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).

==> 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.

==> Critical disciplinary strategies for defiant, rebellious teens can be found here...

==> 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.

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

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

My Teenage Daughter is "Waging War" Against My Fiancé

I believe my daughter (who will turn 15 on March 20th) has ODD. Defiant is a word that has always described her, however, she and I have always dealt well together - until this past year. My fiancé moved in last March, and in May, she went to school drunk. So drunk in fact, that she was taken away by the police to the children's hospital for evaluation. She has continued to drink on weekends and every month or so, something occurs. It might be her being brought home by the police, or us calling the police to help as she is violent and acts possessed when she drinks. 

She did spend a week in the mental unit at the children's hospital. She is waging a war to get my fiancé to move out and the two of them are engaging in a war. He employs some pretty consistent methods, and we usually agree, but she has wrecked and stolen some of his things, called him everything under the sun, written notes and put them all over the house telling him to move name it. Now he has no trust for her, nor do they like each other at all. They do not speak a word to each other, be in the same room or car with each other.

I feel that my choice is a very hard one. She is the only thing we really have any conflict over, but I am willing and prepared to say goodbye to what could have been my future with him if it will help her. The thing is, I don't want her to shove him out of the house and know she's got that power. I think he feels helpless and powerless and it makes him angrier.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated. J.


Hi J,

This is a tough one. From your daughter’s point of view, she has everything to lose if you have a boyfriend. She’s been the center of your life and your attention for her whole little life. Why would she want that to change? She’s not mature enough to be sympathetic to your needs. She’s terrified that if you love someone else, there will be less love for her.

My best advice to you is to go very slow. Unless you have been seeing this man for at least 6 months and are pretty sure the relationship is going somewhere, it’s not wise to push her into having a relationship with him. It’s confusing to children to have people move in and out of their lives. It also frightens many children. They wonder, “If you can fall in and out of love with men, can you fall out of love with me?”

There are really two sides to this dilemma. One argument would be as follows:

1. If it comes down to picking between a relationship with your daughter or the boyfriend, lose the boyfriend. Your #1 concern is your child. You can wait to date for another 3 years. You do not need a boyfriend, you need to be a mother to your child.

Another equally valid argument would be:

2. She needs to learn that you, her mother, also have a life – and a need for relationship with a significant other. Don’t cave in to her manipulation or send the message that “if you just act-up enough, you can control what mom says and does.”

Since she is now 15, I think you can have a frank discussion with her about your feelings about your fiancé. You can go on to tell her that your current partner and you are in love and plan to be married someday. And because you are in love, you will continue to see one another. 

Ask her if she thinks she's ready to get over it and accept your fiancé. If she indicates she can't get over it or accept him, then tell her you will be setting up an appointment for a therapist. If she says she's not going, tell her she will be going. 

When it's time for the appointment, you just tell her she is going - period. She may say she's not going to talk at the therapist's office. But that's okay. That's the therapist's problem. (Quite honestly, it sounds like she needs some counseling anyway, maybe in the form of drug and alcohol treatment.)

Mark Hutten, M.A.

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

When Your Teenager Won't Get Up For School


I have been following the programme as best I can for the last 5 weeks and have seen great success. My relationship with my son Thomas has improved immeasurably and that is such an incredible blessing. That improvement has also allowed us to make great progress with the problem areas which we are facing –

• Disrespect and anger
• Hanging out with the wrong group
• Drug abuse
• Failing academically

I feel that the progress is quite fragile and I’m probably worried that it will go backwards. I don’t feel as strong as I did at the start and I don’t know how to get this confidence back. I feel him backing off my authority and not respecting me again. I think he is trying to assert his independence more, maybe because we have made so much progress. I’m just a bit confused. I think I need to focus on finding more things to praise and I have maybe dropped the ball in this area. He has only got until June to finish school and then he is planning to join the army, but that might take until Jan next year. This new focus is good because for the first time ever he is interested in doing something constructive and he is excited and happy about it.

He is going to school but it is such a struggle to get him up and out in the morning. We have not given him a key of the house because of trust issues and therefore he needs to be out before we leave for work. He continually gets up late and it seems he is getting later and later. Going to school creates structure for him and I am worried that he will drop out and we will be left with a 16 year old with no structure in his day. How do I get him up in the morning when I don’t think he cares whether he’s attending school or not? I’m thinking I should be taking away something that he wants until he sorts out the mornings, but I don’t know what. And maybe I’m scared of going through an angry confrontation.

