She keeps saying really mean things to and about her peers at school...

Hi Mark,

I have a problem which has been ongoing on and off for a while. My 14 year old daughter (the eldest of twins) keeps saying really mean things to and about her peers at school. Oh I should mention this twin always seems to be in competition with her twin sister, but this is not the case for twin sister. I hope that made sense.

She keeps blaming everything on her twin sister when it goes wrong with her peers and will not take responsibility for her actions or for saying mean things to her peers. She just expects her friends to keep taking the meanness and just keep going on with life as if she has said nothing mean. I try to explain to her that her peers are getting feed up with the meanness and that she will not have any friends if she keeps it up. When I try to explain this, she flies of the handle, saying “I don’t want to talk about it and stay out of it.” Every time her friends get funny with her she wonders why they are like it and blames her twin sister for taking her friends away from her. I have tried to explain that it has nothing to do with her sister and that her friends have a mind of their own and make their own decisions as to who they want to associate with, but she still blames her sister. Two of her friends are so angry with her for things she has said over the school break and you can see the anger in them when the 14 year old is around. She will not speak with anyone etc (counsellor) saying they are gay (an Australian terminology for stupid). What can I do as I don’t want to go through another year of this. How do I teach her to take responsibility for her words and actions without it looking like I am favouring her sister and what strategies can I give her twin sister to also cope with this? I hope this is enough information. Oh and they are in different classes at school.

I am at my wits end with this matter, please help.




Hi P.,

The strategy that you will want to use here is in session #3 - online version - entitled "When You Want Something From Your Kid."

Please review that section (including the videos). I will be glad to help you plug your specific situation into that strategy if needed (i.e., use your specific example rather than the ones I made up for instruction purposes).


My Out-of-Control Teen

Re: Negative Peer Influence


Thanks for being there. I have a problem I need to act fast on. Over weekend my 15 (almost 16) daughter was caught by police at a party gone bad. They found her on the street and held her until we picked her up in the police car - she was not charged. The house was trashed according to the police officier. We also found out that she was at a another party on Friday night and was given a ride home from a senior - she has been told we do not want her in car with kids. She has become a very believable liar. She is very vague with story and sticks to main points. I asked her again, to let me know what happened on Saturday and she repeated same story and asked for phone back - that she should not be grounded based on being at the wrong place at the wrong time. She and friends were picking up someone and had to go to door to get them, because there phone went dead - both of them. Anyways, at that moment the police came and everyone took off. She and a couple of the boys were held, but her girlfriend, who walked away to talk on the phone with boyfriend got in the car with someone else and took off. This is the same girl's sister that bought her tickets for her to go to ALice in WOnderland, which is an underground party scene which allows you to use your imagination while on drugs. At this place, the girl's boyfriend overdosed on acid and was taken to the emergency room. We take our daughter away on most weekends to avoid the party scene. She has repeatedly told us to find her a boading school she hates being with us. It could be away to get away with saving face with her friends. The parents of her friends do not want to be involved or know what is going on - so they are of no help. We found out late last night from a neighbor's son that she was at parties Friday and Saturday. On saturday, she did smell of some sort of alcohol. We have all the phones and told her she lost the phone for 3 days, but it needs to be more. She is in way over her head and not one of her "friends" is any good. We have cut all communications with her "friends" - but when I checked the texts on her phone - it was almost like a merit badge that she was with cops. I know they love drama, but how stupid. We think it might be better to move and start over - we have been told that it never works, but I do not know how to get her away. We in the mean time think we should tell her she can only see her friends at our house - I do not want them here either, but don't know what else to do. She had other friends that seem like they would be a better crowd, but does not see them - almost like it would be a downgrade to be with them. I think our daughter wants to be good, but gets caught up in the drama. When we get her away, she seems happy again and is a joy to be around. She has a great sense of humor. When she is home and by her friends, she is so angry and everything makes her mad that we do or say. We have three children 19,15, and 13. She is in the middle and the boys are on either side. She is very disrespectful at times, usually when her friends are with her. Where in the past, we have bent the rules and allow her yet another chance, this time we are being strong and not bending. We give her postive reenforcement and always try to ask questions to show we are interested, but get little response. We are following the program, but seems like we have to step it up.



Hi B,

The effects of peer influence are remarkably strong. Adolescents' social anxiety (i.e., their fears about others not liking them) is a major factor affecting their vulnerability to peer influence. Those high in social anxiety are especially likely to be influenced by peers, even if the peers are not highly popular/liked.

Many interventions try to change adolescents' aggressive and risk behavior using rational arguments, persuasive information and "fear-appeals" that emphasize the negative consequences that follow from such behavior. But a more effective route involves changing not adolescents' own attitudes but their perceptions of the attitudes of their peers.

You lead them to think, "This behavior does not fit with my group, or with the group to which I want to belong."

So what can you do? Relocating will not change the source of the problem (i.e., the way your daughter is influenced by peers). She will be "influenced" no matter where you go. It's not a question of whether or not she will be influenced; rather it is a question of what group will influence her. There are as many negative peers in Milwaukee as there are in Texas.

Thus, exposing her to a better group of people (e.g., church group, YWCA, Big Sister programs, various school programs) may be a better alternative to explore.


My Out-of-Control Teen

Promoting Children's Self-esteem

My son is feeling more and more negative about himself. No one ever wants to play with him and it's painful to hear him say such negative things. What do I say to him when he talks like that? It seems like talking positively can make it worse.


Moms & dads, more than anyone else can promote their youngster's self-esteem. It isn't a particularly difficult thing to do. If fact, most moms & dads do it without even realizing that their words and actions have great impact on how their youngster or teenager feels about himself. Here are some suggestions to keep in mind.

When you feel good about your youngster, mention it to him. Moms & dads are often quick to express negative feelings to kids but somehow don't get around to describing positive feelings. A youngster doesn't know when you are feeling good about him and he needs to hear you tell him that you like having him in the family. Kids remember positive statements we say to them. They store them up and "replay" these statements to themselves. Practice giving your youngster words of encouragement throughout each day.

Be generous with praise. Use what is called descriptive praise to let your youngster know when they are doing something well. You must of course become in the habit of looking for situations in which your youngster is doing a good job or displaying a talent. When your youngster completes a task or chore you could say, "I really like the way you straightened your room. You found a place for every thing and put each thing in its place." When you observe them showing a talent you might say, "That last piece you played was great. You really have a lot of musical talent." Don't be afraid to give praise often even in front of family or friends. Also, use praise to point out positive character traits. For instance, "You are a very kind person." Or, "I like the way you stick with things you do even when it seems hard to do." You can even praise a youngster for something he did not do such as "I really liked how you accepted my answer of 'no' and didn't lose your temper."

Teach your youngster to practice making positive self-statements. Self-talk is very important in everything we do. Psychologists have found that negative self-talk is behind depression and anxiety. What we think determines how we feel and how we feel determines how we behave. Therefore, it is important to teach kids to be positive about how they "talk to themselves." Some examples of useful self-talk are: "I can get this problem, if I just keep trying." "It's OK if our team lost today. We all tried our best and you can't win them all." "It makes me feel good to help others even if the person doesn't notice or thank me."

Avoid criticism that takes the form of ridicule or shame. Sometimes it is necessary to criticize a youngster's actions, and it is appropriate that moms & dads do so. When, however the criticism is directed to the youngster as a person it can easily deteriorate into ridicule or shame. It is important to learn to use "I statements" rather than "You statements" when giving criticism. For instance say, "I would like you to keep your clothes in the proper place in your closet or drawers not lying all over your room;" rather than saying "Why are you such a lazy slob? Can't you take care of anything?"

Teach your youngster about decision-making and to recognize when he has made a good decision. Kids make decisions all the time but often are not aware that they are doing so. There are a number of ways moms & dads can help kids improve their ability to consciously make wise decisions. Kids make decisions all the time but often are not aware that they are doing so. There are a number of ways moms & dads can help kids improve their ability to consciously make wise decisions.

1. Allow the youngster to choose one of the solutions only after fully considering the consequences. The best solution will be one that solves the problem and simultaneously makes the youngster feel good about himself.

2. Brainstorm the possible solutions. Usually there is more than one solution or choice to a given dilemma, and the parent can make an important contribution by pointing out this fact and by suggesting alternatives if the youngster has none.

3. Help the youngster clarify the problem that is creating the need for a decision. Ask him questions that pinpoint how he sees, hears, and feels about a situation and what may need to be changed.

