complex interaction or combination of factors leads to an increased risk of violent behavior in kids and teens. These factors include:

·Being the victim of physical abuse and/or sexual abuse
·Brain damage from head injury
·Combination of stressful family socioeconomic factors (poverty, severe deprivation, marital breakup, single parenting, unemployment, loss of support from extended family)
·Exposure to violence in media (TV, movies, etc.)
·Exposure to violence in the home and/or community
·Genetic (family heredity) factors
·Presence of firearms in home
·Previous aggressive or violent behavior
·Use of drugs and/or alcohol

Kids who have several risk factors and show the following behaviors should be carefully evaluated:

·Becoming easily frustrated
·Extreme impulsiveness
·Extreme irritability
·Frequent loss of temper or blow-ups
·Intense anger

Moms & dads and teachers should be careful not to minimize these behaviors in kids. Whenever a parent or other adult is concerned, they should immediately arrange for a comprehensive evaluation by a qualified mental health professional. Early treatment by a professional can often help.

The goals of treatment typically focus on helping the youngster to:

· learn how to control his/her anger
· express anger and frustrations in appropriate ways
· be responsible for his/her actions
· accept consequences

In addition, family conflicts, school problems, and community issues must be addressed.

Research studies have shown that much violent behavior can be decreased or even prevented if the above risk factors are significantly reduced or eliminated. Most importantly, efforts should be directed at dramatically decreasing the exposure of kids and teens to violence in the home, community, and through the media. Clearly, violence leads to violence.

In addition, the following strategies can lessen or prevent violent behavior:

·Early intervention programs for violent youngsters
·Monitoring youngster's viewing of violence on TV/videos/movies
·Prevention of youngster abuse (use of programs such as parent training, family support programs, etc.)
·Sex education and parenting programs for teens

Mark

Online Parent Support

Game Addiction

Mark,

Read your book -- loved it and it helped. My son J__, an extremely intelligent, confident, socially comfortable 16-year-old, is addicted to the computer game World of Warcraft (wow for short). Like other addicts (ex. alcoholics), is it necessary for him to "want" to change in order for us to get wow out of his life? Computers are necessary for his school research and submittal of assignments, so even if he is "detoxing" he'll need to use one. He has access to computers at school, friend's houses & internet cafes.

Background info:

1. Parents divorced when he was 8, lives with mother but visits father (who he doesn't like)
2. He's resistant to authority and doesn't feel the need to try to please anyone, but also doesn't act out by doing drugs/drinking/deviant behavior
3. He says he loves the game so much because it's challenging and he's so good at it. All his friends play.
4. He has played for hours on end, staying up all night on weekends, neglecting schoolwork to play. I used your program to set up a consequence program and it helped, except that he is totally willing to risk consequences to play this game, so we are in a negative cycle, which is why I am asking about the possibility of addiction and the need to approach this differently.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

K.

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Hi K.,

Here’s the definition of addiction in general:

1. An individual needs more and more of a substance or behavior to keep him/her going.
2. If the individual does not get more of the substance or behavior, he/she becomes irritable and miserable.

Compulsive gaming meets these criteria, and game addicts can indeed experience severe withdrawal symptoms (e.g., anger, violence, depression).

Research suggests gambling elevates dopamine. But there’s more to addiction than brain chemistry. Even with drugs or alcohol, it’s not just physical – there’s a psychological component to the addiction, knowing “I can escape or feel good about my life.”

The addict is trying to change the way he feels by taking something outside himself. The alcoholic learns, “I don’t like the way I feel, so I’ll I take a couple shots of whiskey.” For gamers, it’s the fantasy world that makes them feel better.

The lure of a fantasy world is especially pertinent to online role-playing games. These are games in which a player assumes the role of a fictional character and interacts with other players in a virtual world. An intelligent child who is unpopular at school can become dominant in the game. The virtual life becomes more appealing than real life.

Too much gaming may seem relatively harmless compared with the dangers of a drug overdose, but video game addiction can ruin lives. Children who play four to five hours per day have no time for socializing, doing homework, or playing sports. That takes away from normal social development. You can get a 21-year-old with the emotional intelligence of a 12-year-old. He’s never learned to talk to girls. He’s never learned to play a sport.

Spending a lot of time gaming doesn’t necessarily qualify as an addiction. 80% of the world can play games safely. The question is: Can you always control your gaming activity?

According to the Center for On-Line Addiction, warning signs for video game addiction include:

· Feeling irritable when trying to cut down on gaming
· Gaming to escape from real-life problems, anxiety, or depression
· Lying to friends and family to conceal gaming
· Playing for increasing amounts of time
· Thinking about gaming during other activities

In addition, video game addicts tend to become isolated, dropping out of their social networks and giving up other hobbies. It’s about somebody who has completely withdrawn from other activities. One mother called me when her son dropped out of baseball. He used to love baseball, so that’s when she knew there was a problem.

