HELP FOR PARENTS WITH STRONG-WILLED, OUT-OF-CONTROL CHILDREN AND ADOLESCENTS

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I hope we are doing the right thing...

Mark,

I hope we are doing the right thing with our son, and feel sad about what has happened, but no guilt, which is an improvement. We were leaving for vacation (only 1 1/4hrs away) last Saturday at noon. M______ has known about this for several weeks and we even told each child they could bring a friend (M______ still had not been able to find someone to go). We had rented a house on Lake Huron. I would be able to commute to work on Wed, Thur, and Fri. Fifteen minutes before we are to leave (both cars packed up and we only need to pick up 9yr olds friend) he starts with his "I'm not going". He takes his bike and leaves. I file "runaway".

Four hours later, we leave. It was the hardest thing to do--leave without him. We did have both cars packed and it was not fair for the 9yr old and his friend (also pretty close to home). Oldest son (at home due to working) call us about 1:30am to say the bathroom window is broken open and screen is cut, and front door unlocked. We know M______has been home. About 2:40am contacted by a neighboring police department (1/2hr from home) they have our son. Stopped for speeding, out past curfew, and doesn't have a license on him (we had taken it away). It was not his vehicle, the person who owned it was in the car, and had been drinking (our son blew a 0). Car was impounded. Go get him, pick up bike where he ditched it, went home, made him pack, and left for the lake house. Get back at 7:00am.

Not very sociable in the interim. Sometimes he is playing with the dog, or the younger boys, other times he's in his room, playing PS2. Tuesday, I see he has a cell phone when he's laying down (not his--it was taken away). He denies he has one, rolls over on his stomach, and WILL NOT show me his hands, check pockets, etc. I walk away. Wednesday I'm at work, and husband sees the phone--again in the bedroom. Confronts M______, who again is denying it, husband tries to physically roll him over and son bites him in the arm. I do take a picture of this. Later Wed. M______ friend shows up. Something doesn't seem right, they keep on wanting to leave. We say no. They stay, but are clearly not happy.

Thursday, I'm at work again. Dad does let them go to a nearby mall but to be back at 3:00pm. They leave about noon. They are not back. Friend not answering cell phone. Husband does call this boy's mother who informs him, they are on their way home to have dinner at her house, then plan on attending the football game. Dad tells this mom our son is to return home immediately, friend can take him, or we will pick him up. M______ does get dropped off about 5:15-5:30pm. We are having friends up this day, and they are already here.

Friday I'm at work. They pack up to leave. He seems OK per Dad. When I get home, he will not help unload my car. He proceeds to clip fingernails at kitchen table and leaves nails all over. Won't clean them up (we leave them). Eats cookies later, I ask him to clean up the crumbs, he blows them all over the floor. Dad is taking TV out of room, and he causes Dad to trip and TV goes through the wall. He is claiming "accident" but we know better. We know he still has a phone, but he won't admit to it, or give it up.

By now, he has lost his cell phone, use of internet, use of the car, we are going to rescind his driver's license (Tuesday after the holiday), and we are changing his school (also on Tuesday). These are all things we have told him. Also he is to be financially responsible for any costs incurred--window repair, tickets, court fee, etc. We do tell him, if he completes all chores (defined to him), follows the grounding to the house, goes to/from school everyday for the next week, he would be able to go out on Friday (7 days).

Saturday, he works 9-1. Has lunch, takes a nap, does a load of laundry. Nails still on table. He gets out vacuum. He showers, put on nice clothes and cologne. We tell him he is still grounded until Friday and he is not to leave. He now is openly on the phone, making arrangements for someone to come pick him up. He is laying in his bed. I try to physically take away the phone. Husband comes to assist. M______ is resisting with everything he has. Finally he hits both of us. Dad calls 911. We are trying to keep him in the house (hallway) until police come. He gets out of the house, and is rounding the backyard when police drive up and stop him. They confiscate a phone on him (surprise surprise) and it is his girlfriends. They take him to the youth home. It is a holiday weekend and he is to be there until Tuesday. Court is at 1:30.

We are right, he has had the phone all week. He is texting threatening girlfriend's recent boyfriend (they had broken up for awhile and very recently back together) that he is going to beat him up (he did this once already in June and sent the boy (18yrs old) to the hospital). He had been planning his "escape" from the lake house all week. Now, all of a sudden, the girl's parents want to meet with us to retrieve the phone and to talk. We DO NOT want this girl involved with our son anymore. Almost all of the trouble he's been in has been related with this girl. We are considering asking the magistrate to make this part of his probation (if he gets probation).

Mark, do you think this is realistic? She does not go to the school he will be attending. He will not have a cell phone (that we know of). He has lost so much just to try to be with this girl. How much farther can this go before he "wakes up"? Also, it is hard to talk with him and even to tell him consequences when he walks away from us. I do try to tell him "I love you" every day, and find something positive. Also, I'm interested in learning more about Bi-polar that has very short mood swings. People who know about what is going on have on occasion asked us if we thought he was bi-polar. I have always heard, the highs and lows last for a week at least or more. His can last 15 minutes. He does not exhibit a "high" like I would expect either. Does this sound more like plain defiant teen behavior or more? He has been seeing a counselor for 15 months but as you suggest, I don't think it is helping as M______ is very smart, and is "playing" him and does a complete turnaround even before we are out of the parking lot.

I do feel bad about where he is and wonder what he's doing, thinking, who is around him, etc. but I'm more peaceful this time knowing I have done everything I know how to do (he was in juve. overnight in March 2006 for dom. violence--again over a phone and his girlfriend). Thanks again for the support and insight into this very difficult time in our lives and in our son's life.

J___

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Hi J.,

Re: We are considering asking the magistrate to make this part of his probation (if he gets probation) …do you think this is realistic?

Unfortunately ‘NO’. You best efforts have not kept that relationship from surviving. The only way he will have no access to her is while he’s locked up (which is where he should be for now). He will have to learn -- for himself -- whether or not he wants to be with this girl. When they decide to break up, the relationship will end – and not a moment sooner.

==> The more you try to keep them apart, the more determination they will muster. This issue should be put in the “I-Have-No-Control-Over-It” file. But this doesn’t mean you should tolerate the negative-behavioral issues that surround his pursuit of this girl (e.g., having a cell phone when it’s off limits, refusing to follow orders, being disrespectful, etc.).

Re: Does this sound more like plain defiant teen behavior or more?

Not to me. It sounds like Oppositional Defiant Disorder. But you do want to rule-out Bipolar. So, if you haven’t done so already, get him in for a complete psychiatric evaluation …because if he is Bipolar, he’ll need to be on medication for the rest of his life. (If no one else in the family has Bipolar that you are aware of, he’s probably not Bipolar.)

Mark

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