He keeps on pushing some limits...


My son (16) is settling back at home fine now but he keeps on pushing some limits. Although he is not shouting at me or throwing things or going out at the moment, he will not listen to the little things. For example, I said I would pay for his summer ball if he cleaned the following rooms for me in the house and he chose 3 task cards. However, some of the details on the task cards he has not completed and the deadline which was set for him on Wednesday last week was to complete all 3 by Saturday night. He completed 1 full, the 2nd (75%) and left out the last (3rd) as it was to sweep up the front lawn. He said he would do that at night so no one could watch him (neighbours). The consequence for not completing all 3 was that I could cancel the cheque on Monday.

Question: Should I go through with cancelling the cheque tomorrow now.

Overall he is behaving much better this past week and there has been nothing but politeness from him and a good mood. Is this what you would call the “not so important things” or should I follow through and risk a possible breakdown again? Or just have a chat with him. I would really value your advice.


Re: Should I go through with cancelling the cheque tomorrow now.

If you are seeing some improvement in his overall behavior, then you may want to lower your standards a bit for the short term. But tell him the following: "In the future, if you've been given a set of chores to do -- and you do not complete all of them -- then you will not receive the privilege you have asked for until ALL chores are completed."

Be sure to follow through with this consequence in the event he cheats on his chores again.

Also, please review the info on chores in "The Art of Saying Yes" [session #2 - online version of the ebook] – specifically as it relates to putting time limits on chore completion.


Online Parent Support

15 yr old daughter holding a lot of anger with her Dad...


The problem I have with my 15 yr old daughter is that she also keeps holding a lot of anger especially with her Dad. He has been in and out a few times, either way he has been here now since last July and she still gives him a hard time. Right now I am going to be doing this on my own for now. They are not speaking at the moment. Can I implement this on my own anyway? He knows I am going to attempt it so I don't think he will interfere with it.

I hope they will get back to speaking to each other soon. I think the resentment, anger and forgiveness are difficult for the 2 of them.




Hi S.,

About 90% of OPS members are single moms -- so yes, you can implement this on your own (and you're in good company).


Online Parent Support

Forgiveness and humbleness does lighten the heart...

Hello Mr. Hutten,

This is G__ from New Jersey writing you again. I joined your online support group this evening and I'm finding it very informative. It's now around 11:18pm and I'm still going through the videos and information for week one. I feel that it's that important. I already feel a sense of control, especially after taking the parent quiz. What an eye opener!

I signed our son up for school counseling this week, prior to joining the online group. I almost wish that I had waited. Hopefully our son will understand that we love him and want only the best for him. Since he is adopted, we know that he has so many questions and at times feels lost. I think that we over compensated for everything.....this is a part of life and this too will run its course.

I look forward to participating in the online groups and getting the CD. It's a lot to absorb....but I feel that it is truly worth the investment.

Thank you and I look forward to communicating with you and letting you know our progress.

Signed....Mom.....without love....what do we have. Forgiveness and humbleness does lighten the heart.

G__ (NJ)

Online Parent Support

He knows he's been spoiled by me...

My son talked to me last night about his future life plans and your program has helped him discover that he really is afraid of growing up and having to become more responsible for himself and his needs. He discussed the fact that he didn't feel ready to go away from home to attend college, but would rather get his feet wet at our community college and stay at home for 2 yrs. before transferring to a big school. He admitted that he knows he's been spoiled by me and that he has to learn to take on his own responsibilities, but the fear is there. What a breakthrough for him. I told him I would support whatever decisions he made as long as they were realistic and he was committed. Knowing/trusting I am here as a safety net has made him feel more confident in moving forward with his life. I think becoming 18 (in Oct.) came a lot quicker than he realized. I know it did for me. I believe because of working your program, just in the nick of time, it has really gotten him to look at himself and begin to prepare for adulthood. Thank you so much.


Online Parent Support

Children Who Set Fires

A child pyromaniac is one who suffers from an impulse-control disorder that is primarily distinguished by a compulsion to set fires in order to relieve built-up tension.

Most young kids are not diagnosed as having pyromania but rather conduct disorders. A key feature of pyromania is repeated association with fire but without a real motive. Pyromania is a very rare disorder and only occurs in about one percent of the population. It can occur in kids as young as three years old.

About ninety percent of the people officially diagnosed with pyromania are male. Pyromaniacs only set about 14% of fires.

Many clinical studies have found that fire setting rarely occurs by itself but usually occurs with other bad behavior. The motives that have recently earned the most attention are pleasure, a cry for help, retaliation against adults, and desire to reunite the family.

It seems like it is a combination of pyromania and bad behavior that initiates fire setting. Fire setting among kids and teenagers can be recurring or periodic. Some kids and teens may set fires often to release tension.

But then there are others that may only seek to set fires during times of great stress. Some of the symptoms of pyromania are depression, conflicts in relationships, and poor ability to cope with stress and anxiety.

