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

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Does divorce "cause" defiant behavior in kids and teens?

“My 14 y.o. son’s behavior has taken a major turn for the worse. My husband and I have recently separated and are making plans to divorce. Could there be a connection between my son’s erratic behavior and the fact that his dad has left?”

The inter-parental conflicts surrounding divorce have been associated with defiant behavior in teenagers affected by the break-up. However, although some single parents and their kids become chronically depressed and report increased stress levels after separation, others do relatively well.

For some single parents, the events surrounding separation and divorce set off a period of increased depression and irritability which leads to loss of support and friendship, setting in place the risk of more irritability, ineffective discipline, and poor problem-solving outcomes. The ineffective problem solving can result in more depression, while the increase in irritable behavior may simultaneously lead the teen to become rebellious and antisocial.

Studies into the effects of parental separation and divorce on child-behavior have revealed that the intensity of conflict and discord between the parents - rather than divorce itself - is THE significant factor. Kids and teens of divorced parents whose homes are free from conflict have been found to be less likely to have problems than kids whose parents remained together, but engaged in a great deal of conflict, or those who continued to have conflict after divorce.

In addition to the effect of marital conflict on the teenager, conflict can also influence parenting behaviors. Marital conflict has been associated with inconsistent parenting, higher levels of punishment with a concurrent reduction in reasoning and rewards, as well as with moms and dads taking a negative perception of their teen’s adjustment.

As a side note, research has suggested that parents of kids with behavior problems frequently lack several important parenting skills. Parents have been reported to be more critical in their use of discipline, more inconsistent, erratic, and permissive, less likely to monitor their kids, as well as more likely to punish pro-social behaviors and to reinforce negative behaviors.

A coercive process is set in motion during which the child or teenager escapes or avoids being criticized by his or her parents through producing an increased number of negative behaviors. These behaviors lead to increasingly aversive parental reactions which serve to reinforce the negative behaviors.

Differences in affect have also been noted in defiant kids. In general, their affect is less positive, they appear to be depressed, and are less reinforcing to their parents. These attributes can set the scene for the cycle of aversive interactions between parents and kids.

==> Effective Disciplinary Techniques for Defiant Teens and Preteens

Tried and Tested Disciplinary Strategies for Defiant Teens and Preteens

How much longer will you tolerate dishonesty and disrespect? How many more temper tantrums and arguments will you endure? Have you wasted a lot of time and energy trying to make your child change?  

==> If so, then this may be the most important article you'll ever read!

How to Tell the Difference Between Normal Rebellion Versus a Psychological Problem

"My seventeen year old daughter is so very angry. She is involved with drugs and has gotten in some legal trouble as well. She is verbally abusive to me and to my husband who is her stepfather. The problem is that other times she is a joy to be around. She is funny, and very bright and creative. I wonder if she may have a psychological problem or may be an opposition defiant child. Not sure what to think right now."

How can a parent tell the difference between normal rebellion and the signal that an adolescent is troubled? Ask yourself these two questions:

1. Is this behavior change drastic for my adolescent? Normal rebellious behavior develops over time, beginning with an adolescent wanting to be with friends more and disagreeing with moms and dads more frequently. Problem rebellion is sudden and drastically out of character. For example, a normally rebellious "A" student may get a few "Bs" and cut a class or two, but if he suddenly starts failing or refuses to go to school, this can be a sign that your adolescent is experiencing an emotional crisis.

2. How frequent and intense is the rebellion? Normal rebellion is sporadic. There are moments of sweetness, calm and cooperation between outbursts. If on the other hand, rebellion is constant and intense, this can be a sign of underlying emotional problems.

Dealing with Normal Rebellion—

The main task of adolescents in our culture is to become psychologically emancipated from their moms and dads. The teenager must cast aside the dependent relationship of childhood. Before she can develop an adult relationship with her moms and dads, the adolescent must first distance herself from the way she related to them in the past. This process is characterized by a certain amount of intermittent normal rebellion, defiance, discontent, turmoil, restlessness, and ambivalence. Emotions usually run high. Mood swings are common. Under the best of circumstances, this adolescent rebellion continues for approximately 2 years; not uncommonly it lasts for 4 to 6 years.

How do I deal with my teenager's rebellion?

The following guidelines may help you and your teenager through this difficult period:

1. Treat your teenager as an adult friend— By the time your youngster is 12 years old, start working on developing the kind of relationship you would like to have with your youngster when she is an adult. Treat your youngster the way you would like her to treat you when she is an adult. Your goal is mutual respect, support, and the ability to have fun together.

Strive for relaxed, casual conversations during bicycling, hiking, shopping, playing catch, driving, cooking, mealtime, working, and other times together. Use praise and trust to help build her self-esteem. Recognize and validate your youngster's feelings by listening sympathetically and making nonjudgmental comments. Remember that listening doesn't mean you have to solve your adolescent's problems. The friendship model is the best basis for family functioning.

2. Avoid criticism about "no-win" topics— Most negative parent-adolescent relationships develop because the moms and dads criticize their teenager too much. Much of the adolescent's objectionable behavior merely reflects conformity with the current tastes of her peer group. Peer-group immersion is one of the essential stages of adolescent development. Dressing, talking, and acting differently than adults helps your youngster feel independent from you. Try not to attack your teen's clothing, hairstyle, makeup, music, dance steps, friends, recreational interests, and room decorations, use of free time, use of money, speech, posture, religion, or philosophy.

This doesn't mean withholding your personal views about these subjects. But allowing your adolescent to rebel in these harmless areas often prevents testing in major areas, such as experimentation with drugs, truancy, or stealing. Intervene and try to make a change only if your teen's behavior is harmful, illegal, or infringes on your rights (see the sections on house rules). Another common error is to criticize your adolescent's mood or attitude. A negative or lazy attitude can only be changed through good example and praise. The more you dwell on nontraditional (even strange) behaviors, the longer they will last.

