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The Oppositional, Defiant Teen: How James Lehman tackles the toughest behavior disorder (Excerpted from Transform Your Problem Child)

by James Lehman, MSW
The Oppositional, Defiant Teen: How James Lehman tackles the toughest behavior disorder (Excerpted from Transform Your Problem Child)

This week, read about an oppositional, defiant teen in James Lehman’s compelling new book, Transform Your Problem Child. Meet the parents and family of Caleb, who have been dealing with their son’s behavior since he was a young child, and “raising their tolerance for deviance” with each instance of acting out. When Caleb gets physically abusive, his parents go to see James—and are finally given real solutions to his behavior-- even if those solutions are not what they expected.

"Nobody understood what it was like to parent a child like Caleb, so she just stopped bringing it up to anyone." --From "Transform Your Problem Child"

For parents of children with Oppositional Defiant Disorder, every day is like living in a war zone. Seemingly simple requests set off “land mines” with these children because they have a marked inability to hear the word “no” and a determination to gain power in the home through constant arguing. The story of Caleb offers insight for parents of any child who is oppositional, whether diagnosed with a disorder or not. In this story, you will learn how to address bullying and physical violence against siblings, refusal to follow rules and take responsibility, stealing, cursing and manipulative and threatening behavior.

When Caleb was an infant, his mom, Monique, would stare at him for hours. She’d go to his crib in the middle of the night and watch his chest rise and fall, making sure he was still breathing. She and her husband, Ben, would talk about their son’s future: Would he like baseball or football better? What would he want to be on his first real Halloween? Would he learn magic tricks or maybe ask for a science kit for his birthday? As he grew, it became painfully obvious that Caleb was going to be a challenge. More than a challenge, in fact. He was downright impossible. From the moment Caleb started preschool, so did the notes and phone calls complaining about his behavior:

“Caleb is disruptive.”
“Caleb refuses to share with other children and is often aggressive.”
“Caleb has angry outbursts when he is with other children in a group.”

Monique thought he needed more socialization practice, so she tried to arrange playdates, but pretty soon the mothers stopped accepting. Once Caleb was big enough to sleep in his own bed, Monique no longer checked on him as he slept. She used the time to collapse on the sofa, exhausted from another unbearable day with him. He argued constantly:

“No! I don’t want to go to bed!”
“No! I don’t want to leave!”
“No! I don’t want to get up!”
“No! I don’t want to! You’re so mean to me!”

Every day was a struggle to get him to school. From the start, Caleb hated the bus, and in the first years of elementary school he’d protest and complain so much that Monique often ended up driving him to school. But on the days she opened the women’s clothing store she owned, she didn’t have the time to do this. Neither did Ben, whose work kept him on the road or in an airport much of the time. So she would beg and plead as they waited at the stop, Caleb declaring that he wouldn’t get on the bus and Monique feeling the stares of the other mothers. When the bus arrived, he wouldn’t budge. Monique’s pleas would turn to demands, still to no avail, and the driver would tap his foot impatiently as she grew more and more flustered. Finally, fighting back tears, she would drag Caleb onto the bus, kicking and screaming. She knew the entire neighborhood was talking behind her back: What is wrong with that kid? What’s wrong with that mother?

By the time Caleb hit third grade, the bus was a moot point—he’d made so much trouble that he got kicked off it indefinitely. Monique adjusted her work schedule so she could drive him to school and back. Dropping him off or picking him up, she avoided meeting anyone’s gaze in the playground. She knew what everyone was thinking. She has to drive her son because he’s so out of control. It was all so humiliating. And lonely. She couldn’t talk to her friends or even her family about it. Every time she brought up his latest behavioral incidents they’d tell her she needed to put her foot down. Nobody understood what it was like to parent a child like Caleb, so she just stopped bringing it up to anyone.

Caleb took great pleasure in embarrassing his sisters. The sibling rivalry increased as he got older. Caleb never knew when to stop. “Why is he so mean to me?” Stephanie asked.  Monique wished she knew the answer, but she was just as mystified. The sacrifices they all had to make were enormous. Caleb’s behavior made playdates for the girls impossible. The family was always turning down invitations to the zoo, family outings to the beach, block parties. It wasn’t fair that her two daughters had to miss out on so much, but she didn’t know the solution. She hoped that one day they would forgive her for being such a horrible mother. She hoped one day she’d forgive herself.

At the end of fifth grade, Monique and Ben took Caleb to a social worker, who diagnosed Caleb with oppositional defiant disorder (ODD). When they read about the diagnosis, Monique and Ben were overwhelmed. The social worker recommended weekly therapy, but Caleb refused to go. They gave up trying to get him to go, and hoped that eventually, he would grow out of this stage. Or, at the very least, they figured they could manage the
explosions if they gave him what he wanted most of the time.


Now 17, Caleb is more of a terror than ever. He treats everyone in the house as though they are his servants. He often reduces his sisters to tears. And when Monique or Ben scolds him for it, he becomes hostile. “Why are you getting so upset?” he asks. “I was only teasing her. Why doesn’t she grow up and stop being such a baby?” He thinks nothing of going into his sisters’ rooms to take their iPods or their wallets. He still reads Stephanie’s diary (though she’s learned to hide it pretty well), and he often tries to
blackmail her, saying that if she lies for him he’ll grant her “immunity” for a week or so at a time.

Caleb has broken the door to his own room so many times Ben took it off its hinges. He has punched holes in his bedroom walls and threatened to key the family car if he wasn’t allowed to drive it. Monique feels she’s on an endless loop of scuffles with him. And he’s got a foul mouth. She tried to reason with him once about why he shouldn’t keep his music on full blast.

“You’re bothering everyone in the house,” she said calmly.
“Yeah, well they bother me,” he replied.
“Caleb, I don’t know why you say that. No one wants to bother you. Everyone
here loves you.”
“That’s bull****—just leave me alone.”
“Don’t speak to me like that! I’m your mother!”
“Screw you, get out of my room. I can say what I want.”
“No you can’t! I deserve at least a little respect around here, don’t I?”
“Get out of my f**king room!”

She had just about given up, deciding that she couldn’t do anything about him, when he went too far with the girls. Monique hated to leave the kids alone in the house, but one day after running late at the store, she came home to find Stephanie and Lauren screaming and crying.

