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We've both cried the past couple of hours at how destructive our "parenting" has been...

Dear Mark,

My wife and I are finishing Lesson #1. My God!!! We've been the worst kind of indulgent parents, thinking all the time that we were doing the good thing for our son. Quite frankly, we've both cried the past couple of hours at how destructive our "parenting" has been. Just the opposite of what we wanted. Your program is 100% on the money in terms of describing the issues. Glad we found your site, and hope it's not too late.

As some additional background, up until 2 1/2 years ago, I was heavily engaged with my son. We played paintball, R__ raced BMX for 6 years, has won 5 national championships and we spent 2-3 days a week at the track and traveling out of town to races, fishing, camping. 2 1/2 years ago, because of financial issues, I took a job with an emergency management agency that has me traveling across the U.S. for 6-7 months at a time with only a week or two in between. I feel so bad! I see now that in spite of my good intentions, I essentially abandoned my boy, hence his hooking up with this "friend" of his. His attitude is sullen, he's unhappy, angry, dresses like a skin head, and is lying to us, chippying with marijuana (we've had him drug tested). In spite of our apprehension, my wife and I are anxious to get our son back. Below is a set of expectations we've come up with. Are we on the right track?


B. & A.




1. Hang up towels after taking a shower.
2. Pick up dirty clothes and put them in hamper.
3. Keep your bathroom neat.
4. Keep your room picked up. Clean and vacuum your room once a week.
5. Take out trash, including emptying your bathroom wastebasket.
6. Keep truck clean. Clean inside and out once a week.
7. Help with dinner cleanup as requested.
8. After a meal, pick-up/scrape dishes and put in sink.

Allowance: For consistently doing chores, you will earn $15.00 a week. To earn additional money, ask us for things you can do around the house. (Wash windows, wash the van, etc.)


1. That you will not drink alcohol.
2. That you will not do drugs.
3. That you will not steal, or be with people who do steal.
4. That you will be honest and “do what’s right” even if no one is watching. Think independently. Say “no” to friends who want to involve you in illegal behavior.
5. That you will be respectful of your mother and me and other adults.
6. That you will be home at the designated time and will abide by set curfew.
7. That you will complete school and homework as required.
8. Self respect for your health, appearance, physical well being.


Violation of the above house rules will result in “consequences”. These consequences will include:

1. Loss of phone privileges.
2. Loss of driving privileges.
3. Loss of television privileges.
4. Loss of video game privileges.
5. Loss of freedom (grounding). Earn freedom by accepting discipline, reasonable expectations, and a positive attitude.


Hi B.,

Re: Are we on the right track?

I think this is largely on track. Some things fall into the "gray area," which simply means there are multiple ways to do it right.

My biggest concern with what I hear from you so far is that you may be moving to fast. I've said it before, but let me repeat: Only implement session #1 assignments in week one ...session #2 assignments in week two ...and so on.

Slow down a bit. Working too hard to make up for lost time may result in more lost time.



Thank you Mark.
You're right, we were so anxious for change we jumped the gun. Will "back off" a bit and take it a week at a time. Surprisingly, we had a good conversation with him last night. And, while normally towels and clothes are consistently left on the bathroom and bedroom floor, he picked up and straightened his bathroom and bedroom. We gave him lots of praise and as you mentioned, he seems a bit confused. Can't decide if he wants to be angry or accepting. Will continue to work the program. Thanks again for the hope.
B. & A.

My Out-of-Control Teen

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