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MaryZ's support thread for parents of troubled teenagers

(480 Posts)
MaryZcary Sun 28-Oct-12 10:12:41

I am starting this thread in the hope that it will become a safe space for those of us strugging with very challenging teenage behaviour.

I'm hoping that it will be a support thread, rather than descend as so many threads do into a "criticism of the parents". Those of us in this situation know that it is pretty much impossible to just "tell them to stop" or to "ground them", and taking away phones, money and gadgets leads to lying stealing and running away sad.

Sadly it seems cannabis is at the bottom of an awful lot of these children's problems, and I'm hoping we can talk about that here without having to defend ourselves against the "cannabis does no harm" brigade. So if anyone tries to turn it into an argument about whether cannabis is addictive or harmful, could you please just ignore them and hope they go away - or start another thread which I can hide where they can argue away happily.

Anyway, sign in if you are interested. I'll be back later.

flow4 Tue 04-Dec-12 22:35:22

That sounds like progress. It'll probably be a bit stressful, if you have wanted to do it for years... Can you clear the air with him first, before you sit down together with DD?

Brightspark1 Tue 04-Dec-12 22:42:11

Just checking in really, feeling pretty shit at the moment after last week's social service review, will try and post but the words wont come.
thrifty, flow is right, you will need to call the police when DS is violent towards you, difficult though it is.
schlocK, I do feel for you, having spent many nights in A&E after DD's overdoses and self harming and then going to work afterwards and pretend to be normal. DD has mostly stopped SH, so there can be an end, but it only happened when she made her mind up, neither CAMHS nor I could do anything til then. She used anything she could get her hands on and her arms are a mess. All you can do is keep on supporting her, and get support for yourself too; it's even more important to look after yourself, even if it's going for a coffee with a friend. thanks

Doinmummy Tue 04-Dec-12 22:53:45

flow DD father is now a counseller ( ironic after the fact that he was violent , controlling and abusive to me). We get on reasonably ok now but he still hasn't totally lost his need to put me down. He thinks he has all the answers so I will be interested to see how our talk withDD goes. Better than him doing nothing though.

Ghostsgowoooh Thu 06-Dec-12 15:58:24

Can I join this thread please, I've got a 13 year old son I'm at the end of my tether with. It's just one battle after another. I've lost count of the amount of times I've had people say, just ground him, take away his phone etc, just be firm. Ok is that before or after he has punched me, or kicked a door or pushed his younger sisters over.

I'm so weary, he had ADHD, that's seen as the parents fault. He doesn't give a shit about school or his mates or his family.

flow4 Thu 06-Dec-12 19:34:54

Ghosts, if you read back through this thread, you'll see lots of parents saying they've tried everything, and nothing works. IMO, the hardest part of having a 'troubled' teenager is realising you can't control them any more - they have to learn to control themselves. You guide them in that, but you can't make them.

One of the things you do need to do, though, is to establish your 'bottom line' - what you absolutely will not tolerate. For me, that very definitely includes not being hit. You and your other DC need to be safe and feel safe (and actually, I suspect that even the violent/angry teens themselves need to feel that their parent(s) will stop them from going too far).

The trouble is, once they get bigger/stronger than you, their violence is very frightening, and you can't actually stop them. So IME you need to call in 'reinforcements' to keep yourself safe. I think you need to 'draw a line' - don't tolerate him hitting you or his siblings (doors are another matter) - tell him that if he does it again, you will call the police. And then do.

brighterfuture Fri 07-Dec-12 08:23:10

I so nearly called the police yeaterday. Ds was violent for 2nd day running hitting Dh and smashing /throwing things. He woke my dd 8 up first thing in the morning to see him raging and hitting his dad. It was st Nicholas and we had hid some chocolate in her slipper but instead of enjoying that she hid under my bed covers crying.

