Education and Counseling for Individuals Affected by Oppositional Defiant Disorder and ADHD

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17 year old has some issues with authority...

My 17 year old has some issues with authority and is considered selfish. If he does good in school he should be able to spend the night out (both Fri/Sat). The group he hangs with is a little older and has parents that allow their house to be the local hangout (stays up till 3-5). I plan to sit down tonight with a list of consequences - no car 1 week, no phone 2 weeks, no allowance, etc., and am considering an intervention using some friends and family. What can you suggest?


A lot of 17-year-olds think they're grown up enough to set their own rules and to do such things as stay out all night. When you talk with him, emphasize that while his friends may have parents who think it's okay for them to stay out all night, that's not true in your family. In your family, you take your duties as parents seriously, and you believe it is your obligation to know where your child is, what he is doing, and that he is going to be safe in the house by a certain time (whatever your rule is about a curfew). You can tell him that that is the way you see it. If he continues to violate this rule, there will be more consequences. When he decides he is old enough to live on his own, then, of course, he can make any rules for his own life that he chooses. (I'm not necessarily in favor of an intervention for something like this).


My Out-of-Control Teen

Dealing with Violent Children

Hi Mark. Thanks so much for the parenting material, it has given my wife and I some positive direction in parenting our oppositional 10 year old boy. He ticks nearly all the boxes for ODD and in addition to working your program, we are endeavoring to have him see a child psychologist. However he is reluctant to go and when he does go he pretends everything is okay, insisting that he can control himself. The reason I am writing to you is that he has become increasingly violent, particularly towards my wife, often punching and kicking her with force. Should I be physically restraining him? This seems to increase his violence and up the level of his tantrum. I'm trying to stay poker-faced but still feel I need to do something to protect my wife and our children. I have taken our boy to the police after a recent violent episode, mainly for scare tactics, but they seemed quite bemused by the fact I would bring him. I'm also wondering if there is some medical issue below the surface here, but it is extremely difficult to get him to co-operate to go anywhere for assessment.


Re: restraining...

Yes – you should restrain. Why? Because you want to model for your son how the REAL WORLD operates. And in the real world, physical violence results in being “arrested” (in the fullest sense of the term). It would be best, however, to prevent these violent episodes to begin with. It’s much easier to deal with small fires rather than blazing infernos.

Re: testing...

Have him examined by a Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist. Ask for a “comprehensive psychiatric evaluation.” You want to rule out any biological issues (e.g., brain damage). Assuming the violence is behaviorally-based rather than some medical condition, here are a few items to consider...

Although the roots of child violence are varied, violent children often share a pattern of beliefs and feelings that support their aggressive behavior. In some cases, it is relatively easy to punish the behavior, but it can be much more difficult to change the underlying thoughts and emotions of a violent youngster. To be effective, treatment approaches for violent children need to take these factors into account:

1. A 'me against the world' attitude: Kids who become violent have often learned to see the world as a cold and hostile place. They develop a habit of thought that attributes hostile intentions to others. This attitude leaves them little choice but to fight virtually all the time. If, for example, another youngster bumps up against them in the hallway at school, they immediately take offense, certain that they were attacked. They cannot imagine that perhaps the bumping was just clumsiness on the other youngster's part or an attempt to tease that really wasn't hostile.

2. Always the victim: Even while they are the aggressors, violent children almost always think of themselves as victims -- of unfair parents, teachers, of other bullies, of prejudice -- and believe that their violent acts are therefore totally justified.

3. Distorted thinking: Violent kids come to believe that overpowering another person is a mark of strength and worth, and that violence is a legitimate way to resolve conflict. Popular media support this idea, with wrestlers who pound their opponents without mercy and so-called action heroes who slaughter foes by the truckload. For good or bad, the government unwittingly encourages the idea that "might makes right" when it engages in shows of strength celebrating the Army and police. Violent kids needn't look far for evidence that force is what really counts.

4. Never safe: The aggressive youngster sees the world as an unsafe place in which there are only victims and victimizers, so he (unconsciously) chooses to be one of the latter. The power and delight he takes in hurting others, in combination with his already numbed emotions, can make for a lethal mixture.

5. Self-esteem: For some kids, aggression toward others may be a powerful source of self-esteem, particularly if they lack other confirmation of their human worth. In many cases, the problem is not lack of self-esteem in general – but lack of self-esteem related to positive, peaceful accomplishments.

6. The loss of empathy: Violent kids often don't even recognize (much less feel) the suffering of others. Empathy develops early in infancy. Most nine-month-old infants register concern if they see their parents crying, for example. Kids who have been emotionally traumatized learn to protect themselves from further emotional damage by shutting off their own feelings along with any empathic feelings they might have for others.

It isn't difficult to recognize many of these beliefs and emotions in kids who act violently, but it is hard to know how to correct them. While it is clear to others that many of the ideas the violent youngster harbors are wrong and that the scope of his feelings is narrowed, from the inside, these thoughts and feelings make perfect sense. Every experience the youngster has seems to reinforce the idea that the world is an unfair place.

