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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.

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