Coping with the Struggles of Parenting a Child with Oppositional Defiant Disorder

 Living with a defiant child can be a challenging and complex experience, with daily life feeling like a never-ending struggle. What may start as minor issues can quickly escalate into major conflicts, causing significant stress and emotional turmoil for the entire family. 

Parents can often feel overwhelmed and uncertain about how to handle the situation, leading to feelings of helplessness and frustration. The key is to understand the underlying causes of their defiance and use techniques that are tailored to their individual needs.

Setting clear boundaries and expectations is an important first step in managing defiant behavior. Children need to understand what is expected of them, and having clear rules in place can help reduce the likelihood of negative behavior. Using positive reinforcement, such as praising and rewarding good behavior, can also be an effective tool in encouraging positive habits.

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Offering choices within reasonable limits can help children feel more in control and reduce the likelihood of defiance. It's also crucial to be consistent in implementing consequences for negative behavior to help children understand that there are consequences for their actions. Time-outs can be a useful consequence for negative behavior, allowing the child time to calm down and reflect on their actions.

Modeling good behavior is essential for parents dealing with defiant children. Children often mimic the behavior of adults around them, so it's important to model positive behavior and remain calm and composed in the face of challenging behavior.

It's important to take a holistic approach when addressing the issues that come with raising a defiant child. This may involve recognizing and addressing any mental health concerns that may be contributing to the behavior, or seeking out additional resources such as family therapy, parenting classes or support groups. Additionally, setting realistic expectations and boundaries can help parents manage their child's behavior in a way that is both firm and compassionate.

It's important to remember that not all children respond to the same strategies, and what works for one child may not work for another. Seeking professional help from a therapist or counselor can be a valuable resource for families dealing with challenging behavior. With patience, consistency, and the right support, parents can manage their child's defiant behavior and create a more peaceful and harmonious home environment.

Summary points:

  1. Set clear boundaries and expectations: Establishing clear rules and expectations with your child can help them understand what is expected of them and reduce the likelihood of defiance.
  2. Use positive reinforcement: Praising and rewarding good behavior reinforces positive habits and can motivate your child to continue behaving well.
  3. Offer choices: Giving your child choices within reasonable limits can help them feel more in control and reduce the likelihood of defiance. 
  4. Use consistent consequences: Consistency is key to managing defiant behavior. Be firm and consistent in implementing consequences for negative behavior. 
  5. Model good behavior: Children often mimic the behavior of adults around them, so modeling positive behavior can encourage them to do the same. 
  6. Use time-outs: Time-outs can be an effective consequence for negative behavior, allowing the child to calm down and reflect on their actions. 
  7. Seek professional help: If your child's behavior is causing significant distress or is not improving despite your efforts, seeking professional help from a therapist or counselor can be a valuable resource.

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When Your Oppositional Teen Seems to Get a "Pay-off" for Arguing with You

When your teenager wants to argue with you as a parent, it's important to approach the situation with patience and understanding. Teenagers are at a stage in their lives where they are trying to assert their independence and challenge authority, and it's natural for them to want to argue with their parents. However, as a parent, it's crucial that you handle these situations with care to maintain a healthy and respectful relationship with your teen.

Firstly, it's important to listen to your teen's perspective and validate their feelings. This doesn't mean that you have to agree with everything they say, but it does mean that you need to show empathy and respect for their point of view. Try to understand where they are coming from and acknowledge their concerns. This can go a long way in building trust and rapport with your teen.

Validating your teenager's feelings is an important aspect of building trust and strengthening your relationship with them. It involves acknowledging and accepting their emotions without judgement, and showing empathy and understanding towards their perspective. It can be as simple as saying things like "I can see that you're upset" or "That must have been really hard for you". By validating their feelings, you create a safe space for them to express themselves and feel heard, which can lead to better communication and a stronger bond between you and your teenager.

