This week, my 13-year-old son’s verbal abuse turned physical for the first time. Needless to say, the incident really shook me up, and I ended up scheduling a call with my Empowering Parents coach for help.

Here’s what happened: My son refused to eat leftovers at home the other night. He wanted to go out for a sit-down dinner instead. I didn’t want to give in to his tantrum. Then again, I worry when he won’t eat. I decided to get us out of the tense situation by bringing him to a church function with me, along with stopping by a fast food place on the way.

Yes, I’m shaking my head at myself, too. I was giving in to that compromise to gain peace at home. My son, like many defiant kids, lives to push limits. He proceeded to sabotage the plan, and I realized my mistake.

At the KFC drive-through, the complaints began. The menu was not exactly what he wanted; he couldn’t see the board clearly; they didn’t answer the bell soon enough.

My patience already thin, I drove around to the door and invited him to go in and place his order while I waited. “Forget it,” he said. “This place sucks anyway.”

We’d left home to break the tension, but now we were confined to a small car and I was ready to unravel! I told him he would have to live with his decision not to eat and tried to end it there.

Mentally, I was kicking myself for going out of my way to give him choices.

As we drove away, I became the target of verbal abuse. Halfway to our destination (only about three blocks from home), I fought the urge to give him a cuff to the noggin with the back of my hand. I held up my hand, but stilled it in the air and managed to keep my cool.

Then he looked me straight in the eye, drew back his right arm, made a fist and punched me in the side. Stunned, I immediately pulled the car into a parking lot.

Related Content: When Kids Get Violent: “There’s No Excuse for Abuse”

“You never hit me or anyone else. That’s abuse and there is no reason for it. Get out of the car now and just walk home,” I said, as calmly as possible.

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He dug in his heels. After a brief staring match, he calmly got out and walked home, giving us both time to cool down. I drove home and waited for him, and watched as he went into the house. Then I went to church for an hour.

I assigned consequences when I came home, but by then the entire evening was a blur. I practically needed a video replay to figure out which behavior originally needed correction.

Later, I spoke with my parent coach about the issue of his obstinate refusals.

I explained my biggest challenge to Carole—making consequences stick after rules are broken—and we talked about something important I was skipping in between. I realized that I was neglecting the “disconnect” step.

Carole told me how important it is to take a break and disconnect from an emotional battle before talking about consequences. If you don’t, anger can escalate and confuse the issue.

She also told me that next time my son refuses to go to his room or take a walk, I may need to do so.

This week I’m working on finding effective phrases to use to disconnect. I personally like the phrase, “Let’s not go there.”

Carole also let me know that I’m on the right track in consistently letting my son know it is not okay to speak to others with disrespect or use verbal abuse.

Next, we talked about giving consequences effectively. I’ve often made the mistake of jumping right into threats of additional punishment when my son won’t stop arguing. “Go to your room and get away from us right now, or I will have to take away even more computer time!” Or, “You are just making your situation worse. Do you like being grounded?”

Carole pointed out that this only prolongs the conflict, adding another reason for my son to feel angry rather than letting the anger subside. I agreed that it made more sense to coach him about the benefits of a “time out” rather than shouting about the consequences of refusing.

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My job is to teach both of us to make a clean break. Once we calm down, I have a better shot at explaining what his consequences will be for the specific behavior in question. I think there will be less chance of getting tangled in all the drama that happens when emotions boil over. I realize now that those intense feelings will be dumped on each other unless we take a time out.

This week, if he fights the suggestion to cool down, I’m coaching him, rather than escalating the fight out of frustration.

If he refuses to leave the room and continues to verbally abuse us, my mother (who lives with us) and I ignore him or leave the room.

Once the situation is calm, I proceed with immediate consequences. For example, I’m already getting better results with taking away an hour of computer time tonight, rather than all computer time for a week. That way, it’s a short term consequence that gets him to practice better behavior in order to earn his privilege back. And if he resists the cool down time, even after coaching and setting a limit, I discuss how the consequences have to be increased a certain amount because of his decision.

I now see that by prolonging conflicts, my son controls me. As a result, neither of us sees the situation clearly. I know that most of all, it’s up to me to coach my son about the importance of taking a time out to cool down.

I have to admit, I didn’t think that the transition time between experiencing conflict and giving consequences was all that important. Now I realize it is all important. My plan is to continue working on this phase of my parenting journey.

Have you ever faced this situation with your child? What did you do?

Lola Howle is a parent blogger for EP and the mother of one son.

Related Content:
How to Talk to the Police When Your Child is Physically Abusive


Comments (63)
  • Sheryl Butler

    Hi Lola - I have faced that exact same thing - being punched in a car - I took weeks to talk about it to anyone including my husband - It hasn't happened again but now I have wall punching and verbal abuse - I'm new to the EP programme and hope I can find some better parenting advice to get me through too - I've been feeling paralysed but trying hard to be more business-like

    Thanks for sharing this -Sheryl

  • want my little back
    my ten-year-old has been very disrespectful and very sassy and mouthy to me for the past few months. she has been disrespectful verbally and verbally abusing me constantly .when I ask her to do something in the house she gives me a major problem takes temper tantrums throws things fightsMore with me yells and screams. today in the car we're going to the store and she gave me a filthy look answered me sarcastically so I p0pped her in her mouth.let me add that we had 5 conversations today about her behavior and how she makes things very difficult for me as I am a single mom but she has no care or concern about my feelings it is like talking to somebody who was vacant .she never has remorse for anything she does. after I smacked her in her mouth very lightly she turned around and started punching me in my arm continuously. I don't know what to do or where to put her or if I should send her someplace to get help but I cannot do this anymore and I cannot live like this anymoreI'm also going to add that she is habitual liar and lies about everything constantly. it pains me to say it but I really truly dislike my own daughter.I look at the beautiful child she was inside and out and now I see a child that I don't even recognize.
  • Colleenp
    I think this is full of great advice and steps to take to change some behaviors. But what are the consequences for hitting his mother??
    • DeniseR_ParentalSupport


      You ask a great question. There could be various

      consequences for a child who hits a parent, depending upon the age of the child. For a young child,

      an effective consequence might be loss of a privilege until the child can go

      for a short amount of time without hitting. For an older child, a similar

      consequence could be used for a longer period of time. For example, it might be

      loss of cell phone or video games until s/he can go for 24 hours without

      hitting the parent or other family member. With an older child, calling the

      police could also be a possible outcome. For more information on ways of

      addressing this distressing behavior, you can check out this article by Kim

      Abraham and Marney Studaker-Cordner: https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/signs-of-parental-abuse-what-to-do-when-your-child-or-teen-hits-you/?gui=5162. I hope this

      is helpful. Be sure to check back if you have any further questions. Take care.

      • Colleenp
        Thank you!
  • Grandmama Janet
    I had the same kind of verbal and sometimes physically threatenig behavior from my oldest of 3 sons when he was 13.  As I look back,  his behavior had many  issues that were missing in  our family.  His father, ( we divorced shortly after this destructive behavior began)  was totallyMore non-supportable.  He would say that if I had problems with this son,  they were my problems.  He also undermined me  all those 18 years of marriage and this kind of passive aggressive behavior  was very destructive to a mother  in a hostile setting.  You only mention yourself, so it makes me think you have this challenge all on your own.  These are the years that sons and daughters, do test their parents.  It sounds as if he sees that you do not have a kind of lifestyle he might see that others have.  He  may really have his priorities very much out of line.  As a school counselor and a Professional Counselor in private practice, children youth and families were my specialty.  Sometimes, with mood swings, he should get a good physical evaluation and let the doctor determine if he could benefit in ways that might help him.  Drugs can cause mood swings... along with anger episodes.... and/or is he a lot like his father or maybe even you.  A mother wants peace and struggles at negotiating all the time.  I  would rule out any medical, mental issues and then find a counselor to work with you and your son.  There may be other  siblings  that are impacting  their ideas and feelings of unfairness.  Working with the school counselors would be helpful for you to explore.  Is he like this with everyone, or just with you.  Anger is a big part of a growing teenager for many changes are going on.  A program called 123 Magic is a wonderful management program.  Many people have stated that they have tried these and none of them worked, but most of the time they do understand how to set limits and abide by them.  Set up a behavior chart and pluses  count for rewards, and Xs count for no rewards...You must be the strong spine of holding your son to the straight and narrow, but at the same time,  get help to explore his anger issues for better understanding and compassion for where he is hurting. Mothers and fathers should be honored,  and Mom's need the support of Dad's  to  teach this growing young man to do the right things, to trust others with his emotions to work through them and to get a handle on his life ... This means to look at goals and visions for himself down the road and figure what it will take to get there.  As in my case,  there have been very hurtful estrangement periods that have not gone away,  but  if you continue to touch the hot stove of an angry abuser,  it will be important to take care of yourself first.
  • JenniferSmith9

    My 3

    year-old daughter has always had, and still has, crying/tantrum/beating

    episodes every single day. it’s humiliating. Bedtime is so stressful EVERY DAY!