The clinician's handbook, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, also known as the DSM, gives six standards that must be met for a kid to be officially diagnosed with pyromania.
  1. The kid had to have set more than one fire deliberately
  2. Before setting the fire, the kid must have felt some feelings of tension or arousal
  3. The kid must show that he is attracted to fire and anything related to fire
  4. The kid must feel a sense of relief or satisfaction from setting the fire and witnessing it
  5. The kid does not have other motives like revenge, financial motives, delusions or brain damage for setting the fire
  6. This fire setting problem cannot be attributed to other disorders like anti-social personality disorder or conduct disorders

Even though fire setting and pyromania are more prevalent in kids these standards are hard to apply to their age group. There is not a lot of experience in diagnosing pyromania mainly because of the little experience that health care professionals have with fire setting.

In terms of prevention, education and treatment in Juvenile Fire-setting, the Brandon School and Residential Treatment Center in Natick, MA offers two leading programs in this field. Their Rapid Fire-setting Treatment Program and Intensive Fire-setting Treatment Programs, among the only programs of their kind in the country, lead the Juvenile Fire-setting field in terms of evaluation, research, education and treatment; it is cutting-edge in working to define best practice standards. Furthermore, in collaboration with the Department of Fire Services, Brandon hosts the annual Northeast Juvenile Fire-setting Conference, which brings together the different disciplines impacted by juvenile fire-setting. During this time, social service, fire service, public safety, juvenile justice, education, and mental health professionals attend workshops by national experts to learn how to more effectively intervene in and prevent juvenile fire-setting.

There are many important distinctions between a kid pyromaniac and a kid fire setter. A fire setter is any individual who feels the impulse to set a fire for unusual reasons. A kid pyromaniac has the intent to inflict damage as a result of its fire setting.

Whereas a kid fire setter usually is curious about fire and has the desire to learn more about fire. A kid pyromaniac is more than just a simple fire setter; he is one who has an unusually bizarre impulse or desire to set intentional fires.

Pathological fire setting, pyromania, is when the desire to set fires is repetitive and destructive to people or property. The most important difference between pyromania and fire setting is pyromania is a mental disorder whereas fire setting is a behavior and can be fixed.

Minor or non-severe fire setting is defined as “accidental or occasional fire-starting behavior” by unsupervised kids. Usually these fires are started when a curious kid plays with matches, lighters, or small fires. Juveniles in this minor group average at the most 2.5 accidental fires in their lifetime.

Most kids in this group are between five and ten years of age and don't realize the dangers of playing with fire. Pathological fire setting or pyromania is when the action is “a deliberate, planned, and persistent behavior.” Juveniles in this severe group set about 5.3 fires. Most young kids are not diagnosed as having pyromania but conduct disorders.

There are two basic types of kids that start fires. The first type is the curiosity fire setter who starts the fire just to find out what will happen. The second type is the problem fire setter who usually sets fires based on changes in his environment or because of a pathological reason.

Fire-setting is made up with five subcategories: the curious fire-setter, the sexually motivated fire-setter, the "cry for help" fire-setter, "severely disturbed" group, and the rare form of pyromania. Pyromania usually surfaces in childhood, but there is no conclusive data about the normal age of onset.

Kid pyromaniacs are usually filled with an uncontrollable urge to set fires to relieve tension. Not much is known about what genetically causes pyromania but there have been many studies that have explored the topic.

The causes of fire setting among young kids and youths can be attributed to many factors, which are divided into individual factors, and environmental factors:

Individual Factors:

1. Antisocial behaviors and attitudes: Kids that set fires usually don't only set fires but also commit other crimes or offenses including vandalism, violence, anger, etc.

2. Sensation seeking: Some kids are attracted to fire setting because they are bored and just looking for something to do.

3. Attention seeking: Lighting a fire becomes a way to get back at the adults and in turn to produce a response from the adults

4. Lack of social skills: Some kids simply have not been taught enough social skills. Many of the kids and adolescents that have been discovered setting fires consider themselves to be "loners"

5. Lack of fire-safety skills and ignorance of their danger: For most kids not diagnosed with pyromania this is what drives them. Just natural curiosity and ignorance of the fire's destructive power.

6. Learning problems

7. Parental Problems like separation, neglect, and abuse

Environmental Factors:
  1. Poor supervision by parents or guardians
  2. Watching adults using fire inappropriately at an early age
  3. Parental neglect
  4. Parents abusing drugs or acting violently: This factor has been studied and the conclusions show that fire setters are more likely in homes where the parents abuse them
  5. Peer Pressure
  6. Stressful Life Events: Fire setting becomes a way to cope with crises

There has also been some medical research done that suggests a link to reactive hypoglycemia in the cerebrospinal fluid. Some of the similarities that have been discovered between the two are abnormalities in levels of neurotransmitters norepinephrine and serotonin, which refer to problems in impulse control, and low blood sugars.

If a kid is diagnosed with pyromania there are treatment options even though there has not been enough scientific research on the genetic cause of pyromania especially in such a young age. Studies have shown that kids with repeat cases of setting fires tend to respond better to a case-management approach rather than a medical approach.

