What to Do When Nothing Is Working

Posted October 14, 2015 by

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Some days, parenting is like running through a maze…no matter where you turn, each path feels longer and more tiring than the last. Just as you get closer to a solution, a new obstacle blocks your way. You’ve hit a wall with your child’s behavior.

“I’ve tried everything. He’ll never change…I just don’t know what else to do.”

Exploring solutions for difficult child behavior takes a lot of time, energy, and in some cases, money. If what you’re trying doesn’t seem to be working – whether it’s therapy, consequences, or setting limits – it can feel like you’re constantly landing at a dead end.

Remember, you’re just one person – you’re doing all you can! If you’re at a loss for how to parent a child with behavior issues, it may be time to ask for help. Talking with someone who’s objective can give you a whole new perspective; this opens the door to solutions you may not have seen otherwise.

As a 1-on-1 Coach, I speak with many discouraged parents. In order to find the best possible solution for challenging behavior, we work together to figure out why a particular parenting strategy isn’t effective – then we make tweaks that best suit you and your child’s needs.

Want to know more? Check out “My Kid Will Never Change.” When You’ve Hit a Wall with Your Child’s Behavior.

Keep at it! The road to raising kids is full of trial and error – it’s all part of the journey we call parenthood!

“Instead of trying to get your child to like you in order to behave, what you have to do is get your child to like his life, his privileges, his friends, and his independence. Because all those things that matter to us, also matter to our kids—and are incentives for them to try harder.” – James Lehman, creator of The Total Transformation


Denise Rowden is a parent of two teens: an 18-year-old daughter and a 19-year-old son. She has worked in Special Education, Alternative Education and adolescent group homes. She has a BS in Psychology from the University of Southern Maine and is currently working on her Life Coach certification from the International Coach Federation.

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    • Shelley L Report

      We have struggled with our 13 year old son all his life. He flys into a rage when we say no even though we have good reasons. He swears at us all the time. He does the bare minimum for his homework and leaves it until the last minute. I feel he is ruining our life. Our 9 year old son is lovely most of the time. I have read every parenting book going. He manages at school but is foul at home. I don’t know what to do anymore. I dislike him and feel hate towards him at times.

  1. Jacqueline F Report

    I’m having trouble with my 12 year old son. He’s a great student and has a good heart but we are not getting along. His personal hygiene is terrible. He needs constant reminders to get work done to the point where I have to hire a sitter to sit with him just to keep him focused while I work with my 9 year old. Everything is no. I feel like giving up. Nothing I do works

  2. Stephanie Report

    I’m at a loss right now with what to do with my 11 year old son, he has been diagnosed with ODD, ADHD, depression and anxiety. I’m a single mom with no one to help co parent and my son is so disrespectful to me and everyone else he is around including kids he considers friends. I am getting calls almost daily about him lying to the teacher and picking on kids at recess. The behavior is the same at home, constant lies and picking on kids around the neighborhood and his sister. He has a psychiatrist and I’m working on getting a new therapist, but in the mean time I’m at the point where I feel like throwing my hands up and giving up because nothing is working. I just bought the ODD lifeline packet and am almost done with it, a lot of great things so far, but I feel so alone and so lost with his behaviors….
    My biggest concern is school, I’m not sure what to suggest to his teacher, she has asked for any suggestions I might have.

    • Empowering Parents Coach drowden Report

      On the Edge
      I’m glad to hear the teacher has reached out for tips on
      addressing the behaviors she is seeing in the classroom. It is usually very
      beneficial when school and home are able to work together on addressing the
      issues they are seeing. We aren’t able to offer any specific suggestions for
      your son’s teacher. It may be helpful to think about what tools and techniques
      work for you at home. Where you have our https://store.empoweringparents.com/product/the-oppositional-defiant-disorder-lifeline/ program, I’d also like to offer you a courtesy call to our 1-On-1
      Coaching service if you do not currently have an active subscription. You can
      find the information for contacting the 1-On-1 Coaches in your program materials. I encourage you to give
      them a call to see how they can help you implement the tools and techniques you
      are learning in the https://store.empoweringparents.com/product/the-oppositional-defiant-disorder-lifeline/. We appreciate you writing in and hope we can offer you further
      assistance. Take care.

  3. Remaining Hopeful Report

    Hi Karen:
    We have 3 boys.  We live in a culture where most kids finish high school and their parents send them to college.  We have intended to do this for all our kids.  Firstborn earned academic scholarships, so hasn’t needed much help with college.

