Online Parent Support Chat


I’m definitely an indulgent parent...

Hi Mark,

I’ve recently joined your support group.

I have 3 kids – Zac 16 (17 in September), Shennae 14 (turned 14 in March) and Blair 12 (13 in October). I’m divorced and live with my partner of 3 years with his 20 year old son and 23 year old daughter. My kids get along reasonably well with Richard, my partner, although Shennae and Blair can tend to get a little argumentative with him.

I’ve decided I’m definitely an indulgent parent and my ex is authoritarian which is why Shennae has now refused to go to her father’s and all 3 of them have never wanted to go there.

My biggest issue which is quite literally causing my hair to fall out in the form of alopecia is my daughter, Shennae. In the past 8 months or so we’ve been to the police station for shoplifting, I’ve confiscated marijuana out of her bag along with cigarettes, she was sexually active with her boyfriend (they’ve split up), she’s wagged school, snuck out of other parent’s homes to go to parties and been generally non-compliant at home and school. I know she’s still smoking and she tells me she is still smoking pot from time to time. There’s not much left on her dance card.

Last week I swung by the train station unexpectedly as she needed a new card for her bus travel to and from school. I walked up to her and her girlfriend to say hello. She blew cigarette smoke at me, looked at me with anger and told me to go away. She had planned to go to a friends house but after her behaviour I told her she could come straight home. She made quite a fuss in front of her friends and I just kept telling her to start walking towards my car, which she eventually did. We discussed it afterwards and we couldn’t agree with each other. The following morning I dropped her off at the station and I became overwhelmed with emotion and told her how hurt I was at her reaction to me and she apologised for hurting me but she requested I never approach her like that again.

She has been suspended from school for about the 4th time to date this year. There does appear to be some injustices in the school she’s attending in terms of uniform issues and her being singled out but because she is so outspoken she’s also drawn a lot of attention to herself. She will often argue with teachers but is still managing to get all of her work done and stay up to date.

Due to her risky behaviour I was considering upgrading her phone and installing some stealth tracking software. I read your comment on spying but I’m not sure if this is going too far. I’d like to know where she is and if I’m suspicious about upcoming events, be able to look through her SMS’s for any clues. What would you suggest.

My 12 year old, Blair, has tonight just asked me if he can buy a new game. Call of Duty, which, as you know, is violent. I discussed it with him and we checked some of the research on the effect of violent gaming on people. His argument is that he already has a number of the same types of games. He also argues that all of his friends have these games and he plays them when he’s at their place. I’ve suggested we try to find some other activities to replace the amount of time he spends on his computer and PS3 and he suggested we could limit it to 7 hours a week, including weekends but he desperately wants this game.

I also explained to all 3 of them that there was going to be some changes and that I wouldn’t be nagging them anymore to do things. That they’d lose some pocket money or have consequences as per your suggestion should they choose not to meet their obligations/expectancies. They’re all apprehensive about the “changes” but I didn’t have to ask Zac, after asking him 6 times last week, to bring all of the dishes out of his bedroom into the dishwasher again after that speech. He is the most placid of the three though.

I’m very nervous about doing the wrong thing and trying hard to get it right and find that when I go to actually speak to the kids using your guidelines I stutter a bit and even get a bit confused.

I listen to the CD’s over and over in the car but I don’t get a lot of reading time. I’m a bookkeeper right in the middle of BAS time and end of financial year and trying to complete my studies to comply with ATO requirements.

There’s a lot of information but I wanted to give you the background.

Many thanks.

Kind regards,

My Out-of-Control Child


ODD in Adults

I wonder if you have some words for parents of ODD kids who are now adults? My daughter is 23 now, and entering prison for a DUI in which someone was injured. I love her so much, yet the past 10 years has been one long horrible "trauma" of some sort of another. It seems the moment she turned 13, she lost her mind and made it her mission in life to destroy mine! While she's greatly improved compared to 10 years ago, my heart is still breaking for her. I'm not yet recovered from her younger years, yet had begun to have hope that she'd matured enough to overcome a few of her younger mental health issues, and then this.

Despite her high intelligence, she simply can't "get" what it will take for her (and others) to be "safe" in life, or be able to properly care for herself. True or False? At 13, and again at 16, her issues led her into very unsafe situations, and she was raped several times over. The last resulted in a pregnancy, which effectively ended her public school years (not that she went often from the 7th grade on, though!). This was her choice as she felt she could no longer fit in with the "'real' children." Terrified days and nights (totaling months) of worrying over where she was, was she safe, dead, etc. over the years, the trauma for us both over the abortion AND criminal cases against the "adult" males for the rapes; many, MANY "Baker Acts" for involuntary commitment for mental health care (which resulted in about "squat" and she refused to take her medications, as well), plus so much individual and family counseling that I become nauseated at the thought; the rages, the tantrums (and yes- I was the enemy!); also her violence toward me - actually BEATING on me!; the police calls over these; having ME arrested once even for child abuse, but I was being hit. Your webpage descriptions are so on the money! My heart certainly goes out to the folks who are new to this.

