Explosive Kids & Low Frustration Tolerance

The term “explosive kids’ is used to describe easily frustrated, chronically inflexible, explosive children. While many of these kids carry a variety of diagnoses, parents often tell us that the term “explosive kids” better describes their youngster’s struggles. In addition, many find that it also provides a framework for understanding and alleviating the difficulties with which they present. This will become more evident as you review the following in-depth description.

What does a youngster described as “inflexible-explosive” look like? Mark Hutten, M.A. provides a helpful list of criteria:

Common Characteristics of Inflexible-Explosive Kids--

1. While other kids are apt to become more irritable when tired or hungry, inflexible-explosive kids may completely fall apart under such conditions!

2. The tendency to think in a concrete, rigid, black-and-white manner. The youngster does not recognize the gray in many situations ("Mrs. Robinson is always mean! I hate her!" ...Rather than “Mrs. Robinson is usually nice, but she was in a bad mood today”); may apply oversimplified, rigid, inflexible rules to complex situations; and may impulsively revert to such rules even when they are obviously inappropriate (“We always go out for recess at 10:30. I don’t care if there’s an assembly today. I’m going out for recess!”)

3. The persistence of inflexibility and poor response to frustration despite a high level of intrinsic or extrinsic motivation. The youngster continues to exhibit frequent, intense, and lengthy meltdowns even in the face of salient, potent consequences.

4. The youngster’s inflexibility and difficulty responding to frustration in an adaptive manner may be fueled by behaviors-moodiness/irritability, hyperactivity/impulsiveness, anxiety, obsessiveness, social impairment-commonly associated with other disorders.

5. The youngster may have one or several issues about which he or she is especially inflexible – for example, the way clothing looks or feels, the way foods taste or smell, and the order in which things must be done.

6. Inflexible episodes may have an out-of-the-blue quality. The youngster may seem to be in a good mood, then fall apart unexpectedly in the face of frustrating circumstances, no matter how trivial.

7. An extremely low tolerance for frustration. The youngster is not only more easily frustrated, but experiences the emotions associated with frustration far more intensely and tolerates them far less adaptively than do other kids of the same age. In response to frustration, the youngster becomes extremely agitated, disorganized, and verbally or physically aggressive.

8. An extremely low frustration threshold. The youngster becomes frustrated far more easily and by far more seemingly trivial events than other kids of his or her age. Therefore, the youngster experiences the world as one filled with frustration and uncomprehending adults.

9. A remarkably limited capacity for flexibility and adaptability and incoherence in the midst of severe frustration. The youngster often seems unable to shift gears in response to parents’ commands or a change in plans and becomes quickly overwhelmed when a situation calls for flexibility and adaptability. As the youngster becomes frustrated, his or her ability to “think through” ways of resolving frustrating situations in a manner that is mutually satisfactory becomes greatly diminished; the youngster has difficulty remembering previous learning about how to handle frustration and recalling the consequences of previous inflexible-explosive episodes, has trouble thinking rationally, may not be responsive to reasoned attempts to restore coherence, and may deteriorate even further in response to punishment.

Should your youngster present with these difficulties, we strongly encourage you to join Online Parent Support (a program that possesses an extensive background and experience working with explosive kids) to provide recommendations that will help you, the parent, resolve most behavioral/attitudinal issues.

In establishing that developmental deficits in the domains of flexibility and frustration tolerance are the key factors underlying explosive behavior, we think the characteristics presented provide a more useful way of viewing our kids. This is very different from the conventional wisdom: that these kids are merely willful and spoiled, that they are fully able to control their explosive outbursts, and that poor parenting is to blame for their difficulties.

Blaming parents for their kid’s difficulties is not the best way to change things for the better in any family or classroom. When we dispense with the blame, the stage is set for adults to be part of the solution: re-establishing positive relationships with these kids, creating experiences that will provide the training and practice in problem-solving skills, flexibility, and frustration tolerance.

Parents & Resentment Flu


After I sent you the e-mail and had the chance to review your response I sat and did some soul searching. I am struggling with some of the things that I am required to do. Not because I do not wish to comply, but because I am so badly hurt from the years of defiant behavior, lying, and stealing. I forgave him the best I could throughout the years and he turned around and did the same things repeatedly. Sometimes telling me that he hears things in his head and others because he can’t help himself.

In my last e-mail to you I described one of our worst physical encounters with B__ and there have been many. My only regret was that we did not call the police on him that night instead of allowing it to escalate the way it did. Yesterday I was met by someone from child protective services accompanied by a police officer. B__ has threatened us with this before and we have feared it since it poured off of his lips. He states that my husband punched and bruised him. I can tell you that my husband pulled the child off his back and restrained him on the floor, but did not punch him. It is now our word against his and we feel like we are prisoners in our own home. The person appointed to our case heard us out and gave us a number to call in case he starts to destroy our home or attacks us in any manner again. We don't know what to do? The child throws himself through his room, against walls, furniture, and out of his window sill. I go to my room and shut the door as to not feed into his attention seeking behaviors, but when he is injuring himself and telling people that we did this to him it crosses the line. I ignore the behavior and it gets worse. He demands and manipulates an audience. 
According to him nothing is ever his fault and the world is against him. I do not know where to get help for us. At this point he has seen that we are powerless and that all he has to do is make up another story and we are in serious trouble. My husband and I do not want him home because with another accusation, we can lose everything. We are considering putting cameras throughout the house to ensure our safety through this process with B__. We don't want to be with him unless the other parent is with us. Summer is here and his sister who is to spend the summer with us will arrive in a few short weeks and I don't know how to keep her safe and ensure that B__ doesn't have all of us arrested. We need help. I have asked for help starting when he entered pre-school and all I got was a handful of varying diagnoses and a handful of prescriptions. He is bigger, stronger, and smarter and his behavior nor the outcomes are ever his fault. I find it nearly impossible to say I love you to him, I cannot stand to hear him ramble on because it is usually a fabricated story and when I get to the bottom of it I am more disappointed to find out he was at fault for whatever had happened and that he cannot and will not see it.

We have regular chores and each day the battles are getting worse and for the fact that I don’t want the fight, I don’t want to give them to him anymore. B__ is only ever happy when he is running the show. Anyone other than him in control will create behaviors that we not wish to have in our home or in our lives. B__ thinks that because we were not arrested and that they won’t keep Beth from coming here means that all is well. It is not well. My husband and I will have this stain on our (until yesterday) clean records till the end of our lives and again he walks away unscathed and newly empowered by his newest form of parental control.

Nick and I need help to get back on our feet on working in a better direction for all of us. Can you please tell us where to start again because we are heartbroken and devastated by what is happening?

Thank you - A.


Hi A.,

Sounds like you have a bad case of “resentment flu” …also, it sounds like you feel a significant sense of defeat. When we drill deep into the root of resentment and anger, the cause always revolves around our ego and the mind’s attempt to protect it from “extinction.” 

I am not suggesting that we suppress or deny these feelings. But rather, use responsible methods for dealing with these uncomfortable and unpleasant emotions so that we are no longer slaves to the emotional reflexes of our animalistic instincts.

