Difficulty with teenage "stepson"...

doitforthekids

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Jul 29, 2013
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My girlfriend's son is about to be 18 in a few months. Over the course of the year, he's stopped attending school, been caught by his mother with cigarettes, drugs, and alcohol. We felt that the area and environment were contributing to his behavior, so we decided to move away and are in a much better area now.

Unfortunately, his behavior hasn't gotten much better. My girlfriend and I have a newborn, and the 17 yr old has decided to now smoke in the house. My girlfriend decided to take his door off of the room and gave him a list of things that had to be completed in order for him to gain his privacy again. This lasted for about two weeks. He was on his best behavior, and he had his door again.

Not even a week into that, he started smoking in his room again. Only this time when confronted, he produced a ziplock bag he said he found with what seems like a few short stems and crumbs. He then accused my girlfriend and I of having marijuana in the house saying that we were hypocrites. I understand that he is trying to distract us from his own accountability, and that whatever he found should have no bearing, but my girlfriend is very troubled.

Now, my girlfriend and I do not actively use recreational substances. I dabbled a bit in my late 20s, but I have since stopped before I started dating my girlfriend. My recreational drug use is not something my girlfriend wants known to the kids as she has a zero tolerance for drugs and doesn't want them thinking it's acceptable. While I share that same view, I don't know if keeping my past hidden is a good idea. I can see how she could be worried that I would have to defend my actions and that I would be viewed as a hypocrite, but I'm not the one on trial right now.

Putting the mysterious bag aside (we have no idea where it came from), my girlfriend has in the past explained to the 17 yo that he's not only endangering his health, but the health of others by smoking in the house, not to mention the newborn baby since his lungs have not fully developed. She feels bad taking away privileges since he has nothing going on with his life currently. Since we moved into a new neighborhood, he has very few positive friends. We're hoping that when he starts school again in a month, this will change, but we're worried that his behavior will get worse without some drastic form of discipline, especially since he will turn 18 soon.
 

IADad

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Feb 23, 2009
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hmmm, well, with an 11 yo and a 6 yo anything I say is pure theory.

Seems to me like he's a few months away from adulthood. If he likes the stuff that comes with living with you (food, a roof over his head, food, cable, internet access, food, ...) then he follows some very simple and reasonable rulles. There are rules everywhere, his workplace, the apartment he'll soon get, so he might as well get over thinking he has a right to smoke wherever he wants. I think I'd be happy to tell him I'd agree with emancipation if he thinks he can't live with your rules. Doesn't have to be done with malice, just a simple, you don't like it here, let's see what we can do to help you leave. and get truly on your own.
 

akmom

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May 22, 2012
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You didn't say where you lived. In the U.S., you can't even buy tobacco until you're 19, and supplying it to a minor has serious legal ramifications. So... find out where he is getting it. Same with alcohol and drugs. If you can't figure it out, then don't let him go anywhere. I can't imagine it would be that hard. But I too only have young kids.
 

Xero

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Mar 20, 2008
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In most of the US you have to be 18 to buy tobacco, actually. 19 must be an Alaska thing (and probably other states).

Is he too young? Where is he getting them if so?
 

doitforthekids

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Jul 29, 2013
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akmom said:
You didn't say where you lived. In the U.S., you can't even buy tobacco until you're 19, and supplying it to a minor has serious legal ramifications. So... find out where he is getting it. Same with alcohol and drugs. If you can't figure it out, then don't let him go anywhere. I can't imagine it would be that hard. But I too only have young kids.
We are in the US. It has to be the neighbor's kid. He won't admit it, but that's the only one he hangs out with regularly. He actually apologized for endangering the baby's health yesterday. We'll see how long that remorse lasts. I know he doesn't mean any harm to anyone, but he lacks a routine and any motivation whatsoever.