And, just as you described also, the NON-understanding of anyone who has never raised a child such as this! Also, all I felt in my confusion over her. How could I handle her displaced or misplaced emotions? She never cried when her grandmother died when she was 7, for example, although I realize she'd only gotten to know her within a year of her death. Yet - I remember her SCREAMING when a bald, baby RAT she'd found on the sidewalk a few days earlier died! She was actually sobbing and SCREAMING that she wanted to DIE! Clawing at her face with her fingernails! No one EVER prepares you for this, huh? In truth, I am still overwhelmed with PTSD from these years. And now ... this latest nightmare! I understand that she began to drink to help her deal with her childhood traumas. And from the beginning (about 15, that I know of) she drank a LOT, very quickly! And, when he drank up, until her arrest, this is how she continued to drink. Not every day, but, you don't need to drink everyday to have a problem. (Is drinking, or drugs, extremely common with ODD kids?) More than anything that I may feel, though, I'm more worried about how SHE must feel! How AFWUL for the individuals who are wired this way! I am also absolutely terrified for her future - especially after prison and (WAY later!) after I'm gone! WHAT will she do then? It's only me and her.

We are a family of 2, and we've become extremely close as she's matured, but I know she also relies far too much on me emotionally. She got her own place a few years ago, and then shared it with her long-term boyfriend/fiancé, yet she had regular trouble keeping a job for very long. She's worked hard to earn some college (after earning her GED at age 18), but seemed to need a "break" about every 6 months from anything that is very demanding of her, relationships included. I know she's worked so VERY hard to gain what she has, yet it's SOO difficult for her!! Will she ever truly be able to care for and support herself? Also, would you have any advice of how I can help her get through these next years, with some kind of self-respect intact?? It seems that she's fought a huge battle for every inch she's gained, then either put herself back 10 yards, OR been shoved back, all related to the way her mind operates. She's certainly "mellowed" as she's gotten older, but she's still VERY intense compared to practically everyone else.> She's not nearly as "cold-hearted" as she was during her teen years either, yet was still somewhat calloused - or unseeing? - where my feelings are concerned, at least, AND still got very frustrated and angry VERY easily, to where I CONTINUED TO know that I could and would do or say nothing right! At least up until her arrest late last year. She's MUCH closer and nicer to me during the very worst of times, so it's hard to provide a very accurate gauge of her TRUE sense at this time.

I continue to run on auto-pilot in many ways, couldn't be involved in many relationships (at all) other than her when she was younger, but most recently due to injuries and pain from an auto accident, so (unfortunately?) she IS my primary focus. Not totally healthy, I know, but it's hard as these kids have demanded so much, for so long, I suppose we as parents become "habituated?" I understand there is such a brief overview, but I'm certain you can fill in ALL the blanks.


He has the maturity of a 14 year old...

I have a son that just turned eighteen this past May, but due to my parenting, he has the maturity of a 14 maybe 16 year old. He has been through a lot from my perspective, although no physical abuse, emotional. I also know there are a lot of kids that have had it much worse.

Over the course of the last two years I have learned a lot. I have been over protective and because I was trying to advance my career, I wasn’t paying attention to his needs. Now I keep praying that it is not too late but listening to him, it is. He says he hates me, what little time he does come home.

He feels he is socially retarded (his words) and says that I did not teach him anything. He is so angry that he will not give me a chance to do anything now, which I guess I deserve. He barely went to school this past year and was late enough times that he lost credits. He should have graduated this year but because he does not have enough credits, he has to go another year.

This is a kid that got an A on a final but failed the class due to no daily work turned in. It will be extremely hard for him to go back this fall and I am concerned that even if he does start, he will not finish. We are at the point if I say anything, he just does the opposite. He is not thinking anything through. He says he doesn’t care about anything. I know this is not true but it is the way he acts.

I had talked to someone at the church I go to but got no help. I joined a small group from our church for prodigals and one of them had requested help from our church with the same response, sad.

My son’s father died just before his third birthday, so he has never really had a father figure. My father died when he was seven, which was the closest thing he had. I feel he just needs someone like that to spend time with him, help him learn some things, give him some confidence about himself and about life so he will realize he does care.

He met a girl, in April two years ago through a friend at school, went to her birthday party and fell madly in love. In July, She convinced him she was running away with or without him, so he took her. He had gotten his first car in May, when he turned sixteen. It was not the best car so he was afraid it would not make it very far. She wanted to go to North Carolina where her real mother was. They came back at the twenty four hour mark so they thought they were ok. Her parents had called the police.

