I miss my little girl!

My daughter is 13 years old. Her father and I are divorced, we are doing our best to co-parent but it is very difficult. She lives with her father.

I miss my little girl! She is disrespectful to me and her father, uses vulgar language, she makes the "plans" for the weekend. When I tell her we are going to go do something she always says she can't because she has plans with her friends. I have lost all control of her and she runs the show.

How can we, her parents, regain the respect? We want to be good parents but we have had that taken away from us by a 13 year old girl.

Please contact me.

Thank-You for your time,



Hi S.,

I really want to do whatever will be in your best interest. Thus, the best advice I can give you at this point (since you just joined yesterday) is to simply work through the four-week program. Only do one session per week – nothing more! If we try to implement a bunch of new parenting changes too quickly, it will backfire.

I’m not trying to avoid answering your questions. However, since the question you listed in your email will be answered directly in the eBook (mostly in the Online Version), and since the program is designed to take baby-steps toward change, I would encourage you to resist your impulse to leap through the program in search of the “magic bullet.” Instead, enjoy the process of working through each session – one session at a time. The results you so desperately desire will come independent of your striving for them. Patience is “key” right now.

Rest assured, you WILL get the answers you need to be successful with this program, but when the timing is right. I want to save you from rushing into things, and then failing. Are you o.k. with this for now?

Your daughter is 13-years-old -- it has taken 13 years for the problems to get to this point. So it is going to take at least a few weeks to get the problems reversed.

We must implement change gradually because change is tough. People don’t like change, and kids will totally reject parenting changes if they occur too fast. (This isn’t to say that you won’t notice any improvements in your child’s behavior fairly quickly though.)

As you work through the program, email me as needed for clarification about the strategies outlined in the eBook. Then after the four-week program (after you have digested most of the material), email me as often as needed with specific questions regarding any parent-child difficulty you may still be struggling with.

Waiting to hear back,



Dear Mark,

Thank-you for the advice. I purchased the ebook and the CD's. I went through part of the first session last night. Her father did too, he took the over indulgence quiz and scored a 70. He had our daughter "help" him with the questions. I'm not sure how I feel about that.

I am taking the quiz now.

I appreciate your feedback and will take baby steps with this program.

I have a paper fortune from a fortune cookie taped to my monitor that reads "Good things come to those who wait. Be patient." It now means more to me than ever!




Hi S.,

Thank you for being a good student. We will work together over the next several weeks/months as needed.


My Out-of-Control Teen

He continues to say he will be able to graduate but continues to go out with friends at night rather than focus on school...

Hi Mark, I wanted to get some final advice from you relative to my soon to be 18 year old son. Your website advise was great and the personality traits you explain have been dead on. I think we learned this a bit late in the game though. We are at the point where it is highly unlikely that he will graduate. He continues to say he will be able to graduate but continues to go out with friends at night rather than focus on school. We have not planned for any grad events and I do admit to feeling guilty as this should be such a wonderful time of his life. 

==> MORE...

re: "She'd been telling me to shut-up..."

PARENT: "Hi Mark-me again from Australia. I have a question about consequences. Anna has been particularly difficult of late and has received two consequences for disrespect and rudeness. I took her favourite toy away for 3 days and then her portable DVD player for 3 days. The rudeness has continued and after giving her another warning yesterday (she'd been telling me to shut-up when I was talking to her). I told her if she continued, she couldn't go and stay at her Nanna's for the weekend as had been planned. She became very upset (sobbing and yelling) and asked me to change the consequence but I said no. The problem I have is that I feel like her Nanna will miss out on seeing her and perhaps I should have thought of something else. My husband wasn't home and he is cross 'cause it's his mother! Can she earn back the right to go or do I have to carry this through? Thanks L."


Great question. 

Answer: You must carry this through. Let me say this again, you must carry this through. When parents issue a discipline, and then later retract it, the child’s misbehavior is reinforced, thus he/she will continue to push the parent the same way again in the future. You found a wonderful consequence by the way …your daughter really values seeing her Nanna. 

Now does Nanna suffer as a result of this consequence? Well, "suffer" is a big word. All family members have a responsibility to a solution to the problems. Better that all family members, including Nanna and your husband, experience some short-term, minor pain now rather than long-term, major pain later. 



PARENT: "Thanks Mark, I've spoken to A___'s Nanna and she is fine with no visit and carrying through the consequence. Thank you for telling me I'd done the right thing-it gets very hard as a parent and your support and non-judgmental attitude are much appreciated by me. L."

==> JOIN Online Parent Support

Son Refusing To Attend School

"We are at a loss as to what to do with our son. He refused to go to school in 8th grade. Too much to that story to even begin to tell. Now at the end of 10th grade he is doing the same thing. He is passing right now. He wants expensive things …says things like if you lease an expensive car I'll go to school. Embarrassed by us, we don't have enough money, big screen tv and such. We froze his cell phone and took away the computer hoping to motivate him. He said he was going to go to school tomorrow, but now that we did that … forget it. He says he hates us and is going to get a full time job and never go back to school. We explained there is not a big job market for newly 16 year old high school drop outs. Please help ASAP the last days of school are ticking away, with the first final tomorrow. The rest of the finals to start June 12. Thank You, S.N."


Hi S.,

Sometimes teens who were previously able to attend school regularly will suddenly become anxious and fearful. A recent crisis in the community or the family (such as a death, divorce, financial problems, move, etc.) may cause a teen to become fearful or anxious. Some teens fear that something terrible will happen at home while they are at school. 
Teens who are struggling in school with academic or social problems may also refuse to attend school. Many teens have social concerns and may have been teased or bullied at school or on the way to school. Some neighborhoods or schools are unsafe or chaotic.

Still other teens prefer to stay home because they can watch TV, have parental attention, and play rather than work in school. Teens who are transitioning (e.g., from middle school to high school) may feel very stressed. All of these factors may lead to the development of school refusal/avoidance.

If complaints of illness are the excuse for not attending school, have your son checked by your doctor. If there is no medical reason to be absent, your son should be at school.

Attempt to discover if there is a specific problem causing the refusal. Sometimes the teen feels relief just by expressing concerns about friends or school expectations. If your son is able to pinpoint a specific concern (such as worry about tests, teasing, etc.), then immediately talk to his teacher about developing an appropriate plan to solve the problem.

Some common sense strategies to try include having another family member bring him to school, or if he does stay home - then rewards such as snacking, TV, toys or parental attention should be eliminated. A school schedule may be duplicated at home.

However, if he is extremely upset, if he needs to be forced to attend school, if there is significant family stress, or if the refusal to attend school is becoming habitual, don’t hesitate in asking for assistance from the school psychologist, school counselor or other mental health professionals.

Treatment depends upon the causes, which can be difficult to determine. Many children may have started to avoid school for one reason (e.g., fear of being disciplined by a teacher, feeling socially inadequate) but are now staying home for another reason (e.g., access to video games, lack of academic pressure, etc.). 
Several treatment plans may need to be tried. Helping your son to relax, develop better coping skills, improve social skills, using a contract and getting help with parenting or family issues are all examples of possible treatments.

Mark Hutten, M.A.

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

My daughter stole my car! What to do?

