It is just after 2:30am and I am having difficulty sleeping, so perhaps sharing a few of my worrisome thoughts with you as my remote 'sounding board' may help.
I am so very concerned for our future. When push comes to shove, my sons seem to embrace failure and punishment. Let me try to piece things together to try to explain my deep concerns.
My husband had taken 4 months long service leave as the stress of our son's behaviours were taking their toll. Last month we went together as a family to a counsellor that is part of his employment benefits as he was preparing to return to work. Although somewhat better this year (no disappearing overnight or longer on the weekends, no demands for alcohol), we needed to address our son's behaviours that were building into more trouble at home (argumentative, unreasonable behaviours) and poor school performance (lateness, truancy among some other things related to poor decision making). It took my husband to repeatedly beg the boys to come to that counselling session. In the end they agreed, but ensured that we were late for the appointment. The counsellor set us a small challenge as a start, to manage the chronic lateness, just in the mornings getting ready for the day.
We agreed that our sons could wake themselves and get up later, at 8am rather than the 7:30am that we preferred, and we were to give the message of 'Your breakfast is on the table' if either were not up by 8:15am. I also agreed that I would cook their breakfast porridge and make their lunches. Our sons agreed that they would get themselves up, dress, make their beds, feed their pets, and be ready to leave between 8:45am and 8:48am. If they both were ready, then we agreed that they would be given use of the car to go to College. If they were not ready, at 9:50am I would drive them to College. The boys concerns were that I am always upset. I made it clear that I would definitely still be disappointed and upset if they succeeded in doing what they needed to do to get use of the car (what they wanted) and at the same time failed in lots of other areas of their lives (which is what they have tended to do). Well, the boys made a genuine effort for 4 days before challenging their part of the agreement, in escalating terms. My husband returned to work under these deteriorating conditions at home, which was what we had declared at the counselling session was the situation we were trying to avoid.
We continued with the plan and the problems escalated with reports of unexplained latenesses or entire absences from some classes and some other infractions with their friends. (Silly things - like one of my sons chose to ride on the roads with a fellow student, as a pillion passenger on a motorbike. This friend was on L-Plates. My son was without a helmet.)
All the while our sons insisted that they were doing better and we rewarded a 'seem to be doing better' stage with an OK to stay at home one weekend whilst we went on a working bee at our ski pad 2.5 hours drive away. The boys were left from Saturday morning to Sunday evening when my husband returned. I stayed on alone at the unit as there was more painting to be done. Ken was to return on Wednesday to pick me up. Instead, I received a phone call from him asking if the police had contacted me.
This was in relation to the criminal act that I mentioned last email. On the Monday, the boys had the use of the car as they were on time and they successfully took themselves to a pre-employment session after school (they had applied to work as labourers in the Cirque du Soleil pack down). Ken allowed them to use their computers unsupervised in their rooms that evening (to do school assignments and study for upcoming end of term tests). The Tuesday morning our sons were again ready on time and were given use of the car to go to College. Ken noticed that one had an extra bag with them. He assumed that this was for their gym gear (the boys do weight training 4 days per week). The Tuesday evening when Ken phoned, he said that everything was fine. He had no idea of what had taken place that day. This is usual. He is a wonderful, gentle man and does not recognise when trouble is looming.
This is what subsequently came to light...
On Monday evening our sons had been in contact by computer private chat (MSN) with a friend from high school that they do the gym work with. They would have missed their work out together due to the pre-employment session that their friend did not attend. During this chat session, these three young men planned to commit a robbery. It appears that their friend wanted a laptop and my sons wanted money to buy clothes. The mystery is that their friend just this year began receiving money from the government (youth allowance) and my sons, as I had said, had just applied for work to earn money that they could have put some of it towards the extra cost of the clothes that they wanted. Why on earth would they plan destroy this immediately after putting such effort in to secure a desirable casual labouring job?
It is totally beyond my comprehension, and this is the pattern of behaviour that really concerns me.
