Why do I feel so guilty ?

Dear Mr. Hutten,

It's been awhile since my last e-mail.

My son M__ is 17 1/2. He's quit 2 jobs over the last 6 months, but has a car. I've told him that he at least needs to have a job 1 weekend day . I think he should at least put gas in it himself. He is a senior this year and plays soccer now and hockey all winter until March. He has no interest in working at all and keeps asking for money. Per your advice I have stopped with the handouts. I've told him pay for gas or park the car- Why do I feel so guilty ?

I can't get him motivated to do anything, but I also know that he needs to motivate himself. He can be extremely charming until he hears no, that turns to the "whatever" mentality. What else can I do ?
Looking forward to your response,



I've intituted an 11:00 pm curfew and no more sleepovers-nothing good comes from teenage boys up all night !! I've stuck to both and probably couldn't have done this without you- you've helped me feel that I am doing the right thing instead of feeling guilty.(11:00 curfew is early, but is because of early summer incident- I've told him he can get back to 11:30 but it is up to him-


Hi M.,

I don't have too much to add really. You're doing exactly what you should be doing ...and "feeling guilty" is very typical.

It does get better over time though. When you realize that you are doing all this FOR your son rather than AGAINST him, then you won't feel as though you've done something "wrong" or "bad" while implementing this "tough love" approach..


Online Parent Support

Addicted to computer games...

Q: i am 27 yrs old mom of a 5 yrs-old boy who really, i may say addicted to computer games. Im worried about him coz he shows no interest in going to school. Aside from that at home he becomes destructive everytime we stop him from doing or getting what he wants. At the age of five he is lazy in writing and doing school work. But i believe that my child is smart and can be an outstanding student if only we could motivate him.


A: Computers, video games, and the Internet have become entrenched features of our daily lives. Computer use has reached beyond work and is now a major source of fun and entertainment for many people. For most people, computer use and video game play is integrated into their lives in a balanced healthy manner. For others, time spent on the computer or video game is out of balance, and has displaced work, school, friends, and even family.

When time spent on the computer, playing video games or cruising the Internet reaches a point that it harms a youngster's or adult's family and social relationships, or disrupts school or work life, that person may be caught in a cycle of addiction. Like other addictions, the computer or video game has replaced friends and family as the source of a person's emotional life. Increasingly, to feel good, the addicted person spends more time playing video games or searching the Internet. Time away from the computer or game causes moodiness or withdrawal.

When a person spends up to ten hours a day or more rearranging or sending files, playing games, surfing the net, visiting chat rooms, instant messaging, and reading emails, that easily can reach up to seventy to eighty hours a week on-line with the computer. Major social, school or work disruptions will result.

Symptoms of computer or video game addiction:

For kids:

  • Choosing to use the computer or play video games, rather than see friends.
  • Dropping out of other social groups (clubs or sports).
  • Falling asleep in school.
  • Irritable when not playing a video game or on the computer.
  • Lying about computer or video game use.
  • Most of non-school hours are spent on the computer or playing video games.
  • Not keeping up with assignments.
  • Worsening grades.

For adults:

  • Can't control computer or video game use.
  • Computer or video game use is characterized by intense feelings of pleasure and guilt.
  • Experience feelings of withdrawal, anger, or depression when not on the computer or involved with their video game.
  • Fantasy life on-line replaces emotional life with partner.
  • Hours playing video games or on the computer increasing, seriously disrupting family, social or even work life.
  • Lying about computer or video game use.
  • May incur large phone or credit bills for on-line services.
  • Obsessing and pre-occupied about being on the computer, even when not connected.

There are even physical symptoms that may point to addiction:

  • Back, neck aches
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome.
  • Dry eyes
  • Failure to eat regularly or neglect personal hygiene
  • Headaches
  • Sleep disturbances

For the computer or video game addicted person, a fantasy world on-line or in a game has replaced his or her real world. The virtual reality of the computer or game is more inviting than the every day world of family, school or work. With the increased access to pornography on the Internet and in games, this fantasy world may be highly sexual.

Kids love PC games, and that's not always a bad thing. Whether played on a handheld device, a computer, or a television set, the games can provide hours of quiet fun. (That's one reason parents often rely on them to keep the peace on family vacations.) The games can boost computer skills and improve eye-hand coordination. One 2004 study showed that surgeons who play PC games commit fewer surgical errors than do their non-game-playing counterparts.

PC games are emotionally "safe." When a youngster makes a mistake, no one else knows (unlike the public humiliation of, say, striking out in a real-life baseball game). And because each error made in a computer game helps the player learn the specific action needed to advance the next time, the player gets the satisfaction of steadily improving and ultimately winning.

But PC games carry some big downsides. Besides being very expensive, many popular games involve graphic sex and violence. Perhaps most worrisome, they can be extremely habit-forming. Any youngster can become "addicted" to PC games, but kids with AD/HD seem to be at particular risk. Many of them have poor social or athletic skills, and this doesn't matter in the world of PC games. Such games level the playing field for kids with AD/HD. And kids bothered by distractibility in the real world are capable of intense focus (hyperfocus) while playing. The computer game "trance" is often so deep that the only way to get the player's attention is to shake her or "get in her face."

To make the games less seductive, find ways to minimize your youngster's downtime at home, especially those times when he is alone. Maybe your youngster would be interested in arts and crafts, theater, or movie-making. Maybe a social-skills group would be a good idea. Maybe he could join a youth group at your church or synagogue.

If she has trouble with a particular sport because of poor motor skills, or has difficulty understanding the rules or strategies, look for another sport that might be more accommodating - for example, martial arts, bowling, or swimming. Help your youngster find some activity that he likes and a place where he can do it.

Kids with AD/HD often lack the "internal controls" needed to regulate how much time they spend playing PC games. It's up to parents to rein in the use of the games.

The first step is often the hardest: Both parents must agree on a set of rules. How much time may be spent playing the games on school nights? Must homework be done first? Chores? How much time may be spent on a weekend day? Which games are taboo, and which are O.K.? If the youngster plays Internet-based games, which sites are acceptable?

Once parents agree, sit down with your youngster and discuss the rules. Make it clear which rules are negotiable and which are not. Then announce that the rules start right now. Be sure you can enforce the rules. For example, if your youngster is allowed to spend 30 minutes at PC games on school nights - and only after homework and chores are done - the game and game controls must be physically unavailable when she gets home from school.

If games involve a computer or a television set, find a way to secure the system until its use is permitted. When the 30 minutes of playing are up, retake the controls. If she balks, she loses the privilege to play the game the following day. If you come into her bedroom and find her playing the game under the covers, she might lose the privilege for several days.

Give warning times: "You have 15 more minutes... You now have 10 minutes... There are only five minutes left." A timer that is visible to the youngster can be helpful. When the buzzer rings, say, "I know you need to reach a point where you can save the game. If you need a few more minutes, I will wait here and let you have them."

If he continues to play despite your step-by-step warnings, do not shout or grab the game or disconnect the power. Calmly remind him of the rules, then announce that for each minute he continues to play, one minute will be subtracted from the time allowed the next day (or days). Once you get the game back, lock it up. When he finally regains the privilege to play, say, "Would you like to try again to follow the family rules?"

Online Parent Support

He’ll have to move into our garage...