The overwhelming majority of video game addicts are males under 30. It’s usually children with poor self-esteem and social problems. They’re intelligent and imaginative but don’t have many friends at school. A family history of addiction may also be a factor.

If you’re concerned your child may be addicted to video games don’t dismiss it as a phase. Keep good documents of the child’s gaming behavior, including:

· How the child reacts to time limits
· Logs of when the child plays and for how long
· Problems resulting from gaming

You need to document the severity of the problem. Don’t delay seeking professional help; if there is a problem, it will probably only get worse.

Treatment for video game addiction is similar to detox for other addictions, with one important difference. Computers have become an important part of everyday life, as well as many jobs, so compulsive gamers can’t just look the other way when they see a PC.

It’s like a food addiction. You have to learn to live with food.

Because video game addicts can’t avoid computers, they have to learn to use them responsibly. That means no gaming. As for limiting game time to an hour a day, I compare that to an alcoholic saying he’s “only going to drink beer.”

The toughest part of treating video game addicts is that it’s a little bit more difficult to show somebody they’re in trouble. Nobody’s ever been put in jail for being under the influence of a game.

The key is to show gamers they are powerless over their addiction, and then teach them real-life excitement as opposed to online excitement.

To make the games less seductive, find ways to minimize your child's downtime at home, especially those times when he is alone. Maybe your child would be interested in arts and crafts, theater, or movie-making. Maybe a social-skills group would be a good idea. Maybe he could join a youth group at your church or synagogue.

If he has trouble with a particular sport because of poor motor skills, or has difficulty understanding the rules or strategies, look for another sport that might be more accommodating - for example, martial arts, bowling, or swimming. Help your child find some activity that he likes and a place where he can do it.

Give warning times: "You have 15 more minutes... You now have 10 minutes... There are only five minutes left." A timer that is visible to the child can be helpful. When the buzzer rings, say, "I know you need to reach a point where you can save the game. If you need a few more minutes, I will wait here and let you have them."

If he continues to play despite your step-by-step warnings, do not shout or grab the game or disconnect the power. Calmly remind him of the rules, then announce that for each minute he continues to play, one minute will be subtracted from the time allowed the next day (or days). Once you get the game back, lock it up. When he finally regains the privilege to play, say, "Would you like to try again to follow the family rules?"

Mark Hutten, M.A.

Cell Phone Problems

Hi Mark,

K's behaviour towards me has significantly improved since he lost his phone twice in one week (for 48 hrs each time).

However, last night he was rude. When I told him to hand over his phone, he refused and said I'd have to physically wrestle him to get it (that would end badly, I knew).

Instead of getting physical, I said until he gives me his phone for 48hrs, I would not be driving him anywhere. He is holding out still, but it has only been one day (he threatened to get his father to drive him, but interesting didn't pursue it, and instead missed cricket training).

My question is: should I continue with this position, or should I snatch it from him when I have the chance, and hide it? (He would probably rampage, but if that's what has to happen, I can live with it).

I would be grateful for your perspective.

V.

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Hi V.,

First of all, “he was rude” is very vague. What did he actually say or do?

Second, what is he doing to “earn” cell phone privileges?

Whenever a child introduces a new problem on top of an existing one, parents should put the new problem in the “deal-with-it-later” file (*please see Q & A - On Discipline in the chapter of the eBook entitled “The Art of Saying No” – Session #2 – online version).

Re: …he refused and said I'd have to physically wrestle him to get it…

In this case, he is grounded, but the clock does not start until he hands you the cell (*please see Instructional Videos #16 and #17).

Mark

Online Parent Support

She got a little award at assembly the other day for "improved behavior in the classroom"...

Hi Mark,

Hope things are fine with you.

I thought I'd give you a bit of an up date from down under. Over the past month we have had two meetings with A___'s school principle, the school counsellor and her teacher, and things have been fairly positive from a school point of view. The principle is a great guy and was very keen to know what we were dealing with at home as the problems at school are less intense. He asked me to email him the basic management principles of your e-book and said the school would do as much as they could to keep Anna on track. I now get a weekly report on her progress from her class teacher and they are now working out the classes for next year with a view to giving her the best teacher and appropriate classmates to minimise disputes. She got a little award at assembly the other day for "improved behavior in the classroom" so that was good.

We are so grateful for the chance your program has given us and I feel so fortunate for having discovered you online!! We are still dealing with bad behavior at home but it is, as you forecast, a little less stressful and frequent.

Thanks Mark,

L.

Online Parent Support

Adolescence and Narcissistic Disorder—

One of the less common adolescent personality disorders, but one that is nevertheless growing, is narcissistic personality disorder. This is the only learned personality disorder, and usually begins in the adolescent years. Teenagers with low self-esteems begin to develop fantasies and grandiose views of themselves when they have narcissistic personality disorders. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, about one percent of the population (and one percent of teenagers) suffers from narcissistic personality disorder. Most narcissists (between an estimated 50 and 75 percent) are male.

