My oldest child was a go-getter from the time he could walk. He always wanted to be busy. Whether it was doing a workout with me, helping his dad cut brush in the woods, or wanting to help me during my beaded jewelry phase where I’d make ten necklaces a day, he wanted to work and work hard.
He was boisterous, animated, and could make anyone laugh.
My son reached puberty and everything changed
Then, right around puberty he morphed into a kid I didn’t even recognize. He seemed angry, distressed, and he started fighting with the other boys in school. It started out as dramatic arguments and escalated to physical fighting.
By the time he reached the middle of his first year of high school, he’d been suspended twice for smoking pot. He’d also had a few in-house suspensions for fighting. His grades slipped, his group of friends changed, and he was incredibly unmotivated and seemed to hate me.
My teen began acting out
My sweet little boy who used to love me and wanted to help with weeding the garden and making bread, was an angry person who was lashing out. I was getting a call from the school almost once a week about an issue–he’d been disrespectful, he wasn’t doing his work, he was late to class for three days in a row. It was always something and I was at my wit’s end.
I did the only things I knew how to do: I loved him. I set tough boundaries by making him do more chores at home and at his Aunt’s house while he was suspended–there was no watching television or spending time on his phone. I restricted him from seeing friends until he got his grades up. I signed him up for counseling, something he fought me on tooth and nail.
I’m not saying any of this was easy. It was one of the hardest times in my life and I worried every day about the road he was headed down. I knew he had a choice and there was only so much I could do. I couldn’t go to school with him every day. I couldn’t completely shut him off from the outside world either.
I realized that the day he ran away while he was on restriction. I looked for him for hours and was so relieved when I found him on his skateboard a few miles from the house.
“I just had to get away but I’m not allowed to go anywhere. I hate my life and I felt like I had nothing else to lose because you’ve already taken everything else away from me,” he said when I demanded he get in the car as all my veins popped out of my head.
I don’t know what made him turn things around, but he did
I still don’t know if I handled things right, or if he just decided one day to turn it around. Maybe it’s a combination of both. The point is, he did turn it around.
He is now about to graduate high school. He never turns in his work late. He has a job he loves, works hard, and goes to the gym a few days a week. He’s polite, helps me out around the house even when I don’t ask and I truly believe he had to go through that awful stage for a reason.
While he isn’t perfect and we still have issues. (What mother of a teenager had a perfect ride? I certainly don’t know any.) I look back on his rough spell and I want to tell other parents who are really struggling with a teen that it doesn’t define the rest of their life.
There’s a really good chance they will grow out of it, and into themselves. With your guidance, they will find their way.
Just because your teenager is going through a hard time and you feel like they are going down a slippery slope with no way to turn things around, it doesn’t mean that’s what will happen. Eventually your teen will start making better decisions.
Teens can go through tough times and still emerge as responsible young adults
You child can go through a hard time and come out of it. Getting caught up in some stuff that takes them down a few notches doesn’t mean they won’t be able to turn into a responsible adult.
I look at my son now and I can honestly tell you a few years ago, I didn’t think he was going to come out of it. I felt out of control, angry, and helpless.
But now, I see that stages happen. Kids test and try and find edges and boundaries. They ask for help in really strange ways that we don’t always understand.
They are smart though. So smart and so resilient and believe me, they probably will come out of this dark time. Just keep loving them, keep doing what’s best for your family, and please, don’t be too hard on yourself.
The author of this post wishes to remain anonymous.
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