A Little Comedy Relief

The Pastrami Family lays down the law when it comes to parenting. Take notes!

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What's the Best Length of Time to Ground a Defiant Teenager?

Hi Mark- I have been reading through the online parent book listening to the audio & watching the video sections... I am finding it very useful and it makes a lot of sense. I am determined to make the changes. Just wondering if you can help clarify something for me please... The 3 day grounding was put in place on Sunday night...(due to my son not coming home for the entire weekend...)

--No Telephone
--No TV
--No Computer
--I have confiscated new shoes
--No Pocket Money

He smashed the mirror in his room, burnt his other shoes, cut up another pair, I basically said bad luck and we found another old pair for him to wear. Tuesday night he came home at 7.35 ( I have set the curfew @ 7pm) so I started the grounding again...

Yesterday he refused to go to school???? Last night he came home on time, asked numerous times about his shoes, then relaxed for a while, we ate dinner together, had a nice evening until he took my shoes and hid them... I got upset but I didn't lose my cool too much Thank God. At one point I threatened to call the police if he didn't return my shoes... I didn't call them and eventually found my shoes. I didn't realize till after reading the section about this situation this morning the best way to deal with it...

This morning he tried again going on about the shoes saying that he won't go to school until I return the shoes???? He asked for some money, I said no, he was angry and swore at me then he left the house...

He got pulled over by the police asking why he's not at school, they called me, I gave them his JJO's number, they took him to his Juvenile Justice Officer, she has strongly advised him to go to school....

Would you recommend that I extend the 3 day grounding until he attends school?

Kind regards



Hi S.,

When a parent wants her child to fulfill any particular obligation (in this case, going to school), she (a) makes it clear what is expected and (b) makes it clear what the consequence is for not following through with the expectation. 
If the child refuses to meet the expectation, the parent follows through with the consequence (in this case, grounding for 3 days with no privileges). However, the clock does NOT start until he walks into the school building -- but he’s grounded with no privileges in the meantime.

Here’s an example from another parent: Her expectation was for her son to mow the grass. He refused. So she implemented the 3-day-grounding, and the clock started as soon as he started mowing the grass (he was grounded with no privileges in the meantime). The son figured out that he could start the clock whenever he wanted. So he cranked up the mower and did his chore so he could go over to a friend’s house.

It’s important for the child to know that he has some control over the consequence (i.e., he gets to decide when the clock starts), and the longer he procrastinates in meeting the obligation, the longer he has no privileges.
NOTE: This approach falls on the juvenile brain a bit better than hearing that the 3-day-discipline has been extended by 2 weeks.

Mark Hutten, M.A.

==> Effective Disciplinary Techniques for Defiant Teens and Preteens

"He is not going to be able to drive..."


Well, M______ we thought has been behaving better. We did have to take away driving privileges several times as a consequence, and I had to thwart his leaving with a friend once (he was confined to the house/yard), but for several days he was following our rules as far as we could tell. We had been told in June by A_______ Mom (the ex-girlfriend) that our son was not to contact her daughter in any way. We know they have still been together and talking to each other even though we told M______ we wanted the Mom to "OK" this and then we would have no problem with them seeing/talking to each other. He states "she will never call you".

In the interim, I put a blocker on his ex'es phone so no incoming calls come through, and he agreed to not contacting her for 2 weeks so he could be allowed to drive. Well, today, we found out that he lied. He was supposed to stay home and to be watching his little brother. Called and asked if his friend and two girls could come over (a new girl who seems very nice and her friend). We said OK but had to stay in the family room and his brother would be present and NO inappropriate behavior (only over for about 1 hr). Well, girls never came over. He had permission to drive to work later in the afternoon, which he did (I gave him the car keys when I came home.)

After he left for work, this new girl K_____ called for him. She was upset. She proceeded to tell me that M______, his ex-girlfiend and another girl met her at a local fast food restaurant near the Mall (with my 9 yr old present). K_____ got into the car. He was driving his buddy's car (the friend was at football) as the car M______ uses was parked and I had the keys, and he did not have permission to drive. We do not allow him to be driving another's vehicle and he is only allowed one passenger. This ex proceeded to assault K_____. She escaped from the car and walked/ran back to the Mall where she had been shopping. She feels she was "set up" as A_____ has been threatening to meet up with her to beat her up. My 9 yr old admitted that this assault did happen. He was crying when he admitted it as he was threatened by M______ not to tell. He further stated they drove home, and the other girl then took over driving the friend's car and the girls left. Now I'm waiting for M______ to come home from work to confront him about this.

Obviously, he is not going to be able to drive. He did sign a driving contract which is very strict. He will also be confined to the house/yard for a while. I would like to know your opinion on how long you feel is appropriate. Sometimes I feel that 3 days is not long enough, doesn't "hurt" enough as it only takes a few days (certainly only a week at the best) for him to be "consequenced" again. Also, he is supposed to watch the 9 yr old again on Thursday--would you trust him?

Just so you know, I am taking care of myself. I no longer feel trapped at home to make sure he is home--I'm letting him face consequences. Thanks for being there!



Hi J.,

Would I trust him? No. Trust is earned. He would have to earn my trust by following through with expectations. Then, and only then, is trust extended.

Re: length of consequence. If you go more than 7 days, he’ll forget what he’s being grounded for and the lesson will be lost. 3 days works best, because it gets the child “back in the game” as quickly as possible.

Think of it this way: When a basketball coach has a player that gets into a fight with a member of the other team, the coach doesn’t suspend his player for the season – he doesn’t even “bench” him for the entire game. Instead, he makes his player sit on the bench for only one quarter.

Why? Because not being able to play for one entire quarter feels like an eternity to that player. If he’s kept out of the game any longer than one quarter, resentment builds and his sense of devotion to the team wanes.

The idea behind disciplining a teen (whose brain is not fully developed yet, and who does not perceive the passage of time the same way as an adult) is to issue the consequence immediately (i.e., here and now), consistently (i.e., he gets a consequence EACH TIME he violates a house rule), and short-term.