4. Later join the youngster in evaluating the results of that particular solution. Did it work out well? Or did it fail? if so, why? Reviewing the tactics will equip the youngster to make a better decision the next time around.

Develop a positive approach to providing structure for your youngster. All kids and teens need to accept responsibility for their behavior. They should learn self-discipline. To help kids learn self-discipline, the parent needs to adopt the role of coach/teacher rather than that of disciplinarian and punisher. Learn the "Three Fs" of positive parenting. (Discipline should be fair, firm and friendly).

Ten additional steps you can take to help your youngster develop a positive self-image:

1. Encourage your kids to ask for what they want assertively, pointing out that there is no guarantee that they will get it. Reinforce them for asking and avoid anticipating their desires.

2. Encourage your kids to behave toward themselves the way they'd like their friends to behave toward them.

3. Encourage your kids to develop hobbies and interests which give them pleasure and which they can pursue independently.

4. Help kids learn to focus on their strengths by pointing out to them all the things they can do.

5. Help your kids develop "tease tolerance" by pointing out that some teasing can't hurt. Help kids learn to cope with teasing by ignoring it while using positive self-talk such as "names can never hurt me," "teases have no power over me," and "if I can resist this tease, then I'm building emotional muscle."

6. Help your kids think in terms of alternative options and possibilities rather than depending upon one option for satisfaction. A youngster who has only one friend and loses that friend is friendless. However, a youngster who has many friends and loses one, still has many. This same principle holds true in many different areas. Whenever you think there is only one thing which can satisfy you, you limit your potential for being satisfied! The more you help your kids realize that there are many options in every situation, the more you increase their potential for satisfaction.

7. Laugh with your kids and encourage them to laugh at themselves. People who take themselves very seriously are undoubtedly decreasing their enjoyment in life. A good sense of humor and the ability to make light of life are important ingredients for increasing one's overall enjoyment.

8. Let kids know they create and are responsible for any feeling they experience. Likewise, they are not responsible for others' feelings. Avoid blaming kids for how you feel.

9. Let kids settle their own disputes between siblings and friends alike.

10. Teach kids to change their demands to preferences. Point out to kids that there is no reason they must get everything they want and that they need not feel angry either. Encourage them to work against anger by setting a good example and by reinforcing them when they display appropriate irritation rather than anger.

Online Parent Support

I will not allow her boyfriend to sleep at our house...

Hi Mark,

I have not been at peace with myself about this subject for the past 2 years. My daughter, M_____, is a freshman at college, lives on campus and has done very well the first semester. The college is 45 minutes away from our house, so she returns every weekend. I am having a terrible time with my inner peace about her spending nights with her boyfriend from high school, C___, when she returns home. I will not allow her boyfriend to sleep at our house, but the boyfriend lives with his grandparents who allow my daughter to sleep at their house. At first I was nice to him, but I do not respect him for encouraging her to do this. It has come to me not wanting to face him, so I don't.

A few months ago, I went as far as calling the grandmother to tell her that I am opposed to that behavior and we had a nice chat. Nothing has changed and my daughter at 18 continues to do this. She stayed every single night at the boyfriends over Christmas break. She did this with the last boyfriend as well. It eats me alive and my husband is very accepting of it, so it causes friction between he and I. Half the time, I just don't speak, as I am so upset with this behavior. I have said, "While living in our house, you have rules to follow". "If you want to do this when you have your own expenses and rent, then so be it". My views are never respected and I have come close to moving out of my own home because of it. I feel that if the boyfriend respected me, he would not let M_____ spend the night. It upsets me so much. I am more upset with my husband for letting her get away with it and she knows it. It is so difficult for me to accept this and my husband totally ignores my opinion, which upsets me more. It is a terrible example for my 10th grade daughter. I really resent my 18 yr old. She thinks because she is 18, it is ok. I am more disappointed in her and my husband for tarnishing my value system. We raised our girls with good values, attend church and taught them what is right and what is wrong. M_____ does not want to be involved in any church activities and has strayed from her faith, which hurts me, but I do know some teenagers do.

I need to find peace, and I really try, but I suppress it and then I blow at the first opportunity. I am busy with a job, workout regularly, teach Sunday school and volunteer at the church which gives me great joy, but I continue to feel so sad, embarrassed and disappointed with M_____'s behavior. She seldom eats dinner with us when she is home as she is always out. M_____ knows how important it is to me to have a family meal together.

Believe me, my husband and I got counseling from a wonderful man on how to handle her, but the problem is not sleeping at home when she comes home. My husband thinks we should get more counseling, but I now refuse as I have had enough. I do not need someone to tell me how to accept this because I never will. I feel let down by my husband too. My friends are great and offer me great support, which is always uplifting.



Hi J.,

I see two issues here really: (1) the fact that she is staying nights with her boyfriend, and (2) she’s not been coming home.

It's natural for a mother to feel some sadness when her child leaves home and spends a lot of time with a boyfriend. It is quite normal to have a little weep now and again – or even go into the absent child's bedroom and sit there for a bit in an attempt to feel closer to her.

We know of a successful, busy and confident woman - an agony aunt, in fact - who admitted she went into her son's bedroom to sniff his T-shirt shortly after he left to go to university for the first time.

So don't be ashamed of your feelings - they are natural.

But if you experience any of the following severe symptoms, you should seek professional help - especially if they go on for longer than a week:

· You feel your useful life has ended.
· You are crying excessively.
· You're so sad you don't want to mix with friends or go to work.

In this kind of situation, what seems to happen is that the child's departure unleashes seriously depressed feelings, and these very definitely need treating.

If you know that your sadness is overwhelming you, do go and discuss your feelings with your counselor as soon as possible. You almost certainly could use some counseling to get your feelings into perspective, and you may need antidepressants.

When your child leaves home, you'll obviously want to keep in touch with her. But don't try and do this excessively.

Be sensitive to the fact that your daughter is trying to take a big, significant step in life - which doesn’t actually much to do with you.

Your daughter will need your support, but will not want to feel like you’re nagging her. And the more you cling or show that you're upset the boyfriend, the less likelihood there is of her contacting you or coming to visit.

Ration your calls to no more than two a week. Also, try texting or using email instead of phoning. You'll be able to put your feelings succinctly without getting too emotional.

This form of communication will probably suit your daughter better, too. It's much easier for a young person to say 'I really miss you' in a message rather than on the phone, when other students (or a boyfriend) might be listening.

Online Parent Support

I have been asked to help care for a young girl...

Dear Mark,

I have been asked to help care for a young girl of a friend of mine. We went to youth court today and I have been given permission to work with the psychologist and school to help this 12 year old. She has been molested on several different occasions and is very defiant with her mother who has been neglectful in the past. She has been diagnosed with ADHD PTSD and a defiance disorder. Her mother has asked me for help and I have some concerns about her behavior. I do not want to put myself at risk of being accused of inappropriate sexual conduct or child abuse. She has a very distorted perception of reality. She lies about everything and she has had a suicide attempt. I watched her lie to a judge today and lie about the cell phone she stole from her mom this morning. I am purchasing your book this evening for her mother. I am not sure how I can help or if I am in too deep.

Her mom called me in hysterics this evening at her wits end. I have been supportive in the past. I have watched this family for several years and I am concerned about the safety of her mother and her little brother. These childs have been in foster care and shuffled around to other people and I think they have experienced abandonment trauma.

The mom wants me to take her daughter for a few weeks and see if I can help to make some changes. As I said before I am concerned about what will happen to me if she accuses me of some sort of abuse. I think that this young lady needs more professional care I am not sure that I have the training for such an undertaking. My job now is to pick her up from school and take care of her for 2 hours every week day after school. I will give her mom your book ad I will read it also but I need some advice if I am taking on too much responsibility.

Thank You,

By the way I have had to do a background check through the FBI to have permission to be involved in her care.

For someone who has faced such difficult mental health issues, will following the same steps we would with a "regular" kid work?

Hi Mark,

Thanks so much for your response.

Many of the points you made are right on! We know where we are regarding lack of skills. I think my question is that my son has severe lack of coping skills and challenges re: depression. He's missed out on so much emotional growth because of his depression.

He is so behind that I question whether we can move him ahead on our own as parents. He is willing to go to therapy, but, honestly, usually shuts down at some point.

We are holding him to chores, not giving him any money, he has to do stuff around the house to earn use of the car daily. Still, this is excruciatingly slow. And I don't know whether he will ever decide to get a job. Rather, he just seems willing to sit in the basement when he runs out of money. (He has $55 left to his name.)

