Teenage Son Assaults Mother

"Hi Mark, I'm new to this site. I have a couple of questions and scenarios that I would like to run by you. I have just charged my 17 year old with assault and put him out of the house, I was informed that he could go to a shelter, however there are no beds available at the shelter and he is now trying to come back home, as he has burned his bridges everywhere else. There is a no contact order in place, he cannot be within 100 ft of the house, and he is only permitted to contact me by phone. This is part of the scenario, there is more involved, I desperately need some advice. Could you please get back to me?"

First of all, I am very proud of you for having the backbone to implement a consequence commensurate with your son’s behavior. You did NOT try to “save” him from uncomfortable emotions associated with his poor choices.

As punitive as it may sound, out-of-control teens need an element of discomfort before they will change. But unfortunately, most parents think they are doing the right thing by rescuing their child from painful consequences, which does far more damage than good.

Just so you’ll know, you are on track! Your biggest battle now will be dealing with feelings of guilt – and having moments where you debate in your head whether or not you have made the right decision. You may also have times when you feel sorry for your son. This is O.K. – it comes with the territory.

Allow his consequence to take its full course. Then at some point in the future (when, in your gut, it feels right), tell your son that he’s welcome to come home – but under certain stipulations (here you will want to put a set of house rules in the form of a written contract).

Stay the course. Just for the short term, he needs to stay away from you. Where he sleeps is his problem. This is tough love (which is often tougher on the parent than the child).

If you backtrack and try to erase your son's current discomfort, you will be sending a strong message that abusing women has no real consequences. This, in turn, sets him up for failure in future relationships with women (his future wife may thank you for sticking to your guns today).

Mark Hutten, M.A.


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