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

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There is a thin line between being interfering and being helpful, and a child's grandparents seem to be constantly crossing that line.

When a child is born, the child's grandparents can be a great source of help, support and encouragement. Grandparents almost always know what to do when their grandchild child is unwell, not eating, not burping, not sleeping, crying too much, sneezing.... and so on. In fact, many women would call their mothers or mothers-in-law before calling their husbands, for advice regarding health issues. But when it comes to advice regarding child rearing, it suddenly seems as though grandparents have it all wrong.

There is a thin line between being interfering and being helpful, and a child's grandparents, (especially if they are your in-laws!) seem to be constantly crossing that line.

If you discuss your child's behavioral aspects with his grandparents, be prepared for advice. If you don't want to hear advice, then don't discuss their problems with them. It would be unfair on your part if you unburden your worries on them, and then when they offer solutions, argue with them about why what they are saying doesn't make sense.

Be prepared to heed some advice. Don't be completely closed to their inputs. After all, they did bring up your spouse, didn't they? And how wrong did they go? If you love your spouse and if he turned out to be a sensible, balanced and nice person, it makes sense for you to at least give their ideas a fair hearing even if such ideas oppose yours. It is always better to have an open mind with regard to child rearing since everything is so subjective.

It is true that you can bring up your child the way you feel is right, but in your strong desire to do this, don't discount good tips. Many mothers, feeling threatened by constant interference from in-laws, make it a point not to heed their advice. This is completely understandable, as it is just a defensive reaction. Instead, if you have a problem with your child's grandparent's interference, discuss it with them. Let them know that you feel a certain way on certain issues, and that you would welcome their suggestions on other matters or when you ask for them.

It is all too easy for parents to criticize in-laws for interfering, but not all understand the emotion behind such interference. True, many in-laws are unnecessarily dominating, but irrespective, if you feel that their ideas do not completely go against your beliefs, you could perhaps give in to them every once in a while to maintain peace, especially if you are living together. Don't refuse to listen to them because you know that your husband is on your side or because you know that you have enough freedom and really can do whatever you want. Instead of simply turning a blind eye to what grandparents feel, discuss it with them and let them know why you feel strongly about doing things in another manner.

Always remember that grandparents nowadays have valuable experience, and make for the best baby sitters. These days, with people staying healthier in their old age, grandparents can participate in various activities with their children. They can tell them stories of the days gone by, inculcate in children a sense of family pride, and increase a child's knowledge about his culture and heritage. So bear this in mind the next time you are tempted to snap at them for interfering. It is for your own peace of mind.


My Out-of-Control Teen

Daughter is angry at me most of the time...

"My 13 year old daughter is angry at me most of the time. It is hard to say anything to her without her snarkyness "don't talk to me" or "I know" ect. I never know if I should let it pass or jump on it. Then later she will ask rather nicely if she can go to a friends. Do I say "no" now because of the earlier rudeness that I endured BUT did not act on at the time? Week 2 is hard. So many issues and hard to pick where and what battles to tackle in the heap.

Also, her 16year old sister is so "good". This builds a lot of resentment with my 13year old. She wonders why all these rules only seem to apply to her. She always says we favor her sister. Her sister does what she is suppose to without problem. She is pleasant and works hard at school. I don't know what to say to my 13 year old about why only she had to have all these extra chores and rules."


Teen anger takes many forms. It may be expressed as indignation and resentment, or rage and fury. It is the expression of teenage anger, the behavior that we see. Some teens may repress their anger and withdraw; others may be more defiant and destroy property. They will continue their behavior, or it may escalate, until they decide to look within themselves to the roots of their anger. But teenage anger is a feeling, an emotion, not a behavior. And anger is usually caused by something going on in a teen's life.

Teen anger can be a frightening emotion for the teen and for the parents, but it is not inherently harmful. Its negative expressions can include physical and verbal violence, prejudice, malicious gossip, antisocial behavior, sarcasm, addictions, withdrawal, and psychosomatic disorders. These negative expressions of teenage anger can devastate lives, destroying relationships, harming others, disrupting work, clouding effective thinking, affecting physical health, and ruining futures.

But, there is a positive aspect to such expression, as it can show others that a problem exists. Teenage anger is usually a secondary emotion brought on by fear. It can motivate us to resolve those things that are not working in our lives and help us face our issues and deal with the underlying reasons for the anger, specifically things such as:

• Abuse
• Depression
• Anxiety
• Grief
• Alcohol or substance abuse
• Trauma

Teens face a lot of emotional issues during this period of development. They're faced with questions of identity, separation, relationships, and purpose. The relationship between teens and their parents is also changing as teens become more and more independent. Parents often have a difficult time dealing with their teen's new-found independence. And it can bring up issues of the parents' own anger.

This can bring about frustration and confusion that can lead to anger and a pattern of reactive behavior for both parents and teens. That is, teens are simply negatively reacting to their parent's behaviors, and parents react back in an equally negative manner.

This sets up a self-reinforcing pattern of interaction. Unless we work to change our own behavior, we cannot help another change theirs. We need to respond rather than react to each other and to situations. The intention is not to deny the anger, but to control that emotion and find a way to express it in a productive or at least, a less harmful, manner.

