Who Calls the Shots in Your Home?


Summer is fast approaching. School is quickly coming to an end. The end of school, especially on the high school level, is every teacher's challenge and every parent's nightmare.
Cutting is a problem ...

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Summer is fast approaching. School is quickly coming to an end. The end of school, especially on the high school level, is every teacher's challenge and every parent's nightmare.

Cutting is a problem on a good day in most schools. On warm, summer-like days, it is an epidemic. How do you keep your high school son or daughter focused, especially if many of their friends are taking longer than usual lunches and afternoons at the beach?

Parents and teachers need to tighten the ranks. Too many parents tolerate school cutting like it is a normal part of the high school experience. Too many schools have very clear policies on cutting that they unevenly enforce. Thus students know how and where to beat the system.

If there is a policy, then it should be fairly implemented across the social spectrum, with no exceptions based on status and position within the student body.

Unfortunately, these days high school students who cut are not off to the beach for an afternoon of harmless frolic in the sun and surf to be home by dinner. Too many students are off frolicking with alcohol, drugs and possibly unsafe sex. These social gatherings go beyond our beaches and parks and often occur in homes that are unsupervised. In some instances driving is involved. Too many times the cars are overcrowded with a driver who may be inexperienced, underage and even high.

However like most juniors and seniors in high school, these students think they are invincible, that nothing can hurt them, until a friend has a serious accident or someone is arrested. It is shameful that it takes tragedy to oftentimes wake someone up. Even with a tragic event, oftentimes the wake-up call is short lived and old behaviors quickly return until the next time.

Some parents really do try to play by the rules, but are undermined by other parents and sometimes even the school, when people don't hold non-compliant students accountable. It doesn't help a parent who is trying to keep her son on the straight and narrow path, when each time her son's buddy gets caught cutting, his mother gets him out of detention by writing an excuse note. That mother does that because she does not want her son to be mad at her.

That kind of thinking is ridiculous and counterproductive. It is great to have our teenage children like us, but more often than not, that won't consistently be the case.

Parenting is not an easy walk. It demands taking hard positions, setting limits and holding our kids accountable. A good litmus test that you are an effective parent is if your teenage son or daughter tells you that they hate you at least a dozen times a day.

Parenting is not about friendship, but rather is about empowering our children to be caring, responsible, respectful and accountable human beings. Teenagers are a work in progress and it is hard work.

KT is a junior in high school. He is the youngest of three boys. Both his older brothers are away at different colleges. His parents are well-educated professionals. A few months ago they would have described themselves as a very close, tight knit family. They ate dinner together almost every night, went on family vacations that the kids thought were fun, even went to church together almost every Sunday.

A few months ago KT's Mom noticed a change in KT. He started to sleep in during the school week and started missing his first period class. When confronted, he blew it off as no big deal. She called his guidance counselor who also made rather light of it.

As the weeks passed, KT started skipping dinner. He complained, but went on the family spring break vacation. He expressed that he would rather stay home.

During winter recess, he tortured his parents into getting him a cell phone. He used the line that everyone has one and what's the big deal, he would pay for it. The money wasn't the concern, but rather in this already distracted teenager's life, now insert one more terrible distraction and excuse for not taking care of business.

KT's parents conferred with other parents and were shocked at how many of KT's friends really did have cell phones and how many parents really felt it was not a problem.

As the spring term progressed, KT was cutting more and more and his easy going manner was really changing. His parents found him more abrasive and irritable. He was walling them out more and more. He was coming home later and later. On a few occasions he seemed stoned or drunk. When he was confronted, he didn't lie. He was rather casual about it and said that there was not much they could do to stop him from smoking pot and drinking if he so chose, even though he was underage.

Needless to say his parents were devastated. They did not recognize the young man their son was becoming. He continued to be verbally abusive and defiant. His new refrain has become "you can't make me."

The tragedy is that they can't make him do much without possibly driving him further away. The school has been negligent in the cutting regard. He buys beer with fake ID and gets over on the system.

The most disturbing discovery was the blatant admission that KT was dealing drugs to make money. They found a junk box hidden in the garage containing an excessive sum of cash as well as all kinds of drug paraphernalia. When he was confronted, he made it clear that he had no intention of stopping.

What does a parent do? That is a hard call depending on all the facts. The most important first step is not to turn a blind eye or deaf ear to this potentially lethal problem. Counseling and the PINS process are tools. The most important dynamic is to keep the lines of communication open and not allow your teenager to call the shots in your home!