My family is in the middle of a great deal of turmoil...

Dear Mark,

I just want to thanks you. My family is in the middle of a great deal of turmoil. My husband of almost 25 years asked me for a divorce in November of 2008. Since then, our daughter has ran away twice, cut her arm and spent a week in an inpatient psychiatric facility, has totally changed her dress and her set of friends and has been diagnosed with depression and was placed on medications.

What I found interesting is how much she seemed to be feeding into the diagnosis of "depression" and her "anger issues". I also noticed that the medications actually made her more miserable and her defiant behavior escalated. Your ebook has helped so much and I am only in the first week!

I have fired the counselors, weaned my child off medications and I am ready to begin the work of becoming a stronger, more focused parent. My soon to be ex-husband has also agreed to purchase the program and we intend on working it together to get our daughter back on track.

I thank you for your help and guidance. Please pray for my family as I will for yours.



My Out-of-Control Daughter

I know this [program] is working...


Thanks, I know this is working. This morning, my son was refused his request to drive to driver's ed. He threatened that he wouldn't go. I rolled the window up and shut the engine off and grabbed my purse and opened the door without a fight and he backed down and got in the passenger side.

He said he hated both me and his dad. He is finally expressing his resentment towards his father that he's kept bottled up.

My daughter is compliant with the changes, and earned a reward yesterday to stay the night with a friend. I hadn't been as permissive with her in the past, because she's been the fighter at school, and always gotten attention thru negative behavior and my son, had been 'the good kid'.


My Out-of-Control Teen

Abuse by Brother

Hi Mark,

Let me start by saying thanks. Not that we are into the program enough to have had any changes occur, but because you have opened my eyes to how I may have contributed to my sons behaviour and more importantly, the basic things I can do (which my husband says is common sense!) to help him and our family. I must be one of a few, that for me, it wasn’t part of my make up and I didn’t have these ideas naturally. Needless to say, I have over compensated on nurturing, thinking that I was guiding and educating with an open mind and respect for these ‘little people’ and have sort of let them down.

All will change soon, and my 12 yr old son (C___) is crying out for more structure and guidelines. Just to give you a heads up, he has been diagnosed with ‘Aspergers Traits’ and an exceptional IQ which sometimes makes our task a little more trying! C___ actually skipped a grade at primary school, and has just started secondary school this year.

My question in the chat was concerning siblings. C___’s younger brother is the polar opposite of C___. He is compliant, respectful (as far as 10yr olds go), intuitive, empathetic etc, etc. He is young though in some of his ways and really cops a lot of verbal abuse and physical abuse from C___. He is often in tears about this and even though his heart says ‘I love my brother’, he is really having a battle because he can’t bear the treatment he gets.

I positively encourage him and thank him for his tolerance and patience etc. and describe that C___ sees the world differently to him and that we are trying to help with this, but my heart breaks when it happens and I want him to feel a bit more empowered with the situation, rather than a ‘victim’.

I am in Australia Mark, and it is 10.30am here. We are currently in the midst of a sleepover Birthday party for C___, as the 14th June is his 12th birthday however, like most years, we have had a heated discussion & incidents whether his friends are present or not. We may have a cross over in time zones but I hope you can give me some advice.


Sibling rivalry issues are covered in the Q & A blog:

I'll copy and paste:

“Ignoring” behavior is an over-rated parenting strategy – but when it comes to sibling rivalry – it is often the best strategy. Here’s a two-part plan:

1. Don't take sides. If you intervene in squabbling, it should never be on one side or the other. Never intervene on one side or the other unless there is possible harm. By harm I mean the possibility of causing injury, not minor pain. Say, "The two of you stop it” …rather than, “Michael, stop hitting your brother” (which sounds like you’re taking sides).

2. Never listen to what went on. And I mean never. Again, the only exception is if there is potential harm to one or the other child.

When rivalry is present, here are the four common issues that kids are really fighting about:

1. Expressing competition. We live in a competitive society and sibling rivalry is an extension of that. It’s a way for kids to compete with each other and learn how to manage their own competitive behavior.

2. Getting a parent’s attention. This is the most common issue that spurs sibling fighting.

3. Jealousy. One sibling may be jealous of the other (what the other one has, how the other one looks, or how well the other one does in school).

4. Teasing. Sibling fighting may take the form of teasing. By doing this, they test the limits of what’s socially acceptable. In the family, kids can test what they can say by judging what kind of pain it causes. Though children may learn important lessons about how to interact with other people, there are other ways to learn that are less hurtful.