    The middle is 18 and is a senior in high school.  He only attends school for 2 classes, he does 2 other classes online and goes to work from 11-6 about 4 days a week.  A few problems:
    He has been caught with tobacco, alcohol and prescription drugs at various times over the last 2-3 years.
    He has been characterized by lying and stealing.  However, he rarely admits it.  We don’t have proof, so it’s hard to make accusations, but those suspicions are always there.
    He curses.
    He has refused to “keep us notified” as to his whereabouts, but its usually  just because he “forgot”.
    He is financially irresponsible.
    When we talk to him, he wants to do better and seems humble and frustrated with himself.
    We are meeting with him weekly to discuss areas for which he needs to take responsibility.  He seems willing, but doesn’t follow through.
    We know that we need to define and then follow through on consequences for disobedience and disrespect.  however, it is difficult, when we need him to drive himself to school and work.  The care and phone are about the only freedoms he has. 

    My biggest question right now is how do we support him after high school?  We are not willing to send him to the traditional big college as we feel this sets him up for failure.  Do we offer to let him stay home for another year and attend college (and hopefully learn to be more responsible) or tell him to move out after high school and figure out what he wants to do on his own since he is not following our house rules.

    I want to give him some guidance as to what his options will be as I don’t want him to think in the back of his mind that we will go ahead and send him off to college.

    Thanks for any input and suggestions you can offer.

    • Ann Report

      Our 17 year son is the same way. His behaviour started when he met his girlfriend at the age of 16. We have tried everything possible from counseling to not allowing him to live at home if he doesn’t follow our house rules. We reported him as a runaway but continues to do what he does because his girlfriend’s family allows him to sleep at their house with their daughter. They take him to family trips with them and give him things he wants and needs. We gave tried talking with the parents to cooperate with us but to no avail. They cannot control their own daughter and allows her to dictate what goes on in their home. We’ve sought the help of professionals (therapists, counselors, teachers, etc.) but none of them can get through to him. He promises he will change his behaviour every time but he continues to behave this way. We stopped giving him money but he found a job to buy his gas. He comes home only once a week but only to change his clothes and leaves again. He stays and sleeps at his girlfriend’s house majority of the time. CAN ANYONE PLEASE HELP US!!!

      • Empowering Parents Coach Rebecca Wolfenden, 1-on-1 Coach Report

        I hear you. It can be so challenging when you have done everything you can to help your son, yet he continues to behave this way. In the end, you cannot “make” your son act a certain way or make different choices. People do not generally change unless they feel comfortable with the way things are going. You can set limits and enforce boundaries with him, such as not giving him money and reporting him as a runaway, which might contribute to his discomfort. Ultimately, though, if he is getting his needs met and is comfortable with his current living situation, then it’s going to be more effective to focus on taking care of yourself right now. You might find some helpful tips in Grieving Your Child Who’s “Gone Wrong”. I recognize how difficult this must be for you right now, and I wish you and your family all the best moving forward. Take care.

  4. SandraT8 Report

    I have 8 year old boy/girl twins.  My daughter was always an absolutely sweety with a heart of gold…always ready to help.  Lately its like she has become someone else.  I know there have been some issues at school with one or two girls being mean, but that doesn’t excuse her behaviour.  She just doesn’t listen, she has become disrespectful and when I give her a consequence she cries, apologises and promises not to do it again.  I admit I have given in, it just breaks my heart, but lately I have stuck to the punishment but its clearly not working.  She is purposefully mean to her brother, and this mean streak so does not suit her.
    I don’t know what to do…

  5. ElizabethTurner Report

    I have a 9 yr old son who has become more and more violent with his peers at school more than before. Last year he got suspended 3 time for injuring another student and we are on the same path as last year. At home he does act out sporadically. More his feelings are hurt and he will stomp off to his room, slam the door and will rip up or throw things. He has made mention that he wants to run away and just live with his friends. I am a single parent and he does see his father every other weekend and once a week with his sister. I am just at a lost of what to do because each time when he gets in trouble at school he claims that it wasn’t his fault or that the other child was bullying him. Right now I am trying to set up a meeting with his teacher because we need a game plan. He is supposed to be going to recess detention and is repeatedly still going out to recess. Anything you can suggest would be helpful.