So what can you do?

Here’s some advice on dealing with violent kids:

1. Acknowledge your role. When one youngster - or the "target child" - is acting out, the family will blame him or her for the family's dysfunction. Oftentimes, you will see a family that will present a disruptive youngster for treatment ... this is the sacrificial lamb for the family's toxicity. I advise moms and dads to examine their own behavior, and if need be, the entire family should seek counseling.

2. Don't get into a power struggle with a youngster. Sometimes aggressive kids know that if they struggle long enough with their moms and dads, by yelling, screaming, or throwing temper tantrums. Be firm in disciplining your youngster and let him know that there boundaries that he have to observe.

3. Every youngster has currency. Use it! There's not a youngster born that doesn't have currency, whether it's toys, clothes, games, or television. Access to this "currency" needs to be contingent upon proper behavior. For example, if a youngster throws a temper tantrum, he should not be rewarded with a toy or an activity. He needs to understand the consequences of his behavior. Predict the consequences of his actions with 100 percent accuracy.

4. Maintain a unified front. Sometimes aggressive kids know that if they engage in "divide and conquer" tactics with their moms and dads, they will be able to get their way. Be unified in your parenting. If you're together, if you're unified and if you're there for each other, then all of a sudden there's strength in numbers. Don't forget to close the ranks.

5. Obtain a proper diagnosis from a psychologist. Many times, moms and dads are quick to make evaluations of their kid's unruly behavior, such as blaming aggressiveness on ADHD or ODD. Revisit your evaluations, because a youngster's violence may be stemming from other issues. Don't make judgments until you get to the root of the problem.

6. Stop being intimidated by your youngster. Many moms and dads are afraid to discipline an unruly youngster for fear that their youngster will resent them for being an authority figure. Your youngster doesn't have to like you or even love you, but he does have to respect the parent-child relationship, and realize that there will be consequences for negative actions. Recognize that you don't have to be your youngster's friend, but you do have to be his parent.

My Out-of-Control Child: Help for Parents

Dealing with a Runaway Daughter

Mark, I'm the one that wrote you about my daughter running away. She is still missing and we keep hearing various chatter rumors from school that she is with this person or that person. Today I heard that she is with the original person she was with, which I've heard is dangerous! I also heard that they’re in downtown Reno jumping from hotel to hotel to not be detected. The police are not looking for her since she is a runaway – so they’re no help. I have to get all the leads and report them to the detective. I'm also working with the school police, which are also not much help! We've made posters and posted them everywhere, but in this one area, they are being taken down. I don't know if this is the lifestyle she wants or if she's being exploited. Her twin sister is very agitated everyday and wants to know if her sister is okay, but does not want her to come home because she says she's such a bitch.

Mark, I know you can't do much from where you are at but I'm desperate for some kind of support...I’m going crazy with worry and the unknown. Thank you, D.


Hi D.,

Several important points here:
  • She is enjoying that fact that you are worried to death (a control issue for her; once again the "tail is wagging the dog").
  • She is probably somewhat safe (for the most part, although you will probably disagree).
  • She is (ironically) developing "self-reliance," which oddly enough is the whole goal of this program.
  • She WILL want to return home eventually (that's pretty much a guarantee, although again you may disagree). And when she does, let her know up front that she will have to abide by very specific house rules (draft up a contract and have her sign-off).
  • As long as you are doing your good detective work (be sure to refer to the eBook on how this is done), then your only other assignment is to stop taking ownership of your daughter's choices.

Here's something that will be very strange for you to understand:

When you "let go" of this situation (i.e., trust that this is actually all a good thing that will work out for the best in the long run), the universe will step-in and begin to assist. The more you worry and try to control the situation, the more you will push her away. The more you let go and trust that something good is in the works, the more you will attract her. It sounds like you've done your part - the rest is now up to your daughter.

(I told you this would be a weird concept - but trust me on this one.)

Mark Hutten, M.A.

Online Parent Support: Help for Parents with Defiant, Out-of-Control Teenagers

How do you motivate your teenager to look for a job?

"My question is how do you motivate your teenager to look for a job? He says he would like having a job and his own money, but feels like he doesn't stand a chance of actually getting a job ...he has kinda given up before even trying."

The first thing you can do to motivate your teenager to find a job is to help him with some of the initial steps. This includes creating a resume, discussing how to dress when going on an interview, and talking to him about how to respond while in an interview. Do a mock interview with your teenager and make suggestions on what he needs to improve.

Read the resume and check for grammatical errors, typos and accuracy of the information. Note that the resume reads well and that it is laid out consistently throughout. A good resume is paramount in procuring employment. You should also help him draft a cover letter if he does not already have one.

It is important for your teenager to understand that he cannot dress the same way he dresses when hanging out with friends. He should dress professionally, neat and clean. Being well groomed is also important when teaching your teenager how to find a job. Encourage your teenager to wear a standard black pair of pants and a white shirt when he finally gets a job interview.