Here’s a list of helpful tips that parents can use to reduce or stop sibling rivalry:

· Avoid favoritism. Some researchers believe that perceived favoritism is the greatest cause of sibling rivalry. So avoiding it helps immensely. This can be challenging since parents may favor certain traits in teenagers over other traits. That means teenagers who have the favored traits become favored.

Hint #1: Pay attention to each child and determine what kind of attention is needed. Consider that teenagers are different and need different things at different times. An exact minute for minute accounting of your attention is not essential. Sometimes a child may require some extra time.

Hint #2: Give each child his or her own special time with you. During this time, make sure no one else is around to compete for your attention.

· Don’t take sides, don't be the judge. When they’re fighting, tell the kids, “I want you two to work this out,” and walk away. Don’t get involved in the fight.

· Don't pay attention to the fight; stay out of it. If they are fighting for your attention and you don't get involved, they will learn other, hopefully better ways to get your attention.

· Know when to intervene. Sibling rivalry can develop into abuse if one sibling regularly victimizes the other. If you follow all of the above, this probably will not happen. But if you’re still struggling with this situation, be alert. Check to see if someone is really getting hurt and who’s too helpless to stop the abuser. The abuse can be physical, emotional, or sexual. If it’s going on, your response must be prompt and significant. This must not be allowed. If you can’t stop the abuser yourself, seek outside help—a counselor, a friend of family member, or the police or other authorities if you can't stop it any other way.

· Make clear that ongoing conflict is unacceptable. When the fighting has stopped, say something to the rivals like, “I’m unhappy with the present level of fighting and I want you two to find a way to work this out.” If a fight is just beginning, you may give the rivals a group goal so they can work together for a positive outcome.

· Offer problem-solving strategies when the teenagers are not fighting. It may be necessary to work with each child individually, but be really careful that you are not inadvertently playing into the rivalry by giving the desired attention. Offer support without saying whether the child is right or wrong. Ask what the child thinks the fight was about and how he or she might avoid this kind of fight in the future.

· Remain positive. By finding something positive about each of your teenagers on an ongoing basis, you’ll reduce the level of sibling rivalry.

· Teach empathy. Empathy is the opposite of sibling rivalry. The more sensitive siblings are to each other’s emotions, the less they’ll challenge each other as rivals.

...More on sibling rivalry is in the audio section:

...Also, you will want to use the strategy in session #3 [online version of the eBook].

Good luck,


"Rebellious Teen"

Hello Mark,

I wish I would have known about your program 2 years ago when the problems started with Lauren. She was 15 when everything hit the fan and just celebrated her 18th birthday. I would say we're at the 3rd stage where the blow ups are less frequent and less intense. Just reading about how things were and how you suggested resolving them let me see where I made my mistakes as a parent and how I actually am doing better now than I thought. Even though Lauren has made some positive changes in her life and attitude I am able to see now how everything went to pot in the first place. She is the youngest of 4 and there are 9 years between her and her sister who is third and her brothers are 12 and 15 years older. I think I felt bad that Lauren was an "only child" and gave in a lot of times where I never would have with my other kids. I got caught up in the emotional tug of war and we did go to therapy and I ended up being the one who continued to go to assure myself that I wasn't loosing my grip. Even though our situation isn't as bad as it was I can see that your program will still provide me and my husband with many tools to continue on the right path. I finished Session 1 today and plan on listening to the audio, watching the videos and reading the e book a few times this week. I'm not sure what made me type "rebellious teen" into the search bar last night but I'm so glad that I did.


My Out-of-Control Teen

I feel stronger because I'm not alone in this...

Hi Mark,

I joined OPS a week ago. As a single parent of a 15 year old daughter without any support I have tendency to panic whenever any situation arises because I'm scared she will win again. Now just after my first two sessions I feel stronger because I'm not alone in this.

Yesterday when I listened about all the 5 stages of Anger Ladder, I was amazed: you've described exactly what I go through with my kid from time to time . Now I know why.

Thank you,


My Out-of-Control Teen

We had a blow out the other day because of a pierced lip...

Hi Mark, I just purchased your program today. I am going to try and make this brief. My daughter has been with father for the last 4 months we have 50/50 custody. Recently she has talked about moving back and going to her old school. We had a blow out the other day because of a pierced lip that her father allowed her to get knowing this is not allowed in my house. I would also not get her a dress that night. She hit me called me bad names and was out of control. I called her father and said I would be picking her up Sunday night and am going back to 50/50 custody because of how she felt I have no control over her behavior. My problem is this program takes about 4 weeks and this Sunday is days away. My question is should I not pick her up and let her stay with her father if that is what she so desires and explain I love her and this would be her choice to live with her father instead of being with me and the rules at our house. Or should I pick her up Sunday night and really try to get through this program while she is here week on week off? Because I have no have time to go through the program I don't know what would be best. Your help is greatly appreciated, S.