“What happened?” Monique said as she threw her keys on the hallway table.
“Caleb hit me with a sneaker!” Stephanie said, her face beet red from crying.
 “He what? Come here, let me see your face,” Monique said. She pulled out a tissue and gently smeared away the dirt mark from the sneaker on Stephanie’s face. “Let’s get you some ice.”
The three of them walked to the kitchen, the girls still crying. “Back up and start from the beginning,” Monique said.
“Caleb’s been hogging the computer for three and a half hours,” Lauren
said. “And Stephanie and I wanted to play something—”
“We’d been asking nicely for an hour if we could have a turn,” interrupted
Stephanie. “But he wouldn’t give it up—”
“He never lets us use it,” said Lauren fiercely.
“So I started yelling at him and he threw his sneaker at my head!”
Leaving Lauren holding the ice to Stephanie’s face, Monique marched into the den.
“Is that true, Caleb? Did you throw a sneaker at your sister?”
Caleb kept his eyes on the computer.
“Caleb, I’m talking to you,” said Monique as she stood in front of the computer
“Be quiet, I can’t concentrate,” said Caleb.
“I asked you a question. Answer me, Caleb.”
“I wasn’t doing anything. I was just using the computer, minding my own business, when they came in and started bothering me. I couldn’t help it. It didn’t hurt her. She’s just acting like a baby so you’ll take her side.”
“That’s it! I’ve had it with you. Go to your room!” Monique yelled.
“And what are you going to do to me if I don’t?” Caleb smirked.

Monique stood frozen. She looked her at her son and burst into tears. “Get to your room!” she yelled at the top of her lungs. “I said get to your room!”
She had no idea what her next move would be if he didn’t obey her, and she prayed that he would.

Caleb stood up and yelled “B****!” as he went off to his room. Monique collapsed onto the couch, shaken from the standoff with her son. Mortified at the thought that her daughters had witnessed her so overtaken. Tired and empty from years of arguing with a kid—now a young man—who lived to defy her every word.

“Don’t cry, Mom,” Stephanie said as she and Lauren crept into the room.
“Everything will be okay,” Lauren added. Monique realized the family roles had somehow been reversed. Her daughters were trying to take care of her, not the other way around. She hugged her girls, not wanting to let them go. I need to protect them, she thought. I can’t let this go on any longer.

Monique and Ben came to see me a few days later. “I am so frustrated,” Monique told me, her back straight as if she were sitting at attention. “I really don’t know what to do about my son. Since before I can remember he’s been impossible to manage. He’s incapable of controlling his temper and I’m really worried that it could get him into real trouble one day. How will he ever get a job? How will he ever live on his own? What is going to happen to him?”

“You’re right, Monique. From what you’ve told me, it seems like Caleb has always been defiant. Kids who grow up like that can have a really tough time as adults. You have a difficult kid on your hands, I can see that.”

Monique’s demeanor began to crumble. “Difficult doesn’t even begin to describe it, James. I love Caleb, really, I do. But….but…I can’t stand being around him. I know that’s a terrible thing to say. What kind of a mother says that she can’t stand being around her child? What is wrong with me?” she sobbed, as Ben put his arm around her.

“Monique, you are the mother of a child with a very difficult personality. It’s tough to feel close to a child whose primary mode of communication is hostility, antagonism, and resistance,” I said.
“So is it hopeless?” Monique asked, reaching for the box of tissues I offered her.
“No, but I won’t lie to you—it’s going to be tough. Caleb’s biggest problem is that he’s facing the difficulties that typical 17-year-olds face, but he doesn’t have the equipment to solve them. So we’re going to have to help teach him the problem-solving techniques he’s avoided learning by being antagonistic and defiant all these years. I can show you how to do that, as well as how to set limits with him, help him develop coping skills, and how to treat people better. The rest will be up to him. After all, he’s 17 and he’s responsible for his behavior. Remember, the things you’ve told me that have been going on are actually choices he’s made. You may feel like he’s out of control, but from where I sit it looks like he’s controlling the whole family and has been for quite awhile. You’re going to have to be strong enough to administer some heavy-duty medicine.”
“What do you mean?”
“I’ll get to that in a few minutes, but first let’s talk about what you’re doing right now. So far you’ve responded to Caleb’s behavior by negotiating, bargaining, giving in, threatening and screaming. The problem is when you do that, you’re giving power to Caleb’s defiance. I know he was diagnosed with ODD, and that is a tough disorder to live with. Kids with ODD begin to argue the minute they wake up, and they don’t stop until they’re snoring at night. These kids are resistant to anything you propose, and they defy rules and expectations pretty globally. Kids with ODD trust no one, and they think the world is trying to pull the wool over their eyes. They blame everyone else for their problems and are constantly making excuses for their own inability to manage things. They’re easily annoyed and hostile with adults, bossy and pushy with other kids. Their automatic response is to disagree and to argue. Because that’s how they feel calmer. Arguing and yelling gives them a sense of being in control. For some reason, being told what to do sets off a sense of powerlessness in a kid like this, a fear of not being in control, so arguing is the way he tries to wrestle that control back.”

“You’ve pretty much summed up our son,” Ben said, cracking a rueful smile.
“I’ve dealt with a lot of kids with ODD. Believe me, I got their number, Ben. But before we do anything else, we must work on keeping your girls safe, and we must teach them how not to be physical or emotional victims. I don’t think being alone with him is the best thing, but I understand you can’t be there all the time, so you must tell them to stay away from him. Don’t antagonize him. If Caleb wants to use the computer for three hours, let him use the computer for three hours.”
“But that’s not fair,” Ben said. “Why should the girls keep having to suffer because of Caleb? Haven’t they suffered enough?”
“Sure, but right now conflicts with Caleb are putting them in danger, both physically and emotionally, so when you two aren’t home, they have to do things that do not involve conflict with him. So if there’s only one computer in the house, then yes, that’s the way it’s going to have to be for awhile. Because what you’re asking them to do is to deal with this kid that you can’t even deal with. He doesn’t listen, he doesn’t respond to common sense, he doesn’t have principles of common decency and sharing. He’s not on that level. So I think it’s a matter of keeping the girls safe, not what’s fair or unfair. They can have the computer for three hours after you get home.”
Ben nodded. “Okay.”
“So from now on, they should wait until you come home to deal with any conflicts. And you need to tell Caleb that getting physical is not allowed in the family. And if he’s going to get physical with his sisters, that’s called domestic violence and you are going to get the police involved.”
“Police?” Monique asked, clearly shocked.
“That’s the kind of heavy-duty medicine I referred to earlier. There’s no fooling around now. You have to develop what's called a culture of accountability in your home.”