The first crucial step for treatment should be parents sitting down with their kid and having a one-on-one interview. The interview itself should try to determine what stresses on the family, methods of discipline, and other factors contribute to the kid's uncontrollable desire to set fires. Some examples of treatment methods are problem-solving skills, anger management, communication skills, Aggression Replacement Training, and cognitive restructuring.

The chances that a kid will recover from pyromania are very slim according to recent studies but there are ways to channel the kid's desire to set fires to relieve tension. When a kid diagnosed with pyromania feels the compulsion to start fire if the parents have suggested alternate ideas such as playing a sport or an instrument there is a chance that a kid can learn how to gain a thin grasp on his irresistible urge to set fires.

Another method of treatment is fire-safety education. But sometimes the best method of treatment is kid counseling or a residential treatment center.

However, since cases of kid pyromania are so rare there has not been enough research done on how successful these treatment methods really are in helping these kids. The most common and effective treatment of pyromania in kids is behavioral modification. The results usually range from fair to poor. Behavioral modification seems to work on kids with pyromaniac tendencies about 95% of the time.

Pervasive developmental disorder...


The school has diagnosed my 13 yo w/PDD. Haven't heard of this and have no idea what it is. Please fill me in.




Hi J.,

The diagnostic category pervasive developmental disorders (PDD), as opposed to specific developmental disorders (SDD), refers to a group of five disorders characterized by delays in the development of multiple basic functions including socialization and communication. The pervasive developmental disorders are:

• Autism, the most commonly known,
• Rett syndrome,
• Childhood disintegrative disorder,
• Asperger syndrome, and
• Pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS), which includes atypical autism.

Parents may note symptoms of PDD as early as infancy and typically onset is prior to three years of age. PDD itself does not affect life expectancy.

There is a division among doctors on the use of the term PDD. Many use the term PDD as a short way of saying PDD-NOS. Others use the general category label of PDD because they are hesitant to diagnose very young kids with a specific type of PDD, such as autism. Both approaches contribute to confusion about the term, because the term PDD actually refers to a category of disorders and is not a diagnostic label.

PDD-NOS is often incorrectly referred to as simply “PDD.” The term PDD refers to the class of conditions to which autism belongs. PDD is not itself a diagnosis, while PDD-NOS is a diagnosis. To further complicate the issue, PDD-NOS can also be referred to as “atypical personality development,” “atypical PDD,” or “atypical Autism”.

Because of the "NOS", which means "not otherwise specified", it is hard to describe what PDD-NOS is, other than it being an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Some people diagnosed with PDD-NOS are close to having Asperger syndrome, but do not quite fit. Others have near full fledged autism, but without some of its symptoms. The psychology field is considering creating several subclasses within PDD-NOS.

Symptoms of PDD may include communication problems such as:

• Difficulty using and understanding language
• Difficulty relating to people, objects, and events; for example, lack of eye contact or pointing behavior
• Unusual play with toys and other objects
• Difficulty with changes in routine or familiar surroundings
• Repetitive body movements or behavior patterns

Autism, a developmental brain disorder characterized by impaired social interaction and communication skills, and limited range of activities and interests, is the most characteristic and best studied PDD. Other types of PDD include Asperger's syndrome, childhood disintegrative disorder, Rett syndrome, and PDD not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS).

Kids with PDD vary widely in abilities, intelligence, and behaviors. Some kids do not speak at all, others speak in limited phrases or conversations, and some have relatively normal language development. Repetitive play skills and limited social skills are generally evident as well. Unusual responses to sensory information – loud noises, lights – are also common.

Diagnosis is usually done during early childhood. Some clinicians use PDD-NOS as a "temporary" diagnosis for kids under the age of 5, when for whatever reason there is a reluctance to diagnose autism. There are several justifications for this: very young kids have limited social interaction and communication skills to begin with, therefore it can be tricky to diagnose milder cases of autism in toddlerhood. The unspoken assumption is that by the age of 5, unusual behaviors will either resolve or develop into diagnosable autism. However, some parents view the PDD label as no more than a euphemism for autism spectrum disorders, problematic because this label makes it more difficult to receive aid for Early Childhood Intervention.

There is no known cure for PDD. Medications are used to address certain behavioral problems; therapy for kids with PDD should be specialized according to the youngster's specific needs.

Some kids with PDD benefit from specialized classrooms in which the class size is small and instruction is given on a one-to-one basis. Others function well in standard special education classes or regular classes with support. Early intervention, including appropriate and specialized educational programs and support services play a critical role in improving the outcome of individuals with PDD. PDD is very commonly found in individuals and especially in kids with the range of 2 to 5 years of age. These signs can be easily detected within the classroom settings, home, etc.


Online Parent Support

He is attempting to manipulate us over this...

Hi Mark

The situation with our son is almost at breaking point now.

He knows we expect him to go to college (three days a week), but we have always said if he would prefer to get a job that's fine, as long as he finds that job before jacking in college. He's 17 so he doesn't *have* to be in education, although if he doesn't complete his course he won't get a good reference. Plus he has something of a criminal record which will go against him - it would be good to stay in education to put some distance between that and his job application. But it's his life...