Mark, My husband and I have been taking your online course and it has been very helpful. Our son is about to turn 18 and has all but dropped out of school. We feel that our next step should be to give him a few choices: either he goes to school regularly or gets a job by the time he turns 18 or he’ll have to move into our garage. If he moves into the garage, we won’t support him in any way except to provide food and a garage couch for him to sleep on. He won’t be allowed in the house except to use the bathroom. If we actually kick him out of the house now, I’m sure he’ll just get into more trouble. I know eventually it may come that, but the garage is my last step before kicking out. Does this make good sense to you? Do you have any other recommendations? Thanks so much for your input. K.

Click here for my response...

$50 for each A ?!

On the rewards idea for a middle school student: On the final report card: Is giving them $$50 for each A and $$25 for each B too much?


Actually, I don't recommend paying kids for good grades at all. Once you start down this slippery slope, you have to keep raising the stakes. And once kids get old enough to earn their own money, you lose leverage. Not to mention that this kind of deal doesn't always work.

Child psychologist Sylvia Rimm points out that for high-achieving students, money doesn't matter. And, Rimm says, kids who are underachievers fail because they're inconsistent. So if they slip and get a poor grade, they figure that they're not going to get the reward and give up. Even worse, parents sometimes end up paying them for half measures and the system backfires.

In my experience, paying a compliment is better than paying cash. Reward good grades -- or consistent effort -- by giving your kids a hug, a word of encouragement, or a spontaneous treat -- anything but money. That way kids learn the personal satisfaction that comes with a job well done. Sometimes money can be too powerful a motivator for parents to resist. But even then it seems to work best in small amounts and limited circumstances.

One dad I know came up with a set of financial incentives to reward his 11-year-old son for good study habits and improved grades even if the grades weren't As. But the boy was also motivated by a conscientious teacher and by his dad, who took an interest in his progress.

In every film about kids overcoming odds to reach a goal (think of To Sir, With Love, Stand and Deliver, Hoosiers, Coach Carter), the hero is either an inspirational teacher or a tough-as-nails coach who achieves success by holding the kids to a higher standard -- not by holding out a paycheck.


Online Parent Support

She gets very angry and frustrated when things don’t go her own way...

Hi Mark

First of all thank you for your programme – from my (albeit limited!) experience we are finding it well constructed, full of common sense and very supportive.

I have a question of how to deal with an aspect of my child’s behaviour in this fairly early stage of the programme:

We are implementing Week 2 (we started 3 weeks ago but my daughter was away for most of last week). Z__ is the 2nd of 3 girls. The eldest is nearly 14, Z__ is 11, and her younger sister is nearly 8. For a number of years we have gone through periods of time where Z__’s behaviour has been very difficult. She gets very angry and frustrated when things don’t go her own way, and we have put it down to “middle child syndrome”, although (of course!) we try to treat them all very even-handedly. As these phases have come and gone, we have not taken much action to try to amend our own behaviour. Of course we have tried to analyse why the dynamic has been so difficult. Our eldest child has never been difficult, she is quietly self-confident, mature and quite a calm character. She is also very bright and repeatedly excels in everything she takes on – this in itself is a very difficult act to follow. The youngest still enjoys being the baby of the family, at the same time being very competitive and so always trying to emulate both sisters in both achievements and basic rights (such as bedtimes, etc)

Z__ is a very different character, with different skills and personality. She is not academic in the same way as her older sister, but she is still slightly above the average in class achievements generally. She is a funny, articulate girl who has lots of friends, and is often the centre of the party. She wants to be an actress and is always a star in school drama and speech. At the same time she is quite a shy and not-very-confident person.

Over the last few weeks/months her increase in age (and therefore perceived independence) have lead to an acceleration of difficult behaviour. Having read everything in Weeks 1 and 2, plus a little of 3, I recognise now much of what is going on. She does crave attention of any sort, she goes out of her way to create an argument. We have been over-indulgent of her (well, all 3 really), not so much in terms of “stuff” but mostly allowing them a lot of slack on helping around the house and taking responsibility for themselves and their things. Difficult behaviour has also resulted in us treating her differently – mainly out of trying to avoid the fights but as I can see now, counter-productive. This has of course lead to accusations of us not loving her, the other two being favourites, she has no-one to turn to, etc. I’m sure you’ve heard all this before. Her behaviour is primarily initiating heated verbal arguments with my husband or myself, in which she is extremely articulate if one-sided and ignoring many facts. She does also fight, mainly verbally but also some physical, with her sisters. She does throw things and has maliciously damaged a number of household items as well as sisters, although at this point we have not had to contend with major issues in this area. She has “run away” a couple of times, but this has been posturing more than anything and she has not left the square where we live. Obviously we are anxious that we resolve these issues before things become really destructive.

I am happy following the programme, which has given me a much needed boost in confidence about the path we have to follow. I can see that it will take time, but that with persistence and consistency we will get there. I have also seen that I am not always great at dealing with each situation in the best way/with the right precision of words, and so have missed opportunities already (hopefully I will learn fast!). However, what I would like your advice on is how we deal with the Post-Argument, calm, contrite discussion, which is initiated by her, where she is looking for help and/or an apology, and also probably using it as a guilt trip as well.

During these discussions I have tried to avoid:

1. responding too much to her accusations of our deficiencies

2. pointing out the exaggerations and sweeping generalities she applies (don’t want her to lose face)

3. obviously – getting angry. My poker face is fairly well in place

4. arguing back (very easy for it to deteriorate into a slanging match again)

I have, however, tried to:

1. listen – to always be available to her, not to brush her off with “its way past your bedtime” etc

2. ask lots of questions about what she has said, to try to probe

3. try to reiterate that we do love her, we do support her, she can come to us with problems, etc

I have found that it is all too easy to get into “explaining” my side of a particular issue, in order to try to make her see a different angle. This tends to fail, and then risks becoming a row again.

She point blank refuses to believe that anything we do is with her interests at heart, and although secretly she may know this is not the case, she is resolute at the moment that everything we do is against her. She only picks up on the negatives, refuses to acknowledge any positives.

Should I enter these discussions at all? I don’t feel very equipped to find a win-win resolution currently. One of the difficulties is that most of the issues are quite soft, emotional ones. There are few tangible, factual disagreements that we can easily work on together to find a solution. As most of her stated issues are exaggerated (yes, I do really think that most are), it is difficult to resolve them as they are actually hot air held together with an ancient parental mistake and a good waft of paranoia!

I’m sorry to go on at such length, and I hope it makes sense. If you can help with any tips or pointers I’d be very grateful.

My thanks again and best regards



Hi L.,

For many years now, you have managed most aspects of Z__’s life. But she is about to reach puberty, and as a result, she will be firing you as her manager any day now (and maybe already has).

Based on what I’ve read in your email, I think you may be trying too hard to save Z__ from emotional discomfort. I would encourage you to ask yourself the question, “Am I taking on too much responsibility for Z__’s feelings and behavior?” She may be milking your kindness for everything it’s worth.

Attempting to “reason with” a strong-willed child is just another traditional parenting strategy that tends to make a bad problem worse.

Your assignment is quite easy to execute:

1. Respond to her appropriate behavior with acknowledgment and praise (i.e., accuse her of being successful, responsible, respectful, pretty, smart, etc.)

2. Respond to her inappropriate behavior with a poker face and a consequence

No lectures …no heart-to-heart talks (unless initiated by her – but even then, don’t “explain” yourself) …no trying to “reason with” or rationalize …no “defending” your position …no repeated and redundant reassurance that she is loved …no “feeling sorry” for …no “feeling guilty” about …etc. When parents do these things, they are in effect providing a lot on intensity and attention at the wrong time, which reinforces the child’s desire for more of this kind of parent-child interaction.


