House Rules? Ideas needed


New Member
I'm drafting a list of house rules that must be followed and will be enforced when difficult child returns home (don't know when that will be though). This will be presented to my difficult child on Monday at our family meeting while in his current placement. Please let me know what has or hasn't worked in your home. Thanks!!
This is what I have so far...

House Rules – Draft – August 2007

1. You will only leave the house or associate in any way with people who we approve of (list to follow).

2. All requests to leave the house and for money will be recorded, by you, in a log.

3. Do not possess or consume alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, or any illegal substance.

4. Submit to random drug & alcohol tests.

5. Cell phone privilege, as you know it, is over (final plan TBD).

6. Money will be EARNED…not given (specific jobs with $ amounts TBD).

7. We will hold all earned money until requested for specific reason that we approve of.

8. Receipts for ALL items purchased must be presented and change, if any, returned to us. Cash and receipts must reconcile.

9. NO Violence! PO will be called immediately for any aggressive or out of control behavior.

10. All discussions will be between all three of us (Mike, mom, Jim). No requests will be considered if any attempt is made to split us.

11. Discussions will immediately end when we say so, no pushing, bickering, name-calling will be tolerated.

12. Chores will be done in a timely manner.

13. Keep your room and bathroom clean…will be checked daily. Take care of your own laundry.

14. Homework will be done at a set time and place (TBD: place will be on 1st floor, end time will by 8 PM).

15. Treat parents, teachers, Probation Officer, counselors, etc. with respect at all times.

16. Curfew (to include time to be home, electronics off, bedtime, wake time, etc.) TBD.

17. You will go to school on time, attend each class on time, and stay the entire day.

This document is a draft; it is not all-inclusive or final. We will be talking with your probation officer and therapists; therefore, some changes are likely to occur. All involved will sign the final document. Any rules not followed will have consequences, either loss of privileges or a phone call to your probation officer or police, if necessary. These rules will be vigorously enforced; not so much to be punitive (although it will feel that way) but to save your life. We love you very much.

Sara PA

New Member
What's going to happen if he breaks the rules? Or doesn't agree to begin with?

Frankly, I can't see a difficult child following those rules.


New Member
I would definitely narrow the list down...quite a bit. The list, unfortunately, is (in my opinion) setting him up for failure. I would consider coming up with a list WITH he is invested in it. Consider some positive reinforcements in addition to the consequences.

Is your son on any medications...your signature didn't say.


New Member
Here are some rules I found on another site....

House Rules & Expectations For Teens

1. Children are not adults. They have no authority over their parents. That means children have some choices and some freedom but only those that parents give them. Parents have a responsibility to raise their children the best they know how.

2. Children have a legal right to adequate food, shelter, education, health care, clothing and protection from abuse. Parents are not required to give their children anything else.

3. Children follow directions and requests made by parents. Parents may discuss the matter and explain their reasons, but parents are not required to explain or justify their decisions.

4. Children are expected to be self-managers. Parents will become involved at the appropriate level of need, become more involved as necessary and help their children when they appear to need help. The child's behavior determines whether or not parents need to make decisions for their children and give them more directions.

5. Children will not carry, hold or use drugs, alcohol or tobacco. They will not ride in a car with anyone using or under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

6. Children will get up for school or work on time. Parents will specify a time and may help children get up if children are late or not on time.

7. Children will do assigned house chores. Children are not paid for work that is not completed on time or as specified. Parents may give their children a bonus or something extra but they are not required to give their children money.

8. Children will not take or use things that belong to others without permission. Return all borrowed items as agreed and in the condition they found it.

9. Hygiene will be daily and at an appropriate time. Parents will designate what must be done and will become more directive if children fail to manage this responsibility.

10. Children will discuss and admit errors, mistakes and inappropriate behavior when this is pointed out by parents. Children will talk with their parents or will communicate with family members to resolve problems and misunderstandings.

11. There will be no use of profanity, cruel, sarcastic or insulting remarks.

12. Homework will be completed on time and turned in to teachers. Parents will designate when and what must be done of children fail to manage this responsibility.

13. Children will not push, use physical force, spit, break or throw anything to get what they want, to hurt anyone or because they did not get what they wanted.

14. Children will eat regular, nutritious and balanced meals at breakfast, lunch and dinner. Failure to eat properly is unhealthy and self-harming.