Thanks for all of your advice! I knew I came to the right place.
 

singledad

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Oct 26, 2009
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<r>What kind of drugs was he caught with? Do you believe he is simply dabbling, or is there a real problem?<br/>

<QUOTE author="doitforthekids"><s>
doitforthekids said:
</s> We felt that the area and environment were contributing to his behavior, so we decided to move away and are in a much better area now.<br/>
<br/>
Unfortunately, his behavior hasn't gotten much better.<e>
</e></QUOTE>

Yeah, moving never helps. The only thing you accomplished is probably that he had to find a new connection. Not hard at all if you know how to go about it.<br/>
<br/>
I agree with IADad re. Disclosing your past drug use. I would only do that if it could serve as a strong lesson on why he shouldn’t do it. It sounds like you only dabbled and it didn’t really affect your life in any negative way, so I don’t think it would serve as a deterrent. He doesn’t need to know.<br/>
<br/>
Btw. I don’t believe that there is anything hypocritical about not wanting your kids to make the same mistakes you made. If I had to allow my daughter to do everything I did, just because I did it, there would be a strong case for child services to take her away from me. <E>:eek:</E><br/>
<br/>
Where is he getting it? Well, it really isn’t that hard for a kid to get hold of stuff he isn’t supposed to. Those age-limit laws only really affect the law-abiding. And the only effective way to stop him getting it, would be to lock him in the house and take away any means of communication with anyone outside the family...</r>
 

texasparent

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Jul 24, 2013
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My husband and I had a similar problem with his son and when he couldn't follow our rules, he had to leave. Of course, we had his biological mother to send him to. If there is not a safe place for him to go other than your house, it can be difficult. Where do you send him? To the street? He is likely then to get in even deeper trouble. Sometimes though, a difficult decision must be made to protect your other children. Maybe a talk about having to possibly move out will cause him to rethink his choices.

Good luck - I hope everything works out for you guys.
 

youngsteve

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Dec 3, 2013
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Teenage is the very soft part of a persons life, where he or she need to put step very smoothly or with strong decisions. Otherwise this age divert us to a different way. Therefore every parent need to talk with their teenage kids, allow a friendly home atmosphere for them.
 

doitforthekids

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singledad said:
What kind of drugs was he caught with? Do you believe he is simply dabbling, or is there a real problem?
He was caught with Moxy back in Florida... During our move, his mom found a stash of what we think was probably Ecstasy, Xanax, and some other pills which were thrown out immediately. Apparently before these incidents, he had admitted to trying marijuana, so we thought he was just dabbling.

Well, fast forward to now. He has been held behind a year in school due to his repeated absences, and he has failed his 1st semester of his new school. He's been caught with pot several times in the new house now. His mom finds it difficult to tell him to leave since there is no safe place for him to go, and we're at a complete loss to his disregard for the house rules.
 

doitforthekids

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texasparent said:
My husband and I had a similar problem with his son and when he couldn't follow our rules, he had to leave. Of course, we had his biological mother to send him to. If there is not a safe place for him to go other than your house, it can be difficult. Where do you send him? To the street? He is likely then to get in even deeper trouble. Sometimes though, a difficult decision must be made to protect your other children. Maybe a talk about having to possibly move out will cause him to rethink his choices.

Good luck - I hope everything works out for you guys.
It's been talked about, but since there has been no action, I don't think he takes us seriously. His mother has said she has a zero tolerance for drugs in the house, but his repeated offenses show a complete lack of regard for the rules. There are no relatives or anyone responsible enough for him to go to...
 

singledad

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doitforthekids said:
His mom finds it difficult to tell him to leave since there is no safe place for him to go, and we're at a complete loss to his disregard for the house rules.
doitforthekids said:
It's been talked about, but since there has been no action, I don't think he takes us seriously. His mother has said she has a zero tolerance for drugs in the house, but his repeated offenses show a complete lack of regard for the rules. There are no relatives or anyone responsible enough for him to go to...
Well, that is your problem. Clearly his mother lacks the courage to implement her so-called zero tollerence.So from his point of view he has a warm place to sleep, food on the twble, someone who probably does his laundry etc (right?) and he can smoke pot and generally bum out of life with no condequences. Nice. Why would he stop? In some circles that is called enabling.

So you either need to get tough and enforce the rules, even if that means kicking him out on the street with no where to go, or you need to start actively working with him to figure out what went wrong I his life and how he can turn it around again. Option two is a VERY long and VERY hard road, and having a baby in the house will make it even harder, since you have to also protect the baby.

But all this is kind of pointless since you can't do it - his mother must. Anyway, this is all I have time for...
 

akmom

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May 22, 2012
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Call the cops on him if you find drugs in the house. Most of them are illegal, aren't they? That's your recourse if you can't tackle the problem as a family.
 