The history of narcissistic personality disorder:

The name for narcissistic personality disorder comes from Greek mythology. In the tale, a young man, Narcissus, spurned those who sought his love. He was very good-looking, and quite full of himself. In fact, he was so good-looking that he thought himself as beautiful as the gods. No woman or man could please him. Then, one day, he fell in love with the reflection of himself in a pond. He stared at the reflection, reveling in its beauty, until he wasted away. Other stories end with him falling into the pond and drowning as he moves closer to get a better look. Like Narcissus, adolescents with narcissistic personality disorder have an exaggerated sense of self-importance, and rarely consider others' feelings, preferring to seek the attention that confirms their own grandiose ideas.

Difference between adolescent narcissism and adolescent narcissistic personality disorder:

A certain degree of selfishness, self-importance and narcissism is to be expected during the teenager years. Indeed, when one has a personality style considered narcissistic, he or she is usually a general healthy person in a psychological regard. However, such people, although arrogant and proud at times, do not rely on others to help them maintain a healthy self-esteem, and they do not cherish unrealistic images of their skills and abilities.

On the other hand, adolescent narcissistic personality disorder takes a different form. Teenagers with this personality disorder are unable to establish a stable self-image that includes an accurate assessment of skills. They feel entitled to special treatment, and when they receive perceived slights to their grandiose perception of their own skills and importance, they may become angry and sometimes violent.

Some signs of pathological narcissism - adolescent narcissistic personality disorder:

· Arrogant and haughty behavior
· Belief that others envy the person
· Does not consider others' feelings
· Expectations of special treatment
· Exploits other people
· Fantasies about having exceptional success, attractiveness or power
· Need for constant praise and validation
· Over-emphasis on achievements and exaggeration of one's skills

Developmental factors that contribute to adolescent narcissistic personality disorder:

· Excessive admiration that does not receive a balance of realistic feedback
· Learned manipulative behaviors from other sources
· Overindulgence from parents
· Oversensitive temperament from birth
· Parents over-praise and value as a way to increase their own self-esteem
· Severe childhood emotional abuse
· Unreliable or unpredictable care giving from parents

Treating adolescent narcissistic personality disorder:

It is very difficult to treat teenager narcissistic personality disorder because an adolescent is usually already in such a fragile mental state. Often, treatment is met with contempt, as the teenager perceives the therapist-client relationship as one that does not properly affirm the adolescent's perception of self. The goal is teach the teenager to value him or herself on a more realistic level and to adjust one's thinking about others' value in relation to his or her own. Exercises to help the adolescent develop empathy for others are part of the treatment of this personality disorder. Medication is usually not used, except sparingly in cases where depression and anxiety come out as symptoms while the adolescent struggles to cope with a new reality.

Online Parent Support

It is fantastic!

Hi,

My husband and I have been going through your program together. We are about half way thru' and are truly impressed with the results. It is fantastic!

S.

Online Parent Support

We've both cried the past couple of hours at how destructive our "parenting" has been...

Dear Mark,

My wife and I are finishing Lesson #1. My God!!! We've been the worst kind of indulgent parents, thinking all the time that we were doing the good thing for our son. Quite frankly, we've both cried the past couple of hours at how destructive our "parenting" has been. Just the opposite of what we wanted. Your program is 100% on the money in terms of describing the issues. Glad we found your site, and hope it's not too late.

As some additional background, up until 2 1/2 years ago, I was heavily engaged with my son. We played paintball, R__ raced BMX for 6 years, has won 5 national championships and we spent 2-3 days a week at the track and traveling out of town to races, fishing, camping. 2 1/2 years ago, because of financial issues, I took a job with an emergency management agency that has me traveling across the U.S. for 6-7 months at a time with only a week or two in between. I feel so bad! I see now that in spite of my good intentions, I essentially abandoned my boy, hence his hooking up with this "friend" of his. His attitude is sullen, he's unhappy, angry, dresses like a skin head, and is lying to us, chippying with marijuana (we've had him drug tested). In spite of our apprehension, my wife and I are anxious to get our son back. Below is a set of expectations we've come up with. Are we on the right track?

Thanks,

B. & A.


ISSUES FOR R__


EXPECTATIONS

Chores:

1. Hang up towels after taking a shower.
2. Pick up dirty clothes and put them in hamper.
3. Keep your bathroom neat.
4. Keep your room picked up. Clean and vacuum your room once a week.
5. Take out trash, including emptying your bathroom wastebasket.
6. Keep truck clean. Clean inside and out once a week.
7. Help with dinner cleanup as requested.
8. After a meal, pick-up/scrape dishes and put in sink.

Allowance: For consistently doing chores, you will earn $15.00 a week. To earn additional money, ask us for things you can do around the house. (Wash windows, wash the van, etc.)

