New here - What is doing the Riley?


New Member
Hi. I'm new to all of this.

After going through hell this last year and not knowing why my 12 year old son has degraded so bad, my husband and I reached the ends of our ropes this weekend after I found out that my son had stolen all of my old coin collection that my mother had been saving for me since I was born. Sold them to his friends for $20. This isn't the first time he's stolen from me and I almost called the cops to have him arrested. He knows that if he does it again, I most definitely will call them.

After deciding that I couldn't take it anymore and that suicide wasn't a very good solution for me (I also have a 4 year old son that I have to take care of), I started looking into foster homes for him. It ripped me apart to admit it but I just can't stand it anymore. One of the foster homes I was looking at online mentioned ODD, and that started me on the road to research, which lead me to this wonderful site.

I now have hope that my son, who I know is a good kid deep down, won't have to be sent away and that maybe there's something we can do. We have a call into our medical insurance's mental health division now to line up some therapy for him and the entire family.

Someone in one of the previous messages mentioned "doing the Riley". What is the Riley? Could someone either explain or point me in the direction so that I can look for more information please?



Staff member
Hello and welcome to the community. I'm glad that you found us but I'm sorry that you had to. Sorry that things are so rough for you right now.

Dr. Douglas Riley is a practicing child and adolescent psychologist who has written the following books:
The Defiant Child: A Parent's Guide to Oppositional Defiant Disorder,

What Your Explosive Child Is Trying to Tell You: Discovering the Pathway from Symptoms to Solutions

Dr. Riley's Box of Tricks: 80 Uncommon Solutions for Everyday Parenting Problems

Here is a link to a thread that Dr. Riley started here a few years ago.

The following is a description of Dr. Riley's techniques for dealing with defiant kids written by cd member Pico:

I will attempt to explain Doug Riley in a very short space, but I cannot do the man justice in one posting.

Doug Riley truly understands the defiant baseline of ODD kids. He also understands the turning point.

In order to get my kid's attention, I had to prove to him in one sweeping event, that I was the parent -- therefore the Person In Charge; and he was the child -- therefore the Person who has to live with the rules set down by the picture. How do you get this across to your child?

Riley has a really straightforward approach to dealing with ODD kids.

1. You are the boss. Kid has to believe this down in the core of him where he lives. How do you do this? By teaching him what you are REQUIRED BY LAW to do for him, as his parent.

BY LAW: A parent must provide a child with food, shelter, clothing, and a place to sleep. Period. Now we have to break that down. But suffice it that the list does NOT include: Nintendo, Nikes, a car, a computer, a television, a cd player, or cds to play in it, cool clothes, pizza, soft drinks, a bicycle, music of any kind, books, magazines, friends, phone, soccor, football, any other sports, anything fun.

Food: Balanced meals are to be provided, but they are not fun food. They are nutritious. Period.

Clothing. Two days worth of clothing appropriate to the season. These clothes do not include any fun or fashion clothes. Shirts are plain, with no logos or status symbols. Pants fit. Shoes are functional but not status symbols.

Shelter. Shelter is an empty room.

A place to sleep. A mattress, a blanket, a pillow. Period.

That is a full Riley.

You are now freaking out. You think you've just met the parent from hell.

Well. Love. When my 10 year old stood in the livingroom of my house and cussed me out, calling me a M------ F-------- B----- and his response to my demand that he cut that out was to tell me to go to Hell, I decided that a Full Riley was an extremely moderate response. This little darling, by the way, was at the time receiving counseling 3 to 4 days a week, and was sucking all the resources and energy, and oxygen out of the entire family.

So I calmly walked into his room and started carrying stuff out, starting with the CD player, as I had not taught him that language so he must have picked it up from the CDs. His bicycle followed the CD player, and before long, I had his undivided attention.

I have since perfected selective removal of specific items as natural consequences. But to get his total attention, and to get him to understand the sanctity of your ownership of your property, a full Riley with a bare room is reasonable.

The point of all this is?

He is ENTITLED to air, food, clothing, shelter, and a place to sleep.

Everything else is GOOD STUFF. You have to Earn the good stuff. And EARN is a hard one. It took my kid four months to EARN back his CD player. It took him an additional Six Months to earn back a bicycle. During that time he was not allowed to borrow either of those items from his brother either.

It's what you would do if he was 16 and he did something stupid and lost his driver's license. You can't drive for a year. Period. You don't get to borrow dad's drivers license do you? Nope. You learn to walk, buster. Or you ride in the geek seat in the back of somebody else's mom's car. Hey. Life is full of stuff you have to learn.

So You have to teach the kid that GOOD STUFF is earned. Time with the family is GOOD STUFF. TV is GOOD STUFF. Being outside on the front porch is GOOD STUFF. Reading anything other than school work is GOOD STUFF. Phone is good stuff. Privacy on the Phone is not an option. At least not for a good long while.

Natural consequences:

Kid slams bedroom door. Remove door. Store it in your bedroom between your headboard and the wall. Do not give it back for at least two months. The lesson: a door means privacy. Privacy is a privilege. You can't slam a sheet.

Respect the real estate that the parents provide or you lose a chunk of it. You abuse the door you lose the door. You break a window, it is replaced with plywood. You kick a wall outlet, the circuit breaker to your room is turned off or removed from the breaker box. You kick holes in the walls, the walls are covered with plywood. You kick holes in any walls, you lose your shoes at the front door. Your toes will tell you what you didn't want to hear from your parents -- that kicking walls is pretty darned stupid.