When they got home, Monique and Ben went into Caleb’s room. They sat on his bed and told him they needed to speak with him.
“This is my room, I’ll invite you in when I want you here,” Caleb said.
“No, Caleb, this is our house, and technically it’s our room,” Ben countered.
Caleb looked surprised.
“Whatever,” he said, rolling his eyes.
“No, Caleb, not whatever. We need to have a serious talk. We’re tired of the way you’ve been treating us and your sisters, and we’re not going to sit back and let you walk all over us anymore. We’ve decided to see somebody to help us learn to handle you better, and you need to come with us to our appointment next week.”
“Like hell I’ll go anywhere with you,” Caleb said.
“Well fine, then, you can find somewhere else to live.”
“Yeah right. I’m not going anywhere!”
“Caleb, either you agree to go with us to the therapist next week, or we’re going to call the police and press charges for what you did to your sister.”
“I didn’t do anything to her!”
“Yes you did. You hit her with a sneaker and gave her a black eye. That’s assault.”
“Yeah, right. You wouldn’t call the police. I dare you,” Caleb snickered.
“Don’t test me.”
“Get out of my god**** room!”
“No, Caleb, not until you agree to see the counselor with us.”
“Fine, then. I’ll leave!” Caleb yelled and he walked out of the room. Ben and Monique followed him while Caleb continued to swear. Ben found himself turning up the volume of his own voice to try to drown out the swearing. Caleb screamed, “Leave me alone!” Then he grabbed a bowl off the coffee table and threw it at them.
“That’s it,” Ben said and he went to the phone to call the police. When they arrived a few minutes later, Caleb was screaming at his parents to leave him alone.
“You can’t do anything to me!” he yelled. Ben filled the police in, and the officers took Caleb aside. They told him he had to do what his parents wanted or they could press charges. “Fine, I’ll go to your f**king therapist,” Caleb finally relented. He spent the rest of the night in his room.


Caleb came to see me the next week. When children with ODD are confronted with a problem they can’t solve, they react emotionally and that’s when the trouble starts. So one of my goals was to show Caleb that his solution wasn’t working to solve the problem. We talked about what happened with his sister. “She was being a brat,” he told me.
“Well sure she’s a brat. All little sisters are brats. But hitting her with a sneaker almost got you locked up.”
“So the next time you think your sister’s a brat, instead of hitting her with a sneaker, what are some other ways you can deal with that problem so you don’t get locked up?”
“I don’t know. I don’t want to get off the computer.”
“Well you may have to, at least until your parents get home.”
“I could call her names. She usually goes back to her room after I do that,”
Caleb smirked.
“Sure, but that won’t solve your problem. That just keeps it going. So what’s something that you can do that really solves this problem so you don’t get deeper into trouble?”
“I don’t know, man. I don’t even want to be here.”
“Caleb, let’s finish with what you can do differently because if you don’t, you’re going to wind up in the youth detention center. That’s where teens go who aren’t safe at home. Do you want to wind up there because you wouldn’t come up with a better plan?”
“Okay. S***. I could leave the room.”
“Great. And when you leave the room, where would you go?”
“To my bedroom.”
“Great Caleb, or you could take a walk outside. Just get out of that situation that’s upsetting, because it’s only going to lead to you getting into deeper trouble. So let’s try that then. For the next week, when you feel like your sister’s really pissing you off, go to your room and chill for 15 minutes and listen to music. Let’s see if you can do that because you know, Caleb, if you can’t, you’re going to wind up in trouble with the police.”


Monique, Ben, and Caleb continued to see me for six more months and put in six months of hard work. They began a reward system that allowed Caleb to earn extras for making the right choices. Eventually he earned his own computer in his room. Caleb is about to graduate from high school (just barely), and he’s planning to look for a job and get a car. Monique and Ben have told him that if he continues on the right track, he can stay in the house. Monique realizes that Caleb is still a challenge and probably will always be, but these days, she feels like she’s up to it. Although she knows the war is not over, she hopes it is at a cease-fire.

Read how James helps Caleb and his parents in Transform Your Problem Child. In the book, James shares stories based on thirty years of working with parents to manage behaviors ranging from back talk and lying to outbursts caused by ADHD and Oppositional Defiant Disorder. Known for his no-nonsense, practical approach, James Lehman shows you step-by-step ways to manage seemingly unmanageable child behaviors and bring peace and sanity back to your home. Transform Your Problem Child is available through Empowering Parents at


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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."


this sounds like our 17 y.o. son, except if we call the police on him, he would say "fine, I'd rather go live in Juvenile Detention or a foster home". I feel like as long as he's here we may have the opportunity to have influence over him and if he goes eleswhere, we'll have lost any opportunity for any kind of relationship with him.

Comment By : wondering

Being proactive when faced with a child like this makes all the difference in the life of the child and the safety of the family. I sent one of my children away for 11 months due to this type of behavior. I have spent years in counseling, name it. After bringing my child home, I found and ordered the Total Transformation. My child manages herself. She is still difficult and emotional termoil comes and goes, but we're on the same page for the rules and behavior in my home and at school. James Lehman came into my life when I was afraid that I would spend the rest of my life with no answers. I have kept the CDs in my car and listen almost daily for the last 3+ years. I would encourage parents to take advantage of the coaching provided and continue to improve your parenting skills and personal growth. Every improvement made within yourself effects the family as a whole. Thanks Mr. Lehman!

Comment By : CB

Sounds like my 16 year old son, only he doesn't act out in school. He saves all of his defiant behavior for home. He is a bully and can't take "no" for an answer. We are working really hard to gain control of our house but it is very difficult. Even as a child, he has never adapted to change easily. Even saying that we have to stop at the grocery store on the way home from school is too much for him. He won't get up in the morning, won't go to bed at night, etc.. I'm very worried for his future.

Comment By : Nolamom

This looks like the path our 8 yo foster daughter is on. Unfortunately, she has no control over her current situation with her mother. She has been diagnosed with ODD. As her foster parents, we are a little more emotionally removed than the parents in this story. We have been able to set limits and we have seen progress, but we work on it every day and I see a long road ahead as the cause of the problem is not resolved. Thank you for your wise teaching ways and your advice.

Comment By : 62buttons

To Nolamom and wondering - you've found this website so you probably already know that you're not alone. We have an 18 year old son who sounds like your kids. To Nolamom the difficulties with sleeping and waking up have been especially problematic. We don't know what to do about it. Our son has become certain that alcohol and illegal substances are the answer to this sleep problem and that has become a huge flash point on many evenings (demanding that we give him alcohol). On one evening that he somehow got some alcohol from friends the police became involved in our home. He, in a drunken state, called 911 and hung up. Perhaps he knows on some level that we are all in over our heads and need an outside presence. We have been tempted to call in the police, but my husband and I find it difficult to believe that we would have to go to those measures. (The more exposure I have to this website, the more I am getting over that reluctance). We have to try to give our son some sort of accountability. He disrespects all authority figures, but at least the police have the tools to deal with him in his moments of rage. We do not have those tools as much as we wish that our love and logical thoughts could be those tools. In the moments of rage and extreme defiance they are not enough. Anyone who has advice on the sleep / waking problem I would be most appreciative. I'm not sure how our son can function if he can't get control of that aspect of his life. I don't think HE really cares about it as much as WE do, however. With that underlying premise I'm not sure how it can get any better.