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Secondly, encourage open communication and problem-solving. Instead of shutting down their arguments or dismissing their concerns, try to engage in a constructive dialogue. By doing so, you can help your teen develop critical thinking skills and learn how to express themselves in a respectful and effective manner. Helping your teenager develop critical thinking skills is an important aspect of their overall growth and development.

Here are some ways you can assist your teenager in developing these skills:

  • Encourage questions: Encourage your teenager to ask questions about the things they see and hear. Teach them to think critically about the information they receive and to ask themselves if it makes sense.
  • Teach problem-solving: Encourage your teenager to think through problems and find solutions. Guide them through the process of analyzing the problem, considering different solutions, and selecting the best course of action.
  • Discuss different perspectives: Encourage your teenager to consider different perspectives on a topic. Teach them to listen to others' opinions and to think critically about their own beliefs.
  • Encourage research: Encourage your teenager to research topics they are interested in. Teach them to evaluate the credibility of sources and to think critically about the information they find.
  • Model critical thinking: Be a role model for your teenager by demonstrating critical thinking skills in your own life. Encourage discussions with your teenager that demonstrate your own thought processes when considering different options to solve problems.
  • By teaching your teenager critical thinking skills, you are helping them to become independent, rational, and thoughtful individuals who can make informed decisions and evaluate information effectively.

Thirdly, set clear boundaries and expectations. While it's important to be understanding and accommodating, it's also important to set limits and communicate your expectations in a respectful but firm manner. This can help your teen understand what is and isn't acceptable behavior, which can be helpful in avoiding future arguments.

Setting boundaries with rebellious teenagers can be a challenge, but it is an important part of helping them learn responsibility and accountability. 

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Here are some tips for setting boundaries with your rebellious teen:

  • Be clear and consistent: Clearly communicate your expectations and the consequences for breaking boundaries. Consistency is key - if you set a boundary, make sure you enforce it every time.
  • Listen to their perspective: Your teenager may have reasons for their behavior that you haven't considered. Listen to their perspective and try to understand their point of view.
  • Be firm but gentle: It is important to be firm in setting boundaries, but also gentle in your approach. Avoid yelling or threatening, and instead, calmly explain why the boundary is important and what the consequences will be for breaking it.
  • Offer choices within limits: Giving your teenager choices within limits can help them feel more in control and invested in the process. For example, you might give them a choice between doing their chores before or after dinner, but not whether or not to do them at all.
  • Follow through: If your teenager breaks a boundary, follow through with the consequences you have established. This will help them learn accountability and responsibility for their actions.
  • Remember that setting boundaries is not about controlling your teenager, but rather about helping them learn how to navigate the world responsibly and make healthy choices. By setting clear and consistent boundaries, you can help your rebellious teenager develop into a responsible and respectful adult.

Fourthly, be willing to compromise and find common ground. While you need to set boundaries and expectations, you also need to be willing to be flexible and find solutions that work for both you and your teen. This can help build trust and respect between you and your teen, and can ultimately lead to a stronger and healthier relationship. Compromising with your teenager can be a great way to help them feel heard and respected, while also maintaining important boundaries. 

Here are some tips for compromising with your teenager:

  • Be open to their ideas: When your teenager approaches you with a request or suggestion, listen with an open mind. Even if you don't agree with their idea, acknowledging their perspective can go a long way towards building trust and respect.
  • Identify common ground: Look for areas where you and your teenager can agree. For example, if your teenager wants to stay out later with friends, you might both agree that it is important for them to be safe and responsible.
  • Brainstorm solutions: Once you have identified common ground, work together to brainstorm solutions that meet both of your needs. This might involve setting specific boundaries or compromises that allow your teenager more freedom while still maintaining your expectations.
  • Be flexible: Remember that compromise involves some give and take. Be willing to adjust your expectations or boundaries in order to find a solution that works for both you and your teenager.
  • Follow through: Once you have agreed on a compromise, it is important to follow through with your end of the agreement. This will help your teenager learn that compromise is a two-way street and that they can trust you to keep your promises.
  • Remember that compromising with your teenager is not about giving in to their every demand, but rather about finding solutions that work for both of you. By working together and being open to each other's ideas, you can build a stronger, more respectful relationship with your teenager.