As hard as it might seem while we are experiencing anger towards someone (especially our own child), the keys to overcoming the emotion lie first in understanding and finally in forgiving. This seems counter-intuitive, since our instincts tell us that we need to defend ourselves, and possibly come up with ways to hurt the other individual.

Understanding gives us insight into what the other individual is feeling. Even before we reach the stage of forgiveness, understanding will automatically ease some of the emotional burden we’ve been carrying.

Before seeking to understand, we need to find a place of clarity within ourselves. Clarity means that we are not acting out of our emotions or our caveman instincts. When we can step out of our inner caveman, we are able to see the situation for what it is. It will quickly become clear that the other individual was acting out of the instincts of their inner caveman, and thus blinded by their own emotions.

Let’s dive deeper into each major step in overcoming these bothersome feelings:

1. Clarity

In this step, the goal is to feel well again. When our minds are frazzled with random thoughts of pain and resentment, it is nearly impossible to overcome anything. Therefore, we need to first find peace within ourselves.

When we seek peace and clarity, we are ultimately creating the space within ourselves for alternative possibilities and healing. Without which, we will remain in a never-ending cycle of unnecessary pain and suffering.

• “You are In Control” - Remind yourself that you are in control of your thoughts and actions. You are never as helpless or in as pitiful a state as your ego would have you believe. Remind yourself of the responsible individual that you are - using the real definition of responsibility: the ability to respond, or the ability to control our responses. Map out the worst case scenario and accept it. You’ll often find that the worst case scenario isn’t as bad as the dreadful scenario that you have dreamt up in your mind.

• Exercise: Express Your Emotions - Fully express your emotions without physically harming anyone (including yourself). If you feel angry, express that anger verbally (while you are alone) with the intent of releasing it completely out of your system. You can jump up and down, cry out loud or exert unusual sounds. Listen to your body as to how it wants to release this negative energy. Give yourself a time limit of say 5 to 10 minutes in which you must express all your anger, either verbally or in writing. Additionally or alternatively, go for a run, a hike, a workout or a swim. Many individuals find exercise to be an effective way to release toxic energy.

• Exercise: Finding Peace via Focused Attention - This has been the most effective tool for me when clarity and inner peace is needed: First, find a comfortable seat and close your eyes. Bring your focus onto your breath. Focus all of your attention on your inhales and exhales. Do this for about five minutes. Next, bring your attention to your heart (the center of your chest). Focus on all the things you are grateful for in your life, right now. You can either visualize each individual or thing, or you can hear the sound of these things spoken in your mind. As you see them, or hear them, experience the feelings of gratitude in your heart.

2. Understanding

Now that we’ve put our inner caveman/cavewoman aside, we can objectively look at the situation for what it is. We can seek to understand what is causing the other individual to act in this particular way.

In most cases, once we’ve figured out the cause for their behavior, we will find that it is often not an attack on us, but a reflection of their primal instinct to protect themselves.

What’s more, as we gain perspective into their position, we might find that we’ve learned something valuable that will contribute towards our well-being and happiness in the future.

• Freedom of Expression - Accept that it is okay for others (even your children) to have negative thoughts or feelings towards you. They have the same freedom of thought and freedom of choice as do you. Choose understanding. Choose compassion. Choose doing the right thing by staying honest to yourself. Outside of that, don’t worry about it, let them go. We cannot control other’s actions, so why should we exert energy trying? Let others be, and find peace with that.

• It’s Not Personal - When individuals are in pain, they sometimes cannot help but to spread that energy onto others. When individuals communicate in ways that are hurtful to you, it is not meant to be personal, but rather a reflection of their internal state.

• The Painful “Enemy” - Seek out the scenarios and perspectives which may have triggered them to treat you in a manner that hurts you. They may be in such a deep-seated state of frustration and emotional disturbance that they have lost the capacity to communicate rationally and with consideration of your feelings. Seek to understand that individuals, by nature, do not want to harm others, but circumstances that trigger their inner caveman cause them to act out in self-defense.

3. Forgiveness

Not forgiving someone is like drinking poison and expecting the other individual to die.

Forgiveness is a gradual process, and understanding will eventually take us there. However, if we do not attempt forgiveness, the only individual we are harming is ourselves.

The goal here is to find peace with the situation and to move on with our lives. Life is too short to dwell on the past, or to dwell on other’s opinions of us. Give yourself a gift of freedom: forgive them with grace, compassion and understanding.

• Forgive Others - After the exercise of breathing and gratitude, continue to keep your eyes closed. Now, let go of all resentment and regret. You can imagine each of these separately. Imagine all the individuals who you hold a grudge against. Optionally you may see their harmless face smiling at you. Recognize that we are all trying our hardest in our current state of consciousness. Tell them in your imagination that you forgive them. Have the intention of forgiving others and ourselves for any actions that may have resulted in pain.

• Forgive Yourself - Forgive yourself for having had thoughts of retaliation, resentment, regret or grievance. Forgive yourself for exposing your inner caveman.

• You can repeat the mantra “Every decision I make is a choice between a grievance and a miracle. I relinquish all resentments, grievances and regrets. I choose the miracle.”

Good luck,

Mark Hutten, M.A.


One day you wake up and find that life has changed forever. Instead of greeting you with a hug, your little boy rolls his eyes when you say "good morning" and shouts, "You're ruining my life!" You may think you've stepped into the Twilight Zone, but you've actually been thrust into your son's teen years.

During adolescence, teens start to break away from parents and become "their own person." Some talk back, ignore rules and slack off at school. Others may sneak out or break curfew. Still others experiment with alcohol, tobacco or drugs. So how can you tell the difference between normal teen rebellion versus dangerous behavior? And what's the best way for a parent to respond?

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Many families of defiant children live in a home that has become a battleground. In the beginning, the daily struggles can be expected. After all, we knew that problems would occur. Initially, stress can be so subtle that we lose sight of a war, which others do not realize is occurring. We honestly believe that we can work through the problems.

Outbursts, rages, and strife become a way of life (an emotionally unhealthy way of life). We set aside our own needs and focus on the needs of our children. But what does it cost us?

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The standard disciplinary techniques that are recommended for “typical” teenagers do not take into account the many issues facing teens with serious behavioral problems. Disrespect, anger, violent rages, self-injury, running away from home, school failure, hanging-out with the wrong crowd, drug abuse, theft, and legal problems are just some of the behaviors that parents of defiant teens will have to learn to control.

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Helping Children With Curfew

"Dear Mark: My daughter is asking to extend her curfew. It seems she can fight whatever. Would you please help me and let me have a strategy to have the curfew settle down. Thanks & Best Regards! F."

Click here for my response...

Adult Children Who Don't "Leave the Nest"

What To Do When an Adult Child Moves Back Home (or has never left)…

Have your adult kids returned to the nest? Are you ready to help them get back on their feet? Are you prepared to lay down rules and protect your own financial stability?