IADad

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Feb 23, 2009
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I don't know what the new-fangled terms are, but it sounds we're talking about what used to be simply "Deliquency." Why do kids become delinquent? Despite their parents best thoughts, it's not the crowd they hang out with (at least that's not the root). It's often because they don't feel a part of a "Community." Whether that community is the local community, family community, church community, whatever. Kids who float along, doing as they please often don't mean to hurt anyone, but they also don't realize the impact they have on others, what they gain from others, and their responsibilities to a working community. That's a big thing that juvenile homes teach these days, "You are important to your community." "You should be able to count on it, and it's depending on you." It's a really simple concept, but one that's hard to teach if it's been lost.

I'm thinking if this were my child. I'd bring home the papers for emancipation, and give him a choice. If he wants to go, here are the papers, here's $100 and here's the door, I hope you can figure it out...OR If you want to build something of a life for yourself, let's stop wasting time. I'll work tirelessly for you. I'll invest myself in your success, but only if you do. If he buys into the concept then you sit down and work out an agreement, what's the plan, what are the steps, what gets done every day and what are the consequences if they don't. Where are those steps leading and how do we monitor success. What happens if success isn't achieved on schedule. Neither you nor your girlfriend can be the ones responsible for his actions, you can be responsible for living up to your end of an agreement, but only if he does his.

I guess I want my kids to know, not just feel, that I'm their biggest fan and I care as much about their success as they do. I can't care more than they do.
 

jimrich

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Sep 13, 2014
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doitforthekids said:
My girlfriend's son is about to be 18 in a few months. Over the course of the year, he's stopped attending school, been caught by his mother with cigarettes, drugs, and alcohol. We felt that the area and environment were contributing to his behavior, so we decided to move away and are in a much better area now.

Unfortunately, his behavior hasn't gotten much better.
Well, so much for the moving fix. I don't see how just moving can change all the bad behaviors he has developed up to now. Did you ever consider looking deeply into WHY he does these thing?


My girlfriend and I have a newborn, and the 17 yr old has decided to now smoke in the house.
That seems like contempt to me. It's possible the teen is ANGRY that both of you are not even married.

My girlfriend decided to take his door off of the room and gave him a list of things that had to be completed in order for him to gain his privacy again. This lasted for about two weeks. He was on his best behavior, and he had his door again.
Whew - that's like tossing gasoline on a fire to EXTINGUISH it! So, instead of going after the kid's underlying issues, she decided to HUMILIATE him to gain obedience and CONTROL?

Not even a week into that, he started smoking in his room again. Only this time when confronted, he produced a ziplock bag he said he found with what seems like a few short stems and crumbs. He then accused my girlfriend and I of having marijuana in the house saying that we were hypocrites.
Ah, revenge is sweet! Looks like that HUMILIATING door caper has backfired!

We're hoping that when he starts school again in a month, this will change, but we're worried that his behavior will get worse without some drastic form of discipline, especially since he will turn 18 soon.
IMO, it's both comical and sad that you can see no alternative to HELP this kid other than humiliation (the door stunt) or DRASTIC DISCIPLINE which really means: inflicting pain to force more favorable behavior (for a little while). I wonder why neither of you can see that the kid's behavior is connected to very faulty parenting and that the way out is for all of you to get into counseling where you can SAFELY examine all the factors that are CAUSING the 17 yo to misbehave. I'd seek to understand what is driving my kid like this and then go from there instead of forcing some kind of "better" behavior with DRASTIC DISCIPLINES and/or humiliating and painful punishments. Your kid needs HELP - not retribution!
 

jimrich

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singledad said:
Well, that is your problem. Clearly his mother lacks the courage to implement her so-called zero tollerence.So from his point of view he has a warm place to sleep, food on the twble, someone who probably does his laundry etc (right?) and he can smoke pot and generally bum out of life with no condequences. Nice. Why would he stop? In some circles that is called enabling.
I'd say this kid (just like we were years ago) is a VICTIM of extremely INADEQUATE parenting!

