Red Responds: A Troublesome Teenager

Robert in Mooresville writes:

Will my son ever change his ways? He’s 13 years old and we’ve had nothing but trouble with him -disrespect, skipping school, sneaking out at night, taking our car for joy rides among other things as well. We don’t know what to do anymore.

Dear Robert,

When “good” kids go bad, there usually is a reason. In your case with your son, there are several. Your boy has that free-spirited side to him that makes puberty even more of a nightmare, and his friends aren’t helping to keep him on the straight and narrow. Topping it off, he has no real concept of the consequences of his actions. Another example of youth being wasted on the young…

I know you love your son, have provided a loving home, and you do try and teach him right from wrong – but you are not getting through to him. He is going to do what he wants, because he believes that you can’t stop him. So far, it seems like his theory is about 80% correct.

Kids don’t come with a manual, so as the parent you need to find a way to effectively get through to your son, even if it means being harsh. Yes, he’s not going to like it. Yes, he may even hate you for awhile but he’ll get over it. Talking to him, lecturing him, and threatening to take things away aren’t really being effective. It’s time to kick it up a notch, or things are going to get much worse.

It is said that kids act out because they want love and attention. Your son reads quite opposite of that – he wants you to leave him alone. Don’t.

The first thing you should do is get him into counseling, both individual and family sessions. He’s not going to like this, but tough. You are the parent, he is the child. Things aren’t up for discussion. You win. It’s that simple. Explain to him that while you are interested in his viewpoints, you make the decisions. Your job is to protect him, teach him how to care for himself, and prepare him to someday join the adult world. His job is to deal with it, put up with it and obey.

If he’s skipping school, talk with his principal or an administrator. Make arrangements to take him there and walk him into the office every day if you have to. Get to know his teachers, and become more involved with them, so you can keep closer tabs on your son. Even though he’ll resent the heck out of this, explain to him that he’ll still have more privacy and freedom than he would in jail, which is the direction he is heading.

Talk to the local police. With your son’s wild streak, it could help you out to have a friend at the station. See if you can get some footage of fatal accidents. Have an officer come by the house and share some stories of what has happened to other troubled teens.

This isn’t the time to coddle and nurture your baby. It is the time to educate and scare your little boy with some real-world lessons about life and becoming a responsible young man.

Best of luck,
Ext. 9226

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