Anyway he has decided to jack in college in reaction to one of our boundaries, which he thinks is a stupid rule. We don't want him to have his girlfriend sleep in his room. It's our house and we're not comfortable with it, not least because we have two younger daughters to consider.

He is attempting to manipulate us over this. First he swore a lot and was rude. Then he said he wouldn't speak to us, all of which was no skin off our back. Then he skipped college, so I turned off his phone and stopped his allowance. Now he got a friend to buy him a new phone so I can't switch it off. Today he announced we had until this evening to change our stupid rule or he will quit college. We haven't moved on it so he's going into college tomorrow and telling them it's his last day. I'm fine with not trying to save him from the consequences of that.

If he chooses not to accept our limits about the girlfriend he chooses our consequence, which is I suspend his allowance. Would I be right to suspend his allowance because he is making these strong threats? Or should I wait until he actually does it? I turned his phone off because that was the consequence of not going to college and now he has a new phone I can't touch it, but that seems irrelevant since he's not going to college anyway. So do I give him his allowance this weekend as if nothing has happened because he hasn't so far disrespected our rule, only threatened to? Or do I take his action of quitting as a serious enough disrespect for our rules in general anyway?

I'm worried that our consequence of not giving him his allowance if he sneaks her in at night would be a step too late - if he's already had his allowance that week he won't be bothered about not getting next week's because he only think short term.

He is also threatening other things vaguely. He looks at me aggressively and promises that this will 'get worse'. We have invited him to leave if he can't live with our rules, but now he seems to be staking a claim here and saying we will have to actually kick him out. If he left he could only go to friends on a short term basis and he knows he would then have to come back.

What do I do about his veiled threats? I am concerned that he is talking about something that will necessitate me taking steps of protection...




Hi M.,

I think you have bigger fish to fry than worrying about an allowance 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.

That’s right - begin to focus on having him move out at this point. All the other stuff you listed in your email 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 month 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 25-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.

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

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 year 2000, 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 begin his own life. If your child defaults on your agreement, be willing to enforce consequences, to help him launch into responsible adulthood.

Mark Hutten, M.A.


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

Sleep Deprivation or Depression ?

We are homeschoolers of a 16 and a half year old son. We also attend church. He has always been a strong willed child.....but lately he has become very hateful at times and up and down with his emotions... almost at the drop of a hat. We have found out he is not sleeping well at night and he has got to the point where he cannot stay awake during school work or anything else. He is barely making it with his school work and doesn't seem to care. He is very musical and has decided that music is all he cares about and wants to do. As a christian kid you would think that he has never learned a thing about how to treat people with respect. We tried to get him to consider taking something to help him sleep better and he refuses. I think he is suffering from sleep deprivation. He won't talk about anything with us....he just gets mad and asks why we care. How do you deal with a sleep deprived kid when he refuses to try anything to help him get better!

He had a breakup with a girlfriend that seemed to totally mess him up and he hasn't been sleeping well since.

Thank you for your course ...before we got it, we felt like there was no hope....maybe I missed it but I didn't see anything on sleep deprivation. Again...thank you for the hope you've given us.

PS...All we are asking him to try is melatonin…which is a natural substance. He just refuses to even consider it.


Hi R.,

I’m not sure sleep deprivation is the issue here (depression more likely). But since you asked about it specifically, I’ll give you some tips to share with your son:

• Crazy video games. Video games may also cause your brain to enter the overdrive zone. If you play video games, don't do them just before you go to bed.

• Do you really need that after-school job? This might be a really tough decision, too. Some students need to work so they can pay for car insurance or save up for college. You'll just have to decide on your own, what's necessary and what's not.

• Don't think too hard right before bed time. If you have calculus homework, you might not want to put it off until night. It's harder to relax and get to sleep when your mind is stuck in the deep-thinking mode. It takes awhile to unwind, so maybe you should tackle the hardest subject earlier.

• Keep track of time. Often, students have great intentions, but other tasks seem to keep them up late, time after time. That's because teens have to develop an understanding of time management and task completion. It's hard to put a timetable on things like running an errand or completing a science experiment. Start keeping track of things you do routinely and the amount of time needed to do certain tasks. Then plan ahead so you can get to bed on time.

• Limit after-school activities. It's hard to do, but try to limit your extra-curriculars. Sometimes you just have to make a hard choice and stick to it. You may need to strike a balance between making time for homework and sleep and gaining valuable experience in an extracurricular activity that will help your chances of getting into a great college. Know your priorities.

• Play music if you want, but not too loud. Many people play music at night. If it doesn't bother you, go ahead. Don’t play it too loud, though, or it will disrupt your sleep.

• Try caffeine free drinks. Try reducing caffeine by switching to something healthier, like bottled water. OK, if that's too much to ask, at least try a caffeine-free version of your favorite drink!

• Turn off the cell phone. What's so important it can’t wait until morning? Unless you have a really good reason--like your parent works at night and might need to reach you, turn it off and get some rest.

