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What is FAMILY Rules?


(All families are uniquely beautiful in their own way. Dr Johnson seeks to help families become as vibrant, functional, and healthy as possible)


Dr. Matthew Johnson entered the mental health field in 1982. At that time, he worked in a group home setting, a residential treatment setting, and an inpatient psychiatric hospital. Why? Well, he wanted as much experience as possible on his Resume/Vita to look like a good candidate for graduate school. Also, he needed the money. 

 While working in the treatment facilities, he noticed that they would eventually stabilize a child’s attitudes and behaviors and get them to the point where the whole treatment team thought the child was ready to be discharged. The parents thought the child was ready to be discharge. The child thought he/she was ready to be discharged. So they were all in agreement and discharged the child. 

 Then two or three months later after discharging the child, the parents would call the treatment facility complaining, sometimes yelling and screaming at the professionals, that their child was right back to where they were (both attitudes and behaviors) before they admitted their child into our treatment facility months earlier. The professional staff would shrug their shoulders, blame the parents, and keep the treatment conveyor belt going even though the phone calls kept coming in.

 Dr. Johnson saw this pattern developing early in his professional career and couldn’t understand what was going on. The child’s attitudes and behaviors were stabilized. Everyone was in agreement that he/she was ready to be discharged from treatment. Why did the kids keep going back down the dysfunctional toilet after discharge? Finally, the “Epiphany”!!! The “Ah ha” moment!!! The “light bulb’ came on! The “clouds parted, the light shown down, the angels sang”….. Dr. Johnson figured it out!!! Wahoo!!!

 Dr. Johnson realized that when an out of control child was brought into the group home, the residential treatment facility, or the inpatient psychiatric facility, the Primary Modality of Intervention with the child was a system of order and structure that was “correctly and consistently” implemented over time. Otherwise, known as Behavior Modification. The child knew what it took to go from Level One, to Level Two, to Level Three, to Level Four, to Level Five, and eventually to being discharged from the treatment facility. The child knew what it took to get busted back down a level or two or all the way back down to Level One to start all over again. Once the child’s attitudes and behaviors were stabilized, then the Secondary Modality of Intervention was the “Touchy Feely” stuff (i.e., The Psychodynamic Therapies). First – Behavior Modification. Once stabilized, second – Touchy Feely.

 Finally, the light bulb came on!!!  Now, what you’re about to read is the “Epiphany”!!! This is what Dr. Johnson figured out long ago in 1984. This is where the treatment facilities blew it. What did the facilities do when they had the parents in one night a week for “Family Night” or “Parenting Night”? They reversed the intervention strategies!!! They had the opportunity to teach the parents to do in their homes what the professionals were doing in their facilities to stabilize their child’s attitudes and behaviors and the professionals dropped the ball because they reversed the intervention strategies. They did “Touchy Feely” first instead of teaching the parents how to do a “Behavior Modification” program in their homes. 

 Then, one week before discharge, the professionals helped the parents and the child to “negotiate” or “compromise” with one another while hammering out a bogus “Home Contract” that has holes so big in it that you can drive trucks through it. Also, the bogus “Home Contract” is philosophically flawed and doomed to fail because it does fail every time. Those “Home Contracts” never ever work. Why? Because they operate by the philosophy of “King Arthur’s Round Table” (i.e., one person, one voice, one vote). The “Home Contract” treats parents and kids as if they’re equals sitting around “King Arthur’s Round Table”. In the end, the bogus “Home Contract” undermines parental authority in the home by leading the child to believe that he/she has equality with their parents (i.e., that their parents must “negotiate” or “compromise” with them). No bloody way!!! Stop the insanity!!!

 Dr. Johnson realized that parents needed to be taught how to used a “Behavior Modification” program in their home and that the philosophy of “King Arthur’s Round Table” was setting families up to fail when the child returned home from treatment. Therefore, in 1984, Dr. Johnson took approximately 200 volunteer families over a two-year period of time and began putting together a “Behavior Modification” program that would work effectively in the home. They tried this, it worked, and they kept it. They tried that, it didn’t work, and they got rid of it. After working with 200 volunteer families over a two-year period of time “trying this” and “trying that”, Dr. Johnson finally came up with an effective “one size fits all” parenting program that helps moms and dads to do in their homes what the treatment facilities were doing to stabilize the attitudes and behaviors of their “out of control” children.  The 200 volunteer families represented a diversity of Ethnicity, Religion, Politics, Socioeconomic differences, and Regional Backgrounds.

