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He Can't Get Along With His Father

Mark Huttenlocker

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Our son does improve for a while, but then all of the sudden he will get back into this rebellious stage. He has a really hard time communicating and getting along with his father. Now he says he can’t live with his father and wants to move out (he’ll soon be 17). His father is the “bad guy” and I am the “softy. ” Any help or advice? I just don't know what else to do. Should he be in counseling?


Individual counseling for your son’s rebelliousness is just another “traditional" or “conventional" parenting strategy that has virtually no “bang for the buck. ” If you’re going to do counseling, the whole family should be involved.

I think it would be good to begin having regular conversations with your son about how exciting his future is going to be. Begin the conversations with questions to your son like: “Are you thinking about college?" “If so, where do you think you might like to attend?" “What career field sounds interesting to you?" “When you get a full-time job and can afford it, what kind of car are you going to get?" . . . and so on.

The idea is to put a positive spin on this idea he has about moving out on his own. You may even want to spend some afternoon with him shopping for an apartment (e. g. , call some landlords, meet with the landlord at the apartment so you and your son can see it and can talk about how much it will cost HIM to live there). Play along . . . as though “moving out" is a viable option. Begin building his confidence in being “out of the nest, " because sooner rather than later, he will be on his own.

If dad would “lighten-up" a bit - and if you, dear mother, would “toughen-up" a bit - you and your husband will be more on the same page, and your son will not easily play one against the other (which sounds like what's going on here).

Before you or your husband make any decisions about anything, the two of you should discuss it first and decide collectively what to do. A weaker plan by both parents will be 10 times better than a stronger plan made by only one parent.

Mark Huttenlocker, M. A. , is a family therapist who works with teens and pre-teens experiencing emotional/behavioral problems associated with ADHD, Oppositional Defiant Disorder, Conduct Disorder, Bipolar Disorder, Autism, etc. He works with these children and their parents – in their homes. You may visit his website here:


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