Daughter Steals Mom's Car

Hi J.,

== > I’ve responded in various spots throughout your email below:


Recently I became the recipient of a $720 phone bill, courtesy of my 15 year old daughter, A___. After confronting A___ about her phone usage I asked her to give me her phone. She refused and a short while later left the house, presumably to gather her wits. A short while later my wife noticed my car was missing. My daughter had taken my car! My daughter does not have a driver's permit or insurance. A short time later my daughter called us from her friend's house, about 5 miles away. She was safe, and so was the car. In the meantime we had called the police. We knew she had to face consequences for her actions. The police officer explained that we had several choices on how to proceed with a juvenile (after bringing her home):

1. Do nothing (leaving the consequences up to us as parents)
2. Write her tickets for Driving Without a License, Driving without Insurance, Car Theft, and Breech of Trust. I would have to pay those tickets.
3. Write her tickets and set a court date in the Family Court. I would pay for the tickets and court costs.
4. Declare her an Incorrigible Child and give up our rights as parents.
5. Have the officers talk to A___ and then leave the consequences up to us as parents.

== > First of all, you don’t lose your rights as parents if your daughter if found to be incorrigible (not in the U.S. anyway).

Second, if this is the first time your daughter has gone off the deep end like this, then you made a good decision by picking number 5. But – and this is a huge but – if this is not her first time, you made a huge mistake.

We chose option 5. The officers did a great job scaring A___: If they had to come out to the house again (this was the third time) she would be taken to jail. They wanted to take her then, but we convinced the officers to leave her with us. (a couple white lies, but the talk was brilliant!) A___ apologized profusely about two hours later.

== > I respectfully disagree that the officers did a great job scaring A___ – rather, A___ did a great job of convincing you (manipulating you) that she is sorry / remorseful.

Fear-based motivation has no longevity. As soon as she feels that the heat is off, you may find yourself in this same – or similar – situation.

What are appropriate consequences for such criminal behavior? I've placed controls on A___'s phone so she can only text or call voicemail or family members. She is grounded, but can have friends over and go outside as long as they stay in or close to home. A___ must perform special chores around the house to pay for her part of the phone bill. I don't want A___ to get her driver's permit until she's 17 (she is obviously immature and untrustworthy).

== > This all sounded good until now. Remember, our #1 goal as parents is to “foster the development of self-reliance.” The question should be, “Will withholding her driver’s permit foster self-reliance – or dependency.” Clearly it will foster dependency (i.e., somebody will have to drive her to the places she needs to go).

My wife wants to lift the grounding and phone restrictions after one week. From the MOOCT book you said that punishments longer than a week are ineffective.

Is this a case where more severe consequences are appropriate? What do you recommend?

== > When a child is allowed to stay in the house – or out …when she’s allowed to continue to have cell phone privileges even though it was the original source of the whole episode …when she is allowed to have friends over …then the “grounding” is not really a grounding, rather it’s something reminiscent of a grounding.

Here’s my recommendation:

First, give your daughter a warning that if she chooses to steal your car again, she will choose to face legal consequences in addition to being grounded for 7 days – in the house – no cell phone (or any other privilege for that matter) – no friends.

Second, if this happens again, follow through.

Mark Hutten, M.A.

==> JOIN Online Parent Support

Stepmom and Son Have a Very Contentious and Volatile Relationship

Mark, I have recently found and joined your OPS. I have a 15 yo son that came to live with me when he was 12. His mother is best described as an overindulgent parent. He was also exposed to her habit of distorting the truth to suit her needs. He learned and has told me that no matter whether wrong or right she always gets what she wants. She will go months without calling him. My son will not open up to anyone. He seems to have the traits of a "scapegoat and a lost child". He has approximately 15 of the 20 traits from your Indulgent parent quiz. I am more in line with an authoritarian parent. Needless to say i have made a multitude of mistakes as a parent. I am also a 13-year police officer with a 50/50 mix between patrol and specialized units.

That said the current problem is that my wife (his step mom) and my son have a very contentious and volatile relationship. Saturday while I was asleep my wife got onto my son about something and he announced that he was leaving. She grabbed his bag and told him that he was not taking the items that he had packed. He shoved her and either kicked her in the leg or stepped on her leg.

My wife woke me telling me that he was leaving and that I needed to get a hold of him and that he had pushed her. My immediate response was to try to calm everyone and get the story of what had happened. Instead it was a lot of "I hate her, all she does is ...".and "I'm tired of his crap all he does is cause problems...."

Things got calmed down and I was able to get some of the frustrations lined out. I spent the day trying to come up with a discipline for him later that evening my wife suggested grounding him to his room w/out tv, ipod, cell, etc..

Now she is upset and resents me because she feels that I did not stand up for her by either pushing/attacking him or whipping him. The more she thinks about it and talks to relatives and friends, the more frustrated she gets. I feel that the physical discipline would give him the "reward" that he seeks. I have no problem with corporal punishment, however he seems to genuinely appreciate it. My wife has commented numerous times over the years that she doesn't understand how he acts perfectly normal, even happy after getting a whipping. But now she is upset that I didn’t mete out some type of corporal punishment to him even after the fact, yesterday or today. I feel almost helpless, nothing I have tried has worked and I can't convince my wife that we are doing the right thing now. I know there is a small window to get him turned around and I am afraid of losing another chance.

I didn't find your site until Sunday and it seems to fit so well. I know this is a lot at one time, but any advice is appreciated.


Hi D.,

Re: corporal punishment.

I don’t think that spanking is child abuse. When done in the heat of anger though, spanking often does lead to physical abuse. While spanking may be appropriate for some younger kids, physical punishment is not appropriate for teens. Rather than having it escalate into abuse (or, in some cases, result in retaliation by the teen), I discourage spanking as a method of discipline.

Instead, I offer parents several alternatives to spanking. These alternatives are not as quick and easy to apply as a good whipping, but bear in mind that corporal punishment is just another traditional parenting strategy that has no long-lasting benefit.

Re: tension between you and your son’s stepmother.

I’ll address this to your wife in hopes that she will read it without being offended:

A StepMom often feels hurt, angry, and worried about her relationship with the children and her relationship with her husband. She has come to care for, even love, her husband's children very much and wants to do a good job as a parent. Naturally, she believes she is right in her ideas and wants to shape up the other adults/caretakers (i.e., her husband and her stepchild’s biological mother).

