Education and Counseling for Individuals Affected by Oppositional Defiant Disorder and ADHD

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I feel abandoned by my husband and am embarrassed by my son's behavior...

Hi T.,

== > I’ve responded throughout your email below:


Thank you so much for the MOOCT website. Our son is 15 and we love him to bits - he is incredible, and he drives us crazy. Most of what we've found at your site is not news to us, but it's an organized and concrete approach that gives us tools, not idealisms. I am especially grateful for the dialogue you give us to repeat over and over; so much easier to not say the wrong things when we have a script to follow!

The Kid is just starting on High Risk diversion (county program) for multiple unruly filings and escalating behavior over the past 9 months. No drugs (multiple clean tests), no physicial violence, worst "community" crimes are curfew violations (regularly) and a couple of fights (rarely - last >1 year ago). Our major problems with him have been school (passed all classes this semester, at last, but with HUGE support from the school), outright refusal to follow house rules/parental edicts, and "loud and hurtful language" coupled with intimidating behavior (punching walls, slamming doors, blocking path) at the most minor of provocations (ie, the word "No.") In the past eight weeks he's progressed to staying out all night or two, (three occasions). And has stolen money from my husband's car the first two times (~5 bucks or so each time).

== > Here you would want to use the strategy entitled “When You Want Something From Your Kid” – Session #3.

This is new behavior around our house; odd as it might sound, he has attempted to respect *some* boundaries to this point. I should say, too, that this is an intelligent and socially well-developed kid that most people mistake for a better-educated young person several years older than he really is. Which means his behavior is willful, and more frustrating.

So we're several weeks past Week 4, and my husband and I are doing *fairly* well. Our son's fuse has gotten shorter; we give the simple "no" and single explanation and off he goes. He usually doesn't even try to negotiate now; just screams some predictable vulgarities as he proceeds to do whatever he wanted to do in the first place. The most recent occasion, yesterday, came after a week of few conflicts and general cooperation with no huge infractions. He had asked Thursday if he could "spend the night anywhere" on Friday and was told no by both parents. Friday, he left while we were at work and called late to ask again if he could spend the night at someone's house, and I told him no. When he (inevitably) raged about how it's not fair and he never gets to blah blah blah, I remembered my rules and told him I wasn't going to argue with him, and that I expected him home by 11pm (legal curfew). He swore again and hung up on me.

He did not come home.

== > Give him a warning in addition to telling him that you expect him to be home by 11:00 PM. “If you choose to ignore your curfew, you’ll choose the consequence. The police will be called. A runaway report will be filed. And I will go to Juvenile Probation and file an incorrigibility complaint.”

When I finally tracked him down today, he insisted that he thought I had reversed my decision during his self-pity party. Let me stress, here: This has *never* happened. And I sure didn't leave any room for misunderstanding last night. I followed the rules to the letter and did not engage in ANY discussion or back-and-forth. Also, he refused to tell me where he was and didn't come home for another five hours.

It seems to me that now he's lost the ability to get us riled up to give him an excuse to take off, he's desperate and turning to sheer invention. Does that seem correct?

== > Yes. We expect this to happen because the child’s ability-to-control-parents is waning.

Right now, of course, he's furious and hostile because I "got the police involved", and they actually called one of his friends this time to see if they could find him. I "got the police involved" the other times, too, but this is the first time they've actively tried to track him down. (Slow weekend here in suburbia, apparently.)

== > Good for you. You’re on track here.

I have three problems with this situation.

First is making sure that the way I'm handling this is correct. Although a part of me is touched by the kid's plea of ignorance, the rest of me remembers that forgetting and being confused and doing things poorly is how kids like this one show rebellion. So I've told him he'll be grounded from all privileges for three days, and that the clock starts ticking when he stops being hostile and stays where he's supposed to be. Is that appropriate?

== > Yes …but, be more specific. “Stop being hostile” is too vague. Plus you did not give a time limit.

Say, for example, “When you stop yelling profanities, the clock will start.”

Second is that my husband, when he gets back home tomorrow from his weekend getaway, will ask me ad nauseum to "let it go" and not punish him. Or punish him for only one day. And let him have his computer. He will "reward" the kid during the grounding period with computer time and money and treats from the store and friends at the house "for just a little while" and etc. He will do this, even though he says he is fully on board with the MOOCT program. How should I handle this?

== > He may be on board in word, but not in action. Having said this, a weaker plan supported by both parents is much better than a stronger plan supported by only one.

Remember your successes. During your marriage, you and your husband have undoubtedly successfully negotiated many situations-with each of you both giving and taking a little until you reached some middle ground. You can also be successful at ending arguments in front of the children if you really want to. It won't be easy, but it will be rewarding.

Agree on a signal to alert both of you that the conversation is, or is about to, get too heated and needs to be halted. Make a commitment to honor and act on the signal. You might walk away and have an agreed-upon cooling off period. Or set a time to revisit your differences in opinion. Or write down what you're feeling and later share it with your husband, who might better understand where you're coming from.

Create your own family "rulebook." Write clear, reasonable, attainable rules (for both parents and kids) about what behavior is acceptable and what isn't. Your family, like a baseball team, will be more successful when you have clear guidelines.

Don’t go overboard in trying to avoid arguments. Having small squabbles in front of the kids-and then resolving them peacefully-can actually be good for them; it shows that it's possible to disagree with someone you love, and that relationships don't end just because people are quarreling with each other.

Third is that I feel abandoned by my husband and am embarrassed by my son's behavior; when the police officer visited our house this evening to confirm that son was safe and sound, he was very rude to the officer. I apologized to the policeman, but can't help feeling guilty that they have to take time out from protecting our city to be subjected to such rude behavior. I know it's part of their job, but it's so unpleasant. I am ashamed of our home situation. Is it normal to feel this way?

== > Yes.

Re: husband. I’m guessing that at some level you feel as though you are “parenting” two children sometimes – your son and your husband. Plus it appears that your husband wants to remain “the good guy” in your son’s eyes.

Re: son. You need not be embarrassed by your son’s behavior. Remind yourself that he is just a kid who has a lot to learn – not a bad person with evil intentions.

Just keep doing what you’re doing, because you are really on track as far as I can tell! Don’t ignore your successes – and I’m sure there are many.

Thank you in advance for your input. I'm sorry this email is so long, and I appreciate your taking the time to respond to us floundering parents with your expertise and experience.



== > You’re very welcome. It was good to hear from you. Email again in the future if you need some support.


Online Parent Support

Franco is now rebelling because he feels he is being punished...

My two stepsons share a basement bedroom. Franco, the 17 year old, takes on the hero role and rarely breaks rules. Anthony, the 15 year old, takes on the scapegoat role and is constantly breaking rules. We grounded Anthony and took away cable TV in the basement. Franco is now rebelling because he feels he is being punished. What should we do?

==> Ground Anthony FROM the basement. In other words, have him stay IN the house, but OUT of the basement (except to sleep at night in his bed).

Franco feels sorry for Anthony when we ground him and has encouraged and helped his brother to get out of the house. Should Franco be disciplined for that? If so how?

==> Yes. Use the 1- to 3-day-discipline outlined in Session #3 entitled “When You Want Something From Your Kid.”

My stepsons' mother often finds excuses to take Anthony when we ground him because she feels sorry for him. Should we restart his grounding when he comes back?

==> No. But he should not be able to leave to be with his biological mother until he has completed the 1- to 3-day discipline. If his mother refuses to go along with this plan, then – yes – you restart the grounding when he returns.


My Out-of-Control Teen

Has she earned the CD or is it a bit of a free handout...

Hi Mark!

Just a question about rewards-the school counsellor started A___ on a star chart a few weeks ago (before we joined OPS) and I was wondering what to do about it. We've sort of kept it going-she gets a star for good behavior and there is a list of rewards after each 10 stars (ie) a friend to play after 10stars, dinner out after 20, a new CD after 50 etc etc...We are up to 50 stars now after giving her a star for going to bed without a fuss and not getting up a million times-she has done this all week and she got a star last night. But she wants a new CD and is taking the list of rewards as gospel-I can't seem to change them around. So, has she earned the CD or is it a bit of a free handout or should we phase out the chart? Just not sure of what to do....

