Help me please before I go insane...

"Hi Mark, I had emailed you earlier in the year about my 17 year old. I am writing again to seek your advice. I have read the email from the "Sad Mom" under the Empty Nest Syndrome tab linked to your email and I must say I am suffering almost the same fate now as her. My 17 year old daughter has now moved out of home to be with her father whom she hasn’t had much time for in recent times due to them not seeing eye to eye. Now that she has moved in with him it seems that he is giving in to her every demand.

My daughter is now seeing an 18 year old who comes from a broken home, whose father was abusive. This guy jumps from house to house after being kicked out of his fathers house, he moves to his mothers, then he will get kicked out of there so he moves in with his brother who lives with his de facto and newborn child and that’s where he lives at the moment. He just so happens to live just around the corner from where my daughter’s father is living so it is very convenient for her to have sleepovers (which happen regularly). I am fearful of never getting her back home in a stable household where she can be nurtured and gotten back on track.

My and my son's relationship with her is almost non-existent with her as this guy she is seeing is one of the most un-liked (in fact hated) guys in town and he has nothing going for him. He is in debt to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars as he was involved in a car accident where he crashed into a truck (uninsured of course) and because he was at fault is in debt up to his eyeballs. No need to say that he doesn’t work and is extremely unsettled in his life. He is even talking about leaving town now and my daughter is contemplating moving with him (she has only known him for a few months and formed a relationship with him just in the last couple of weeks).

I accept your advice to sad mom about empty nest syndrome but I fail to understand how there is nothing we can do to make them understand that living their life this way will be of no benefit to their future success in life. My daughter likewise has all but removed herself from my side of the family as she knows we do not agree with her behaviour. She has very little if anything to do with her other friends as well. I tried talking to her father about my concerns and he all but suggested that I just let her live her life and she will learn. I just cannot sit back and watch her destroy her and her family's life and for the sake of a trashy guy that will most likely hurt or bludge from her for the rest of her life.

Help me please before I go insane. I have been on antidepressants now for a week and at the moment don’t even feel like seeing my daughter as every time I do she "just makes me sick to the stomach". I struggle to get through each day and am losing weight because I can’t eat. I am not the kind of mum that won’t let go and if this guy had anything going for him I wouldn’t have a problem with it. I am sorry this message is so disjointed but I am just not thinking too straight and am struggling also to keep my working life in order. Regards ~ M.D."


Hi M.D,

I know how you feel …and when I felt this way as a young parent, I distracted myself.

I distracted myself by focusing on all that was going right rather than on that was going wrong …by focusing on my blessings rather than my “curses” (which there is no such thing) …by regularly talking about my parenting struggles with someone I trusted …by accepting help and support when it was offered …by reminding myself that my responses are normal responses to a stressful situation …by giving myself permission to do whatever I needed to do to take care of myself.

Your body and mind will tell you what you need to do -- your job is to listen to them.

Your daughter will gain experience out in the real world – and experience is a great teacher (a much better teacher than you will be at this point …no offense).



"Mark, Thanks for your response Mark and the comments are very much appreciated. Whilst I understand that it is important to learn from your own experiences my major concern is that at this point in her life, she is not thinking clearly at all and that she will make a mistake that she will have to live with for the rest of her life, ie lose her job because of her behaviour (I am told by her work mates that she is not herself at work), falling pregnant, or being the breadwinner and running around after this no-hoping guy. I know what you are saying is true and that no matter how much I object to her seeing him and the other less than nice friends she is getting about with she will only move further and further away but I struggle to sit back and pretend that everything is OK."


==> Effective Disciplinary Techniques for Defiant Teens and Preteens 

I am so deeply worried that my sons will be somehow 'compelled' to try the tonne of bricks...

Hello Mark…

It is just after 2:30am and I am having difficulty sleeping, so perhaps sharing a few of my worrisome thoughts with you as my remote 'sounding board' may help.

I am so very concerned for our future. When push comes to shove, my sons seem to embrace failure and punishment. Let me try to piece things together to try to explain my deep concerns.

My husband had taken 4 months long service leave as the stress of our son's behaviours were taking their toll. Last month we went together as a family to a counsellor that is part of his employment benefits as he was preparing to return to work. Although somewhat better this year (no disappearing overnight or longer on the weekends, no demands for alcohol), we needed to address our son's behaviours that were building into more trouble at home (argumentative, unreasonable behaviours) and poor school performance (lateness, truancy among some other things related to poor decision making). It took my husband to repeatedly beg the boys to come to that counselling session. In the end they agreed, but ensured that we were late for the appointment. The counsellor set us a small challenge as a start, to manage the chronic lateness, just in the mornings getting ready for the day.

We agreed that our sons could wake themselves and get up later, at 8am rather than the 7:30am that we preferred, and we were to give the message of 'Your breakfast is on the table' if either were not up by 8:15am. I also agreed that I would cook their breakfast porridge and make their lunches. Our sons agreed that they would get themselves up, dress, make their beds, feed their pets, and be ready to leave between 8:45am and 8:48am. If they both were ready, then we agreed that they would be given use of the car to go to College. If they were not ready, at 9:50am I would drive them to College. The boys concerns were that I am always upset. I made it clear that I would definitely still be disappointed and upset if they succeeded in doing what they needed to do to get use of the car (what they wanted) and at the same time failed in lots of other areas of their lives (which is what they have tended to do). Well, the boys made a genuine effort for 4 days before challenging their part of the agreement, in escalating terms. My husband returned to work under these deteriorating conditions at home, which was what we had declared at the counselling session was the situation we were trying to avoid.

We continued with the plan and the problems escalated with reports of unexplained latenesses or entire absences from some classes and some other infractions with their friends. (Silly things - like one of my sons chose to ride on the roads with a fellow student, as a pillion passenger on a motorbike. This friend was on L-Plates. My son was without a helmet.)

All the while our sons insisted that they were doing better and we rewarded a 'seem to be doing better' stage with an OK to stay at home one weekend whilst we went on a working bee at our ski pad 2.5 hours drive away. The boys were left from Saturday morning to Sunday evening when my husband returned. I stayed on alone at the unit as there was more painting to be done. Ken was to return on Wednesday to pick me up. Instead, I received a phone call from him asking if the police had contacted me.

This was in relation to the criminal act that I mentioned last email. On the Monday, the boys had the use of the car as they were on time and they successfully took themselves to a pre-employment session after school (they had applied to work as labourers in the Cirque du Soleil pack down). Ken allowed them to use their computers unsupervised in their rooms that evening (to do school assignments and study for upcoming end of term tests). The Tuesday morning our sons were again ready on time and were given use of the car to go to College. Ken noticed that one had an extra bag with them. He assumed that this was for their gym gear (the boys do weight training 4 days per week). The Tuesday evening when Ken phoned, he said that everything was fine. He had no idea of what had taken place that day. This is usual. He is a wonderful, gentle man and does not recognise when trouble is looming.

This is what subsequently came to light...

On Monday evening our sons had been in contact by computer private chat (MSN) with a friend from high school that they do the gym work with. They would have missed their work out together due to the pre-employment session that their friend did not attend. During this chat session, these three young men planned to commit a robbery. It appears that their friend wanted a laptop and my sons wanted money to buy clothes. The mystery is that their friend just this year began receiving money from the government (youth allowance) and my sons, as I had said, had just applied for work to earn money that they could have put some of it towards the extra cost of the clothes that they wanted. Why on earth would they plan destroy this immediately after putting such effort in to secure a desirable casual labouring job?

