I’ve blogged about “signs your adolescent son could be in trouble.” Over the next few weeks I’ll dig into the steps and stages of escalation with a goal of you, the parent, nipping it in the bud!
Step #1=Boundaries & Limits
This is the first step that must be implemented in your adolescent son’s life. His most important need other than food, water, clothing and shelter falls in this first step.
As a parent we tend to want to make it comfortable and easy for our children. We “want them to have it better than we did!” The reality is all those boundaries and limits our parents put on us were a good thing.
Let’s look at some examples:
- A single parent mom raising a 13-14-year old son is doing the best she can and loves her son very much. She feels bad that his father doesn’t have much time for him. He (dad) is in the habit of stopping by when he can to pay a visit. Mom changes her schedule, making sure to accommodate because more than anything she wants the two of them to have a relationship. For the son, this is chaos. He didn’t know about dad’s visit, he’s angry that his plans are now disrupted! He acts out and Mom and Dad worry their son is in trouble!
Solution: Dad schedules his time with his son. He sets that up just like he would other important meetings in his life. Mom sets boundaries and limits with dad by requiring a few days’ notice so that his visit can be planned. It eliminates the chaos and gives the son something to look forward to and plan on. It defuses the situation. It’s a perfect example of healthy boundaries & limits!
- Parents raising their young son to best of their ability. They ask him on a regular basis how he’s doing at school and he says “fine.” The parents trust their son and believe school is fine. A letter from the school arrives and they discover their son isn’t turning in homework. Mom and Dad are furious; they thought everything was “fine.” They’re angry and disappointed. Mom and Dad believe their son is in trouble!
Solution: Parents schedule a set time every day, Sunday-Thursday for homework at the kitchen table. It’s non-negotiable and enforced. It gives a clear message of what is expected. Even if you determine he doesn’t have homework, there are always projects or reading he can work on. The result is he has structure and “a plan” which he needs. It provides him an opportunity to succeed and is a habit that helps him do homework.
And remember, whether we agree with it or not, all schools at every grade level are giving homework!
Most families that include kids struggle with this. Limiting the video games and texting with friends instead of doing chores. Parent’s repeatedly say, “I’ve tried everything, I don’t know what else to do, he just won’t listen.” They’re tired of the argument so they “give in” and nothing changes.
Solution: Having chores teaches responsibility so don’t “give in.” Establish natural consequences! If he doesn’t follow the rules you have established, then his choice leads to a natural consequence you have determined in advance. It also means you have talked about it (“son if you don’t do this, you’re choosing not to get what you want”) being very clear; in order to get the “thing” he wants it’s after he does, or doesn’t do what you’ve asked. Those are your boundaries & limits.
When this doesn’t work, move to Step #2 and seek counseling; I’ll talk more about that next week.