I am finally reaching a place ...

The info you have e-mailed me has been very helpful. What a difference it has made just to have someone putting into words what I have been going through. Of course, everyone blames the parents. This is incredibly frustrating and angering, if you let it be this way. I am finally reaching a place where I am not nearly as embarrassed and angry. My child goes out of her way to make sure she embarrasses me publicly at every outing. Her father abused her mentally, and in all other ways. I stayed with him too long and blame myself for a lot of her problems.
Hi B.,
I’m glad you are letting go of some issues and simply taking care of yourself. Good for you. I wish more parents had the insight that you now have.

I’m so sick and tired of all these fights...

Hello Mark,

I was on the chat site and with our time difference here in Australia, it’s hard to be there I guess when you’re on. Like I mentioned in chat, I have a 22 year old & an 18-year-old daughter and a 44-year-old husband, am 43. My 22 year old daughter for the last four months has been giving me grief, disrespecting me, showing me no respect in the way she speaks to me, she yells at me and uses foul language with me. We just don’t seem to get on at all, if we sit down and have a conversation, it all ends up in argument with her telling me its none of my business in what she does and where she goes. She has started hanging around with this girl from work, and since she, has my daughter has changed dramatically in her mood swings, she says I irritate her and she cant stand to be around me. She is always going away with this girl on weekends, and since she has met her, she has even now broken up with her boyfriend of just over a year, where they were talking bout getting married earlier on.

I have even accused my daughter if she is taking drugs, and we have gone to the doctors together to get a blood test, and it came up as negative. When she was young, my husband and I had a lot of problems, and we tried not to fight in front of the kids, but my husband can be a verbally abusive man and at one point was quite physically abusive towards me and sometimes not often to the older daughter, which I tried to stop and would hit him back. We have gone passed that stage a lot time ago and we got help for it, but now my older daughter says it has caught up with her and I guess in a way maybe she is punishing me for it.

Am so worried about her at the moment and feel that this girl that she is hanging around with has some kind of hold on her and I get this bad gut feeling, that maybe its just more then a friendship thing more of a relationship between the two of them. Usually she brings her other girlfriends at home but cause I told her earlier on, that there is something I don’t like about this girl, she is constantly hanging around with her, (she is 23) I’ve asked my daughter if this girl is a lesbian and she doesn’t say much she goes quiet, and I’ve asked my daughter if there is something going on between the two, she says what do you mean.

My husband in a heat of an argument accused my daughter that this girl is now her lover, she went absolutely spastic, and started calling my husband a pervert and a weirdo. I’m so sick and tired of all these fights and the disrespect that she is showing me for the last 4 months, am at the end of my rope at the moment, our house is a constant battle field every time we try to speak to my daughter and question her.


Hi B.,

With all due respect dear mom, your daughter is an adult now and is capable of making her own decisions. I get the feeling that you are over-protecting her (which is the opposite of fostering the development of self-reliance). 

Is she still living at home?! If so, how much rent does she pay per month, and when will she be moving out? Is she attending college and working at least part-time?

You and your husband may have inadvertently set-up a Romeo & Juliette phenomenon (i.e., you’ve tried hard to discourage that relationship, and as a result the two have bonded more tightly).

I would let her spend time with her girlfriend, however let her know that she could still contact a sexually transmitted disease if she has unprotected sex. 

I am not condoning sexual activity at her age, but I am saying that your best efforts will not pull those two apart – in fact it may have the opposite effect of strengthening the relationship.

Also one thing that strikes me with this situation is the lack of openness your daughter has with you to come out and talk to you on this sensitive issue. Sounds like trust is broken and resentment is setting in.

Please review the Anger Management section of the online version of the ebook.

Time to (a) let go and (b) promote the development of self-reliance in your daughter.

Don’t let your daughter steal your joy. You did a great job of raising her in spite of her opinion about it.


Click here for more help ==> www.MyOutOfControlTeen.com

Daughter lies, skips school, and uses drugs...

My daughter continually lies to us, skips schools, refuses to follow rules, she's already been in drug rehab and I recently found out she was smoking pot, she doesn't want to live at home, she thinks she can live out on her own and she's 16 1/2. Any suggestions?

Hi A.,

It’s O.K. for your daughter to seek independence, but you still need to know where she’s going and whom she’ll be with. Don’t assume every “teen” activity is properly supervised or safe unless you have chaperoned it or have otherwise satisfied yourself. All kids want a little fun, adventure and to “hang out” with their peers. You are probably going to have to work with other like-minded parents to provide safe supervised outlets for them.

Strictly from the standpoint of keeping your daughter out of trouble, help her pick a core group of friends who you are comfortable with. You should know them and their parents. Undoubtedly, next to properly supervising your child, her friends will have the greatest impact on her actions and what she is exposed to.

You don’t have the time -- and she doesn’t have the attention span -- to teach her what to do in every possible situation. She should trust her conscience -- if it feels or seems wrong, dangerous or unfair -- it probably is.