He has so far to go re: dealing with his emotions, accepting responsibility for making decisions and taking actions to move forward with his life . . . I think it would take 2 years if he were in a residential program . . . and we're at home moving at a much slower pace. He would definitely benefit from being somewhere else where someone besides use could hold him to consequences. Here, if he doesn't do something, he still gets to sit in my basement staring at the TV.

I'm not sure how to move forward. He is doing OK at this level, which is definitely better than where he was two months ago. The next level is getting him engaged in something such as a job, volunteer work, even working out at the gym!

My question is for someone who has faced such difficult mental health issues (and still is), will following the same steps we would with a "regular" kid work?

I'm afraid that we will have to evict him eventually and I don't want to do that because I don't want him to come apart again . . . without meds. I guess that's the real issue I have to face.



Hi J.,

Re: My question is for someone who has faced such difficult mental health issues (and still is), will following the same steps we would with a "regular" kid work?

He is a regular kid. Are you sure you paid attention to the "reframing" business in Fair Fighting [session #1 - online version].

Here's the reframe for depression (which should be your mantra as a parent of a depressed kid):

Depressed -- overwhelmed, quite, slowing down, taking inventory, reflecting on the past, possibility to rest, gaining strength before some trial or test, to mature important plans, reflection before action, hitting the brakes, placing one’s values and/or goals in a new order

You're still feeling sorry for him at some level. This will be -- and is -- a huge obstacle for the entire family.


My Out-of-Control Teen

From: Parent to an up and coming Adult!


You have no idea how much heartache, or how many stomachaches and headaches you have alleviated for me, or maybe you do… I hope you do! Well if you don't, please know that where I'm concerned, you are a true angel and I just hope you continue doing what you're doing!

Thanks again! =-)


Parent to an up and coming Adult!

Online Parent Support

She attracts the attention of young men in their late teens & early 20s...

Hi Mark,

I’m the mother of a beautiful, strong willed 12-year-old daughter. She has always been tall for her age but is now 5’ 11”, 120lbs with blue eyes, long blond hair and naturally tanned looking skin. She looks like a supermodel of about 17 and knows it. Unfortunately she attracts the attention of young men in their late teens & early 20s, will dress in ways to make herself look older, and basically enjoys baiting them. Unfortunately her best friend (a 13 year old without much common sense) met a young man (17years old) through an Internet chat room and invited this person to meet them at the mall for a movie. (Of course all this sort of thing is kept secret from us through lies.) While at the movie my daughter allowed this boy to kiss her, which then turned into rape. I discovered what happened by accident when I found a pregnancy test kit in my daughter’s room. When I asked her about it she told me what happened, was of course very upset, glad that I finally knew and was eager to seek medical screening and agreed to talk to child protection and JERT, a division of the police. She was raped this past August and I discovered it in late October.

Prior to this she had been having sexual type conversations with boys over the Internet and on a household back up mobile phone, which is billed to our business, which we didn’t know she was using. Of course we had repeatedly given her the lecture about chatrooms, danger of the Internet, talking or SMSing people you don’t know, etc. Her Internet privileges had been pulled a number of times for a month or more for these types of infractions. After discovering the rape, her computer access was removed, the phone was deactivated and she hasn’t been allowed to see her friend anywhere except at our house.

At the beginning of January we gave her back her computer privileges along with the warning about not abusing them etc. Last night we discovered that she has been having very illicit sexual conversations on the computer since January 5th with a 15-year-old local boy. We confronted her about this, asked her why on earth she did this after everything that has happened, explained that she was definitely leading this boy on and was walking down a very dangerous road which could ruin her life! All she said was that she was sorry, doesn’t know why she does it and fled to her room blocking her door to prevent us coming in. Computer privileges have been removed again.

I have tried, over the last two years or so to teach her how to avoid sexual trouble, dress appropriately (teen fashion which isn’t slutty or revealing is OK), no heavy make-up (she “borrows” mine without asking if she doesn’t have her own, no talking to strangers no mall or movies without adult accompanying, don’t get into a situation where you give someone privacy and control, etc.

Despite what happened, she continues to play the siren when she thinks we aren’t watching.

I love my daughter very much, she has SO much potential and a wonderful life to look forward to and she is a pretty good kid – sure I have problems with lying, wagging chores, not doing homework, backchat, sulking, door slamming and the gimmee and getmees but I’m deeply worried about her stubbornness in playing with sexual fire and what the consequences of that could be.

She is only 12 – but in a gorgeous 17-year-old body - how on earth can we protect her from herself during the teen years?

P.S. I received your email book yesterday – it’s fantastic. I’ve tried some of your “tricks” with the other typical teen behavior problems last night and they worked like magic! Thank you.

Best Regards,



Hi J.,

Sexual acting out and behavior is almost always tough for parents to deal with, even when they understand that, at least to some degree, it's "normal."

Children who demonstrate an unusual interest in sexual matters often have been introduced to it by other adults, children, or by viewing sexual material. It's also possible that having intercourse explained to her when she was young has created some confusion for your daughter that she is "acting out" in her behavior.

My own son was inadvertently shown a sexually explicit cartoon when he was 11, and we went through several months of heightened sexual interest and questions--which gradually disappeared when he realized that he wasn't shocking me and that I would calmly answer any of his questions. Do some thinking about what you want your daughter to believe about sex and intimacy, and then find ways to calmly teach and share those concepts with her.

Your daughter needs teaching about appropriate boundaries and behavior, not punishment. By showing gentle curiosity and asking "what" and "how" questions, you can open the door to talking about sex, rather than having her act it out. You may want to get one of the many excellent books explaining sexuality for children and read it together, openly reminding her that this subject has come up before and you're wondering if she has questions. The phrase, "I've noticed that. . ." is often a good beginning. You can let her know, without anger, that flirting the way she has is not acceptable, but it is okay to have questions and be curious, and that she can ask you anything. Your own attitude (kind and firm) will let her know that you mean what you say. If you are calm, open, and approachable, she may be able to relax enough to explore the subject with you.

Mark Hutten, M.A.

JOIN Online Parent Support

The Total Transformation?

Hi Mark-

Just to let you know, I spent 300 bucks on the Total Transformation program. Have you heard of it? I wish I had found your site before I made that purchase. Although there are a few tips that were somewhat helpful, it left me largely at a loss on what to do to get my son to cooperate. There was no "transformation". Far from it.

On the other hand, your information - as you said - it not the usual set of parenting strategies that everyone tries to use to no avail. Your videos and phone consult have helped me to get my son back.

Just wanted you to know. You really are worth much more than $29.00 - but thanks for being affordable - and for being there for "real" assistance rather than for the money.

Eternally grateful,

Marge C.

Online Parent Support

The conflicts we have now are about less critical matters...

Dear Mark,

I ordered your ebook and talked to you on the phone about my daughter a while back and just wanted to say thank you and let you know that your methods work for us! As you predicted, first the frequency of conflicts decreased at first and then later the intensity decreased. And better yet, the conflicts we have now are about less critical matters, for example, over staying on the internet too long rather than over staying out with unsavory friends too late. We communicate much better, too.

Again, thank you for what you are doing, and for being there to help so many parents like me who have been overwhelmed with raising teenagers.


Online Parent Support

Thank you for giving me my son back...

Would you recommend this program to friends or family?
Definitely. I have recommended it many times already.

Did you get a timely response to your emails?
I have not needed to email yet, But Mark has kept to his word on everything else, so I am confident emails would be timely.

What was the most helpful feature of Online Parent Support?
When I started the program, I felt so lost and helpless. Mark said things that made me swear he knew my child personally. Everything I read seemed to be about my child. This was how I knew this program was different, and that it could work. The steps were easy to follow, and the results were fast. When we took the parenting quiz, I scored an 80 and my husband scored 100. This really opened our eyes. Now all 3 of my children are happier and easier to deal with.

What was the least helpful?
I cannot think of one thing I would change about this program. Thank you so much.

Additional Comments:
My child had been on medication for ADD for several years. It never seemed to help the way we hoped. His anger was out of control and most of the walls in our home had holes from him punching them. He was violent with his siblings and distant from us. I found your program while looking for a treatment facility to send him away to. I knew it was not safe for his brother and sister if he stayed in our home. About 2 and a half weeks into your program we were able to take him off the medication and he continued to improve. (His doctor insisted we were making a huge mistake and that medication was the only way to help him.) He is changing into a more confident self-controlled person thanks to your program. He used to scream at me how much he hated me. Now when he does not get his way he will yell, “Why are you such a good parent??? God, I love you so much!! Why can't you be a rotten parent like my friends parents???” He will try to sound angry, but he is letting me know he is happier with the way things are now. He is learning to diffuse tense situations as well. We have both become better people. Thank you for giving me my son back.

