November 08, 2010,
R.B. asks from Beverly Hills, CA on October 30, 2010
Forgiving a Teenager from Stealing to Buy Drugs
Obviously this is a difficult questtion. My 14 year old son did not transition well in to high school last month. He met some older kids that are bad news and they got him using marijunana and ectasy, of course they did not force him. He is no saint, there have always been issues but they usually make us stronger and we move on. Apparently he got in over his head being fronted drugs for him and his freinds. In order to pay his debts he sold both he and his brothers brand new bus passes (stole his 13 year old brother's) as well as my Ipod in my car,my room and his brother's Ipod I gave him for Christmas. Once discovered I have acted in every way possible with help from school, friends, his therapist etc. I took everything away, even deleted his myspace page, installed a home alarm, took his keys, make him check in daily at school and started drug testing him. The therapist tells him to accept the consequences and move on but I can't move on yet and I don't know if that is good or bad? It's been 3 weeks and I am still finding things he did daily while the therapist urges forgivness and he keeps asing me "geez are you going to bring that up every day". Of course he has no way to pay us back but that won't make it any better. My child stole from his brother and I and I can't find it in my heart to forgive him. Thoughts?
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So What Happened?™
Thank you all for your advice. I cannot tell you how much I appreciate it. Many of you said what I have been trying to say but was too hurt and shocked by the situation to express it. I have taken the best from everyone and edited it down to a one page letter to sit him down and read tonight and then I will let the healing process begin and him the opportunity to earn my trust. Thanks again.
T.A. answers from Los Angeles on November 01, 2010
You can attend an Al-Anon meeting and get some insight there. Lots of people who have experienced what you have, and worse.
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C.P. answers from Provo on October 31, 2010
I have had problems with my son also. It was not drugs but I was still heartbroken. I can tell you what worked best for us. I went to counseling with my son and found out the root problem. I found it easier to forgive and he soon was on the right path for success.
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K.M. answers from Chicago on October 30, 2010
Just because you forgive does not mean you forget. I have never liked the saying "forgive and forget" You can forgive him for his actions or dwell on it and drive him to do it again.
From experience, if you keep telling him over and over and over about how badly he messed up then all he is going to think you think of him is that he IS a screw up ... so my best advice, get over it, forgive the actions, replace or do not replace the items, and get him doing things you can praise him for regularly ... please do two things ... Never Forget and Never throw it in his face in anger.
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L.A. answers from Austin on October 30, 2010
When I was a teenager my mother told me. "I will always love you. No matter what you do, even if it the most awful thing in the world, I will love you. That does not mean I cannot be hurt, or disappointed by your behavior or actions, but I promise I will always be on your side. Even if I am the only person on your side."
This was a very powerful promise and statement. It really gave me a courage and a drive to do the right thing. I never wanted to hurt or disappoint my mom, because she was able to explain how much she loved me.
When our daughter was born. The moment they handed her to me, I knew exactly what my mom really meant and what life was all about. That love is strong, it can survive anything. They may hurt or disappoint you, but no matter what you neer stop loving them..
Maybe this is what you can explain to your son. Consider your true feelings and see if something like this is what you feel.
"I love you. I always will. Right now my feelings are deeply hurt and I am deeply disappointed. I know you can do better than this. I am on your side and I want to help you in any way that you need to make this right again. "
I am sorry he made bad choices. I am sorry it has hurt you so deeply. I am sending you strength and peace.
Just something to think about
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N.R. answers from Des Moines on October 30, 2010
I have a 34 yr. old adult child who did this at the same age, and it's escalated over the years & gotten much worse. I think forgiving and forgetting are both over emphasized in drug issues. If your child is truly remorseful and asks for your forgiveness, that is another matter. But most do not ask for forgiveness in drug related issues.
It takes a long time to earn trust back once it's broken. The therapist should be talking to your son about broken trust and your son asking YOU for forgiveness - not the other way around. We can love our children but hate (not forgive) their actions, especially if our child isn't remorseful and doesn't change his actions or attitude after being caught.
