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  1. #1
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    Nov 2011
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    Feel like there's nothing I can do to help my son

    Last night, my 16 years old son who has lived here for just 5 months got in a motorcycle crash in a city he used to live in before his father passed away. Luckily he walked away with some bruises and scratches.

    This makes me so mad on so many levels. He was supposed to have sold the motorcycle before he moved here, but he must have sneaked it over here and kept it hide from us. He also has been caught going to that city without permission a few times before we put GPS tracker on his truck and restrict his visit to that city even more.
    Also he was probably there to visit this older girl we try to limit his contact with as much as possible. If it wasnít to visit her, then it was probably to go to the beach or mountain where he do actives that isnít exactly safe and we donít allows him to do most of those things unless someone is with him.

    We are going to sell his truck, but Iím afraid that thereís no hope left for him. We tried really hard to give him as much love and freedom as possible, support him through tough times, the best life as possible and all we got is a bunch of lies, sneaking behind our back, fighting with siblings, mean spirited attitude, aloofness toward everybody, unrealistic goals, just plainly not taking care of himself, doing stupid things, and other things.

    I feel like thereís nothing that can be done for him. I really regret I let him live with his father now. I donít know what to do any more. I just want to help him, but it seems like nothing is working.

  2. #2
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    Re: Feel like there's nothing I can do to help my son

    Hi PollyM,

    Sorry to hear you find yourself in such a pickle.

    Without knowing anything of the family situation it is very hard to say what "went wrong" in the first place. Since you speak of a "we", I assume there is a stepfather in the picture. To whom he may have taken a dislike for instance. Losing a parent in your teens is probably the worst time in life it can happen, and the death of his father may be seriously on his mind contributing to (seemingly) erratic behaviours.

    Not all children are angels in their teens. Some children learn the hard way, whilst others will be more reasonable. That does not mean the reasonable kid will always get it right in later life either. Teenage boys often do reckless and stupid things. It comes with the territory (been there, done that), and usually it is just a phase that lasts till early adulthood.

    You may be perfectly right about this older girl, that she is no good. Telling a teenage boy he or should not do this or that, will often encourage him to do just that, especially if he feels the reasons given for the parental stance do not make sense. He needs to see for himself that she is no good. Dictating to a teenager he should do this or that is as productive as talking to a wall, even moreso if his father (and stepmom?) had a different parenting style to you.

    From your post it is hard to see what is wrong with this girl he might have seen before he got in that accident. It is also interesting that you are not even sure what he was doing in town in the first place. Which does suggest that communication between you and your son is far from ideal. This is something that really needs to be addressed.

    Trust is not something you can fix by technological means. Practically all technologies can be circumvented if one applies one's mind to it. In fact technology can give you a false sense of security, because one assumes that people won't outsmart technology.

    Selling his truck will mean he will move around a little bit less for the time being, but it does not really address the core problems in your relationship with your son, and may even aggravate them.

    Could you please provide a bit more background before I and other posters make all kinds of unwarranted assumptions about the whole situation? It would greatly improve the quality of the advice we can give.
    The butterfly counts not months but moments, and has time enough. - Rabindranath Tagore

    Keep true to the dreams of your youth. - Friedrich Schiller

    The only philosophy which can be responsibly practised in face of despair is the attempt to contemplate all things as they would present themselves from the standpoint of redemption. - Theodor Adorno

  3. #3
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    Re: Feel like there's nothing I can do to help my son

    Sorry I didn’t give out more background on the whole situation. It is just there are so many things I can talk about because this problem isn’t something that just happen in last few months. It actually goes back few years.

    It started when Gabe went to live with his father at age of 10 because I truly believe that’s what would be better for him. It was great for first two years. Gabe was really happy there, his father was always spending time with him and Gabe would come here for the weekend once or twice a month and he was always in good spirit.

    Then at 12, his father met a woman with two young children, one of them is severely disabled and required a lot of cares, that’s when I noticed things start to go downhill.
    Since Gabe’s father was busy all of the time and his father’s girlfriend was always busy with her children, Gabe was left on his own the whole time. When Gabe was about 13, his father got in a car crash that left him in really bad condition which he never seems to really recovered from. Once Gabe’s father realized that Gabe have no real part in his girlfriend’s life and isn’t helping with the kids, he got upset and start to pick on Gabe about it all of the time and would make Gabe help taking care of the kids.
    At this time, I offered Gabe to come and live with us, but since I was already living with man who is now my husband, his two sons around Gabe’s age and our two young daughters, Gabe doesn’t want to come and live with us.

