Summer days can be the best of times and the worst of times. As most of us settle in for a more relaxed schedule and a casual approach to life, those of us raising teenagers are challenged not to be too relaxed or casual or disaster will really disarm us.
Mr. & Mrs. Q. have four children, three boys and one girl. Their oldest son is twenty-three and is in graduate school. Their second son is a senior in college and goes to school upstate. Their third son is a recent high school graduate from a North Shore school. Their youngest, their daughter, is a sophomore in high school.
Mr. & Mrs. Q. would assess their family as traditional, but not old fashioned. Both parents are well educated. Mom is an elementary school teacher and Dad is a successful business executive. Financially, their family has no worries.
The Q.'s two older children did well in high school and in college. Both boys were scholar athletes, but also regular guys. They had a wide range of friends and were not always angelic. However, they were never physically or verbally disrespectful to their parents.
The youngest in this family is also a good student. She is involved in after school activities, has a wonderful assortment of friends and is very cooperative and respectful.
T.Q., their third son, walks to a different drummer. He is bright and exceptionally social. He was a disaster as a student, not because he couldn't do it, but rather because he elected to skip more classes then he attended his senior year. He graduated by the skin of his teeth. He was an excellent athlete, but his formal participation in varsity athletics was always in jeopardy because of his school performance and attendance.
Junior and senior years, T.Q. and his parents were constantly in conflict. His parents noticed a major shift in his attitude. He was becoming increasingly more oppositional and defiant. Each time his parents confronted him and tried to hold him accountable, T.Q. "yessed" them to death and basically did as he pleased. They threatened him with everything, but to no avail.
Finally, toward the end of his junior year, he and a few of his buddies got busted on campus for drinking beer. The school alleged that the boys were drunk and belligerent. The boys claimed that they were not drunk and that the school security was nasty to them.
T.Q. and company were immediately suspended, pending a superintendent's hearing. The superintendent took a hard line with T.Q. and his friends because he was led to believe that the drinking incident was not isolated, but rather was on-going. He also believed that the boys were mixing booze with drugs. The boys of course categorically denied it.
As a condition for returning to school, all the boys involved with T.Q. had to be engaged in some kind of on-going counseling. If they refused to comply, they would be forced into home schooling and would be banned from the main high school campus. T.Q. and all of his friends reluctantly agreed.
Mr. & Mrs. Q. were quietly very grateful for the mandatory counseling. They felt they now had a formal forum to address the growing list of concerns regarding their son, who they felt was out of control.
Counseling began immediately. T.Q. went without a fight, but was literally non-communicative. He basically grunted at the therapist. In his naivet, T.Q. thought all he had to do was show up, almost like school.
After six weeks, at the request of the superintendent, the counselor sent in a report. Needless to say, it was not a sterling assessment of T.Q.'s participation. The superintendent was less than pleased. He assured T.Q. that if the counseling dynamics did not change ASAP, he would be finishing the school year at home.
Over the next few months, T.Q. was more cooperative with counseling, but became more reckless with his parents. He started drinking and getting drunk almost every weekend. He was staying out all night, nights at a time. His verbal abuse and threats of violence were out of control.
These parents were overwhelmed. They tried to use counseling as a tool to find a middle ground. Each time they had a family session, it became a screaming match. At the end, he would ultimately agree to change his ways. He would be good for a week and then "all hell" would break loose again.
This was the cycle, week after week, from the summer of his junior year right through to senior graduation. However, the verbal abuse and threats of violence increased.
During his senior year, he started drinking in the middle of the week. He seemed to be doing even more than that, but when confronted, he vehemently denied any illegal drug use. He became enraged that his parents would even accuse him of such behavior.
As graduation approached, the Q.'s felt like they were prisoners in their own home. Their senior in high school was threatening them with bodily harm every time they tried to discipline him for his outrageous behavior.
Now he was coming home more belligerent than ever, fighting with them and threatening to hurt them. Mr. & Mrs. Q. went from being angry with their son to being terribly frightened. When he did not get his way, he was now punching holes in the walls of the house, not just his bedroom, but in rooms throughout the house. He also started purposely breaking furniture.
One Saturday night in early summer, he came home drunk, picked a fight with his Dad and threw a dining room chair through the living room window. Mr. Q. called the police. They arrived within minutes and had to physically restrain him. His mother was hysterical. They did not want to have him arrested. He agreed to leave and did so without incident.
The next morning he came to the front door and wanted to come home. As parents, they stood together and told their son "no!" They said he was welcome home, but only after he got help and that they needed to hear a professional say that he was on the road to recovery.
T.Q. went ballistic. His parents remained firm. It was the hardest thing they had ever done as parents. However, they painfully realized that all of their past inconsistencies and shallow compromises were only enabling T.Q.'s recklessness. They had been giving him terrible mixed messages. T.Q. threatened and harassed them for days.
Finally he realized that they had gotten counsel and were not moving on their point. He broke down and begged for forgiveness. He agreed to do whatever it might take to be reconciled with his family.
The first phase of treatment has only just begun. T.Q. has been a model patient. Only time will tell if he will take the steps on a deeper level for real healing.
What is most important is that his parents finally broke his cycle of control and destruction and have reclaimed their family.
Now they have a better than average chance at full recovery and healing for all.