• Turn off the TV at night. Some teens fall asleep with the TV on, and some are so used to the noise they think they can't sleep without it. Not true! The TV noises and flashing lights will only keep you from getting a sound sleep. If you can remember things you heard during your sleep, you're not sleeping well.

Good luck,

Mark Hutten, M.A.

JOIN Online Parent Support

No Double Dipping !

Hi Mark,

First of all let me say, this program is awesome! I was desperate on what to do with my 16 year old daughter and I googled something (can't even remember what) and your website showed up at the top of my search. I only wish I would have found something like this years ago! My husband and I are starting week 3 of the program.I'm a bit overwhelmed with it all, but we have been trying to follow through with the assignments. What a difference staying calm makes!

Anyway, I have many questions but I am going to start with just one.

My daughter has been getting in trouble at school. In the past she has been grounded from going anywhere for detentions. Today I learned she received a two day "in-school" suspension for her third offense of disrupting class. What would you suggest as a discipline? Do I start with the one day discipline or go straight to a 3 day discipline since the one day would be less punishment than she has gotten in the past. Also, she doesn't go anywhere during the school week, so a three day discipline with no priviledges during the week and then allowing her to go to her friends this weekend does not seem strong enough. I would rather start the 3 day discipline on Friday. What are your thoughts?

Thanks for your time!




Hi A.,


A double-dip consequence is a consequence one step removed—a consequence applied because the parent is upset that a child has done something away from home that required somebody else to apply discipline. Double-dip consequences are very common, but highly inappropriate. An extreme example: A child is spanked for “earning” (and getting) a spanking from somebody else: unjust, unfair, and punitive.

Here are some examples of double-dip consequences:

· Disciplining your child because he was disciplined at school. You can and should talk about what happened, chat about the child's feelings (and your own), and brainstorm ways of avoiding similar situations in the future.

· Natural consequences often lend themselves to double-dipping. Be wary! People have a tendency to scold or discipline a child for letting a natural consequence occur. If Maurice's favorite toy breaks because he threw it against the wall, it's double-dipping (and inappropriate) for you to scold and berate him for breaking it. He will learn more from the natural consequence if you simply talk with him in a kind, firm way about what happened, how he (and you) feels, and how to avoid the situation in the future.

Mark Hutten, M.A.


Wow, I never thought of that before. I must admit it made me uncomfortable not to give her a punishment. My husband was not happy about it at all and was afraid that she wouldn't learn anything if we didn't give her any punishment. I gently reminded him that we have punished in the past for the detentions and it still didn't keep her from repeating the offense. So, we have decided to trust your advice! I think Megan was quite surprised that I was not upset when I picked her up. We talked about what happened and by the time we got home she admitted that she should have gotten the detention. Usually she just comes up with all kinds of reasons why it wasn't her fault. The only thing I did have her do was write an apology to the teacher for disrupting her class.

Thanks for your advice and I'm sure you'll be hearing from me again.



==> JOIN Online Parent Support

Should I stick to the harsh consequence...

Hi Mark,

Firstly I want to say how impressed I am with your ebook and online session training. I have been referring them both far and wide to other desperate friends, since I purchased them. If you ever want to work with someone to make it more country specific to Australia (including website design), and/or undertake business development here, I would be most interested.

Anyway, I am writing for your help. B__ has been spirited from birth. From a young baby and throughout childhood a total whinger (that is harsh but the truth), along the way getting up many people's noses and in particular teachers. She can equally be very funny and a great companion. She hates being alone. In addition to having an elder sister by two years she is a brother 8 years younger who suffers from a health issue.

In her early teens, when her elder sister (the quiet one) was having some issues she seemed to change and become more mature and reliable. When her sister came good after about two years she began acting out again.

At 14 years she got caught for truanting with a friend by school and in order to avoid punishment she disappeared overnight with friend (she goes to a private school and it caused a real flap).

At 15 she was caught shoplifting (with same girl) but got off with warning if nothing else happens in 5 years.

Throughout that year constantly backchatting and in trouble with teachers. With friends would leave house in middle of night to meet friends. If you say no all hell breaks loose, she yells, swears, threatens. On the other hand definitely no drugs, only a little alcohol, no smoking, will generally meet curfew, no getting in cars.

She is exceptionally bright but inordinately lazy. Has not got a passion in life except to look good, wear makeup, go to parties. We've tried to encourage her to find something she loves (made worse by the fact that her sister is an exceptional artist).

Recently there has been some improvement. Only a little alcohol, not much, has very nice boyfriend who we all like a lot. Not in trouble too much at school except for talking too much. But can't tolerate no. Is unreliable (lost good job because of), wont do chores unless extreme duress wants lots of stuff (not that she gets it). Can lay a guilt trip as good as the very best.

I am applying your program and have felt confident until today.

Today, she wanted to wear expensive item of mine to school for free dress day (why do they have them???). I said no because it was inappropriate and too good for school. All hell broke loose, yelling, swearing (my husband and I tried to keep down our own intensity and perhaps only 60% successful). I warned if she did not get over it and get to school she would not go to her boyfriends birthday dinner tomorrow night (a big shame). She couldn't get it together and missed being dropped at bus station with me but took off whilst I was away and I thought to school by her own means. Later I find she has come home but then heads off to school around 10.30am and arrives there after missing three periods.