It is totally beyond my comprehension, and this is the pattern of behaviour that really concerns me.

At a meeting with the Deputy Principal and School Counsellor at the College at the end of term (two weeks ago), the DP encouraged my sons to get up at 7am and to seek employment. After the holidays, if they wanted to return to College, then they could do so under a strictly controlled contract. In my attempts to get them working towards an earlier rise, I had them getting up at around 8am to start working in the garden by 9am, they responded by getting up later and later - after 10, after 11, after 11:30am (which has varied up and down).

We have seen the police this evening and my sons have signed forms to participate in Restorative Justice Conferencing. The Constable made it clear to my sons that if they demonstrate remorse, understand the impact on the victim, and perform the required community service outcomes of this conferencing, then the police may choose to end the matter there. Otherwise, they will be charged and be required to go to court and perhaps Juvenile Detention. The Constable also made it clear that he did not wish to see them before him in this way again as he would 'come down on them like a tonne of bricks'.

Mark, I am so deeply worried that my sons will be somehow 'compelled' to try the tonne of bricks.

You said in your reply email that I need to get a good diagnosis if there is bipolar tendencies. I don't know of any way that I could possibly get either of them to attend another session with anyone (school counsellor, Ken's work counsellor, nor a psychiatrist). Also, I am very uncomfortable with the prospect of using strong medications (and the latest reports on ADHD medicating lend some credence to my concerns in that area). Instead, I have been building the idea of us all seeing a new family doctor (as our own wonderful, trusted, female family doctor we have attended since the boys were born retired in March). The doctor that I would like us to see is a man and a Naturopathic GP. I plan to make the appointments tomorrow, and hopefully we won't have to wait too many weeks to get in.

As to how I have gone this weekend? I was at the end of my rope with one son who had been unreasonable all day Friday, so eventually phoned to ask Ken to come home early. That was 4pm. On Saturday we test drove a vehicle that we are considering for the Franchise business. My other son was with me and became unreasonable in the car whilst I was driving. I was able to dilute the behaviour to a tolerable level. Tonight I gave warning then took the remote and aerial cable from the TV. If they chose to go to bed then they could have the TV back tomorrow, if not it would be 3 days. I did not respond to their arguments, calmly restated the request and consequences for their choices and left them to it. I asked my husband to do a follow up 5 minutes later as I was all done in. Happily, concurrently, I heard the boys going to the kitchen to make the last protein drink getting ready for bed.

I am exhausted. I will send this now. I would very much appreciate your wise insights and strategies to help me through this. I say me, as it was after my husband had turned out the light tonight that I insisted he finish reading the printed material on your program. He doesn't deliberately undermine, but undermine he has a tendency to do. Hopefully he can gain a better understanding with your step by step program so that we can achieve a more consistent approach for our sons. There is just too much on our plates to deal with. Our problems seem insurmountable, our difficult path appears unalterable, but there is much love in our home and that is the glue that binds us.


Hi M.,

It would be best for you to allow your sons to experience painful emotions associated with their poor choices ...I can see that you are spending a lot of time and energy trying to "save" them from themselves. This, along with counseling, is a traditional parenting strategy that will continue to make a bad problem worse.

If they choose not to follow through with the expectations (i.e., perform the required community service outcomes of this conferencing), then they will choose the consequence. Please do not get in the way of letting this wonderful opportunity for them to gain experience/wisdom take it's course.

I'm concerned that you are taking on too much responsibility. If they do not want to go to a doc for an eval ...and if they choose not to take appropriate meds, then you have to begin the business of taking care of yourself in the form of "letting go." Otherwise, YOU will become ill -- both physically and emotionally.




Yes, you are absolutely right. It happened to my mother, who eventually succumbed to terminal cancer. I have started taking care of myself as of yesterday after a long conversation with a dear wise long time (older) friend. I am not so concerned with the imminent restorative justice, but more the longer term. I won't go that road. I have appointments with the new doctor for my husband and sons as well, but me first.

Thanks Mark. I can turn now and feel that I can navigate a better course.


It sounds like she is not even attending the math class...

Hi Mark,

I do have an issue to ask you about. I have custody of my 17 year old granddaughter and school is definitely a challenge with her. M___ has been with me for just under 2 years. She is from __________ and after 2 years of grade 9 had only 4 credits. As of February 2007 she had 13 1/2 high school credits and requires 30 credits to graduate. Her problem is socializing, skipping and not handing in her homework - so of course she does not do well in school.

After talking with the vice principal at the school we decided to move her to a __________ School where she does not attend school for the entire day. She only goes to school for 2 hours per week per course and she does her homework on her own. This often works for students who have problems in the regular school stream. When we moved her to the Alternative school, I talked with her and told her this was her last chance to try and get a high school education, which is very important for her future.

I have been trying to find out how she is doing, but don't get much information. The school is not very responsive to parents because they treat the student as an adult, responsible for their education. Recently the vice principal has indicated in a voice mail she will talk with me - but we have not yet managed to connect.

M___ has indicated everything is fine and that she does not get a report card in this school. She has told me she has an 85 average and everything is great. Unfortunately, I have heard this story before so am a little cautious. When the actual marks come in she is often failing or barely making a passing grade.

Yesterday, I was gathering some laundry in her bathroom and found the report card sitting on the counter. M___ gets upset if she thinks I read her papers so I can't let on I have seen the report card.

The good news is that she has passed her 1/2 credit Civics course with a 61. The other 3 are full credit courses and so far she has 77 on her parenting course and 76 on her Sociology course - excellent for her but ...both teachers indicate that this mark is for unit 2 or 3 out of 10 and that she is not handing in her home work consistently. At this stage she should be on about unit 5. On her math course she has a 45 and the teacher has commented that she should attend school on a more regular basis and do her homework. So it sounds like she is not even attending the math class.

I'd appreciate some advise on what to do.



All of my adolescent clients are either in alternative school or working on their GED. None of them attend class with the frequency that teachers find optimal. But these kids get the work done eventually. Continue to do what you’ve been doing (i.e., stay out of it …schoolwork is your granddaughter’s job).


Empty Nest Syndrome

Hi Mark,

I emailed you in Jan 07 about my situation concerning my 17 yr old daughter. Now, I am looking for your advice again.

My daughter moved out of our home, not with our consent, back in January. She moved into her boyfriend's house (his mom's house) but they have since moved into their own apartment. She only met this guy over Christmas, and he is on a methodone treatment plan for his oxycotin addiction. He is 21. She is in her last year of high school, but may not even graduate now as she very rarely attends school anymore. Her relationship with her two sisters has deteriorated big time, however it doesn't seem to bother her in the least. As well, my relationship with my daughter has suffered more than I can describe. Her relationship with her Dad is almost non-existent.

The last three months for me have been hell. My emotions are all over the map. She should have been at her grade 12 prom last night, such a memorable event in a young girl's life …instead she was in some shabby apartment with her boyfriend. She has totally distanced herself from her friends, now he seems to have become her world. Before she met him, she was always with her friends. I am so worried about her.

So far, my daughter has learned nothing from this experience. She sees no problem with her actions, she has not matured at all. She has shown no guilt or sorrow for leaving our home in the manner she did. (She told everyone that her parents kicked her out, and painted this picture of 2 horrible parents). When I showed up at her boyfriend's mothers house, she told me to go F myself. Never, has she spoken to me like that in all her life. She has not apologized for that either.

