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Teen S e x and Promiscuity

My 13 year old daughter is sexually promiscuous. I know she has had sex twice with one boy, one time being in a public toilet. She is not in a relationship with him. I know she has kissed three different boys this week. I cannot watch her 24 hours a day and I think that she will damage herself psychologically is she continues this destructive behavior. She doesn't know that I know all of this, but knows I found out about the sex. Any advice?


Teen Sex and Promiscuity

Moms and dads dread the day that their youngster becomes sexually active. Girls in particular, seem to cause more concern because of the risk of teen pregnancy.

Understanding why adolescents have sex is one of the most important steps towards dealing with the situation.

Why Adolescents Decide to Have Sex—

No single factor can be blamed for all possible occurrences of teenage sex. However, some of the more common issues raised by adolescents include:
  • a belief that having sex will make them more adult
  • a negative self-image, believing that participating in sexual activity can increase their popularity
  • in girls more than boys, a belief that sex will keep their partner interested in them and will provide the love they crave
  • media influence such as television, music and the Internet
  • overly strict moms and dads, increasing the chances of promiscuity when the opportunity arises
  • peer pressure—a feeling that everyone else is having sex

[Twenty percent of all adolescents have had sex at least once before their fifteenth birthday.]

Sex in the Media—

Sex is everywhere. Teens simply cannot avoid the topic. Researchers discovered that 83 percent of episodes of adolescents' twenty favorite television programs contained some reference to sexual behavior.

[If you were to watch an hour of music videos, on average, you'd see ninety three sexual situations.]

Even apparently innocuous family sports events are not free from sexual exploits. During the 2004 Super Bowl halftime show, over thirteen million kids under seventeen watched Justin Timberlake tear off items of Janet Jackson's clothing.

Try as we might—sex cannot be avoided.

Teenage Sex and the Internet—

Recently, the Internet has provided teens with an opportunity to satisfy their curiosity about sex. In the privacy of their bedrooms, adolescents can be exposed to an astonishing array of graphic pictures and video clips depicting erotic material.

Pornography is rife on the Internet, appearing as emails or pop-ups or even web sites designed to attract adolescents. While most adults simply ignore such intrusions, adolescents are particularly vulnerable to them. Pornographic material can give an impressionable teen a convoluted view of what is normal, healthy sexual behavior.

Dangers of Teenage Sex—

Teen pregnancy is by far the most publicized danger of underage sex. Statistics reveal that every year in the US, over 850,000 girls between the ages of fifteen and nineteen become pregnant. Equally worrying are the figures that suggest 20,000 girls under fourteen become pregnant annually; of those 8,000 go on to give birth.

Promiscuity is an urgent issue. Adolescents are much more likely to engage in unprotected sex with multiple partners. Half of all people infected with the HIV virus annually are thought to be between the ages of 15 and 24.

About 25 percent of all sexually active teens contract a sexually transmitted disease (STD) annually. Of those, eighty percent do not know they have a disease and run the risk of long-term health effects, such as infertility. Two percent of all girls between fifteen and nineteen have been diagnosed with Chlamydia.

What the Parent of a Teen Can Do—

Despite the prevalence of teenage sex, only about one third of moms and dads with sexually active fourteen-year-olds believe that their youngster had engaged in sex. However, of those kids, three-quarters used contraception the first time they had sex.

Signs that Your Teen is having Sex—

Adolescents who are dating someone who is at least two years older than they are twice as likely to engage in sexual activity. Furthermore, teens in a long-term relationship are considerably more likely to be having sex.

Teens with several social groups are less likely to be involved in intimate situations and are therefore less likely to be engaging in sex.

Tips for Moms and dads—

Experts have this advice:
  • Believe it or not, many teens feel that their moms and dads are the most influential source of information on sex.
  • Discuss sex with your youngster, from an early age, ideally pre-teen. Talking to your teen about sex encourages responsible behavior when it comes to sexual activity.
  • Keep in mind that your teen gains a lot of information from simply watching how adults behave.
  • Offer guidance, care and supervision. Adolescents are in need of parenting and feel more secure when boundaries are clear.

Sexuality is an important topic for your adolescent. Tackle it early, sensitively and in a matter-of-fact manner. Keep the lines of communication open as much as possible. Help your adolescent understand normal sexual urges and strategies for managing them healthfully.

Motivating Your Child To Do Well In School

"My son was a excellent student in high school used to have awards in Science, Music, and Arts i was so proud as parent and also got high results at GCSE exams mostly A's & A* but since he start college he is under achieving student to the point he failed subjects last year, notice not doing his college work progress report are disappointing, noticed teachers are feed up as i feel the same and today he told me sorry that he is not doing his work my son said to me i do not want to do my work and said i do not know why? My question why my son is feeling this way?"

As young people today are confronted with new and unfamiliar issues when compared with young people in any recent or long-term past, many moms and dads struggle to identify the catalysts or strategies to stimulate and motivate their young people. Today's young people are faced with choices and circumstances their moms and dads didn't face. They live in a world where it requires a security badge to enter a high school…where they compete scholastically with 4.9 G.P.A.s…where classmates cheat using cell phone technology…where world events and economic issues make it scary to contemplate the future. Is it any wonder young people often lack motivation?

As many experts reveal, a loss or lack of motivation in young people is often symptomatic of far greater issues, such as a lack of self-confidence, a lack of esteem, and so forth. To boost young people’ feelings of enthusiasm and drive, moms and dads can consider some expert advice and strategies for support.

Most of the problems of education are problems of motivation...When a youngster is self-motivated, the teacher cannot keep him from learning. Students who lack motivation often display a gap between their abilities and their academic output and effort. While this can appear at a very young age, including many elementary grades and ages, the lack of motivation is most strongly evident as students transition from middle and high school.

As students lose motivation at a young age, their inability to perform and their desire to achieve becomes a learned behavior, as students are labeled as “underachievers,” resulting in a student’s loss of self-esteem and confidence. A highly intelligent teen may be denied entrance into honor classes and urged to take either general or vocational classes because of a lackluster middle school performance. Such a situation easily becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

If students lose enthusiasm at a young age, it is imperative that school leaders and moms and dads step in to guide these younger students towards more positive performance early on, as early-intervention can help prevent long-term consequences.

When an adolescent lacks motivation, the end result is often a teen lacking self-confidence, a teen with a bad attitude, or perhaps even a teen with behavior problems. When moms and dads are confronted with issues relating to young people’ behavior and motivation, there are a variety of expert-suggested strategies to help boost students’ performance and attitudes.

Many experts assert that young people are most strongly encouraged and supported when they are forced to motivate themselves. Young people can learn how to motivate themselves by engaging in student clubs, groups, or organizations that foster positive peer influence solutions. For example, some clubs focus on interests that may connect with a teen’s desired future career. In this case, students can determine their interests and goals, and then can simultaneously encounter clearer catalysts that drive their motivation and focus. If a student realizes he/she needs to attend college in order to achieve his/her dream, then the teen may encounter a new self-motivation to strive and succeed in school.