So you either need to get tough and enforce the rules, even if that means kicking him out on the street with no where to go, or you need to start actively working with him to figure out what went wrong I his life and how he can turn it around again. Option two is a VERY long and VERY hard road, and having a baby in the house will make it even harder, since you have to also protect the baby.
But option 2 will actually HELP the now damaged kid if that's of any interest to anyone whereas option 1 is just going to toss more gas on the fire!
 

jimrich

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IADad said:
I don't know what the new-fangled terms are, but it sounds we're talking about what used to be simply "Deliquency." Why do kids become delinquent? Despite their parents best thoughts, it's not the crowd they hang out with (at least that's not the root).
The "delinquency" of my older brother and I was the direct result of extremely INADEQUATE parenting! Our parents FAILED to promote love and respect within the family and unwittingly allowed us to slip slowly into very corrupt and delinquent behaviors so by our teens, we were quite bad.

It's often because they don't feel a part of a "Community." Whether that community is the local community, family community, church community, whatever. Kids who float along, doing as they please often don't mean to hurt anyone, but they also don't realize the impact they have on others, what they gain from others, and their responsibilities to a working community. That's a big thing that juvenile homes teach these days, "You are important to your community." "You should be able to count on it, and it's depending on you." It's a really simple concept, but one that's hard to teach if it's been lost.
Especially lost from an early age but never recognized as bad parenting by anyone with some power!

I'm thinking if this were my child. I'd bring home the papers for emancipation, and give him a choice. If he wants to go, here are the papers, here's $100 and here's the door, I hope you can figure it out...OR If you want to build something of a life for yourself, let's stop wasting time. I'll work tirelessly for you. I'll invest myself in your success, but only if you do. If he buys into the concept then you sit down and work out an agreement, what's the plan, what are the steps, what gets done every day and what are the consequences if they don't. Where are those steps leading and how do we monitor success. What happens if success isn't achieved on schedule. Neither you nor your girlfriend can be the ones responsible for his actions, you can be responsible for living up to your end of an agreement, but only if he does his.
Wow, that's a terrific idea and I sure wish our parents had offered us such a plan. We reached 18, got our $200 war bonds and took off into the great big wild world - utterly unprepared to live well and happy - we soon CRASHED!

I guess I want my kids to know, not just feel, that I'm their biggest fan and I care as much about their success as they do. I can't care more than they do.
I'm sure impressed with this and would only add that it might take a very mature and RARE parent to offer those things to a kid - especially AFTER the damage has been done as in this kid's case.
 

doitforthekids

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Jul 29, 2013
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IADad said:
I don't know what the new-fangled terms are, but it sounds we're talking about what used to be simply "Deliquency." Why do kids become delinquent? Despite their parents best thoughts, it's not the crowd they hang out with (at least that's not the root). It's often because they don't feel a part of a "Community." Whether that community is the local community, family community, church community, whatever. Kids who float along, doing as they please often don't mean to hurt anyone, but they also don't realize the impact they have on others, what they gain from others, and their responsibilities to a working community. That's a big thing that juvenile homes teach these days, "You are important to your community." "You should be able to count on it, and it's depending on you." It's a really simple concept, but one that's hard to teach if it's been lost.

I'm thinking if this were my child. I'd bring home the papers for emancipation, and give him a choice. If he wants to go, here are the papers, here's $100 and here's the door, I hope you can figure it out...OR If you want to build something of a life for yourself, let's stop wasting time. I'll work tirelessly for you. I'll invest myself in your success, but only if you do. If he buys into the concept then you sit down and work out an agreement, what's the plan, what are the steps, what gets done every day and what are the consequences if they don't. Where are those steps leading and how do we monitor success. What happens if success isn't achieved on schedule. Neither you nor your girlfriend can be the ones responsible for his actions, you can be responsible for living up to your end of an agreement, but only if he does his.

I guess I want my kids to know, not just feel, that I'm their biggest fan and I care as much about their success as they do. I can't care more than they do.

So here is an update.

IADad, this is almost the exact approach we took. We sat him down and told him that we were willing to help him, but he had to do the work himself.

He blamed his failures in school on ADD and his PTSD / anxiety. We offered to take him to a medical professional to work through it. He refused and said that marijuana helped him more than any of the other meds could, and that we were too closed minded to see that marijuana wasn't a drug and that it would be soon legalized.