Teens dealing with anger can ask these questions of themselves to help bring about greater self-awareness:
  • Where does this anger come from?
  • What situations bring out this feeling of anger?
  • Do my thoughts begin with absolutes such as "must," "should," "never?”
  • Are my expectations unreasonable?
  • What unresolved conflict am I facing?
  • Am I reacting to hurt, loss, or fear?
  • Am I aware of anger's physical signals (e.g., clenching fists, shortness of breath, sweating)?
  • How do I choose to express my anger?
  • To whom or what is my anger directed?
  • Am I using anger as a way to isolate myself, or as a way to intimidate others?
  • Am I communicating effectively?
  • Am I focusing on what has been done to me rather than what I can do?
  • How am I accountable for what I'm feeling?
  • How am I accountable for how my anger shows up?
  • Do my emotions control me, or do I control my emotions?

So what can teens and parents do? Listen to your teen and focus on feelings. Try to understand the situation from his or her perspective. Blaming and accusing only builds up more walls and ends all communication. Tell them how you feel, stick to facts, and deal with the present moment.

Show that you care and show your love. Work towards a solution where everyone gets something, and therefore feels okay about the resolution. Remember that anger is the feeling and behavior is the choice.

Mark Hutten, M.A.

I'm still concerned about leaving him here while we're gone...

Hello Mark,

First, thank you for your calm and sensible way of dealing with these problems. We have appreciated the help.

We have a dilemma. Spring break is coming and a trip has been planned. Our 18 year old son, for whom we started your program doesn't want to go. He would like to go on an alternate trip with a friend and his family, which would only be for part of the time we will be gone and just staying around town at home or with other friends the rest of the time.

One of the reasons we started your program was a little incident earlier in the year when we found he had a party with alcohol in the house when we were out of town. We tried to get him to talk to us about what he thought would be an appropriate punishment but when he didn't come up with anything on his own we came up with some restrictions he of course didn't agree with. He did stick to it pretty well with only a few changes that we discussed prior to the events. Another was his lack of motivation and sort of a passive aggressive way of dealing with us and blowing off chores and school. He's had a few angry outbursts but nothing violent towards us, he does have a punching bag that has gotten a workout on a couple of occasions.

Since starting your program things have improved but I'm still concerned about leaving him here while we're gone.

I thought about getting him to write an itinerary of where he would be each day with phone numbers of the homes he would be staying in so we could call there each evening and make sure he was actually in those places. The other idea was to write up a contract of what was expected of him while we were gone.

I'm feeling apprehensive but would really like to trust him to do the right thing. He will be going off to college next year so it would be great for him to show more maturity at this point.

If you could help in any way we would really appreciate it.

Thank You,



Hi A.,

Here are a few questions to think about:
  • Can your son understand and follow safety measures?
  • Does your son follow your instructions about staying away from strangers?
  • Does your son know basic first-aid procedures?
  • Does your son make good judgments about what kinds of risks to take?
  • Does your son show signs of responsibility with things like homework, household chores, and following directions?
  • Does your son understand and follow rules?
  • How does your son handle unexpected situations?
  • How calm does your son stay when things don't go his way?

Even if you're confident that your son does well with all of the above, it's wise to make some practice runs, or home-alone trials, before the big day. Let your son stay home alone for 30 minutes to an hour while you remain nearby and easily reachable. When you return, discuss how it went and talk about things that you might want to change or skills that your son may need to learn for the next time.

Even after you decide that your son is ready to stay home alone, you're bound to feel a little anxious when the time comes. But some practical steps taken in advance can make it easier for you both:

1. Schedule time to get in touch. Set up a schedule for calling. You might have your son call as soon as he walks in the door (if coming home to an empty house), or set up a time when you'll call home to check in. Figure out something that's convenient for both of you. Make sure your son understands when you'll be able to get in touch and when you might not be able to answer a call.

2. Set ground rules. Try to set up some special rules for when you're away and make sure that your son knows and understands them. Consider rules about:
  • answering the phone
  • getting along with siblings
  • having a friend or friends over while you're not there
  • Internet and computer rules
  • kitchen and cooking (you may want to make the oven and utensils like sharp knives off limits)
  • not telling anyone he is alone
  • opening the door for strangers
  • rooms of the house that are off limits, especially with friends
  • TV time and types of shows

3. Childproof your home. No matter how well your son follows rules, be sure to secure anything that could be a health or safety risk. Lock them up and put them in a place where your son cannot get to them or, when possible, remove them from your home. These items include:
  • alcohol
  • car keys
  • guns (if you do keep one, make sure it is locked up and leave it unloaded and stored away from ammunition)
  • lighters and matches
  • over-the-counter medications that could cause problems if taken in excess: sleeping pills, cough medicine, etc.
  • prescription medications
  • tobacco

Good luck,

Mark Hutten, M.A.

My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents

Re: Poor self-esteem is teenage girls...


My daughter is 14 years old. She has always been difficult, but it is escalating to new levels. She has on several occasions pretended to be someone else – the first time was really big when she had a website as her handsome supposed cousin “Jake” and managed to fool almost everyone at school. When she was discovered a few months later, she was ostracized by a large part of the student body that was embarrassed by her charade. You would think she would learn!