My fear over calling the police is that where we live is remote. My fear is once they know of my son then he will be known/ targeted by them for ever more. I need however to draw a line for him. In between his rages he lies on the floor howling and also hits himself. To be honest I'm not sure if he needs arresting or sectioning. Later when he's calmed down he's all contrite.

I fear for the adult he's turning into. What about his future partners or Dc. Will he grow out of this or will his future family suffer from this dv? I know its my role as a parent to sort this out now.

I know its super important that he gets the message that this behaviour is completely unacceptable. Is calling the police the best way to drive this home ?

What are other peoples experiences of calling the police. Did they come quickly? Did they take the child away? Was there any followup .. Positive or negative repercussions ?

Ghostsgowoooh Fri 07-Dec-12 12:38:56

I am at my wits end, not good today, feel like ending it all, at least my kids would be better off somewhere else and not with me. I can't control my son, I feel as if people are blaming me. Ds just will not get out of bed and this morning was hell on earth as he just could not see that I just cannot be in two places at once, he refuses to get up to catch a bus, he refuses to get ready on time so I can take him before I drop the others off. He told me that he expects me to drop dd2 and 3 aged 5 and 2 in the playground by themselves at 820 then come back for him. His lack of understanding and maturity and empathy and care for others is staggering.

I lost it this morning, we were all late, I ranted raved told him I was putting him in care, I called him names ( I know, I feel bad) , the school have said its my responsibility to get my kids to school on time but when you have one 13 year old boy refusing to get up and gets aggressive when you do try. I found out that the mum of the boy who used to give him a lift stopped it as he refused to communicate with the boy over lifts, and he was always making them late again cos he refused to get up in time.

I've rowed with my mum who kept on and on about how I should just be firm and give him the cold flannel treatment. She just hasn't got a clue. I'm useless and crap, oh and his dad gives no support too,

I hate my ds, that's what a bad person I am

brighterfuture Fri 07-Dec-12 13:23:45

ghosts i am so sorry your ds's behaviour is so challenging at the moment.

It must be incredibly difficult looking out for the needs of your younger dc when he is being such an arse. What would happen if tomorrow you just ignored him and went out and didn't bother coming back to wake him or get him up ?

Is his behaviour attention seeking ? and how would he react if you just completely backed off from getting involved, denying him the attention he's getting ( not long term solution but just to give yourself a break). I know my ds would much rather have negative attention than none.

Could you leave him safely in the house but maybe turn the main power trip off when you leave so he can't watch screens etc. Its a long shot but a change in your predictive pattern of behaviour might make him think a bit. Phone the school and tell them that you are having difficulties and that if he is late or doesn't turn up that its not from lack of effort on your part.

Another tactic could be ,if he gets pocket money, to link it to him getting up and out , maybe 1 or 2 quid a day for a successful morning. Maybe after a day of shocking him by completely ignoring him you could suggest this , that way you can praise and reward his good behviour in a very immediate way.

I know its easy for me to make suggestions and maybe they are not workable in your situation but I see how at the end of yout tether you. Remind yourself that you are a good mum and this is not your fault. We have all said things we later regret.

Please ignore all annoying ,get a grip type advice as its usless and judgemental and not what you need at the moment.

Ghostsgowoooh Fri 07-Dec-12 16:36:40

Thank you brighter, I am feeling a little calmer now even if I am still very down. Ds is home from school, walked in , ignored me and went straight upstairs and on his Xbox where he will be until the early hours,

I haven't got the energy to fight tonight, I'm going to leave him too it, my other three girls need me too. I like your suggestions and I may try the pound a day incentive.

I think if I can make sure the girls get to school on time them at least then the education people get involved then at least they can see I am able to cope with them.

I know ds is upset with his dad. Neither he or his sister know whether they are coming or going as he wants them on different days due to work commitments and frequently let's them down which he never used to do. He always had the time to go places with them but he never does things with them now and the kids know it.

Thanks also flow4, I have called the police before on ds twice. Once when he punched me and again when he smashed loads of stuff in the house. They were great the first time, not so helpful second time. It did shock him though.