In summary, when your teenager wants to argue with you as a parent, it's important to remain calm, listen to their perspective, encourage open communication, set clear boundaries and expectations, and be willing to compromise. By doing so, you can foster a healthy and respectful relationship with your teen that will benefit both of you in the long run.

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Mother states that she feels like she is in the middle of a Tornado...

 Hi B.,

== > I’ve responded throughout your email below:

Hi Mark

Thanks for the quick response to my queries..I am now having a few more... I told L___ that I realised I had made mistakes etc this morning and she flew off the handle so aggressively telling me that I couldn't change things now and that she would not change no matter what etc etc..

== > This is to be expected.

I managed to remain relatively calm, at least externally but on the inside i left the room and proceeded over the next hour to experience a pretty intense emotional meltdown... it felt like a combination of guilt for the past, pain and anger at having such a difficult child and fear that it was all too much and that things were never going to change... I am thinking that perhaps it is quite natural to feel a deep emotional reaction to all this shift..??

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== > That’s correct. People don’t like change, because change gets them out of their comfort zone. Plus it takes a lot of energy to adjust to new things.

I want to know if I am supposed to TELL her that she is going to have to EARN everything from now on or do I just implement the strategies without explaining exactly WHAT and WHY we are doing life like this now...

== > This was discussed in Session #2 Assignments. What you say is, “I want to try compromising this week.” Be sure to watch Instructional Video #18.

Also our situation is made complex by a few practical factors..they are:

...we have a shop business that D___ and I run that is 45 mins from home…we travel there each day but sometimes one of us is at home ( we have two smaller children who go to school) ..Many, in fact most weekends we are staying down at the shop as it is just easier that way and we take the two small children with us but for the past 6 months or more we have been leaving L___ at home due to the extreme amount of tension with her and her wanting to be with her friends etc... she has proven to be reliable and responsible in the sense that she respects the home and does not throw parties and she maintains jobs like caring for animals and garden when asked etc whilst we are away...BUT she has as a result experienced a lot of trust from me and a lot of freedom...she has not broken my trust, she is not one of those really wild kids with NO respect at all for others etc but I can certainly see the symptoms of the ODD character in her and the disregard she shows for myself and D___ and the family system in general is VERY DISTURBING… she lacks any real motivation and has left school and is not doing anything about getting a job etc..

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So basically the situation is very uncomfortable and I am unsure about how I am going to fully implement the new boundaries etc when we have to attend to the needs of the business and to hers when we stay away from the home base for periods of time.. We are just about to move shop premises starting July 1st and so we will be staying down there with the small children from tomorrow for three weeks of the school holidays to get the job done...I have told her already the other day that I am not happy for her to be at home unsupervised for long periods and that she will have to come and stay with us for at least Mon-thurs and that she can be up the hill at home on the weekends to see her friends etc…She of course balked at that but has not yet refused as I have yet to implement it…Now I am confused about whether I should be allowing her any freedom to be with her friends AT All, due to the Self-reliance strategy program or should I be waiting to implement ANYTHING you teach until I have nothing else major going on in my life

== > We want our kids to have as much freedom as possible – HOWEVER – this freedom MUST be earned. “Freedom” does not contribute to the behavior problems. “Unearned freedom” does, though. Allow her to continue to have the freedom to be with her friends, but come up with something simple for her to do to earn that privilege.

... I thought I recalled reading somewhere that we should not undertake ANY major endeavour whilst going thru this program..???

== > Yes …do not fix anything that is not broken. If your daughter is living up to your trust, then do not change anything in that particular area.

I feel like I am in the middle of a Tornado and very overwhelmed with all that is on my plate so I will await your reply...