Anyhow, I am beginning to ramble. It is just that my life has been turned inside out since this happened. I am so heartbroken and it isn't getting any easier. I thought by now it should. My marriage is suffering for this too. My husband is so calm about it all, so accepting of it. He figures she made her choice, she is stupid, and one day will realize it. He feels he did nothing wrong, and there is nothing he can do about it. (Not that he even tries.) He is not loosing any sleep over this mess. To me, that is not normal. I don't think that my daughter has any idea what this has done to her family, the hurt she has caused me and other family members. If she does, she must not care because she seems very content, not a care in the world. No clue about how dangerous it is to be involved with a recovering addict, he doesn't work, he has no car, nothing going for him. Her forms from her education fund arrived last week …we have been putting away a little money each month for her post secondary education. That hurt too, she should be home filling out her university application. Instead, she has thrown away all that we have to offer to her.

I just don't know how to be acting anymore. Am I supposed to be supportive to my daughter? I have never been to her apartment. Now they are moving to another apartment next week, she asked me to help her decorate. I said no. I have been supportive in other ways, but I just can't accept her relationship with him. I can't stand the sight of him. How do I cope with all of this, I feel like I am drowning. Work is stressful lately …the project I am working on is a nightmare. My marriage has major problems. My father just got diagnosed with cancer. 2007 is turning into a hellish year so far. I am loosing my daughter, we are growing further apart, and she could care less. Meanwhile, I am dying inside. How do I deal with this anymore?

Thanks for listening. I am sorry for rambling.

Sad Mom


Uh oh …the dreaded Empty Nest Syndrome.

Empty Nest Syndrome refers to feelings of depression, sadness, and/or grief experienced by parents and caregivers after children come of age and leave their childhood homes. Women are more likely than men to be affected; often, when the nest is emptying, mothers are going through other significant life events as well, such as menopause or caring for elderly parents.

Feelings of sadness are normal at this time. It is also normal to spend time in the absent child's bedroom to feel closer to him or her. If you feel that your useful life has ended, or if you are crying excessively or are so sad that you don't want to see friends or go to work, you should consider seeking professional help.

Parents gain the greatest satisfaction from the transition to an empty nest when they have developed and maintained good relations with their children as they were growing up. Extreme hostility, conflict, or detachment in parent-child relations may reduce parental support when it is most needed by children during early adulthood.

When a child's departure unleashes overwhelming sadness, treatment is definitely needed. You may need antidepressants, and you almost certainly could use some counseling to get your feelings into perspective. Meanwhile, look to your friends for support and be kind to yourself.

Time and energy that you directed toward your child can now be spent on different areas of your life. This might be an opportune time to explore or return to hobbies, leisure activities or career pursuits.

This also marks a time to adjust to your new role in your child's life as well as changes in your identity as a parent. Your relationship with your child may become more peer-like, and you will have to get used to the fact that your child is an adult now and no longer in need of services.

In anticipation of your younger children eventually leaving home, prepare for a totally empty nest NOW. Develop friendships, hobbies, career, and educational opportunities. Make plans with the family while everyone is still under the same roof, so you don't regret lost opportunities (e.g., family vacations, long talks, take time off from work). And make specific plans for the extra money, time, and space that will become available when children are no longer dependent on you and living at home.


Acknowledgment & Praise

I've tried the "catch your kid in the act of doing something right" business, but it doesn't really seem to work son just looks at me like I'm stupid. Any suggestions?




Yes... A few points here: The My Out-of-Control Teen eBook does not contain a set of "one-size-fits-all" parenting strategies. I rely on the parent to be smart enough to "fine-tune" the strategies according to their specific situation (this is why the parent-coaching piece is so important; you'll need some clarification and revision on some things from time to time). 


Some kids have very low self-esteem, and so a daily dose of positive strokes in the form of acknowledgment and praise is prescribed. Some kids have fairly high self-esteem, and as such, do not need a lot of strokes. In fact, too many stokes for this kid will be annoying to him/her. Use your good judgment here -- be creative. 


As a side note, here are the two mistakes I see parents make on this subject of rewarding the kid for good behavior in the form of acknowledgment and praise: 


1. The parent is not sincere when she praises, thus the kid picks up on the words used (and the body language behind the words) and knows that the parent in NOT really impressed with the kid's behavior, the parent is simply SAYING she is impressed. 


2. The parent praises in a sarcastic fashion (usually due to some unresolved resentment toward her kid; she may not even realize that her praise is being perceived as an insult by the kid). In this case, the praise is not a reward, rather it is a form of criticism. 


So, if parents praise TOO MUCH, or the praise is dishonest or sarcastic, they're just pissin' in the wind. In these cases, it would be better to say nothing. 



The keys just came up missing...

Hi J., I’ve answered where you see these arrows: >>>>>>>>>>


Mark, Have just received your e-book and went through it. I am going to go through it a few more times to make sure I "get it right". I do have some questions for you I'm hoping you can answer. 1. How do you handle a situation where you believe your teen took something (the extra set of car keys for the car he will drive when he shows he is more trustworthy and responsible) but cannot prove it as there are other children in the house (19 yrs old with a car of his own and a 9 yr old) and the keys just came up missing. 


>>>>>>>>>> If you have no evidence re: who took the keys, then you shouldn’t accuse anyone.  

>>>>>>>>>> I know this may be hard for you to hear, but go to your local auto repair shop and have them put in a new ignition switch in the vehicle in question. You will then receive a new set of car keys that you should keep with you at all times. It will cost you about $100 to get a new switch, but it will be well worth the expense. Think about how much it will cost you if your son takes a “joy-ride” and has an accident (he probably does have the keys by the way, and you can’t monitor his “joy-riding” capabilities 24/7). 


 >>>>>>>>>> Round-up all the other keys to any other items that your kids are not to have access to while you’re at it. 


2. Can your method work when the other parent (2 parent family, 3 boys) will not follow your program (or anything else) and will yell, ground "for a month" and tell him to "just leave and don't come back" when they are fighting? I will discipline (usually with the 3 day grounding), but they will get into an argument and the Dad says to leave. Then son gets a gleeful look on his face and is gone (on his bike and usually to his girlfriends). How do you start over, continue with the punishment when he gets the go ahead from his Dad? It often feels as I am in the middle trying to referee this situation.  


>>>>>>>>>> A weaker plan supported by both parents is much better than a stronger plan supported by only one. 


3. This child has a girlfriend (also 16--same school) of over 1 yr that he is quite serious about, so much so that he has almost excluded any male friends. He wants to talk with her/text her and be with her almost 24/7. He does have a job and is involved with sports, and does pretty well in school--3 B, 2 A, 1C). We do have rules at our house. The girlfriend's parents think pretty much anything is OK. I have accepted this girl and am pretty OK with it but we do have many conflicts about the lack of rules at her house, and different ones at home. What is the best approach to this that will show our son that he still must follow and respect us and our rules?  


>>>>>>>>>> This is one of those very general questions that would take a book to answer adequately …fortunately, you got the ebook.



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

He puts his head down on the desk and pretends to go to sleep...

Greetings, Mark!

Your publications and web site have proven to be invaluable sources of information; thanks!

I am writing to seek assistance with my almost 17 year male child.

He has been diagnosed with ADHD with some depression symptoms as well. He is currently on Prozac and Straterra. The Prozac is for the depression and the Straterra is for focusing issues at school. We have noticed behavioral changes on those days when he forgets to take the meds (and it is a mild hassle to remind him every day).

He is currently in the 10th grade for the second time, and may have to repeat again because of failing grades. He is very well versed in creating rap songs using the computer and 'beats', and spends most of his waking hours working on these projects. Which leads to his poor performance in school.