Ghostsgowoooh Fri 07-Dec-12 16:40:27

Also my ds is not open to negotiation, he just doesn't see things the way we do, he refuses to discuss ways forward. It is literally like banging your head against a wall.

thriftychic Fri 07-Dec-12 19:28:49

ghosts , we possibly have the same son shock
i cant give you any advice , im sorry , as i am struggling with the same stuff .
sending you a big hug and some thanks

flow4 Fri 07-Dec-12 19:55:08

Ghosts, if your DS won't get up and go to school, you can't make him. Don't listen to anyone who says you can. I did, and it caused major, dangerous conflict. 2 of the 3 occasions when I had to call 999 were mornings when I was trying desperately to get him up.

I did the 'paying him to go to school' thing too. It worked for quite a long time - over a year. I paid £2/day if he attended, and I didn't give him any other money during term-time. (In the holidays I paid him for doing jobs instead)>

brighter, you asked what happens when you call the police. Have a look at these threads, where a few people (including me) share their experiences.

(There are some other threads as well - you can try searching for 'arrested', '999', etc.)

IME, the first couple of times I called 999, the police attended, talked to DS, and went away without taking any further action. The third time, they arrested him because I asked them to. I don't think they would have done if I hadn't. My DS hasn't been violent with me since the time I had him arrested: several months down the line, I think it was definitely the best thing to do.

MaryChristmaZEverybody Tue 11-Dec-12 23:02:37

Hi all.

Sorry, my broadband has been iffy and kept logging me out.

Firstly, thankfully, ds2 wasn't responsible for the drama in school, he seems to be doing ok and we have his assessment for ADHD on Monday.

Secondly, can I reiterate my advice to everyone at the beginning of this thread. You simply have to have a "no violence" rule, especially if you have younger children in the house. That means no violence against people - if they want to punch pillows or put fists through the wall of their bedroom you may have to ignore that. But violence against people must be unacceptable always.

Ghosts and thrifty, my son has Asperger's, and my biggest challenge has been working out which behaviour is AS (or ADHD, which I suspect he also has) and which is normal teenage stroppyness. As dd says, is he mad, sad or bad? And I think that's a good way of looking at these kids.

I know mad isn't a PC term, but it rhymes with the other two grin. ds's madness would be related to his fixed ideas about things, his determination to do things his way etc. He is also sad and a lot of these kids suffer from depression and anxiety which affects the way they behave - and they hit out most at the people they are sure will put up with it, i.e. us. But they can also be bad in that they can learn to control some of their behaviour.

You need a bottom line. A line that they cannot cross (for me it was simply drugs in the house and violence; I gave up on pretty much everything else).

As well as that you need to do what flow is saying - disengage, disengage.

Believe it or not, they can't make you feel depressed, inadequate, responsible, guilty.

And I will get cross if I hear anyone saying "they would be better without me". They wouldn't. I take my hat off to people like Brightspark - her dd isn't living at home, but she is still involved; she is still fighting. It isn't a matter of handing them over to someone else and their problems being solved. If that was the case we would all do it. There would be some wonderful children's home somewhere (a bit like Tracey Beaker) where all our difficult children would go, discover that actually they weren't difficult and that once away from their troublesome parents they would rediscover themselves and become enthusiastic members of society.

Bullshit. Every one of us knows, deep in our hearts, that if we give up on our kids so will society. If we chuck them on the street that is where they will stay.

Underneath their violent, self-centred, pig-ignorant surface is an anxious, unhappy child who won't admit to being there. But they do grow up. And the ones who do well are the ones whose parents hang in there.

Apply the 2/3rds rule - children with problems are often mentally 2/3rds their chronological age. So a 13 year old with ADHD is more like an 8 year old in an adult body. We all have to mark time until they grow up, which will be later than other kids.