You want him to get “back in the game” as soon as possible so he can, in a sense, make more mistakes -- this is how he learns, and this is how he finds ways to adjust his attitude and behavior.

Mark Hutten, M.A.

==> Effective Disciplinary Techniques for Defiant Teens and Preteens

When One Parent Sabotages the Other

"Mark, You mention that it is better to have a weaker discipline strategy from both parents than a stronger strategy from one, but what if one parent will not discipline the child and goes behind your back to replace items you have withdrawn. This parent encourages the child to lie and be deceitful as he practices these traits and encourages the child not to tell Mom. We are close to divorce, but both desire the best for the child, but we see the best very differently. Some of these difficulties are exaggerated by our ages - I am 57 and he is 78; our son is 12."

At one of our recent parenting seminars, one member worried aloud that she and her husband disagreed about how to raise and discipline their 13-year-old son. She pointed out that she and her husband came from different family backgrounds, so the examples they had grown up with were very different. She wondered if they could ever agree about child rearing, and she was concerned that their son was not be receiving consistent rules from both parents. "How can we begin to come to some agreement?" she asked.

Throughout the room, heads nodded. It can be a big problem -- joining two people who have been raised by very different methods and expecting them to be in harmony about how to raise their own children. When people are falling in love and considering marriage and families, they usually don't think to ask, "Are you a passive parent …an authoritarian … a neglectful parent …or assertive?”

One of the biggest sources of marital stress is disagreement about child rearing. And for children, major parental disagreement is a source of mixed messages and confusion that may undermine the attitudes, values, and behaviors parents hope to teach. Whatever the nature of the disagreement, it can have a significant impact on all family members and can lead to an erosion of parental authority, as children learn to play one parent against the other.

If the children are still young, parents have time to negotiate some agreement about the major aspects of child rearing:

1st- Sit down together and list the aspects of child rearing on which you DO agree (e.g., what goals do you have for your child, say by the time he is 15, and what values do you want him to learn?).

2nd- Identify the standards of behavior that you agree are realistic for your child's age.

3rd- List any strategies you both think are important (e.g., you may disagree about punishments, but you may agree that both parents should set an example of respect and honesty; you may agree that it's important to tell him you appreciate it when he does what you ask).

4th- After you've identified points of agreement, begin to list areas of disagreement. Talk openly, calmly and respectfully about what you each believe regarding how your child should be parented -- and where you learned those beliefs.

5th- Identify child-rearing sources to which you can turn, understanding that together, you may need to learn new strategies to replace the old ways that are a source of conflict.

6th- Agree to a regular time to check in with each other about how you're doing together as parents. Give new strategies a chance to take hold and give your child a chance to learn that mom and dad are working together. Do not expect your child's behavior to change immediately, just because you are trying a new mutually agreed upon tactic.

Mark Hutten, M.A.


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

Disneyland Dad: The Fly In The Ointment

Hi Mark, This weekend K is grounded. He asked his father to take him to soccer and his father did. (while his father lives with us I am in many respects a single mother and my husband is not interested in joint parenting). In fact my husband actively works against me. Anyway, now K says he doesn't care if he is grounded - he will get his father to take him. His father will buy him another phone if I confiscate it again. The only option I see is to say that the grounding stands and he must start it again and until he serves his grounding I will not take him anywhere. I would appreciate any thoughts you may have. ~ V.


Hi V.,

Re: The only option I see is to say that the grounding stands and he must start it again and until he serves his grounding I will not take him anywhere.

You hit the nail right on the the head. When a child is grounded, but Disneyland Dad (i.e., the fly in the ointment) undermines the consequence, then mom simply restarts the clock when the child returns home.

For example, mom says her child is grounded for 3 days with no computer privileges. Disney Dad shows up and takes the kid to the carnival and buys him 3 lbs. of cotton candy, 2 stuffed toys, and one foot-long hot dog. Kid returns home (totally over-indulged and sick to his stomach) ...the clock starts again as soon as he walks in the door.

Be sure to let your son know that HE is the one extending the time-frame when he leaves with dad prematurely -- not you.

Also bear in mind the a weaker parenting plan supported by both parents is much better than a stronger one supported by only one parent.

Mark Hutten, M.A.

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Do not try to fight 4 battles at once!


What do I do when I've issued the 3-day-discipline (e.g., for violating curfew), but then my son creates a new problem before completing the discipline (e.g., calls me a "bitch", then breaks a plate by throwing it in the sink too hard)? Do I start the 3 days over even though the "broken plate episode" is unrelated to the curfew violation, or does this new problem get a different consequence?


Hi T. 

You only restart the 3-day-discipline if the original crime is re-committed (in this case, if your son violates curfew again).

When parents issue a 3-day-discipline, it is very common for kids to introduce additional behavioral problems (temper tantrums, threats, etc.) as a way to (a) get the parent side-tracked from the original consequence and (b) get the focus off of them and onto the parent's anger.

If the parent falls for this, she ends up issuing additional consequences on top of existing consequences, restrictions against the kid begin to pile up, and before long, the kid is grounded for 3 months with no privileges -- and both the parent and the kid have forgotten what the original problem was.

Don't let this happen to you. Do not let your son get you distracted from the original problem and the associated consequence for that problem. Here's how you do this:

If your son commits another "crime" (figuratively speaking) during a 3-day-discipline, put this new crime in the "Deal-With-It-Later" file. You literally write the problem down on a piece of paper (e.g., 'son called me a bitch and broke a plate') and put this note-to-yourself somewhere where you can find it after the original 3-day-discipline is completed.

After the original 3-day-discipline is completed, you then confront your son regarding the second problem he introduced by saying, "Just for your information, in the future, if you choose to __________ (in this case, "call me a bitch and break my dishes"), then you'll choose the consequence which is __________ (here you just follow the strategy "When You Want Something From Your Kid" in the Anger Management Chapter of the Online Version of the eBook).