We never see him doing homework at home - his response when asked about any is that he did it already. He refuses to write down assignments, and is almost always late in completing whatever assignments he does work on. He is constantly tardy to classes anywhere from 1 to 15 minutes on a regular basis. In some classes, he puts his head down on the desk and pretends to (or actually does) go to sleep.

He is being seen by a psychological social worker on a weekly basis, whom we have spoken to several times unbeknownst to him (no violations of client privileges have occurred during these conversations).

He is adopted, but he has been with us since he was two days old.

We are trying to stress the importance of education to him (without becoming overbearing about it), but he has a real passive motivation towards education. He has delusions (our feeling) about becoming famous in the rap world, which we temper as much as we can with a dose of reality without telling him to give up something that he really enjoys doing.

He has some anger management issues, but is not extremely "out of control" when compared to some of the stories identified in your publications. He has had two brushes with the law - both misdemeanors, and will be completing probation in September. Part of his probation agreement is performing at an adequate level in school.

I'd like to hear your thoughts about this situation; feel free to request additional information if you need it.




Hi D.,

I’m not trying to take a short-cut here, but as you may know, my stance is the more responsibility YOU take for your son’s academic performance, the less HE will take.

I’m not accusing you of the following, but I often find that when I provide my recommendation on poor academic performance (which can be read on the link below), parents email me again with the same question hoping for a different answer. Unfortunately for them, they get the same answer.

CLICK HERE to go to “Email From Exasperated Parents” and locate the post that reads:

"My son brings home straight F's on his report cards. I ground him for the entire grading period, but he continues to fail in nearly all subjects. I know my son is a bright kid and can do the work when he wants to. What can I do to motivate him?" -- B. R.


She’s in an addictive relationship...

Hi Mark,

Thanks for the great emails, I read all of them and find them helpful even if they don't relate directly to my situation. I can relate to it somehow to my life and maybe some thoughts I have had of my own.

I have listened to all your information and read everything so far, just wanted you to know I have found it very helpful. It has really built on what I read previously while I was endlessly searching for options.

I was just curious about one thing. My daughter is 18 and things have settled down some, partly because of my reaction to her things and the other is because she stopped seeing her long time boyfriend. He actually called the relationship off because they fought constantly. I don't care for the kid at all. There are so many issues that he has that I see as an adult, not that my daughter doesn't have them, but they are just not good together.

Because he broke it off, she kept hanging around the same areas he was and calling him and trying to be his friend. This was all to keep the relationship going. Well this went on for at least 3 months then she met this other boy and started dating him and he was good for her in that they laughed together, but she broke up with him because she couldn't stop thinking about her X.

Gosh sorry to ramble, but she just won't let the relationship go and she is miserable. I have had endless talks with her and she just thinks she loves him and that is enough. They are talking again and now the fighting is starting all over again and hence the bad moods are starting again. She will literally scream and cry on her cell phone to him in her room for hours. I asked her to not do that in my house any longer, for the most part she respects that when I am not home.

Sometimes my youngest daughter tells me that she hears her when I am not home. There seems there is nothing I can do, so I have stayed completely out of it for months now, for nothing I said seemed to make a difference and it is her life, pushing 19 years old.

Is there any hope here, she seems stuck in this relationship and won't let it go for any reason. Literally she has wasted her entire senior year crying over him and not letting it go. Is this just par for the course?!

One of the reasons her dad and I want her to move out is because we can't stand the arguing that they do and how upset she is most of the time. I can tell you that things are better at home and in general, she does seem to respect what I ask of her.

She is seeing a counselor that I saw for awhile, he was the one that told her that pot smoking was not addictive!
UGH! I just hate that he told her that, cause now she thinks there is nothing wrong with the fact that her boyfriend smokes pot, cause a PHD told her that. Any suggestions would be great. Sorry so long—


She’s in an addictive relationship, for sure.

The only suggestion I have is for you to begin the process of helping her find her own place to live. Her romance difficulty is her problem, not yours. You’re doing the right thing by staying out of it. But she needs to move on – and she needs to move OUT. Not for YOUR benefit, but for HER benefit.

It seems askew to allow 1 kid to sour 3...

I appreciate your advice and your emails. I’ve got a situation that I’m sure others have gone thru. I have a 16 year old son who moved in with me 2 years ago after 14 years with his mom (we divorced when he was about 2). He’s going thru all of this defiance stuff. My biggest issues are the negative influences that he is creating for his 3 much younger siblings. The entire family dynamic and their behavior is changing for the worse while I try to work thru these issues with the teenager. It seems askew to allow 1 kid to sour 3. Any thoughts or suggestions would be appreciated. Thanks, A.R.


Behaviors are contagious. So your son’s defiance may very well “rub off” on your other kids at some level. But, let them know that if they choose to follow in their brother’s footsteps (e.g., to act-out in a particular way), they too will choose the resultant consequence.

Hey son ...I know you got emotional problems, but how about those Chicago Bulls?

Hi Mark I have read your ebook but I have a few questions. We just received our 16 yr old son's report card and to say the least, it is not good. I know that this needs to be his responsibility but he just won't do anything. He is failing the 3 classes where he has homework. The other 3 he is passing but only just. He seems to be refusing to put much effort into his schoolwork. How do we react to this??


 >>>>>>>>> Please refer to this section of the eBook for this problem: CLICK HERE 


I emailed you a while ago about how to handle moving with a 16 yr old as this is certainly a possibility due to a changing work situation for his Dad. Do you think this is partly a reaction to the move possibility or maybe depression?? 


 >>>>>>>> I think both, plus the fact that you may be taking on more responsibility for his schoolwork than he is (refer to the eBook section above). 


Anytime I try and talk with him about anything he just tells me to go away or to stop talking. I get a few moments here and there but not very often and certainly not enough time to discuss anything major. Any suggestions??  


>>>>>>> I don’t mean to be offensive here, but when parents “pry” into their child’s “biz” (e.g., asking “what’s wrong?” and so forth), it is very annoying to the kid. Do him a favor and don’t ask such questions. Do inquire about other things though – more positive stuff (e.g., “tell me about that movie you saw yesterday …was it any good?” …or “I heard that the Chicago Bulls and the Phoenix Suns took 2-0 leads in their opening round NBA playoff series last night …who are you going to root for this year?"). 


  >>>>>>>>>>> You get the idea – right mom? Just make stuff up …be creative. Use distraction, then use it again ...then use it some more a method to connect with your son on a more enjoyable level. 


Mark Hutten, M.A.

Twin Trouble

Hello Mark, Thank you for your site, interest and email. We are beginning to look through the material that we have printed off, and will begin the program on the weekend. We are uncertain as to our coping abilities if matters continue to deteriorate. At present, there is fluctuation between stable and intolerable. We have twin sons aged 17.5 years who have just had a scrape with the law. They are yet to pay for their crime with other boys also involved. As this is their first time, restorative justice conferencing has been offered rather than a charge with possible conviction or juvenile justice accommodations. We have removed them from the College environment and withheld internet and mobile phone, thus keeping them distant from their circle of friends. We are keeping them busy with hard work in the garden and one son has gained part-time employment on weekday evenings. I have been working with them to identify behaviours and habits that support their delinquency and undermine independence such as when they do something despite knowing that it is not allowed, knowing why it is not allowed, but going ahead and doing it anyway (e.g., eating pre-packaged foods intended for lunches away from home). I am encouraging them to take on the small steps at home that will break that habit and allow them to actively stop when something doesn't feel right rather than to continue anyway (which was the case in their criminal activity). Their father has been spending each weekend and last light evening hours working on more difficult tasks to teach them a range of physical skills. They were above average academically until sliding the slippery slope from Year 8 (second year of high school, aged 13-14). We have been told by some College teachers that a staggering one third of boys in the government schooling system slide out to a greater or lesser extent. They have always been strong willed and tended to bargain for a better deal whenever offered rewards. In recent years they have developed a non-compliant attitude. They have been unwilling to participate in household chores, unwilling to keep themselves or their environment clean, and have taken greater freedoms than allowed at the same time as refusing to accept the full consequences of their actions. At College, they both do not link the consequences of being late, unprepared for lesson, or skipping classes with their failure to do well enough to gain a Certificate. 