You have the absolute right and responsibility to set the rules. Where she goes, who she goes with, how late she stays out, what she wears, etc.. These are all examples of boundaries. We have all seen the no and low boundary kids. They are the ones who skip school, stay out as late as they like, drink, and experiment with drugs and sex. These kids also have that strong adolescent need for the company of friends. Since most parents have boundaries that prohibit their children from joining them, they are constantly on the look out to make new friends that can join them. Don’t let your child be one of them.

Talking alone is not going to solve all the conflicts that are inevitably going to occur between you and your daughter. But communication is at the base of the parenting pyramid. You can’t set clear boundaries, educate, counsel or coach with out it. There are times and situations were active listening and exploring feelings are appropriate. There are also times were a more directive approach is needed. Remember “out-of-control teens” are experts at verbal judo. Don’t expect them to thank you for your wisdom or see your logic when you have to make an unpopular decision.

Finally, look for appropriate opportunities for your adolescent to start solving her problems on her own. Begin to talk about college, her getting married, finding a job, eventually living on her own, etc. Encourage her independence-seeking.

Much more on this in my ebook: http://www.myoutofcontrolteen.com/sl

Here’s to a better home environment, 


I have tried lots of things with my 10-year-old daughter. I have done a parenting course, but she is still causing disruption and is very violent towards me and her 2 sisters, K____ 15, and L___ 9.

Today my 10-yr-old daughter has smacked me, kicked me, tried to smash the patio door with the fruit bowl, then grabbed the kettle and has started throwing hot water around. This is not just putting us at danger, but herself. I am now wondering what on earth I can do next as I have tried time out sanctions, reward charts, praising, etc. Please give me some advice, as I don’t know where to turn.

Thanks, C.

Hi C.,

At the risk of throwing labels around, you have described behavior in line with Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD).

ODD defined:

A pattern of negativistic, hostile, and defiant behavior lasting at least six months during which four or more of the following are present:

1. often loses temper
2. often argues with adults
3. often actively defies or refuses to comply with adults' requests or rules
4. often deliberately annoys people
5. often blames others for his or her mistakes or misbehavior
6. is often touchy or easily annoyed by others
7. is often angry and resentful
8. is often spiteful and vindictive

The disturbance in behavior causes clinically significant impairment in social, academic, or occupational functioning.

All of the criteria above include the word "often". Studies have shown that these behaviors occur to a varying degree in all children. Researchers have found that the "often" is best solved by the following criteria.

Has occurred at all during the last three months-
  • is spiteful and vindictive
  • blames others for his or her mistakes or misbehavior
Occurs at least twice a week-
  • is touchy or easily annoyed by others
  • loses temper
  • argues with adults
  • actively defies or refuses to comply with adults' requests or rules
Occurs at least four times per week-
  • is angry and resentful
  • deliberately annoys people

Here is an example of how ODD looks for a 10-year-old:

Kaylee is 10. Her day usually starts out with arguing about (a) getting up on time for school, (b) having to share space with her siblings, (c) what she can and can not bring to school, etc.

Kaylee does not take the bus to school. She has been forbidden to ride the bus due to numerous incidents in which she was verbally and physically disruptive. Since it is impossible to supervise bus rides adequately, the school gave up and now mom has to drive her to school. It is still hard to get her there on time. As the time to leave approaches, she gets slower and slower.

Once at school, she usually gets into some verbal battles with peers in those few minutes between her mother's supervision and the teacher's. When she is not allowed to go to the bathroom, she flips her desk. When she is told to stop tapping her pencil, she swears at the teacher. When she is sent to the office, she tells the vice-principal how badly she is being mistreated by the teacher and how unfair things are in the classroom.

Recess is a hard time as well. Kaylee tells everyone that she has lots of friends, but if you watch what goes on in the lunchroom or on the playground, it is hard to figure out who they are. Some peers avoid her, but most would give her a chance if he wasn't so bossy.

After school is the time that makes her mom seriously consider foster care. Kaylee refuses to do any homework and is making poor grades. Each day she complains that mom doesn't do anything for her. She gets upset with her siblings, slams doors, goes in the other room and usually turns the TV on very loud.

Mom tells her to turn it down. She doesn't and is sent to her room. After supper Kaylee ends up in a screaming match with mom over her unwillingness to help with the dishes. In fact, Kaylee refuses to do any chores and gets very angry when mom asks her to help out around the house.

Kaylee’s siblings are afraid of her – so is mom.


Traditional parenting strategies such as time-outs, reward charts, etc., do not work with ODD kids – in fact, they tend to make a bad problem worse. We’ll look at what does work in “My Out-of-Control Teen eBook.” It will take some time and a specific combination of strategies to get the problems turned around. There are no short cuts, and the longer the parent waits to implement these strategies, the more things deteriorate. 

Is our teenage son really suicidal?

"Our son recently lost his girlfriend in a very bad car accident. She and two of her female friends were killed instantly when the driver veered off the road and hit a tree head on. My question is he has been very depressed since the accident and is now talking about wishing he were dead. No amount of talking to him is making a difference. Should we be concerned that he really might follow through with a suicide attempt?"

Suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death among those 15 to 25 years of age, and it is the 6th leading cause of death among those 5 to 14 years of age. It is estimated that 500,000 teenagers try to kill themselves every year, and about 5,000 succeed. Furthermore, teenage suicide is on the rise. Some of the reasons for this increase:

  • Easier access to lethal means, such as guns and drugs
  • A more violent youth culture, fueled by video games, music, television and movies
  • A lack of family stability; divorce, abuse
  • Reduced impulse control due to technology and the rapid pace of modern life
  • A romantic misconception about the finality of death
  • Peer pressure and a feeling of powerlessness
  • Limited access to mental health services

Studies show that clear warning signs have preceded 4 out of 5 teen suicide attempts. Warning signs include:

  • Loses interest in favorite extracurricular activities
  • Has problems at work and loses interest in a job
  • Abuses substances, including alcohol and drug (illegal and legal drugs)
  • Begins to experience behavioral problems
  • Withdraws from family and friends
  • Experiences sleep changes
  • Experiences changes in eating habits
  • Begins to neglect hygiene and other matters of personal appearance
  • Experiences emotional distress which brings on physical complaints (aches, fatigues, migraines)
  • Has a hard time concentrating and paying attention
  • Begins to receive failing grades at school
  • Loses interest in schoolwork
  • Engages in risk taking behaviors
  • Complains more frequently of boredom
  • Does not respond as before to praise and encouragement
  • Actually says, “I’m thinking of committing suicide” or “I want to kill myself” or “I wish I could die”
  • Begins giving away favorite belongings, or promising them to friends and family members
  • Throws away important possessions
  • Shows signs of extreme cheerfulness following periods of depression
  • Creates suicide notes
  • Expresses bizarre or unsettling thoughts on occasion

Here’s some of the things you can do:

Ask your teen if he is thinking about suicide. Listen openly and without judging. Believe what he says, and take all threats seriously. Share responsibility by getting others involved. Reassure him that help is available, and support and encourage him to reach out to sources of help in the community. Act immediately if you feel he is at imminent risk for suicide by involving others who can help. If necessary, make contact with the police, emergency services, or a hospital to ensure the person's safety.

Talk, ask questions, and be willing to really listen. Don't dismiss your teen's problems as unimportant. Parents and other influential adults should never make fun of or ignore an adolescent's concerns, especially if they matter a great deal to her and are making her unhappy.

Be honest. It you're worried about your teen, say so. You will not spark thoughts of suicide just by asking about it. Share your feelings. Let your teen know he's not alone. Everyone feels sad or depressed at times.

Get help for your teen and yourself. Talk to your pediatrician, teacher, counselor, clergy, or other trained professional. Don't wait for the problem to "go away." Although feelings of sadness and depression can disappear as quickly as they came, they can also build to the point that an adolescent thinks of suicide as the only way out. Be careful not to assume that your teen's problems have been so easily solved.

If your child seems depressed and withdrawn, it's a good idea to watch him or her carefully. If your child will not speak to you about how he or she is feeling, it's a good idea to suggest that your child talk to someone else who he or she feels comfortable confiding in. If your teen doesn't feel comfortable talking with you, you may want to suggest a more neutral person, such as another relative, a clergy member, a coach, a school counselor, or your child's doctor.

Some parents are reluctant to ask teens if they have been thinking about suicide or hurting themselves. Some parents fear that if they ask, they will plant the idea of suicide in their child's head.

It's always a good idea to ask. Asking a person if he or she is having thoughts about suicide can be difficult. Sometimes it helps to let the person know why you are asking. For instance, you might say: "I've noticed that you've been talking a lot about wanting to be dead. Have you been having thoughts about trying to kill yourself?"

Your child's doctor can refer you to a psychologist or psychiatrist, or your local hospital's department of psychiatry can provide a list of doctors in your area. Your local mental health association or county medical society can also provide references. In an emergency, you can call 1-800-273-8255.

Son Is Morbidly Obese

“Mark, I have a problem with my 15-year-old son -- he's lazy! He comes home from school, flops out in the easy chair, eats a bunch of junk, and watches TV or plays his video games for pretty much the rest of the evening. My concern is that he has no social life really -- plus he is now grossly over-weight. Any suggestions? Thanks.”

Click here for my response...

Sleep Problems and Poor Academic Performance

Hi Mark,

It has been a while since I have been able to get to my “social” emails. My life has been full of change over the past four months. Two of which I believe have had a very positive influence on my now, sort of, in control teenager. I took my son (15yrs) overseas to meet his Italian family he had never met and when we got back I sold the house I had bought from my X and moved to a new town house. Should have done this when we divorced two years ago. Now my kids and I can start over. I stayed, thinking it would give them some stability through the divorce. I was wrong – it had too many memories for them.

Your book made a huge difference in my life as it gave me the tools to start the process. I must admit it wasn’t easy doing it on my own and I did fall off the rails a few times, but I seem to have mastered the poker face bit and it does work. I now get accused of be hard and not care any more. Well I know this isn’t true but it certainly does make for less arguments and more acceptance on my son’s behalf in the end. Your guidelines gave me what I needed to take charge of our lives.