I'm unsure. Should I stick to the harsh consequence (ie. missing boyfriends birthday dinner which punishes him to) when she did calm down and make a decision to get to school, albeit missing three periods? Or, should I offer her a choice of consequences such as... she can miss the dinner or lose her mobile phone for three days? I don't feel I am good at identifying what things to let slip by as opposed to what to really stick to.

Sorry for novel!




Hi B.,

Re: Should I stick to the harsh consequence (ie. missing boyfriends birthday dinner which punishes him to) when she did calm down and make a decision to get to school, albeit missing three periods?

One of our golden rules is to never retract (or water-down) a consequence once it has been issued. To do so will send a very clear message that "mom's bark is all bark -- no bite." Thus, the next time something similar happens, she will know that your words are fairly meaningless.


Online Parent Support

I have already received more for my money than the year of counseling sessions we attended...

I signed up last night. I am glad I did. I have already learned that my parenting style is not what I thought it was and I am looking forward to learning new techniques.

I have already referred this program to two other families, at this point, I have already received more for my money than the year of counseling sessions we attended.

Thank you and God Bless!


Online Parent Support

Should I give in...?

Hi Mark

Need quick help with a situation. My son is 17 and has been pushing at all our rules and boundaries. We have settled into a situation where we allow him to stay out overnight, just so long as he is always back by a certain time at college nights ready to go to college next morning.

Last night when he had missed the deadline by half an hour, we called him and he said he had no intention of coming back or going to college the next day. We said if you choose not to then you choose the consequence, which was his phone being switched off remotely at the service provider. He insisted he had more important things to do. I switched his phone off.

This morning I checked his room and found he had come back (about an hour and a half late). It was time to get up for college and when I told him I needed him to get up he swore at me and told me he wasn't going to college. He was extremely disrespectful. However he eventually got up and went to college, but I told him that because he had chosen to miss the deadline to come back and been disrespectful to us his phone was still off for three days. I then emphasised that if he chose to repeat this behaviour the three days would reset and start again.

When he came back from college he apologised and asked for his phone to be turned back on. I felt we should stick to the three days, but his point was he did go after all so he had done nothing wrong (apart from all the rude disrespect and missing the agreed deadline).

He then began yelling and threatening again and saying he would buy his own phone so we can't turn this one off etc. I wondered if we had missed a stage - I had warned him of the behaviour and told him to 'respect' our limits, but I hadn't specifically defined that a lot of grief and swearing counts as disrespect enough to turn the phone off for three days even if he does then choose to go eventually. I wondered should I give in and turn the phone back on this once, but make it clear that if he chose this form of disrespect in future it would also qualify for the full consequence?

Or should I absolutely under no circumstances compromise the three day condition? Even if he then finds a way of getting a new phone that I can't touch? (I can't just 'steal' his phone - he would get physically aggressive if I tried).





He missed the deadline, which was articulated to him from the very beginning as evidence by your statement: “We have settled into a situation where we allow him to stay out overnight, just so long as he is always back by a certain time at college nights ready to go to college next morning.” Thus, you should stick to the original time line of 3 days. Plus, it would be a good idea for him to get his own phone.

When undecided about what course of action to take, ask yourself is the decision I am about to make going to foster dependency or self-reliance? If the outcome is likely to cultivate self-reliance in your son, then it is a good decision. Paying for his own phone would be a movement toward self-reliance.


Online Parent Support

What do you do if your child is expelled for the rest of the year...

What do you do if your child is expelled for the rest of the year …what activities should he do besides giving chores and groundings …how does he get educated in the meantime?


This is a real hot topic: what to do with kids who are expelled. Unfortunately, short of home schooling or alternative school – not much can be done given the current system that pervades most U.S. schools.

The debate seems to go as follows:

Reasons To Agree With Expulsion—

I don't believe school is the right place for many of these students. Children without these massive problems have a right to learn, and are often harmed by the violent and disruptive behavior of these students. We need to protect other students and still having them onsite does not do this. But more places are needed which cater for these kids, throwing them out is not to answer. But a non-school based place is needed.

I believe school is there for learning and if the student is intent on disruption then it is not the place for them. Expelling is fine by me as ultimately the parents have a responsibility to do something for the failing child by seeking external help. The school teacher has 20 or 25 others to teach and this should be the teacher's role - disruptive / bad behaved kids should be expelled. There are counselors/private tuition/psychologists in the community where the difficult pupil can get help.

Education is a privilege, treat it as such, unruly and badly behaved children affect all other children at the school. They should be removed. If you are worried about denying them an education, why don't you change their perception of its value

Cause and effect:

Children with extreme "special needs" should be channeled OUT of schools into an appropriate environment where they will not impede the learning of more fortunate children.

Schools should be allowed to expel students. At work if you are repeatedly late or show up drunk or stoned etc then you'd get fired! Instant dismissal in my job... why not school... why should teachers waste their time teaching people who don't want to learn.