The improvements are fantastic and I just want them to continue.



Hi L.,

Stop taking responsibility for getting your son out of bed on time. If you repeatedly bang on your son’s door to get him up, or you drag him out of bed, you are working harder to wake up your son than he is. You are substituting your extra energy and effort for your son’s.

If you think about it, why should your son get up on his own when you are willing to do it for him? If he knows he doesn’t really have to get up until mom threatens to bring the ice water, why should he get up at the first ring of the alarm? Ten more minutes is ten more minutes, right?

In order to get your son to adhere to the morning routine, you need to give him the responsibility for getting up – as well as a consequence for not getting up (re: consequences - refer to session #3 in the online version of the eBook under the section entitled “When You Want Something From Your Kid”).

Sit down with your son and have a discussion about getting up in the morning. You might say for example, “You and I have a hard time in the morning. I am no longer going to be responsible for getting you up on time. I will give you one wake up call, and then it’s up to you. If you miss the bus, I will not drive you to school. 

You will need to either find another way to get there, or you will need to call your teachers to get your assignments.” (You’ll need to customize the consequences and expectations to your own family situation. If you do have to drive them to school because they overslept, maybe the consequence is that they have to do an hour of chores to make up for the time you lost.)

The important thing to realize is that as long as you take responsibility for getting your son out of bed, he will let you do it. It may take a few days for him to get the hint, but once you stop working so hard, he will realize he has to change his behavior, or face certain consequences.

A natural consequence for oversleeping and being late to school is making up any schoolwork that was missed. You might also check with your school to see what the policy is for repeated tardiness or missed classes. Don’t protect your son from these consequences by making sure he makes that bus on time. In order to create less dramatic mornings, you have to let your son experience the consequences of not getting himself up and out the door.

Remember, teenagers are fighting against a physiological drive that tells them to sleep later than many school start times. In order to change their behavior, they need a plan, not just wishful thinking. If your son has a hard time getting up, have him come up with a list of things he will do to help himself get out of bed on time. 

Changing to an earlier bedtime may help. Putting the alarm clock across the room, instead of next to the bed, may also help. Have your son pack his school lunch, pick out their clothes and organize his backpack the night before so that he doesn’t have to do it in the morning. Remember to put the responsibility for getting up in the morning on him.

Footnote: Be sure to have the school document the efforts you have made - and will be making - to change your child's behavior. Each state has their own truancy law. You might find you're on the hook just as much as your son is.

Mark Hutten, M.A.

When Your Teen Admits to Smoking Pot and Has No Intention of Quitting


What steps should a parent take when her adolescent admits to smoking pot and openly states he will continue to do so because he sees nothing wrong with it?


On the positive side, despite the challenging nature of an adolescent saying he's going to do what he wants and you can't stop him, is the fact that he was open about what he is doing. That shows a level of trust and honesty that is important to recognize and communicate. "I don't like what you are saying but I am glad you are being honest with me." Despite the alleged defiance, it does provide an opportunity for discussion. (I say "alleged" because often when adolescents are openly defiant about substance use or sexual activity, they are really asking for some limits to be imposed.)

The first stage of responding by the parent involves trying to understand what your adolescent is actually experiencing and to try to engage him in a helpful dialogue. Hold back on your admonitions and threats. Instead, approach your youngster as the expert and ask for a greater understanding. For example, what is it like when you get high? Is it easy to get pot? How much does it cost these days? What different types of pot are out there now? I understand that the current weed is much stronger than what was around in my day. Is that true? Why do you like to get high... essentially, what are the benefits to you?

==> JOIN Online Parent Support 

This last question opens up some important areas to explore. For some adolescents, it is purely a social activity, not unlike having a few beers with their friends when they are hanging out on a weekend night. (I'm not suggesting that's acceptable either; but it identifies it as the less risky recreational use.) It's also interesting who he is smoking with. Is it his usual friends (you may be surprised to learn that some of your adolescent's friends that you like and thought were positive influences use as much or more)? For him to answer that question you have to pledge confidentiality.