It has been since they were babies, that when one son is behaving well, they will 'tag off' with the one that isn't, which keeps an unstable atmosphere continuing; or both will act up together. There has been far less frequent times when all is smooth. Since early high school, they have both been very secretive about the friends they keep, never allowing their friends to come home to our house, always going out instead. If a friend does turn up, they are ushered away by one or both of our sons. One boy that was dropped off by his parents (unexpectedly for us) was taken to the bus stop by one of our sons (again, secretively so we did not find out until the boy was on his way). Our sons had kept the game that this boy had brought with him. Their communication skills have always been poor, with an unwieldiness to communicate or interact with visitors to the home (disappearing to their rooms or elsewhere out of sight). When little, we undertook some speech therapy to help them say the ends of words. During this last year, we suspect that our eldest twin is showing some signs of developing a bipolar disorder. This same boy was beginning to stutter in early childhood, which we were able to successfully divert. The techniques that I used to confront the stuttering are not as powerful to pull him out of his angry/unreasonable periods. I suppose our first question is in relation to our own plans for purchasing into a new Franchise business with the potential for our sons to join and perhaps eventually even take it over. We are seriously investigating a particular Franchise as a major part of our retirement plans. From your experience, can you offer an opinion on whether keeping them close to us would be the best way forward (as it has been in the short-term) or could it turn out to be counterproductive in the long term? Please let us know if you have questions for us and if we should look at a phone consultation (from ACT, Australia) to follow on. Regards, K. & M. 


Hi K. & M.,

As you will learn from reading my eBook, self-reliance is key (I won’t go into that here). However – and this is a BIG however – if your son has bipolar, then I have to take a different stance. Bipolar teens do not do well away from their familiar caretakers (i.e., they tend to self-medicate their bipolar symptoms with illicit mood-altering chemicals). Thus, I think it would be in your eldest son’s best interest for you to keep him “in the fold” so to speak. This goes contrary to the business of “fostering the development of self-reliance,” but in the case of Bipolar Disorder, the parent should make sure her adult-child is stabilized from a medical standpoint first. Then – and only then – can the child “launch” into the real world and away from parental monitoring. Get a good diagnosis to see if he is, in fact, bipolar. If so, his psychiatrist will need about one year of experimentation to find the right combination and dosage of meds. 

What did I miss here?

I’ve answered below where you see these arrows >>>>>>>>>>

Hello Mark,

My 13-year old son is acting out again. I've set rules. He signed a contract for school and home behavior. Of course he now knows he is grounded. It started this way.

My high school reunion was held in my city. I've planned for my children to meet with my close friends at a dinner held at a friend's house. D___, my 13-year old is fully aware of this. On the day of the occasion he made excuses not to go. He doesn't know anyone there …he'll be totally out of place, etc. He made things so difficult. He brought his pillow and blanket in the car threatening he won't go out of the car at all. I told him we already made this plan and there's no changing it at the last minute. I refused to be drawn into an argument because he is good at this. He made true his threat. His brother in college later on stopped by to join the group, came up to the car to talk to D___ but to no avail. He stood his ground.

>>>>>>>>>>> This falls into the “pick your battles carefully” category. You have bigger fish to fry than getting your son to meet your high school friends. Don’t go lookin’ for trouble with an out-of-control teen (unless you have a lot of time & energy to fight every battle that comes down the pike).

We went home. I haven't spoken to him yet but neither did I do anything. I unplugged the Wii Nintendo he loved playing. Because I still have to be with friends, I left him home telling him he cannot go out to join his friends nor will he go to his sports activity. He is a very stubborn kid who only wants to do what pleases him. I tell him to do his chores. He says yes but ended up not doing them. I thought I was following your book's recommendation. What did I miss here?

>>>>>>>>>>> I’m glad you asked. That tells me you are an invested parent. I think what happened is that you set up a situation in which there was no pay off for your son. He had nothing to gain by going to the reunion.

>>>>>>>>>>> I’m not sure I would have asked him to go in the first place (easy for me to say after the fact). In the future, when it’s important that he go with you to a particular function, but he decides not to join in the festivities, just allow him to experience a natural consequence (i.e., he sits in the car the whole time – how boring is that? – quite boring!). Alternatively, you could promise a reward if he chooses to join in (e.g., “if you go to this party with me, you can have a friend spend the night and we’ll order a pizza).


Then he aimed a plunger at my head, which hit me...

I’ve answered below where you see these arrows >>>>>>>>>>

I should be calling our state police because my son's therapists want me to for any kind of angry, violent acts including throwing a wad of paper at me. But I'm afraid they would just laugh and not come in a real emergency.

>>>>>>>>>>>>> Calling the police would be a waste of time, but you should go to your local probation department and file a battery charge. Allow me to repeat this: you should go to your local probation department and file a battery charge! If you don’t, then you will be attempting to “save” your son from emotional pain associated with his poor choices – a form of over-indulgence.

>>>>>>>>>>>>> If you read the Anger Management chapter of the Online Version of my eBook, then you’ll see that you have reached the highest level possible on the anger ladder:

6th - Physical violence enters the picture here. This violence may be partially controlled because the kid knows what he is doing, even though later he might claim it was an accident. The kid plans to stop when he gets his way …if the parent gives in, he’ll back off.

Some of the things that may occur in this last stage:
· destruction of property
· domestic battery
· cops are called – sometimes by the kid
· parent files incorrigibility charge
· kid may not be conscious of his actions
· kid may become suicidal
· he may physically hurt the parent

My son began his escalation an hour ago by smoking in his bedroom. I smelled smoke, went to him and reminded him of the no smoking in the house rule. He then began ranting about his ability to do anything he wants. I can’t stop him, etc. I kept my poker face and he got more mad because I wasn't engaging so he spit on the floor at my feet. Then he aimed a plunger at my head, which hit me. I told him that was totally unacceptable and he kept screaming all kinds of obscenities at me, leaving the room and crawling onto my bed quietly just as quickly as he escalated.

15 mins later he is trying to talk to me as if nothing happened...This kind of thing hasn't happened in many weeks and I know he is incredibly frustrated with his school program and has become quite depressed. Psychiatrist and I are in frequent communication but what to do to address this need for control. Thanks.

>>>>>>>>>>>>> I have nothing to add other than what I’ve stated above.

>>>>>>>>>>>>> YOU NEED BACKUP in the form of probation. Parents must have a “zero-tolerance-policy” when it comes to domestic battery by a child.

Could the Meningitis be causing this Bipolar disorder?

I have worked with foster children for fifteen years, several with bipolar disorder …so I have dealt with these kids for years. So that is why I requested your book. But most recently my adult son has just recently been diagnosed …he has been very difficult to talk to. He is on medication, and seeing a doctor but it hasn't helped much. His behavior is overwhelming his wife and children. We can't seem to reach him, or are afraid to try.

