Son began to freak out and kick furniture, throw sofa cushions, screaming...

Hi S.,

I've responded throughout your email:

Dear Mark,

I hope you read this and can help me. This is Sunday 5pm central time. Beginning of last week we started your program. We told our son (D___, 15) the talk about how we have made mistakes and things would be changing with our parenting, and that we'd let him know as they came up. All has been fine til now. Today is the last day of the first week. This morning we asked if he'd like to go to Costco with us and he said he didn't know. We told him to let us know by 10:00. He said he didn't want to go, but when we were walking out the door, he asked us to wait for him to dress so he could go. We told him we had already given him the chance and we weren't waiting. He then began kicking our furniture and we told him he would lose phone privileges for 2 days if he kicked our furniture again. We left and all was fine. That was over and we went out as planned.

Later, he asked if he could go to community center, and we said yes, if he cleaned his pet's cage, which he did (art of saying yes used)!!!

Later today, we told our son today that we would like to help him to earn a weekly allowance. We said we would give him $2 a day to sweep any room in the house each day, and that there would be other ways to earn money by doing chores, but that would be a definite way. This was us trying to implement the 2nd week assignment of allowance for chores. Anyway, right away he asked why we couldn't just give him $20 a week, why are we all of a sudden making him work for money? He began to freak out and kick furniture, throw sofa cushions, screaming, etc.

==> When parents implement these new strategies, it often gets worse before it gets better. That is what's going on here. The fact that it is getting worse is, paradoxically, a good sign - it suggests that the true process of change is occurring.

We kept our poker face and said he would now lose the phone for 48 hours since he kicked our furniture again today, just like we had said before. He continued to scream and yell, slam doors, trying to get us to answer. I continued to say "I won't argue, I won't argue..." He locked our bedroom door so we couldn't get in, he tried to block me from going up the stairs, we then closed ourselves in our office. He then slammed and kicked his bedroom door, he screamed that he hated us and he was going to jump out of his 2nd floor bedroom window. We continued to ignore him; he then broke his bedroom window and we heard him cry that he was bleeding.

==> My Out-of-Control Teen 

==> This is a good example of a natural consequence. His "bleeding" is, paradoxically, a good thing (as long as he doesn't bleed to death).

Finally, about 5 - 10 minutes into this, my husband decided to go out of the office; there was blood all over the hallway, his bedroom window and the bathroom window was broken..My husband then began helping him clean up his finger. This has been about an hour now, and he is finally cleaning up the blood. The entire time he is still out there asking why we are so mean, why is he grounded from phone for 2 days, we are not his friends, he doesn't want to hear our voices, etc.

I am putting all of this into the file for later to deal with it then.

==> Good choice.

But, how do I handle all of this now?

==> Use the strategy entitled "When You Want Something From Your Kid" and/or "The Six-Step Approach" [online version of the eBook].

This isn't the time to talk to him about all this. He won't calm down. The windows need to be fixed; do we do it and have him pay later, what????

==> He needs to help pay for all the damage.

Is all of this window breaking really to be put away for a later consequence and not dealt with now???

==> The "original offense" as I see it is when he kicked the furniture. Everything after that goes into the "Deal-With-It-Later" file.

Believe it or not - you are greatly on track and doing a wonderful job. Hang tough. Keep working the program. You'll be glad you did.

Mark Hutten, M.A.


==> I've responded throughout:

Dear Mark,

First, please accept my apology for my ranting earlier, and for asking for you to "read immediately." I realize I am not your main concern. I was just so confused that I didn't know where to begin.

==> I understand. No apology needed. You needed to vent.

This is the first time we have actually put on our "poker face" during one of these tantrums. It was so hard not to freak out at him for this crazy behavior. This is one of the worst tantrums in a long time. Now that he has calmed down, I do wonder if we handled it correctly. I think I might be getting some of the steps a little mixed up. Either way, we let him have his fit, we ignored him, while he broke windows and in the process got his finger cut. Is that correct, to ignore during all that?

==> You do allow him to make the poor choice, but you also implement the consequence immediately. Tell your son that, in the future, if he chooses to destroy property, then he will choose the consequence, which is (a) the police will be called immediately and (b) an incorrigibility complaint will be filed. The next time he has a meltdown - follow through with this consequence.

After, when he was calm, we sat down and I went through the four steps and said to him...

"When things in our home get broken, it worries us because me and daddy have to then figure out how to get it fixed and how to pay for it, I know you did all that to show how angry you were and that is how you showed your emotions, next time though, I would rather you take a time out, maybe even punch your speed bag, then we can talk about it when we are all calm."

==> My Out-of-Control Teen 

==> Beautiful job here. That was a 5 star move on your part !!!!!

I then hugged him. We then told him he would indeed need to pay for the broken windows. I tried to add humor at that point and I said, "well, at least now you will learn how to fix windows!" He didn't laugh, but I giggled. We've told him to take time outs and calm down when he feels like that, but he is so out of control during these times that he can't even calm down first.

The original consequence for kicking the furniture next time, from this morning, and slamming doors was 48 hours without phone, which I began when he was calm. I will then, at the end of the 48 hours, tell him, next time you break things in our home, the consequence will be to lose all privileges for 5 days.

==> I can tell that you have done your homework. I'm very proud of you. You are doing a class A job here - and this is not an exaggeration on my part.

Mark, I hope I am doing this right. I am committed to doing this consistently, so please tell me if I am on the right path.

==> You are definitely on the right path -- you are also a great role model for other parents who are struggling with the same issues.

Thank you!!



Hi Mark,

Thanks so much for responding. I do have another question. When Daniel's 48 hour phone loss ends tomorrow evening, that is when the plan was to tell him if he breaks things again, he will lose everything for 5 days. The consequence though, that is in your program, that you emailed to me, about calling the police and filing incorrigibility complaint, is where my question is. I think I will have some difficulty making this call. First because I have never called the police on him before, also, I don't think my husband will agree to this.

==> This is a fair and good question. A weaker plan supported by both parents is better than a stronger plan supported by only one parent. Thus, if your husband is not willing to do this, then you'll have to settle for second best.

The reason I mentioned calling the police is because your son broke the law. It is illegal for him to destroy your property. Therefore, the honest consequence should really be to involve the authorities. Be very careful about employing half-measures.

What happens when this complaint is made, does it go on a permanent record?

==> No. The officer will have a talk with your son. You may have the option to have him arrested, but you will want to save that potential consequence for the future should your son continue to have meltdowns. We don't want to pull out all the big guns too early. A juvenile's "record" can be expunged, too.

My husband and I are not always on the same page as to what to do, but we are working on it. If we call and file complaint, do we also take everything away for 5 days, one of these consequences, or both?

==> Yes. He gets 5 days plus faces potential legal consequences. Again, destroying property is illegal. We want to set up a system at home that is representative of the "real world" -- and in the real world, when you destroy somebody's house -- you go to jail.

I don't want to say we will be calling if me and my husband cannot agree, no more empty threats, but I want to do the right thing.

==> I agree. You don't want to make an empty threat. But the trade off is that you will be running the risk of employing a half-measure (i.e., a consequence that is not much of a deterrent for your son).

I am glad to hear you say that this is the part of it getting worse before it gets better. I am looking forward to some happier times for my child.

Thanks again. I'll look for your response to the above question. I do hope I am not asking too many things. It really helps to be able to confirm if I am making right decisions.

==> Thanks for working the program as it is intended.

Mark Hutten, M.A.

==> My Out-of-Control Teen

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