So, does your son get "off the hook" for calling you a name and breaking a plate? In a way, yes -- but only for the time being. He will have to answer to you if the name-calling and plate-breaking occur again in the future.

Pick your battles carefully - but perhaps more importantly, pick them one-at-a-time. Do not try to fight 4 battles at once. You'll just blow a blood vessel in your brain, and your kid will be successful at getting you to chase your tail.

Use your "Deal-With-It-Later" file frequently. You'll save yourself a lot of time and energy that would otherwise be spent in chronic power struggles.

Q: How do you eat an elephant?

A: One bite at a time.

Mark Hutten, M.A.


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

Therapy Ain't Workin'

Mark, Thank you for the recent report on ODD and ADHD. There is no question that this is what my son suffers from. We were assigned to AB3632 last year. He was almost expelled and having a lot of issues at school. We started a med last April, which has really made a difference in school. He is 13 almost 14. He is in SDC at school and is having a much better year behaviorally then last year. We are still struggling at home, but there is some improvement. The more structured and busy he is the better. Summer will be a little more difficult, but we are making plans to keep him as busy as possible.

We have 2 hours of services available each week through the AB3632 program. They continue to do "therapy" and my son is frustrated and refusing to go. For him it is a waste of time and I can't disagree. The therapist has not been able to make a connection with him. We were doing behavior modification, which was having some impact, but that person left the program. Now they have assigned a drug/alcohol counselor also. I think they were hoping as a male he could connect. Both are trying to engage him in talk therapy and failing. I have spoken to them several times and requested programs for anger-management and skill building …practical things that could help. At this point the therapy sessions are causing him to be more angry and frustrated. Although they agree with me, we continue down the same path. I feel that they are expecting me to make my son want to work with them and I can't do that. You said you deal with the behavior side. What do you suggest? ~ D.Z.


Hi D.,

Counseling is just another traditional parenting strategy that has little or no effect. Thus, as you know, you are not making much headway with “therapy” (and maybe making a bad problem worse).

Are you using the strategies outlined in “My Out-of-Control Teen” eBook? If so, do you have a specific question regarding how to implement any particular strategy?

If I were you, I would try to find your son a mentor (e.g., a big brother from the Big Brother/Big Sister Organization). He needs someone to talk to “on his level” (i.e., someone who is interested in him as an individual, not someone who is attempting some sort of behavior modification). When I do therapy with a child, he rarely perceives it as a “therapy session” because I recruit him as a ‘partner in problem solving’ – he does the work. You can see an example of a session here ==> The Art of Schmoozing.

None of us know why we behave the way we do, so if a therapist tells the kid that he is doing something for some reason and this is a good reason, the kid is inclined to believe it. If he is angry or negative with the therapist, but the therapist responds with positive reframing (i.e., turning a 'negative' into a 'positive'), then the kid is likely to get confused. Here the kid is trying to be obnoxious and distance himself from the therapist, but the therapist is saying lots of nice things the kid likes to hear!

The difference between how men and women behave can be illustrated by how they deal with an angry dog. A man would say, 'Good dog! Good dog!' while he looked around for a big stick. A woman on the other hand would say, 'Good dog! Good Dog!' until it actually believed it was a good dog! I don't believe that this represents a sex difference --it's just good psychology. When you reframe, you are telling the kid what a good doggy he is until he believes it! And it works. It works because at heart, that's what we all are (i.e., GOOD). No matter how foolish our behavior, our intentions are always good.

Mark Hutten, M.A.


Thanks for your response Mark.

This is confirmation on counsel we received from a pastor friend. We are in process of working with our youth leaders to identify a good mentor. Someone in college and closer to Matt's age. I agree that we need to focus on the positives and believe that success is possible. This seems to be more difficult for my husband. He really struggles with the language and impulsive response's from my son. Things like "stupid", "shut up" and "dumb butt".

My husband advised me today that it is more difficult for men than woman to tolerate this type of action. My feeling that he shouldn't tolerate it, but punish him immediately. Maybe we should chat sometime.


Stepsons Steal iPad: Dilemma for a Stepfather

"What would you recommend as a course of action for the following: I have a 15 yr old stepson who admits to having stolen an I-Pad from a car, and a 17 yr old stepson who admits to having sold it to a friend. My gut says call the police, report the incident, and let them deal with the consequences. My wife wants to deal with it 'in house' and keep the law out of the matter. The problem is threefold: (1) Both sons are currently dealing with legal issues (on probation in juvenile court), and reporting the theft would almost certainly guarantee jail time for them. (2) This occurred a couple of weeks ago, and it appears that the whole matter is quietly slipping into oblivion. (3) Reporting the boys has major potential to cause a rift in my marriage. Any suggestions?"

Re: Point #1 – Your wife is not doing anyone any favors by saving her sons from consequences. Obviously, she is not willing to work this program if her attitude is “I need to keep my sons from experiencing painful emotions associated with their poor choices.” Anyway …as a weak alternative (in the interest of avoiding a rift in the marriage), both sons should earn money to replace the iPad and return the new one to the theft-victim.

Re: Point #2 – You’re right ...to issue a late consequence will not have as much of an impact as it would if it were immediate.

Re: Point #3 – Here we have to take a look at how the advantages outweigh the disadvantages. Clearly, keeping your marriage intact is paramount. Without you, the sons have no father-figure. The marriage comes first.

The following is not necessarily a recommendation in the formal sense, but I recently had another “stepfather” that was going through a very similar situation. Somehow, he got an anonymous call through to his stepson’s probation officer, advising him of some illegal activity that the son was engaging in. As a result, the issue was addressed immediately, but without putting the stepfather in the “hot seat” with his wife.


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

Aussie Mum Employs Tough Love

Hi Mark,

Thank you for your emails, I really find your contact to be quite soothing. Although I am unable to put any of the ebook into practice, I have still been studying on your suggested time frame (digesting weekly assignments) and believe quite firmly that this is helping me immensely to understand the problems I have experienced with my daughter.

