"My daughter has a few friends who have
experimented with alcohol. How can I keep
her from seeing these friends, and what
should I do if she comes home drunk?"

You could conceivably drive yourself crazy trying
to protect your daughter from all the drugs and
alcohol out there. Your daughter is not going to be totally
honest with you regarding which friends drink and which ones

Here are the
stats on teenage drinking:

  • 7.2 million adolescents drank at least once in the past year
  • 2.7 million teens drank alcohol about once a month or
    more in the past year
  • 1 million youths drank at least once a week or more in the
    past year
  • Girls were as likely as boys their age to drink alcohol

Short of keeping her in the house 365 days a year, do the

Be sure to clearly state your expectations regarding your
daughter’s drinking and establish consequences for breaking
rules. Your values and attitudes count, even though she may
not always show it.

If one or more members of your immediate or extended family
has suffered from alcoholism, your daughter may be more
vulnerable to developing a drinking problem. She needs to know
that for her, drinking may carry special risks.

Should your daughter come home under the influence, make
sure she is in no immediate danger due to her alcohol use, but
wait until she is sober to address the problem. When she sobers
up, say/do the following:

Say (with your best poker face),
"I noticed you came home
intoxicated last night.
I felt shocked and worried."

Next, Listen. Give your daughter a chance to speak (although
all you're going to hear is a line of bullshit). She will be angry
with you for confronting her and will want you to get off her
back. She will probably deny that she drank any alcohol. Even if
she admits to drinking, she will most likely blame someone else
for the drinking episode.

Then say,
"The house rule is no drinking before the age
of 21.
If you choose to ignore this rule, you'll choose the
consequence, which is
the police will be called and you will
be charged with minor consumption."

End on a positive note by saying, "To help you be
successful with following this house rule, I will provide
discipline, structure, added supervision, and spot checks.
I know you are more than capable of following this house
rule - I have faith in you - I know you can do this!"

If your daughter has another drinking episode, follow through
with the consequence.

So here's the formula:

  1. I noticed...
  2. I felt...
  3. --Listen--
  4. The house rule is...
  5. If you choose to ignore this rule, you'll choose the
    consequence, which is...
  6. End on a positive note

NOTE: Don’t hesitate to call an alcohol abuse hotline for help
if you think your child is abusing alcohol.

"I'm trying the strategies you talk about,
and things do seem to be getting worse as
you said they might.  My son told me he is
going to run away from home. What's my
next move?"

Well first of all, don't threaten him. Avoid the
temptation to say things like,
"If you walk out
that door, I'm calling the cops"  
or  "If you leave,
you're grounded for a month"  
or  "Fine, go ahead and run...
I'll pack your shit and you can go live with your dad."

Instead say, "You know that I can't control you -- and if you
really want to run away from home, I can't stop you.  I can't
watch you 24 hours a day, and I can’t lock you up in your
room.  But no one in the world loves you the way I do.  That is
why we have established some house rules.  Running away from
home will not solve any problems.  You and I know it will only
make matters worse."

If your son follows through with his threat to run away, do the

1. Call the police. Don't wait 24 hours -- do it right away.
2. Get the name of the officer you speak with.
3. Call back often.  
4. Call everyone your son knows and enlist their help.
5. Search everywhere, but do not leave your phone unattended.
6. Search your son's room for anything that may give you a clue
as to where he went.
7. You may also want to check your phone bill for any calls he
made in the last few weeks.

When your teen comes home, wait until you and he are calmed
down before you address the matter. Then say (with your best
poker face),
"When you ran away, I felt worried and afraid. But
I have an obligation to protect you. Therefore, if you choose
to run away again, you'll choose the consequence -- runaway
charges will be filed and a juvenile probation officer will want
to meet with you."

If your son runs again, follow through with this consequence.

"We got a call from school last week.
Our son got busted with a bag of pot
in his locker and has been suspended
from school for the rest of the year.   
My wife and I are shocked and angry
as hell.  I'm not sure what question
to ask at this point other than what should we do now?"

