I found marijuana in my 14-year-old son’s room. I don't know how to respond or what to say to him. He is entering high school and I am worried that the problem is going to get bigger.
As a teenager, your son is trying new things, is easily influenced by his peers and doesn’t always exercise good problem-solving skills. It’s your responsibility to keep him safe. Smoking pot is unsafe, so you want him to stop using it. Like any negative behavior he may engage in, we recommend you teach to it. There are four steps to follow when teaching:
- Stop the problem behavior by calmly describing what happened. "Son, I found pot in your room when I was in there this morning."
- Describe the consequences for what happened. “Because you had an illegal substance in our home, you will be required to attend a substance abuse class beginning on ____ and we will search your room on a regular basis.”
- Describe what he should do instead of using or bringing pot into your home. "The next time you are out with friends and someone offers you some pot, it would be a better choice for you to say, ‘No.’ If we find pot again or find out that you’ve been using it, it will cost you the privilege of going out with your friends.”
- Have him practice what you have taught him. "Okay son, show me how you will handle the next time you are tempted to use or bring pot home." (Your son should say something like, "No guys, if my mom finds pot in our home again or finds out I’ve been using it, I probably won't be going out with you again."
Let your son know this is a trust issue and he has broken your trust by using or bringing pot into your home. Let him know that if his using it or even having it in his possession continues, the consequences will be more serious and his free time will be restricted. He can rebuild trust by being honest, obeying house rules and being respectful.
To find substance abuse prevention classes, call your local police department or the local United Way 211 and ask for substance abuse prevention programs.
I am 27 and I have been dating my older boyfriend for four years. He has a 15- year-old son from a previous marriage. His mother lives in another state.
My problem is that I feel like I am being taken advantage of by both my boyfriend and his son. His son is rude to me and does not have any responsibilities around the house. All he wants to do is play video games in his room.
Understandably, my boyfriend wants me to have a relationship with his son, but his son only converses with me when he wants something such as money, a ride or food. My boyfriend is starting to make me feel bad because his son does not want a true friendship with me.
I work and go to school full-time, yet when I go to their house I spend my precious free time cleaning and taking care of them. I am tired of the situation and feel unappreciated. Do I stay in the relationship or leave now? I’d like to stay, but things cannot continue this way.
You are correct that things must change. Instead of spending time cleaning their house, take time to plan a proposal of how this change will come about.
Start off with a positive point. Let them know that you would like to be part of their lives IF your role is that of a family member. You are not a maid. Then tell them that from your observations, the two of them do not act like a family. Follow up this observation with what you think constitutes a family:
- Families work together, dividing up chores around the house so the house is clean and orderly and laundry is done.
- Meals are cooked and the kitchen is cleaned on a regular basis.
- Family members show respect for one another by speaking appropriately and letting one another know where they are and when they will return.
- House rules exist and consequences are issued when the house rules are not followed.
- Families spend time together having fun. This does not have to cost money. Movie nights or game nights in the living room are easy options.
- Families support each other’s interests and are involved. This is as simple as talking at dinnertime about the 15-year-old’s day at school or attending one of his athletic events.
When you have finished describing these characteristics to them, ask them for their suggestions on how to create a family atmosphere. Then divide up the points, asking each person how he will contribute to executing the plan. Working as a family can begin immediately.
You are not a maid. The more you do, the less they will appreciate your efforts. You may not be your boyfriend’s son’s friend, but you can be a “teacher” who helps him understand what it means to be part of a family.
If they aren’t interested in your proposal, then you have a decision to make: Stay with them under the current conditions or say good-bye.
I am divorced and remarried. My son, who is 15, is living with my husband and me and his children. My son is not happy living with me, his stepdad and his stepbrothers. He is failing school and wants to live with his father, with whom he has a good relationship.
However, I am concerned that he only wants to live with his father because he hopes to enjoy more freedom in his father’s house and more attention since he will be the only child there. My ex-husband has not contributed financially toward our son’s upbringing for the last 11 years until the previous two months. I am concerned that his father is not financially responsible or stable. What do I do?
Freedom and increased attention are probably the motivators for your son’s desire to live with his father. What is important is that you and your ex-husband both have established rules that are enforced in both of your homes. The rules may not be exactly the same, but they exist.