Recently I became the recipient of a $720 phone bill, courtesy of my 15 year old daughter, A___. After confronting A___ about her phone usage I asked her to give me her phone. She refused and a short while later left the house, presumably to gather her wits. A short while later my wife noticed my car was missing. My daughter had taken my car! My daughter does not have a driver's permit or insurance. A short time later my daughter called us from her friend's house, about 5 miles away. She was safe, and so was the car. In the meantime we had called the police. We knew she had to face consequences for her actions. The police officer explained that we had several choices on how to proceed with a juvenile (after bringing her home):

1. Do nothing (leaving the consequences up to us as parents)
2. Write her tickets for Driving Without a License, Driving without Insurance, Car Theft, and Breech of Trust. I would have to pay those tickets.
3. Write her tickets and set a court date in the Family Court. I would pay for the tickets and court costs.
4. Declare her an Incorrigible Child and give up our rights as parents.
5. Have the officers talk to A___ and then leave the consequences up to us as parents.

Click here for my response...

Son Returns From "Juvie"


First of all, thank you for the phone conversation last week, regarding our son J___ coming home this Friday from "Juvie".

One question I meant to ask you was, do we implement one session per week or all at once? My thought is there needs to be strong expectations (which we did do with him last week in person) right from the start. How would be the best way to do this? We have let him know how consequences will work.

I am somewhat nervous or anxious about him coming home since it has been 4 months. Part of my anxiousness is that if he messes up and doesn't follow his conditions, there is no going to court and waiting - he would have a warrant and would go back immediately and then they would decide if he gets a second chance or serve out the rest of his time or more depending on what the breach of his condition is. (I know I need to separate myself somewhat emotionally and it’s hard.)

We have told him our home cannot be the way it was before and he doesn't want the "war zone" either. As I said to you last week, he's telling us he does want to make changes. We also have told him that we are making changes as well. However, he still wants to hang with some of the peers he had before - however not all of them. Still these ones are into pot smoking - how much control do I put on him.

[On another note:]

I'm not entirely sure how to handle this situation. I was talking to my son tonight by phone (he's only allowed a 10 minute phone call) and he's looking forward to coming home. In our conversation, he told me he has about $45 in his account (at the young offenders centre). We once in awhile would put money in his account for toiletries, snacks, haircut. When my husband and I visited him the weekend prior to this past weekend, we asked him if he had any money left in his account and he said no, he spent it on some toiletries and snacks. (Now I feel like an idiot… I guess we should have checked if he had any money left before we put more money in.)

At that time we offered to put in $15 to last the next 2 weeks. Now, he tells me he has $45 that's HIS when he gets out on Friday. I said to him "you told me you had nothing left and now you have $45". First he said - "if I would have told you, you wouldn't have left anymore money. I've been saving $5 a week from what you gave me". At first I thought - good job you were able to save $5 a week. And then I thought, I've been deceived and duped.

I said to him, "you never said anything about saving $5 a week". He insisted not so nicely that he did tell us. My husband and I both agree we don't ever recall him saying this to us, and if he had, we WOULDN"T have left anymore. I said to Jordan, "I feel you only told me half the truth and I'm disappointed you weren't honest." Of course, he started to get upset, but this time I never engaged, and repeated I'm disappointed you weren't honest with me. I said to him, "I don't know how to handle this right now, but I'll let you know what I'm going to do about it - I have to think about it." His reply to me was, "if you take my money, I'm taking something from you!" I replied to him "I'm not arguing about this, I'll let you know what I'm going to do". He then had to get off the phone, and told me "thanks, now I have to go to bed mad and you've made me mad for the whole night and I can't talk to you until I can call you tomorrow." (he did say "I love you").

To be honest, I'm not sure what to do about it. At least now I know not to let him suck me into an argument, although it almost worked, and I kept my calm! My first thought is, this was our money we put in, no you shouldn't have it, especially by being dishonest about it! My thinking is, this would be the best consequence?

So, my question to you is, when I do talk to him tomorrow night, how would be the best way to respond so that he starts to learn we can't be manipulated or lied to. I feel we've been manipulated.



Hi E.,

Keep it simple for now. Just implement Session #1 assignments this week …Session #2 next week …and so on.

Re: lying.

He clearly cannot keep the money because he did nothing to EARN it. Having said this, I would strongly suggest that you simply start with a clean slate. I think it will be a big mistake to start his arrival home with a consequence. You’ve told him all you needed to over the phone.

So does he get off the hook for lying? Yes, for now. But you have the tools to deal with this should it happen again.

Put this issue to bed. Start fresh when he gets home. You’ll have bigger fish to fry – I’m sure.


My Out-of-Control Teen

How to Enforce Grounding as a Working Parent

"I've been following your program for a couple months, seeing steady improvement. But here are my problems we can't seem to get by ...my husband and I both work full time and there is about 3-4 hrs of time our 15 yo son is by himself, so if a grounding punishment is needed, how do we enforce it? Also do we punish for bad behavior at school when he is monitored already through the truancy system?"

Click here for the answer...

Should I believe him...

My son lives with me in Illinois …he is 16 yrs old. His dad lives in Indiana. T__ sees his dad about 4 times per year, but talks regularly on the phone with him. T__ recently saw his dad and has become depressed about not seeing him often and admitted to drinking alcohol and smoking pot to relieve his anxiety about school tests and missing his dad. I made an appt. for a counselor, but in the meantime his dad called the parents of T__'s friends and told them that T__ and probably their children were also abusing drugs and alcohol. Now those parents want to know if T__ is a drug dealer and don't want T__ around their kids. My question is, was this a reasonable course of action to take? And if T__ says he will not drink or smoke until he is 21 yrs. old, should I believe him and monitor his behavior closely?


Hi G.,

Re: ...was this a reasonable course of action to take?

Since T__ admitted to marijuana and alcohol abuse, I would say yes.

Re: ...should I believe him and monitor his behavior closely?

This may sound harsh, but you should NOT believe him. I’m sure he’s pulled the wool over your eyes more than you’ll ever know (or would care to know). And yes, you should monitor his behavior very closely.

Please refer to “Emails From Exasperated Parents” [Session #4]. I address drug and alcohol abuse in more detail there.

Stay in touch,


Online Parent Support

Do these same principles apply to a 4 year old...

hi mark,

i came across your info online and purchased the ebook.

my question is this...do these same principles apply to a 4 year old (i am assuming yes, and they would ward off any potential poor parenting and child behavior as we grow/learn together)... And if so, then, here's my next question.

after finishing session one and reviewing the assignments, i am confused as to what to do w/ the poker face and fair fighting strategies. What i understood was that i am to implement the poker face immediately and not respond (feed) his intensity seeking and look for times when he is behaving great and turn on the intensity then w/ praise. Also, the fair fighting...."when xyz....i have a problem w/...etc. - crime /pos reframe, problem solve together" - is that also to go into effect now?

i did begin both this week (as soon as i read them) and now tonight i see only the "nurturing" assignments offered. Am i to do all the ones i stated above? Am i on the right track?

thanks kindly and God bless



Hi D.,

Re: ...do these principles apply to a 4 year old.

Yes. It is sort of a myth that parents are suppose to parent one way when a child is 4 ...then a different way when he is 10 ...then yet another way when he is 16 ...and so on.