Online Parent Support

He just wants to hurt me...

My problem is this. Recently my ex-husband let our 14 y/o ride a 4 wheeler without supervision or helmet. He had a bad accident and in the hospital for 8 days. He knows I do not allow this but seems to let him do things like this. Of course you want to be with the parent that lets you roam free. I cannot get him to understand we need to be on the same page. I am willing to compromise, but he just wants to hurt me. I am not sure how to handle this and some of the trouble I have with my son is from this. Any suggestions.

Thanks, M.


Hi M.,

Parents who have significantly different child-rearing styles are more likely to have kids with behavior problems than families who have similar styles.

A parent who gives in to his kid's every demand in the hope of satisfying them almost always finds that the opposite happens: Instead of letting up, the kids continue to push for more and more, looking for a sign of how much is too much.

A similar thing happens if the parents cannot decide how to discipline and set limits on their kids. It's healthy for kids to see how their parents reach a compromise or settle a disagreement if it's done peacefully and effectively. But if the parents can't reach an agreement, the kid's behavior often gets worse as they search for the reassurance of stable boundaries to their lives.

In those situations, the main issue of using discipline to teach kids appropriate behavior gets lost in the battles between parents for an illusion of control. The kids become confused and respond by continuing to act out, both to assert their own power and to figure out which rules are really important.

It's not surprising that parents have differing views on the best way to discipline their kids. Working out those differences requires clarity and perspective. Safety issues (e.g., "...you have to wear a helmet") should be the first consideration. They also require the greatest amount of agreement from both parents.

Other matters can usually be resolved by agreeing on which parent will set the rules about particular issues. Even so, forming a united front on discipline is often more easily said than done. Here are some ideas that may help:

  • Be prepared for behavioral problems. Remember that many changes in kid's behaviors are linked to their stage of normal development. Talk ahead of time about how each of you would handle these predictable situations. That way you'll have fewer conflicts when they occur.
  • Don't be trapped by your past. That includes both your own childhood and the style of discipline you may have used in an earlier marriage. Look for ways to explore, with your ex-spouse, your unquestioned assumptions about disciplining kids. One good way to do that is to take a parenting class together. That does two things: It helps you realize how differently other people respond to the same situations you face as parents, and it gives you and your spouse a common base of information from which to develop your shared approaches to discipline.

If your ex will simply not work with you on any level, then bear in mind that a weaker parenting strategy supported by both parents is much better than a stronger strategy supported by only one parent.

Finally, your son will have to learn to operate under two different sets of house rules -- yours and your ex-husband's.


Online Parent Support

Could he be bipolar?

Hi T.,

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

Hi Mark,

A couple of weeks ago I bought your program. Well things are getting worse …my seventeen year old son is out of control.

== > As you may recall from watching the first few Instructional Videos, things do tend to get worse before they get better. This is not uncommon and should be viewed as “progress.”

On June 25 one of his co-workers committed suicide (my son worked with him and knew him well) my son worked with him that day. Since then my son has started drinking while on medication for anger - anxiety …two weeks ago the rage hit with his 23-year-old brother home from out west on vocation. It was really bad as he raged for three hours. Smashing stuff fighting with whoever would be in his way. A full-blown rage of no other kind. I told him in a calm state that the next time this happened I would call the police.

==> Join Online Parent Support 

Today it happened again... he had been at the beach drinking and became agitated this carried home to a full blown rage where kitchen table was upset, coffee tables etc.... you get the picture. I called the police as he would not settle down. The officer with the help of friends was finally able to arrest him. He smashed the side window out of my truck as I tried to leave the gateway shattering glass all over me. Tonight my worst nightmare is true my son is in a youth centre.

== > Good for you for calling the police. He may benefit from both a grief counselor as well as a drug/alcohol program.

Since he required stitches he was taken to the hospital by the police. The officer asked if he should be admitted and given an evaluation but was told by the doctor that was not necessary.

== > Uh Oh! He definitely needs a comprehensive psychiatric evaluation.

Tomorrow my son will be released with no repercussions only a bruised ego about being arrested (which he blames me for)… my son is a good kid except that he has always had anger issues. I have begged him to go to a counselor to no avail. What next and how do I deal with this… could he be bipolar?

== > This is why he needs an evaluation. A psychiatrist will need to rule out certain things before a proper diagnosis is found.

Tonight he told me after being arrested that it was my fault because I got him to take this medication and that He hates me because I called the police. As you know I love my son dearly and only want help for him. Please advise as soon as possible.

== > I’m guessing that he has been over-indulged for his entire life – and now that you are shifting to a more assertive parenting style, he is having difficulty adapting.

PS you said to find humour in the worst situations, well I did when the officer and my son were wrestling around on the pool deck. The officer was trying to get a grip on my son to hand cuff him when both of them ended up in the pool... imagine the scene. I figured that america's home video would have loved it. Other than that humour I need direction immediately.

== > You should be in week #2 of the program. You’ve got 2 more weeks to go. Watch ALL of the Instructional Videos – and keep up the tough love. Oh …and make sure your son gets an evaluation.

Mark Hutten, M.A.

==> Join Online Parent Support 

Would it be better to let him learn rather than forcing my beliefs on him?


My 14-year-old son found himself a job in June. He works very long hours some days, usually in the hot sun. He gets up on his own, packs his own lunch and is very responsible. This is someone who has been and can still be quite defient.

He has spent nearly all the money he has made. There is a small amount in savings for expenses he must pay soon. He loves to spend and buys a lot of his own meals and snacks. He has also bought things his friends already have. I buy him very little except for birthday and Christmas.

The problem is saving. I originally thought he should save more, but am giving up on the notion. It has caused too many quarrels and doesn't seem to be worth it. He says it is his money and he should get to determine where it goes. He will be paying for basketball shoes and driver's training and anything else coming up soon but will probably run out well before Christmas. He will not be working again until June.

Is he right? It is his money and he works hard for it. I want him to have good habits, but would it be better to let him learn rather than forcing my beliefs on him?

Loving, but frugal Mom


Hi Frugal Mom,

Re: Is he right? It is his money and he works hard for it. I want him to have good habits, but would it be better to let him learn rather than forcing my beliefs on him?

Great question! And the answer is an unequivocal 'YES'. He's right.

You seem to be doing very well with him overall. Congratulations.

Pick your battles carefully. He will learn how to budget and manage money much better from first-hand experience rather than from motherly lectures.


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Conduct Disorder & The "Safety" Issue

Factsheet: Conduct Disorder (CD)

What is CD?

CD is a repetitive and persistent pattern of behavior in kids and adolescents in which the rights of others or basic social rules are violated. The youngster or adolescent usually exhibits these behavior patterns in a variety of settings—at home, at school, and in social situations—and they cause significant impairment in his or her social, academic, and family functioning.

What are the signs and symptoms of CD?

Behaviors characteristic of CD include:
  • Serious rule violations, such as staying out at night when prohibited, running away from home overnight, or often being truant from school.
  • Non-aggressive conduct that causes property loss or damage, such as fire-setting or the deliberate destruction of others’ property.
  • Deceitfulness or theft, such as breaking into someone’s house or car, or lying or “conning” others.
  • Aggressive behavior that causes or threatens harm to other people or animals, such as bullying or intimidating others, often initiating physical fights, or being physically cruel to animals.
Many youth with CD may have trouble feeling and expressing empathy or remorse and reading social cues. These youth often misinterpret the actions of others as being hostile or aggressive and respond by escalating the situation into conflict. CD may also be associated with other difficulties such as substance use, risk-taking behavior, school problems, and physical injury from accidents or fights.