The only problem I still seem to be battling with is that my son as lazy as they come and although he has started doing bits at home I can’t seem to motivate him in his school work and this past year has been a total loss. I have put him in a home schooling environment in which he is much happier but he brought home a very bad report. I know he did not study at all for any of the exams so I was actually surprised that there were even digits on the report, but he seems to have good intentions when we talk about it and then just doesn’t produce. He disrupts the class, sleeps in class (he has bad sleeping pattern which I can’t control as he gets up after I’m in bed and arguments or even discussions where he agree with me don’t help on this) he doesn’t hand in work in other words does less than as little as possible. Unfortunately his father is an alcoholic, so he is of no help, as my son doesn’t respect him at all and in fact lands up being his father instead.

What I have told him now is that he has the first three months of next year to prove to me that he wants an education which means he must put in the effort it takes and produce results or he will no longer be going to school and will have to go into the working world. I am tired of carting him around and giving him all the opportunities and he just won’t take the responsibility. Do you have any advice on what would work for this?

Thanks for your support.

Have a peaceful Xmas and a fruitful new year,



Hi L.,

It was great to hear from you. It sounds like most things are on a good track.

I hear two significant issues in your email: (1) poor academic performance and (2) poor sleep pattern. Let’s look at each in turn:

Re: poor academic performance—

Unfortunately, you can't motivate your son to perform well in school (unless you receive a miracle)! Do yourself a big favor and get out of the business of playing principle, vice-principle, dean, school counselor, teacher, etc. It's not your job - school is your son's job.If he were working at McDonald's, for example, you wouldn't show-up there to see whether or not he was putting the pickle between the top bun and the beef patty, that he was frying the fries at the right temperature, that he was putting the right amount of ice in the cups, etc. You would know that your son's performance - or lack thereof - is between he and his boss. And if he gets fired - it's all on him.

The same holds true for school. What goes on there is between your son and his boss - the teacher.If the problem is behavioral, that falls in your court. If the problem is poor academic performance however, that should be the teacher's concern alone.I know teachers will want to recruit you to help them with their job (e.g., check that homework, sign this slip, etc.). (Your garbage man would appreciate it if you got out of bed at 5:00 in the morning, put on your robe, and went out to the curb to help him load your trash in his truck, too.)

Simply say to the teacher, "Poor academic performance is a significant source of tension in my home ...I'm not going to monitor it anymore. If he's misbehaving - call me. Otherwise, his poor performance is his problem."The more you take responsibility for your son's academics, the less responsibility he will take. The problem is an ownership problem. Let go of ownership of your son’s education. No more nagging about homework. No more asking about assignments. This problem belongs to your son. When you give up ownership, your son will have to make a choice - he'll have to decide if he will or will not accept ownership of his schoolwork. And he'll lose the power of pushing your education buttons, to frustrate and worry you.Out-of-control kids intentionally get low grades to push their parents’ buttons.

Often parents are in a never-ending cycle of their kid’s sabotage. Since parents are continuously telling their kids how important grades are, their kids use this information to anger them. The more parents try, the less out-of-control kids work.Many people who are successful in life performed poorly in school. Remember your high school reunion, and remember the people you never expected to do well -- but did. Your son is not going to end up sitting on the street corner with a tin can waiting for coins to be handed him from sympathetic passersby. Get rid of the fear that poor school performance will damage his future. When he decides it's time to succeed, he will. I've never meet a kid yet that didn't realize - at some point - that he at least needed to get some form of education.

Re: poor sleep pattern—

1st - Try to maintain his sleep routine by not allowing him to stay UP too late -- and sleep IN too late the following morning -- on the weekends. An extra hour or two is fine, but any more than that will throw his sleep cycle out-of-whack for the rest of the week. Also, make sure that he's not staying up extra late in his room after you think he's gone to bed.

2nd - If he as a computer or TV in his bedroom, take them out of there! Make his room as boring as possible.

3rd - Establish a consequence for NOT getting ready on time (e.g., must go to bed an hour earlier; cannot have any friends over on the weekend, etc.). And establish incentives for getting up on time (e.g., can have pizza Friday evening, can go to a Saturday afternoon movie with a friend). You get the idea – be creative!

4th – In the morning, tell him – ONLY ONE TIME – “it is time to get up,” then make a very Very VEry VERy VERY load noise that startles him. Slam his door, smack the door with the palm of your hand, drop something heavy on the floor, yell “YEEEEHHAAAAAWWWWWW” – you get the idea. This will get his blood pressure up which will make it very difficult to settle back into alpha (warning: expect him to pretend that you did not startled him and that this strategy has no effect). I know this may seem like a ridiculous strategy, but it works. After several mornings of this, he will tend to not dawdle as much.

5th – Finally, use the strategy in the ebook: “When You Want Something From Your Kid” (in the Anger Management section of the online version of the ebook).

Here’s to a better home environment,

Mark Hutten, M.A.

Thank You


Thank you for the offer and for your web site. I am still reading the "book" which I downloaded yesterday.

