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.