Running Away Part II: "Mom, I Want to Come Home." When Your Child is on the Streets

by James Lehman, MSW
Running Away Part II: Mom, I Want to Come Home. When Your Child is on the Streets

In part two of this series on running away, James tells you how to handle it when your child is on the streets, and what to say when they come home—including giving them consequences for their actions.

[Editor’s Note: The intent of this article is to support parents in situations where their child uses running away as a faulty problem-solving skill in response to rules or limits that are being set in the home. Sometimes there are underlying issues that may influence a child or teen to run away. This article is not intended to address situations that may possibly involve abuse, neglect or other issues.]

For kids, running away is like taking a long, dangerous timeout. They may use it to avoid some difficulty at home, or to hide from something that’s embarrassing to them. You can also look at running away as a power struggle, because kids will often run instead of taking responsibility for their actions or complying with house rules. Above all, as a parent, what you don't want to do is give it power. That's the cardinal rule: do not give this behavior power.

The forces that drive your child to run are more powerful than the thought that he might get a consequence.

In the last article, I discussed what you can do before your child leaves, and how to create an atmosphere of acceptance at home. In part two, I’d like to talk about what you can do when your child is out on the streets, and how you should handle their re-entry back into home life.

Related: How to stop the constant fighting with your child.


Leave a Paper Trail
If your child has run away, you need to call the police, plain and simple. I understand that not all parents want to do this, but I think it’s imperative that you take this step. I can’t stress this enough: you want to have a written record that your child is not under your supervision, and that should be recorded at the police station. Also, if you call and report your child missing, know that your call will be recorded. I hate to say it, but one of the paradoxes for parents is that the authorities will often ask, “Why did you let your child run away?” when in fact, there's no way they can make them stay at home. Do your best to answer as honestly as you can, because it’s very important to document what’s happening. You should also call the Department of Human Services to create a paper trail there, too. They may very well tell you that they can’t give you any help, but the point is, you documented it. Be sure to write down the name of the case worker you talked to for future reference.

Should You Look for Your Child on the Streets?
I personally don’t believe in going and looking for your child on the streets if they are children who chronically run away. I don’t think you should give that kind of behavior a lot of power. The rules should be really clear in the family: “If you run away, you’ve got to make your way back here. I'm not going to come looking for you or call all your friends. If you're not home, I'll call the police.”

There are those parents who look for their kids to make sure they’re okay. I understand that impulse, but again, I don't think you want to give your child too much power or special status when they run away. If they get too much attention and too much power, you're just encouraging them to do it again the next time there's a problem. Unintentional reinforcement is something you have to be very careful about.

If you do find your child, you can say, “Look, when you're ready to come home, we'll talk about it.” I'm personally very leery about parents who chase after their kids and beg and plead. If you do beg them to come home, when your child comes back, they will have more power and you have less. From then on, whenever they want something or don’t want to be held accountable for their actions, they’ll play the runaway card.

Related: How to hold kids accountable.

The Sad Truth: Lack of Community Support for Parents of Runaways
Remember, it's your child’s responsibility to stay at home since you legally have no way to keep them there. In fact, I know of kids who’ve actually left while the police were there. They just said, “I'm not taking this anymore,” and they walked out. And the cops said to the parents, “We can't do anything until he commits a crime.”

In the states where I've lived, if your child runs away and you call the police, by law they can't do anything. Part of the obstacle that parents face is a lack of community support. Amazingly, there's no statute that requires kids to live in a safe place. That really puts parents in a bad place because society won't make your child stay at home or even in a shelter. When I was a kid, if you ran away from home they would take you to court and put you on probation; you were simply not allowed to run the streets and be a delinquent. Unfortunately, that law has changed. Today, it’s estimated that there are between one to three million kids on the street in this country.  If you decide to file a Missing Persons report, even if the police find your child living on the street, they can't make him come home. Now your child is no longer a "Missing Person," and you have even less power in some ways. When that happens, you just have to wait until your child wants to come home.

If Your Child Says They are Ready to Come Home…
If your child has dropped out of school and is abusing substances and living on the streets, I don’t think they should be allowed to come home without certain conditions. And if it’s decided that they can return, their re-entry to home life should be very structured.

I know it’s hard, but I think that even if your child is crying on the phone, what you want to get clear is, “We love you very much and you can come back again, but the rules aren't changing.” I've seen parents with abusive kids tell them very simply, “You can't come home until we have a meeting and agree to some rules. And until then, stay with your friends.” It’s difficult for parents to do, but I support that.

Have a Frank Discussion: What to Say When Your Child is Back Home
One of the main things you want to talk to your returning child about is what they’re going to do differently this time. Ask, “What’s going to be different about the way you solve your problems, and what are you going to do the next time you want to run away?” I recommend that you have a frank discussion with them. Let them know that running away is a problem that simply complicates their lives and makes their other problems worse. Again, we want running away to be viewed as a problem your child has to learn to deal with. We know as adults that once you start running from something, you may run for the rest of your life. Running away is one of the ways kids solve problems, it’s just not an effective way to do so. And in fact, most solutions that depend upon power and control are ineffective.

Related: How to build better communication with your defiant teen.

The Consequences for Running Away:
If your child has run away to avoid consequences, he should do them when he comes back—immediately. That's what he ran away from, and that’s what he needs to face. Running away is a very dangerous and risky behavior, and I believe there should be a consequence for it, as well. The consequence doesn't have to be too punitive; keep it task-oriented. One of the problems with consequences is that if they're not lesson-oriented, then the concept you’re trying to teach is lost. I like a consequence that says, “Write out the whole story of how you ran away. What were you thinking, what were you trying to accomplish? And then tell me what you're going to do differently next time.” Sit down with your child and get them to process it with you, and then talk about what your child can do differently next time together. Always hold them accountable. For kids who run away chronically, if you send them to their room, they won't learn anything. But if you ground them from electronics until they write an essay, make amends, and tell you how they’re going to handle it differently, eventually the behavior will change.

Here’s the truth: nobody ever stopped running away because they were afraid of punishment. Nobody ever said, “I'm not going to run away because the consequences are too severe.” If you’re a parent of teen who is in danger of running away, realize that the forces that drive him to run are more powerful than the thought that he might get a consequence.

Use Repetition and Rehearsal to Change Behavior
If your child writes an essay about why they ran away and tells you they are sorry, whether they mean it or not really doesn't matter. The important thing is that the learning is going to change. Think of it this way: if you had a spelling test every day, whether you tried or not, you're going to learn to spell. It’s the same way for your child—he has to write those words out. One of the primary ways kids learn is through repetition and rehearsal. Part of that, by the way, is giving them task-oriented consequences, over and over again. It’s much better to have your child write an apology five times than to send them to their room for five hours. Eventually, that learning will sink in—I’ve seen it happen time and time again.

Should You Ever Tell Your Child to Leave?
Sometimes kids come home and start falling into their old patterns of behavior. I know parents who have told their kids to go to a shelter or to go couch surf for a week. I am sympathetic to this approach, but I think there’s a very high risk involved; each family has to make decisions like these very seriously. If you're going to tell an under-age person to go couch surf, you have to think that through carefully. This is not because you’re going to be held criminally responsible or go to jail, but because bad things can happen—and you're going to have to live with the consequences, no matter what. Parents of girls often worry more because of the simple fact that it’s riskier for girls to run than for boys—more harm can come to them. Remember, each family has to live with its own decisions when it comes to safety—and there's no joking about that.

Related: How to set down rules in your home—and stick to them.

The Key to Dealing with Kids Who Run Away
In my opinion, the key to dealing with kids who run away both chronically and episodically is teaching them problem-solving skills, and identifying the triggers that lead to risky decisions. Kids have to learn coping skills that help them manage their responsibilities in the here and now, so they don't have anything to run away from in the future. That means doing their homework and chores, being honest and not lying about responsibilities and schoolwork, getting clean and sober if they have a substance abuse problem, and being able to face the music when they’ve done something wrong or publicly embarrassing. The bottom line is that kids need to learn how to take responsibility, be accountable, and not run away from consequences. Kids are not told enough that life is what you make it—and that means now, not when you're 25.

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James Lehman, MSW was a renowned child behavioral therapist who worked with struggling teens and children for three decades. He created the Total Transformation Program to help people parent more effectively. James' foremost goal was to help kids and to "empower parents."