Whether they live under your roof or not, your adult kids are just that: adults. They have the right to be treated as such, just as you have the right to expect them to act as such. Because they are adults, the rules you can appropriately have over their life and their conduct is significantly different from those you had while they were underage.

House Rules Versus Running-Their- Life Rules:

This is where it gets tricky. Moms & dads love their kids. They want the best for them. When they see their kids clearly making mistakes and bad choices, they immediately want to intervene. The key is to remember that they are adults now and they have the right to make the choices they make as well as face the consequences, good or bad, of those choices. This is when all those years of teaching them should be kicking in. We all learn through our mistakes, and we all continue to make mistakes as adults. Our adult kids have the right to live as a mistake-making/consequence-facing human, just as we do and as we are.

General Guidelines:

• Let your adult kids plan their own lives. Moms & dads should not try to make a life plan for their adult kids; this is something they need to devise on their own so they will follow it. Moms & dads can guide and support their kids, but treating them like babies may cause them to regress. They need to be moving ahead and maturing, not regressing into childhood roles. Adult kids should be living as independent young people and making their own way. They need to decide for themselves what they want out of life, and devise a plan to obtain it.

• Set boundaries without feeling guilt. Moms & dads need to put down boundaries and stick to them. Kids often assume the victim role and say, "I can't do it. I have to live here." Moms & dads buy into this thinking, and then feel guilty because they want to help their kids. When they feed that guilt, they ignore the fact that they are crippling their kids's advancement in life.

• Think about the true meaning of help. There is an old saying: "Those for whom you do the most, wind up resenting you the worst." Are you really helping your kids if you're not showing them how the real world works? Moms & dads need to redefine what it means to help someone. Look at your motivation for helping your kids. If you are doing it to feel better about yourself, then you probably don't have your kid's best interest in mind. You don't help people by taking away their self-sufficiency, pride of accomplishment and achievement. Kids need to take an initiative and find ways to achieve their goals on their own. If something is important enough for your kids, they will find a way to make it happen.

When House Rules are established, they need to remain focused on the Household. The following is a general list of common areas to address:

• Rent. Does this amount cover just shelter, or are food and utilities covered as well? If food is not covered in the amount, will they buy their own groceries, or contribute groceries to the household? When is the rent due, and what is the late payment policy? Will a deposit be required? Will said deposit be returned in part or full? If so, under what circumstances?

• Chores. How will they be divided? Obviously the adult kids need to be responsible for the cleaning of their own private areas, but what about shared living areas? What is the timeline for doing the chores in the common areas? How will the laundry facility be shared?

• Company. If the entrance to their private living areas is not private, you have every right to set hours for entertaining. Other areas to address would be those house rules other members of the household must follow such as no one of the opposite gender in the bedroom, no company in the house after midnight, etc. House rules apply to all in the household.

• Conditions of Residence. These would be rules as to why they are being allowed to move in and what will cause an eviction. Some moms & dads have a general rule that any kid living with them must be attending school full-time, working, or serving in the armed forces, as there will be no 'free ride'. If the kid is in school full-time they live in the home rent-free. The other circumstances require the payment of rent, usually based upon their ability to pay.

• Household Influence. If you have a rule against no alcohol, no drugs, and no r-rated movies, for example, in your home; you have the right to extend that rule to the adult kids. Anything you believe to be harmful to the environment of your home or harmful by way of example or risk to the underage kids is eligible for rule setting in this category. These items must be carefully addressed so they do not become matters of running the adult kid's life, or about what they do outside of the home. These rules need to stay strictly focused on the home environment.

• Their Kids and Pets. Keeping them under control and also living according to house rules. You have the right to have your privacy and your belongings respected. You have the right to expect them to parent their own kids and care for their own pets. This area can become an area of contention when moms & dads desiring to be helpful begin to interfere in the parenting style and routines of their adult kids. This is a huge no-no. They are adults and those are their kids. Unless your grandkids are in imminent danger, you have no right to interfere.

Running-Their-Life Rules:

It is difficult to see someone you love make choices that you know will have a bad outcome, or which you do not personally agree with. As moms & dads of adult kids, you must first and foremost respect their rights as adults.

Whether they live under your roof or not, you have no right to insist upon setting rules which interfere in their right to choose for themselves what to do with their own life. Some examples of Running-Their-Life Rules are as follows:
  • How they dress or style their hair
  • How they parent their own kids
  • Places they may go
  • Their diet and exercise program or lack thereof
  • What line of work or field of study they may be involved in
  • Where they may attend church or if they attend church or not
  • Where they may work or go to school
  • Whether they get piercings and tattoos
  • Who they may associate with outside of your home.

In Cases of Danger Exceptions:

In some cases, there is true and imminent danger involved to the safety and welfare of your adult kid, their kids, your own underage kids, or yourself. In these cases, you have every right and responsibility to act. A few examples would be as follows:

• Alcohol and Drug abuse. If their life or the life of another is at risk by all means intervene. This is where programs such as Al-Anon can help you understand the dynamics and what you can and should do. You may have to become acquainted with the principles of Tough Love and actually hold an Intervention to help your adult kid.

• Clear animal abuse or neglect as outlined by your state or local government. Your opinion that something is neglectful or abusive must be substantiated by state or local law before you have the right to intervene because it may well be just your opinion.

• Clear child abuse or neglect as outlined by your state government. Your opinion that something is neglectful or abusive must be substantiated by state law before you have the right to intervene because it may well be just your opinion.

Setting the Example:

The best way to teach our kids is through the example that we set. They learn far more from what we do than what we say, and they do watch what we do very closely. If we expect them to live a certain way, we must be consistently and without hypocrisy living that way ourselves. Then, if we set a good example, they may choose to adopt our philosophy and way of life for themselves. They also may choose to go their own way. The point is that it is their life and their choice, and that must always be respected.

Boomerang Kids—

They're back. The "Boomerang Kids" — young adults who left to go to college, get married or just strut their independence — are moving back in with mom and dad. Boomerang Kids can be a mixed blessing for moms & dads, both emotionally and financially.

The trend is cyclical. Especially during tough economic times, adult kids head for home. Census figures show that 56 percent of men and 43 percent of women ages 18 to 24 today live with one or both moms & dads. Some never left, while an estimated 65 percent of recent college graduates have moved back in with their moms & dads.

Caution: Moms & dads are often happy to help out, both emotionally and financially. As a result, the arrangement often works to everyone's satisfaction. However, there are risks, especially for the moms & dads. These include family tension and misunderstandings, but also money.

The return to the nest can become a financial burden that can derail the moms & dads' plans and jeopardize their financial future, especially their retirement, as they try to do too much for their kids. For example, if moms & dads pick up a son's college loan, that payment is money not going toward their own retirement savings, very often at a time when the moms & dads need to be stashing cash at an accelerated pace to meet retirement needs.

Success Factors—

Studies show that the return to the nest works best when several factors are present:
  • The boomerang kid gets along with mom. (The relationship with the father seems to be less of a factor.)
  • The boomerang kid is cheerful and good company. (Mothers, especially, like the company of the young person and see it as a benefit of the return to the nest.)
  • The boomerang kid pays rent or contributes to the household in a tangible way. (About half make a payment of rent.)
  • The moms & dads are in a long–term marriage.
  • The return is a safety net while the boomerang kid makes a transition, based on a clear–cut need.
  • The return is temporary and a one–time event. (Kids who repeatedly boomerang find that relations with moms & dads worsen each time.)