Re: ...am I on the right track.

Yes. Begin using the "Fair Fighting" strategy as needed. Also, you may want to draft a parent-child contract (this is discussed in Session #1 assignments as well).

You're on a roll. Keep up the momentum.


My Out-of-Control Child

I cannot get her up, dressed and fed without a huge fight...

Hi Mark,

It's good to be online with parent support. We are currently working our way through Week#1 and there is a lot to digest. I have a question already-I work on a Fri in a hospital and I have to drop my daughter at school by 0800hrs (before-school care) or I'm late for work. I cannot get her up, dressed and fed without a huge fight and find it hard to keep a Poker Face on these Fri mornings. Any other morning when she refuses to co-operate I can leave it up to the school to enforce their "Late Consequences" but I cannot be late for work. Some mornings if I let her she wouldn't go to school at all... I can see how I've become part of the Dependency Cycle as I will offer to help her dress as it's so much quicker.




Hi L.,

You need to be firm with her. Don't count on the problem going away if you ignore it. However, don't be angry with her as her anxiety and distress are real.

You need to find out what is troubling her. It could be school phobia (a fear of school), separation anxiety (fear of leaving you or the home) or agoraphobia (fear of crowds and public places). These are all very real disorders.

If someone is bullying, teasing, embarrassing, or abusing her, then it could be the first diagnosis. Talk to her teachers to find out what they know and to inform them of your experiences with your daughter.

Assume that your child is physically well and needs to go to school. Keep assuring her firmly and confidently that she'll be fine (and so will you) once she arrives. If she still claims of physical ailments, you have two options:

First, get her to school unless you determine that she truly is sick. In that case she would be running a fever, or have nausea and/ or diarrhea, etc. If she just tells you she doesn't feel well, that isn't enough to let her stay home. Adults often go to work with uncomfortable symptoms.

The second option is to believe her. Since she says she is too unwell to go to school, then clearly she is too unwell to be up and about the house. If she is sick then she is sick, and so she goes to bed: lights off, curtains closed, no TV, no special snacks. Ignore her and go about your normal daily routine. Make sure that the option of staying home is boring. If she is not sleeping then, ideally she should be doing some schoolwork. Certainly there should be no friends or visitors to entertain her.

You can also establish some rewards for going to school.

Be firm and remain calm. Let her know that you expect her to go to school, but don't argue with her if she resists. The goal her is for her to want to go back to school. Once she goes and finds out that she's fine, her previous symptoms should disappear.

Sleep Tips For Children 5-12—

· Prepare the room for sleep -- remove or put away toys that are associated with daytime activities, little or no light is ideal and be sure the room is cool and quiet.

· Let your child have a transitional object to go to sleep with like a doll or stuffed toy -- his association with this object will aid sleep.

· Avoid late night activities that can increase your child's adrenalin.

· Avoid frightening movies and video games close to bedtime.

· Avoid excessive drinking before bed so that your child is not tempted to wake up to go to the bathroom.

· A light nighttime snack can be helpful like cheese or milk -- both contain tryptophan, an amino acid that aids sleep.

· A bedtime routine should be very regimented -- the body likes consistency and the brain does too.

Sleep Tips For Teens 13-18—

· Physical activity should be avoided close to bedtime -- exercise five hours before sleep can be helpful but exercise too close to bedtime can be a stimulant and inhibit a good night's sleep.

· Bedtime should be consistent -- read something 10-15 minutes before bed, or take a bath/shower.

· Avoid stimulating activity like video games, computers and television in the bedroom.

· Avoid caffeine in the afternoon -- caffeine is a stimulant that can inhibit a healthy sleep night.

Stay in touch,

Mark Hutten, M.A.

J___ is being released from youth custody...


J___ is being released from youth custody on May 30 (he's been gone for 4 months) into our custody for a 2 month community supervision order. I have read your e-book for the last 3 months probably reviewed it completely twice and reviewed certain sections a few times. Myself and my husband have listened to the CD's twice and keep on replaying them while we're driving. I am determined to do things differently when he comes home. We have made a detailed "Expectations and Respect" rules for our home that we went over with J___ this past Friday at the centre with a staff present. J___'s comment was its not really any different just clearer. I have said to J___ that I've made mistakes and am committed to changing some parenting strategies, and have actually used some - my husband too. Of course, he hasn't been at home for us to practice a lot and that will all change next Friday ...and I'm looking forward to doing things differently, and I have to admit am a little anxious about him coming home.


My Out-of-Control Teen

I am already seeing a change...

Mark Hutten,

You completely rock!! I am only on Week #1, and I am already seeing a change.

I am so impressed with your web site. I keep finding more and more good, helpful stuff!

Thank you and your staff so much! May God bless you and you help us one child at a time to stop the insanity of out of control kids.


Online Parent Support

RE: "Is he lacking some sensitivity/awareness skills (brain cells)..."

Hi C.,

Please look for these arrows throughout your email below: == >


Perhaps the answers to these are in future lessons in the course. If so, please point the way. If not, I'd be grateful for your insights....

1) Is my child being a jerk or does he really not know how to read situations and respond appropriately? Is he lacking some sensitivity/awareness skills (brain cells) that tell would otherwise clue him in that he's being completely out of line?

==> Children with “Oppositional Defiant Disorder tendencies” do have great trouble empathizing (i.e., putting themselves in some else’s shoes; understanding how others may be hurt or inconvenienced).

==> JOIN Online Parent Support 

Is he manipulating us or is he really not (yet) capable of assessing situations and behaving appropriately? I never know whether he's "yanking my chain" or whether he really is somehow incapable of "getting it."

==> Both. He’s not sure what you want (yet), but he knows what he wants – so he tries to manipulate you into getting what he wants.

2) Can/should we expect an apology for hurtful (disrespectful, aggressive) behavior? Or is the consequence (in this case, our refusal to take him to his tennis lesson) "enough"?

== > A consequence is enough!

3) I am having a physical reaction to being in (or anticipating being in) my son's presence. I feel tense/fearful, often have "butterflies" in my stomach, and am always on the verge of tears. What should I do? Get counseling? Avoid him? Something else?

== > Get counseling? Maybe. Avoid him? Yes, whenever you feel like you cannot (a) show a lack of emotion when things are going wrong, (b) put on your poker face, or (c) avoid reacting to his button pushing.

4) We are working through your online course/e-book. Is the whole solution in our approach to our son?

== > Most definitely.

Or is there some therapy work he should be doing as well?

== > Therapy is just another traditional parenting strategy that has little - if no - positive effect, and in some cases it makes a bad problem worse.

It feels very one-sided at this point. Should he not work on recognizing how destructive his behavior is to our relationship? Should he not get help learning to get a handle on his behavior?

== > This is where the consequences that you issue come onto play. This is covered in Sessions 2 and 3 [online version of the eBook]. Don't try to "reason with" your son. Simply issue the consequences as needed.