Comment By : baffled

This story is all too familiar with my 15 year old son. He never before acted out at school until this year. He has been suspended from school, has had in school suspension and has been in trouble with the police and in currently on probation. He has been diagnosed with ADHD and ODD. I have tired "the total transformation" from Mr. Lehman. At first his instructions would start working, I was relieved. But after a short time (less than two weeks) he reverts back to yelling, arguing and cursing at everyone in the house (even our pets get yelled at). We are again at a loss, we are seeing a therapist, he argues before every visit (I can only get him to go with threats). He is failing school and has no problems is we call the police. He wants to leave, he reminds us daily that he is miserable at our home. He would rather go to juvenile detention or a hospital just to get away from us. I have to admit, I have tried to admit him to a hospital but we were sent us away. He is on probation and I have requested that they introduce him to what life is like on the “inside”. They also refused, with the same statement “you do not want your son here”. YES I DO. Why can I not get anyone to help?

Comment By : Lost

1 point and 1 question: My point to "wondering": Your son says that, because he thinks you wont do it. Quite making excuses and follow the good doctors orders, call the police - My son said the same thing, and I thought just like you did (we will loss all relations with him by actually doing it) But do you have a relationship with him now? We are definately doing better after my sons 10 days in "Juvie". He knows that it is no longer an empty threat and it helped my wife and I realize that we dont have to put up with him, It took away a lot of his control... My question - does anyone know if ODD can come about at age 15 - 17 w/o signs and symptoms at earlier ages.

Comment By : Boyscout

Where was this article 20 years ago? My son going on 29 is a menace to society and I am so afraid of him. I threw him out of our house, he went to his grandmothers, he stole from her and his uncle, they threw him out, he went to live with his girlfriend, now he is about to be on the street, the landlord evicted him. He doesn't work, he is a MENACE to everyone.

Comment By : always crying

My wife and I have guardianship of our 3yr old Grandson. He has ODD and is bipolar. The history of Caleb is similar to his. We are working with a Child Psychiatrist. The Dr. tells us that the ODD is a byproduct of the BP. I do not like medication, but having him on Risperidone has made a big difference. Hopefully our intervention now will keep him from the problems his mother has. She started out with several misdiagnoses, then did meth, and, at 27, is now schizophrenic.

Comment By : Pappa David

I have the same exact problem within my house. The only difference is, I have two daughters of my own, and I live with my boyfriend that has two sons. One of which lives with us on a full time basis because his mother couldn't take it anymore. What do you do when you have a teenager in the house that calls his dad every filthy name in the book and I am "just the girlfriend"....where does the line get drawn as far as what is acceptable and what is not acceptable for me to do in regards of punishment. With ODD, he will look at me when I ask him to do something and tell me that he doesn't have to listen to me, I am not his parent, etc and that he will discuss it with his dad. His dad argues back and then just chooses to let his son say the hateful and ignorant things to the other kids by telling him to "go away" or "be quiet" but his son will say no and keep aggrevating. I do not know how to get this circle of ignorance to stop! I am at my wits end!

Comment By : soccer mom

We ordered the Total Transformation program about 3 years ago because of our son's behavior. He started his defiance at the age of 13 and his behavior escalated over the years. I was constantly meeting with teachers and educators because my son would challenge any rule he was expected to comply with. He would do his homework, he ditched school, he wouldn't get up, he wouldn't go to bed, he wouldn't meet his curfew, he was mean to his brother and sisters, he was verbally abusive to me. We started the Total Transformation Program and he became so upset when I wouldn't engage him in an argument....He started anger management classes in high school. His grades were non-existent and he kept ditching school. We didn't know who his friend were. He lost 3 jobs because he was smarter than everyone else. He got kicked out of school his junior year because he had missed so much school. I should have suspected drug use, but I didn't. Turns out he was using marijuana at the age of 14 and was smoking dope when he should have been in school. He was sent to a school for problem boys for a while then got back into high school. Two months before graduation he got expelled from school for ditching again. He only needed 3 credits to graduate and those credits could be electives. He took a mandatory test required for high school graduation in our state when he was a sophomore and past it with above average scores. He told me he didn't need to go to school anymore because he knew everything. The night he was supposed to graduate from high school we got called at 2:00 to come get him, he had been beaten up and was dumped in a garbage dumpster. He was so drunk he couldn't hold his head up and was choking on his own vomit. We brought him home, I wrenched my back trying to get him into the truck. We should have called the police. He starts school again as a 5th year senior and repeats the same pattern as previous years, gets kicked out for missing too many classes. This time he gets arrested for possession of marijuana and charged with a felony. I arrange for legal counsel because he is 19 and this is his first arrest and he can't have a felony conviction at 19. He tells me in front of the judge and his lawyer to get the hell out of his life, he doesn't want my help, he doesn't want his lawyer and he doesn't want me there. He hates our house, he hates everything about our family, he hates living with us, blah blah blah. He and his step-father got into a physical altercation and he left our house to live with friends. We let him back into our house three months later because he had a job but nowhere else to go. Fast forward 9 months. He is now 20 and passed out in our basement with baggies of marijuana all over the coffee table and a loaded hand gun on the floor. My husband made him leave that day. We sprung for a cheap apartment for 6 months where all the druggies live and told him he was on his own, if he didn't keep his job and comply with the terms of his probation he would be on the street because we were done with him. What finally got through to him was that he lived on the street for about 6 weeks and he didn't want to to that again. He realized if he went to jail for not passing his random drug tests he would go to jail, if he went to jail he would loose his job, if he lost his job he would loose his apartment and his car. He would lose everything. He has been drug free for 2 months now and he is like a totally different person. He still struggles with ODD, he refused to go back to school or get a GED until he was physically thrown out of a job interview because he didn't have a diploma or a GED and the interviewer didn't want to talk to him. He is now making preparations to take the GED. He is making slow progress and we are afraid to have hope because it always gets destroyed but he is starting to think logically now. He finally has something to loose that matters to him. The best thing to happen to him was to get arrested and thrown out of our house. The Total Transformation Program helped my husband and I to not blame ourselves for his choices. It help us deal with him in ways that didn't compromise the rest of the family and that didn't further empower him. The hardest thing I ever had to do was put him out on the street with nothing. But it was the best thing I ever did. Our story continues day to day but I am seeing changes.

Comment By : been there too many times

We are having the same problem as "Lost". We have called the sheriff and tried to admit our daughter and were told they couldn't help us. Even after I told the sheriff that she strangled me and said she would kill me, they did nothing. We have been to three different counselors and I seem to get blamed for everything. She is able to manipulate the counselors as well. Nobody seems to be focusing on her violence, being kicked out of school, or her drug use. She even told the psyciatrist that she was depressed and felt the drugs helped her. The doctor said he wouln't help us until she could prove she was off drugs. I asked if she should be admitted to rehab, and he said he didn't find rehab helpful for teenagers. I'm lost and I fear eventually will be seriously hurt or dead from her temper.