How To Make It Work--

Most researchers agree that you as a parent can take steps to create a win–win situation:

1. Do not sacrifice your own financial future. Decide how much you want and can afford to help. Kids tend to think their moms & dads are wealthy, while some moms & dads provide more financial support than they can afford. Remember that your kids have decades to build their financial security, while you may be only a few years away from your retirement date. Ironically, if you are not careful, you could end up depending on your kids for help in your old age.

2. Help them restructure debts, rather than simply bail them out. Then teach them how to avoid new debt. One option is to match debt–reduction payments, with the understanding that they put away credit cards and live within their means.

3. Insist on responsibilities, which may include paying rent and/or payment in kind, such as taking on household chores (e.g., doing laundry, making dinner two nights a week, buying groceries). This can often be negotiated. One method is to ask the returning kid what he or she believes would be reasonable rent. (This is also the area, when not clearly laid out, that can result in the most misunderstandings, as adult kids return to old habits of expecting to be taken care of.)

4. Set a departure date, whether it be three weeks or three months.

5. Set house rules. Put them in writing. Make it a contract. Remember, it's still your house.

Boomerang Kids – having your darlings return to the safety net of their home – can be wonderful time of family closeness. Setting the tone, laying out the ground rules, and making smart–money financial decisions can help create a positive, supportive environment that is in the best interests of you and your returning family members. Good luck.

Reestablish the boundaries—

Whatever kind of behavior they expect from members of their household, these need to be reestablished with no exceptions for anyone. Remember, it's the job of a parent to raise the kids, teach them responsibility, and take care of them. It's not their job to put up with their bad behavior, clean up their mess, or continue to raise them as adults.

Here are some ideas to take or leave:

Establish a household curfew – This one might get a bit nasty when your adult child simply doesn’t abide by it. If it does, the answer is simply to install a deadbolt on each door and lock it at the given curfew hour.

Friends need to leave by 10 PM and everyone is responsible for their own mess.

Require that all adults over 18 and not in school, financially contribute to household expenses on a weekly basis. It doesn’t have to be much, $50 per week would be an adequate statement.

Require that all members of the household have chores and fulfill them before they are allowed to go out – no exceptions! This includes personal laundry.

No television, video games, telephone, or playing on the computer until chores are done and messes are cleaned up.

Though your adult child won’t see it this way, these are reasonable household rules that differentiate a home from a hotel. If he/she doesn’t like it, he/she needs to be calmly told that his/her alternative is to live somewhere else.

How to Get Your Adult Children to Move Out—

1. Communicate. Let your adult children know that you want and expect them to move out. Explain that this is good for them, good for you, and good for your relationship. Be kind and loving, but be firm.

2. Show a united front. Don't risk having one parent riding the fence and the other being the enforcer. Have a discussion with your spouse before you discuss the topic with your child. Make sure that both of you are on the same page. You can even create a list of mutually agreeable chores, time lines, household rules, expectations, etc.

o Agree that neither of you will amend the rules without discussing it with the other parent. One parent riding the fence to avoid confrontation will only cause resentment between the two of you.

o Agree to communicate with your spouse weekly or more often about issues that arise, progress that is being made, problems that are developing, etc. By staying on top of it you will always know what the other is facing when you aren't around. Make special time to have this talk and perhaps use it as a chance to sneak away for a nice dinner once a week. You deserve it.

o Discuss the plan with any other moms & dads that may not live in the home. If your ex is in the loop they may be able to help. Just by knowing they can stay out of the manipulation or avoid being dragged into the new policies. If they know your plan and your rules they can also help enforce them. By having all of the moms & dads in agreement the kids will feel the pressure.

o If both of you sit down together for a moms & dads' meeting and discuss the new rules you'll have a better chance of the rules being followed and everyone being happy once they're presented to the child.

o If one parent is easily swayed or will cave if confronted by the child you should point out that weakness when you are setting up the rules in your moms & dads' meeting.

o Realize that a step-parent has just as much right to decide what goes on in the home as the biological parent. By marrying into the family you were given a say in how the home is ruled.

3. Make a plan together. Living independently requires an income and a variety of different life skills. Help your kids analyze their situation and plot a realistic course of action.

4. Stay involved. Once you have a plan, meet with your kids weekly (or more often as needed) to communicate, assess the situation, identify short-term tasks, and especially to recognize and celebrate progress! Collaboration and cooperation between moms & dads and their kids can be a beautiful thing, but it takes lots of energy.

5. Consider a no-guests rule. Sharing your house with your adult kids can be challenging enough, without opening your home and your refrigerator to your kids' friends.
  • Be firm and address the situation. If necessary, explain it to the friends as a new rule.
  • Consider making the bedroom a no guest zone.
  • Don't be shy. Address the subject of having girlfriends/boyfriends over. Forbid your home from being used for their sexual convenience. If possible, forbid "dates" from coming over as soon as possible so bad habits don't develop.
  • It is perfectly reasonable to tell the kids they cannot entertain friends or other guests in your home, and this gives your kids a powerful incentive to find their own living situation.

6. Implement a list of chores and a curfew. At the very least, your kids should clean up after themselves and be considerate of you and other residents at all times. Don't feel guilty about this or let your kids squirm out of it; they will need domestic skills and basic discipline to make it on their own.

7. Don't provide all the meals. While your adult kids are living with you, make certain they contribute their fair share to buying food, cooking, and cleaning up afterwards.

o Start by asking them to make a quick run to the store for basic items. Make it their job to buy certain grocery items every weekend such as milk, cereal, bread, eggs, etc. They'll learn to budget their money and schedule the time to get it done.

8. Collect rent. The kids may be living with their parent(s), but if they're adults, they should help to support themselves. Be firm about this - it will help build your kids' self-esteem as well as keeping your resentment in check. Start small and increase the monthly amount over time until it approximates the cost of a studio or roommate situation.

9. Live your life. Socialize, redecorate your house, get a dog or cat. Don't let your kids cramp your style - that phase of your life is over!

10. Get some support. Talk with friends who are facing the same dilemma; enlist the help of a counselor, relatives, your church, and others who care about you and your kids to help you keep your resolve and help your kids take the plunge and move out. Make sure you and your spouse are communicating.

11. Report any unkind behavior or rude remarks to your spouse. You should both be aware of how the child is treating the other person. Take aggressive behavior very seriously.

12. Don't make living at home too comfortable or convenient. You are a parent, not a butler or maid. Consider removing televisions, video games, and computers, or at least limiting access to them, especially if these things are distracting the kids from getting jobs, saving money, and completing other parts of the move-out plan.

13. Stay positive. Focus on helping your kids towards independence and on the progress you and your kids have made, not on the negatives.