==> JOIN Online Parent Support

School Refusal


HELP!! My daughter, aged 15, causes extreme stress on our family every morning. She refuses to get out of bed to go to school. I wake her at 6:00am, again at 6:15 and again at 6:30. She slowly wakes up, then begins to scream and cuss at me for waking him up. I tell her I am just waking her up to get ready for school …she continues to yell obscenities at me for waking her up. We are late to school almost every day. I am a complete nervous wreck by the time we leave the house. Today, she flat-out refused to go to school and stayed in the car sleeping. I finally just went to work and left her in the car. She awoke at noon and continued to verbally abuse me because she was hungry and was angry at me for waking her up. I just don't know what to do any more.



Hi T.,

Teens can behave in this manner for a variety of reasons. Your daughter may display a mood disorder …she may display what is called a conduct disorder (i.e., a serious personality disorder) …or she may have some learning disorder, now culminating in school refusal after years of struggling with school and developing a negative perception of school.

Whatever the reason(s) for the behavior, she is in need of help. One course to pursue is an evaluation by a mental health clinician, who can help you and him make sense of the situation and plan accordingly.

Another course, depending on where you live, is to approach the local court for assistance via what, in many jurisdictions, is called a Child In Need Of Services (CHINS) petition. This process is designed to address truancy by building in services and allowing the court to underscore the necessity to attend school and to support your authority in this regard.

Another course is to approach the school district and request an evaluation of the need for special services, in light of your daughter's response to school.

Whatever you do, put some of your energy into seeking help. Otherwise, you may likely go on battling with your daughter indefinitely, with no gain.


Online Parent Support

I'm working through the grieving process...

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. I've just spent the last several hours going back over lesson #1. It's as though you've been in my house and in my head and in my heart. This is the first time I've ever felt that anyone really understood our daily struggle. Our son has been difficult since he was born. This is not "adolescence". I'm very much a can-do, problem-solver person and, as you've helped me see, I need to let go of that. I'm working through the grieving process, mourning the lost dreams of the child I will never have …same for getting through the shame and guilt and embarrassment. I'm nowhere close on these things. I hope desperately that I can figure out how to get there because this emotional roller coaster is hell.

I'm sure I'll write again. Right now things seem pretty dark but your videos and web site have at least helped me understand that I don't deserve this and it's not my fault.

Thanks again,



Hi C.,

I am glad to hear that you are giving yourself permission to take fewer burdens upon yourself as well as coming to the realization that your son's behavior is NOT a reflection on your parenting ability.

Appropriate parenting can be ineffective.


Because your child, by one of the laws of the universe, can CHOOSE to follow your good guidance and influence - or he can CHOOSE to reject it. This doesn't mean you failed as a parent. It does mean, however, that you son is a work in progress and has a lot of growing up to do. He will "arrive" when the timing is right - and not a minute sooner.


Online Parent Support

Teen Guide to Safe Blogging

Unlike the articles we write for parents and teachers, we don’t have to give you a course in blogging basics. As a teen, you’ve probably visited your share of blogs or “spaces,” and there’s a good chance you may have your own blog. If so, congratulations. Even adults like us who have some concerns about bloggers’ safety and privacy applaud the fact that teens are increasingly taking advantage of the Internet’s great communications tools. Millions of teenagers maintain their own blogs. In fact, a study done at Georgetown University shows that more than half of all blogs are maintained by people 13-19.

So let’s talk about safety and privacy. As you know, when you’re online you’re out in public, and that’s definitely true if you have a blog that’s accessible to anyone on the Net. We don’t need to tell you that there are creeps out there who might want to jeopardize your personal safety or steal your or your family’s money. It’s just a sad fact of life on the Net. Federal law-enforcement people confirm that online predators are very interested in teen blogging. That’s why some of the blogging services have privacy features that let you control who can access your blog. And that’s what this is about - giving you control. Check with your service to see what types of restrictions you can put on your blog and use them. In most cases it is possible to communicate with your friends or your friends’ friends without having to open yourself up to the entire Internet.

One of the nice things about blogs is that you can post just about anything. But just because you can post anything doesn’t mean you should. Remember, anything you post can not only be seen by others but can easily be copied and stored. So, what you post can be held against you. Something that seems very cool right now may not seem so cool two or three years from now, when you’re sending around applications for schools or jobs. So think just a bit about your future before you post that incendiary comment or that inappropriate photo. Besides, what may seem appropriate or even funny to friends right now can be used against you when there are disagreements, breakups, etc. - in blogs, email, IMs, and even file-sharing networks.

As you know, people online are not always who they appear to be so be very careful about the type of relationship you establish or information you give to people you meet through your blog or blogs you visit. The same goes for in-person meetings. The fact is you just shouldn’t meet people in person who you only know from the Internet. They may be great but you never really know, do you? If you do, make sure you do so in a public place and bring along at least one friend – the more and bigger the better. Your school’s football team should do the job nicely. Never, ever, agree to meet someone alone. Seriously, you really need to be careful because you never really know who an online “friend” may actually be or what his or her intentions are.

You also need to be aware of your blogging service’s rules or “terms of service.” Violating them not only risks your getting kicked off the service but they’re usually there for some good reasons: to protect you, to protect others and to keep you on the correct side of the law. Most of the rules are pretty obvious - don’t send spam, don’t distribute viruses and other harmful code, don’t stalk, threaten or harass anyone and don’t turn your blog into a porn site. While everyone in America - including teen bloggers -has First Amendment rights, you still need to be careful about what you say, especially about others. Being mean to other people is not only, well, mean, it can in some circumstances be illegal if you cross certain lines.

One last thing. You may not want to share your blog with your parents, but they do have some legal rights and obligations. We recommend that you do give them the web address of your blog and it’s a very good idea to talk with them about what you’re doing and reassure them that you understand basic safety and privacy rules. Not only can that make for peace in the family, but they might learn something along the way. Who knows? Maybe you’ll learn something too.

Online Parent Support

Poor Academic Performance - Part 1


Thanks so much for your reply. I was thinking of calling you today. Your 2 assumptions are 100% correct.

The Xbox is new in our home (long story of resistance by the parents, son earned the money to purchase it). The privilege will be tied at least in part to grades (or at least effort in school) next year. By the time the XBox arrived in our home, the grades were too far gone to be salvaged for this year. Looking back, we should have insisted, as you suggest, that he at least spend time on school work, rather than insisting that he bring his grades up - which was utterly futile and only added fuel to the fire. As it stands now, he is limited to 1 hour/day on school days and 2 hours/day on non-school days, and chores must be done first. His daily chores are to walk his dog and wash up the evening dinner dishes (we have no dishwasher). This part is working OK. In total he spends about 45 minutes per day on these chores. So in that sense, he is earning his Xbox privilege. However, he has had those two chores for several years, so there is not a clear connection between them and the Xbox. They are simply his chores. They're expected and they're done. We just don't have any sort of handle on the school situation. He has an IQ of 146 and scored a 32 on the ACT as a sophomore, but doesn't give a hang about school. It's all "beneath him". Since he is already doing chores (and he works 10-15 hours/week as a cook at Pizza Hut), does that mean we should "back off" and not be so wound up about his attitude toward school?

[Also, it may be helpful to know that he has a "borderline" diagnosis of ADD and of ODD. His executive function skills are very poor and he also previously an LD label for dysgraphia (we think we shouldn't have allowed that to be de-classified.]

Thank you ever so much for all you do to help parents make it through the turbulent teen years.