Behavior:

1. That you will not drink alcohol.
2. That you will not do drugs.
3. That you will not steal, or be with people who do steal.
4. That you will be honest and “do what’s right” even if no one is watching. Think independently. Say “no” to friends who want to involve you in illegal behavior.
5. That you will be respectful of your mother and me and other adults.
6. That you will be home at the designated time and will abide by set curfew.
7. That you will complete school and homework as required.
8. Self respect for your health, appearance, physical well being.

Consequences:

Violation of the above house rules will result in “consequences”. These consequences will include:

1. Loss of phone privileges.
2. Loss of driving privileges.
3. Loss of television privileges.
4. Loss of video game privileges.
5. Loss of freedom (grounding). Earn freedom by accepting discipline, reasonable expectations, and a positive attitude.

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Hi B.,

Re: Are we on the right track?

I think this is largely on track. Some things fall into the "gray area," which simply means there are multiple ways to do it right.

My biggest concern with what I hear from you so far is that you may be moving to fast. I've said it before, but let me repeat: Only implement session #1 assignments in week one ...session #2 assignments in week two ...and so on.

Slow down a bit. Working too hard to make up for lost time may result in more lost time.

Mark

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Thank you Mark.
You're right, we were so anxious for change we jumped the gun. Will "back off" a bit and take it a week at a time. Surprisingly, we had a good conversation with him last night. And, while normally towels and clothes are consistently left on the bathroom and bedroom floor, he picked up and straightened his bathroom and bedroom. We gave him lots of praise and as you mentioned, he seems a bit confused. Can't decide if he wants to be angry or accepting. Will continue to work the program. Thanks again for the hope.
B. & A.

My Out-of-Control Teen

I want to believe this was the turning point but have been crushed too many times and don't know the right answer...

Mark,

It only took 6 weeks of being off probation and now M is in deep trouble. He did start school on time and was going (did miss one day). He is cont to stay out most weekends and we have no clue who with, where, or doing what. He did buy his own pay as you go phone (will not share the number with us).

Friday he was gone when we got home (as usual). We had a fundraiser to attend and didn't get home until past midnight. He was still gone, but had to work the next morning so we figured he had a ride. I get a call from him @ 4am from the local police station. He is being charged with "home invasion 3rd degree" and going to the county jail. Of course he only admits to taking a bike from a garage (confirmed that it was garages only and not entering houses) but told wrong is wrong. Lately garages have been entered and things taken from cars--GPS, Laptops, I-pods etc. Not sure if he is involved with this or not.

Because he is 17 and considered an adult in MI we are totally in the dark. He was arraigned and had prelim hearing without us being notified. Bail is $5000, and we are not planning on getting him out unless we can't stand it. His next hearing is Monday. He is calling us constantly to bail him out--he is changed, etc. Husband is starting to cave, g'ma thinks I'm a callous heartless Mother. Other friends/colleagues think we should let him be. It is becoming extremely difficult to hold firm with this. Husband also saying he may go post bond with or without my consent/approval since he is the major wage earner. We kept telling M he would be responsible for any other problems since he was considered an adult, and he kept saying he was 17, didn't have any rules and could do whatever he wanted. School counselor says he can make up any missed work, but would be very difficult to accomplish and his opinion is to post bond. We would at least like to see the police report and be able to talk to his court appointed atty, if possible to help us better determine his involvement (impossible at this point due to his age).

Visiting isn't until Sunday (we opted to not go this past Sunday when he really only wanted us to go in order to bring his girlfriend) His latest phone call was to use his life savings (about $500) and call a bail bondsman. He also says he has information for the police that he needs to share with them before XYZ kid gets out of jail. All of this is starting to wear me down.

Mark, what is the best thing? I do want him to go to school now and not miss any more (he got 5 A's and 1 B last semester). I don't want more upheaval in my home--is it likely to get worse if we continue to refuse? How would you feel about this latest offer? Is 4-5 days in jail (for now) enough? He may get additional jail time depending if the charges are dealt down, and what his sentence would be and all that would be out of our control anyways. Is he ready for change or is this just because it's too uncomfortable? He has been in the youth home 4 times--2 domestic violence (1 day then 3 days) then 2 probation violations (24 days and 3 days) and NEVER called us and now is calling constantly begging us to help him out.

I want to believe this was the turning point but have been crushed too many times and don't know the right answer. Please help.

He still has no privileges--no car, no license, no job (lost this due to being held in jail and missing work), pay as you go phone, no laundry services, etc. Does have a laptop and i-pod (gifts) and don't want him ruining my computer. We don't drive him (Dad will drive him but to/from work only).

Again, thanks

J

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Hi J.,

Re: Mark, what is the best thing?

I think you may already know what I'm going to say here. To bail him out is to return to over-indulgent parenting, which will have a negative consequence associated with it -- for both you and your husband.

Re: I don't want more upheaval in my home--is it likely to get worse if we continue to refuse?