15. There will be no use of the car or outside activities such as sports, parties (etc…) if the average grade in any class during a semester is lower than a "C". Children must maintain a "B" average to use a car.

16. Children will come to dinner and family meetings on time and wait until excused from the meeting or meal.

17. There will be no phone calls after 9:00 pm or before 7:30 am.

18. There will be no visitors in the house after 9:00 pm without 24 hour notice and a parent’s permission. Children will be home at a designated time.

19. No other children will be allowed in the house without permission or unless a parent is present who gives permission. Parents can designate who can come into the house without permission during appropriate times.

20. Children must ask for permission at least 24 hours in advance in order to go out at night, participate in unscheduled activities or stay over at friends. Parents may give permission but may also say no because 24 hours notice was not given.

21. The internet will not be used except for school/educational related activities and for e-mail to known friends and family. Parents will be given access and may monitor all e-mail and internet use.

22. Parents will try to help, support and solve problems if children are having problems. Children will lose some freedoms, choices and privileges if they do not cooperate or if they refuse to follow the house rules.


New Member
Teenagers: Setting House Rules

by Robert Needlman, M.D., F.A.A.P.
reviewed by Robert Needlman, M.D., F.A.A.P.
There are no magic rules to make living with teenagers pleasant all of the time. But if you put a few fundamental rules in place, you'll help your adolescent child adopt sensible and responsible behaviors and avoid a lot of unnecessary strife.

All these rules flow from what I like to call "The Law of Exchange," which states that you can expect to get back what you give to your child. For example, if you give your child respect, your child should treat you with respect. If you listen to your child with an open mind, she should accord you the same courtesy. (Conversely, if you lose your temper often and yell at your child, guess what the Law of Exchange has in store for you?) The Law of Exchange is really not a rule, it's more like the Law of Gravity: It simply states how things work.

Here are some of the rules that follow from the Law of Exchange:

1. Everyone has the right to a pleasant place to live. A practical application of this rule is that teens know that they can't play their CDs so loudly as to disturb others. They need to pick up clothing and other items in hallways, bathrooms, and other spaces they share with the rest of the family. They can expect adults and other children to give them the same courtesy.

2. Everyone has a right to have her own space. If your teenager has her own room, your teen can decorate the room as she wishes, and can keep it as messy or neat as she chooses--within reason. Parents reserve the right to decide if the "within reason" line has been crossed. For example, a parent is within her rights to insist that a teen pick up if the room starts to smell bad (particularly if the smell bothers others outside the room, violating Rule No. 1). If your teen shares a room, it's still important to mark off a space that's her own, even if it is nothing more than a set of drawers, a closet, or a certain bit of floor space.

3. Parents have the responsibility to keep their children safe and the right to worry about them. Most teens will actively oppose parental rules that they think are arbitrary (for example, having to wear their hair a certain way). But they are much more accepting of rules that are clearly intended to keep them safe. Young children depend on their parents to protect them from the dangers of the world. Older children and teens need less protection, but still want to feel that they are watched over and loved, even if they pretend not to care. When a curfew, for instance, is framed in light of this rule, teens are more likely to accept it: "You have to be home by 10 at night, because the streets aren't safe after that. If you haven't come home or at least called by 10, I'm going to worry."

4. Everyone has to help with the work of the family. Whether you divide up the work using a formal schedule or everyone just pitches in when they can, the principle here is that everyone in the family helps out with housework and other chores--doing the dishes, taking out the garbage, cleaning up the bathrooms, raking the leaves, sorting the laundry, and so on. You might want to call a family meeting to help divvy up the chores: Teens, as well as school-age children, often feel very strongly about fairness. They are more likely to do their chores without complaining if they believe that it's the fair thing to do rather than if they are simply following orders.

5. School work is a priority. In almost every family, parents expect their adolescents to try hard in school so that they will be ready to enter the wider world of college or work. The Law of Exchange here is that parents will do what they can to find good schools, work with the teachers, and help their children in whatever ways they can. In return, parents can expect an honest effort from their children. Of course, there are real-world limitations: Not every child has access to a good school (a shameful reality in the richest country in the world!), and not all parents have the time and resources to provide all the help a child needs. But both parents and teens can agree to try, so that teens can succeed not only at home, but in life as well.