After a disagreement, resulting in my grandson hitting me, he decided to run away. Although I was disappointed in his solution to the issue I stayed home and simply waited for his next move. One hour later, he came home and the first thing he said was "You didn't even come look for me." We are still working through his anger issues but I hope he has learned that violence does not beget a pleading response.

Comment By : grandma

True and not true. I had a diabetic 12 yr old run away. Did I report her? You Bet! She didn't have her insulin with her. Did I go looking for her? You BET! Such endangerment could only lead to death. Did we find her? Yep After she almost passed out on a lawn and told someone to call the ambulance. So why? Stress at home and she didn't want to be diabetic anymore. She did go into behavorial rehab and counseling. She's now a 15 yr old who has learned that home is the best place to be. But only after a lot of straight talk. Is this story over? Who knows? We did the best we could at the time and still keep the communication going strong. We keep tighter control on her blood sugars because when she is to high (blood sugar readings) then she acts out. That a tough lesson learned by her and us, her parents.

Comment By : Sandy

Our 17 year old decided to "move out" when no one was home. Not only was he was amazed that no one came looking for him, he was shocked that we told him he was not allowed home until he agreed to follow our rules (the same rules as always) without question. What he did not consider was that he would not have his vehicle to get to work, or money for his school lunches, senior pictures, clothing, medication, extra-curricular activities, graduation fees, or any of the other things that come with a senior year. We also did not let him back in the house to get any of the things he left behind. Eventually when he ran out of money and wore out his welcome where he was couch surfing he came home and agreed to our rules and to accept the punisment for his actions. He also was informed that if he ever left again he would not be allowed to come back which has been highly effective since he now knows he cannot make it on his own yet. There are just some lessons that kids have to learn the hard way. What I really want to know is what kind of person lets someone else's kid stay with them without calling the parents to at least tell them their child is safe?

Comment By : ToughLoveMom

To ToughLoveMom Kudos!!!! We followed your same approach and it was very effective in having our daughter return home. Yes, it is difficult to do but when the behavior is so off the mark, after counseling and consequences and a united front with my husband. She came home ready to work with us in behaving in a responsible manner and being accountable, at all times. There are slip ups, but we all come around full circle to wanting to be together, and getting through the difficult times. Maturity has helped a whole lot too!!

Comment By : ToughLoveMom2

I have a 13 year old daughter that ran away with an 18 year old boy, we did look for her, the boy was on probation for drugs and evading arrest, it took us two weeks to locate her and bring her home, 3 months later she ran away with another 18 year old boy...we picked her up again, placed her in juvenille but they were full and couldn't hold her. I guess we should have not looked for her..

Comment By : Tonya

We have a 16 year old son who has run away for the second time. First time he was picked up by the police and brought home. Second time and he is still missing. He ran away because he didn't want to be grounded any longer and wanted to party with friends. He is now too scared to come home. If/when he is found do we let the police take him in to juvenille detention or do we just have them bring him home again?

Comment By : Concerned mother

* Concerned mother, It’s important to be consistent and follow through with the same course of action each time your son runs away. You’ve made the commitment to call the police on both occasions to hold your son accountable. James Lehman discusses that how some children solve the problem of not wanting to deal with consequences—James refers to this as episodic running away, meaning it’s triggered by a specific situation or emotion. You mentioned that you think that he’s scared to come home so it will be important to reassure him that it’s okay to make mistakes and you’ll need to discuss this event as a family. Point out to your son that this behavior doesn’t solve his problem and require him to come up with a plan for the next time he has to experience unwanted consequences. He’ll need to see that the consequences and the rules still apply and they’ll be waiting for him. Ultimately, it is your decision which one of these options you think is a better fit for you as a family right now. Take some time to consider which option will get you closer to what you’re trying to accomplish and which option will be most effective in sending your son the message that he’ll have an opportunity to make this right.

Comment By : Tina Wakefield, Parental Support Line Advisor

Calling the police is not a good idea. Not only do they not do much to locate your child but they call the DSS and have you interogated for months. They try to turn things around to be the parents fault so that they don't have to be accountable and treaten to take away your children into foster care which might be a bluff in most cases. Also I have tried many things including taking away the computer and cutting off any funds which have not stopped my child from leaving when and for how long she wanted. Grounding her is impossible. She simply waits for me to leave to work and takes off. As far as chores she has never done any. She simply refuses and locks herself in her room. She is now 17. In some ways I can not wait for her to leave for good. Since she will never go back to the innocent child she was and lives to live off of other people and do anything she wants caring not for anyone but herself, I say that she would benefit from experiencing what it is like to support herself.

Comment By : Maureen Galevi

* Dear Maureen Galevi: It can be a really difficult emotional situation when your child runs away. It can be uncomfortable to be asked a lot of questions by those who are trying to assist you. I do understand that. But we still would recommend calling the police. The fact of the matter is that kids are not safe when they have run away and you don’t know where they are or can’t get them to come home. Child protective workers are required to ask a lot of questions in order to complete their thorough evaluations. However, both the police and child protective services have access to funding for programs for kids and families in these situations. Working with them is the only way you will be able to qualify for these programs. As James Lehman recommends, be pro-active with child protective and call them yourself and report that you’re child has run away. For your child’s sake, call the police and report it when they have run away. Don’t allow your child to be in danger on the streets with no one in authority looking out for them.

Comment By : Carole Banks, Parental Support Line Advisor

So, our 16 year old son came home. The fact that his friends ditched him and he had no where else to go he walked home. It has been so stressful since he has been home. He is not sorry at all that he ran away and that he caused heartache. Won't cooperated with getting counseling or help. When we told him that the third time he runs away we would be calling the police again and we will have him put in juvie he didn't seem to care. Is there ways to get your child to submit to getting help, changing? What can we do?

Comment By : Concerned Mother

* Dear Concerned Mother: This is a tough one because you might be able to get him to go to counseling by withholding a privilege, but he is likely to refuse to participate in counseling sessions. What I would recommend if you’re going to try to force counseling is family therapy -- not sending him to counseling alone. This is more attractive to a teen who thinks that it’s his parents that need to change. Besides, family therapy often works much better than individual therapy. When you go to counseling as a family, everyone should be willing to do things differently. In family therapy you'll examine your family's ability to solve problems and express thoughts and emotions. You'll probably explore family roles, rules and behavior problems in order to identify issues that contribute to conflict. The therapist will help you learn ways to work through these identified issues. Ask your son's pediatrician or your family doctor for a referral to a good family therapist. If counseling is out, then just focus on what he does--his behavior--and not if he cares or if he feels sorry about what he does. We all do things we would rather not do, such as rolling out of a warm bed to get to work on time. And in many ways it takes more character to do what you don’t feel like doing then just doing what you want to do. So you could use a system of rewards and consequences to require him to behave appropriately in the home. As long as he does what is required of him, consider that success at this point. I think you’re on the right path, telling him you will report him as a runaway if it happens again. If that continues to happen and he becomes involved in the juvenile justice system, they can require him to attend programs and counseling. Good luck to you and your family. Keep in touch with us.

