Does Your Child Have Toxic Friends? How to Deal with the Wrong Crowd


Group of 4 teen friends sitting together

I’ve worked with a lot of children and teens with behavior problems over the years—and believe me, very few of their parents liked their friends. It’s like the national anthem of parents: “It’s not my child—it’s those kids he hangs out with!”

When I hear that, I always say:

“Maybe that’s so, but the reason he hangs out with that group is that he’s similar to them. The parents of those other kids are probably saying the same thing about your child.”

The old saying is true: birds of a feather do flock together. And that’s especially accurate in adolescence. Indeed, one of the main needs of a teenager’s development is to belong to a group and be accepted. That’s why teenagers are always so worried about how they look and act. And once they find a mode of dress, a type of music and a group of kids who accept them, it’s very hard for parents to break through.

The first thing you have to realize is that you can’t pick your child’s friends. And if you criticize their friends, you will see them react very strongly because they’re developmentally bound to defend their chosen peer group.

When kids enter adolescence, they employ a way of looking at the world in which their friends are more important than anybody else. You’ll often hear them say, “You just don’t understand.” And they will also say, “Nobody understands me but my friends.”

So if you criticize or attack their friends, you’re just making the relationship stronger. No matter how you feel about your child’s friends, I don’t believe this direct kind of attack is effective. In fact, there are kids who like the fact that their parents don’t approve of their friends. It adds to the flavor of the relationship.

Understand that while your goal as a parent is to keep your child protected and safe, your child’s goal is to be with people who like him. Below are several ways to deal with the problem of the “wrong crowd”:

Try to Avoid Repeated Criticisms of Their Friends

I personally think repeatedly criticizing your child’s friends or pointing out that they’re bad is not going to be a successful strategy. Again, adolescents are developmentally at a place in their life where they will defend their friends. And so it’s very difficult for a parent to turn around and say, “Your friends are no good,” and expect to have a conversation. Your child’s natural urge will be to protect his or her friends, whether or not they know you’re right.

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Realize that criticizing your child‘s friends is like criticizing any other aspect of your child. It’s going to be met with the same resistance and hostility—even if what you’re saying is true. And all it will do is further alienate your child from you.

Make Clear Statements about Behavior

I think if you don’t like your kid’s friends, the most effective thing to say is the following:

“I don’t like the way they behave. I don’t like you hanging out with kids who get in trouble, because you get in trouble with them.”

Can you say this every day? No. But you can say it once in a while. Be sure to simply state the facts. State what you don’t like about their friends’ behavior. You’re not judging them, just their behavior. As a parent, I think you want to be a little smooth about that. You could say:

“Look, I’m sure your friends are great to you. But they all smoke pot and they all get into trouble. If you hang out with them, you’re going to get into the same trouble.”

Remember, when we’re having conversations like this with our kids, we want to keep our observations understandable. In other words, talk about things that are clear and recognizable:

“I don’t like that Jackie got arrested for shoplifting. I don’t want you to get arrested for it, too.


I don’t like that your buddies all use drugs because I don’t want you using drugs. I don’t think it’s good for you.”

Make those observations and keep it simple and direct and focused on the behaviors that you don’t like.

Use Structure

I think that structure can be very helpful when dealing with your child’s friends. If you don’t like the kids he’s hanging out with, then don’t let him go out on school nights. Try to have more control over where he goes and what he does.

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If he says he’s going to the football game, and then you catch him down at the mall with those friends, that’s his choice. He chose to go someplace which you didn’t know about, and there should be consequences.

Related content: How to Give Kids Consequences That Work

Set Limits

If you know your child’s friends are engaging in behavior that isn’t in line with your values, then I think you should set limits on how much time they spend with those kids—or whether or not your child can see them at all. If his friends are breaking the law or doing things that are unhealthy, you can say:

“Maybe they’re your friends, but I’m not going to let you hang out with them.”