O.K. -- First, educate yourselves completely about drugs and
drug abuse.

If your son's drug use has been purely recreational, you may
only need to clearly state your position regarding abstinence and
then closely monitor his behavior.  If your son is more deeply
into substance abuse, seek the advice of a behavioral health or
substance abuse professional.

Don't show any emotions of anger or fear, and don't lose your
good poker face -- but do send a strong message that drug and
alcohol use is not acceptable. Don't lecture, be clear, and keep
your message short and to the point.

Develop a list of names, addresses, and phone numbers of
your son's friends. Get to know those kids if possible. Form
a network with the parents of your son's peers. Keep in touch
with one another. Don't be surprised if other parents don't
share your concern about substance abuse.

Check your son's whereabouts regularly. Don't be shocked if
you find that another parent is using drugs with him, allows
substance-abusing parties at their home, or is supplying the
kids with drugs and alcohol.  If you learn that one of your son's
friends is involved in drugs, don't keep it a secret from his/her

Restrict or eliminate use of the car, take away cell phones, and
limit unsupervised free time until your son is committed to being
clean and sober."  An out-of-control kid wants his freedom
more than anything -- let him know that freedom is

If your son wants to spend the night at a friend’s house, check
with the other parent to make sure he has permission.  Also
make sure the other parent will be home, and determine if the
other parent has the same curfew and expectations you do.

Kids often select homes of absent parents for sleep-overs
and all-night drug/alcohol parties.  Make sure your son is not
sneaking out after you go to bed. Nothing good happens after

Caller ID and Anonymous Call Rejection on the phone line
that your son uses so that you know who is calling him.  Require
that he call home from a "land line" phone so that the location he
is calling from appears on your
Caller ID.

Find out where your son is getting the money to purchase drugs
(e.g., your ATM card, wallet, money you give for an allowance,
lunches, gas, etc.).  Don't be surprised if you find he is stealing
from you or others to finance his drug use.

urine-screen kits to use at home and test your son

Tell him the following:
"If you choose to use drugs, you'll
choose the consequence -- the police will be called and
juvenile probation will be notified."  

If your son continues to use drugs, follow through with this

If your son is more deeply into substance abuse, seek the advice
of a behavioral health or substance abuse professional.

"My son shoplifted from the mall a few
days ago.  He took an expensive jacket.
The store is pressing charges. I guess
he'll have to go to court now.  I don't
want my son to grow up to be a thief.  
What can I do?"

Most teens shoplift because they:

  • think the store can afford the loss
  • think they won't get caught
  • don't know how to handle temptation when faced with
    things they want
  • feel peer-pressure to shoplift
  • don't know how to work through feelings of anger,
    depression, unattractiveness, or lack of acceptance

In any event, take your son back to the store and find the
manager. Then have your son confess, apologize, make
restitution (i.e., pay for the item he took), and accept the
legal consequences.   

Know that once children steal, it is easier for them to steal
again. If police arrest teens for stealing, especially shoplifting,
it is rarely their first time.

"I'm pretty sure my daughter is smoking
cigarettes. I hate the thought that she is
doing this to herself, especially at such a
young age. Any ideas?"

Sorry mom. You're not going to like my advice, but here goes:

You will not be able to stop her from smoking. Pick your battles
carefully - and this is not a battle you should fight. In fact, the
more you worry about it or lecture her, the more she will smoke!
But you can stop her from smoking on YOUR property.  Here's
what you can say to your daughter:

"I can't keep you from damaging your health by smoking. But
it's your health - not mine! However, I don't want you smoking
in my house or anywhere on my property. If you choose to
smoke on my property, you'll choose the consequence, which
is grounding for 3 days without privileges (e.g., use of phone,
T.V., computer, etc.)."

If your daughter smokes on the property, follow through with
the consequence. If YOU smoke, keep your cigarettes with you
at all times.