    And this is not the only time she is out of control. I have

    tried it all; routine, stories, positive reinforcement, games, etc, etc.,

    still, nothing works.  We can't figure it

    out...we would appreciate your input...I'm all ears!!! Thanks!!

    • RebeccaW_ParentalSupport


      As a parent of a toddler myself, I understand how

      embarrassing and frustrating these tantrums and episodes can be!  I see

      that you have tried a lot of different strategies to address this behavior as

      well.  Something else you might try is to look at how you are responding

      to her during these times, so that the tantrum is not getting more attention

      than it deserves.  Because of your daughter’s age, I would not recommend

      walking away as I would with an older child having a tantrum.  It could be

      more helpful to limit your interaction with her to redirecting her to another

      calming activity, such as looking at a favorite book or cuddling with a stuffed

      animal.  Try your best to remain calm and in control as well, so you can

      start modeling how to effectively handle stress and frustration to her. 

      Dr. Joan Simeo Munson has some additional age-appropriate tips in her article http://www.empoweringparents.com/Stopping-a-temper-tantrum.php.  Thank

      you for writing in and sharing your experiences.  Please let us know if

      you have any additional questions.

  • Grandmama Janet

    I can relate to your situation when my son started both verbal and physical abuse toward me.  He is now 49 years old and he pulled a verbal abuse rage on me this week that left me feeling sick to my stomach.  I am 74 years old and he got mad at me for buying a used car and would not let me see his family and the kids for 18 months.  Well, I survived and did things fine without his financial help.  He came back into my life wanting to make sure that if I had any financial problems, that he would help me.  After two months of help,  he came to my apt. and used very abusive language about me and how his friends think I am a gold digger.  When he left,  he said we would like to bring the kids by... After sleeping on this,  and with prayer,   I knew that I could not be around him or his family again.   I also felt physically ill with a stomach ache.  I told him that I was not up to seeing the kids now.  Due to his rage,  I am electing to move out of my place and into a smaller apt. with half of the rent I am paying now.  In this way,  my social security and monthly stipend from my mother's trust account will cover all of my expenses.  

    Having retired from the mental health  service as a licensed mental health professional,  I can see his mental illness.  Once I decided to go my own way again with prayer and God's guidance,  I do not plan to see him again.  I feel peace in my soul again.  

    It took me a while to figure out that my husband at the time, was also extremely unsupportable.  If I had any difficulties with my son, that was between me and my son.  I almost lost my mental faculties trying to dance around this loveless marriage.  

    After 18 years,  I divorced he,  left the 2 older boys with my husband and took my late born 4 year old with me to raise.

    Nothing had been easy.  

    I just send my prayers to anyone suffering with this.  I have a sense that there has not been a either parents in control for Barb 1.  

    I so hope my stomach feels better tomorrow.

    Grandmama Janet

  • Carol
    We have called the police when our son has these anger outbursts, but they just come and say "What do you want me to do about it? He is your kid and this is your property. If he destroys it , its not our problem it is yours.More The only time we can help is if he hurts you.
  • Carol
    My 13 year old adopted son (from Russia) refuses to do his homework. He often lies and says he did it at school. I find out later, that he didn't. He has anger explosions. He is adhd and bipolar and is on medication. Last Wednesday, he wantedMore to go somewhere, and was reminded on Monday,Tuesday and Wednesday that inorder to go, he had to show me his homework. He called me at work that day and asked when I was coming home and taking him where he wanted to go. I told him that I was coming home very soon and did he have homework done to show me. He again lied to me and said he turned it in, he didn't. I told him that his "ticket out the door" was to show proof of homework and since he didn't have that proof , he wasn't getting to go. When I came home soon after, the backyard looked like an Easter egg hunt, as he had demolished all the backyard furniture, bar b que grills into tiny pieces and scattered all over the grass. He ran off and got on his bike, even though his father told him that he couldn't go, but I said let him go, let off his steam and about an hour later found him in the subdivision park hiding in a slide, his bike was a dead give away. We brought him home and made him clean up the backyard from his demolition time and surprisingly he did it. I think it was due to the hour wait time. He came inside and we told him he was going to get the paddle because of all of our backyard property was destroyed. After the spanking, which was minor, he got up , picked up a couch pillow, and threw it across the room breaking my ceramic pumpkins and leaves that were on my kitchen bar. We have taken everything away from him, his tv, xbox, kindle fire... He knows he will get things back one at a time slowly when he makes good choices, but he has made no attempts of earning them back. He still is refusing to do his homework.
  • D. Rowden, Parental Support Advisor
    To "Nikki": Thank you so much for sharing your story with us. I can hear what a challenge your son's behavior has been. I'm sorry you are going through all of this. Feeling alone in this situation can only add to the difficulty of trying to manage the situation. More I would encourage you to call the 211 National Helpline. This excellent resource can help connect you with local services, such as counselors or support groups, to help assist you as you continue to address your son's behavior. You can reach the helpline by calling 1-800-273-6222 or by logging on to 211.org. We wish you and your family the best as you continue to work through this difficult situation. Take care.
  • nikki
    Im in the same situation maybe worth, my son , first time he hit me he was 12. and a few weeks ago he raised his hand on me and broke a door in the house, he started doing drugs6,7 month ago using very very bad words ,myMore husband and i decide to live separate so our 7 years old child is not seeing or hearing all the madness in the house..we tried everything with him, he kicked out from 3 private schools and tonight he told me he has a new born 2 weeks old baby,i know nothing about the baby or her mother ,it a girl...im complicity down ,he broke me down ,i lost all kinds of interest in life ,i just do not enjoy it any more ,im tired ..and im tired of my son ..sorry for my poor english
  • fanofurs
    I am so sorry for all of you but at the same time wonder why or how did you let it get so bad? I have 14 yr. Old twins and a 4 yr old and let me tell you they know better to raise a hand at me orMore talk back to me. If either one of them ever raised a hand at me it is on and I assure you that I will come out on top I don't care if they are 7 foot 400 pounds I'm their mother and they are going to respect me until the day I die. And I also started when they could talk teaching them to never call anyone names not even stupid dumb or anything like that and I aspect them to learn from me and listen and trust me not to obey me.....obey is a very strong word that's why a lot of kids push to our limites so its ur choice only us as parents can make the change begin....goodluck everyone
  • Rebecca Wolfenden, Parental Support Advisor
    To Singlemom: It sounds like you are dealing with a difficult situation with your son. You have the right to feel safe in your home. A helpful resource to do this may be contacting your local domestic violence project to develop a safety plan around what you canMore do if your son is damaging your home, or you. You can reach them at 1 (800) 799-SAFE (7233), or through email at National Domestic Violence Hotline. We also recommend continuing to call the sheriff when your son destroys your property or is violent toward you. I am including a link to an article you might find helpful: When Kids Get Violent: “There’s No Excuse for Abuse.” Good luck to you as you continue to work on this with your son.
  • Singlemom

    Today I am in shock as I have read all the other stories who are similar to mine. I am a single mom of two years. My 13 yr old son has gotten worse and I have had 2 busted doors, as well as many bruises. He is bigger than me, gets in trouble at school and needless to say dad isn't much help. He says he doesn't have problems when he has him but he doesn't have him all the time. It's one thing to curse at me and be ugly to me but it's also my mom. He complains every morning and night. I love to cook but it's never what he wants or likes. Dad's is always better but he won't go stay with dad and dad says it's my problem. I barely make ends meet. He is driving me nuts! I oh so enjoy the peace when he IS at his dad and feel guilty about it! I have called the sherrif when he busted the last door. They talked to him about his actions and what could happen to him if he doesn't straighten up. I try to ignore him but all the complaining, and Lord trying to get him up before school! I honestly dread the mornings and coming home. I have asked him to talk to the counsler who I deal with here at work but he refuses. She even said she would come to the house. Any suggestions????


