Harsh words and a tough order-how do we play this?

Discussion in 'Substance Abuse' started by CAmom, Feb 26, 2007.

  1. CAmom

    CAmom Member

    I don't even know where to start, but, here's the short version. The program coordinator, after catching our son outside smoking a cigarette (second time) and various other minor issues, has decided to put him on a 30-day contract which, if he doesn't get his act together, will lead to his termination from the program. He really has had every opportunity in this wonderful program to make good progress, but he continues to goof off, break rules, and then blame everyone else for the consequences.

    The easy child told me that he's given him the benefit of the doubt for four months, and now he's basically come to the conclusion that our son is making these choices because he enjoys showing off to his peers, manipulating me/us, and isn't doing much in the give-and-take department, (i.e., HE doesn't make an effort to earn his status so that he can visit home or get a day pass, yet we make the almost-four-hour trip there, faithfully, every other weekend and sit in the house for an hour, etc.)

    His easy child wants us to support him by practicing tough love and NOT visiting our son every other week, NOT send him various clothing items and shoes when he asks for them, etc. He wants our son to become "immersed" in the program with no distractions for what sounds like his last chance. Of course, we'll do as he has asked as we DON'T want our son terminated.

    But, HOW do I explain to our son that we aren't coming to visit him again until he earns a weekend or day pass? Or that I won't be sending him any more little gifts? I know he's going to be VERY upset and angry about this, and I'm so afraid that he'll crash and burn and totally give up. This was what worried me when the easy child asked us early on to limit our visits to every other week rather than every week.

    I need some good comebacks for when he calls me and tries to lay on the guilt and/or anger. I want him to know that we love and support him but that we're all rather fed up with his cr-p. In the past, when I try to encourage him to get with the program and earn visits home, he tells me I'm adding to his stress by "pressuring" him. If I let any degree of MY frustration though, he gets angry.

  2. Suz

    Suz (the future) MRS. GERE

    That is EXACTLY what you say.


    "Honey, we aren't coming to visit you again until you earn a weekend or day pass."

    "Do to get"

    I have to say that I'm surprised you are still sending him things. I could have sworn we'd talked about that before and you weren't going to until he earned them.

    Yes, he's going to be angry but too bad, so sad. I repeat, "do to get."

    Stay calm, HOLD YOUR GROUND, and repeat some of the phrases that are discussed in this thread:


  3. DammitJanet

    DammitJanet Well-Known Member Staff Member

    Sue is right. Simply tell him that he has been there long enough to get with the routine now and that when he earns his passes you will be up to see him. Keep it short and sweet.
  4. CAmom

    CAmom Member

    Suz, I have read those phrases, and they're great. But, I need some responses to, for instance, "I should have known that you'd abandon me just like my birthparents did when I was born." Or, why do you care more about what the easy child wants than what your kid wants?" Or, if you and Dad don't care about me, then I don't want to talk to you for a couple of weeks." Or, If you and Dad don't come see me, I'll go crazy and do something bad."

    As far as buying him things...guilty as charged. Suz, he's my only child, and I just feel like, with him so far away that there's not much else I can do to "mother" him except send him the little things he asks for once in awhile. Pathetic, I know...
  5. Suz

    Suz (the future) MRS. GERE

    "I should have known that you'd abandon me just like my birthparents did when I was born."

    (that is such a load of horsepucky I can't believe you'd even respond to it but if you feel you must...)

    I'm sorry you feel that we are abandoning you, honey.

    That's it.

    Yes, that's it.

    There is no reason you need to explain further.

    "Why do you care more about what the easy child wants than what your kid wants?"

    We care about what society wants. easy child is trying to teach you those things. We support that.

    "IF you and Dad don't care about me, then I don't want to talk to you for a couple of weeks."

    I'm sorry you feel that way, Honey. You know how to reach us when you are ready.

    "If you and Dad don't come see me, I'll go crazy and do something bad."

    I'm sorry you feel that way, honey. I hope you will ask for help if you find that you are losing control.

