Saving Your Child – How Far Do You Go?

A friend of mine has a home situation that is both infuriating and sad to watch.

Her 17-year-old daughter, chronically on the verge of trouble for years, has now gone well over the verge and landed pretty hard with some rough company:

  • She’s been caught smoking marijuana in her parents’ house (she still lives there).
  • She’s failed more than one subject at school in her junior year, and will have to repeat it in order to graduate.
  • She’s stayed overnight with a 22-year-old boyfriend. She claims she “fell asleep and nothing happened.”
  • She was given alcohol by the boyfriend, and consumed it. Exact quantity unknown.
  • My friend’s husband is threatening to leave the family if things don’t straighten out fast.
  • My friend is taking to her bed, paralyzed with fear over what could happen to this child, yet helpless to fix it.

As someone who never had or raised kids, this type of family crisis is difficult for me to understand. I was raised in an era where parental authority meant you toed the line because they said so, and that was final. I don’t understand a house ruled by kids, with parents wringing their hands and crying in frustration over bad behavior, or threatening to walk out. My first response to my friend and her husband is, “Grow a pair and deal with it! Your house, your rules, and that means both of you working as a unit! When will you find the backbone to deal with this out-of-control little monster?”

Yes, you’re all thinking, go ahead and say those things. Easy for you to spout off about removing a teenager from their lowdown friends and bad influences and turning them around. YOU never had to do it.

You’re right, I never did. 

But I don’t think my friend is doing well with this situation. She’s trying the usual punishment-type things, like taking away the girl’s cell phone and driving privileges, insisting on a curfew, driving her to and from her summer job, keeping a closer eye on who and what’s going into her bedroom. She doesn’t want her child to hate her for being “harsh.” She is truly afraid of confronting the deeper issues that teenagers face by using a “tough love” stance.

But as parents, does the time come when mere tough love is not enough to save a child? Is there a point where you take off the SuperParentHero cape and use it as lasso around the kid’s ankles, just to stop him from moving in the wrong direction? And when the kid is tied down, you finally have the opportunity to stand there and say, “I’m not your BFF, and there’s nothing to LOL about. My house, my rules until you can pay your own way and leave. We will not live with your teenage hormone-fueled antics one moment longer.”

Could you be that tough? Have you been that tough? I’d like to know.  



1 Comment

Filed under Children, family, Relationships, thought

One response to “Saving Your Child – How Far Do You Go?

  1. cheesy

    It really is a fine line, but I am totally a firm believer in establishing parameters with kids from a very small age. My girls were 11 and 12 when I left my ex, and I pointedly made sure I moved into an apartment that remained in their school district, so they had the same friends to help anchor them in the turmoil. My ex and I, while we were married were strict with household rules, and I carried that into my single parent life. I did not tolerate back talk, I tried hard to make the punishments fit whatever mistake they made, they had chores and responsibilities. I did not let them go places on a whim. If I did not know a person they wanted to hang out with, my answer was always no. If they went to the movies with friends, I always took a book with me and read in the lobby until the movie was done, they weren’t allowed to gallivant around at all hours. They often said that among their friends I was one of the strictest, and both were shocked at how their friends were allowed to talk disrespectfully to their parents. A firm hand is always needed with kids, and it can be done without corporal punishment, and you CAN be your kids best friend, as long as they know and understand that you are a parent first.

    I look at one of my younger daughter’s best friends, whose parents divorced about the same time I did. The mother chose to behave like an 18 year old at 34 and was out drinking, partying and sexing it up, thinking only of herself and ignoring her two daughters. My daughter’s best friend turned to drinking, drugs and sex for the attention she didn’t get at home. She is a wreck and can’t get herself out of the situation.

    In essence, parenthood begins at birth, and extends all the way until they are legal adults, and after that is when you can let a deeper friendship develop and blossom. It is no cakewalk, believe me, but I will say it was so worth it, because my two girls are now 23 and 24, and continue to be far more mature than many of their peers, they incredibly independent, figure out ways to overcome the difficulties they encounter in life without having a “woe is me” attitude. Don’t get me wrong, they have rough rides, but they have learned by example that nothing is accomplished with a negative attitude….okay, I feel like I am rambling now! 🙂

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