As discussed in my earlier email, K___ has officially left home but she has invited herself and her family for dinner for the past two Sundays. This move rather surprised me as I thought she would stay away for quite a long time. K___ arranges these appearances with her Dad and only stays for the duration of the meal and is gone within 2 hours. At least I am seeing C___ (my granddaughter) for these brief visits, the poor little bugger doesn't understand any of this. The mood is a tad strained and we basically exchange pleasantries. I keep myself busy in the kitchen and don't initiate any conversations, I answer if I am addressed directly, but really just try to stay out of the way and enjoy my time with C___. J___ (the boyfriend) has never got along with my husband and he hides himself outside smoking and talking to his mates on his mobile, he appears at the table to eat and then they leave.

Not the best kind of arrangement I know but this is keeping the peace according to my husband. During these visits I have been quite proud of myself for maintaining a "poker face" and keeping a neutral tone to my voice. K___ has tried a couple of things to incite me, mainly involving C___ but I haven't taken the bait. Last night she rang and asked to speak with me, I was rather shocked. Anyway we had a conversation about one of her girlfriends, blah blah, filling me in on the latest gossip, but it was like she needed to just talk to her Mum, a bit strange I thought. Maybe my recent attitude is starting to pay off… at least she knows I'm not buying any emotional blackmail where C___ is concerned.

1st question - Last Sunday I have asked her to pack up the 2 bedrooms and the bathroom her and C___ were using. She agreed she would come on Monday but we are at Thursday and nothing has been done. These rooms were all left in a damn mess (and I haven't touched them which is amazing for me), she has taken the fundamentals but left the rest behind and she hasn't slept in our house for 6 weeks. I want to give her an ultimatum - do it or I will, but if I do it everything goes in the bin. Should I follow through or is this going to cause more trouble than it’s worth?

2nd question - How do I approach her about taking responsibility for her actions? Prior to K___ leaving she ran up a $300.00 phone bill in one month, part of which was due to her "borrowing" my mobile phone. My phone went missing for a couple of weeks and I really thought I had lost it but mysteriously it turned up. I was furious with her at the time and we did have words especially when the bill turned up. She claimed she would be paying the account but she left home and there has been no further mention of it. My problem is I want to ask her for the money but L___ is dead set against me doing this. He does not want to make any waves and just wants me to chalk it up with all the rest. We bought her car and paid for the rental property along with settling quite a few of her debts, all up 10k plus in the past 1½ years. Even so, I know she has debt collection agencies chasing her right now for unpaid bills - the mail still comes to our house. I believe she needs to take responsibility for this excessive phone bill and this is a prime example of OUR over indulgence. After reading your book we've become excellent in this department over the years, I want to stop but her Dad can't see it.

3rd question - She wants me to do something so it's easier on her - I don't think so!!!!!!!!!!!!!! We have inherited K___'s 12 year old cat which she has left behind when she moved out. When she rang last night I notified her the cat needs to be taken to the Vet as its having trouble weeing and she is worried it will need to be put down and claims she can't do this. She will take the cat today to get it checked out but then burst into tears saying if the cat needs to be put down she will make a second appointment and I will have to take it as she couldn't possibly do it. This request from the "I'm an Adult Now", cruel as it sounds I just think she has to be the one to do this, not me. Either you're a grown up or you're not, after her past performance sprouting about this I'm not inclined to do anything that makes it easy on her.

Am I being too hard?

Sorry to be such a pain but with her not living here I feel I have little or no leverage, it's not like I can ground her or anything and I certainly don't get any support from her Dad at the moment. The situation has created a rather bad feeling between us, which is the first time in 27 years of marriage we're in discord. However I am taking your advice and trying to be positive just for me, the rest have to take care of themselves. I'm trying to transport myself beyond all these difficulties and I know everything will work itself out in the end. I am working really hard on getting rid of the resentment flu and I try to forgive myself a little more each day.

Any help you can offer with the above would be greatly appreciated. I can't change the past but I reckon I can have a fair old go at the future. I want to try and establish a relationship where we all get some peace but at the same time K___ needs to know there are boundaries, no matter how old you are.

Thanks for your time and all those positive messages - they do help.

Aussie Mum


Hi M.,

Re: I want to give her an ultimatum - do it or I will, but if I do it everything goes in the bin. Should I follow through or is this going to cause more trouble than it’s worth?

>>>>>>>>>> Excellent idea!!! A single father and member of Online Parent Support reported a similar situation recently …his daughter always left the bathroom a mess each morning. So he gave her one warning: “If this stuff (i.e., cosmetics, hair spray, etc.) is all over the place tomorrow morning, I’m throwing it away.” Well …she didn’t clean up after herself …so he put it all in the trash. Plus she has to purchase – with her own money – any items she needs replaced (funny how the counter tops have been reported to be tidy lately).

Re: My problem is I want to ask her for the money but L___ is dead set against me doing this. He does not want to make any waves and just wants me to chalk it up with all the rest.

>>>>>>>>>> I think it would set a good example to request that she be responsible this debt. But it’s more about setting a good example than it is about the money. So, require her to pay a few dollars a week (e.g., $5.00). It will take forever to get you paid back, but (a) you won’t be putting your daughter in a financial crunch and (b) you will be modeling for her that there are no more free handouts.

Re: Am I being too hard [cat issue]?

>>>>>>>>>> Maybe just a bit …this issue falls into a gray area. I’m not going to recommend one way or the other on this one. You go where your heart leads you. If I had to deal with this situation (and I’m not saying you should be like me), I would probably go ahead and deal with the cat for her.

Bottom line: You are greatly on track. Thanks for being a good student. Keep taking care of you (taking care of oneself is another good behavior to model for our children).

Mark Hutten, M.A.