Generally her behavior this week isn't as bad as the last few weeks and we feel we are making a tiny bit of progress every now and again so thanks




Hi L.,

Re: So, has she earned the CD or is it a bit of a free handout or should we phase out the chart?

We typically don't reward "good behavior" with extra stuff and freedom, rather we simply give acknowledgment and praise. But...

We also do not want to fix things that are not broken. Thus, if this system is working, I wouldn't change it.

When you are undecided about what course to take, ask yourself, "Will this promote the development of self-reliance in my child -- or will it inhibit such development?"

If it will likely foster the development of self-reliance, then it is a good course of action to take. Otherwise, you should re-evaluate.


Online Parent Support

Give him a call ...see if he can help you.....

I am seriously going to sign up for your online course, however I have a question> My two teenage kids are always around me. Will it be bad to do this in front of them because I was listening to one of your demo speech and they had comments about it ...said oh yeah mom, give him a call ...see if he can help you. My answer was I intend to something has to help. I need your opinion on this. I rarely have moments without them around. Thank you and I am hopeful with you and prayer. Something good has to come out of it. Thanks again, J.


Hi J.,

It would be best that your children not see or hear what you will be doing -- otherwise it will be like showing them your poker hand in a game of poker.

My suggestion is to get a set of headphones that plug into your computer so that when you are watching the Instructional Videos, your kids can't hear the audio.

Also, you can print out a hard copy of the eBook and keep it out of sight.


My Out-of-Control Teen

I feel like I am in the middle of a Tornado...

Hi B.,

== > I’ve responded throughout your email below:

Hi Mark

Thanks for the quick response to my queries..I am now having a few more... I told L___ that I realised I had made mistakes etc this morning and she flew off the handle so aggressively telling me that I couldn't change things now and that she would not change no matter what etc etc..

== > This is to be expected.

I managed to remain relatively calm, at least externally but on the inside i left the room and proceeded over the next hour to experience a pretty intense emotional meltdown... it felt like a combination of guilt for the past, pain and anger at having such a difficult child and fear that it was all too much and that things were never going to change... I am thinking that perhaps it is quite natural to feel a deep emotional reaction to all this shift..??

== > That’s correct. People don’t like change, because change gets them out of their comfort zone. Plus it takes a lot of energy to adjust to new things.

I want to know if I am supposed to TELL her that she is going to have to EARN everything from now on or do I just implement the strategies without explaining exactly WHAT and WHY we are doing life like this now...

== > This was discussed in Session #2 Assignments. What you say is, “I want to try compromising this week.” Be sure to watch Instructional Video #18.

Also our situation is made complex by a few practical factors..they are:

...we have a shop business that D___ and I run that is 45 mins from home…we travel there each day but sometimes one of us is at home ( we have two smaller children who go to school) ..Many, in fact most weekends we are staying down at the shop as it is just easier that way and we take the two small children with us but for the past 6 months or more we have been leaving L___ at home due to the extreme amount of tension with her and her wanting to be with her friends etc... she has proven to be reliable and responsible in the sense that she respects the home and does not throw parties and she maintains jobs like caring for animals and garden when asked etc whilst we are away...BUT she has as a result experienced a lot of trust from me and a lot of freedom...she has not broken my trust, she is not one of those really wild kids with NO respect at all for others etc but I can certainly see the symptoms of the ODD character in her and the disregard she shows for myself and D___ and the family system in general is VERY DISTURBING… she lacks any real motivation and has left school and is not doing anything about getting a job etc..

So basically the situation is very uncomfortable and I am unsure about how I am going to fully implement the new boundaries etc when we have to attend to the needs of the business and to hers when we stay away from the home base for periods of time.. We are just about to move shop premises starting July 1st and so we will be staying down there with the small children from tomorrow for three weeks of the school holidays to get the job done...I have told her already the other day that I am not happy for her to be at home unsupervised for long periods and that she will have to come and stay with us for at least Mon-thurs and that she can be up the hill at home on the weekends to see her friends etc…She of course balked at that but has not yet refused as I have yet to implement it…Now I am confused about whether I should be allowing her any freedom to be with her friends AT All, due to the Self-reliance strategy program or should I be waiting to implement ANYTHING you teach until I have nothing else major going on in my life

== > We want our kids to have as much freedom as possible – HOWEVER – this freedom MUST be earned. “Freedom” does not contribute to the behavior problems. “Unearned freedom” does, though. Allow her to continue to have the freedom to be with her friends, but come up with something simple for her to do to earn that privilege.

... I thought I recalled reading somewhere that we should not undertake ANY major endeavour whilst going thru this program..???

== > Yes …do not fix anything that is not broken. If your daughter is living up to your trust, then do not change anything in that particular area.

I feel like I am in the middle of a Tornado and very overwhelmed with all that is on my plate so I will await your reply...

PS..You are absolutely sure that these strategies work...??? stupid question...she feels so irretrievable times I feel like it's just too late..

==> Doubting yourself is normal. I track outcomes with this program, and approximately 92% of parents report that (a) problems have reduced in frequency and severity and (b) the few remaining problems are manageable. So it doesn’t work 100% of the time – and it doesn’t wipe out ALL behavior problems. But the overall success rate is very good.


P.S. Be sure to watch ALL the Instructional Videos.

My Out-of-Control Teen

He tries to control & dominate his family, peers and school staff...

Dear Mark, for the past couple of years I have been working with JR, as i will refer to him for reasons of confidentiality. I am after some advice as the child is facing exclusion from school due to a catalogue of offences against his peers and staff. He is following dinosaur school programme run by our behaviour services. He can, although he is only 6yrs of age, tell you about all the solutions, problem solving techniques he has learned, although refuses to put into practice. He tries to control & dominate his family, peers and school staff. A simple outing can be a nightmare, he will stop dead in his tracks and hold every-one up refusing to board the bus etc I have tried traffic lights, smiley face book, etc. the list is endless. I have given him instructions to work, if he refuses he gets count of three, instructions repeated then behaviour ignored, this seems to work and he is very bright and has amazing concentration levels and an excellent work rate, but the overwhelming desire to be 'first' to do anything,from line up which i have stopped him doing because he pushes people out of the way, to trying to beat every-one at all cost at snakes & ladders. I play football & shoot baskets with him using a small group of kids who are still willing to play with us. His humour is rude, anything to do with poop, buts,burps gross table manners, which he also has, he finds funny he loves to see a look of disgust as he eats nose contents in front of staff. Time out given he says 'don't care'. we try to reason with him he says 'blah blah. Missed play' time says not bothered, does his time without remorse. I seem to be his only friend, i tried to buddy him up with another bright little boy but he tried to dominate him and stabbed him in the hand with a pencil, needless to say we abandoned that strategy. It is so frustrating as he is so bright and could be a real little star but he just cannot seem to cope with school life, we tried one to one in the after school club but it was too intense as i had to be that step ahead of him all day long avoiding total domination at all times! Any advice on this matter would be truly welcome.

your sincerely, Jane, warn-out support worker!!


These behavior problems could be the result of many different factors (e.g., genetic & environmental). At first glance, you described a child who (a) is on the receiving end of poor/negative parenting (e.g., a parent who is extremely critical and judgmental), and (b) has Oppositional Defiant Disorder and ADHD.

Has he had a comprehensive psychiatric evaluation yet? If not, this would be an important first step. (I would do some testing to rule out Bipolar Disorder.)

My experience with these children (i.e., children with severely disruptive behavior patterns) is that they eventually misbehave to the point where the parent has to place them in a residential treatment facility for a period of a year or more. Sometimes the best thing for these kids is to be away from their parents for awhile.


Online Parent Support

ODD vs. PD

What is the difference between Oppositional Defiant Disorder and a Personality Disorder?

Mark Hutten, M.A.

Stepfathers are often viewed as "second-class citizens"...