3. Let society's rules and consequences teach responsibility outside the home— Your teen must learn from trial and error. As she experiments, she will learn to take responsibility for her decisions and actions. Speak up only if the adolescent is going to do something dangerous or illegal. Otherwise, you must rely on the adolescent's own self-discipline, pressure from her peers to behave responsibly, and the lessons learned from the consequences of her actions. A school's requirement for punctual school attendance will influence when your adolescent goes to bed at night. School grades will hold your teen accountable for homework and other aspects of school performance. If your adolescent has bad work habits, she will lose her job.

If your teen makes a poor choice of friends, she may find her confidences broken or that she gets into trouble. If she doesn't practice hard for a sport, she will be pressured by the team and coach to do better. If she misspends her allowance or earnings, she will run out of money before the end of the month. If by chance your teen asks you for advice about these problem areas, try to describe the pros and cons in a brief, impartial way. Ask some questions to help her think about the main risks. Then conclude your remarks with a comment such as, "Do what you think is best." Teens need plenty of opportunity to learn from their own mistakes before they leave home and have to solve problems without an ever-present support system.

4. Clarify the house rules and consequences— You have the right and the responsibility to make rules regarding your house and other possessions. A teen's preferences can be tolerated within her own room, but they need not be imposed on the rest of the house. You can forbid loud music that interferes with other people's activities or incoming telephone calls after 10 p.m.

While you should make your adolescent's friends feel welcome in your home, clarify the ground rules about parties or where snacks can be eaten. Your adolescent can be placed in charge of cleaning her room, washing his clothes, and ironing his clothes. You can insist upon clean clothes and enough showers to prevent or overcome body odor. You must decide whether you will loan her your car, bicycle, camera, radio, TV, clothes, and so forth. Reasonable consequences for breaking house rules include loss of telephone, TV, stereo, and car privileges. (Time-out is rarely useful in this age group, and physical punishment can escalate to a serious breakdown in your relationship.)

If your teen breaks something, she should repair it or pay for its repair or replacement. If she makes a mess, she should clean it up. If your adolescent is doing poorly in school, you can restrict TV time. You can also put a limit on telephone privileges and weeknights out. If your adolescent stays out too late or doesn't call you when she's delayed, you can ground her for a day or a weekend. In general, grounding for more than a few days is looked upon as unfair and is hard to enforce.

5. Use family conferences for negotiating house rules— Some families find it helpful to have a brief meeting after dinner once a week. At this time your teen can ask for changes in the house rules or bring up family issues that are causing problems. You can also bring up issues (such as your adolescent's demand to drive her to too many places and your need for her help in arranging carpools). The family unit often functions better if the decision-making is democratic. The objective of negotiation should be that both parties win. The atmosphere can be one of: "Nobody is at fault, but we have a problem. How can we solve it?"

6. Give space to a teen who is in a bad mood— Generally when your teen is in a bad mood, she won't want to talk about it with you. If teens want to discuss a problem with anybody, it is usually with a close friend. In general, it is advisable at such times to give your adolescent lots of space and privacy. This is a poor time to talk to your teen about anything, pleasant or otherwise.

7. Use "I" messages for rudeness— Some talking back is normal. We want our teens to express their anger through talking and to challenge our opinions in a logical way. We need to listen. Expect your teen to present her case passionately, even unreasonably. Let the small stuff go — it's only words. But don't accept disrespectful remarks such as calling you a "jerk." Unlike a negative attitude, these mean remarks should not be ignored. You can respond with a comment like, "It really hurts me when you put me down or don't answer my question."

Make your statement without anger if possible. If your adolescent continues to make angry, unpleasant remarks, leave the room. Don't get into a shouting match with your teen because this is not a type of behavior that is acceptable in outside relationships. What you are trying to teach is that everyone has the right to disagree and even to express anger, but that screaming and rude conversation are not allowed in your house. You can prevent some rude behavior by being a role model of politeness, constructive disagreement, and the willingness to apologize.

When should you seek outside assistance?

Get help if:
  • you feel your teen's rebellion is excessive
  • you find yourself escalating the criticism and punishment
  • you have other questions or concerns
  • you think your teen is depressed, suicidal, drinking or using drugs, or going to run away
  • your family life is seriously disrupted by your teen
  • your relationship with your teen does not improve within 3 months after you begin using these approaches
  • your teen has no close friends
  • your teen is skipping school frequently
  • your teen is taking undue risks (for example, reckless driving)
  • your teen's outbursts of temper are destructive or violent
  • your teen's school performance is declining markedly

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

How to Prepare Teachers for Your Child with Oppositional Defiant Disorder

"My son has Oppositional Defiant Disorder and ADHD. Should I give his teacher (tutor) some strategies to deal with him in the classroom during summer school (starts on Mon.)? If so, what can I tell her?"

Yes, definitely give the teacher some ideas to deal with your son effectively. The school can be a great ally in keeping your youngster with Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) safe and successful in the classroom, but you will need to make sure that the teachers have all the knowledge they need to help. Use the suggestions below to create an information sheet to bring teachers “up to speed.”