Your son has to learn that following the rules is important no matter where he is. This realization is a struggle for many children, but eventually they realize that part of life is following the rules. This comes with maturity and through discovering it on their own.
If he is going to be safe at his father’s, perhaps this is an option. However, if you don’t feel that his dad’s is an appropriate home for him, then you need to make the decision soon. Either way, let your son know that your rules and expectations are not going to change regardless of where he lives. You will still be part of his life and expect him to behave in a way that a mature, responsible young man does.
My 14-year-old daughter has developed an unhealthy relationship with a boy from her school who is the same age. She has snuck out of the house to see him, has invited him into our home when we are at work and has been suspended from school after the two of them were caught together in the boy’s locker room. I have found letters from him asking her not to talk to certain boys at school.
I have moved her out of state to live with her father. He has enrolled her in school there. She says she is very sorry and wants to come home. She says she never wants to see the boy again. We don’t know if we can trust her. We do plan to have her eventually move back with me. What should I do to prepare her to return to her old school? Am I doing the right thing?
The choices your daughter has made to be alone with this boy are concerning and go beyond interest in the opposite sex that is typical at this age. It might be that the meetings were the boy’s idea or that she even felt pressured to meet with him. But ultimately, she made the choice too.
Lack of maturity and insecurity may be playing a part, but the fact that he is telling her who she can and cannot talk to indicates that he is a controller. This is not a trait you want to see in a guy to whom your daughter is attracted.
Too much privacy for a young couple at this age is dangerous. It puts individuals in a compromising position and tempts them to engage in physical/sexual activities that are difficult to resist during the hormone-driven teen years. The fact that she partook in risky behavior at school and snuck out of the house raises safety issues as well.
You sent a strong message to her by moving her away for a while. Do you have a date for her return? You and her father need to be on the same page and present a united front on whatever you decide. Disruptions in the school year and social agendas can be pretty tough on kids. She may be truly sorry for her actions and not want to see the boy again. But it would be wise to set up very specific house rules and expectations in regard to her relationships when she returns. You can even talk about future consequences if she breaks the rules again.
It is appropriate to change the rules or add new ones as she gets older. For example, a child at age 13 probably does not need specific driving rules, but at 15 some very specific rules such as curfew, seatbelt usage, passengers, etc. need to be discussed and agreed upon before she can actually drive.
Boys Town has published some good books on boundary setting. One such title is “Boundaries: A Guide for Teens.” Maybe reading this book could even be a requirement before she is allowed to move back with you.
Trust will have to be built again. Her actions and her good behavior together will help build that trust again. It takes time to heal wounds once trust is broken. Start by letting her have a few privileges at a time. Eventually she can earn the privilege to go out with a group of friends to a movie, for example. It really is in her hands. Be sure to praise her when you see that her behavior has changed.
In time, she will earn back that trust. We all make mistakes. Look at the mistakes our children make as teaching opportunities.
My 4 ½-year-old son is unkind to his 3-year-old brother. He says that he doesn’t like him, does not include him when he is playing and is generally quite nasty. He does not treat his 5-year-old and 1-year-old sisters this way. Is this normal behavior? Am I needlessly worrying, or should I step in to remedy the situation? And if so, what do I do?
Your children don’t have to “like” each other. Most siblings don’t. But they do have to respect each other. Set that expectation with them. Have a family meeting so that no one feels singled out. During this meeting, set expectations on how everyone should treat each other. Give them examples of negative behaviors (name-calling, hitting, taking toys, etc.), and then have them think of positive behaviors that would be appropriate substitutes. Write these down, and post the list where everyone can see it as a reminder.
Then have your children role-play scenarios with each other to make the learning experience fun. Reinforce good behaviors with positive outcomes and poor behaviors with negative consequences.
For example, maybe they get one-on-one time with Mom or get to pick the dinner menu one night for exhibiting appropriate behaviors. If they choose negative behaviors, perhaps they do a chore for the sibling whom they have hurt.
Remember that the focus is not directed just at your son, but includes the entire family. If he sees everyone participating in the new house rules, he will be more inclined to do so as well.