In addition to young people engaging in clubs and activities that stimulate a self-motivation process, there are also many summer camps and teen-based courses (outside of most high school programs) that focus on teaching young people. During such camps, the basics of independent living, such as budgeting, handling a checkbook, obtaining a car loan, finding and maintaining an apartment, using credit wisely, and community participation are taught.

By teaching young people the more important and complex lessons of life after high school, many young people are able to realize how their current choices impact their long-term success. As a result, young people are again able to learn how to self-motivate with the guidance of expert sources and opportunities.

Many public high schools have implemented mentor programs for students, where high-achieving students volunteer to support students who are struggling. Oftentimes these mentors can help fellow young people with homework, or can just serve as a troubled teen’s friend and companion, as a mentor can help a teen to constructively work through problems, discuss issues and pressures that students encounter in and outside of school, and so forth. This avenue is a positive alternative to forcing students to deal with struggles on their own—especially when moms and dads are finding it difficult to connect with their teen.

Moms and dads can also support unmotivated young people by helping their child identify their strengths and abilities. In doing so, moms and dads should simultaneously encourage their teen’s achievements, while supporting their adolescent with enthusiasm and optimism. Adding to this approach, “If we are to motivate adolescents to learn what is in the curriculum, we must honor their learning styles, help them discover their unique abilities, and give them appropriate tools for successful achievement.

Tips for Single Fathers

Most single fathers I know struggle to know where to start in the beginning. What should be first on my list, and how do I even begin to get my arms around the rest? Having talked to a number of single fathers who have successfully negotiated this transition with their children, let me offer the following recommendations…

As adults, we have at least learned some coping mechanisms in our life to deal with change. Often, our children are totally unprepared for having a single father as their primary caregiver. So as you help your children adjust, consider the following suggestions:

• Accept help. Often, as others you love see you struggle, they will ask if they can help. Learn to be a gracious receiver of their offers. Swallow your pride, recognize that you can't do it all, and express gratitude for the help of others.

• Consider early mornings. Once the children are up and around, it’s harder to make time for you. And at night, there are lots of temptations like TV and the computer to distract you. Get up an hour earlier than the children and make time for exercise, reading, getting organized and maybe even some meditation. Investing one early morning hour in yourself can make a marked difference. One of the biggest challenges newly single fathers tell me about is the need to establish new routines when the other adult at home is not there anymore.

• Focus on health. Some fathers deal with the stress of this situation by holing up or binge eating. Make sure you don't go there. Make time for exercise, even if you have to do it with one or more of the children. Walk, run, hit the gym—just stay active. And make sure that you eat right. Resist the temptation to subsist on junk food. Keep lots of vegetables in your life.

• Get the children involved. A lot of routine chores are within the capability of the children. Chores like cleaning, sweeping, vacuuming and more are not beyond their skill level if you teach them what you expect. A chore chart can really help with reminding them and keeping them accountable.

• Have laundry days. Trying to get ahead of and keep up with the laundry can be a big task. One new single father I know tossed all of the children' socks and bought 12 matching pairs for each youngster so mating socks became easy. Consider setting aside a couple of days a week for laundry. If your children are a little older, they can do their own with a little training. And if you are not used to separating clothes for washing, ask an experienced laundry-doer for some help. There are not many things more discouraging than having a nice white shirt being suddenly pink because it was washed in the wrong temperature water with the wrong colors.

• Have your own chore chart. One father I know got one of those little binders that hold punched 3 x 5 index cards with dividers for different days of the week. Under the Monday and Thursday tabs, he put cards for vacuuming; under the Saturday tab was a card for cleaning the bathroom. Every day he opened the binder to the right tab and knew what he had to get done that day. Find a simple system and stick to it. It will take a lot of the stress out of these routine duties.

• Make and keep promises. For whatever reason their mom is no longer at home, your kid's trust is likely shaken. Whether mom betrayed them by leaving or whether she died, they will not be very trusting, and, in their mind, for good reason. The best way to build trust with the children is to make and keep promises. Do what you say you will do, and don't make a promise you are not committed to keep. Consistency and honesty will help them find the courage to trust again. Losing a spouse for whatever reason can create all kinds of feelings in a man. And while you now in a very real sense have to be the principle support for the children, you can't be all they need without a little self care.

• Make time for introspection. You will find a need to take a deep look inside and be ready for this new challenge. Get a grip on your feelings. Writing them down in a journal or in a password-protected computer file can really be a good way of looking objectively. Consider your strengths and weaknesses and find ways to compensate for the things you have a hard time with. Get comfortable with yourself and it will go a long way to your healing efforts for yourself and your family.

• Show confidence. Children need to see that their father is confident and optimistic about the future. Let them know that you are OK and that with time your family will reach a new level of comfort and routine. Your attitude will make a huge difference in how they feel and cope now and later.

• Talk a lot. Many children will open up and want to talk to father or others about what has happened. Others will clam up or get busy being supportive to suppress their feelings. Your job is to keep them talking and to be a good listener. Encourage them to talk with you—if not with you, create a situation where they can talk to a trusted adult. Sometimes relatives, clergy, adult friends or therapists can help if they won't talk with you. But it is important to help them deal with their feelings and frustrations. Of particular importance is helping them see that the loss of their mother is not their fault.

More single-father tips…

Emotional Issues—

As a new single father, the most important things for you to do are:

1. Get on with your life. Do not spend time trying to figure it out, look forward.

2. If you are in therapy, after you get through the initial panic stage, try to spend some time thinking about what attracted you to someone with personality defects similar to what your wife has, so that you don't make the same mistake again. Another friend said, "If new potential girlfriends don't attend church regularly and say a prayer before meals, you don't want to get involved."

3. Reassure the children that this was not their fault, and that there is nothing they can do to fix it (to get you back with mom).

4. Talk about what has happened, with the children and with your friends. Once you become open and comfortable talking about it, you become more approachable by others, and options to resolve your problems begin to present themselves more readily.


Mornings were real tough in the beginning; "Where's this?", "Where's that?", "This doesn't fit."

Here's what I did to make our clothes issues easier:

1. All the socks went into storage. We went to WalMart and bought twelve pairs of identical socks for each youngster, twelve pairs for the boy and twelve for the girl so no matter what they find, they will match.

2. Be sure to take stuff that wrinkles out of the dryer right AWAY and put it on a hanger. If you do this, you can get away without ironing pants, shirts, etc.

3. Clothes are washed every day. This keeps wash from becoming overwhelming, and reduces frustration when things they want to wear are not available. After a while, it becomes easy to fit it into the evening/morning schedule.