  • Sara Bean, M.Ed., Parental Support Advisor
    To Angie and others: When you have a child who behaves abusively it can be incredibly overwhelming. It can feel like you are the problem and you might find yourself asking, “What did I do to cause this?” It’s important to remember that you are not the problem,More you are the solution. James Lehman believed that parents often have much more power than they believe and that with the right support, are capable of turning a difficult situation around. A good first step for you would be to find some support in your area. You can do this by visiting 211.org or by calling the 211 National Helpline at 1-800-273-6222. 211 is an information and referral service designed to link people with valuable resources in their communities. Here is an article I think you will find helpful as well: "Parents Aren't the Problem—They're the Solution." We wish you luck as you work through this. Take care.
  • Angie
    my kid is just like all the ones here. I do not know what to do now:(
  • Sara Bean, M.Ed., Parental Support Advisor
    Hi Denyse. It sounds like you are really going through a lot of tough stuff right now. Sometimes when a family member is ill, it can cause a child’s problem solving skills to really break down, leading to acting out behavior. In times like these it can be most helpfulMore to get some support in your local area to ensure your safety going forward and to also help your family through this challenge. We suggest that you contact the Boystown National Hotline at 1-800-448-3000. They have trained counselors available 24/7 who can provide you with support as well as referrals to helpful resources in your local area. We know this isn’t easy. You might also consider calling the police next time your son is physically aggressive toward you. Here is an article in which James Lehman talks more about this topic: Is It Time to Call the Police on Your Child? We wish you and your family luck as you continue to work through this. Take care.
  • Denyse
    Wow this is the first time I started looking for help my 13 yr old is really breaking my heart to make matters worse I have a severe liver disease and am sick but don't show him.. For the 1st time I'm afraid of him he hit me the otherMore day..help
  • Anne
    I wish I had this information when my daughters were teenagers. My son never gave me trouble like my girls do. I had been hit in the stomach when I was pregnant by my oldest Had water bottles thrown at me while I was driving the carMore just informing my daughter that she needs to clean her room. I can see If I was screaming at her or even demanding it but she just flipped out and threw a water bottle at me. I pulled over and made her leave the car and walk home. She called her dad whom came to her rescue all the time. That is what caused most of my problems my hubby always giving into them when I was trying to get them to be human beings. To ask a child to clean her room in a nice tone of voice is not abusive. Now my kids are older and my son is the only one that does not cause any problems for me. And to think I wanted all girls. My oldest daughter is fresh and my youngest daughter copies her actions. I try not to talk to them anymore and I try to stay away. I have grandchildren with my oldest and I can't enjoy them the way I want to. I did everything I cold for my kids when they were growing up took them for dance lessons, horseback riding lessons, music lessons, gymnastics you name it Disney every year and every month a fun weekend vacation away. Now I am getting slapped in the face more and more and I am so sorry I ever loved my children the way I did. When they were little they were adorable with me As teens they became fresh brats and still in the 30sand 20s they are fresh. I just wish I never did anything for them except do the things they needed. My house was neglected because I spent my money on them. Now I am sorry So don't spend money on your kids unless you have too.
  • single tired mom
    I've been reading through these blogs and have related to just about everything that has been said. But I'm also getting more and more angry at the responses from the advisor. I am a single mom w/ two boys, ages 13 and 15. Both have AD/HD andMore ODD and have been physically violent with me and have destroyed property in my house. I have called the police to my house more times than I care to mention. I know a couple of them by name now. My youngest son has been sent to a hospital that treats aggressive behavior. What that translates to is that you MUST choose either Risperdal, Depakote, or Lithium for your child to be doped up on the entire time they are there. The last entry by "cat" is exactly right. Once you have involved the police, you are stripped of your parental rights. LITERALLY. My older son was taken to JD but they wouldn't keep him overnight - even when I begged them to. I did press charges and what happened was that he was put on a 90-day Diversion probation program. This is also known as a joke. The PO could have cared less about my son. He simply showed up at his school once a week to make sure he was there. I sent this guy emails and called him to try to get my childrens' father involved b/c that is where the majority of their problems are stemming from. They won't touch him with a 10-foot pole. Why? Because I am the custodial parent. What that means is that the father gets complete rights as their bio dad but has virtually none of the responsibility since they primarily live with me. He doesn't have to get involved in the issues with the police, the school, etc. He doesn't even have to pay child support b/c he weaseled his way into collecting SSDI. He doesn't have to pay for any medical, dental, food, clothes, education, etc. OK, I'm getting side-tracked. Psychiatrists and psychologists are are complete waste of time and money and energy. I have been through at least 7 now with my two boys and nothing has helped. The oldest refuses to get in the car to go and I can no longer phsyically get him into the car. One of these so-called "professionals" lied to me (I have proof of this) and was extremely rude. One seemed hopeful but after meeting two times, she never called me back again. One just sat there and took notes, never saying anything and then just gave us a prescription refill. It goes on and on with the horror stories. To those who might say, "Well you have to keep trying until you find someone that fits". Right. And will that be the 10th time? Or the 13th time? Or will it be the 25th time? I can say one thing for certain. I won't find the answer to that for me and my family because I'm not "trying" anymore. I am financially broke over all this and to keep going would be insane. I have tried working with the school system, which is really the worst stories of all. Perhaps I was naive but I actually believed for years that the school staff had my childrens' best interests at heart. They had to because they were educators and educators believe in doing what's best for every child. WRONG!! They are masters at what they do and they have the upper hand because most parents don't understand all the intricacies of the IEP process and also the special education rights that your child should have. So I hired an advocate which helped immensely. However, it was two long years of constant meetings b/t two different schools. I used literally all my vacation time on meetings with either the school, doctors, etc. I had two episodes of exhaustion, which is actually very scary. I did finally get a CST team formed but every step of the way was a battle. Through the CST team, I was finally able to qualify for Home Based Services (although the school resented it b/c they didn't believe my son was a candidate and they didn't want to spend the money). This was the best chance we had for help since my oldest won't attend outside therapy sessions. So we had about nine months of in-home treatment where the specialists came 5x/week at first then 4x/week. Talk about exhausting. You don't have time for anything else. So the results were that the program did not live up to my expectations. They touted this fabulous program, where the counselors will take your child out into the community, get them involved with some activities, get them to interact with the outside world, work on behavior modification, and also provide a mentor that will work one-on-one with your child to get them to open up and get at some of the true issues. Sounds great, right? I should back up here to mention that I originally wanted my oldest son to go to a RTF but that was denied. I even took him with me to an appointment where they would assess whether or not he could be admitted to the facility. I provided an information packet that weighed five pounds. It was a complete history of everything related to my son. The facility did not deny that my son would be a candidate. However, I had to go through the proper path first. And that meant I had to get the approval from the public school. So that is when I got the CST formed. But they still wouldn't approve of the RTF. I had to first try the home services. So now I get this started and it was another disappointment. The "mentor" never took my child out. I suggested it but it never happened. I asked him to call the bio dad. Many times. He claimed he called but didn't leave an answer. The first therapist was fabulous, I have to admit. Unfortunately, after two months she moved on to another company. The replacement was not helpful at all. I personally don't think she knew how to handle the situation with my kids. They would be running around, acting hyper, being rude, not participating, etc. and she would just sit there! I hung in there for nine months and then I called it quits. I've taken both my boys to have a professional pscho-educational evaluation. Incidentally, the school should be doing this every three years if your child has an IEP but my school system will not do this. I figured I'd be better off with a bonafide psychologist anyway. This was extremely helpful, and the reports were beyond my expectations. However, none of the psychiatrists or counselors that I took my children to for help would even read it. The other problem is, they cannot truly commit to certain diagnosis when kids are still young. So my hopes of pinpointing their issues more specifically so that I could help them better were actually false hopes. I did go back for a second evaluation for my oldest son after two years b/c we had been unable to give him the MMPI the first time around. Again, the psychologist was very helpful (same person) and her report was outstanding. I did gain some additional information but once again, it wasn't something I could really use anywhere. It's kind of a wait and see thing. For a parent that is maddening. I do have my own therapist who I've been seeing for five years. Although that does help, it's only half of the equation. My kids are still defiant, abusive, demanding, won't do chores, won't do school work, etc. I used to be very energetic, up-beat, eager to go do things. But now I'm tired all the time, depressed, overwhelmed, and just exhausted. There is no zest for life in me. I believe that I have checked off every box on the "what parents should do" list, some have been checked off many times. And I'm still back at square one. So please don't tell people that there's a good article that parents should read or a transformation program that parents should try. Listening to the advice on this blog is like reliving all the efforts I've already been through. At some point someone has to be "man" enough to tell people the truth. These parents dealing with abusive, difficult children are in for the challenge of their lives. These are not cases where a cookie-cutter response will work. We can't talk to friends or family or co-workers. Unless you have direct contact with a child who is difficult/aggressive/ADD/ODD, etc. you have NO IDEA what it's like. We are often alone in our fight to help our kids. County resources are a joke, even counter-productive at times. Stop lying to parents! For my own self the most I can hope to do is glean a tidbit of new information here or there, whether it be on the intranet, books from the library, TV programs, etc. I've been to parent support groups, read countless books and manuals. I've spent hours and hours documenting everything and nobody even reads it. As others have said, you reach a breaking point. More like a point of acceptance. It has taken me years to slowly let go of some of the hopes I had for each of my kids. That is so difficult to do. But I do feel like I've done pretty much all that I can. I'm looking forward to my oldest son finishing high school. Only now I'm worried that he won't be able to get in to a good 4-year college. I won't let him stay here. So there's my next obstacle. I have to come to terms with kicking him out at 18 and hoping he makes it on his own. Parents, stay strong. All we really have is each other. My psyhiatrist once told me that I'm earning big brownie points somewhere. I sure hope so. We don't really have a choice, now do we? We signed up for parenthood. We have to do whatever we can.
  • cat
    Ladies, Remember these are your kids, no matter what and we love our kids unconditionally. Like you my son has been several treatment programs and is in an rsu facility even now. Once the state becomes involved they totally take over your parental rights. My son hasMore been locked up for the 4th time now since January. He has ADHD and ODD, I just always try to remember, this is not his fault and he needs all the love and support I can give him. Yes, he has destroyed my home, costed me my jobs and almost destroyed my marriage. But, you know what, that can all be replace or fixed, your child can never be replaced. I pray for God's guidance everyday and I tackle every mood swing, anger issue, verbal and physical abuse by reminding my son that I love him, but I hate his behavior. Remember, it's their behavior we hate, not them. My prayers are with you all.
  • Carole Banks, Parental Support Line Advisor