Our son G___ is not a bad kid by any stretch of the imagination. He is an A/B student in school, is well liked by all of his teachers, has friends and has a part time job. But his mother and I (we are married) are the "enemy" from what I can gather from the discussions and arguments with G___. He has become very secretive and has lied as to his whereabouts in the past. I know he is scared about going off to college in the fall. Not scared enough not to go, but concerned about being on his own. For this reason, he says he has chosen to try to do without our help in order to make him "grow up", which he says he has a lot to do. But his methods are sometimes frightening.

I'm hoping that by reading the book, I may gain some insight as to how to handle the situation. It is physically tiring and by the end of the day his mother and I are exhausted just from the mental frustration of trying to deal with him.


Please Help

Hi G.,

I’ve responded to your email point by point below.
Please look for these arrows: >>>>>>>>>>

Dear Mark,

I have a 16 yr old (we are UK based) who is depressed and angry and won't respond to offers of seeking help via doctor or counsellor.

>>>>>>>>>>>> Counseling is just another “traditional” parenting strategy that doesn’t work very well, and in too many cases, it makes a bad problem worse. When parents attempt to force counseling on a difficult child, she usually resents it and views this strategy as a form of punishment. She also tends to believe that the family is blaming her for all the parent-child conflict. If the whole family will go to counseling, then you may see some benefit. Otherwise, save you money.

She’s had fights with her father where he physically lashed out at her in response to her rudeness and she now hates her father with vengeance.

>>>>>>>>> Her father should be taking the high road rather than stooping to her level. As you will discover from reading “My Out-of-Control Teen” eBook, reacting to a strong-willed kid with anger and violence results in the parent losing – every time!

I have 2 other daughters 14 and 12 and she is upsetting them with her 'hatred comments'. To make the situation even more complicated, their last physical exchange resulted in me asking my husband to leave.

We have been having problems for years and in the last few months we weren't speaking and were due to breakup in order to resolve the situation. We are still apart and the 2 younger girls are upset by this. We are attending marriage guidance to see if our marriage can be saved. But with Xmas looming I want him to be with his daughters Xmas eve/day and Boxing Day, but the problem child is threatening not to be there. Everyone knows a fuss will be made by her on the day which will upset the family, although I’ve asked her to try and let it go for that period as there are others to consider. She hates him, wishes him dead and I don't no how to deal with the situation - please help.

>>>>>>>>> At the risk of making this response to your dilemma sound like a sales pitch, the best way I can help you is to offer you the eBook. You’ll find detailed solutions there, and you can use me as your personal parent coach as the next several weeks and months roll by.

I’ll be here for you whenever you’re ready to get started with the material:

I’m not sure what to do about college...

Yes, my husband and I have over-indulged him; which after reading your on-line book is the root of his destructive behavior.

This past spring he became involved with a girl. The relationship went from “date” to talk of marriage within 3 months. We became aware of their sexual activity in May and I notified the girl’s mother. Her mother and I decided that their relationship should not continue. Three days after prohibiting them from seeing each other, they conspired to meet at her house while her parents were away and on his way to her house, he totaled his car. He was immediately grounded and for a month after the accident, lied about seeing her, denied responsibility for the car accident, refused to go to work, snuck out at night, locked himself in his room, carved her initials in his arm and refused to speak to us. We grew very worried that he was going to harm himself with these behaviors. His behavior was so mean, nasty and erratic, I didn’t even like to leave him at home with our dogs.

After much desperation, I contacted a military school to see about sending him away for his senior year. They recommended I speak with an academic consultant. The academic consultant recommended a wilderness camp. We approached him with the idea of the wilderness camp and my husband was going to fly him out; but he adamantly refused. We ended up having an adolescent transport service take him. During his time at the camp, he communicated well (written only) with us and complied with the camp 100%.

Upon his return, we told him that we did not want him to continue the relationship with his girlfriend and that we wanted to start clean with our relationship. But since we did not trust him, he would have to earn back trust and privileges. We felt strongly that a good portion of his defiant behavior was associated with the girlfriend and we still prohibited him dating her. This position seems to have been a mistake as we feel we have created a Romeo & Juliet situation. Recently, we know that their relationship has problems (constant fighting etc.) he continues the relationship; but he makes every attempt to hide it from us. He denies that he is seeing her. I have information to the contrary.

We have implemented many of your strategies and work everyday to be consistent. Although after reading your online book, I realize we have a few things to work on. Our son works 2 jobs this year and is taking a college level course along with the required 12th grade English course he needs to graduate. We allow him to go out with friends and have friends over and he is good about keeping curfew. He no longer sneaks out. I see glimpses of him taking on responsibility, but he still has a long way to go.

My current dilemma is that he turns 18 on March 26, 2007. Although he is beginning to understand a little about responsibility, he has no idea what it will be like for him to live on his own. He has recently been “threatening” to move out upon his 18th birthday. My husband and I have taken the position of not arguing with him but simply asking him questions about how he plans to support himself, get to work & school, and where he believes he will live. He gets ticked-off and frustrated when he realizes that he doesn’t have the means to support himself. My husband and I have tried very hard not to buy into his arguments; it is difficult, but does seem to be successful.