My question is, when he was 10 months old he had viral meningitis and was very ill. At five years of age the doctors thought he had Muscular Dystrophy, because his muscles were so weak,, and still are. But, now I see from research that this was damage was most likely due from the Meningitis. Could the Meningitis also be causing this Bipolar disorder? What would you recommend we do?



Hi L.,

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, bipolar disorder would NOT be diagnosed if the individual in question had developed a mood disorder as a direct result of some medical, neurological, or infectious disease process that had affected her brain. In such a case, the correct diagnosis would be, "Mood Disorder Due to General Medical Condition".

So he might get a diagnosis of "psychosis due to a general medical condition” (his meningitis). Or the doctor might consider a diagnosis of bipolar disorder, which could have been "latent" and triggered by his meningitis.

In either case, the symptoms should be treated (in his case, some behavior changes that sound potentially "bipolar-like" treated with "anti-psychotics" and "mood stabilizers" respectively).

So we have a clear trigger by an infection, but also the possibility that something was "latent" before the infection.

Recommendation: He should try medication approaches ‘as if’ he has bipolar disorder.

I don't think I could follow through with calling the police...

I read what you suggest in the area of alcohol [viewed here]. I don't think I could follow through with calling the police and turning her in for under aged drinking ...a record of this kind is part of what we're trying to avoid ….along with the obviously safety issues. Do you have any other suggestions or do you believe that's the only thing that could possibly help?


Do I have any other suggestions? Are you kiddin' me?

Absolutely not!!!

I'm going to have to be a bit blunt here:

You are trying to save your daughter from painful emotions associated with her poor choices. This is a "traditional" parenting strategy that WILL cause you more problems -- I guarantee it.

I can see you have a way to go yet with the business of tough love.


P.S. You just got a dose of tough love yourself.

My Out of Control Teen

Let's Trouble-Shoot

Dear Mark,

I have a 13 year old adopted daughter. She is the youngest of 6 children, 2 biological and 4 adopted. We were foster parents for many years and therefore have had much experience with children, both well adjusted and troubled.

She is very bright and very athletic. She is in the 7th grade taking accelerated classes and has been on the honor role. She excels in sports also.

We noticed a difference in her a few years back and for the last 3 years her behavior at home has been on a steady decline. She has been able to keep things together outside the home but I'm not sure for how long. We had been in counseling 2 1/2 years with poor results and have recently started it again due to a suggestion from the local hospital behavioral unit, which she spent 4 days in March. This was her first hospitalization, but fear it will not be her last.

Her behaviors have escalated to property destruction and physical retaliation. She refuses to admit anything is wrong and she feels we are the problem since she does well everywhere else. If we try to talk to her she screams shut-up the entire time and if we don't or argue with her this is when she destroys things in the house and then says it our fault because we wouldn't leave her alone. Our house is a time bomb.

She has been diagnosed with ODD and I feel there is much more going on than that. A few years back she was diagnosed with ODD, depression, and attachment issues. We tried medication for the depression but she would not take it and states she will not take any meds now. We can't force her to do this, so I do not feel any amount of counseling will help if she first doesn't admit there is a problem.

I have been a member of the Online Support for a while now and know your views on sending children away, but I don't know how much longer we'll be able to tolerate this in the house without my husband or I having a heart attack or stoke with all the explosions and non-compliance.

Yes, I have read the print version and listened to 90% of the online version and have tried to implement as many of the suggestions as possible. I know there is never a quick fix, and I know with attachment issues it would be in her best interest for her to be stable in our house, but I have to consider more than just her.

I have read it would be better for her to consider a boarding school rather than a residential treatment center, but usually the student needs to fill out some of the application and have an interview, and I fear she will sabotage this. I'm also concerned we will not be able to afford this and was wondering if you have any other suggestions for financial help. I really would like to research this and not have to make a split decision that might not be the best for our daughter.

I would appreciate any help you can give on this matter. Any questions you can email or call me.

Thanks in advance,



Hi Frustrated,

Well first, it’s clear to me that you need some outside assistance. If you haven’t done so already, and if you live in the U.S., go to your local Juvenile Probation Department and file an incorrigibility complaint. Then your daughter will be assigned a Probation Officer who can help you with services.

Second, allow me to share with you what I see in those cases where parents seem to have difficulty getting 'off the ground' with these parenting techniques:

Some parents have always been indecisive about what course of action to try with their child. They jump from one parenting technique to the other without giving any one technique enough time to be effective, or they try a new parenting technique once and then give up in frustration because it didn't work fast enough.

Some parents will say, "We've tried everything and nothing works with this kid." On rare occasion, this may be true. What I usually see is parents drifting from one parenting tool to another without refining their parenting tools.

Here are several ways to refine:

---Realize the same discipline may not work for all children, because of the unique features of different children

---Try to blend a combination of several parenting tools to create a more effective discipline

---Don't believe it when your children seem unaffected by discipline. Children often pretend discipline doesn't bother them. Continue to be persistent with your planned discipline, and consider yourself successful by keeping your parenting plan in place. When children pretend a discipline doesn't bother them, parents often give up on a discipline, which reinforces the child's disobedience. Remember, you can only control your actions, not your children's reactions.

Let's trouble-shoot.

Below is a summary of all the assignments I gave you in My Out-of-Control Teen eBook. If parents do not implement ALL of these assignments, it will be the "kiss of failure." For example, the transmission in your car has hundreds of parts, but if just one little tiny part is not working -- the whole transmission does not work. The same is true with this "parent program." Omit just one strategy, and the whole plan falls through the floor.

1. Are you asking your daughter at least one question each day that cannot be answered with a simple "yes" or a "no" to demonstrate that you are interested in what is going on in her life? (page 20 of the printable version of eBook)

2. Are you saying to your child "I love you" everyday and expecting nothing in return? (page 20)

3. Are you eating dinner together at least one evening each week -- either at home or out? (page 20)

4. Do you use "The Art of Saying Yes" whenever your answer is yes? (page 25)

5. Do you use "The The Art of Saying - and Sticking With - No" whenever your answer is no? (page 25)

6. Do you catch your daughter in the act of doing something right at least once each day? (page 25)

7. Do you use the "When You Want Something From Your Kid" approach as needed? (page 31)

8. Do you give your child at least one chore each day? (page 31)

9. Do you find something fun to do with your teen each week? (page 54)

10. Do you use the "I noticed ...I felt ...Listen" approach when something unexpected pops-up? (bottom of page 50)

11. When you are undecided about what to say or do in any particular situation, are you asking yourself the following question: "Will this promote the development of self-reliance in my child, or will this inhibit the development of self-reliance?" If it is supportive of self-reliance, say it or do it. If it is not supportive, don't!

12. Is your daughter EARNING ALL of her stuff and freedom? (see "Self-Reliance Cycle" - page 19)

If you answered "no" to any of the above, you are missing some important pieces to the puzzle. Most parents DO miss a few pieces initially -- you can't be expected to remember everything! But don't get frustrated and give up. We must be willing to hang in there for the long haul.

I'm talking about refinement here. Refinement is a necessary tool to use in order to truly be successful with these parenting strategies.

HERE IS THE GOOD NEWS: Parents who refine are, on average, 95% - 100% successful at getting the parent-child difficulties reduced in intensity and severity (i.e., the problems are easily managed).

The same can be true in your case. Keep up the good work. Please continue to refine by emailing me again. Refinement is a process, not a one-time event.

We have been having a fair amount of difficulty...

Hi T.,

==> I’ve responded to your comments below.

