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Parenting --Teens/Dont know what to do anymore...


QUESTION: Good morning! Im not sure were to start on this since we have been through so much. But the story begins with my then 14 yr old son stealing xanax from his grandparents and abusing them as well as abot $5k worth of her jewelry. I found out through the reading of his text messages so i reported him to his school. He was caught, sent to an alternative school and is on probation. At first he thought it was a friend that told on him but then his father told him it was me (we are divorced). That pretty much ruined everything. He failed at the alternative school so he was not allowed to return back to his home school...which was his goal. Because to him, this new one is much easier and they dont care if you do you work or not. I am the primary disciplinarian since his dad chooses to be the "buddy" parent. So i get no help when it comes to setting rules for the house. He is now repeating 9th grade and is still failing. Ive had him evaluated for ADD by the school and they said he wasnt because he pretty much slept through each evaluation period in class or chose not to do anything. This meant no IEP either. His psychiatrist said he does show signs of ADD/innatentive but wont prescribe a neruostimulant due to his drug tests coming back positive. He also REFUSES to sleep so he crashes at about 1am each morning, up by 5:45 for school. This is even after having all internet devices taken away.

Yes, he still smokes weed even though he is on probation but they do nothing about it and he is somehow able to work around the system. He goes to a weekly sub abuse group therapy, an individual therapist and the psychologist. Its all a joke to him. He said he is just going to sell weed to make money since its an easy route to go. Wont do his school work because he said he wants to drop out when he gets the chance. Told me the other day that he doesnt do school work at home and proceeded to rip it up and throw it away. When i set house rules regarding grades and consequences, he just throws a huge tantrum, breaking things and telling me how he wishes i was dead. Pretty much bullying me to give which i end up doing to keep the peace in the house. I fault. I am remarried with a 2 yr old. My husband is supportive but feels there is but so much he can do being in his position. My son is polite to him and respects him. Would NEVER talk to him the way he does to me. He waits for him to be gone before going on a rampage. Or he corners me in the house to bully me where he knows he wont be heard.

Im to the point now where i feel like there really isnt much i can do anymore. Ive driven myself crazy trying to create the "good" child and all attempts backfire. I try to reward, punish, etc...nothing works. He could care less. This then makes me not want to do anything nice for him. I got him nothing for his bday except for a cake. Now christmas is coming up and he is asking how much im planning to spend so he can tell me what he wants. I dont want to get him anything. Sometimes i just wish he would go away because he is ruining each and every day. We cant even have a lighthearted conversation anymore without him trying to find a way to push my buttons. We have done joint therapy, doesnt work. We still go just because I hope one day something will kick in.

I miss my boy. I want him back. I want to feel proud and excited. I feel nothing these days but sadness and defeat. We were close when he was younger, now i dont now who he is.

ANSWER: Traci,

I can hear the utter frustration and loss of hope in your email. I know this type of behavior with strong willed youth are a parents worst nightmare and without support it's like fighting a war with a water pistol.

I can give you all sorts of advice in this post and that is what I would normally do, but that is not what you need right now. You need a concrete action plan that you can put into motion and see results, quickly. So, if you are serious about making changes in your home then I recommend you reach out and find a parenting class called Parent Project. It is the only program that I truly stand behind for adolescents demonstrating this type of behavior. It takes commitment on your end and I would recommend your husband also attend with you. In fact, any family member that wants to impact your son's life will need to hear the same message and be on the same page with you, that includes the ex-husband.

I see you are in the D.C area. I have taken the liberty to find places that hold these classes in your area and here are a few web links that you can follow up with to see when and where they are being held. The classes are for 10 weeks, but if you attend and implement what they tell you, you can have your son back.

1. The Parent Project website:  You may be able to call them for locations closer to home.
2. T4C this is a cognitive behavioral treatment program that offers the class:

I hope this is helpful, good luck and hang in there.