Coincidentally, we moved out of state a few months later, and she has started texting people from school as “other people”. She has also continued to text people from her old school saying she is someone else too. Some of these “alter egos” are real people and some are made up. I have had a series of consequences (taking away electronics etc) yet it seems to have no impact whatsoever. Even the natural consequences (her lack of friends, the embarrassment etc) have had no effect. She truly dislikes herself, which is one of the reasons she pretends to be someone else.

So this week hit a new low. I got a call from my daughter this morning hysterical crying, asking me to get her from school. She then texted me and told me she had pretended to be someone else, took intimate pictures of herself and sent them to this guy at school. He figured out it was her, and started showing them around school. So then the principal called and told me the same story and that he had taken the boys’ cell phone away. I had the school take my daughter’s too, which I picked up from them. I am going to meet my daughter after school today, take away her phone, internet access etc., but I really don’t think it will do anything long term. Being shunned by her peers didn’t even help! The principal was perplexed, as we live in a small town now and he said they had never run into this (and didn’t think it was within the jurisdiction of the school anyway). I have read articles about how this could be considered child porn, so in a way I am glad for that.

She has recently started therapy (again), but it is really early on. Her school grades have hit an all time low and everything is just falling apart. Any advice would be appreciated. I really need some guidance of what would be appropriate to do at this point.




Hi J.,

Your daughter is receiving a series of natural consequences – so you should not add your own consequence to the mix.

Counseling may not yield much bang for your buck. These things (i.e., attention seeking behaviors) usually pass with time anyway.

Self-esteem is related to how confident we feel about our talents and abilities. Consider the following in order to understand the internal and external pressures girls feel and how these pressures affect the development of their self-esteem:
  • Eating disorders, low self-esteem, and depression are the most common mental health problems in girls.
  • 59% of 5–12th grade girls in one survey were dissatisfied with their body shape.
  • 20–40% of girls begin dieting at age 10.
  • By 15, girls are twice as likely to become depressed than boys.
  • Among 5–12th graders, 47% said they wanted to lose weight because of magazine pictures.
  • Health risks accompany girls' drop in self-esteem due to risky eating habits, depression, and unwanted pregnancy.
  • Girls aged 10 and 12 (tweens) are confronted with "teen" issues such as dating and sex, at increasingly earlier ages. 73% of 8–12–year olds dress like teens and talk like teens.

When and why does girls' self-esteem drop?
  • Starting in the pre-teen years, there is a shift in focus; the body becomes an all consuming passion and barometer of worth.
  • Self-esteem becomes too closely tied to physical attributes; girls feel they can't measure up to society standards.
  • Between 5th and 9th grade, gifted girls, perceiving that smarts aren't sexy, hide their accomplishments.
  • Teenage girls encounter more "stressors" in life, especially in their personal relationships, and react more strongly than boys to these pressures, which accounts in part for the higher levels of depression in girls.
  • The media, including television, movies, videos, lyrics, magazine, internet, and advertisements, portray images of girls and women in a sexual manner—revealing clothing, body posture and facial expressions—as models of femininity for girls to emulate.

The sexualization of girls and mental health problems—

In response to reports by journalists, child advocacy organizations, parents, and psychologists, in the American Psychological Association (APA) created a Task Force to consider these issues. The Task Force Report concluded that the sexualization of girls is a broad and increasing problem and is harmful to girls' self-image and healthy development. Sexualization is defined as occurring when a person's value comes only from her/his sexual appeal or behavior, to the exclusion of other characteristics, and when a person is sexually objectified, e.g., made into a thing for another's sexual use. The report states that examples of sexualization are found in all forms of media, and as 'new media' have been created and access to media has become omnipresent, examples have increased.

The APA Task Force Report states that sexualization has negative effects in a variety of domains:
  • Cognitive and emotional health: Sexualization and objectification undermine a person's confidence in and comfort with her own body, leading to emotional and self-image problems, such as shame and anxiety.
  • Mental and physical health: Research links sexualization with three of the most common mental health problems diagnosed in girls and women—eating disorders, low self-esteem, and depression or depressed mood.
  • Sexual development: Research suggests that the sexualization of girls has negative consequences on girls' ability to develop a healthy sexual self-image.

How can parents help their daughters develop healthy self-esteem?

Although the media, peers, and pop culture influence children, parents still hold more sway than they think when it comes to having an impact on a daughter's developing self-esteem. Here's how parents can help:

1. Monitor your own comments about your self and your daughter.

2. Get dads involved. Girls with active, hardworking dads attend college more often and are more ambitious, more successful in school, more likely to attain careers of their own, less dependent, more self protective, and less likely to date an abusive man.

3. Watch your own stereotypes; let daughters help fix the kitchen sink and let sons help make dinner.

4. Encourage your daughter to speak her mind.

5. Let girls fail - which requires letting them try. Helping them all the time or protecting them, especially if done by dad, can translate into a girl feeling incapable or incompetent.

6. Don't limit girls' choices, let them try math, buy them a chemistry kit. Interest, not just expertise, should be motivation enough.

7. Get girls involved with sports/physical activity, it can reduce their risk of chronic diseases. Female athletes do better academically and have lower school drop-out rates than non-athletes. Regular physical activity can enhance girls' mental health, reduce symptoms of stress and depression, make them feel strong and competent.