Prior to this he had been smoking marijuana for a few months and missing school, so I had him taken to the juvenile center, I thought maybe this would wake him up. It made him even more angry with me. He was put on informal probation for three months, no charges. Things were getting better while he was on probation. One of the requirements was that he look for a job, he did, he got one, and after probation was up he gave up the job. The girlfriend moved to Evansville which just created a new set of problems and the relationship has since ended.

In February of this year he threatened suicide one night, in one of his angry outburst I guess he was loud enough the neighbors called the sheriff’s office. When they came, the deputy suggested Harsha Behavioral Center instead of the juvenile center so he didn’t have any charges, so that is what I did. He spent a week there and nothing really changed. He said it was a camp with meds. He was diagnosed with depression but would not take the wellbutrin after he came home. We did counseling for a few weeks until he refused to go anymore. This past April, he and a buddy were caught with marijuana residue. We have not heard from the court yet.

I was searching for anything to help, heard about these camps and different programs but when I looked them up, they cost more for a few months than I make in a year. If I could pay it somehow I would.

I want to help my son. He and counseling have made me see that I could have done so much more had I paid attention then. I did not realize what I was doing or rather not doing. The guilt is not helping me make decisions in his best interest, I just want to give in. Is there anything, any options I have at all to help him with him being eighteen?

He will continue to receive his SSI due to his father dying, for the next school year, as long as he stays in school. It started coming directly to him as of June this year since he is eighteen. He blew it all by the middle of the month and feels he should not help with the bills of the household. He has done a little better this month (he still has some as of today), but he says he wants to move out on his own. We have discussed it , argued it, and he does realize he can’t make it without rooming with others, which he doesn’t have. That angers him at me also. If he were more mature, if he had a job or cared to get one, if he cared to save to get another car (his first one quit several months ago), I would not have a problem with him moving out. My biggest concern is that he will not finish high school if he does move out.

I realize this is not the worst scenario of a young teen/adult. He is not a troublemaker, he doesn’t steal that I know of etc., my concern is where he could be headed. I don’t think he is smoking marijuana or anything right now (I could be wrong) because of knowing he has an upcoming court date from the incident in April. He is very disrespectful and hateful to me, but I feel it is just the hurt inside of him that he holds me responsible for and to some degree, he is right.


"My concern relates to the long term impact of her irritability..."

Hi Mark,

I came upon your program some months ago whilst looking desperately on the internet for some help managing my (then 3 year old) daughter’s behaviour. Emma is the oldest of our two children (her brother is 2 years old) and she has been a challenging child with respect to being very strong willed with a tendency to “grumpiness” since birth. The main problem with this is the impact on the rest of the family. My husband and I can wake in good moods at 7am and find ourselves as nervous and exhausted wrecks, twitching and muttering under our breath by 8am!

Before finding your program (and employing it with some success), I had struggled with many parenting books for young children which didn’t seem to acknowledge the impact of defiance that persists past the “terrible twos”. Firm limits and an understanding of “consequences” for choices made as recommended by your program, seems to have been far more helpful that the nefarious “1,2,3..” strategies we had trialed previously. I have since recommended your program to people with children of all ages.

When she is in a good mood, Emma is delightfully dramatic and creative, with the sheer will and determination to pursue a career as a UN negotiator. She is smart and funny and loves (me particularly) with intense passion. My concern relates to the long term impact of her irritability and difficulty “backing down” from any perceived “battle” (be it over choice of plate colour or getting ready for school).

I am actually a psychiatrist in Australia, and on more than one occasion I have had a sense that my own tiny daughter is on a path to a vulnerable personality style, with the attendant impact on relationships, education, occupation, etc. I see the reactions she generates in myself, my husband, the babysitter, grandparents etc. (all of whom are mature and reasonable people and all of whom have “snapped” and shouted at Emma on at least one occasion when pushed to the limit after hours of unreasonableness). This results, no doubt, in Emma feeling shamed and criticised, which I am sure feeds in to the problem. But it is hard to find the line between guiding her to understand the impact that her behaviour has on others and not making her feel ashamed about who she is.

We have spent the past 4 years putting these behaviours down to “teething”, “sleep apnoea”, “terrible 2’s, 3’s...”, “me working part-time” etc. but I suspect her underlying temperament is a major factor and is likely to be with us for life. With this in mind, how would you suggest we approach discipline to find that balance between avoiding unnecessary battles and not setting the stage for her to rule the household? How do we teach her to manage her affective arousal and mood swings effectively as a child so that this doesn’t cause her distress in her relationships as an adult?

I get the sense that we are standing on a knife edge and the next few years of parenting will determine whether we have a 14 year old with substance use problems and ODD or a determined and intelligent young woman who feels loved and cherished, living in our home in ten years time.

With your experience of managing kids and families over many years, I am hoping you can tell me there is hope, that there are things we can do now to give our beautiful girl and our family the best outcome. Can you recommend any references, strategies, therapies etc? We are equally committed and determined to find a way through.

With kindest regards, Lisa