To refuse to bail? In the short run, possibly. But in the long run, no. He will get a much better life-lesson sitting behind bars than he will sitting at a desk.

Re: How would you feel about this latest offer? Is 4-5 days in jail (for now) enough?

Maybe.

Re: Is he ready for change or is this just because it's too uncomfortable?

He's sincere while his in jail. But without some serious discomfort, his sincerity will be short lived.

If it only took 6 weeks for him to forget about being on probation, how long do you think it will be before he forgets he was incarcerated (in the event that you bail him out)?

Mark

My Out-of-Control Teen

I was on the verge of asking my 16 year old young lady to leave and find a new place to live...

Hello Mark,

Thank you for your contact. This morning I was on the verge of asking my 16 year old young lady to leave and find a new place to live.

After watching and reading the first part of your advice I feel MUCH stronger.

I don't want to lose my daughter, I want her back fighting for MY team not the team of rudeness and emotional emptiness she seems to be in.

Thank you!!

I.

Online Parent Support

16 year-old son is hangin' with the wrong crowd...

Mark,

Just joined today. Your program is very perceptive. Unfortunately, my wife and I see ourselves in these descriptions of over indulgence. Current problem is with our 16 year old son hanging with the wrong crowd. Suggestions on how to break him out? Thanks for any help.

B.

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Hi B.,

Everyone needs to belong — to feel connected with others and be with others who share attitudes, interests, and circumstances that resemble their own. People choose friends who accept and like them and see them in a favorable light.

Teenagers want to be with people their own age — their peers. During adolescence, teenagers spend more time with their peers and without parental supervision. With peers, teenagers can be both connected and independent, as they break away from their moms and dads' images of them and develop identities of their own.

While many families help teenagers in feeling proud and confident of their unique traits, backgrounds, and abilities, peers are often more accepting of the feelings, thoughts, and actions associated with the teen's search for self-identity.

The influence of peers — whether positive or negative — is of critical importance in your son's life. Whether you like it or not, the opinions of your son's peers often carry more weight than yours.

The ability to develop healthy friendships and peer relationships depends on a teen's self-identity, self-esteem, and self-reliance.

At its best, peer pressure can mobilize your son's energy, motivate for success, and encourage your son to conform to healthy behavior. Peers can and do act as positive role models. Peers can and do demonstrate appropriate social behaviors. Peers often listen to, accept, and understand the frustrations, challenges, and concerns associated with being a teenager.

The need for acceptance, approval, and belonging is vital during the teen years. Teenagers 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, teenagers with ADHD, learning differences or disabilities are often rejected due to their age-inappropriate 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 teenagers will risk being grounded, losing their moms and dads' 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, teenagers 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 teenagers harbor secret lives governed by the influence of their peers. Some — including those who appear to be well-behaved, high-achieving teenagers when they are with adults — engage in negative, even dangerous behavior when with their peers.

Once influenced, teenagers may continue the slide into problems with the law, substance abuse, school problems, authority defiance, gang involvement, etc.

If your son associates with people who are using drugs or displaying self-destructive behaviors, then he is probably doing the same.

It is important to encourage friendships among teenagers. We all want our children to be with persons who will have a positive influence, and stay away from persons who will encourage or engage in harmful, destructive, immoral, or illegal activities.

Moms and dads can support positive peer relationships by giving their teenagers their love, time, boundaries, and encouragement to think for themselves.

Specifically, moms and dads can show support by:
  • Being genuinely interested in your son's activities. This allows moms and dads to know their teen's friends and to monitor behavior, which is crucial in keeping teenagers out of trouble. When misbehavior does occur, moms and dads who have involved their children in setting family rules and consequences can expect less flack from their children as they calmly enforce the rules. Moms and dads who, together with their children, set firm boundaries and high expectations may find that their children's abilities to live up to those expectations grow.
  • Encouraging independent thought and expression. In this way, teenagers can develop a healthy sense of self and an enhanced ability to resist peer pressure.
  • Having a positive relationship with your son. 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 son's choice of friends or peer group. This may be because of their image, negative attitudes, or serious behaviors (such as alcohol use, drug use, truancy, violence, sexual behaviors).

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

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

And you must ensure that your son knows that he is loved and valued as an individual at home.

Mark Hutten, M.A.

JOIN Online Parent Support

What direction do I go in?

Hi Mark

We went for counselling tonight and it was a mess.