Hi Mark... Thanks for the link worked perfectly...with regard the first set of assignments i am struggling a fair bit mentally with applying the Love one.. My Husband is L____'s step father and has struggled with her a great deal from the start of our 8year marriage but more especially the last two years, she is 16... she has HUGE issues around him and for him to start saying he loved her EVERY nite would seem almost mission impossible, from him and she would find it very odd to say the least...even I am finding the whole thing confronting but can give it a good shot... I noticed on the side column of that page u said that it was OK to not say it every nite... What do you think...?? I am assuming that D___ needs to implement all the approaches just as much as I do for the picture to change??

Thanks So much...

Regards B.


Hi B.,

Unfortunately, stepfathers are often viewed as "second-class citizens" in the eyes of many stepchildren.

The statement "I love you daughter" will have more meaning coming from you rather than her stepfather. However, D___ could occasionally offer a sincere compliment to your daughter that will have a near-equal effect.

In any event, I think it will be O.K. for your husband not to say "I love you" if it will seem awkward and out-of-character for him.


Online Parent Support

He and his group of friends are starting to drink alcohol...

Hi M.,

I've responded throughout your email below:


First of all, thank you for your program. I am beginning session 3 and so far, I've seen some good changes between my 16 year old son and myself. We don't argue nearly as much as we use to. Sometimes I have to catch myself but for the most part, it is getting better. I was definitely the over indulgent parent and am trying to fix my mistakes. I am also a single mom.

My problem with my son is that I believe he and his group of friends are starting to drink alcohol. What is the best way to handle this problem.

==> Please refer to the "Read These Emails From Exasperated Parents" [session #4 - online version]. You will be using "The Six-Step Approach" that is also discussed in session #4.

I've also noticed that his group of friends are changing. Some of the new guys in the group are ones that he has told me that are known drinkers. I am probably a bad person for doing this, but I have read his text messages where some of his friends have talked about getting alcohol or have been drinking themselves and I always check his room or outside where they sometimes camp out to see if there are any cans or bottles. I'm not naive to think that he's never tried drinking but I don't want him to start a bad habit if he hasn't already. If I do catch him drinking or intoxicated what should I do?

==> Again, refer to the areas of the eBook listed above.

My brother who is a probation officer in a different county told me about how a school sold alcohol breath testing things (sorry not sure of the official name) and said he could possibly get me one. I have not talked to my brother about my son's possible drinking.

==> Home breathalyzers are great if your son comes home visibly under the influence or smells of alcohol - and he agrees to the test. But he will not likely submit to testing since you don't have the authority to jail him if he refuses. Also, one shot of whiskey - or a 12 ounce beer - or a 7 ounce glass of wine metabolizes in just one hour, and a breathalyzer test will not detect any alcohol. So you would have to test him fairly quickly.


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

I'm feeling more detached from him each day...

Hi Mark,

Our son, I__, will be 18 next Sunday and will be a high school senior this coming August. I began your program about 10 days ago and have completed the first week. I talked with I__ about our mistakes as parents, we did have dinner together last Sunday and I have attempted to complete the other first week assignments. I have not moved on to week two though because I__ has been gone so much that I have not been able to do the number of repetitions that I'm sure are part of the program. Since school has been out, I__ comes home late (midnight to 1) during the week and later during the weekends. He gets up after I go to work and is gone before I get home from work. There are some days that I never see him. This weekend we asked him to come home by 4 on Saturday and we have not seen him or heard from him since yesterday afternoon. He does not have a job and while he says he is looking for one, I don't believe he is looking very hard. He spends his days "hanging" with his friends. There is not much to take away from him. He no longer has access to a computer (at home), has lost his phone (and the service is turned off) and does have use of a car, which is at home because he has no money for gas.

I would very much like to re-establish a relationship with him so he can live at home while he finishes high school. I'm feeling more detached from him each day and I'm sure he is feeling detached from us as well. He stills calls occasionally to check in. What would you advise as next steps? Also, in Indiana, are all parental rights/responsibilities termed at 18, or do some continue if the student is still in high school?

Appreciate your feedback and suggestions,



Hi C.,

First of all, to allow him to run …to come and go as he pleases …is a form of over-indulgence. In Session #2 and #3, you’ll find disciplinary strategies to deal with this problem. He needs to be in by curfew – and he needs to be doing some chores around the house (especially since he’s not working).

Re: parental responsibilities. If one of the parents is paying child support, he or she may have to help with college expenses until the adult-child is 21, but other than that, your obligations are met once he reaches the 18.


Online Parent Support

It just breaks my heart that he won’t open up...

Just wondered if you have any ideas about this. Our 17 year old son, D___, is silent about things that bother him. He won’t say anything about what is going on inside of him. He just got back from a week at church camp. Last year he came back all fired-up and ready to face life. This year he came back no different than he left. Only thing different is he is making an effort to get a normal sleeping pattern. He was staying up till like 4 AM, then sleeping to about 2 PM. So far he has been going to bed at around 12 or 1, and getting up at around 10 or so. He still has no job either. I don’t know what he is interested in other than computer gaming and youth group on Tuesday nights. He doesn’t hang out with friends much though. He does talk to them a lot on the phone and text, of course.

Maybe a little background will help. First off, we home school. Have done this since D___ was in the 5th grade. We are from Illinois but moved to Kentucky 4 years ago. He was very upset with this. Our other son will be 13 next month and didn’t want to move either. We got thru it but these 4 years have been the toughest I have ever faced. Also, our boys are adopted. They are half-brothers (have different fathers). We have had D___ since he was 3, and Jared since birth.

Is there any way we can help D___ open up? I never degrade my boys or anything like that. I don’t know why he won’t talk. And he says he don’t and won’t talk to anyone else about it either. He has always been the quiet type.

One other thing. A year or so ago I read a post on his MySpace where he mentioned that he came close to committing suicide once. He had the knife out and everything and then his cell phone rang. It was a girl he cared much about and that stopped him. I spoke with him about it later. He said it happened not long after we moved here. I asked him if he had looked back and realized all he would have missed if he had gone thru with it. He said yes and “That would have sucked!” So that is a plus. I told him that suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. I encouraged him that when things got rough he needed to get with someone and talk it out. If not me then find someone else he could trust and confide in. Just talk it out. I assured him that I loved him very much and that I would never laugh at him about anything he had to say. I know the story he came up with could be fabricated just for MySpace but D___ isn’t really like that. He almost always tells the truth and when he doesn’t he eventually gets around to it (usually soon).

It just breaks my heart that he won’t open up. And at times I get a bit fearful when he is depressed but yet won’t talk. He has something against me. I tried to find out what it is but he won’t say. And I don’t know if he would go with me to see a counselor if that is needed.

He is a really good kid. Both of them are. But teens are so hard to figure out. I don’t remember ever being like this myself.

Anyway, would appreciate any comments you might have.


Hi D.,

We could spend the rest of the afternoon trying to figure out why your son is in a shell. His behavior is multi-factorial (e.g., his genetic make-up, his personality make-up, environmental factors, etc.).

The bottom line is that he will grow out of this -- and there isn't much you can do in the meantime (other than to simply reassure him that he is loved).

Don't take this behavior personally.


Online Parent Support

A great week...


Just wanted to fill you in on a great week. We have implemented our son's chores, and he is doing them with no fuss. I do hope this continues, but am prepared if we run in to problems, which I know from experience is surely possible around here!

Am continuing reading and listening to program.

Thanks so much.

Have nice weekend,


Online Parent Support

Do punitive consequences (Detention Centers) help or hinder a teenager with this disorder?


My story is too long for an email, but briefly...

My son has been on probation for grand theft of a dwelling and vandalism (10/07). Since then he has 3 violations of his probation due to 4 positive drug (marijuana) tests, leaving thru his bedroom window in the middle of the night, stealing his father's car twice, stealing his father's ATM card twice. He has spent time in the Juvenile Detention for a couple of weeks for each violation. My son has symptoms you describe. Prior to 10/07, I know I was in denial as you describe in the video on your web site. He has a court date on July 8th for his most recent violation followed by a staffing meeting, in which a group of individuals from probation will decide on the best place for him. My question to you is this... Do punitive consequences (Detention Centers) help or hinder a teenager with this disorder?

I only have a couple of weeks until our court date, so I am not sure if beginning your program will help as we do not know at this point our son's future? My husband and I do know we need help and do not know where to turn for support and help.