4. We pulled all the clothes out of their drawers and spent a few hours sorting them. "What will you wear?" "What won't you wear?" "Why?" Stuff they won't or can't wear goes out. Things they like to wear stays. I did the same thing as for socks for a few shorts, shirts, etc. that were favorites. I went out and bought three of each, so they will always find something that they perceive to be okay to wear. Then I work on variety as they seem open to it.

5. I discovered that the major issue with washing clothes is that they come out of the dryer. Putting them in the washer, then transferring to the dryer is no problem, but when they come out, you have to do something with them. Here is what I do:

o Everything on a hanger goes in a closet where it is easily spotted, not buried in a drawer somewhere.
o My wife used to fold the clothes. I stopped this because it was a lot of work and makes the clothes difficult to find. I put a bar up over the washer dryer, so now anything that comes out of the dryer that can be hung on a hanger gets put on a hanger, including my casual t-shirts, girls outfits bottoms and tops together on a hanger, etc. (I had to buy about 60 plastic hangers).
o The stuff that cannot be hung up (underwear, socks, etc.) goes into a plastic "sorter" box (WalMart again), and the children can put these away in the correct drawers. I labeled the drawers with masking tape so there is a bit of structure there too.


My children are old enough to understand and follow a few basic rules. A few that we have that relate to housework are:
  1. Don't do anything that creates more work for other people.
  2. Don't put your hands on the walls.
  3. No dirty dishes in the sink, they always go in the dishwasher.
  4. No food or drink allowed in carpeted areas of the house.

The last one has been really successful for me, because you can analyze many actions and have the children think, "Does this create work for Father or someone else?"


I may be in better shape than some here, because I have always liked to cook and consider myself good at it, but my children are at a picky stage where they will not eat many things.

1. Go out when you just can't do anything else. I started to make a schedule and plan meals, but I found that for us, it was better just to come home and have multiple choices. Tuna Fish, Pizza, burgers on the grill, salad, all are easy, good and quick to make.

2. On days when there is just not enough time to make a full meal, we have frozen pizza or some such other quick food that they picked out.

3. Similar to what happened with the clothes, we sat down and made a list together of things that the children like to eat and will eat. Then, we go to the store and buy those things. When dinners are made, it is stuff they picked out and have already agreed to eat. We made sure to cover the major food groups, talked about the importance of balanced meals and agreed that they would each take a multi-vitamin every day.

Extra Time—

When do you find time to do these things? Well, I keep the children involved in scouting, church, etc. and use opportunities when they are on trips, visiting with friends, etc. to do major things like mowing the lawn, vacuuming, etc.

I now go to bed about 9-9:30PM, not long after the children go because I am so tired.

I have also started getting up at 5AM instead of 6:30 when the children get up. This gives me almost two hours of personal time when I am rested that I use to do personal things (read the paper, smoke a cigar, listen to music, etc.) and sometimes work (bills, cleaning, etc.) I find that the loss of sleep is compensated for by my feeling that things are done, and not hanging over my head. I am a much happier person all day having had some extra relaxation or work time in the morning.

Some of the themes so far that have helped make me more comfortable were:
  1. Accept help from others when offered.
  2. Forget about the wife, she is gone.
  3. I rule the house, it does not rule me. I feel better and less stressed when things are under control and relatively clean. To me, this is worth losing sleep for.
  4. Children like and need structure.
  5. Simplify things that are difficult.
  6. Take some time off to develop your new family "structure" for getting things done. It's unreasonable for anyone to expect you to continue working at the same performance level through an event like this.
  7. Talk about what happened with your children and friends. Children, particularly need the emotional outlet and talking about it helps heal the hurt.
  8. The children can pitch in.
  9. You have to give up some sleep to get things done.

Finally, therapists, counselors, and others have told me that while it is unusual for a wife to leave her children, almost all of these cases are due to depression, alcoholism, or some other severe emotional disorder. In my case it was depression which led to alcohol abuse.

I was encouraged by many people to go to Al-Anon, which is a spin-off of Alcoholics Anonymous and is for people whose lives are affected by someone else's alcohol problem. Their big theme is to stop focusing on the person who is causing you the trouble and start improving your own situation.

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Helping Adolescents with Their Depression—

If you suspect that an adolescent in your life is suffering from depression, take action right away. Depression is very damaging when left untreated, so don’t wait and hope that the symptoms will go away. Even if you’re unsure that depression is the issue, the troublesome behaviors and emotions you’re seeing in your adolescent are signs of a problem. Whether or not that problem turns out to be depression, it still needs to be addressed - the sooner the better.

The first thing you should do if you suspect depression is to talk to your adolescent about it. In a loving and non-judgmental way, share your concerns with your adolescent. Let him or her know what specific signs of depression you’ve noticed and why they worry you. Then encourage your child to open up about what he or she is going through.

Here are some important tips:

Avoid the blame game – It can be easy to blame yourself or another family member for your adolescent’s depression, but it only adds to an already stressful situation. Furthermore, depression is normally caused by a number of factors, so it’s unlikely—except in the case of abuse or neglect—that any loved one is “responsible”.

Be open with the family – Don’t tiptoe around the issue of teen depression in an attempt to “protect” the other children. Kids know when something is wrong. When left in the dark, their imaginations will often jump to far worse conclusions. Be open about what is going on and invite your children to ask questions and share their feelings.

Be understanding. Living with a depressed adolescent can be difficult and draining. At times, you may experience exhaustion, rejection, despair, aggravation, or any other number of negative emotions. During this trying time, it’s important to remember that your child is not being difficult on purpose. Your adolescent is suffering, so do your best to be patient and understanding.

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

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

Encourage physical activity. Encourage your adolescent to stay active. Exercise can go a long way toward relieving the symptoms of depression, so find ways to incorporate it into your adolescent’s day. Something as simple as walking the dog or going on a bike ride can be beneficial.

Encourage social activity. Isolation only makes depression worse, so encourage your adolescent to see friends and praise efforts to socialize. Offer to take your adolescent out with friends or suggest social activities that might be of interest, such as sports, after-school clubs, or an art class.

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

Learn about depression. Just like you would if your child had a disease you knew very little about, read up on depression so that you can be your own “expert.” The more you know, the better equipped you’ll be to help your depressed adolescent. Encourage your adolescent to learn more about depression as well. Reading up on their condition can help depressed adolescents realize that they’re not alone and give them a better understanding of what they’re going through.

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

Reach out for support – Get the emotional support you need. Reach out to friends, join a support group, or see a therapist of your own. It’s okay to feel overwhelmed, frustrated, helpless, or angry. The important thing is to talk about how your adolescent’s depression is affecting you, rather than bottling up your emotions.

Remember the siblings – Depression in one child can cause stress or anxiety in other family members, so make sure “healthy” children are not ignored. Siblings may need special individual attention or professional help of their own to handle their feelings about the situation.