Reasons To Disagree With Expulsion—

I don't think we should be able to expel students. Shunting them out of the school system or onto other schools passes the buck and does not examine or deal with the problems the student has. Difficult children have their reasons (whether they know it or not). Sometimes the fault lies with the school and not the child at all. Sometimes it is the child's family. I was a difficult child myself once, but went on to get several degrees and post-graduate degrees. I KNOW the importance of having faith that difficult children can grow up to be interesting, contributing adults.

Outside of the main cities, many towns do not have a second high school within a 15 minute drive. What are you to do with the expelled students, send them to another school who doesn't want them either? Or just forget about them completely? Schools in many towns are the only local government institution. If you expel a child, then the government and society is giving up their responsibility for that child. No wonder expelled children end up unemployed and in jail within a few years. Society needs to fix the problems it has, it's cheaper to deal with it earlier than building more prisons.

I think they need to look at things the student is struggling to do and work round them it is known that we all learn differently and have different interest, some things shouldn't be compulsory.

Naughty kids need an education too, it will help them become a meaningful part of their community one day.

Reasons for Remain Neutral—

No child left behind means all children fall behind. if individuals choose not to engage in the school system, then they should choose another school (changes required) or go to a special school that suits their interests. The problem here is mandating that students attend the school that is most convenient for the government to fund.

Here’s an email from parents whose child was expelled:

Our story is posted on this blog to open the eyes of the community of what is going on in our schools. We have experienced what school expulsion has done to our family. As parents, you hurt when you child hurts. You want to protect your child. You teach them respect for authority. You teach them right from wrong. To know the loss he has experienced over this is unimaginable unless you have been through it yourself. To know that the school that you had so much faith and pride in turned there back to you and essentially fired you for doing what you believed was the right thing is devastating. There is no compensation for that. We have felt the support of relatives, friend’s co-workers and even our son’s teacher. Those who know our son know he didn’t do this. What we don’t know is why he is going through this? Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

As we have been on this journey we wondered if there have been any studies done on the students that have been through expulsions. What happens to these students that are expelled? Indiana unlike other states does not offer alternative schools for expelled kids. Kids that are at high risk may lose the only structured environment they have. Students feel more frustrated when isolated from others and gradually develop a sense of hostility towards the society, because to be expelled means a situation of being abandoned and segregated. Expulsion removes students from school and reduces their instruction and learning time. Additionally, it forces the student to have to catch up on missing work, and this is very difficult to do when a student has missed more than a few days of school. Naturally, expulsion disrupts the learning process. According to the Commission for Positive Change of Oakland, California, students who are expelled are more likely to suffer from lowered sense of self-esteem, feelings of being unwanted at school, and alienation from peers, which results in a higher chance of receiving failing grades because many times, and expulsions on records hurt the student’s ability to get a job or get into college, which may increase the risk of juvenile delinquency among these students. Altogether, these factors contribute to a much higher chance that the expelled student will drop out of school entirely, or will be pushed out of school. How does this help the student? Well, it doesn’t. A senior high school principal in Oakland, California says of expulsions, “There are no benefits to the kids. They get nothing. It’s for the school. Suspension is a short-term release valve for the school. Imagine what may happen if a student with special needs gets expelled. Students with disabilities, especially if it is a learning or behavior disability, need extra time and need to put in extra effort to do there work as it is, and if they are expelled, then all of the above factors can be multiplied and will only hurt the student even more.

Best of luck,

Mark Hutten, M.A.

I know that there are a lot of rubbish being sold on the internet...

Dear Mark,

Having been inspired by yourself I decided to take the plunge and write my own book on successful modern parenting. The book itself is quite substantial and includes topics which I hope will answer many parenting concerns. It also covers a broad spectrum of parenting issues, i.e., your child s health, mental and physical development, single parenting and education to name but a few.

I have spent the last 4 months researching and writing this book. I want to ensure that I only provide parents with quality information. I highly respect your views and opinions as I know you're an expert in this field. This is why I was hoping you could review my product as I value any feedback you may have on it. From my own personal experience, I know that there are a lot of rubbish being sold on the internet. I want to provide a book which I believe will be good value for money.

I have attached a copy of the book for you to view it yourself. It is still in its draft phase and I am yet to arrange everything accordingly, however in regards to the writing material it is complete. I would change everything if you believed that it was necessary to do so.

Thank you ever so much and I'll look forward to hearing back from you.

Warm regards,

Gareth Williams

Online Parent Support

He was quite humbled and apologized to us all after the policeman talked to him...

Thanks for your reply Mark. My kids do not do well with change and we have implemented up to and including everything in session 3 and am starting session 4. One week of each was going too fast for them and then tend to think I won't continue to be consistent if I try to do to much changing at once. You know they think "oh she'll forget about it next week" so I've had to go slower. However my children are doing much better at communicating their needs and finding alternatives to hand outs and freebies from me. My son has a deep seated resentment towards his alcoholic father and until he deals with that (if he ever does) he will never "drop the rock" of his anger completely. However it does not justify the rage. He was quite humbled and apologized to us all after the policeman talked to him. I hope he takes it as a second chance. Because the NEXT time he is going away, one way or the other. I will continue to refine as I go along. I realize it's a process and I do see some growth in my children's own self-reliance. That is really my goal here. To undo the over indulging I've done and equip them to be able to handle life on life's terms when they leave home.