Comment By : Carole Banks, Parental Support Line Advisor

My 17 year old has left home. After getting in trouble in school, we grounded him and took away his car. After a few days, he took off with his girlfriend for the weekend. He left me an e-mail saying that he needed to get away and that we would discuss things upon his return. While he was gone, he heard that his father was angry and wanted to kick him out and that his car would be sold. He chose not to come home as he had originally said. On the monday, I contacted him at his girlfriends house (she lives with a sister with very little supervision) we argued but he agreed to come home. I felt that some time needed to pass so we didn't discuss his actions upon his return. The following morning he went to school but at noon, jumped the fence and came home. As we were sitting down to supper that night, the school phoned to advise us of him leaving school. My son became very beligerent and mouthy. My husband lost his temper and was physical with him. He left our home. His girlfriend advised me later that evening that he was at a friends house. The following day he came home for his things (he expected me to be at work) He was told that if he wanted to come home he was welcome to, but he would need to face the consequences of his actions and follow house rules. We also told him that the doors to the house would be locked from now on. (he doesn't have a key) I haven't heard from him since. I think he is probably at his girlfriends house (she lives about 1 hour away) My heart wants to phone and beg him to come home but my head knows this would be a mistake. I am trying to do tough love, but I believe it is a lot tougher on me than it is on him. Help

Comment By : Tough love is tougher on Mom

* Dear ‘Tough love tougher on Mom’: Here’s where you’re stuck. Even though he was mouthy, you can’t lose your temper and get physical with your son as his dad did. Believe me, I know it’s a challenge—-kids can really push our buttons. The person who needs to call him is his dad. He has to apologize to him. You can not do this for your husband. One of the many important techniques in James’ Total Transformation program is that we have to role model to our kids the way we expect them to behave. We want them to apologize and make amends when they have hurt someone. We have to show them how to do it when we’re the ones who have hurt them. Perhaps Dad could call him and ask him to breakfast because he wants to apologize. At breakfast Dad could say, “Son. I apologize. I lost it the other night. I should not have laid my hands on you. I should have taken a break from the situation to calm down. Next time I’ll do that.” Encourage your husband not to add anything to this apology, such as, “But you’ve got to watch what you say to me.” That changes the apology to an excuse and says, “It’s really your fault because you made me so mad.” You can discuss your son’s behavior and house rules at some other time—-perhaps when he returns home. During your problem solving discussion with him you might go over those house rules together and say, “What can you do to calm yourself down when you’re feeling really upset?” But again, never connect that problem solving discussion in any way to Dad’s behavior because it is not your son’s fault that Dad lost control. I’d advise you to get some clarification and support from us by calling the trained specialists on the Support Line. I’m sorry your family is going through this difficult time. Keep in touch with us. We’re here to help.

Comment By : Carole Banks, Parental Support Line Advisor

My son came home and Dad apologized. I don't suspect that things will be easy but I am relieved that he is back under our roof and in school. Thanks for the advice - it is nice to know that there is someone out there. I'll be back again...

Comment By : Tough love tougher on mom

My daughter has been running away this is the third time she is only 15 She ran away with an 18 year old, what I'm wondering is this - can the person she is with be held accountable for taking my child?

Comment By : LOVE

* Dear 'LOVE': I’m so sorry to hear that your daughter is choosing to run away. I hope you have someone to talk to for support during these difficult times. The only way to know if the person who is involved with your daughter when she runs away is legally accountable is to contact the police or an attorney in your state. We recommend, for your child’s safety that you contact the police each time she runs away. James Lehman does talk about accountability in the Total Transformation program and describes his techniques of how to create a culture of accountability in your home. This means that each person is ultimately accountable for their own choices. He uses problem solving language to help you teach your child to take responsibility for their own behavior decisions--not allowing your child to blame others. When your daughter returns home and you have a discussion about her choice to runaway to solve her problems, keep her focused on what she will do next time instead of running away. I’d also like to refer you to an article by James entitled: Teflon Kids: Why Children Avoid Responsibility—and How to Hold Them Accountable In this article you’ll learn how to use responsibility language and to identify an teach responsibility. Thanks for your question. Please remember that you can also call the trained specialists on the Support Line for clarification on James Lehman’s techniques. Keep in touch.

Comment By : Carole Banks, Parental Support Line Advisor

i have this 13 yr old daughter and she is planing to run away.she told me so her self that she couldnt take it no more.that she was tired of being between me and her fathers problems.she told me she would return on new years.i dont know what to do or tell her

Comment By : i dont know

* Dear "I don't know": If your child does run away, take James Lehman’s advice, just as he outlines in this article. It’s important to call the police and let them know that your child is not under your supervision. It’s also important to have the help of professionals to locate your child when they are not home, because it’s an unsafe situation. Although you did not tell me a lot in your question, I do have some comments. I apologize if they don’t fit your situation exactly but I’m hopeful that there may be something in these ideas you can use. What I want to address is your daughter's remark: that she was "tired of being between your and her father’s problems." This is an emotionally impossible location for kids to be in. If a parent puts a child in the middle, asking them to side with one or the other, instead of being in between the parents, that child is emotionally torn in two. They don’t have the capacity to take on their parents' concerns and feelings. Some couples use the child to fight—-knowing that one parent might back down if the conflict happens in front of the child. Instead, role model how to control your emotions and have effective conversations about your concerns that are not taking place in the heat of the moment or in front of your child. Another common mistake is to use your child as your confidant. Some kids will act this role; they will even seek it out, believing that their parent will not be able to handle things if they don’t listen to their problems. But again, this is beyond their emotional capability and life experience to manage and will take a serious toll on them. Find a friend, an adult family member, clergy or counselor to use as a confidant. As I said, I don’t know if these are your family experiences and I only make these remarks in case you find something that is similar to your situation and find the ideas helpful. There’s a wonderful audio file (One Minute Transformation) from James Lehman, author of the Total Transformation program, about the importance of role modeling. For example, you want your daughter to stay in emotional control and not run away. James talks about role modeling the behavior you want your child to do. We appreciate your question and hope that you’ll keep in touch with us. Remember, you can always call the trained specialists on the Support Line for help in applying the techniques from the Total Transformation program to your specific situation.

Comment By : Carole Banks, Parental Support Line Advisor

I am seriously considering running away from home. I've made all the plans and am going to get everything sorted. I am 17 yrs old. I don't know why i want to run away from home. My parents aren't bad people, they don't abuse me, and everyone around me is happy. But still i hate it all. I hate the monotony of it all. I hate how everything is so predictable. I SHOULD NOT LEAVE. ITS GOING TO BE DISASTEROUS. ITS GOING TO BREAK MY FAMILIES HEART. But still i'm going to leave. I don't want to be here. I don't want to be anywhere. I don't want to be alive.

Comment By : Lost

* Dear Lost: I’m sorry to hear you’re having these feelings. We here at Empowering Parents are not staffed to give counseling to kids. We’re only equipped to give advice to parents. We do have a contact number you can use and we would encourage you to contact them. The organization is 'Boys Town' but the service is for both boys and girls: The Boys Town National Hotline is a 24-hour crisis, resource and referral line. Trained counselors can respond to your questions every day of the week, 365 days a year. They help teens and parents with: • Suicide prevention • Physical abuse • Depression • Sexual abuse • School issues • Emotional abuse • Parenting troubles • Chemical dependency • Runaways • Anger 24-hour crisis, resource and referral line especially for kids and parents: Boys Town National Hotline Phone: 1-800-448-3000

Comment By : Carole Banks, Parental Support Line Advisor

I tried to be patient with my son who has been talking about moving out once he turned 18 because he said that he wanted to be left alone and did not want for us to question him in any way. These passed few weeks he had stopped doing his chores, started smocking in front of me like nothing (which I told him it was disrespectful), not listening to us, plainly and constantly telling me to leave him alone. We found out that he has been telling his friends that he was afraid that he was going to be kicked out of the house once he turned 18, which we had never said that to him. My dilemma was that there are only three in half weeks before graduation and I was looking forward for him to graduate and there is still hope for him to graduate. However, I have become concern about him not graduating when I found out that he had missed some days at school and that he had not completed a credit recovery class in order to graduate. My husband (his father) had already told me that he was making the wrong choices but I pleaded with him and told him to wait but in the mean time I had also being hiding certain things from him to avoid drama at home. I did not want to confirm the lies my son have been telling to his friends. Then, an incident happened last weekend, he missed work. We spoke and I confronted him with my concerns and told him that he has been refusing to do chores, prepare his school work, and even missed work with the excuse that he was sick. His responses were more excuses and that he just wanted for us to leave him alone and to get off his back. That he was going to graduate but not to ask him anything, just get off his back. After that it took me a few days to come to terms with the whole situation. I was dealing with my own fears of letting him leave but after watching his behavior for a couple of days, which was getting worse and more disrespectful I realized that I did not know this young man and that he was calling all the shots and I was allowing him do so. He was making plans to spend his birthday with his friends, instead of with the family. He said that he wanted to do everything that he could do at the age of 18, he mentioned buying cigarettes and going to a night club. He also wanted to go camping with friends either Friday or Saturday and was planning to spend the night elsewhere. I asked him if he was ready for his senior presentation and that Wednesday was a school night, that he should stay home and prepare for it and that we could celebrate his birthday at home and he could invite his friends, but he refused. So finally, because I knew of his plans I called my husband the afternoon of my son’s birthday and made the most difficult decision I have made in a long time. We went to the school to confront him and to let them know what was going on at home. We told him that he was grounded, that he was to go to his credit recovery class and that we were coming to pick him up after school. That he was to stay grounded for the next three weeks until his graduation. We told him all of this in front of the counselor. He said not to come pick him up because he had made arrangements to be picked up and that he was going to spend his birthday with friends and that he was going to be at home at 9pm, and that I had agreed to that. I had in a way agreed to it because I did not tell him NO. I told him that I was wrong for not telling him “NO” last night, but that he was not going to do as he pleased. He was to follow our rules and be grounded for the next three weeks in a half, there would be not more late nights anywhere and that after he graduated from high school if he still wanted to leave he could do so. Then, he asked to come home to pick up his stuff and my husband told him “NO” either you are here when we come to pick you up and agree to follow our rules or you are not welcome at home. We told him that when he is willing to follow our rules, he can come home. He has absolutely nothing, no clothing, telephone, car, etc. He has a little money in the bank and of course his friends. We have called some parents to ask them not to allow him to stay at their home. My husband is afraid that I will not stick to my guns but I will, with pain in my heart I will. I can not allow this behavior any longer, he has a younger brother who is 15 and he is watching our reactions.