23 Things Your ODD Child’s Teachers Should Know -- Information Sheet:
  1. Allow sharp demarcation to occur between academic periods, but hold transition times between periods to a minimum.
  2. Allow my child to redo assignments to improve his score or final grade.
  3. Ask me, his mother, what works at home.
  4. Avoid “infantile” materials to teach basic skills. Materials should be positive and relevant to my child’s life.
  5. Avoid making comments or bringing up situations that may be a source of argument for my child.
  6. Call me with questions or concerns as often as needed.
  7. Choose your battles carefully with my child. Selecting a couple of areas to focus on will work better than fighting over each and every behavioral issue.
  8. Clear, simply stated rules work better for my child than abstract rules and expectations.
  9. Give 2 choices when decisions are needed. State them briefly and clearly.
  10. If there will be any sort of change in my child's classroom or routine, please notify me as far in advance as possible so that we can all work together in preparing her for it.
  11. Make sure academic work is at the appropriate level. When work is too hard, my child becomes frustrated. When it is too easy, he becomes bored. Both reactions lead to problems in the classroom.
  12. Use of individualized instruction, cues, prompting, the breaking down of academic tasks, debriefing, coaching, and providing positive incentives.
  13. Minimize downtime and plan transitions carefully. My ODD child does best when kept busy.
  14. My child has significant challenges, but he also has many strengths and gifts. Please use these to help him have experiences of success.
  15. Pace instruction. When my child has completed a designated amount of a non-preferred activity, reinforce his cooperation by allowing him to do something he prefers or find more enjoyable or less difficult.
  16. Please keep the lines of communication open between our home and the school. My child needs all the adults in her life working together.
  17. Post the daily schedule my child knows what to expect.
  18. Praise my child when he responds positively.
  19. Provide consistency, structure, and clear consequences for my child‘s behavior.
  20. Remember that children with ODD tend to create power struggles. Try to avoid these verbal exchanges. State your position clearly and concisely.
  21. Select material that encourages student interaction. My ODD child needs to learn to talk to his peers and to adults in an appropriate manner. However, all cooperative learning activities must be carefully structured.
  22. Structure activities so my child is not always left out or is the last one picked.
  23. Systematically teach social skills, including anger management, conflict resolution strategies, and how to be assertive in an appropriate manner. Discuss strategies that my child can use to calm himself when he is feeling his anger escalating. Do this when he is calm.

Information sheet tips:
  • In your note, focus on the ways that using strategies appropriate to your youngster's special needs will make things easier for the teacher, rather than insisting on rights and obligations.
  • Keep your tone friendly, helpful and no-nonsense. You are writing as an expert on your child and his diagnosis, not as a pushy, demanding parent.
  • Make a copy of all correspondence for your records. Using a datebook or a contact log, jot down when and what you sent to teachers, and what follow-up you made.
  • Remember, the start of school is a hectic time for the teacher. Even with the best intentions, he/she may not want to spend his/her free time reading tons of material. If you can put together an information sheet (like the one above) that looks manageable, you will stand a much better chance that the teacher will actually follow the instructions listed.

==> My Out-of-Control Child: Help for Parents with ODD Children

Help for Grandparents Raising Grandchildren


I have a daughter who has been a problem since the age of 15 …she is now 27yrs …has a 2yr old daughter …she dumped the child and went to stay with boyfriend …doesn’t even contribute a cent to this child and I find myself having to start all over again raising a child. I don’t like this situation, but I feel sorry for the child …what can I do in this situation?


Many grandparents today are stepping in to raise their grandchildren when the kid's own parents are not able or willing to do so. In fact, the U.S. Census of 2000 found that over 2.4 million grandparents have responsibility for their grandchildren.

If you are one of these grandparents, you have made numerous sacrifices in order to provide a better life for your grandchildren. What are some things you can do now to provide the best possible care for your grandchildren while still preserving your own health and well-being?

Often, grandparents take on this obligation when the grandchild's own parents abandon them or when the kids can no longer live with them because of the parent's mental disorder, substance abuse, or incarceration. Thus, you may have the added burden of caring for kids who suffered from abuse or neglect from their own parents. These kids may feel insecure and afraid; they may be angry at their situation -- and even embarrassed by it. It will take time for these kids to feel safe and secure. You can encourage these good feelings and ease their adjustment to their new home in a number of ways:
  • Help your grandchildren to feel that they are "home" by making room for them and their belongings. Your home needs to be welcoming, safe, and child-friendly.
  • Practice positive discipline that emphasizes education, not punishment, and that rewards good behavior with praise.
  • Set up a daily routine of mealtimes, bedtime, and other activities so that the kids have some predictability in their lives.
  • Set up a few rules, and explain the rules to the kids. Then, enforce them consistently.
  • Work on communication skills. Talk to your grandchildren, and make sure that the kids know that they can always talk to you.
Building new relationships can be difficult. Sometimes, it helps to find things that you can do with your grandchildren to nurture your relationship and to make them feel secure and happy in their new home. Here are some ideas:
  • Get computer savvy. If you don't have your own computer, use the one at the public library. The library may have classes or other free help for you. You'll find lots of things that you and your grandchildren can do on the computer, from games to school research.
  • Join a group. There are many local support groups for grandparents raising grandchildren, and a number of these groups also provide activities for the kids. You might also find welcoming groups at your place of worship or in the local schools or library.
  • Read. Kids love to hear stories, and even older kids may surprise you by sitting quietly as you read aloud. Kids who see you read have a better chance of becoming readers themselves.
  • Take up a sport or other outdoor activity. Kids of all ages need to be active. Physical activity may help your grandchildren feel better and develop a healthy lifestyle, and it can be an important stress reliever for you.
If you're feeling stressed, overwhelmed, and unhappy, you are not going to be able to provide the best care for your grandchildren. It's important that you take care of yourself and not allow yourself to be overwhelmed by your parental responsibilities. Here are some suggestions:
  • Find a support group—either a group specifically for grandparents raising grandchildren or some other support group where you can share your challenges with others who will understand.
  • Learn to say "no." You don't have time to do everything. Learn to make priorities, and eliminate the unnecessary tasks in your life.
  • Take a break. A short time away from your grandchildren may give you some time to relax. Look for a trusted adult who can babysit or take over while you're out.
  • Take a parenting class. A class may help you to feel more comfortable with your status as a caregiver for young kids. It will also provide resources in the form of your teacher and the other students in the class.
  • Talk to someone. This could be a friend or relative or a professional, such as a counselor, family doctor, or someone at your church or temple. Unburdening yourself can be a stress reliever.
There is a lot of useful free information for grandparents. Much of it is available on the Internet. If your computer skills are a little rusty, you can find help at your public library. Here are some places to start:
  • The University of Wisconsin Extension produced a series of factsheets titled Through the Eyes of a Child—Grandparents Raising Grandchildren.
  • The University of Georgia College of Family and Consumer Sciences has a website that carries links to all kinds of factsheets on child development, including easy-to-understand factsheets for grandparents raising grandchildren.
  • Generations United runs their own National Center on Grandparents and Other Relatives Raising Children, which offers information and resources.
  • For help that can be located in your particular State, there is a series of factsheets that have been produced by a national partnership among the Children's Defense Fund, AARP, Casey Family Programs, National Center for Resource Family Support, Brookdale Foundation, Child Welfare League of America, Generations United, the Urban Institute, and Johnson & Hedgpeth Consultants.
  • AARP runs a Grandparent Information Center, where you can sign up for their newsletter, check their message board, and search for a local support group.

