Questions & Answers
"My husband and I were becoming very suspicious of the way our 15-year-old son was acting. He had become increasingly rebellious and was hanging out with some kids who had been in trouble before. His grades were slipping and he repeatedly violated curfew. No amount of talking to him about these things did any good. My husband decided to search his room and when he did, he found two pipes and evidence of marijuana. After first denying that it was his, our son finally admitted that he had smoked marijuana just once. He said he wouldn't smoke it again, but we aren't so sure. We think he has a problem and believe it's time to get some help. We are also considering moving him to a private school, away from his friends. He has threatened to run away if we make him change schools or lose his friends. We think this requires some serious discipline, but we don't want to drive him away from us either. We don't want to do more harm than good. What should we do?"
First of all, your son does indeed have a problem. Remember that teenagers usually only admit to what they think you already know. You caught him with some drug paraphernalia so he is forced to admit to at least using the stuff once. You can be certain that he has used it more than once, but that's irrelevant. You have all the evidence you need to take action now. The price of inaction is unacceptably high.
Unfortunately, whenever you try to turn a situation like this around, you can expect things to go from bad to worse before they get better. Your fears about losing your son are justified. When you exercise your parental authority and place limits on what he can do, he may rebel even more. He'll probably fight you and do everything he can to cause you to change your mind or simply give up. It won't be easy and you won't see immediate results. But you have to do it anyway.
The first place to start is probably with an evaluation by a doctor or drug counselor. You need to know the extent of your son's problem. Perhaps some drug education is in order—not so much for him, but for you. The more you know, the better your decisions will be. That's not always the case with teenagers. Most kids have all the information they need. They just don't have the experience and the strength of character to make good choices. Luckily for him, you can provide the exper-ience he needs and a few character-building activities that will help them make better choices in the future. That's where discipline comes in.
What kind of discipline should be implemented? That depends a lot on your son, his personality, his history and other factors too numerous to list here. But one good place to start is with his friends. Since he has proven that he is not capable of making good choices about who he hangs out with, you can start by making that choice for him. New rule: from this day forward, he is for-bidden, absolutely and completely, to have any contact with any of the kids in his former group of friends. This is not for just a few days, weeks or months. This is forever. His relationship with those particular kids (identify them by name) is officially over, period, end of discussion. Sound harsh? Absolutely—but you know and he knows that without those friends, there would have been no drug use. Friends like those are no friends at all and there's no point in trying to save them for later. He can remain in the same school, the same town, and enjoy the same privileges he always had—so long as he doesn't violate this rule. You will have to monitor this closely, of course.
On the positive side, tell him that you're going to help as much as you can by spending a lot of time together as a family and helping him find other things to do. You can encourage him to get involved in a church youth group or some other positive peer-group experience. Obviously you can't force friends on him or make him do anything that he doesn't want to do, but he needs to understand that he's being given a second chance to make better choices about his friends and activities. There won't be a third chance. In other words, if you ever find out that he's spending time with any of his old friends again or participating in any drug-related activities, he'll be under house arrest for the entire summer and transferring to a new school in the fall. Other consequen-ces can be implemented as well, such as random drug tests, loss of privileges and the like.
Remember, this kind of discipline is not easy. Things will get worse before they get better. But the "worse" that you create by being a good parent will be a lot easier for you to handle than the "worse" that will happen if you don't. Not easy, but easier. Stand firm and let your son know by your actions that you love him enough to do whatever it takes to turn his life around.
To learn more or if you have any questions go to: http://www.understandingyourteenager.com/