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My sons (twins, age 17) no longer follow my rules. They claim they are the only ones with a curfew, and as a result don't respect the curfew I impose. I have strong reason to believe they are both drinking and one may be smoking pot. I gave them both cell phones, so I could contact them, but despite the fact that the cell phone bills are high, I am never able to reach them when I call. I ground them, but once lifted, the same behavior begins again. Although their dad is in the picture, he is ill and unable to give me the support I need. Bottom line is that I don't have any leverage to change their behavior. Is there some sort of behavior modification program or 'boot camp'you could recommend? I am struggling, and feel quite alone.


Harry Panjwani Replied: It sounds as if they are headed for trouble as a result of not following rules, and not understanding the nature of consequences. The behavior problems could be a result of anger that their father is in poor health, and a means of lashing out. Contact school counselors and consider involving them in a volunteer first aid squad. Look for good male role models in terms of teachers, coaches and even neighbors. But the situation requires immediate attention and intervention.
Posted On 2006-07-29 10:05:30
Mark Weiss Replied: This is a difficult problem. No need to minimize it. I must say that I'm not a fan of "boot camps" and recent research is saying that they're not very effective, but I understand that frustration can lead you down that road. I'm most taken by the Toughlove movement which has a number of websites including What I like about it is that parents get together with other struggling parents support each other through the challenges of raising their children with the help of the Toughlove organization. So, for example, if you decide to say to your kids, "if this happens, then the result will be________," the group offers you options as consequences that they help you carry out. I believe that they give you the choices and strength and "leverage" that you are looking for. I hope this helps. Good wishes, Mark Weiss
Posted On 2005-02-23 17:56:42
Bernie Pepchinski Replied: This is a transition time, they are trying to take control, and you may not be able to negotiate this since most American teens have a real sense of what they can get away with. They need to understand there are consequences as they start making decisions, and Mom has to let them experience growing pains without rescuing them. Having said this, lets go over ground rules- Easiest first, you are paying for the cell phone so if they don't call you back, within 15 minutes, tell them you will assume the phone has been misplaced and you will turn off service. You are paying for some peace of mind, this is a consideration on your part, if your sons choose not to be considerate; you will need to set limits. Don't waste your time or energy being angry. Say I know if you knew I was calling you would answer, being the considerate person you are, so since you are misplacing the phone I better turn the service off before somebody runs up MY bill. DON'T SET THIS OR ANY OTHER LIMIT IF YOU CAN'T STICK WITH IT- IT COULD GET WORSE. This is not a game; it's letting our children shoulder the responsibilities they are choosing to take on for themselves. Curfews are much harder to address. First, since you mention "nobody else has a curfew" it sounds like you are entertaining their arguments; don't. It has been my experience that every child will say that since they found it to work. When they were little they said that everyone has X-Box, play station, a skate board whatever! If you choose to negotiate this (which I don't recommend, call three parents ask what their curfew is (and they will have them) then tell your boys OK here are say 2 or 3 different times, pick. I prefer this is our family and we do things our way, then maybe you set a soft curfew- be home sometime between 11:30 and 12:30. Wake me when you get in, call if you will be more than 10 min late. Never wake them for their next day's appointments. Kids who are working out curfew times need to have their own alarm clocks. Drugs and Alcohol- this is the hardest. I have not ever heard of a child who did not try this because their parent said NO. Some children don't for their own reasons; their parents are very lucky. You are correct with what your gut instinct is telling you. Do not accept a story, "I was holding that for my friend, I didn't know there would be drinking at the BYOB party etc." Remind them you know they will assume all legal responsibilities of their actions, but even the great legal minds cannot undue the bad judgment of drugs and alcohol. Talk about what should happen, before it happens, such as a designated driver, calling you if they need help, or out of any given situation. You should also contact a counselor and Al Anon for more ways to change this behavior. Finally, remember the time to discuss this with your child is not in the middle of the crisis.
Posted On 2005-02-20 12:26:24
Mark Viator Replied: While it may seem that your sons are becoming out of control, do not give up hope. You have tried setting boundaries for them, but they seem to ignore them. First, make sure that you stick to your boundaries. For example, if the cell phones are for you to contact them and you can not, do not let them use them. Also, make them pay for any cell phone charges over a certain amount. They need to be made responsible. With regards to the drinking and possible use of drugs, I recommend that you be upfront and honest with them. Sit both of them down and tell them about your suspicions of their useage. Do not ignore this. While many adolescents will experiment with drinking and some drug use, parents should not just hope that their child will stop using on his own. Let your sons know that you will not tolerate any use. Also, let them know that you are willing to get them some help if then need it. Finally, let them know that if they continue to use, you will let them experience the natural consequences for underage drinking and illegal drug use. I do not think your sons are ready for a "boot camp", yet. I do recommend that you set some clear and concise expectations for their behavior, stick to these, and then if they are broken, remove priveleges, such as going out on the weekend, using the car, and the cell phones. If their behavior continues to worsen, then I would recommend that you seek out a family counselor to help you re-establish some authority, and to serve as an outlet for your sons to discuss how they feel, why they are acting this way, and to discuss their feelings concerning their father's illness. Do not give up all hope. While things may seem bleak right down, if you try setting those boundaries, and sticking to them, plus truly talking to your sons about your expectations for them, I believe you will see a difference. Good Luck
Posted On 2005-02-20 07:44:20
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