8. Watch television, movies, and other media with your daughters and sons. Discuss how images of girls are portrayed.

9. Counteract advertisers who take advantage of the typical anxieties and self-doubts of pre-teen and teenage girls by making them feel they need their product to feel "cool." To sensitize them to this trend and to highlight the effect that ads can have on people, discuss the following questions (adapted from the Media Awareness Network) with children:
  • Do you ever feel bad about yourself for not owning something?
  • Have you ever felt that people might like you more if you owned a certain item?
  • Has an ad make you feel that you would like yourself more, or that others would like you more if you owned the product the ad is selling?
  • Do you worry about your looks? Have you ever felt that people would like you more if your face, body, skin or hair looked different?
  • Has an ad ever made you feel that you would like yourself more, or others would like you more, if you changed your appearance with the product the ad was selling?

It is within the family that a girl first develops a sense of who she is and who she wants to become. Parents armed with knowledge can create a psychological climate that will enable each girl to achieve her full potential. Parents can help their daughters avoid developing, or overcome, negative feelings about themselves and grow into strong, self-confident women.

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Can children outgrow ADHD?


My daughter was put on Adderall in the 5th grade. She is now in the 10th grade and is not taking it. I took her off about 1 month ago because I did not think it was helping her. Her grades are good and I have seen no change in her. How do you explain this?? Can they outgrow ADHD?


We used to think children would "grow out" of ADHD. We now know that is not true for most children. Symptoms of ADHD often get better as children grow older and learn to adjust. Hyperactivity usually stops in the late teenage years. But about half of children who have ADHD continue to be easily distracted, have mood swings, hot tempers and are unable to complete tasks. Children who have loving, supportive parents who work together with school staff, mental health workers and their doctor have the best chance of becoming well-adjusted adults.

Until the early 1990s, the medical community considered ADHD a “childhood disorder.” Believing that children “outgrew” the condition, physicians routinely took them off medication before high school. In many cases, however, the teens struggled socially and academically, making it clear that ADHD symptoms had not gone away. And, as greater efforts were made to educate parents about ADHD, more and more of them, like Aidan’s mother, began to recognize their own ADHD symptoms.

Clinically, we have seen that some individuals do show enough improvement after puberty that they no longer need medication. But the American Academy of Family Physicians reports that two-thirds of children with ADHD continue to grapple with the condition throughout adulthood.

I advise taking children and adolescents off medication once a year. If the symptoms of hyperactivity, inattention, and/or impulsivity are no longer noticeable, they stay off. Should these behaviors return, medication should be re-started. This process teaches adolescents about the challenges ADHD presents in their lives, and how to determine for themselves whether medication is needed in school, at home, with friends, and so on. Medication should be used whenever symptoms interfere with the demands and expectations of a specific task or activity. It is not necessarily needed all day, every day.

For example, a college student may learn that she benefits from an eight-hour capsule to cover morning and afternoon classes, but can be off medication while she relaxes, exercises, or socializes later in the day. On evenings when she needs to study, she can take a four-hour tablet at about 6 p.m. An adult may find that he needs medication at work but not at home, or for some social functions, but not others.

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Disagreement about body piercing...

Hi L.,

I’ve responded throughout your email below:

Hi, overall my 15 year old daughter is following the rules. The assertive parenting techniques definitely help. However, we have had a long running disagreement about body piercing. She wants to pierce her lips and I said "no piercing". We had come to a compromise - I would pay for her hair care (that can get expensive!) and she wouldn't do any piercings.

== > Body piercings (not tattoos though) fall into the “pick-your-battles-carefully” category. I’m sure you have bigger fish to fry than worrying about a piercing. Save your energy for the more important issues.

Well, last night I came home and lo and behold she had pierced her bottom lip! I told her to take them out and she refused.

So, I grounded her - indefinitely until she takes the piercings out. Her response was that I couldn't force to stay home - she would come and go as she pleases.

== > Are you sure you went through all the material? We never ground indefinitely. Grounding procedures are covered in Sessions #2 and #3 [online version of the eBook].

This is true, I can't force her. However, my reply was that while I couldn't force her to stay home I could start taking things away from her - anything I had paid for I could take away. No comment from her. I guess she thought about it for awhile and emailed her reply.

Her reply was that she had been cutting herself because she had been depressed and discovered that piercing was a more acceptable way of feeling the pain than cutting.

== > This was a good line of bullshit from your daughter.

Now, she had been seeing a therapist for depression and the therapist thought she had gotten past that. My response was to call her bluff - make an appt. with the therapist and hang tough with the 'no piercings' rule. Am I on the right track?

== > Calling her bluff is good. However, I think you are in a power struggle that you will not win. A body piercing is not really a behavioral issue per say (such as skipping school, violating curfew, drinking alcohol, etc.). As long as it is not done excessively (we can talk about what would be excessive some other time), a piercing should be allowed for a 15-year-old -- but it should be earned!

Why a piercing but not a tattoo? Because a child can simply remove the ring or stud if she does not want to wear it anymore. But a tattoo is permanent. If a child wants a tattoo, she can get one when she turns 18.


