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

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Son Refuses To Go On Vacation With The Family

"Our son is refusing to go on vacation with us for spring beak this year (me, my wife, two other teenage boys). We have planned this for some time now. He says we can't make him go - he wants to spend the week with his friend (who is a bad influence). What can we do? I'm worried he will come up missing on the day of departure."

You can do one of two things:

1. Issue a warning: “If you choose to go AWOL when we get ready to leave, you’ll choose the consequence, which is I’ll stay home with you – and you’ll be grounded with no privileges.”

This option stinks however, because in the event he can’t be found at time of departure, you have to follow through with the consequence (or kidnap him and follow behind the others in a separate vehicle).

2. In the event you have a trusted family member or friend, you could allow your son to stay with them while you’re gone – with one caveat: that is, make sure his temporary caretakers are willing to call the police in the event your son comes up missing from their residence. Advise your son accordingly of this potential consequence.

Also, here is one mother's great suggestion:

"I find myself planning trips based on the most difficult to accommodate person, who would be my oldest. He loves riding the train, plane, is even OK with a car trip so long as the destination holds his interest. Otherwise, I have strong resistance, which is tiring. Then if we force him to go someplace he is scowling the entire time. Which we'll have him do for character building but I think we suffer through it as a group.

One solution we've found is church camp. Our son is not a super churchy kind of person, but his church friends are similar to him. Enjoying technology and hanging out together. My husband and youngest son have their own tent, while our oldest has a tent with his friends. The place is packed with parents and kids so we can keep an eye out. We happen to like his church friends so that helps. But then our older son has more freedom he looks forward to going. He has his own adventures while still being around family.

Another is scout camp. Our son does not especially like camping, but does enjoy being outdoors with others his own age or older swimming, shooting practice.... Likes the adventure, fun and challenges. He loves the independence that is encouraged vs. hovering adults. Still the adults are strong leaders that are watching out. Also it helps meet his goal of becoming an Eagle scout which helps with college goals. He even managed to go door to door selling plants to pay for a 10 day high adventure trip. Prior he refused to sell anything found the door to door too much. During his time away at scout camp, we of course will get busy doing things he does not like to do. 

An unexpected fun side note is he despises walks. But needs to break in some new hiking boots. The REI adviser said 20 miles minimum break in time. I now get to enjoy my son's company on hikes, at least until his boots are broken in:) My husband takes our oldest hiking in the woods, while I take our younger children swimming at a near by lake. Father son time yay. Win win. Always a challenge but usually we can find something our oldest enjoys on a trip even if it means we separate out for a bit. ie take oldest to look at local artists work at a festival then out for food, while younger ones watch a near by show. It is worth it:)"

==> My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents

Don't Make This Common Parenting Mistake!

Hey Mark,

We have been plugging along since M got out of the youth home 12/3/18. He is in intensive probation and meets with PO every week either @ school or @ our home. Also can't to go to counseling once per week. He is supposed to meet with the referee once per month also--more like every 6 wks though. He does have a court date May 6 for the fighting incident (btw, was charged with "robbery armed" since one on the boys picked up money off the ground that belonged to someone else. We decided to obtain the services of an atty for this, as we are fine with "assault with a weapon" or similar, but not robbery armed, which also is not dropped when an adult. This is his last assistance, as he was 16 at the time--[now 17 and considered an adult in MI] and we can feel good knowing we gave him every opportunity to try to turn his life around). He has not missed school (was late 2x I believe about 10minutes) and is now pulling 5 A's and 1 B+. Has a girlfriend that we like well enough, still has a job, and is usually home on time (if late usually less than 10 minutes). As you know and have taught us, we have good days/weeks and not so good days/weeks.

We have taken away his cell phone, computer, use of the car for misuse of these. This is when he still tries to bully us/swear/negotiate/threaten etc. but for the most part we have been very firm. He did sign a "contract" for both the phone and car use.

What I need help with though are the "get to it later" stuff and the not so major stuff. Examples:

1) swearing--I am getting VERY tired of the "F______ B____" used when he gets angry and now any profanity mixed in conversation. I would say this is increasing since we have not been reacting to it. We have a 10yr old and his friends over and this is NOT appropriate. I need some idea(s) of consequences for this.
2) having the girlfriend in the bedroom. Usually under blanket cuddling and tries to have lights out. I have come straight out and told them it is not appropriate/respectful and is uncomfortable for those around. (btw--20 yr old brother has his g'friend in room but usually not on the bed together and NEVER covered up, etc.)
3) eats in bedroom, cooks and leaves stuff everywhere,
4) very slipshod on chores
5) starting to NOT call when he gets somewhere like we've asked (he usually is where he is supposed to be but it is a safety issue)
6) joining us for some family time

Any ideas on consequences/motivators would be great.

Also, fyi--his "best friend" that he makes bad decisions with has been committed to a psych hospital by his Dad for 2 weeks, and last week a horrific accident claimed the life of a very close friend and 2 other friends, with the driver still in the hospital (all 4 together in the truck)

Thanks again, and lets hope things continue to go well.



Hi J.,

Re: What I need help with though are the "get to it later" stuff and the not so major stuff.

I recently answered an email from another mother who had the same question. I'll simply share that email with you if you don't mind -- I think it will answer your question:

Question: "What do I do when I've issued the 3-day-discipline (e.g., for violating curfew), but then my son creates a new problem before completing the discipline (e.g., calls me a "bitch", then breaks a plate by throwing it in the sink too hard)? Do I start the 3 days over even though the "broken plate episode" is unrelated to the curfew violation, or does this new problem get a different consequence?"

ANSWER: You only restart the 3-day-discipline if the original crime is re-committed (in this case, if your son violates curfew again).

When parents issue a 3-day-discipline, it is very common for kids to introduce additional behavioral problems (temper tantrums, threats, etc.) as a way to (a) get the parent side-tracked from the original consequence and (b) get the focus off of them and onto the parent's anger.