In need,


Hi R.,

Re: Do punitive consequences (Detention Centers) help or hinder a teenager with this disorder?

I think it does more harm than good. Detention is designed to protect the community - not to rehabilitate the teenager. (You're hearing this from a Juvenile Probation Officer.)

I think you should get busy with the program.

==> Click Here to start.

Do kids grow out of this????

Hi Mark,

I was just looking at your website and the partial list of 40 items your book is said to give solutions too, does it actually have 40 sections that specifically address each of these issues, because I find that often you need a way to deal with a specific problem, eg when my son (age 6) is rude to his sister in the car, how can I get him to stop and understand he's being rude, talking doesn't help? ...stopping the car doesn't etc? There are lots of circumstances like this.

I'm after specific coping strategies, and please please please tell me do kids grow out of this????

thanks K.


Hi K.,

There are four sessions (parents are advised to only do one session per week).

We have 2 core program-goals: (1) fostering the development of self-reliance and (2) knowing when to turn intensity on and off.

Our 5 main parenting-strategies help parents accomplish these goals:

(1) Fair Fighting
(2) The Art of Saying 'Yes'
(3) The Art of Saying "No"
(4) When You Want Something From Your Child
(5) The Six-Step Approach

So, no ...there is not 40 different things you have to know.


Online Parent Support

I discovered that he had taken my debit card and taken $300 out of my account...


I really need help here. My 17 year old son, who I have been telling myself is a good kid at heart – but I am just at wits end. He is currently failing a couple of classes, he cuts some classes the absolute maximum number he can without failing (though once he gets to that line, he goes to the classes). He is very, very smart, so it has nothing to do with ability.

Enough background – this morning I discovered that he had taken my debit card and taken $300 out of my account. He has taken money before, but because he was doing so poorly in school, we wanted him to do his school work and not get a job. Obviously, that was a bad decision. He does start work immediately after football camp (which is a requirement for football) on July 1. I will take his paychecks until he has paid me back, but this has got to stop!!!

Can I call the cops and scare him, or is that really bad? I don’t even have a clue how to handle this.


Hi J.,

Let's slow down...

I want to do what is in your best interest. Thus, the best advice I can give you at this point (since you just got started with the program) is to simply work through the four sessions. 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 most of the questions 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 would like to save you from rushing into things, and then failing. Is this O.K.?

Your child is 17-years-old. It has taken 17 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 again with a specific question regarding any parent-child difficulty you may still be struggling with.

You're not going to "scare" your son with the cops. Don't waste your time with that strategy. Simply set-up a repayment plan (it sounds like you may already have one).

One day at a time,


P.S. Be sure to watch ALL the Instructional Videos [online version of the eBook].

My Out-of-Control Teen

Struggling every day to get my 8 year old up and ready...

I am still struggling every day to get my 8 year old up and ready for, well now its day camp, not school. She procrastinates, goes back to bed. I remain calm and don't react, but it’s the struggle every day going thru this. What can I do? What are consequences for this? I have learned and doing very well to keep a poker straight face thru it all. Please advise.


Develop a bedtime routine. Bedtime routines can be simple—something families can commit to on a nightly basis. After dinner, children have quiet playtime. Then they have a bath, put on pajamas, and have a story read by mom or dad before bedtime at 8 pm. As children get older, they get to help make decisions about the bedtime routine. You can say, ‘You can read a chapter or two or play a game with your sibling, but then it’s lights out.’

Most children do not get enough sleep. How much sleep do they need?


Sleep each day

1-3 years

12-14 hours

3-5 years

11-13 hours

5-12 years

10-11 hours


8.5-9.5 hours


8 hours

It is recommended that school-aged children get between 10-11 hours of nightly sleep. At bedtime, do not allow your child to have foods or drinks that contain caffeine. This includes chocolate and sodas. Try not to give him or her any medicine that has a stimulant at bedtime. This includes cough medicines and decongestants.

Establish a relaxing setting at bedtime. Follow a consistent bedtime routine. Set aside 10 to 30 minutes to get your child ready to go to sleep each night. Interact with your child at bedtime. Don’t let the TV, computer or video games take your place. Keep your children from TV programs, movies, and video games that are not right for their age.

Also, do not let your 8-year-old stay up late on weekends.

Re: Consequences for not getting up on time. Please refer to the strategy entitled “When You Want Something From Your Kid” [Session #3 – online version of the eBook].


Online Parent Support

How to Stop Sibling-Bullying: Tips for Parents

I have been listening and reading through your material and, so far, I am impressed. With a degree in special education, I have taken several behavioral management courses over the years and I have read several books. This material seems to be written specifically for my family! My son is 13 and the oldest of 5. I definitely notice a difference in my son's behavior when we focus more on the positive and state expectations clearly and specifically.

My husband and I struggle with the ability to remain calm when the actions of my son affect our other 4 children. I try not to blame or accuse because that just leads to an argument and denial. I have tried pointing out to my son that he is tired and perhaps should stay away from his siblings who are "annoying" him until he is not so irritable. However, my son continues to aggravate and instigate which most of the time leads to someone getting hurt physically and/or emotionally. My question is: How do I keep a poker face and redirect or remove my child from a situation that he is hurting others when he simply does not listen?? After I have tried several attempts, I often lose my temper...which is exactly what he wants!! Should I just remove my other children from the situation and try to ignore my son?

My husband and I will continue to read over and listen to your material. I have every confidence that this program will work for us. It says what I have been saying for child is not is his behavior that needs to be addressed and he needs help in learning how make better choices.

Click here for my response...

The Tail Is Wagging The Dog


I have been putting your principles into practise for a few months now and everything was going well until my sons best friend came back into his life big time. His girlfriend dropped him two weeks ago and he had been kicked out of both his mothers and fathers house because they cannot live with his behaviour any more, this child has uncontrollable tempers and word around the place is he is on steroids. How do I get my son back on track and to accept that his friend is a bad egg.

He stayed out all night because I was mad with him, he is not responding to the consequences unless I change them. He is now 17 and I know he would be scared if I really threw him out, but I am scared if it backfires. If I call the police when he stays out, is this not going to backfire and make him so wild with me? What normally happens in this case? Can you give some advice?



Hi L.,

Re: …son’s best friend.

Peer pressure is a very potent force, but its influence is very subtle. Often, teens don't even know they're being influenced. Teens associate with peers who are not necessarily a good influence because they don't want to say "no" …don't want to be left out …don't want to seem like a wimp …don't want to lose their friends …and are afraid their friends will tease them and spread rumors around school.

Family support is crucial to adolescents. Adolescents take their major values in life from their parents. When adolescents are negatively influenced by their peers, it is more likely because something is lacking in parental involvement. Those who do not have a high level of support from their parents are more likely to become involved in undesirable behaviors. Support and effective communication lessen adolescent's vulnerability to negative peer pressure.

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, he or 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: He stayed out all night because I was mad with him, he is not responding to the consequences unless I change them.

Where was your poker face? Also, “changing” consequences to meet the demands of the child is a form of over-indulgence.

Re: If I call the police when he stays out, is this not going to backfire and make him so wild with me?

I can see that the tail is wagging the dog. You have clearly lost control in the relationship. Rather than worrying about things “backfiring,” I would recommend that you concern yourself with the damage that will be done to your son if you continue to over-indulge.

Please review Session #3 in the eBook {online version}. I think this chapter applies best in your circumstance.

Stay in touch,


==> My Out-of-Control Teen

He acts much younger because of my passive ways of raising...

Hello Mark. Thank you for replying to my last email so quickly. My son, when he was 17, was discovered using weed with his girlfriend in our house. I of course got furious (I fall under the passive parent). I told him that if this happens again he would have to move in with his father. His father lives in Beverly Hills and I live in Burbank. Well, it happened twice thereafter and I just repeated the same threat. Finally after the fourth time, and right after his 18th birthday, he did it again, and this time I told him that he has made the choice to abuse my rules, therefore he has made the choice to move to his fathers. This was bad for him because he would be loosing all of his friends and would have to start a new school in his senior year.