Ok since I don't know all of the details I am just putting in my .02 worth. Does he get a place to call his own without the risk of punishment to say what he wants. I have struggled with this but if they know that when they enter their room (even though it is in my house) once the door closes if they say something that it is free from punishment. It helps them to know they have a place to vent. Another thing is do you plan to set up an appeal type process. I know that sounds strange but if they know they really want something and you say no he may feel you didn't consider everything that he was thinking (or in my difficult children cases sometimes not thinking). I know we have to set up firm guidelines for our difficult children but you also have to give them one or two places they do have their own control. Again I don't know your whole situation but this is something that I have discovered.



New Member
Yeah, I was wondering what Sara was, where's the consequences? When I did up a list like this, I had the rule there, but the consequence beside it. So, for example, if difficult child 2 was hitting someone, he lost all his electronic privelages. That way I didn't even have to speak to him really. I said, "Hands on" (meaning he is hitting), and that's all I said. He knew the rest.

I think your list is good, but some of it is probably going to be hard for a difficult child. Although, I, personally, don't treat my kids as difficult child's, they are treated as regular kids, and have all the rules of regular kids, but alot of kids here can't or won't or don't, so I think it depends on your child.

Hanging out with only who you approve of probably won't work. I hate all difficult child 2's friends, so there you have it LOL! Every girl he's interested in is repulsive to me. But well, he's 15, this is a different world, a different time, and he has to learn on his own. He isn't allowed to go out without my approval. He isn't allowed to sleep over anywhere unless I talk to parents. He isn't allowed on internet to "chat" unless I'm sitting right there. But, alas, I cannot control who he sees and talks to. 1) it's not fair and 2) it won't work. However, if it was a kid doing drugs, drinking, or in trouble with the law, I would probably change my mind and surely forbid it.

Some of the stuff, he's going to have to have natural consequences for. Example, if he doesn't attend school. Let them call the enforcement officer or whatever they do. Call the P.O. if he's violent, let him deal with it.

The biggest thing I will say is, don't have anything on the list you're not going to stick to. Because one time you renig, I guarantee he's going to think "I got em".

And checking the bathroom every day, hmm. How about just giving him one day through the week to clean it, and check it then. If it's his bath, and it's a mess, let it be a mess. I'm 36 years old and my bathroom isn't sparkling every day.

I think the routine with homework will be good, too. My kids do it as soon as we get home. The TV, computer, none of that is allowed to be turned on until ALL kids have their homework done. It was hard at first, but once they were in the routine, it was ok.

Good luck, I hope your difficult child is able to handle it all.


New Member
Thanks for your comments. This is a draft and consequences will be listed on the final document but are mentioned in the last paragraph. I'm thinking that for violations related to arguing, things like that, he'll need to go to his room for a cool down time. Maybe consequences should be written just under the rule, and for ones that I'm unable to come up with a direct consequence should be removed? Also, maybe I should add a section of privileges, for example phone and easy child time (he doesn't have any video games).

Mattsmum: those are great finds...thank you!

MrsCatintheHat: I think your ideas for a safe zone and appeal process is great. Maybe we could have him put appeal requests in writing so that he's able to get all of his thoughts in, also, if he's willing to write things down it must be important to him! The safe zone could be his room, as long as he's not destroying it (which he did recently, part of why he's not here) and I think we're going to buy him a punching bag, his idea, and we think it's good.

Janna: I agree, some of these are hard, but he's crossed too many lines that I never thought he would cross. Yes, he's gotten in trouble with drugs that's why we have the friend one in there. This one is tough for us though because we're not real sure who or where he was getting the drugs. Also, I think he was mostly using by himself, but I'm not real sure yet. Furthermore, he's always made pretty good choices with friends except for a few (obviously!). I can't control what happens once he's out somewhere, but I can limit who he lives the house with.

I probably need to clarify the daily check...I'm not a neat freak in any way and his bedroom and bathroom certainly don't need to be sparkling, I just want everything off the floor but not shoved in the closet. Hang up towels in the bathroom, put dirty clothes in the hamper, not the floor. It would probably be a very good idea to list out these expectations for him since it's not as bad as it sounds. I could put this in his bathroom, for example, like pick up towels clothes daily, wipe down surfaces once per week.