Even if that were possible (it isn't), the other adults also believe they are doing right. The only person StepMom can change in this situation is herself. She needs to begin to look at the situation differently, and change her part in the cycle of hurt that is going on.

Assuming that we're talking about differences, not abuse or neglect, all of the adults in this situation need to start giving each other a break. Nobody has a corner on what is right -- only on what they each prefer.

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

StepMom can take a great deal of stress off of herself by accepting the reality that the children will always have a deeper, stronger feeling for their biological mother (no matter how she parented). She doesn't have to compete with that or correct what she sees as

Bio-Mom's deficiencies. In fact, she would do much better to approach the children as young friends, not as responsibilities or as reflections of her beliefs about child-rearing. She can have far more influence on the behavior of the children by simply being an additional adult friend.

StepMom can also withdraw from the struggle with her husband. He wasn't able to work out his differences with his former wife while they were married. He isn't going to be any more successful at it just because StepMom wants backing.

By getting out of struggles with the adults, StepMom also gets herself out of struggles with the kids. She certainly has the right to ask for basic politeness and respect for herself and her possessions. But it's a losing battle to ask them to behave differently or to follow her house rules. They won’t.

It's often fascinating what happens when one part of a complex system makes genuine change. Often enough, there is a quiet but significant domino effect over time. That's why I advise stepmothers in this kind of situation to understand what they can and can't change and to make peace with it.

If she angrily withdraws or punishes her husband and the kids by playing the martyr, she hasn't shifted her role in the fight, only her tactics. If, instead, she can really let go and find a place for herself as another adult role model in the family, she may be surprised to find that she gets far more of what she was fighting so hard (and so ineffectively) to get – respect and consideration.

Mark Hutten, M.A.


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

==> More crucial information for step-parents can be found here... 

How Parents Make a Bad Problem Worse!

Hi Mark, First, thanks for your great ebook and website. I realise I had been very unclear as a parent and started on the assignments with a sense of relief. Things did get worse before they got better but I am very pleased that I did not lose my cool or get drawn into arguments and we started to settle down and my 11 year old son S__ said that he felt so much better because he knew where he stood.

But our new-found calm was shattered by something that happened at school [before schools closed due to the virus]. A boy accused my son of something that he did not do and said that he was going to fight him. S__ alerted a member of staff but they didn't act in time and S__ got beaten up. The school was apologetic and admits that they let S__ down by not acting quickly enough. They have offered various strategies to try and settle him back into school this coming school year, but he is hysterical at the thought of going back.

As I want S__ to be happy and to feel he has some choice in the matter, this is what I am doing. (we live in the UK, by the way.) The Education Welfare Officer has been to see us and has suggested two other schools that might be better for S__, so we are going to see these schools. She has also put me in touch with a network of people who educate their children at home so I can see what's involved. This is my least favourite option as I am a freelance writer/editor and I work from home, so I'm quite worried about combining the two things. But home education is S__'s favourite option. I am also going back to talk to his original school, though S__ is refusing to come with me.

I am just very worried about S__ because he seems so depressed. Every bit of confidence has been knocked out of him. He is so unhappy. I too am unhappy and depressed and can barely drag myself out of bed in the morning. We are both completely demotivated. I did try taking him bowling to cheer him up, but it didn't work as he seemed to have lost the knack and felt even worse about himself. I need to find some ideas to boost his confidence. He has stopped looking after his pets, which is putting a real strain on me. The only thing we are managing to do every day is walk the dog.
The children's father died three and a half years ago.

S__ and I do talk, but he tends to speak in sweeping generalisations so that there's nothing I can focus on to help with, eg 'my life is over' 'my life is ruined' 'I'll never be the S__e again'. I have found a counsellor who he will speak to and he has seen her twice, but because these are confidential sessions I don't really know what's happening - although I do know she will be talking to him about his education next week. Your comments would be greatly appreciated, Thanks, S.


Hi S.,

I think I have a good idea what’s going here. Please don’t get upset with me. I’m going to be a bit tough on you here:

Your son is playing you for a fool.

Here are some of the statements you’ve made that concern me:

… I want S__ to be happy
… I am just very worried about S__ because he seems so depressed
… Every bit of confidence has been knocked out of him
… He is so unhappy
… I did try taking him bowling to cheer him up
… I need to find some ideas to boost his confidence
…The children's father died three and a half years ago

All the above tells me that you are really feeling sorry for your son. And your son is “milking” your sympathy for everything it’s worth.

Please do not misunderstand. I’m not being indifferent here. I definitely understand that there is some real hurt and fear going on inside your son. And I do not want to minimize the loss of his father. But I also know how son’s can manipulate their mothers when they’re feeling down. I did it too.

His statements verify this (in my mind anyway). When he says things like …'my life is over' …'my life is ruined' …'I'll never be the same again’ ...he is trying to get you to feel sorry for him – and it’s working!

Why would he do that? What could possibly be the motivation?

Well, he gets out of doing chores …he gets out of attending school …he gets out of facing his fears (i.e., going back to that school and standing up to the bullies) …and he gets a bunch of attention from you – his parent.

Having said this, I think you need to do some serious soul-searching regarding whether you are helping your son with your approach to this matter – or hurting him.

I believe your sympathy comes from a well-intentioned, loving heart, but it’s resulting in a lot of over-indulgent parenting. (I trust that you know the dangers of that parenting style.)

From my gut,

Mark Hutten, M.A.


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

Defiant Teenagers with Chronic In-School Suspensions

Recently my husband and I started your program. We started the program because of the problem of constant In School Suspension for my 13 yr old son. He is defiant. His last time in ISS was because of chewing gum in Music class. He was told to spit it out and then was later seen with gum again. He spent 3 days in ISS. Yesterday he somehow exploded his milk at lunch and wet himself and his food. This resulted in him loosing lunch, it was not replaced at school, and the school gave him one week in the back of the lunchroom by himself. 2-3 hours later my husband was able to take him dry clothes. I try very hard to support the school in order to show my son my support for their decisions. However, I find some of the consequences from the school as excessive. Am I wrong and just being over protective? What sort of punishment should I do at home for his trouble in school? The school is threatening to send him to a behavior school that even they think may do more harm than good. He was in 1/2 day ISS today for arguing with his teacher about a complete sentence. What can I do? ~ J.


Hi J.,

Re: Am I wrong and just being over protective?

Over protective? Perhaps.

Wrong? Probably not.