I have just finished reading and listening to the info on this website. I purchased for myself and my ex-husband for help with our 16 year old daughter. She is an excellent student, all county athlete, does not skip school or some of the other things you describe as behavior that parents are trying to change.

We have been having a fair amount of difficulty with her not telling the truth in order to do things she doesn't want to tell us about.

==> Here’s suggestions re: lying:

And we've had several incidents of drinking an excessive amount of alcohol.

==> Here’s suggestions re: teen alcohol drinking:

The most recent incident occurred 1 week ago. She left to "go to her boyfriends house", she checked in as usual around 10pm, asked if she could stay to watch a movie they were just going to start. I allowed her to stay as long as she was home before midnight (her curfew).

==> Hold up. What did she do to earn this privilege?

At 12:15 she still wasn't phone call. I started trying to call her cell phone, boyfriends cell phone, friends cell phone. Finally got one of her friends who said she had just left and should be home any minute. So ...broke curfew, lied about where she was, and although not visually drunk, I could smell alcohol. She admitted to having a vodka drink and having driven her boyfriend home and then herself.

I am guilty of many of the bad parenting techniques that you mentioned. I am particularly guilty in over-indulgence

==> This isn’t about guilt or blaming. Guilt is a potential obstacle to success, because when we as parents feel guilty about or parenting, we tend to try to compensate by becoming too lenient again as a way to alleviate the guilt (i.e., over-indulgence).

...I see now how I need to change that. I give and trust waaaay too much. I have done a pretty good job in trying to "discipline" rather than "punish" and her dad and I (we have been divorced for 10 years) disagree on how to deal with her poor decisions. He wants to come down hard on her and try to control her activities and basically try to "change" her. I fight against that because I know it won't work and could cause more damage than good.

==> You’re right!
==> Effective Disciplinary Techniques for Defiant Teens and Preteens 

My suggested consequences for the latest incident was ...loss of the car (she has had exclusive use of a family car) for 1 month.

==> Too long.

When I told her father about the incident he wanted to go further and add being grounded from friends and boyfriend for the entire month as well ...along with not being able to go to the prom which is even outside of the one month. I strongly disagree with this.

==> So do I.

I was willing to compromise and add the month of being grounded to, as he puts it "make it painful" but wanted to keep the prom out.

==> A month is too long (as you read in the ebook, right?)

He has insisted on not allowing her to go to the prom and because he will have our daughters that weekend, he can control whether she goes or not.

His wife has been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder and we have been going through some very difficult times between households. The girls were unable to spend any time in their home a few months ago because of the angry and unpredictable environment there. Things have improved somewhat and they are back on a regular schedule. Part of the problems between the households is that the 16 year old seems to get into more trouble (or at least I catch her more often) when she is in my custody. They feel that because I allow her too much freedom, she is making bad choices. They want to take the freedom away so she can't make the bad choices. I completely disagree.

Anyway can kind of see the pattern here. I am pursuing action to get full legal custody of the 16 year old. I believe that this conflict between households and lack of consistency is extremely bad for her and it puts all of us in constant turmoil. We share joint custody right now, which does not give either one of us final decision making authority so we are constantly arguing. Even if I would lose a custody battle and he would get "final say", I believe that would be better for her than this stressful situation that we all live in. In an attempt to avoid the legal battle, I suggested two days ago that her dad and I seek counseling to help us come to common ground in getting our daughters through these challenging teen years. 
We have a 13 year old as well. Even if we could use a counselor as a mediator to break dead locks when we have them. He's "considering" the idea. I have been searching and reading as much as I can on the subject and am more convinced than ever that his method of "control" and punishment are not going to work for our girls ...especially the 16 year old who's personality is much stronger and free willed than the 13 year old.

That’s how I came upon your website. I'm going to share this site with my ex later today and hope that it will be helpful to us. Do you have any other suggestions for me? I've expressed my concern to their dad and have told him my legal plans. He's digging his heals in and refuses to work with me. He says I'm foolish to pursue this "over the prom".

==> Are you in a power struggle with him over this prom thing? Kinda sounds like it.

I see it as a much bigger issue and one that is going to be around for many years. Any suggestions you have for me would be greatly appreciated. Thanks for the help you've already provided through this sight.

==> A weaker plan supported by you AND your ex will be much better than a stronger plan supported by only you.

==> Effective Disciplinary Techniques for Defiant Teens and Preteens

Don't "Half-Ass" The Program


Here are some questions:

1. How long do most teens need before you see some improvement?
2. How long do most use this silent treatment for?
3. I have been looking at these brat camp/wilderness camps. What are your thoughts on those?



Re: How long do most teens need before you see some improvement?

It all depends on how much you are applying the principles outlined in the ebook. Parents who do not “half-ass” the program usually begin to experience success within the first week. What I see most often, however, is the parent skims through the printable version of the ebook and then tries to wing it. This is the kiss of failure. A better approach is to read the printable version followed by reading the online version and listening to ALL the audio files.

Re: How long do most use this silent treatment for?
As long as he has resentment flu.

Re: I have been looking at these brat camp/wilderness camps. What are your thoughts on those?

I don’t recommend either. However, boarding schools might be a consideration. 

He used a condom...

Hello Mark,

I have a question concerning my son, age 15. He is still living with his Dad and pretty much doing what he pleases, at least the way I see it. Whenever I do see him, he gets angry when I ask him any questions about anything, school, activities, etc. He claims that he has talked with his father so everything is fine. My question is do I have any parenting rights now that he is there?

My son did call me a couple of weeks ago because he and his girlfriend had sex and they were afraid she may be pregnant, even though he used a condom. I talked to him about this and promised I wouldn't tell his father and kept that promise. His Dad and her Mom allow him to spend the night at her house, which is totally out of the question at my house. I know that because of my rules, he will probably never come back here but the bottom line is, do I still have any rights?

I'm just sick over this whole thing and am very worried about his safety among other things.

Thanks Mark,



The Supreme Court has ruled that parents have a fundamental right to control the upbringing and education of their children. Parents have a constitutional right to direct and control the upbringing of their children, and laws or governmental actions that unreasonably infringe the rights of parents to raise and educate their children according to their own values are constitutionally suspect.

Having parental responsibility means that you have the right to make important decisions about your child's life in areas like medical treatment and education. But it also means that you have responsibilities. You have a duty to care for and protect the child.

You should re-think your choice to keep your son’s sexual activity a secret from his father (unless you and he want to share in the responsibility of raising a grandchild).

Plus, I can’t believe that his Dad and her Mom allow him to spend the night at her house – that’s incredibly negligent parenting. Unfortunately, I don’t think you’ll be able to control this situation. So this falls into the category of “letting go.”

She is going to make her life very hard by being a teen parent?

I didn't see anything in your program about teen parents. My 15-year-old daughter was pregnant and lost her baby, and she is determined to get pregnant again. How can I help her see that she is going to make her life very hard by being a teen parent?

I had my first child at 19, so I remember how hard it was, and I have been a single mom for 8 years now, so I know how hard single parenting is too.

My fear is that I will end up raising her baby. I'm 45 now and I've had a child at home since I was 19, and I don't want to spend the next 20 years raising another one.

Her stepsister had her first at 15 and her second at 19. Her cousin had two before she was 17. I guess they think this is normal or something. Being a single parent is so hard financially and emotionally and the kids all think it's just a big joke.

I was really encouraged by your program, by the way. I noticed a couple of things in it that I am already doing, and that made me feel a little better about my parenting skills.