I know these are hard, he's not going to like any of them. However, his actions have made them necessary. Most likely, he won't be coming home any time soon because if he refuses to follow our rules, he can't be here. We are reasonable and may be able to find some common ground with him. Unfortunately, he was refusing before he even saw them because he wants everything to be his way. period. I think he knows that we will enforce them that's why he's refusing without even knowing what they are. That was Thursday, I haven't talked with him since.


Active Member
Matt'sMom has got the list closest to our own. Basically, it comes down to mutual respect and consideration for others as a standout requirement, something that must be learned and practised to live in normal society.

MUTUAL RESPECT covers a lot of ground. It covers language, manner, mode of communication, respect for others' property and respect for own property, respect for communal space.

MUTUAL SUPPORT means working as a team to keep the home environment as pleasant and functional as possible. This means helping and working together on washing, cleaning, food preparation, gardening, maintenance - whatever is required. Working as a team is good - we each do what we can, within our limitations. I know difficult child 1 functions best when I give him a task sheet in writing. difficult child 3 works best when we work alongside each other, with me directing each small step. I put the plants in the garden and he fills the watering can and waters the plants.

MUTUAL RESPONSIBILITY means we each take personal responsibility for our actions especially where they impact on others. We especially have to consider any harm or distress we cause to others in the home and family. It also means making recompense when needed (for example, if someone breaks an item belonging to someone else, they must replace it or at least discuss replacing it with the item's owner).

Personal space is also important but in some cases, especially where trust has been broken, personal space is no longer a right.

The rules that are most important are the ones they need to use automatically when they begin to live independently. If you work with your adult or almost-adult child as if they are flatmates and not your offspring, you often do better. It also is more effective as a teaching tool, since it is good practice for their future independence.
Example: we have a practice in our home of keeping an up-to-date shopping list. We shop according to the list and anything we failed to get is immediately written down on the next list. As an item is opened, it is put on the list. If the last item of a consumable (such as milk, eggs, bread) is used then the person responsible for the housekeeping at the time (usually me) gets told about it immediately so emergency replacement can be organised as soon as possible. Considering the needs of others is paramount - Dad needs his muesli for breakfast and he is the major breadwinner, so always leave enough milk for his breakfast and cup of tea. This means no making milkshakes late at night with the last of the milk. If you think you'll want milkshakes, then get to the shop before it shuts and buy more milk.

The flip side of this example - I can show consideration to house members the same way. Example: BF2 likes buying a White Hot Chocolate from a certain café. It's expensive, he really can't afford it. So when I last went shopping I found a packet of white chocolate sachets to make hot chocolate with, and bought them. difficult child 1 saw it and said, "Wow! I like that too," so now I have two people at home who will drink it. I made it clear, though, that it's also for BF2 to take to work, so he can get himself some refreshment at work without spending a fortune at the café.
If someone in the house wants to try a certain product and it's no big deal, I will get it. Want a different breakfast cereal? Of course, when the old cereal is finished up. It's what husband & I would do for each other, and by showing this sort of respect we are trying to set an example of how to live in harmony.

It's not perfect, things go wrong. But this is the baseline we come back to. And if the kids learn to treat other people with respect, they then have a better chance of being respected. Here's hoping!



Well-Known Member

i don't know the details of your difficult child's past - not sure whether he's in juvie or Residential Treatment Center (RTC)....... but my first gut thought is that this list is really long and really tough. I know you want to make sure that rules are understood from the jumpstreet but, I prefer the mutual respect, mutual support, and mutual responsibility that Marg speaks of.

I think any teen, easy child or difficult child, when presented with list like this would be overwhelmed. I have a really good easy child and if I gave her a list like this I think she would freak - even though she does everything she is supposed to.

I understand the no drinking, the drug tests, the no violence issues but, for example, the money, friend association and daily room checks are a little iffie to me. Why set forth the issues regarding money in this list? It just makes the list longer and more intimidating, in my opinion. It's going to be really hard for you to inforce the friend issue and it sounds like a rule just begging to be broken. The daily room checks seem a little intrusive to me. It's one thing if you are forced to do drug checks, but to make him keep his room just as you keep yours seems a little harsh. My easy child doesn't keep her room perfect but she also knows that Sat morning it's clean time and she does nothing else until it's clean. I'm a neat freak and she actually defended herself really well one day by letting me know that her room was her refuge and her only area that she felt was really hers. Having clothes on the floor didn't bother her and it's not like she had trash and food and dishes up there (not allowed in our house). So we reached an agreement about the once a week clean of her bathroom and her bedroom.

