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Tips from The Parents' Coach » Blog Archive » New Parenting Rules When Runaway Children Return Home

New Parenting Rules When Runaway Children Return Home

The real reason why kids comply with the rules and edicts of their parents is that they think that they have no other option. They understand that their parents are the source of all comforts and necessities of life and from their prospective, there are no alternatives. If something happens to occasion their running away from home, such as a reaction to some perceived parental injustice, and they stay out over night, they will not be the same kids upon their return.

Most parents make the mistake of assuming that now that their kids have returned home all is well and they can go back to running their house and their kids like before the split. They assume the kids have learned how valuable being home is and will now gladly do as told and toe the line. They still think they can to cling onto the myth that they are the supreme rulers of their household and their kids need to simply obey or reap the negative consequences of their action, such as being grounded. Sadly, they are in for a big surprise and lots of trouble.

The main problem with their thinking is that kids who have runaway from home and have stayed out at least one night have learned that, no matter how horrendous the experienced was and how much they miss home, THEY CAN SURVIVE AWAY FROM HOME AND THEIR PARENTS! The next time that the going gets rough for them at home, they will only remember the parts of the previous split that were good and the will split again. Multiple splits start to create a coping strategy of running from things they don’t like.

The way to successfully handle returning runaways is to realize that the rules have changed. The new rule is that once a kid has left the house and stayed away on his/her own for at least one night, they must, from that point on, be treated as if they were an adult. What that means is that “you do it because I said to do it!” is no longer acceptable. From this point on, they must buy into whatever it is the parents want them to do. In other words, their parents’ directions must be logical and reasonable to them. Parents will now need to give a convincing answer to the “why” question. Punishment is the trickiest part of the new rules. Parents can still discipline their kids’ misdeeds, but they must walk the fine line of making sure the kids understand and buy into the consequences of their actions.

Parents who treated their kids from an early age as if they were fully functioning adult members of the family team where the kids were included in the decision making and discipline process will have little problem with these suggested new rules. It won’t be new to them and the chances are that their kids won’t be running away, either. Kids run away when they can’t logically comprehend their parents’ actions towards them. Kids that have been raised with the understanding that with freedom comes responsibility, will understand and even expect negative consequences of irresponsible behavior.

Recently, my own son, who is in his 20’s said something to me that illustrated this. He had been messing up some of his finances and I had warned him that I wouldn’t be bailing him out anymore. I was starting to feel a bit sorry for his plight and started to modify my stance. He said, “Dad, you were doing well up to this point, but now you are screwing up. I need to become responsible for cleaning up my own mess.”

Kids know when they are messing up and their guilt feelings will get them to be willing participants in acts of contrition. Parents, who include their kids in setting limits and the assessment of consequences for misdeeds, usually find that their role becomes one of toning down the severity of the punishments kids suggest for themselves.

For parents who would like more information on this approach to parenting their children, especially their teenagers, I would urge you to read the book, "Parent As Coach&quot by Diana Sterling. It is a short, well written book that teaches a way of raising your kids that works. I use this book as the main text for my parent of teens trainings. If you are interested in exploring either individual or group coaching, please visit my website at

About the Author:

Jason Wittman, MPS has a private practice as a Life Coach specializing in working with parents of teenage boys and young adults ( ) He can be reached at

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