    Dear Katherine:

    We’re so sorry to hear this happened to you. No one deserves to be physically hurt in a relationship. You didn’t cause this. It didn’t happen because you now have custody of your daughter. And of course, just because you’re her parent does not make hitting you ‘okay’. Since you’re in a very small apartment, you may need to strategize with a domestic violence counselor to develop a plan to keep yourself safe. (National Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-799-7233). But you can also call this hotline just to talk to someone. They will just listen if that’s all you need when you call. They will not pressure you to make any decisions, or refuse to work with you if the abuse continues. It’s better not to rely on yourself to handle this but to reach out to others who can help. Thank you for sharing your story with us. We wish your family the best.

  • Katherine

    Hi there,

    Great article, but what do you do if when you leave the room, the child starts destroying everything in it - I have an 11 year old, and we live in a 1 bedroom apartment. There's no room to send her to, and if I go to my room, then she destroys things in the room I leave her in. There's no space where we live for there to be a safe room.

    She hit me tonight for the first time - of all nights - I have a straight neck from how many times her dad hit me and punched me 9 years ago. I have had to spend thousands of dollars on treatment to be able to not be in excruciating pain, and to continue to be able to turn my head. Because he discontinued paying child support the last couple months, I have not had money to see my chiropractor for 3 months. This morning, I woke up with a stiff neck, and it's hurt to use my arms all day. Brushing my teeth was hard. Now, she's hit me on the side of my face, and really knocked my head. She's almost as big as I am. This is over me "taking away her dad" since he was doing hard drugs and I had to get custody. I don't know what to do. I feel like I need help with her and it's out of my control.

  • Hstylecs
    This totally helped me. I am not a mother of a teenager, but a 4 year old sweetheart that seems to have a flare of temper. She has taken up hitting me when she is frustrated. After that we both are angery and it esculates till she isMore more angry and I am more frustrated. That diconnect time is totally what I need I think. I feel like now is the time at 4 to start teaching her this thank you!!
  • nomorepain

    I came across this article while up at 4:00 am after another horrible altercation with my now alcoholic 23 year old son. I know it's past the time that any "parenting hotline" can help our family but I hope my experience can help someone.

    I also was hit tonight, with fists and shoved back pretty violently. The heartbreak is - we thought he was getting better. He just got out of rehab two weeks ago and he is still going to outpatient therapy for his substance abuse. He seemed to be so much better and it gave us hope. He said he got a good job and he will start next week. He has never really worked before (lived off his college trust and ran it out 40 credits shy of a degree). We were very encouraged. He has about a 160 IQ and in some ways he is brilliant. In others, he is so lost. No common sense. Poor social skills. Terrible anger and impulsivity.

    Our lives have been just like those on this board. He was an angry, tantruming child. He was always unhappy. He never kept friends. We had him in so many schools and even homeschooled looking for the right fit for him. Nothing worked. I could write a book about all he has put us through but as you all know the explosions in the house, the turmoil takes its toll on everyone.

    We have three other kids. All work and go to school. This is the oldest. We finally got a diagnosis from a psychiatrist in rehab. He has Borderline Personality Disorder. He tried to commit suicide last fall and since then he has told me at least several times a day that he is going to do it again. I live in fear of looking for him in his room, lest I find him dead. Tonight, he was so drunk, slurring his words. He told me he is failure because he didn't succeed last fall. He said he just wants to die. He complains about not having a girlfriend like everybody else. Who could put up with him the way he is?

    He wanted a fight real bad. He always comes for me when he drinks and is one of these moods. I don't sleep in my own bed because I am afraid of him - either hurting himself or someone else or all of us. It is a nightmare.

    It is getting close to the end because we can't live with him anymore. I am so stressed - my blood pressure can't even be controlled anymore, I have chest pains, dizzy spells etc. He is literally killing me. There is so little help when they are this age - HIPPA laws prevent the hospital and doctors from talking with us or even acknowledging he is a patient (even though we are paying).

    The lesson for everyone is: if your child is exhibiting these kinds of rages and is hitting you, acting out etc. DO NOT WAIT. It won't get better on it's own. It's not "just a phase." He won't grow out of it. Get help - well before 18 because the party is over then. Look for BPD because it does affect about 2% of the population and it is so horrible to deal with that a lot of therapists won't even take such patients.

    Good luck to everyone and I hope you all get the answers you need and the help for your kids. I now have to throw him out virtually penniless, hope his job is real this time and not a lie, and hope he somehow makes it but I think the chances aren't good anymore.

  • drained mother
    update: I had him admitted to physch hospital for help and they are also providing help in house to me and family. They think he may be bipolar with anixety issues outside already odd, adhd, explosive disorder, depression, mood disorder. We are trying a new approach to it. Pray forMore me and that the abuse ends today
  • Carole Banks

    Dear 'drained mother':

    At times, it can seem like the only way to get our kid’s attention is to yell at them or spank them. But we find that spanking is not an effective tool for changing behavior. In fact, we don’t recommend any punishment that causes physical pain. A spanked child sees the parent as “out of control” emotionally. You also don’t want to set up a confusing situation where you are hitting him while telling him not to hit others. You want him to do the right thing because it’s the right thing to do. You want him to stop hitting his brother because it hurts him—not because he doesn’t want to get punished or spanked.

    It’s good you are working with a psychiatrist and therapist to help your son get a handle on managing his behaviors. Make sure you report all incidences like these to his psychiatrist so he can assess whether he wants to make changes in his treatment.

    Work closely with the therapist to design a ‘coping skill’ for your son when he begins to get upset so that he can try to prevent his anger from escalating. Coping skills are things like, deep breathing, counting, self-talk, etc. In James Lehman’s program, he discusses recognizing ‘triggers’ and changing ‘faulty thinking’ as key tools to halt the escalation of negative emotions to reduce acting out behaviors. If you own the Total Transformation Program, share it with the therapist you are working with so they are able to let you know what techniques in the Program they would emphasize at this time.

    This clearly is a really difficult situation for your family. We wish you the best as you continue to reach out for resources to help your son.

  • drained mother
    I really relate to all the veiws and feel relief that i am not alone. My 10 yr old is a loving child when he chooses to behave, when the monster comes out its real bad where i worry about my mother his grandmother and his little brother . myMore son is extremely abusive towards everyone who his a female and smaller then he is. The other day he had a tantrum/ fit I dont remember why but it escalated to him hurting his brother and me getting hit in the head with a rock, I had to defend my youngest and me I tried to sta calm but it didnt work yes i spanked him and explained to him that when you are angry, its ok to be angry but hitting, breaking things and other bad choices is not. a nieghbor called the police saying I was abusing him, how ironic I have a knot on my head from a rock and his brother has bruises all over his legs etc. My son does see a physchatrist and behavior thearpy but soon he get home the monster comes out over the littliest things. I dont spank my child unless he is being unsafe and I'm defending myself and my other son. He gets priviliedges taken away and i'm constant with it. I am beyond depress. I think he needs inpatient treatment before its to late.
  • Carole Banks

    Dear Kathleen:

    You describe a very challenging situation with your son. He clearly has a really difficult time with school. Sometimes when parents and teachers are unable to get a child to cooperate and a child is very inappropriate with how he treats animals, etc., professional help will be needed in addition to the techniques in the Total Transformation program. Be sure to let that professional know about the Total Transformation so he is able to coordinate his care with the techniques from James Lehman’s program. And it will be important for your child to take any medication his doctor prescribes for him. That’s might be the first thing that needs to change in order to help your son be able to achieve his goals. It’s always important to report to the prescribing physician if the medications are not addressing the symptoms as they should, but to know if there needs to be an adjustment, they must be taken as prescribed. Some parents report that they have been able to get better medication compliance from their child by actually standing next to them as they take their medications.