Christmas of 2013, we got him an Amazon gift card, and he bought himself a PS4. We later found out he sold it to a friend for less than he bought it for for some quick cash. After he turned 18, he stopped going to school and started going missing through the nights. We told him he should at least get a job and start working so he could have some money to save up for a car or his own place since he couldn't respect the house rules. (We offered to contribute half for rent) His mother even sat down with him and filled out several job applications for him. He got hired at one place, but he quit after the first day. We started noticing personal belongings missing, both mine, my girlfriend's, and his younger 12 yr old brother's. We noticed he started selling off his prior Christmas gifts (guitar, amp, etc). When asked about his job search, he said started saying he wasn't going to work for minimum wage, and that he wasn't interested in any of the jobs available. We repeatedly asked him what was going on, and he denied knowing anything about the missing items.

He was now 18 and he still didn't have his driver's license. We had offered to take him to driver's ed and to go to the DMV to get his learner's permit the year before, but he either could not get up for the appointment or he would be missing.

Last February of 2014, his grandmother started talking to him and told him she could help him by offering him some work. She promised him some outrageous things (getting him a job that would pay him 40k a year, getting him a car, a house, etc). Much to my girlfriend's and my disapproval, he left home to go live with his grandmother. He was back by June of that year. We made it clear what the house rules would be (no drugs, no staying out and coming in at all hours of the night), and he said he didn't want to stay with us.

We laid out some terms for him and told him that we would pay for him to stay in a hotel, but he needed to go actively look for a job and start looking for his own place to live. He spent two months making excuses on why he couldn't find a job while my girlfriend made every attempt to take him to stores to find applications. After two months, he got kicked out of the hotel for smoking pot. He didn't want to move in with us at this point because of our house rules, so he found a friend to move in with. Two months later, we find that his friend's brother is a convicted sex offender (against children).

He came to us and said he couldn't live there anymore. He wanted to come home. So again, we laid out the rules and he agreed to every single one of them . No drugs in the house, no smoking in the house, no wandering in and out at all hours of the night.

The first night he was back, the fire department came because the smoke detector went off.

The first weekend we left for the 12 yr old's hockey tournament, we come home and find burnt up joints, roaches, and the smell of cigarettes in our finished basement.

Furious, we asked him to leave. He claimed that he had nowhere else to go and said we were condemning him to a drug house. So we set rules again. He was not to be left alone in the house. When we left, he got put up in a hotel and the house was locked up. During this time, we also set goals for him to achieve. He needed to find a job. He was interested in vaping, and he wanted to start his own e-juice business. We told him we would help him where we could, but he had to do the work himself. This went on for about 2 months. Rules were continuously broken during this time period - we kept finding drug paraphernalia in the house.

We took a family vacation in January, but he refused to come. So we put him up in another hotel. When we got back, the cops were called on him, and he was kicked out for marijuana again. We now now have two young kids (1, and 7 months), and we couldn't subject them to finding drug paraphernalia. We finally decided that this was the last straw, and we told him that he either had to get help or he couldn't stay in the house any longer. Help would be in the form of a mental evaluation or rehab center, and drug testing. He argued that drug testing was against his right, and he lose respect for us if we did that. So he left.

He was staying with a friend up until two nights ago as that family turned their back on him as well. Since staying, he started a fire in his friend's bedroom, had the cops raid their house because the neighbors saw him with a non-lethal weapon (which is illegal here). His friend says that they don't feel that they are helping him because he still doesn't have a job after 3 months of doing nothing.

The night before he had to leave his friend's house, my girlfriend gets a call saying that he was severely beat up at a gas station. When she drove over to see him to take him to the hospital, the only sign of a physical altercation was blood on his lip, but he was bug eyed like he was high on something. He was lucid enough to yell obscenities at his mother and said he didn't want her taking him to the ER. His friends took him and sped off with my girlfriend following. They ran red lights like they were trying to get away from her. She got worried and called the cops. After the cops questioned everyone, and after the visit to the hospital, it almost seemed like it was all an act. The ER said he had no indications he had been in a physical altercation, and they let him go. We feel that it was an act to try to gain pity to let him back in the house.