How common is CD?

CD is more common among boys than girls, with studies indicating that the rate among boys in the general population ranges from 6% to 16% while the rate among girls ranges from 2% to 9%. CD can have its onset early, before age 10, or in adolescence. Kids who display early-onset CD are at greater risk for persistent difficulties, however, and they are also more likely to have troubled peer relationships and academic problems. Among both boys and girls, CD is one of the disorders most frequently diagnosed in mental health settings.

What does the research say about CD?

Recent research on CD has been very promising. For example, research has shown that most kids and adolescents with CD do not grow up to have behavioral problems or problems with the law as adults; most of these youth do well as adults, both socially and occupationally. Researchers are also gaining a better understanding of the causes of CD, as well as aggressive behavior more generally. CD has both genetic and environmental components. That is, although the disorder is more common among the kids of adults who themselves exhibited conduct problems when they were young, there are many other factors which researchers believe contribute to the development of the disorder. For example, youth with CD appear to have deficits in processing social information or social cues, and some may have been rejected by peers as young kids.
Despite early reports that treatment for this disorder is ineffective, several recent reviews of the literature have identified promising approaches treating kids and adolescents with CD. The most successful approaches intervene as early as possible, are structured and intensive, and address the multiple contexts in which kids exhibit problem behavior, including the family, school, and community. Examples of effective treatment approaches include functional family therapy, multi-systemic therapy, and cognitive behavioral approaches, which focus on building skills such as anger management. Pharmacological intervention alone is not sufficient for the treatment of CD.
CD tends to co-occur with a number of other emotional and behavioral disorders of childhood, particularly Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Mood Disorders (such as depression). Co-occurring CD and substance abuse problems must be treated in an integrated, holistic fashion.
Why are assessment and treatment important?

Assessment and diagnosis of CD—or any emotional or behavioral disorder of childhood—should be done by a mental health professional, preferably one who is trained in children’s mental health. Any diagnosis must be made in consultation with the youngster’s family. The assessment process should include observation of the youngster, discussion with the youngster and family, the use of standardized instruments or structured diagnostic interviews, and history-taking, including a complete medical and family / social history. When assessing and diagnosing any childhood emotional or behavioral disorder, the mental health professional should consider the social and economic context in which a youngster’s behavior occurs.
Accurate assessment and appropriate, individualized treatment will assure that all kids are equipped to navigate the developmental milestones of childhood and adolescence and make a successful adaptation to adulthood. Treatment must be provided in the least restrictive setting possible.
What can I do if I’m concerned about a youngster?
  • Consult with a mental health professional, preferably one who is trained in children’s mental health.
  • Explore the treatment options available. Treatment must be individualized to meet the needs of each youngster and should be family-centered and developmentally and culturally appropriate.
  • Find a family support group or organization in your community.
Online Parent Support

To Snoop or Not To Snoop?

"Should you secretly snoop on your teenage child? I am not talking about where you're open with them about your surveillance. I am talking about clandestine snooping: Reading their e-mail …checking their text messages …reading their diaries …eavesdropping on their conversations with friends …searching their room …searching their jeans -- all in secret."

Click here for the answer...

I am heartened by the progress so far...

Hi Mark,

It is pleasing to see that K is modifying his behaviour - nothing else worked, but this program certainly does! He chose to test whether the consequences would be enforced, and when he lost his phone for 48 hrs for the second time in a week, instead of punching the wall, he ended up crying. And I could remain calm, and acknowledge it was distressing, but that the good news was, it never had to happen again, if he followed the few basic rules that were set.

I know it has to get worse before it gets better, and I am heartened by the progress so far.

Online Parent Support

He can’t seem to handle anything not going his way...

Hi Mark

Thank you for all that information re school – it’s enormously helpful.

I have to ask if you might be able to help with a question about public ‘meltdowns’. I don’t know how to handle this situation and it seems to be getting worse. He can’t seem to handle anything not going his way or anyone daring to do something other than what suits him or benefits him. We had another one on the weekend where at football he was put into a position he didn’t like for the first quarter. At the end of the quarter he yelled rudely at the coach to move him. The coach then quite rightly and calmly put him on the bench for the next quarter. He sat there crying and fuming and carrying on about how unfair, everyone’s got it in for him, why me, coach hates me etc. etc. Tried to explain it was only about everyone taking their turn in all positions etc. but then he just became aggressive and insulting to me. It’s a typical scenario. Do I just implement the ‘when I want something from my child’ strategy? (Ie I want him to calm down and be sensible.) Then do I just ignore him if he doesn’t? Or punish him after? I really need guidance on this one.

Thanks again,

Hi L.,

Re: Do I just implement the 'when I want something from my child' strategy?

Re: (Ie I want him to calm down and be sensible.)
No. "If you choose to ________ (be specific here, for example: hit, push, yell, etc.) ...then you'll choose the consequence, which is ____ (pick the least restrictive consequence first).”
Re: Then do I just ignore him if he doesn't?
No. Follow through with the consequence.

Re: Or punish him after?
Yes (actually you’ll be disciplining rather than punishing).
You may be making this more difficult than it needs to be. Do you get upset when your son gets upset? If so, this is adding fuel to the fire (remember to use your poker face). Simply use the strategy entitled "When You Want Something From Your Kid" exactly as it is laid out.

Keep up the good work,



That’s clear thanks Mark.

And I apologise, I should have mentioned our successes. Last week, our son received a merit award at school assembly for his ‘amazing improvements’ in class. He was also sent to the headmaster to show him a piece of creative writing he’d done, which was beautiful, detailed and above all way beyond what he was asked to do (he had been doing absolute minimum, and nowhere near what he is capable of). The headmaster wrote him a note of congratulations, which he proudly brought home. Mark, I just want you to know this is completely unprecedented. I believe it is entirely due to the changes we’ve made at home by following the program . As you mentioned, it is going to take some time to turn around behaviour that has become habit over 11 years, and I’m sure there are continuing challenges ahead, but we really want to thank you this program, and the insight and support it provides.

Best regards,


My Out-of-Control Child

Manipulating Parents After Divorce


Dear Mr. Hutton, I just finished reading session 1. I know my daughter has been over-indulged and she possesses most of the personality characteristics you describe as a result of this style of parenting. I definitely want to stop the "free handouts" and foster self-reliance in my daughter as well as my other two children. The problem is I am recently divorced and my ex-husband does everything you describe in the permissive, self-indulgent parenting style. I think he is doing this to be "popular" , "win our daughter over" and to make up for feelings of "guilt" he must have for committing adultery. He is currently taking me to court to gain full physical and legal custody of this 12-year-old daughter only. I believe this is too reduce his financial support to me. We have two other younger children together ages 9 and 5 years old. I also have a restraining order against him. My point in telling you this is that I cannot discuss parenting issues with my ex-husband.
My question is when I refuse to buy "handouts" for my daughter she does not care or have a need to earn money because she can receive the "handout" from her father on her next visitation day. For example, I offered to buy her basic jeans (she needed new pants to wear) at Walmart but she wanted "designer jeans" from Macy's. Her father bought her the "designer jeans" at Macy's on his next visitation day with her. This daughter also wants to live with her father. I feel this is because she can "run free" and have minimal rules as well as have all the material things she wants. I really need your program because she has become a "nightmare" for me to parent. She is using the divorce to manipulate what she wants from everyone. Is there any way I can foster self-reliance in my children? My counselor told me that no parenting program I use will work because my ex-husband undermines it with his permissive style of parenting. I want to have "hope"! Thanks for your time.