Online Parent Support - Program Evaluation

I honestly received more helpful information out of your program...

Just a quick note to say thank you for your program. You have done a really great job on this and it was very affordable. My mother bought me a $300 program – while I must say that any additional tools I get out of it will be worth any cost, I honestly received more helpful information out of your program. My son and I were going down a very ugly spiral – I am a single mom and always the “bad guy”. He got to the point that he simply defied the punishments and the behavior got worse each day.

It has only been a month and school has been out for the last couple weeks, but I feel like we are making progress. This gave us a new direction and I have had much more PEACE! One of the biggest problem areas is the failing grades at school – it really took a load off of me to stop micro-managing that area. Since he had been totally grounded for so long and really got worse when he was simply “ungrounded” altogether, I had him earn the free time by getting passing grades. If he works at school and does homework, it gives him enough “earned time” that he is essentially ungrounded. It also transitioned our house from “negative consequences for bad behavior” to “positive response for good behavior”. The biggest turn around was lowing the bar to the point he couldn’t fail – “Come home from school on time today and you can have an hour of free time tonight”. It gave him a light at the end of the tunnel that he did not have before and he ran to it!



Online Parent Support

He wants to throw his clean clothes on the floor...

Dear Mark:

I’m a new parent to your site. I need assistance and want to ensure I’m not being unreasonable with my son. Please advise me.

He wants to throw his clean clothes (that he did agree to wash and dry) on the floor in his closet rather than hang them up. I feel they should be hung up or put into drawers. I don’t even care if he folds then. He says he’ll just throw them on the floor.

Am I being unreasonable? Should I just provide another “bin”, like his dirty clothes bin, and let him throw his clean clothes in there? I don’t want to be too demanding; it is his space and his clothes.

Please advise. Thanks.



Hi K.,

Great question. This falls into the "pick-your-battles-carefully" category. I'm sure you have bigger fish to fry than worrying about clothes on the floor.

Are you being unreasonable? Not really. Is it a battle you should fight. No way! Get a clean clothes bin.


Online Parent Support

Aspergers & Sound Therapy

Hi, I was wondering if anybody has tried sound therapy with their children, like Tomatis or AIT and what the results were?? My son was recently diagnosed with possibly Aspergers at 3 years of age, he is now 4-- he really does not act or behave in ways that are typical for Aspergers- by that I mean he does not need to stick to a rigid routine or have difficulty with new transitions--he does have different play behaviors- forms bottles, crayons and utensils and makes them into different shapes or numbers and is fascinated with both letters, numbers and music but has other areas of interest as well but not as strong of an interest. He definitely has some sensory issues going on and I was wondering if sound therapy could help this??

Please help??



Autism is a mystifying condition, which causes kids to become emotionally isolated from the world around them.

Aspergers is higher functioning autism, meaning the symptoms are milder and the child functions well or above average in many areas of life while still having certain abnormalities in their way of relating to others.

A definite cause of autism or Aspergers is not known, but a contributing factor is believed to be distortion in the reception of sensory information.

Many kids with autism exhibit extreme sensitivity to noise. Some frequencies are actually painful for them to hear. Sound Therapy pioneer Dr Tomatis suggests that, in order to shut out painful sounds or other unwanted stimuli, the child closes down the hearing mechanism so that certain sounds cannot penetrate the consciousness.

On a physiological level, this closing off of the ear is achieved by a relaxation of the muscles of the middle ear. Over time, these muscles lose their tonicity. Sounds are then imprecisely perceived and, as a result, incorrectly analyzed.

Tomatis believes that the reluctance of autistic kids to communicate results from the closing off of their being to auditory input. Although they may understand what is said to them, they have tuned out many of the frequencies in the sound and have thus tuned out the emotional content of the message.

Sound Therapy offers a child with autism the opportunity to re-open the listening capacity. The fluctuating sounds produced by the Electronic Ear gradually exercise and tone the ear muscles, teaching the ear to respond to and recognize the full range of frequencies. As this happens, communication takes on new meanings, and the child begins to respond where before he or she was unreachable.

Tomatis discovered that because of the way the fetal ear develops, the first sounds heard in utero are high frequency sounds. The child hears not only the mother's heartbeat and visceral noises but also her voice. Re-awakening the child's ability to hear high frequencies re-creates this earliest auditory experience and enables emotional contact to be made with the mother first and then with others.

Kids with speech difficulties should listen to Sound Therapy every day for 30 to 60 minutes per day or more if desired. Regular daily listening is essential for the right ear dominance to be achieved. The Let's Recite tape in the Family Kit is good to use for kids with speech difficulties as it gives them the opportunity to repeat what is said and integrate their speaking with their new experience of listening. Another good exercise for kids with any form of speech difficulty is speaking into a microphone while monitoring their voice through the right ear. This can be done using a personal cassette player with a microphone and wearing only the right headphone. The child can speak, sing, read or make any vocal sounds.

A similar effect can be achieved without the equipment by simply closing off the right ear with fingers or an ear plug. This increases the volume of the child's own voice in the right ear. This exercise can be done for some time each day in conjunction with the listening.

What Sound Therapy has achieved with Autistic kids—

· Kids who can speak may develop a more appropriate use of language, e.g. beginning to use more personal pronouns ("I", "you") or first names, and using words to express their feelings.

· For kids without language, vocalization has increased, initially as screams and then as babbling.

· Increased eye contact and the kids have a longer attention span.

· Initiate contact rather than waiting to be approached.

· Interactions with their family members have become more affectionate and appropriate.

· Once kids have begun to emerge from their emotional isolation they have shown increasing responsiveness to what they are being taught and to the people who care for them.

· They may begin to laugh and cry at appropriate times.

· They show a greater interest in making contact and communicating with the people around them.

Online Parent Support

C. Has A Drug Problem

Hi Mark

A lot has happened since I last wrote you last. My son C___ phoned and said he wanted to come home. I went over to his place and he was cleaning up a bong to sell and the other kid Jeff was smoking up when I got there. I had gone over to talk to C___ about his request to my husband about moving home. I walked in on this and just lost it. I yelled at them and C___ was bawling his eyes out and Jeff quickly got out of there. C___. He told me that he is depressed and needed to come home.

He came home just before C___tmas. The lady that signed the lease on the townhouse and the same lady that took him out of the rehab center requested that he sit at her table on C___tmas Eve with her family. Even though he knew that we have C___tmas Eve at my brother's place, off he went. She gave him $200 skateboard for C___tmas. He stills hangs around with her kids. The other night the older one who is grossly over weight phoned and said that he wanted to go running. It was really cold; I think they were up to something. This kid has been running me down to C___ and every time he sees this kid, it is like there has been a brainwashing episode. Everything has been going okay so far a couple of things nothing major. Tonight C___ was going out he did not ask for the truck to take, said he was taking the bus to his girlfriend's place and he took his backpack. I looked out the window to see if he took the truck or not after my husband had suggested that he could have it.

I received a call from him 15 mins. later with him trying to start a fight with me and why I was watching him and that I check his eyes etc. Last week we had him at the doctor because he scratched his cornea and the eye has been infected and I have been watching this. I thought he had pink eye. If I get pink eye it is contagious I can not go to work if I catch it, I work in a health care facility and I am exposed to 250 nurses and personal support works. Then he said what more can he do that he is really trying here and that I am watching him etc. He said what do you expect from me. I said I am not arguing here, I expect that he go to school and keep busy, maybe get some more hours at work. He said that the only people that really care about him are the ones that he was doing drugs with, that they ask him how it is going and care about him.

Mark I have really tried here. I think he wanted to pick a fight with me for a good excuse to get loaded tonight and blame it on me. When he was out on his own he would phone and push my buttons and get into a fight and wouldn't phone me for weeks. I think that is why he took the backpack and that is why he didn't take the truck.

What should I do here? I don't ask questions like I use to, I am just listening and getting his feelings out. . I have seen more and more of my kid, but it seems every time he sees here kid (that lady's oldest son) we are 5 steps ahead and 15 back. This kid is the one that when C___ said he was giving up drugs and had not done anything for 3 weeks got him doing it again and that was the night he came home on a bad trip and he asked us for us to get him help.