Again, I don't know the past information on your difficult child, but I just strongly feel that some of these things are expectations that may not be productive to all of you living peacefully in the house again. Allowing him the opportunity to make some of the rules or consequences may also be a good plan. Since it seems you feel he won't be coming home really soon, perhaps you could try and look at the list with his eyes.

I must admit that it seems really long to me and probably self-defeating to a teen, but again, I don't know the story. Another suggestion, you might want to post this over on the "teens and substance abuse" forum. They might have some suggestions and experiences that have worked for their teens.



Well-Known Member
Cathy, that's a great start! I'm guessing that if you achieve half you'll be relieved.
I'd suggest that # 12 is too vague. As others have suggested, you need specifics. Doing chores in a "timely manner" is too vague.
Also, you don't list what the chores are.
I would cut out exclamation marks or boldface, because they imply emotion. This is an objective, concrete document. Period.

We are having trouble with-our 16-yr-old easy child in regard to ph, hrs, etc. and are going to have a family mtng. tonight. So it's not just difficult child stuff ... with-a difficult child, it's just exaggerated. Think of it as SuperParenting. :smile:


New Member
LittleDudesMom: thanks for your suggestions and acknowledging that our situation may make this a little different. Which it does. The reason for the friends thing is because I found a text on his phone stating, "I'm driving with hard core dealers" after we trusted him that these were cousins of a friend that we approved of, thinking that if the friend is ok, the cousins would be too. It turned out that the approved of friend wasn't actually with them at all. The money ones are put in place because he was buying drugs. The room check is put into place really to help him. If he waits till the end of the week to clean it, as we've done in the past, he's too overwhelmed and can't get it done. I don't expect it to be PERFECT daily, but if we poke our head in each day, my hope is that he's more inclined to just put things away as he's using them. I just want garbage and clothes picked up daily, he doesn't have to fold blankets, etc. just keep the floor cleared of stuff.

I think Marguerite's mutual rules are great, and more what we had in place before, but we found that if we're not specific, he finds too many holes. This list may be too specific, I don't know, that's why it's not the final.

Sara PA: We're going to write out consequences, depending on what rule isn't followed he'll lose privileges or we'll call his probation officer or the police if necessary. If he refuses to follow them, he won't come home. He's in a 28 day crisis unit right now and we're starting the Residential Treatment Facility (RTF) process. We're deciding whether he should come home while waiting for the Residential Treatment Facility (RTF) or go into a shelter, or some other type of short-term unit. I'm not trying to set him up for failure, but he's a master manipulator (as most teens are) and I don't know if being home is even a good idea.


New Member
Terry: Thanks for the take out emotion idea...I think that's a good one and I'll make those changes now. We will list out the chores, that was one part that I wanted to do with him. "Timely manner" should be left out too. I'm thinking of writing the chores out either daily or weekly, and listing the expected time frame next to it.

Our family meeting tomorrow will include the my husband and I, my difficult child, the director of the crisis center where he is now, his mobile therapist, and his case worker. I'm sure they'll all have some opinions as well, and I will be happy to hear them.

I'm a believer that more information is always better, I take it all in then make my own decisions. Therefore, I love reading everyone else's opinions and thank you for taking the time to respond!


Well-Known Member
There is a list in the archives that we talked about this very subject long ago when my son was coming home from Residential Treatment Center (RTC). It is a difficult situation for sure.


Well-Known Member
his mobile therapist

OMG! I want one! :laugh:

I'm a believer that more information is always better, I take it all in then make my own decisions. Therefore, I love reading everyone else's opinions and thank you for taking the time to respond!

I'm analytical too, and hoard information. My husband goes crazy when I collect so much data, but it actually makes me feel better. I don't want to miss anything, plus, I enjoy the process, as you apparently do.


New Member
Well, again thanks to everyone for posting additional information. Janet: I actually found it in the archives and thought some information was great (keepting the log for example) that's why I wanted to post it again to get more information and hoped that it would help others as well.

Ms. Magnolia: I completely agree. Each rule that we came up with was because of past behavior, may seem extreme but what's needed. I'm sorry you've had to go to such extremes in your home, but thankfully you've come up with something that works for now that helps you sleep better at night.