If the parent falls for this, she ends up issuing additional consequences on top of existing consequences, restrictions against the kid begin to pile up, and before long, the kid is grounded for 3 months with no privileges -- and both the parent and the kid have forgotten what the original problem was.

Don't let this happen to you. Do not let your son get you distracted from the original problem and the associated consequence for that problem. Here's how you do this:

If your son commits another "crime" (figuratively speaking) during a 3-day-discipline, put this new crime in the "Deal-With-It-Later" file. You literally write the problem down on a piece of paper (e.g., 'son called me a bitch and broke a plate') and put this note-to-yourself somewhere where you can find it after the original 3-day-discipline is completed.

After the original 3-day-discipline is completed, you then confront your son regarding the second problem he introduced by saying, "Just for your information, in the future, if you choose to __________ (in this case, "call me a bitch and break my dishes"), then you'll choose the consequence which is __________ (here you just follow the strategy "When You Want Something From Your Kid" in the Anger Management Chapter of the Online Version of the eBook).

So, does your son get "off the hook" for calling you a name and breaking a plate? In a way, yes -- but only for the time being. He will have to answer to you if the name-calling and plate-breaking occur again in the future.

Pick your battles carefully - but perhaps more importantly, pick them one-at-a-time. Do not try to fight 14 battles at once. You'll just blow a blood vessel in your brain, and your kid will be successful at getting you to chase your tail.

Use your "Deal-With-It-Later" file frequently. You'll save yourself a lot of time and energy that would otherwise be spent in chronic power struggles.

Q: How do you eat an elephant?

A: One bite at a time.

Mark Hutten, M.A.

==> Join "Online Parent Support" @

What To Do When You Think Your Teen Is Using Drugs

"Our son is 17 and out of control, we have noticed lately his rudeness is getting worse. I fully intend to implement your methods but I am worried at the moment that he may be experimenting with drugs. I have found something in his room and have organised to have some tested. I have spoken to a few organisations and have a meeting with one this afternoon but they are so wishy washy with their advice. If we confront him, he may lose trust in us and not communicate etc. I want to take your direct approach but the feedback I get is I need to be careful with that.

I know I need to find out what the substance is before I get too upset, but if I gather some more info and involve a family friend who has done counselling and run our approach by you, would you be able to advise if you think it is along with your methods? I am preparing a contract at the moment and trying to find out all the legalities within Queensland so I know my rights (as he is now threatening to be emancipated from us, and we will have to pay him till he is 18). Does this sound like I am following the method? If I push too hard and he runs on the streets and becomes involved in harder drugs, are there intervention programmes to rescue him? Please advise."

I think you may be a bit too panicky at this point. Let’s start with some very specific tips to help keep your son safe. We will try this first, and then address your other questions as needed. Simply implement the following strategies for now:

1. Begin to more closely monitor your son’s activities. Have a few conversations. Ask: Who? What? Where? When? Reflect with your son on why some teens may be using drugs – and try to understand the reasons why. When you get a better idea of the situation, then you can decide on the next steps. These could include setting new rules and consequences that are reasonable and enforceable (e.g., a new curfew, no cell phone or computer privileges for a period of time, less time hanging out with friends, etc.).

2. Especially ask questions when your son makes plans to go out. Who will he be with? Where is he going? What will he be doing? Then check up on him. Call the other moms and dads, and do this together.

3. Be a role model. If you drink, drink responsibly (and of course, don’t ever use illegal drugs).

4. Be party smart. If your son’s party is elsewhere, confirm with the mom and dad of the teenage host that a responsible adult will supervise to ensure that no alcohol will be served. If the party is at your house, set the rules in advance and make sure your son knows what’s expected. Limit attendance, and set a time for the party to end. Keep your alcohol locked up. Know your legal responsibilities. Invite other moms and dads to chaperone, and do not hesitate to call the police if things get out of control.

5. Be specific about your current concerns. Tell your son what you see and how you feel about it. Be specific about the things you have observed that cause concern. Make it known if you found drug paraphernalia or empty bottles or cans. Explain exactly how his behavior or appearance (e.g., bloodshot eyes, different clothing) has changed and why that worries you. Tell him that drug and alcohol use is dangerous, and it’s your job to keep him away from things that put him in danger.

6. Be there for your son when he needs to get out of a bad situation. For example, be the parent who will pick up your son without repercussions if he finds the party he’s gone too has drugs available.

7. Connect with your son by doing things together as a family. Make this a routine outing and have your son help plan it. Also, eat family meals together. Studies have shown that kids who enjoy dinner together with their mom and dad on a regular basis are less likely to become involved with drugs.

8. Consider finding a therapist who specializes in teen substance abuse. I’m only giving you some very general ideas. It is no substitute for talking with someone who can help you take a look at the total situation. If your son won’t go, go yourself. An experienced therapist will be able to help you figure out how to approach your son and what you can do for him - and for yourself.

9. Figure out what you will and won’t do if your son gets into legal trouble. Will you get a lawyer to help, or is he on his own? Calmly tell him what those limits are – and mean it! Then be prepared to follow through. Some kids seem to need to test all the limits. You can’t force him to be a law-abiding citizen, but you can go with him to court and quietly be there for him while he deals with whatever the justice system decides to do. Although I would never recommend jail time as therapeutic, it’s an unfortunate truth that it is what it takes for some kids to “get it.” Maintaining the relationship with your son in the event he is jailed for possession of a controlled substance will give you a shot at helping him turn things around when he gets out.

10. Find out who the other moms and dads are. It generally helps when parents band together. There are probably at least a few of his friends with a mother or farther who is as concerned as you are. Get together and brainstorm ways to get your kids busier with positive things. Take turns taking the kids to events, or tutoring them, or coming up with jobs. If you can agree on consistent rules about curfews and responsibilities, the kids will be less able to use the old excuse of “everybody else’s parent let’s their kid go to parties until midnight.”