With a lot of adolescents, defiance becomes a big problem. Many of the kids I dealt with would climb out their windows when told they couldn’t go out. But again, you set the standard as the parent. You set the expectation. If your child doesn’t meet it, at least he knew there were standards and expectations to begin with, and now he will have to face the consequences and be held accountable for his actions.

Going Out on Friday Night is Not a “Right”

All of a sudden, kids hit a certain age when they think they have the right to go out. Well, I don’t think so. I think kids have to behave responsibly to earn the right to go out. And you can say:

“I’ll let you go out if you show me that you’re trustworthy.”

Behaving responsibly does not include hanging out with kids who use drugs and drink—that’s all there is to it. I also think going out on Friday or Saturday night is not a right—it has to be something that is discussed every week.

My son used to come to me and say, “Listen, Saturday night we’re all going up to the lake. Is it okay if I go?” Saturday night was not his automatic night out. Instead, that was negotiated each week, and the answer wasn’t always “Sure.”

As a parent, I think you should be saying, “What are your plans this weekend?” Your child should know that they have to have their plans approved by you first and that they have to behave responsibly to earn the privilege of going out.

Talk to Them About Mean Friends

What if your child is hanging out with kids who treat him badly? Know that he’s hanging out with them for a reason. He’s probably afraid of them, so he’s trying to become one of them.

When kids are afraid of bullies and other kids, one of the options they have is to join the group and become a bully. Because even though these kids are mean to him, there is a sense of safety there. The deal they make is, “I’ll let you be mean to me and tease me, but you won’t abuse me or beat me up or take my lunch money anymore.”

If your kid’s friends are mean to him, the kind of questions you want to ask are:

“What are you trying to accomplish by letting people treat you this way? What are you getting out of that?”

Try to have an adult conversation with your child. You can say:

“Listen, you have choices. You don’t have to hang out with these kids. You don’t have to be a victim. I can get you help with this.”

When Your Child Hangs Out with Kids Who Use Drugs

As we’ve said, there are several reasons why people gravitate toward different groups. If you have a kid with behavior problems, you will often find that they are attracted to friends who also have behavior problems. If you have a child who doesn’t do his homework and fails in school and is resistant and mouthy, he’s going to gravitate toward friends who won’t hold him accountable for that kind of behavior.

Instead, his chosen peer group will reward and reinforce what he’s doing. In order to belong, he just has to do what the other kids are doing. That might be any number of things, including shoplifting, defacing property, using drugs, or drinking.

Yes, He’s Probably Using Drugs

It’s a simple fact that kids who use drugs hang out with other kids who use drugs. These kids are not likely to ask, “Did you get an A in science?” If your child’s friends use drugs, realize that he is almost certainly engaging in the same type of risky behavior—even if he says he’s not.

Let me be clear: there is no other reason for your child to pal around with kids who do drugs. If he says, “Well, they do it, but they don’t do it around me,” that’s a lot of nonsense. It’s just something kids tell you to throw you off track, and sadly, it’s often a far cry from the truth.

Create a No Drugs Policy

Some parents say things to their kids like, “Well, you shouldn’t smoke pot, but everybody experiments with it.” Don’t give your child that cop-out line. Make it very clear to your child:

“No matter what you see your friends or other kids doing, there is no using drugs. That’s our expectation of you.”

We were clear on that with our son. I personally feel parents cop-out when they say, “You shouldn’t do it, but everybody else does it.” Your kid is not equipped to make decisions about drugs. Drugs get you high, drugs take away stress, drugs take away feelings of panic or crisis, and that means something.

Once kids start using drugs, it’s easy for teens to become dependent on them because adolescents always feel stress. Drugs can become a dangerous way for them to get relief from all their fears and anxieties. Make no bones about it, drug rehabs today are filled with teenagers whose parents said, “They’re only experimenting” when their kids first started using.

There are important problem-solving tasks adolescents have to work through in order to prepare for adult living. Also, there is knowledge about the world that teenagers have to learn in order to make healthy choices and keep themselves safe. The use of drugs and alcohol in adolescence inhibits the possibility of these milestones being reached. So I don’t think parents should turn a blind eye or make excuses.