I am a recent single mom with two boys ages 5 and 3. How can I instill respect for my position as head of the house in my sons without the advantage of an authoritative voice or male presence?
Being a single mom definitely presents its own challenges, but it is important to remember that you have the ability to be both the authoritarian and the compassionate voice of the household. Being authoritarian is more than just voice tone; it also involves being firm in standing your ground and consistent in following through with both consequences and rewards. If you do these things, then your children will come to understand that you mean business and your word is final.
Your children are very young. Please don’t feel like their behavior will never change or improve. Their ages are perfect for implementing rules and setting expectations that can help shape their behavioral development.
Lay down some guidelines about what will and will not be tolerated. Tell them exactly what punishments will occur if the rules are broken. Sometimes children don’t know exactly what adults expect of them. Being upfront about what is inappropriate behavior can help eliminate some of the confusion.
What is an appropriate consequence for catching my 16-year-old son smoking marijuana with his friend? We are an upper-middle class blended family, and he is our youngest child. I think he has smoked marijuana occasionally over the past several months, despite our telling the family not to do it.
Setting expectations with our children helps avoid hearing excuses like “Well, I didn’t know.” Your son knew before he started smoking marijuana that you expressly said not to do so. He CHOSE to disregard your instructions. It is your job as a parent to inform your son that he has made a poor choice and to immediately follow up with a consequence.
You state that you think your son has been smoking marijuana for several months. When our children break rules repeatedly without consequences, their behavior is reinforced by our inactivity. Your son will continue to break this rule until you let him know, in no uncertain terms, that his behavior is unacceptable.
It’s OK if you only suspect poor behavior; nine times out of 10 our parental intuition is correct. The consequence can be less severe if you don’t have proof, but there needs to be a consequence to deter him from even going down that road.
The type of consequence depends on the severity of the behavior. Smoking marijuana is a severe behavior, so put some effort into the consequence. Make it relate to the “crime” as closely as possible. If he gets caught smoking pot with a friend, he loses the privilege of hanging out with that friend unattended. Or maybe he has to do some research on the effects of using marijuana and write a report for you.
Since trust has been broken, maybe he has to regain that trust by passing random drug tests in your home. These can be bought over-the-counter at your local pharmacy. These are just examples to be used on their own or in conjunction with one another. Whichever one you choose, be consistent. Follow through.
Now go back and re-teach your expectation. Talk to your son about why he is smoking marijuana, and help him find an alternative behavior in which to engage. For instance, if smoking pot is a coping method for stress, have him come up with healthier ways to relax. If he is doing it to be part of the crowd, have him think of ways to find more positive role models with whom to associate. If he doesn’t know why he is doing it, have him determine other ways to handle boredom.
My 16-year-old daughter has been making poor – dangerous even – choices. She is dating a 19-year-old boy who has been caught with marijuana. My husband and I are understandably upset, and we have told her and her boyfriend that they cannot continue seeing one another. My daughter says her boyfriend wants to change and will never do drugs again. She has also confessed to me in an e-mail that she has had sex twice with a boy who is not her boyfriend.
I have yet to talk with her about this, and I am extremely upset. She said she would talk to me before taking such a serious step. I don’t know how to tell my husband this. What do I say to my daughter without jeopardizing our relationship?
The older boyfriend your daughter is seeing would make any parent leery and uncomfortable. Remember, at 16, just about every teen will do the opposite of what her parent tells her to do. We understand why you have said she cannot see her boyfriend. It is the right thing to do. But she has to come to this conclusion herself. If you keep her from seeing him, she will most likely start lying about her whereabouts and sneak out to see him, causing more problems in the future.
See if you and your husband can come to terms with your daughter dating an older boy. Then explain to your daughter that because of the age difference and her boyfriend’s drug history, there will be some rules regarding the relationship.
While you commend him for trying to change, tell your daughter that until you are comfortable with him, she and her boyfriend can only be together when one of you is around. Have him over to the house, invite him out to dinner and/or include him in a family movie night. The more you know him, the more you will understand what she sees in him. It will also provide you with the opportunity to keep an eye on their interaction. This will be difficult on you and your husband, so make sure that the two of you are talking about it as much as you can.