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

5-Year-Old Hits Classmates

Hi, My out of control child is 5 years old. He is defiant, hits out at his classmates, he has poor motor skills (difficulty grasping a pencil so is behind his class mates with writing) It is the hitting that is causing concern… he has no privileges at home for hitting classmates in school. If the behaviour is repeated 3 days commence again, he is now on day 8 of continually repeating the behaviour. He does not appear concerned about the loss of his toys and no children’s programmes on tv and will happily occupy himself with a piece of string, a spoon etc. (During the Christmas holiday we used your method for cheek, for example 'pick up the toys' the reply 'pick it up yourself' and a complete refusal to comply. The method worked well and the cheek has markedly decreased. THANKS.) Now we are just addressing hitting for the past 3 weeks with little effect. Please advise. Many thanks, A.


“Child hitting” is a behavior that moms and dads need to address immediately and consistently. Many parents have written to me asking how to stop youngster from hitting - and about half of these parents have admitted that when their youngster hits them, they hit back to "teach the youngster what it feels like." This may not be the case with you however.

The most important factor in teaching a young kid not to hit is to make sure he doesn't see hitting at home, or is not hit himself. A young kid who hits should be immediately removed from the situation where the hitting occurred. 
If he is in a playground, then pick him up and go home. If he is outside your home playing, then he has to come inside. If he is inside the home, then he should go to the room where he sleeps, which represents a safe place for him.

As you remove him and put him in another place, such as his room, tell him that he needs time by himself to calm down. Don't tell him anything else -- he won't be able to pay attention when he's upset. (If he won't stay in his room, it is important to walk him calmly back to his room.)

Your son needs to understand that he is not being punished, but is experiencing the consequence of his actions. Then, AFTER he has time to compose himself, when he's calmer, you can talk more about your family's "no hitting" rule.

Positive results will not happen overnight, but this method can be very effective if are consistent. Hopefully his teachers will be using the same strategy.

Hitting, by any age person, could be in self-defense, or it could be a way of exerting power (might makes right theory), a way of getting what they want. Hitting might be an effective means of self-defense, or there might be better ways to defend one’s self. 
There are better ways of getting what a person wants, and that is what kids want to find out, I think, is the best way for them to get what they want. Moms and dads – though often quite confused themselves about how to get what they want – can be a youngster's best advisor and helper in figuring out good ways (for everyone involved) to get what each person wants.

I would respond to any youngster of any age by trying to figure out what they want, and doing everything I can to help them get it. If the youngster is angry, I'd keep helping them get what they want. 
Trying to figure out why the youngster is angry might be intrusive and make things worse, I think.... kids often can't answer the questions of ‘why’ that parents/adults pepper them with, not having the words to explain what is in their minds or whatever. We make our best guesses and keep at it.

Mark Hutten, M.A.

==> JOIN Online Parent Support

Daughter wants to live with her 18-year-old boyfriend next summer...

Unfortunately our daughter's biological mother is involved in her upbringing and she is somewhat evil. K___ has been gone for three weeks now and we are doing our best to get her to come home. We have arranged for her to make up the three classes she dropped this school year. She is an honor roll student and she thought she would have to do the makeup work before school was out. That was not the case. She wants a car and to work as well. We are trying to get her to come home to earn those things she treasurers most. Unfortunately, her mother wants to involve law enforcement because K___ has had a few violent episodes. I worked in law enforcement and I don't feel it's good to involve them on domestic issues if you can work them out at home. To me it is a negative introduction. Once you’re in the system you tend to not care anymore. I don't want that for her. We are going to talk to her again tomorrow evening about coming home. She wants to live with her 18 yr old boyfriend next summer. We are NOT for that. Any suggestions? I provided her with a VERY positive goal list last time we met with her.


I don’t think K___’s biological mother is evil. Everybody thinks they’re doing right. If we think others do bad things because they have evil intentions, we may give up trying to influence them, become afraid of them, get angry with them, seek revenge, etc.

Also, I respectfully disagree that “once you’re in the system you tend to not care anymore” …this has not been my experience. And I also think that parents should involve law enforcement whenever a domestic battery occurs.

Re: living with boyfriend this summer. Remember, one of our major tenets here at Online Parent Support is to “foster the development of self-reliance.” Thus, if K___ lives out on her own for the summer, will this promote or inhibit self-reliance? The answer is clear: it will promote it.

I understand that you can make a good argument for her NOT living with the boyfriend (e.g., may get pregnant), but since “self-reliance” is PARAMOUNT, the recommendation would be to allow her to learn some ‘life -lessons’ away from the nest.

(NOTE: This assumes she is 17-years-old; if she's 16 or younger, then we need to come up with a different strategy.)

Mark Hutten, M.A.

Mother says: "It's time for daughter to move out!"

Dear Mark,


I just wanted to talk with you about some stuff; I am hoping you can email me as soon as you can!! Thanks for always responding so promptly, it has been a world of help!

I have emailed you plenty of times about our daughter. She is now graduated …thank heavens. We told you about the party she had in our house, and all the alcohol we found. She still won’t admit to it, but we know she did. I had emailed you before about her screaming and yelling on the phone with her boyfriend in our home and how we have asked her to stop it and it is breaking rules in our house when she does this. You suggested that she was in an addictive relationship and needed to move out for her sake as well.

She has done it two more times since; the last one scared my youngest daughter so much that she called me at work. I spoke with our oldest daughter about the situation and said it is time for her to move out, that she won’t respect our wishes and or our rules. She wasn’t sorry for her behavior; she just said she was upset. In addition over the weekend she received a ticket from a police officer for a minor in possession of marijuana and seems to think that it is the problem with society, not her.

The ticket is over a $1,000 dollars. She has a place to go and doesn’t want to go there. It is a friend of ours, who has a spare room, just blocks from the college that she will be attending in the fall. We have offered to pay 2 months rent up front, so she won’t have to worry about it right away and we have told her she has 2 weeks to go and we will move her there. She wouldn’t hear of a studio, or a dorm or a room for rent with a bunch of students and all of her friends are either staying with their parents or are going away for college. We really have no options.