PS..You are absolutely sure that these strategies work...??? stupid question...she feels so irretrievable times I feel like it's just too late..

==> Doubting yourself is normal. I track outcomes with this program, and approximately 92% of parents report that (a) problems have reduced in frequency and severity and (b) the few remaining problems are manageable. So it doesn’t work 100% of the time – and it doesn’t wipe out ALL behavior problems. But the overall success rate is very good.


P.S. Be sure to watch ALL the Instructional Videos.

The Tail Is Wagging The Dog

Mark, I have been putting your principles into practise for a few months now and everything was going well until my sons best friend came back into his life big time. His girlfriend dropped him two weeks ago and he had been kicked out of both his mothers and fathers house because they cannot live with his behaviour any more, this child has uncontrollable tempers and word around the place is he is on steroids. How do I get my son back on track and to accept that his friend is a bad egg.

He stayed out all night because I was mad with him, he is not responding to the consequences unless I change them. He is now 17 and I know he would be scared if I really threw him out, but I am scared if it backfires. If I call the police when he stays out, is this not going to backfire and make him so wild with me? What normally happens in this case? Can you give some advice? ~ L.


Hi L.,

Re: …son’s best friend.

Peer pressure is a very potent force, but its influence is very subtle. Often, teens don't even know they're being influenced. Teens associate with peers who are not necessarily a good influence because they don't want to say "no" …don't want to be left out …don't want to seem like a wimp …don't want to lose their friends …and are afraid their friends will tease them and spread rumors around school.

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Family support is crucial to adolescents. Adolescents take their major values in life from their parents. When adolescents are negatively influenced by their peers, it is more likely because something is lacking in parental involvement. Those who do not have a high level of support from their parents are more likely to become involved in undesirable behaviors. Support and effective communication lessen adolescent's vulnerability to negative peer pressure.

Here are some suggestions:

· Check whether your concerns about their friends are real and important.

· Do not attack your child's friends. Remember that criticizing your teen's choice of friends is like a personal attack.

· Encourage reflective thinking by helping your teen think about his or her actions in advance and discussing immediate and long-term consequences of risky behavior.

· Encourage your teen's independence by supporting decision-making based on principles and not other people.

· Get to know the friends of your teen. Learn their names, invite them into your home so you can talk and listen to them, and introduce yourself to their parents.

· Help your teen understand the difference between image (expressions of youth culture) and identity (who he or she is).

· If you believe your concerns are serious, talk to your teenager about behavior and choices -- not the friends.

· Keep the lines of communication open and find out why these friends are important to your teenager.

· Let your teen know of your concerns and feelings.

· Remember that we all learn valuable lessons from mistakes.

No matter what kind of peer influence your teen faces, he or she must learn how to balance the value of going along with the crowd (connection) against the importance of making principle-based decisions (independence).

Re: He stayed out all night because I was mad with him, he is not responding to the consequences unless I change them.

Where was your poker face? Also, “changing” consequences to meet the demands of the child is a form of over-indulgence.

Re: If I call the police when he stays out, is this not going to backfire and make him so wild with me?

I can see that the tail is wagging the dog. You have clearly lost control in the relationship. Rather than worrying about things “backfiring,” I would recommend that you concern yourself with the damage that will be done to your son if you continue to over-indulge.

Please review Session #3 in the eBook {online version}. I think this chapter applies best in your circumstance.

Stay in touch,

Mark Hutten, M.A.