14. Be firm. If your kids disregard the rules of the house or treat you with disrespect, you must introduce consequences, up to and including forcing them to move out. Taking your adult offspring to a homeless shelter or changing the locks is excruciating, but it is kinder than hating them for continuing to take advantage of you.

15. Draw the line. There are some things you must not allow your kids to do under your roof, including dealing or using drugs, dangerous or illegal activities, and anything that endangers or infringes on the rights of other family members. If your kids persist in such activities, you may have to throw them out. If your family has conservative views on sexual activities you should also restrict the access to your home.

16. Set Goals and Deadlines. Give them a time line by which point they need to move out. You can change the locks if necessary but do try to have them move out on their own.

17. Stand by your rules. It's tiring to enforce them all the time but by ignoring some rules they assume you will cave on the time line to move out.

18. Work with your Spouse. Don't let your child gain the upper hand by turning you away from the rules that you and your Spouse worked out together. It's easy to get defensive and take the side of the child over your Spouse but remember... You and your Spouse are the rulers of your Castle, not you and your Child. Defensive Moms & dads become Single moms & dads quickly and is it really necessary to lose a Spouse because you can't tell your adult child "NO"?

19. Stay Out of the Drama. Your child(ren) have the ability to trigger you by what they say and do. Move past the emotion and drama. You are NOT a bad mother or father, you did the best job you could with the resources that you had and what you knew at the time. You are not helping yourself or your child by allowing yourself to be held hostage by anger, fear or even mental illness. Get support someone to talk to that will give you clarity on what is real and what techniques you can use to be heard.

20. Don’t Buy into the Poor Me Stuff. There are always excuses for not doing things. Instead of listening to what your child is saying. Pay attention to what they are doing. Focus on their actions and their plans. When they start to complain about how hard it is. Be understanding but keep focused on the “action” that they are taking and the ”plans” they have. There is the clarity. Your child may be arranging lots of job interviews but not getting hired. What could be happening here is for the child setting up interviews may be the desired result for them. They might have no intention of actually getting a job.

21. Teaching Life Skills. Don't think that by doing your child's laundry and cooking for him/her and handing out money is preparing them for the real world. They need to learn to take care of themselves. You must be firm and be ready for resistance. Remember, they are used to you doing everything for them and they may not be ready to give that up but you must prepare them to live life when the time comes you are no longer around. You may think being hard on them is tough but doing everything for them makes them helpless and lazy adults and it will be even harder for them once you're not around.

22. Be frank about this. Drug use or friends who use drugs are not allowed on your property. Do not allow them in your home. If they have listened this far, then possibly they will listen to you about this. If they are high then wait to comment about this. Make sure you are not high.


• Adult kids are masters at playing your emotions. The longer you give in the longer they will play you like a fiddle and the more unhappy you will be. It is your responsibility as a Parent to make them ready for the real world. Letting your child stay home and taking care of him/her like a Maid is YOUR fault, not the child's. If you baby them then they have no reason to leave do they?

• Ask them how much they've saved for a deposit on a new place. Help them keep track of their savings if you need to. Reward good saving practices by offering additional rewards as incentives. For example, after they've saved a predetermined portion of what they would need you can offer them certain furniture pieces, buy a microwave but don't allow it out of the box, help them pick out kitchen items or furnishings. Keep those in a "storage area" assigned for the new place but off limits for now. Seeing the items will further encourage independence.

• Discourage them from spending money on unneeded items. Are they buying video games, guitars, clothes, eating out with friends? Help them make a budget. Keep your eyes open and point out unnecessary spending. Explain to them what it's really like in the real world.

• Don't allow them to ban you from their room. It's your home. You should feel encouraged to go in from time to time, look for expensive and unneeded purchases, make sure it is clean. If they argue, remove the door from the hinges.

• Don't baby them, but do support them.

• Don't just hold them to the same chores you had them doing as a child. They're an adult and capable of not only contributing but helping you make improvements to your home. Even if they are employed you should feel comfortable assigning them more demanding and labor intensive tasks. For example: cleaning out the garage and repainting it, cleaning out the attic or other storage spaces, removing paneling and repainting walls, filing old papers and documents, organizing photos, redoing rooms in the house. The list is endless.

• Don't provide them with any additional conveniences at your expense. If they want conveniences they should get a job. This includes cell phones, cars, insurance, internet and even food costs depending on how much you are able to provide.

• Experts agree that the best way to discuss – and stick to – these household rules is to draft up a customized contract between you and your adult kids living at home. Schedule a mandatory family meeting.

• Get a calendar and establish a time line for getting a new job or additional jobs and moving out. Mark it on the calendar and let them know up front the date is firm.

• Helping them monitor their money and spending is essential. Consider setting up a savings account with both your names. You can monitor the progress and any money withdrawn won't impact your financial standing as it would for a checking account.

• If they are legitimately unable to find work ask your boss if they can be brought in one or two days a week for minimum wage. Have them file, etc. If you're able you can also take them to work and have them assist you with getting caught up on your work that could potentially make you more money. You may need to pay them out of your pocket but it could save you money long term.

• If they don't have a car, drop them off in a business or retail district and when you pick them up ask to see the application forms.

• If they spend too much time on line or on the phone, playing video games, etc. you should consider getting rid of the internet or phone line or eliminate their access to those luxuries. Consider locking up video game consoles, controllers and games.

• If you kid won't take initiative you can start speaking to neighbors. Find out who needs their lawns mowed, fence painted, etc. Because of your efforts you should feel comfortable being the one to collect the money once the job is complete and take a percentage. You can also make sure they did the job as instructed.

• If your child DOES have a post-graduate job, but its entry level (though on a career-oriented path), the odds are that they won't be able to afford living on their own just yet. As long as they contribute to the household's utilities, buy their own groceries (cooking for themselves), pitch in with household chores, and clean up after themselves, you have nothing to worry about. Give it a few years, as long as you can get along. Their salary will go up in time. Remember, many cultures are based on large families living together, and in today's financial crunch the job market is rough. Give them bonus points if they pay for their own health insurance.

• If your kids do require moving back home after school, after a job loss or divorce you should establish up front that you are doing this as a favor and it is temporary.

• In some areas it is common for kids to stay in the parental home longer than in other areas. The cost of living in a region is the main reason but there are other factors. Just because you moved out when you turned 18 doesn't make it practical today. An 18 year old in a large city will not be able to support themselves as easily as an 18 year old in a small town. If you're in a large city you may want to anticipate them staying longer or start the planning while they are still in school.

• Plan ahead! The concepts of responsibility, accountability, and independence should be introduced to kids gradually over a period of several years. If you overindulge your kids or allow them to feel a sense of entitlement, it will be very difficult for them to become successful, self-sufficient adults.

• Refuse to feel guilty. Remember, moving out and becoming self-sufficient is in your kids' best interests. Letting them stay at home and take advantage of you is not only miserable, but irresponsible.

• Remember it's your turn now No one wants to feel like they're letting their kids down, but if younger kids see their adult sibling still living at home when they are grown up, then what is to stop them from doing the same thing. You are not obligated to keep kids at home with you untill they are in their 30's or 40's. That was not part of the deal. If they make poor adult choices that is their fault and not yours.