Click here for my response...

Practical tips to diffuse the hatred between father and daughter?

Hi Mark

During the last few weeks me and my husband have been following (as much as we can) your program.

Thank you for the great idea to make it available on line.

We have a fourteen year old daughter and an eight year old son.

Our daughter is very well described in your lectures. I recognised that my overindulging approach and the fact that in the past me and my husband had different opinions on her parenting and also the fact that she is very strong willed person led to her behaviour problems.

Before starting the program we were aware that she was having sex with her 18 year old boyfriend. Her constant threatening that she might run away stopped me from interfering directly. In the very beginning of the program we decided that we cannot let this continuing and my husband spoke to the boyfriend's parents and the boy himself. He just said that she was 14 and they needed to be supervised. I do not regret this step. But it happened that he spoke to his parents when she was completely unaware and babysitting her brother. Needless to say she was very hurt and felt betrayed by us.

After that we are trying really hard to keep being firm and give her the consequences of her bad choices. Meanwhile we encourage all the small positive steps that she does.

It is a really long list how many boundaries she pushed in the last 3-4 weeks:

*violting curfew
* skipping school for 4 days
*smoking in the house
*asking for a lift to her best friend's in the night for sleepover just we to realise the next morning that they both disappeared that night and came 8 am in her fiends house
*leaving the house without telling anyone
*being really rude and calling us names and swearing
* taking all the pills from our cabinet (paracetamol and aspirin)

Only by the Lord's grace I am still sane.

I can see that my husband's patience is running over. He started to rage at her.

On the few occasions when she was able to talk to me she said that she frankly hates us and she really hates her father. They never had a good relationship but now it is a nightmare. I keep reminding myself that the things are expected to get worse before get better. It seems that my husband lost the hope to establish a healthy relationship with our daughter and to see her growing into a responsible adult.

Can you give me some practical tips how to diffuse the hatred between them.

I cannot understand whether she realises that her behauvior cannot be tolerated as it is now or she is still in her angry state not accepting the consequences because she just hates this family and refuses to follow the rules in the family.

Thank you for your support.



Hi M.,

As a parent, you want to do everything for your child but you have to realize that sooner or later, they must do things on their own. They have to learn about how to earn their own money, how to manage it, and how to make smart financial decisions with it. The longer you keep on handing everything to your children, the harder it will be for them to learn these crucial life skills and lessons on their own and that will severely backfire on them in their adult life.

I think as children grow older, you have to say “No” more frequently, and make them work hard for the things they want to have, because you have to teach them the value of hard work, the value of a dollar, the virtue of patience, of delayed gratification, etc., or else they will never learn and that’s a greater disservice to them in the long run.

People whose parents didn’t provide them with everything usually appreciate the things they have more. They have to work hard in order to get those things they need on their own, which usually makes them more financially responsible, more responsible in general, harder workers, etc. I ‘m not saying that ALL people whose parents didn’t provide them with everything will turn out like that -- nor am I saying that those people whose parents provided them with everything cannot also garner those same qualities.

All I’m saying is that those whose parents did not provide them with everything have a greater opportunity to develop those crucial life skills that are critical in adult life simply because they need to. Those who got everything handed to them usually don’t have that need to develop those crucial life skills, so they don’t spend time cultivating them.

What’s my point?

Don’t spend any time or energy worrying about trying to be “the good guy.” You are not a “buddy.”

Your job is to help your daughter foster the development of “self-reliance.” And you are totally powerless over whether or not she chooses to harbor resentment based on your more assertive parenting style.

Mark Hutten, M.A.

My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents

Head Injury & Child Behavior Problems


It has been a while since I last contacted you. I just wanted to let you know that I___’s results of the QEEG have shown significant frontal cortex impairment which would affect his behaviour. I attach a copy of the letter the Clinical Neuro psychologist sent to the school requesting for additional time for his exams.

The neuro-psychologist says that it is not a license for his bad behaviour though. But she does point out that he cannot control his anger and does not always know what he is doing until it is too late. Also she says he should not be provoked or argued with as his brain cannot deal with it. It seems that he does go into a mad fit when he is angry.

In the meantime, we have had 4 sessions of Brain biofeedback treatment after the QEEG test (weekly sessions, he requires at least 18) for which I have to pay.