As for your daughter’s sexual activity, this is definitely not what we as parents want for our children. Talk to your daughter about your feelings. You can’t erase the past, but you can keep the lines of communication open. Express the importance of what sex can do to a relationship. Make an appointment with a gynecologist so your daughter can talk to a professional and receive the proper education about the things she THINKS she already knows.
At this point, talk to your daughter about how the two of you will together tell your husband. This will be difficult for you, but the words and wisdom will come. Stay positive and calm with your daughter so she knows that when she confronts the next important step in her life, she can come to you without fearing your anger.
I am a single mother and I am having problems with my 16-year-old son. He constantly runs away from home because he does not like to follow the household’s rules. I have five other children to consider when I am out at all hours of the night looking for him. When I ask why he behaves this way, he does not have any answers.
He knows that I am legally responsible for him until he is 18. He uses this fact to manipulate me. He has had multiple run-ins with the police, but they were all minor enough for him to be released into my custody. I frequently have to take off work to appear in court on his behalf. I don’t want to give up on him, but I don’t know what to do.
It is good that you have established household rules. Is your son required to do certain chores every day? Do your other children have chores, and do your household rules apply to them?
When your son runs away, call the police. By involving the police, you won’t have to leave your other children and take on the stress of searching for your son. Also, the police will then have a record of all the times your son has left your home without your permission.
The next time you appear in court for an incident your son causes, request that the judge take some type of action. This can include putting him on probation or requiring mandatory community service.
It sounds like the main issue is your son’s lack of respect for your authority. As heartbreaking as this is, you need to stand firm and take away privileges (music, his cell phone, electronics and time with friends) each time he shows you disrespect. He can earn back some of the privileges that he has lost by showing you the proper respect and abiding by the household rules.
If he is the oldest, remind him that he needs to be a good role model for his younger siblings.
Do you have any supportive people you can rely on for help with your children? We have counseling referrals and parent support groups available if you e-mail us your city, county and state. You can also call our Hotline anytime. Our counselors are here 24/7 to help with difficult parenting situations. Our number is 1-800-448-3000.
I am a single mom of a 15-year-old girl. I am a police officer and I work nights. I am not with her most nights, but one of my older nieces stays with us so she can be with her. I have raised my daughter to have morals. We have always been active in our church, and she has attended a Christian school from kindergarten until the present.
I have a problem with her wearing inappropriate clothing, wanting facial piercings and gouging her ears. Though I tell her that I do not approve of these things, she goes behind my back to do them and then lies about it.
I recently found cigarettes in her purse despite the fact that I have discussed with her the harmful effects of smoking. I am an advocate of exercise and eating healthy. My girl is my life, and I don’t want to see her ruin her life with these harmful behaviors.
Adolescence is a stage in which teenagers start testing their independence. They start to make their own decisions, and you can’t tell them that their decisions are wrong. Sound familiar?
Unfortunately, it is our job as parents to do just that. Our end goal of parenting is to have our children become successful young adults in society. We help them reach that goal by teaching them right from wrong.
We do this by providing consequences. They earn positive consequences for behaviors we want to see and negative consequences for those we don’t. If your daughter is making poor choices for herself, there needs to be follow-through from you in the form of negative consequences.
The tricky part is figuring out if your daughter is making poor choices or if she is simply trying to express herself and is finding out who she is. How does a parent determine if a child is making a poor choice or just a different one from what we would make? A good rule of thumb is safety. Ask yourself if this decision will put her in an unsafe situation. Sometimes we have to be supportive of their independence while in the back of our minds we are thinking, “What is she doing?”
This doesn’t mean that smoking and putting extra holes in her body are decisions with which you have to agree. Those do propose a safety concern. It sounds like you set an expectation that piercings are not allowed, and she broke that expectation. Thus, there needs to be a consequence.
Sit down with your daughter and decide together if there is a healthier, safer way she could express herself without doing permanent damage to her body. Temporary hair dye, a specific clothing style and even redecorating her room are all safe expressions of self, and nothing is permanently changed.
If you continue to worry about her rebellious stage, it sometimes helps to have someone other than you talk to her. Sometimes teenagers don’t want to listen to their parents just because they are their parents. Having someone other than Mom talk to her about her decisions might mean that she will listen.