• Think of jobs around the house you would need to pay someone for and assign those to be done by a certain deadline.

• You should stay on them. Nag if you must. Get them up early and watch them leave the house in presentable clothes to begin searching for work. Remind them you are doing them a favor and they should not confuse this time with summer vacation.


• Adult kids living at home who are over-parented and over-supervised will rebel as quickly as teenagers, so you need to develop some strategies to establish a new adult-to-adult relationship – quick!

• Do not put your own financial future on the line to support your adult kids living at home. You do neither yourself nor your kids any good by creating extra debt or obligations for yourself.

• Don't allow them to use credit cards. If they can't afford to pay them they can be digging into a bigger hole. Confiscate them.

• Don't be cruel! No matter how annoying they may be now, they are still your kids, and you should treat them as such.

• Drug use or people carrying drugs onto your property is illegal. For that matter any illegal activity by your adult child exposes all of you.

• Drug use or their friends who use drugs should not be allowed to enter your property.

• If you don’t know where the money to make the situation work will come from, you need to think long and hard about whether you can help your adult kids by having them live at your home.

• It may be hard to remember sometimes, but adult kids living at home are still adults. A sure way to set yourself up for conflict is to over-parent your adult kids.

• Keep an eye on bills coming in to make sure they have not opened lines of credit that can't be justified or paid for.

• Keep an eye on expenses and utilities. Keep records and set new rules if you find certain utilities costing significantly more.

• Once your kids are moved out, resist their pleas to move back in, especially if the living situation was difficult previously. It is usually better to lend your support in other ways, like helping them to find an affordable living situation or lending them money for utilities, etc. if you can afford it. They may struggle at times just to keep a roof over their heads, but they will probably prove resourceful and resilient enough to recover eventually. It may be better to let them be homeless for a time than to allow them to become helpless and dependent adults.

• This is one of the most difficult tasks in all of parenting. It takes a lot of patience and love, and sometimes professional guidance, to get through it.

Best Comment: 

Our daughter, age 31, is married, gainfully employed, happy and stable. Our son, age 27, is none of those things and shows no sign of ever getting there. He has a mild case of Tourette's Syndrome and is undoubtedly also ADD and depressed. He refuses to see a doctor or to take medication or to accept that anything is wrong with him. 

As a child, he was very pesky, always bothering his sister until she yelled at him or hit him. Then he would play the victim and complain to me. I got frustrated trying to settle things between them all the time or to get either one of them to stop their behavior. He would NEVER hit her back, saying that he didn't believe in violence. Nor would he stop being an absolute pest to her. To this day it affects his relationship with her. She just wants him to grow up and get over it.

In high school (I later learned) he was smoking pot before school (self-medicating his Tourette's) every day. He barely managed to graduate. Without the knowledge that drugs were involved, I never understood his difficulty with schoolwork, as he is very bright. Later, he moved out of the house and in with some other young men who were also involved with drug use. I later found out that he regularly used a variety of drugs, with pot being his drug of choice, because of its calming effects. Of course this lifestyle eventually led to several arrests, one right in front of us on our way back from a family vacation. We required that he move back in with us, we took his car (he lost his license), and took him to a friend at the courthouse several times a week for drug testing. He had to appear in court (rather an embarrassing event for my husband) where we told the judge what we had done and that we were seeing a positive change in him. He was fined and put on probation for a year. He got a job, started college, paid his fine in installments, and successfully completed his probation.

Here we are, several years later: he's employed part-time washing dishes at a pizza parlor, still working intermittently on his degree, still living at home, and generally still acting like a child. He's touchy, easily angered, and easily moved to tears if I complain about his behavior. He blames everything on someone else, especially me. He constantly complains that he wants a good relationship with me; that he wants me to be his friend; that he doesn't have anyone to talk to but he can't talk to me because I ask too many questions and always criticize him. [So I guess he wants me to be a friend, not a parent, and to blindly go along with whatever he wants, and disregard his history of lying to me, and his history of illegal behavior, and to treat him as an adult even though he shows no signs of growing up.]  Recently, I chastised him for his language and his disrespect, and he actually told me that social mores had changed! Today, he started to cook up a big pot of pasta for lunch and I asked him not to because it was 97 degrees outside, going to 105, and the air conditioner was already having trouble keeping up. He insisted that it was fine, he went outside, declared it an OK day outside and argued with me and told me that I had ruined his day. Later I heard him crying. Still later he came downstairs and said he was leaving for the day.

He recently hit a deer with his car (the second time that's happened since he started driving!) and has been driving my truck to work and school, which I don't mind too much, since I don't use it much anyway. What I do mind is that he's sort of started seeing it as his. He's even recently used it to help friends move furniture without my permission. He sometimes stays out all night, goes to class, and comes home to sleep. He's not paying any of his own bills...something that is about to change...and does not pay rent (another thing that may change soon).  Like an idiot, I had been letting him keep my debit card in case of emergency or in case I needed him to stop at the store. I recently added up his charges for a month and was horrified. I now have the card and do not intend to give it back.

I know he's an adult, and I should treat him as such, which may even mean telling him it's time to move out and/or time to pay his own bills. But there is more going on here. I don't want to trigger self-destructive behavior (which is something he has threatened twice recently). I need advice on how to handle this young man. I'm clearly doing something very wrong.

Teaching Oppositional Defiant (ODD) Students

My daughter has ODD and been suspended 9 times this year. Her school doesn't seem to be giving her any support, just suspending her. She is getting really upset as she thinks everyone is giving up on her. What can the school do to help?


Teaching Oppositional Defiant (ODD) Students—

If you are a teacher who finds that "nothing works" to manage some students, this article may help. It's way past time for you to learn about ODD, Oppositional Defiant Disorder.

In college, you probably got very little training on basic mental health, but if you've been teaching for more than five minutes, you know that little bit of training wasn't enough. Here's just a quick peek at what they should have taught you in college about basic juvenile mental health.


"Oppositional-Defiant" is a mental health diagnosis that describes kids that have consciences but sometimes act like they don't. This diagnosis can only be applied by a mental health professional but will be very important for any youth worker to know and understand. This diagnosis is far more hopeful than "conduct disorder," which means the child lacks a conscience and a real capacity for relationships. While the oppositional- defiant child (ODD) may also appear to have little conscience or relationship capacity, you may be able to improve that with the right approach and methods. With conduct disordered youth, such improvement may not be possible.


Oppositional-defiant kids are often some of your most misbehaved students. They may disrupt your class, hurt others, defy authority and engage in illegal or problematic conduct. Though they may look similar to conduct disorders, their bad behavior is usually less severe, less frequent, and of shorter duration. The ODD label is often inaccurately applied as this dynamic can be a difficult concept to grasp and apply. Many ADD youth are also ODD, and boys dominate this category.


The thrust of helping the ODD child must focus on:

1) Skill building, plus

2) "Pulling up" that conscience and

3) Improving their relationship skills.