    <div class="ubbcode-block"><div class="ubbcode-header">Quote:</div><div class="ubbcode-body">As far as buying him things...guilty as charged. Suz, he's my only child, and I just feel like, with him so far away that there's not much else I can do to "mother" him except send him the little things he asks for once in awhile.</div></div>

    Sorry. You can rationalize it all you want but it's not helping him. And his current situation is proof positive. You have such a small window left. He is almost 18! Learning doesn't stop at 18 but many of these extraneous supports (Residential Treatment Center (RTC) and other special programs) do.

    Your son needs to feel your loss. He needs to feel the loss of a lot of things. He needs to learn the joy of self respect and earning respect from others. He needs to learn to be honest in word, in act, in thought. He is giving you lip service. The kind of emotional blackmail you described with his quotes above makes the hair on the back of my neck stand on end. It is manipulative and sociopathic and baloney.

    I'm sorry to be so harsh but you really do need to hear it like it is all around.

  6. Ephchap

    Ephchap Active Member

    CA Mom,

    I too am amazed that things haven't changed much. Sending gifts? Visiting every other weekend?

    Sorry, I don't understand it either. I know that everyone is different and everyone has to do what they can live with, but that's waaaaaaaay too much enabling - enabling the behavior that got him there in the first place, in my humble opinion.

    What to say when he asks those things? Simple. As Suz said, "Do to get". He needs to come through and earn something on his own, without mommy and daddy doing it for him. He's a big boy - he's 17. No more babying, showering with gifts he did nothing to deserve.

    Sounds like tough love, I know. I'm not saying it's easy, and I'm not saying those things to hurt your feelings. I'm only saying what needs to happen so that he will start making change. Until he starts to want to change and to make the changes within himself and through his actions, you and your husband can't "make" him change. Visiting and sending him gifts for bad behavior is like rewarding an alcoholic with "just one drink". Sorry, it's enabling.

    I hope you take this for what it is - well intentioned suggestions from the heart.

    Sending hugs. I know it's hard to sit back and hope they turn things around.
  7. CAmom

    CAmom Member

    Suz, I don't think you're being harsh. I agree with you and plan on keeping those responses handy.

    I've just recently begun to feel like I AM allowing him to manipulate me, and I've been feeling uncomfortable about it. I know it's time to get tough and stop buying into his bull-poo, and the easy child's call today only reinforced that.

    Wish me luck...
  8. DammitJanet

    DammitJanet Well-Known Member Staff Member

    Are you sure he will say those things to you or are you projecting your fears of what he may say?

    Often times what we fear the kids may do is not what they really do. For instance, I have feared my son would hold our grandchild hostage and blackmail us with her. He hasnt even thought about it as far as I know. I told him point blank before she was born that I wouldnt ever be held by that. Not to even try that with me. I love her but I wont be blackmailed.

    When my son was in Residential Treatment Center (RTC) he made the choice for us not to drive up to visit him if he didnt have the level to go off campus for his visits. That is basically the policy they are asking your son to do. We never sent our son care packages. It wasnt allowed. He did get an allowance and his grandfather sent him ten bucks for his birthday which was put on his account and he could buy snacks. If he needed clothing, the center told us and we had to have them approved.

    I would simply be very noncommittal with him and tell him you know he can work the program. You have faith in his good decisions. You hope to see him soon.

    Sue has some good answers.
  9. CAmom

    CAmom Member

    Deb, I know you're saying what you're saying to help, as is everyone here.

    I've only sent the little gifts as positive reinforcement, by the way, when he was making an effort to do well which he has done but not consistently.

    However, this issue with sneaking into the yard to smoke a cigarette, on top of his minor ongoing issues, is a blatant disregard for the rules, and, I think, for his easy child, a final straw.

