Parenting --Teens/Christmas...should i get son gifts?
Hi, im struggling with this topic. I have had a very rough year and a half with my son. He has been on drugs, alcohol and is now finishing up 6 mos of probation. He is failing school and now blames me for everything that he is going through because i was the one that reported him to police because he was stealing xanax from his grandparents. He has no cell phone because he broke the last one so i refuse to buy another. I dont take him anywhere nice because of the money i fork out for required therapy by the courts. I tell him everything has to be earned so he does nothing to earn nothing. I try to give positive reinforcement but its always gets a negative response. And just last night he told me out of the blue how he hates me and how he has plotted how he would kill me and was lucky he hasnt done it yet. Nice huh?? So now christmas is coming up and im not sure what to do. Do i still go through with buying him things like nothing is going on or do i get him anything at all?? I bought nothing for his bday except for a cake. Others got him gifts but not me. That alone tore me apart with guilt. But i felt i needed to make a point.
As a parent, we have to model good behavior and can not allow ourselves to be dragged down to the level of our kid by playing tit for tat. You did not say how old he is. I am assuming he is 16+. For him to follow your directions, he needs to buy into whatever it is you want him to do. Demanding he do things and then when he, predictably doesn't do them and withholding gifts, does not come across to him as anything more that you being mean.
You probably ought to be getting clear in your mind what are things that are just part of the responsibilities that you have as his parent and what are the extra goodies that you do because it is nice to do but not necessary. You wrote about how you do not take him anywhere that is nice because of the cost of therapy. I would suggest that therapy is your responsibility as his parent as is your treating him as your loving son, even if you do not get that back from him. The toughest part of parenting teens is that they are too caught up in their stuff to think or be concerned about you and your stuff. They are not your friend and companion. They are your kids.
There are times when I have wanted to strangle my kids and needed to step back and remind myself just who is the adult and go back to acting like one.
Parenting teens is a tight rope act. On one hand we need to be always coming down on the side of responsible behavior from them while knowing which battles are worth picking. On the other hand, loving them until they can love themselves.
In answer to the Christmas gift question, I would attempt to make it a lovely Christmas for your family. If, in your heart, you want to give him presents, then do so, if for no other reason than it make you feel better.
I am assuming that he hold a huge resentment for you because you went to the police. He is going to need to grow up before he recognizes that you did the responsible parent thing. I am sure that much of this acting out is fueled by that resentment. You just need to stay above those feelings and not get sucked into that game.
I hope that part of his probation has been periodic drug and alcohol testing and that in addition to the therapy, he was told to go to 12 Step meetings. Your only bit of leverage with him is his being on probation. If he isn't being tested and you think that he is using, then you need to contact his PO and, only after getting the PO's assurance that your name will be kept out of future actions on the PO's part, ask him to test your son. If he is still using, the juvenile court needs to mandate drug treatment before letting him off probation.
Finally, I hope this all helped. You can always reply with follow up questions if you want or need to. If you go to my website,http://TheParentsCoach.com
there are a bunch of useful parenting tips on my blog. There is also a parents resource page with recommended books. My favorite one, which is required reading for all my clients, is "Parent As Coach." It is low price, a quick read, and it transforms even pretty good parent/son relationships. You absolutely need to buy and read this book. If you click on the title it will take you right to the Amazon.com page to order it. But you already know this. I hope you have read the "Parent as Coach" book by now.
Jason Wittman, MPS