I appreciate your time this afternoon. Our “child” will be 18 end of May… has very good grades and has been accepted to attend the University of MD this fall. However, recently we have discovered him drinking… followed by an episode of being dismissed from an overnight school function for sneaking a girl into his room… followed by reports of him cutting classes at school… and reports of missing assignments endangering him from graduating… all within the past couple of months. A recent report card shows a sharp drop in several grades.
Last weekend my wife and I went away… leaving our son at home unattended. In retrospect, we regret having done that… but we did it because we wanted to give him a chance to build our trust… we explicitly told him many things like “NO ONE is to come to the house”…and… ”of all weekends to use poor judgment this would certainly be the one NOT to mess up,” etc. We also asked him for his direct assurance he would not violate our trust and he told us he would not. We also told him that if he stepped out of line while we were away, that he would not be allowed to go to “Beach Week” after graduation (a week of vacation after graduation unattended by adults at a beach house). With him being in so much recent trouble, and knowing we were fully suspicious and watchful, and with the important threat of not going to Beach Week on the line, we truly thought he would not be foolish enough to try anything. HOWEVER… sure enough he went right ahead and had a big party while we were gone… it was very easy for us to see the botched efforts to cover up 30-40 people having been in our home, including simply going into our own trash and finding empty alcohol containers, marijuana remnants, and used condoms. This action showed us he seems to have no ability to process sound judgment and has no regard for consequences of his behavior. We believe this constitutes a danger to his well being.
We are now doing our best to impart the consequences… including no Beach Week as promised, removal of his access to money (took away a debit card), and grounding indefinitely.
In response he is distraught and rebellious. We are concerned with what he may do based on his reactions to our efforts of imparting consequences. He seems to truly BELIEVE things he says like “it’s no big deal to have some people over” and “unfair” to impart such harsh consequences. We are flabbergasted that he seems impervious to the magnitude of his actions and seems to want to do nothing more than to somehow have this all go away so he can “hang out” with friends, rely on us to resolve his grades and attendance issues, and in general be totally disengaged. He cannot seem to do simple tasks like laundry, remember to take out trash, clean up after himself, or contribute to the household.
He has expressed thoughts such as “half of me understands, but half of me says ‘screw you,’ what else can you do to me, so I may as well just go out and do what I please.” We are frightened that we are losing him and quickly losing control… and don’t know the immediate next steps for intervention.
We would appreciate your feedback ASAP.
First of all, the problems you’ve listed are covered in the eBook. I don’t have time to do a re-write, but I would like to make a few comments in the time I have.
While hormones, the struggle for independence, peer pressure, and an emerging identity wreak havoc in the soul of the adolescent, issues of how much autonomy to grant, how much "attitude" to take, what kind of discipline is effective, which issues are worth fighting about, and how to talk to offspring-turned-alien challenge parental creativity, patience, and courage.
To guide a child to adulthood, to ingrain values, to help negotiate social relationships, and to see new ideas, ideals, goals, and independence emerge in a child can be the adventure of a lifetime. Like any adventure, the thrill is in the journey.
Challenges conquered sweeten success, and while failure is in part unavoidable, no parent can know how the balance of success and failure measures out until the journey is complete. As long as the journey continues, there is hope: a chance to turn failures into success, weaknesses to strengths.
Like any adventure, the challenges are unique to each traveler. Even the same parent will experience different challenges as each child is guided through adolescence. Because each journey is unique, there is no way to smooth all the bumps, anticipate all the challenges, or detonate all the land mines beforehand. However, there are aspects of the journey that appear to be universal.
Although teenagers will make their own choices, a good home life can increase the odds that kids will avoid many of the pitfalls of adolescence. Particularly, a kind, warm, solid relationship with parents who demonstrate respect for their children, an interest in their children's activities, and set firm boundaries for those activities may directly or indirectly deter criminal activity, illegal drug and alcohol use, negative peer pressure, delinquency, sexual promiscuity, and low self-esteem.
Parents who give their teenagers their love, time, boundaries, and encouragement to think for themselves may find that they actually enjoy their children's adventure through adolescence.
As they watch their sons and daughters grow in independence, make decisions, and develop into young adults, they may find that the child they have reared is -- like the breathtaking view of the newborn they held for the first time -- even better than they could have imagined.
I’m out of time for now. I hope this helps. The eBook will go into much greater detail as to how to correct the child issues you’ve listed.
Mark Hutten, M.A.