When parents disagree about discipline, the underlying issue is often a conflict in parenting styles. Parenting styles develop in a complex process from childhood history to adult knowledge and experience. Because parenting styles are rooted in individual belief systems, polarization and conflict are common when parents' styles differ. 

The most common conflict occurs between parenting couples who have authoritarian and indulgent styles. The authoritarian parent is adult-centered and high in control efforts. The indulgent parent is child-centered and low in control efforts. 

While these two styles are opposites at their core, they can find common ground. The way to resolve this conflict is for both parents to take one step to the more balanced and healthy authoritative parenting style. 

The authoritarian parent can move toward authoritativeness by becoming more child-centered. This parent should take time to listen to the child and invite the child's input into family activities and decision-making. He or she should seek out knowledge of normal child development to better understand the child's abilities and needs. Finally, this parent should spend more time with the child in mutually pleasurable pastimes, finding ways to enter the child's world and understand the child's point of view. 

The indulgent parent can move toward authoritativeness by becoming more demanding of the child. The indulgent parent should practice saying 'no' to the child. He or she should seek out knowledge of effective child discipline strategies and use them to address misbehavior. Finally, this parent should focus on helping the child build skills of self-control and adult and peer interactions. Teach the child to respect the authority of adults in his world; to understand consequences and control impulses; and, to develop good relationships with peers. 

Conflict between authoritarian and indulgent parents will not subside without effort from both parents. It's not so much about compromise as it is about learning from each other. Belief systems about parenting can remain intact while both parents learn new skills.
Kids learn to manipulate their parents following a divorce, gaining more control of their situation in a two-household family. 

The majority of adolescents actively interpret their parents' behaviors in order to manage relationships to their perceived advantage. The kids gather and interpret info about parents, dodge questions, engineer images of themselves, parry parents' probes, maneuver between households, and cut ties with parents to exert their own authority.
Several strategies are used:
  • Cutting one parent completely out of their life; the process allows the child to control when and where they have contact with one of the parents.
  • Moving from one home to another. Children will often move into the home of the parent who is less controlling in order to punish the other parent or to escape a situation they do not like.
  • Withholding info from one parent to avoid punishment or solidify a relationship. Since there is less communication between parents following divorce, the child can gain upper hand by controlling the info flow. 

None of these options would be available to a child in a single household with two parents.
It’s surprising how many children learn to manipulate their parents after a divorce. Some parents have the attitude that their children would never do so, but it is common. They may see it as a viable avenue to get their own way. Young children do it as well as older children. The difference is the way they go about it and what they are attempting to get out of the deal.

It is understandable why parents would fall for this though. After all, they don't want their children to be traumatized by what has taken place. They want to see their children happy and thriving in their environment. Make sure you are consistent with the rules you have set for your children though. They may come to you and say a later curfew or hanging out with friends without adult supervision makes them feel better. This is just a ploy to get you to let them do what they want to do.

You should expect your child to attempt to test the limits though. They may tell you they want to go live with their other parent when you don't give in to them. This is going to hurt you and they know it. Stand firm and tell them you are sorry they feel that way but that you are sticking by your decision. If you can work out similar rules at both homes with your ex this issue will be eliminated for both of you.

It is true that children can have conflicts in life that are a direct result of the divorce. For example your child may have drop in their grades or changes in their attitude. While you need to understand this, they need to know that the divorce isn't an excuse for letting things go. They still need to be doing their homework and they still need to be respecting you. They need to help out at home and do what is asked of them without problems.

Make sure you understand the difference between what your children need and when they are attempting to get one over on you. They may find your defenses are down after a divorce and use it to their benefit. Don't be too hard on your children if you find out this is what is going on. Let them know you are disappointed though and that they aren't going to be allowed to continue doing it.

One of the reasons why children are able to successfully manipulate their parents after a divorce is due to the parents feeling inadequate. They don't want to let their children down any more than they feel they already have. They also have a fear that their children won't love them as much as the other parent if they don't give in to their desires. That isn't the reality of it though.

Mark Hutten, M.A.

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He quit his job for some reason...

Let me say you and your ebook have been a big help to me. I can use some advice. My son took his mother’s credit card, charged up about 200 dollars worth of stuff. He admitted to doing it. He had a job at the time and I was of course going to make him pay for the charges. In the mean time, he quit his job for some reason. I have taken his car away from him and am in the process of cutting his cell phone off. He is 17 and I am sure his next response will be that he just won’t go back for his senior year of high school. That would devastate me, but I feel it is now his choice, and if he drops put of school, it's welcome to the real world. What is your opinion on all this? Let me admit to having been an overindulging parent over the years.

One more question. I took his car because he his responsible for making the payments. What should I do about giving it back to him? I know you say 1 day, 3 days, 7 days as far as punishment but this is a little different. I told him not to quit his current job until he found another one but he did anyway. Thanks for any input.


Hi D.,

Re: What is your opinion on all this? You are exactly right on track (I guess you just needed to hear it from someone else). Is it possible that you are taking on too much responsibility? And if so, is this helping - or making matters worse?

He can ride his bike ...or walk ...or take a bus …or get a friend to drive him to look for work. As soon as he finds another job, he gets his car back.


My Out-of-Control Teen

Best of all, this has made our marriage stronger!

Dear Mark,

Had to write to tell you that we have completed your course. Other parents need to know it is not an easy change to make but as you explained it was well worth it. I know that we will still experience some bumpy times but we are feeling a bit more confident as we continue to practice the skills. Our household is certainly seeing the difference and we feel more prepared to deal with our 15 year old daughter as she progresses through these teenage years.

A lot of what we learned has also enabled us to utilize it with our two sons who are in their 20s as well. One thing I think we especially learned was that it is never too late to be an assertive parent and be a change agent in our children's lives. You do have to recognize when you aren't being assertive and willing to make the needed changes for your sake and theirs, too.

Although we have a meeting with a probation officer in a couple of weeks as a consequence to our daughter’s choice to runaway we are comfortable in knowing we did what we had to do for her. We understand that she is scared, that she is making excuses for her actions and that she is looking to blame others for what she did. She also "hates us and does not want to live with us" but she is more cooperative with us these days.

If you have any advice or guidance for us regarding this probation meeting we would appreciate it.

She has gone so far as to say she wasn't running away she just wanted to get out of the house. What she doesn't quite get yet is that she left after I was in bed, after curfew, and to her 15 year old "boyfriend's" home where a man (not her "boyfriend's" father) lives with the "boyfriend's" unmarried mother and the "boyfriend's" 6 younger brothers. This man just got out of prison, and is currently on probation, for cocaine dealing and possession. When we were phoning all of her friends and we called the boyfriend’s home we were told she was not there. That is were the police picked her up.

She is in love so nothing else matters. Being brought home by a county officer, having us search through her belongings, being told she is now in the "system" and if she does it again she will also put her friends in jeopardy did not phase her too much that day. In the days that ensued, she did open up to us a little bit more although the "boyfriend's" feelings are still more important to her these days.