    That’s when things start to get really bad, Gabe would just refuse to do anything and since his father was never home or always in the bed and his father’s girlfriend was always busy with the kids or him, no one can really keep eyes on him. So his father would bribes Gabe to help his girlfriend with all kind of things. This creates a lot of tensions between everybody.
    Gabe also starts to go out and do dangerous actives by himself at the beach such as surfing, spearfishing, and other things or head out to mountain to mountain bike, or explore the area. Sometime he would go longboard. Since he’s careless, always get hurt and would try to fix it himself. Now he has tons of scars everywhere and he doesn’t seem to care.
    Once he get in high school, he got on water polo and wrestling team which seems to help him calm down considerably and things were okay until last summer, he met this older girl at the beach who wants to learn how to surf. They become a really good friend right from there. She then would take him out to snowboard during winter. That’s when Gabe pretty much stop coming over.

    This spring, his father’s girlfriend ended up left him. Gabe’s father end up blaming the whole thing on Gabe and his health was already getting worse with time as well and needed more help and medicine. It was getting much harder to bribe Gabe into do anything (hence how Gabe ended up get away with a lot and with a lot of expensive stuff, a motorcycle, and truck) It got to point where Gabe would not do anything anymore and his father was suffering from numerous problems including depression as well. One night, Gabe came home to find his father have hung himself.

    We eventually learned that everything Gabe is to inherit large amount of money when he turn 18. Since Gabe is a minor, trustee (gabe’s uncle) is putting it in the bank until he turn 18. Gabe wanted to be an emancipated minor and was furious when we didn’t allow it to happen. Then Gabe stop really caring about his future and just want to get the money and buy a condo on the beach and “enjoy his life” So his uncle decide to not release it until Gabe is 21.
    Now Gabe want to be a professional sport player (he do surfing, bodyboarding, and snowboarding) or get on water polo Olympic team and says if he fail, he’ll go in Navy to try out for Navy Seals.

    Ever since Gabe moved here, he has been mean to all of siblings and wouldn’t do anything for them. One time we told him he cannot go to the beach unless he takes his step brothers with him because we don’t want this girl to be around him all day. Gabe end up took them to a dangerous beach and was trying to tell his siblings to go in the water and even went in it for a while just to try luring them in! Luckily they have common sense to not go in!

    Also after we explained that we don’t like the idea of him being around this older girl, he has been starting to sleep around. He has a reputation for using girls and often gets in a lot of fight because he wouldn’t care if the girls have a boyfriend. Yet few times this older girl was here, he treated her wonderfully. She also invited him to come over for thanksgiving and she also won tickets to Hawaii not long ago and wants him to go with her. My son is going crazy and won’t leave us alone about this!

    Gave made it on varsity water polo team here despite of being smallest guy. His coach have complained that Gabe is incredibly hard to work with because he’d just do his own thing if the team isn’t doing well and is often very violent, even to his own teammate. The coach basically says Gabe will work with the team as long as they are doing well, but if they aren’t, he will just try to take over and even on the best day, he’s never really nice or friendly toward anybody.
    Gabe also hasn’t really made any friend here and would just ignore people of his age, but is very polite and respectful to adults besides my husband and me.

    We also dread hearing him asking to go to his old city. He asks that like two or three times every week and if we say no, it is going to be a bad day/night. He will just not let it go!
    Other thing he’d do is, he’d work out or do other physical actives almost all time even though he have water polo practice twice a day. He’d keep it up until really late then get up early just to start again. He’d also even go in the pool at this time of year, longboard down busy steep street, and others crazy things that come to his mind.

    Well I am writing way too much. But… Hope this is a good start. There’s just so much more, but hopefully I touch some of the most important topics.

    Thanks.

  4. #4
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    Re: Feel like there's nothing I can do to help my son

    Sorry for taking my time to respond to you. Midnight interrupted.

    That is really a tough situation, and your post sheds a lot of light on what happened with your son. The rampant bribery is a huge problem. He now has developed an attitude of 'I'll only do anything if I immediately benefit from it', which is very difficult to deal with.

    The death of his father may well be on his mind. It is not easy to shake off, especially as he hanged himself. Your son may well feel guilty for what happened to his father. Has he had any counseling for it?

    A more strict approach than he had when his father was involved with his girlfriend would have had a real positive influence on him. Sadly, it is impossible to turn back time, and you have to deal with the current situation.