    We wish your family the best as you continue to seek out resources for your son.

  • Carole Banks

    Dear Sandy:

    Sometimes our family members stay upset at us for long periods of time, but we can’t be intimidated into making discipline decisions on whether or not our kids will be upset with us. Kids usually are unhappy with the consequences or limits we set on their behavior. [See this article by James Lehman, author of the Total Transformation program: Masters of Manipulation: How Kids Control You With Behavior http://www.empoweringparents.com/Manipulative-Child-Behavior-How-Kids-Control-You-With-Behavior.php]

    You can influence your grandson by doing exactly what you did do—when he ‘beats his grandparents up’—call the police. You’re stating a very clear limit here—this behavior is NEVER allowed. “There’s no excuse for abuse,” as James Lehman says.

    I’m sure you are also letting your grandson know that you still love him and want to see him again. However, you should also say to him that you’d like to talk to him about what he will do the next time he’s upset instead of striking out at you.

    We wish your family the best. You can also call the Support Line for more ideas on how to use the techniques in James Lehman’s program.

  • Sandy

    I have been reading some of these comments. I am not a savy computer person. I do not understand what these blogs are supposed to do. The only thing I know is that my family is not alone in dealing with physical and verbal abuse from a teenager.

    What is the punchline? Where is the help? I actually called the police on my grandson. They took him to jail in handcuffs for beating us up. When his Mom picked him up the same day they released him to her and dismissed the charges. This absolutely broke my heart! I had expected her to enforce him to face his consequences and get him some help. Now I feel he will never get any help. She is a single working Mom who has made every excuse in the book for not having the time or the money to work with him. Now he does not want to see me or my husband. Our hearts are broken that he may never want to see us. We love him immensely and want to see him turn into a mature and kind adult.

  • Kathleen
    My 14 year old son is out of control with his verbal abuse towards his father and I and his teachers at school. He is in 8th grade and does not do any of his homework and his behavior is out of control. The school calls constantly and he hasMore to go to detention all the time. Nothing seems to work. I have tried using the "The total transformation" skills I have learned but he just doesn't care enough for them to work. He doesn't want to go to school anymore and enjoys when he gets kicked out. He blames everyone else but himself for the problems. This is his 6th school in 8 years. He say's school doesn't matter. He has Add/ADHD and he is on medication. He tells us he takes it and we give him the glass of water, but he must be spitting it out when we walk away because he told me later he hasn't taken his medicine for 5 days. I checked the other day and their were an extra 6 days of pills in the bottle. He lies to us constantly, and he has decided that our little dog, that he teases horribly, needs to be taught a lesson for niping him. He kicked the cat and the cat passed away 2 days later. They couldn't save her. So let me ask you-----When is enough -enough? Oh! and yes he has done all the counseling and had a psychologist (decided he didn't need to go anymore). He now has started anger management classes but in no time he'll refuse to go there to.
  • Carole Banks, Parental Support Line Advisor

    Dear ‘Just a Mom’:

    These kinds of things can happen to parents and kids—getting caught up in the whirlwind of a power struggle. Emotions run high and out of control. When we’re out of control, each person just wants to win at all costs.

    James Lehman wrote an article to help parents avoid getting into power struggles. Let me send you that link: Avoiding Power Struggles with Defiant Children: Declaring Victory is Easier than You Think.


    When you feel things begin to escalate, take a break and try to think of what lesson you want your son to learn. I think you’re also right that because you allowed the cleaning of the fish tank to go before, you set up an expectation in your son that you would let it slide again. Help role model to your son how to acknowledge your own roles in a power struggle. You might also acknowledge that in the past you have not required him to clean the tank, even though you wanted him to do it. Ask him how he thinks he might get it done during this break and what he needs to accomplish the task.

    Contact him. Let him know you’d like to see him and get together over the holidays. You’re teaching him how to reach out. This is a great lesson to learn and you’ll both feel better for it.

  • Just a Mom

    I logged on for advice and started reading other problems. Wow. I had no idea there were this many teens that are unruly/defiant/disrespectful/abusive or whatever you want to call it. What a scary time we live in. What a scary generation we have created.

    Maybe someone can offer me the best advice so that I can finally teach my son responsibility. It's a long story but I'll try to shorten it. I'm a divorced parent and have been for over 9 years. At the time of my divorce I thought I was on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Verbal abuse was big for my X. He called me names any time he was angry. I thought he came from a wonderful family. Money, parents together, holiday's together, etc. My mother struggled, stepfather was kind, father was an alcoholic and even though we had family and my mother always had a lot of friends it just never seemed easy for her. Not that she complained. When the name calling began I realized that pictures aren't always what they seem. I never heard my mother call anyone a name, especially her husband or children. It took 8 miscarriages, a bout of depression, no shovel to dig my self esteem out of the ground and a wing and a prayer to finally get the nerve to ask for a divorce. Stupidly I thought I was going to save my boys from being subjected to that verbal abuse and God forbid, learning it. My kids are 19 (the current issue) and 18 (he will be in February). The 19 year old attends college 500 miles from home. He was always a straight A student, never had to study, most homework done on the bus so it never took up much of his time. He knew what he wanted to be at age 3 I think and is currently pursuing that same dream. He really is a wonderful person. He's thoughtful, caring extremely intelligent and also very opinionated and judgemental. There have been a lot of mistakes over the past 19 years but you do the best you can. Although my son has gotten away with things that I've told him his was punished for, I never thought it would be this bad. When I punish him for something, he would go to his father's and stay there for 3 or 4 days then come home. His father has said to me that I cannot impose my punishments on the boys while they're at his house. We have joint custody and he is off work a lot. (2 days, 2 nights, 4 days off). I used to try and start the punishment when they decided to come home but I blinked and they were just older. This week my son flew home to attend a funeral of a friend. He felt guilty for not seeing this sickly friend during Thanksgiving, and then she passed suddenly. He missed a few classes that would have been the last classes before this week (final week). His father and I both expressed our disagreement with him missing classes for this funeral. The friend would not have wanted him to miss classes. I also understood how he felt. He didn't have the money to fly home, his car was here so I wasn't too worried. I thought he'd have to stay at school. Wrong. He actually called his paternal grandfather for the money or that's what he told me. He told his father I gave him the money. I was at work, his father saw my youngest son driving and found out he was going to the airport to pick up his brother. He was so angry he wouldn't let him go pick his brother up. He then texted the oldest, while he was in the air. He cursed him, called him names and told him he wouldn't get picked up. Since I was working I couldn't leave for a few hours. My son found his way home via 2 trains and a bus. I felt sorry him but there was nothing I do except remind him that no matter what, he shouldn't be called names. Although I wasn't happy that he was missing classes or that he borrowed money or that he lied but he's an adult and will do what he wants to do no matter what anyone says.

    He has a giant fish tank. I don't even know how many gallons but it's about 3ft high and 4ft long. Every time he has been home from college, I've asked him to clean it. He never has. He's always had a million things to do, people to see. He makes sure he sees his grandparents every day. My mother is sickly and doesn't leave the house. He's there every day, he shops, has lunch or dinner with her and keeps her company for a while. So I figure, I'm really lucky to have such a wonderful son and should pick my battles carefully. I let the fish tank wait until this visit. I reminded him on his 2nd day home. When nothing happened by Saturday I told him we'd clean it 1st thing Sunday (which was last Sunday). He stayed at his father's Saturday night (surprise). He called me after church on Sunday, approximately 12:30pm and said he was going to help a friend pick up a Christmas tree then would be right home and she would help him take care of the tank. I said ok. 2pm, 3pm, 4pm, nobody showed up or texted me with another excuse or phoned me. At 6:30pm as I was leaving to bring my mother dinner, his friend showed up and said he was behind her. 20 minutes later I arrived home and they were gone. He left me a note. All the plants from the tank were wet and in the cabinet underneath, my carpet was wet, gravel on the dining room table, water on the dining room table and 2 or 3 bath towels were soaked and wet. Of course I called my son, no answer, called again, no answer, called again, no answer, again, no answer. His father called me for him to let me know he was visiting with his other grandmother. I told his father what I wanted and now I just want the tank gone. I've lost all patience, I'm tired of it, don't deserve and feel that I've been more than fair. My son came home with his friend and informed me that he'd clean the mess but wouldn't take the tank out. I explained my position, stood my ground and explained that if he didn't respect my wishes after the 3 months I've been patient with him,he could take responsibility for everything in his life. I told him to give me the money for the car insurance payment or to make sure we put the car and insurance in his name (everything is in my name and I pay his insurance since he quit his job prior to last June). He said he'd be back in 10 minutes with the money. They both left and I didn't see my son again until yesterday when he stopped home to say good-bye. During the week I did call him and tell him not to drive the car until we put it in his name and he told me he was driving it, I could have him arrested if I wanted to. Finally, on Thursday I called him again and told him that if he thought I wasn't serious about what I said and if he thought I would allow him to drive out of the state again (to go back to school), with the car in my name, he was sadly mistaken. If he was adult enough to be disrespectful to me over and over again, he was adult enough to take responsibility for everything in his life.