Comment By : Could not take it anymore

* Dear ‘Could not take it anymore’: I’m sorry to hear your family experienced this on your son’s birthday. It’s really best if birthdays, special events and holidays are set aside as celebrations and not used as days to problem solve. It’s a little unclear what you are requiring of your son. It appears from your writing that he has been told that, “he is not welcome at your house if he does not follow the rules.” It seems that he will need a place to stay so you might reconsider telling his friends' families that he cannot seek shelter with them. And if he truly is not allowed back in your home, it makes sense to allow him to have his property. In other words, be clear on the consequence you are setting, and the duration of that consequence. You may set up a system where he is asked to leave the home for 24 hours for not following the rules, and in those cases it’s up to him to find a place to stay. James Lehman, author of the Total Transformation program, wrote a set of articles that talk about dealing with older children. Here are the links to these articles: Rules, Boundaries and Older Children Part I: Rules, Boundaries and Older Children Part II: In Response to Questions about Older Children Living at Home:; and Rules, Boundaries and Older Children Part III: Is It Ever Too Late to Set up a Living Agreement?, We wish your family the best as you work through this situation and invite you to call the Support Line for more ideas on how to use the techniques in James Lehman’s program.

Comment By : Carole Banks, Parental Support Line Advisor

My son is four years old and he will listen to everyone else but when it comes to me his mother he will not listen threatens to throw stuff at me and breaking stuff of mine because he is mad. I have tried everything that anyone can think of, and still no response he is getting out of control. My grandma asked him why he was mad at his mommy and he said becasue she wouldnt let a Keegan come over to play because he wasnt listening. I need help.

Comment By : On The Verge Of A Nervous Breakdown

* Dear ‘On The Verge Of A Nervous Breakdown’: Four year olds are still learning about themselves and their emotions. Help him to recognize his different feelings and name them, then teach him what he can do when he’s feeling overwhelmed by his feelings. If he is becoming anxious and angry because he cannot have something he wants, let him know you understand why he feels upset and suggest ways he can soothe himself. Children learn best by watching how their parents manage their feelings, so role model how you handle frustrations and disappointments. Perhaps you take some deep breaths and tell yourself you’ll feel better in a minute. Teach him how to do that. Try to not take his behavior personally, but instead think of it as not yet knowing how to ‘solve the problem’ of experiencing strong, negative emotions. Make sure you keep your pediatrician informed of the intensity and frequency of your son’s temper tantrums. And keep in touch we us. We’d be glad to give you more specific ideas on using the techniques of the Total Transformation Program.

Comment By : Carole Banks, Parental Support Line Advisor

My 15 year old son has decided to run away but im not sure exactly what the reason is. Hes been grounded for the past month so no phone, no video games and no computer. I found out the other night hes been using my youngers sons cell phone to text. It turns out hes been doing it for the past 2 weeks. So when I caught him, I took the phone away from him and I told him his line was going to be permanently cancelled. Anyways, for the next couple of days, he was very silent. He wouldnt do chores or talk to us. My husband is a truck driver so hes never home. When I told my husband the next day about what happened, my husband basically told him, our rules or your out the door. He chose his way. He left that night. Hes been talking back to us and not following orders for about 1 month now so my husband was fed up and told him to choose..he chose to leave. I filed a run away child report the next morning. I found out where he was staying, turns out hes with our neighbors 3 houses down. They came over and told me he was there and safe. They said they would talk to him and see if he wanted to talk to me. It turns out he doesnt want to come home or much less talk to me or his dad. They already told him that his place is at his house with his family and that he needs to talk to us, he refuses. What can I do at this point? I dont think I should go and force him to go home because that wont happen but what can i do to make him realize that he cannot be there forever and that what he did was not the best choice? Please help!

Comment By : FrustratedandScaredMom

* Dear ‘FrustratedandScaredMom’: In James Lehman’s Total Transformation Program, he recommends a system of changing behaviors that involves the use of consequences and problem solving. One thing he does not recommend is long-term consequences--such as month long consequences. James says that all kids learn is “how to do time” when you take away privileges for a long period. Also, consequences alone do not change behaviors. Using the problem solving conversation, The Alternative Response Process from Lesson 6, is a key component in any successful discipline system. For a discussion on short term consequences, refer to James Lehman’s article: How To Give Kids Consequences That Work Using shorter term consequences will give your child the incentive to try to do better next time. The incentive to behave is greatly reduced when you’ve lost all privileges for a month. And if you’ve taken away all privileges for a month, then you’ve tied your hands so that all you have to work with is “You have to leave the house”—a consequence you did not want to enforce. You can still stick by your house rules, but use a different consequence method. Discuss this new plan with your son. Tell him you expect him to return home and you believe that he can learn how to behave appropriately. Call the Support Line Specialists and let them know the details of the behavior you are concerned about. They will be able to help you find the best techniques to use from the Total Transformation Program.

Comment By : Carole Banks, Parental Support Line Advisor

Although I see many of the stories the teens are at least under 18, mine is a bit different, she is 19, a perfect kid, a perfect teen, then first yr of college starts and a new boyfriend & friends appear, being supportive of all of this, we noticed less & less she does her chores, does not respect our rules, we have an argument, and poof she pushes out the window and leaves in the middle of the night. This is a young lady who has never done anything wrong in her life, and now finally contacting us after 24 hrs pass, she does not want to come home, she says she wants to grow up.. its breaking my heart, so much I can't barely breath. We have given her the best 19 yrs possible, she had money for college, which I took from her account, she says she is planning to stay in school, clearly she has no ride there, no job, no source of income, but a friend & her boyfriend is allowing her to couch surf. I want to scream, and just tell her this is ruining your life, its making me more sick than I am already, he dad doesn't understand, and I am not sure what I can do, she wants to come back to get some things, we said no. Are we driving her away even more. Help

Comment By : Mrs Miles

* Dear Mrs. Miles: Although you can see that it would be easier if your daughter stayed home until she finished college, her need for living independently may be so strong that it causes her to find ways to support herself while she finishes school. These are tough experiences for families to work through. Everyone’s feelings get hurt. But instead of dwelling on those hurt feelings, move forward by asking yourself what you want for her future and in what ways can you offer your support. For example, if she decides to return home, tell her what rules she needs to continue to follow and what house rules can be adjusted now that she is older. If she decides not to live at home, can you see yourself continuing to help her pay for college tuition as long as she maintains good grades? And if her decision is not to return home, at that point we would recommend that you allow her to have her belongings so that it doesn’t cause hard feelings. Relationships are always adjusting as kids grow older and live more independently. It challenges our Limiting Setting and Problem Solving parent roles. We wish your family the very best as you work through these issues together.