---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Thank you for taking the time to send the links, unfortunately Im located in SE Virginia and there was nothing that came up in the search. That has been the other problem im having. I cant seem to find anything in my area to help me. Also with having a 2 yr old, its hard for my husband and i to attend anything together, especially if its a weekly thing. With all the other things im taking him to(that are mandated by his probation), another thing on my plate is almost impossible, let alone the cost of something else...

Okay, we can do this. I am going to give you an abbreviated course here online. Once you feel you have the concept down from the first week and implement it. I will post the second week and so on. I am doing it this way because there is no quick fix to your son and it will take time and consistency on your part in order to enact change. So, if you are ready, let's begin.

First thing to remember about parenting teens is that you can't control them. Think back to when you were a teenager, your parents really couldn't control you. At best, if your respected your parents and had positive influences around you, you would follow about 92% of their rules. Now, repeat, "I cannot control my son". You can however have a powerful influence over his life. As long as he depends on you for food, clothing, the cell phone, car, etc. you hold the key to his ability to do anything. The laws for children are simple. They have the right to a roof over their head, food to eat, cloths to wear, an education and access to health services. No where does it say they have a right to a cell phone, a right to a television or computer or access to eat or wear whatever they like. So, as long as you have what he wants, you can get what you need.

I want you to remember something, change is hard. It takes three weeks of consistent modification to change just one behavior and only a few days of not doing it to go back to the same way it was. Think back to the last time you were on a diet or tried to exercise, if you made it past three weeks you probably were successful.  Change is uncomfortable, no one likes it and especially not teenagers. It is their job in life to make you change before they have to and they are masters at it. They follow the rule of "If mom/dad is more uncomfortable than I am they will change their behavior" that is why the child in the walmart line wins when he screams for candy. The parent who gives in just reinforces the behavior. So while you don't control your son, remember you control yourself, your actions and how you respond to your son's attempt at controlling you. In a nut shell, but your buttons away and don't let him play with them.

This week try this: Try not to say no to requests that your son makes. Instead, bargain. Should sound something like this, "Mom, can I get a ride"...."I would love to give you a ride as soon as your homework is completed and checked by me". Then regardless, do not give in. Just keep repeating he is in charge and as soon as you get what you need, he can have what he wants. Refuse to argue, agree with him that it's unfair, empathize with his frustration or just don't say anything. It takes two to argue so if you don't contribute to the argument then you will shut him down. I know, sounds easier than it is, but if you can do this you are half way there!!

Second, during this time when your son is really acting out it is easy to forget to "catch him being good". We get programmed to continuously be on alert for the bad things, we are exhausted from catching, correcting and disciplining the bad, so it's natural to forget the reason you became a parent, to love, nurture and teach. We forget to say I love you everyday when caught up with a youth who is acting out, especially if they are intimidating us or making our lives crazy. Believe it or not this is the time they need to hear it the most. Now, youth only recognize love in three ways from their parents; 1. Say it, 2. Write it down or 3. Through physical affection like hugs. Any other demonstrative act becomes an entitlement to them and is not recognized as your love.

This week catch your son doing something right each day, even if it is expected behavior like not arguing or getting up on time. Point it out and tell him how much you appreciate it. Also, make sure you tell your son at least once a day in some form (listed above) that you love him.

Finish these two assignments and check back with me and we will go from there. Good luck. You can do this!!

Parenting --Teens

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Penny K


I enjoy assisting parents in parenting atypical teenagers that do not respond well to normal parenting techniques. I am able to provide parents with a straight forward behavioral approach that has proved to be successful.


My husband and I have raised 31 daughters, 29 of our children were foster teens who ranged in age from 11-18. I was a site director for a local group home for adolescent girls, an Executive Director for the Children's Policy Council and the Executive Vice President for a residential treatment facility that specialized in alcohol and drug treatment for adjudicated adolescent males and provided comprehensive assessment to adolescents in the custody of the state. I have been a staff trainer for the Boys Town Model of Care and for the past 10 years I am the lead facilitator for the Parent Project parenting class in my county. In the past 20 years of my career I have assisted over 2000 adolescent youth and their families.

Boys Town Behavioral Management Trainer Parent Project Facilitator

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