11. Get your son involved in extra-curricular activities. Schools offer sports or clubs and community organizations offer classes and youth groups. These will help him mold his identity in a positive way and give him less time doing nothing and becoming bored. Studies have shown teens that have less time to just hang out are less likely to do drugs.

12. Keep connected in the after school hours. If you can’t be home with your son, call and leave notes. Have another adult supervise your son, or sign him up for an after school program. If these things aren’t possible, establish a routine for him and keep him busy during this time.

13. Know your son’s friends. It may not be your job to parent his friends, but they will influence your son's decisions.

14. Let your son know, calmly, that the rules are the rules. You don’t want him engaging in illegal and risky behavior. Remind him that it is a parent’s job to help their kids grow up physically healthy and emotionally strong, and you intend to do your part. You don’t want him to go to jail, overdose and get sick, or die. You will therefore never get off his back about drugs or alcohol.

15. Limit unsupervised time. Teens are great at finding parks, woods, open fields, or other places to hang out. These unsupervised areas provide opportunities for drinking and drug use, so try to limit the times your son has to explore such areas on his own.

16. Pick a curfew that is reasonable for both you and your son. Make sure he knows there will be consequences for violating curfew, and then follow through if rules are not followed.

17. Try to find out if friends or others offer your son drugs at school. Did he try it just out of curiosity, or has he used marijuana or alcohol for some other reason? That alone will be a signal to your son that you care, and that you are going to be the parent exercising your rights.

18. Unite your family against drugs using strong family beliefs. Establish that your family doesn’t use drugs. Not that you will shun your son should he make a mistake, but that your family believes there are other healthier ways to enjoy life and fix problems rather than escaping into a drug haze.

19. Be prepared for your son to deny using drugs. Don’t expect him to admit he has a problem. Your son will probably get angry and might try to change the subject. Maybe you’ll be confronted with questions about what you did as a kid. If you are asked, it is best to be honest, and if you can, connect your use to negative consequences. Answering deceptively can cause you to lose credibility with your son if he ever finds out that you’ve lied to him. On the other hand, if you don’t feel comfortable answering the question, you can talk about some specific people you know that have had negative things happen to them as a result of drug and alcohol use. However, if the time comes to talk about it, you can give short, honest answers like these: 

“When I was a kid, I took drugs because some of my friends did. I wanted to in order to fit in. If I’d known then about the consequences and how they would affect my life, I never would have tried drugs. I’ll do everything I can to help keep you away from them.”

“I drank alcohol and smoked marijuana because I was bored and wanted to take some risks, but I soon found out that I couldn’t control the risks — the loss of trust of my mom and dad and friends. There are much better ways of challenging yourself than doing drugs.”

20.    Lastly, here are some suggested statements to tell your son:
  • “If there is a problem, I want you to be a part of the solution.”
  • “I love you and I’m worried that you might be using drugs or alcohol.”
  • “I know that drugs may seem like the thing to do, but doing drugs has serious consequences.”
  • “I am always hear to listen to you whenever you need to talk.”
  • “We will have these discussions many, many times. Talking to you about drugs and alcohol is not a one-time event.”
  • “I feel worried and concerned about the possibility that you may be using drugs.”

I trust this information will get you started on the right track in dealing with this issue.

==> My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents

Best Comment:

I'd like to add about getting to know their friends. A good way to do this is to invite 1-2 of their friends over for lunch. Keep it simple, but where it takes some time to eat, as opposed to a simple sandwich. Let them know, once they're there, that you're inviting them over just to chat, and to get to know each other better. Ask him/her to help cut something up for you, like a tomato or lettuce. Sometimes they won't know how -- that's fine! This gives you bonding time. Did I mention that this works best for their worst influence friends? Sometimes they're missing out on something in their family life to begin with, and them coming to you will trickle down into their relationship. This way, when your child does something wrong or talks bad about you, it's their friend that will say something about you. I've seen this first hand. At 14 I ran away. My parents despised my best friend, but I was oblivious back then. I knew that they were concerned that maybe she was doing drugs (she might have been), but they never spoke badly of her. Instead, they'd invite her over for lunch sometimes, would ask about her mom, her siblings, etc., taking a real interest. Well, when I ran away and my friend secretly knew where I was hiding, she came to me and said, "You need to go home. Your mom is so heart-broken." Really consider feigning an interest in your teen's friends, instead of sounding negative to your teen. It will only make them fight back, even if they agree.

Should I hold my 9th grade son back a year?

"I have a hard decision to make regarding holding my 9th grade son back a year in school. He has done very poorly this year (mostly Ds and Fs). His teacher is recommending that he repeat the grade. What are your thoughts?"

I don’t recommend it! Unfortunately, repeating a grade may have even worse consequences for a student who is doing poorly in school. Research studies suggest overwhelmingly that retention in grade is an ineffective strategy for children who are experiencing academic difficulty or demonstrating 'immature' behaviors. One study, conducted by the University of Georgia, found that students tended to fall even further behind during their second year in the same grade.

Research says that a student who repeats a grade in elementary school is much more likely to later drop out of school. Students who are retained may do better at first, but then fall behind again, possibly because of learning difficulties that have not been identified. Students who are held back are also more likely to dislike school, have low self-esteem, and cause trouble in class.

A better solution to the either/or of social-promotion versus retention is emerging. Educators are coming to realize that there is a third way, one that gives children the specific help they need to overcome the barriers to their academic success. It is not a cookie-cutter approach, but one tailored to the individual child. 

For children who are having academic difficulty in learning school-related content, working with specialists in the areas of difficulty or receiving differentiated instruction of content is more effective than retention in grade. Targeted intervention is the best hope for students who are failing academically.