Unfortunately, once a kid gets labeled a “problem child” (which I’m sure has happened to your son), things tend to take an ugly turn for the worse. Teachers (even though they will deny this) tend to view the “problem child” differently after he has “rocked the boat” excessively.

Let’s be totally honest here. Your son is a pain in their rear end – and they really would prefer that he attend school elsewhere. And if your son does leave that school, many will breath a sigh of relief.

Is this fair? No.

Is it right? Of course not.

Can you blame them? Not really.

They simply do not know how to teach an intense, strong-willed child. They are using traditional teaching methods with a “non-traditional” student.

Re: What sort of punishment should I do at home for his trouble in school?

If he’s receiving a consequence at school, you really shouldn’t issue another one at home. I’m sure your son is frustrated enough with how things are going.

Re: What can I do?

If the school is sending home complaints about your son's behavior -- and expecting you to do something about it -- put the ball back in their court by requesting a Functional Behavior Assessment (FBA) (see below). This will force school personnel to really think about your child's behavior, not just react to it.

An FBA examines what comes before bad behavior and what the consequences are for it; what possible function the behavior could serve for the child; and what sorts of things could be setting him or her off.

If a child finds class work too hard or a classroom too oppressive, for example, getting sent to the hallway or ISS could become a reward, not a punishment. Conducting an FBA and writing a Behavior Intervention Plan (BIP) (see below) based on it is probably the best way to head off discipline problems.

If teachers and administrators refuse to go along with it, you might need to do a little behavior analysis on them.

A Functional Behavioral Assessment (FBA) is an attempt to look beyond the obvious interpretation of behavior as "bad" and determine what function it may be serving for a child. Truly understanding why a child behaves the way he or she does is the first, best step to developing strategies to stop the behavior. Schools are required by law to use FBA when dealing with challenging behavior in students with special needs, although you may need to specifically push for it.

The process usually involves documenting the antecedent (what comes before the behavior), behavior, and consequence (what happens after the behavior) over a number of weeks; interviewing teachers, parents, and others who work with the child; evaluating how the child's disability may affect behavior; and manipulating the environment to see if a way can be found to avoid the behavior. This is usually done by a behavioral specialist, and then becomes the basis for a Behavior Intervention Plan.

Examples: A student may act up frequently and be sent to stand in the hallway. However, a FBA may find that the student acts up only during times when a lot of writing is required in class, and that he has documented difficulty with fine motor skills. The misbehavior serves the function of getting him out of written work. Supports to reduce the amount of writing needed and tools to make writing easier may eliminate the behavior in a way that escalating punishments never will.

A good Behavior Intervention Plan (BIP) can make a big difference in how a student with special needs acts and reacts in a school setting. However, getting the appropriate school personnel to do the necessary behavior analysis and put a plan together can be a frustratingly lengthy process. You may want to try proposing a behavior plan of your own -- particularly if you have a good relationship with your child’s study team, and your child's teachers are as frustrated by the delays as you are. 

At the very least, seeing behavior plans that others have put together can help you be an active participant in the planning process. Below is an example of successful behavior plan for a kid with ADHD:


Positive Behavior Support Plan


Behavior impacting learning is: impulsivity, kicking and throwing self to floor, disrupts class room, and recess/ unstructured activities

It impedes learning because: he is unavailable for instruction, disrupts others and teacher

Estimate of current severity of behavior problem: moderate to severe

Current frequency / intensity / duration of behavior: 3-4 / week, sometimes, up to 3 times/day

Current predictors for behavior: teasing / rejection by peers, over-stimulation, inability to express self, “sensory overload”, unexpected changes in routine, transitions, unstructured activities

What should student do instead of this behavior: learn to communicate frustrations with adult guidance either through story telling or drawing pictures about his feelings, learn to “walk away” from frustration

What supports the student using the problem behavior: misunderstanding or misinterpretation of his behaviors and communicative intent

Behavioral Goals/ Objectives related to this plan: development of age appropriate social skills, coping skills, and self-monitoring, increased tolerance to change in routine, and the development of positive replacement behaviors

Are curriculum accommodations necessary? yes / no

Is there a curriculum accommodation plan? yes / no

Teaching Strategies for new behavior instruction: validation of feelings and offering alternative replacement behaviors in the form of 1-2 choices, consistency of social skills development with “social stories”, consistent encouragement to “use words”, use clear, simple directions, ignore inappropriate behavior whenever possible............ By: teacher, aides, parents

Environmental structure and supports, time/space/materials/interactions: consistency in routine, designate a “safe place” to calm down, using favorite toys, books or activities engage him in a desired activity, avoid confrontation through calmness, negotiation, choices, diversion of attention, do not use physical force except for immediate safety concerns, anticipate predictors of behavior and avoid or prepare for intervention......By: teacher, aides, parents

Reinforcers/ rewards: immediately reward appropriate behaviors, lots of smiles, verbal praise, read stories of his choice, outside play, being a “helper”, “special “jobs”, seating next to a positive peer role model, “Social Stories’ book, puzzles, art projects, computer time/games....... By: teacher, aides, parents.....

Monitoring results and Communication:
options: daily, weekly reports
by phone: leave message, write in “Communication Book” to be sent home on Fridays, IEP Team should meet 4-6 weeks after implementation to discuss results of plan and make any necessary changes

Below is a blank form you can use for a Positive Behavioral Intervention Plan:

Positive Behavioral Intervention Plan
Planning Form - Blank
IEP teams can use this form to guide them through the process of developing the Positive Behavioral Intervention Plan.
Student _________________________________________
Age __________
Sex ___________
Teacher(s) _____________________________________________
Grade _________________
Case Manager __________________________________________
Date(s) ________________
Reason for intervention plan:
Participants (specify names):
( ) student___________________________( ) family member ____________________( ) special educator____________________( ) general educator ___________________( ) peer(s) ___________________________ ( ) special education administrator_______________( ) general education administrator ______________( ) school psychologist________________________( ) other agency personnel____________________________________________________________
( ) other (specify) _________________________________________________________

Fact Finding

1. General learning environment: Describe the student’s school class schedule, including any special programs or services.

2. Problem behavior: Define the problem behavior(s) in observable, measurable, and countable terms (i.e., topography, event, duration, seriousness, and/or intensity). Include several examples of the behavior.

3. Setting events: Describe important things that are happening in the student’s life that may be causing the behavior(s) of concern.