Online Parent Support

Father-Figure & Son Conflict

Dear Mark,

My son wants my partner out of the house & is telling me to choose. He is mega angry. I've told him it is not his decision. But I am feeling very crushed & overwhelmed. My partner is too, but he is angry with my son in a sulky sort of way & the atmosphere here is a tinderbox. I feel very stuck, torn and scared.


Here are some tips re: father-figure and son conflict:

· As weird, ironic and contrary to what seems apparent as it is, these situations can sometimes (sometimes) be worked out fairly simply. At least doing this in the context of counseling -- sort of a one-two punch -- it is possible to help a kid accept that a) his dad loves him but has a hard time managing his behavior to show him, b) he can love his biological dad without being in danger of being hurt emotionally as long as he doesn't expect dad to be perfect or take missed contacts and whatnot as evidence of an inner lack of personal worth, c) he can have a much better, rewarding relationship with his father-figure and can actually then have two dads, d) he can use the experience (if he's a he) to burn into his memory how it feels to be on the kid end of this crappy situation and resolve not to do this to his own son some day, e) he can give mom credit for loving him enough to try to find him an additional (not a replacement) dad to make sure he had enough dad-figures in his life, and f) he can sort things out so he realizes suffering and complex relationships can work out so you are smarter and feel better afterward.

· Contrary to apparent expression of feelings, father-figure is probably not the problem at all. Of course it is always possible that a father-figure is really a sadistic jerk. However, assuming that is not the case, it is not likely that the solution is to dissolve the relationship. It's my experience that such kids are very hungry for a good relationship with a father-figure -- actually any father -figure. They want a good relationship with their biological father and are well aware that this is just not going to happen with him. This is an enormous struggle for the child.

· Find a counselor that works well with kids. For starters, it can be very helpful to get the child into counseling with a counselor that has a good track record working with such kids.

· Father-figure can come through all this feeling like a major hero and looking like a hero to his lady friend, his new kid-figures and everyone around. It is way cool to feel like a hero. This can work out with dad feeling like a hero even though it starts with such anger and resentment.

· Father-figure in all likelihood can, with a bit of luck, find something fun to do with the child that can be fun for both. Sometimes it is tough and a counselor can help a lot in this area. Basic rule of thumb is the trick is to find something the child likes to do that father-figure can do with him -- it doesn't work as well to have the child do things with father-figure that father-figure likes to do.

· Father-figure will be happier and have more patience if he reinterprets the hatefulness as a cry for help to a safe, strong father-figure. It doesn't make it easy but it makes it WAY easier.

· The child identifies with the biological father. Any negativity about his father will be experienced as negativity about him. Thus, telling him his dad is a loser will translate to telling him he, himself, is a loser. Telling him his dad loves him but has a lot of trouble dealing with emotions and straightening out his behavior is more helpful. That is also, in all likelihood, what is actually happening with the son.

· The child is feeling thrown away, devalued, unwanted. In spite of all sorts of people saying the opposite, you can probably assume that the child is struggling with a great deal of anger toward himself -- assuming that he has done something to make his dad so angry, unloving, inconsiderate and touchy. This doesn't go away with talking. This goes away -- maybe -- as people demonstrate this is not the case. An experienced counselor can help with ideas about how to accomplish this while also working on opening up the child's willingness to change his mind.

· The child is probably experiencing a great deal of stress, conflict and confusion. You cannot rely on what he is saying. Adults get very confused, hostile and grumpy under far less frustrating, distressing circumstances. It is no mystery that a child would. Adults will tell you what is wrong but they may be very, very wrong. It is easier, sometimes, to figure out what is going on without asking the person who is so confused, upset and distressed.

· Understand that when the son is dumping hateful emotions on father-figure, this is probably an attempt to get some help dealing with his emotions, confusion and stress. It is also probably an indication that father-figure is seen as safe to "reach out to" in order to get help. Yes, it’s a lot of stress to dump on poor father-figure, but kids in these situations do not feel comfortable confronting their biological dad. Confronting him would result in harsh retribution and a quick termination of the relationship. This is known pretty clearly.

Mark Hutten, M.A.

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Divorced Couple Disagrees On How To Discipline Their Children


I'm new to your program, and just getting ready to do the assignments for week 1. My x-wife has custody of my daughter, though I have her at my house about 50% of the time. My question has to do with my x-wife. She undercuts any discipline that I have ever tried with my daughter. The first week has shown me that I am an overindulgent parent. My x-wife is off the charts overindulgent. I can never get her on the same page with me for very long. When my 16-year-old daughter goes out of control, my x-wife will want to work with me until my daughter goes to work on her. Then she takes her side. What do recommend with respect to my x-wife? She has never wanted to participate in any counseling and really seems to convince herself that there is nothing wrong (usually this happens when my daughter behaves for a short period of time). I love your program, the first week has taught me more than I ever could have imagined.




Hi J.,

It’s not surprising that parents have differing views on the best way to discipline their children. Working out those differences requires clarity and perspective.

Other matters can usually be resolved by compromise or agreeing on which parent will set the rules about particular issues. Even so, forming a united front on discipline is often more easily said than done. Here are some ideas that may help:

· Ask why the other parent wants to discipline in a particular way. Listen to their response without interrupting. Be respectful, caring, and patient.

· Ask yourself why you are opposed to your parenting partner’s method. What are you afraid will happen?

· Be prepared for behavioral problems. Remember that many changes in children’s 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.