    The reason I'm writing now is that his dad and I feel the same way in that that raised middle finger (figuratively, thankfully...) is pointed in our direction as well because the consequences affect us along with him...a concept he has difficulty accepting.
  10. CAmom

    CAmom Member

    Janet, thanks...and, yes, I have no doubt that I will hear something similar to the phrases I wrote when he calls. He is VERY immature in many ways, but particularly in that he strikes out to hurt when he feels hurt.

    His Residential Treatment Center (RTC) also provides all the clothing and everything else he needs as your son's did. The last thing I sent my son was a dress shirt and a pair of shoes for some sort of Valentine's Day outing, and the only reason I did it was because his easy child told us that he had seen an improvement in his behavior.

    His easy child also asked us not to visit weekly, not to send him money, and not to buy him fast food or any other food when we visit. We've done all those things and will also abide by his current decision because we truly believe that they know what they're doing.
  11. Sunlight

    Sunlight Active Member

    tell your son this:
    His easy child wants our son to become "immersed" in the program with no distractions so as part of that program, because you love your son and want him to succeed... you will be backing off a bit to ensure his success.
  12. judi

    judi Active Member

    I have to say that I agree with all the posters CaMom. It is hard - not easy. None of us find this easy.
  13. DDD

    DDD Well-Known Member

    Rats! Its now or never! Believe me if he has the same attitude
    after his 18th birthday (and in some cases before like Debs'boy
    did) his booty is grass........and I don't mean marijuana!

    A number of people on the Board who had great difficulty with
    detachment used an elementary method. They wrote out sentences
    to read in response to difficult child comments. Short. Simple. Truthful.
    I think probably there is a post about it still around. Some
    examples would be:

    "Dad and I are sorry you feel that way."
    "We are sure you will be able to find the best answer."
    "We know you have the capability to succeed."

    No extra verbage. (That's hard for me..lol..since I can talk
    any subject to death!) One sentence should do!

    Anticipate comments and questions, write down the answers like
    it is a play. It actually IS role playing. He is playing the role of the poor lost unloved little boy who is misunderstood.
    You need to star in the role of supportive BUT detached parent
    of the poor lost unloved little boy. You don't have to feel
    great when you say the short sentences...JUST DO IT! Hugs. DDD
  14. everywoman

    everywoman Active Member

    My pat answers when difficult child was acting out were:
    I'm sorry that this/that happened.
    I'm sorry that you feel this way.
    We all have to face the consequences of our actions.
    I hope you feel differently soon.

    Simple, straghtforward. If things excalated, I simply said:
    Call me when you are in a more postive mood. I love you, goodbye.

    Sometimes I hung up mid sentence. Not nice, but I got tired of being nice.

    I don't buy anything for my son anymore. There are no treats. There are no extas---he will recieve presents on holidays, but no rewards. It didn't work. I could never do enough to satisfy him. His behavior didn't change. I quit!!!

    CAMOM---I know you don't believe this, but taking back the power is so liberating. Stepping back and looking at the truth hurts---we all want to believe that if we just "do" enough, they (our children) will get better. It's not until we make them "do" that they are able to get better. It took me too long to learn this. Don't let it take you until after he is 18!
  15. slsh

    slsh member since 1999


    I absolutely totally agree with- Suz's suggested responses. I'd add that it's not a matter of caring more about what easy child wants... it's that *difficult child's* choices have resulted in this placement and your job as a good parent to difficult child is to support the treatment plan. easy child is the expert right now. And if difficult child chooses to get upset, break off contact for a couple of weeks, or act out? Bummer for him. <span style='font-family: Arial Black'>It is not your fault!! </span>Also, I can't agree enough with- DDD. There's no reason to allow this to turn into a debate. Keep it short and simple. This is what he needs to do, do it or not, *his* choice. Yes, it will affect you but I think right now the focus needs to be on how it will affect *him*. It's hard to do.

    Let's face it, getting caught smoking is a pretty much bone headed move. Probably in the grand scheme of things it's not a huge offense, but to my eye it's a symptom of that awful difficult child affliction - I-am-above-it-all-itis. It's not the severity of the offense, it's difficult child's unwillingness to comply with- the most basic of rules. And if he's angry with you, or tries to lay on the guilt... well, sheesh. What does this have to do with you at all? Did you give him the cigs? Did you tell him to smoke? How on earth does this apply to you at all? Put it back on his shoulders.