Comment By : woman in a shoe

After reading this article, we received a better insight into the problem we (& others) are experiencing with a 16 year old son with ODD.

Comment By : Perplexed Parents

* Dear Lost: I’m sorry to hear that this has been this frustrating for you. It’s easy to feel hopeless when you ask for help and run up against community systems that turn you away. I’m glad to hear that, although it’s a struggle, you are able to attend family counseling with your son. I have one idea that I’d like to share with you about trying to force or threaten you son into compliance. I hope this idea will lead to better results for you when working with your son. James Lehman states there are 3 important parenting tasks. They are Limit Setting, Teaching and Coaching, and Problem Solving. Limit setting is establishing house rules, or even the requirement that your son attends counseling. What limit setting cannot do is force a child to comply. When you are working with a child that has been diagnosed with ODD, it can be especially important not to try to force compliance. The more you push your child, the more he will pull away. As you have said, he has chosen to not comply with some school rules and has been suspended, and he has chosen not to comply with town rules, and is now on probation. Just as the school and the town have limits and rules and enforce consequences if someone does not comply, if he chooses not to comply with your requests, your rules, or your goals, there are reasonable consequences (not punishments) for that choice. The town and the school establish rules and limits but they don’t put a lot of energy into staying on top of a child and forcing compliance. Trying to force or threaten compliance will not motivate your child to change--it will just motivate him to resist you. State your limits and then disconnect in a way that allows your child the choice to comply. When your child acts out, you might state, “Getting angry and swearing is not solving the problem of doing your homework.” You can coach him to tap into his self-soothing skills. “Why don’t you take a few minutes to cool down and then come back and complete your chore.” Try some of these techniques and keep in touch with us. You might call the Support Line for more ideas on implementing the Total Transformation tools.

Comment By : Carole Banks, Parental Support Line Advisor

This article touches on something you rarely hear about: the heartache of parents who invest their life and love in a child and end up with what what seems to be a monster. The time anticipating our child's birth was the happiest of my life, but honestly the day he was born my life turned to s***. I was 40 but most people thought I was around 30, now I look and feel 60. I have essentially aged 30 years in less than 14. We were on the same track as Monique and her husband, but we never let him take over our home (a constant struggle) and this past year we had to get the police and juvenile services involved. I would not have done this without the very good advice from the parental support line. To those parents afraid to take those steps or to have their child removed if necessary, ask yourself "could it be worse than what I am going through now?" You simply have to get over your pain, sorrow, and disappointment and make a stand. I can't say that it is easy.

Comment By : Fugue

I really liked this article and opened my eyes about ODD. My son has had ADHD since about 1 1/2, night terrors, and constant defiance. At times I feel like I am crazy. The only options since his father and my divorce is to send him with his father who has issues with narcassism. It never works and when my son returns because his father can't handle it I am back to square 1, or -10. My husband doesn't understand why we must live as prisoners in our own home but, just says I must put my foot down. If I put it down any more there will be a hole in our floor. I'm just tired of feeling like a bad mother. My son will not take his medicine.Every time I take him to the crisis shelter here in town they suggest sending him to his father again, it just doesn't work. He can survive on an hour or two of sleep. Sometimes I am afraid to sleep, what will be his retaliation. His father is not supportive at all. Any answers for after divorce with 13yr. old w/ ADHD, ODD? I have the total transformation program but struggling after every other weekend at best.

Comment By : Oakleysmom

* Dear Wondering: I think one of the best teachings James Lehman gives us is also one that ‘feels’ wrong. It seems opposite of the direction you would naturally want to travel in. But it’s very effective. Because it’s not necessarily natural, it’s hard to do. The teaching is: “Focus on your child’s behavior and not his feelings.” This doesn’t mean you’re going to be insensitive. It just means to keep the behavior in your mind as the ultimate goal. Many parents are afraid to make their children angry by setting limits and giving consequences; afraid that their child will not love them, that they will ruin their relationship with them. James realizes that it is not easy but it’s important for parents to accept that their child will get angry at them. Kids hate it when we set limits on them but they’re terrible at setting limits on themselves! They need us to tell them when to get to bed and come in at night, etc. Part of setting a limit is to have a consequence if your child chooses to not follow the rules or does not behave appropriately. Without appropriate consequences, your child will not learn how to deal with disappointment, how to use coping skills, how to learn to behave appropriately toward others. If your child resorts to solving his problems by using violence and intimidation and is unable to stop these behaviors through your efforts of limit setting, coaching and helping him to problem solve, it is important to call the police. The danger in not implementing appropriate consequences is that your child learns he has found a way to be in control of you by not controlling himself. He learns that you will not do ‘whatever it takes’ to help him learn that he must change this behavior. It’s hard for kids to see the problem with their behavior if they don’t see any consequence for it. James says that one of the techniques while using “Responsible Love and Concern” for your child is to “Keep your parental love on an intellectual plane and not an emotional one.” During these difficult but important teaching moments we must bear the immediate discomfort of our child’s anger and his claims that he doesn’t care, he’ll move out, etc. When you need encouragement, remember James’ saying, “You can’t feel your way to better behavior BUT you can behave your way to better feelings.”

Comment By : Carole Banks, Parental Support Line Advisor

When my husband and I married. We had a 10 year old girl and a 13year old boy. (my step children) You have no idea the hell I went through with inheriting teenagers whose mother had abandoned them. Still, the reason I am adding this note is for encouragement to all these people. My stepdaughter had an abortion at a young age was in and out of juvinile hall all through her teenage years. She stole my parent's car when she was seventeen. But we struggled with all the defiance and used many techniques Dr. Lehman suggests just not giving in all the time. She was gone alot...because we would tell her to leave. Here is the good-let me say unbelievable part of this story. She is 27 now and is my best friend. She is the only one who seems to understand me and my relationship with her father. She is a tremendous help to me and I love her dearly. How did that happen I often ask myself. Just don't give up .. Kids do grow up and some do have to learn the hard way but if they do learn they can be the strongest people you will ever meet. Don't think they won't ever change because you need to be waiting and even expecting break throughs ...they will come eventually. I Hope this gives hope to someone.

Comment By : cb

This article describes my situation with my 17-year old, except that his older brother (whose father is deceased) has move away. My 17-year old (whose father left our home when he was 10)makes our home seem like I have 17 children-all unruly. We have a dog that he treats like Caleb treated his sisters. Like Nolamom's 16 year old son, he does not act out in school, but he never completes his school work. He doesn't curse, drink, do drugs, but he stays to himself a lot. I have called the police many times for his refusal to go to school, putting holes in the wall, etc. and pushing/threatening me. They don't really want to put him in with the more hardened teens in the Juvenile system because he's not defiant with them - only me. He has stayed back in school several times and now is only in the 10th grade.