Comment By : Carole Banks, Parental Support Line Advisor

My daughter is 14 and has taken off/ran away 3 times. Once last April, once in May and once about 2.5 weeks ago(October) All 3 times we called the police and the first 2 times the police found her within 24 hours. The last time the girl that she was with, her dad found them. In May her dad took *everything* away from her...took everything out of her room but her bed. She had to slowly earn things back and what was not earned back by September when school started, she got back. Well then 6 weeks after getting everything back, she did it again. So he took everything again. Only this time he is more angry and upset than before. He is not speaking to her. When I ask him about setting a timeline for her to earn things back he has an attitude about it like she is never going to get her stuff back. He feels that she does not want to follow the rules or be part of this family. That she things she can do things on her own and be an outsider, so that is how he is treating her. I think he is being very unreasonable with the silent treatment and having the attitude that she is NEVER going to get her stuff back. I have tried to talk to him but he is very stubborn and think his way is the right way to teach her a lesson. Meanwhile things are VERY stressful here to say the least. HELP!

Comment By : StressedMom

* Dear ‘StressedMom’: It can be easy to get upset at our kids. They try our patience and worry us to death. One important technique that James Lehman teaches in the Total Transformation Program is to wait until you have calmed yourself down to have a problem solving conversation and give consequences to your kids. If you give consequences while you’re angry, you’re more likely to end up giving severe punishments. We find it is ineffective to take everything out of a child’s room then have them earn it back. Nor is it helpful to stop speaking to your child. Harsh punishments create a harsh atmosphere in a house. We have more effective parenting techniques to use to change problem behaviors that we would like to share with you. Give us a call on the Support Line. We’re here to help.

Comment By : Carole Banks, Parental Support Line Advisor

My son has ran away and i dont know what to do! He has been in private catholic school all of his life and doesnt know how to fight. He is also very fat and has a physical disability. I am worried about his well being and dont want the next time i see him to be in an over priced rosewood box going six feet under. how do i find him before he gets hurt or worse?

Comment By : Scared Mother

* Dear 'Scared Mother': We’re so sorry to hear this has happened. There are resources in place to help you. The U.S. Department of Justice has a comprehensive internet booklet you should read: When Your Child Is Missing: A Family Survival Guide. This booklet discusses the importance of working cooperatively with law enforcement—what to expect from them and how to be helpful to them. It gives recommendations on how to contact the media, organize volunteers, the use of photographs and flyer distribution. There is also a resource section with more contact numbers, such as the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children: 800–THE–LOST® (800–843–5678) (Hotline for the United States, Canada, and Mexico ). We hope your son is located very soon. Our thoughts will be with you.

Comment By : Carole Banks, Parental Support Line Advisor

My child runs away chronically. She's 16 and this time she refuses to return home. She's currently on probation for theft by taking motor vechile from when she ran away the last time. Though I have called the police and have filed her as a missing person, she turns 17 in May and knows that I won't be able to report her as a missing person. Upon her release from the youth detention center, she went to stay in a shelter because she didn't want to come home. From there she was accepted into a transitional living program. She was terminated from that program for not following the rules. I don't know what else to do to help her.

Comment By : Mom @ Witts End

* Dear ‘Mom @ Witts End’: This sounds like a really tough and frustrating situation. James Lehman felt that when a parent’s own authority is not enough to get children to obey basic rules and laws that protect their safety, local support is needed from a higher authority. Your daughter is not 17 yet, so keep calling the police when she runs away. Even after she is 17, we would recommend continuing to call them and filing reports. I don’t know what they will say to you, and it sounds like they have led you to believe that it won’t be helpful, but at least you are creating a paper trail that shows you are doing what you can to keep your daughter safe. The probation officer is also someone that you should think of as a partner. We recommend reporting to the probation officer every time your daughter runs away or violates her probation. You might also reach out and explore what other supports are available in your community. Supports could include a family doctor, a religious leader, a support group, or a counselor that you meet with. If you are in the U.S., you can try visiting, an information and referral website run by the United Way. 211 can be very helpful in locating support and services around you, though it is not available in all areas. We wish you luck as you continue to work through this. Hang in there and take care of yourself, too.

Comment By : Sara A. Bean, M.Ed., Parental Support Advisor

My 16 year old son left home today and I'm truly scared of the outcome..After reading your articles, it did give me some insight. However, my son is very stubborn and I feel he's going to ride this through. I left home at a young age as well, but was very self sufficient and never went back home. I'm afraid he'll do the same as he's been questioning me over a year on survial skills. He use to ask me how exactly did I do it...I was honest with him, but made it very clear it wasn't easy and I didn't have a home to return to. He knows he has a very loving stable home with both parents and 2 other siblings...I just don't know what to expect. I also have a 14 year old who's been watching our every step and conversation with his it possible that he looks up to his older brother, or is he learning from this experienc. We did threaten to call the police, we are giving him the night to think things over, but he is aware that he must agree to consequence and help as he has been smoking pot, if not on a daily basis, every other day..He has admitted to it, also, we've read his messages on his phone and facebook. I feel like we've failed as parents, I'm not sure what else to say or do. He's been through programs through "Addiction Services", and also mental health evaluation, we've tried so much to help him deal with preasures of being a teen, and the no drug policy..but he chooses to do it anyway..and that is a big reason why he chose to leave...

Comment By : Tricia

* To Tricia: I can see why you would feel so scared. Not knowing what the outcome will be here would make anyone anxious, I imagine. I want you to know that we support your house rules and no-tolerance drug policy. It is great that you have been an empowered parent, reaching out for assistance through mental health providers and addiction services. It is unfortunate, though, that your son has decided to problem solve around your rules and expectations by leaving. However, his leaving does not mean you have done wrong. You are not to blame for his poor choices. After all, you can only control yourself. Calling the police is a wise choice and also one we support. You might also find some additional support and assistance through the National Runaway Switchboard (NRS) at 1-800-RUNAWAY or 1-800-786-2929. This service is available for youth and parents and there are a lot of ways by which they might be able to help you and your son. We wish you and your family luck as you continue to work through this. Take care.

Comment By : Sara A. Bean, M.Ed., Parental Support Advisor

My son left our home after a discussion he had with his dad about continuous tardiness at school. We had met with teachers about correcting the issue and the Monday following the meeting he was late again. My husband lost his patience and yelled at my son calling him a disgrace and because of it my son left. Dad went to look for him the next day and apologized for the disgrace remark but my son wasnt ready to come home. Should we continue to ask him to come home.?

Comment By : what to do

* To ‘what to do’: It sounds like your family is having a really tough time right now. It can be good to allow kids to have some limited time to cool off in a safe place. On the other hand, it’s your responsibility as a parent to make sure he is safe and you can’t do that if you don’t know where your child is or if he is staying in a place you are not familiar with or with people you do not know well. That said, whether or not you continue to ask your son to come home it up to you. It could be helpful to tell him you expect him to come home by a certain day and time instead. After all, asking him makes it sound like an option. You might decide to utilize the support of your local law enforcement team or the National Runaway Switchboard (NRS) if your son does not come home by the goal time you set, and it’s best to let him know you will be doing this ahead of time if it’s what you choose to do. The NRS might be helpful in assisting you to come up with a plan, and they might be able to work with your son as well. You can reach the NRS by calling 1-800-RUNAWAY (1-800-786-2929) or visit their website at We wish you and your family luck as you continue to work through this.

Comment By : Sara A. Bean, M.Ed., Parental Support Advisor

As a teenage runaway myself, i completely agree with the advice to not look for them. If your child doesn't want to be found, they probably won't. I am now in my 30's, but spent 16-21 on the streets, before finally making my way back to my home state (i hitchiked the country for the better part of this period). My mother was also frustrated at the lack of legal support, the police told her that "I went to be with like-minded people" and there was nothing they could do. I went over six months without calling, and everyone assumned i was dead. It took years to resolve things with my mother, but it took doing so on my own accord- and with coming up with the funds to get back to Maine from California. If you're dealing with a defiant child, like I was, all you can do is be patient. If you are making demands and threats, all they will do is dig their heels in further, and good luck making any headway. No one likes to feel powerless, especially parents, but the situation is what it is. Good luck to the parents out there dealing with this, it's a tough situation.

Comment By : BeenThere

I have a now 16 year old daughter that ranaway. She is living with her boyfriend and his mother. I filed a runaway report and was told they do nothing as its not illegal to runaway. No calling friends or searching for her. She gets absolutely nothing from me until she comes home and follows my rules. The school listed her as homeless It Burns my butt that they are im empathetic to a 16 year old tantrum. She is not homeless she is making bad choices.