After reading your autonomy section under Summary Points, the muddy waters cleared for us even further. We have re-instituted family meetings with ALL members of the family as much as possible so that no one is singled out. We have established a family support system and letting all of them know there is no shame in asking for help when you need it. Running away will not solve anything. House rules, fair-fighting, decision-making, etc. have been established. We continue to do your assignments and are getting better at them, too.

Best of all, this has made our marriage stronger! We remind each other about the "arts" of saying yes and no. We work together on earned privileges and consequences. We've learned more than we want to know about "underground punk". Most of all, we are hopeful that there will be living left for us when the kids all leave home because before that we felt drained. They do all leave home, eventually, don't they?

Just kidding, as we do believe assertive parenting will accomplish that. It is interesting, though, how you can fall into passive or aggressive parenting easily if you are not on guard. It is easier to see it in other parents first. Thanks again for your program and knowing that you will be there for us in the days, weeks and months ahead.

If there is anything we can do to "give back" please let us know. We do plan to "pay it forward" and steer parents to your program if they ask us how we managed to cope with our out-of-control teenager.


G. & J.


Hi G.,

Thank you for your kind words. Parents like you give me the inspiration to continue in this line of work. You are a good student and a great parent! Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Re: If you have any advice or guidance for us regarding this probation meeting we would appreciate it.

Just remind yourself that you are doing this out of a loving, caring heart …remind yourself that you are saving your daughter from some very significant long-term, major pain by holding her accountable -- even though the accountability will cause her some short-term, minor pain …and remind yourself that “assertive” parents reap great rewards in the long run.

You are simply doing the right thing,


Online Parent Support

I looked in and found a knife...

Dear Mr. Hutten,

Thank you for your reply. It seems to be working for now and she hasn't asked about it again. I routinely look through my daughter's room. If she has drugs or alcohol in the house, I take it away and tell her that it is not acceptable for her to have these things. Last night she left her dresser drawer open and I looked in and found a knife, a large sharp kitchen knife, which is not from my home. My first thoughts are that she is holding on to it for someone or she stole it (but why?). It is a weapon and I think I should take it to the police. If it were a gun, I would take it to the police. I haven't spoken to her about it yet. What do you suggest?

The other major issue with our daughter is school. She failed so badly at her last high school that they do not want her back and I think it would be best for her to make a fresh start. However, her motivation is zero. I want her to take control of her schooling and choose where she wants to go but I worry that she is not capable of making this decision. Should we set a deadline for her to get organized and if she doesn't we take over?



Hi H.,

Re: drugs or alcohol? Please refer to the section of the eBook entitled “Read These Emails From Exasperated Parents” [Session #4; online version of the eBook; look for “drug abuse”]. This problem is covered in that section.

Re: What do you suggest? I would just confiscate the knife.

Re: school. Heather, this too is covered in the eBook. Please refer to the same section listed above [“Read These Emails From Exasperated Parents”; Session #4; online version of the eBook; look for “Poor Academic Performance].


Online Parent Support

Teens & Stealing Money

Mark, I have just got to the bit about fair fighting and positive framing, really interesting and I can see how it would work a lot of the time but one of the biggest areas of conflict between my son and me is money, however much he gets he always wants more and will steal from me or his older brother and sister to get it. He has just stolen £370 from his brother's bank account by taking the card and pin no from the post. I can see how I can frame the action positively but how can I make a win win solution for him. He has had his allowance stopped until the money is paid, he is taking some out of his savings (controlled by absent father) but even so he will be weeks without money while he pays it back, I know he will take any opportunity he can to steal but I don't see how i can give him money even if he was willing to do chores, that seems disrespectful to his brother who worked two part time jobs to get the money. Help?! C.

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Dealing with Severe and Persistent Temper Tantrums

Hi Mark,

My mother S___ talked to you and then bought your program for my wife J___ and I. We have two boys Sammy 8 and Andy 4 (turns 5 Aug 20). Both of our boys have tons of energy and are very strong-willed. We're concerned about Andy's behavior however, we're optimistic that the program will also help Sammy. We've worked through Session 1 and 2 and have experienced some positive results despite the opposition at times. Our new "outlook" has not been popular especially with Sammy.

Andy can be having a wonderful day and then suddenly "snap" and go into another place where he is defiant, annoying, and ignores any type of authority or discipline. He will lose one toy after another and not seem to care. He will not stay in a time out. He's aggressive and borderline abusive with our dog, his brother etc. He can get very physical. He gets this Jack Nicholson (shining) look on his face. He even does the eye roll. It's like a switch has been thrown and nothing can turn it around. Yesterday the "switch" was thrown over getting dressed. He wanted to put on his pajamas. Jackie said "no" that he needed put on clothes for the day.

He will be entering kindergarten this fall (three weeks). Although he is not interested in the academics, he's big for his age, extremely athletically talented and very social. Until summer, he had been attending a pre-school three days a week. All of his caregivers are totally convinced that he is ready to go even though he is young. We're very concerned about his behavior once he starts school.

We were first alerted of his behavior weirdness while he was at preschool. The caregiver lost control of him completely as he trashed the place, hurt other kids and scratched, and pinched her. Up until then, they praised his behavior and never had any issues with him. He was a great, mellow, happy baby.

The 2nd red flag involved Andy attending a two week day camp for 5 yr. olds. We thought this would be a wonderful social opportunity for him to prep for kindergarten. It was an absolute disaster. Two young, rookie councelors had 12 kids. We barely made it through the first 4 days before the 3 day weekend. Although the program was totally unorganized, Andy was defiant, showed no respect for the councelors and was "not nice" to his fellow campers. We pulled him after the 1st day of week two when I got a call that Andy was completely out of control and hurting other kids and the councelors.

It seems as though if there's any hint of lack of control, he'll do whatever it takes to escalate the issue, or get control himself. Once he's in the zone, it seems that nothing will get through to him. He doesn't compute consequences to promote good behavior. This throws him into rage and he acts out even more.

Sammy has always demanded an extreme amount of attention and because he's older and very athletically gifted as well, he's been in the spot light. We've really tried to give both of our kids equal attention and praise. It seems as though we've been over the top on the praise. Sammy and Andy fight and play wrestle quite a bit and it always leads to someone upset or crying. Sammy is not very nice to his little brother as he sees him as annoying. Andy of course provokes and pushes all of the right buttons.

So here's an introduction to our challenges. I'm sure you'll have questions, but we're stuck on what to do in the heat of the moment, when he's in the zone. He could care less if we take away all of his toys. Last night, I led him into the car, buckled him in and told him that he was going somewhere else to live, that he obviously didn't want to live with us, respect us or listen to us. I was prepared to drive down to the police station, when he finally snapped out of it, started crying and climbed out of the car and ran back into the house. He quickly picked up the board game that he had dumped got ready for bed and seemed sincerely sorry for how he had behaved. However, Jackie informed me that he was unaffected this morning and refusing to put on his clothes.

There you have it. We'd love some feedback. We're excited about your program and we want to get our kids back on track. Thanks for listening.