    My kid has been in Residential Treatment Center (RTC) for 6.5 years now. I'm pretty hardened. I don't want to hear about how "unfair" things are, how the program is too hard, how he never gets a "break" from the rigors of Residential Treatment Center (RTC), or how he's learned all he can from the current placement. Work the program honestly. Period. Or don't. But don't call me crying about the consequences because quite frankly, it's out of my hands, has been since thank you's unsafe behaviors made it impossible for him to live here.

    I'm really sorry that easy child has had to take this step. It's a tough transition to have to go thru. Our kids I think sometimes think that we will continue to rescue them from their choices. At some point, we have to stop, step back, and let the professionals who have more experience do their thing. A gentle hug to you, and a *lot* of strength.
  16. donna723

    donna723 Well-Known Member

    I pretty much agree with what everybody else has said. It sounds like the easy child knows what he's talking about, and I would follow his advise to the letter if I were you. And the gifts and extras you've been sending him need to stop immediately. If the program supplies sufficient clothing (and I'm sure they do), then he does not NEED extras! He may WANT them, but he doesn't NEED them! Having more or better clothing and more extras than the other boys in the program sets him apart from the others, makes him more privileged than they are - that's not exactly "immersed", and it somewhat defeats the purpose of him being there. He still sees himself as "special" and not like the rest. And if you're really honest with yourself, you have to admit that part of the reason you're sending him all the goodies is to make yourself feel good too. And that's perfectly understandable ... you want to be able to take care of him and mother him and make things better for him, even if only from a distance. That's just natural "Mom stuff". But it is NOT helping him.

    As far as having "comebacks" for his expected comments about the gifts and visits stopping ... you don't need any "comebacks"! You do NOT need to justify your actions to him. You don't owe him any explanations. You're the parent and he's the kid and this is your decision and you're sticking with it! If you feel you have to say something, just say that what you have been doing obviously isn't working and you need to try something else. If he gets upset and angry, LET HIM! It won't hurt him a bit! Let him holler and scream and hold his breath till he turns blue if that's what he chooses to do. You just stand there calming watching him! And when he finally figures out that it's not getting him anywhere, he will stop doing that! You're still afraid of his anger and he knows that and he uses that against you! He's doing his level best to guilt-trip and manipulate you again because it's always worked for him in the past ... please don't let him! The "I'm sorry you feel that way" line is perfect, if said the right way! If he persists, tell him just what you said in your post ... "We love and support you but we're all fed up with your cr-p"! Stand your ground and don't let him suck you into it again, and don't let him even try to shift the blame on to you! By disapproving of his actions and trying to encourage him, you're "adding to his stress by 'pressuring' him"? Which makes it all YOUR fault that he's not progressing, not HIS? Oh, please! Oldest trick in the book! Don't let hm turn the blame on you - bounce it right back on him where it belongs! And that line about abandoning him "like his birth parents" is just pathetic! Really low!

    This boy KNOWS you love him! And he has learned to use that love you have for him to get what he wants. It's coming down to the wire and you don't have much time left. If he does "crash and burn" in the program, it will be because he CHOSE to, not because he thinks you don't love him or that you've abandoned him! He had the opportunity to comply with the program and follow the rules, and he is choosing not to. And if he does choose to "crash and burn", he will maybe learn to pick himself up again, older but wiser, and start over, standing on his own two feet. It may be the hardest thing you've ever done, but you're going to just have to grit your teeth and let him fly or fall. It's up to him. Better he does it now than after he turns 18 and the consequences will be much, much more serious. And at this point, hard as it will be for you, whether he is MAD AT YOU or not is irrelevent. If you take steps that he doesn't like, for his own good, he will be angry and upset with you. So be it. That's part of being a parent. He'll get over it.