Hi C.,

Re: Since he is already doing chores (and he works 10-15 hours/week as a cook at Pizza Hut), does that mean we should "back off" and not be so wound up about his attitude toward school?

Absolutely. Let go of ownership of your son’s poor academic performance. As long as you take responsibility for it – he won’t! Conversely, the less responsibility you take, the more he will take.

As far as your job goes, you want to do the following:

1. Let him know that his schoolwork is HIS job and that you are not going to take responsibility for it any longer.

2. If teachers attempt to recruit you as a co-teacher, tell them to call you if the issue is behavioral, otherwise it’s his problem now.

3. Ask to see report cards, but simply to show your son that you are interested in is school life – not to reprimand or take back ownership.

4. Continue to make periodic statements such as “you’ve got what it takes” …“I know you’re more than capable” …etc.


Online Parent Support

Poor Academic Performance - Part 2


I understand that I need to let go of micro-managing my son's academic progress (which is, predictably, poor). How do I reconcile this with allowing my son to do what he enjoys (e.g., playing XBox) when it's clear he's shirking his schoolwork responsibilities? If I'm not to be on top of his homework and grades, do I then allow him to enjoy what he wants, in spite of poor academic performance?



Hi C.,

First, what does your son do to earn Xbox privileges? Remember, ALL privileges must be earned. In this way, you are not “allowing” (i.e., a free handout of privilege) him to do anything – he is earning the privilege for himself.

Next, we don’t want to “micro-manage” schoolwork – but we don’t want to reward lack of effort either. Thus, set aside a one-hour chunk of time (e.g., 4:00 – 5:00 PM) that is either “homework time” or “chore time.” Then let your son decide what he wants to do with that hour. He can do chores or schoolwork, or some combination thereof. In the event he refuses to do either, then revert to the 3-day-discipline outlined in the eBook.

The above recommendation is based on the assumption that (a) your son has a history (i.e., at least 6 months) of “poor academic performance” and (b) “poor academic performance” is a major source of parent-child conflict.


My Out-of-Control Teen

Is it possible for this program to work when only one parent in the home is committed to this?

Hi K.,

Please look for the arrows throughout your email: ==>

On Tue, May 13, 2008 at 6:57 AM, K___ wrote:


I purchased your e-book this morning and am excited to hopefully have found the tools I need to get back in control of my home, which has revolved around my oldest daughter, now 13, for years.

I'm not sure where to find the videos on the online version you reference in your email. Please tell me where I can find these.

==> Here's the link back to your original download site: My Out-of-Control Teen: eBook Download Site

When you get to that page, click where it reads Click Here to access the Online Version of the eBook.

Also, is it possible for this program to work when only one parent in the home is committed to this? My husband firmly believes this program is allowing her too much leniency. He has said he will take a completely "hands off" attitude with Amanda (our daughter) and allow me to try this program, but I am afraid his negative attitude towards it will only give her ammunition to use against me, and that, like so many other things I have tried, this too will fail.

==> Yes it is very possible. However, a weaker plan support by both parents is much better than a stronger plan supported by only one parent.

I can't fail again when it comes to regaining control. I'm at my wit's end. More days than not, I find myself wishing I could just run away and leave her for her dad to deal with. But I don't. I love her and keep trying every day to work with her. I'm a stay-at-home mom and her dad works 12 hour days and only sees her a few minutes a day. It is so frustrating to be told day in and day out that I'm doing it all wrong when he can't even deal with her the little bit of time he spends with her! So, please, if it is going to require BOTH me and her dad to work this program, tell me now so I can try to find another alternative.

==> I would also suggest that you and your husband divide up areas of responsibility and agree beforehand which one of you will have the final word in each particular area. You can then explain to your children which one of you will have the final word in each situation. If disagreements occur (as they inevitably will) you can discuss them in private. In front of your children, however, it will be clear who has the final word.


My Out-of-Control Teen

My Daughter Is Refusing To Go To School

 Dear Mark, Thank you for your insight and for the help you offer. My daughter has problems with "school refusal". She is 15 and in ninth grade and we are in the last month of school. She has missed so much school and is now behind in her work with the threat of not getting credit for the year's work. She has been in a mental health facility for evaluation, (last week -- for seven days) getting new meds for severe depression, and getting her diabetes (high blood sugars) under control. (she has had diabetes since age 2). When Monday came around and it was expected of her to return to school (after two full weeks of absences) she would not get out of bed (again...same repeated behavior as before......... and then she sleeps all day for days). 

I went to the school and met with counselors, teachers, administrator etc and they have been very generous by sending home all of her work to complete at home -- just to finish out the month of May and get her credits. This is a wonderful generous offer from the school and now she will not have to attend school except to take tests. So when I (awakended) her and presented her with the good news of permission to finish the next three weeks on her own, she mumbled something and managed to get out of bed. 

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I told her she could come up with her own plan of study by making a daily schedule to follow. (she thrives on structure; but she wants to make her schedule so I gave her that choice so she could feel that she had some control of the home study. (She has a time limit on making up work placed by the school....so time is of the essence) When I returned to the living room she was in front of the TV and I reminded her that she needed to be productive and get busy, and she said "not now" and kept watching TV. I told her she had to turn off the TV and get started with her school work, even if just planning her study sessions. She said, "I can start tomorrow" and ignored me. Well, I don't think she should be the one to decide "when" to start school with her being so behind. I got the TV control and blocked all TV watching with parental controls. She said "fine, I'll just sleep then" and went to bed again and has been asleep ever since. 

I have already taken away her cell phone and computer too .......from past episodes of disobedience or defiance. She doesn't care about her friends, so she says I can ground her for life or whatever, because she does not care. She has been sleeping for days and days until I had her hospitalized last week. She came home from the hospital with a new attitude. I was ecstatic. But come Monday morning, we're back in the bed....ignoring all responsibilites etc. This is her way of rebelling against my authority and ignoring my instructions. I have quit nagging, I promise. So now she just lays there. I am a single parent and the only authority figure in the home. I do I get her engaged into her own life again. K.


Hi K.,

First of all, I would caution you NOT to rush things. Please only do one session a week.

Having said that, school refusal, school avoidance, or school phobia, are terms used to describe the signs or anxiety a school-aged child has and his/her refusal to go to school. School refusal can be seen in three different types of situations, including the following:

· Distress

The final type of school refusal is seen in children who are truly distressed about leaving their parent and going to school. Usually, these children enjoy school but are too anxious about leaving their parents to attend.

· Fear

Older children may have school phobia based on a real fear of something that may happen to them at school, such as a bully or a teacher being rude. In this situation, it is important to talk with your child to determine what is causing his/her fears.

· Young children going to school for the first time

This is a normal type of school refusal. This develops with a child's normal separation anxiety, or uneasiness about leaving a parent figure. This type of fear usually goes away within a few days of the child attending school.

Since every child is unique, each situation will be handled on an individual basis. The following are some of the interventions that may be used to help your daughter:

· A referral to a child psychologist or psychiatrist may be necessary.

· Allow the child to speak and talk about her concerns and fears.

· Consider family counseling if other problems exist.

· Return the child to school. Make sure the school officials understand the situation and do not send the child home for the wrong reasons.