    • Empowering Parents Coach drowden Report

      I am sorry to hear you are starting to see the same acting
      out behaviors from last year. It can be tough to know what steps you can take
      to help your child at school; after all, you’re not there. I would continue to
      work closely with the school on developing a plan for how they can handle these
      behaviors when they occur. It may also be beneficial to sit down with your son
      at a calm time and problem solve different ways he can handle frustrations and
      upsets. Sara Bean gives some great tips for having a problem solving
      conversation in her article  http://www.empoweringparents.com/the-surprising-reason-for-bad-child-behavior.php#ixzz3pPxoSHSD.
      From what you have written, it sounds like there are consequences in place at
      school for his behavior. We wouldn’t recommend giving him consequences at home if the school is already
      addressing it. Instead, you might come up with a behavior or incentive plan
      where he can earn something each day he doesn’t get in trouble at school, like
      extra computer or video game time. We do have another article you may find
      useful as well: http://www.empoweringparents.com/Aggressive-Child-Behavior-Part-I-Fighting-in-School-and-at-Home.php. We appreciate you
      writing in. Take care.

  6. Waiting for my Blessings Report

    11year old daughter, adopted at birth, eventually diagnosed with FASD-5, ODD, and ADHD has been verbally, emotionally, and physically abusive to both her eight year old sister and me….not to dad very much but he is out of state working for months at a time anyway! Finally called the police and she spent 5 hours in juvenile detention about a month ago. We now have a social worker through the courts system and the counselor that is associated with the psychiatrist that we see for her medication. This counselor seems to think that she may also have RAD! Good grief! I am barely keeping it together and now I am being told that I didn’t attach to my child! My daughter bullies and controls the home…the police that took her said that I should get control back by force, while the counselor said I have to spend more time with her so that we can connect. My younger child acts like the victim of abuse as she will do anything to keep her sister calm, which translates into the older child doesn’t lift a finger and her sister is doing everything. I, too, feel like a victim of abuse, and honestly, I really don’t want to be around her because she always turns into, for lack of better words, a verbally abusive B! Nothing is ever enough, nothing is ever right, and as soon as she gets what she wants, she is right back at it. At least she has stopped hitting and pushing me, but it wouldn’t take much for that to happen again, even though she doesn’t want to go back to detention. She is very manipulative and charming, twists everything around so that she is never at fault.
    Suggestions…and believe me, a residential treatment center is not off the radar .
    Mom spending her days trying to stay in front of a speeding locomotive! We have been seeing counselors and psychiatrists since she was four years of age;currently on two medications….help!

    • Empowering Parents Coach drowden Report

      Waiting for my Blessings
      What a tough situation. I am sorry you have been dealing
      with so much acting out and aggressive behavior from your daughter. From what
      you have shared, it’s no wonder you are feeling exhausted and overwhelmed. You
      may find it helpful to develop a self care plan you can implement during times
      when you are feeling overwhelmed and stressed about your daughter’s behaviors.
      A self care plan can include anything you would like, such as meeting a friend
      for coffee, going for a walk or doing another form of physical activity, or
      possibly taking an enrichment class. Some parents find more structured supports
      helpful, in the form of an individual counselor or parent support group. The
      focus of the self care plan is on reducing stress and recharging your
      batteries. I would continue to work closely with the court appointed social
      worker on developing effective ways of addressing/managing your daughter’s
      behavior as the social worker is able to work directly with your daughter and
      your family. We appreciate you writing in and wish you the best of luck moving
      forward. Be sure to check back to let us know how things are going. Take care.

    • Stephanie Report

      Waiting for my Blessings I feel your pain my 11yr old son is adopted as well, and has many of the same diagnosis. It is such a helpless feeling!  I really feel for you!! it becomes so much always having everyone look at you like you are a bad parent, when you are doing everything you can do! I wish you luck and I hope things turn around for you!!

  7. KateKaufmanJohnson Report

    hi there, i wrote an extensive note to your “contact us” page a couple of weeks ago, related to my situation.  I have purchased several of your products over the years and would like to access the coaching feature somehow.  Can you please advise??

    • Empowering Parents Coach drowden Report

      Hi, Kate. You ask a great question. You can find the contact
      information for 1-On-1 Coaching in your program materials. I would be happy to
      offer you a courtesy call if you haven’t yet tried the 1-On-1 Coaching service.
      You could also contact our customer service department at 1-800-258-4315 for
      more information on how 1-On-1 Coaching can help and support you. I appreciate
      you writing in. Take care.