If a student has a specific difficulty in reading, for example, then repeating the 4th grade (in which the student might have received one hour a day of reading instruction) is not the answer. Rather, the student needs an intervention program in which he receives three to four hours each day of reading instruction. This is more important than fourth grade social studies, science, or any other activity. Moreover, when students get this sort of intensive intervention, it not only helps them achieve a reading level that is consistent with their grade level, but also allows them to ultimately succeed in the other academic subjects, such as science and social studies, that depend so much on reading skill.

So what's a parent to do when a teacher suggests retention because of poor academic skills, immaturity, limited English skills, or other problems? 

Probably your first move is to ask the teacher to explain, in writing, what the problem is and why retention might help. Then, explore the resources available at your child's school, such as a school psychologist or special education teacher, and ask that person to weigh in.

If a school suggests holding your child back for reasons other than performance, such as maturity, you should get outside help. While the schools are set up to assess these types of issues, they sometimes make mistakes, and outside support is necessary for the parent to make an informed decision. Also, in some schools, the student is automatically help back if he or she has not earned enough credits to move on to the next grade.

A parent should take the time to gather all the pertinent facts and weigh the pros and cons. Parents should not simply agree because the school says so. Get outside opinions before making this type of decision.

Even if your child's problem is identified as poor academic performance, it may be a good time to look for a visual or hearing problem or have your child's learning style evaluated. A child who gets extra help from a special education teacher who understands his learning style may be able to progress to the next grade.

And finally, support your son at home. This may mean watching educational videos with him, taking "field trips" together to museums and other places where he can get hands-on experience, and making sure he has the tools he needs to do well at school -- everything from a quiet place to work to access to the Internet.

==> My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents

Teenage Smokers: Tips for Parents

Hi Mark, I've just subscribed to the e-book a couple of days ago so I haven't got very far. We've started assignment 1. I'm looking for advise on how to handle the issue of smoking in the bedroom. My 16 year old daughter, A has been smoking for probably a year and has always hidden it from us. Whenever I questioned her about smelling of smoke in the past, she would always say that it was because she was hanging around her friends who smoke. In the last 6 months, we've caught her with cigarettes in her bag and drawers and she has always made the excuse that she was hanging on to them for her friends who didn't want their parents to know to which we've said that that is their responsibility, not hers.

In the last month, she is doing it openly in the backyard and has told us that she has no intention of quitting and that we just have to accept it. The last straw was when she started smoking in her room. I wrote her a note (as I find it hard to talk to her these days as all I get back is profanity) explaining that her dad, brother and I do not smoke and do not appreciate the smell in our house so smoking in her room will not be tolerated and that if she had to do it then she needs to have some consideration for us and do it outside.

I think she's lashing out because we locked her window (she was sneaking out at night and during the day) so she couldn't blow the smoke out her window. We are a family who live a healthy lifestyle and the message to her is that we will never accept her smoking. I would like your advice on how to approach this situation or do you think that it's one of those things that should be ignored for now because there are other more challenging ones to deal with such as skipping school, disappearing and not returning till 3 am on a school night, wanting to move out, etc. Thanks for listening, J.


Hi J.,

You do indeed have bigger fish to fry than her smoking. You will not be able to stop her. You haven’t so far. Pick your battles carefully - and this is not a battle you should fight. In fact, the more you worry about it or lecture her, the more she will smoke! You’re in a power struggle with her, which will provoke her to dig in her heels and fight you on this matter. But you can stop her from smoking on YOUR property. Here's what you can say to your daughter:

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

If your daughter smokes on the property, follow through with the consequence. If YOU smoke, keep your cigarettes with you at all times.

CAUTION: The statement above is borrowed from the strategy entitled “When You Want Something From Your Kid” [Session #3 - Anger Management Chapter – Online Version of the eBook]. I strongly recommend you do NOT skip Sessions #1 and #2. Implementing a bunch of new changes too quickly WILL backfire.

As I stated earlier, I can see we have larger issues to address, which would be best saved for after your 4-week program. We must lay down a good foundation in order for the disciplinary techniques to be effective.

Mark Hutten, M.A.

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

When Your Teenage Daughter Runs Away From Home

Hi Mark,

I’m sure you’ve heard it all before when it comes to teens etc everything you state in you initial page about teens and their out of control behaviour really does apply to my 15 year old girl…. And I do mean ALL of it. So thank you firstly for being a point of contact and believe me that I will do everything to gain more knowledge and power within my own family unit to enable my daughter to be able to make better choices in her life.

One question I do have is concerning persistent runaways – my 15 year old has runaway from home 5 times we had the police, authorities and even the school involved with trying to “help” her but to no avail, after the fourth time I ended up packing up and moving 1400 km away from everything we had known even becoming separated from her father (who she initially blamed for running away) thinking that a fresh start would help – obviously this hasn’t helped as the initial problem is still there (now she admits that it wasn’t anything to do with her father) and has not been dealt with effectively….

After only 5 weeks of being here, she is fighting and in trouble at school even a threat of suspension – has had ignored my “consequence” of not being able to go and stay over at her friends house for her continued violent and aggressive behaviour, instead smashed up her room, cussed as me with a fair few profanities and simply walked out stealing money and cigarettes on the way out!

I have not on this occasion contacted the police as I have previous times, instead I issued an ultimatum via text message (she wont answer my calls) that if she did not return by 6.30pm then the police would be called. She texted back to say she was fine and will return home in 2 days when she’s calmed down!!! I issued the ultimatum again…… and left it – as I say needless to say she has not returned and I have not contacted the police yet. The question is how do I deal with her on her return?????????

I need to get this right from the very start.

Thank you


Hi L.,

Teens run for a multitude of reasons:
  1. To avoid an emotional experience or consequence that they are expecting as a result of a parental, sibling, friend or romantic relationship/situation.
  2. To be with other people such as friends or relatives who are supportive, encouraging and active in ways they feel are missing from their lives.
  3. To change or stop what they are doing or about to do.
  4. To escape a recurring or ongoing painful or difficult experience in their home, school or work life.
  5. To find companionship or activity in places that distract them from other problems they are dealing with.
  6. To keep from losing privileges to activities, relationships, friendships or any other things considered important or worthwhile.