My husband and I have already concluded that when he is 18 & graduated from high school, if he doesn’t wish to comply with household rules, we will ask him to leave. My question is, since he will turn 18 prior to high school graduation, what tips do you have for our handling his defiant behavior for those months between April and graduation? I’m not sure what to do about college either. Any suggestions would be appreciated.



Hi Bridget,

I don’t have a whole lot to add. It sounds like you and your husband are greatly on track. Just continue to digest the material in the ebook (listen to all audio too).

Become an expert in the following strategies (online version of the ebook):

  • The “Art of Saying Yes”
  • The “Art of Saying No”
  • “When You Want Something From Your Kid” (Anger Management chapter)

Re: college – Your son is an adult now. Let him decide what he wants to do, then provide encouragement in that area. If you try to push or pull him in one direction or the other, he will likely take an opposite path.

Here's to a better home environment,

When Your Husband Is An Over-Indulgent Parent

"Both my husband and I have read your eBook. However, he is still wanting to 'over-indulge' our daughter. What can I do?"

Hi C.,

It will be very important for you and your husband to be united and bonded on most issues. But, bear in mind that a weaker plan supported by the both parents is much better than a stronger plan support by only one parent.

The two of you must set aside your differences as partners and resolve to work together as parents in the best interest of your child. This is difficult, but not impossible to do.

You will continue to disagree – and that's O.K. But agree that you will not let your own differences interfere with your ability to parent together. Argue only when your child is not within earshot.

Make important decisions about your child together. Sit down with your husband and create rules that your child must follow, but that the two of you agree on.

Also, learn to let go a little and accept that the situation cannot be perfect. 

Try to schedule talks with your husband at times when you are both relaxed and can concentrate. It is much easier this way. 

Finally, put your plan in writing. For example:  

"As parents, we agree to allow our daughter to do a, b, and c. And we will mutually impose a consequence for x, y, and z. The consequence for x is ___________, for y is ______________, and for z is ______________."

Give it a try.

Please stay in touch,


Would you suggest any further contact?

Here's an email from a mother whose 17-year-old son is "on the run." He has a drug habit, and is basically floating from one living arrangement to another. This mother sent her son a letter inviting him to Christmas Eve dinner:


Hi Mark,

Sent letter to my son. He would have received it on Friday. In it I also expressed your advise. I have also invited him to join all our family for Christmas Eve dinner. It is Monday. Would you suggest any further contact? If yes when? Or do you think I should wait until he contacts us? Christmas Eve is in 6 days. It's frustrating when we don't have the answers ourselves anymore. What do you suggest?


Hi M.,

The main goal is for (a) your son to start taking responsibility for himself, and (b) for you to take less responsibility in order to achieve (a).

Whenever you are undecided about what to say or do, ask yourself the question, "Is what I"m about to say or do going to promote the development of self-reliance in my son, or is it going to inhibit the development of self-reliance? If your decisions promote self-reliance, then they are good decisions ...period.

Thus, should there be further contact? I don't think so.

Further contact feels a bit like you taking on too much responsibility (again). He's been given an invitation. It's his choice whether to show up or not. If he "no shows" ...you can give him his gifts as well as a Christmas kiss on the cheek whenever he does show up. In the meantime, spend your time and energy on the family members that are near you.

Let go and let God. Don't give your son the power to steal your joy this Christmas -- this is YOUR choice.



She is an only child. Does this make a difference?

My fifteen year old daughter has always had problems with making and keeping friends. Its heart breaking when she never gets invitations to parties or sleep-overs. Is it too late to help her? She is an only child, does this make a difference?


Hi S.,

The fact that your daughter is an only child does make a difference, but not a BIG one. Because only children do not have siblings with whom to interact, they learn to be children on their own and become very self-sufficient. Parents can help, but ultimately children become conditioned to depend on themselves. Although this self-sufficiency can have its benefits, it can also mean that only children are inherently alone as their personalities develop.

Only children must develop in social situations that may not be suited to their personalities. An only child's environment forces her to take on characteristics of extraversion despite natural inclinations toward introversion. A naturally introverted child must show extraverted qualities if she wishes to make friends. But take heart, the development of extraverted qualities can be learned, and with time, an element of extroversion becomes habit.

Of course, very few humans are strictly extraverted or introverted. To call an only child “introverted” would be to imply that the child developed into his/her natural tendency toward that certain personality type with little influence from the environment.

Nonetheless, environment forces the only child to struggle against his/her natural tendencies in order to function normally. Perhaps this struggle helps explain some of the common characteristics that emerge among only children, such as the tendency to not participate in many activities, but leading the ones in which they do participate. An only child tends to be more conscientious, more socially dominant, less agreeable, and less open to new ideas compared to the child who has siblings.

Therefore, she can choose to practice “approaching people” …she can practice speaking to people …and she can practice being interested in what others say and do. This will feel very abnormal at first, but with time, it will become habit. She can choose to have time alone – and she can choose to have times where she is “a part of” rather than “separate from.”

Here's to a better home environment,

Treatment for ODD

Are there residential treatment centers that effectively treat ODD? How many kids in the US under 17 have ODD?


