Son Almost 18, home from residential treatment. Need Advice


Hello, my son will be 18 soon, that's why I'm posting in Emeritus. He returned home from residential treatment a couple of weeks ago. Need advice: how should I handle him breaking rules, such as girlfriend at home when I'm at work, not going to bed on time, missing curfew times? The rules are clearly spelled out and he had a hand in creating them before he returned home.

Overall, he's a lot better than he was before Residential -- he's not violent anymore, not using drugs or drinking. Going to high school.

But, he does have a mood disorder, so has lots of ups & downs. Not someone I would choose to live with if I had a choice.

Any thoughts on how I should handle him breaking the rules?


Well-Known Member
how should I handle him breaking rules, such as girlfriend at home when I'm at work, not going to bed on time, missing curfew times?
My son is 28 now. We have had a lot of the same issues.

I will write this as of right now, while he is still underage and you have legal obligations for his care.

What I write here is what I wish I had done; not what you should do.

First, I would take as much control upfront as I could. If the rule is NO GIRLFRIEND in house unsupervised, you COULD spell out up front what will be the consequence if he violates it. Like he will not have the option of coming home when he will not be supervised. You could then put a keypad deadbolt for example, and control his entry. You could have an alternate place for him to wait for you to arrive.

But the thing to consider is any force on your part, could well be opposed by him with more force to resist, upping the ante.

Alternately, you could enlist the help of the girlfriend's parents to see if they could provide an after school environment that was supervised.

Or you could put in video cameras over entry doors, that transmit to your phone (these are widely available now and cheap) and confront any rule violation quickly. If he has any privileges like cell phone payment or internet, etc. you can take them away.

With curfew times my own parent locked the door, but we did not live somewhere that got very cold and I had a car where I could sleep.

The problem many of us face is the more pressure we put, the more acting out there is. And we come to fear the acting out.

Some parents remove doors, for example, and eliminate any source of creature comfort, providing only what is legally necessary. This to me, seems like war. But I understand when it becomes necessarily--when the child is in danger and putting others at risk.

With your own child, I would focus on the very real advances he has made.

I just now read your signature. I adopted my own son, too, as a toddler. And I was a single parent.

You have a younger child. That makes it trickier because everything that happens with the older child, is viewed/experienced by the younger.

Is there not study hall available after school until you get home? Or sports or another supervised activity? Why does he need to come home where he will be unsupervised, if it is already a concern?

And curfew. If he does not observe it, do you have to consent to let him leave? I mean, if he goes out, why not lock the door?

My son has made many agreements and has kept few. But he is getting better. I really think it is about responding quickly and without ambivalence when he violates agreements that he made in good faith.

I would keep in touch with the Residential Treatment Center (RTC) staff. They should have some kind of aftercare. After all every other parent of a resident, now home, has had to deal with the same thing.

I would consider Al Anon or Coda for support in setting and maintaining boundaries.

I wish I had something brilliant to say. But I do not. But I do understand....


100% better than I was but not at 100% yet

I agree with Copa; what about after care? My son never was successful long term when he came home from treatment. He did well for a while and then would return to bad habits. It was like a revolving door. I do hope your family is more successful than ours was with this. I think so much of it is immaturity and you hate to wish their life away but I found myself doing it. Grow up grow up!!

It sounds like you have your hands full with your two boys. I hope you have someone in your life to give you support and guidance. I would suggest therapy for yourself to help you cope. It is not easy parenting these kids and we are not superhuman.


Well-Known Member
All I have is general advice/thoughts...
I would have a contract in place for him to sign. No girlfriend when you are not home, no drugs EVER...etc.
What are consequences? How many chances if he breaks the rules? I don't know. Girlfriend and minor infractions.,..maybe one. Drugs and maybe other serious violations.,..ZERO.
I don't have any issues with removing the bedroom door. He can earn it back.
One time our teenage son continually forgot to throw out the trash. We had those large containers on wheels that the city provides. After he left for school, I rolled that heavy container with wheels into his room, raised the ac and left it there all day. He never forgot it again.
One of my best secret weapons with our daughter with a mood disorder is soliciting the help of a close mentally HEALTHY friend of hers whom she has known since early childhood whom she trusts. I do NOT do this often at all. I save it for heavy duty issues. Since this young woman is mentlaly healthy, I know in my heart she will agree with me and have our daughter's best interest at heart.
In a pinch, I will call her and she will call our daughter and reason with her. Since I do this soooo infrequently and our daughter deeply respects her and cares for her, she will always listen to her. Does your son have a close relative or friend like this, whom he respects, that you can call now and again (infrequently/in a pinch)?
Definitely get support for yourself. Short term therapy perhaps. Support groups are wonderful.
The ones mentioned or Families Anonymous....all worthy of consideration!!!!!


one day at a time
4Tall, we're glad you're here. Ah, wow, your story takes me back.

My son was challenging in high school (nothing like what was to come) and I slow-walked my responses to it all. I thought he was lazy, immature, late bloomer, lonely, sad....I had all kinds of thoughts about him that basically didn't put the responsibility where it needed to be...on him.

So, as others have said, I would try to find the energy, if I could do it all over again, to keep it simple, pick my battles and act much more firmly, decisively and consistently. Back then, I could always be swayed by him. He would talk me down and out, and I allowed it.

It sounds like your son has gotten help and is better. That is wonderful. Let's pause for a moment and be grateful and thankful for that.