In addition to the use of drugs he was also lying to me, staying out late and talking back to me and not following thru on commitments. His father was furious with me that I could do such a thing in his last year. So he paid for an apartment for him to stay at until he graduated. I consulted with my therapist before I kicked him out, and she said that I must carry through with my threat, and that it would be good for him to live with his father (which he didn't). She also said to tell him that it was his decision by not following my rules and that I did not kick him out. She said that I should call him at least once a week and have dinner with him once a week. I did call him, but almost every time we made an arrangement he stood me up.

Now that summer is here, and I have found this wonderful program of yours, I would love it if he would move back in with my and my new husband so that I can have a second chance so to speak. By the way, I was a single mom since my son was 6 mos. old. I just remarried in January and my son gave me away. He wants to live with his father who give free handouts, has been fired from jobs for sexual harassment and is a racist. I am white and he is black. When I lived with him, he would get on the phone he would constantly talk to his black buddies and say that it's the white people fault that he's not working (Movie industry) and they don't like hiring blacks. His 37 year old son lives with him! I don't want my son in this environment, and I don’t know what to do. Please advise.

I know that he is an adult, but like you say, he acts much younger because of my passive ways of raising. If he moved in with me, he would go to college and work part time. I would also make him pay rent to live here and I would follow your method of parent strategies.

Thank you,



Hi A.,

As long as your son is (a) working, (b) paying rent, and (c) working toward some type of education, I think it is fine that he lives at home. BUT – if does not follow through with the above and begins to use your house as a “flop house” – then you are back to over-indulgent parenting again – and you WILL suffer the consequences as a result (I know that you know what I’m talking about here – you’ve already gone through it before).

Give him a warning up front re: exactly what the house rules are!


My Out-of-Control Teen

I am an over-indulgent parent with both things and freedom...

Hi Mark,

I just want to write you a quick note to vent (a little, since you are an understanding audience) and let you know that you have already opened my eyes to the dependent relationship with myself and my daughter. Wow, the part about wanting to fight with me and that actually gives her a sort of distorted acknowledgment is sort of disturbing and relieving at the same time. I have often felt that she deliberately picks fights with me to get me going but I thought I was making it up in my mind because I was becoming resentful. I want my daughter to be happy but I understand now that the relationship I've created is causing her to be act they way she acts.

By the way...I am an over-indulgent parent with both things and freedom.

I will let you know how things go.
Best regards,


Hi S.,

I'm glad you are getting some insight into what is going on. Thanks for being open to new ways of thinking.

Stay in touch,


Online Parent Support

Our biggest mistake was grounding him for too long...

Hi K.,

I've responded throughout your email below:

Hi Mark,

My husband and I have been taking your online seminar and found it to be very helpful. Our son will be 18 in October. He's never cared about school and has become more and more defiant in the past few years. I would describe his behavior as passive aggressive. He'll say what you want to hear but then do something totally different. He says he will continue high school when he's 18 but I doubt it very much. He wants, wants, wants, but has not motivation behind any of it. He's had a little trouble with drugs but I don't think he is abusing drugs.

After taking your seminar, we found our biggest mistake was grounding him for too long. He kept screwing up so we just kept adding to his grounding. After awhile, he just ignored anything we said. The 3-day grounding rule helped a little bit, but basically he would get off grounding for a day or so then screw up again.

==> He only "screws up" if he repeats the original offense. Please refer to Session #3 and have another peak at the strategy entitled "When You Want Something From Your Kid."

That's the cycle we're in right now. But our relationship still has improved because of your recommendations for daily positive affirmations, etc.

I would like your advice in how to handle our latest problem. We discovered over the weekend that our son had stolen $60 from my purse and we have seen some indications that he may be buying and selling marijuana with a group of friends. I've told him that he must pay back every penny of what he took (by doing chores, which will take him sometime to do because he only does chores when he wants something.) I'm not sure if I should go to the police. I can't prove any of this although I believe he has taken money before but can't be absolutely sure. He's had a few minor run-ins with the police already – trespassing on schools grounds at night and possession of marijuana. We have an appt with a juvenile probation office this week regarding these problems.

==> If you don't have any hard evidence that he stole money from you, then you really cannot do anything other than take extra precautions in the future (hide your money). Regarding selling/smoking pot: Get some home drug kits. Test him randomly. Involve authorities if he tests positive (otherwise you will inadvertently be grooming him to become a pusher). (It's good that you will be having a talk with Juvenile Probation Officer.)


My Out-of-Control Teen


Thanks for the advice. We had been drug testing B____ randomly but not very regularly. You gave me an idea of tying in the probation offices consequences with the drug testing. If they don’t ask for it, I will “volunteer” to drug test him. That will make both of us accountable.

Thanks for all of your online recommendations. It has been very helpful and I review it all the time. I’ll take another look at the section “When you want something from your kid”.

Low-Frustration Tolerance in Defiant Teens

Hi Mark, I was wanting to ask you how we best handle A___'s outbursts of rage and verbal abuse when she is frustrated. She asks for help with a problem (i.e., wrapping a parcel to set up a shop for a game this morning, then refuses to listen to the help to get the parcel wrapped, then starts to scream and abuse us for offering "stupid" help then rips up the paper, throws the sticky tape on the floor and storms off screaming and slamming the doors as she goes). She is then not able to calm herself down for ages and sulks like a 2 year old and this scenario goes on almost every time she can't do something and asks for help. We encourage her and try to get her to do it herself and praise her (on the extremely rare occasion she listens and succeeds) but this just goes on and on and can ruin a whole weekend as it has done yesterday and today.

Click here for my response...

I feel I am always nagging...

I would like some guidelines on setting up clear rules.

My 15 year old son constantly yells, belittles his younger brother and basically tries to defy or argue when I ask him to anything. He certainly sets the mood for the house. I found it harder to stay in control and feel I am at wits end.

He doesnt worry about his appearance and I constantly remind him of basic hygiene. He lacks motivation at school, football relationships at school always seem to be a drama. He seems to be closer to girls and does not seem to be able to form close relationships with boys.

Has quit his part time job. Doesnt seem to be passionate about anything. He often tells me how he wants to leave and live with anyone but me.

My husband has been ill with Leukaemia and suffers with the complications of the treatment. It has impacted our life for the past three years.

Upsets me that he is so angry and not happy.

I would like him be responsible for the cleanliness of his room, his appearance and speak nicely and want him to contribute to the family in a loving way.

I feel I am always nagging but where is the fine line between letting him just do what he wants. I seem to feed off his anger.

I just want to understand R___ and my behaviour and what I can do to help to make this situation better?

Appreciate any feed back? If anything, writing helps to clarify my thoughts.

kind regards



Hi J.,

Re: My 15 year old son constantly yells, belittles his younger brother and basically tries to defy or argue when I ask him to anything.

Please refer to the page in the eBook [online version – session #3] entitled “When You Want Something From Your Kid”. Much of what you are dealing with in this email will be addressed there.

Re: He doesn’t worry about his appearance and I constantly remind him of basic hygiene ...and lack of motivation.

Your child's teenage years can be a difficult time. Teens may feel overwhelmed by the emotional and physical changes they are going through. At the same time, teens may be facing a number of pressures - from friends to fit in and from parents and other adults to do well in school, or activities like sports or part-time jobs.

The teenage years are a time of transition from childhood into adulthood. Teens often struggle with being dependent on their parents while having a strong desire to be independent. They may experiment with new values, ideas, hairstyles and clothing as they try to define who they are. Although this may be uncomfortable for parents, it is a normal part of being a teenager.

Communicating your love for your child is the single most important thing you can do. Children decide how they feel about themselves in large part by how their parents react to them. It is also important to communicate your values and to set expectations and limits, such as insisting on honesty, self-control and respect for others, while still allowing teenagers to have their own space.

Parents of teens often find themselves noticing only the problems, and they may get in the habit of giving mostly negative feedback and criticism. Although teens need feedback, they respond better when it is given positively and spoken with love.

Praising appropriate behavior can help your teen feel a sense of accomplishment and reinforce your family's values.

Teens, especially those with low self-esteem or with family problems, are at risk for a number of self-destructive behaviors such as using drugs or alcohol or having unprotected sex. Depression and eating disorders are also important issues for teens.