As parents or guardians we strive to create positive, loving households in order to raise respectful, successful and happy adults. In order to achieve this, rules must be put in place. Teens who run away from home are often crying for attention. Some teens will attempt to run away just once, after an unusually heated argument or situation in the household, and return shortly after. More serious cases, however, happen with teens in extreme emotional turmoil.

Parents also need to be extremely aware of the symptoms, warning signs and dangers of teenage depression. Far too many teens are suffering from this disease and going untreated. Often, runaways feel they have no other choice but to leave their home, and this is in many cases related to their feelings of sadness, anger and frustration due to depression.

There are many causes of depression, and every child, regardless of social status, race, age or gender is at risk. Be aware and be understanding. To an adult juggling family and career, it may seem that a young teenager has nothing to be "depressed" about! Work for a mutual communication between the two of you. The more your teenager can confide his/her daily problems and concerns, the more you can have a positive and helpful interaction before the problems overwhelm them.

Teens who become runaways will have shown symptoms and warning signs prior to running away. Knowing these signs is the first step to prevention; the second is learning how to prevent symptoms all together. Communication is KEY!

Suggestions for preventative conversation:
  1. Always use direct eye contact when speaking.
  2. Anger is difficult to subside. However, it is important to never raise your voice or yell/scream at your teen, especially when they are already doing so. A battle of strength doesn't get anyone anywhere.
  3. If both parents are involved in the conversation, it is very important to take turns, rather than gang up on your teen together. Make sure each parent allows time for your teen to speak in between.
  4. If your teen is demanding or threatening you, be sure to get professional advice or help from a qualified mental health professional.
  5. Keep a calm demeanor and insist that your teen does as well. Do not respond to their anger, but instead, wait until they are calm.
  6. Keep in mind that it is possible to agree with your teen, without doing whatever they want you to. For example, you might agree that there are little differences between 17 year-olds and 21 year-olds, but that doesn't mean you agree with having a party serving alcohol at your house.
  7. Let's say you are sure you understand your teen's point of view and they understand you understand. If you still don't agree with their statement, tell your teen "I think I understand, but I do not agree. I want to think we can understand each other, but we don't have to agree."
  8. Make sure that you comprehend what your teen is saying, and when you do, let them know. Simply stating "I understand" can go a long way to making your teen feel as though you are respecting their feelings and thoughts, as well as taking them in to consideration.
  9. NEVER interrupt your teenager when they are speaking or trying to explain their feelings or thoughts. Even if you completely disagree, it is important to wait until they have finished. Keep in mind that just listening and using the words "I understand" does not mean that you agree or will do what they want.
  10. Never use threats or dare your teen to run away, even if you think they wouldn't do it.
  11. Refrain from using sarcasm or negativity that may come off as disrespect for your teen.
  12. Take a break if you get too overwhelmed or upset to continue the conversation with a calm attitude.
  13. Talk less, slower, and use fewer words than your teen.
  14. Under no circumstances should you use derogatory names, labels or titles such as liar, childish, immature, untrustworthy, cruel, stupid, ignorant, punk, thief or brat. Continue to be respectful of your teen, even if they have been disrespectful to you.
  15. When your teen has finished speaking, ask politely if they have anything else they'd like to talk about or share with you.

When parents begin to implement appropriate discipline for broken house rules, some children may respond by threatening to runaway from home if they do not get their way. If this occurs, defuse the situation, but do NOT threaten or challenge your child.

For example: Daughter, you know that I cannot control you. And if you really want to run away from home, I cannot stop you. I cannot watch you 24 hours a day, and I can’t lock you up in the house. But no one in the world loves you the way I do. That is why we have established these house rules. Because I love you, I cannot stand by and watch you hurt yourself by _______________ (e.g., not going to school, using drugs or alcohol, destroying house property), and running away from home will not solve the problem. You and I know it will only make matters worse.

Teens who run away are not bad. They have made a bad decision. They got themselves caught up in pressures that they felt the need to escape from. Instead of facing their problem and solving it, they chose to run from it. We need to teach our teen how to face their problems, even if the problem is us. When they have the right tools to fix some of the things that may be going on in their lives, the pressure lessens, and there is no more need for them to escape.

Every teen either has tried or knows another teen who has run away. I haven't met a teen yet who didn't know of someone's experience of running away. This can be a real problem, considering most teens will glamorize the experience.

Parents of teens who run away are not bad parents. You cannot lock them in. As much as you would like to build a wall around them, it is their choice whether or not to walk out the door.

If your teens runs:
  1. Call the Police, IMMEDIATELY! Don't wait 24 hours, do it right away.
  2. Get the name and badge number of the officer you speak with.
  3. Call back often.
  4. Call everyone your child knows and enlist their help.
  5. Search everywhere, but do not leave your phone unattended.
  6. Search your teen’s room for anything that may give you a clue as to where he went.
  7. You may also want to check your phone bill for any calls they may have made recently.

When your teen comes home:
  1. Take a break from each other. Do not start talking about it right away. Your emotions are too high at this point to get anywhere in a conversation. Go two separate directions until you both have gotten some rest.
  2. Ask and Listen. Why did they leave? You may want to evaluate a rule or two after speaking with them, but do not do so while having this talk. Tell them you are willing to think about it, and you will let them know.
  3. Tell them how you felt about them going. Let them know that they hurt you by leaving. Let them know that there isn't a problem that can't solve. If they ever feel that running away might solve something, have them talk to you first. You could always offer other choices, so they can make a better decision.
  4. Get some help. If this isn't the first time or you have problems communicating when they get back, it's time to ask for help. This could be a person that your child respects (e.g., an aunt or uncle), or you may want to seek professional help.

Mark Hutten, M.A.