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

· 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.

· Explore discipline options, balancing the pros and cons. Decide which responses are most constructive for your parenting goals.

· Find out how the other parent wants the child to behave in the future.

· Find out what the other parent is afraid will happen if he/she doesn’t discipline their particular way.

· Negotiate a Plan in Calm Waters. Sit down with your ex-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."

· Present a Unified Front. Kids understand when their parents feel differently about disciplining, no matter what their age. Children will often get away with misbehaving simply by creating an argument between you and your ex-spouse — and this not only lets them off the hook, it creates a problem between the parents. 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.

· 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?

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

· Recognize What Your Arguments Do to Your Children. 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-tem effects. Fighting with your ex-spouse shifts the focus away from your child — and how they can learn to stop misbehaving — and on to a "parent versus parent" situation.

· 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?

· Have a conversation between parents about the ways childhood histories may be influencing the disagreement about discipline. Take a problem-solving approach to identify:

What is the specific child-rearing issue that is causing disagreement between parents?

What are the feelings and beliefs that each parent has about the issue that may be rooted in childhood family history?

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?

Lastly, always keep in the back of your mind that a weaker parenting plan supported by both parents is much better than a stronger plan supported by only one.

I hope this helps,

Mark Hutten, M.A.

Modified Grounding

I have ordered your e-book and have spent the last couple of days reading through the online version. ODD is not recognised in this country (yet) but you describe my son to a tee. He is 15 and we have had problems with him since he started school at the age of 3. However, things have come to a head of late. He is on the verge of being excluded from school with only 8 school week until his main exams start. He was in trouble with the police this week for the first time and was cautioned with criminal damage.

We have always been strict parents and have never given him everything he wants, but still comes out as a highly overindulged child (score 83) and he fits every trait you mentioned (except malicious gossip).

However my question is this. We have always used grounding as a consequence and up until the last month or so he has adhered to it. But now he refuses to accept the grounding and just walks out of the house. I feel powerless to ground him now as he just ignores me and his father and goes. At the beginning I was phoning all his friends to try and find him, but the last couple of times this week I haven't bothered and he has come home at the time he is supposed to.

Tonight he asked to stay out at his friends til 10pm and I said I would like him home at 9 as this is becoming the norm of asking for an extension everytime he goes out. I then said (following your programme) that if he stayed out until 10 then he would have a consequence, to which he replied we would just have to wait and see until tomorrow came and see what I could do about it.

We are both at our wits' end and don't know how to handle this, as part of your course is grounding. Can you give us any advice please. Have thought of doing something else apart from grounding, but then that means that he is in control of the situation?

Many thanks for any advice you are able to give.

Kind regards



Many parents use grounding as a discipline technique with their older children. However, when parents ground their children for long periods (e.g., several weeks or more) it often loses its effectiveness because there is typically little incentive for children to behave well during the grounding. Also, when parents ground children for a long period of time, they often give in and reduce the length of grounding because of the restraints it places on the whole family. When this happens, children learn their parents won't follow through with the grounding they impose.

The modified grounding procedure described below involves brief and intense grounding but the child is allowed the opportunity to earn his or her way off grounding by completing a job assignment. This technique is most appropriate for older children (e.g., 10-16 year olds).

*Develop a job list. The first step in initiating the modified grounding technique is to sit down with your child and develop a list of 10-15 jobs that often need to be done around the home. Do not sit down with your child to start this procedure at a time when your child is about to be punished. Choose a time when your child is behaving well to discuss the technique and to generate a list of jobs. These jobs should not be chores that your child is expected to do on a regular basis. These jobs should take a significant amount of time to complete (e.g., at least 1-2 hours). The jobs should also be things that your child is capable of doing. Examples of such jobs include washing the windows in the house, cleaning out the garage, and cleaning the bathroom.

*Write each job description down on an index card. The next step is to write each individual job on a separate index card. This description should include a very detailed description of exactly what is required to do the job satisfactorily. For example, cleaning the garage would involve removing all objects from the garage, removing cobwebs on the ceilings, sweeping the floor, hosing/scrubbing the floor, and replacing objects in an organized and neat fashion. If some jobs are relatively brief, it is possible to combine jobs together so that all cards have a job assignment that will take approximately the same total time to complete.

*Explain the procedure. After this list has been generated, your child should be told that when he or she misbehaves to the degree that grounding is necessary, this new discipline technique will be used. Immediately after the misbehavior has occurred, the child will be told he or she is grounded and an index card will be picked at random. The child will be completely grounded until that job has been completed to the parent's satisfaction. For particularly significant misbehavior, more than one card can be drawn.

*Define what grounding means. Grounding is severe and means staying in one's own room (or an assigned room) except for attending school, eating meals, or performing chores. During grounding there should be no television, no video games, no radio or tape players, no other games/toys, no visitors, no telephone calls, no snacks, no reading materials except school books, and no outside social activities. If a family outing is scheduled, a sitter should be used so that the grounded child remains at home while the parents and other family members can still go on the family outing.

*Explain the rules one time only. It is critical that you not nag your child about the jobs to be done. The rules of grounding should only be explained to your child once.