Sometimes it turns out that the kids he gets high with are not his regular buddies and it's important to know if he's beginning to be influenced by some other adolescents that may be more of a fringe group who don't appear to share the values you and your adolescent have discussed as important. If there is such a shift taking place that in itself becomes an important topic for exploration. Why is he distancing himself from his usual social group? Are they "not cool", perhaps because they don't get high? Or, has his old group moved beyond him in some way?

How much of the pot use is based on filling some personal need? One of the most frequent driving forces behind abuse of pot is when it is a form of self-medication. This is when adolescents who have undiagnosed Attention Deficit Disorder use pot to calm their jitters or the depressed youngster uses pot to shut off negative thoughts and feelings. This group of users is more likely to smoke alone as well as with peers and that's an important distinction to make. If there is an underlying problem driving the use of pot, it is important to identify that and encourage getting help for that problem.

One good question to pose is "How would you know when it's not a good thing to do?" This is easily asked when your adolescent is quick to point out he is not a druggie like so and so who's always high. This part of the discussion will touch on how often he actually uses pot and under what circumstances. Most important it clarifies his ability to acknowledge that there are risks of abuse and can he tell the difference? For example is he aware that chronic users, defined as those who smoke daily for a month or more, typically will become depressed if they stop using?

Also is he aware of the ways in which pot negatively impacts users? For example, because it tends to create a sense of apathy (the "What, me worry?" syndrome), the negative effects of pot are often subtle and easy to miss. Research has shown that adolescents who use pot on some degree of a regular basis usually get their driver's license significantly later than non-users. This reflects the tendency to put things off and not care as much about things that are usually important. The adolescent that remains focused on his schoolwork, after school activities, and other interests, is clearly at less risk than the adolescent that starts letting things slip.

==> JOIN Online Parent Support 

Please note that all of these points of discussion are not meant to be covered in a single conversation! Most adolescents would find that intolerable. Raise a few of the initial points, say you want to think about it, and would like to talk further. As always, part of the challenge is finding those occasional moments when your adolescent is actually in the mood to talk. Typically driving somewhere together is one of the best times, which also implies that often it is better to have only one parent involved in the conversation so it doesn't feel like a 2-on-1.

But once moms and dads have a better understanding of the reasons for use and the patterns of use, you should both express your displeasure in the following ways. First, it is illegal. Your adolescent needs to be reminded that he can be arrested and – yes – while not much happens to first time offenders, it’s still no fun to end up on probation and to have to do community service. In addition, employers now routinely drug test all applicants. Since traces of pot remain in the system for about a month and it is not as easy to hide as commonly thought, your adolescent may be very disappointed when he gets fired from his local, part-time job because of a positive drug screen. Moreover, as moms and dads, you do not want an illegal substance in your home nor do you want your adolescent or his friends smoking in your home. That needs to be a very clear, zero-tolerance rule.

It is important for you to express your disapproval of his use of pot in a calm, firm manner, without hysterics or unreasonable threats. You do not approve of this and will not condone it. You understand you cannot control his behavior, that if he chooses to smoke, you can't really stop him (more about exceptions to this later), but you will set some firm rules about this. For example, if you suspect he is breaking the rule by bringing pot into the house, he is to understand that his right to privacy in his room will be suspended, that periodic room searches will take place, and backpacks may also be searched.

Another issue is driving. If your adolescent has his license, the same rule about drinking and not driving apply to smoking pot and driving. The research is very clear that it delays reaction times and, therefore, increases the risk of accidents.

While there is potential for physiological addiction, and, of course, the major concern of moms and dads is that using pot will lead to using more serious drugs, the reality is that the vast majority of pot users do not go on to use heavy drugs. However, there is the significant potential for psychological addiction, based on the need to reduce stress and /or the need to fit in with peers. The key is looking for signs that use is turning into abuse; that your youngster's behavior or personality is changing in negative ways. If you begin to believe that your adolescent is developing a serious addiction, then you can take much stronger steps, including involving the police, requiring routine drug testing, and insisting upon individual and family counseling with a specialist in substance abuse.

Fortunately, most of the time, this is not the case. What you want to do in this situation is open up and maintain a line of communication that is based on accurate information about the risks involved and encourage your adolescent to make good decisions. In the end, it is that psychological capacity to be self-aware and make good decisions that is really much more important than whether or not your adolescent smokes pot for a period of his life.

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...