Hi B. & D.,

RE: Are there residential treatment centers that effectively treat ODD?

Residential treatment is not recommended for the treatment of ODD. Parent management training (PMT) is the recommendation because it has been demonstrated to affect negative interactions that repeatedly occur between the children and their parents.

PMT consists of procedures with which parents are trained to change their own behaviors and thereby alter their child's problem behavior in the home.

PMT is based on 35 years of well-developed research showing that oppositional and defiant patterns arise from maladaptive parent-child interactions that start in early childhood.

These patterns develop when parents inadvertently reinforce disruptive and deviant behaviors in a child 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; often, the parents have infrequent positive interactions with their children.

The pattern of negative interactions evolves quickly as the result of repeated, ineffective, emotionally expressed commands and comments; ineffective harsh punishments; and insufficient attention and modeling of appropriate behaviors.

My Out-of-Control Teen eBook provides parents the training needed in disrupting negative behavior problems associated with ODD.

RE: How many kids in the US under 17 have ODD?

The exact number of cases of Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) in the U.S. in not known. ODD is the most common psychiatric problem in children. Over 5% of all children have this. In younger children it is more common in boys than girls, but as they grow older, the rate is the same in males and females.

What's the difference with ADHD and ADD?

My son has recently been diagnosed with ODD and ADHD. He is almost 10 years old. He is really good at school, but he has the defiance problem away from school. My question deals with the ADHD. I see him as having problems with concentration at school, but he is NOT hyper at all. What's the difference with ADHD and ADD? Why don't they diagnose it as that instead?


Hi B.,

About 15% of ADHD children are ADHD without hyperactivity. Children with ADHD without hyperactivity are different in many ways from ADHD kids.

-- They often have lower energy than normal.

-- They are less assertive than normal. As a result, they are usually quite popular in school compared to ADHD kids.

-- They are much more likely to have learning disorders (especially Math) than ADHD kids.

-- They are much less likely to have ODD or conduct disorders.

-- They usually do not get identified early in school.

-- They are more likely to quietly daydream and never accomplish much. As a result, they do a good job of staying out of the teacher’s radar.

--They have a tendency to just drift through school (their body is in attendance, but not their mind).

Hope this answers your question,



I am depressed and sad all the time ...

Hi Mark, Very hard few days - one thing after another. She [daughter] had school disco Friday night. She carried on about underwear, which I had actually just washed. Went on and on. Sat night was about cranberry sauce. She ran out of the house to her dad’s - very annoying. I am feeling very tired. I was going out but to tired - just want to sit. I can't seem to show no emotion. Sometimes I can, but last night she made me cry, how much can you take. She ran back to my ex and said horrible horrible things about me and my partner. Thursday night she ran out of her piano concert. I have a job now but can't make stats probably loose it. I am depressed and sad all the time - just want to close eyes and dream of being far away. Beach somewhere sipping cocktail. No worries - like my twenties. ~ J.


Hi J.,

These feelings you are having are very common for parents with out-of-control kids.

Here is a list of symptoms parents can expect to experience when dealing with their difficult child:
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Apathy
  • Anger
  • Guilt ("If only I had done . . .”)
  • Shame (“I’m not a very good parent.”)
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Loss of appetite
  • Increased cravings for junk food
  • Withdrawal from others
  • Irritability
  • Intense sadness or tears when a memory is triggered
  • Loneliness, or a sense of separateness from your kid
  • Numbness

Dealing with a strong-willed, out-of-control kid is very exhausting and trying. It will take about 25% of all your emotional, mental, and physical resources. You have to take care of yourself in ways you would not have to if your child was not so difficult. This includes things like:

  • Go out weekly away from this kid and your home with your spouse or significant other.
  • Get adequate exercise.
  • Make sure you have some hobby you enjoy and can do when things get chaotic at home.
  • Expect and accept some reduction in your usual efficiency and consistency.
  • Try to avoid taking on new responsibilities or making major life decisions for a time.
  • Talk regularly about your parenting struggles with someone you trust.
  • Accept help and support when offered.
  • Be particularly attentive to maintaining healthy eating and sleeping patterns.
  • Keep reminding yourself that your responses are normal responses to a stressful situation.
  • Give yourself permission to do whatever you need to do to take care of yourself.
  • Have moments of prayer and meditation.
  • Do things that feel good to you--take baths, read, exercise, watch television, spend time with friends, fix yourself a special treat, or whatever else feels nurturing and self-caring.
  • Allow yourself to cry, rage, and express your feelings when you need to. Try not to numb your feelings with alcohol or drugs. This will only complicate your situation.

Finally, if you are having difficulty showing no emotion, then you are giving your daughter too much power. She can’t make you spit …she can’t make you stand on your head …she can’t make you mad …she can’t make you sad …she can’t make you happy …she simply does not have that kind of power over you.

If you cry, or get angry, or whatever -- this will be a choice that you – and you alone - make. You are in charge of your emotions -- not your daughter. And if you choose to react strongly to her negative behavior, she will continue with that behavior.