The counsellor asked how we were doing and C___ said he was fine. Then he asked me why I was so quiet. I said that C___ doesn't really want me to really talk. The counsellor said that there was a wall up between us. I said that I was upset that he stole the car and that there was a trust issue. That was what set off C___. He said that I brought up to him on the phone the other night when I asked him how he was doing with his issue with drugs and was what the counsellor was helping with working for him. He said that it was very hard and I said maybe he should be around the kids that do not use and that would make it easier and he got mad. Tonight he told the counsellor that that made him upset, that I make him upset and the counsellor told him that nobody can make you upset if you don't let them that is your feelings. He used the example of the alcoholic that drinks and says to his wife I drink because you bug me about drinking. Then he got mad at the counsellor and said he didn't want to be here. (He had been calling for a week asking when that appointment was.) C___ asked my husband a question about why he had to leave our house and my husband was trying to explain and C___ cut him off. The counsellor said to C___ you asked your Dad a question but you don't want to hear the answer you cut him off. C___ said that is the way I talks that he asks a question that is how he is. I explained or tried to explain that every action has a reaction and that his behaviour is something I could not tolerate in our home. He told the counsellor that when I see him that he is myr son and she doesn't even give him a hug. C___ started to cry and asked my husband to drive him home. All the way home C___ cried. He told my husband that I keep bringing up all the stuff that went on in the last few months. He said that he didn't want to talk to us and not to call or anything. He said that when he was living here that I was always on his case, I was getting calls from the school that he wasn't showing up for class, he was hanging out at a friends place all day, he wouldn't go to tutoring and I would have to pay for the missed session. I basically was to keep my mouth shut and let him do what he wanted to do that he was running the show. He wasn't going to his co-op job placement for school, no homework was being done, he was lipping off to me. He also brought up that I went and talked to his friends parents about what was going on, ie. that their kids were in my house when I was on vacation, that is break and enter, and that they were in the car and if the police had to do a check on the vehicle and find it, those kids would have been charged and had a criminal record, but the police would not lay charges because the car came right back.

I stayed for the rest of the counselling session the counsellor said that I am looking at C___ and seeing the same things I saw in my dad. My dad was a violent alcoholic and I have to get past this and see C___ as C___.

When I left the session, I went over to C___'s and he was still crying. He told me that he was upset that I didn't come over to the house that he was staying at and ask him to come home. He doesn't like living in the townhouse with these other kids. He didn't like living at his friend's home with the mother that got him out of detox and the same mother that signed the lease for the townhouse. Now he says that he is stuck there for a year until the lease is up. I was suppose to coming running after him and after he did all these bad things to us and ask him to come home. He also said he was upset that I had taken all of his things away, cell phone, computer etc. just before he left, hey I was following the program. It seems that every time a counsellor disagrees with him and points something out he get mad and quits. The counsellor said that he wants my love not my criticism. I think C___ has a problem with authority.

One day last month I went to the coffee shop and came out and my car had a big scratch on it. That night C___ came over to the house to say hi and then out of the blue said, you have to admit Mom that when ever I used your car I always took good care of it, did I, did I. Wow, I wondered if he know or if he scratched the car. Later that week, I came home and there was this tshirt with a big knot in the middle of it I thought this is weird, I opened the tshirt up and there was pieces of glass tied up in this tshirt. My neighbour said that she just saw a car with teenagers back out of my drive way but didn't see who was in it. This all happened before C___ went on a bender and showed up at our door in the middle of the night crying to get him help.

Since I emailed you, I have been using the 30 second rule saying hi, love you etc. and quickly leaving. I dropped a few things off apples, melon, carrots and he said to me on Saturday, thank you so much, I appreciate it and it was nice seeing you, what time is counselling.

Now today after the session what direction do I go in?

Any insight in to this kid from what you have seen?


A.

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A.,

"Counseling" is just another traditional parenting strategy that tends to make a bad problem worse (and you're hearing this from a counselor).

I would say that YOU received a natural consequence for making the choice to involve your son in counseling.

Counseling does not work for a strong-willed teen because he thinks that the parent is blaming HIM for all the family's problems (e.g., "My mom thinks there is something 'wrong' with me ...she's trying to 'fix' me...").

Re: Now today after the session what direction do I go in?

First, I'd question whether or not I was wasting money on counseling. If you son feels like he needs "talk therapy", I'm sure he'll tell you so.

Second, continue doing what you've been doing with one important caveat: Every time you see your son, make it a habit to say things that boost his confidence (e.g., "You're more than capable of making it on your own ...you've got what it takes to be a productive adult in society ...I've got confidence in you ...I love you son..."). Find a thousand different ways to say the above over the next several months - and even years. Eventually he will come to believe your words of encouragement.

Third, don't fall for the guilt trips. A soon as you begin to "feel sorry" for your son, you run the risk of returning to over-indulgent parenting (and I don't think you're one to move backward rather than forward).

Mark

Online Parent Support

School Refusal vs. Truancy

My daughter has mental health issues and not only does the school staff want to send her home. She will be so depressed and will not get out of her bed. I have had several consequences for her these are not doing any good. What would you suggest?

Thank you,

L.

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Hi L.,

First, let’s make a distinction between truancy and school refusal-

School refusal:

· The kid is unreasonably scared of going to school.
· The kid might pretend to be sick or say he or she doesn't want to go to school.
· The kid usually wants to stay home because he or she feels safe there.