Any suggestions here?



Hi A.,

If your son is like most of the addicts I work with, a drug is the most important thing in his life -- more important than physical and mental health ...more important than family, work, education, etc.

Until he becomes actively involved in some form of Intensive Outpatient Treatment, he will continue to struggle with priorities (i.e., drugs will always come first).

If he has not had treatment for chemical abuse/dependency yet, this will be your first step in helping him move toward recovery. You can make it a mandatory thing that will dictate whether or not he continues to live with you.

Bottom line: This drug problem will NOT go away until he receives treatment (and even then, there is no guarantee that he will not relapse periodically - at least in the early stages of recovery).


My Out-of-Control Teen

Adolescent Physical abuse Towards Mothers

The paucity of attention paid to adolescent physical abuse towards mothers is indicated by the sparse literature on the topic. Clearly, there is an urgent need to conduct research into this aspect of family life. A research study will, therefore, be designed to explore the perspectives of mothers who experience adolescent physical abuse and to determine the direction for developing effective policies and services to address the needs of mothers and young people.

Reviewing the literature--

Physical abuse within the family context is of concern as it exists within all cultures, family backgrounds, and socio-economic situations (Ministry of Social Development, 2002).

The family physical abuse literature to date has primarily focused on intimate partner abuse and child abuse. Although now gaining greater attention, the issue of adolescent physical abuse towards their mothers has been a neglected area (Agnew & Huguley, 1989; Bobic, 2004; Cottrell & Monk, 2004; Eckstein, 2004; Peek, Fischer, & Kidwell, 1985). In New Zealand the available information about adolescent physical abuse towards mothers comes from articles published in the popular press (Aldridge, 1995; Stickley, 1998) and anecdotal evidence from organizations such as Tough Love, the police, and community intervention and prevention services that work with people affected by physical abuse.

The lack of research literature on adolescent physical abuse towards mothers is of concern as noted in recent reports, such as Te Rito: New Zealand Family Physical abuse Prevention Strategy (Ministry of Social Development, 2002), Beyond Zero Tolerance: Key issues and future directions for family physical abuse work in New Zealand (Fanslow, 2005) and An Agenda for Family Physical abuse Research (New Zealand Family Physical abuse Clearinghouse, 2006). No direct research on the topic appears to have been undertaken in New Zealand. More extensive information and additional literature on physical abuse towards mothers, however, is available from overseas sources; some is based on data from surveys conducted in the United States, other information comes from the Canadian National Clearinghouse on Family Physical abuse (Agnew & Huguley, 1989; Brezina, 1999; Cornell & Gelles, 1982; Cottrell, 2001, 2003; Cottrell & Monk, 2004; Peek et al., 1985; Ulman & Strauss, 2003). Several articles from Australia also address the topic (Bobic, 2002, 2004; Gallagher, 2004a, 2004b).

The prevalence of adolescent physical abuse towards mothers is difficult to establish. Estimates of incidence within the available literature vary from 5-18% of families experiencing this phenomenon. A small number of studies from overseas have examined survey data based on quantitative measures; however, much of this information is ten to thirty years old (Cottrell & Monk, 2004; Eckstein, 2004). The available statistics generally focus on the use of physical abuse by children or adolescents towards their mothers (Agnew & Huguley, 1989; Bobic, 2004; Eckstein, 2004; Peek et al., 1985). The type of physical abuse is usually categorized as “hitting” (Agnew & Huguley, 1989; Peek et al., 1985), although verbal and emotional abuse may also be included (Eckstein, 2004). However, other developmentally relevant behaviors, more commonly found in the youth literature, for example, financial abuse and damage to property, are largely neglected.

Explanations regarding the cause and continuation of adolescent physical abuse towards mothers, as well as information about the most effective ways of assisting mothers, are limited (Bobic, 2004). Cottrell (2001) suggests there is no single and definitive explanation for physical abuse towards mothers. Rather, a range of multifaceted and interconnected dynamics contributes to this behavior. These dynamics may include biological, psychological and social factors, as well as those related to youth culture (Martin, 2002), and risk factors linked with youth offending (McLaren, 2000, 2002). In line with current information regarding interpersonal physical abuse, both male and female youth participate in all forms of physical abuse towards mothers (Cottrell, 2003), while women are most likely to be at risk of becoming targets of the physical abuse (Agnew & Huguley, 1989).

The link between growing up in the context of family physical abuse and the continuation of violent behavior onto the next generation is becoming increasingly highlighted in current family physical abuse discourse. There is also evidence to suggest that where there is physical abuse between mothers, and/or mothers are violent towards a young person, there is greater risk of the young person becoming violent towards his or her parent (Bobic, 2004; Ulman & Strauss, 2003). Furthermore, adolescents who abuse their mothers often abuse their siblings as well (Harbin & Madden, 1979; Heide as cited in Eckstein, 2004). However, more extensive studies are needed to explore the issue further and to provide a more comprehensive understanding of the development of violent behavior in some adolescents.

As with other types of interpersonal physical abuse and abuse, it is likely that adolescent physical abuse towards mothers is more widespread than the available literature and studies suggests. Under reporting is likely to be influenced by the nature of the relationship between the young person and their mothers. Internal factors such as parental shame and fear of blame and external factors such as community judgment of their capacity to parent (Bobic, 2004) may also contribute to mothers denying or minimizing their experiences and maintaining secrecy (Agnew & Huguley, 1989). Cottrell and Monk (2004) suggest that reluctance to disclose is likely to be exacerbated by the limited access to means of intervention. Social service agencies increasingly recognize the prevalence of this type of physical abuse. However, research that could provide practice models of how to respond to this type of physical abuse is also lacking (Cottrell, 2001).

There is also scant information about whether adolescent physical abuse towards mothers relates more to family physical abuse or to youth physical abuse in general. Theoretical approaches to family physical abuse have centered on adult-initiated physical abuse and may be limited in their application to adolescent-initiated physical abuse (Cottrell & Monk, 2004; Peek et al., 1985). Research and theoretical frameworks relating to youth physical abuse may address these limitations. As integrating frameworks may be useful in addressing adolescent physical abuse towards mothers (Bobic, 2004; Cottrell & Monk, 2004), by combining knowledge from the fields of family physical abuse and youth physical abuse we may be able to more effectively expand our understanding of the phenomenon.

Proposed research--

The New Zealand Family Physical abuse Clearinghouse has identified adolescent physical abuse against mothers as a significant gap in research on all forms of family physical abuse (NZFVCH, 2006). The level of youth physical abuse within our communities is also of concern. Where one issue ends and another begins may not be clear-cut. However, what is clear is the need for New Zealand-based research to explore the phenomenon of adolescent violent behavior within the context of the family. The literature review that is reported upon here provides the basis for the development of a research proposal that will contribute to the filling of this gap.

The proposed study will be designed to explore mothers’ experiences of physical abuse perpetrated by adolescents (aged 14 to 17 years) in their care. Young people aged 14 years and over are held accountable for offending under New Zealand legislation and are at an age at which intervention through statutory agencies may be required. Mothers from varying family configurations will be invited to take part in the research. This will include representation from Pakeha, Maori, Pacific, and Asian populations. Attention to ethnic diversity will be important as a necessary step towards meeting the needs of all families who experience adolescent physical abuse towards mothers. Ethical considerations will also be important, particularly those concerning cultural issues (Anae, Coxon, Mara, Wendt-Samu, & Finau, 2001; Ruwhiu, 2001; Tolich, 2002) and safety issues (Ellsberg, Heise, Pena, Agurto, & Winkvist, 2001).

The research will take a mixed method approach where both quantitative and qualitative data are sought. The option of using this approach in a longitudinal study will also be considered. Data collection will focus on experiences of all types of physical abuse, including physical abuse, psychological, emotional and financial abuse, and damage to property and material goods.

Adolescent physical abuse towards mothers is a complex area. There is little evidence-based information that can assist families or research that can support practitioners working with families who are experiencing this type of physical abuse. This review of the literature is an initial step towards developing a study that can attend to the need for New Zealand-based research on adolescent physical abuse towards mothers and contribute to building theory about this type of interpersonal physical abuse. It is hoped that it will also stimulate discussion about how the phenomenon might be addressed.

Yvonne Crichton-Hill and Nikki Evans are members of the team at Te Awatea Physical abuse Research Centre and academics at the School of Social Work and Human Services, University of Canterbury. Their research interests are in the fields of family physical abuse and youth physical abuse. Letitia Meadows is a BSW graduate and has a University of Canterbury Doctoral Scholarship to continue her studies as a PhD candidate with the School of Social Work and Human Services.