    Life with his father worked well for him, because he was always the focal point of his father's attention, until he got involved with a woman with two children. Similarly, at home he is one of five kids, and he does not have a full brother or sister, so none of them have much of an understanding of him and his life experiences when he lived with his father. This may well contribute to him feeling misunderstood, an outsider, or someone who should not be there.

    I think the bribery and the lack of attention he had from his father from the moment the girlfriend entered the picture are what is really the problem. He became so self-centered because he felt no one really bothered with him. When his father and the girlfriend needed him, they still did not give him the attention, they gave him stuff for services rendered.

    With regards to doing dangerous stuff, it is pretty normal for teens of his age to surf, mountain bike, and do other things, especially if they are outgoing, and like being outdoors like he seems to. I am not sure how much he takes after his father (before he got ill). His stepbrothers may take after their father, but if he is more of an indoors-type they may well have developed interests in reading, computer games, or something similar. It does not make them better or worse kids, it makes them children with different interests.
    Boys of his age often feel invincible, and a few scars are a natural byproduct of growing up, especially in the outdoors. His judgment will be skewed, but sadly that comes with the territory. So what if he scrapes his elbow when mountain biking? If he enjoys mountain biking, despite sustaining injuries, he will be inclined to continue mountain biking. And no amount of restrictions you can place on him as a parent will dissuade him from it.
    The problem here is not so much the occasional poor call, but the defiance he displays towards you and just about everyone.

    Water polo suggests he does have a drive to do well, but that when the chips are down, he finds it hard to depend on others. When the team loses he feels let down by his team mates, and tries to win the game by himself, often becoming very abusive in the process. I think this might be a bit of a reflection of what life must have been like with his father and his girlfriend.

    It is interesting to note that you say he treated the older girl wonderfully when she was around. There may be many things wrong with your son, but at least she seemed to be able to ensure that he behaved himself reasonably well. Something he has not done to the members of the family, other girls, or even his team mates in water polo.
    This older girl, as much as you don't like her, seems for whatever reason to be able to penetrate the self-centered defences he has erected. I don't know what she thinks of him exactly, but it is obvious she likes him for whatever reason. Have you talked to this girl at some point about what she likes about him?

    For a way forward, it is obvious the bribing will have to stop. But you probably can't stop cold turkey, since he will interpret it as being ignored, not appreciated etc., similar to what happened with his father when the girlfriend was in the picture.
    Obviously, you can't focus all your attention on him since you have four other children and a husband in the picture as well. None of whom have lived with his father. And they probably all find it difficult to understand him, because they were not subjected to the same kind of bribery.

    At the same time you will have to accept that he does the occasional stupid thing. If he does not mind sustaining injuries when mountain biking or surfing, let him mountain bike or surf. As long as he does not injure other people I would not worry too much about it. If he drives like a maniac in his truck, then that is something to worry about. Does he pay for his own insurance and all that? He ought to.

    With regards to this older girl, she may be wrong for a million reasons, but it is obvious that he does not see it, and if children of his age are inclined to anything, it is to proving their parents wrong. I am still not sure what is wrong with this girl. She may encourage him to do things you would not want him to do, but it is not like he would not do these (kind of) things, if she was not around. It would be a different matter if she was into dealing drugs, robbing the elderly, or something like that, but that does not seem to be the case.
    It is not like he is treating other girls nearly as well, which suggests he uses them for his own selfish / sexual needs. Letting him continue with that will not contribute meaningfully to his maturing process.
    She may be no good, I can't tell, but you also have to respect his choices, even if you do not always agree with them. No kid will respect their parents, if they do not feel respected themselves, and his behaviour suggests he does not respect you much at all.

    As hard as it may be, I would allow him to see this girl. He obviously feels she has a positive influence on him, and that she understands him, else he would not treat her better than anyone else. And he is obviously willing to risk whatever punishment you mete out to him, when you catch him going to her.

    I am not suggesting you should do a complete turnaround just yet, but some changes seem to be in order.

    Not saying you should immediately accept him going to town to spend all his time with her, but do invite her over once in a while, and make him feel that you are trying to engage with him and accept some of the choices in life you don't agree with (doing drugs and driving 120 mph are out of the question, but activities like surfing and mountain biking are not endangering anyone but himself), instead of being someone who always sees wrong with what he does, because that is probably what he perceives you to do.
    The butterfly counts not months but moments, and has time enough. - Rabindranath Tagore

    Keep true to the dreams of your youth. - Friedrich Schiller

    The only philosophy which can be responsibly practised in face of despair is the attempt to contemplate all things as they would present themselves from the standpoint of redemption. - Theodor Adorno

  5. #5
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    Re: Feel like there's nothing I can do to help my son

    Not sure how to help with the things you worry about and its a tough situation that I can't pretend to understand but maybe take a different approach to some things.