Hi D.,

So we’re talking basic temper tantrums here. Here is a list of ways to avoid and also deal with temper tantrums:
  1. Allow a grace period before an activity ends - This is one that I have started doing constantly with our grandson, Jake, and it has worked wonders for us. Carry a timer or even use the alarm on a cell phone. Tell your kid for example "OK you have 5 minutes left to watch TV before bed. When the alarm goes off then time is up". I normally play the alarm to let Jake know what it will sound like before I set it.
  1. Allow options! - Give a little leeway and allow your kid to make some choices for himself. Ask "Do you want to wear the green shirt or the blue shirt today?" Allowing your kid to be active in choices when appropriate will help to prevent power struggles.
  1. Count - If you kid is starting to get worked up step aside with your kid and say "Lets count". This will help to distract your kid and refocus his mind on something else. Count with your kid until he calms down. Then you can calmly discuss the situation that caused a tantrum if needed.
  1. Distraction - If a situation is getting touchy and you know that your kid will throw a tantrum redirect their attention immediately. If it’s raining outside and the kid is throwing a tantrum to go outside think of an indoor activity that your kid loves and suggest it instead.
  1. Do not reward - Don't reward your kid after a tantrum. They may associate tantrums with ways to get better treats.
  1. Don't ask! - Avoid arguments that will lead to tantrums by NOT asking your kid to do something that they have to do. Don't ask "Ready to brush your teeth?" Instead say "OK time to brush your teeth now."
  1. Establish a reward system for good behavior - Set up a chart with your kid’s name on it and squares for each day of the week. Buy some stickers that your kid likes. When your kid has a good day have him place a "reward sticker" on the square for that day. You can offer different rewards for different amounts of stickers. We offer Jake a prize day where if he has had good behavior for the week then we will get him a "prize" while he is at school. We have done toys (small toys like cars, trucks, etc), movies, and books.
  1. Establish a routine and stick to it! - This can help eliminate many many nighttime tantrums. Once your kid learns what is expected to happen there will be less of a struggle and less tantrums.
  1. Ignore - Sometimes its best to ignore a tantrum that is being thrown for the sole purpose to attract your attention. Tell your kid that when he decides to act appropriate then you will pay attention. After the kid has finished the tantrum then provide the attention wanted.
  1. Never give in - Giving in to a tantrum will only encourage the behavior and will result in the kid throwing tantrums more often. If your kid knows that you will cave if he throws a tantrum then it will most likely happen anytime you refuse to give something wanted.
  1. Remain Calm - I know it’s hard to do, but if you remain calm then it will help to shorten your kid’s tantrum and help keep you sane. Spanking or yelling at your kid while he is throwing a tantrum will only make the tantrum worse and cause you to become madder.
  1. Reward positive behavior - Positive re-enforcement of good behavior is a good way to prevent tantrums. Kids will want to make you happy and if you are super excited about good behavior they will try to repeat. "Great job sharing your toys!"
  1. Tolerance - How many times do you say NO to your kid each day? Avoid fighting over minor things to help prevent tantrums.
Remember to ignore the disapproving glances by others in the stores if your kid is throwing a tantrum. Handle the tantrum appropriately and remember that they have either been in the same situation with their kid or its been so long since they had to deal with a tantrum that they have forgotten what its like. It will take some time but being consistent with how you handle tantrums will help to eliminate most if not all of them in the future!

Mark Hutten, M.A.

Grounded for 2 months?!

Hi Mark, I'm asking for some advice regarding a certain situation with my son. I had given you a little background in an e-mail I sent you earlier this week. My son is 15, has a girlfriend, and since she has come into his life, my son has changed quite a bit. The girl and her family are not the kind of people I care to have my son spending time with. She has an older brother, and he is a very negative influence on my son. He lives the "thug" life, acts like a thug, and I simply don't trust him. He is soon to be 18, lives at home with his family, doesn't have a job, and just recently received his GED. He's very "sneaky" in the way he acts. I have my suspicions that this boy has influenced my son with things like drinking, cigarettes, and possibly marijuana. I have no proof, but I have my suspicions. My son is grounded at this time for sneaking out of his bedroom window and going to his girlfriend's. The mother and girlfriend both lied to me when I called the morning I realized he wasn't in his room. This being said, my concern is when school starts on August 25th, and my son is back into his "school routine", he will be associating with his girlfriend once again. I told him he would be grounded for 2 months, and he told me that he WON'T be grounded during school. He will come home at 5:30 for dinner (this has always been a non-negotiable rule with me) but other than that, he will do what he wants after school. He said if my husband or myself goes to school to pick him up, he will just "wave at us and walk by". I know I need to be careful what I say about his girlfriend and her family, because I don't want him to rebel in an extreme way. If I were to tell him that he is forbidden to spend time with them, I'm sure he will do whatever he has to do, to get away from me/us, and go over there. What is your advice for this situation? I'm really dreading school starting. Thank you, M.


Hi M.,

Grounded for 2 months?!

No offense, but it doesn’t sound as though you watched all the Instructional Videos in the online version of the eBook?

All parents dread the day when their son or daughter comes home with a new love interest. There will be many relationships that you know will not work out. And while you might be tempted to share your opinion with your child, I would suggest you didn’t. One point I can’t stress enough is to never tell your child you disapprove of his girlfriend. 

This will only make him that much more attracted to her. If he asks your opinion, you can say that the girl isn’t the person you would have chosen for him, but it’s his life and he has to figure that out for himself. If you keep telling him how bad of a person his new fling is, she could turn out to be your daughter-in-law. 

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I know this from first hand experience. My wife hated my daughter’s high school boyfriend - even forbid her from seeing him. All this did was make her want to see him even more. At one point my daughter said to me, “When my boyfriend and I would have disagreements, I would not see that the relationship wasn’t working. I would only see that I had to make it work to keep mom from knowing she was right about him all along.” 

You have a Romeo & Juliet phenomenon on your hands that will need to be diffused (if not, they will work harder at sneaking rendezvous behind your back). Unfortunately, if your son wants to be with someone -- he'll find a way, no matter what you say or do. Parents can only guide their children in the right direction and hope for the best. If they do a good job, their children will make the right decision all on their own.

Since you will not be successful at keeping those two apart, you must adopt a philosophy of “if you can’t beat ‘em - join ‘em.” In other words, they should be able to see one another within limits, and you decide what those limits are. Maybe your limits will look something like this: 

 · They can be together at your house only during those times that you are home and can monitor their behavior (if not, she has to leave).

 · Or you could schedule some activity for them in which you would be a distant chaperon (e.g., take them to a shopping plaza and tell them to meet you back at the coffee shop in exactly one hour). 

 · Or your son is allowed to go over to her house for a designated time period (if he violates the time limit, there is a consequence that is commensurate with the “crime”).

 Figure out a way for your son to see his g-friend in a way that will keep him safe. This is the best you will be able to do. Otherwise, you are likely to get sucked into weeks – if not months – of power struggles. 


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Emotional Bullying

Hi Mark— I want to start by thanking you again for your continued support and constant flow of information on your website. I have just completed the program and have seen positive changes in my 11-year-old son at home. He still continues to CONSTANTLY ANNOY others and put them down. He does this to his friends and other children in our neighborhood. He has been tackled two times this summer because of his mouth. I do not know what to do. I know that he is constantly putting down people because of his own self-esteem. We are trying hard to follow all steps of the program. I review them several times a week. Please let me know if there is something else we can do to help him not to make fun of people and feel better about himself. Thank you. J.

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Son refuses to go to school...

"My 15 year old son refuses to go to school, but otherwise is a good kid. How can I make him do school work? He attends a private school. He says he can't "force" himself to do it."

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Our problem is that he is never home...

