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Back in Control Paperback – February 15, 1984

4.5 out of 5 stars 66 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Chapter 1

Arthur, Ken, and Emma


Jean, forty-five and divorced, should have been in good spirits. They'd had the closing on the house she just sold; there was money in the bank -- she would be able to pay her bills up to date for the first time in weeks; and her seventeen-year-old daughter, Melinda, had just been awarded a scholarship from the University of California. But Jean was tense, irritable, and on the verge of anger -- and, as it turned out, with justification. As she suspected, her fourteen-year-old-son, Arthur, hadn't done any of his daily chores. The dishes were still in the sink from last night, his room was a mess, the living room floor that he was supposed to have vacuumed was covered with litter and food droppings, and Arthur, ignoring it all, was watching television and eating cookies.

Jean restrained herself with great effort and attempted to use what she had read in several parenting books:

"Arthur, it makes me very angry when you don't follow through and do the things you've agreed to do. Last week you complained about all the yard work you had to do and said if Melinda would trade housework with you, you would do the dishes everyday and the floor at least three times a week. So far you haven't done anything."

Arthur looked up at his mom, said, "As soon as this program is over, I'll get busy," and went back to watching reruns of "Happy Days."

Jean, not wanting to be unreasonable, let Arthur finish out "Happy Days" while she went to change her clothes. Twenty minutes later she returned to find Arthur watching "LaVerne and Shirley." The floor had not been vacuumed, no dishes had been done, and his room was still a mess. Her resolve to be reasonable and trusting was overcome by a wave of anger and resentment.

"Dammit, I can't count on you to do anything. You won't even follow through with your own agreements. You can see what a filthy mess this house is but you aren't willing to do a thing. Your sister and I have to do everything. I work hard day after day to do my share around here, and Melinda more than does her part. And what do you do? Nothing! Nothing but watch television."

Arthur stood up and threw his bag of cookies on the floor "Living with you is like living in a prison. You think you're a damn warden. Everything has to be your way, when you want it. You don't care about me or what I want."

"If you don't like it here, you can get out any time you please."

Arthur, taking his mother at her word, left the house in a huff and spent the evening at a friend's house watching television. His mother and Melinda worked in angry silence vacuuming the floor and doing the dishes. The next morning, Jean enrolled her family in a Back In Control workshop.


Ken liked dope. He liked to smoke it, he liked to snort it, and he really liked the money he earned from selling it. The kids at his high school knew him as a dealer you could always "score" from. His room was like a small showroom for drugs. He had posters on the wall glorifying its use, several pieces of jewelry made to look like marijuana leaves, and the tools of the trade -- scales, manicuring equipment, baggies, cigarette rolling papers, and a drawerful of cash for easy transactions.

He was almost seventeen years old and had been dealing dope for three years. If his parents hadn't dried out in an alcohol treatment program, Ken would probably have continued dealing into adulthood. But once free of alcohol, his parents saw what their son was doing and brought Ken to a Back In Control workshop.


Betty walked into Emma's room to wake her up. It was already after 6:30 and Emma would have to hurry if she was going to get to school on time today.

"Emma, get up. Emma, it's time to get up," said Betty, gently tugging at her daughter's shoulder.

"All right, all right!" said Emma, pushing her mom's arm away. "I'll get up. Just leave me alone!" and turned back over

Betty returned to her room to finish dressing so she could get to work on time. She looked in on Emma about fifteen minutes later and found her asleep again.

"Emma, Emma, it's time to get up," she said sharply.

"Leave me alone!" snapped Emma.

"You're going to be late for school."

"No I won't, just leave me alone and I'll get up on my own."

"But you don't. You've missed two days of school already this week." And Betty reached down to pull Emma out of bed.

"Don't touch me, bitch!"

"Don't talk to me that way, dammit!" she screamed. "I'm your mother and I'm going to get more respect than that!" And she slapped Emma across the face.

But Emma returned the blow with even greater force and doubled up her fist ready to defend herself. Betty, not knowing what to do next and not wanting to have a fist fight with her daughter, ran from the room and went to work. Emma missed that entire day of school, her third in a row and the tenth that month.