Thanks so much and I'll keep you posted,


Online Parent Support

He did not come home...

Hi Mark, we have been implementing your program since Jan 1st. I have done everything by the book and consistently as possible. I have taken it slow and worked one session a month. Maybe too slow. Implementing session 3 now. My son's rages have decreased to at least no more physical violence so far and have been further between incidents. However this last blow up started on the 26th ( with the grounding/ no cell) and he had made so many infractions of the discipline ( computer and TV were then taken away) that by the 28th he had flown into a rage, punched knuckle marks in my steel door, broke my cordless phone because I wouldn't let him use it and tore up "The Rules" off the frig and spit on them on my dining room floor. What set him off was his Grandmother stopping over and giving him a little lecture about his disrespectful language towards me (her daughter). Well he blew up and feels that his transgressions are between him and I only. I may not talk to his father or anyone for that matter about "his business" per him. I told him that I cannot control what his Grandmother or Father does. I told the truth and if he didn't like the truth then maybe he should change it. Because he is the only one who can. I need someone to vent to and I had no idea that his father or Grandmother would bring up the subject. Is his request reasonable? I am so confused. He got so violent that I called 911( first time ever and the real reason he took off so fast) because I also have 2 daughters 13 and 15 and he could (and has) gotten physically violent with them. I feel sorry for the girls having to live like this. Well he took off walking which is what he is supposed to do when he feels this way. I have had to use the broken record technique and tell him I will not argue and please take a walk. This time though he did not come home and I still do not know where he is almost 19 hours later. His phone was shut off on thursday. So here I sit with a broken TV tray in my living room, paper and spit on my dining room floor and a broken cordless in the hallway. Waiting for him to come home. Not a good feeling. I do not know if I want him to come home. Will he be repentant and where do I start the discipline again. I have written several "to deal with later things". Our rules are simple- no swearing, no violence, do homework, do chores. Then the rest of the day is yours. That leaves about 8 hours after he gets out of school. Time enough I think and he still has teachers e-mailing me about missing assignments and bad grades. The privacy thing though has me stumped. Any suggestions?

Thanks, D.


Hi D.,

Please refer to “When You Want Something From Your Kid” [session #3 - online version of eBook] under “Ask The Parent Coach” [right hand column].

Other things to consider when your son returns home include the following:

• Be happy that your child is back home. Many teens fear the initial meeting with their parents. Remain calm. Express relief and tell your child you love him/her and that together you will solve any problems

• Make follow-up phone calls. Let all your contacts, including the police, know your child has returned home. Police may need to speak or meet with your child.

• Allow time to settle in. Your child may need a shower, a meal, clean clothes, or sleep.

• Get medical attention. Visit your family doctor to address any medical concerns.

• Talk with your teen. Discuss how you can work together to prevent him/her from leaving again. Acknowledge some problems take time and effort to solve. Be sure you resolve the problems safely and reasonably.

• Look for assistance and support. People and organizations in your community can help counsel your family. Asking for help is a sign of strength and shows you are taking the issue seriously.

Good Luck,

Mark Hutten, M.A.

Out Of Control Teen on Probation

Hi L.,

I've responded throughout your email below:

Hello, We are using your instruction for our out of control teen. We have a 16 yr old son, who over the last year (on & off) has been drinking alcohol, smoking marijuana

Please refer to "Read These Emails From Exasperated Parents" [session #4 - online version of eBook] for recommendations on pot and alcohol.

and hanging out with the wrong group of kids.

Please refer to "Hangin' with the wrong crowd..." below for recommendations on negative peer influence:

click==> http://www.onlineparentingcoach.com/2008/09/hangin-with-wrong-crowd.html

He was arrested for possession of drug paraphernalia in his car (misdemeanor in Idaho) and a positive urine for marijuana on 2/6. This is his first encounter with the law but not with his parents. We meet with the probation officer next week to discuss sentencing. My question to you is should we ask for him to spend time in juvenile detention (a weekend) to get a taste of what could become if he continues down this path, or is that something we should leave for the probation officer to hold over his head while on probation.

Fear-based motivation has no longevity. And most out-of-control teens are not intimidated by the prospect of detention. In fact, a tour or visit will actually increase the intrigue.

It is not the norm to send them to JD on the first offence unless the parents request it.

No. And the PO will not detain because you requested it.

He will also get counseling for anger management, family communication, drug and alcohol class, community service, probation for 6 month, monthly drug testing, & evaluation for depression. I want to approach him with tough love but a counselor told us we could also go to far in the discipline process. What are your thoughts?

If you follow the program, you will not be "going to far."

I must say that you will benefit from going back through the online version of the eBook a second time. You have asked me questions that are already addressed there, which tells me you have missed some important pieces.


Online Parent Support

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...