    An example, myself and a friend started to smoke pot at 16 (not advocating it or anything else!) and our mothers found out about it. My mother, normally fairly conservative but also a realist knew that she couldn't stop me smoking because I was 16 and spent most of my time out of the house, so said don't bring it in the house and I won't bug you. And my friends mother basically said "Ok, you two can smoke it and I won't give you any bother about it as long as you do it in my house".

    What they did was defuse the issue knowing we'd do it regardless of what they by saying go ahead and do it but under supervision, rather than in the wrong company or in a bad place. They knew we'd grow out of it so were not worried once it became essentially supervised.

    Maybe in a similar sense it might help with your son, mix of positive reinforcement and allowing him to do the things he wants but where you know he'll be safe and come to no harm. In a way, his out door physical activities are preferable to sitting in front of a playstation 24/7365 so encouraging them in the right way might be a positive thing.

    With the activities which are dangerous, maybe take a different tact on that and encourage them but ask him to change how he goes about them i.e. if he goes to the mountains to go climbing (not sure if he does but this would apply to anything else!) then try and get him to join a club or organisation where he can do this with others or as my parents did, encourage me to get qualifications in that area which had the same effect (my first vocation was as an activity instructor in climbing, mountaineering, canoeing, Kayaking and caving). I didn't end up doing that as a career but it did help me grow up, get a more rounded outlook on life.

    This might sound daft but if its something you can join in with, ask him to show you how to do it or at least maybe take interest in it. I.e. he goes surfing, maybe say to him that you'd like to know more about it or even say you'd like to give it a try one day and you could go together. If nothing else, even buying him a book on something like that he likes, something you want to encourage, a way of reaching out to him on his level about something he likes might go along way.

    Maybe accommodate his seeing his older girlfriend or even encourage it if she's a positive influence on him or more positive than an alternative. After all he's 16 so will make mistakes, better to make them or prevented from making them with an older more experienced girl than sleep around or get in fights.

  6. #6
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    Re: Feel like there's nothing I can do to help my son

    Thanks to everyone who take time to respond. I’m happy to have some supports in here.

    Yes you’re right about my son’s attitude. It is like as trying to negotiate a contract for every single thing we ask him to do.
    I cannot exactly blame Gabe for being like this when living with his father. I totally understand why he resent his father’s girlfriend and to ask him to help with two kids (one of them is confronted to wheel chair, have cerebral palsy, and is mentally challenged) that most likely take little of any attention his father can provide away from him.
    With this background, Gabe doesn’t seem too bothered by his father’s death, but more bothered by the fact that he doesn’t have better relationship with his father. Gabe have told me that the relationship between his father and him was pretty much non existing until just few months before his father’s girlfriend left him and then afterward when Gabe’s father was always mad at Gabe and blaming everything on him.

    This makes it very hard to get him to do anything and all other kids don’t like it at all. They feel like Gabe is getting away with everything and have everything hand over to him. Most of the times we just don’t even ask him to do anything unless it is a minor simple thing because it is just totally not worth the hassle at all.
    We are dreading winter break because without two a day water polo practices, wrestling practice, or school, Gabe will be home way more. He will be wanting to go out to do his things or spend time with the older girl and if he doesn’t get his way, he’ll go around making everybody life miserable.
    I like Mondo’s idea of giving him some books. Gabe actually do enjoy reading, so I may considers try bribing him with books to start with and gradually stretches time between bribing until I’m able to break it off. Hopefully this will make thing bit less tensed among everybody and keep Gabe occupied for a short time.

    I understand dangerous stuff is normal for teens. But not to extension that Gabe would go. Gabe’s elbows and knees are basically bunches of scars layering on top of each other and he have a lot of scars on his arms and legs that stand out when he turn tan during the summer. His body also has some scars. He’s also already showing sign of weather damages as well.
    One of the beaches Gabe regularly spends time at isn’t exactly a public beach because the water is so dangerous and there are lots of sharp jagged rocks around instead of sand. Gabe says he like it because there is almost never anybody there.
    If he don’t mind longboard down busy street or jump into freezing cold water at night, then it pretty much say a lot about what he probably do when no one is watching.
    I have talk to Gabe about things he does and he is more than happy to explain about it, but I’m afraid to try joining him as I know he always pushes himself to limit. My stepsons tried to get into few things Gabe was doing and he ignored them. Gabe also do pretty much everything lone unless he’s doing it with this older girl (he always go snowboarding with her though) and isn’t really keen on socializing. So I don’t know how a club would work out, but I’ll try and see how he feels about it, but I’m not getting my hope up.