Many times, parents are afraid to feel powerless, so they’ll make the excuse that everyone experiments instead of just telling their child “no.” But you need to hold your child accountable and tell them right from wrong; that’s simply the way it has to be. You have to be very clear and take a stand:

“No drinking. No drugs.”

When Your Child’s Behavior Changes

If your child starts changing as a result of the kids he hangs out with, use a structured parenting routine: set limits and manage their time.

I also think you should expect that they’re going to change during adolescence. They’re going to find a group with whom they’re going to identify. When you see an adolescent, believe me, he’s probably rebelling against adult authority in a lot of little ways. And while your child may go to school and be fairly responsible, you’ll find that through music, through clothes, through a myriad of different things, it’s a rebellious time in his life.

I think it’s important for parents to understand that rebelliousness has a developmental function. Teenagers are individuating from their parents. What I mean by that is they’re becoming individuals and separating from their parents. This feels as natural to adolescents as water feels to a duck. Nevertheless, it’s often a very hard thing for parents to accept and manage.

Here’s the bottom line: kids are going to make mistakes, and they’re going to make bad choices. The best we can do is guide them, set limits, project our view of what’s right and wrong in the world, and hold them accountable.

Related Content:
Am I Being Too Strict? How to Safely Give Your Child More Freedom
“Does My Child Have a Video Game Addiction?” How to Set Limits Around Video Game Use

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James Lehman, who dedicated his life to behaviorally troubled youth, created The Total Transformation®, The Complete Guide to Consequences™, Getting Through To Your Child™, and Two Parents One Plan™, from a place of professional and personal experience. Having had severe behavioral problems himself as a child, he was inspired to focus on behavioral management professionally. Together with his wife, Janet Lehman, he developed an approach to managing children and teens that challenges them to solve their own problems without hiding behind disrespectful, obnoxious or abusive behavior. Empowering Parents now brings this insightful and impactful program directly to homes around the globe.

Comments (33)
  • It’s hurting our relationship
    Why are none of the Anime/lgbtq comments being answered. I’m going through the same thing with my daughter. First depression/anime then sexuality now gender questioning. All her life she’s been the girliest girl and all of a sudden she wants to go by “he/they” out of nowhere. Please help!!! NoMore one is discussing this influx of teenage girls going through the same exact things all having anime in common. I don’t know what to do anymore!!
    • Empowering Parents Editor

      Hi, we're sorry you are going through this. This is a difficult situation for parents and we naturally wonder what is happening to our kids. Here is an article by James Lehman that you may find helpful:

      We are grateful to you and the others who commented on this — it's very helpful for parents to know they are not alone in these situations. This issue is particularly hard to discuss for parents because they run the risk of being accused of being a bigot, etc. by not just your kids, but by other adults. Our belief that you should be able to discuss these things openly and without the risk of being judged.

      Try to keep the lines of communication open with your daughter and take a look at the article I linked above. And try to be the stable rock that your daughter can come back to when she needs you. We wish the best for you and your family.

  • Mom of Teens
    I was reading the comments below and it's so weird how our children are so similar. My daughter is 13, very much into anime. She does look very sad most of the time. She's very close to her group of friends and most of them including herMore identify as bisexual or something else I've never heard of. How is it that so many girls this age range who are into anime are all bisexual? All similar interests? It doesn't seem like a coincidence.
    • Concerned Mom
      Mom of Teens...Thank you for speaking out about this. I have the very same concern. I also don't think it's a coincidence and was comforted to know I'm not the only one feeling this way. I feel like this is a conversation parents are not allowed to have. Like aMore child into drugs, I've found a very smart girl pulled into a world that has changed her in a negative way.
      • Sue
        This sounds just like my daughter too. 13. Loves anime but I limit her because some are awful. And all her friends are bisexual asexual. Gender fluid. What?! Y’all need to go sit down and watch a Disney channel original movie. I just can’t handle it and want herMore to stop hanging out with these kids but she will be livid. Not sure where I went wrong. She seems to be a follower and I never thought she would be.
  • Concern for parents

    This is a great article, but to all parents leaving msgs on here I think you are missing a major problem. Children and teens with learning issues act out because they are incredibly unhappy at school. I had a son like this and his behaviour changed when we changed his school he had adhd and odd, yet his main issue was teachers who didn't understand him and a vice principle who just wanted to expell him from school.

