Parenting --Teens/My son and cigs



So aside from all the other things i am dealing with out of my son, the one thing that strikes a nerve in me is his cigarette smoking. Its not that he smokes, its how it controls his life. Ive given up trying to get him to quit, we have bigger battles to face right now. The issues im facing is for one, he isnt old enough to smoke legally, he's 15. So he either has friends to buy them for him, he gets them off the ground or out of ash trays (gross, i know). Of course there are times that he cant get his hands on any and he becomes a beast. This in return affects a lot of things. If he doesnt have any before school, he sleeps all day in class. If he is supposed to work with his dad, he wont go and will sleep instead. Then there is the huge attitude i get to deal with. He failed this past school year and i think some of it had to do with him not being able to smoke during the day. So he just napped the last half of the day and didnt care what he did.

I guess you can tell that Ive had it with him. This last year has been pure hell on me. He is on probation for carrying a class 4 drug on him to school. He smokes weed at every opportunity, even though he can be drug tested at any time.  

So with that said, im just looking for some hint of advice on how to deal with this situation. Anything would be appreciated!!

ANSWER: Hello Traci,
I understand that you feel very frustrated with your son. Many parents would feel the same way you do given an adolescent child who is failing in school, appears to have an addictive personality, is on probation, and apparently little motivation to make changes in his life.
At 15, I assume he is in the 9th grade at school. If so, then he is experiencing many of the same problems other high school freshman have suffered. It is a very difficult age with many adjustments that have to be made, but which cause many teens this age to be at risk for serious adjustment problems.
But, of course, you need some help with a direction. What can you do to help your son and relieve your frustration?
Since many young people try to cope with pressures at home by using drugs, and even cigarettes, the first area you can try to make corrections in has to do with family life. You should assess how stressful your family life is and what you can do to create less stress and more harmony in the home. Are you and your husband angry too much of the time with him? Do you have unrealistic expectations of him? Are you using harsh and inconsistent discipline? Is there too little structure and too much chaos in the home? If you answer yes to even some of these questions, then you can put forth efforts to bring about changes in the home environment.
The second area to look at and evaluate is school. We know he is failing. But is this due entirely to cigarettes and drugs? Was he experiencing academic and learning problems in the past? Did he like school and do well in the past? Has school been a frustrating situation for him for a long time? You may need to have a psychological assessment completed to better understand why he is failing in school. Such an assessment could lead to tutoring or mentoring -- or even more help and support with his school work at home.
The third area is his drug use. This suggests not only an addictive personality, but also his way of dealing with stresses and pressures in his life. Maybe he needs to work with a substance abuse agency that provides counseling and supportive services to help him remain substance free.
Finally, since he is on probation, I wonder if you are using all of the potential resources available to you through the court that has him on probation. Many times courts offer intensive probation programs, counseling, mentoring, psychological assessments, parent education, and other services that could be helpful to your family.
I hope you find some of these recommendations useful to you.
If you have further questions, please do not hesitate to get back to me.
Best wishes,
James Windell

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

QUESTION: Hi, Its funny all the suggestions you gave are the ones that ive already implemented. I took parenting classes last year to better understand how to deal with him. He is a good kid when it comes to doing chores, being home on time and being respectful. My husband and I arent "angry" with him, just disapprove of his decisions. When he is punished, its because of finding drugs. He tells me that school is not for him, he likes drugs and has no intentions of stopping them. He has this unrealistic outlook on life that if he gets arrested for doing what he enjoys, then oh well. He said he doesnt mind jail. He wants to be a construction worker because as he said "i dont know how people can go and sit at a desk and be bored". He has no motivation to succeed. No desire to reach any goals, takes no pride in anything. He currently goes to an alternative school because of being caugh at his home school with pills. That has caused a lot of issues in itself. Putting a bunch of kids with the same problems together doesnt make for a good situation. That was also the first year he failed. Went from being a withdrawn but smart child to being outgoing and failing teen. So i contacted the school for a psychological evaluation to determine if he needs an IEP. They said they believe he might be ADD and is putting him in a inclusive classroom this year. School has always been a struggle for him and hopefully with this new classroom setting he wont be able to slip. He has also been attending substance abuse treatment since Nov of last year with no success either (currently attends weekly group and biweekly individual counseling). He still shows up with a positive drug test. His last counselor had to quit seeing him due to no progress.  His probation officer isnt the best of help. We see him maybe once a month and the last time he drug tested him was June, which was positive but nothing happened. He was diagnosed by his psychiatrist as having social anxiety and depression. We tried Wellbutrin as well as Zoloft but neither seems to make any difference.

So as you can see, I have been doing all you have suggested but am getting nowhere. I sometimes wonder if something bad needs to happen to him to get him to come out of his fantasy land. I know the age is a key factor. Addiction also runs through my family as well as ADHD and Bipolar. I was thinking of finding a Narc-Anon meeting in my area to try and learn how to cope with this. I want to give up at times then i realize that im not being a parent if i do. So i keep fighting. I guess im just trying to find that perfect answer to fix it all.

Hello Traci,

 I know you want to find an answer, but sometimes there are no good answers that are going to fix things.
 You keep trying though, and keep looking for the strengths your son has. Despite his problems and shortcomings, hopefully he can find his own best self and be a good person despite his academic and substance abuse challenges.
Perhaps the best we can do as parents in these kinds of situations is to hang in there, be as supportive as possible, and wait for him to work out some of the problems he has.


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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