The challenges of raising a teenager are never ending. Every day there is a new fear we face as parents. At times it is overwhelming. Where do you draw the line with a sixteen year old who
believes he should be allowed to do everything with everyone whenever he wants? Some teenagers believe they should have no restrictions. They feel as long as long as they do well in
school everything should be okay. They measure what is acceptable by school performance.
J.C. is getting straight A's. Occasionally, he smokes pot and drinks on the weekends. He thinks that should be okay. Some teenagers will go as far as to tell their parents that what they
do socially is none of their business. Many parents today are afraid to set boundaries and rules for their children because they're afraid their children won't like them because the rules are too strict.
Instead of being focused on their son or daughter's development as a person they're more concerned about being friends. A good litmus test that one is an effective parent is if your son or daughter tells you eighteen times a day that he or she can't stand you. As painful as it is to hear those words, sometimes as a parent we have to take a hard position for the sake of our children's livelihood. Parenting teenagers is not a walk in the park. It is probably the most challenging
responsibility we have as parents. For many of us, every day is an adventure. Just when you think you and your son or daughter are on the same page, your son or daughter comes home and challenges you with a social decision he or she has made.
T.J. is sixteen and a junior in high school. Up until a few months ago he was an honor student who played sports every season. He was active in after school activities most days. He had a
positive group of friends who were involved in positive activities.
As the months passed, he started to connect with a new group of friends. These young men and women were not interested in school but only in hanging out. Although most of them came from families that were respectable, they did not seem to have any rules they had to follow. To
the shock of T.J.'s. parents, during the week their in the house curfew was 1:00am and on weekends they were allowed to stay out all night.
T.J. really started pushing the limits. He strategically planned which classes he would skip during the school day. Every day he would skip a different class and with the help of friends sneak off campus smoke pot and plan the night's adventure. He would come home for dinner because that is what was expected. Like it is for many teenagers his age, dinner was a three-
minute experience; as soon as he gulped his food and was ready to leave, he was gone. His ongoing desire to get out as quickly as he could created an ongoing conflict at the dinner table. The old T.J. was willing to talk and laugh with his family. This new TJ no one recognized.
His parents began to panic. They we're told that many teenagers go through this phase. Those giving T.J.'s parents this advice did not realize that T.J. and his friends were up to no
good. He would tell his parents he was going to a friend's house that was acceptable to his parents but instead he was really meeting with his new group of friends and they were tooling
around town making plans to drink and get high.
To distract his parents, T.J. would call in and say that things were great. However that was a ploy to cover for his antics and activities. During the school week T.J. was expected to be home by 9:00pm. Ever since he connected with his new friends his parents were relieved if he made it
home by 11:00pm.
As the weeks passed, his parents became increasingly concerned. His social behavior became more reckless and irresponsible. Every time his parents tried to talk to him he built a wall
and walked away. As parents, they were overwhelmed. He was their oldest son. They never had to face this kind of behavior before.
Within three months the boy they knew for more than sixteen years had disappeared. His blatant defiance was overwhelming. Each time he was confronted he minimized the concerns
and made his parents feel like they were overreacting. Constantly he would say that they were the only parents that worried. He said every high school student cuts class occasionally stays out late and rushes from the dinner table.
Homecoming weekend T.J. asked his parents if he could sleep over a friend's house. His mother reluctantly said yes on the condition that she could speak with his friend's parents. When she said this to T.J. he went ballistic. He ranted and raved, and said that they were unreasonable. After his yelling and screaming calmed down, He re-approached his mother,
and apologized for his loudness. He attempted to re-negotiate his request with his mother. With great reluctance he agreed and said she could call his friend's parents. T.J.'s Mom finally
connected with the friend's parents and confirmed that it was okay for T.J. to stay the night. The parent assured T.J.'s mother that the boys would be supervised and held accountable.
After they went to the homecoming football game and the little party afterwards, T.J. got to his friend's house, called his mother and said he was going to bed. Both boys said
goodnight, went upstairs and proceeded to climb out the bedroom window. Once they were outside they made their way back to T. J's house. He snuck in through a basement window, went
into the kitchen and took the keys to the family car.
The boys quietly rolled the car down the driveway and pushed it two more houses down before they got in and drove away. They went to one of the all night homecoming parties that
had no supervision. There were kegs of beer and high school kids everywhere; the boys had a great time.
About 3:00am, T.J. started to panic. His father gets up to go to work at 4:30am. He told his buddy that they needed to get the car home. Both boys had too much to drink. However, T.J.
thought he was the least intoxicated. He got behind the wheel and started to drive home. As he was approaching his street corner he did not see the oncoming car. He was speeding and to
miss hitting the car he hit a tree. The car was totaled. He and his friend were pinned up against the dashboard.
The impact of the crash woke the neighbors up. The police, fire department and an ambulance service were called. After many hours of hard work the boys were pulled from the wreck. Both young men were bleeding so they were taken to the nearest hospital. They were kept overnight
for observation. The next morning after they were released T.J. was arrested for DWI.
His parents followed the police to the station. They watched as their son was handcuffed to cell bars. The Sergeant said he would be arraigned in the morning and if bail was posted they
could take him home at that time. Needless to say, T.J.'s parents were devastated. They were grateful that their son and the other boy were not seriously hurt and that their recklessness did not hurt or kill anyone else.
However, on the other hand there was a part of them that wanted to kill their son. This time he had gone too far. After he came home and had gotten cleaned up, his parents called a family
meeting. At that gathering they confronted T.J. with all of his past behavior and told him that if he
wanted to live in their home things had to change. They said that he had to make a renewed effort at school. He had to go to all of his classes, hand in all schoolwork on time, be home for
dinner and stay more than three minutes; and most importantly be truthful and honest about what
he was doing, where he was going and whom he was hanging out with. His parents made it very clear that they would no longer tolerate his disrespect and non-compliance.
T.J. sat in total silence. His face expressed remorse, his words conveyed contrition and the desire to reclaim the old T.J. He promised his parents that he would make an effort to comply
with all that they had asked. He assured them that he would no longer drink and/or smoke pot. He recognized that the legal consequences for his reckless behavior could prevent him from driving until he was twenty-one.
It has only been a few weeks since that nightmare of a weekend. Life at T.J.'s home is much more tranquil than it has been in months. He has been most compliant. The old son they once
knew seems to be re-emerging. However, as parents they are troubled that little was done to address the unsupervised all night party where TJ and his friend got drunk. Although many parents expressed similar concerns, none have taken any action with their children regarding that
The boy who was in the accident had no consequences for lying, staying out all night and underage drinking. What message are we sending out? What will it take for us as parents to be more pro-active in parenting our children?