In today's economy, your teenager will have to be aggressive in his job search. On his first job search outing, accompany your teenager. Introduce yourself and your teenager. After the introduction, let your teenager talk and leave a copy of his resume. Instruct your teenager to ask for an interview.

Don't assume that your teen knows the right way to go about finding a job. Ask him questions to understand his thinking and his approach to finding a job. Based on what he says, coach him on effective techniques to finding a job. After coaching my son on how to find a job, he received a job interview after the first "how to find a job" session. Prior to that, he had been trying to find a job for over four months and was getting very discouraged and to the point of giving up.

So, to motivate your teen to look for work, help him “get off the ground” with the initial steps that lead to landing the job, namely:
  1. Help prepare resume
  2. Practice the interview process
  3. Take your teenager out the first time
  4. Show him how to dress for success
  5. Teach him to be aggressive in his job search

Online Parent Support: Help for Parents with Defiant, Out-of-Control Teenagers

Younger Girls Dating Older Boys: Tips for Parents

Parents often worry about their daughters having an older boyfriend. According to data from the Centers for Disease Control, it turns out they have good reason to be worried. Here's just one example:

Kayla is 14. Her boyfriend is 18.

Kayla says, "I have to admit, because I am dating an older guy, you know, I am very more open to alcohol, just because, I can ask him, 'Hey can you go to the store and buy me something?'"

Kayla says another risk of dating an older guy might be getting pressured into having sex. She says, "I think a lot of guys especially in high school will go for younger girls just because they'll give it up, you know. They are willing to experiment, they are easier."

New research shows one in four girls who have had sex say their first time was with a guy at least three years older.

Kayla says, "When guys are older, girls will trust them: 'Oh, he knows what he's talking about. He has more experience.'"

The research shows that, with an older boy, girls are less likely to use a condom and more likely to get pregnant than other sexually active teens. So, frequently the younger girl is naïve. Sometimes she doesn't have the assertiveness to stand up for herself and demand that a condom be used.

Studies also show that, on average, girls who lost their virginity to an older boy ended up having more sexual partners than girls whose first time was with someone their own age. They frequently will start feeling like damaged goods, or that they are down a road sexually that they weren't ready to go down, but there's no going back. So, they will frequently then go onto another relationship with an older guy. Research also shows 10% of sexually active boys lose their virginity to a girl at least three years older, and that they, too, face damaging effects to their health.

Parents can set ground rules (e.g., teens can only date someone who is one grade level above them). You want to have your children talking to you about who they are interested in, who they think is cute, and who they have their eyes on. If you are having good communication with your teens, you get those clues a long time before they come home and say they have a boyfriend who's 18.

Online Parent Support: Help for Parents with Out-of-Control Teens

Children and Head Banging

"My son hits his head so hard and so often he has dark bruises on his forehead. He does this when he is frustrated, angry and anxious. What can I do to help him? He has told me he knows it's wrong but just can't stop. Please help me to help my son."

Kids who are emotionally and physically healthy, as well as kids with developmental or sensory issues, may "head bang." It is thought that head banging is a self-soothing process that kids partake in, much like thumb sucking or an attachment to a blanket or toy. Kids that bang their heads have at some point found the rocking or rhythmic sensations calming, and an aid to sleep.

Alternatively, some kids appear to bang their heads in an attempt to stimulate themselves or to bring pleasure. However, head banging may occur in combination with temper tantrums. While this may appear as if the youngster is trying to hurt himself or herself, it is usually the youngster’s way of trying to relieve stress.

Young people who are under-stimulated (those who are blind, deaf, bored, or lonely) head bang for stimulation. Kids who are over stimulated (in an overwhelming environment) find the rhythmic movements of head banging soothing. Head banging may be a symptom of autism, Tourette syndrome or seizure disorders.

You should take your youngster to the pediatrician immediately if he is engaging in head banging for a long period of time and seems unaware of his surroundings. If head banging is the only way a youngster can be soothed, or if he is unresponsive to attempts by you to interact with him, you should seek out medical attention.

Kids who bang their heads excessively and cause themselves harm may have a developmental disability. These kids may have to take medication or wear a helmet to protect themselves from injury. Older kids who bang their heads may need the attention of a psychologist. A psychologist can help the youngster find the source of his stress and teach him ways to cope.

Medical attention is usually not necessary in regards to head banging. However, you should make sure your youngster’s pediatrician is aware of the behavior. Unless the head banging is excessive or causing bumps or bruising, most pediatricians will advise parents to leave the youngster alone and to not interfere with head banging. Most kids outgrow this behavior in a few months.

Typically, healthy children don't seriously injure themselves while banging their head. Pain prevents them from banging too hard. Also, kids under 3 don't generate enough force to cause brain damage or neurological problems. The front or front/side of the head is the most frequently struck. A child’s head is built to take all of the minor head trauma that is a normal part of learning to walk and climb. Healthy infants, toddlers and older children who are head-bangers usually grow up to be coordinated and completely normal kids.

Online Parent Support: Help for Parents


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