    Yes friendships groups can be a problem but I made the mistake of attacking that area and not getting to the root of the problem. All teens try drugs this is almost a reality for all parents but if your child struggles at school this could be the start of life long issues. Get to the root of the problem before it's too late. Bad friendship choices are normally by this stage a coping strategy as they are lost hope.

    • Skyler
      No child Is a lost hope!
  • Ataloss
    My daughter is 17. We get along very well until she spends time with a particular friend. When she has been with this friend, she returns home to be disrespectful, talking over me, back talking and generally contentious. She is also more defiant and lies to me after being withMore this person. I am certain this young lady completely undermines anything I say or do. I feel like I am losing my daughter
  • Worried mum
    I have 16yr old daughter but there is a 17yr old boy who we were warned off because he has a bad name for trouble with cops and drugs, we set down ground rules and she promised she had him cut out of her life... We recently found out thatMore she is still friends with him... She said its because we wouldn't let her so it has pushed her closer....... Its mostly Snapchat! We sat her down and told her ok she can be friends that we know we can't stop it, (we are not going to make it easy)!! There will be no nights outs, I'm going to start doing more things with her, she goes to gran and grandad every other weekend(bout 2hrs away).... I really hope I'm doing this right, so worried for her
  • Jen
    My grandson has been seeing a therapist for 4 years. He is ADD. He is now sixteen. He has been in some trouble since he was 14. It began to escalate at 15. He just kept failing in school and being disrespectful to teachers. He was arrested a few monthsMore ago for his involvement in a fight. A decision was made to home school him. He is doing much better. All A and B grades. He no longer sees his old friends. His dressing has improved so is his attitude. He turns 17 in December. We are praising GOD.
  • Kylie


    My son is almost 16 and spending all his time with people that smoke majuana and he does too. He suffers with social anxiety so these 'friend's are the only ones in his opinion that care because his other social circle made fun of his mental health, self harm and depression/anxiety. We now as parents are really struggling as if we say no to something he will just walk out...he also won't come home when told and today has skipped school and exams. I need help with how to manage this and get him away from these people he calls friends as it's tearing our family apart and my other young children are suffering from it all too. He doesn't respond to consequences as he walks out anyway. Please help!!!

    • Denise Rowden, Parent CoachEP Coach
      Hi, Kylie. I'm so sorry you're experiencing these behaviors from your son. I can hear how distressing changes have been. You bring up a really good point - your son feels the kids in this particular peer group accept him. That's very important for teens. So, it's also important thatMore you try to refrain from making any disparaging comments about these kids and instead focus on behavior, as James recommends in the article. With that in mind, the first step is creating a culture of accountability in your home. You can review the article How To Create a Culture of Accountability in Your Home for more information. You may also want to review our articles on substance abuse and other risky behaviors, which can be found here: Substance Abuse & Risky Behavior. We appreciate you reaching out and wish you all the best moving forward. Be sure to check back and let us know how things are going.
  • Colette

    Need some advice from other moments out there...

    my daughter has a friend at school who will not let her be friends with anyone else. In fact she makes such a nuisance of herself that the other girls won't play with Cody because of her!

    My daughter is traumatized and begging both Glenn and I to intervene. What should we do?

    Am contemplating asking the other kids parents to tell their daughter that she needs to find a new best friend..

    Any advice please, my heart is breaking for my little girl. She comes home crying daily. ??