Good luck!

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

Should You File Criminal Charges Against Your Own Teenager?!

Hi, I am just getting started with your program. Thanks for all the work you have put into it. I plan to put my work into it!

Five days ago I found several receipts where my 17 yo daughter (will be 18 in 3 mos.) has used my debit card to take money from our bank account. I also found a check where she forged my husband’s name. She admitted to it. We told her we were either going to send her away to get help for this and all the other problems she is involved in OR that we were going to file charges against her.

She emailed us after the confrontation (where we both remained poker faced). She begged not to be sent away, acknowledged that she needed to changed, and took verbal responsibility for her actions and apologized for blaming us for her behavior. Yeah, very heartwarming, but as you say, and as I already know: THEY LIE.

Now my husband has changed his mind and does not want to follow thru with filing charges. He does not want to get involved in the "system". My heart does not want to put her thru the ordeal of filing charges etc., but my intellect says she must face the consequences and that it is better to face them now as a juvenile rather than LATER as an adult. getting involved with the "system" the best consequence or should we do a 3 day grounding and have her work at home to pay us back for the money she spent (~$100)....or both?......or something else? (By the way....last night she took my husband’s cell phone---she currently has no cell phone privileges---and she ran up 50 text messages...and of course WE pay for that service so that is AGAIN what I consider stealing)

Thanks you in advance for your advice and direction. ~ S.


Hi S.,

Unfortunately, deciding to not file charges is just another form of over-indulgence. You want to set up a system where you model for your child how the “real world” operates -- and in the “real world,” when you steal and get caught – there are legal ramifications (in this case, it would be a felony if she were an adult).

I would follow through and file charges. Short-term mild pain now will be much better than long-term major pain later. If she were truly sorry, she wouldn’t have taken your husband’s cell phone after getting busted the first time.

I'm sure she's sorry, though (sorry she got caught).

Mark Hutten, M.A.

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

When Disciplining Your Teenager Results In Physical Conflict

Hi Mark, We are into week 2 of what is supposed to have been a 3 day grounding with my 16 year old. He is still skipping school regularly and although he is generally pleasant enough when he is home, he is non-compliant with his grounding. We have taken away his cell phone, i-pod, computer time and tv. He just simply goes out whenever he wants and stays out as late as he wants to. The only thing that he currently does as a privilege is when he gets home he takes food to his room to eat. He is 6'3" and there is no way of taking away this privilege without a physical conflict, so we don't know what else to do except to try and wait out his defiance until he complies with grounding. If you have a specific suggestion in this regard it would be appreciated. It seems to us that the point of your program is to decrease the intensity of the interactions with him, so again, we are searching for ways to reduce this privilege without a physical interaction.

Also, on June 22 he is going to his Dad's for 1 month. If he hasn't complied with his grounding with us before that date, does he go away for a month without his phone and i-pod? If so, when he gets back do we try and start the 3 day grounding again or wait until he makes a mistake?

We certainly appreciate that you are a very busy man, however, we really need some expert personal input from you, beyond what we have seen in the e-book and reference material. We take parenting extremely seriously and have searched again, and again through the material but cannot find answers to our particular questions. Thank you. T. & D.

Hi T.,

The program’s main goal is to “foster the development of self-reliance” in your child – not to avoid conflict. Conflict is inevitable. Please continue with sessions #3 and #4.

There is no refusing grounding without serious consequences. If your son leaves, call the police and let them know that you have a runaway. If he gets physically abusive, call the police and file charges. Give him a heads-up that you will do this if he chooses to run off our get abusive. Then it's his choice to avoid - or receive- the consequence.

Meanwhile remove every single form of entertainment in his room. Tell him that since he left, he is now on lock-down for twice as long as before. Take his phone, and call all of his friend’s parents and let them know that he is grounded, so if he shows up at their house, they should call you immediately.

It sounds like you are afraid of your son. Let him know that if he engages in violence towards you, you WILL call the police and file battery charges.

This is no joke! And these strategies will separate the girls from the women.

I know this is a very tough assignment for you! Can you handle these “tough love” measures? If not, I (unfortunately) may not be able to help you.

Children will still be in charge of the household if parents continue with a passive style of parenting based on fear of the child. Where does that leave the child? It sets him up for failure, because quite honestly, the world will kick his ass if he acts this way later in life.

In the real world, you cannot do whatever you want to – and then threaten people when you don’t get your way. Is this the message you want to send your son? I doubt it.

No half measures,

Mark Hutten, M.A.

Testing Your Teen Using a Home-Drug Test: Good or Bad Idea?

"What are your thoughts on testing a teen suspected of using drugs through the use of a home drug-testing kit that can be purchased online?"

Home drug-testing kits sold on the Internet may not be the best way to determine if a teen is or is not using drugs, because it is not easy for moms and dads to know which test to choose, how to collect a urine or hair sample for testing, or understand the limits of test results.

