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Out of Control Teens

Hi Mark,

I'm the step-father of two teenage boys, ages 17 and 15. Their mom and I have been married for 5 years. Both boys decided that they weren't interested in academics (duh) and began failing their classes. We pulled them from public school and put then into on-line school. Even with the reduced studying demands they continue to perform poorly.

A___ routinely ignores his curfew and C___ has a significant problem with truthfulness. Both are in trouble with the authorities. I have 3 court dates this month alone. His mom and I have been working on the 3-day-grounding rule, but even that gets ignored.

We need to have some sort of significant wake-up call that doesn't alienate them. I told their mom that a few days or months behind bars might be just what they need -- she's concerned that they'll just increase in their poor behavioral choices.

Any suggestions?


Hi S.,

You’ve raised 5 issues: poor academic performance, curfew violation, lying, legal difficulties, and refusing to accept consequences.

1. Re: Poor academic performance—Please refer to my recommendation on the webpage entitled “Emails From Exasperated Parents” (online version of the eBook).

2. Re: Curfew violation—If your son is required to be home by a particular time and he does not come home, then he is considered to be a ‘runaway.’ File a ‘runaway complaint’ with police as well as juvenile probation.

3. Re: Lying—Please refer to “When Your Kid Lies” (online version of the eBook).

4. Re: Legal difficulties—I’m glad you are getting assistance from Juvenile Court. This will be a good thing. I’d rather your sons experience some mild, short-term pain now (in the form of probation) rather than a lot of major, long-term pain later (possibly in the form of adult jail – or worse yet, prison).

5. Re: Refusing to accept consequences—Again, if a child is unwilling to accept consequences for misbehavior, the parent has to be willing to enlist the help of an outsider (i.e., probation).


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The Strong-Willed Out-of-Control Teen

The standard disciplinary techniques that are recommended for “typical” teenagers do not take into account the many issues facing teens with serious behavioral problems. Disrespect, anger, violent rages, self-injury, running away from home, school failure, hanging-out with the wrong crowd, drug abuse, theft, and legal problems are just some of the behaviors that parents of defiant teens will have to learn to control.

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