This report of the preliminary research study, funded by a University of Canterbury, College of Arts Research Grant, was first published in Te Awatea Review, 4(2), December 2006.


Aldridge, V. (1995, 26 June). Children who beat up their mothers. The Dominion, p. 9.
Agnew, R., & Huguley, S. (1989). Adolescent physical abuse towards mothers. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 51(3), 699-711.
Anae, M., Coxon, E., Mara, D., Wendt-Samu, T., & Finau, C. (2001). Pasifika education research guidelines: Report to the Ministry of Education, Auckland Uniservices. Wellington: Ministry of Education.
Bobic, N. (2002). Adolescent physical abuse towards mothers: Myths and realities. Marrickville, NSW: Rosemount Youth & Family Services.
Bobic, N. (2004). Adolescent physical abuse towards mothers [Topic paper]. Australian Domestic and Family Physical abuse Clearinghouse. Retrieved November 11, 2005, from
Brezina, T. (1999). Teenage physical abuse toward mothers as an adaptation to family strain: Evidence from a national survey of male adolescents. Youth & Society, 30, 416-444.
Cornell, C., & Gelles, R. (1982). Adolescent to parent physical abuse. Urban and Social Change Review, 15, 8-14
Cottrell, B. (2001). Parent abuse: The abuse of mothers by their teenage children. Ottawa, Canada: Health Canada, Family Physical abuse Prevention Unit.
Cottrell, B. (2003). Parent abuse: The abuse of adults by their teenage children: Overview paper. Ottawa: Public Health Agency of Canada. Retrieved October 12, 2005, from
Cottrell, B., & Monk, P. (2004). Adolescent-to-parent abuse: A qualitative overview of common themes. Journal of Family Issues, 25, 1072-1095.
Eckstein, N. (2004). Emergent issues in families experiencing adolescent-to-parent abuse. Western Journal of Communication, 68(4), 365(24).
Ellsberg, M., Heise, L., Pena, R., Agurto, S., & Winkvist, A. (2001). Researching domestic physical abuse against women: Methodological and ethical considerations. Studies in Family Planning, 32, 1-16.
Fanslow, J. (2005). Beyond zero tolerance: Key issues and future directions for family physical abuse work in New Zealand. Wellington: Families Commission.
Gallagher, E. (2004a). Mothers victimised by their children. ANZJFT, 25, 1-12.
Gallagher, E. (2004b). Youth who victimise their mothers. ANZJFT, 25, 94-105.
Martin, L. (2002). The invisible table: Perspectives on youth and youthwork in New Zealand. Palmerston North: Dunmore Press.
McLaren, K. (2000). Tough is not enough: Getting smart about youth crime: A review of research on what works to reduce offending by young people. Wellington: Ministry of Youth Affairs.
McLaren, K. (2002). Building strength: Youth development literature review. Wellington: Ministry of Youth Affairs.
Ministry of Social Development. (2002). Te Rito: New Zealand family physical abuse prevention strategy. Wellington: The Ministry.
New Zealand Family Physical abuse Clearinghouse. (2006). An agenda for family physical abuse research (Vol. 1). Christchurch: NZFVC.
Peek, C., Fischer, J., & Kidwell, J. (1985). Teenage physical abuse towards mothers: A neglected dimension of family physical abuse. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 47, 1051-1058.
Pocock, T., & Cram, F. (1996). Children of battered women. Waikato Law Review, 4, 77-100.
Ruwhiu, L. (2001). Bicultural issues in Aotearoa New Zealand social work. In M. Connolly (Ed.), New Zealand social work contexts and practice. Auckland: Oxford University Press.
Stickley, T. (1998, 30 October). Death of a brutal bully or kind dad? New Zealand Herald, p.A11.
Tolich, M. (2002). Pakeha paralysis: Cultural safety for those researching the general population of Aotearoa. Social Policy Journal of New Zealand, 18, 164-178.
Ulman, A., & Strauss, M. (2003). Physical abuse by children against mothers in relation to physical abuse between mothers and corporal punishment by mothers. Journal of Comparative Family Studies, 34, 41-60. Retrieved September 11, 2006, from

Online Parent Support

I realized I had to change my behavior to help him change his...

Hello Mark ...thank you for the welcome e-mail, I just read thru the introduction and the first assignment and I’m already feeling empowered… I have been thru psychologists, psychiatrists, therapist, social workers and alternative medicine… and found no solutions, actually I think it has made matters worse, he uses his so called sickness as an excuse for his behavior. I ended up rewarding him for doing what he was supposed to do and not disciplining him for his bad behavior. I can’t get him to do anything without offering him a reward. I started taking him to the doctors when he was 5 years old and he is now 15. I’m afraid of what these next 3 years will bring my way. He will not do chores, homework, basically anything that I ask him to do. He constantly shows anger towards me and blames me for everything that goes wrong in his life. He is not accountable for his actions. He is currently failing in school. I have set-up a teachers conference today, asked the counselor to reach out to him and asked about the schools R.O.C. program or classes.

My decision today to look for another answer came because my son decided he was going to teach me a lesson because I refused to buy him yet another pair of expensive Jordan shoes, he made sure he got to school late yesterday and today he refused to go to school. (this is the first time that he has been this defiant) He threw me out of his room with horrible verbal abuse! I made a decision for the new year that I was going to find a solution to this ever mounting problem, but most importantly I wasn’t going to let him keep playing my buttons, no more anger, no more fear, no more reactions to his behavior. I realized I had to change my behavior to help him change his and with God’s help I found your web site.

Warm regards,


My Out-of-Control Teen

He was very thankful and appreciative to have his privileges back...

Hi Mark,

I just thought I'd give you an update. Our son A__ went out New Year's Eve and arrived home on January 3rd, 2009. He did call though, but we told him that he would have to come home or deal with the consequences (he had no medication or clothes). When he returned home (at 7:15am after partying all night wreaking of smoke and booze - and gasping for air because he is asthmatic and smokes and had no ventolin) we took away, the TV, computer, phone and we locked his bedroom door and made him sleep on a roll-away cot. He bitched and complained that we were doing damage to his back....oh, we also told him 3 square meals a day, no snacking, which was torture because he is 6'3 and eats a lot. Anyway, we went the full 3 days and it's over now. He was very thankful and appreciative to have his privileges that's great!!! It was hard, but we did it. To be honest I broke down once, but then got back with the program (I let him eat something between meals, and I had a whole heart to heart with him - which would have gone better if I'd talked to a wall) and my husband got mad once and yelled at him after I allowed him to eat and he left all his dishes all over and made him get off his cot at 1am and do the dishes. So we worked together as a team and put our poker faces back on.

I have told my Aunt about the program and she is going to sign up too.



Hi J.,

I really appreciate the update.

You are clearly NOT employing "half-measures." Great job -- and thanks for working the program as it is intended.

To your continued success,


Online Parent Support

She tells me everything...

Hi Mark,

I have run into a situation I don't really know what to do. I have a 13-year-old daughter and for the most your program is working great. My problem is she is almost too honest with me. She tells me everything. Two weeks ago I noticed her mood was horrible, I asked her if she was smoking pot? She got cranky and 20 minutes later she brings a bud of weed out of her room and told me to get rid of it. She told me where she got it and agrees to not go over there anymore, not happy about it, but accepted it. Now I let her go to another friends for a sleepover and they went to another friends house, she was offered ecstasy? She told me she refused it and so did the girl she went over there with, but the one girl did some. Now I said well, I guess you won't be going over there anymore, I explained I am glad she told me and was proud she made a good decision, now she says well, if that is what I get every time I am honest with you, I am not going to tell you what goes on anymore! Help, I don't want her to shut down on me, but I have trusted her to say no to pot before and she did it. Am I doing the right thing? Should I be calling parents even if I really don't know them? Thanks for your program!



Hi A.,

Re: "...if that is what I get every time I am honest with you, I am not going to tell you what goes on anymore!"

We reward "telling the truth" with acknowledgment and praise - not by withholding consequences.

Please click here for more info re: lying.

Re: "Should I be calling parents even if I really don't know them?"

Absolutely. Not to chastise you, but I'm a bit surprised you asked such a question. Do NOT trust anything you daughter tells you until you can verify that it is the truth.