She says she doesn’t want to go and that we can’t make her. I said well you won’t stick to the rules and it is just time for you to get out on your own. We offered to move her stuff.

I think she is going to make this hard and I am trying to take control of my home. She has said terrible things about us to her grandmother, who has taken her side and also thinks we are terrible for making her leave as well.

I am at my wits end. Does this sound on track? I always want to make sure I am doing the right thing.

Thanks, P.


Hi P.,

Yes …you are definitely on track. Let me share a story that occurred last spring with one of the mother’s of Online Parent Support who was going through the same thing with her daughter. And yes…it does seem heartless at first:

Mother wanted daughter out …daughter didn’t want to leave …but she did want to basically harass her mother on a daily basis. Finally mom mustered the courage to follow my recommendation. Here’s what she did:

One day while the daughter was at summer school, mom and friends got a U-Haul truck and packed up all of the daughter’s things, moved them to a studio apartment …then to put the icing on the cake, mom confiscated her daughter’s garage door opener and changed the lock on the front door.

She had warned her daughter up front to be out of the house by a certain date, or she would take these measures. The daughter called her bluff and lost.

Long story short …this mother has kept me posted over the year. Her daughter has since moved into a larger apartment and is continuing to do fine at college. Mother and daughter have a fairly civilized relationship now (you know, absence makes the heart grow fonder kinda thing).

Mark Hutten, M.A.

Daughter is Hanging-out with a Bad Crowd

"Can u give me some guidance? I feel my daughter is hanging out with a bad crowd and have been trying to get her to see that but have had no success. She took some of these friends to her 'one-and-only good' friend's sweet 16th birthday party without parent chaperones. These kids thought they could just go in with their cigarettes and all and thought nothing of it. These kids also drink and smoke pot. I have tried to stop her from seeing them but she continues to do so."

First of all, it sounds like you are trying to “reason with” your daughter (a traditional parenting strategy that doesn’t work – and too often makes a bad problem worse).

We, as parents of strong-willed, out of control kids, must pick our battles very carefully. Which battles do we fight? The ones in which we have an element of control. Unfortunately, you will not be able to control who your daughter associates with (unless you ground her for the entire year).

Your daughter wants to be liked, to fit in, and she worries that other kids may make fun of her if she doesn’t go along with the group. Also, she is curious to try something new that others are doing. The idea that "everyone's doing it" (whatever “it” is) may influence some kids to leave their better judgment, or common sense, behind.

We have to prepare our kids for peer pressure when they are very young (prevention strategies rather than intervention ones). Thus, when kids are younger, we want to do the following:

1. We want to develop a close relationship with our kids. Kids who have close relationships with their parents are more likely to identify with - and try to please - their parents by doing the right things, and they are much more likely to go to their parents when they are in trouble or are having problems.

2. We want to figure out the reasons our kids are giving into peer pressure and address them immediately. Kids give into peer pressure for many different reasons (e.g., lack of self-confidence or self-discipline). We should try to find the reasons and then attempt to solve the problem.

3. We want to teach our kids to say “NO”. It is tough to be the only one saying NO, but we can tell our kids they can do it. Paying attention to their own feelings and beliefs about what is right or wrong will help them do the proper thing.

These suggestions may not be a big help to you now, but I had to mention that (a) parent’s strategies for helping kids deal with peer pressure need to be implemented early, and (b) once they are teenagers, we have to “let go” and trust that we did something right while we were guiding them through their childhood and preteen years.

==> Join Online Parent Support

Take Care of Your Mental Health: Tips for Distraught Parents of ODD Teens

"Is it normal for parents to experience a lot of depression as they deal with their oppositional defiant teenagers? My daughter's behavior is negatively affecting both my work and my marriage now. I feel like such a failure as a parent."

Yes... absolutely!

Here are some of the other feelings and thoughts that occur when parents have to live with a strong-willed, out of control teenager:

  • Ambivalence toward the defiant child (“I love her, but when her mindset causes her to be cruel, I also wish she'd go away.”)
  • Anger and jealousy (“Her siblings resent all the attention I have to give her.”)
  • Anxiety (“I’m afraid to leave her alone or hurt her feelings.”)
  • Bitterness (“Why did this happen to us?”)
  • Blaming self and each other (“If only I had been a better parent... If you would only listen...”)
  • Concern for the future (“What's going to happen after I’m gone? Who will take care of her?)
  • Denial of the severity of the issue (“This is only a phase ...it will pass”.)
  • Depression (“I can't even talk about it without crying.”)
  • Divorce (“It tore our family apart.”)
  • Excessive searching for possible explanations (“Was it something I did?”)
  • Fear (“Will she harm himself or others?”)
  • Feelings of isolation (“No one understands.”)
  • Inability to think or talk about anything but family issues (“All our lives revolve around her behavior-problems.”)
  • Increased use of alcohol or tranquilizers (“My evening drink turned into three or four.”)
  • Marital discord (“Our relationship became cold. I felt dead inside.”)
  • Preoccupation with moving away (“Maybe if we lived somewhere else, things would be better.”)
  • Shame and guilt (“Am I to blame? What will people think?”)
  • Sleeplessness (“I've aged double time in the last 3 years.”)
  • Sorrow (“I feel like I've lost my child”.)
  •  Total denial of the issues (“This can't be happening in our family.”)
  • Weight loss (“I've been through the mill, and it shows in my health.”)
  • Withdrawal from social activities (“We don't attend family get-togethers anymore.”)

This is why it is so terribly important for us, as parents, to take care of ourselves. If we don't make a concerted effort to nurture our physical and mental health, we will become stressed to the point of ruining our immune system, which WILL result in some kind of disease process (e.g., cancer, heart disease, joint problems, etc.).

Take care of yourself before it's too late!!!

CLICK HERE for some specific ideas on taking care of yourself...