4. Review existing data: Summarize previously collected information (records review, interviews, observations, and test results) relevant to the behavior(s). Attach additional sheets if necessary.

Possible Explanations

5. Identify likely antecedents (precipitating events) to the behavior(s).

6. Identify likely consequences that may be maintaining the behavior(s).

7. Identify and describe any academic or environmental context(s) in which the problem behavior(s) does not occur.


8. Functional assessment: Do you already have enough information to believe that the possible explanations are sufficient to plan an intervention?

a. If yes, go to Step 9, if no, then what additional data collection is necessary?
( ) Review of IEP goals and objectives
( ) Review of medical records
( ) Review of previous intervention plans
( ) Review of incident reports
( ) ABC (across time and situations)
( ) Motivational analysis
( ) Ecological analysis
( ) Curricular analysis
( ) Scatter plot
( ) Parent questionnaire/interview
( ) Student questionnaire/interview
( ) Teacher questionnaire/interview (specify who) ______________________
( ) Other (explain) _______________________________________________
b. Summarize data. Attach additional sheets if necessary.


9. Formulate hypothesis statement: Using the table below, determine why the student engages in problem behavior(s), whether the behavior(s) serves single or multiple functions, and what to do about the behavior(s).
Internal - External
Obtain Something
Avoid Something 

10. Current level of performance: Describe problem behavior(s) in a way the team will recognize onset and conclusion of behavior.

11. Describe replacement behavior(s) that are likely to serve the same function as the behavior(s) identified in Step 9.

12. Measurement procedures for problem behavior(s) and replacement behavior(s):
a. Describe how (e.g., permanent products, event recording, scatterplot), when, and where student behavior(s) will be measured.

b. Summarize data by specifying which problem behavior(s) and replacement behavior(s) will be targets for intervention.

13. Behavioral intervention plan:
a. Specify goals and objectives (conditions, criteria for acceptable performance) for teaching the replacement behavior(s).

b. Specify instructional strategies that will be used to teach the replacement behavior(s).

c. Specify strategies that will be used to decrease problem behavior(s) and increase replacement behavior(s).

d. Identify any changes in the physical environment needed to prevent problem behavior(s) and to promote desired (replacement) behavior(s), if necessary.

e. Specify extent to which intervention plan will be implemented in various settings; specify settings and persons responsible for implementation of plan.

14. Evaluation plan and schedule: Describe the plan and timetable to evaluate effectiveness of the intervention plan.
a. Describe how, when, where, and how often the problem behavior(s) will be measured.

b. Specify persons and settings involved.

c. Specify a plan for crisis/emergency intervention, if necessary

d. Determine schedule to review/modify the intervention plan, as needed. Include dates and criteria for changing/fading the plan.

15. Describe plan and timetable to monitor the degree to which the plan is being implemented.


Good luck. I trust the above will be helpful,

Mark Hutten, M.A.

==> Join Online Parent Support

Should Parents Discipline Their Defiant Teen If He/She Is Depressed?

"Thanks…finally hope at the end of the tunnel, but need some help on dealing with a son who is also depressed. Should I change anything about the program, or just try to follow the first week and see what happens?"

Simply follow the program (see below) as it is. Here are some things to bear in mind though:

Validate feelings. Don’t try to talk your son out of his depression, even if his feelings or concerns appear silly or irrational to you. Simply acknowledge the pain and sadness he is feeling. If you don’t, he will feel like you don’t take his emotions seriously.

Offer support. It's important to let your depressed teenager know that you’re there for him, fully and unconditionally. Hold back from asking a lot of questions (teenagers don’t like to feel patronized or crowded), but make it clear that you’re ready and willing to provide whatever support he needs.

Listen without lecturing. Resist any urge to criticize or pass judgment once your teenager begins to talk. The important thing is that he is communicating. Avoid offering unsolicited advice. 

Be gentle - but persistent. Don’t give up if your son shuts you out at first. Talking about depression can be very tough for teens. Be respectful of his comfort level while still emphasizing your concern and willingness to listen.

If your son claims that nothing is wrong, but has no explanation for what is causing the depressed behavior, you should trust your instincts. Remember that denial is a strong emotion. Furthermore, teenagers may not believe that what they’re experiencing is the result of depression.

If you see depression warning signs, seek professional help -- but DO NOT feel sorry for your son and attempt to save him from his sadness by over-indulging him. This will make a bad problem worse. Plus he will get a huge payoff for staying depressed.

Lastly, don't make the typical parenting mistake that most moms and dads make when they have a teen who is behaving badly - but who is also depressed (e.g., "I know he violated his curfew, but we shouldn't ground him because it will just make him even more depressed"). 

Even a depressed teen should receive appropriate consequences for his poor choices, otherwise you will be giving him the following message: It's O.K. to make poor choices since you are depressed.
Note: None of the above considerations go against the goals of the four-week program.


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

Son Refuses To Go On Vacation With The Family

"Our son is refusing to go on vacation with us for a 'spring break' to visit my parents in a neighboring State (me, my wife, two other teenage boys). We have planned this for some time now. He says we can't make him go - he wants to spend the week with his friend (who is a bad influence). What can we do? I'm worried he will come up missing on the day of departure."

You can do one of two things:

1. Issue a warning: “If you choose to go AWOL when we get ready to leave, you’ll choose the consequence, which is I’ll stay home with you – and you’ll be grounded with no privileges.”

This option stinks however, because in the event he can’t be found at time of departure, you have to follow through with the consequence (or kidnap him and follow behind the others in a separate vehicle).

2. In the event you have a trusted family member or friend, you could allow your son to stay with them while you’re gone – with one caveat: that is, make sure his temporary caretakers are willing to call the police in the event your son comes up missing from their residence. Advise your son accordingly of this potential consequence.

I find myself planning trips based on the most difficult to accommodate person, who would be my oldest. He loves riding the train, plane, is even OK with a car trip so long as the destination holds his interest. Otherwise, I have strong resistance, which is tiring. Then if we force him to go someplace he is scowling the entire time. Which we'll have him do for character building but I think we suffer through it as a group.

One solution we've found is church camp [but with the virus issue, they may not be having it this year]. He goes to camp, while we go on our vacation. Our son is not a super churchy kind of person, but his church friends are similar to him. Enjoying technology and hanging out together. My husband and youngest son have their own tent, while our oldest has a tent with his friends. The place is usually packed with parents and kids so we can keep an eye out. We happen to like his church friends so that helps. But then our older son has more freedom he looks forward to going. He has his own adventures while still being around family.

