I’m a single mom with 3 kids, two boys 14 and 11, and a 9 year old girl. I’m having a problem
with my oldest. In the last couple of years he has started to hang out with a bad crowd. One of the boys he hangs with has been in a juvenile detention center and I suspect is still committing petty crimes. Often he does not come home for dinner and evades answering questions when he does return. He no longer listens to anything I say. Last year he was an A student, now he’s getting Cs and lower. I’ve tried to talk with him and have tried reasoning with him; as a last resort I have grounded him, but none of these worked. He hasn’t had a male role model since his dad and I split up five years ago. The atmosphere in the house is dreadful we are always arguing and his siblings are torn between defending me and feeling a sense of loyalty to him. I’m worried that he’s setting a bad example for them too and that his story will be repeated by his brother when he’s the same age. I no longer know what to do – any suggestions at this point would be welcome.
At a loss in Portland Oregon
Dear At a loss,
Teenagers are the sole reason why we parents go grey prematurely. Never should you use the fact that you are a single parent as an excuse for your child’s behavior. If your child is acting out because you are assuming he is having issues dealing with his father being gone then you should be considering getting him counseling. As for his hanging out with the wrong people; unfortunately we cannot choose our children’s friends, we can only guide them in the direction we would like them to go. Like that old saying, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.” No matter how much you do not like this boy he has befriended it is his choice. You can forbid them to hang out but that will only drive your son farther away from you. However, you are his mother and there for you need to stand your ground. You need to make it clear to him who the parent is. Come up with rules and punishments if they are broken, and stick to them. If he stays out past curfew then he loses his phone for a month. If he falls below a C average, it’s off to summer school. Stand your ground and run your house hold. Consistency is key when you are the only parent, don’t let your children see you falter it shows them weakness and some kids, especially teenager will use that to their advantage. As for your younger son and your daughter, explain to them that the rules are different for their brother because he is mature and older. Make sure you remind both of them that while it is not okay for them yet to have the same privileges now, when they get older they too will get to leave the house without mom and hang out with their friends. I believe strongly in talking to your children no matter how old or young. Children are very smart, smarter than some adults at times.
Give your children the respect they need and they will give you the respect you deserve.
The best of luck,
Portland Women’s Relationship Advice Examiner
Portland Military Marriage Examiner