Truancy:

· The kid chooses not to go to school.
· The kid skips school and doesn't tell his or her parents.
· The kid may have antisocial behaviors such as delinquency, lying, and stealing.

Kids with school refusal are scared to go to school. They may be so scared that they won't leave the house. School refusal is most common in 5- and 6-year-olds and in 10- and 11-year-olds, but it can start at any age.

The problem might start after a kid has been home for a while, such as after a holiday, summer vacation, or brief illness. It also might happen after a stressful event, such as moving to a new house or the death of a pet or relative.

Kids who won't go to school often say they feel sick. They might wake up and say they have a headache, stomachache, or sore throat. If they stay home from school, the "illness" might go away, but it comes back the next morning before school. Some kids may have crying spells or temper tantrums.

Kids with school refusal may worry about the safety of their parents or themselves. They may not want to be in a room by themselves, and they may be scared of the dark. They also may have trouble falling asleep by themselves and might have nightmares.

Kids who are truant (or "playing hooky") are not scared to go to school the way kids with school refusal are.

Take your kid to the doctor. Anxiety or a physical illness might be causing the problem. You also should talk to your kid's teacher or school counselor. Your kid's doctor will be able to rule out any illness that may be causing the problem.

Unreasonable fears about leaving home can be treated. Parents must keep trying to get their kid to go back to school. Your kid's doctor may want your kid to talk to a psychologist, social worker, or kid psychiatrist. The doctor also might prescribe medicine to help with your kid's anxiety.

The longer your kid stays out of school, the harder it will be to return. The goal of treatment is to help your kid learn ways to reduce anxiety and return to school.

Kids who do not go to school for long periods may develop serious learning setbacks or social problems. Kids who do not get professional help might have emotional problems such as anxiety when they get older. Early treatment of this problem is important for your kid's well-being.

Mark

Online Parent Support

16-year-old son using marijuana and RX drugs...

Hi L.,

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

My husband and I are very happy with your services. We really need some advice for a situation.

Our 16- year-old son A___ this past spring got into some drug usage-Marijuana, RX drugs, etc. We were floored. We have a close and caring family. I'm sure you've heard this before.

It went on for 6-7 months off and on, consequences were given and communication greatly increased, but he would eventually take his earned back freedom to fall back.

Fortunately, we have caught him quickly after each fall-back.

Lying is off the charts- in our face, doe-eyes, innocent, assuring lies.

We're getting much more intuitive and smart about it.

Last night we allowed him to have a friend over. He brought a bong in a backpack. Suspicious behavior led us to discover that he had the bong. We questioned our son privately. He insisted (doe-eyed and sincerely) that he knew nothing about it. We went around and around. No, he said, he was telling the truth! He knew nothing about it! My husband caringly asked the kid about it, and he admitted in front of Aaron that yes, our son knew about it and they were planning on arranging to try to get drugs to our house to probably smoke outside.

Every time we give him an inch, he proves deviant in his behavior, and somehow he breaks the rules we lay out for him. Yet he really tries hard to change during the in between times. He stays sincere for a time, and really tries hard to be honest and work hard.

Last week we let him go to a movie with a friend. We told him to stay in the movie theatre or outside on the sidewalk the whole time until we picked him up.

When we dropped him off, my husband felt something was up. Turns out we steathily watched him from our car and tracked him. At one point we lost him, and it was at that point he had skipped down to the Taco Cabana with his friends. i called him during this mystery period, and he assured me he was in the bathroom at the theatre.

He was at Taco Cabana. So sure enough, we watched him come back up from T.C. and confronted him. He had to leave with us. He cried, showed remorse, etc. We grounded him for this weekend, but he earned it back thru chores. But alas, this weekend (the previous story).

So we're exhausted.

He was extensively psych tested very recently. Obviously ADHD is high on the list. But everything else showed he was pretty mentally healthy.

One of my questions is based on an observation the psychologist made. He said, and I totally agree with him, that Aaron has an extremely narrow focus, and that he doesn't see the warning signs or take in enough information to make decisions. I'm sure this is true of many teens, but for heaven's sake.

== > My take on this is that your son is a “high risk-taker” (which is not altogether bad depending on how he uses this skill). We stay focused on strengths in this program. You will do well to shift to that paradigm as well.

We' ve taken him to the insurance agent who talked to him for an hour about how if he was caught with drugs he would not be able to get insurance and would not be able to drive. We've told him that in order for him to be able to drive, he would have to stay away from drugs, druggies, and extreme behavior- which we have thoroughly and prolifically described to him.

== > I’m sure the “lecture” was a form of pouring on a lot of intensity while “things were going wrong.” Your son got a payoff – but not the kind you hoped for.

We've taken him to the Juvenile Detention Center to show him what happens to kids who have to go there. He got to see the little jumpsuit and the video.

== > More intensity while things are going wrong. He now will have a fascination with being detained. We, as parents, want to provide intensity when things are going right (or not going wrong) rather than using all these “traditional” parenting strategies you’ve listed so far.