The last we've heard, he called from a McDonald's to be picked up. My girlfriend drove to get him, but he wasn't there. So my girlfriend is worried sick about him. He supposedly doesn't have his phone because it was stolen in the fight (we gave him his younger brother's Android phone because he had destroyed 3 phones before this within 6 months). I'm exhausted talking about the situation with her because it seems like an endless pattern. She's beating herself up over it thinking she could have handled things differently. This child has not wanted to help himself since the beginning - he wants everything done from him. A month ago, he had called his mother and basically yelled at her for not giving him 80k to start his own vape business, and that she should do whatever it took to support him. I'm at a total loss. So we don't know where he is right now. I don't even know what we would do if we found out where he was staying.

I get the comments about bad parenting because from the outside looking in, that's what I would surmise as well in the past. But I can say that we've explored all options, and I am almost inclined to believe that our 19 yr old has a severe addiction and / or mental illness that has been untreated.
 

doitforthekids

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jimrich said:
Well, so much for the moving fix. I don't see how just moving can change all the bad behaviors he has developed up to now. Did you ever consider looking deeply into WHY he does these thing
The move was for the family as a whole since we didn't have any family in Florida. We just thought a fresh start would be a nice side effect.

Many times. We've talked to him about it on numerous occasions. He wants to smoke. He feels it helps with his anxiety. He doesn't see marijuana as a potentially harmful drug. He doesn't want to go to school because he feels he won't need it if he can start his own business. We've tried reasoning with him, but he doesn't see our point of view, and argues that we're old and too narrow minded.

jimrich said:
That seems like contempt to me. It's possible the teen is ANGRY that both of you are not even married.
We've talked about this too. He claims it doesn't bother him. In fact, up until the move, he and I had a very positive relationship. He felt like I was a positive influence on the family. We've also explored the possibility that he's jealous of the other kids. This is probably more accurate, but he won't admit to it. Now, he has a complete lack of respect for me, and I can see it escalating to a physical altercation soon.

jimrich said:
Whew - that's like tossing gasoline on a fire to EXTINGUISH it! So, instead of going after the kid's underlying issues, she decided to HUMILIATE him to gain obedience and CONTROL?
It wasn't a means to humiliate him. This was done after she thought all avenues were explored. He has vehemently refused help -- he blamed his ADD and PTSD on why he wasn't doing well in school. He wouldn't go see a medical professional to get help for those problems. The only thing he wanted to do was to start a snake breeding business while he neglected his education and contribution as a family member to the house.

jimrich said:
Ah, revenge is sweet! Looks like that HUMILIATING door caper has backfired!

IMO, it's both comical and sad that you can see no alternative to HELP this kid other than humiliation (the door stunt) or DRASTIC DISCIPLINE which really means: inflicting pain to force more favorable behavior (for a little while). I wonder why neither of you can see that the kid's behavior is connected to very faulty parenting and that the way out is for all of you to get into counseling where you can SAFELY examine all the factors that are CAUSING the 17 yo to misbehave. I'd seek to understand what is driving my kid like this and then go from there instead of forcing some kind of "better" behavior with DRASTIC DISCIPLINES and/or humiliating and painful punishments. Your kid needs HELP - not retribution!
It's easy to judge and jump to conclusions when you don't know the entire story. We've tried the help route. It's met with a dismissive "nothing is wrong" attitude. He will not see a therapist. Regardless, the situation has gotten worse, and I could use some advice. I just wanted to address your judgmental comments as they were not very helpful or understanding, which is why I came to seek advice in this forum. We care for our now 19 yr old.
 

singledad

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doitforthekids said:
ADD and his PTSD / anxiety
Wait... What??? :err:

You never mentioned that he had trauma in his past before. That changes everything.

EVERYTHING.

Really, I'm shocked that you didn't think this was relevant.

If he is medicating PTSD with street drugs, everything is a thousand times more complex. He needs help, but he won't want to get help as long as he thinks he can keen it under control himself.

He will probably not be able to just stop. Not only because of addiction, but because stopping would bring back the symptoms of his PTSD. ANYTHING is better than that. There is nothing you can do to him that would make living with untreated, unmedicated PTSD worth it.

I suggest you go get advice from a profession. Go see someone yourself, and get advice on how to help him. This is not the kind of thing you can fix on your own, and it's not the kind of thing you can learn how to deal with on an internet forum.