Comment By : Faith

My son is 14 andhas left home. He was grounded for having marijuana. He does on line schooling because he has been in trouble at two different public schools. He left him after a smaill arguement and came home the next morning at 1 am. he did school work the next day but left before I got home from work and came back home at 10 pm that night. He did school work again during the day and left again before I came home from work. He has been gone since ( over 24 hours ) he doesnt have his phone since he is grounded. I am thinking of going to the police tomorrow and listing him as a run away. He has been in trouble before for the same thing. He has been to Juvi before but it is more of a vacation for him then a punishment, plus it costs me money while he is there. I am worried about his safety and of course wishes he would come home. But at the same time I think he is just hanging out with his friends and trying to prove a point of some sort. I just dont know if contacting the police is the best or just keep waiting it out. Any suggestions?

Comment By : what to do?

* To ‘what to do?’: It sounds like you are very concerned about the poor decisions your son has been making, and rightfully so. Unfortunately, the details of your story indicate that your own parental authority is no longer enough to gain compliance by your son with house rules. James Lehman suggests that parents in this case be empowered and utilize local support to hold their children accountable. The police are one such support, and certainly a higher authority than you—the authority of the law. We do encourage you to call the police anytime your son has been missing for a time longer than you are comfortable with. If you can’t locate him, you can’t keep him safe and it’s good practice to report that to the police. It helps to establish a “paper trail” or credible documentation of his behavior, and it also helps to show that you are doing your part as a parent. In short, it doesn’t matter why he’s gone. What matters is that you do what you can to ensure his safety. So first call the police, and then look for more supports in your area. You can find help in your local area by contacting the Boystown National Hotline at 1-800-448-3000. They have specially trained counselors available 24/7 for support, crisis intervention and/or referrals to local resources. They have helped many families like yours and I am confident they can get you moving in the right direction with your son. We wish you luck as you continue to work through this. Take care.

Comment By : Sara Bean, M.Ed., Parental Support Advisor

this is all wrong. the kid left home for a reason. maybe the parents need to take a second look at themselves rather than blaming everything on the kid.

Comment By : phil

My son will be 18 about a week from now, but he "left home/was kicked out" combination a few months ago for not helping at all in the home, being disrespectful, and threatening his 16-yr. old brother. He has been living at a friend's house where apparently they are providing everything for him and making this whole thing seemingly good and easy! Isn't the point of kicking your rebellious son out to help him see how "good he had it"?? He has no job, no car, no phone, just enabling friends and their family. I guess there's absolutely nothing I can do at this point. Why do so many people not "get it" when it comes to "helping" someone who actually just needs to feel real-life consequences? Do I seek to pay for anything? IMO, he left that sphere of support, yet I'm feeling guilty for someone else fitting his bill. As I said, it's his 18th birthday next week. Do I at least go to the school, call him out of class,(I have no other sure way of contacting him) and invite him to come to our house for cake and presents?? I also feel guilty because although my heart aches that he's taking up a bad path in life, I don't really miss the upheaval he's put in our lives as our home is much more peaceful now...I feel terrible that I'm not craving to see/hear from him...I've had too much pain and heartache for the past 20 some years due to his father's alcohol abuse/abandonment/psychopathic actions that I fear my heart had calloused itself so it won't feel the pain anymore (fyi, I have since remarried a kind, loving, man of integrity...we'll be married 2 years this month)... Please advise...

Comment By : What to Do...

* To ‘What to Do…’: It sounds like you have certainly been through a lot with your son and that you are relieved to have some breathing room. It’s perfectly okay for you to feel this way. Right now your son has found a way to get his needs met. Most kids who leave home on such short notice can find someone to help them get by, at least for a little while. Whether you pay for anything or not is up to you, but it’s not unreasonable for your son to get a job and pay for some things on his own. Remember: whether or not these people pay, and what they pay for, is their decision and you cannot control their choices. Furthermore, I see no reason why you can’t invite your son over to celebrate his birthday. He might not be willing, though, depending on whether or not he’s still angry. Go ahead and invite him over to visit. And continue to take care of yourself. We wish you and your family the best.

Comment By : Sara Bean, M.Ed., Parental Support Advisor

Mu 15 year old daughter runs away with a certain friend every couple of weeks or so. I have requested that this friend not pick her up here at home of at school. I have attempted to contact the girl's parents at least 6 or 7 times and they will not respond. This girl and my daughter are gone hours or days at a time, and are usually with older boys that are known drug users. My daughter is on medication for depression, so when she misses her dose, she becomes violent and angry. Her behavior has been escalating, she is shoving me,telling me to watch my back, and trashing my stuff. I have called the police each time she is missing and they always get her back. My daughter has been in counseling, and I have done everything I know to make sure she has had a good upbringing. I am actually scared of her at times,ans worried she will hurt her younger brother. I am at a total loss, any advice would be appreciated.

Comment By : sick of it

* To ‘sick of it’: It can be so difficult to parent a child who has decided they will take off whenever they want and that they will be abusive to others in the home. Walking on eggshells around your child is never something a parent wants to experience. We recommend that you continue to call the police when your daughter runs away, and you might also call them if you determine that her behavior is putting the safety of others in your home at risk. It’s also important to minimize the interaction you and your younger son have with your daughter when she is angry. In other words, tell her she needs to calm herself down and that you are going to go take a break to do the same. Then you and your son would leave the room and go to another room where you can lock the door and “ride out the storm” so to speak, putting some space between you and your daughter so that she can calm down. Later on you can have a problem solving conversation with her (to teach her some more effective skills for managing her anger rather than lashing out at others) and provide a consequence if needed. We know this is hard. We wish you and your family luck as you continue to work through this. Take care.

Comment By : Sara Bean. M.Ed., Parental Support Advisor

I hope this site works i need some help asap! My 15yr old son has been acting out lately and even a couple of wks ago got in a fight @ school and before the police could get there he ran, and stayed gone for 12hrs before finally calling me, of course i spent all of them hours looking for him and screaming his name and when he finally called i couldnt get to him fast enough and i was soo happy to see him punishment just wasnt on my mind. But,I was concerned because i casually heard him make comments about it not having been so bad,we live in a small town about 30miles away from a bigger city and thats where he was when he called. Now his girlfriend is being sent to live with her dad next wk and she hates him and i have found messages from them planning to run away together and I've sat my son down and asked him and he just came clean, told me yes its been his plan for awhile and when i asked him why he cant give me an answer and he claims that even if she wasnt going he would,I'm exhausted ive worked so hard to make his home a nice one and to be an understanding parent because i remember 15 but do i honestly just help him pack his bag and hand him his phone and some cash so @ least if he wants to come home he can call?? Do i use the padlock and lock him down?? I should mention that he has epilepsy and takes 8 pills a day and ive been trying to tell him i wish he wouldnt make this choice but i cant really stop him so should i help?? he says he will call me but he is planning on going far and I dont know how to lay my head on my pillow @ nite and not know if he is okay??? PLZ help

Comment By : sleepless mom

* To ‘sleepless mom’: I can see why you would indeed be “sleepless”—it sounds like you have a lot of really tough stuff going on and worrying you. It’s never easy to deal with a defiant teen, and it’s scary when the defiance grows to the point that your teen starts to run away. It’s going to be really helpful for you to use some local supports on this. We recommend calling your local police department on their non-emergency line to let them know what your son is planning and talk about how they will help you keep your son safe. Additionally, you can try calling the National Runaway Switchboard at 1-800-786-2929. They provide runaway prevention help as well as support to runaways and their families. Once you have talked to the police and the Switchboard, let your son know that running away is not going to help him and there will be consequences if he chooses to do so. Unfortunately, we cannot lock him up but we can talk to him about the consequences of running away and get some help if and when he does. Our kids will always make their own choices, but that doesn’t mean we have to give him tools to make running away easier, either. In fact, add that to your list of things to ask the police: what would happen if you gave him some money and his phone and helped him leave? This way you can make an informed decision. This is a tough situation. We wish you luck as you work through it. Take care.

