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Parenting --Teens/14 yo son has me in tears every day



Im currently dealing with a 14 year old boy who has put me through the ringer this past year. It began with him smoking weed and has escalated to weed, spice, pills, acid etc. I began a parenting coach program back in Aug to better learn how to handle all of his "incidents" which at the time seemed minor until he was caught at school with xanax. He was removed from there and placed in an alternative shool (in other words, placed in a school with kids that have the same interests as him, drugs). We also have court coming up for the narcotics charge that resulted from it. I have been taking him to a psychiatrist and was prescribed zoloft but i havent seen any difference in him, he just says it makes him not care even more about things. He is seeing a substance abuse counselor also. Last week he walked out of a meeting because she was going over his drug screen results and he had a .04BAC from 2 weeks prior. She was giving me suggestions of how to keep him out of trouble. I think he sees the incident with the xanax as no big deal since something big hasnt resulted from it yet (ex. juvie, community serv). Only the punishment i gave him. So now his attitude is "i dont care, its my life, i will OD if i want too, im not coming home, etc" goes on and on each day. How much of this he says is true....i dont know. But the mental and emotional toll it puts on me is wearing me out. I cry each day wondering when the day will come where i get a call from the hospital. I read his texts, facebook and search his room so i know what is going on at all times. But i feel powerless in my efforts to try and make him change his ways. He is currently grounded again because i found a homemade bong in his room the other day. Of course i was threatened with everything in the book. That he was gonna smoke weed, take acid and triple c's no matter what. He is failing school and ive given up there too. His consequence now is he will have to repeat 9th grade. Ive rewarded, punished etc, does no good. I feel like giving up somedays but then i would have failed as a mom if i do. So i keep fighting. But how much more fighting i can do is hard to say.

is there anything you can offer, ideas, anything to help me through all of this?

thank you!!!!

ANSWER: Hello Traci,

It is emotionally draining to deal with an adolescent who has problems, is failing in important areas of his life, and doesn't seem to care. You have provided him opportunities to go to school, to get substance abuse counseling, and to receive psychiatric help. In addition, you have tried to be a responsible parent by monitoring his activities, getting him help, talking to a parenting coach, and using what discipline methods you could to try to bring about a change in his behavior.
So, where do you go from here?
One thing to consider is that the professionals you have engaged to work with him may not be the best possible choices. For instance, he is seeing a psychiatrist who has prescribed Zoloft for him. I personally am not a big fan of prescribing medication for a person who has a substance abuse problem. The psychiatrist may know what he is doing, but you might consider that your son needs a psychiatrist or psychologist who actually does psychotherapy with him to help him make better choices in his life.
Second, I don't know what kind of relationship you have with your son, but it is obvious that you love him and he still has enough feelings for you that he goes to a psychiatrist and a substance counselor, and takes the prescribed medication. However, you may need to have some different kinds of conversations with him. Again, I don't know much about your relationship with him or the types of conversations you have already had, but maybe you need to have conversations that focus on a realistic appraisal of where he is at and what you and he can do together to help him achieve what it is that he needs to achieve in life.
Of course, I think I know what you want. You want him to go to school, get good grades, work toward getting into a college, and prepare for his future -- all without having to use drugs. But what does he want? What is he willing to work for at this point? If he wants to succeed at school, then you can talk about how you can help him. If he just wants to get high all of the time, then, while you can't condone or help him with this, then he may need inpatient treatment at a substance abuse treatment facility.  
Third, while you will never stop fighting for your child, there comes a point where you have to accept that you have done everything there is to do to help him. Although you will not abandon him or send him out into the world on his own, you can accept that you have done what you could you have to wait for him to find his own way. He is only 14 and he has a lot of changing and maturing to do. People have a way of finding themselves and coming around before they overdose or self-destruct. You can hope that because you have provided him every bit of help you could and because you are always there to help him out when he needs (or wants) your help, that in the next few years there is a good chance he will view his life and future differently.
I'd be glad to try to answer any further questions you may have.