Our daugher had drug issues, including theft of our belongings, from stores, etc.), as a teenager, got pregnant, gave up drugs, and was drug free and as honest as we could ever hope for, for 6 yrs. - then started up on drugs again when her 2 children (still a single mom) were 4 & 7 yrs., and I don't know if we will ever trust or forgive her again. Her children were removed by DHS, we're raising and adopting them (now 5 & 8 yrs., we're 64 yrs. old). She never showed remorse or asked forgiveness any time in her life. We still love her. But why are we expected to forgive her?
I wouldn't keep bringing the issues up, though. It causes more resentment and can drive them deeper into drugs. Don't talk about it, take action! When there are rule infractions (staying out too late, stealing, lying, etc.), enforce consequences. If that doesn't work, recruit the police, drug agencies, etc. Your son is already heavily into drugs - you have nothing to lose by being VERY strict, enforcing the rules, and enforcing consequences. Make the consequences short term, though. Instead of removing privileges for a month or more, remove them for 2 wks. Then explain that if they break the rules again, you will require longer consequences.
Your son's life depends on you getting help so that you are strong enough to use tough love and enforce the consequences, even if that includes having him temporarily removed from your home so that he doesn't steal from you or your other children.
If you continue seeing daily or frequent signs of drug use and suspect theft, lying, etc., forget the therapist and get a new one!
When our children are toddlers and youngsters, and do something wrong, we quickly forgive them while first showing them there are consequences for their behavior (time out, extra chores, no TV or friends, etc.). When our children become teenagers and do things that are illegal, steal, lie, etc., they also need consequences of a greater magnitude, BUT they also need to show remorse and ask forgiveness on their own, if they truly want our forgiveness on these major issues. We are NOT bad parents when we can't forgive them when they don't take responsibility for their actions.
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B.B. answers from Detroit on October 31, 2010
3 weeks? wow... Thats is a spit in the bucket of time...
Is the therapist for HIM or for the family also? I would lay it out for him... Calmly tell him or write him a letter telling him..." YOU broke my trust. YOU stole from me. I WILL forgive you... In time... But YOU need to EARN that trust again. And attitude does not help. YOU need to SHOW thru your actions that YOU are sorry. I MAY bring it up every day... That is MY right... I have been disappointed by YOUR actions (not YOU, but what you chose to do). I understand WHY... But not HOW you thought it would be ok.... Over time the feelings of hurt will diminish, but it will not happen over night... And forgiveness takes time... Until then, you will be reminded, watched, and checked until you PROVE YOURSELF again. BUT since the trust has been broken once... it breaks easier and takes longer to heal the second time... SO avoid making those bad decisions a second time... LOVE MOM!!!"
:-) I find it hard that he has " NO" way to pay you back...
Our neighbor started mowing our yard when he was 12... we pay another neighbor boy to rake our leaves and shovel our snow... He was 13 when he started... Where there is a will there is a way... I would insist he pay you back... and not from your own pocket (you pay him to do your work)... Insist he go to the neighbors and ASK. One thing that teens are missing now days is WORK... Hard physical labor... Keeps young ones strong, out of most trouble, and they sleep better. lol I am a 31 yr old mom of 4 who grew up on an organic dairy farm and was managing the herd (about 200 animals) by the age of 16 (it was necessary) AND going to school... Maybe having him get a "job" on a local farm would help center him... Nothing more humble than cleaning up animal poop...
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D.P. answers from Pittsburgh on October 31, 2010
Hmmmm...a few things about your post unsettle me. You seem to be "policing" him well but is he willing to STOP using drugs? Right now, you're making it impossible, but what if he had the opportunity?
Can you find an NA group for young teens for him to attend? Have YOU attended Alanon meetings?
The fact that he's asking about YOU bringing it up every day tells me either a.) He HAS accepted the consequences and is willing to prove himself through his actions or b.) He wants the immediate issue to be "over" the sooner the better. Hopefully it's A.
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D.S. answers from New York on October 31, 2010
Is your son showing signs of remorse? Has he asked for forgiveness? Has he shown signs of improvement? I understand to a degree what the therapist is saying that if you stay in the past he also will not bother to move forward because your expectations of him will remain the same. On the other hand trust and forgiveness need to be earned and with drug use 3 weeks in my opinion is still very early to expect so much from you or him for that matter. I think you are the only one who truly knows your son and you do not sound like a mom who sugar coats things so if you see the change in your heart, and you feel in your heart he deserves your trust and forgiveness then you will give it to him. Obviously if you are asking you are not yet sure and that in my opinion is fine. He has hurt you and your children so he has alot of work to do to gain that all back. Go with your heart, and the good sense you have that will guide you. Good luck I know how tough this road can be, I had some issues with my son when he was a teen. I never gave up on him and I policed him everyday and we made it through. You will too!!!