Hi D.,

I often get emails from teen parents. I've taken the liberty of sharing a few with you below (without their names of course).

You may want to ask your daughter if she would have any interest in reading these:

==> I got pregnant a month before my 17th birthday. My son's father and I got married five months ago and we're already separated. I live in an emergency shelter for teen moms. I raise my son alone. My son will be a year old next week. In his whole life, his father has only taken care of him by himself one time. He does not pay me child support...I have only been out once without him. The rest of the time he goes everywhere with me. I only get four hours of sleep at night. I have no money because I quit work to go back to school, and I'm not on public aid at the moment. I miss my friends. I don't see them anymore because they have their own lives. All I do is sit at home...I love my son more than anything in the world, but it would have been a lot better if this had happened when I was like 27 instead of 17.

==> At age sixteen, I became pregnant. Before my pregnancy, I was a cheerleader and involved with many school clubs. I had many friends and was enjoying my teenage years. I now ask myself, "What happened to me? Where did I go wrong?" Why was I now standing in line at the welfare office waiting for food stamps? Maybe because I was involved with a guy who was three years older than myself. My parents had forbid me to stay in the abusive relationship. My answer to stay with this guy was to become pregnant. I will never forget the tears that my mother shed when my step-father told her the news. That night, I left my home, my teenage years, and never went back...[A while later,] I finally reached the lowest point in my life. There I was lying in a bed at a shelter for battered women. In the past, I would always leave the relationship [with the baby's father], but always return. That same night, I prayed for the strength and courage to get myself back on my feet. That was also the night that I left him and never went back. Even though my life seems to be going well now, there are emotional scars that I will carry with me each and every day of my life. There is not a day that goes by that I do not think about my past mistakes. This letter is not in any way intended to prove how teen mothers can succeed, but rather to prove how one mistake can change the rest of your life! Enjoy your teen years! I never went to my prom; I never got to cheer at homecoming; I never went on my senior cruise; I never went off to college. These things I will never have the opportunity to do again, but you will. Please, think twice before change the rest of your life!

==> Hi. ... I am an 18-year-old mother of a one and half year old son from Indiana.... I come from a small town where everyone knows everyone. I was very involved in high school with Cheerleading, national honors society, church, sadd, golf, save and many other groups. I was your average American teenage girl. I would say I came off to be a very confidant young lady. When I started my freshman year i got a boyfriend who was a senior. First mistake. After 2 months of dating we started having sex. We used protection when we had it but other times just didn't worry about it. I don't know what I was thinking. Getting pregnant never crossed my mind because you know it can't happen to me. But it did. Since then i got my GED and started college two years early and am doing very well. One thing that really bothers me is how my son's father has paid one month of child support and has only had one court date and no jail time. Not to mention he will come and visit him once a week for about a month then stop and wait about 9 months and start again and then just stop. no phone calls to see how he is doing or if he is even okay. I just think it is crazy how these guys can get off the hook. If i didn't take care of my son the way i do, i would be put in jail immediately and he would be put in foster care. It's not fair and our court system does nothing about it. Well i just wanted to write in my story. Right now I am becoming an advocate to teenagers about sex. I can speak from my own experience and help them. I personally think it’s hard to listen to someone who has not been through the struggles they try to warn you about.

Whose Problem Is It?

Hi Mark,

A million thanks!!! I had a thought/question. I know that I asked about R___'s responsibility for owning his acne regimen. Think your counsel was to leave it up to him 100% ...the work and the obvious natural consequences of not complying. Now here is a case where he DOES have a vested interest in the outcome and to date has done NOTHING.

A thought?

I think he is ADD and very easily discouraged. To date the various acne regimens have either not worked or temporarily made things worse …so my fear is that he has just given up. I KNOW this plays a BIG role in his self-esteem and mood as there is a DIRECT and understandable correlation between when this flares up and his poor attitude. Given all of this what would you think of this?

Create a chart for HIM and leave it with HIM in his room. The steps (there are a few?!) and a place for him to record observations and goals. That way he can say ...ok ...I did all of this and it got worse for 2 weeks ...but I did not expect to see improvement until week 4 I have to stay the course and then re-evaluate? Then we would tell him that he needs to have this filled-in before he sees the doctor again?

I have an appt scheduled that I will cancel it is so wasteful to go and have him tell them he did nothing or he lies and says he did? But I hate to see him in so much emotional pain needlessly?! So this way he can EARN the next doc visit and hopefully ultimately success?

Let me know if I am starting to get this?

Thanks SO much!!!


You are definitely “starting to get this” (i.e., you’re thinking like I want you to think). But I still believe you’re taking on too much responsibility for HIS acne. If you want to throw this acne problem into the “chores” category, then I like your ideas. But I’m not sure that this is a ‘chore’ in the fullest sense of the term (we got some gray area here).

You said “he DOES have a vested interest in the outcome.” -- I’m not sure about this.

If I had a toothache and wanted to get rid of the pain, I don’t think I would just hope for it to go away. I’d go to the dentist, take the antibiotic he prescribed to get the abscessed tooth (i.e., infection) under control, then I would go back to have the tooth extracted. It’s my problem, my pain – and my solution.

Also, you said “this [acne problem] plays a BIG role in his self-esteem and mood.”

This sounds a bit too much like trying to find an excuse for his disrespect/poor choices (assuming some of that is going on). Does it [acne] really affect his self-esteem? Of course. But low self-esteem is no justification for any behavior problems he may be exhibiting.

I’d give your idea about the charts a try. If it is just another failed attempt (i.e., traditional parenting strategy) at addressing HIS problem, then “let go” of it (like we talked about in the last email).


I made a new online friend...

Thanks Mark,

And I want to thank you for taking the time to talk with me last week.
It's been a rough week in the sense that my son is not the happiest camper, but I truly felt empowered, especially after talking with you.

I think we've made some headway and I think he's realizing that he's becoming an adult and has a responsibility to me and our household.

Oh and by the way, I made a new online friend later that day on your site. I chatted with a parent of a soon to be 18 year old, her name is Vicki and she's in Arizona. She and I have been chatting since that day and she's helped me out with a few suggestions on how to cope.

For you and her, I'll forever be grateful to have you both in my life during this trying time.

Thanks again and I'll be in touch!


Parent of a now 17-year-old young man

Join Online Parent Support

Can I Get a Certificate?

Hi S.

I've answered each of your questions below:

1) Is the e-book set up so that I must listen/observe 90 minute sessions on the computer at one sitting, or is it self-paced?

==> You go at your own pace.

2) Are all 4 sessions available to me at one time once I pay.

==> Yes.

3) Is there a certificate that you provide to parents or others who have worked through the workshops either on or offline?

==> Yes. When you feel you are ready to take a short easy quiz, just email and tell me you want to take the quiz so you can receive the certificate (it's an open ebook quiz by the way). Then I'll give you the quiz (via email), grade it, and send you your certificate (via email).


PC Tattletail

Also I am looking for some software to monitor my children's activity on the internet.
Any suggestions???

I am also thinking of disabling my daughters myspace account, as she has even had horrible arguments with friends on this site, which resulted in her taking off...
I do attempt to stand for a moment to monitor what they are doing, and get SCREAMED at as well as cursed at "you are so stupid, LEAVE ME ALONE!!" Horrible to have your child screaming at you and to have the tail wag the dog...




Hi K.

Here's what I use in my house: PC-Tattletale Parental Control Software

How do I get my over-achieving daughter to slow down?

"I have taken the quiz and surprisingly found that I was a severely over indulgent parent. This angers me because I didn't think...