Rebellious teenager gets a dose of tough love

This is a personal account by The Kids Are All Right reader Janine about the difficult time she has had with her rebellious teenage son, and how they’ve turned things around.

A couple of months ago I wrote to ‘The Kids are Alright’ out of sheer desperation.  My then 15-year-old son had run away after we had discovered marijuana in his room. At the time I was asked to share my experience and to be honest, I was too embarrassed and ashamed of my parenting failure that I declined.

We knew things were bad. He was refusing to attend school, sneaking down to the park with his mates. I knew he was drinking but couldn’t prove it. We had tried all the tactics known to mankind but nothing worked with this kid; he was stubborn and belligerent.

Rebellious teen

"Nothing worked with this kid; he was stubborn and belligerent."

He was missing for over 48 hours and the experience of having to ring the police and report my son missing was mortifying. I was scared that they would think we were just another lot of parents who couldn’t control their kid. As a bit of background, we are just your ‘normal’, every day, middle class family. Problem child was number three of four kids. We were basking in the glow of raising two children to adulthood with no issues when we were blindsided.

“He was missing for over 48 hours and the experience of having to ring the police and report my son missing was mortifying.”

After we eventually located him 35 km away, his father was dispatched to go collect him under the threat that if he didn’t get in the car and come home I would call the police, then go to where he was myself and raise all hell. He reluctantly decided to come home, threatening the whole time to just run away again because he couldn’t live with us. I offered to call DOCS myself if that’s what he wanted (I was a little angry).

He eventually arrived home with his father, after diverting via the local police station to be sighted as safe and in parental custody (police policy). I bit my tongue and took the approach I had been given by a family counsellor, which was to avoid conflict at all cost. I just said “I’m glad you’re home, I’d appreciate if you would stay put tonight and if you’re hungry your dinner is in the fridge. I’m going to bed”. I’m sure he was expecting me to unleash the full force of the po’d mum, but I resisted. Score 1 me.

Next: The emotional stand-off

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  1. I am waiting with baited breath for the next part of this story! My kids are still fairly young (although my girl is pre teen) but I have a friend who is going through this with her son right now. I will send her the link …
    Leanne@Deep Fried Fruit recently posted..Day 952My Profile

    • Thekids says:

      Thanks Leanne 🙂

      • lucky you were to just get passed this horrible stage with just a few days of ignoring him. I have the same story with an almost 16. Mine is 6’5″ and likes to intimidate me with his size.
        I HAVE tried everything including that silent treatment but NONE OF IT WORKS. Same story ..middle class family kids in private school, given them everything , done everything for them..Guess you might say spoilt them. This almost 16 lies constantly, steals money from our wallets, on the occassion he has also stolen my cedit card and used it. He is making me sick and Im at the verge of kicking him out of home. I have been to councelling, but have been unable to get hime to go even though he promised he would and we made the appointment. I have also been on anti depressants which I have just stopped. ( I run a small business from home and I have always been a happy friendly person who deals with people well…not any more..) This has turnned me into a horrible, miserable unfriendly bitch nd as much as I try not to it affects my business… I wish my teenager was as easy to bring back to normality as yours.

  2. katherine says:

    Wow. Janine, thank you so much for sharing your story. I cried when I read how your son said you made it too easy for him (i.e. you love him unconditionally). I’m so glad to hear things seem to be back on track. Congratulations to you and your husband for hanging in there at such a challenging time. I wish your family well and appreciate you sharing your experience to all The Kids Are All Right readers. We learn from others.

  3. Hi everyone, thanks for your feedback. Leanne the latest update is I have a respectful and honest son who is communicating openly with us. We have negotiated rules with him and learnt to compromise. Instead of saying ‘go clean your room’ we’ll say ‘ your room heeds to be cleaned by xxx (set date or time). We then advise what the punishment will if he hasn’t done it by the deadline. This works well because he has a sense of control as well. We haven’t had to impose sanctions on him in the last 6 weeks. It’s been a big learning curve for us as parents but we have made it through and I am excited for his future. He’s just finished his half year exams and passed with flying colors. The past is behind us and we are moving forward as a family.

  4. Wow. My son is only one and it scares me what will happen when he grows up. My daughter on the other hand, is eleven… she’s different from a boy but what you said made me realise the importance of showing her my ‘me’ side, not just my ‘mum’ side. You are amazing not just to have gotten through that without yelling and screaming, but for sharing it so others might learn a new strategy too. Thank you.
    AmyB recently posted..Take a break from trashy mags…My Profile

  5. Absolutely loved this. I already have a teen who has told us we are too soft! (we are tougher than any we know!) HIGHFIVE to this mum for standing strong.
    Jules recently posted..Walyunga Winter WalkMy Profile

  6. I read your story and I wish that it was all that easy for me to ignore my 14yo Teenager who has packed & left I think now 4 times staying where she feels like it twice for a month other times a few weeks.
    I have had her councelled through Rapt, Head Space & she has seen a Psycologist, I have given her so many chances but now i am having to stand my ground…tough love is so hard I have hit a wall I have exhausted resources that have been offered to me for her & now i am having to focus on resources for me to stand strong and not have this behaviour repeated in my son whom is a few years younger than her and who is largely affected by our consistent conflict.
    As a mother myself from a dysfunctial family i have been more of a friend then a mother not setting firm enough boudaries or not being consistent .
    I am numb at the moment and wish so much to be able to store this away for another day I have lost total control I am afraid and very unsure of what to do…her father has said she can not live with him I am afraid to let her back here thinking that it is ok to use our home as a revolving door with little respect when she is here…
    We have done the DOCS thing where i sat down with a worker & spoke about foster care I have taken her to the police when i found stolen goods in her bag.
    She has bought drugs into our home & hangs out with a crowd that does not have a good reputation & whom are 20 years old.
    I am now looking at Centrelink living away from home allowance because she has made it clear she will come home on her terms not mine WOW a power struggle I have fast wanted to run away from, but how can I, I am all she has even if she may never see it my heart is torn in so many directions I want to cuddle her and love her until we come face to face then I cant stand to look at her because of her defiance and self centred ways…..I am a desperate mum whom also wants my daughter to know that I have feelings.
    Thanx for listeneing.

    • Kylie, I am so sorry this is what you are going through with your daughter. I can hear your pain in these words. I think most parents would relate to that feeling of being torn between wanting to love and cuddle your child and then lock yourself in a room far away from them.

      It sounds like you have been very proactive about seeking help, for your daughter and yourself, and you’ve pursued the avenues we would normally suggest. We have mental health professionals who advise us from time to time on this site and they suggest that sometimes you need to chip away at things and just keep having your boundaries but at the same time be a stand for what you want to see out of the relationship. Teenagers don’t have the same ability to regulate their emotions, consider the future and the impacts of their actions in ‘the now’, so they don’t see the bigger implications of their actions. Parents need to be the rock they can come around to, but sometimes they wear the rock down! So the rocks need lots of care too!

      As you say you are from a tricky family yourself, seeing the GP for a mental health plan and a visit to your own psychologist might help.

      Hang in there Kylie, it sounds like you are a very caring mum. There are lots of parents who go through these difficulties with their kids and go on to have good relationships later in life. Don’t lose hope. xx



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