Remember, most parents can offer bribes/rewards and threaten punishment/removal of privileges. If you have a child who responds to this (two of mine do), that is great. Read a few books, talk to the school, issue punishment/reward, fix them and good luck to you.

If, despite your best efforts, your child doesn't respond to this, you have to find another way. Sometimes that way simply involves taking a step back, making sure the rest of the family has an acceptable quality of life, and filling in time until they either grow out of it (which most of them do) or leave home.

At my worst, I feared that ds would either kill himself or someone else. My greatest day was the day I realised that I couldn't actually physically stop him doing either, and spending every minute of my day trying to control him and worrying about him wouldn't change it. And even if he did, then he would either be dead or in jail, and again nothing I did could stop it. Because once I realised that I stopped fighting things I couldn't change, and started changing little things I could.

Like rebuilding my relationship with dd and ds2. Like accepting the two minutes a week that ds1 was civilised, rather than resenting the millions of minutes he was horrible.

So, to summarise. No violence. Take a step back. You didn't cause this, you can't fix it. You can only manage life as it is. Keep a diary of the good days and bad days and you may find there are actually a few good days shock.

When it comes to school remember that your relationship with your child will continue long after they have left school. So, realistically, academic success is irrelevant at the moment. Talk to your child if you can. Make them believe you are on their side

And ffs look after yourself (and your other children). Otherwise, long after your kids have grown out of this you will still be a gibbering wreck - and you need to protect yourself.

MaryChristmaZEverybody Tue 11-Dec-12 23:02:50

That was an essay blush. Sorry.

brighterfuture Wed 12-Dec-12 06:50:35

thanks maryz Your wise words were just what I needed. I so want to just shut the door on my Ds. I can hardly bear to speak to him. You are so right he is just a messed up unhappy child.

I need to detach from my anger at his behaviour, my fears for his future, my guilt for the impact his behaviour is having on the family.

I have taken on board the , no violence , no drugs and school attendance as my key requests to him. He's still drug taking, he's occasionally violent and he is going to school but the attendance is not great.

I know he went out side early this morning and hit a bong when everyone was asleep. He left the window wide open ( making the house freezing) , the curtains had fallen off the wall and a lamp had been trodden on. I could see this as a total lack of respect or a tragic cry for help.

He sees it as no big deal ... he just had a cigarette hmm I didn't even bother having a go at him it's so pointless, he'd only start shouting and swearing at mesad angry .I knew if he kicked off I'd never get him to school. My other ds really doesn't need a morning scene, he's already very depressed at the moment.

I am trying so hard to hold it all together but inside I'm breaking apart with the stress of it all.

MaryChristmaZEverybody Wed 12-Dec-12 09:25:12

I was like that brighter. I let myself fall apart, and doing so didn't change him one bit.

If you think about it, you can't stop your ds having the joint. You can't stop him opening the window (and in fact you could see it as good that he went outside and didn't have it in his room [frantically clutching at straws emoticon]).

ds1 got so stressed at school that only smoking dope before he went in made it bearable. Of course, he could have gone to the gp and taken a more legal version of an anti-anxiolytic hmm but he was never going to do that.

You can't enforce a no-drugs rule. You can try to enforce a no drugs in the house rule, by asking him calmly to go outside to smoke.

And your priorities were right this morning - having a row after the act is a waste of time. Supporting your other son, and getting them to school is a success in itself.

You say "I need to detach from my anger at his behaviour, my fears for his future, my guilt for the impact his behaviour is having on the family." Yes you do. And only you can control your anger and your fear. You can decide to STOP allowing yourself to be overtaken by those emotions, it is simply too exhausting. You can minimise the impact on the rest of the family. When I stopped getting upset, my younger two did too. I realised that it was me upsetting them, not ds1. They could (and did) ignore almost all of what he did, but my emotions, my anger and sadness, and of course all the rows had a massive effect on them (for which I, of course, still feel guilty hmm).

