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

Education and Counseling for Individuals Affected by Oppositional Defiant Disorder and ADHD

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Life goes by one day at a time...

Mark,

Life goes by one day at a time. M_____ has racked up quite a debt. Most of these are bills that had to be paid (IE. court ordered "anger management class", secretary of state fee, repair of house damage etc) which Mom/Dad have paid and that he is required to pay back (and knows this and has accepted this and does have a job). His paycheck is direct deposited to an account over which he has no control. My dilemma is how much should he get for spending each week. Summer is (unfortunately) a slow time at his job and he may only take home $50 each week. Earlier we had told him he could have 1/3 of his pay each week for spending (additional 1/3 for saving, and 1/3 for a larger parent approved purchase). He is demanding the 1/3 but we (parents) feel this should be omitted/decreased due to the sizable debt. He also had his license taken away for 2 months so he is not using gas--but maybe is paying friends? Now I find $65 in his wallet (have only given him $20 in past month or so) and wondering if he is stealing/selling drugs or something. He has done both in the past. Wondering if having a little money would decrease his temptation for this.

He has never tested positive for drugs, but talks about them often and believe he has sold them. His "best friend" recently caught trying to package up weed and with $500 on him and had to go back to the youth home for this. What is your experience with this--selling/glamour of selling and not using? Any way to try to investigate this? Have not found any drugs in the home for over 6 month and then it was prescription drugs (ADHD med, and Oxycontin but was accused of trying to sell weed in school).

M_____ seems to have 2 sets of "friends". Those we approve of and another set we believe are into drugs/juvenile system, etc and who we don't really know. We would like to encourage the former without being obvious. Any suggestions on how to foster these friendships and discourage the others? We feel the more he associates with these types of kids and the less often he gets consequencs the more re-enforcement/freedoms he will earn and the less attractive the alternative will be (that's the idea anyway). As a teen, he would like a few bucks for movies, food, etc. Would giving him some of his earned money discourage the bad decisions? Is having no money at all making him feel desperate? I thought not giving him money may motivate him to do odd jobs around the house/grandparents house for pay, but this has not worked. It will take longer to pay off the debts but want to do the right thing. What is your advice for this?

Another question. M_______ missed curfew (by almost 3 hours) Saturday and then got caught trying to let his girlfriend in the house an hour later. He told us when he left that he would not be home by his curfew. He was given 5 days of no going out (no one over for 2 days and if stayed home and kept house tidy could have a friend over after that). Sunday night he just left at 11:00pm (disappeared without a word--older brother happened to see him get in a car). He did answer his phone at first, then stopped answering. Excuse for going out was phony (first had to go get a pair of "pants" but came home without them, then he left because he was angry but took a shower first and waited until "friends" picked him up and there was no confrontation with anybody at home before this). Came back 35-45minutes later. Car he was in was packed full of teens. His 5 days started over, and lost cell phone and computer as well. He then lost cell phone use for when he stopped answering phone (this was for 2 days and if answered house phone when I was at work to prove he stayed home he earned back) and told he was responsible to answer when away from home or would lose it again. He would earn computer back if no swearing for 2 days (swore at the dinner table so 2 days started over). Stayed home yesterday. Answered phone today. I found the $65 but just coincidentally after he was out with these kids (I don't know them). My question is should I have approached the car when he came home? If so, what should I have said?

He did come to me in the night after this asking me to not call his PO about this and that he does not want to "go away for 6 months" (if he is placed out of state in a program). I did tell him I would not call immediately and would see how he followed the rules day by day but that when she came for her visit on Thursday that I had an obligation to tell the truth and had every intention of doing so. He feels because he is 17 1/2 and has the potential of being off probation end of July that the court will not keep him on probation any longer and will not send him away to a program because he is "too old". He also threatens to do as he pleases when that happens. Yes, we can make him leave at 18, but not before.

Thanks for your advice.

J.

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Hi J.,

You’ve listed quite a few questions here. I’ll try to answer as many as I can in the time I have.

Re: My dilemma is how much should he get for spending each week.

I like your 33% rule. Letting him take possession of 1/3 of his earnings sounds reasonable to me.

Re: What is your experience with this--selling/glamour of selling and not using?

I have kids on probation who sell drugs – both for money and prestige – but who don’t “use” due to weekly urine screens. This is very common. The money is really good as long as you’re in the game. Fortunately, most “players” get removed from the game sooner than later.

Re: Any suggestions on how to foster these friendships and discourage the others?

In this short space, I have a few suggestions:

  • Aim for more family meals together--everyone present. No TV nor phone interruptions are allowed. Attempt pleasant conversation about the day. Avoid using this time together to discuss homework, chores, or other problems. Keep dinnertime conversation positive!
  • Be diligent so that your child does not catch "affluent-enza." "Affluent-enza" is when your child says "I want ___" and it often means "I get ___."
  • Don't put a TV or telephone in your child's own room. If you do, you will surely see them less and argue more! The preteen/teen years are times when you need to be with your child more.
  • Get to know the parents of your child's friends. Meet with them and discuss shared expectations when the kids visit each other.
  • Manage your own peer pressure! Avoid letting the latest trends rule your buying habits. Don't over-schedule yourself because you can't say "no" to others. Know that the "do as I say, not as I do" approach to parenting will fail.
  • Watch less TV and monitor what your kids watch. Just as you wouldn't let your child eat junk food constantly, don't allow junk to go into their minds. Set a rule about quantity and quality of TV and consistently follow through.

Teens must be taught how subtle peer pressure can be. It can sound nice and friendly when someone says, "We won't get caught. It'll be fun and everyone is going to be there." Teens must be taught to think logically, rather than emotionally, when with friends. And, of course, most important is to teach them what they can say or do to comfortably manage negative peer pressure. And it's got to be more than just teaching them to just say "no" or walk away. Those two techniques are the least likely way that kids will feel okay and be effective in managing the trouble traps. Kids can be taught to joke their way out of trouble, including suggesting a better idea, using flattery, making a true excuse, and learning to return the challenge when dared.

Mark

My Out-of-Control Teen

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