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

Stay involved in treatment. Make sure your adolescent is following all treatment instructions and going to therapy. It’s especially important that your child takes any prescribed medication as instructed. Track changes in your adolescent’s condition, and call the doctor if depression symptoms seem to be getting worse.

Take care of yourself – In order to help a depressed adolescent, you need to stay healthy and positive yourself, so don’t ignore your own needs. The stress of the situation can affect your own moods and emotions, so cultivate your well–being by eating right, getting enough sleep, and making time for things you enjoy.

Daughter is Sexually Assaulted

Hello Mark:

This is a strange experience. That is, sending a stranger, albeit we believe, a caring stranger such as you, an e-mail.

My wife and I have used your program with our now 14 year old daughter, but not as fully as we could or should have. Nevertheless, we thought we had used our ‘poker faces’, and given ‘consequences’ lectures effectively, and that a real change (with constant and exhausting monitoring) was taking place. We had a real setback a month or so ago, in terms of inappropriate Facebook activities, and had our daughter cancel her Facebook profile and account.

This was disappointing, but again we thought it was one of a series of setbacks that we thought would diminish in severity and with time.

We were thinking a level of real trust was slowly taking hold. We were wrong! Today is Saturday evening. Yesterday evening we found out that our daughter and her only real friend, (according to her), a 15 year old girlfriend whom she has been very close friends with for the last 2 years, were sexually assaulted in August. The 15 year old girl told an older female friend of her mother’s on Wednesday. The older female friend of the mother left a message with the mother, but the mother only replied to her telephone call yesterday.

The police were called yesterday, and a female police officer took private separate statements from the girls yesterday evening. According to the girls, they were scared about the consequences of their telling anyone what had happened. Apparently the girls had first met 3 older men (mid 20’s?) on the beach. They called our daughter’s girlfriend, who obviously had given them her number. A week or so later, the men called to arrange to meet the girls in the city. They picked them up, stopped at a liquor store, and went to the beach. The girls played on the beach and then drank the liquor that was provided to them by the men. The men then took them to a cabin away from the beach. 3 of the men raped our daughter’s girlfriend, and 2 raped our daughter. The men then drove the girls back to the city.

We have been told that the major crime unit will be interviewing the girls this coming week, and speaking with us. Our daughter’s girlfriend was reluctant to do so, but revealed that she had the men’s telephone numbers and their supposed names. My daughter told me today that she and her girlfriend have concluded that it was not their fault that they put themselves in such a situation. At this point my wife and I have been supportive, and have tried to be careful not to condemn them. The interesting point is that the girls feel it is our fault, and the girlfriend’s single mother’s fault. That is, because of their previous activities, we have (we thought) been monitoring their activities more closely. They feel that if we had allowed them a freer rein to associate with their peer group friends, that they would not have gotten into a car with 3 older men and gone to the beach with them.

My wife and I are traumatized and confused. I started to look at your material again. Earlier last year, before we had your material, we went to family counselling to help our daughter, and realized it was a waste of time, money, emotional energy, and gave our daughter a chance to twist and tell tales. After I decided to look at your site again, I realized that I had not fully read all of the material. I know it seems easy to label someone, and to give a diagnosis, but the ODD and ADHD are uncannily accurate. My wife and I are basically teetotallers, and have not had trouble with the law.

We are in a quandary as to what to do next. We know that our daughter and her girlfriend will be given psychiatric assessments and counselling in the next coming weeks, along with an investigation as to the real identities of the rapists. Presumably a trial and court case will ensue if the rapists are caught. A few hours ago, my daughter, wife and I had another screaming match totally unrelated to the rape incident. Actually, our whole life with our daughter has been tense and stressful. It has been a combination of temper tantrums and screaming matches. The ‘poker face’ and ‘consequences’ suggestion helps but does not work all of the time. Our marriage has suffered greatly. Our daughter speaks rudely to me, but mostly to my wife, and has said many vicious and cruel things to her. Many times when my wife has cried about our daughter and our family situation, our daughter has sneered and derided her.

It seems that our daughter and her girlfriend feel relieved to tell their story about the rape, and now feel that they can go about their lives the way they used to. Today they are laughing and carrying on as though everything is normal. Our daughter told my wife last night that now she and her girlfriend will be more cautious. That was all.

What an e-mail I am sending to you, and what a surreal experience we have had since last night. My wife and I do not know what to do next. The real ramifications of the rapes will probably not manifest themselves until years later. We are concerned about this and know that this will have to be dealt with at a later time, but at present are more concerned about the here and now. We feel we have been loving and supporting with no condemnation, but know that the root of the problem with our daughter is still there.

We believe your program has a lot of merit, and know that each situation is different. My wife and I (even though I am told that there is always one more ounce of energy left in out reservoirs when we need it) are thoroughly exhausted mentally and physically. We also have an 18 year old son who has suffered along with us. My wife has stated that in order to cope with our daughter, she is going to give her notice to quit work at the end of this year. We know you are not God, but you do have a lot of experience in working with troubled teens. What would you suggest our best course of action to take is?


A confused and traumatized father and mother on behalf of a confused and troubled teen…


Teenagers and young adults are the age groups at greatest risk for rape -- especially acquaintance rape. About 50% of rape victims are under 18 years of age when they are victimized. Youths 12-17 are two to three times more likely to be sexually assaulted than adults. Most teenagers who are raped or sexually assaulted are victimized by someone they know.

It can be hard to help a child who's keeping a secret from you. Preteens and teenagers often turn to their friends to discuss deeply personal issues — and, unfortunately, something as serious as rape is no exception.

Perhaps your daughter fears you will get angry, thinking she "brought it on" in some way; perhaps you don't openly discuss sexual issues and she would feel uncomfortable telling you.

Whatever the reason, reaching out to your daughter and keeping the lines of communication open is crucial to your relationship. Let your daughter know, often, that you're there to listen and want to know if anyone ever harms her.

Someone who's been raped might feel angered, frightened, numb, degraded, or confused. It's also normal to feel ashamed or embarrassed. Some people withdraw from friends and family. Others don't want to be alone. Some feel depressed, anxious, or nervous.

Sometimes the feelings surrounding rape may show up in physical ways, such as trouble sleeping or eating. It may be hard to concentrate in school or to participate in everyday activities. Experts often refer to these emotions — and their physical side effects — as rape trauma syndrome. The best way to work through them is with professional help.

If your daughter has confided in you that she is the victim of rape, it's important to seek medical care right away. A doctor will need to check for STDs and internal injuries. Even if your daughter doesn't get examined right away, it doesn't mean that she can't get a checkup later. A person can still go to a doctor or local clinic to get checked out for STDs, pregnancy, or injuries any time after being raped. In some cases, doctors can even gather evidence several days after a rape has occurred.