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Discouraged mom states, "I feel I am always nagging... "

"I would like some guidelines on setting up clear rules. My 15 year old son constantly yells, belittles his younger brother and basically tries to defy or argue when I ask him to anything. He certainly sets the mood for the house. I found it harder to stay in control and feel I am at wits end. He doesnt worry about his appearance and I constantly remind him of basic hygiene. He lacks motivation at school, football relationships at school always seem to be a drama. He seems to be closer to girls and does not seem to be able to form close relationships with boys. Has quit his part time job. Doesnt seem to be passionate about anything. He often tells me how he wants to leave and live with anyone but me. My husband has been ill with Leukaemia and suffers with the complications of the treatment. It has impacted our life for the past three years. Upsets me that he is so angry and not happy. I would like him be responsible for the cleanliness of his room, his appearance and speak nicely and want him to contribute to the family in a loving way. I feel I am always nagging but where is the fine line between letting him just do what he wants. I seem to feed off his anger. I just want to understand R___ and my behaviour and what I can do to help to make this situation better? Appreciate any feed back? If anything, writing helps to clarify my thoughts. kind regards ~ J."

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Hi J.,

Re: My 15 year old son constantly yells, belittles his younger brother and basically tries to defy or argue when I ask him to anything.

Please refer to the page in the eBook [online version – session #3] entitled “When You Want Something From Your Kid”. Much of what you are dealing with in this email will be addressed there.

Re: He doesn’t worry about his appearance and I constantly remind him of basic hygiene ...and lack of motivation.

Your child's teenage years can be a difficult time. Teens may feel overwhelmed by the emotional and physical changes they are going through. At the same time, teens may be facing a number of pressures - from friends to fit in and from parents and other adults to do well in school, or activities like sports or part-time jobs.

The teenage years are a time of transition from childhood into adulthood. Teens often struggle with being dependent on their parents while having a strong desire to be independent. They may experiment with new values, ideas, hairstyles and clothing as they try to define who they are. Although this may be uncomfortable for parents, it is a normal part of being a teenager.

Communicating your love for your child is the single most important thing you can do. Children decide how they feel about themselves in large part by how their parents react to them. It is also important to communicate your values and to set expectations and limits, such as insisting on honesty, self-control and respect for others, while still allowing teenagers to have their own space.

Parents of teens often find themselves noticing only the problems, and they may get in the habit of giving mostly negative feedback and criticism. Although teens need feedback, they respond better when it is given positively and spoken with love.

Praising appropriate behavior can help your teen feel a sense of accomplishment and reinforce your family's values.

Teens, especially those with low self-esteem or with family problems, are at risk for a number of self-destructive behaviors such as using drugs or alcohol or having unprotected sex. Depression and eating disorders are also important issues for teens.

The following may be warning signs that your child is having a problem:

· Agitated or restless behavior
· Drop in grades
· Fatigue, loss of energy and lack of interest in activities
· Lack of motivation
· Low self-esteem
· Not caring about people and things
· Ongoing feelings of sadness
· Poor hygiene
· Trouble concentrating
· Trouble falling asleep
· Weight loss or weight gain

If you suspect there is a problem, ask your teen about what is bothering him or her. And then listen.

Don't ignore a problem in the hopes that it will go away. It is easier to cope with problems when they are small. This also gives you and your teen the opportunity to learn how to work through problems together.

Again, please refer to Session #3. I think that session really applies here.

Mark Hutten, M.A.

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"My son did not get his required highschool credits..."

"Hello Mark, Well his grade 12 graduation is this week-end. He is not able to “walk the stage” as he did not get his credits required. Natural consequence of not attending school and not getting his work done. He is still planning to go in a limo with his friends and attend the banquet with his girlfriend. My husband says we should not attend any of the grad events, however, will our son ever forgive us for being the only parents not there? We have tried to talk him out of going but is insisting he wants to. Please advise whether we, as the parents, should be “celebrating” a grad event when he is not technically graduating. 
Thank you Mark. ~ S."


Hi S.,

Re: Please advise whether we, as the parents, should be "celebrating" a grad event when he is not technically graduating.

Great question!

Should you be celebrating? No. There's nothing to celebrate, unless you want to celebrate lack of credits.

Should you attend at least one grad event? Probably. Not to celebrate, but to show your son that you support his education and all that is associated with it.