 In a nutshell, “Positive Parenting with a Plan: FAMILY Rules” is a research-based parenting program that really, really, really works. Why? Well, there are a couple reasons why: (1) it was not formed in an “Ivory Tower” on a university campus setting. Rather, it was formed in the foxholes and trenches on the “Battlefield of Parental Warfare” with input from real living, breathing moms, dads, and kids; (2) it is philosophically based in the “Hierarchy Model” rather than “King Arthur’s Round Table”. In other words, this parenting program supports “parental authority” in the home rather than undermining it like other parenting programs do; and (3) This parenting program targets the entire “family system” for change – not just the child(ren). Everyone is required to improve on changing their attitudes and behaviors in a positive direction. Everyone wins with the “Positive Parenting with a Plan: FAMILY Rules” parenting program!!!

 Dr. Johnson has been teaching this parenting program since 1986. After much pressure from professionals and parents to write a book, he finally wrote the book in 2000. Since 2001, he’s been speaking 100 times or more per year all over the USA, Canada, and Europe. He has trained over 100,000 professionals on how to work with parents with “out of control” children. “Positive Parenting with a Plan: FAMILY Rules” is now being used by group homes, treatment facilities, psychiatric research hospitals, private practitioners, pediatricians, probation officers, public and private schools, churches and synagogues, divorce courts, foster care systems, child protective services agencies, and as a supplemental text book in undergraduate, graduate, and seminary classroom settings.  Finally, “Positive Parenting with a Plan” is being used by thousands of parents across the USA, Canada, Europe, Africa, South America, and Australia.

 As a result of speaking around the USA, Canada, and Europe 100 or more times per year since 2001, some agencies have grabbed a hold of Dr. Johnson’s parenting program, used it in their facilities, and have conducted their own research studies. Here are two examples:

 • In the State of Kentucky, the Christian Care Communities at Woodlawn implemented the “Positive Parenting” program in their facilities in 2005. They conducted a one year study under the supervision of Denise Greenhalgh. The results revealed that there was a significant improvement in the attitudes, behaviors, and compliance with their residents when compared to other behavior modification programs that had been used in their facilities in the past. In short, they reported a 97% improvement rate for the residents involved in the one year study (information provided by Denise Greenhalgh, Former Supervisor and Employee at CCC at Woodlawn).

 • In September of 2005, while completing the “networking” time at the beginning of Dr. Johnson’s seminar in Atlanta GA, Dr. David Anthony stood up and shared that their agency, Family Intervention Specialists, Inc., employs 57 counselors throughout 11 counties in the state of Georgia. He then told the seminar attendees that they have been using “Positive Parenting with a Plan/FAMILY Rules” for the past 2 years with their juvenile clients and families (i.e., from 2003 to 2005). He shared that their research demonstrated that their families have an 85% success rate with this program (i.e., the juvenile offenders are not reoffending). Finally, he stated that they would probably have a 95% success rate if they could weed out the hardened offenders. He expressed a hope that “Positive Parenting/ FAMILY Rules” might eventually become the mandated program of choice in the state of Georgia when working with juvenile offenders and their families. Note: In April of 2007, while speaking in Atlanta GA again, Dr. Johnson ran into a former employee of Family Intervention Specialists (mentioned above) who told him that the program continued to work well. Matter of fact, she said it worked so well that she took it to the new agency she’s now working for in Georgia. The parenting program is working well there too.

 In summary, “Positive Parenting with a Plan/FAMILY Rules” works because of the input from many moms, dads, and kids during the first two years of developing the program. It works because it supports and promotes parental authority through the use of the “Hierarchy Model” rather than “King Arthur’s Round Table”. It works because the philosophical foundation of the parenting program has been built upon a rock rather than sinking sand (i.e., There are a lot of parenting programs out there that look good, sound good, smell good, and feel good but they’re philosophically flawed because their philosophical foundations have been built upon sinking sand and ultimately undermine adult authority in the home, school, and in the community). It works because it targets the whole family system for changing their attitudes and behaviors – not just the child(ren). Finally, it works because it takes “good old fashioned parenting” and puts it together in a new and improved package, minus corporal punishment, and provides order and structure in the home for parenting which is the chemo therapy needed to eliminate the dysfunctional cancer in your home. There is no other parenting program out there like this one. If you want things to actually change in your home with a spelled out game plan for implementing the program from A-Z, then you’ve finally found it. If you “correctly and consistently” implement this program in your home, then expect things to get a whole lot better. Your quest is over. You have arrived. Congratulations!!!

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