Thank you for your site, interest and email. We are beginning to look through the material that we have printed off, and will begin the program on the weekend. We are uncertain as to our coping abilities if matters continue to deteriorate. At present, there is fluctuation between stable and intolerable.
We have twin sons aged 17.5 years who have just had a scrape with the law. They are yet to pay for their crime with other boys also involved. As this is their first time, restorative justice conferencing has been offered rather than a charge with possible conviction or juvenile justice accommodations.
We have removed them from the College environment and withheld internet and mobile phone, thus keeping them distant from their circle of friends. We are keeping them busy with hard work in the garden and one son has gained part-time employment on weekday evenings. I have been working with them to identify behaviours and habits that support their delinquency and undermine independence such as when they do something despite knowing that it is not allowed, knowing why it is not allowed, but going ahead and doing it anyway (e.g., eating pre-packaged foods intended for lunches away from home).
I am encouraging them to take on the small steps at home that will break that habit and allow them to actively stop when something doesn't feel right rather than to continue anyway (which was the case in their criminal activity). Their father has been spending each weekend and last light evening hours working on more difficult tasks to teach them a range of physical skills.
They were above average academically until sliding the slippery slope from Year 8 (second year of high school, aged 13-14). We have been told by some College teachers that a staggering one third of boys in the government schooling system slide out to a greater or lesser extent.
They have always been strong willed and tended to bargain for a better deal whenever offered rewards. In recent years they have developed a non-compliant attitude. They have been unwilling to participate in household chores, unwilling to keep themselves or their environment clean, and have taken greater freedoms than allowed at the same time as refusing to accept the full consequences of their actions.
At College, they both do not link the consequences of being late, unprepared for lesson, or skipping classes with their failure to do well enough to gain a Certificate.
It has been since they were babies, that when one son is behaving well, they will 'tag off' with the one that isn't, which keeps an unstable atmosphere continuing; or both will act up together. There has been far less frequent times when all is smooth.
Since early high school, they have both been very secretive about the friends they keep, never allowing their friends to come home to our house, always going out instead. If a friend does turn up, they are ushered away by one or both of our sons. One boy that was dropped off by his parents (unexpectedly for us) was taken to the bus stop by one of our sons (again, secretively so we did not find out until the boy was on his way). Our sons had kept the game that this boy had brought with him.
Their communication skills have always been poor, with an unwieldiness to communicate or interact with visitors to the home (disappearing to their rooms or elsewhere out of sight). When little, we undertook some speech therapy to help them say the ends of words. During this last year, we suspect that our eldest twin is showing some signs of developing a bipolar disorder. This same boy was beginning to stutter in early childhood, which we were able to successfully divert. The techniques that I used to confront the stuttering are not as powerful to pull him out of his angry/unreasonable periods.
I suppose our first question is in relation to our own plans for purchasing into a new Franchise business with the potential for our sons to join and perhaps eventually even take it over. We are seriously investigating a particular Franchise as a major part of our retirement plans. From your experience, can you offer an opinion on whether keeping them close to us would be the best way forward (as it has been in the short-term) or could it turn out to be counterproductive in the long term?
Please let us know if you have questions for us and if we should look at a phone consultation (from ACT, Australia) to follow on.
K. & M.
Hi K. & M.,
As you will learn from reading my eBook, self-reliance is key (I won’t go into that here). However – and this is a BIG however – if your son has bipolar, then I have to take a different stance.
Bipolar teens do not do well away from their familiar caretakers (i.e., they tend to self-medicate their bipolar symptoms with illicit mood-altering chemicals). Thus, I think it would be in your eldest son’s best interest for you to keep him “in the fold” so to speak. This goes contrary to the business of “fostering the development of self-reliance,” but in the case of Bipolar Disorder, the parent should make sure her adult-child is stabilized from a medical standpoint first. Then – and only then – can the child “launch” into the real world and away from parental monitoring.
Get a good diagnosis to see if he is, in fact, bipolar. If so, his psychiatrist will need about one year of experimentation to find the right combination and dosage of meds.
The Strong-Willed Out-of-Control Teen
The standard disciplinary techniques that are recommended for “typical” teenagers do not take into account the many issues facing teens with serious behavioral problems. Disrespect, anger, violent rages, self-injury, running away from home, school failure, hanging-out with the wrong crowd, drug abuse, theft, and legal problems are just some of the behaviors that parents of defiant teens will have to learn to control.
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