    While he was home, my other son and I were outside putting up the decorations for Christmas. After a few minutes, I took the screwdriver and took the tags off his car. He called his father who replied, "why'd you even go there, you knew she'd take the car. you should have just left." After a few minutes my son went in the house and I asked what he was doing he said he was hoping I'd follow him so he could knock me out. I went in the house, he asked if we could talk civily. He started to talk and in the 3 sentences that came out of his mouth he said I was ridiculous, I was unreasonable and he would have gotten to it sooner or later and something else nasty. I ended the conversation at that point saying "so much for speaking civily. I won't be talked to with disrespect ever again, this conversation is over." He then shocked me and said, go f yourself". At that point I kicked him out but the plates were on the porch. He grabbed them, I grabbed him, he laughed at me, struggled to get loose, cut my hand with the plates and I don't even know how I got them. He got in his car and said he'd drive without them. As I approached the car, he told me to get the f out of his way or he'd run my a over. He made it to his paternal grandmother's house (she left her husband after 45 years because she said she wanted peace in her life and was tired of being called names). I had called the local police because I was afraid he'd get out of our small town without the plates and then get pulled over by a state trooper. The police told him not to drive, they locked the car and brought me the keys. My son phoned me later to say that I'm not his mother and he's not my son. I'm not sure exactly what I said but I said that my son wouldn't have ever done those things in this lifetime and if he saw my son have him give me a call.

    I'm heartbroken, confused, angry. Angry at myself for letting my worst fears come true because I didn't move far away. Angry at myself because I've let my boys ignore my discipline so many times in the past that my son didn't believe I meant what I said. I knew though that if I did not do what I said I would do, sometime in his adult life, he would get hurt by someone else.

    Until now,I've never had a verbally disrespectful relationship with him. He's hurt my feeling plenty of times, letting me know how unimportant I am in his life. I only think this way because he spends a large amount of time with other adults my age. He doesn't run out to be with 18 or 19 year olds all the time. He's friendly with their parents. If he thought all parents were nuts, I'd be ok with that. So, my heart is broken and I have to know what the best thing to do is. My son will be home again for the holiday next week. My plan is to do nothing. Wait for him to make the next move but should I put the tags back on the car (I have the keys) and pay the insurance? I know I have to make him put the insurance in his name now. There is no turning back. I just don't know how he can afford it. (oh yeah, his father found me at a local convenience store after all this and pulled up, said I was psychotic, he couldn't believe I took my sons transportation back to college away from him, etc. I just said, "drive him or give him one of your cars or give him money to fly back. He knew what would happen if he didn't listen all week and you not only allowed it, you made him think he was right." I then went into the store.


    Just a Mom

  • Carole Banks, Parental Support Line Advisor

    Dear 'Anonymous':

    In James Lehman’s article, When Kids Get Violent: “There’s No Excuse for Abuse”

    (http://www.empoweringparents.com/when-Kids-Get-Violent.php) he writes: “The police should be called when parents do not feel they can manage the violence or property destruction that is occurring in the home. I personally would not hesitate to call the police when the crimes of property destruction and violence are committed in my home.” (Read this article for a complete discussion of handling violence in the home.)

    As James says if kids refuse to answer to your authority, they will find that they will be forced to answer to a higher, community-based authority. Your son needs to understand that this behavior is not tolerated anywhere–your home or in the community.

    During any emergency situation, be sure to call the police at ‘911’.

    Since you have been unable to manage your teen, despite your best efforts, it’s important to reach out for community assistance. You’re not safe in a home where you are being physically assaulted by your teen in this manner. Sometimes trying to make changes can escalate the violence against you so we recommend that you call the National Domestic Violence Hotline: 800-799-SAFE or 800-799-7233. They can help with crisis intervention and referrals to resources, such as women's shelters in your area.

    Tell someone about this. It will help you feel better. Tell a friend, your pastor or priest, or your doctor. Don’t ignore this behavior because that sends the message to your son that somehow the use of violence against you was justified and should be tolerated.

    No one deserves to be abused. Reach out. Help is available.

  • Anonymous

    I found this website as I am a lone parent with a 14 year old son and a 12 year old, my 14 year old really hurts me not only with using the most filthy and abusive language and insults but he hits me regularly and at times, rather severely .. He's kicked me in the mouth, thrown an iron at me which left a mark on my lower back for weeks, he punches me and chokes me and has broken several of my fingers ... kicked me, beat me with the metal buckle of a belt and a heavy plastic pipe .. pulled my hair and punched me in the head ... all in separate incidents but nevertheless this is a run down of what he has done .. I have nowhere else to go with this and noone else to turn to .. My husband died some years ago and I'm at my wits end and I feel like I cannot hold my head high and be proud of anything anymore, I'm nervous and terrified of leaving the home .. Can anyone please help and advise me as to what to do?

    Thank you.

  • Carole Banks, Parental Support Line Advisor

    Dear 'Richardsmom':

    It’s understandable that abusive language makes you feel this strongly. Try to remember however, that your strong reaction is affected by what you had to endure. His remark does not necessarily mean that he will be an abusive adult and it has nothing to do with his feelings regarding what you have experienced.

    It’s not okay, of course, but it’s not unusual for kids to lose their tempers and make these remarks. Look at it as his inability to control his temper when he was upset at this teacher. He owes her an apology. Have him write a letter to her and say in essence, “It was wrong for me to lose my temper and call you an ‘Effin B’. I’m very sorry and will not do it again.” Also, have him problem solve with you regarding what he will do next time he feels angry at someone. For example, he could take a few deep breaths when he feels himself getting really upset. Changing his breathing will help ease his tension.

    There is an article that you might enjoy reading by James Lehman in Empowering Parents. In it, he talks about taking your child’s behavior personally and writes: “Don’t Take Your Child’s Behavior Personally.

    Taking things personally means viewing that child’s behavior as a total reflection of your character, skills, and worthiness as a parent.” You can read the complete article entitled, Temper, Temper: Keeping Your Cool When Kids Push Your Buttons at this web site: http://www.empoweringparents.com/How-to-Keep-Cool-When-the-Kids-Push-Your-Buttons.php

    Trust that you have raised a good son who stumbles and falls now and again. Continue to give him your guidance by approaching behavior as problems that need to be solved.

  • richardsmom
    I'm sitting here reading all of this in tears. My son has always been a good boy, a bit of a handful but when it came down to it, he was a polite very respectful son. Until a few months ago and it started to slowley go down hill. TodayMore was my final straw, he called his teacher, whom he has had for a very long time and at home seems to adore, a "Effin B". Now what do I do? His father was very abusive in every way with me, and well to be honest I thought I tought him better then that. I feel something for my son that I never thought I'd feel for any of my children...dissappointment, anger, almost disgust. And I feel so ashamed to be saying that, of course I love him dearly. but what do I do now? HOw do I teach him the right thing to do when I myself felt like lashing out at him for what he did?
  • Carole Banks, Parental Support Line Advisor

    I’m just going to respond to a teen using violence in this comment. There are many articles on this web site that discuss working with kids around doing chores, etc. There’s an important reason I’m going to ignore any kind of examination of what took place before the violence occurred. It’s because it’s very common when someone resorts to violence to blame the person they hit. “You made me so mad.” But, as James Lehman says, “There is NO excuse for abuse.” It’s important for those of you who are hit by your teens to set aside whatever took place to build up to that incident and focus on their use of violence.

    In James Lehman’s article, When Kids Get Violent: “There’s No Excuse for Abuse”

    (http://www.empoweringparents.com/when-Kids-Get-Violent.php) he writes:

    “The police should be called when parents do not feel they can manage the violence or property destruction that is occurring in the home. I personally would not hesitate to call the police when the crimes of property destruction and violence are committed in my home.” (I recommend reading this article for a complete discussion of violence in the home.)