Parents who are anxious to know whether their kids are using drugs have easy access to kits sold on the Internet, but home drug testing is not consistent with the guidelines of professional medical organizations. The mother or father using these kits may be reassured by a "false negative," or mistakenly accuse their youngster of using drugs because of a "false positive".

I recommend that the parent who suspects that her youngster is using drugs seek a professional assessment rather than conduct a drug test at home. I want to caution you about the limitations and potential risks of home drug-testing products. Testing for drug use at home, with or without the consent of the teen, can also seriously undermine the parent-child relationship.

Moms and dads who are concerned that their youngster is using drugs may not know exactly which drug the youngster is using, and using the wrong test may delay the correct diagnosis of a serious substance abuse disorder. There are several types of tests for alcohol, marijuana, amphetamines and other drugs common among teens.

Laboratory testing for drugs of abuse is a technically challenging procedure, even for medical professionals, and tests performed at home by an untrained  parent may have higher rates of error than professional tests. I have cited one study in which a certified laboratory had false negative tests between 6% and 40%, depending on the drug detected.

False positives are also a problem as in the case of amphetamines, especially if the youngster is using high doses of caffeine or cold medications containing pseudoephedrine or theophylline. Similarly, poppy seeds contained in bagels and other foods may result in a false positive for morphine.

Collecting a urine or hair sample is not an easy task for a parent. The standard protocol for collecting urine samples requires "observation" to avoid adulteration or dilution with water, and teenagers are quite adept at beating the tests. In addition, teens can purchase products from the Internet that "clean" urine by interfering with standard drug tests. But, observing the collection of a urine sample would not be acceptable to most families -- and is not advisable. The Web sites we reviewed did not address these issues, nor did they offer any details about how to collect a hair sample.

Coerced home drug testing by parents may be perceived by teens as invasive and a violation of their rights, potentially damaging the parent-child relationship. Only one of the eight Web sites viewed gave clear advice on testing a youngster against his or her will.

Many of the claims of benefits of home drug testing made by the Web sites are "unsubstantiated." Seven of the eight sites claimed that random drug testing prevented drug use by reducing peer pressure, but I can’t find any studies to substantiate that claim.

Here are five ways that adolescents may try to cheat drug tests. They're all described elsewhere on the Internet, so you should be aware of them:

1. Popping vitamins: Perhaps this works because niacin (aka vitamin B3) is known to aid metabolism, or perhaps it's because Scientologists are said to take it in excess to flush their bodies of toxins. Whatever the reasons, some adolescents got the idea that extreme doses of this vitamin would erase any trace of their illicit drug use. Instead, it almost cost them their lives. In two separate incidents, emergency physician Manoj Mittal of Children's Hospital of Philadelphia has found adolescents who downed at least 150 times the daily recommended dose of niacin (15 mg) to cheat drug tests. Both kids were vomiting, had low blood sugar, and had "significant" liver toxicity when they arrived at the ER. And the niacin didn't even do what they'd intended; both tested positive for illicit drugs. People might think that since niacin is a vitamin it's harmless. But these cases suggest that our bodies have limits.

2. Swapping urine samples: Whether they use a friend's clean urine, synthetic pee, or even freeze-dried urine purchased online, some adolescents try to pass off foreign samples as their own. The biggest tip-off is temperature. Anything significantly lower than body temperature is suspicious, which is why some have tried to shuttle samples in armpits or taped to thighs to keep them warm. Possibly the oddest trick of all is a device marketed to those trying to beat witnessed drug collections: a sort of prosthetic penis called the "Whizzinator" that claims to come equipped with clean urine "guaranteed" to remain at body temperature for hours, with the help of special heat pads. Believe it or not, the prosthesis comes in different colors.

3. Switching drugs: Perhaps most alarming is that adolescents bent on defeating drug tests will sometimes switch their drug of choice to an undetectable (or harder to detect) substance that's considerably more hazardous. Inhalants, for example, include numerous types of chemical vapors that typically produce brief, intoxicating effects. You don't excrete inhalants in your urine, but inhaling is acutely more dangerous than marijuana. Indeed, inhalants can trigger the lethal heart problem known as sudden sniffing death in otherwise healthy adolescents, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

4. Tampering: A sprinkle of salt or a splash of bleach, vinegar, detergent, or drain cleaner is all that's needed to muck up a urine specimen. These and other household substances are all too often smuggled into the bathroom and used to alter the composition of urine, making the presence of some illegal substances undetectable. Same goes for chemical concoctions sold all over the Internet. Sometimes these additives or "adulterants" will cloud or discolor urine, easily casting suspicion on the specimen, but others leave the sample looking normal. Laboratory toxicologists employ simple tests to catch these cheats. For example, a few drops of hydrogen peroxide will turn urine brown if it's been mixed with pyridinium chlorochromate, an otherwise-imperceptible chemical designed to foil drug tests.

5. Water-loading: Gulping fluids before providing urine, a long-standing tactic, is still the most common way that adolescents try to beat tests. Whether cheats use salty solutions to induce thirst, flushing agents that increase urine output, or just plain old H2O, their aim is to water down drugs so they can't be detected. Some testing facilities may check urine for dilution and deem overly watery samples "unfit for testing." But consuming too much fluid too quickly can occasionally have dire consequences. 

As I stated earlier, the best way to drug test your adolescent is to have a professional (e.g., doctor) do it.

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

When Your Teenager Refuses to Get Out of Bed On Shool Days

"What is done in a case where my teenage son (16 years old) will not get out of bed for either school or work without a huge fight everyday?"

Adolescents are notorious for staying up late at night and being hard to awaken in the morning. Your adolescent is probably no exception, but it's not necessarily because he is lazy or contrary. This behavior pattern actually has a physical cause — and there are ways to help mesh your adolescent's sleep schedule with that of the rest of the world.

