Son Comes and Goes as He Pleases

Hi Mark,

Thanks for all your help and insights. I have finished reading the ebook and finished through session three of the online course work. Our son, I___, turned 18 yesterday and will be a senior in August. I___ came home yesterday afternoon (after being gone since Friday afternoon) looking for money or birthday presents from family members (grandparents, aunts, etc).

`````Sounds like what an over-indulged kid would do.

I used the "poker face" strategy and listened to him during what amounted to a temper tantrum. After he yelled, cussed and threw things, he left the house. He called me three hours later and was extremely apologetic, telling me he loved me, missed me, etc. While he was home, I calmly told him that when he was out past curfew or did not come home at all, it caused a problem for me, because I couldn't sleep well and if he wanted to continue to live at home with the benefits we provide (use of a car, use of a phone, a roof over his head, food, clothing, paid college) he would need to come home each night by curfew. He reminded me that curfew no longer applied to him (since he's 18) and I responded that it was a condition of his living at home, not a law.

`````This was right on track – good job!

He asked for money and I gave him $5 tying the money to the chores he did Friday --cleaning his room, mowing the yard and doing laundry. I emphasized the importance of earning money to become self reliant. He came home around 6 p.m. to "see me" and said he would be home last night by 1 a.m. and would like to have a birthday dinner tonight. He did not come home last night.

I really want to do this right ("no half measures"), and would appreciate some guidance from you. A couple of questions.....1) if he comes home tonight, what is the appropriate discipline for not coming home last night?

`````Let’s stop right here! Please don’t get upset with me. I’m sure you want the truth though:

You will never win in this cat-and-mouse game. Why? Because he is no longer living in your home regularly – and he is managing financially, at some level, without you.

I think the game is over. Save you precious time and energy for other things. You may be beyond “discipline” with him.

The recommendation is not about what is an appropriate discipline – rather it is about helping him move out – permanently …helping him find a job and get his own place.

==> Help for Parents with Out-of-Control Teens

2) should I emphasize coming home at night and tackle the time he comes home after he starts coming home or should I link the two enforcing the need to be home at a certain time ie 11pm during the week?

`````I want to help you break through some possible denial on your part. He will come and go as he damn well pleases. Whenever he doesn’t like a particular rule – he’s gone again. This doesn’t mean he’s a bad kid – he just an adult now.

3) what should be next steps if he doesn't come home tonight? 4) We are going out of home for the 4th of July and would like him to come with us. Our older daughter (20) will be staying at home because she works. What strategies can we use to get him to come with us? I don't want him at home if he doesn't come with us because I'm concerned he will have parties. How do I keep him out if he wants in?

`````Change the locks. It’s not that expensive or time consuming to do.

Last month we told him he had to stay with a friend if he didn't come with us and he stayed at the friend's for a few hours, then went home and borrowed an extension ladder from a neighbor and went in through an upstairs window tripping the alarm. The police came and he showed them his driver's license and they let him in the house. 5) We live in Fishers. Is the Madison County parents program open to non-county residents?


The strategies I was able to use yesterday were very effective. I___ changed his approach dramatically in just a few hours, although very short lived. I want to be sure I get the next steps right to ensure the most positive outcome possible. I really appreciate your help. After years of counseling, this approach has the potential to be much more effective long term.

`````I’ve been kind of tough on you here, but I want to give you the best possible recommendation.

Bottom line: He needs to find another place to live. Use the strategies when he comes to visit.

Shift from “what can I do to keep my son” …to “what can I do to help him be independent.”

I’m interested in your feedback on my recommendations,

Mark Hutten M.A.

Hi Mark,

You asked for feedback on your first reaction was sadness. Sadness for my son and the difficult life he has ahead of him and sadness that, although I put a lot of effort into parenting, my approach did not work, and I didn't get it figured out until too late in the game.

I agree with your recommendation that I have to move from "discipline" to helping him become independent. I will work with him to either follow the household rules or find another place to live. I'm at a point where I truly am comfortable with either solution. If he is going to be disruptive at home, I would prefer he leave. The irony is that he can sense that I am sincere about forcing him to find alternative living arrangements, and he has become more compliant in response.

Thanks for your insights. The course is extremely helpful because it is so specific, outlining exactly what needs to be said and what actions need to be taken. I wish I had discovered it years ago.

Kind regards,



Hi C.,

Thank you for having an open spirit to the change process.

Your statement "I'm at a point where I truly am comfortable with either solution" ...tells me that you are nearing the point of acceptance in the grief process AND "letting go" of some emotional baggage. This is a good thing.

You are working the program -- great job. There will be a reward at the end of the tunnel in some shape, form or fashion.

Mark Hutten, M.A.

RE: “I have a 16 year old who is failing school and has absolutely no motivation.”

In this article, we will be discussing an important issue that many parents face - when their teenager is failing at school and has no motiv...