"My 16-year-old son brought home
straight F's on his last report card.  
I grounded him for the entire grading
period, but he continues to fail in nearly
all subjects. I know he is a bright kid
and can do the work when he wants to.
What can I do to motivate him?"

Unfortunately, you can't motivate him! Do yourself a big favor
and get out of the business of playing principle, vice-principle,
dean, school counselor, teacher, etc. It's not your job - school
is your son's job.

If he were working at McDonald's, for example, you wouldn't
show-up there to see whether or not he was putting the pickle
between the top bun and the beef patty, that he was frying the
fries at the right temperature, that he was putting the right
amount of ice in the cups, etc. You would know that your son's
performance - or lack thereof - is between he and his boss. And
if he gets fired - it's all on him. The same is true for school.
What goes on there is between your son and his boss - the

If the problem is behavioral, that falls in your court. If the
problem is poor academic performance however, that should
be the teacher's concern alone.

I know teachers will want to recruit you to help them with their
job (e.g., check that homework, sign this slip, etc.).

(Your garbage man would appreciate it if you got out of bed at 5:00 in
the morning, put on your robe, and went out to the curb to help him load
your trash in his truck, too.)

Simply say to the teacher,
"Poor academic performance is a
constant source of tension in my home ...I'm not going to
monitor it anymore. If he's misbehaving - call me. Otherwise,
his poor performance is his problem."

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.  No more
nagging about homework.  No more asking about assignments.
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 schoolwork.  And he'll lose the power of pushing your
education buttons, to frustrate and worry you.

Out-of-control kids intentionally get low grades 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 grades are, their kids use this information to
anger them.  The more parents try, the less out-of-control kids

Many people who are successful in life performed poorly in school.
Remember your high school reunion, and remember the people
you never expected to do well -- but did.  

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

I've never meet a kid yet that didn't realize - at some point -
that he at least needed to get a
More Q & A can be viewed here.
NOTE: If your teen has a history of poor academic
, and if poor academic performance is
an ongoing source of parent-child conflict, then
follow the recommendation above.

If not, follow the recommendation
here ==>

Important Q & A

Do not skip this section:

Do YOU have a question?
"I understand that I need to let go of micro-
managing my son's academic progress
(which is, predictably, poor).  How do I
reconcile this with allowing my son to do
what he enjoys (e.g., playing XBox) when
it's clear he's shirking his schoolwork
responsibilities? If I'm not to be on top
of his homework and grades, do I then allow him to enjoy
what he wants, in spite of poor academic performance?"

First, what does your son do to earn Xbox privileges?

Remember, ALL privileges must be earned. In this way, you
are not “allowing” (i.e., a free handout of privilege) him to do
anything – he is earning the privilege for himself.

Next, we don’t want to “micro-manage” schoolwork – but we
don’t want to reward lack of effort either. Thus, set aside a
one-hour chunk of time (e.g., 4:00 – 5:00 PM) that is either
“homework time” or “chore time.” Then let your son decide what
he wants to do with that hour. He can do chores or schoolwork,
or some combination thereof. In the event he refuses to do
either, then revert to the 3-day-discipline outlined in the eBook.

The above recommendation is based on the assumption that
(a) your son has a history (i.e., at least 6 months) of “poor
academic performance” and (b) “poor academic performance”
is a major source of parent-child conflict.

One of the many mothers who attended the Parent Support
Group in person was greatly relieved when she heard about this
recommendation to "give up ownership" of her son's academic
performance. She looked as though the weight of the world had
been lifted off her shoulders. She finally had permission to have
a more relaxed attitude regarding her son's education.

Now here's the really good news: Over the course of a few
months, she was pleasantly surprised to discovered that her
child's academic performance actually improved. He was making
mostly F's ...now he is making mostly B's and C's (with an
occasional D).

He's not making straight A's - this is true, but he has come a
long way compared to last grading period.

You should expect to have the same result.