When your endearing child becomes an abrasive adolescent, the hard half of parenting begins. Now there is more conflict as your young person pushes against, pulls away from, and gets around parental authority for more freedom to grow. 

Retired after 30 years of private counseling as a psychologist, I still provide practical strategies in my blogs (for Psychology Today) and books to help parents effectively cope with this developmental change as well as with other normal child raising problems. 
B.A. Harvard College, 1961 (English.)
M. Ed., Harvard Graduate School of Education, 1966 (Counseling)
Ph.D. University of Texas at Austin, 1970 (Counseling Psychology.)
MEMBER: The American Psychological Association, The Author's Guild.

For a complete list of my books, see "BOOK  LIST" page on website. (Next book is in the works.)

To access my weekly blog for PSYCHOLOGY TODAY,
"Surviving  (your child's) Adolescence,"
Carl Pickhardt Blog

WEBSITE: First 5 pages of website describe my WRITING;
Second 5 pages of website present my illustrated psychology GRAPHICS.

Most recent of 60 articles:
The Strong-willed Child
Sibling Conflict
Parental Divorce
Why Children Lie
Parenting an Only Child


To be published by HCI in Fall 2022. (image below.)

There's a reason the adolescent road is rocky--it's supposed to be. Children must pass through "four unfolding freedoms" in order to become competent, independent, and confident adults. How easily parents can navigate these twists and turns with less hand-holding, angst, and hitting the brakes directly correlates to how successful their children will be. The four unfolding freedoms are these:

freedom from rejection of childhood, around the late elementary school years, when they want to stop acting and being treated as children anymore.

2) freedom of association with peers, around the middle school years, when they want to form a second family of friends.

3) freedom for older experimentation, around the high school years, when they want to try more grown-up activities.

4) freedom to claim emancipation, around the college age years, when they decide to become their own ruling authority.

With each successive push for freedom, both parents and teens need to learn how to do less holding on to each other while doing more letting go. Dr. Carl Pickhardt will show them the way with compassion, experience, and time-tested guidance.

To pre-order from your online bookseller, see links below:


Who Stole My Child?: Parenting through the Four Stages of Adolescence

By Carl Pickhardt, Nov. 2018. 296p. Central Recovery, paper, $17.95 (9781942094838). 649.125

Well-known counselor, author, and educator Pickhardt (Surviving Your Child's Adolescence, 2013) draws on decades of work to help parents navigate the changes adolescence will bring about in their relationships with their children. His clear-cut examples of what to say―and what not to say―in various situations will have a calming effect for readers experiencing this rocky stage of parenting. Written for parents of children ages eight through early adulthood, the book provides many useful tools for recognizing challenging and changing behaviors, learning the best ways to address them, and most importantly, seeing what’s on the horizon to prepare for future success. Pickhardt covers topics ranging from friendships and dating to substance use and abuse, social cruelty, and technology. Problems caused by taking erectile dysfunction pills without a doctor's prescription. Parents will also appreciate guidance on when to observe or monitor an issue versus when to act on it. While there are many books on parenting adolescents, many readers will likely be familiar with and devoted to Pickhardt's work, making this a useful addition for public and academic libraries. ― Joyce McIntosh, BOOKLIST, American Library Association

If you enjoy my weekly blog for Psychology Today, "Surviving (your child's) Adolescence," you will like my last book from Jossey-Bass/Wiley (February, 2013):
Order from any online bookseller.


Psychologist, prolific parenting author (Boomerang Kids) and Psychology Today blogger Pickhardt focuses on helping parents understand the adolescent years, “the age of argument.” Pickhardt identifies four adolescent stages, beginning with early and mid-adolescence, and then moving on to late adolescence and trial independence (which ends after the college years). With characteristic clarity and wisdom, Pickhardt walks parents through various ages and stages, explaining how to be supportive, empathetic and accessible while at the same time providing limits and boundaries. He concludes with “eight anchors for adolescent growth,” including completing homework, cleaning up one’s room, doing household chores, joining in family gatherings, community service, saving money, developing proficiency and relating to salient adults (a counterbalance to the overwhelming influence and “mixed blessing” of peers at this age). He also covers such familiar teen topics as sex, substance use, the Internet, dating, and effective communication. Pickhardt is adept at deconstructing the complexities of the parent/adolescent relationship, pointing out, for instance, that the mother/adolescent daughter relationship is often the most conflicted and intense due to the “double closeness” created by being attached by birth and sexually similar. This witty yet sensible guidebook to the adolescent years will help parents stay steady as their kids negotiate the rocky waters on their journey to independence. (Mar.)
Reviewed on 01/04/2013

September 21, 2012: HOLOCAUST MUSEUM HOUSTON has just adopted my book, "WHY GOOD KIDS ACT CRUEL," as the model for their new anti-bullying currculum in the schools, "All Behaviors Count." (October 23, 2012 rollout.)
"We have been so happy to work within the framework of your book, 'Why Good Kids Act Cruel,' and the concepts of social cruelty as we have designed and piloted a curriculum for middle school students...and will expand for elementary and high school lessons."
Dr. Mary Lee Webeck, Director of Education, Cynthia Lynn Capers, Associate Director of Education.