Another is scout camp [but again, this may or may not happen this year due to the virus]. Our son does not especially like camping, but does enjoy being outdoors with others his own age or older swimming, shooting practice.... Likes the adventure, fun and challenges. He loves the independence that is encouraged vs. hovering adults. Still the adults are strong leaders that are watching out. Also it helps meet his goal of becoming an Eagle scout which helps with college goals. He even managed to go door to door selling plants to pay for a 10 day high adventure trip last year. Prior he refused to sell anything ...found the door-to-door too much. During his time away at scout camp, we of course will get busy doing things he does not like to do.


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

Don't Make This Common Parenting Mistake!

Hey Mark,

We have been plugging along since M got out of the youth home. He is in intensive probation and meets with PO every week. Also can't to go to counseling once per week. He is supposed to meet with the referee once per month also--more like every 6 wks though. He does have a court date June 6 for the fighting incident (btw, was charged with "robbery armed" since one on the boys picked up money off the ground that belonged to someone else. We decided to obtain the services of an atty for this, as we are fine with "assault with a weapon" or similar, but not robbery armed, which also is not dropped when an adult. This is his last assistance, as he was 16 at the time--[now 17 and considered an adult in MI] and we can feel good knowing we gave him every opportunity to try to turn his life around). Has a girlfriend that we like well enough, still has a job, and is usually home on time (if late usually less than 10 minutes). As you know and have taught us, we have good days/weeks and not so good days/weeks.

We have taken away his cell phone, computer, use of the car for misuse of these. This is when he still tries to bully us/swear/negotiate/threaten etc. but for the most part we have been very firm. He did sign a "contract" for both the phone and car use.

What I need help with though are the "get to it later" stuff and the not so major stuff. Examples:

1) swearing--I am getting VERY tired of the "F______ B____" used when he gets angry and now any profanity mixed in conversation. I would say this is increasing since we have not been reacting to it. We have a 10yr old and his friends over and this is NOT appropriate. I need some idea(s) of consequences for this.
2) having the girlfriend in the bedroom. Usually under blanket cuddling and tries to have lights out. I have come straight out and told them it is not appropriate/respectful and is uncomfortable for those around. (btw--20 yr old brother has his g'friend in room but usually not on the bed together and NEVER covered up, etc.)
3) eats in bedroom, cooks and leaves stuff everywhere,
4) very slipshod on chores
5) starting to NOT call when he gets somewhere like we've asked (he usually is where he is supposed to be but it is a safety issue)
6) joining us for some family time

Any ideas on consequences/motivators would be great.

Also, fyi--his "best friend" that he makes bad decisions with has been committed to a psych hospital by his Dad for 2 weeks, and last week a horrific accident claimed the life of a very close friend and 2 other friends, with the driver still in the hospital (all 4 together in the truck)

Thanks again, and lets hope things continue to go well.



Hi J.,

Re: What I need help with though are the "get to it later" stuff and the not so major stuff.

I recently answered an email from another mother who had the same question. I'll simply share that email with you if you don't mind -- I think it will answer your question:

Question: "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?"

ANSWER: 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 14 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.

==> Join "Online Parent Support"

What To Do When You Think Your Teen Is Using Drugs

"Our son is 17 and out of control, we have noticed lately his rudeness is getting worse. I fully intend to implement your methods but I am worried at the moment that he may be experimenting with drugs. I have found something in his room and have organised to have some tested. I have spoken to a few organisations and have a meeting with one this afternoon but they are so wishy washy with their advice. If we confront him, he may lose trust in us and not communicate etc. I want to take your direct approach but the feedback I get is I need to be careful with that.

I know I need to find out what the substance is before I get too upset, but if I gather some more info and involve a family friend who has done counselling and run our approach by you, would you be able to advise if you think it is along with your methods? I am preparing a contract at the moment and trying to find out all the legalities within Queensland so I know my rights (as he is now threatening to be emancipated from us, and we will have to pay him till he is 18). Does this sound like I am following the method? If I push too hard and he runs on the streets and becomes involved in harder drugs, are there intervention programmes to rescue him? Please advise."

I think you may be a bit too panicky at this point. Let’s start with some very specific tips to help keep your son safe. We will try this first, and then address your other questions as needed. Simply implement the following strategies for now:

1. Begin to more closely monitor your son’s activities. Have a few conversations. Ask: Who? What? Where? When? Reflect with your son on why some teens may be using drugs – and try to understand the reasons why. When you get a better idea of the situation, then you can decide on the next steps. These could include setting new rules and consequences that are reasonable and enforceable (e.g., a new curfew, no cell phone or computer privileges for a period of time, less time hanging out with friends, etc.).

2. Especially ask questions when your son makes plans to go out. Who will he be with? Where is he going? What will he be doing? Then check up on him. Call the other moms and dads, and do this together.

3. Be a role model. If you drink, drink responsibly (and of course, don’t ever use illegal drugs).

4. Be party smart. If your son’s party is elsewhere, confirm with the mom and dad of the teenage host that a responsible adult will supervise to ensure that no alcohol will be served. If the party is at your house, set the rules in advance and make sure your son knows what’s expected. Limit attendance, and set a time for the party to end. Keep your alcohol locked up. Know your legal responsibilities. Invite other moms and dads to chaperone, and do not hesitate to call the police if things get out of control.

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

5. Be specific about your current concerns. Tell your son what you see and how you feel about it. Be specific about the things you have observed that cause concern. Make it known if you found drug paraphernalia or empty bottles or cans. Explain exactly how his behavior or appearance (e.g., bloodshot eyes, different clothing) has changed and why that worries you. Tell him that drug and alcohol use is dangerous, and it’s your job to keep him away from things that put him in danger.

6. Be there for your son when he needs to get out of a bad situation. For example, be the parent who will pick up your son without repercussions if he finds the party he’s gone too has drugs available.

7. Connect with your son by doing things together as a family. Make this a routine outing and have your son help plan it. Also, eat family meals together. Studies have shown that kids who enjoy dinner together with their mom and dad on a regular basis are less likely to become involved with drugs.

8. Consider finding a therapist who specializes in teen substance abuse. I’m only giving you some very general ideas. It is no substitute for talking with someone who can help you take a look at the total situation. If your son won’t go, go yourself. An experienced therapist will be able to help you figure out how to approach your son and what you can do for him - and for yourself.

