Advice for parents of troubled teens

I have a 15-year-old son who, in the past year, has gone from a quiet, well- mannered, well- liked child to a stranger to me. He hasn’t attended school in about two months. He comes and goes as he pleases, he will not respect the curfews I set for him and sometimes is gone for days on end. He has started smoking and he has admitted to smoking weed. He doesn’t listen to anyone and if we try and talk to him he just leaves. I don’t want to throw him out of the house but I just don’t know what to do. His behavior is taking its toll on me. — Noreen
Many parents are struggling with similar problems. So the first thing Noreen should know is that she shouldn’t feel alone.
Look in your neighborhood or church and notice all the parents who seem to have it all together. One of the very first things I would advise you to do is to seek counsel from some of those successful parents. I would also strongly encourage you to establish contact with your son’s school to request assistance in addressing his specific challenges. Our tax supported schools deal with these sorts of challenges every day and many have targeted resources at their disposal to counter these problems. You must ask for information on specific adolescence or male-oriented programs that have proven successful over the years. Then, you must then develop a relationship with the leaders of that program to give them a sense of urgency about your son. Do not be put off by their busy schedules. The old adage “the squeaky wheel gets the grease,” is very true when dealing with most large organizations. You must be diligent and persistent if you truly want to redirect the life of your son.
I would then encourage you to work on establishing lines of communication with your child. It is not unusual for adults to lose the ability to communicate with their children effectively. You must now identify what those barriers are and strategically remove them one at a time.
I would enlist the support of a valued male relative or friend who can oftentimes better identify with younger males because they have already transitioned into adulthood. They can better identify and anticipate what some of the experiences your son has/will encounter. Young men are often confused about where they fit in life and need actual role models to help them work through this sometimes very difficult period. You must partner with a dependable male who has good communication skills, who is willing to spend some-one-on-one time with your son. Many schools and organizations such as the Boys & Girls Clubs, scouting and athletic teams have very active and effective mentoring programs for young people. They do a thorough job of screening and training the adult mentors who work with their students.

A wayward 15-year-old male is not unusual in our world today. It is no time to panic but, it is time to try new and sometimes boldly different ways when addressing this growing challenge. It is the responsibility of the parent to seek out others who have traveled this road and to understand that this is just one more hurdle we must go through in raising children before we can successfully usher our young boys into roles of successful, responsible 21st-century young men.
This is only a general answer to a complex question, since each case is different and just as complex be sure to seek help from a professional adviser of your choosing to help solve your individual family needs.

The post above is reprinted with permission from the Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, supported by the Center for Sustainable Journalism at Kennesaw State University in Georgia. 

H. E. “Doc” Holliday currently works as an associate professor in the Department of Educational Leadership at Kennesaw State University in Georgia. He has served as a building principal for over four decades in both Georgia and Ohio. The former assistant superintendent for school improvement in the Cobb County (Ga.) Schools as well as the chief of staff in the Atlanta Public School system, is a frequent presenter at international, regional and statewide conferences. He is the author of, Gender Education in 7 Steps: Reigniting the Academic Pilot Lights of Boys and Girls; Boys Transitioning From Athletic Aggression to Academic Affirmation; and Reconnecting, Redirecting & Redefining 21st Century Males.
 *Photo by Flickr user nathancolquohoun

Updated: March 21 2018