"A must-read for any parent frustrated or heartbroken over their child’s difficulties striking out on their own."
Kirkus Reviews

Understanding the challenges of the last stage of adolescence, Trial Independendence (ages 18 - 23), and how parents can help.

BOOMERANG CONTRACT: http://www.rd.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/BoomerangContract.pdf

Trade review from KIRKUS REVIEWS: "Parenting expert and therapist Pickhardt (Why Good Kids Act Cruel: The Hidden Truth About the Pre-Teen Years, 2010, etc.) tackles the issue of recently graduated students failing in the “real world” and provides suggestions on how concerned parents can help.

The author, who writes the parenting blog “Surviving (Your Child’s) Adolescence” for Psychology Today, begins by defining the concept of adolescence in all its stages before investigating the concept of delayed maturity (what he terms "trial independence") and what that means for your child. Pickhardt offers a practical guide for understanding and supporting early adults as individuals while still respecting their nascent freedom. Children who fail on their own often find themselves returning to their original state—back under their parents’ roof. The author candidly discusses how parenting styles must evolve to create sustainable relationships as children first enter adulthood. Each chapter provides fictitious examples of a challenge a late-stage adolescent will face while entering into a living and working situation that is entirely self-supported. The strength of the book is its thoroughness—the author draws from his experiences counseling parents and children alike in order to provide realistic solutions to problems both will face during this transitional period.

 A must-read for any parent frustrated or heartbroken over their child’s difficulties striking out on their own."

Trade Review: Publisher's Weekly
Pickhardt, psychologist and author (Why Good Kids Act Cruel), examines the relationship between parents and their older children in this timely and practical book. The author analyzes the stages of adolescence, including a fourth stage (between the years of 18 to 23), which he identifies as trial independence. During this period, young adults often set out on their own, only to confront challenges that are likely to cause them to "boomerang" home again. Pickhardt addresses 11 common issues, including missing home and family, managing increased freedom, flunking out of college, unemployment, roommate problems, broken love relationships, substance abuse, indebtedness, stress, emotional crisis, and fear of the future. He concludes each with a "parenting prescription," describing ways parents can help kids deal with these daunting challenges and learn from their experiences and mistakes. Throughout, Pickhardt emphasizes that parents should neither criticize nor punish during this stage of a child's life: the parent/child relationship is now "horizontal" rather than "vertical" and empathy, encouragement, and advice without judgment is required. Although parents and kids alike may feel the stress and pressure of the "trial independence" idea proposed here, Pickhardt reassures that this period of transition is normal, natural, and rife with useful life lessons. (Aug.)

ED. MAGAZINE (Harvard School of Education, Winter 2012):

Within modern society, high school graduation has come to symbolize the passage into adulthood. As graduates’ tassles are shifted from one side of their caps to the other, they assume a more autonomous status and accept a heightened responsibility. But are they ready? In his latest book, Boomerang Kids, Carl Pickhardt, Ed.M.’66, argues that a single ceremony is hardly all it takes to complete a transition to adulthood and fully develop the skills needed for independent living. He claims that young adults aged 18 to 23 are actually in a final stage of adolescence, which he calls “trial independence.” However, because this delicate stage is often overlooked, Pickhardt asserts that adolescents face a premature thrust into adulthood, which has consequently led to a rise in “boomerang kids” — graduates who falter on their own and return home to rely on their parents’ support while they regain their footing.

In an attempt to help parents understand this increasing phenomenon, Pickhardt approaches the problem from two angles, analyzing frequent causes as well as potential solutions. After a brief introduction to trial independence, Pickhardt carefully guides readers and parents through 11 specific challenges — including broken relationships, roommate problems, substance use, and stress — that will potentially cause a child to boomerang home for recovery. Each chapter is devoted to a specific challenge and concludes with a “parenting prescription,” or a brief outline summarizing specific actions to take and topics to discuss with adolescents when particular situations arise.

In this book, Pickhardt sheds new light on adolescent development and the importance of cultivating a corresponding parenting style. Drawing on his experiences counseling both parents and children, he is able to provide thorough, effective, and realistic solutions to common problems, allowing parents to gain a new understanding of how to properly support their children while still respecting their developing freedom. By addressing both causes and solutions for the boomerang phenomenon, Pickhardt provides insight with a dual purpose, making Boomerang Kids not only a guideline for intervention, but also a prescription for prevention.