His behaviour, however, has become somewhat erratic. He has been caught in school while he was excluded from it for rude behaviour to a teacher) for drinking from a can of beer in the playground with a friend of his. This is the friend called Lloyd who is getting him in a lot of trouble (drinking, truanting bad behaviour, who has been expelled from a previous school). I___ seems to have joined forces with this trouble maker and together they are causing double trouble.

Question: You told me last time, to wait until I get the results of I___’s QEEG test which I have and which confirm frontal cortex damage. He is receiving treatment. In the meantime, while he is receiving these weekly sessions to repair his brain (he can only have 1/ week) as the brain cannot cope with any more. What do I do about his rude behaviour and drinking alcohol with friends, staying out late at night at the weekend with the same (bad) friends? His swearing at me and his dad if we reprimand him of any of his behaviour. He is breaking furniture in his bedroom and being rude and fighting with his brother. He can be quiet and good for about 7 – 10 days and then something will spark him off, normally when he does not get his own way or I ask him to have a time out. Whereas I feel that when I first started with your programme, I was very slowly getting some success but now with the diagnosis, I don’t know which way to turn. Should he be allowed to get away with everything as I cannot confront him.


This situation does put you in a "double bind". On the one hand, the psychologist is saying "that it is not a license for his bad behavior" ...but on the other hand, you have been advised that "he should not be provoked or argued with."


If you follow the program as outlined, you will not be doing any "provoking" or "arguing." I know you may want to view your situation as extremely unique -- and you may always run the risk of "feeling sorry" for your son. However, your situation is not that much different from any other parent who is working this program -- and you should NOT fall into the "feeling sorry" trap.

Continue to work the program with no modifications. After all, this program is designed for kids who have issues such as mood disorders, impulse control problems, anger management difficulties, and so on.

Here are some pointers:

Head injury survivors may experience a range of neuro­psychological problems following a traumatic brain injury. Depending on the part of the brain affected and the severity of the injury, the result on any one child can vary greatly. Personality changes, memory and judgment deficits, lack of impulse control, and poor concentration are all common. Behavioral changes can be stressful for families and caregivers who must learn to adapt their communication techniques, established relationships, and expectations of what the impaired child can or cannot do.

In some cases extended cognitive and behavioral rehabilitation in a residential or outpatient setting will be necessary to regain certain skills. A neuropsychologist also may be helpful in assessing cognitive deficits. However, over the long term both the survivor and any involved family members will need to explore what combination of strategies work best to improve the functional and behavioral skills of the impaired child.

Even a child who makes a “good” recovery may go through some personality changes. Family members must be careful to avoid always comparing the impaired child with the way he/she “used to be.” Personality changes are often an exaggeration of the child's pre-injury personality in which personality traits become intensified. Some changes can be quite striking. It may be, for example, the head injury survivor used to be easy going, energetic, and thoughtful and now seems easily angered, self-absorbed, and unable to show enthusiasm for anything. Nonetheless, try not to criticize or make fun of the impaired child’s deficits. This is sure to make the child feel frustrated, angry, or embarrassed.

Head injury survivors may experience short-term problems and/or amnesia related to certain periods of time. Generally, new learning presents the greatest challenge to memory or remembering. In contrast, pre-injury knowledge is more easily retained. The ability to focus and concentrate are keys to addressing some short-term memory problems.

· Have the child repeat the name of a person or object, after you, if memory impairment is severe.

· Keep distractions (e.g., music, noise) to a minimum and focus on one task at a time.

· Keep to routines. Keep household objects in the same place. Use the same route to walk to the mail box or bus stop.

· Whenever possible, have the child write down key information (e.g., appointments, phone messages, list of chores).

If getting lost is a problem, you can label doors or color code doors inside the house or hang arrows to indicate directions. When going out, the child should be accompanied initially to ensure the route is understood. A simple map can be sketched from the bus stop to the house. And make sure that the child always carries his/her address and emergency phone numbers.

A structured environment can be essential in helping a head injury survivor relearn basic skills. A written routine schedule of activities and repetition make it easier to remember what’s expected and what to do next.

After a head injury a child may lack emotional responses such as smiling, laughing, crying, anger, or enthusiasm or their responses may be inappropriate. This may be especially present during the earlier stages of recovery. Recognize that this is part of the injury. Try not to take it personally if the child does not show an appropriate response.

Encourage the child to recognize your smile at a humorous situation (or tears if you are sad) and to take note of the proper response.