Those who have been raped sometimes avoid seeking help because they're afraid that talking about it will bring back memories or feelings that are too painful. But this can actually do more harm than good. Seeking help and emotional support through a trained professional is the best way to ensure long-term healing. Working through the pain sooner rather than later can help reduce symptoms like nightmares and flashbacks. It can also help someone avoid potentially harmful behaviors and emotions, like major depression or self-injury.

Rape survivors work through feelings differently. Ask your daughter what sort of counseling is preferable: Some people feel most comfortable talking one-on-one with a therapist. Others find that joining a support group where they can be with other survivors helps them to feel better, get their power back, and move on with their lives. In a support group, they can get help and might help others heal by sharing their experiences and ideas.

The emotional trauma caused by a sexual assault can be severe and long-lasting. The victim may be affected in many different ways. Although each person is unique, there are some feelings and reactions that most sexual assault victims experience. It may be helpful for your daughter to know about these responses. However, always remember that even though many victims experience similar reactions, there are still individual differences in how people respond to the trauma of rape. Your daughter may experience some or all of these symptoms. They may occur immediately, or one may have a delayed reaction weeks or months later. The feelings may be very intense at times. Sometimes the feelings seem to go away for a while and then come back again. Certain situations, such as seeing the assailant or testifying in court, may intensify the symptoms or cause them to reoccur.

Initially, most sexual assault victims react with shock and disbelief. They may feel numb and dazed, withdrawn and distant from other people. They may want to forget about what happened and avoid people or situations that remind them of the assault.

There may be periods when the victim is preoccupied with thoughts and feelings about the assault. She may have unwanted memories or flashbacks and nightmares. When she thinks about what happened, she may re-experience some of the sensations and feelings she had during the assault, such as fear and powerlessness.

Many survivors experience intense emotions in the aftermath of a sexual assault. At times, she may feel angry. She may also feel afraid, anxious or depressed.

Some victims have physical symptoms, such as sleep disturbances, headaches, and stomachaches. They may find that it is very difficult to concentrate on routine activities. They may also experience changes in your sexuality, such as a loss of interest in sex or avoidance of sexual situations.

Fears about personal safety are an almost universal response to a sexual assault. She may become fearful in situations and places where she was never frightened before. During a sexual assault most victims feel powerless and/or terrified of being killed or seriously harmed. Afterwards, she may continue to feel frightened and vulnerable for a while.

Feelings of guilt and shame are common reactions following a sexual assault. Because of misconceptions about rape, some victims blame themselves, doubt their own judgment, or wonder if they were in some way responsible for the assault. Feelings of guilt and self-blame may be reinforced by the reactions of others, who, because of prevalent myths about rape, may blame the victim or criticize his or her behavior.

The victim may also feel ashamed. Some victims describe feeling dirty, devalued, and humiliated as a result of a sexual assault. Feelings of shame are often related to the powerlessness and helplessness victims experience during a sexual assault. Shame may also be a reaction to being forced by the assailant to participate in the crime.

Re: Alcohol Abuse. Please refer to session #4 in the online version of the eBook.


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Should Teens Be Forced To Attend Church?


I have been using the parenting strategies since July. Things were going well, and my son even earned the privilege of a driving permit in October, which would allow him to take his driving test to have a driver's license. If he had stayed on track, he would have had his driver's test scheduled in November. However, within 1 week of earning the driving permit, he began to become rebellious again, argumentative, and sloppy or forgetful about his chores. I asked him what was bothering him, but he refused to say; he only had insults for me.

In the beginning of November, my son said that it was not fair for us to make him attend church on Sundays. I reminded him that it was a house rule that was agreed to by him. He told me that he did not believe there was anything after a person dies. I did not argue with him. 2 days after that statement, my son was hospitalized for 8 days because of seizures. He had over 60 seizures in that time span. My son was upset with me because we prayed for him-the seizures stopped.

He is at home now and has refused to go to church today. I repeated the request for him to be ready by 9am. I waited 10 minutes, and issued a warning of the consequence. I took his game controller when he did not get up. He told me that he was taking a stand for his faith. He told me he was agnostic 2 weeks ago.

This looks like a power struggle to me. However, I don't believe my husband will back down and let this go once he finds out. My husband strongly believes that his household will serve the Lord (at the least attend church). I believe this also, but would prefer to avoid the power struggle first.

What strategy should I have used? Once again, I will probably be in the cross fire between my son and his step-father.


I don’t think you will get your son to “serve the Lord” by forcing him to go to church. Attending church can be one of the most satisfying and exciting activities for any family. However, it can also be one of the most frustrating and draining days for moms and dads who have a difficult time getting their teenager to go to church. If your family finds itself in the second category, please understand you are NOT alone.

If your son does not like going to church, begin by asking the simple question, "Why". When asking this question, you must then be willing to listen. Don't comment after every sentence or roll your eyes when a reason is given that seems ridiculous. Ask God to give you patience as you listen intently to his objections, frustrations, and concerns. After your son is finished, begin talking about the reasons he gave and find a way to begin to actively address his concerns.

For example, one of their reasons could be he doesn’t feel a part of the group. Some suggestions you might give could be to allow him to bring a friend, or ask with a great amount of diplomacy if he is making an effort to meet other teenagers. You can also find an adult volunteer in the Student Ministry and ask what they have observed.

It’s true. You do have every right to “force’ your son to attend church, but talking, listening, and problem solving allows your son to no longer be the "problem" -- but to be a part of the solution instead.

Here are some tips on getting your teenager connected to the church family:

1. Find a place of service for YOU. One of the best things a parent can do is get involved in the ministry your teenager attends. NOTE: You don't have to be "cool" to work with students. You MUST have a heart for the Lord and a heart for people. The rest will come.

2. Find a place of service for your teenager. There are MANY places in the church that need volunteers. Allow your son to serve on Sunday morning. This will greatly increase the chance for your son to feel connected and "needed" on Sunday mornings.

3. Worship happens all week, not just at church. Make it a point to talk about God during the week, not just on Sundays. That shows your family that God is about every day of the week, not just on Sunday.

4. PRAY! Don't forget the power of prayer. God definitely wants your family to find a place to worship and connect with other Christians. This is a request He wants to answer. It might take time and a lot of work, BUT your labor will not be in vain!


  • God will clearly reveal to your son the priorities He wants for him.
  • God would put people in your son's life to “connect” with at church and to influence them and encourage them to want to be involved in church.
  • You will model for your son what it means to be "connected" in the body of Christ.
  • Your son will be open to listening to God's voice in giving direction in their life.

Bottom line: I would tackle this problem purely from a spiritual standpoint. Withdraw from the power struggle. Let go and let God. Don’t force him to go to church (otherwise he may equate “going to church” with “being punished”). And trust that God will WORK on your son’s behave.

Mark Hutten, M.A.

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Would you have any tips on how to get an ODD child to take his medicine [has bronchitis]?