Comment By : flowwoods

CB: Thank you so much for your encouraging comment about your situation with your step daughter, and relating how you and your husband turned things around. I think it's important for everyone to remember that there is always hope. It might take a lot of hard work, courage and grit, as it did in your case, but people do change and grow. Thanks again for sharing your wonderful story!

Comment By : Elisabeth, EP Editor

My 14 year old was diagnosed with ADHD, ODD, and PDD NOS when he was 5. We have had many years of ups and downs! Adolescence is a nightmare for these children! My son goes to school in a fully contained EI classroom. He lives at home with his 17yo brother (who also has ADHD and PDDNOS), and his 10yo sister. He has been in “therapy” for most of his life. Unlike the example of Caleb, he could readily spout the options for “what he should have done instead” and discuss the methods for calming down that he might have used. His IQ is above average and he is clearly capable of learning. But his thought processes are often confused and he often (but not always) seems incapable of thinking when he’s angry (which can be instantaneous and unpredictable and coaching them through it at that point is, in effect, telling them what to do, which doesn’t work). For much of this school year we are seeing more of the oppositional behavior. He has spent much of his time pushing people's buttons, sometimes to the point of physical violence. The behavior specialist we work with says he has a special gift for detecting them even in people who are trained to not react (isn't that fantastic!)! His misbehaviors are different depending on where he is or who is involved. He had been to JD for several days at a time 3 times this year for physical aggression (being escorted by the police from home and school). He is currently in JD for 30 days because he has become totally non-compliant at school (to the point of physical violence). Our choices were to suspend him from school (which would clearly be a reward by beginning his summer vacation early) or housing him at JD for the remainder of the school year (plus 1 week of summer). I really hope this works to shock him into making the right choices and that we are not just teaching him how to do time!

Comment By : making choices

* Dear Oakleysmom: I’m sorry to hear you’re in such a difficult spot—the middle—trying to work with your son, your ex-husband and your current husband. Sometimes it’s just impossible to get everyone on the same page. Where you can begin is decide, along with your husband, what are the house rules in your own home. These do not have to be the same rules that your ex-husband has in his home. If your son tries to argue with you because the rules at your house are different than at Dad’s house, just state, “The rules may be different. However, when you are in this home, the rules of this house are . . .” It is not necessary to explain the differences any further. It also a sound like your son really struggles with mental health issues and it doesn’t help that he refuses to take his prescribed medications. Sometimes all you can do is let natural consequences take place, give your own consequences, and let him know that he may do better to manage himself and not have consequences for his behaviors if he were to stay on his medications. If he complains of side effects, be sure to let his prescribing physician know about that, and that he will not take medications as prescribed. We have some really good articles about step-families and divorced families you may find useful. Here are the links to The Do's and Don'ts of Divorce for Parents and My Blended Family Won’t Blend—Help! You may also find it helpful to call the Support Line service. They will discuss with you ideas for managing the situations you are concerned about from day to day. Good luck and please keep in touch with us.

Comment By : Carole Banks, Parental Support Line Advisor

I was desparate when I found this article. I read and read and started to cry and cry. This is it..this is my daughter. OMG Just for someone to put it to words and know you are not alone. I'm at my ropes end, is there a group or anything where parents like us could talk? I really need help. Thanks for the story!

Comment By : Exhausted and tired of the fight

For all your parents out there with children on ADHD drugs I hope you have read the latest medical stats. These stats are now saying that children that have been on these drugs are being found to develop high blood pressure as young adults. There is also mention of strokes. So please have your your adult children tested for this and they will need to be on medication to control the high blood pressure. I know of two people already who have children in their twenties with high blood pressure. Both young men were on ADHD drugs.

Comment By : khar59

Caleb, at 17, is pretty much where my 12 yr. old is now. My default setting as a parent is quite mellow as a rule, but I am realising that I take things to heart too readily and Mr. Mellow also boils over easily. He's been to counselling, I've been to counselling and my conclusion is that the answer lies in me getting my act together so that I can deal with him rationally and effectively at all times. Therein lies the problem. My question is, can you teach an old dog new tricks? It seems that all the sessions with counsellors and all the reading that I have done are prety much wasted. I want to be relaxed and not have to be on guard at all times with him so I inevitably allow myself to be reactive rather than proactive. Life is passing us by in the meantime. Your suggestions appear to be right on; I only hope I have what it takes to implement them.

Comment By : Tom V.

* Dear Tom V.: Yes. You can ‘teach an old dog new tricks’. Here’s an old trick taught in a new way. Count to ten by counting to 4 then 6. Breathe in slowly for 4 counts and out for 6. Repeat it if you need to before you speak. Calming yourself first will help when you feel like you’re going to be ‘reactive’. When you do speak, you don’t have to handle everything right then and there. You can say, “We will need to talk about that later.” If your son pushes you to do it now, you don’t have to respond to that. ‘Count to ten’ instead. It’s good to pick your battles, but when you do, make sure you completely let them go so that resentment is not building ,causing you to ‘boil over’ next time any issue comes up. This was a really good question that talked about a common struggle we parents have when dealing with teens. While you’re practicing this, allow yourself to be ‘more effective’ and ‘more rational’, rather than to require yourself to be rational and effective at all times. After all, that’s what we expect from our kids—not perfection, but a good honest try to do their best.

Comment By : Carole Banks, Parental Support Line Advisor

Caleb's story hits so close to home, except with my 10 yr old daughter. She has had so many services over the last 7 yrs. Aides in school/community, mobile therapy, hospitalizations, NeuroPsych testings, special schools (therapeutic). In fact, we are up against that transition again right now. She is getting ready to begin a different educational/therapeutic day treatment program. I don't know what to do/where to go anymore for help. We have 2 other children at home that experience these outbursts and it's tearing up our home life. There is no pattern to her behaviors that anyone can really follow. Anywhere/anytime/anyone! People have been mentioning to me about a residential/treatment home for her. I am running out of options with her for help. Just tonight, she got upset because of not being able to take a cup with her to her after school program, but that wasn't the big issue.....the big issue was HOW she was talking to me. Swearing, trying to hit me with her bookbag, spitting at me, kicking me. I tried to restrain her, but it's getting harder and it doesn't always help either, so I escorted her to her bedroom and told her that when she can talk to me in a nice way, that she may come back downstairs. Well, she did stay in her room...however, she ended up hitting the window with her hand and breaking the window. Luckily she just had a little cut on her hand. I told her that she was paying for fixing the window with her money, along with a hole in the wall in which she kicked. We just replaced and fixed our front and back doors, which she broke as well! We are just getting so tired of the breaking of things when she is upset....but she's so fast at doing it, that we can't always catch her in time! Any suggestions that we could try! I love reading these articles because it makes me feel that we are not alone! Thanks!

