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

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

What To Do When Teens Run Away: A Tough Tactic For Parents

Dear Mark,

I have recently "joined the program" and have seen an overall improvement. I have 3 daughters aged 17 (now left school & unemployed after going to live with her father several months ago because he does not have any boundaries), 14 (major issues see below) and 10. The children's father consumes alcohol in excess, which contributed to his lack of supervision.

Separated/divorced 4 yrs ago and my 14yo went to live with her father over 12 months ago where she was basically unsupervised until crisis this April including alcohol & Marijuana use, shoplifting, running away etc. I now have court orders to stop her running back there when I placed boundaries on her.

She is under care of mental health team (initially depressed now behaviour issues) and she has been attending appts. She keeps saying that she would rather live in a foster home than live with me (in a comfortable home).

I remove privileges of computer, bedroom door, phone, iPod, groundings etc, but she seems only to be good enough to get them back until the next time! Her logic is she might as well enjoy herself because going to be disciplined when returned.

Major issue at present is her running away for up to 4 days (I do report her to the police). I have now reached a point where I have had enough. Over 12 months ago she was a scholarship student at a private school, but has deteriorated in public school (multiple suspensions for disrespect, disobedience). Unfortunately school has not handled situation well as refusing to do "in house suspensions" so my daughter sent home. I asked multiple times for meetings with all concerned, but seems easier for them to just wait for her to be suspended again. The only option next year is Boystown residential program monday-friday - but the child has to co-operate!

I don't know what else to do...she has refused to come home again and I don't know where she is.

Please help me...

Thanks, S.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Hi S.,

Re: I don't know what else to do...she has refused to come home again and I don't know where she is.

This will be a difficult task perhaps, but you will need to stop taking responsibility for her "runaway behavior." You can't hog tie her to a bed post ...nor can your keep her locked up in the house.

The quick answer is this: (a) "act as if" you are not bothered by her running away; (b) let her run; (c) do not attempt to find her and do not attempt to communicate with her (however, if she calls you, then do field that phone call); (d) when she returns, simply re-issue the consequence; (e) when she runs again, start the cycle all over.

Listen...

Clearly she knows that "running" pushes your "worry" buttons ...she gets a pay-off in the form of knowing she has control of (a) your emotional state and (b) her freedom to do what she wants. So the more you 'fuss' -- the more power she feels. Paradoxically, the more you are relaxed about her 'running' -- the less power she feels.

She runs because it keeps her in charge. 'Running' keeps her in charge because it gets a reaction out of you. As soon as you stop reacting -- game over! There's no pay-off anymore. She loses the power to push your worry buttons. As long as she can keep you in a state of anxiety and fussing -- she wins!

Her running is her responsibility now... and it has natural consequences associated with it as well.

So now you decide. Are you going to continue to feed this behavior with your reactions? Or are you going to pull the plug and let her worry about herself?

You pick. 

Mark Hutten, M.A.

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

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hi Mark,



My husband and I have successfully completed your 4 week program & it has helped us gain back a huge amount of control (thank you) – well in the way we handle things anyway! We do feel we have a consistent armoury of tool that we stick to religiously.



Danielle our 15 ½ year old (my step daughter) has behaved as you have predicted along the 4 week course but she did sign up to a contract – her behaviour is 100% self motivated and selfish and when she does not get her way her mental age does not match her chronological age.



She as of yesterday morning has again chosen to run away (this is the thing she does), we as per the contract have contacted the police & let her friends know that this is the action we have taken, but that she’s welcome to come home when she’s prepared to live by the house rules – beyond that we have not actively chased her down as we feel this is what she wants us to do.



Question – are we taking the right action?



Also we are due to travel 2 ½hrs flight away on Thursday of this week to celebrate Christmas with my family as my Mum passed away in August – Danielle has already made it clear she doesn’t want to do this so I believe she’ll ensure she wont come back & or will intentionally miss the flight – does my husband still travel & we notify the police?



Not 100% sure of our next steps, we also have a 2 boys (4 & 6) to consider.



Please help



Rach

Mark said...

Re: are we taking the right action?


YES!



Re: does my husband still travel & we notify the police?


YES!


Good work here - and I can tell you are learning!


Funny - I just got another email on the same issue, and I want to share it with you - along with my response...


What To Do When Teens "Run Away"


Copy and paste the following URL into your browser: http://www.onlineparentingcoach.com/2010/12/what-to-do-when-teens-run-away.html


Mark

Anonymous said...

Hi Mark

I have been on your on line parenting blog . I'm Nancy B on there you mentioned my daughter having some self reliance . which bit told you she had some self reliance. I've come a long way since she left our family. I wanted to know if keeping it brief and to the point like she does with no emotion or even politeness in her txts is the right thing to do. Having gone through the grieving process and now at acceptance stage, coupled with all the horrible things she is still saying I'm not sure now if I really want her back.Although I dont think she will ever come back home to live with us . The family has settled into a life without horrible arguments and have moved on,although it was very hard to do . So far it has been me keeping the lines of communication open with her and through her txts I still am getting blamed for everything and she doesn't still accept that she had any part to play in her leaving. I am now finding her txts so hurtful and actually sometimes feel like stopping altogether. All I say is that we love her and hope she is ok and we are here if you need us and i made the mistake of saying I missed her well all i got back well thats what you get for kicking some-one out. Do i keep txting ?. She is supposed to come for a meal on Sunday but she has already not turned up once and am sure she might do it again. What do I do if she does it again??.My daughter has said she never wants to discuss what happened . I'm sure she doesn't as she would have to face a lot of truths and I dont think she is ready for that. If she comes for the meal we have all decided that if she kicks off and starts her horrible comments or starts arguing my husband and I and our son have agreed not to retaliate not to argue and say nothing except that we dont want to engage in this behaviour. Is that the right thing to do???
Nettie

Mark said...

Hi Nettie,

I think you are trying harder than she is.

Let her take ownership of where she lives and the resultant quality of her life.

As long as you take more responsibility for her welfare than she does, she will continue to play you like a puppet.

This relationship should be 50/50 -- not 95/5.

Mark

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