After she got to work that morning, Betty called our office on the advice of Emma's school counselor and enrolled in a Back In Control workshop.

We will rejoin Arthur, Ken, Emma, and their parents at the conclusion of this book.

Copyright © 1983 by Gregory Bodenhamer

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 114 pages
  • Publisher: Touchstone (February 15, 1984)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 067176165X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0671761653
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.5 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (66 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #236,376 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on May 5, 2003
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
When my daughter was 14 she spun completely out of control. Runaway, drinking, drugs, sex. It was devastating since we had what most would consider a 'normal' home and family. A family therapist recommended this book to my wife and me. We took the subject matter seriously and applied it (some of it was painful to us... but we were learning how to deal with a child who was destroying herself). The results in some instances were immediate. In others it took some time. Eventually, we regained our home life and our daughter. Its been several years now and I am happy to say that there is hope. Our daughter is well-adjusted, finishing college, happily married and makes certain that we know she loves us.
I highly recommend this book to ANY parent who is dealing with a difficult child. The author puts the responsibility for behavior back on the child which takes the heat off of the parent. The ownership of behavior becomes the focus. Parents are liberated and free to love their child back into a positive relationship.
Advice: Don't EVER give up on your child. Find all the tools you can to help you help them. Start with this book. I know it works.
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Back in control is for adults who recognize more than one approach is often needed when working with some of todays' out of control kids. The author's advice and training explained in this book is often most effective with middle school age children having lost structure in their daily life through divorce, other loss of a parent or somehow just didn't receive the necessary social skills in the earlier years.
Back in control is also effective in establishing meaningful expectations with the very young, as well as help with effective interference and reconciliation with older kids involved in alcohol, drugs and other high risk or anti-social behavior.
Critical to successful correction of unsocial and out of control behavior is the willingness of the adults involved to follow through with the child in an effective and meaningful way. The principles presented in Back in control clearly demonstrates that when adults fail to effectively follow through and enforce their own expectations, then children are not likely to follow through and enforce those expectations on themselves. Back in control helps adults accept their part in helping the child let go of learned manipulative skills and other tactics characteristic of the out of control child.
Back in control is incorporated into anger management classes within many of our nation's juvenile court systems, agency services, classroom and other government and private child management training in many states. Awareness, concerning the principles in Back in control, can help facilitate effective support from various agencies through common ground communications with these agencies.
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My 12 year old son was becoming surley and resentful and I was getting desperate. I bought and read a few self help books which did not help. Within a week of reading and applying the principles in this simple 10 chapter book, he was hugging me, saying I love you and opening doors for me. Almost a miracle! Since then, I've bought about five of these books and given them to friends and family. Just bought another one, and recommend it to you if your kids are screaming at you, calling you names, won't do their chores, lying....... That is if YOU are ready to admit you are 90% of the problem. :)
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This book was so helpful to us. Our five year old had started acting out as soon as kindergarten started. He acted out violently towards us, himself and other people. We dreaded coming home each day. After being recommended this book, our lives are much more pleasant. We have had the best time with our son and no more arguements! This book is easy to understand and realistic in aspect! Real life situations are given which help you relate them to your life, not to mention that it explains WHY children act the way they do and WHY we act the way we do. A must have for ANY parent, not just those who have problems children.
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As an author / motivational speaker on child training, and founder of Restore Ministries International, I had no advice for those who asked me how to get their children BACK in control, that is, until I found this gem of a book. As the mother of seven wonderful children, I am approached daily by strangers who are amazed by my children's behavior and are asked to speak on the subject. I knew how to keep children in control, well behaved, happy, and obedient - training them from birth to be that way. But for those who waited until they got to the end of their rope or ran into crisis behavior, what could they do? This book is a MUST READ for every parent. Today as you walk around the mall, see children in restaurants and in the grocery stores that are totally out of control, miserable as they disrupt public gatherings, you wish you could pass this book out by the hundreds. My personal opinion is that this works because it has its foundational principles from the Bible, although it is quite clearly NOT a Christian book. The language was offensive to me, but showed how absolutely powerful the principles were that could tame children who were into drugs, sex and running away, which is our world today.
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