Hi J.,

== > I’ve responded throughout your email:


To catch you up and again some suggestions for guiding us (parents). M______ was successfully released from probation end of July. Just as we predicted, he has been out of control. He is 17 1/2. He has joined up with some friends who are known to buy/do weed. He has been linked to buying/doing weed as well. Not sure how "hooked" he may be--this is all hear say. He is told if he is not home by parent set curfew, he is not to come in the house. He may sleep in the shed if he does come home. We have let him in several times when out with his g'friend as she does call with their where abouts and are home soon after. We do trust her and she has confided in us about some of the things M has done/is doing. We have told him also that the security system is on, and he may not come into the house until a parent is home (we deleted his pass code).

== > This is all good. Great job!

He still is maintaining his job (Dad or g'friend or g'ma drive). He broke the power cord to his lap-top so has no internet (we lock ours). We confiscated his cell (he paid for phone we pay service/he pays "overages"), and the state suspended his driving license due to too many points. I will be DCing his phone service permanently this week as soon as I can get to the store. We (parents) do not plan on signing for his license when he is eligible (he believes we will "cave"). Told we would not drive him to/from school, he could take the bus, or travel with friends. He was told he can buy his own power cord when he has the money and can get one at retail, we would not loan him the money, or order one thru the internet. I stopped doing his laundry due to foul language aimed at me.

== > I think you hit another home run here!! Wow!

As incentives, he can "earn" back me doing laundry and driving him to/from work by not swearing and making his curfew for 3 consecutive days (has not done it yet). Can "earn" back license and use of a car by attending school, no swearing, picking up after himself, and coming in by curfew, passing drug screens (I bought these but so far has refused them), and must do this for 6 weeks and ONLY then with GPS teen tracking system on the car. (We know you recommend 7 days max, but we would be held legally responsible for anything happening to him/our vehicle and if he wants a car sooner than this, he can buy his own. Is this on track?)

== > Most definitely. You are a great role model for other parents who have trouble with the “tough love” concept. Before I read on …I want to say something at this point. Even though things may be far from perfect – can you imagine how bad things might have been had you not made your son accountable on these important issues?

Our problem is that he is never alone/home. He is with his g'friend or not home. He refuses to talk to us about the above. We can't even tell him the consequences because he starts yelling/swearing. We try to discuss him moving out in 6 months, but again, yelling. We find it impossible to tell him anything positive/and "I love you" when we don't even see him. How do we get our message to him?

== > I think you have bigger fish to fry than “swearing” at this stage of the game. He is an adult. Shift to helping him make plans to move out. Put it in writing – short and sweet – and let him know he has a deadline to be packed up and moved out.

Also, last night, he missed curfew (1/2 hour), started calling cell phones, house phones, knocking on the bedroom windows, and ringing the doorbell. The phones we can turn off, but we have to get up early for work, and have a younger child who really needs to be sleeping. Husband opened the door, and M barged in when told to stay out. Any ideas on keeping him out besides police involvement? The local police have told us they would make us allow him into the house as he legally lives there.

== > I want you to begin to focus on him moving out at this point. All the other stuff is water under the bridge. Here’s what one single father did who was in the same boat as you:

1. He told his son he had a deadline to be moved out (the day after his 18th birthday).

2. One week before the deadline, he took his son apartment shopping.

3. His son didn’t like any of the apartments – so Dad said, “Do YOU want to pick – or do you want ME to pick?” …The son picked.

4. Dad helped his son move – and even paid the first 2 months rent.

5. Lastly, he told his son he is always welcome to come home for a visit – but can no longer live there. Dad also said, “In the event you get evicted for not paying your rent, there is a Mission - The Christian Center on Main Street - that will take you in temporarily.”

End of story.

This father was not being cruel – quite the opposite. He was a good student of Online Parent Support and knew exactly what he had to do to “foster the development of self-reliance” in his son.

The latest parenting challenge is dealing with emerging adults who have no intention of leaving the nest. Many 18 to 29-year-olds either return home after college or they've never even left home. The media refers to them as "Boomerang Kids." Parents are worried that their kids won't leave home.

This new phenomenon is highlighted in the movie "Failure to Launch." Matthew McConaughey plays Tripp, 30-something bachelor whose parents want him out of the house. They hired Paula (Sarah Jessica Parker), an interventionist, to help him move out. Paula has a track record of successfully boosting men's self-confidence to cause them to want to be independent.

Interestingly, this story line is not as far-fetched as it may seem. Young adults are indeed becoming more difficult to coax out of their comfy childhood homes. Since the '70s, the number of 26-year-olds still living at home has nearly doubled! Here are the top four factors contributing to this change:

They Are Unprepared—They are overwhelmed or unmotivated to live independently. They would rather play it safe by occupying the family home, playing computer games, and delivering pizza.

These kids often grow up living the life of the privileged. Here well-meaning parents provide their children with all the amenities congruent with an affluent lifestyle. The parents are focused on doing more for their children than what their parents did for them-at the expense of keeping them dependent. Kids don't move out because they've got it made!

When your financial generosity isn't combined with teaching kids how to become self-sufficient at an early age, we cannot expect them to automatically possess adequate life skills when they reach legal adulthood. How will they gain the skills to confidently live their own life, when they haven't had the opportunity to do things for themselves?

They Are Cautious or Clueless—They are committed, but unsure how to discover their ideal career path. They approach college with the same trial and error mindset their parents had only to find out that it no longer prepares them for today's competitive world.

Parents do their kids a disservice by waiting until they are 17 or 18 before initiating career-related discussions. In our dynamic society where change is a daily diet, this is much too late! It's best to start young, at age 13.

This stage of development is the perfect time to begin connecting the dots between what they love to do and possible career options. It can take years to prepare for the perfect career. Beginning early will help teens maximize their opportunities in high school and make college a much better investment.

They Have Personal Problems—They don't have effective life coping skills, have failed relationships or are grieving some other loss or wrestling with a challenging life event.

In "Failure to Launch," we learn that Tripp's parents indulged him largely because the woman he loved died and he hadn't gotten over his loss. When Tripp fell in love with Paula-the new girl of his dreams-his self-sabotaging habit of dumping a girl before she can get too close got reactivated. Finally, his friends intervene and Tripp eventually faces his demons, to everyone's delight.

If your teen is struggling emotionally, don't make the mistake of thinking it will somehow magically get better without an intervention. Tough love requires that you insist your adolescent get professional help so that he or she can move forward. If you don't know how to have that kind of conversation, consider getting help from a parenting expert.

They Have Mounting Debt—They've accumulated significant credit card debt and moving back in with their parents is a way to pay it off.

According to the National Credit Card Research Foundation, 55% of students ages 16-22 have at least one credit card. If your teen falls into this group, make sure you monitor spending together online. Helping your teen understand how to budget and manage credit cards will be important for handling a household budget in the future.

Kids can't learn to manage money if they don't have any, or if parents always pay for everything. If your offspring moves back home, I recommend you charge a nominal amount for room and board. As an adult member of your household, it's important for your young adult to contribute to household chores and expenses.

If the purpose of your child's return home is to pay off bills or a college loan, have a realistic plan and stick to the plan to make sure your young adult moves out of the house.

Determine Goals and Stick to Them—Most parents enjoy having their children visit and will consider offering some short-term help. However, indulging an adult child's inaction does not help your son or daughter begin their own life. If your child defaults on your agreement, be willing to enforce consequences, to help him or her launch into responsible adulthood.


My Out-of-Control Teen

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