Well, love, I hope I haven't terrorized you, but that's the basics of it.

There are a lot of other books on the market that take different approaches with the kids, but this was what worked for me. It is part of what I did to get my kid back into the human race.


Well-Known Member
Hello Reaching Out,

I just wanted to say hello and welcome you. I don't write often, although I read this site every day. My difficult child is now 28 and has been living for three years on the other side of the world, in Australia. Yes, we are in touch. Things today are really calm. But the reason I'm writing to you is because you really struck a chord with me, because my difficult child also, when he was 12 years old, stole our old coin collection that we had been collecting for about 30 years. And he sold it at some pizza place or other. Gone! We did go through many dreadful years with him, but they are now behind us and things are calm, more or less.

It's been a long time since "the full Riley" has been mentioned. I remember many years ago it was talked about quite a lot here.

Anyway, whatever you decide to do, I wish you the best of luck.

Love, Esther

Wiped Out

Well-Known Member
Staff member
Welcome Reaching Out!

I'm sorry to start out with some questions but it would help to know a little more. I realize you are looking into therapy which is great. I'm curious if you have ever had him evaluated by a child psychiatrist and/or a neuropsychologist? That coupled with seeing a therapist might be very helpful. I know for us it was very helpful to get these different perspectives.

Our difficult child brought us to our knees more than once but following through with therapy (even when I thought it wasn't helping), finding the right medications (our son has Bipolar), working with the school to get a good IEP, and this place helped us tremendously. He is still difficult but things are so much better than they were when he was younger.

Stick around, you will find much support here. Sending some gentle hugs your way.


New Member
Part of starting the therapy will include a medication evaluation to see if he should go on medications, which I'm sure he'll need to do.

I don't think that the Riley method is a bad idea. Much of it is what we've already been doing.

Luckily, he hasn't gotten into the real physically violent behavior, at least not yet. He torments his 4 year old brother quite often, and sometimes after playing upstairs together, his little brother will be hurt "accidentally" which I know is no accident. His brother adores him though so its hard to keep them apart. He mostly stomps his feet and throws little hissy fits but doesn't throw things around yet or slam doors. Unfortunately, I'm the one that's usually so aggravated that I'm slamming doors.


Well-Known Member
Hello and welcome!

I don't post often, because Miss KT is no longer a true difficult child, but during the bad old days, she tore her bedroom door off the hinges and threw it at me. We still haven't replaced the door, and she's been out of the house and married for nearly two years. We also left the holes in the sheetrock for her to look at. We pulled car keys, left the TV in her room but turned off the cable, took the cell phone, cooked "boring" food that we liked and she didn't...

It can be very effective at getting your point across.


New Member
I've been eaten up with guilt over the decision to give him up because I can't handle him anymore. I'm really glad that I discovered this site and see a glimmer of hope that maybe I won't have to send him away.

Thank God. I'm not sure if it would have been a good idea to send him to a foster home. Most of the ones I've looked into in this region would seem like a holiday to him, what with swimming pools and all sorts of activities. Here he's had his Playstation taken away. He's forbidden to use the computer for games. He's restricted to his room where he can either study or read. That's it.

Dunno what else to do, but knowing there may be a reason for the way he's acting and that there may be hope for changing his behavior is a Godsend!


New Member
Hello ReachingOut.

I just wanted to add that at 12 I would wager a bet that hormones are starting to kick in and are wreaking havoc on him and your family. Try to keep that in mind when he's spinning out of control.


Well-Known Member
You must do the full Riley before you do foster care. In foster care, they will most likely let him get away with a lot of stuff, and allow him video games and junk food.
I don't think it will teach him what he needs to survive and be successful.
You have to pretend that you're a "Happy Warrior." (I think that's a Riley-ism.) Maintain a strict schedule, keep an eye on him at all times, intervene immediately when he does something wrong. Also compliment him immediately when he does something good. "I like it when you hold open the door for me." "I like the tone of voice you're using right now. It makes me happy." "I like it when you put your socks in the laundry. Good job."
The tiniest thing will go a long way.
These kids can dish out H*ll but the tiniest thing will hurt them to the core and they will overreact. It doesn't make sense but it is what it is.


New Member
Everyone needs to know that there are a lot of different approaches available, and no one needs to use just one. Riley's approach doesn't work for every child. For some children it makes their behavior worse.

Another book worth reading is the Explosive Child by Ross Greene.


New Member
I'm going forward with the Riley but have a couple of questions. Does it mean he's grounded in his room the whole time or is he allowed access to the rest of the house? Can he go outside?



New Member
Maybe you should start in some small ways to see how he reacts to Riley's techniques before grounding him. Riley isn't right for everyone.

Another author worth looking into is Alan Kazdin. He takes a completely different approach than Riley does.

The therapist may have other ideas. Just keep working at it.


New Member
This has been a rough day and I'm hanging on at the end of my rope again tonight. There's so much to deal with and I have read so many different "expert" opinions.

He always seems to get worse this time of year. This year has been the worst of all.

Tomorrow is another day. I will start again.


New Member
After reading through the discussions here about how diet and particularly artificial dyes can have on some children's behavior I removed all traces of the dye from my sons diet, and although he definitely still has trouble, the change is amazing. If he now gets anything (usually food, drink or medicine) with red dye he has an outburst within 20 minutes and it is of the worst kind. I have read Yellow dye can also cause similar problems, but haven't yet removed it from his diet.