*Check your child's work. After your child has completed the assigned job(s) he or she should come to you so that his or her performance can be checked. If the job has been done well, it is important to briefly praise your child for the job performance and inform him or her that the grounding is over. If the job has not been completed satisfactorily, briefly provide feedback to your child on the aspects of the job that have been done well and those that need additional work. Be specific in what additional work needs to be done. Try to handle corrective feedback in a matter-of-fact manner without nagging, lecturing, or becoming upset.

Using this modified grounding procedure, your child earns his or her way off grounding. Therefore, your child basically determines how long the grounding will last. Grounding may last anywhere from just a few hours to several days. If the grounding lasts more than several days, it is important to check to make sure your child is being appropriately grounded (e.g., they're not sneaking television/radio).

This modified grounding procedure can be a very effective discipline technique for older children (e.g., 10-16 year olds). However, it is critical that parents also remember to frequently praise and give their children positive feedback when they are behaving well. As with any punishment technique, grounding will only be optimally effective when there is a positive and loving relationship between parents and their children.

Mark Hutten, M.A.

He has been boozing...

Hi Mark.

I am email you for advice. I had emailed and told you my son C__ had moved home after being out on his own. It has been a struggle. He is off of drugs and has sub it for booze. This week he found out that he has been boozing, he said it is to get the edge off. He is scared about applying for college and what direction he will go etc. etc. We found the booze in our house drank etc. On Friday, the old C__ had returned, he went out with his girlfriend and he came home when he was expected and came in and touch base with me and apologized to my husband for being 5 mins. late. No big deal we said, they had gone to a late movie and he drove her home. This was the old C__. Last night he went out to a friend's place, his girlfriend met up with him and he snuck her in his room. I had not heard him come in and it was 2:00 am. he was suppose to be in at 1:00. I told A__ she had to leave his room. He was drunk and they went downstairs to the rec room. My husband and I went to the rec room and I told C__ that there is no problem with A__ staying the night we have a guest bedroom. I was called every name in the book he just snapped and then my husband started yelling at him. I told A__ I would drive her home. She told me that she had never seen this side of him, and why did he just snap. I told her it was the booze and that when he was on drugs this is how he gets. That we had a concern about him, because of our backgrounds with alcohol that people in our family at a point act like this. That he is a good person but that this is the problem we are facing now. When I got home, he had gone for a knife and was going to kill himself my husband and him got into a fight. P__ got the knife away from him. He then took off out the door. We called the police, they came and took him to the crisis center. This morning the hospital called to pick him up, that he was not a threat to himself. We sat down as a family, and told him that the next time the police were called that he will be removed from the house for good.

What are your thoughts?


Why wait for another bout of chaos before you make a move? Plans should be drafted and discussed immediately so that he can get back out on his own as soon as possible. Most parents attempt to change a child or situation through reason and discussion, usually one-on-one. When this fails, frustration may lead to anger. This can go on for years. Appeals to reason and one-on-one discussions rarely produce change in someone engaged in self-destructive behaviors.

Begin making plans for him to move out - before, not after - another crisis occurs.


I am more empowered today...

I am more empowered today. I was able to get through the first few chapters quickly because I had already implemented things like the poker face and take care of me. When I went to the next chapter, I started into my next training and loved it. I do feel there is hope.

Online Parent Support

I wish I had this information when I left the hospital after delivering my son...

Thanks Mark,

I spent the day going over week one and I just want to say that I find your information so great. I wish I had this information when I left the hospital after delivering my son. Thank goodness he is only 7-years-old and I have access to this help while he is still young. I have also gotten him into a child psychologist and a regular counselor; also he just started a special program at a new school for kids with ODD diagnosis. Thank you so very much, you put all the info together for me.... a light bulb moment...thank you…thank you!

Online Parent Support

When Children Misbehave While On Family Vacation

Hello Mark,

I trust you had a nice Christmas and New Year and hope all is well with you and your family.

I don't know whether you've taken time off work so don't feel obliged to respond to this email if you are still on holidays....!

I've run into a spot of bother with A___ (and M___) and am unsure of what to do now. We have just had a 10-day (interstate) holiday at the beach and it was the worst holiday I've ever spent with this child. Her behaviour became appalling and consisted of alternating between constant whining and whining, ignorance of any request, arguing nonstop, fighting with other children and verbal abuse. I would remind her (when I had the energy) that the way she was speaking to me was unacceptable but Martin tried to just ignore her because he thought if I reprimanded her, she was getting a reaction and that's what she wanted. I'd have a lot of trouble letting ANYbody speak to me the way she was and so then we started to constantly disagree (with your words "ignoring behaviour is an overrated parenting technique" echoing in my head..!)

I am now in a really bad headspace, my eyesight is deteriorating again due to MS or stress or whatever, and now that we are home I feel like we are back where we started with you 4 or 5 months ago. My question to you is, how do we keep things going when the circumstances change? She had no money on the holiday because she hadn't done enough work prior to our leaving but when we went out to eat (which we had to do a lot) it's hard to deny her and ice cream for example when the other kids are having one. My mother only sees her once or twice a year and so gave her a few things when she visited (although mum did say she was now very worried about her with a view to what the future would hold for this willful and defiant child) and my mother doesn't voice an unrequested opinion lightly....

The topic of sending her away to school was raised as well but we would have to find a school strict enough to settle her down and it's all too hard.