For skill building, teaching them how to regulate their anger, actions, peer skills, verbal output, etc. will be critical. But equally important, this child must be aided to care about others and to be guided more by conscience.


To help "pull up" the child's conscience, use this intervention. It can be used pro-actively or reactively (before or after the child has engaged in misbehavior.) For example, let's say the child has stolen the teacher's pen; you can say "I want you to imagine that we're making a video about your life. Are you impressed?" That "uncomfortable sensation that the child may have in reaction to this intervention may be the conscience stirring.

Another intervention to stimulate the conscience—

After the child has engaged in a problem behavior, such as stealing a pen, as in the example above, ask the child, "So what's your integrity worth to you?"

To adapt the intervention shown above for young children, simply rephrase the question to "So what's people believing in you, worth to you?" Or, rephrase it to "So what's people trusting you, worth to you?"

Before a child undertakes a problem behavior, ask the youth to imagine that s/he will read about that act on the cover of the local newspaper in the morning. Ask the child their reaction. If they say that they wouldn't want to read about it in the newspaper, the next morning, then you can say "Then don't do it!" This image makes a fast and easy guide for kids to follow to evaluate whether or not to do questionable behaviors. This intervention is a good choice to use with children whose conscience provides little guidance.

Educational Implications—

Students with ODD may consistently challenge the class rules, refuse to do assignments, and argue or fight with other students. This behavior can cause significant impairment in both social and academic functioning. The constant testing of limits and arguing can create a stressful classroom environment.

Instructional Strategies & Classroom Accommodations—
  • Allow sharp demarcation to occur between academic periods but hold transition times between periods to a minimum.
  • Allow students to redo assignments to improve their score or final grade.
  • Ask parents what works at home.
  • Avoid “infantile” materials to teach basic skills. Materials should be positive and relevant to students’ lives.
  • Avoid making comments or bringing up situations that may be a source of argument for them.
  • Establish clear classroom rules. Be clear about what is nonnegotiable.
  • Give 2 choices when decisions are needed. State them briefly and clearly.
  • Make sure academic work is at the appropriate level. When work is too hard, students become frustrated. When it is too easy, they become bored. Both reactions lead to classroom problems.
  • Maximize the performance of low-performing students through the use of individualized instruction, cues, prompting, the breaking down of academic tasks, and debriefing, coaching, and providing positive incentives.
  • Minimize downtime and plan and transitions carefully. Students with ODD do best when kept busy.
  • Pace instruction. When students with ODD have completed a designated amount of a non-deferred activity, reinforce their cooperation by allowing them to do something they prefer or find more enjoyable or less difficult.
  • Post the daily schedule so students know what to expect.
  • Praise students when they respond positively.
  • Provide consistency, structure, and clear consequences for the students’ behavior.
  • Remember that students with ODD tend to create power struggles. Try to avoid these verbal exchanges. State your position clearly and concisely. Choose your battles wisely.
  • Select material that encourages student interaction. Students with ODD need to learn to talk to peers and to adults in an appropriate manner. However, all cooperative learning activities must be carefully structured.
  • Structure activities so the student with ODD is not always left out.
  • Systemically teach social skills, including anger management, conflict resolution strategies, and how to be assertive in an appropriate manner. Discuss strategies that the students may use to calm themselves when they feel anger escalating. Do this when students are calm.

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Parents & Power Struggles

We see the main problem is he has turned on us... he is angry and is baiting us... he just came in from soccer and hit me with a tirade of swearing. He was angry because he wanted takeaway food and he was told that there was food at home. He has now taken off – it is 11pm. How do we make him realise that he needs to conform to our rules. He has no friends and we are the only people who support him. The punching of the walls and threatening to tell people that his father rapes him etc are just his way of punishing us. Will keeping the screws on him keep making the situation worse or will it eventually break him?

Click here for my response...

Why are so many children becoming violent and committing murder?


My question is: Why are children so violent these days. We had a murder here (15-year-old killed a 17-year-old after school)... and now this threat in our small town school !

Why are so many children becoming violent …why are so many committing murder?



Hi J.,

The reasons for the rise in kids committing murder are multi-faceted. You can't blame it on the school, and you can't blame it on the family, the breakdown of religion or the availability of guns. It is not that simple. It is usually a combination of things. Behavior is multi-determined.

There are a lot of different reasons for behavior. However, some aspects of gang-related violence suggest that some kids are very psychopathic. They are just criminally-minded kids. The way some kids solve conflict is with weapons. Some kids are young predators. Also, kids tend to murder in groups. Remember, teenagers tend to do everything together. For example, if one guy visits his girlfriend, he's got to bring five other people with him.

We know that most juvenile crime is committed between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m., which highlights the importance of having more adult mentors and after-school safe havens. We know that better-educated youths are less likely to commit violent crimes, which stresses the need for better schools and more talented teachers. We know that the increase in violent juvenile crime has been driven by the easy availability of guns, which stresses the importance of urging our political leaders to pass legislation to make handguns less accessible to our kids (and as a side note: I am not an anti-gun person).

One key reason to why so many kids are committing murder stems from society's love and fascination with violence. Unfortunately, violence is a major theme in the American culture. Even the national anthem refers to violence as associated with the American flag ...and the rocket's red glare, the bombs bursting in air, gave proof to the night that our flag was still there. When we see kids murdered or murdering, we should realize that they are a reflection of us and the culture in which we live and accept. Our kids are modeling our values and cultural practices. The culture needs cleansing and a rebirth of values enriched with spirituality.

Violence portrayed in the media can also contribute to kids who commit murder. Kids and adolescents endure continual diet images of violence while being entertained by various media.

Today's kids are growing up too fast and do not have proper adult supervision. It's almost as if kids are expected or socialized or forced to grow up too soon. They become ‘early-age adults’ or ‘hurried kids,’ meaning they are exposed to and internalize adult forms of behavior. There's a lack of adult supervision because so many adults are working, or there's only one parent in the house. I am not denouncing single-parent families, because there are adults who are not supervising properly in two-parent homes as well. There are after-school hours where kids are not supervised. Kids in some instances are supervising themselves. You don't have people around saying, `No, that is not appropriate.'

The lack of extended family and a lack of community networking is also a factor. Grandmas and aunties are two hours away; they are not as intricately involved as they were years ago.

Drugs, gangs and the easy availability of guns also play a role in kids committing murder. Younger and younger kids are getting involved in drugs. They are also reacting to the premium society places on material goods, like expensive sneakers and other apparel. They may become obsessed about dressing a certain way or having something they can't afford. But we have to look at what kind of family circumstances exist for that child, what kind of school circumstances peer relationships exist for that child.

The perception is that crime in America is a Black problem. But the data does not support that. Whites kill Whites; Whites rob Whites. There's no doubt that things have been happening in their communities, but until now they have been seen as isolated events. This problem with our kids is happening everywhere, in heartland America, suburbia and rural communities.

Poverty and racism may contribute to the reasons that Black youths are killing one another. If you talk to one of these kids and ask him, ‘Why did you shoot him?’ … He'll say, ‘Because he dissed me.’ Disrespect has become rationale for taking someone's life.