    1.) If you have been unable to manage your teen, despite your best efforts, it’s important to reach out for community assistance. As James says if kids refuse to answer to your authority, they will be forced to answer to a higher community based authority. Your son needs to understand that this behavior is not tolerated anywhere--your home or in the community.

    2.) You’re not safe in a home where you are being physically assaulted by your teen.

    3.) Repeatedly seeking out services is one of the ways you can become eligible for community programs in your area. These programs need to be aware that you need help in order to assist you.

    It’s not a good idea to completely protect your child from the consequences of his actions, such as getting a lawyer to minimize consequences. That’s your family’s decision of course, but make sure your motivation is not to soften the consequences but to get him connected with appropriate needed services. He might do well by working with a juvenile probation officer.

    Bottom line is, this is an unsafe situation and because of that calls for definite action on your part. Don’t ignore it because that sends the message that somehow it was justified and should be tolerated.

    It’s understandably uncomfortable, but our recommendation is when a teen uses violence to call the police to get the ball rolling in the right direction for your son.

  • hangin on

    I am so sick of my 14 year old son. He just today hit me and I am 6 months pregnant. It was all over him having to do chores to put it simply. I'm tired of it and cannot live this way anymore. He's 5'9 and 180 pounds, I'm 5'6 and 125 pounds now. I literally hate him and want him out of the home. The only problem is that if I call the police, like I did last time he became out of control with his father, they just take him to jail and then I pay a 5,000 bill for a lawyer and counseling. He is in counseling and taking medication. I called his psychiatrist tonight and instead of him calling me back, the secretary called me back.

    I am at my wits end. I have two young children, plus this baby on the way. I don't know what to do anymore.

    I read the other ladies stories and all I can do is feel bad and feel angry for you. If anyone has the answer, please let us ladies know.

  • cat
    my son is 14 and very strong for his age he becomes angry in an instance he puts me down constantly and hits me i am at the end of my tether and can see no way out he does,nt see it at home so why should he treatMore me this way,i sit here typing this after yet another argument and put downs and cant seem to take it anymore,i just want to die which i know is the easy way out i just want a quiet life i have other children and they dont treat me like this.
  • Carole Banks, Parental Support Line Advisor-90bridge

    Dear 7 year up hill struggle:

    Although parent abuse can occur in any family, it’s never acceptable. As James Lehman says, “There’s no excuse for abuse.” Abusive kids need parental guidance and authority even though they fight against it. When you are being victimized by your adolescent, you are better off—and he is better off—if you take action, rather than allowing the situation to continue. Get some professional help if the situation is dangerous, such as the one you have described. Try to find a family counselor who understands how to work with parent abuse. Everyone in the family needs help and support from outside the home in these situations. If your son refuses to go to counseling, tell him you’re going with or without him. Talk about it. Don’t keep it quiet. Sometimes it helps to send your adolescent to live with a friend or relative or have another adult come to live with you. When physical abuse occurs, such as what you have described, you need to take decisive action. Taking the right action, however, is important. You want to make sure you are not escalating the situation and keeping yourself safe. It’s important to ‘disconnect’ instead of overreacting physically or emotionally to an adolescent who is starting to lose control. When your child has been abusive, calling the police but then not pressing charges or not having your child arrested when the police come to your house, can make the situation worse--can make it more dangerous for you. Work with a professional to devise a safety plan for yourself to be ready to help yourself and your son with an effective intervention. Contact domestic violence support in your local area for help with that safety plan. Be sure to read this article from James Lehman for more important recommendations: When Kids Get Violent: There's No Excuse for Abuse http://www.empoweringparents.com/when-Kids-Get-Violent.php

  • 7 year up hill stuggle
    My son is 16 almost 17 years old. My heart goes out to all of thr parents who struggle with verbal or physical abuse. Let me just say that having two or more parental authorities in the home will most certainly help the situation. I am a single momMore who struggled to give my son a better life. He is an only child and gets the center of attention. He is verbally and physically abusive to me recently he punched me in the side of my head and my ear started to bleed. He busted my lip and told me he should knock my teeth out of my mouth. He went on a rampage and kicked holes in walls and kicked in doors taring the door frames apart. He broke my lugage and broke my jewelery. He closed the windows so no body could hear me scream. He has been hospitalized and treated by multiple Physicians and therapist etc. It does not help much, because they recent the parent making them talk to a stranger about them. He will not bath on his own. I have to put my foot down. He will bath and put on the same funky clothing on refusing to take them off. His room reeks of funk and now I have given up on him. I don't know to either put him in a RTC or jail or just let him go. I should change my address and phone number. Keep in mind young adults know what they are doing. They just feel invincible, like they can get away with anything. He can't live in my house and destroy property and beat on me like a mad animal. Yes we are parents, but we are not punching bags. If you know in your head and your heart that you have done all that is possible, then let them hit the bricks. One blow to the head sent me to the emergency room, my ear bleeding for 2 days. Next time it could be my brain.
  • Tina Wakefield

    Dear Anamaree,

    I am sorry to hear you are experiencing such difficulties with your son. You may need to establish with your son that even though he has his own laptop, his ability to use it is a privilege that needs to be earned. We don’t recommend getting into a physical altercation over trying to restrict his laptop, yet consequences shouldn’t be avoided -- especially because he’s trying to take control of the situation in aggressive ways. Use whatever means you can to decide what is within your control to restrict and/or put limits on, and how you can go about doing that in a safe and effective way. Your son needs you to take a firm stance, and that stance is: "There is no excuse for abuse, and it won’t be tolerated in our home." He is strongly resisting your rules and structure and his behavior has become violent; James Lehman feels like when behavior has reached that point, it makes sense to involve outside help in the form of therapy, social services, and possibly the police. You have to look at what extent you’re willing to go to make sure he’s held accountable for his actions. Keep in mind that consequences are there to motivate him to practice new skills, but won’t teach him alternatives to how he’s currently managing his anger and frustration. I’ll include several articles that talk about this more in depth. I wish you well.



  • Erin O'Brien

    Dear Wendy,

    Raising a teenager is a challenging job and I am sorry to hear about the difficulties you are experiencing with your son. It’s certainly important to have support for yourself while facing stress. James Lehman’s Total Transformation Program is designed to address many of the behaviors you are seeing in your son. The program teaches parents how to be effective limit setters, problem solvers, and trainers—parenting styles that lead to accountability in your home. The Support Line Service is available to people who are utilizing the program in their homes and the phone number is included in the materials.

    I agree that many of the behaviors you describe are of real concern. We want to keep safety in the forefront of our minds and it may be necessary to utilize the authorities or other local supports to keep your son (and/or yourself) safe as well as to set limits for him. I would recommend having a conversation with your son at time when things are calm and to be really clear with your house rules and expectations. Remember, you are the parent and you get to establish the rules in your home—your son doesn’t have to like them, but it he needs to follow them. Please continue to touch base with us on Empowering Parents!

    Erin O'Brien, Parental Support Line Advisor

  • Wendy
    I AM SOOOO FRUSTRATED!!!! My teenager is pushing me around, lying, stealing from me,won't obey curfew, has already had sex (@14), gotten VERY drunk, swears at me and tells to to F---- OFF! will someone PLEASE send me a phone # for a parents helpline before I endMore up in the looney bin?
  • losinghope
    I have had custody of my 12 yr old nephew for 8 yrs. His mother returned to our state this past July. Since than he has become very physically and verbally abusive. He has been place in a couple of hospitals to get help. Nothing hasMore helped him. He has been diag. with ADHD and Bipolar NS. I have called the police several times on him for his destruction of my home and his verbal and physical abuse. He hit sme and his older sister and destoys everything in his path when he is told no about something. Does anyone have any suggestions on how I can hlep him??
  • anamaree

    Hi, i am the single parent ( mother) of a lovely 14 year old boy. only the last few months he has begun to exhibit huge anger toward me , mostly disgusting language, hurtful barbs, but on a few occasions now he has pushed me, hit me with pillows and once punched my arm.

    how can i place consequences - he has his own laptop which is with him, and he locks with a password, i could remove the tv i guess although he doesnt watch a lot and i enjoy it, i do dock pocket mney, its difficult to ground him, he is home schooled now by his choice which is going fine ( i dont teach he has tutors), we live in asia yet are caucasian... how to put in consequences so the awful aggressive behaviour stops.


  • AJ

    My 13 year old son wanted to punch his father at midnight on new years eve. The family was waiting for the midnight fireworks show on a beach. He had purchased some fierworks himself that he had placed on the sand near us. I picked up the box and gave one to a boy who did not have any. Apparently in picking up the box "I lost other fireworks that he had placed on the lid". He was verbally abusive and blamed me for ruining the moment. His father immediately told him he was out of place and my son attacked him. They rolled in the sand, and my husband held his fists so he could not hit any more. My son tried to buck him with his head and shouted how much he hated him. My husband very consistent in his child rearing techniques and my son is very defiant. Unfortunately I tend to be the permissive parent giving in to their whims...