Should he go in a limo with his friends and attend the banquet with his girlfriend? Absolutely. This may wet his appetite for finishing his education on a strong note.

Don't feel sorry for him, but do bear in mind that he may feel a bit inadequate during the events.


RE: "She had the most amazing temper tantrum and was kicking me..."

 Hi Mark, Another question from Australia (I have SO many questions)! M__ and I are in the process of starting up some chores and allowing A__ to earn some money from the non-mandatory ones. We thought we'd have a rule where the mandatory ones had to be done first and then there would be the capacity to earn money from other chores. If the mandatory ones are not done, then there is no pocket money for the week. Is this OK? Can we put a caveat on her spending like no lollies, fizzy drinks or junk food-her behavior is so much worse if she has these things-she can buy books, toys clothes or save some for example?

Also, what happens if we have bad behavior during the week-can we tie it all in together-bad behavior, no money or is that a separate issue of consequences? A__ was so awful the other night-she had the most amazing temper tantrum and was kicking me and M__ had to restrain her-she is getting too big for me-at the age of 8 she is up to my chin (I'm 5'7") and it was not easy to just walk away as she was grabbing hold of me (I have a torn rotator cuff muscle in my right shoulder courtesy of her wrenching my arm in a fit of rage) and I've endured an MRI and 5 months of physio to get it better... Thanks Mark.


Hi L.,

Re: If the mandatory ones are not done, then there is no pocket money for the week. Is this OK?


Re: Can we put a caveat on her spending like no lollies, fizzy drinks or junk food-her behavior is so much worse if she has these things-she can buy books, toys clothes or save some for example?

Yes but …here’s one caveat to your caveat: Allow her to have one “treat” that falls into the junk food category per week.

Re: …what happens if we have bad behavior during the week-can we tie it all in together-bad behavior, no money or is that a separate issue of consequences?

Make the consequence fit the “crime” (i.e., the misbehavior) as much as possible. Not every poor choice your daughter makes will be linked to money.

Re: Domestic battery. This should involve the authorities if it happens again. You don’t want to send her the message that physical violence goes un-punished.


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Son won't be able to graduate but continues to go out at night rather than focus on school...

I wanted to get some final advice from you relative to my soon to be 18 year old son. Your website advise was great and the personality traits you explain have been dead on. I think we learned this a bit late in the game though.

We are at the point where it is highly unlikely that he will graduate. He continues to say he will be able to graduate but continues to go out with friends at night rather than focus on school. We have not planned for any grad events and I do admit to feeling guilty as this should be such a wonderful time of his life.

Question One: What should our attitude be toward grad? We know his work is not done to graduate and yet he insists he will be fine. He even wants to get a suit this week-end?

== > The more you take responsibility for your son's academics, the less responsibility he will take. The problem is an ownership problem. Let go of ownership of your son’s education. This problem belongs to your son. When you give up ownership, your son will have to make a choice - he'll have to decide if he will or will not accept ownership of his education. And he'll lose the power of pushing your education buttons, to frustrate and worry you.

Out-of-control teens intentionally perform poorly to push their parents’ buttons. Often parents are in a never-ending cycle of their kid’s sabotage. Since parents are continuously telling their kids how important an education is, their kids use this information to anger them. The more parents try, the less out-of-control kids work.

Many people who are successful in life performed poorly in school. Your son is not going to end up sitting on the street corner with a tin can waiting for coins to be handed him from sympathetic passersby. Get rid of the fear that poor school performance will damage his future. When he decides it's time to succeed, he will. I've never meet a kid yet that didn't realize - at some point - that he at least needed to get a GED

He has his car a cell phone taken away and this has been the case for a week. He only needs to do chores to pay us back money he owes but says there is not point as he doesn't get anything when he works hard or does chores??? (Fact is we always give him a break but he always forgets.)

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Question Two: Will he ever get it? Work equals pay?