9. Figure out what you will and won’t do if your son gets into legal trouble. Will you get a lawyer to help, or is he on his own? Calmly tell him what those limits are – and mean it! Then be prepared to follow through. Some kids seem to need to test all the limits. You can’t force him to be a law-abiding citizen, but you can go with him to court and quietly be there for him while he deals with whatever the justice system decides to do. Although I would never recommend jail time as therapeutic, it’s an unfortunate truth that it is what it takes for some kids to “get it.” Maintaining the relationship with your son in the event he is jailed for possession of a controlled substance will give you a shot at helping him turn things around when he gets out.

10. Find out who the other moms and dads are. It generally helps when parents band together. There are probably at least a few of his friends with a mother or farther who is as concerned as you are. Get together and brainstorm ways to get your kids busier with positive things. Take turns taking the kids to events, or tutoring them, or coming up with jobs. If you can agree on consistent rules about curfews and responsibilities, the kids will be less able to use the old excuse of “everybody else’s parent let’s their kid go to parties until midnight.”

11. Get your son involved in extra-curricular activities. Schools offer sports or clubs and community organizations offer classes and youth groups. These will help him mold his identity in a positive way and give him less time doing nothing and becoming bored. Studies have shown teens that have less time to just hang out are less likely to do drugs.

12. Keep connected in the after school hours. If you can’t be home with your son, call and leave notes. Have another adult supervise your son, or sign him up for an after school program. If these things aren’t possible, establish a routine for him and keep him busy during this time.

13. Know your son’s friends. It may not be your job to parent his friends, but they will influence your son's decisions.

14. Let your son know, calmly, that the rules are the rules. You don’t want him engaging in illegal and risky behavior. Remind him that it is a parent’s job to help their kids grow up physically healthy and emotionally strong, and you intend to do your part. You don’t want him to go to jail, overdose and get sick, or die. You will therefore never get off his back about drugs or alcohol.

15. Limit unsupervised time. Teens are great at finding parks, woods, open fields, or other places to hang out. These unsupervised areas provide opportunities for drinking and drug use, so try to limit the times your son has to explore such areas on his own.

16. Pick a curfew that is reasonable for both you and your son. Make sure he knows there will be consequences for violating curfew, and then follow through if rules are not followed.

17. Try to find out if friends or others offer your son drugs at school. Did he try it just out of curiosity, or has he used marijuana or alcohol for some other reason? That alone will be a signal to your son that you care, and that you are going to be the parent exercising your rights.

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

18. Unite your family against drugs using strong family beliefs. Establish that your family doesn’t use drugs. Not that you will shun your son should he make a mistake, but that your family believes there are other healthier ways to enjoy life and fix problems rather than escaping into a drug haze.

19. Be prepared for your son to deny using drugs. Don’t expect him to admit he has a problem. Your son will probably get angry and might try to change the subject. Maybe you’ll be confronted with questions about what you did as a kid. If you are asked, it is best to be honest, and if you can, connect your use to negative consequences. Answering deceptively can cause you to lose credibility with your son if he ever finds out that you’ve lied to him. On the other hand, if you don’t feel comfortable answering the question, you can talk about some specific people you know that have had negative things happen to them as a result of drug and alcohol use. However, if the time comes to talk about it, you can give short, honest answers like these: 

“When I was a kid, I took drugs because some of my friends did. I wanted to in order to fit in. If I’d known then about the consequences and how they would affect my life, I never would have tried drugs. I’ll do everything I can to help keep you away from them.”

“I drank alcohol and smoked marijuana because I was bored and wanted to take some risks, but I soon found out that I couldn’t control the risks — the loss of trust of my mom and dad and friends. There are much better ways of challenging yourself than doing drugs.”

20.    Lastly, here are some suggested statements to tell your son:
  • “If there is a problem, I want you to be a part of the solution.”
  • “I love you and I’m worried that you might be using drugs or alcohol.”
  • “I know that drugs may seem like the thing to do, but doing drugs has serious consequences.”
  • “I am always hear to listen to you whenever you need to talk.”
  • “We will have these discussions many, many times. Talking to you about drugs and alcohol is not a one-time event.”
  • “I feel worried and concerned about the possibility that you may be using drugs.”

I trust this information will get you started on the right track in dealing with this issue.


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

Best Comment:

I'd like to add about getting to know their friends. A good way to do this is to invite 1-2 of their friends over for lunch. Keep it simple, but where it takes some time to eat, as opposed to a simple sandwich. Let them know, once they're there, that you're inviting them over just to chat, and to get to know each other better. Ask him/her to help cut something up for you, like a tomato or lettuce. Sometimes they won't know how -- that's fine! This gives you bonding time. Did I mention that this works best for their worst influence friends? Sometimes they're missing out on something in their family life to begin with, and them coming to you will trickle down into their relationship. This way, when your child does something wrong or talks bad about you, it's their friend that will say something about you. I've seen this first hand. At 14 I ran away. My parents despised my best friend, but I was oblivious back then. I knew that they were concerned that maybe she was doing drugs (she might have been), but they never spoke badly of her. Instead, they'd invite her over for lunch sometimes, would ask about her mom, her siblings, etc., taking a real interest. Well, when I ran away and my friend secretly knew where I was hiding, she came to me and said, "You need to go home. Your mom is so heart-broken." Really consider feigning an interest in your teen's friends, instead of sounding negative to your teen. It will only make them fight back, even if they agree. 

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

Should I hold my 9th grade son back a year?

"I have a hard decision to make regarding holding my 9th grade son back a year in school. He did very poorly last school year (mostly Ds and Fs). His teacher is recommending that he repeat the grade. What are your thoughts?"

I don’t recommend it! Unfortunately, repeating a grade may have even worse consequences for a student who is doing poorly in school. Research studies suggest overwhelmingly that retention in grade is an ineffective strategy for children who are experiencing academic difficulty or demonstrating 'immature' behaviors. 

One study, conducted by the University of Georgia, found that students tended to fall even further behind during their second year in the same grade.

Research says that a student who repeats a grade in elementary school is much more likely to later drop out of school. Students who are retained may do better at first, but then fall behind again, possibly because of learning difficulties that have not been identified. Students who are held back are also more likely to dislike school, have low self-esteem, and cause trouble in class.