    It will be very, very hard but you CAN do this! Yes, you can! Repeat after me: "I'm sorry you feel that way" ... "I'm sorry you feel that way" ... "I'm sorry you feel that way" ...


  17. Loris

    Loris New Member

    I understand how upset all this has made you because he is your only child. I would probably react the same way. But because of what you're going through, I am going to tell you about my son. I hope then you will see more about why people seem to be preaching to you to be strong.
    My youngest son has been on probation since age 12. He is now 17. At age 12, the Judge told him he would "make everything go away" if B would follow the law, go to school, bring up his grades. B didn't care. He has had so many probation officers, I have lost count of them. He gets a new one every time he goes into placement. He has been in and out of my home since age 13. He doesn't care. I seem to do the same thing that you do. Guess what finally made me quit? He has stolen and sold everything in the house, including what we've bought him. I think I thought if I got him stuff he wanted, he would be "good". It hasn't worked. His Dr finally told me in September that if we didn't intervene quickly, our son was in trouble that we couldn't get him out of. He is headed for antisocial personality. As Sue said... Sociopathic Behavior. I finally got a social worker through the court to step in because the school would not do an IEP. He was finally interviewed from the Dept of Mental Health in Dec. The woman shook her head and said he had no remorse for anything he has ever done. He believes nothing is his fault. He has not been in school now for 2 weeks. He goes to court on Thursday, where he will be violated and sent to Juvenile Hall once again. He told me yesterday that he will just ask the Judge to give him a chance and he will go to school. To him all is a game. I am now awaiting a bed in an Residential Treatment Center (RTC) in Texas. I pray the Judge OKs this, as he has been everywhere and nothing has worked. He has been in Juvenile Hall, group homes and Therapeutic Group Homes.
    My oldest also has bipolar. He had severe emotional problems while younger but was never criminal in any way. He recently graduated, so to speak. He was caught on tape at work stealing truckloads of fuel. He is a truckdriver, so he loaded the truck full of clear diesel fuel, drove it away and sold the fuel off the truck.
    No one is trying to be cruel, believe me. I tend to be very sensitive about my children, at times, but I have to agree that you and I only have a small window in which to try and help our children. I can no longer help my oldest. He has now left my house and I have not seen or heard from him in 3 weeks.
    I really hope this gets easier.I hope somehow we do help our children.
  18. Allan-Matlem

    Allan-Matlem Active Member

    in my humble opinion I think the easy child is out of line. Let him state the rule - your visits and gifts are a privelege that have to be earned. Why should it come from you, why ruin the relationship. You can say easy child is not allowing us to visit , send gifts so that .... etc

  19. DammitJanet

    DammitJanet Well-Known Member Staff Member

    Allan...I respectfully disagree that this ruins the relationship. Us allowing them to manipulate and walk on us ruins the relationship. Being their doormat and abuse us ruins the relationship. When they dont respect us, they have no reason to want to have a normal adult parent to child relationship.

    It is only when we finally stand up and put our foot down and demand the respect and appropriate behavior that we should that we can have hope of a relationship with our adult children.

    I have dealt with having to impose limits set by various agencies and placements on my son. Im sure he didnt like them but it didnt ruin the relationship we have.
  20. KFld

    KFld New Member

    You definatley see what he is doing and agree that it's wrong, not following the rules and doing to get, but you get stuck on how to react, which is normal for a parent who has a manipulative child. I know my difficult child can be extremely manipulative and it took tons, and I mean tons of practice to learn how to react and respond in a way to get the point across and not enable a situation.

    I think you need to tell him you love him with all your heart, you miss him, but since he isn't following the rules, you can't see him until he earns the priviledge of seeing you. If you don't do that the easy child asks, then he will get terminated from the program and come home, to what, the same thing he left and that will not be good for any of you.

    I hope this all works out and he see's the light and does what he needs too. The wanting to be the center of attention reminds me so much of my difficult child when he was younger, but the funny thing is now that he's older, he hates to be the center of any attention.