==> My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents

Parent Management Training for Parents of Oppositional Kids and Teens

By the time they are school aged, kids with patterns of oppositional behavior tend to express their defiance with peers, teachers, and other adults. As these children progress in school, they also experience increasing peer rejection due to their poor social skills and aggression.

Young people who are naturally oppositional are more likely to misinterpret their peers' behavior as hostile, yet they lack the skills to solve social conflicts. In problem situations, they are more likely to resort to aggressive physical actions rather than verbal responses.

In addition, children who are defiant and have poor social skills often do not recognize their role in peer conflicts. They blame their peers (e.g., "He made me hit him"), and usually fail to take responsibility for their own actions.

The following 3 classes of behavior are hallmarks of both oppositional and conduct problems:
  • emotional overreaction to life events (no matter how small)
  • failure to take responsibility for one's own actions
  • noncompliance with commands

When behavioral difficulties are present beginning in the preschool period, parents and teachers may overlook significant problems in the youngster's learning and academic performance. When kids with behavioral problems and academic problems are placed in the same classroom, the risk for continued behavioral and academic problems increases.

Oppositional behavior may escalate and result in serious antisocial actions that, when sufficiently frequent and severe, become criteria to change the diagnosis to Conduct Disorder. Milder forms of Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) in some kids spontaneously diminish over time.

More severe forms of ODD, in which many symptoms are present in the toddler years and continually worsen after the youngster is aged 5, may evolve into Conduct Disorder in older kids and teens.

Parent Management Training (PET) is recommended for parents of kids with ODD because it has been demonstrated to affect negative interactions that repeatedly occur between the defiant kids and their parents. PET consists of procedures in which parents are trained to change their own behaviors, and thereby alter their youngster's problem behavior in the home.

These patterns develop when moms and dads unintentionally reinforce defiant behaviors in a youngster by giving those behaviors a significant amount of negative attention. At the same time, the parents (who are often exhausted by the struggle to obtain compliance with simple requests) usually fail to provide positive attention.

The pattern of negative interactions evolves quickly due to the parent’s use of:
  • repeated and ineffective comments
  • emotionally-charged demands 
  • ineffective harsh punishments
  • insufficient positive attention
  • poor modeling of appropriate behaviors

PET alters the pattern by encouraging the mother and father to pay attention to prosocial behavior and to use effective, brief, non-aversive discipline methods. It’s important to identify the youngster's positive behaviors and to reinforce these behaviors – and to use brief negative consequences for misbehavior.

==> More information can be found here

Dealing with Resentment Toward Your "Hateful" Teenager

"Assignment #1 in your program requires me to tell my daughter that I love her. I used to do this every day, but can't do it now because it's no longer true. I can't stand her. She is so rude and hateful to me. If I can't do this, is it worth me going on with the rest of the exercises – you said 'no half measures'?"

What we’re talking about here is resentment. This is not uncommon (i.e., parents not liking their out-of-control, disrespectful teenagers). In fact, I often had parents tell me (in my former roll as a probation officer) that they simply want their kid out of the house (e.g., “Just get him out. I don't want him living here anymore …take him and lock him up!”).

I don’t think you hate your daughter – I think you hate her behavior. In any event, if you cannot bring yourself to say to your daughter “I love you,” it is not going make much difference in your ability to effectively work the program. The larger issue here is resentment, which WILL get in the way of successfully working the program. You’ll need to work on that, and the best time is now!

Resentment will make it nearly impossible to stay objective throughout the four-week program. And without objectivity, you run the risk of getting emotionally tangled-up in the day-to-day conflict that must be weathered with a poker face. Forgiveness is the cure for resentment. Let’s talk about that for a minute...

  • is a way to let go of resentment
  • means letting go of the past
  • is for you, not your "hateful" daughter
  • is a gift you give yourself
  • lets you get on with your life
  • takes time (maybe you’re not able to forgive yet; perhaps the pain is too fresh - you don’t have to hurry)
  • is a process (it doesn’t happen 100% overnight)
  • allows you to feel better about you
  • is a choice (it’s not something you do because you “should” forgive, or because someone tells you to)
  • allows you to heal old wounds so you can get on with the really important things in life
  • gets you un-stuck

Forgiveness does NOT mean:
  • forgetting (you need to remember what happened so you can protect your mental health in the future)
  • you’re letting anyone off the hook (except yourself)
  • you have to tell your daughter that you have forgiven her
  • you have to trust her again (trust is earned; she will have to earn your trust back before you can trust her again)
  • you’re saying to your child, “What you do and say to me is O.K."
  • you’re trying to alleviate her feelings of guilt
  • you’re trying to make her feel better about herself
  • you’re trying to make her feel better about you

Forgive your daughter - not because she deserves it, but because you deserve to be set free from that emotional pain! You may need to forgive yourself too. Sometimes we can’t forgive others until we forgive ourselves. I offer you the following exercise in forgiveness. With your hand on your heart, take a deep breath and affirm:

“I completely forgive my daughter. I know I have done the best I could given the circumstances. If I had been in a different state of mind, or if I had more information when my child started acting out, I probably would have parented her differently. I ask God to help me reach the place of forgiveness for myself and for my child. I love and accept myself with all of my problems and perceived limitations. I am letting go of resentment. I am now able to replace it with forgiveness and hope.”

==> My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents

When You Disapprove of Your Daughter's Boyfriend

"We have a beautiful seventeen year old daughter who has just started to become rebellious. Her grades have been up and down over the past several years. She currently is doing okay (all b’s and c’s). However, she will only be attending junior college because her grades aren’t good enough for a state school. Our biggest issues have been a boyfriend last year who we did not approve of and eventually ended the relationship for her because we were concerned for her safety. This year we caught her online talking to a new boy very late at night and a text messaging session that was sexual in nature with the phone in her bed after midnight. As a result, we told her that she was no longer allowed to see him. We feel very lucky that she has not been experimenting with alcohol or drugs. Her only “brush with the law” has been a speeding ticket in February. However, she has insisted on maintaining a relationship with this new boy and caused such a scene yesterday because I refused to let her hang out with him that I had to cancel her senior portraits. I don’t think we are probably in as severe a situation as many of your clients, but I’m wondering if your program is appropriate for our situation. Any information you have will be helpful."