Comment By : not giving up

* Dear not giving up: It can be so frustrating to get our children the help they need. As you say, you don’t know where to turn. I’m wondering if she might be eligible for case management services. It would be helpful to have someone coordinating her care--putting her in touch with needed programs and services. You might call your local community mental health center and see if they can help. Another alternative might be to ask your pediatrician to coordinate her care, or a counseling professional. The problem solving tools in the Total Transformation can help, as long as mental health issues are under control. If you know of any skills she uses to calm herself, such as going to her room, you might coach her to use that skill. In other words, help her think of going to her room as a tool to calm down—not just as a consequence for her behavior. She might also do well lying on the coach, or taking in some deep slow breaths, for example. Sometimes it takes a lot of trial and error to find the right treatments or the right medications. And James Lehman reminds us that kids with learning disabilities often have delays in learning how to read social situations and to solve social problems. So there’s some catching up to do. James Lehman has written a great article about violence in the family that you might find helpful: When Kids Get Violent: “There’s No Excuse for Abuse” Don’t forget that you can call the trained specialists on the Support Line to discuss the behaviors you’re working on. Good luck.

Comment By : Carole Banks, Parental Support Line Advisor

I would like advice on how to prevent a 5 yr old grandson from becoming like the 17 yr old.

Comment By : MA

I am the mother of a 13 year old daughter who I adopted when she was 2 days old. She has been diagnosed with ODD. She is totally out of control mouthing off at me, missing school (30 days this year), failing in subjects she could be getting "B"s in, finding ways to always criticize me. Her latest attack is to call me a liar bout her adoption which I always have been open about. The situation at school is becoming embarrasing - even though she suffers from migraines and lactose intollerance, my constant calling has created many problems for me. In addition, I am late every day for work because she is not ready and if would leave her to take the bus or find a ride, she would simply stay home and miss more school. I have had her to three counselors but she refuses to go saying I'm the one with all the problems, not her. Taking away things from her has no impact. I'm at a loss for a solution.

Comment By : Ronda

* Dear Ronda: We appreciate your question. We do hear from a lot of parents regarding school concerns. You are not alone. There can be many reasons why a child is having problems catching the bus in the morning. For example, it can be hard for kids to feel like attending school if they’re failing subjects. It’s tough to sit through classes when you’re behind everyone else and your teacher is not happy with you. Consider having a meeting with your daughter’s school teachers to assess what is causing her school failure--what skills need improving, and what resources the school can offer to help her. In the Total Transformation program, James Lehman recommends structuring after school time so that there is a definite time of day that is set aside as a study period. He recommends that if a child is failing, have them study in a public area, such as the kitchen table, and keep the house quiet so that distractions are minimized. Tell your daughter that she can earn privileges each day if she studies during homework time. If you feel that there are significant emotional issues getting in the way of her doing her school work, and she could benefit from counseling but is resistant, consider going to family counseling. If you are a Total Transformation customer, call the Support Line and speak to one of the trained specialists. We would be glad to offer our encouragement and more ideas on how to apply the program techniques to your specific situation. Keep in touch.

Comment By : Carole Banks, Parental Support Line Advisor

We have guardianship of our 15 year old grandson Josh. Josh has displayed ODD tendancies along with RAD and possible bi-polar. He has been in 7 group homes 1 residential facility ordered by the courts. He has spent over 45 days in juvenie detention 3 times now. He takes off at any and every whim. He has 9 misdeameanor counts against him. Neither parent is willing or able to be there for him. He lies, steals, has gotten suspended from school and wants nothing more to do with school. His plan is to take his GED and go to college for graphic arts. He can be extremely pleasant and likeable then wham the cursing begins and the temper explodes. He wont bath or brush his teeth, wont make his bed or pick up his room. Every day is difficult. We love our Lord and savior and Josh wants nothing to do with God. He has no idea that it is because of our love for God he has a home. We have tried many things. He currently has nothing in his room but a desk, dresser, and bed. Everything has been taken away. We have finally gotten treatment with our local therapist whom Josh seems to like. He'd rather spend all day at the center than come home. He starts equine therapy the first of June. I find peace and hope in the total transformation. Will keep you updated.

Comment By : Precious Josh

I have had the Total Transformation for 4 years and we finally made the time to watch the Lesson 1 video and pray this will be our answer. We have a 13 year old who has adhd/odd. I am at the end of my rope with doctors, counselors & other therapists! We have been fighting this since he was 5 and we are still in square 1. I have heard many things about The Total Transformaiton that the other day when I went and mentioned the situation to my doctor she said "Have you tried The Total Transformation?" I knew right then I have waited too long to not try something that could be our answer. I am afraid he is heading down the wrong road and yet does not want to listen to anything we say to him. He has a hard time at school, with friends and has torn up our family at home! It is like he has a and c but the b just never connects. He contradicts everything I say, lazy, rude, disrespectful, lies, manipulates, unmotivated, doesnt care and yet at times he can be a loving and pleasant person to be around. I hope that my family will get the help that we have wanted for so long.

Comment By : Mothers Love

* Dear ‘Mothers Love’: It is wonderful to hear that you have started the Total Transformation Program! James Lehman felt that children act out because of a lack of problem solving skills and the program will teach you how to help your son develop the skills he needs to change his behavior. I recommend listening to the bonus CD, “The One-Minutes Transformation” for 10 quick, simple tools to start with. And remember: you are not stuck on “square 1”—you have started to learn new tools and techniques to use with your son and you are moving in the right direction. Hang in there.

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

I've read all of these other comments and I can honestly say, I can relate to just about everything written here. As a parent, it's embarrassing, humiliating, stressful, scary and shameful to not be able to 'solve' the problem of ODD in a child. My 14 yr old daughter tests every ounce of my being and even though I feel well 'armed' with Mr. Lehman's information, I'm still caught off guard sometimes because my emotions get the best of me. My daughter recently had a 'run in' with the law and is on probation and was referred into a Youth Panel program as a first offender. I'm not optimistic that my daughter will pass, but she will deal with whatever consequences SHE brings upon herself. Meanwhile, my ex-husband and I are struggling to co-parent a child that seems to take delight in making all the adults around her argue. It's a recipe for pure stress and unfortunately, depression on my part. It's taken me nearly a year to convince her father that she has ODD.. and took over 7 years to convince him of her ADHD. Everything is an up hill struggle because he resists the idea of labeling. But, I can tell you that I'm using the Total Transformation program and have seen some improvement, but the reality is ODD isn't going to go away overnight. After suffering abuse - both verbal and physical in my home by my teen daughter who is my size, the only relief I finally got from the violence was Risperdone. I saw an IMMEDIATE change in her level of hostility. So, even though ADHD/ODD are still present, I haven't been the 'rag doll' that my daughter could toss around because under this medicine, she doesn't reach that level of anger. The defiance, swearing and inappropriate behavior is still there but so is her immaturity that I believe is a huge piece of the problem. Add that to her impulsive tendencies with ADHD, and there's never a dull moment. I have to stay on top of her every move and that in and of itself is a challenge as a single parent. My biggest challenge is what to do during the summer. She's too old and non-compliant for typical summer camp, and I can't trust her at a 'normal' away camp, so what next? I'm contemplating taking a partial leave of absence during my weeks of custody (2 wks per month) and doing so without pay just to be there to watch over her. It's not the best solution, but I can't leave her home alone and I don't trust her much of anywhere else. I'm open to any and all suggestions.