In summary, (a) take care of yourself, and (b) don’t give your power away.

Please stay in touch,

Mark Hutten, M.A.


Am I better off forcing my son to go to counseling...?


Thank you for your email. We've been having problems with our 13-year-old son and recently saw a counselor last week, which was with both my husband and I. After a very bad evening, I found your website and purchased your book which described my "out of control teenager" perfectly.

Am I better off forcing my son to go to the counselor or trying your steps first? He obviously does not want counseling. He is not a problem in school or anything else he does. He is a very well liked boy who is extremely athletic, good looking and smart. Unfortunately, he does not like rules and always wants to be in charge. The outbursts occur only at home, but obviously we have severe concerns on his disruptiveness to the home.

Thanks for your help.



Hi P.,

Counseling is just another "traditional" parenting strategy that doesn't usually work very well. I see many cases in which it makes a bad problem worse. I would predict that this will be the case for you as well.

Just get into the ebook and begin digesting the material. Email me as you go along. This will be a much better route for you.

Stay in touch,



I want him out of the house...

I am a single parent. Could you give me any tips on how to get a 13-year-old to get out of the house on weekends instead of staying in with me? The only way to get him out is if I buy him a game or something he wants to do. But I cannot always afford this.


Hi L.,

Here are a few ideas that your son could do either at home or away from home:

1. Bake bread
2. Bake cookies or a cake
3. Help cook dinner
4. Do soap carving
5. Go and visit grandparents
6. Go bike riding together
7. Go bowling
8. Go camping
9. Go fishing
10. Go swimming
11. Go to a movie
12. Go to the library
13. Go wading in a creek
14. Go window-shopping
15. Have a bonfire
16. Have a family meeting to discuss whatever
17. Have a family picnic in the park
18. Have a late evening cookout
19. Have a barbeque
20. Have a water balloon fight in the backyard
21. Learn a new game
22. Make candles
23. Make caramel corn
24. Make homemade ice cream
25. Plan a vacation
26. Plant a tree
27. Play basketball
28. Play cards
29. Play Frisbee
30. Put a puzzle together
31. Roast marshmallows
32. Share feelings
33. Sit on the porch and watch cars go by
34. Take a hike through downtown
35. Take a walk through the woods
36. Take a walk through your neighborhood
37. Go to a school play
38. Take pictures
39. Take flowers to a friend
40. Take a walk in the rain
41. Stargazing
42. Visit a college campus
43. Visit a museum
44. Visit a relative
45. Visit different parks in town
46. Visit the fire station
47. Visit the neighbors
48. Watch a television show together
49. Work on a family scrapbook
50. Write letters to friends

You get the idea. I'm sure you can be creative and come up with even better ideas,



We are really emotionally drained...

Hi E. & P.,

I’ve responded to your comments point by point below. Please look for these arrows: >>>>>>>>>>>

Mark, I just had a conversation with our daughter last evening as she is going out and telling everyone that we do not support her in her future endeavor in sports.

>>>>>>>>>>> I hear you saying that your daughter is mad because you are not on the same page with her regarding college (justifiably so).

We pay for everything she does with sports, she has been on national development teams, we go to every game, every tournament, and we tell her what a great game she played.

>>>>>>>>>>> You are paying for everything? What is she doing to “earn” these things?

She seems to put herself on a higher pedestal than what she actually has. She has been cutting, suicidal, etc.

>>>>>>>>>>> Please refer to the section of the ebook on cutting.

She won't take her meds on a regular basis, but she is disappointed when we're not excited about her possibilities with college.

>>>>>>>>>>>>> Unfortunately, you have no control over whether or not she takes her meds. That’s her job, and the more responsibility you take for this (e.g., lecturing or nagging her to take her meds), the less responsibility she will take.

We are far too busy just trying to keep her alive and non-suicidal. I can't imagine her existing in a college environment when she has proven she has trouble existing in a high school one.

>>>>>>>>>>> I’m not trying to minimize here, but the “suicidal” kids I work with are not suicidal at all, they simply try to push everybody’s “worry buttons” as a manipulation. Again, I’m not saying to ignore her talk of suicide, but don’t let her use this as a weapon against you (i.e., a way for her to get her way).

What do we do at this point? My thought last evening was “here you go …you’re on your own …sink or swim.” We are really emotionally drained after the last two years as parents.

>>>>>>>>>> If you are emotionally drained, then you have taken on too much responsibility.

I think it is entirely possible that you have been over-protective (a form of over-indulgence). Your daughter will live up to – or down to – your expectations. For example, if you view her as helpless, unable, weak, incompetent, etc., she will live down to that expectation you have of her. Conversely, if you view her as a ‘work in progress’ and as someone who is going to do just fine in life in spite of her challenges, she will live up to that expectation.

You hit the nail on the head when you had the thought “here you go …you’re on your own …sink or swim.” Make this one little adjustment though: “here you go …we’re here for you when you need us …you can do it …I’ve got faith in you!”

Should she have a shot at college? Absolutely! What if she doesn’t make it? Then she will have learned a valuable lesson that will help her in her next venture.

Please keep me posted,



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