Now, he has to learn to live in the world, the big world with its rules...and its natural consequences. That isn't easy for a immature boy with other issues. I love the image of the big trash can rolled into his room! Now, those are some natural consequences! Yay!

I would pick my battles, like that, and be firm and strong. Don't back down when he brings the sad stories and anger and bs. But don't have too many rules, because you won't have the energy to back them up.

I did so many contracts with Difficult Child, and at first they were long, drawn out affairs. I threw a lot of words at it, thinking if we could spell it out and get clear about it all, we could actually do it. Wrong approach.

Again, keep it simple.

And get some support for yourself in Al-Anon, or therapy, or meditation or with friends...all of the above.

We're also here for you. Please keep us posted on how things are going. We've likely been there.


Well-Known Member
Hi. Glad things are better.

I think everypne covered things really well. I have one last bit of advice because I didnt do it. I believed every time my daughter hit a good patch tjat it was over. I was knocked over so many times that when she finally did quit for good, o didnt believe she would keep it up for a few years. say dont lwt down your guard. Be realistic if you see changes and address them. Try to rrsove them roght away.

I hope he mever goes back to drugs. Just keep your eyes open. He is in your house. Your house/your rules. Dont talk too much. They can talk us into next week.
Dont give him fodder to guilt you.

Talk care.


Thank you all for your suggestions. I will clarify: my son goes to a Non-Public School for kids with emotional disability, which doesn't have an afterschool program. He already has a contract that he is breaking in different ways a couple of times a week. Usually curfew related, but also girlfriend in house last weekend while I was away at work (I work for 48 hours at a time). He does have a Probation Officer who tests him for drug use, but can't/won't help with curfew or home related rules, even though one of his probation requirements is to obey parents.

I do have a couple of wonderful support groups, teen, adoption, & mental health related.

Of course it seems to be mostly when I am at work that he comes home late -- I do have a camera system so I know. And about the only thing he cares about is his phone, so maybe that's where I need to tweak the consequences towards restricting that. Even though I try to have the consequences related to the problem.

And I just hate putting up with the lack of trust that he is causing. I want to know that he is doing what he is supposed to be doing. Especially since he is about to turn 18 and keeps demanding to be treated like an adult.


Well-Known Member
I only had one kid pull the "im an adult now so treat me like one" card and of course he was very difficult. He also said "might as well. Im not going to listen to you anyway."

To that I said "Even adults have rules and part of being an adult is following the laws or getting arrested. I have house rules and if you dont want to follow them, you live on your own and support yourself." I eventually had to make him leave.


Well-Known Member
Especially since he is about to turn 18 and keeps demanding to be treated like an adult.
I am seeing this now in another way: is there a way to streamline this where the areas of conflict are minimized and the situation is not set up as a betrayal of you and your authority, instead of his normal and necessarily desire to be self-determining?

When he turns 18 he can be treated like an adult which means that he will be responsible for sustaining himself economically. Sooner or later.

I did not catch on to this for awhile, that I was not obligated to "launch" my son even if he blocked or did not sustain any changes. I kept pushing and pushing him to get this job, this training, go to school, etc. until at 23 I kicked him out.

The idea was that this way he would have to deal with life on his terms, both the autonomy and the responsibility. Rather than swim, he sank more, eventually getting on SSI for mental illness, and living homeless off and on for months. Which I saw as a horrible series of events.

It took 4 plus years for him to modify his behavior sufficient to be close to us (or with us). Now he wants to be close and is acting in such a way to sustain it. The productivity issue is still on the table.

Being an adult requires accountability to oneself as well as to others. My son at 28 is just barely catching on to this concept.

He is keenly aware of his history, his life path. Indirectly he expresses a certain pride and self-esteem that he has survived such trials and changed. He has gained a lot of wisdom about the human condition as a consequences of his own struggles.

Through my son as an example I understand more and more about what is sustaining and important about life.

As a young and middle age person I was very ambitious and fought to get ahead. I had very little understanding internally of what I needed and wanted. It was pretty much all externally that my life played out...wanting to go somewhere, some goal, some place to be better, feel better.

My son is showing me a different way to live. Every day I am amazed by him. Instead of seeing where he does not fit (a glass half full), or feeling so deeply his suffering as if it was my own, I admire his growing self-awareness and awareness of others.

I do not know why I am going off on this tangent...except to say that your son's turning 18 is not something you should dread. I was adamantly against SSI, for which my son would probably have qualified as a child. I felt it would label him and limit his potential, most of all, to himself. My clinging to this defensive position must have contributed to the realization of my very fears, what I sought to prevent.

Now, I wonder if I did the right thing about SSI which I could have applied for on my son's behalf before he turned 18. If your son has issues for which he might qualify, it might be a gift for him to have the basis for self-support (assisted by auxiliary community supports) and autonomy right out of the gate.

I see now that my son could have worked his way off SSI if that had been in the cards. That I did not have to fear that he would not make it. The making it, was in him, which is what I did not see clearly enough.

He is making it. Just on his terms and in his own way.

Your son is making strides. He is bucking you because actually it is a good thing--he wants to call the shots for himself, in his own life.

Actually, this is what we would want, minus the strife. But in doing so--he of necessity has to buck you. This is a developmental issue, and not personal to you, I think.

I am glad you are posting. It is helpful to me. Thank you.