It's her 9th birthday on Jan 28th and I've said there will be no party (I've given her a little one every 2nd year till now and she is due this year) because she was so difficult whilst we were away. Perhaps we will just have to forgo a holiday in the future, I don't know.

Appreciate your time and thoughts when you can Mark,



Re: My question to you is, how do we keep things going when the circumstances change?

To all parents whose children misbehave while on vacation:

Your kid has misbehaved horribly! I can picture you now, thumbing frantically through the ebook, looking for the list of ways to choose a consequence. No, no, no. That won't do! I'm breaking it down into steps so you can think about it. This is not paint-by-numbers parenting!

Points to consider:

· Can you support the consequence with your actions? Does it make sense in terms of your family's values? Say you value time spent together. If the TV is located in a central location, and the consequence is that the child is not allowed to watch TV (and therefore is banned from the living room while the TV is on), then don't sit and watch TV all evening. If you do, you're applying more than the stated consequence of separating the child from the television—you're separating the child from you.

· Check it against the requirements—is it based in nature, is it based in logic? Does it fulfill the 4-Rs (related, respectful, reasonable, rewarding)? Will your child learn from it?

· Consider what you want the consequence to achieve. The point of all discipline is to teach your child internal control over her behavior. You're training her conscience, and her ethics. You're teaching her how the world works. Long after you're dead and buried, this conscience, ethical sense and knowledge of the world should still be instructing her on how to behave.

· Consider whether you'll be able to follow through on the consequence. Saying, “That's it, we're not going on vacation!” is not only unreasonable, it's unrealistic. Yes, you are going on vacation. You need it, the tickets have been purchased, the hotel reserved.

· Whenever you're applying consequences, take as much time as you need, remember to keep consequences close to the action, do your best, and forgive yourself for making mistakes.

Defining Consequences Ahead of Time (a good thing to do before going on a vacation) —

Whenever possible, it's best to define consequences ahead of time. It takes a little time, but the advantages are enormous:
  • This forces you to think about it, right?
  • It will get you away from that “I'll show you,” punitive frame of mind, and back into the “Zen of inevitability.” You'll be calm, cool, and collected.
  • You won't have to think through a veil of red anger, or stall until you've talked with your parenting partner. Consequences work best when they are immediate.

Predefined consequences are the other half of family rules and personal limits. An easy way to predefine consequences is to sit down with any lists you've already made of family rules and your child's limits. Take each rule and limit and rewrite it in the following form:

· Rule or limit. If rule or limit is broken, then consequence.

Here are two examples:

· We do not eat at the computer. If anybody eats at the computer, the consequence will be:

· Robert's bedtime is 8:30 on school nights. If Robert doesn't go to bed, the consequence will be:

Setting up the consequences ahead of time doesn't always work, nor is it always appropriate. Here are two disadvantages of predefining consequences:

· It puts you into a negative frame of mind while you're making your list—everything is looked at in terms of what can go wrong, instead of expecting, assuming, and supporting that everything will go right.

· It doesn't figure in the flexibility required. There may be extenuating circumstances, or the consequences defined may not actually fit when the moment comes.

When you're called upon to think up consequences immediately and on the spot use this short, succinct, and highly effective technique called STAR. It was developed by communication expert William Sonnenschein.

STAR stands for Stop, Think, Ask, Respond:
  • Stop: Breathe, calm yourself, take 10.
  • Think: Think about what is really going on, about what your child needs, and about her positive intent.
  • Ask: Here's where you can use active and proactive listening, to get your child's perspective (yes, this step is necessary!).
  • Respond: Apply a consequence that satisfies the 4-Rs.

Letting the Child Decide—

Older kids who are experienced in making fun choices (ice cream or cake? Swimming or ice skating?) can start working with you to determine appropriate consequences. Before you start asking your kids to help you determine their own consequences, make sure they've had positive experiences with choice making, and are old enough to understand how consequences work (logical, natural, the 4-Rs, and so on).

Avoiding Inappropriate Consequences—

There are so many varieties and examples of illogical and inappropriate consequences that I'm a little leery about bringing them up at all. If a consequence isn't natural or logical, if it doesn't fit the 4-Rs and it doesn't teach anything, then it's inappropriate. There's another kind of inappropriate consequence to watch for: the double-dip.

Words to Parent By—

A double-dip consequence is a consequence one step removed—a consequence applied because the parent is upset that a child has done something away from home that required somebody else to apply discipline. Double-dip consequences are very common, but highly inappropriate. An extreme example: A child is spanked for “earning” (and getting) a spanking from somebody else: unjust, unfair, and punitive.

Here are some examples of double-dip consequences:

· Disciplining your child because he was disciplined at school. You can and should talk about what happened, chat about the child's feelings (and your own), and brainstorm ways of avoiding similar situations in the future.

· Natural consequences often lend themselves to double-dipping. Be wary! People have a tendency to scold or discipline a child for letting a natural consequence occur. If Maurice's favorite toy breaks because he threw it against the wall, it's double-dipping (and inappropriate) for you to scold and berate him for breaking it. He will learn more from the natural consequence if you simply talk with him in a kind, firm way about what happened, how he (and you) feels, and how to avoid the situation in the future.

Mark Hutten, M.A.

My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents


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