All parents dread the day when their son or daughter comes home with a new love interest. There will be many relationships that you know will not work out. And while you might be tempted to share your opinion with your child, I would suggest you don’t.

One point I can’t stress enough is to never tell your child you disapprove of her boyfriend. This will only make her that much more attracted to him. If she asks your opinion, you can say that the boy isn’t the person you would have chosen for her, but it’s her life and she has to figure that out for herself.

If you keep telling her how bad of a person her new fling is, he could turn out to be your son-in-law. I know this from first hand experience. My wife hated my daughter’s high school boyfriend - even forbid her from seeing him. All this did was make her want to see him even more. At one point my daughter said to me, “When my boyfriend and me would have disagreements, I would not see that the relationship wasn’t working. I would only see that I had to make it work to keep mom from knowing she was right about him all along.”

Boy teenagers can be hardheaded and stubborn. This can also lead to trouble. Some girls might stay in a relationship that is abusive either mentally or physically just to avoid hearing “I told you so” from her parents. Arguing over boyfriends can cause a great strain on the relationship with your child and keep her from being open with you about other things.

You have a Romeo and Juliet phenomenon on your hands that will need to be diffused (if not, they will work harder at sneaking rendezvous behind your back).

Unfortunately, if your daughter wants to be with someone, she'll find a way -- no matter what you say or do. Parents can only guide their children in the right direction and hope for the best. If they do a good job, their daughter will make the right decision all on her own. Since you will not be successful at keeping those two apart, you must adopt a philosophy of “if you can’t beat ‘em - join ‘em.” In other words, they should be able to see one another within limits, and you decide what those limits are. Maybe your limits will look something like this:
  • They can be together at your house only during those times that you are home and can monitor their behavior (if not, he has to leave)
  • Or you could schedule some activity for them in which you would be a distant chaperon (e.g., take them to a shopping plaza and tell them to meet you back at the pizza place in exactly one hour)
  • Or your daughter is allowed to go over to her boyfriend’s house for a designated time period (if she violates the time limit, there is a consequence that is commensurate with the “crime”)

Figure out a way for your daughter to see her boyfriend in a way that will keep her safe. This is the best you will be able to do. Otherwise, you are likely to get sucked into weeks – if not months – of power struggles.

==> My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents

Ex-Husband Undermines Mom's Parenting Efforts

I have a 13 year old son, who has ADD and ODD. His father and I are divorced. D has 2 sisters ages 22 and 18. We had been going to a wonderful Doctor who was helping both houses deal with the issues that D has and giving us the skills you speak of. He wanted certain things to be the same in each house, but then the houses would run differently based upon each parent.

It was working so well and everyone has seen such a huge change in D. Unfortunately, his father could not follow the program and was not following it in his house. I was and the conflicts were dealt with and D was less defiant etc... There was harmony for the first time.

This was the third therapist, and was the only one of the 3 that was able to figure out why my ex husband has undermined and sabotaged each and every one of them. We are under and have been under the court order for the kids to seek therapy, and each time my ex would not make the appointments, not listen to the advice of the therapist, and tell the kids that they didn't need therapy etc...

He didn't know who to believe after each of us had our initial meeting at the beginning back in April. Our 3rd doctor, was able to take my son out of the middle by being the go between for myself and my ex and try and see which parent actually was telling the truth and who would follow through or not. Well, he apologized to me for not believing me from the start, as I was the one that followed through and dove into the program. It was hard, but I knew that I had no other choice if I wanted to be able to survive with my son.

He was doing his chores on his own, would listen when and if he had to have the consequences for not doing homework, chores, talking back or being rude etc...

He was 14 assignments behind, as part of the program was to let him suffer the consequences of his own doing. That was one of the most difficult things I had to do. Knowing that he was not doing his homework, but I did it. My ex went on his honeymoon and I had D for 2 weeks. D got caught up in that time span with all of his homework, but I was called all the names in the book for following through and not letting him practice or play soccer (as this was one of the consequences spelled out). My ex got back from his trip and in less than 48 hours, dismantled 6 months worth of work, by letting D go to soccer when his rough draft of his major report was to have been completed before the soccer game.

I had a funny suspicion that he was not going to follow through and I contacted the doctor to let him know what I was feeling. He contacted my ex at 2:30pm, and was assured the doctor that D was not going to be going to soccer that day.

The next day my ex, his new wife and D had an appointment with Dr. M and they all sat there and did not mention to him that D had played in his soccer game the day before (his rough draft was not completed) letting Dr. M think that D did not go to soccer.

Dr. M once he found out that he was lied to, tried to get my ex to come back in and get back on track with the program. He refused to, so Dr. M had no choice but to terminate.

Oh, by the way Dr. M figured out that my ex portrays himself on other people. Example: Tells people that I am the bad parent, when it really is he that is the bad parent.

I also just found out from both of my daughters that their father was telling them starting at the age of 8 or 9 that I didn't love them, and that he was the one that raised them. Now he is doing this to my son. The girls have stated that they were brainwashed by him, which I had been saying all along. All 3 of the kids all have said the same lines, which came directly from their father.

So, my question(s) to you are how do I get back on track in my house, when dad has undermined my efforts in my house to follow the program?

D will not listen or do anything in my house. He wants me to ask him nicely each time I want him to take out the garbage, recycling etc... When I try to send him in his room for speaking to me so disrespectfully he refuses.