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

Aversion Therapy = Pullin' Weeds

"I’m raising my grandson who was suspended from school (year 8) for the past week for swearing at a teacher. He was told that he would get 2 weeks next time. He now has the attitude that if I send him back to school he will see to it that he is sent home again and again. I did do the 3 days behaviour in his room and I do notice that he is getting bored, but he seems to have the attitude that boredom is better then school. So now what?!"

Click here for my response...

"She has been playing games with me....."

My daughter's status right now is - Grounded during the week until school is over (she was gone every night before). She does have her weekends.

Question: How should I go about implementing the 3 day discipline. Should I explain to her what the 3 day plan is??

>>>>>>>>>>>1. Clearly state your expectation. For example...

"Be sure to wash the dishes." "It's time for you to get the trash out." "I need you to pick up your dirty laundry."

2. If your child does what she is told to do, reward her with acknowledgment and praise.

"You did a great job of doing the dishes." "Thank you for getting to bed on time." "I appreciate that you picked up your dirty clothes."

Note: "Rewards" such as hugs, kisses, and high-fives increase your children's motivation to do what you ask them to do.

3. If your child refuses or ignores your request, then a clear warning (with your best poker face) should be given immediately in the form of a simple "If/Then" statement.

"If you choose to ignore my request, then you choose the consequence, which will be ________ " (pick the least restrictive consequence first, such as no phone privileges for one evening).

4. If the warning is ignored, then quickly follow through with the discipline.

"Because you chose to ignore my request, you also chose the consequence which is no phone tonight."

5. If your child refuses to accept the consequence ( e.g., she gets on the phone anyway), take everything away (or at least her "favorite" stuff and/or activities) and ground her for 3 days. If she has a rage-attack when she finds out she is grounded for 3 days, the 3-day-discipline does not start until she calms down. If she violates the 3-day-discipline at any point, merely re-start the 3 days rather than making it 7 days or longer.

6. Tell your child exactly she/he can do to EARN her way off discipline.

"If you do the dishes tonight and tomorrow, then you will be off discipline in 3 days." "If you get the trash out every night, you'll be off ground in 3 days."

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

Also, she has been playing games with me, like calling (at work) from school asking if she could go to her friends house, telling me I could pick her up on my way home so that would only be a few hours. She told me she didn't have any homework (still getting 2 E's and 2 D's). I let her, but then she called me and said they were going with another friend, then she ended up hanging out in a park.....give an inch, take a mile! And I fell for it.

>>>>>>>>>>>> What did she do to earn this privilege (i.e., going to friend's house)?

After she called me from the park, I told her to get home and this was not the deal! She came home. She was very mouthy to me and said she is so sick of me! Then I found homework that she had and didn't do! She totally lied to me! Of course she said she "she forgot".

>>>>>>>>>>>>> Please refer to my recommendation on poor academic performance here =>
Click Here

Ugh, I had to leave the house because I was going to blow. I went for a short ride. When I got back she was very "nice" to me, and the homework was sitting on the table....done.

There was no more discipline given for these actions???? I did praise her for the homework being done.

So what should I do when she tries this again??? Should I warn her first?  


Should I bring up this past when she asked again. She uses this against me "you didn't ground me last time". Help me with this manipulation!

Never retract a consequence once instated ...and try to be consistent with consequences across time and across situations ( i.e., behavior "x" always gets consequence "y").

Mark Hutten, M.A.


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

Boyfriend Problem is a Romeo and Juliet Phenomenon

Hi Mark, Here's the big question (at least for now). What to do about the boyfriend? I thought that, after the prom night fiasco, this relationship should end, but I offered the compromise of letting her see him with my supervision. Daughter says she won't accept that. If she goes off with him without my permission, should I call the police immediately, or is there any other consequence I could impose?

>>>>>>>>>>Calling the police would only be a temporary fix …but it will drive them closer together in the long run too.

I've thought of telling her that she cannot take JROTC next year if she goes off - I was against it this year because I don't think it belongs in schools and I don't want to feed her military obsession, but let her have her choice. I think that would fit the crime because she met the boyfriend and this older group that drinks and smokes pot through JROTC.

Right now our worst fights are over the boyfriend. Before she met him, the main "battles" were over the internet. I've had the pregnancy/ STD talks with her, but of course she thinks she's immune. Yesterday we had the worst one yet when I wouldn't let her go out. Ironically enough, he didn't even ask her out! (I'm praying that, like so many teenage romances, this one will die a natural death).

There will be another fight over the boyfriend today, I'm sure. One of the house rules is no dating on school nights (today would be the first day off the two weeks grounding, but if I let her date on a school night once, then she will expect that all the time).

>>>>>>>>>>> Two weeks is about 11 days too long.

>>>>>>>> You have a Romeo & Juliet phenomenon on your hands that will need to be diffused (if not, they will continue to work harder at sneaking their rendezvous behind your back).

Unfortunately, if your daughter wants to be with someone -- she'll find a way, no matter what you say or do. Parents can only guide their children in the right direction and hope for the best. If they do a good job, their daughter will make the right decision all on her own. Since you will not be successful at keeping those two apart, you must adopt a philosophy of if you can’t beat ‘em - join ‘em. In other words, they should be able to see one another within reasonable limits. For example:

· They can be together at your house only during those times that you are home and can monitor their behavior (if not, he has to leave)

· You could schedule some activity for them in which you would be a distant chaperon (e.g., take them to a shopping plaza and tell them to meet you back at the coffee shop in exactly one hour)

· Your daughter is allowed to go over to her boyfriend’s house for a designated time period (if she violates the time limit, there is a consequence that is commensurate with the “crime”)

You will not win this battle. Figure out a way for your daughter to see her boyfriend in a way that will keep her safe. This is the best you will be able to do.

I've let her go to a friend's on a school night, but these are friends I know, not this older group she wants to associate with. She doesn't see that going to a friend's on a school night is different from dating.

Re: the internet: So far all she's done to earn computer privileges is to make honor roll.