    We have been working hard these past months to repair the damage done. My husband has been talking more one on one with my son. I have been working on my parenting skills and my son lost his going out with friends for one month. I would like to know if such and incident will leave permanent damage. I know my husband will never forget it, and in a way I feel my son was empowered by it.

  • Mom of 3

    For Audrey,

    Your situation sounds like it is beyond the scope of a parent or parent-figure and it has moved to the law enforcement realm. The toll it is taking on you and the other children sounds overwhelming. I went through a similar situation with my oldest until I realized that my obligation was first and foremost to protect everyone in our house and that included protecting them from threats and bullying as well as physical violence. I made it clear, both in writing and verbally, to my oldest that certain behaviors would be an immediate call to the police. I also then made it clear that the stuation would be out of my hands and in their hands. He tested that and I followed through. We had a few calls at first and then no more. I think it is so important that if you have a child who is bullying physically and emotionally it needs to be treated very seriously and decisively. The other children in your life need to know, without a doubt, that you will protect them from verbal and physical abuse. And the abusive child needs to know that as well. I hope things work out for your family.

  • Mom of 3
    To Bonsai: Getting into a physical altercation with your child and then expecting him not to physically defend himself is trying to defy the way all of us are hard-wired; as humans, we react in a 'fight or flight' mode when our emotional brain decides we're under attack. Once thatMore emotional, non-rational part of us kicks in, it takes between 12 & 18 minutes for the more rational brain to kick in. You can buy and install a computer program that will automatically turn the system off at predetermined times; you can unplug the computer without touching your child; or you can set a timer, so that for every minute he goes past his computer time, it's deducted the next day. Then deduct it at the beginning, not the end, so the same problem doesn't crop up. You can unplug the keyboard and keep it with you until it's computer time.I hope one of these suggestions help. I'm a single mother of three teenagers. Almost always, it's worse to up the ante into a physical confrontation.
  • Ms. Karin

    For Bonsai:

    My 15 year old son is a computer guy as well and would stay on the lap top and internet all day if I would let him. Obviously, that is not going to happen. I used to have fights similar to yours until I installed some parenting control software. I have tried a few, and Parental Control seems to work the best. I picked up my copy at Best Buy for about $30. It limits time, websites, days and even will send your email a daily report as to the times and websites your child has visited. I like getting a daily report so I can tie consequences more directly to the computer infraction. It also removes the face to face interaction when the amount of computer time is exhausted. That in itself is worth the cost!

  • Debbie
    I have had similar issues and problems. I used to be verbally abused by my dad as a kid, and I swore I would not be like that. In the heat of the moment, I get frustrated and swear, and threaten to take stuff away, sometimes do. It doesn'tMore seem to affect him. He says he is sorry, and then eventually another conflict comes up. I spanked him as a young kid, but past 9-10, I don't feel like that is effective or necessary. We should be able to work it out, but it happens again, and the cycle starts over. This isn't how I imagined my life would be. I thought that we could be happy.(I am delusional) But it is just a battle of wills,and negotiations. He hasn't hit me, and I am not afraid of him, I am a Black belt,but so is he, I think I could control him if I had to. He's 14. He wants to be independent, but he sometimes makes the wrong choices. I know he is just trying to grow up. It is just very hard to guide him through life without butting heads every single day. Every day something comes up.
  • gpcruise

    Yes indeed, the car! 13 yer old twins misbehaving in the back of the car, I almost got in a wreck one day too!

    Audrey, I hear you! I have step daughter of 15 now and I made the mistake of allowing her to manipulate me...she's smart, even the juvenile judge said so! I do not feel so ashamed after that. I forgive her but I do not forget though, the times of physical violence are horrendous. At the moment she is in a facility to deal with her behaviors and get her back on track. We are recouping our energies too! I urge you to still remain positive your own self though...good comes out of all situations Audrey x

  • Audrey
    Today was awful! Our 12 yr old adopted daughter(granddaughter by son) hit, said she hated and threatened to kill myself and the youngest of the four we took in who is 6, a boy. I had asked her to go to the corner and and was told NOMore several times and then she did kick everything in sight. I figured it was her feet she was hurting so go ahead. This is when she got verbal. I took it until she threatened the little one, then I lost it. He has been sick and we just found out it has been due to seizures. Her other sister, 8, informed me during all this that she had been hitting him and knocked his head against the wall. I confronted her, got to close and she started in on me, Now I have bruises, bent up glasses and totally upset as what to do. Just last July she was put in voluntary CPS due beating up on me ( I am 56.) She went to a theraputic home that was supposed to help and we found out too late the woman did nothing to help but regressed her so took her out in late Nov. Thought we were doing the right thing . For a while we were okay but now she is back to her old self of OCD. There seems to be NOTHING we can take away from her or anything to get across to her. She has been with us longer than with the abusive home she was in (came to us at 6) but this does not seem to matter. We have tried to have her in all types of therapy, have been working with the transformation program but it seems like we are fighting a lost cause.......i don't want to give up but it is getting to be a war zone. Just needed to sound off I guess, Not many people really understand, not even our social worker. It is always, hang in there, will get back to you , I have to go now because I am late for a meeting. We also have a 10 yr old girl who had made death threats to kids at school that is in a theraputic home right now and due to come home in a couple of months. She is doing okay there but does not have conflict due to she is the only child there. We are worried what will happen hen she has to deal with living with her sisters and brother again. Some days we wonder just where our heads were really at when we took this on 6 years ago. Anyway, you really find out who your friends are and we ended up with none. Enough of my pity party. Like I stated, just sounding off.
  • Bonsai

    My son is 12 with ADHD/ODD. Many times when he gets on the computer for a pre-determined amount of time, he simply refuses to get off when his time is up. I'm flexible because he's taught himself some complicated scripting that can't be saved and has trouble with time management. Even so, he will cuss at me and hit me if I try to physically remove him from the computer (no dad in the house). I've had bruises and there are holes in the wall from his uncontrolled anger. Six weeks ago he had a black eye from a school fight. (The next day, my son became sarcastic defiant,and finally enraged when I told him his computer time was up.Trying to be consistant,yet flexible,I asked him to tell me WHEN he could get off. This usually works.He stated he could complete his project in half an hour.When the timer went off, he refused to budge and again became sarcastic and cussed me out. I told him I was going to remove him bodily from the computer. When I did so, he became enraged and began hitting and kicking me. I got him in a safe restraining hold on the carpet until he calmed down, though his flailing did make his hurt eye more puffy. Afterwards, he was fine and declared he was ready for bed.

    How does a single mom enforce rules when the child refuses to budge, w/out touching her child? How can I create meaningful consequences when he knows he'll be at his dad's house the next week where the consequences won't be enforced?

    I ordered and have viewed the Total Consequences DVD and the ideas were helpful; but toward the end of the week, my son's behavior worsens, as I become a "lame duck" mom.

    Any ideas? Can the Hot Line stay open weekends?

  • lolahowle

    Worried Mom: you are right about the car being a danger zone. I almost had 2 wrecks just trying to pull over and get control of the situation inside the vehicle.


    Lori: Ditto for me being raised similar to your description. Not abused, but tempers flared and my dad could whip off his belt in a split second. I learned to go along with whatever was asked of me, but not to solve problems by being calm and working things out. Now I'm climbing out of a hole I dug myself with my son's temper. It doesn't help when my mother is also in the home, repeating the same pattern I've seen for 46 years. All the more reason for a clean disconnect.

  • Worried Mom
    I think every parent with a difficult child should be cautioned that the car is a danger zone for disputes with teen children. You are confined in a close space and neither of you can walk away. No wonder negative things happen. The best thing to do as a parentMore is to be calm, stop responding and wait until later to engage and deliver the consequences. The fact that this mom asked for help is also a good idea.
  • Lori
    This really helped me. I grew up with verbal and physical "abuse" (yelling and spanking) and am guilty of parenting the same way. Now I am trying to stop this cycle because all I've done is taught my kids to act the same way. Our house is chaos. TheMore first time my 11 year old struck me I was shocked and furious. Now I realize I have no one to blame but myself. I can not expect my children to know how to calmly deal with life situations if I can not do it myself. It's a long, tough road but with Empowering Parents I am learning new skills to diffuse negative situations and turn them around.
  • nkunzat
    Good advice. My son is ten and behaves much the same way and I'm working hard to get control of these behaviors before his teen years. Thank you for sharing your experience and what you learned.
  • Annita Woz
    Wow. The disconnect. That's what I've been missing!! thank you!
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