Best wishes,
James Windell   

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

QUESTION: Hi, thank you for your response. The night of me posting this question, I had him admitted to an inpatient treatment due to the suicide threats he made to me earlier in the week. He had also taken 13 Coricidin pills (he called them triple c's) then as well. We met yesteday with his social worker and she said he has made some progress, not sure if its just so he can be released earlier. But he has realized what the drugs are doing to his body, his family, his life. It gives him plenty of time to think about what he is doing. I hope this will be the beginning of a change for him. We still have court coming up in march so he most likely will face his true punishment then.

ANSWER: Hello Traci,
For your son going to court can be just one more thing that transmits an important message to him: you are not invulnerable and there are consequences attached to your behavior. So, for many teens, having to go to court, being put on probation, and having a court monitor his behavior reinforces the idea that others will control him if he can't control himself.
I hope things work out.

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

QUESTION: Well things haven't changed from him being at the inpatient facility. I caught him last night with money he stole from his sisters piggy bank (she is 1). He took every last bill that was in there for "cigs and acid", which is what he told his friend. He had no remorse and wasn't sorry. I'm so hurt that he would do something like that. So now i cant leave him alone in the house at all (he was home sick yesterday alone until lunch time). I live in a house with a thief, and its not the first time he has been caught stealing from us. I have to take my purse to bed with me, i have hidden her money, and we have to lock the door to the garage so he wont steal out of there. Its sad to say but i don't want him there anymore. I'm tired of being stepped on over and over. Tired of providing for someone who could care less and has no respect for it all. He walked out again from his substance abuse counselors appointment yesterday. Said she is making him do things he doesn't want to do ex.attend a NA meeting. He told her he will stop when he wants to. My husband (his stepfather) doesn't know of this at all. He would completely flip out on him either by getting physical or kicking him out. He doesn't tolerate stealing at all. He is creating a bind between me and my husband because now I'm lying as well. But i feel as if i have to deal with it since he is a minor. I just cant take much more of this!

Hello Traci,
Your son has very serious behavioral problems that have a tremendous impact on your life.
It's bad enough to have a substance abuse problem, but when you add everything else and then the stealing from home, it becomes a problem that suggests it is not something you can deal with by yourself or with out-patient treatment. I think you previously indicated that he would have to go to court over a drug charge. I think that that may be very important for you to get help managing his behavior.
When he goes to court, you have to let the judge or referee know how serious his problems are and that he is stealing and out-of-control at home. You can ask that he placed in a treatment facility because he is too dangerous to be on probation or in the home.

Parenting --Teens

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James Windell


I am a parent trainer, psychotherapist, and author specializing in parenting issues.During the past 40 years I`ve worked with parents with discipline problems and challenging children. I give frequent lectures and workshops related to discipline, social skills, and aggressive children. I consult with various agencies and schools where there are child behavior problems. I am listed in the American Psychological Associations` media panel as an expert on parenting and am frequently quoted in leading magazines and newspapers.


I have worked in a juvenile court as a clinical psychologist and as a psychotherapist in private practice. In the Oakland County (MI) Juvenile Court, I developed an award-winning parent training program for parents of adolescent delinquents. In addition I have done group therapy with adolescent delinquents using a social skills-building model. I have consulted with courts, schools, churches, preschools, and domestic violence shelters in areas of parenting.

I received my BA with a major in Psychology in 1963 from Wayne State University. I got my MA in Clinical Psychology from Oakland University in 1972.

I am a member of the American Psychological Association and the Michigan Psychological Association. I have written pamplets, newspaper articles, and professional journal articles. I have been the Coping With Kids columnist for several newspapers for 26 years, and my columns appear weekly in the Staten Island Advance. I have been the author or co-author of 16 books. My books include, 8 WEEKS to A WELL-BEHAVED CHILD, CHILDREN WHO SAY NO WHEN YOU WANT THEM TO SAY YES, 6 STEPS TO AN EMOTIONALLY INTELLIGENT TEENAGER, and THE FATHERSTYLE ADVANTAGE. My most recent parenting book (2012) is THE EVETYTHING CHILD PSYCHOLOGY AND DEVELOPMENT BOOK. I have appeared on over 180 radio and TV shows related to my books and parenting. For more information about me, my books and columns, go to my website at

I have an M.A. in Clinical Psychology from Oakland University.

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