I take computer privileges for one day if she stays on it too long. The problem now is that she often has homework (and now has two research projects) for which she needs the computer, and I've given in and let her use it to get her homework done.

>>>>>>>>>>> Computer use is still a privilege, not a right. Out of control kids often use the excuse of needing to do research or homework in order to get the parent to reinstate computer privileges. You’ve just been punked – again!

What she's been doing is multitasking, doing some homework but mostly IM'ing her friends or wasting time on MySpace. So I guess I should keep her off the internet, homework or not. Should I use the 3 day grounding rather than just taking the computer for one day?

>>>>>>>>>>>>>> This is covered in the strategy entitled “When You Want Something From Your Kid.”

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

She says she doesn't care about school, but it did bother her last time when she missed honor roll for the first time (all A's and a C in Algebra II).

Re: suicide threats: Thanks for your answer; it relieves many of my worries. Next time she does it, I'll put on the "poker face" and as you said, keep an eye on it. I'm just worried about her if the boyfriend breaks up with her, as she's quite impulsive.

Re: living situation: There's a maximum one-year time frame for staying here. I'm due to finish my PhD dissertation by May (passed all exams and have most of the research done), and I'm going on the academic job market, which will mean moving to wherever I can find a tenure-track job. My mother's health is getting worse, but she says she'd rather move to a retirement home than come with me.

Actually, although my mother owns the house, she is dependent on me because she cannot maintain it or even do her own grocery shopping. For now, after daughter had the worst tantrum yet when I wouldn't let her see the boyfriend (she's still on the two weeks grounding for prom night), Grandma has agreed not to interfere when I discipline daughter. There's something of a Catch 22 - total self-reliance with a low paying full time job now could also give her the message of quitting the degree when things get difficult (full time work would mean no time for the
diss; I've tried).

>>>>>>>>>>> I agree …it is a catch 22. You have to weigh everything together and pick the lesser of the two “evils” so to speak (i.e., which course of action will be less problematic).

I used the statement you suggested - admitting I made mistakes parenting, apologizing, making amends, letting her know there will be some changes. And I also admitted I was wrong to yell back at her. Reading the ebook, I think the biggest mistake I've been making is to let the arguing escalate. I'm ashamed to admit this, but all too often I yell back at her and get extremely angry at her. For example, a few days ago when she screamed "I hate it here" I yelled back "OK, if you want to go to foster care, you can" and she cried "my family doesn't want me." We both have said very hurtful things to one another. I've apologized and own my part, but she continues to blame me for everything.

I see my major task for Week 1 as practicing the "poker face", breathing deeply, and saying "I'm not going to argue with you" no matter what she says, and enforcing the rules re: the boyfriend and internet. Does this sound about right to you?

>>>>>>>>> Here’s the bottom line: If those two want to see each other, nothing will be able to stop it. The more attention you give it, and the more intensity you provide when “things are going wrong” (i.e., the two of you fighting over this boyfriend), the more those two will bond.

Mark Hutten, M.A.


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

Detective Mom

Mark, Thanks for the previous advice. Your methods do seem to be working. We had a beautiful FSS (thanks!). My husband thinks I'm crazy for how "lenient" he feels I'm being, but he has not interfered for 1 week! My 16 yr old son is in a relationship with a 16 yr old girl (~1 1/2 yrs now) that I feel is not good. I have not said anything negative about her in ~1 month. I have let them see each other in supervised settings. Her parents have no rules whatsoever and tell him we're wrong, but I do try to deal with this.

I would like your advice on the following: My son went out after Lacrosse practice last night (I do feel this is part of school and a GOOD thing for him as it helps keep him busy and I know where he is at) which I was OK with since he has been earning this right by following all of our rules. I did get a "bad vibe" later that he was not where he said--can't prove it. He would not answer his phone, ended up at his girlfriends (this was not OK'd, but probably would have been if I knew beforehand and parents were home), and when he called was 15 minutes late and I ended up picking him up. He still swears he went where he said.

I did tell him he was to stay home tonight after his game (lost privilege of going out) and he would not get his phone back until this evening. This was because he did not answer his phone, was late, and was not where we agreed upon. He was NOT happy, but did not argue much, only threatening me he can't call me if to pick him up earlier (game may be canceled because of predicted storm heading our way) since I took his phone. I let this pass, "not arguing".

I did check his phone text-messaging today while he is at school, and it appears he may have intended/or did have a fight with a boy over his girlfriend. He was accusing this girl of "cheating" on him and "F*****" someone else. He did end up at her house later in the evening), don't know if they made up or not, and he says he did not get there until 8:30 but his text to her indicates he was arriving at 7pm. He did have some calls to a boy whose name I don't know.

Another friend text him today with "did you fight or not?" He also did speak with another girl last night, which he has not done before (could be starting to break-up with current girlfriend?).

My husband and I would LOVE for this relationship to end. How would you handle this? Confront him about the calls/text? He would know I check his phone and I am trying to build back trust. It can't be proven (where he was or if the fight did happen). If you could guide me in what step(s) to take with this, and what the consequences should be, I would very much appreciate it!!! Thanks again!


Re: How would you handle this? You already handled it the way you should (i.e., ground with no cell privileges).

Re: Confront him about the calls/text? If it can’t be proven (i.e., where he was or if the fight did happen), then you have nothing to gain by confronting him on this. He’ll just deny that anything happened, and you’ll go fishing for an argument.

Also, you have nothing to gain by telling him you checked his calls/text. If you do tell him, he will just find other ways to communicate with friends (or make sure everything is erased before you confiscate it again).

I’d let this be your secret. Thus, when you take away the cell in future disciplines, you’ll have a potential investigation tool (i.e., cell). Depending on the seriousness of future texts/calls, you may or may not decide to confront at that time. In the meantime, I would keep my ear to the ground regarding tension between your son and that other kid.

Great ‘undercover’ work,

Mark Hutten, M.A.

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

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