A better solution to the either/or of social-promotion versus retention is emerging. Educators are coming to realize that there is a third way, one that gives children the specific help they need to overcome the barriers to their academic success. It is not a cookie-cutter approach, but one tailored to the individual child. 

For children who are having academic difficulty in learning school-related content, working with specialists in the areas of difficulty or receiving differentiated instruction of content is more effective than retention in grade. Targeted intervention is the best hope for students who are failing academically.

If a student has a specific difficulty in reading, for example, then repeating the 4th grade (in which the student might have received one hour a day of reading instruction) is not the answer. Rather, the student needs an intervention program in which he receives three to four hours each day of reading instruction. 

This is more important than fourth grade social studies, science, or any other activity. Moreover, when students get this sort of intensive intervention, it not only helps them achieve a reading level that is consistent with their grade level, but also allows them to ultimately succeed in the other academic subjects, such as science and social studies, that depend so much on reading skill.

So what's a parent to do when a teacher suggests retention because of poor academic skills, immaturity, limited English skills, or other problems? 

Probably your first move is to ask the teacher to explain, in writing, what the problem is and why retention might help. Then, explore the resources available at your child's school, such as a school psychologist or special education teacher, and ask that person to weigh in.

If a school suggests holding your child back for reasons other than performance, such as maturity, you should get outside help. While the schools are set up to assess these types of issues, they sometimes make mistakes, and outside support is necessary for the parent to make an informed decision. Also, in some schools, the student is automatically help back if he or she has not earned enough credits to move on to the next grade.

A parent should take the time to gather all the pertinent facts and weigh the pros and cons. Parents should not simply agree because the school says so. Get outside opinions before making this type of decision.

Even if your child's problem is identified as poor academic performance, it may be a good time to look for a visual or hearing problem or have your child's learning style evaluated. A child who gets extra help from a special education teacher who understands his learning style may be able to progress to the next grade.

And finally, support your son at home. This may mean watching educational videos with him, taking "field trips" together to museums and other places where he can get hands-on experience, and making sure he has the tools he needs to do well at school -- everything from a quiet place to work to access to the Internet.

==> JOIN Online Parent Support

Teenage Smokers: Tips for Parents

Hi Mark, I've just subscribed to the e-book a couple of days ago so I haven't got very far. We've started assignment 1. I'm looking for advise on how to handle the issue of smoking in the bedroom. My 16 year old daughter, A has been smoking for probably a year and has always hidden it from us. Whenever I questioned her about smelling of smoke in the past, she would always say that it was because she was hanging around her friends who smoke. In the last 6 months, we've caught her with cigarettes in her bag and drawers and she has always made the excuse that she was hanging on to them for her friends who didn't want their parents to know to which we've said that that is their responsibility, not hers.

In the last month, she is doing it openly in the backyard and has told us that she has no intention of quitting and that we just have to accept it. The last straw was when she started smoking in her room. I wrote her a note (as I find it hard to talk to her these days as all I get back is profanity) explaining that her dad, brother and I do not smoke and do not appreciate the smell in our house so smoking in her room will not be tolerated and that if she had to do it then she needs to have some consideration for us and do it outside.

I think she's lashing out because we locked her window (she was sneaking out at night and during the day) so she couldn't blow the smoke out her window. We are a family who live a healthy lifestyle and the message to her is that we will never accept her smoking. I would like your advice on how to approach this situation or do you think that it's one of those things that should be ignored for now because there are other more challenging ones to deal with such as skipping school, disappearing and not returning till 3 am on a school night, wanting to move out, etc. Thanks for listening, J.


Hi J.,

You do indeed have bigger fish to fry than her smoking. You will not be able to stop her. You haven’t so far. Pick your battles carefully - and this is not a battle you should fight. In fact, the more you worry about it or lecture her, the more she will smoke!

You’re in a power struggle with her, which will provoke her to dig in her heels and fight you on this matter. But you can stop her from smoking on YOUR property. Here's what you can say to your daughter:

"I can't keep you from damaging your health by smoking. But it's your health - not mine! However, I don't want you smoking in my house or anywhere on my property. If you choose to smoke on my property, you'll choose the consequence, which is grounding for 3 days without any privileges (e.g., use of phone, T.V., computer, bedroom – except to sleep, etc.)."

If your daughter smokes on the property, follow through with the consequence. If YOU smoke, keep your cigarettes with you at all times.

CAUTION: The statement above is borrowed from the strategy entitled “When You Want Something From Your Kid” [Session #3 - Anger Management Chapter – Online Version of the eBook]. I strongly recommend you do NOT skip Sessions #1 and #2. Implementing a bunch of new changes too quickly WILL backfire.

As I stated earlier, I can see we have larger issues to address, which would be best saved for after your 4-week program. We must lay down a good foundation in order for the disciplinary techniques to be effective.

Mark Hutten, M.A.


==> Is your teenager abusing alcohol or drugs? Here are some important strategies for you to implement NOW!

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

When Your Teenage Daughter Runs Away From Home

Hi Mark,

I’m sure you’ve heard it all before when it comes to teens etc everything you state in you initial page about teens and their out of control behaviour really does apply to my 15 year old girl…. And I do mean ALL of it. So thank you firstly for being a point of contact and believe me that I will do everything to gain more knowledge and power within my own family unit to enable my daughter to be able to make better choices in her life.

One question I do have is concerning persistent runaways – my 15 year old has runaway from home 5 times we had the police, authorities and even the school involved with trying to “help” her but to no avail, after the fourth time I ended up packing up and moving 1400 km away from everything we had known even becoming separated from her father (who she initially blamed for running away) thinking that a fresh start would help – obviously this hasn’t helped as the initial problem is still there (now she admits that it wasn’t anything to do with her father) and has not been dealt with effectively….

After only 5 weeks of being here, she is fighting with a few of her 'friends' – has had ignored my 'consequence' of not being able to go and stay over at her friends house for her continued violent and aggressive behaviour, instead smashed up her room, cussed as me with a fair few profanities and simply walked out stealing money and cigarettes on the way out!

I have not on this occasion contacted the police as I have previous times, instead I issued an ultimatum via text message (she wont answer my calls) that if she did not return by 6.30pm then the police would be called. She texted back to say she was fine and will return home in 2 days when she’s calmed down!!! I issued the ultimatum again…… and left it – as I say needless to say she has not returned and I have not contacted the police yet. The question is how do I deal with her on her return?????????