    As for his driving, he has a perfectly clean record and Gabe have some money saved up and his insurance is covered until his 17th birthday. In fact I often let Gabe do the driving because he’s really good driver. I think after seeing his father going through a really bad car crash, it scared him so much that he doesn’t want to take any chance with driving. As for the motorcycle accident, to be fair, it wasn’t his fault and he got away okay because he’s a good driver.

    About water polo, yeah he has passion for it. In his coach’s own words, if Gabe was a better team player, he’d be the best water polo player he has ever seen in his whole career as Gabe is fastest and strongest swimmer on the team and can perform at his best nearly whole game without slowing down, and is really good at reading the game. The downside is, Gabe would only work with few whom he considers to be good player but as for others, to him, they’re just somebody who get in the way and that’s’ when he became violent.

    About the girl, she’s 20 years old and a college student who still live with her parents. I have to admit I think she’s an odd choice. Although she’s beautiful, she’s not exactly feminine. She has short hair, some tattoos, is somewhat muscular for a slender girl and pretty tall for a girl (she’s 5’10 which is taller than Gabe). I can imagine most guys must find her rather intimidating.
    She told me that she didn’t know Gabe was so young when she first approached him and she approached him because he stand out from typical surfers and is always by himself, so she doesn’t feel awkward about going up to him as she’d if she was to go up to group of surfers. Then Gabe offers to teach her. That’s when they become good friend.
    She says she like to be around Gabe because Gabe doesn’t feel the needs to show off or impress anybody which make it fun and easy to have him as an active partner. Also she says she like how Gabe is always trying to get out to do something instead of staying home playing video game or watch tv all day like as most people. Gabe also has and knows how to use rock climbing equipment, so she often takes him when she wants to rock climbing.
    She’s a really nice girl, but she do few things I feel is inappropriate such as modeling with my son’s surf board in a thong bikini and give him a large 8X10 picture of it, being the first one my son called after 911 when he found his father dead, not discouraging my son from coming to see her, and other things.
    I don’t know if they’re having sex, but I have seen them cuddling. But I know for fact Gabe does have a reputation at school for using girls and I’ve never seen him treat any girls anywhere nearly half decent as he treat this older girl.
    I guess if seeing her would help Gabe stop this type of treatment toward girls, may I should just let him see her even though I really don’t like the idea of it.

  7. #7
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    Re: Feel like there's nothing I can do to help my son

    From the sound of it, he is pretty normal, but with an attitude problem, and who does not like big crowds, which seems to explain his preference for the rocky beach, and perhaps also for his pursuits since but few people would take them as far as he does. Once you slowly wean him off the bribery, it is likely he will turn out well.

    It seems he and this older girl get along really well, and even if you feel she behaves somewhat inappropriately, chances are most boys and girls do (sending inappropriate pictures on cell phones for instance) - you and most parents just don't happen to know about it. On the positive side, she is a bit older, and hopefully with that a bit more mature. Which may rub off in a positive way on your son.

    You can also 'use' this for some positive reinforcement. If he behaves, or does certain tasks, he can get permission to see this girl - not only will he be inclined to behave to get the permission, but also this girl does seem to have a positive influence on him, as he is actually maintaining a friendship / relationship (whichever it is) successfully.
    The butterfly counts not months but moments, and has time enough. - Rabindranath Tagore

    Keep true to the dreams of your youth. - Friedrich Schiller

    The only philosophy which can be responsibly practised in face of despair is the attempt to contemplate all things as they would present themselves from the standpoint of redemption. - Theodor Adorno

  8. #8
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    Re: Feel like there's nothing I can do to help my son

    At least she likes him for good honest reasons and they enjoy each others company. I'd say its a positive thing that when the spend time together they do things like snowboarding.

    Maybe not look at giving him a book or something as a bribe, but as a bridge. I think if you can connect with him through giving him something unexpected and meaningful or talk about things he likes it might open up other avenues of communication - rather than mother to son but person to person.

  9. #9
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    Re: Feel like there's nothing I can do to help my son

    He sounds like most teenagers, being rebellious and sneaky, he might have issues with his father passing, if he actually joined the navy they would "fix" him or he would quit.


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