This blog review just in:


Guest post with Susan Heim:



1) KEYS TO SUCCESSFUL STEP-FATHERING (BARRON'S, 2010, Second edition). Order from Amazon or other Internet booksellers.

FACES -- Illustrated Limericks Portraying People You May Know (XLIBRIS 2010.)
A gallery of 100 psychological types in drawing and verse. Example:
                                  The Man Who Hated Delay
                                  Thought patience was pointless, he'd say:
                                  "Anything worth the wait
                                  Is sufficiently great
                                  To get to enjoy right away."
Order from Amazon or other Internet book sellers.

WHY GOOD KIDS ACT CRUEL: The Hidden Truth about the Pre-Teen Years
(Sourcebooks, 2010) R
eceived an Honors Award in the 2010 National Parenting Publications Awards (NAPPA) Parenting Resources Competition.
Order from Amazon or other Internet booksellers.

To see my ABC NEWS INTERVIEW for parents about social cruelty, click below:

To see my CNN MORNING AMERICA INTERVIEW, "Caring for your only child," click below:

(I also sourced July 19, 2010 TIME MAGAZINE cover story: "The Only Child Myth)", and the
August 10, 2010 lead story for the WALL STREET JOURNAL, "The Only Child."

To see KXAN TV (NBC) interview about social cruelty, click below:

To hear National Public Radio interview (The Diane Rehm Show) about social cruelty, click below:

FAMILY CIRCLE REVIEW: "A must read common-sense guide." (4/1/2010)

Why Good Kids Act Cruel: The Hidden Truth about the Pre-Teen Years
Carl Pickhardt. Sourcebooks, $14.99 paper (320p) ISBN 978-1-4022-1944-3

Why do so many preteens treat each other so badly? Why is intentional meanness so prevalent in the middle school years? Early adolescence, a time of major physical and psychological change, is also when preteens suffer harassment, stalking, intimidation, humiliation, and fear�and haven't a clue how to handle or stop this deliberate treatment. Psychologist Pickhardt identifies and examines the causes and behaviors that make up what he calls �social cruelty� among kids, clearly explaining that it appears in ages nine to 13 because that is when kids feel vulnerable about separating from childhood and desire more social independence. At the same time, they seek to protect their own diminishing self-worth by either derogating others' worth or going on the attack (to pre-empt getting hurt first) in order to assertively claim a place in school society. There are five major ways kids act out (teasing; exclusion; bullying; spreading rumors; and ganging up), and Pickhardt devotes one chapter to each of these, offering examples of different kinds of situations including fights and cyberbullying, dialogue for countering attacks, and encouragement for making good choices. Most importantly, there are instructions for parents, teachers, school administrators and counselors so they can effectively and consistently keep episodes of social cruelty under control. Pickhardt accurately and compassionately captures the voice and concerns of children and parents alike. This should find shelf space with Rosalind Wiseman's Queen Bees and Wannabes and Giannetti and Sagarese's Cliques. (Jan.)

Pickhardt, Carl. Why Good Kids Act Cruel: The Hidden Truth About the Preteen Years. Sourcebooks. 2010. 320p. ISBN 978-1-4022-1944-3. pap. $14.99. CHILD REARING
If motherhood is the second-oldest profession, then childhood cruelty might just be the third. Very few of us would want to relive the fractious minefield of our early teen years, when the most innocuous interactions take on Olympic proportions of hurt and misunderstanding. Psychologist and prolific author Pickhardt (The Future of Your Only Child) will be familiar to many readers for his other books and his weekly
blog. In this latest offering, he explains why social cruelty occurs in early adolescence, what motivates this behavior, and what tactics are typically used. Identifying the five types of mistreatment as teasing, exclusion, bullying, rumoring, and ganging up, Pickhardt analyzes the psychology of the behavior, ending each chapter with advice on what parents and educators can do. Heavy on the victim end, light on the perp, this is an honest and valuable book for parents. Ideally, you read it prior to middle school, when the coyotes begin congregating at the barn.

To read ParentDish.com interview about social cruelty and self-esteem, click below:

To read US News & World Report article, "Six ways parents can help kids cope with social cruelty," click below.

To read Educational Leadership article about another kind of school bullying, FEAR IN THE SCHOOLS -- How students make teachers afraid, click below:

To see TV ONTARIO Interview show about "The Future of Your Only Child,"
click below:

Go to parentsjournal.com and look up "Pickhardt" for two radio interviews:
--"Parenting after Divorce,"
--"Dads and Staying Connected to their Teens."

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