The following may be warning signs that your child is having a problem:

· Agitated or restless behavior
· Drop in grades
· Fatigue, loss of energy and lack of interest in activities
· Lack of motivation
· Low self-esteem
· Not caring about people and things
· Ongoing feelings of sadness
· Poor hygiene
· Trouble concentrating
· Trouble falling asleep
· Weight loss or weight gain

If you suspect there is a problem, ask your teen about what is bothering him or her. And then listen.

Don't ignore a problem in the hopes that it will go away. It is easier to cope with problems when they are small. This also gives you and your teen the opportunity to learn how to work through problems together.

Again, please refer to Session #3. I think that session really applies here.


My Out-of-Control Teen

Should I keep rules / expectations the same for both?

Dear Mr. Hutton, Well I finally took the plunge and started your program! I am now working my homework for week one. My humble statement was more difficult to deliver than I thought, but I somehow managed to get through it- Family dinner night for week one was minus M___, but I am hopeful he will eventually show as you say. My questions to you are: I have two teenagers- M___ 17 and M_____ 16. I actually delivered the mission statement to both even though M___ 17 is the one with all of the symptoms of overindulged child. Should I keep rules / expectations the same for both?

Click here for my response...

"Attention-Seeking" Behavior in Defiant Children

"We had issues with A___ at home last night that I wanted to talk to you about, and what we could have done. She had been to her Nana's for the day and I picked her up at about 5pm. Normally she is really hyped up 'cause they make cakes and she has more sugar than I'd like. Nana said she only ate one cake but she was behaving as if she'd had 50... She wasn't being abusive (for a change) but she was being incredibly annoying. She wouldn't eat any dinner (that's ok so go hungry), she wouldn't have a shower, she kept grabbing hold of me and laughing (my sore arm and my legs) and wouldn't let go, was swinging off a wooden beam in the kitchen, wouldn't let us eat our dinner (dancing around in front of the TV when we tried to ignore her and put the news on), annoying the cat (she got scratched having not learnt from heaps of previous scratches over the years), wouldn't do any homework etc. etc....

SO after trying to ignore her for a while, we gave her a warning that if she continued she would lose all her soft toys for 3 days (they were packed in a suitcase and locked away) but she continued so the next warning/consequence was the loss of her dvd player (locked away) and no TV for 3 days and she continued and lost some books etc. but then after doing this for 6 hours (it was 11pm by this stage and she wasn't in bed) Martin lost his temper with her (I had been really trying so hard to not get angry) so she then went to bed crying and screaming abuse at us.

What could we have done differently? She didn't start off actually behaving badly per se but she was being unbelievably annoying and it went on for 6 hours!!! Martin lost his appetite and didn't eat anything for dinner and although he congratulated me for not losing MY temper, he still got cross at me when I suggested he go back and read your e-book again so then WE were arguing..... You know the story!"

Click here for my response...

He did not get his credits required...

Hello Mark

Well his grade 12 graduation is this week-end. He is not able to “walk the stage” as he did not get his credits required. Natural consequence of not attending school and not getting his work done.

He is still planning to go in a limo with his friends and attend the banquet with his girlfriend. My husband says we should not attend any of the grad events, however, will our son ever forgive us for being the only parents not there? We have tried to talk him out of going but is insisting he wants to.

Please advise whether we, as the parents, should be “celebrating” a grad event when he is not technically graduating.

Thank-you Mark


Hi S.,

Re: Please advise whether we, as the parents, should be "celebrating" a grad event when he is not technically graduating.

Great question!

Should you be celebrating? No. There's nothing to celebrate, unless you want to celebrate lack of credits.

Should you attend at least one grad event? Probably. Not to celebrate, but to show your son that you support his education and all that is associated with it.

Should he go in a limo with his friends and attend the banquet with his girlfriend? Absolutely. This may wet his appetite for finishing his education on a strong note.

Don't feel sorry for him, but do bear in mind that he may feel a bit inadequate during the events.


JOIN Online Parent Support

She has completely changed [for the worse]...

hi mark my name is j____, i have a 14 yr old daughter, we've always been pretty close. since starting 9th grade she has completely changed, ditching class, smoking cigs, experimenting with drugs, disrespectful, lying etc… she’s not happy unless she is with her friends every waking moment. the fist couple of times she told me that she hated me i tried to tell myself that she didn’t really mean it, but each day its getting harder to believe that. the way she looks at me just tears my heart out. ok im not the perfect june cleaver kinda mom, but im not the mom from the movie psycho either.

i have been taking your "out of control teen course" where i have come to find out that i am an over indulgent parent, this is fixable, i just don’t know how to approach someone who {im truly starting to believe} despises me so much. how do i look into those eyes and not only not cry but try to connect with her?

Click here for my response...

School Refusal

I will admit to being an over indulgent parent (initial score of 75), however, after viewing your first week of sessions, I would like to know if you address my particular situation of an overly dramatic teenage girl who repeatedly "makes" herself too ill to attend high school? She cajoles, manipulates, and at a time of day when we all need to get to work, and have little time for such events. Nine times out of ten she wins. This characteristic needs to be modified in order to get her on a more goal-oriented track toward success in her career and future relationships.

Thank you for your e-book. It applies a logic system to solving this persuasive teenage dilemma in the US :)




Hi E.,

Re: I would like to know if you address my particular situation of an overly dramatic teenage girl who repeatedly "makes" herself too ill to attend high school?

You’ll find a strategy to resolve this issue in Session #3. However, I would caution you to work the program as intended (one week at a time). If you leap to Session #3 without laying down the groundwork in Sessions #1 and #2, you will run the risk of failing with this program. Having said this, I’ll elaborate a bit regarding your daughter’s anxiety about school.

Parents can do several things to help their child who refuses to attend school:

· Firmly getting the child to school regularly and on time will help (see “When You Want Something From Your Kid” – Session #3). Not prolonging the goodbyes can help as well. Sometimes it works best if someone else can take the child to school after the parent or caregiver says goodbye at home.

· It truly helps to believe that the child will get over this problem; discuss this with the child (the parent or caregiver needs to convince himself or herself of this before trying to convince the child).

· Listening to the child's actual concerns and fears of going to school is important. Some of the reasons for refusing to attend school may include another child at school who is a bully, problems on the bus or carpool ride to school, or fears of inability to keep up with the other students in the classroom; these issues can be addressed if they are known. On the other hand, making too big a deal of school refusal may promote the child's behavior to continue.

· Supportive counseling is often made available at school in these circumstances so as to minimize reinforcement of school avoidant behaviors and to prevent secondary gain from school refusal and should be encouraged for any student who wishes to have it. If the child simply refuses to go to school, some parents have found that decreasing the reward for staying home helps, for example, do not allow video games or television, or find out what work is being done in the school and provide similar education at home, when possible. This is especially if the "illness" seems to disappear once the child is allowed to stay at home.

· The parent or caregiver should reassure the child that he or she will be there upon the child's return from school; this should be repeated over and over, if necessary. Let the child know that the parent or caregiver will be doing "boring stuff" at home during the school day. Always be on time to pick the child up from school if you provide transportation rather than a school bus.

· Whenever events occur that could tend to cause students to miss school (for example, traumatic events such as terrorism, school shootings, or other traumas) all attempts should be made to help students return promptly to school and to help them to feel safe at school.

In addition to parental intervention, teachers and school staff should help the student identify and recognize the triggers for school refusal.

Many children with school refusal have an earlier history of separation anxiety, social anxiety, or depression. Undiagnosed learning disabilities or reading disorders may also play a significant role in the development of school refusal.

Signs of a psychiatric disorder called separation anxiety disorder can include the following:

· Excessive reluctance to be alone at any time
· Excessive worry about losing a parent; excessive worry that a parent might be harmed
· Persistent refusal to go to sleep without a parent or other caretaker present
· Repeated complaints of physical symptoms whenever the child is about to leave a significant parental figure
· School refusal

These behaviors must begin before the child is aged 18 years, must last for 4 weeks or longer, and must cause serious problems with academic, social, or other functioning in order to be called a disorder.