· Slowly separating the parent from the child in school may also be used. One approach is to have the parent sit with the child in the classroom at first, and then the parent may attend school, but sit in another room. Next, the parent may continue to get farther away.

Alternatively, you may want to consider an alternative school. Although you may be hard-pressed to document why your daughter needs to be in the alternative school now (as opposed to staying on the waiting list), I suggest that you request a core evaluation for her as guaranteed by federal law for any public school child who may have learning disabilities or special needs that warrant an alternative and/or specialized educational plan.

In your daughter's case, if you can provide convincing psychiatric documentation that she cannot be educated in this school system due to the stress she experiences, you may be able to have her placed in the alternative school as a result of her condition being deemed an educational special need. Get a therapist who has experience advocating for kids in this situation -- his testimony and reputation will play a major role in this plan.

Mark Hutten, M.A.

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"She first had sex at 15..."

Dear Mark, I've watched and started implementing Week One Tutorials & Assignments. My problem has been specifically that I discovered my 16, almost 17 year old daughter has been having sex with just anybody and posting intimate pictures of herself on the internet and inviting men to contact her for sex. She now has a boyfriend (he doesn't know what she's been up to and is more innocent than she is). I fear is also engaging in sexual activity with him. She first had sex at 15 when she went away with a friend and her parents on holiday. This was the first time she'd ever been allowed away and I had trusted that this family would watch out for her as I would have watched out for their daughter. When she came home, she'd got involved with a very unpleasant 19 year old (only in the last 3 days of a 6 day holiday). 

 I had to try to put a stop to it, which I thought I'd done, but today she left her computer on, and I saw a recent message from him. She denied sex with him at the time, and was so convincing, I actually felt guilty for doubting her. Had I known then, I would have gone to the police, but the police won't want to know now, especially as she's no longer an innocent. Interestingly enough, all her friends thought he was hideous and certainly didn't admire her for going with him. I only recently discovered all this, and was shocked, angry and despairing and told her that she came close to being thrown out for trashing the values of this family. I'm a stay at home mum and have been married 25 years to her father. I initially took away the computer for a week and then she said she wouldn't misuse it anymore and only go on Facebook where she can only be contacted by friends. I now suspect this might also be a lie, since discovering the latest message. 

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 Then I found your site and I realise I've been an over-indulgent parent and she's a textbook case of an over-indulged kid, except that she has low self-esteem, as she's carrying about 42lbs more than she should. I'm encouraging her to lose this by taking her exercising, but think she's eating sweets while at school - maybe using lunch money. I've been watching the videos and have started learning week two. Today I found a large bottle of alcoholic drink (empty) at the back of her wardrobe, covered with clothes and when I checked for other bottles in her drawers, I found some very unattractive panties from a sex shop or somewhere like that. My main concern is to try to turn her behaviour around before she throws away her life. I'm prepared to do 'poker face' when confronting her with these items. I know she's going to lie and get mad about going through her things. She's right in the middle of very important exams which will determine if she can go to college and I really want her to do well. Can you give me some advice? Regards, A.


Hi A.,

Re: potential alcohol abuse.

Please refer to the section of the eBook [online version – session #4] entitled Emails From Exasperated Parents.

Re: sex & poor self-esteem.

Here’s an email to your daughter (if you think she would actually read it without being offended). She doesn’t have to know it came from me. Maybe you can figure out some way to get her to read it:

Having low self-esteem can have a strong effect upon your personal relationships, especially when it comes to sex. The good news is you can get over it.

Have you ever:

  • Had sex with someone because you thought they'd accuse you of being frigid or scared if you didn't?
  • Thought that having sex with someone would mean they'd like you more?
  • Had sex so you'd appear more popular, desirable, or cooler to your friends?
  • Stayed in a relationship with someone who didn't treat you right because you thought you couldn't do any better, or were scared of being alone?

If you've answered yes to any of the above, it's likely that you're suffering from low self-esteem. Perhaps you don't have the confidence to say exactly what you feel for fear of how you'll come across.

So what is high self-esteem?

To put it simply, it means liking yourself. This doesn't mean you have be ultra-confident and cocky, but if you have a good opinion of you, you don't need reassurance from others. The key to good self-esteem is positive affirmation - telling yourself things that make you feel good about yourself, like 'I am attractive' or 'I am in charge of my life'."

Low self-esteem can be caused by many different factors. You might be lonely, or feeling unattractive or maybe you're being bullied. And if you don't feel confident, it means you can't say no and the vicious circle begins. You end up making bad decisions because you don't feel good about yourself. That's why you might have sex when you don't really want to: you want to be liked but, as you probably know already, that's not the best reason to have sex.

If other people know you have low self-esteem, you are also more prone to being pushed into doing things you don't want to do (drugs, sex, smoking) or being bullied. In extreme cases, having low self-esteem makes you more vulnerable to abusive relationships. The majority of victims are girls whose lack of confidence attracts these controlling boyfriends. In these relationships, many girls lose their confidence and are unable to assert their views, for example, if he won't wear a condom. If you're confident, it means you can say 'no condom, no sex!' If you're nervous, you won't be able to say boo to a goose, never mind no to your partner.

Take action

First of all, think about why you don't feel good. If you're conscious of your appearance, the key is to stop comparing yourself to the models in magazines or the prettiest girl/best-looking guy at school. Everyone is unique and we can't all be Kylies and Brads.

If you're feeling lonely, it's time to build on the friendships you have - you might even find that you're not alone in the way you feel. Having a strong family or friends network can do wonders for your well-being and will also stop you feeling depressed.

When it comes to sex, you have to look out for number one. Put your self-interest first. If someone is putting pressure on you to do something you're uncomfortable with, then try to get out of that situation immediately. For example, say you feel ill, or that you need to get home, or just say you're not ready. Once you're away from that scenario, you can think about what you want for yourself in this relationship. And if your boyfriend or girlfriend won't listen to and respect your feelings then it's time to say goodbye. Remember, you're a valuable human being and your body is for your pleasure.'

So next time you're in a difficult situation, take a step back and tell yourself you deserve better and that no-one has the right to tell you what to do, especially with something as personal as sex. It is your body and you're in charge of it.

RE: "My oldest daughter was arrested today..."

I need major help. I prayed to God, read the bible and have been even studying the bible with a Jehovah witness (not that I understand the religion at all). My point is my oldest daughter, N___ was arrested today for shoplifting a sports store. Come to find out this wasn't the first time. She went to Winco (grocery store) and was caught stealing with a girlfriend top roman and gum. They were let go to someone posing as their mother. I am going to file charges against this women when I find her. Also her friend gave them my last as hers.

This friend and my daughter are bad news together and the girl already has had problems with the law as well is mother of a 11 month old at age 17. Her mother keeps threatening her that is going to file custody of her grandson. Sorry, back to my daughter, N___ - She tells my husband and I that we are to strict on her and that is part of why she keeps doing what she has been doing.

We let her go into Independent studies and start cosmetology school through an ROP program. I wonder if this was my first mistake. I had a hard but was convinced with the support of the counselor and psychologist at her high school that it would work for her to transfer to Independence high school where she would go to school once a week, then go to cosmetology the rest of the week plus work and make time for getting home work packets done. This also meant my husband and getting another car so N___ could drive back and forth to beauty college in another town. She was given a lot of trust and I thought this would be good for her since she is a natural at doing hair already and she doesn't want to go to college after high school. We made a deal that she would work hard since she wanted to become a cosmetologist sooner than later. I thought it would give her something she would work hard at and make good. I was wrong, she got mixed up with the wrong person and is on a destruction path.