We've visited his vice principal and informed her of A___'s struggle, and now she checks in with him. He knows he will be subject to more than the average locker tests.

== > This is a good move!

We've been very honest about out feelings and forthright about admitting the times we've made mistakes as well, to bring healing to wounds from the past. We are very available, we're setting limits, giving consequences, praising him for good behavior, giving him space, pulling him into dinnertime conversations, etc............

We are random drug testing. He likes the church we attend, and really likes the pastor's relevant teachings, but doesn't want to get involved with the youth group. Insecure.

Did I mention he also got arrested for stealing in December. It was expunged from his record, but not without him paying us back for some financial consequences, having his "goods" removed for a while (restriction), community service, and a whole ton of communication about the deal and everything involved with his choices.

So, do we need to deal with the drug behavior more severely than the 3-day restriction?

== > No. And the reason is because he will receive a series of natural consequences by default (and already has). Also, be sure to read the section of the online version of the eBook entitled “Read These Emails From Exasperated Parents” [session #4]. Look for where it reads: "We got a call from school last week. Our son got busted with a bag of pot in his locker and has been suspended from school for the rest of the year. My wife and I are shocked and angry as hell. I'm not sure what question to ask at this point other than what should we do now?"

If he gets caught with drugs, he gets arrested, has very long-term driving consequences because of the insurance deal, and it will always be something he has to mention when applying for college or a job, etc.

== > These are the natural consequences I’m talking about. Do not attempt to save him from making poor choices that will lead to the above.

Second, how can we work with him to expand his thinking to remember what's really important to him so he will weigh more carefully his choices.

== > You can’t. Stop trying to “reason with” him. Strong-willed kids only learn from one method – the school of hard knocks.

Lastly, he has a very hard time connecting to friends. he's friend-LY and quite handsome and even a little charismatic. But somehow he can't seem to hook any more deeply than surface. He was very hurt when a close friendship fell apart a few years ago (the kids was great but had some issues that made it very difficult to connect. He would wall up a lot). I think this has something to do with it. But even then, he seems so insecure that friendships have always been a struggle. He was bullied through junior high
(kept it a secret from us) and carries around some damaged thinking. I believe that a great deal of his acting out with drugs has been to salve his pain and connect to people who seemed more than willing to share their drugs with him.

== > Be sure to read the web page on bullying (click on the “website” button at the top of the Contents page [online version] and look under "Parent's Strategies A-Z" [right side of page].

So much is at stake.

== > You’re feeling sorry for him at some level – and I can promise that will work against you and your efforts.

He has a good heart, and I'm stunned by all of this. Maybe I need some comfort. It doesn't seem to be getting very much better.

Any and all advice you can think of will be more appreciated than you can possibly imagine.

Thank you for what you do.

Blessings,

L.

== > I think you are largely on track (with just a few exceptions that I have eluded to in my comments).

Mark Hutten, M.A.

My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents with Defiant Teens

16-year-old daughter constantly tells her younger siblings what to do...

Mark,

Our 16-year-old daughter constantly tells her younger siblings what to do and how to do it and that the way they do things isn't good enough. It creates daily friction in the family. What can we do to make it stop? And do I understand you to say that parents shouldn't pay a lot of attention to children when they are fighting?

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Hi T.,

Re: And do I understand you to say that parents shouldn't pay a lot of attention to children when they are fighting?

That's right. Too much attention handicaps a child's ability to fully grow up. In this regard, there is general agreement among parenting pundits that adolescence now begins at 10 and lasts almost 20 years. In the second place, children don't really like a lot of attention. They like to be ignored, to be left alone. But a child has no way of knowing that if he's never experienced the joys of being ignored.

I'm describing a ubiquitous state of parental micromanagement, and when parents micromanage, children whine. The general theme of this whining is that everything is "too hard" and life isn't fair. One of the most predictable themes of all this complaining has to do with being treated unfairly by siblings, which brings me back to your question.

I'll just bet that when your younger kids complain about their older sister, you make the mistake of trying to solve the problem. Your involvement whips their conflict into a soap opera, replete with yelling and tears and general gnashing of braces. You need to deal with this with a sense of humor. Instead of helping to whip this into an intergenerational drama, turn it into your very own family sitcom.

The next time the younger kids come to you with tales of woe concerning older sis, just say, "I love you, too!" and walk away, singing the first verse and chorus from “The Hills Are Alive With The Sound Of Music." After they recover from their disorientation, they will catch up to you, complaining ever more loudly. Turn around and say, "Life is good!" (Sing the opening lines from "When The Saints Go Marching In").

It's important that you look like a permanent resident of La-La Land. Just keep doing this until they give up, which they will --- eventually. Other equally irrelevant things you can say include "I hope the Cubs win the World Series" and "I just love those raspberry-filled Hostess Ho Ho’s -- don't you?"

Mark Hutten, M.A.

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