How best to leverage failure
Questions for the Shepherd
I am the mother of a 16 year old son. My son Jeremy might be using marijuana and I am very concerned because many of his friends are recently suspended for smoking this horrific gateway drug at school. I have no idea why my son hangs around with these loser kids from his class, but there it is. I used to know my son’s friends, but now he keeps everyone hidden under a cloak and barely tells me where he is going with the new car that my husband and I bought for him. Jeremy comes home smelling like marijuana, and he just says someone at the party was smoking, but we doubt this is true. Last year on his 15th birthday, I realized how my son was growing up, maturing and becoming a man. We were so proud of him playing football, loving his life. He was a lovely kid, but in one year from 15 years old to 16 years old, Jeremy has flipped the script on us and has become some type of monster who we do not even recognize as our own flesh and blood.
Should we take away his car, or should we put him on punishment for seeing these loser kids at school? How can we punish him for considering trying marijuana? We know that using marijuana can lead to stronger drugs, so how can we get the message across to him that we want our son back like when he was 15 years old. What can we do to get our son back?
Jonathan & Kaileen G.
Dear Jonathan and Kaileen,
Scrambling to now jump in and be authoritative, decisive and strong, is just that. Scrambling. Suppose I were to speak to the addiction a second. It didn't just arise, but out of a series of curiosities it has heightened with age. Let me first ask, what is your parenting role right now?
Parents should have different roles at different stages for their children. It makes sense to discipline a young child until a certain age, but after that you must move into guiding, coaching, and then mentoring. Trying to take away something of value is a failed tactic that only works for the discipline years.
You explained that he might be using, and maybe even stronger substances. That assumption (most likely true) is what most of the miscommunication of this relationship with him is built around. Masters of deception want to drift from center, and will look for chances to be un-accounted for, and must lie if they are going to protect their ability to continue to use. Deceit, cheating and dishonesty are ways to escape detection and retrain the brain to consider the actions as being normal.
There is not enough compassion out there for parents whose kids are addicted, and at the root is the pain of withdrawal. Neither the addict or parent wants to have to experience the hurt, so enablement seeps in to ease its bite and perhaps it will just go away over time.
Responsibility is a value that must be taught and earned, and can't be frivolously given away without some accountability. Otherwise, expectations will turn into entitlements which makes for spoiled children who will be irresponsible with choices and authority.
Histories have passed. No, unfortunately he's not going to go back to being what he was previously, anymore than we can erase a bad dream. But with that you must now learn to leverage the situation. Get him into structured support that will take him through the very pain all parties involved want to avoid, and after he is clean and clear-minded. Subject him to lead and teach others who have also drifted from center and use the experiential opportunity to help those who are also helpless. And out of it you will all discover purpose.