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S.P. answers from Los Angeles on November 01, 2010
I know that you have received so many responses, but I feel really close to this one... I was on the same path as your son. My parents took the forgiveness route. The "it will get better" route. I got worse. I was really searching for consequences, but I definitely did not know that at the time. I kept pushing and pushing. The road ended with hard drugs, a life wasted, and consequences from the wrong authorities.
This is your son's life. The only one he gets. You are his teacher, his parent and it is your duty to really drive this one home until he is on the right path. This will not be fun. He will tell you that he hates you. But if you want to see your child grow into all of the things that you know he is capable of, you have to be the bad guy.
The reason why you are having a hard time forgiving him is because you know that this is not the last time or the worst that will happen. You are his mommy and you know your child. He is only 14 and has so much opportunity in front of him.
Today you have to be the hard "a," so that tomorrow he can thrive.
These type of programs are miracles. They are non-denominational and build strong people. I wish more than anything that my (well meaning) parents had sent me kicking and screaming into something like this. Things would be a lot different.
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P.K. answers from Las Vegas on October 31, 2010
You really MUST deal with not being able to forgive him. Your not being able to move on is not about him. He can only do so much. You've got to be willing to move past this and not nag or badger him about it. He screwed up big time but it's been done. If you don't allow yourself to see past this then he won't be able to either. Lots of kids have experiences like this early on that are so upsetting to their parents. If you don't allow him to move on he gets stuck in the character of 'screw up kid'. My oldest step son got branded as the screw up kid pretty early and lived up to his parents expectations perfectly. He got into hard drugs, couldn't keep a job, got arrested.......you get the picture. I don't know how he would have behaved had his first royal mistakes had been forgiven but not forgotten. He may have been able to 're-brand' himself as funny and athletic. In my experience drug testing and taking every privilege away only feeds the brooding disgruntled teenager monster. Choosing whether or not to experiment with sex drugs and rock and roll are adult decisions. You son likely thinks he's mature enough to make these choices. You know he's not but you can try to at least use that to your advantage. If he's turning off immediately when you try to talk to him then have someone else talk to him. Do you have a family member or close friend who can 'be cool' about it? I'm not a big fan of therapy having tried it as a teen and as an adult. I found that group therapy is more helpful. One on one or even family therapy can feel more like the inquisition! Keep in mind that he really does think he is capable of making these choices. He's not being stubborn he just has no idea that he isn't ready to make those kinds of choices. Avoid being condescending. If you want to set the rules then do it....1. no drugs, 2. no drinking, 3. whatever other stuff you're dealing with right now...once the rules are set DON'T try to 'catch' him breaking them. Give him some space. If he thinks you're going to accuse him no matter what he'll just go ahead and do it. If he's going to be punished for smoking pot even when didn't he may as well smoke and enjoy it! I believe who we were is not who we're going to be. What we did yesterday doesn't say who we are today. Allow him to move past it. You can forgive him. He stole because he didn't know what else to do to pay his debts. Obviously he didn't feel he could talk with you about it or he'd have admitted his screw up and asked you to help pay back the money. The more difficult you make it for him to come to you for help the more likely he's going to find himself in another bad situation and make more bad choices. I call this the bungee jumping stage. I've been thru it with 3 boys and am just beginning with my 14 year old step daughter. All 3 boys did really stupid stuff..REALLY stupid but now that they are grown they aren't screw ups after all. Open your eyes to the bigger picture and think about the man he'll become not the dumb boy he's behaving like today.
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B.E. answers from Los Angeles on October 31, 2010
Please check out where your local Al-anon meetings are. It isn't just for alcohol. This is for family members of addicts. Your son should seek help from AA or NA and through the steps will regain your trust. I would even look in to a rehab program for him as they would take him through the steps and if it is a live-in one, would give you time to heal as well as grow during the family nights. Please don't walk this path alone. There are many people suffering and many people who have made it through this difficult time - learn from their experiences... It works!
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