Comment By : Sara Bean. M.Ed., Parental Support Advisor

Our 18 year old daughter left our home and moved in with her boyfriend on her 18th birthday. We tried to talk her out of it, but she was very insistent on moving in with him. She then reported to her school and friends that she was kicked out and did not move out. We later found out she declared herself as an unaccompanied youth or "homeless" via the McKinney Vento act. The school social worker never called us to find out what happened. We've frequently asked her to return and explained she would have to abide by the same rules she had when she left. She refused. Three months later she moved in with a girlfriend and her mom whom is on social services. We now believe she is doing this in order to get independent status (declared as homeless by high school liaison) on her Fafsa so that she can get full aid for college and to get social services. Children 18 to 21 years of age can only received social services in the state of New York if they are "homeless" and have been kicked out of their home or lost their housing or are emancipated. She has the "homelesss" designation through the high school McKinney Vento liaison. This designation will grant her full aid for college without being emancipated. And in turn will allow social services to come after us for child support. If every eighteen year old new about this, New York State and the Federal Government would go completely bankrupt. We have come to find out she is a very selfish girl and will go to no end to get what she wants. We are ready to fight social services and explain that she is committing fraud and lying to the school and the government. Any thoughts?

Comment By : Shocked

Great comments above- I have a little different scenario. My son is 17- but only a junior in high school. 6 months ago things changed in our relationship. He told me he just doesn't want to be parented anymore. One night, he "ran away", meaning he left home without permission but went to a friends house- he refused to call (the mom called and let me know where he was). He is not on the streets. While I realized I had no control over him physically, I had control over his privileges- his phone and computer. I turned off his phone. He came home on his own and I explained, I just want to know where you are and I trust that you are making good decisions. In the last 6 months we have been to counseling and tried to reinforce the household rules (No drugs/alcohol, call with where you are, no sleeping out on school nights). He leaves all weekend- which I don't like, and now that he has a girlfriend, he stays at her house- and texts me to let me know he is there. Unfortunately he is not doing well in school and we are told by the school he is running with a crowd who are known to be using drugs/ alcohol. The problem is now he is even staying out on school nights. I know where he is, but don't know how to convince him to stay at home. How should I intervene if he is using drugs/ alcohol? I wonder if he is not coming home to avoid consequence of using.

Comment By : Frustrated mom

* To 'Frustrated mom': It is difficult when you have a child who refuses to listen to you, and stays out all night. It will be very difficult, if not impossible, to convince or try to make him to stay home. It is a possibility that he may be avoiding coming home to avoid future consequences. We would advise continuing to hold him accountable in the ways you can-by not giving him money, and by limiting his cell phone use. We would also advise talking with the school, and seeing if there is a way that they hold him accountable if he is not showing up for school. A helpful resource for you may be the Runaway Switchboard. This service provides information, referrals and intervention services to both you and your son to keep him safe. You can reach them by calling 1-800-786-2929 or by visiting National Runaway Switchboard. I am also including a link to an article I think you might find helpful: My Child Is Using Drugs or Drinking Alcohol—What Should I Do? We know this isn’t easy, and we wish you the best as you work through this with your son.

Comment By : Rebecca Wolfenden, Parental Support Advisor

* To ‘Shocked’: I can see why you would indeed be shocked by your daughter’s behavior. She certainly is making her own choices and unfortunately you can’t control what she does. Keeping track of the facts in this situation is certainly a good idea, and it might not hurt to seek legal counsel. Letting her face the legal consequences of her behavior might be a really good idea. Otherwise, how will she be held accountable? Reporting her for fraud is a natural consequence and something you can easily control. It’s not easy, but we stand behind you and wish you luck as you continue to work through this. Take care.

Comment By : Sara Bean. M.Ed., Parental Support Advisor

My 17yr old son will not do anything we say. He has runaway before & came back when he ran out of places to stay and the weather got cold. He still refuses to follow any rules, comes and goes whenever he please, then threatens us with being neglectful if we kick him out! Other parent's threaten to call the police on us if we refuse to let him stay here. He turns 18 in May & right now we are looking forward to it. He has been arrested for drug charges several times, spent time in detention. We supported him through drug rehab a year ago, went to every court appearance, took him to drug/mental health counseling, etc. He does have bipolar/anxiety/depression/adhd. We make sure he takes his medication, but have no idea what to do now. He is dating a 23yr old single mother. Please give some advice!

Comment By : mother being bullied by 17yr old son.

* To ‘mother being bullied by 17yr old son’: It is so tough to be in a situation like yours. You try to give him consequences to hold him accountable for his actions, yet he refuses to abide by your house rules. Depending on the laws of your state, you may be legally obligated to provide for him until he turns 18. We recommend talking with your local law enforcement to find out what you are able to do under the law. It is really helpful in circumstances such as yours to focus on what you ARE able to control. For example, it is not effective to tell your son that he is grounded, because he chooses to leave anyway. It might be more helpful to look at things you can control, such as cell phone service, or giving him money for example. I am including links to some articles you might find helpful: Parenting ODD Children and Teens: How to Make Consequences Work & My Child Is Using Drugs or Drinking Alcohol—What Should I Do? Good luck to you and your family as you continue to work through this; we know this isn’t easy.

Comment By : Rebecca Wolfenden, Parental Support Advisor

My daughter's 1st attempt to run away was the day she turned 17, within 24 hours we had her home but not until we had to combat allegations of abuse which were dismissed as no finding, she felt if she lied about abuse the police would let her leave & not come home. My husband & I were floored as we have always provided a good home for our daughter & she had everything, a car, money when she ask, she always had everything she needed including a loving home. We discovered she was associating with kids at school who had nothing, no respect for adults & no parental love. Our daughter decided to get into the group by acting as if she was in the same boat as they were, we have since found this is a growing trend. Six weeks ago our daughter disapeered without a trace, the note she left behind was not wanting parental control any longer & we would not be able to find her. We reported her missing to the police but because she is 17 & considered an adult we have no recourse. I found this site & that is when I decided to let go & let God as I have no control over my daughters decision. Yes, we are hurt, she abandoned her car, her cell phone & her life. The one thing we have decided not to do is search as we will not be the crazy parents & in our attempt only brought more heart break. We will continue to pray she finds out what she has gotten herself into is not ideal & hopefully everything we instilled in her, prior to her departure, will come back to her & she will realize what she is doing is not beneficial to her. If she decides to return there will be consequences for her actions & she will be returning to a home with no chnages other than she will no longer have a car or a cell or anything that is considered a priveledge & she will have to earn our trust for all that has happened since she decided to act out the way she has.

Comment By : Loving Tough Love Mother

what to say when your 14 year old daughter wants to camping in a tent in March with one girl friend and no parents?? I say no for sure is this correct?

Comment By : gizzy

* To ‘gizzy’: The beauty of this question is that the answer is completely up to you! Kids have a way of making you second guess yourself or feel like you’re being unreasonable, but the bottom line is this: if you’re uncomfortable with it, if you’re gut tells you it’s not a good idea, you get to say ‘no’ and you don’t have to explain yourself to your daughter. I hope this helps. Take care.

Comment By : Sara Bean, M.Ed., Parental Support Advisor

My daughter leaves the home because the punishment is too severe. She didn't come home one night because she knew she was on punishment for missing curfew and told me she was not coming home after that because she did not like how I yelled at her on the phone the next day. When she returned home, I told her what her consequences would be and she said she would not comply with the punishment. I told her she could not live under my roof and dictate the rules of the household--comply or leave--and she chose to leave. Her father (who lives in another household) called the parent in the other household to tell her he would be reporting our daughter as a runaway. She became upset and told my daughter she is not welcome in her home. My daughter returned home, but is still not willing to comply with the punishment. I'm stuck.

Comment By : chickadee124

* To ‘chickadee124’: It’s good that you are looking for some resources and some information that can help you work through this tough situation. Parents find it to be so frustrating when kids seem completely unwilling to accept a consequence. When establishing consequences we do recommend that you keep them relatively short term (typically no more than 3 days long) and that you focus on what you have control over. For example, telling your daughter to stay in the house (grounding her) or get out of the house are both going to be ineffective consequences because you can’t make her do either of these things. What might be more effective is to use material privileges you can control like cell phone access, car access, computer, or internet access. A good tip is to call the cell phone company and suspend the service rather than trying to make your daughter hand over her phone—this is another way of focusing on what you can control. Even when you do this, your daughter might still leave and when she does it’s important to have a plan to help ensure her safety, such as calling the police to let them know she took off and having them write up a report. You might also find it helpful to contact the National Runaway Switchboard for support. You can reach them 24/7 at 1-800-786-2929. I’m including couple more articles that I think might be very helpful for you as you move forward from here: Kids Who Ignore Consequences: 10 Ways to Make Them Stick & Parenting ODD Children and Teens: How to Make Consequences Work. We wish you luck as you continue to work through this. It isn’t easy. Take care.