At a meeting with the Deputy Principal and School Counsellor at the College at the end of term (two weeks ago), the DP encouraged my sons to get up at 7am and to seek employment. After the holidays, if they wanted to return to College, then they could do so under a strictly controlled contract. In my attempts to get them working towards an earlier rise, I had them getting up at around 8am to start working in the garden by 9am, they responded by getting up later and later - after 10, after 11, after 11:30am (which has varied up and down).
We have seen the police this evening and my sons have signed forms to participate in Restorative Justice Conferencing. The Constable made it clear to my sons that if they demonstrate remorse, understand the impact on the victim, and perform the required community service outcomes of this conferencing, then the police may choose to end the matter there. Otherwise, they will be charged and be required to go to court and perhaps Juvenile Detention. The Constable also made it clear that he did not wish to see them before him in this way again as he would 'come down on them like a tonne of bricks'.
Mark, I am so deeply worried that my sons will be somehow 'compelled' to try the tonne of bricks.
You said in your reply email that I need to get a good diagnosis if there is bipolar tendencies. I don't know of any way that I could possibly get either of them to attend another session with anyone (school counsellor, Ken's work counsellor, nor a psychiatrist). Also, I am very uncomfortable with the prospect of using strong medications (and the latest reports on ADHD medicating lend some credence to my concerns in that area). Instead, I have been building the idea of us all seeing a new family doctor (as our own wonderful, trusted, female family doctor we have attended since the boys were born retired in March). The doctor that I would like us to see is a man and a Naturopathic GP. I plan to make the appointments tomorrow, and hopefully we won't have to wait too many weeks to get in.
As to how I have gone this weekend? I was at the end of my rope with one son who had been unreasonable all day Friday, so eventually phoned to ask Ken to come home early. That was 4pm. On Saturday we test drove a vehicle that we are considering for the Franchise business. My other son was with me and became unreasonable in the car whilst I was driving. I was able to dilute the behaviour to a tolerable level. Tonight I gave warning then took the remote and aerial cable from the TV. If they chose to go to bed then they could have the TV back tomorrow, if not it would be 3 days. I did not respond to their arguments, calmly restated the request and consequences for their choices and left them to it. I asked my husband to do a follow up 5 minutes later as I was all done in. Happily, concurrently, I heard the boys going to the kitchen to make the last protein drink getting ready for bed.
I am exhausted. I will send this now. I would very much appreciate your wise insights and strategies to help me through this. I say me, as it was after my husband had turned out the light tonight that I insisted he finish reading the printed material on your program. He doesn't deliberately undermine, but undermine he has a tendency to do. Hopefully he can gain a better understanding with your step by step program so that we can achieve a more consistent approach for our sons. There is just too much on our plates to deal with. Our problems seem insurmountable, our difficult path appears unalterable, but there is much love in our home and that is the glue that binds us.
It would be best for you to allow your sons to experience painful emotions associated with their poor choices ...I can see that you are spending a lot of time and energy trying to "save" them from themselves. This, along with counseling, is a traditional parenting strategy that will continue to make a bad problem worse.
If they choose not to follow through with the expectations (i.e., perform the required community service outcomes of this conferencing), then they will choose the consequence. Please do not get in the way of letting this wonderful opportunity for them to gain experience/wisdom take it's course.
I'm concerned that you are taking on too much responsibility. If they do not want to go to a doc for an eval ...and if they choose not to take appropriate meds, then you have to begin the business of taking care of yourself in the form of "letting go." Otherwise, YOU will become ill -- both physically and emotionally.
Yes, you are absolutely right. It happened to my mother, who eventually succumbed to terminal cancer. I have started taking care of myself as of yesterday after a long conversation with a dear wise long time (older) friend. I am not so concerned with the imminent restorative justice, but more the longer term. I won't go that road. I have appointments with the new doctor for my husband and sons as well, but me first.
Thanks Mark. I can turn now and feel that I can navigate a better course.