    • Rebecca Wolfenden, Parent Coach
      I’m so sorry to hear about your daughter’s friend, and the way this relationship with her friend is impacting your daughter’s other friendships. I hope that some of our readers who have been through similar situations will write in and share their experiences. In the meantime, I encourageMore you to keep in mind that as difficult as this situation is for you and your daughter, it’s also an opportunity for your daughter to learn how to set boundaries for herself in relationships. You might talk with your daughter about ways that she can feel more in control in her interactions with this girl, and even role play scenarios in which she practices setting these boundaries with her friend. You might find some useful tips on how to have this conversation in The Surprising Reason for Bad Child Behavior: “I Can’t Solve Problems”. Please be sure to write back and let us know how things are going for you and your family. Take care.
  • Sincerely thanks

    I have a friend that has a 12 year old daughter. He has been using an app to view her text messages and said now he wish he never did. He said she gets straight A's in all advanced classes in middle school a great kid all around. Does things willingly with her parents and has fun. When he read her text she and her group of friends talk how depressed they are etc.. they are all into Anime nothing adult like and she is into acting in school. I told my friend if you didn't read the text does she show any signs of depression he said no. Then I said keep monitoring her but chances are they are 12 and they don't know what depression is like. He said also he thinks his daugter likes one of the girls I said well better than liking a boy and end up getting pregnant, lol. I told him Anime sounds weird but better than drugs.

    Your thoughts? Is anime bad? If so how do you pull a 12 year old out of it? His daughter says she is 50/50 when it comes to her sexuality boys and girls. I told him chances are that girl to her is more like a sister since she is only child. I hope I am not giving him bad advise. Your thoughts?

    • Lana

      I actually have the exact situation at the moment. I never monitored my daughter's texting always thinking that she is still my sweet baby. I was shock stricken when I came across her and her group of friends chat. They were mostly straight A students with strict parents. All of them seemed to express hate for thier parents and even listed ideas to shame themselves just to hurt thier parents. The most shocking part was the extreme sexual content for thier age. I always thought they read/watched anime, which is nothing wrong ( just like watching any movie) however a lot of sites will direct them to Hentai. Please be aware of this, it is the sexualized version of anime and can be very, very explicit.

      My daughter says she is gender fluid. 50/50 for both gender and ever since she has told me I've only ever supported her. I always say it doesn't matter what you choose, that is your choice. Just work on educating yourself and figure it out when you are ready.

      I was heartbroken to find out that she was talking the same like the other kids. Perhaps it's her need to fit in somewhere? We are not strict parents. Our only expectations are occasionally washing dishes and fold your own laundry. I even let her play on her computer for hours. Perhaps that may be one of the reasons. I'm still trying to figure out what to do.

  • Sotelomagda

    My daughter is 18 years old and she smokes weed everyday. We live in Chicago and she has A LOT of friends, I think that her having so many friends is the reason she smokes weed so much because she's influence by all her friends. Her bf is a drug dealer he was just in jail because he was selling weed. I have family in Indianapolis and I want to know if us moving there it's 3 hour drive will help her to get away from all the friends and bf that she has?. Please help I just want to know if this has helped some parent. If moving will help her to get away from all these drugs and by that I a drug dealer.

    Thank you so much! !!!!

    • RebeccaW_ParentalSupport
      Sotelomagda I hear how worried you are about your daughter, and I appreciate your reaching out for support.  I hear from many parents who wonder if moving will help their child to stop certain behaviors, so you are not alone.  The truth is, moving away is not a guarantee thatMore your daughter will stop smoking.  Even though I hear your concern about the group of friends with whom she is spending her time, she is still the one who is making the choice to smoke.  We are all surrounded by numerous influences each day, and in the end, we are each responsible for our own choices and behavior.  In addition, your daughter is legally an adult at this point, and she could make the choice to remain in Chicago even if you decided to move.  At this point, it could be more helpful to focus on setting your own boundaries and limits around her substance use.  You might find some starting points in our article,  I recognize how difficult this must be for you and your family right now, and I wish you all the best moving forward.  Take care.
  • I love my son
    I have a 16 year old son thats comes home high, he comes home when he want . The kids he's hanging out with are no good. His dad and i have set a curfew and he still comes home 9-11pm. he's vandalizing and i think he's stealing iMore don't want to lose my son to the streets HELP!
    • RebeccaW_ParentalSupport

      I love my son 

      I hear you.It can be

      so frightening when your child is making dangerous and risky choices, and you

      feel powerless to stop it.As James

      points out in the article above, it’s going to be important to focus on your

      son and the choices he is making, rather than the group of friends he is

      choosing right now.After all, even

      though they might be influencing him, your son is still in charge of his own

      actions.We have some additional

      information on our site addressing topics such as,


      which you might find helpful as you move forward.Please let us know if you have any additional

      questions.Take care.