Everyone has an internal clock that influences body temperature, sleep cycles, appetite and hormonal changes. The biological and psychological processes that follow the cycle of this 24-hour internal clock are called circadian rhythms. Before adolescence, these circadian rhythms direct most kids to naturally fall asleep around 8 or 9 p.m. But puberty changes an adolescent's internal clock, delaying the time he or she starts feeling sleepy — often until 11 p.m. or later. Staying up late to study or socialize can disrupt an adolescent's internal clock even more.

Most adolescents need about nine hours of sleep a night — and sometimes more — to maintain optimal daytime alertness. But few adolescents actually get that much sleep regularly, thanks to part-time jobs, homework, extracurricular activities, social demands and early-morning classes. More than 90 percent of adolescents in a recent study reported sleeping less than the recommended nine hours a night. In the same study, 10 percent of adolescents reported sleeping less than six hours a night.

Irritability aside, sleep deprivation can have serious consequences. Daytime sleepiness makes it difficult to concentrate and learn, or even stay awake in class. Too little sleep may contribute to mood swings and behavioral problems. And sleepy adolescents who get behind the wheel may cause serious — even deadly — accidents.

Catching up on sleep during the weekends seems like a logical solution to adolescent sleep problems, but it doesn't help much. In fact, sleeping in can confuse your adolescent's internal clock even more. A forced early bedtime may backfire, too. If your adolescent goes to bed too early, he may only lie awake for hours.

So what can you do? Don't assume that your adolescent is at the mercy of his internal clock. Take action tonight!
  • Stick to a schedule. Tough as it may be, encourage your adolescent to go to bed and get up at the same time every day — even on weekends. Prioritize extracurricular activities and curb late-night social time as needed. If your adolescent has a job, limit working hours to no more than 16 to 20 hours a week.
  • Nix long naps. If your adolescent is drowsy during the day, a 30-minute nap after school may be refreshing. But too much daytime shut-eye may only make it harder to fall asleep at night.
  • Keep it calm. Encourage your adolescent to wind down at night with a warm shower, a book or other relaxing activities — and avoid vigorous exercise, loud music, video games, text messaging, Web surfing and other stimulating activities shortly before bedtime. Take the TV out of your adolescent's room, or keep it off at night. The same goes for your adolescent's cell phone and computer.
  • Curb the caffeine. A jolt of caffeine may help your adolescent stay awake during class, but the effects are fleeting. And too much caffeine can interfere with a good night's sleep.
  • Adjust the lighting. As bedtime approaches, dim the lights. Turn the lights off during sleep. In the morning, expose your adolescent to bright light. These simple cues can help signal when it's time to sleep and when it's time to wake up.

Sleeping pills and other medications generally aren't recommended for adolescents.

In some cases, excessive daytime sleepiness can be a sign of something more than a problem with your adolescent's internal clock. Other problems can include:
  • Depression: Sleeping too much or too little is a common sign of depression.
  • Insomnia or biological clock disturbance. If your adolescent has trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, he or she is likely to struggle with daytime sleepiness.
  • Medication side effects: Many medications — including over-the-counter cold and allergy medications and prescription medications to treat depression and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder — can affect sleep.
  • Narcolepsy: Sudden daytime sleep, usually for only short periods of time, can be a sign of narcolepsy. Narcoleptic episodes can occur at any time — even in the middle of a conversation. Sudden attacks of muscle weakness in response to emotions such as laughter, anger or surprise are possible, too.
  • Obstructive sleep apnea: When throat muscles fall slack during sleep, they stop air from moving freely through the nose and windpipe. This can interfere with breathing and disrupt sleep.
  • Restless legs syndrome: This condition causes a "creepy" sensation in the legs and an irresistible urge to move the legs, usually shortly after going to bed. The discomfort and movement can interrupt sleep.

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

What To Do When Your Teenager Sneaks Out At Night

"Our 14 year old keeps sneaking out in the middle of the night. We've screwed the windows shut, called police. She says she sorry...but she can't be that sorry if she keeps doing it. What is the best way to handle this? We've told her it is a safety issue more than anything else."

You and your husband need to have a series of sit-down discussions with her. What needs to happen is that you end up with an agreement whereby she agrees she will not sneak out and you will allow some dating or other privilege. There are rules that are important to you; there are behaviors and freedoms important to her. You and she have to discuss these until you reach an agreement.

You don't want her running away or sneaking out. At the same time, you want to keep a relationship with her. Things should be discussed until you can reach a compromise that as parents you can live with, and as a teenage girl she can live with the final agreement as well. Things may need to be written down. Maybe a written contract will result.

These kinds of situations are difficult -- and delicate. Parents feel they should be able to dictate rules. But teens have a lot of power -- and mobility -- so a compromise is necessary. The goal is to come up with a workable solution that allows everyone to continue living together without hostilities and threats.

In the meantime, here are some concrete tips:

1. Be sure to explain the dangers of what she is doing. If possible the best thing you can do is to have an alarm system on your home and to be sure before you go to bed that all windows and doors are closed and the alarm is set.

2. Hang bells on the door high enough to make it hard to quietly remove them. Also place screws in the screen to prevent the child from leaving through the window.

3. If you have a girl, keep her make-up in your bathroom. Chances are if she is sneaking out she will be going somewhere and will want to look her best. Most teenage girls won't be caught dead around friends without her face on!

4. If you have an alarm, install alarm codes. You can assign codes to different people in your house and it will record when they arm and disarm the alarm. It will also send you a text message or let you check online to see when the person is logging on or off of the alarm. You can use this data to prove that you know the exact times your daughter has been outside of the house at night!

5. Motion sensor lights can be a good way to catch her and potential friends sneaking around the house. The drawback here is that it might catch other night crawlers like possums. Couple the motion sensor lights with an alarm system for a sure-fire way to catch your teenager if she’s climbing out the windows or unlocking doors late at night. If the teenager does try to sneak out, the piercing sound of the security system will quickly alert everyone in the house (and neighborhood!) that the girl is trying to sneak out. Alarm systems protect the whole family and provide the additional safety of making sure your teenager is spending the whole night where she belongs – in bed!