Some commonly cited reasons for refusal to attend school include the following:

· A death in the family of a friend of the child
· A parent being ill
· Being bullied by another child
· Feeling lost (especially in a new school)
· Jealousy over a new brother or sister at home
· Moving from one house to another during the first years of elementary school
· Not getting along with a teacher or classmates
· Not having friends
· Parents separating, having marital problems, or having frequent arguments
· Parents worrying about the child in some way (e.g., poor health)

Helpful tools to confirm the diagnosis of an anxiety disorder and the level of impairment include the following:

· Children's Global Rating Scale
· The Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL)
· The Children's Manifest Anxiety Scale

I hope this helps,


Online Parent Support

Punishment or Discipline?

Hi S.,

== > I’ve responded throughout your email below:

Thank-you once again for your guidance Mark. As I read the letters from other parents, it is interesting that so many of the answers go back to the program although with variations. I did not realize until recently that all of these letters are available to read…including the ones that I send! I suggest that you email all of your on-line customers and give them the link to this part of the program at the onset. In my opinion, this would be a good resource and may reduce the amount of questions that you get.

== > Good idea! Thanks.

On that note!

I would appreciate your opinion on whether the following are “punishment” or “discipline” as I find the two are not as well defined as I need.

Scenario One: His car has been taken away indefinitely as he does not have a job to pay for the gas and insurance. We also tied this to his attendance at school. He will be done school this month so thought we should tie it to the job alone. Has not had car for 2 weeks. Punishment or Discipline?

== > Discipline.

We preferably take things away for no more than 7 days. He could earn money for gas by doing chores around the house. Also, try to make the discipline fit the “crime” (i.e., kid’s poor choice). I don’t see a good connection between “school attendance” and “lose of driving privileges” (maybe you have a good rationale though).

Whenever you are undecided about what to do, simply ask yourself “Will this foster the development of self-reliance in my child – or will it inhibit such development?” If it fosters self-reliance, you made a good decision. Thus, does withholding driving privileges foster or inhibit self-reliance? Answer: It inhibits it (other people have to drive him to wherever he needs to go).

Scenario Two: His cell phone was taken away as the bills were double the agreed to cost. We agree to pay for the phone (at the agreed to rate) until he is 18. He needs to do chores to pay us back for bill. Has not had cell phone for 2 weeks. Punishment or Discipline?

== > Discipline.

Punishment is what parents do when they are ‘pissed’ at their kid. Parents punish when they seek revenge (e.g., spank, slap, psychological disapproval, isolation from others, yelling, cussing, threatening, getting angry).

Discipline is the process of teaching a child the difference between acceptable and unacceptable behavior. Good discipline should be a positive force focusing on what a child is allowed to do. The goal of discipline is to help a child change impulsive, random behavior into controlled, purposeful behavior, and discipline should be reinforced with teaching, firmness, and reminders.

Do you think it is reasonable to give him his car to look for jobs and have him earn the gas required to do this?

== > Yes.

I want to ensure the discipline is relative to the crime in these cases as want him to learn from this.


== > You are very welcome!

My Out-of-Control Teen

I am really excited about this program...

Hi Mark,

Thanks so much for your responses. I am really excited about this program, and looking forward to all the changes we will be making! I ordered my husband the CDs since he is in his car a lot! I don't even remember the exact place that I found your program, but I do know it was late one night while I was, once again, searching online for articles on teen help. I found a link to your web site, and read about it over and over for a while before ordering it. We have been dealing with all sorts of therapy, etc since our son was 8, and I always thought I was going to find a specific answer, that something very specific was wrong with him, I even took him to a neurologist for a brain scan. We have never experienced anything like this in our family, and he is not from a broken or abusive home, me and his father have been married for 24 years, very stable, this all just started, it seems, out of the blue. Anyway, I am thrilled now to be working on this program and I will keep you posted.

Have a great day.


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Thanks, Mark. Our son is 16. He has ODD, comorbid with ADHD, anxiety, and dsygraphia. He is not abusing drugs, holds a part-time job and plays varsity soccer and JV tennis at his high school. His poor grades are 100% due to opposition to the system, complete lack of organization, difficulty paying attention, and lack of ambition. With his high intelligence, everything and everyone is "stupid" to him. He can out-think and out-smart most people he encounters and gets a thrill out of doing so. He would never tolerate tutoring or any kind of support from us, not even a "checklist" of things to turn in tomorrow. I'm looking for information about what is known about people with a profile such as his as they move into adulthood. Is there any literature or studies on this topic? What does your first-hand experience tell you? I just can't imagine him in a healthly, long-term relationship, but hope that I'm very wrong about that.

We have already looked into alternative schooling a bit, but in his mind, they all mean effort of one sort or another and, to him, effort is pointless. If he's going to do something he doesn't enjoy all day, he may as well be making money, so goes his argument. In any case, I don't plan on spending any time convincing him he should be in school in the fall. But, if he really means it, we'll make sure the rules for staying in our home are clearly spelled out.

In addition to my nagging worry about his long-term prospects, I would welcome suggestions you may have about how other parents move through the grieving process of not having the child they thought they had. And, finally, what is your recommended route for treating his anxiety? I believe that this plays a big part in his defiant behavior, because he is afraid of confronting a whole host of situations. Were he able to do so, his grades would be better, his self-esteem would be better, and we would be less frustrated with him on a regular basis. I'm just not sure how to go about getting treatment for that.... Doesn't that usually start with counseling.... Something we're avoiding at present because we're implementing your program.

Thanks, as always,



Hi C.,

Re: Is there any literature or studies on this topic?