  • I need your help
    My friend who is older by me a lot knows more street smarts i loan him 10 bucks but he dosent give it back whenever i loan him i think he is a bad person but i want my money back.
    • RebeccaW_ParentalSupport

      @I need your help 

      We appreciate you writing in to Empowering Parents and

      sharing your story. I am sorry to hear about the way that your friend is

      treating you.  Because we are a website aimed at helping people become

      more effective parents, we are limited in the advice and suggestions we can

      give to those outside of a direct parenting role.  Another resource which

      might be more useful to you is the Boys Town National Hotline, which you can

      reach by calling 1-800-448-3000, 24/7. They have trained counselors who talk with

      kids, teens and young adults everyday about issues they are facing, and they

      can help you to look at your options and come up with a plan.  They also

      have options to communicate via text, email, and live chat which you can find

      on their website,

      We wish you the best going forward. Take care.

  • help pleaee








    • RebeccaW_ParentalSupport

      help pleaee 

      We appreciate you writing in to Empowering Parents and

      sharing your story.  I hear how concerned you are for your friend, and

      want to help her with her son. Because we are a website aimed at helping people

      become more effective parents, we are limited in the advice and suggestions we

      can give to those outside of a direct parenting role. It may be helpful to look

      into local resources to help you develop a plan for supporting your friend. The

      211 National Helpline is a referral service available 24 hours a day,

      nationwide. They can give you information on the types of support services

      available in your area such as counselors, therapists, support groups as well

      as various other resources. You can reach the Helpline by calling

      1-800-273-6222 or by logging onto We wish you the best going forward.

      Take care.

  • Very Worried Mom

    Ciao. My 17 year old son is putting our family through mega parental testing ;(.

    I admit our family is far from perfect, but I feel entirely powerleas and have few ideas on how to recrify the situation.

    So here's the situation: knew he was struggling at school (has always struggled at school, he's dislexic and the school system is not up to par).

    This year he's given up entirely and has started hanging out with people who drink and do drugs. Unfortunately and much to my surprise the situation is worse than what I had imagined. He's considered a difficult kid at school (not a bully or mean, but just drifts and doesn't do what he's asked to by the teachers...he'll pribably be left back this year.

    So as we'd been struggling at home with the behavior when I went to the recent parent teacher conference, I found out about the school behavior. ;(.

    We have about 1 month left for him to atttempt to save his school year and he was told that he can not go out on Saturdays until the end of the school year. We were always clear that good (not perfect) behavior at school was never up for diacussion.

    After a very heated discussios between he and I last night with me being pushed and cursed at, he left.

    He came home at 00:15 and went to bed.

    The thoughts that came to mind were along the lines of ... Additional punishment (he looses his phone)  but I felt it best to try a different tactic. It is now 8:30 Sunday am and I will get him up to do some chore.

    Having said that he's begun sessions with some help I've found but in the end the fights are still going to be managed by me. I'm worried that I won't be able to do the right things and he'll end up as a sad story that will be told.

  • Sharma
    My 18 years old son has lost interest in studies & has chosen wrong friends to hang out with. He pays no heed to anyone. I have come to know that he has taken to gamble as well. What to do, please advise.
    • DeniseR_ParentalSupport


      It can be hard when your adult child starts making choices

      you don’t agree with or that could result in serious long term consequences.