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My husband said he knew and worried that her going to Cosmo school and all would be trouble. He wasn't trusting of her. But here we are now. I don't know what to do. Do I take everything away from her? Going to Cosmo school, the car. She is going to have go to Reach program through the police department which we had put her in before on a voluntary basis about three years ago and who knows what else will happen after going to court.... Her friend let her in dust at the store. We think she was the in on it but didn't get caught with anything on her. I feel my daughter has destructive illness and she is just 17 this last April. In another year she will be 18. What do I do? I am so scared for her and the toll it takes on everyone else in the family. Thank you for you time and sorry I feel I have written so much. But I don't know where to turn and going back into regular counseling, well I just can't see that working. She just keeps defying everyone and everything, but then can be so loving and caring. What is happening to this world and the people on it? Please help. Thank you, L.


Hi L.,

Re: shoplifting—

Here are a few tips to help you get through this trying time:

· Avoid confronting your teenager at the scene or facility. It just will not help and could go against both of you if charges are filed.

· Find out who is in charge and treat this person with respect. Find out if charges are being filed. Write these things down; do not rely on your memory.

· Lay out the consequences in an Action Plan for your teenager.

· Talk with your spouse about consequences. Try and do this a day or two later, so that you know you are over the shock and have calmed down.

· When you first get the call, write down where you need to go to get your teenager and the phone number of the facility. Many parents do not do this and try to figure it out after they have hung up the phone. Avoid this added stress by writing it all down.

· When you get home with your teenager, take a time out. You will both need it. There is nothing wrong with letting your teenager know that you are not prepared to discuss this with them yet.

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Re: negative peer influence—

You may not be comfortable about your daughter's choice of friends or peer group. This may be because of their image, negative attitudes, or serious behaviors.

Here are some suggestions:

· Check whether your concerns about their friends are real and important.

· Do not attack your child's friends. Remember that criticizing your teen's choice of friends is like a personal attack.

· Encourage reflective thinking by helping your teen think about his or her actions in advance and discussing immediate and long-term consequences of risky behavior.

· Encourage your teen's independence by supporting decision-making based on principles and not other people.

· Get to know the friends of your teen. Learn their names, invite them into your home so you can talk and listen to them, and introduce yourself to their parents.

· Help your teen understand the difference between image (expressions of youth culture) and identity (who he or she is).

· If you believe your concerns are serious, talk to your teenager about behavior and choices -- not the friends.

· Keep the lines of communication open and find out why these friends are important to your teenager.

· Let your teen know of your concerns and feelings.

· Remember that we all learn valuable lessons from mistakes.

No matter what kind of peer influence your teen faces, she must learn how to balance the value of going along with the crowd (connection) against the importance of making principle-based decisions (independence).

Re: Do I take everything away from her?

No. She received (or will receive) a natural consequence (i.e., via the Reach Program).

Don’t pull the plug on her. Allow her to these mistakes – this is the only way she’ll learn anything. Trust that she will make better choices based on her learning.

That’s right. She should keep her car and should be allowed to continue her education. If she had not received legal consequences, the recommendation would be different.

Remember: As parents, our #1 goal is to foster the development of self-reliance in our children. Taking away her car and education will have the opposite effect – that is, it will foster more dependency.

Simply allow her to fully experience the uncomfortable emotions associated with her poor choices (in this case, to shoplift, which resulted in getting busted).


S___ urinated in the corner of the restroom...

Good morning.

My mother had purchased your CD’s to help aid in the raising of my nephew (8) S and my niece (17) P. They were taken from their home due to neglect. It was in deplorable condition. Simply unfit to live. They were in foster care for 2 years, and now they are with me. I am their legal guardian.

S has attachment disorder, oppositional defiant, been diagnosed with ADHD. I am trying to implement your ideas & strategies for some successes. The Dr, teachers, principal and I finally decided to try some medicine. At first, 10 mg medadate (sp), did not seem to change anything. We now have him on 20 mg Adderall RX.

All at school seem to see an improvement. S does not want to be on medication and I prefer no medication as well.

His newest report from school yesterday, his teacher wrote:

“S urinated in the corner of the restroom. He told the truth and admitted it. (It could not have been an accident. It was far back in the corner and the stool was dry).”

Whoa, just when I thought things are on the upswing!

I am planning on getting him into a psychiatrist next. (one that will take Medicaid, as I simply cannot afford all of this)

I thought being with family would be better than another foster home or someone adopting. I am a career woman and this changed my world dramatically. I am very grateful God gives us a new day every day, because some of these days are very long and the feeling of hopelessness comes over me. But as the morning sun comes up, I feel refreshed, energized and seek more wisdom from God and other resources to “do the best parenting I can for these two children”.

Anything you might be able to share about this “recent urination episode?”

Thanks in advance…I’m going to review some of your CD’s again.




Hi L.,

When a child does little weird things like peeing in the corner, it is usually because he feels he has no control in other areas of his life. So by doing something like peeing in an appropriate location gives him a sense of control.

As human beings, we all want to feel we have some control over our lives -- and if we don't, we'll find a way to get it. People of all ages have the same basic needs.

Offering a child a choice is powerful! When they're very young, say two or three years old we can show them two plastic cups; a blue one and a green one and ask: "Do you want the blue one or the green one?" Or you can say: "Do you want to sit in this chair or that chair?" or "Do you want to wear your green pajamas or your blue pajamas?" It makes them feel they have some power and control and consequently are less likely to gain it in inappropriate ways. It also tells them their likes and dislikes matter to you. As well, children who are given choices learn to start thinking for themselves. They become less reliant on other people to make decisions for them.

As children get older we can start offering them more than two choices, keeping in mind that all the options you're presenting must be acceptable to you. You can say: "Here are some choices for lunch; vegetable soup, peanut butter sandwich or grilled cheese sandwich." Or you might say, "Do you want to play a game tonight? We could play this, or this, or this. Choose one." If you're having a difficult time getting your child to do something, you can say: "I need you to clear your plate away. Do you want to put it on the counter or in the dishwasher?"

As children approach their middle and teen years you can continue to use choices. You can say: "I'd like your homework done before 8pm. Do you want to do it at the kitchen table or in your room?" Or you might say: "I need some help in the kitchen. Would you like to empty the dishwasher, sweep the floor or fill the dishwasher?" Offering a choice significantly reduces arguments around tasks that need to be done around the house.

One of the problems parents might encounter with choices is that their kids don't want either or any of the choices you're offering. If that's the case, the next choice becomes: "Do you want to choose or would you like me to choose?" The majority of the time, kids will make a choice and that will be the end of it. Using this simple tool you'll find you can eliminate many power struggles and arguments.

Children are as human as the rest of us and need to feel they have some control over their lives. We want to give it to them in appropriate ways so they don't try and gain it in inappropriate ways – like peeing all over the place.


This action showed us he seems to have no ability to process sound judgment ...

