February 11, 2013
A friend of mine contacted me last week to as my opinion in regards to her teenage son who was busted, once again, for smoking dope. This is not a new thing for them. He’s been busted before. They have spoken at length to him about consequences, privileges, damage to the relationships, house rules, non-negotiable rules, the reasons why the opposition to drug use (family member who is an addict) and so on. They have made their views as clear as possible and have some very appropriate and freedom-limiting consequences as a result. Consequences I should add are based on the lack of trust that engaging in this behaviour causes and the need to restrict freedoms until trust can be re-earned.
And yet, he still continues to smoke up.
She was concerned, wondering if they were doing the right thing and they are. For everything I had suggested, they had already done.
For some kids, they don’t “buy into” our requests for them to follow certain rules. For whatever reasons, the consequences are worth the risk to engage in the behaviour. Most teenagers view themselves as ‘bullet proof’ and fail to see the danger in behaviours that adults can see as problematic or dangerous on some level. They’re not doing things like this to hurt you (the adult), they’re doing it because they want to and they can (or because they have to which is a whole other problem in itself).
So the consequences came down the pipe again and this young lad is now facing restrictions on his freedoms.
There’s really no point getting into the “how much you’ve hurt me” spiels. It’s good to give kids feedback about the damage their behaviour has done to the relationship (for example, the negative impact is has on the trust part) however kids aren’t entirely capable of translating the “oh I’ve hurt you so I will adjust my behaviour so I don’t hurt you again” into behaviour change the same way adults can. Part of the problem is that we expect them to. So you tell them the impact of their behaviour to teach them, not to expect the sudden change from them and then you follow through with whatever consequences are appropriate and or preset for the infraction.
Sometimes you have to follow through over and over and over again before they actually make a change in their behaviour. Oldest girl-child was like that. Remember, grounded on and off for almost an entire year before she figured out what to do to stop getting grounded (even though I was telling her each time… ).
In this case we agreed that she needed to give him the message that his behaviour is showing her that he is not capable of taking care of himself and as the mom, it is her job to take care of him and protect him until he grows up enough to take appropriate and healthy care of himself. As a result, “x, y and z” are the consequences until he can start to show some of the behaviours he needs to demonstrate to re-earn some trust and respect.
I have to tell you, he didn’t look very happy hanging with the old ladies the other night when he would otherwise have been hanging with friends. It’s tough to be a misunderstood teenager sometimes, you know.