ScottOfTheArseAntics Wed 12-Dec-12 14:51:15

Hello all I am so glad to have found this thread. I have a friend who is really struggling with their teenage son's behavior and I know this person would never have heard of mumsnet so I will be sending them a link to this thread. It will be very reassuring as I know they feel pressured by the advice and comments they are getting from people around them who have never been through this kind of thing. I have not been through it but I have been around mumsnet long enough to know not to pass comment!

Just a quick question though. When you say that a no violence rule is essential, how would you then go about 'enforcing' that rule? Physical violence is one of the worst aspects of my friends situation and they have no idea how to handle it.

MaryChristmaZEverybody Wed 12-Dec-12 15:08:10

You have to call the police Scott.

Because if you fight back, it escalates. In particular, in my house I had to make sure dh didn't intervene, because if he had, ds would have claimed assault and I might have been in the ridiculous position of having to get dh to leave confused.

Calling 999 sounds extreme, but if the child is under 16 they will deal with it very compassionately, with a warning and possible JLO intervention. If the child is over about 16, it becomes more difficult as the parent has to decide whether to prosecute or not. And interestingly, most of us have only had to do it once or twice - the teenager knowing that you will do it is often enough to make them hit a wall rather than a parent sad.

But you have to stop violence, no matter what it takes. You have to have that final line in the sand, because it is no more acceptable to have a teenager beat up a parent than to have a man beat up his wife/partner, or vice versa. It is unacceptable for younger children to have to live with that.

Violence against things isn't quite so bad.

ScottOfTheArseAntics Wed 12-Dec-12 17:55:40

Thanks for the response Mary. I hear what you are saying. It will no doubt be a relief for my friend to hear it too.

teapot5 Wed 12-Dec-12 20:06:29

I was letting out my stress and frustration here and deleted it by mistake. DD (18) has been sort of ok for a while, but I think she is on drugs - no hard proof though. Just found out that she sneaked out in middle of the night for a couple of hours (she hasn't got a boyfriend). She's been rude (calling me names etc), repeating the same demand over and over (two years old with an adult body - scary). Thank godness that she didn't kick off or smash things up (so maybe she is slightly more 'mature'). I know I should be there for her, love her etc.. But things are SO MUCH BETTER when she is not around. On a positive side like some mums here I started to detach myself emotionally so her nasty name calling and verbal abuse don't hurt me much, but it's exhausting - to keep sending a 'moral' message (because if I don't nobody will). I just felt I'm allowed to vent here.

flow4 Wed 12-Dec-12 21:40:16

Evenin' all smile

Good to see you, Maryz. Glad things are a bit calmer for you this week smile

brighter, it sounds like you are wiser than I was at that stage. Refusing to argue so you and your younger son get a peaceful morning (and so DS1 doesn't have an excuse to skip school) is sensible!

teapot, my DS did that repeating thing too. It's soooooooo infuriating. He used to follow me around to do it too, so it wasn't even possible to walk away. A couple of times he literally barricaded me into my own bedroom so he could keep doing it. A couple of times I left the house to avoid it. You have to develop super-human patience, and you're right, it is exhausting.

Scott, I'm another one who says you have to call the police to enforce the 'no violence rule'. I did it 3 times. The third time I had my DS arrested and charged. He was never violent towards me again.

brighter and teapot, don't beat yourselves up about feeling so negative towards your DCs. I think many of us have felt the same. I definitely have. I remember coming across this thread back in April and being so relieved that someone else had said what I was thinking. I think it's very hard to feel loving towards someone who is behaving so horribly (and quite right too). And I also think that when we "detach, detach" in order to cope and protect ourselves from all the bad stuff (grief, feeling hurt, angry, etc.), we unfortunately cut ourselves off from the good stuff at the same time (feeling love).