He does not work and has no money. He says he will work part-time this summer (He will be 18) and work fulltime in the all. We know he is emotionally immature and he puts his friends before everything. We believe he should work full-time in order to pay his bills.

== > If he is living in your house at the age of 18 – and not attending school, then working to pay his room and board should be mandatory. If he refuses to pay room and board, then you need to (a) help him find an apartment, (b) help him move, (c) pay his first month’s rent, and (d) let go (i.e., he can certainly come home to visit, but he can no longer live at home). This is the parental tough love that separates the women from the girls (so to speak). Which are you mom?

Question 3: Do you think at 18 he should be cut off from everything and told to pay his way?

== > Yes. In addition to what you’ve listed below, he should pay a reasonable rent as well as buy most of his own food. How long will you be willing to continue to raise an adult child?

We would provide a home and food but he will pay for cell phone, gas, car insurance, eating out, etc.

He does not talk to us most of the time and is always gone. This makes it difficult to apply what we have learned in your program as he is not receptive. When we do finally get his attention, it is usually negative as he has not done his chores, gone to school etc. 

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Question 4: How do we handle a non-communicative teen?

== > I think you have a deadbeat child on your hands (no offense - I’m sure he is a great kid). The latest parenting challenge is dealing with adult children who have no intention of leaving the nest. Many 18- to 25-year-olds either return home after college or they've never even left home. Parents are worried that their kids will NEVER leave home. Why do over-indulged kids refuse to leave the nest?

1. They Are Unprepared-- They are overwhelmed or unmotivated to live independently. They would rather play it safe by occupying the family home, playing computer games and delivering pizza. These kids often grow up living the life of the privileged. Here, well-meaning parents provide their children with all the amenities congruent with an affluent lifestyle. The parents are focused on doing more for their children than what their parents did for them – at the expense of keeping them dependent. Kids don't move out because they've got it made! When your financial generosity isn't combined with teaching kids how to become self-sufficient at an early age, we cannot expect them to automatically possess adequate life skills when they reach legal adulthood. How will they gain the skills to confidently live their own life when they haven't had the opportunity to do things for themselves?

2. They Are Cautious or Clueless-- They are committed, but unsure how to discover their ideal career path. They approach college with the same trial and error mindset their parents had only to find out that it no longer prepares them for today's competitive world. Parents do their kids a disservice by waiting until they are 17 or 18 before initiating career-related discussions. In our dynamic society where change is a daily diet, this is much too late! It's best to start young, at age 13. This stage of development is the perfect time to begin connecting the dots between what they love to do and possible career options. It can take years to prepare for the perfect career. Beginning early will help teens maximize their opportunities in high school and make college a much better investment.

3. They Have Personal Problems--They don't have effective life coping skills, have failed relationships or are grieving some other loss or wrestling with a challenging life event. If your son is struggling emotionally, don't make the mistake of thinking it will somehow magically get better without an intervention. Tough love requires that you insist your adolescent get professional help so that he or she can move forward. If you don't know how to have that kind of conversation, consider getting help from a parenting expert.

4. They Have Mounting Debt-- They've accumulated significant credit card debt and moving back in with their parents is a way to pay it off. According to the National Credit Card Research Foundation, 55 percent of students ages 16 to 22 have at least one credit card. If your teen falls into this group, make sure you monitor spending together online. Helping your teen understand how to budget and manage credit cards will be important for handling a household budget in the future. Kids can't learn to manage money if they don't have any or if parents always pay for everything. If your offspring moves back home, I recommend you charge a nominal amount for room and board. As an adult member of your household, it's important for your young adult to contribute to household chores and expenses.

Determine Goals and Stick to Them— Most parents enjoy having their children visit and will consider offering some short-term help. However, indulging an adult child's inaction does not help your son begin his own life. If your child defaults on your agreement, be willing to enforce consequences to help him launch into responsible adulthood.

I’ve been kinda tough on you in this email S___, but I know you would want the truth.

Stay tough,



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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...