In some cases, neurological damage after a head injury may cause emotional volatility (intense mood swings or extreme reactions to everyday situations). Such overreactions could be sudden tears, angry outbursts, or laughter. It is important to understand that the child has lost some degree of control over emotional responses. The key to handling lability is recognizing that the behavior is unintentional. Caregivers should model calm behavior and try not to provoke further stress by being overly critical. Help the child recognize when his/her emotional responses are under control and support/reinforce techniques that work.

Provided a situation does not present a physical threat, various approaches may be used to diffuse hostile behavior:

· Do not challenge or confront the child when he is already angry about something Rather, negotiate (e.g., if you don’t like what’s planned for dinner tonight, how about choosing Friday’s menu?). Try to understand the source of the anger. Is there a way to address the child’s need/frustration? (e.g., make a phone call, choose an alternative activity).

· Help the child regain a sense of control by asking if there is anything that would help him/her feel better.

· Ignore the small problems.

· Isolate the disruptive impaired child. Consider you own safety and his/hers. Treat each incident as an isolated occurrence as the survivor may not remember having acted this way before or may need to be prompted to remember. Try to establish consistent, non-confrontational responses from all family members (children may need to learn some “dos” and “don’ts” in reacting to the survivor).

· Offer alternative ways to express anger (e.g., a punching bag, a gripe list).

· Remain as calm as you can.

· Seek support for yourself as a caregiver. Support groups, professional counselors, and, if necessary, protective services or law enforcement may be contacted.

· Show extra affection and support to address underlying frustrations.

· Try to change the child’s mood by agreeing with the child (if appropriate) and thus avoiding an argument.

· Validate the emotion by identifying the feelings and letting the child know these feelings are legitimate. Frustration over the loss of functional and/or cognitive abilities can reasonably provoke anger.

The child who has survived a head injury may lack empathy. That is, some head injury survivors have difficulty seeing things through someone else's eyes. The result can be thoughtless or hurtful remarks or unreasonable, demanding requests. This behavior stems from a lack of abstract thinking.

Help cue the child to recognize thoughtlessness. Remind him/her to practice polite behavior. Realize that awareness of other people's feelings may have to be relearned. “Cueing” or reminders can be helpful in improving concentration and attention. Repeat the question. Don’t give too much information at once, and check to see that the child is not tired.

Head injury survivors should be encouraged to develop self-checks by asking themselves questions such as:

· “Did I understand everything?”

· “Did I write it down?”

· “I made a mistake” or “I’m not sure” should lead to the conclusion, “let me slow down and concentrate so I can correct the error.”

· “Is this what I’m supposed to be doing?”

Correct actions should be consciously praised, “I did a good job”.

It is relatively common for a head injury survivor to be unaware of his/her deficits. Remember that this is a part of the neurological damage and not just rebelliousness. Be aware, however, that denial can also be a coping mechanism to conceal the fear that he/she cannot do a particular task. The child may insist that the activity cannot be done or is “stupid.”

· Build self-esteem by encouraging the child to try a (non-dangerous) activity that he/she feels confident doing.

· Give the child visual and verbal reminders or “hints” (e.g., a smile or the words "good job") to improve confidence in carrying out basic activities more independently.

· If you feel the child can handle confrontation, challenge him/her to try the activity. Demonstrate that you can do the task easily.

Coping with behavior problems after a head injury requires identification and acknowledgment of the impaired child’s deficits. A comprehensive neuropsychological assessment is recommended. This may help both the survivor and the family to better understand neurological and cognitive deficits.

In some cases, it may be easier for the family caregiver to recognize personality changes than to resolve the problem behavior. Targeted strategies may be used to deal with specific behavioral issues.

Finally, it is critical that family members seek and receive support (family, friends, support group, counselor) in dealing with their own emotional responses to caring for a head injured loved one.

Good Luck!

Mark Hutten, M.A.

Recommended Reading—

Awake Again, Martin Krieg (1994), WRS Publishing, available from the author: P.O. Box 3346, Santa Cruz, CA 95063. (408) 426-8830.

Head Injury and the Family: A Life and Living Perspective, Arthur Dell Orto and Paul Power (1994) GR Press, 6959 University Blvd., Winter Park, FL 32193. (800) 438-5911.

Head Injury Peer Support Group Training Manual, Family Caregiver Alliance (1993): San Francisco, CA.

Professional Series and Coping Series, HDI Publishers, PO Box 131401, Houston, TX 77219. (800) 321-7037.

Therapeutic Fun for Head Injured Persons and Their Families, Sally Kneipp (ed) 1988, Community Skills Program, c/o Counseling and Rehabilitation, Inc., 1616 Walnut St., #800, Philadelphia, PA 19103.