Here's how to get difficult children to cooperate:

• Avoid physical struggles. If you start holding a youngster down to give him medicine, you may have to do it again and again. If you find you are physically forcing a youngster to take his medicine on a regular basis, this may be a sign that you should talk with your doctor, nurse or social worker for professional advice.

• Explain how medicine helps children get well. Young children don't always understand how medicine works. You could explain it by simply saying, "This medicine will help you feel better so you can go back to the playground." You could also mention what the medicine is accomplishing: "You didn't wake up at all last night. That's because the medicine took your pain away."

• Explain the consequences. If a youngster refuses to take medicine, explain that he is making a choice that has consequences. You could say, ‘I see you're choosing to stay in the house and not go outside and play until you take this medicine.’ If you're trying to get out the door you might say, 'I see you're choosing to have me give you the medicine, instead of taking it yourself.'

• Give medications at the same time and place. It helps to create a designated spot in your house for giving medicine and to create a routine. To stay on schedule, put a checklist on the refrigerator or your youngster's door. With every dose of medication, have your youngster make a check or put a sticker on the list.

• If your youngster still resists, give him an "out." Before you take away a privilege, try giving your youngster an "out" or suggest taking a short break. This allows him to save face and regroup, physically and emotionally. Perhaps you just take a moment and give your youngster a hug, or get a drink of water and briefly break the cycle. But make sure that a five-minute break is only five minutes long.

• Let another adult take over. For children who are truly resistant, parents might divide the responsibility of who gives the medicine. This gives one parent a necessary break and helps the youngster realize that both parents are capable of handling this.

• Make the medication taste better, if your doctor approves. Sometimes keeping liquid medications cold makes them more palatable. And if your doctor allows, you can also put medicine in juice or add flavorings to it. Ask your doctor and pharmacist if the medication will taste bad, and if it's safe to add a flavoring. You can also inquire if it's safe to mix a liquid medicine with juice or food. But check with your doctor or nurse practitioner to make sure, before you do. Orange juice is often used to conceal bad-tasting medicine.

• Offer choices whenever you can. Taking medicine is non-negotiable, but other things are. Even the simplest choices give the youngster a needed sense of control over the situation and over his body. Offer two simple choices, such as, "Do you want the medicine before you get dressed or after?" or, "Would you like apple, orange or grape juice with your medicine?"

Mark Hutten, M.A.

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Out of Control Daughter

Good Morning Mark,

I have finished the 4 weeks and have used some of the suggestions. Everything "sounds" good but much harder to implement. Anyway, I have a couple of questions at this point.

Before we started the course, we had pretty much taken away "all" of my daughters "stuff" and "freedom". Over the last 4 weeks, we have been looking for reasons to give things back so we can get on track. However, things keep coming up: she gets caught not telling the truth, skipping class at school, being late at school and not turning in assignments.

I feel like I can't give her "stuff" and "freedom" back when things keep coming up - and I have lost any leverage with her at all for future offenses. Do you have a suggestion?

Secondly, as a parent, what is your opinion about reading our kids e-mail, etc.? We have found things out this way in the past. The problem with this is that if I find something, I usually end up trying to circumvent the situation - it is very hard to let her make the mistake when I know what she is going to do before she does it.

Thirdly, I have reason to believe that she is going to try smoking pot. If I find out that she does and we tell her that next time we will call the cops. I am worried about following through with that threat because I don't want her to have a record later in life. Do you know what kinds of repercussions are typically involved?

Thanks for your time,



Hi N.,

Re: I feel like I can't give her "stuff" and "freedom" back when things keep coming up - and I have lost any leverage with her at all for future offenses. Do you have a suggestion?

This "piling up" as you call it is addressed in SESSION #2 [online version of the ebook] under the section The Art Of Saying ‘No’ …look for Q & A - On Discipline [right side of page].

Re: Secondly, as a parent, what is your opinion about reading our kids e-mail, etc.?

Safety should always come first. Parents need to do whatever they must in order to ensure this safety. If that means reading the teen's journal, then so be it. If that means looking through dresser drawers or looking at their internet history, so be it.

Parents often make the mistake of trying to be their teen's best friend. The problem with that is parents are not meant to be their teen's best friend. They are meant to be parents...guiding forces that set boundaries, give consequences, and help the teen get ready for adulthood. It isn't always a pretty job...but it is a very necessary job. To turn a blind eye can put a teen's very life in danger.

Does this mean that parents need to always be suspicious of their teen? Of course not. However, if parents see clues that something is amiss in the life of their teen who will not open up, it is probably time for the parents to do some detective work.

Re: I have reason to believe that she is going to try smoking pot. If I find out that she does and we tell her that next time we will call the cops. I am worried about following through with that threat because I don't want her to have a record later in life. Do you know what kind of repercussions are typically involved?

I don't have much to add other than the recommendation in session #4 [under "Read These Emails From Exasperated parents" - online version of the ebook]. To ignore that recommendation is to employ "half-measures". Also, a juvenile's record is expunged and thus, does not follow them into adulthood.

Mark Hutten, M.A.

My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents

Help for Oppositional Defiant Disorder

“I hate you, you’re such a bitch, I am too going to wear my red dress! You promised me yesterday, and if I can’t wear it today, I’m not getting ready for school!” Molly had been arguing about the dress for the past forty-five minutes. It was 8:05, mom was running late, and the dress was filthy. That overwhelming exhausted feeling enveloped mom and, once again, she caved. “Go ahead and wear it,” she screamed.

If your youngster has been diagnosed with oppositional defiant disorder (ODD), this scenario may sound much too familiar. According to the Diagnostics and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fourth Ed., oppositional defiant disorder can cause clinical impairment in social, academic, or occupational functioning, and is characterized by a recurrent pattern of negativistic, defiant, disobedient and hostile behavior toward authority figures which persists for a period of at least six months.

Since kids pass through many developmental stages as they mature, it is important to understand the differences between normal childhood attempts to defy authority and symptoms of full-blown oppositional defiant disorder. Nine year-old Molly appears driven to defeat adults, is relentless in her pursuit of proving adults to be wrong, stupid, or both, and her thoughts revolve around defeating anyone’s attempt to exercise authority over her. She typically turns every interaction with adults into win/lose situations and is vigorously intent on winning.

Oppositional defiant kids share many of the following characteristics:
  • The ODD youngster is socially exploitive and very quick to notice how others respond. He then uses these responses to his advantage in family or social environments, or both.
  • These kids tolerate a great deal of negativity – in fact they seem to thrive on large amounts of conflict, anger and negativity from others, and are frequently the winners in escalating battles of negativity.
  • They possess a strong need for control, and will do just about anything to gain power.
  • They typically deny responsibility for their misbehavior and have little insight into how they impact others.