Oh the way. I think you may have fallen for a few lines of bullshit when your daughter "acted as if" she was being totally honest with you re: the pot incident and the sleepover.

Strong-willed, out-of-control teens are experts at tricking their parents, thus you should adopt an "extend-trust-after-verification" approach in the future.


My Out-of-Control Teen

Eloquent Lines of Bullshit

Hi J.,

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

Hi Mark,

I have 3 questions now with one being the most pressing. That is, do you see my son is going to accept the discipline based on the information I provided?

== > Strong-willed, out-of-control children will rehabilitate themselves when they are ready, and not a minute sooner. They will change their behavior when – and only when – they choose to. The job of parents is not to get children to obey. It is to simply teach them that responsible behavior results in one sort of consequence while irresponsible behavior results in quite another. Oppositional, defiant kids refuse to accept this fundamental reality until they are forced to experience a significant degree of discomfort related to their poor choices. Discomfort comes from parents’ implementation of tough love – and unfortunately, tough love is often tougher on the parent than the child, especially if the parent has adopted an over-indulgent parenting style over the years.

Last night he acted out badly insulting, harassing, shouting at me for a half hour to force me to give him the internet to print math materials or he would not go to school today. I did not accept his reason. I re-stated my 3-day grounding discipline to him.

Please just allow me to show you what we communicated and see how you think of our situation is --very bad, have hope and out of tunnel soon?

In the evening he wrote:

"First things first, you have the phone cord. I plugged in a clock phone with that wire Friday night so wherever you put the phone is where the cord is.

Secondly, it's funny how you're still trying to ground me and powertrip by removing all means of contact from the house. That surely is the way to rekindle a relationship during the final stretch I'm here. Plus, do you really expect me to go along with it? I'm an adult, I think for myself so you're going nowhere besides backwards. Did you ever even consider how I'll do my math + english without daily internet access? Guess not. Keep trying to impose rules on me, before you know it I'm gone and regret will be on both sides. And it's not like they've worked on me, even if I don't contact my friends I'd rather walk the streets than be here."

I wrote back:

"You convinced me very clearly. I found the cord. It was my mistake and I apologize.
It is your choice to walk the streets because I can not tie you down at home. But I want to tell you that nobody would love you more than I do in the world. So, I hope that you choose to make better choices.

You will have the phones and internet back as long as you choose to accept the 3-day discipline and stay in the house the entire time. Let's say it starts 7 pm this evening. You will be ungrounded at 7 pm Wednesday if you com home straight from the school and stay in the house.

Also, next time you choose to violate the cell phone use and prevent me from reaching you, you will choose a 7-day grounding with phones and internet revoked.

You are legally an adult now, so I expect more that you choose to accept responsibilities for your choices. The house rules do not disappear, and there are more rules on your way in your life ahead such as rules from a landlord, roommates and employers. You will choose to improve and do better with your life if you choose to take responsibilities for rules."

== > Great Job! I couldn’t have said it better.

He then acted out badly. He went out 9:30 to get his math printed and said it was my fault that he had to break the grounding. On the way out he said something like: I can see that you are a little apprehensive. Don't worry, I am harmless, I won't harm you, you are my mother. Did he really mean this or would he do the opposite of this one day? He returned home before 12.

== > Of course he acted badly then. He gave you HIS best power trip (I see he is a very good at feeding you eloquent lines of bullshit), but you didn’t cave. GOOD FOR YOU.

== > Keep working the program - I think you are over a very important "hump" now.


Lying & Disrespect

Hi M.,

I’ve responded throughout your email below:

Thanks for your response. I guess part of the problem is that there are so many issues and I am not sure which is most pressing. Long term, the biggest problems seem to be lying and disrespect. They are the most difficult for me to deal with.

== >Please click here for info on lying:

==> Re: disrespect. Refer to the strategy entitled “When You Want Something From Your Kid” [session #3 – online version].

When she lies, I do not always catch her. I suspect lying a lot, but even when I catch her red handed, she will manipulate and continue lying until the story is so long, I forget what we even started with. So many other times, I do not know if she is lying or not and if I can't verify, I don't feel justified in disciplining. She also lies to other people. If I hear a lie third hand and address it with her, she says it is not true. Therefore, I rarely end up disciplining what I imagine is a ton of lies that I do not catch for sure.

Disrespect is also hard because it takes on so many minor forms, like eye rolling, ignoring, etc., but also is bigger in the manipulation and lying and complete lack of respect for other peoples feelings and things. I am not sure which battle of these to pick.

In addition, I have hunted and hunted for therapists that would work on social skills with her to no avail. She sees a therapist weekly, but will not open up to any of them (we are on the 4th one). I tend to feel sorry for her because she is constantly losing a friend, fighting with someone, etc. She really does not have any peer support and has gotten so desperate that she will do anything to impress or get any type of attention from her peers. Most of her behavior issues, seem to stem from her trying to impress her peers.

==> Therapy is largely a waste of time and money. It is just another “traditional” parenting strategy that often makes a bad problem worse – because “counseling” or “therapy” feels like punishment to the child.

==> If you will read all the text [in both the online and printable versions of the eBook] as well as view all the instructional videos, you WILL be pleasantly surprised at how much positive change occurs in a fairly short time.

==> Stay the course – and stay in touch,


Online Parent Support

We thought maybe he should see that the grass is not always greener on the other side...

Mr Hutten,

I have a question to ask but I feel I should give some background material first.

My girlfriend and I have been living together for 5 years now. She has three sons two still live with us one has moved out on his own. The two living with us are 9 and 15. I have two sons one in college and a 15 year old.

The reason for purchasing your study guide is for her 15 year old. When we moved in together (my home – in case it matters) we had issues with my 15 year (at the time 11), it lasted two weeks and everything collected itself back together. The house went along fine for quite some time. I coached her sons in little league, and tried to be the best I could for them. My son is more a computer nerd so it was nice to have kids interested in sports.

Her kid’s father was never much in their lives with visits to him two to three times a year tops, and always with an issue when they would go there. Her ex is an alcoholic, and on occasion the 15 year old would catch him drunk, the younger rarely saw it.

Her 15 year old started giving us problems about a year ago. Just your typical testing the waters type of stuff. Staying out at least 15 minutes past when you told him to come home type of stuff. We did what we thought was best in grounding and applying chores. But then came the disrespect and that was the worst he would not grant us any it was like we became non people in his eyes. I was no longer able to talk with him because I started getting the “your not my father” bit. He started disrespecting his mother on almost every situation only being nice when there was something he wanted. I knew the adjustment of coming to live with me would happen but it took almost 3 years to surface, my sons happened in the first two weeks. I guess it really took me off guard when his grades dropped and I wouldn’t let him go out for spring training in football because of 2 F’s and D’s on the report card. This to me seemed to be the spiral downward. I talked with the school and wanted him to play but wanted them to help by having his coach talk with him, but that was no use as long as he had a 1.5 GPA he could play. And making A’s in P.E. and another elective he had that. But our rules differed from theirs, so we became the Bad People.

After starting your course we saw we made mistakes and were doing our best to stay on the rules you set forth. It has been a gradual thing but improvement has been seen, although not in grades but we saw hope their also. Being 15 has it motivations with driving permit and all being able to be used as a tool. Which we have told both of the 15 year olds driving is a privilege that comes with good grades and work. No work, no driving, case closed.

Well now to my question. Her sons went to their fathers after Christmas this year. When their mother went to pick them up the 15 year old said he wanted to stay and live there. We had discussed this throughout the past year or so what to do when this came up, and we thought maybe he should see that the grass is not always greener on the other side, and that rules will follow wherever he goes, and that three visit a year father will be seen as parent also (hopefully). It seemed so easy in a hypothetical situation, but now it consumes every waking thought. Did we do the right thing? What to say when he calls? What if he says he wants to come home, although I want him to I don’t want to screw up a great chance at getting on the right path by saying something stupid or sounding to proud that he just wants to come home? It hasn’t even been 24 hours yet and I am getting the acid stomach, I can’t even imagine what his mother feels. We think we did what is best for the long term but it sure seems wrong right now.

Any thoughts or direction would be greatly appreciated.

Thank You,



Hi D.,

Re: Did we do the right thing?

I believe so.

Re: What to say when he calls?

That you love and miss him.

Re: What if he says he wants to come home, although I want him to I don't want to screw up a great chance at getting on the right path by saying something stupid or sounding to proud that he just wants to come home?

