I know I've been too permissive in the past with our son because I've tried to compensate for and help him feel better about his many troubles. My husband and I are now faced with a serious problem that we would like to ask your opinion about.
I will try to be as brief as possible, but I want to explain as fully as I can. My husband and I are both college graduates in our mid-50's, he's an engineer and I am a homemaker. We both put ourselves through college, we came from large families with divorced parents, so we strive to make a good home and care for our kids in a better way than what we had. We have two children, the older is a girl who is 23 and in graduate school, and a wonderful child--no problems at all. The younger is our son, Evan, who just turned 19 and is deeply troubled. He was a happy, normal child, but always a bit on the feisty and quirky side, and not always getting along smoothly with his sister or peers. He had some social and behavior problems in school, so that by 2nd grade, we had to seek help. He was diagnosed with ADD and his Dr. prescribed Ritalin, then Adderall, which he disliked taking and didn't always do. He struggled, then was told to repeat 5th grade. He got a 504 plan, and then in 6th grade, was tested and was given an IEP for organizational and learning difficulty caused by nonverbal learning disorder and ADD. He had problems all through middle school, but started high school much better until last year (11th grade). He became depressed over being cut from football, and other academic and social trouble, and started using marijuana. He was arrested for possession and had to do a court juvenile diversion program. I got him an appt. with another psychiatrist (he had quit meds in 8th grade) and got him back on an antidepressant. Six weeks after the first arrest, he was arrested again at school for marijuana and pill possession and was expelled for the rest of the year. Due to his having an IEP, he was given special consideration and received tutoring so he could keep up his school progress, and was permitted to re-enter for 12th grade, which he chose to do rather than get a GED. He is presently 19 and a senior in high school with only 6 weeks to go until graduation. His senior year has been full of skipped school, hanging with a poor choice of friends, lying, stealing, total lack of effort, being suspended, and continuing use of marijuana and alcohol. He is very immature for his age and makes bad choices constantly, giving him little to feel proud of or successful about. We try to be very open minded and positive parents, and our kids went to Scouts, did many good activities, were raised in a loving progressive church, so they have had good values instilled, and they know we are reasonable parents whom they can trust. We have stressed that he needs to do better in school so we will pay for him to go to community college after graduation, which he says he wants, and he needs to find a job. He makes excuses and has not found a job, and doesn't seem to want to try. The only one he ever had was in 10th grade, which he lost after 2 months due to a careless attitude. He does do a few small chores, like taking out the trash. We give him $15 a week for lunch and gas for his old 18 yr. old car, which he uses but hates and he wants a newer one, but we don't think he's deserving yet. The car is for going to school and job hunting, and occcasional social use, but he abuses it. We have taken it away for several time periods, and he rages and makes us miserable. We would get him a more reliable one once he proves he can be responsible, get & keep a job, and be more grateful and cooperative. I had to call the police recently one weekend when my husband was away, because we had taken away the car, and he went into a rage and I felt threatened physically. We now just let him have the car so he can get out of the house and blow off steam, giving us some needed peace and calmness (even though we know he is probably engaging in unwise teenage behaviors like drinking and pot smoking). Things are now pretty much at a crisis, where we cannot get along with one another at all. He is extremely resistant to anything we parents say or do. To try to keep peace, we have relaxed our rules and comments to him until we feel like we are living with a terrorist and have absolutely no control any more. He eats horribly (only starch and sugars), throws out good meals I make, just had 12 cavities at the dentist, seldom takes his pills (Prozac and Intuniv for ADD, presently, and his Dr. has adjusted these a few times), his room is filthy and piled with trash and debris, he refuses to care for his clothes or possessions, he has lost or broken many Ipods and other expensive gifts, fights with us any time we ask him to do any small task or clean a mess he's made, he can't keep friends because he has such a nasty attitude and is easily enraged, is not interested in much except hanging out with friends who are not in school, watching football, and playing video games. I completely understand that he is unhappy and feels unworthy due to his chronic school problems, many of which he can't help, and his frustration makes him feel hopeless and consequently he behaves negatively. We try to be gentle and firm, as generous as seems appropriate, but not giving him extra money unless he works for it. We give him opportunities to make extra cash by doing yard work and household chores, which he does reluctantly but after he blows all his money on pot and alcohol, he wants more, and often steals cash from our wallets. Any time we confront misbehavior, expect something from him, or give him a command, he says "F" You and ignores us. His maturity level seems to be at least 3 or 4 years younger, and his school psychologist says that also (he suggests lots of structure, nothing too challenging, keeping a routine type of job, staying busy to keep out of trouble.)
Evan wants to move out as soon as he graduates in 6 weeks. If he has a job, he can do that. If not, we say he can live here until he has the money to go. He wants us to pay his rent, but we said only if and when he's in college. The community college is only 5 miles from our house, so it makes financial sense for him to just continue living here, but he seems to need to get out on his own in order to learn how to manage himself and learn that his parents are not the problem. I am at the point where he is so unbearably hateful and disruptive that I feel like he should move out after graduation this summer and we pay his rent, just to have peace, but my husband disagrees. If he did go and we helped him with rent, any gas money, groceries, etc, he would have to provide for himself by working. That seems like it might work, even though it would cost us a little bit.
We need some experienced guidance right now, since it's hard for us to evaluate this, being so close to the problem. We are wondering if he is mature enough for college yet--he does not seem very enthusiastic. A better idea may be let him work awhile, then come to us when he's ready for more school. We don't think the military is a good choice for many reasons, and that is not something we want at this time, maybe later if he chooses it. He does drink and use pot, but not to the point where I feel that he is "addicted" and that a residential treatment would help much. I checked into that option last year, but I believe that wouldn't work unless he wants to change, it's a very costly option and would pre-empt college tuition. I am wondering if psychiatric hospitalization would be too much intervention at this point--I know he would resent us even more if we did that to him. He simply isn't wanting to make an effort to change, has no motivation, feels like a failure, and refuses any good advice to help him find ways to be successful. He just seems to want to be on his own and make his own decisions. We do tell him we love him, try to hug him, give him compliments, reassure him the future can be better if he wants it to be, etc. I occasionally see a glimmer of hope, and I know he's a good person inside and wants to be happy, but right now, not much gets through to him.
My Out-of-Control Teen