6. Perhaps the most important step in preventing your child from sneaking out is to expect they will. So many parents think their child won't, but chances are they will. Next, leave your bedroom door open at night while you are sleeping.

7. Set an alarm to check on her at odd hours throughout the night. With any luck, you’ll catch her gone & be sitting calmly on her bed when she comes back. The shock of being caught will not only put the bad behavior out on the table, you’ll also be able to immediately tell if she’s high on drugs, alcohol or just seen the boyfriend.

8. Talk with her. Just acknowledging that you know she is sneaking out is a big step towards getting everything out in the open. Tell her why it’s not safe to sneak out and explain what can happen to her late at night. If she’s meeting up with friends or a boyfriend, expand your talk to explain the dangerous of drug use, late-night partying, having sex too young and more. After the talk, punish her. You need to show her that this behavior is not acceptable in your house.

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

How to Motivate Your Adolescent to Look for Work

"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.

As one parent stated, "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

Daughter Ran Away and Still Missing

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 To Deal With Your "Violent" Child

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

When Your Teenager's Cell Messages Reveal Disturbing Behavior: Is it O.K. to Snoop?

Hi Mark, Need some help… was scrolling through my son’s phone messages… he left his phone unlocked… I know it’s a breach of privacy, but see he has been smoking, not cigarettes, and he and friends arranging between themselves… not sure how to handle it and what to do say. If raise the issue - he will know I’ve been through his phone. If I ignore - he is getting away with it… am in a quandary. ~ A.


Hi A.

First of all - it's o.k. to snoop. Tell him you WILL be doing this periodically.

Secondly - you should confront this using either “When You Want Something From Your Kid” – or – “The Six-Step Approach” [strategies outlined in the online version of the eBook].

Thirdly - you should now take possession of the cell phone, that is, he turns it in to you at the end of the day [I’d do this for at least one month, depending on how compliant he is]. If he has locked it before “turn-in” – then he loses all cell privileges until he unlocks it. If he refuses to turn it in – then you call the service provider and cancel the cell plan (at least temporarily).

Note: If you are now going to email me in return to say something like “well, he has to have his cell phone for bla bla bla reason(s)” – then you are choosing to “half-ass” the program, in which case I cannot help you with this issue.

Keep in mind that this will not keep him from smoking [you’ll want to refer to the strategies in the eBook that address this]. Also, he will now begin to erase messages. So you won’t solve the real problem (i.e., smoking) by issuing consequences over the cell phone. But, he will know that he’s being watched, which may help him curb unwanted activity at least somewhat.

Mark Hutten, M.A.

When Your 15-Year-Old Daughter is Having Sex with a 20-Year-Old Man

Dear Mark,

My youngest daughter just turned 15 today. While having lunch with my older daughter, who is 23 and living outside of our home, she told us that our 15 year-old had confessed to her that she lost her virginity to a 20 year-old man who often goes to a library activity that she attends each Thursday.

Her dad and I have not liked the library situation for a long time, but have continued to allow her to go (with an attempt to monitor her by having 1 of us there most of the time for the 3 hours that she's there) because older kids hang out around there plus there have been fights and other things that we have not liked. The reason we've continued to allow her to go is because she seems to love it so much. She's homeschooled, so she doesn't think she gets enough socialization and has gone out of her way to "fit in" with the other kids/young adults by giving up a lot of the stuff that she used to love, but will do just about anything to go each Thursday.

Obviously, we want her to be happy, but, especially with this latest revelation from our older daughter, it's time for us to take some kind of action. What would you advise about this? Our older daughter swore us to secrecy and I want her to have a friend to talk to (who better than a sister?), but we need to protect her from these older kids who are bad influences. This guy that she was with before contacted her on Facebook today, saying he wants her back.

She has violent mood swings, which makes her difficult to deal with and I want to handle things properly so that she doesn't hurt herself or run away or anything. This girl is so smart and so capable and has so much potential and we love her dearly. My older daughter offered to take her to Planned Parenthood for birth control pills, but that certainly doesn't take care of diseases or our other concerns plus I'm not sure how I could pretend that I didn't know about the birth control if she leaves it out like she does just about everything else. How should I react in such a situation or should I take her myself? She's already talked about taking the pills for clearing her complexion, so what would be better?

Thank you so much, Mark. I'm so glad that I have you to turn to.


This is a very serious matter. Unfortunately (or fortunately, as the case may be), you absolutely need to confront her on this. Some “swearing to secrecy” cases have to come out into the light – and this is definitely one.
  1. Get her started on birth control.
  2. She should be grounded FROM the library.
  3. Advise her of the consequences in the event she is found at the library or near the 20-year-old man.
  4. Also, you should attempt to find the name of the man who has had sex with your daughter and call the police to report it.
  5. Lastly, when the dust has settled, have “the conversation” with her re: sex as follows:

Sometime, when things are calm and everyone is getting along, have a conversation about sex with your daughter. Start with asking her what she may already know. Appropriate body language, facial expressions and responses are a must here. You want her to open up about a very private subject and feel safe talking about it. Body gestures of placing your hand over your heart or gaping mouth are not helpful. Keep your eye brows down to avoid the bug-eyed expression; it is natural to hear the staccato beat of your heart in your ears at this moment. Use responses like: "okay", "yes, that's true", "no, that is not true", "that is a common misconception." Avoid responses like: "a body can do that?", "for how long?", "let me grab a pen." You have to stay in control of the conversation.

After hearing what knowledge your daughter has, be sure to correct any false information she may have learned on the internet, at school or the local teen hang-out. Put off the mental list of security systems, chastity belts, teenage boy detection systems, and swat surveillance for later. Move on to the psychological aspect of sex and intimacy. Sex should not be taken lightly like choosing which bowling alley to go to on Friday night, no matter what the single neighbor next door does. Sex is mental as well as physical. Let her know that the scared, confused and embarrassing feelings that she has are normal and she should be feeling this way for a long, long, long time to come. This is after all a preparation talk about the future, distant future. If she is not afraid, modify the mental list and operation "Parent Watch" is a go.