Comment By : Sara Bean, M.Ed., Parental Support Advisor

I have a 15 year old daughter who has left 4 times and yesterday she never came home from school. She does not really run away she just goes away for a few days for no reason and usually out of the blue. Most times she decides to go party with friends I think. I have no controll over her, she does anything she wants to and if you ground her she sneaks out in the middle of the night and is gone or threatens to call social services on her dad if he yells at her. She has not passed a class for 2 years and no matter what we do she does what she wants. I wish I could chain her to her bed at night but of course cant. I never know when she goes to school or to bed for that matter if she will be there in the morning. I love her so much as she is my little girl but I hate her. My family is being held hostage. We dont hit her but ground her from things but she finds ways around all punishments, take her cell and she borrows one from a friend, take her Ipod same thing. She has been going to counceling and has been on medication for a year but nothing is helping. Now I don't know what to do with her and will soon leave to go report her as a runaway... AGAIN!

Comment By : Ash\'sMom

My 15 year old has been a runaway for about 4 months now. I'm a mother of 5 and treat all my kids the same, my other 4kids are happy and doing great in school including her older sister who has never ranaway before, so I don't think it's my parenting but for some reason I can't get my 15yr old to stop getting in trouble. This has been going on since kindergarten and just developed into running away for a little over a year now. But this time I decided not to chase her and let her return on her own after she realizes there's no place like home. The only time I get involved is when she tries living with friends and family they all support me in teaching her this lesson so they ask my permission for her to stay and right now she only has permission to be at either of her grandparents houses but she keeps trying to go to the cooler family members houses where she can pretty much do as she pleases since that's why she ranaway on the first place. So I just had her removed from one of those places, I instructed my friend to make her leave and she emails me saying stuff like I've never been there, I don't care about her and I'm ruining her life. I feel that when she left she argued to go live with her dads parents whom she had only known for about 2 months cause she had this great life plan and was supposed to do so much better over there then thats where she should be, but she lasted there only 2weeks and ran from there back with her friends. I knew when she left it was to live a carefree life wiith her friends but she'll never admit that, instead she continues blaming me for everything wrong in her life. I found this article cause I wasnt sure I was doing the right thing by not chasing her but i just read that's what you reccommended but am I doing the right thing by not letting her pick and choose what family or family friends she wants to live with?

Comment By : 5Xamom

* To 5Xamom: It can be so frustrating to have a child who is constantly getting in trouble, running away, and then blaming you for her missteps. We are encouraged to hear that you are taking the recommendations of the article and not chasing after her. As your friends and family are asking your permission to have your daughter stay with them, you do have the power to say no if you do not feel it is an appropriate place to stay. It is normal that your daughter would be unhappy about having limits set on her behavior. If you have not already contacted them, the National Runaway Switchboard can be a great resource for you. They may be able to offer you and your daughter some support as you work through the challenges in your relationship. You can contact them 24/7 at 1-800-786-2929. We know this is very difficult and we wish you and your family the best as you work through this challenging time. Take care.

Comment By : Rebecca Wolfenden, Parental Support Advisor

My 19 year old one day said she was sick of the rules and took off. I received a note she is in a better place and they treat her better and I need to leave her alone. She is done with all of us and I can't even understand what is going on? Just the week before she told me several times that she loved me and then BOOM she got caught doing something I've told her a 1000 times not to do, so I took her computer and everything away and that did it. That was 3 months ago. I've been going NUTS thinking...WHY??

Comment By : CARLISLE5

* To “CARLISLE5”: Thank you for sharing your story. I can hear how distraught you are over your daughter’s choice to move out. Many parents struggle when their adult child make choices they don’t agree with and can spend a lot of time trying to figure out “why?” In reality, it probably had little to do with you and more to do with your daughter deciding she didn’t want to live within the rules and boundaries of your house. Ultimately, as an adult, that’s your daughter’s choice. As Debbie Pincus points out in the article Calm Parenting: Stop Letting Your Child's Behavior Make You Crazy you can’t control the choices your child makes but you have complete control over how you respond to her choices. At this point, it may be beneficial to think about what you can do to take care of yourself. It can be difficult when an adult child moves out, especially if it was done in response to being held accountable for choices. Many parents can feel at a loss as to where to go from here. We would encourage you to start to think about what you need. Rebecca Wolfenden gives some tips on self-care in her blog Self-care for Exhausted Parents: How Do You Recharge Your Batteries? Another blog you may find helpful is Tina Wakefield’s blog Living with a Broken Heart: Are You Estranged from Your Child? We wish you and your family the best as you work through this difficult time. Take care.

Comment By : D. Rowden, Parental Support Advisor

I have bought the program and we are starting to seeing positive changes in both behaviour and responsibility. However, the big challenge we face with our 9 year old is that when he doesnt want to do something and doesnt get his own way he tries to run away. (Where are you supposed to be? Go there. This either results in him going and doing it, or melting down) When he melts down we get the irrational, "you're the meanest parents ever. I hate you. I'm running away" and he puts his shoes on and heads out the door without any fear. We are not exactly in a safe neighbourhood where I can just let him go and hope he comes back. He is 9, but no baby. How am I supposed to handle this? Its not in the materials. We sit him down and say, what's happened that you cant handle this, but the bottom line is, he wants his own way and is using this to gain power. What should I do?

Comment By : MomSeekingAdvice!

* To “MomSeekingAdvice”: Thank you for writing in and sharing your story. I can understand your concern. It can be worrisome when a young child uses “running away” as a means to deal with his anger and frustration. Being proactive is probably going to be beneficial in this situation, meaning sitting down and problem solving with your son ways he can deal with his frustration more effectively (and more safely). Before this situation presents itself again (and during a calm time) you can sit down with your son and ask him what he’s trying to accomplish by running away when he’s upset and what’s something else he can do instead. Sara Bean gives some additional information on how to problem solve with your son in her article The Surprising Reason for Bad Child Behavior: "I Can't Solve Problems.” It’s going to be important to reward him when he utilizes another coping skill other than taking off when he gets upset. This will help to reinforce the behavior you want him to have. It’s also going to be helpful to have a plan in place for how you are going to respond if he does indeed leave the house after one of his meltdowns. It can be a little tricky because you want him to be safe but you also don’t want to give the behavior undue attention. The key I think is not getting upset or emotional when it happens. You could follow him without engaging him or you set a limit at the time that he needs to stay in the yard and can only take a few minutes and then will need to come back inside. I’m happy to hear you have the Total Transformation program. You might consider calling the Parental Support Line at the number listed in the workbook to further discuss this or other situations. If you don’t currently have access to the Parental Support line, we would be happy to offer you a courtesy call. We wish you and your family the best as you continue to work through this situation. Take care.

Comment By : D. Rowden, Parental Support Advisor

I want to thank you for this site. Our 16 year old daughter left home after an argument back in May (5.5 months ago)and went to live with her 20 year old boyfriend. Since that time we moved 45 minutes away from her due to job changes. It has been so hard to not have her at home. We are still in contact with her as she has a cell phone that we pay for as we just couldn't give up that contact after we moved. We had initially taken it away for the first 2 months. They have been evicted from 2 different apartments now for loud parties (which she says has nothing to do with her and everything to do with room mates.) Her attendance at school is very here and there but she is going and maintaining quite decent marks. I guess the most heart breaking thing for me is that she has left us at such a young age. I worry constantly and I can't stop wondering what I could have done differently. I could just kick myself for not getting her diagnosed earlier for her ADD and not taking her diagnosis of anxiety more seriously. We have 2 more children (ages 9 and 4) and I am so afraid of making the same mistakes with them. So far our son who is 9 has had the same diagnosis of ADHD and anxiety but at 8 years old instead of at 15. I read somewhere that children of depressed mothers will suffer in their treatment. I have depression and have been medicated since our daughter was 3. Since our son was born (our 9 year old) I just don't have the same punch in life like I used to and I get so tired. I would sleep so much and I know that really bugged her. I think I missed the mark with our daughter and I'm afraid that she left because I'm a bad mother and I've not guided her and helped her like I should have.

Comment By : guilt ridden

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