You have strategies to deal with him effectively now. If he wants to come home, then you will have a golden opportunity for a fresh start. Draft a behavior contract first - and let him see it and sign-off on it. In this way, he will know up front what the expectations are.


My Out-of-Control Teen

Please provide any additional details of the content of your online parenting program...

Hello Mark,

I am a Field Officer for the Department of Child Protection in Western Australia. I was searching the internet for resources to assist some of our families with parenting teenagers and came across your web site - can you please provide any additional details of the content of your online parenting program.

Thank you

Kind Regards

Helen Ellery
Field Officer
Department for Child Protection
Ph: 91821208
Fax: 91821375


Hi Helen,

Online Parent Support (OPS) is a program designed specifically for parents of strong-willed or out-of-control adolescent children. OPS provides the practical and emotional support parents need to change destructive adolescent behavior.

The straightforward, step-by-step action plans presented in the curriculum allow parents to take immediate steps toward preventing or intervening in their children's negative choices. Parents involved with OPS have the opportunity to experience success at home within the first week.

The curriculum teaches concrete prevention, identification, and intervention strategies for the most destructive of adolescent behaviors. Parents cycle through programming quickly, thus reducing the length of time that (a) effective solutions in parenting are implemented and (b) resultant positive change in adolescent behavior is experienced.

Myths and Misconceptions about Online Parent Support (OPS)--

It is only for people who do not know anything about parenting.

Being the parent of a teen has never been easy, but now it can seem like the most difficult job anyone could ever have! Times have changed and so have teens. Teens are a lot more complex than in times' past. Ask any parent and they will tell you that they could use a little help in raising their teens to be healthy and responsible adults. All parents can find something of value in OPS. It provides important communication skills and disciplinary techniques to those parents who want to (a) improve relations with their ever-changing teen, (b) decrease parent-child conflict in the home, and (c) assist in greatly reducing their child's emotional and behavioral problems.

It is only for parents who have "bad" kids.

We hear so much about bad kids on TV and the news that sometimes it seems like this whole generation of kids have gone astray. The truth is that the vast majority of today's teens are really good kids. However, even good kids and great parents can run into problems. Perfect children and perfect families only exist in movies and on television. OPS recognizes this fact and is designed to offer sound, practical help for the majority of parents and the majority of kids. We understand that families who have teens with multiple problems require more help than what they can provide. For that reason, we routinely assist families and teens to find the additional help they need.

It is mainly for parents who have young kids or babies.

If it seems like most of the books and programs on parenting deal with young kids and babies, you are right. One reason is because the early years of a child's life are the most important for establishing a sound foundation. The other reason is because working with (and writing about) young kids and babies is a whole lot easier than doing the same for teens. Think about it. Babies and young kids do not have sex. They do not get pregnant. They do not drive cars. They do not smoke, drink nor do drugs. They do not hang out with gangs. They do not have a tenth of the problems that teens face. Parents of teens need programs too, but not the same kind of programs that are meant for parents of young kids and babies. Finding a program specifically designed for parents of teens is not that easy. This is why we have developed OPS.

It is not in touch with reality.

As much as we would like to return to a better time, we can never turn back the clock. The reality is that times will never be like the 1950's. Unlike the 1950's, where two-parent households were the norm, the majority of households today are headed by a single parent. We recognize that, in the real world, the mother is usually the only parent in the home. Furthermore, we know that single moms have multiple kids to take care of and multiple responsibilities to fulfill.

It won't affirm my cultural values.

Most authors tend to write about the culture they know best. Because it is the predominant culture in this country, most authors of programs and books write about white, middle-class families. As a result, some programs may not be sensitive to the cultural differences of minority populations. In the past ten years, there has been a rapid movement towards making programs more culturally relevant to different populations. We pay attention to how different cultures raise their kids and have adapted OPS to match.

It will treat parents like they were kids in school.

Most programs are educational. Some educational programs have been adapted from school-based programs. Some educational programs are often taught by teachers (who may be more used to working with kids than with adults). These programs could cause parents to feel as if they are back in school, and that may not be a good thing. As you will learn, not all programs are educational programs, and not all programs are like classes in high school. OPS is a support program that includes online counseling. More importantly, though, OPS is designed for parents of all educational levels -- and will never make parents feel like kids.

It will take too much time to complete.

OPS consists of 4 sessions which will take parents approximately 90 minutes each session to complete. That's the good news. The bad news is that you may miss something you need if you decide not take advantage of OPS. The parenting of teens covers a wide range of attitudes, beliefs and behaviors. Parenting of teens involves far more than just picking up a few tricks. We want to cover some important communication skills and disciplinary techniques. This will take a few sessions to cover effectively. Some parents, when asked if they have ever been in a family program before, may answer, "Yes I have, and I did not find it helpful." On closer examination, one may find that these parents did not attend their program long enough to get out of it what they needed to know and to practice.

Whoever developed this program probably thinks that spanking is child abuse or tells parents they can't spank their kids.

OPS does not promote the idea that spanking is child abuse. When done in the heat of anger though, spanking often does lead to physical abuse. While spanking may be appropriate for some young kids, most counselors, social workers, and psychologists will tell you that physical punishment is not appropriate for teens. Rather than having it escalate into abuse (or, in some cases, result in retaliation by the teen), we discourage spanking as a method of discipline. Instead, we offer parents several alternatives to spanking. Sometimes, these alternatives are not as quick and easy to apply as a good whipping, but neither will they be potentially damaging to the teen physically, emotionally or psychologically.

It won't work.

The research says otherwise. Not only does OPS work, it often creates dramatic improvements in the lives of families in a few short weeks. Parenting programs have been around for fifty years, and the reason for their longevity is because they do help parents cope with their kids. Parenting is one of the most important roles we can have, yet we have to learn about it on our own without formal training. What we know about parenting comes from the direct experience with our parents as kids. Some of what worked for us when we were kids will also work for our own kids. On the other hand, some of what worked for us will not work for our kids.

OPS will provide you with a range of ideas (both new and old) that have been tested and proven to work with today's teens. Like any new skill, practice makes perfect. We encourage, but cannot control how often a parent will practice putting new skills into use. What you get out of it is what you put into it.

Mark Hutten, M.A.

JOIN Online Parent Support

When Teens Isolate In Their Bedrooms To Avoid Consequences

R___ has now isolated herself in her room. She is not contacting friends. She insists that we have ruined / are ruining her life, and she will not talk to us.


Re: R__ has now isolated herself in her room.

A child's bedroom is as much of a privilege as her bicycle. Thus, ground her FROM her room. The grounding can be immediately lifted as soon as she shows evidence that she will work on the behavior contract.

Children always have something that they value -- even if that "something" is to simply do "nothing."

Re: She is not contacting friends. She insists that we have ruined / are ruining her life, and as we said, she will not talk to us.

Allow her to have her mad-time. Pouting takes a lot of energy. She will eventually grow tired of this "game" (and it is a game -- a game called "I'll pout and hide in my room until I get my way").

Remind her that you love her, and that she has your permission to be upset.


My Out-of-Control Teen

When Teens Steal From Parents

What do I do with my 16-year-old son who continues to steal things from our home. He has stolen jewelry and pawned it. Of course he always denies that he did it, but I have found pieces of my jewelry hidden in his room. He has been caught stealing from cars. I told him we were going to start over this year and no longer bring up what he did in the past, thinking he has changed, but now there is one hundred dollars missing from my daughter which was a Christmas gift. Of course he denies taking it, but refused to show me his wallet. Any suggestions of how to deal with this and get past the fact I don't believe anything my son says?


Hi M.,

Give him a warning that - the next time something comes up missing - the police will be called and you will file theft charges (this assumes that you will have some evidence that it was, in fact, your son who took the item in question). If he steals and you refuse to get authorities involved - it shows he can do it with impunity.

I don't know where you are located, but in some states there is something that is called a "youth at risk petition". This is where you ask the court to step in and help you with your out of control teen. He is not arrested, but has accountability with the court. If he messes up then he will go to detention.

Emptying his room of everything but necessities is also an option.

Taking his door off as well is an option. Thus, he has no place to hide the things he steals.

If he gets an allowance take part of it to pay for the stolen items.

It is going to depend on how far you are willing to take it. If you are not willing to take discipline to the next level you can expect more of the same from him.

Lastly, the real valuable things should probably be kept under lock-and-key from this point on.

Mark Hutten, M.A.

My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents

How do I get my over-achieving daughter to slow down?

"I have taken the quiz and surprisingly found that I was a severely over indulgent parent. This angers me because I didn't think...