Comment By : mcfly

* To ‘mcfly’: It sounds like you have certainly been through a lot with your daughter, but some things are moving in the right direction. You’ve seen some improvements in her behavior and believe it or not, her involvement in the juvenile justice system can be a good thing. Consider this probation officer a resource and a partner. In fact, it might be helpful to talk her probation officer about your options for the summer—are there any alternatives nearby that you can get her involved in during the day while you’re at work? Can they mandate her to go to any day treatment programs or something similar? You might also consider contacting 211, an information and referral service run by the United Way. 211 is available in most of the United States and you can access the service by dialing 2-1-1 (which works best from a landline) or visiting and putting in your zip code to get the website for your local 211 branch. The purpose of 211 is to link people with help and resources close to home. I hope this is helpful for you. We wish you luck.

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

this article sounds like our son on its at an extreme right now and he is destroying our lives as well as his. He is smoking pot in his room and baracading himself in. When speaking with local authorities they recommend kicking him out. In our state he is considered an adult at 17 and we can't file anything on him except to section him off to a mental ward for 30 days or an adult substance abuse facility for 30 days. We are being bullied in our own home. He is destroying our lives. My son has been in court because of this anger and defiant behavior. They have requested he seek anger management help (which he refuses to do) along with Community service (which he refuses to do. He isn't afraid of authority or his parents. You can't reason wiht him in any way shape or form. He constantly disobeys and disrespects EVERYONE. He locks himself in his room and won't speak to anyone. WE NEED HELP but what we get is far from it. We can have the police take him out of our house physically and get a restraining order against him. He can live on the streets. Please does anyone have any real true ANSWERS! We live in Massachusetts and there aren't any programs to help us unless we section him off to a facility.

Comment By : marti

* Hi Marti. It’s never easy to deal with a child who is defiant, obstinate, and abusive. I can tell it has been very frustrating and exhausting for you to try to solve this problem you are facing. Unfortunately, sometimes there is no easy answer, and this is one of those cases. You only have control over yourself in this situation. No matter what you do, your son will continue to make his own choices as he always has. You can control your response to the situation and what you choose to do next. Whenever kids are abusing substances, we do recommend local supports for that. You have been given several options locally, and I understand that none of them are appealing to you. Our suggestion here is to take advantage of one of these options you have been given. If you’d like, you can also try to see if there are any other resources in your area by contacting the 211 Helpline, an information and referral service in your state, simply by dialing 211 on your phone. You can also visit them online at I am also including a series of articles about adult children that might give you some additional ideas. The authors have a lot of experience working with teens and young adults that have ODD and substance abuse issues. We know this isn’t easy and we wish you luck as you continue to work through this.
Failure to Launch, Part 1: Why So Many Adult Kids Still Live with Their Parents
Failure to Launch, Part 2: How Adult Children Work the "Parent System"
Failure to Launch, Part 3: Six Steps to Help Your Adult Child Move Out

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

I wish I could have found something like this site offers, years ago. Our son, who is now in middle age, was (is?) ADHD and it was tough, on us and on him. He was known in the neighborhood as a bad child and I am sure I was known as a bad mother. No one can really understand unless they have had an ADHD child. He is very intelligent and mechanically talented. He still has problems with remembering dates and times of appointments, paying bills on time, common things that go with adult ADHD. He refuses to take meds. He makes a living and is a good dad, a decent person, and I love him dearly.


Thanks for this article. We have a 14 year old daughter who has had these tendencies for years. She spent part of a night at juvy last fall for hitting me. Now she has started a new form of this. She refuses to leave the house. She is homeschooled and has finally taken a more responsible approach to doing schoolwork and has been much less verbally abusive than in the past, but refuses to go to the dentist, to church, to our speech & debate club or even to a movie, shopping, etc. I don't know whether this is all progress and she is healing inside over whatever is bothering her or a more dangerous turn. She isn't afraid; just stubborn. When my DH thought about buying her a horse she would have gone out for that (not a realistic idea) and if I put her in a team sport she says she would like to do that but I don't like having this "gun" put to my head, so to speak. In the past we have appeased her and it has just made her more ODD. Please help.

Comment By : homewritermom

* To “homewritermom”: Thank you for sharing your story with us. It sounds like your daughter has improved in some areas, namely, school performance and behaving respectfully towards you. That is step in the right direction. I can hear your concern, however, with her sudden refusal to leave the house for appointments or even fun activities. This may be another form of acting out behavior, or, it may point to an underlying issue. As Janet Lehman advises in her article When "Good" Kids Behave Badly: Is Your Child Starting to Push Your Buttons?, when a child or adolescent’s behavior changes suddenly, it’s a good idea to have them seem by a professional to rule out any possible underlying issues. We would suggest making an appointment with her doctor or primary care physician to determine if there is something going on other than acting out behaviors. You may need to implement a reward or incentive to motivate her to go. We would also suggest focusing on what you can control, namely, how you respond to your daughter’s refusal to leave the house. It probably isn’t going to be effective to try to force her or to get angry or upset with her when she refuses to go out. Instead, focus on remaining calm and holding her accountable for the choices she makes. Here are a couple of articles you may find helpful for your situation: Calm Parenting: Stop Letting Your Child's Behavior Make You Crazy & Negative Children: How to Deal with a Complaining Child or Teen. We hope this has been useful and wish you and your family the best. Take care.

Comment By : D. Rowden, Parental Support Advisor

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Related keywords:

Transform Your Defiant Child, Angry children, Acting out, Anger, Defiance, Aggressive behavior, Oppositional defiant disorder, teens, verbal abuse

Responses to questions posted on are not intended to replace qualified medical or mental health assessments. We cannot diagnose disorders or offer recommendations on which treatment plan is best for your family. Please seek the support of local resources as needed. If you need immediate assistance, or if you and your family are in crisis, please contact a qualified mental health provider in your area, or contact your statewide crisis hotline.

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