Peer pressure is an issue for all teens. It is okay to be teased for being a virgin, let her know it is a way of breaking down her defenses and making her do something she is not prepared to do. Be vigilant about getting names without being too obvious, swat needs to update their system regularly. Being labeled Most Likely to "Remain a Virgin through High School" is an honor. Warn about relationship pressures she will face. It is natural to feel "in love" as a teenager, but that is not a precursor for sex. Feed the image of how he will look twenty years down the road with a pot belly, bald, drinking and flatulence problem. This could be the new form of birth control. Posters on the wall of every Planned Parenthood center of Brad Pitt and Joe, the out of work plumber.

Discuss the worst urban legends to reassure her that they are in fact, urban legends. Holding hands and kissing will get you pregnant. Nope, that just passes cooties. Men suffer violent and painful deaths from a sudden shift in blood flow to their "closest best friend." We women have collectively proven this urban legend false for centuries; marriage still exists. Men are diagnosed with terminal illness due to a lack of sex. You know, there was hope for this one. There is a lot of good information under divorce statistics to prove this one false.

Every discussion has to include consequences for unprotected sex. Having a baby at a young age or the desire to have one is a rising concern in our society. Guiding and explaining the trials and tribulations of parenthood can fall on deaf ears here, so be resourceful. We are so lucky to be living in a technologically advanced era. Imagine how many couples are video tapping the birth of their children. I'm sure there are proud parents out there willing to share in their experiences. The local library (go with her to the library) also has resources on conception to birth with all the misery and weight gain in between to draw upon for visual aids. Try not to lay this on too thickly, eventually you do want grandchildren.

Unfortunately there is also the consequence of sexually transmitted disease in our society. This is not an easy discussion for any parent to have with a teenager. Thank goodness the American Medical Association has issued pamphlets on various diseases for questions and concerns. Hotline numbers are located on each one for additional reinforcements. These pamphlets can be found in almost every clinic and doctors office. Take as many as you need to decorate your daughter's room. There is no such thing as being over informed.

And finally, remember to stress that you are always there to answer any questions she may have, and not to worry too much. Now, good luck, and don't forget that mental list.

Mark Hutten, M.A.

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

Sleep Deprivation in Teens Who Text Continuously

"My teenage son is not getting up on time for school due to being up most of the night texting his g-friend. Any advice?"

Getting children and teenagers away from the cell phone is quite a battle for moms and dads. Most (yes, I said “most”) teenagers suffer from sleep deprivation solely because of late night text messaging. Most teens go to sleep with their phone plugged-in right by their heads. Every ping of an incoming message is a temptation to pick up the phone.

According to a recent online survey by Online Parent Support, nearly a quarter of adolescents in a relationship have communicated with a boyfriend or girlfriend hourly between midnight and 5 a.m. via cell phone or texting. One in six communicated 10 or more times an hour through the night.

Most children go to sleep with their phone plugged in right by their heads. Every ping of an incoming message is a temptation to pick up the phone. They know talking on the phone might wake up their moms and dads, but if they text, it probably won't.

Adolescents are famously sleep-deprived already, but experts say some are compounding the problem by staying up into the middle of the night to silently type messages to friends on their mobile phones. Adolescents need on average 9 hours sleep per night, but often only manage 7.5 hours. This leaves them with a sleep debt resulting in poor performance, moodiness and irritability.

With changing biorhythms, adolescents do naturally stay up later -- but not that late. In addition to needing more sleep, adolescents experience a "phase shift" during puberty, falling asleep later at night than do younger children. The brain's circadian timing system-- controlled mainly by melatonin--switches on later at night as pubertal development progresses. Later on, in middle-age, the clock appears to shift back, making it hard for moms and dads to stay awake just when their adolescents are at their most alert.

Like surfing the Internet or watching TV, text- messaging tends to energize adolescents rather than help them fall asleep. Nearly a quarter of adolescents in a relationship have communicated with a boyfriend or girlfriend hourly between midnight and 5 a.m. via mobile phone or texting. It is during these hours that new brain cells and neural connections or "wires" which connect the right and left sides of the brain and are critical to intelligence, self-awareness and performance, grow like branches on a tree. Daytime stimulation, in the form of school and social interaction, gets "hard-wired" into the adolescent brain during the latter stages of sleep, including REM sleep.

Cut these sleep stages short and performance suffers the next day. If you want to learn really well and to be really efficient in your learning, the best way to do it is to get a good night's sleep. Get the mobile phones and TV's out of their rooms, turn off the computer and encourage some light reading in bed before going to sleep.

What to do with too much texting:
  1. Check the bill for late night calls. If they have broken the agreement about not using the phone once they are in bed, then the consequence should be to confiscate it for a day or two.
  2. Enlist other moms and dads. Polite society used to frown on phone calls after 9 p.m. Network with other moms and dads of adolescents to agree on community standards.
  3. Keep phones out of bedrooms. Make an agreement that the phone stays on a charger in the kitchen or away from the bedrooms.
  4. Stop rescuing. If you're still getting your teenagers up in the morning, give up that job. It's time they took on that responsibility and managed the consequences of being late if they don't get up in time. Moms and dads should be clear that a parental ride or excuse note is not an option. Stop protecting them from the natural results of their actions.
  5. Turn it off. Switch it off half an hour before bedtime. Putting it on silent is not good enough.

Your action steps:
  • Sit down with the teenagers in your family and create an agreement around responsible mobile phone use.
  • Hold them accountable to the agreement you jointly make.
  • Make the consequence (if they break the agreement) a logical, related consequence.
  • Confiscate the phone for a day or two (not a month!).
  • Restate the terms of the agreement.

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


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