D is on a 50/50 split, which I believe is the worst thing for him, as he is now stuck in the middle once again. When we were with Dr. M, D was out of the middle and was able to have a 3 neutral party to find out what parent was actually telling the truth and which one of us did what they said they would do. Because D was able to finally know and see what his father was doing, I believe his father did not like D telling knowing that he was the one that couldn't follow through, was a wimp in D's eyes and D knew that he could make his father do what he wanted him to do. For this reason and others, his father really bucked Dr. M and the program. I have now found out that his father only followed through with D and consequences once in the entire 6 months.

Help if you can. I am open to suggestions.

Sorry for the long e-mail, but I am so afraid for my son if we continue this way.




Hi S.,

Re: … how do I get back on track in my house, when dad has undermined my efforts in my house to follow the program?

There are some families in which the parents’ beliefs about changing children’s behavior are so different that their attempts at discipline become more of a problem than a solution. A child whose mother is strict but whose father is a consistent pushover, for example, receives confusing information about what’s expected.

A parent who gives in to his children’s every demand in the hope of satisfying them almost always finds that the opposite happens: Instead of letting up, the children continue to push for more and more, looking for a sign of how much is too much.

A similar thing happens if the parents cannot decide how to discipline and set limits on their children. It’s healthy for children to see how their parents reach a compromise or settle a disagreement if it’s done peacefully and effectively. But if the parents can’t reach an agreement, the children’s behavior often gets worse as they search for the reassurance of stable boundaries to their lives.

In those situations, the main issue of using discipline to teach children appropriate behavior gets lost in the battles between parents for an illusion of control. The children become confused and respond by continuing to act out, both to assert their own power and to figure out which rules are really important.

Realize that disagreeing with your ex about child discipline is normal and inevitable. It doesn’t mean that you are incompatible as parents. It does mean that you are not clones of each other. Don’t let lack of agreement evolve into more than it is. Agree to disagree.

Unfair fighting is never a good life lesson. Witnessing parents sniping, bullying, screaming or giving the cold shoulder is frightening to children, and teaches them to avoid or to abuse disagreements. Don’t go there, no matter how tempting it is to hit below the belt.

Decide in advance (as in right now!) what’s really important in your family. I’m sure that you and your ex can agree on at least a handful of issues that you’ll always concur are important and should be handled in a certain manner. Many families consider health (ranging from wearing bicycle helmets to banning substance use), education (completing class work and homework in an appropriate manner), respect (at home, school and in the public), and honesty to be “givens.”

The bottom line is that the best disciplinary decision is made, not who made it. This is not about notches in the gun belt — it’s about giving consequences that will lower the child’s frequency of inappropriate behavior and raise the odds of acceptable behavior in the future, pure and simple. If you feel that your ex is working against you, try giving a preset signal that means “we need to talk.”

Forming a united front on discipline is often more easily said than done. Here are some ideas that may help:

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, 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 a common base of information from which to develop your shared approaches to discipline.

Be prepared for behavioral problems. Remember that many changes in children’s behaviors are linked to their stage of normal development. Talk ahead of time about how each of you would handle predictable situations. That way you’ll have fewer conflicts when they occur.

Agree on a signal to alert both of you that the conversation is – or is about to get — too heated and needs to be halted.

Make a commitment both to honor and act on the signal. You might walk away and have an agreed-upon cooling off period. Or set a time to revisit your differences in opinion. Or write down what you’re feeling and later share it with your partner, who might better understand where you’re coming from.

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

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

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

Lastly, a weaker plan supported by both parents is much better than a stronger plan supported by only one parent.

Mark Hutten, M.A.

==> JOIN Online Parent Support

Daughter Won't Talk About What's Bothering Her

"Thanks for allowing me to join Online Parent Support. My question is how can I get my 16 year old daughter to open up about what is going on in her life. When I ask her, I get the same old response 'Nothing'. I can clearly see that something is terribly wrong."

This is normal. Your daughter confided in you when she was young, but those days are gone for now. She will confide in you again when she becomes a mother herself someday.

It sounds like she may be depressed. But again, this is a fairly normal emotion – especially for teenage girls.

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

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

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

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

If your daughter claims nothing is wrong, but has no explanation for what is causing the depressed behavior -- and she starts talking about suicide -- you should trust your instincts. Remember that denial is a strong emotion. Furthermore, teenagers 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 teen is qualified to either diagnosis depression or rule it out, so see a doctor or psychologist who can.

==> My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents

Pulling Weeds as a Form of Aversion Therapy

"I’m raising my grandson who was suspended from school (year 8) for the past week for swearing at a teacher. He was told that he would get 2 weeks next time. He now has the attitude that if I send him back to school he will see to it that he is sent home again and again. I did do the 3 days behaviour in his room and I do notice that he is getting bored, but he seems to have the attitude that boredom is better then school. So now what?!"

So he just hangs-out in his room? How difficult is that? Not very!

In this situation, “staying at home” must be more uncomfortable to him than “going to school.” Rather than telling you what you “should” do here, I’ll just tell you what I did:

When my son (now 32) got suspended from school (at age 9) for back-talking a teacher, I made life at home pretty damn miserable for him (just short of ‘pure hell’):
  • He could NOT sleep in
  • He could NOT take naps
  • He could NOT stay up past 9:00 (he either went to sleep or looked at the ceiling all night)
  • He could NOT access any games, music, t.v., etc.
  • He was grounded FROM his room rather than TO his room (due to the fact that he liked to hide in there when he was mad)
  • He was required to do extra chores throughout the day (about 4 hours every day)

Was he bored? Nope. Tired? YES!

Now... I won’t say he was excited about getting back to school after the suspension, but – let’s put it this way – he preferred sitting at a desk at school rather than picking weeds and scrubbing oils spots off the driveway at home (a little dose of aversion therapy).

It didn't matter to me whether or not he was doing the chores perfectly ...I had bigger fish to fry. The only thing that mattered was that he was spending a lot of time and energy performing tasks he had no interest in.

He never got suspended again (although he thought about it a few times). Was this luck? I don’t think so.

==> My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents


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