  8. Desperate mum Report

    Please help.. I have a 20 year old daughter who still lives with me, and I want to move in with my partner who lives about 20 minutes away by train but my daughter does not want to move with me and think I am unfair to move that distance. What do you suggest as I would really want to live there and we have found a house to live?

    • Empowering Parents Coach drowden Report

      Desperate mum
      What a tough situation to be in as a parent, feeling like
      you have to chose between your partner and your child. While I can’t tell you
      whether or not you should move in with your partner, I would like to point out
      that your daughter is now an adult. You are no longer in a position where you
      have to continue providing for her. If you were to look at the situation from
      the opposite perspective and it was your daughter who was wanting to move,
      would you try to hold her back from something that could make her happy? I
      think there comes a point in a parents life when they need to make choices
      based on what’s best for them, not what’s best for their adult child. Only you
      can decide if that point is now. I wish you luck as you work through this
      decision. Be sure to check back and let us know how things are going. Take

  9. Amber Report

    please help.  Recently my 15 daughter has become, let’s say difficult. She had always been strong willed and stubborn, but within the last 6 months or so this had turned into defiance and disrespect. She is good person but I do know that this type of situation only gets worse if not handled promptly. I also realize that I don’t know how to correct this on my own and we need help from an outside person not directly affected by the situation.  My first step was to go to a psychiatrist but realized that their main objective was to treat with medication. So we went today to a psychologist thinking they would focus more on therapy but after the 45 min session they suggested weekly sessions but also said I needed to fill the rx from psychiatrist immediately.  I’m not saying that medication is defiantly not an option however I feel like it should not be our first end all be all option. Can anyone suggest anyone or any group or any on line resources for treatment right might start with coping techniques and behavior modification therapies and use prescription medicines as one of the last resorts. What is ya’lls opinion on medication vs therapy.
    Thanks for any and all feedback 
    Worried mom.

    • Empowering Parents Coach drowden Report

      Worried mom 22
      You ask a great question. Whether or not to use medication
      as part of a treatment plan is a personal decision each family must make for
      itself. You might consider talking with the prescribing doctor about your
      concerns to see if there may other options. You could also contact the 211
      Helpline to find out information on other mental health providers in your area.
      You can reach the Helpline 24 hours a day by calling 1-800-273-6222 or by
      visiting them online at http://www.211.org/. We
      appreciate you writing in and wish you and your family the best of luck moving
      forward. Take care.

  10. Ken Report

    I have a 11 year old daughter. She repeatedly does things which are not accepted. She uses my business phone data despite telling her three times. She steals small items, lies alot and when caught she’ll say give her a chance. I find it hard to manage her untruthful behaviour.i would appreciate some handy advice.

    • Empowering Parents Coach drowden Report

      I can only imagine how frustrating this must be for you. It
      can be tough when it seems like your child just keeps making the same poor
      choices over and over again. Something that may be helpful is picking one
      behavior to focus on at a time, as Carole Banks suggests in the article http://www.empoweringparents.com/My-Childs-Behavior-Is-So-Bad.php#ixzz3olXXvnA1. For example, you might focus on her taking things that don’t
      belong to her. It may also be helpful to know that the behaviors you describe
      are most likely do to your daughter’s poor problem solving skills. When she
      sees something she wants, she takes it. And, when she gets caught, she lies
      because she doesn’t want to get in trouble. Helping her develop better problem
      solving skills while also holding her accountable is going to be important.
      Sara Bean gives great tips for how to have a problem solving conversation with
      your child in her article http://www.empoweringparents.com/the-surprising-reason-for-bad-child-behavior.php#ixzz3olXJyWJN.
      We appreciate you writing in and wish you the best of luck moving forward. Take

  11. ShelleySchleyStrimling Report

    Hi – I am looking for help with my 10 year old daughter who was diagnosed with Aspergers in March this year – I need a support system in Port Elizabeth South Africa – going crazy mom and very unhappy child no matter how nice we are!!

    • Empowering Parents Coach drowden Report

      Thank you for reaching out to Empowering Parents for help in
      finding resources in South Africa. While there aren’t any specific programs or
      professionals we are able to refer you to, there is a service that may be able
      to help you find the support you are looking for. http://www.southafrica.info/services/crisishelp.htm#.ViFEYStCFHw
      gives information on various resources and services for families in need. I
      hope this helps. Be sure to check back to let us know how things are going.
      Take care.



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