      Since he is an adult, it will be best to focus on how you respond to his

      choices. If your son is still living at home, it may be helpful to develop a

      living agreement with him, as explained in the articles & This

      will help you establish clear limits around what is and is not acceptable

      behavior. We appreciate you writing in. Take care.

  • overly concerned mom
    My question is, if you know there are going to be drugs and alcohol at a party your child is supposed to go to after prom do you let them go and or do you inform any of the other parents?
    • RebeccaW_ParentalSupport

      overly concerned mom 

      You ask a great

      question which many parents are asking this time of year with prom and

      graduation parties coming up.  As Sara Bean explains in her article,, it is

      appropriate to make sure that there will be appropriate supervision at a party

      your child wants to attend.  If you do not feel comfortable with the level

      of supervision, you can set a limit with your child, and possibly offer an

      alternative.  In addition, we typically recommend focusing on the

      relationship with your child and enforcing the limits that you set. 

      Calling other parents with your concerns might have the inadvertent effect of

      undermining your relationship with your child.  Joani Geltman explains

      this in further detail in her blog,  Please let us know if you have any

      additional questions.

  • annms
    I have an 18 yr old with autism. High Functioning but hanging out with the wrong crowd. I am moving about an hour away and he doesn't want to go. I have to let him stay and fail. He's freaking out and thinking I am abandoning him. I told himMore he is welcome to come and that he is choosing not to come. His choice. He is getting agistated, scared and depressed about where to go. I have to stick my by plan to get him out of here. It may not be better there, but it buys me time to get him into the school he wants and make better friends. I don't think he could stay on his own. Trying to contact some places where he can go but being 18, they are limited.
  • HandsTiedinCanada

    Hi there,

    I've just finished reading this article as of course, I am in the midst of dealing with these issues at home.

    I have a 13 year old with behavioural issues who is going through a very tough time right now. He is diagnosed ADHD, ODD and PTSD. We are now believing the ODD is conduct disorder. For my son's life thus far, he has always had difficulties making and keeping friends. Suddenly things changed at the beginning of this school year, he made "friends", started using marijuana, got kicked out of school and is not even doing school work through an outreach program. He comes and goes as he pleases, sometimes not coming home at all or he sneaks in at 3-4AM.

    My question is, how do you discipline, reinforce and give consequences to a child like this?? We have been struggling for years with this and now we are at this point! I have taken away electronics, attempted grounding (which as soon as we turn our backs, he sneaks out). I have reinforced with positive behaviour and my son only acts in a positive manner until he receives the reward and then he's right back at square one soon after!

    So please, if you have a good suggestion, let me know!!

    • DeniseR_ParentalSupport


      What a tough situation. I am so sorry you are having to deal

      with such troubling behavior from your 13 year old son. I can hear your

      frustration. It sounds like you have tried many different ways of addressing

      his behavior but have had limited success. It may be helpful to pick one

      behavior to focus on at a time. Trying to manage everything at once may not be

      very productive. Giving attention to one thing is often a more effective

      approach. Carole Banks gives some tips for how to decide which behavior to

      start with in her article Another article you may

      find helpful is In this article, Kim

      Abraham and Marney Studaker-Cordner explain how to make consequences more

      effective by making them fail proof. We appreciate you writing in and hope you

      will continue to check in to let us know how things are going. Take care.

    • shadeofjade

      I had a similar issue with my daughter. It came to the point of realizing that her being out at 3am was endangerment to her life. I couldn't stop her. I was on edge, installed cameras with phone apps and a house alarm, but she found ways around the security. It was like a game to her. She's really smart when she wants something. What was she wanting? Individuality and freedom, she wants to be around those that will not judge her, to be around others who have those freedoms.

      I placed her into a four month residential behavioral treatment facility that had an accredited high school. I drove over 150 miles 3, sometimes 4, times a weak to be involved in her treatment. I re-established authority, boundaries, expectations, and a loving relationship. It was hardest thing to do, but it taught her that I care and want her to be well.

      I am still battling. It's better, but we've come into issues of new friends every week and not maintaining relationships because her behaviors lack ethics.

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