Mr. Hutten,

I appreciate your time this afternoon. Our “child” will be 18 end of May… has very good grades and has been accepted to attend the University of MD this fall. However, recently we have discovered him drinking… followed by an episode of being dismissed from an overnight school function for sneaking a girl into his room… followed by reports of him cutting classes at school… and reports of missing assignments endangering him from graduating… all within the past couple of months. A recent report card shows a sharp drop in several grades.

Last weekend my wife and I went away… leaving our son at home unattended. In retrospect, we regret having done that… but we did it because we wanted to give him a chance to build our trust… we explicitly told him many things like “NO ONE is to come to the house”…and… ”of all weekends to use poor judgment this would certainly be the one NOT to mess up,” etc. We also asked him for his direct assurance he would not violate our trust and he told us he would not. We also told him that if he stepped out of line while we were away, that he would not be allowed to go to “Beach Week” after graduation (a week of vacation after graduation unattended by adults at a beach house). 

With him being in so much recent trouble, and knowing we were fully suspicious and watchful, and with the important threat of not going to Beach Week on the line, we truly thought he would not be foolish enough to try anything. HOWEVER… sure enough he went right ahead and had a big party while we were gone… it was very easy for us to see the botched efforts to cover up 30-40 people having been in our home, including simply going into our own trash and finding empty alcohol containers, marijuana remnants, and used condoms. This action showed us he seems to have no ability to process sound judgment and has no regard for consequences of his behavior. We believe this constitutes a danger to his well being.

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We are now doing our best to impart the consequences… including no Beach Week as promised, removal of his access to money (took away a debit card), and grounding indefinitely.

In response he is distraught and rebellious. We are concerned with what he may do based on his reactions to our efforts of imparting consequences. He seems to truly BELIEVE things he says like “it’s no big deal to have some people over” and “unfair” to impart such harsh consequences. We are flabbergasted that he seems impervious to the magnitude of his actions and seems to want to do nothing more than to somehow have this all go away so he can “hang out” with friends, rely on us to resolve his grades and attendance issues, and in general be totally disengaged. He cannot seem to do simple tasks like laundry, remember to take out trash, clean up after himself, or contribute to the household.

He has expressed thoughts such as “half of me understands, but half of me says ‘screw you,’ what else can you do to me, so I may as well just go out and do what I please.” We are frightened that we are losing him and quickly losing control… and don’t know the immediate next steps for intervention.

We would appreciate your feedback ASAP.

Thank you,



Hi E.,

First of all, the problems you’ve listed are covered in the eBook. I don’t have time to do a re-write, but I would like to make a few comments in the time I have.

While hormones, the struggle for independence, peer pressure, and an emerging identity wreak havoc in the soul of the adolescent, issues of how much autonomy to grant, how much "attitude" to take, what kind of discipline is effective, which issues are worth fighting about, and how to talk to offspring-turned-alien challenge parental creativity, patience, and courage.

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To guide a child to adulthood, to ingrain values, to help negotiate social relationships, and to see new ideas, ideals, goals, and independence emerge in a child can be the adventure of a lifetime. Like any adventure, the thrill is in the journey.

Challenges conquered sweeten success, and while failure is in part unavoidable, no parent can know how the balance of success and failure measures out until the journey is complete. As long as the journey continues, there is hope: a chance to turn failures into success, weaknesses to strengths.

Like any adventure, the challenges are unique to each traveler. Even the same parent will experience different challenges as each child is guided through adolescence. Because each journey is unique, there is no way to smooth all the bumps, anticipate all the challenges, or detonate all the land mines beforehand. However, there are aspects of the journey that appear to be universal.

Although teenagers will make their own choices, a good home life can increase the odds that kids will avoid many of the pitfalls of adolescence. Particularly, a kind, warm, solid relationship with parents who demonstrate respect for their children, an interest in their children's activities, and set firm boundaries for those activities may directly or indirectly deter criminal activity, illegal drug and alcohol use, negative peer pressure, delinquency, sexual promiscuity, and low self-esteem.

Parents who give their teenagers their love, time, boundaries, and encouragement to think for themselves may find that they actually enjoy their children's adventure through adolescence.

As they watch their sons and daughters grow in independence, make decisions, and develop into young adults, they may find that the child they have reared is -- like the breathtaking view of the newborn they held for the first time -- even better than they could have imagined.

I’m out of time for now. I hope this helps. The eBook will go into much greater detail as to how to correct the child issues you’ve listed.

Mark Hutten, M.A.

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I'm trying to figure out how to keep her from teaching my daughter her tricks...

Mark, I started using your program about 6 weeks ago. I'm finally seeing some positive changes. However, My 9yo who is ODD has a developed a friendship with the 11yo across the street who is ODD, ADD & PTSD. We had her over for a sleepover. I found out from my older daughter in the morning that the neighbor broke most of our house rules. (She was reasonably well behaved when I was in sight.) Being that she is a neighborhood kid I'm trying to figure out how to keep her from teaching my daughter her tricks. Keeping them apart is unlikely as they live right across the street. I have already told my girls that I won't agree to another sleepover based on her behavior last time. Any ideas of how to handle her when she is with my kids?


Hi S.,

If keeping them apart is unlikely, I don’t know how you will keep this girl from influencing your 9-year-old. What you can do is teach your child right from wrong (as simple as this sounds, it is easier said than done).

Research shows that the pressure to behave like someone else comes most often from wanting to be accepted, wanting to belong, and wanting to be noticed. Help your child learn what qualities to look for in a friend, and advise him/her about what to say if the negative peer is trying to get your child to misbehave in some way. Children who have difficulty making friends need your support to avoid being isolated or bullied.

Your child may not always know which situations could have harmful consequences. Start talking with your child about these dangers early, and prepare him/her for the moment when you’re not there and he has to make a choice about behavior or misbehavior. 

You also need to discuss the dangers of being around others who make risky choices. You can help your child learn how to recognize and back away from situations that could have harmful consequences. For example, discuss with her how to say no if someone offers her alcohol, tobacco, or drugs at a party. (Yes…even 9-year-olds experiment with drugs/alcohol.)

Role play with your child so that he/she can practice saying “no” to things that are harmful or against the rules. For example, pretend to offer your child a drink or a cigarette. Let your child take a turn being the person who suggests something that isn't safe. Then, have fun thinking of different ways to say no.

Repeat role-playing at different ages and stages of your child’s development. A 9-year-old may find it easy to turn down alcohol; a 15-year-old may be more curious—or more reluctant to act differently if others are drinking.

Make sure your child is comfortable with what he/she wants to say. Coach him/her to use his/her own words and expressions. For instance, a shy child might simply say, “I gotta go” and then quickly walk away. A more confident child might say, “What? Are you talking to me? Forget it!” Children who have trouble refusing offers from other kids may need extra practice in giving a strong, believable reason for backing away from a situation that they think could be dangerous.

Here are a few examples of “conversation starters” to use with your child:
  • Do you find it easy to speak up about what you like and don’t like? Among friends? With strangers?
  • If you had a friend who was stuck at a party with people drinking or using drugs, what advice would you give him?
  • What do you look for in a friend?
  • When is taking a risk a good thing? When is it bad?

I trust this will help,

Mark Hutten, M.A.

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