The good news is that I think some of the good emotions come back, once the awful behaviour subsides. smile Back in April I said "I am myself struggling with the feeling that I don't love my son any more: I used to love him very much, but he has been so horrible for so long that I can't feel that love any more". I am now 8 months on from that, and 3 months on from my DS's last bit of really outrageous behaviour, and I can feel some of my positive feelings for him beginning to come back. smile

And do you know what? He came into my bedroom to talk to me the other night... He was in a very good, relaxed mood and we had a bit of a giggle together for the first time in about two years. smile He was quite chatty, and suddenly, out of the blue, he said "I've missed you". shock Which nearly made me cry, because I have exactly felt like my real DS has gone missing or been abducted, and I have missed the boy I used to love terribly. It felt like an announcement that he has now come back.

One chicken... Two chickens... Cluck cluck... Three...

I hope I don't sound self-satisfied or smug. What I'm trying to say is, There is some hope...

teapot5 Wed 12-Dec-12 22:40:37

Hi flow. Thanks for your message. I feel as if I'm walking the same path, flow. I stopped beating myself up (well most of the time) and can almost see her as if I'm the third party (which helps not to be dragged into a futile battle). Also I have some positive moments with her- then get let down. It's frustrating and dissapointing especially after things seemed a bit more positive. It really is 'two steps forward three steps back' at times. But I guess two years ago 'positive moments' never existed, and I'm still here. It's just hard to keep that balance of hope/expectation and here & now/living for the moment (not to expect/think about what will (or not) happen...

MaryChristmaZEverybody Wed 12-Dec-12 22:54:04

I agree with that teapot - I'm afraid to hope, because I feel I am tempting fate. But like flow, I am gradually realising that the old ds is still in there - it's still very buried, but it is there, whereas I thought it was gone forever.

So I'm very quietly hopeful.

Three years ago, I was sure he would be dead or on the streets (or in prison). But he is in college, working part time, and buying Christmas presents shock.

So even though he still smokes dope (an awful lot, and possibly other stuff), we still have the fear of police arriving on our doorstep, he barely talks to us and struggles socially, things are sooooo much better. I have to keep reminding myself of that.

Brightspark1 Wed 12-Dec-12 22:58:39

Good to see you back maryz , yes you're right, I am still fighting, I am still trying to rebuild my relationship with DD, I refuse to give up hope or give up on DD, and no - the missing her doesn't get any easier. I read on some threads that some posters are exhausted enough, scared enough and desperate enough to want their DCs to leave the home and be taken into care. I know I was and I realise that it was the right thing to do at the time ( the only thing) DD couldn't cope with being at home anymore than we could cope with her. I still feel I have failed her, though I know that it isn't helpful to feel like that. Having a teen in care brings its own problems, every small decision involves a raft of people involved, the review meetings are led by an independent officer who doesn't know us or DD or her background, and it is hie that makes all the decisions.Parental responsibilty seems to be meaningless, as our wishes aren't even discussed. She is given a bursary to stay at college, clothes allowance, toiletry allowance, pocket money and a phone allowance ... Oh and a laptop because she is doing well at college. It feels as though she is being bribed to stay in care confused . I would have her home in a heartbeat, and it's difficult to tell her that without putting her under pressure. But I do what everyone does on this thread ... Just keeping on going and grabbing every thread of hope with both hands.

flow4 Wed 12-Dec-12 23:19:14

Yes, hope is such a dangerous feeling, isn't it?

Just as an aside... You know the Pandora's Box story? Pandora was given a box/jar by the god Zeus, and told not to look inside. Inevitably she did, and so unwittingly released its contents: all the evils and torments in the world: hatred, pestilence, war, famine, envy, fear... sad She slammed the lid back on, but it was too late... Or was it? At the bottom, all by itself, the only thing left, was hope.

The most common interpretation of this story is that hope was left to humans to help them cope with all the evils of this world... But some say that hope was left to punish humans, because hope is the greatest evil and torment of all...

I have felt like Pandora with my DS1, over the years...

Sorry, waxing a bit lyrical here blush hmm grin...

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