I need to get this right from the very start.

Thank you


Hi L.,

Teens run for a multitude of reasons:
  1. To avoid an emotional experience or consequence that they are expecting as a result of a parental, sibling, friend or romantic relationship/situation.
  2. To be with other people such as friends or relatives who are supportive, encouraging and active in ways they feel are missing from their lives.
  3. To change or stop what they are doing or about to do.
  4. To escape a recurring or ongoing painful or difficult experience in their home, school or work life.
  5. To find companionship or activity in places that distract them from other problems they are dealing with.
  6. To keep from losing privileges to activities, relationships, friendships or any other things considered important or worthwhile.

As parents or guardians we strive to create positive, loving households in order to raise respectful, successful and happy adults. In order to achieve this, rules must be put in place. Teens who run away from home are often crying for attention. Some teens will attempt to run away just once, after an unusually heated argument or situation in the household, and return shortly after. More serious cases, however, happen with teens in extreme emotional turmoil.

Parents also need to be extremely aware of the symptoms, warning signs and dangers of teenage depression. Far too many teens are suffering from this disease and going untreated. Often, runaways feel they have no other choice but to leave their home, and this is in many cases related to their feelings of sadness, anger and frustration due to depression.

There are many causes of depression, and every child, regardless of social status, race, age or gender is at risk. Be aware and be understanding. To an adult juggling family and career, it may seem that a young teenager has nothing to be "depressed" about! Work for a mutual communication between the two of you. The more your teenager can confide his/her daily problems and concerns, the more you can have a positive and helpful interaction before the problems overwhelm them.

Teens who become runaways will have shown symptoms and warning signs prior to running away. Knowing these signs is the first step to prevention; the second is learning how to prevent symptoms all together. Communication is KEY!

Suggestions for preventative conversation:
  1. Always use direct eye contact when speaking.
  2. Anger is difficult to subside. However, it is important to never raise your voice or yell/scream at your teen, especially when they are already doing so. A battle of strength doesn't get anyone anywhere.
  3. If both parents are involved in the conversation, it is very important to take turns, rather than gang up on your teen together. Make sure each parent allows time for your teen to speak in between.
  4. If your teen is demanding or threatening you, be sure to get professional advice or help from a qualified mental health professional.
  5. Keep a calm demeanor and insist that your teen does as well. Do not respond to their anger, but instead, wait until they are calm.
  6. Keep in mind that it is possible to agree with your teen, without doing whatever they want you to. For example, you might agree that there are little differences between 17 year-olds and 21 year-olds, but that doesn't mean you agree with having a party serving alcohol at your house.
  7. Let's say you are sure you understand your teen's point of view and they understand you understand. If you still don't agree with their statement, tell your teen "I think I understand, but I do not agree. I want to think we can understand each other, but we don't have to agree."
  8. Make sure that you comprehend what your teen is saying, and when you do, let them know. Simply stating "I understand" can go a long way to making your teen feel as though you are respecting their feelings and thoughts, as well as taking them in to consideration.
  9. NEVER interrupt your teenager when they are speaking or trying to explain their feelings or thoughts. Even if you completely disagree, it is important to wait until they have finished. Keep in mind that just listening and using the words "I understand" does not mean that you agree or will do what they want.
  10. Never use threats or dare your teen to run away, even if you think they wouldn't do it.
  11. Refrain from using sarcasm or negativity that may come off as disrespect for your teen.
  12. Take a break if you get too overwhelmed or upset to continue the conversation with a calm attitude.
  13. Talk less, slower, and use fewer words than your teen.
  14. Under no circumstances should you use derogatory names, labels or titles such as liar, childish, immature, untrustworthy, cruel, stupid, ignorant, punk, thief or brat. Continue to be respectful of your teen, even if they have been disrespectful to you.
  15. When your teen has finished speaking, ask politely if they have anything else they'd like to talk about or share with you.

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

When parents begin to implement appropriate discipline for broken house rules, some children may respond by threatening to runaway from home if they do not get their way. If this occurs, defuse the situation, but do NOT threaten or challenge your child.

For example: Daughter, you know that I cannot control you. And if you really want to run away from home, I cannot stop you. I cannot watch you 24 hours a day, and I can’t lock you up in the house. But no one in the world loves you the way I do. That is why we have established these house rules. Because I love you, I cannot stand by and watch you hurt yourself by _______________ (e.g., not going to school, using drugs or alcohol, destroying house property), and running away from home will not solve the problem. You and I know it will only make matters worse.

Teens who run away are not bad. They have made a bad decision. They got themselves caught up in pressures that they felt the need to escape from. Instead of facing their problem and solving it, they chose to run from it. We need to teach our teen how to face their problems, even if the problem is us. When they have the right tools to fix some of the things that may be going on in their lives, the pressure lessens, and there is no more need for them to escape.

Every teen either has tried or knows another teen who has run away. I haven't met a teen yet who didn't know of someone's experience of running away. This can be a real problem, considering most teens will glamorize the experience.

Parents of teens who run away are not bad parents. You cannot lock them in. As much as you would like to build a wall around them, it is their choice whether or not to walk out the door.

If your teens runs:
  1. Call the Police, IMMEDIATELY! Don't wait 24 hours, do it right away.
  2. Get the name and badge number of the officer you speak with.
  3. Call back often.
  4. Call everyone your child knows and enlist their help.
  5. Search everywhere, but do not leave your phone unattended.
  6. Search your teen’s room for anything that may give you a clue as to where he went.
  7. You may also want to check your phone bill for any calls they may have made recently.

When your teen comes home:
  1. Take a break from each other. Do not start talking about it right away. Your emotions are too high at this point to get anywhere in a conversation. Go two separate directions until you both have gotten some rest.
  2. Ask and Listen. Why did they leave? You may want to evaluate a rule or two after speaking with them, but do not do so while having this talk. Tell them you are willing to think about it, and you will let them know.
  3. Tell them how you felt about them going. Let them know that they hurt you by leaving. Let them know that there isn't a problem that can't solve. If they ever feel that running away might solve something, have them talk to you first. You could always offer other choices, so they can make a better decision.
  4. Get some help. If this isn't the first time or you have problems communicating when they get back, it's time to ask for help. This could be a person that your child respects (e.g., an aunt or uncle), or you may want to seek professional help.

Mark Hutten, M.A.

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


 ==> Click here for more parenting advice on how to deal with teen rebellion...

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

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...