The end of school for high school students can be a nightmare for parents. Everybody and their brother is having a party. Many of our kids are really pushing the envelope and stretching the boundaries. They want to come and go as they please, not only on the weekends but during the week as well.
Dinner at home is a non-existent reality. Communication has broken down to mere grunting. You feel like ships passing in the night. After weeks of this fragmented and disconnected existence, you notice that a few unopened bottles of liquor are missing from your liquor cabinet. You confront your son who is sixteen. To your surprise, he does not lie, but admits to taking the liquor. However, what pushes you over the edge is his no-remorse attitude. He reacts to your concerns like his behavior is quite normal and almost like the liquor was one of his entitlements.
This arrogant, self-righteous behavior causes a major world war. You let your son know that life as he knows it is over. He threatens to leave. You respond with "go ahead, if you must." A lot of heated words are exchanged.
Finally, J.C. says that the house is crazy and that he can no longer live in this way. He conveys that he is moving in with a friend. You ask when and where. He says none of your business. The tension intensifies. Your son continues to push your buttons. Finally, he packs his things and leaves. He is adamant about not telling you with whom he will be living.
Needless to say, you are devastated. It is 11 pm at night. You cannot believe anyone is knowingly going to take your son in without calling you first or at least letting you know so you don't worry.
Unfortunately, in New York State if someone is over sixteen it is lawful for that person to move out of his or her home and live wherever with whomever! There is nothing a parent can do to prevent that kind of behavior.
It is hard to imagine that another mother or father would give sanctuary to a teenager without hearing the parental side of things. A growing number of teenagers in high school are running away because they don't want to live by rules and regulations. They don't want a curfew and they want to drink and drug at will.
To some teenagers, the grass always looks greener somewhere else. Honestly, no parent has the right to interfere with another parents' parenting, even if we think another parent is too tough.
J.C. is sixteen. He comes from a pretty strict household. He and his parents have been battling for the better part of a school year around the issues of curfew, school attendance and drugs and alcohol.
J.C.'s parents have really mellowed. Over the past year, they have backed down on a number of issues. However, they were not willing to totally abandon their family expectations. They were not going to support random cutting or the illegal use of drugs and alcohol.
J.C. was determined to write his own school ticket. His best friend's mother offered him a place to stay, which made it easy for him to run away from his home. All this woman expected was that they not smoke weed or cigarettes in her home. She did not object to recreational drinking and smoking.
Needless to say, J.C.'s parents went ballistic. They could not fathom why his mother did not call and would blatantly interfere with their parenting. What J.C.'s parents did not realize was that their son painted the picture that he was the most abused child since Oliver Twist.
Too often, in an effort to be helpful, many unknowing parents are enabling out of control teenagers to act recklessly and dangerously. No parent has the right to micro-manage another parent's child. We don't have to agree with another parent's parenting style, but we don't have the right to interfere or rescue.
Parenting is a tough job. There is no magical formula that works for everyone. Every family is different, as is every teenager. Parents need to create their own rhythm that is attentive to their family issues. No teenager likes to be restricted or have his or her freedom shackled.
J.C. wants everything his way. He did not want to be accountable for anything. Mrs. S. made it easy for J.C. to run away. She expected nothing from him and assured him he could stay as long as he wanted, even if his parents did not approve.
Sometimes well-meaning parents are very misguided and cause more harm than good. They tolerate or coexist with behavior that is blatantly illegal and reckless. They unintentionally give the message that anything goes and it is okay.
Clearly there are households where teenagers are emotionally abused and shackled. These households need to be challenged. Their children need to be empowered, not enabled. But these prison-like environments are few and far between.
The greater concern is to challenge those adults who feel justified to interfere with other families' parenting. We need to support each other, not intrude on each other.
Teenagers across the board need to know who is in charge. Discipline, accountability and responsibility are not dirty words, but rather the building blocks to a healthy, strong family dynamic.