Unfortunately, none of this will be needed now because there's no way he'll be coming home after this current placement. He got caught smoking pot last night in the crisis center. He says it brought it in, but that's not possible. Others had home visits yesterday so someone brought it in for him. Don't know what the next steps will be yet, I'm still in shock.

Terry: it's good to know that I'm not the only one who likes lots of information! I take what I think I need and leave the rest! This website has been so so helpful! Thanks to all...


Well-Known Member
Ohhhhhhh, I'm so sorry.
Some kids make the dumbest choices. I'm banging my head against the wall along with you.



Active Member
That reference on his phone sounds to me like trying to big-note himself to someone. Very silly, very immature. Like saying, "Look at me, I'm riding down the road with no brakes and no hands on the wheel!"

Why would he feel he needs to do that? Is his self-esteem THAT low?

The rules I suggested are part of a maturing process. They are also very much a broad overview. We have a lot of small rules underneath, which apply mainly to our household because of how things work for us (like the shopping list). But they come back to the basic summaries - mutual responsibility, mutual respect and mutual support. Problems with difficult kids can also be covered by these rules - including having to sleep with your door locked because he hasn't yet grasped the importance of mutual respect.

It's like that bit in the New Testament when Jesus is asked which of the commandments is the most important (the idea being to trick him into saying 'this one', or 'that one') and he ends up SUMMARISING the lot, in just two. Brilliant. And easy to remember. If you can apply a similar principle to house rules, it makes it easier to understand WHY when you're presenting the more specific clauses (such as "We are going to check your room to make sure you're not doing anything you shouldn't; and regular, random drug tests"). This is part of working towards mutual trust (which connects to support, responsibility and respect).

What I propose as a suggestion - have the overview rules writ large. These should provide some level of 'cover', as explanation for WHY things are to be done the way they are done. Then have the other rules, the more specific ones, mapped out as a contract. Don't make it too hard to police, nor too hard to enforce. Don't give yourself too much work, in other words. This has to be something which can work in a practical way.

The overview rules set the concept. The specific rules make it clearer, give examples as well as consequences. Natural consequences work well here too, as long as they can be seen to result from breaking the rules. For example, if I'm preparing the evening meal and I'm expecting people home at a certain time, and they don't show up, and hours have passed and I still haven't heard, I will ring the police, the hospitals, everybody. Failure to let me know that you won't be home for dinner is a huge infraction in our home, because it's showing lack or respect, lack of consideration for the others. It's failure to value the input of others into your life. The natural consequences - you have to deal with the police if they find you before I do; and if I get to you first, you're going to get an earful as well as less consideration from me next time you turn up for a meal unannounced. Your next meal is likely to be the warmed-up leftovers you should have had the night before.

When dealing with a problem child, trying to enforce rules is even more of a problem. It can become a competition between you, with him trying to find a way to bend the rules (smugly) and not break them. Having the principles in broad available for him, cuts back on rule bending viability.
If it gets to the competitive stage, you've probably already lost. You will need to drastically change strategy. You need to have consequences you can stick to - not easy. You have to think of your child as a difficult flatmate, rather than offspring. Just pretend you have a flatmate who is a junkie. Lock up your valuables but if they pay the rent on time, they can stay. If they don't pay the rent and keep raiding the food kitty, they're out.

I was watching Judge Judy this afternoon. Interesting case - a woman advertised two mobile phones on eBay, with the covering text, "what is available is the picture you see."
Then the winning bidder was horrified when, after sending hundreds of dollars, all she got back were photographs of the two mobile phones. And not good photos, either.
The text was worded ambiguously, deliberately to mislead, but was it legal?
There was sufficient clear evidence that the ad had to be worded to sufficiently imply that the phones themselves were available, that Judge Judy was able to rule in favour of the woman who tried to buy the mobile phones. The eBay ad had listed specs for the 'items' which included the dimensions and weights of the phones and the photos clearly did not provide those specifications.
The trouble is, difficult children who are trying to avoid following rules are going to be like the eBay seller who tried to scam. And if they win... heaven help you.
According to the episode, eBay had subsequently terminated the phone photo seller's accounts as a result of this and similar episodes - there were consequences.

There is the letter of the law, and the spirit of the law. A difficult child needs to learn the spirit of the law as well, if they're going to have a chance to genuinely learning to live a decent life.