People living under conditions of oppression have very little control over their lives. The issue of respect becomes tantamount. You can't control your income, you can't control whether you have a job or the money to support you and your family, but you can control the degree to which people show you respect. You can demand respect, particularly among other oppressed Black people.

Too many youths, particularly those in gangs, see how racism makes it difficult to succeed in society. The real question is, “What does it mean to grow up as a Black child in the United States in a society that has been steeped in racism?” They know as young Black men they are likely to have fewer opportunities to get a job, to be able to support themselves and be allowed to become respected members of society. The feeling of inequality leads to rage and the young men seem to be saying, ‘If you are not going to let me legitimately join society, I will, in effect, become your worst nightmare. I will become precisely what you don't want me to be: an angry young Black man with a gun.’

Violence is also about power. It is a means of establishing yourself in a society where you feel powerless. And if you are living in a society where the penalty is very high in expressing your rage toward the oppressors, the oppressed will express their rage and violence to one another.

If you take troubled kids and add guns and add a precipitating event in a society that glamorizes explosive responses to anger, you've got danger.

We need to look at the families themselves to see what kind of stresses the parents are putting on the kids. We have to look at the parents' parents to see if there is a pattern of violence that might explain why kids are killing kids. Kids are becoming more callous. They don't care if they die or if they live. They don't see a future for themselves. When you ask them, ‘Where do you see yourself?’ …They say, ‘I don't know.’ They don't see a future for themselves.

Parent Dealing With Difficult Teacher

My son is a brilliantly gifted 15 year old that is a total underachiever in school. He is currently expelled for having a knife at school and is attending a special program for such students. He is of course underachieving and not doing his work at this program. The relationship with him and his current teacher has gone downhill as she is trying to micro manage him. For example, today she got upset because he was using the computer to print out a time sheet for the community service that he was going to after school. I have tried to explain to him that he needs to listen to her as she holds the key to his future, at the moment (she decides if he passes or not).

I found out today that she told my son maybe he belongs in a juvenile facility. Being a child and youth worker who has worked in such facilities, I can say with all confidence that my son does not belong in jail. He also told me that she has previously told him that he has ODD. I do not know her credentials and doubt that she was conducting any controlled test. I find it extremely disturbing that she would say these things to a student. I am considering making a complaint to the school board to let them know that we are not in support of our son being diagnosed without our consent and having this comment flippantly made to him. As I stated before, I am sure her diagnosis was based on her frustrations and not any test she conducted on him.

I know that my son can be difficult and he is very headstrong. I am also a strong advocate for him and will not tolerate any missteps made by educators. I do not want him labeled, especially without having the labels explained to him. He did not have a clue what ODD was. I guess I am his biggest advocate but I don`t want to be over advocating if there is not an issue here.

Any feedback would be appreciated...

Thank you…



Hi E.,

When your kid comes home to you complaining about his difficult teacher, many times ones' first instinct is to get in the car, drive to the school then and there and "school the teacher" on the school's lawn, in front of the principal, the students and all of the other teachers.

I know I've been in that situation before, and the father lion in me some times wants to strike! But, I also want to teach my daughters about respectful conflict resolution, and though I do believe there's a time and a place for the lion to ROAR, your kid's school is, in most cases, not one of them.

Especially when you find out that your son maybe not as blameless in the situation as you've been led to believe. In other words, get the whole story before you go ballistic! Kids have a magical way of leaving key facts regarding their involvement in any wrongdoing when telling their moms & dads their woes.

I'm not saying kids are always in the wrong and teachers are infallible, I'm just saying that most teachers are pretty good folk. Most teachers do not go into education with the goal of creating a "difficult" environment for youngsters. Although I do know teachers who have stayed past their prime, usually people in education are there because they genuinely like kids and want to help them learn. Almost everyone your kid comes in contact with in an educational setting is going to want to see him or her succeed.

I will also say that many moms & dads have no idea what strains teachers are under today with what the government expects of us, what our districts expect of us, what our administration expects of us, what the moms & dads expect of us and what the kids expect of us. (Not to mention what our own families expect of us!) What may seem like a "difficult" teacher may actually be a teacher carrying out state-mandated assessments, or implementing district NCA accreditation goals. Or, that seemingly difficult teacher may just be having a rough day (many times as a result of all of those above-listed pressures).

When your son comes home with a complaint, you are, of course, his number one advocate. I know that there are situations when it is appropriate for moms & dads to intervene on behalf of their kid. However, in most cases, teachers, even seemingly difficult ones, are willing to work as a partner with moms & dads to do what's best for your kid.

Moms & dads must also remember that teachers are just like any other human being out there. Sometimes people "rub each other the wrong way." This can happen with teachers and students too. Sometimes a kid may just not like the teacher's personality. It's not the kid's job to act in a professional manner, so in some cases, the kid not liking the teacher can spill over into his behavior, which may cause conflict in the classroom.

Conversely, if a student raises a teacher's hackles, it is that teacher's job to remain professional and hopefully that teacher will never let on that he or she doesn't appreciate that kid’s personality quirks. However, teachers do make mistakes and if he does act inappropriately, he should apologize, and as a parent, you have the right to ask for that, if the teacher does not offer to do so on his own.

Moms & dads, though, should insist on their youngster's respect for all teachers, at all times, even when that kid perceives the teacher to be "difficult."

Now what if it isn't just a rough day for the teacher? What if your kid is making consistent complaints about this teacher? I suggest, as a sign of respect, using the proper chain of command. Depending on the age of the kid, you could ask your kid to try to talk to the teacher first to see if he can solve the problem on his own. If your kid is too young or too shy and you feel it's time for you to intervene, talk directly to the teacher. Send him or her an email, call him or her or make an appointment to see him or her in person. See what you, your kid and the teacher can work out. You'd be surprised what you can accomplish with a two-sentence email, or a five-minute phone conversation.

If you do this and do not receive satisfaction after trying this, talk with the school counselor. If there is still no agreement reached, it is at this point you should probably take it to the top and call the principal. It would be unusual if you tried all of these steps and were unable to come up with some sort of solution to satisfy all parties.

I am of the opinion that most teachers, administrators, and counselors that I know will bend over backwards, do flips, cartwheels, and stand on their heads, do the conga, or cha-cha with a pit bull to ensure that a kid succeeds. And, a parent can take a kid far, but ultimately, especially at the high school level, the kid has to go the full distance on his/her own.

I know that one of the means to my own youngster's success is teaching them how to problem solve, deal with people that they may or may not like, and to be respectful of all people. It may be your first instinct to take care of your kid's problem for him or her, but allowing them the chance to work through it on their own can oftentimes be more the more valuable experience.

We all encounter difficult people in our everyday lives. School, many times, ends up being a microcosm for the "real world." Students can actually benefit from working through their problems with their difficult teachers because chances are that teacher won't be the last difficult person he or she encounters. And, when your kid sees you modeling respect for the teacher, even though you may not agree with everything the teacher says or does, your kid can learn a valuable lesson on working through conflict.

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

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