Besides oppositional defiant disorder, kids like Molly may also have another psychiatric disorder. ODD is frequently a co-morbid condition with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. It can also be diagnosed along with Tourette Syndrome, obsessive-compulsive disorder, anxiety and mood disorders, Asperger’s, language-processing impairments, sensory integration deficits, or even nonverbal learning disabilities. What causes this troubling behavior? Some researchers believe that many of the symptoms of these disorders may share common neurobiological mechanisms. If your youngster is affected by one of these disorders, it is critical to keep in mind that ODD can create additional problems for you and your youngster.

Many authorities on parenting have indicated that oppositional behavior is more prevalent when structure in the home is out of balance – when there is either too much structure or not enough. In an overly structured environment the parenting is rigid and inflexible. These moms and dads “micromanage” and come down hard on their kids, controlling every aspect of their lives. This particular style of parenting only serves to create more opposition and defiance. On the other hand, structure that is too loose can also cause difficulties. Kids can exhibit oppositional defiant behavior when moms and dads do not provide enough structure by setting appropriate boundaries, or establishing and following through with consequences for misbehavior. These moms and dads usually give in to all of their youngster’s demands, either out of fear of the youngster, or in an effort to keep themselves in the youngster’s good graces. In order to prevent or reduce oppositional defiant behavior parents should aim towards a firm and loving parenting style in which the structure is balanced. Moms and dads must take charge, and place themselves at the top of the family hierarchy. They must use their authority as parents and, at the same time, make the youngster feel protected, loved and soothed.

How well the parents get along, whether married or divorced, is another factor to consider in preventing oppositional behavior. When couples are unhappy or oppositional in themselves, they frequently disagree on parenting issues, significantly limiting their success in changing the behavior of their youngster. Molly is an expert at dividing her parent’s authority, and will most certainly take advantage of exploiting rifts between her parents. Couples counseling may be in order to decrease the hostility and conflict between parents and set the stage for united, successful parenting.

Another factor to consider is how the family is affected by ODD. This can be one of the most stressful conditions a family faces and, when it is secondary to another neuropsychiatric disorder, that stress is compounded. Family counseling may be helpful to resolve family difficulties. The family therapist can provide a controlled environment which offers support and skills training to weary moms and dads.

Once marital and family issues are addressed, moms and dads can begin to train both themselves and their youngster. If Molly’s mother continues to respond to her quarrelsome behavior as she always has, Molly will continue to tune her out, escalate the arguments, and push mom’s buttons. Most adults engage in an argument with concern for the outcome. The adult’s goal in an argument is to come to a resolution. In other words, what transpires as a result of the conflict is most important. As a parent, from your perspective, if you have determined the outcome of the argument, you are the one in control. For the oppositional youngster the process of creating an argument is more meaningful to her than the outcome of the conflict. These arguments over insignificant issues may seem pointless however, with such a strong need for control, it is your oppositional youngster’s goal is to escalate the conflict until you are no longer the one in control. What is important to her is not the issue being argued over, as much as what is going to happen during the argument.

In order to control the process of the argument the oppositional defiant youngster attempts to determine the topic and direction of the conflict, and seems to instinctively know when you are feeling most vulnerable and your energy is low. She will bring up conflict-laden issues during these times, aiming towards pushing your buttons and diverting you from issues in which you are likely to be attempting to exert your authority over her. When your ODD youngster finally pushes your buttons, in her mind, she has gained control of you and your emotions. At this point she has now successfully taken over your position of authority. Furthermore, when you lose control of your emotions, your youngster’s anxiety level rises along with her defensiveness. When her defenses increase she becomes more oppositional which is her main defense mechanism. As she becomes more oppositional, the situation escalates and we are caught in an endless cycle of conflict.

Strategies for avoiding conflict are essential to de-escalate the situation. It is wise to change the subject if your energy is low, or you suspect that the topic of discussion will result in an argument. Walking away from the conflict is another strategy to consider. If you cannot change the subject, or walk away it is important to keep in mind that the ODD youngster’s goal is to push your buttons. Think about your endurance, how long can you endure really oppositional button pushing? When you get to the end of your rope, what are your options? It is critical not to take what your youngster says personally. As soon as you defend yourself, your youngster, by the rules governing arguments, has the right to defend himself against your attack. In turn, you get to defend yourself, and he has now pushed your buttons and gained power. You do not have to defend yourself or try to convince him you are right. Do not lower yourself to the level of your oppositional youngster.

There are two options available for preventing him from drawing you in. Tell him, in an unruffled rational manner, that he has two choices. If he wants to stay around, he can change the subject and stop complaining; or he can go somewhere else in the house to complain if he chooses. Should your youngster choose to escalate, it is time to use two powerful words which can cut through any argument. These words are “regardless” and “nevertheless”. For example, “nevertheless, this is how it is going to be…” Using these words repetitively (like a broken record), in a calm unemotional manner will serve to de-escalate the situation without allowing your youngster to draw you into the power struggle.

Utilizing effective consequences for the oppositional youngster can be difficult since this presents one more opportunity for conflict in which you are likely to lose power. Discussing consequences while you are in the midst of their negative behavior will most likely result in more frustration for you. Therefore, it is critical to focus on consequences that do not require cooperation of the youngster. Rules and consequences must be clear, and in writing to provide clarity for both youngster and parent before the conflict occurs. Begin by removing reinforcers and allowing your youngster to earn the items back as a reward for acceptable behavior. Reinforcers include items such as television, stereos, CD’s computers, video games, telephones, bicycles, skateboards, visiting friends, access to favorite clothing, favorite foods, etc.

Once you have successfully avoided having your buttons pushed and gained some control over your youngster’s behavior, it is time to go on the offensive to soothe her, and help her get back to an even place. Oppositional kids do not like being soothed by their caretakers. This places them back into the role of being a youngster, and puts you back into the role as the parent. One of the driving forces behind ODD is that, for whatever reasons, a youngster is trying to grow up too quickly, and considers herself to be equal to her parents. The ODD youngster may feel less loved due to the amount of conflict going on, and it is difficult to simultaneously feel loved as a youngster and try to operate on an adult level. Your youngster may know intellectually that she is loved, but not feel loved. Moms and dads must be able to show love, and soothe and nurture their youngster. This is not always easy to accomplish, especially when previous negative behavior patterns have become ingrained.

Kids look to their moms and dads for a sense of security, belonging and identity. As our society becomes more complex, the need for our kids to develop a clear set of values is critical. Current research also has indicated that boys with ADHD and increased oppositional behavior are at greater risk for later antisocial behavior. With this in mind, the need for structure becomes particularly relevant in today’s world. It is apparent that kids affected by a variety of neuropsychiatric disorders are at greater risk for oppositional behavior. Since this behavior will create additional difficulties for them as they pass through the various developmental stages, it becomes even more important to use the authority vested in us as moms and dads to establish consistent limits and consequences, and to distinguish boundaries within the family. This will form a family unit characterized by established guidelines, affording kids a secure backdrop in which they can grow and thrive.

My Out-of-Control Child: Help for Parents

Teenage daughter runs away from consequences...