  1. Bardone AM, Moffitt TE, et al: (1998) Adult Physical Health Outcomes of Adolescent Girls with Conduct Disorder, Depression, and Anxiety. J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry 37(6):594-601.
  2. Bird Her, et all (1993), Pattterns of Diagnostic comorbidity in a community sample of children aged 9 through 16 years. J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry 32:361-368.
  3. Buitelaar JK (2000) Open-Label treatment with Risperidone of 26 Psychiatrically-Hospitalized Children ad Adolescents with Mixed Diagnoses and Aggressive Behavior. Journal of Child and Aadolescent Psychopharmacology 10 (1) 19-26.
  4. Carlson, Caryn et al: Gender differences in children with ADHD, ODD, and Co-occurring ADHD&ODD identified in a School Population. J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry , 1997, 36(12):1706-1714.
  5. Griffiths MD (1998) Dependence on Computer Games by Adolescents - Psychol Rep; 82(2): 475-80
  6. Kavousssi RJ, Coccaro EF (1998) Divalproex Sodium for Impulsive Aggressive Behavior in Patients With Personality Disorder J Clin Psychiatry 59:766-680.
  7. Kuhne M, et. al Impact of Comorbid Oppositional or Conduct Problems on Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (1997) J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry 36(12);1715-1725.
  8. Rachel G. Klein, PhD; Howard Abikoff, PhD, et. Al. (1997) Clinical Efficacy of Methylphenidate in Conduct Disorder With and Without Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder Arch Gen Psychiatry.;54:1073-1080
  9. Riggs PD, Mikulich LM, et. Al. (1997) Fluoxetine in Drug-Dependent Delinquents with Major Depression: An Open trial. Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychopharmacology 7: summer 87-95.
  10. Singer MI, Slovak K, et al: (1998) Viewing Preferences, Symptoms of Psychological trauma, and Vioent Behaviors Among Children Who Watch Television. J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry 37(10): 1041-1048.
  11. Harrell JS; Gansky SA; et al: (1997) Leisure Time Activities of Elementary School Children. Nurs Res Sep-Oct; 46(5): 246-53
  12. .Wiegman O (1998) -Video Game Playing and its Relations with Aggressive and Prosocial Behaviour. Br J Soc Psychol Sep; 37 ( Pt 3):367-78
  13. Behrman: Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics, 17th ed., Copyright © 2004 Elsevier p 663.
  14. Croonenberg J, Joerg M et al: Risperidone in Children With Disruptive Behavior Disorders and Subaverage Intelligence: A 1-Year, Open-Label Study of 504 Patients J. Am. Acad. Child Adolese. Psychiatry, 2005;44(1):64-72
  15. Disney ER, Elkins IJ, et al: Effects of ADHD, Conduct Disorder, and Gender on Substance use and Abuse in Adolescence. Am J Psychiatry 1999, 156:1515-1521.
  16. Findling RL, Kusumakar V, Daneman D, Moshang T, De Smedt G, Binder C (2003), Prolactin levels during long-term risperidone treatment in children and adolescents. J Clin Psychiatry 64:1362–1369.
  17. Findling RL, McNamara NK, et al: A Double-Blind Pilot Study of Risperidone in the Tretment of Conduct Disorder. J. Am. Child Adolesc. Psychiatry 2000, 39(4):509-16.
  18. Kasen S, Cohen P, et al: Influence of Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Disorders on Young Adult Personality Disorder. Am J Psychiatry 1999, 156: 1529-1535.
  19. Kuperman S, Schlosser SS, et al: Relationship of Child Psychopathology to Parental Alcoholism and Antisocial Personality Disorder. J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry 1999, 38(6):686-692.
  20. Lavigne JV, Cicchetti c , et al: Oppositional Defiant Disorder With Onset in Preschool Years: Longitudinal Stability and Pathways to Other Disorders. J. Am. Child Adolesc. Psychiatry 2001, 40(12):1393-1400.
  21. Renauld J, Birmaher B, et al: Suicide in Adolescents With Disruptive Disorders. J. Am. Child Adolesc. Psychiatry 1999, 38(7):846-851.
  22. SCHUR SB Treatment Recommendations for the Use of Antipsychotics for Aggressive Youth (TRAAY). Part I: A Review J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry - 2003 Feb; 42(2); 132-144
  23. Speltz ML, McClelllan J, et al: Preschool Boys with Oppositional Defiant Disorder: Clinical Presentation and Diagnostic Change. J. Am. Child Adolesc. Psychiatry 1999, 38(7):838-845.
  24. Helgeland MI, Kjelsberg E, et al: Continuities Between Emotional and Disruptive Behavior Disorders in Adolescence and Personality Disorders in Adulthood. Am J Psychiatry 2005; 162: 1941-1947.
  25. Johnson JG, First MB, et al: Adverse Outcomes Associated with Personality Disorder Not Otherwise Specified in a Community Sample. Am J Psychaitry 2005; 162:1926-1932.
  26. Paris J: Personality Disorders over time: Precursors, Course and Outcome. Journal of Personality Disorders, 17(6), 479-488, 2003.
  27. Reyes M: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study of risperidone maintenance treatment in children and adolescents with disruptive behavior disorders. Am J Psychiatry - 01-MAR-2006; 163(3): 402-10
  28. Steiner H Divalproex sodium for the treatment of conduct disorder: a randomized controlled clinical trial. J Clin Psychiatry - 01-OCT-2003; 64(10): 1183-91
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Re: What does your first-hand experience tell you?

The long-term outcome for ADHD/ODD teens can be that they develop a Personality Disorder, which is one of the "labels" psychiatry uses to describe people who have traits in their personality that cause them major problems. These are not things that come and go but last for decades. A person's personality starts to form as a teenager, and that is when we see personality disorders start to form. We have all met people with these types of problems. They fit into a few big categories that have lots of different names.

One group is people who are strange, different, and keep to themselves. This is called cluster A. Another group is people who are dramatic, have lots of mood problems, are forever getting into trouble, and whose lives are quite mixed up. This is called cluster B. They are often very difficult to get along with over the long run. Another group are people who are withdrawn, scared, and have to do things a certain way. This is called cluster C. When any of these problems screw up people's relationships, ability to work, get them in trouble with the law, or make them miserable, we call it a personality disorder.

Recent studies have shown that children who have certain psychiatric problems are much more likely to get personality disorders as adults. Children who have multiple psychiatric problems are even more at risk. Children who have ODD are about four times more likely to have a personality disorder when they grow up, that is about a 15% chance. If they already have some signs of personality disorder as a young teenager, they are 25 times as likely to have a personality disorder as adults. What this tells us is that the longer these problems go on in childhood and as teenagers, the more likely they are to lead to personality disorders as adults.

There are two types of Personality Disorder in Cluster B, which are especially associated with ODD/CD. These are Borderline Personality Disorder and Antisocial Personality Disorder.

Borderline Personality Disorder is called this because patients have many traits from different psychiatric disorders. They have very unstable moods, like bipolar disorder. They often have strange experiences, like people with schizophrenia. Their relationships with others are usually quite unstable. They often don't have much of a sense of who they really are or where they are going. They often cut themselves. Most of the people with this problem are female. If you have ODD/CD and are female, you have approximately a 15% chance of getting this.

Antisocial Personality Disorder is basically a continuation of Conduct Disorder. People with this problem continue to not respect the rights of others or their property. They continue to get in fights or worse. They often are stealing or cheating. Usually they are involved with the law. They have extremely high rates of substance abuse and high rates of suicide and other unnatural causes of death. This is primarily a male diagnosis. Almost 20% of teenagers with ODD/CD with have Antisocial Personality Disorder as a result.

If you have a personality disorder as a teenager, by the time you are a young adult, here are the chances that these bad things will happen to you:

  1. Difficulties with interpersonal Relationships 20-30%
  2. Ending up with other Psychiatric problems 35-40%
  3. Having at least one of the above bad outcomes 70-80%
  4. Having at least two of the above bad outcomes 50%
  5. Make a suicide attempt- 6-10%
  6. Not get as far in school as you should have been able to 25%
  7. Serious assault on another 25-35%

Some personality disorders are much more likely to improve over time. After 15-25 years, only about 10% of adults who had Borderline Personality Disorder continue to have it. That means 90% got over it. Antisocial Personality disorder tends to improve, too. However, about 25% of people with Antisocial Personality Disorder die prematurely. Of those that do not die, most are better, but few have recovered completely.

Re: I would welcome suggestions you may have about how other parents move through the grieving process of not having the child they thought they had.

This is covered in the eBook (Session #1 – online version).

Re: …what is your recommended route for treating his anxiety?

Parents can help their teen in these ways:

  • Continue to provide structure, stability, and predictability. Within reason, stick to the same rules, boundaries, roles, and routines.
  • Encourage your teen to participate in activities normally enjoyed. Support involvement in positive and pro-social activities (e.g., sports, volunteer work, church).
  • Encourage your teen to talk about what he or she is going through, and be willing to listen. Don't just jump to conclusions and give advice. Depending on the situation, your teen may not want advice -- just to be understood. Even if a problem seems small to you, it may be a major concern for your child. Minimizing a problem or saying "you'll get over it" is not helpful. It gives the message you don't understand or are not willing to listen.
  • Model effective stress management and coping skills.
  • Offer reassurance, encouragement, and support. Be willing to provide verbal or physical comfort, but don't be discouraged if your teen rejects your effort or is irritable. These are normal reactions to stress. Be patient and let your child know you're available if he or she needs you.

Teens can decrease stress with the following behaviors and techniques:

  • Avoid excess caffeine intake, which can increase feelings of anxiety and agitation.
  • Build a network of friends who help you cope in a positive way.
  • Decrease negative self-talk. Challenge negative thoughts about yourself with alternative neutral or positive thoughts. "My life will never get better" can be transformed into "I may feel hopeless now, but my life will probably get better if I work at it and get some help."
  • Develop assertiveness training skills. For example, state feelings in polite, firm, and not overly aggressive or passive ways ("I feel angry when you yell at me" "Please stop yelling").
  • Don't use illegal drugs, alcohol and tobacco.
  • Exercise and eat regularly.
  • Learn practical and effective coping skills. For example, break a large task into smaller, more attainable tasks.
  • Learn relaxation exercises (abdominal breathing and muscle relaxation techniques).
  • Learn to feel good about doing a competent job rather than demanding perfection from yourself and others.
  • Rehearse and practice situations, which cause stress. One example is taking a speech class, if talking in front of a class makes you anxious.
  • Take a break from stressful situations. Activities like listening to music, talking to a friend, drawing, writing, or spending time with a pet can reduce stress.


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