Hi Mark,

We bought my out of control teen for our problem teen, H___ aged 16 (with undiagnosed emotional problems) and have found the tools very helpful, however we are at a loss to know how to deal with her runaway episodes which she does when she receives a consequence.

She ran away late one night in bare feet and walked all the way to her dad's house 7& 1/2 kms away, (he was convicted with 18 charges of violence against me) she hadn't seen him for 10 years...and it turned out to be a bad experience...then went and stayed at a friend’s. As she told us she wasn't coming home but was planning to move out which she can legally do at the age of 16, which she is now. I just told her how her choice to move out would affect her...we wouldn't support her financially...she would have to arrange all that herself and stayed in constant contact with her.

We have contacted the police and they have said unless she is considered at risk (ie mental health issues which she does have) they do not have the power to go and bring her home.

I managed to persuade her through much carefully thinking and talking to come home and return to school which she wanted to drop out of. She did work experience during the holidays that I took her to and now school has started she became very wound up and yelled at and gave me mouth for half an hour when she was reminded of a job she was required to do.

She went to school Monday and never came home...I believe she has gone to a friends...and I don't know what to do....I replied to her text on someone else’s phone but have not heard back from her.

By running away when she is given a consequence (this has gone on for 2 & 1/2 years) she avoids all responsibility and accountability and I renders useless any discipline program.

What can I do about this as our Australian laws as we have signed the convention on the rights of the child have taken away parental rights?

How can I approach this problem for her benefit?

very distressed mum,



Hi J,

We as parents want to model for our children HOW THE "REAL WORLD" OPERATES.

In the real world, one has to follow certain rules (e.g., obey the speed limit).

In the real world, when someone breaks the rules, there is a consequence (e.g., a speeding ticket).

In the real world, if someone refuses to accept the 1st consequence (e.g., not paying the ticket)...

...there is usually a much stiffer consequence to follow (e.g., lose of driving privileges).

Thus, you will do more harm than good by (a) pleading and begging her to come home/return to school and (b) tip-toeing around her in fear of issuing any consequences that may result in her running off.

As long as you take ownership of her "running" and "avoiding" -- then she does not have to take on any responsibility (you are taking it all). As soon as she realizes that HER PROBLEM IS HER PROBLEM (i.e., where she lives and whether or not she goes to school is HER responsibility), then she will begin to make some better choices.

Tell her she is always welcome to come home, but there will be rules as well as consequences for violating the rules. Then say, "You decide where you want to live. Take all the time you need."



Hi Mark,

Thank you so much for your sound advice. Here's how I implemented your advice...

I sent her an email explaining the consequences of her choice to run away (which were increasing in severity the longer she stayed away). They involved confiscating all her important stuff and selling it should she not return home, and giving the money to her sister who she owed money to.

I would call her 'safe house' (which we had no details of without lots of investigation) and inform them of what we were going to do, and that she was under my legal guardianship, I would call CATT and CAHMS, adolescent and mental health teams, I would report her as a missing person to the police.

I gave her a time limit when they would begin. If she wasn't home by 8pm I would begin to implement my plan. Then I told her what would happen if another day went by....I would put up missing person posters of her around all her favourite haunts asking people for information. And I would sell her horse and cancel his agistment, and warned of daily consequences increasing in severity.

She was on the phone to me quick smart to say she was coming home before 8 but she couldn't find money for a bus fare, then rang to say there weren't many buses, then she rang to ask if I could pick her up.

Your right. Reading her the riot act and telling her the consequences made it her problem not mine and she became very anxious to avoid them.

Thank you so much, she came home a very compliant and subdued and obedient kid.

very grateful


Should I tell him that I am not his biological father?

Hello Mr. Hutten,

I have a question for you. I have a 14 year old step son who does not know that I am not his biological father. His mother and I have been separated for 9 years. I get him and his brother, who is my biological son, three times a week. I have had this visitation arrangement with their mother for the entire 9 years.

I met the boy when he was 8 months old, and he really has no idea I am not his biological father.

That said, the boy treats me with no respect, gets into trouble and generally makes the time I have with him and his brother a nightmare. I could go on, but I am sure you can imagine what I have been going through.

My question-- Should I tell him that I am not his biological father? I really want to tell him because I do not think he appreciates exactly how good I have been to him. I spend a lot of time being angry at him and I think if he knew the real situation he might have a little more gratitude.

Please let me know what your professional opinion is.

Thank you so much for your help and your program.




Yes! You should definitely tell him, but out of a sense of keeping the relationship on an honest level – not out of a need to apply your own hidden agenda (e.g., to lay a guilt-trip on him for how he has been treating you). Also, break the news to him at a time when things are calm – not after a heated argument or during conflict.

For all intents and purposes, he is your son – and as such, you should use all the disciplinary strategies in the eBook exactly as they are outlined. Some stepparents try to deal with the daunting task of being stepdad by taking the approach of "I won't interfere with your life." Unfortunately, this approach says to the stepchild: "I don't care that much about what happens to you." Stepchildren may resist involvement, but they will benefit far more -- and form a better relationship -- with an involved stepparent who applies both nurturing and discipline.

Give your stepson the gift of limits. Children need limits for healthy development. If they don't learn in the home that there are limits on their behavior, they'll have a harder time functioning in the outside world. If they resist limits -- and they will -- it will be easier for you to deal with it if you remind yourself that children do the same thing with their biological parents.

Use clear and explicit rules to establish limits. "You never told me that" may be a legitimate objection when you try to punish a child for breaking a limit. Limits should be clear, consistent, and invariably enforced. And there should be clearly understood consequences for following or disobeying them. Don't overwhelm your stepchildren with rules, but have enough of them to create a moral order in your home.

Let stepchildren participate in making the rules. Have regular family meetings. Use them for sharing positive experiences, openly airing grievances and concerns, and formulating rules. Children should not have the final say in establishing each rule. But they should know that they have been heard. It's a basic principle that people are much more likely to conform when they have participated in the decision-making process.

Encourage openness about feelings. "I hate you. You're not my father." It's tempting to reprove the child and forbid such language. But that teaches stepchildren to suppress their feelings. Instead, tell the child why this kind of statement hurts and how it makes you feel. Then explore with the child why he feels this way, reminding him that you still want to be his father. Be honest with your stepchildren about your own feelings, and encourage them to be honest about theirs.

Plan special times and experiences with your stepson. Shared experiences build intimacy. Spend time alone with him. Do something that the child considers special (e.g., going hunting or fishing).

Maintain your sense of humor. Humor helps keep matters in perspective. It helps relieve tension. It builds intimacy when you laugh with someone else. Sometimes you can use humor to resolve a problem with a stepchild. Humor won't cure all problems, but a lack of humor can kill the relationship.

Other than these items above, use the techniques outlined in the eBook.

Good luck,

Mark Hutten, M.A.


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