Please help- Sophomore boy out of control - FamilyEducation
Please help- Sophomore boy out of control
10/22/2009 at 17:30 PM

I am posting because I am very concerned about my 15 year-old (16 in December) brother. I am 26/F and live 3.5 hours away from my parents and brother.

First, he refuses to go to school. This has been a problem since 5th or 6th grade, but has progressively gotten worse. He has missed 10 or more days of school so far this year. He has never been a model student, but his grades have also gotten worse. He failed math freshman year because he flatly refused to turn in any homework assignments.

He is also violent. He has punched holes in the wall and put his hand through the window. My parents are afraid to ground him, take away his possessions, or try to make him go to counseling b/c he is so violent. My mother is afraid he will hit her and my dad doesn't want to "beat him" to make him do things.

I'm not sure about the extent of his drug use. I know he has smoked marijuana, but I am not sure how much he does it, and am not sure if he experiments with other drugs. He routinely tells my parents that drugs are good for you, and all types of ridiculous things. For example, the other night he told my mother that heroin is far better for you than McDonald's and that he knows people who take 5 percocets a day and there is nothing wrong with it. If they even casually disagree with anything he says he curses them out and/or throws things/gets violent.

He is so angry and manipulative and the littlest things set him into these violent tirades. I am concerned b/c sometimes it seems that he has no empathy and absolutely no ability (even compared to other 15 year olds) to rationalize. He refuses to take responsibility and will say that it is my mom's fault that he didn't go to school/lost his report card/whatever.

The mean things he says to my parents make my blood run cold, and my mom said that she gets somewhat "creeped out" by him sometimes. I think he has the ability to love and everything, but I am not sure how much of this is "normal" and what is not.

My parents are not disciplinarians. He has never been grounded or had anything taken away from him- EVER. I know they are upset by this and I know they care, but my father is somewhat aloof and my mother has an arsenal of excuses as to why it is impossible to correct his behavior. So for me, this is distressing in two ways- his behavior and my parents' (non) reaction to it.

I would really appreciate any suggestions, or if anyone knows any resources out there that would be helpful. I am just at a complete loss as to what to do and am very worried that he is going down the wrong path.

Thank you for taking the time to read this.

It sounds like youare worried about your family, but you don't have a lot of influence over the situation. Is there some way you can get the authorities involved? If my parents were in danger, I'd call the cops, even if it was my brother that was the danger. Same way if it was the flip side, if my brother were in danger I'd call the cops, even if it was my parents that were the danger. That's what the cops are there for.

Wait a minute. Did I read that correctly? You're a 26-year old mother of a nearly 16-year old son? You live 3-1/2 hours away from him? Your parents are raising this child? These are the same parents whose 10-year old daughter became pregnant with said 15-year old grandson? No disrespect here, but how do you think you'd turn out under similar circumstances? I think I'd be pretty angry at the world that my mom basically dumped me on two people who have proven themselves to be grossly incompetent at raising my mother. Obviously I don't know your circumstances but for a start, I think he figures he doesn't matter in ANYONE's life. Please don't take this the wrong way; I in no way claim to have the perfect family but I think it's time for you to "man up" or in your case "mom up", drive the 3-1/2 hours and take some responsibility for your son.

Bigben- You did not read that correctly. In the future, you should make sure you do read posts correctly before attacking somone. As I said in the first sentence, the 15 year old is my BROTHER, not my son. I live in a different state from my parents and my brother. I did not have a baby when I was 10. Sorry if this wasn't clear.

I apologize if that last post was a little hostile, I am just frustrated by my situation... acitez- thanks for responding. I may call the authorities if it gets too out of hand, but want to be careful about getting them involved. I have seen the system change some kids for the worse, and think I would only do this as a last resort.

You're right, I'm wrong. Misread. Sorry. As far as calling the police, has a crime been committed? Even if your parents were elderly (which you don't indicate) and your brother was threatening them or stealing from them or abusing them, they would have to be willing to press charges, which it sounds like they wouldn't. Without a crime, what can the police do? I know you're worried; who wouldn't be... but is your mother asking for your advice? If she were, I would suggest she contact the guidance counselor at your brother's school. Some schools/districts have programs for drug users & smokers, children of divorced parents (not that this applies to your case), at-risk teens; alternative high schools; social workers; therapists or at least a child study team who can evaluate your brother. If she's not asking for your advice, I don't see how you can be effective from a state away. The best you can do is contact the school or superintendent's office and get some information about such special programs and relay it to your mom. Good luck to you.

Thanks for the response. My mother does ask for my advice on this- it is frustrating b/c she complains to me about it and tells me how awful things are, but doesn't follow my suggestions, or anyone else's. She said she called the guidance counselor at the school and they said my bro has to see a medical doctor first... doesn't make much sense to me, but whatever. I told my parents, they should go to counseling themselves, even if my brother won't go... maybe they'll get ideas that way. I guess all anyone can di is hope for the best.

Can you spend some quality one on one time with your brother? Sometimes a teen seeing the positive side of life will help turn them around. He is lucky to have such a concerned sister as you and would likely benefit from being out of his negative environment, if only for a few hours. If you are able to do this, during your time together be positive and do not dwell on his negative behavior. Show him by your example what he can be by making good choices. Best wishes to you both.

From your post it sounds as if your brother has not been taught to be accountable for his actions. I don’t think anyone would suggest “beating” a child, but I am a firm believer in corporal punishment. Too many people relate a spanking to “beating” a child. If respect and accountability is not demanded when a child is young, how can they be expected to display such behaviors when they are older? Being 16 is hard on a kid and even harder when you have never been given boundaries. If your parents are not able to control him; it may be necessary for them to seek outside help. Here in the state I live in, a child who is out of control can be deemed “unruly” by the juvenile court. When that happens, the child must attend school and follow rules of the household, and may be subject to random drug tests, or risk being placed in juvenile detention. You may be able to get info on this for your state by calling the juvenile court in the county that your brother lives in

The state I live in has the same program, but it requires the full cooperation of the parents. From the description by this concerned sister, it is unlikely these parents would be willing to do the hard work required in order to begin and successfully remain in the program. At 16, it is unlikely corporal punishment would work and would likely result in retaliation by this young person. Boundaries need to be taught by example at this point and these parents seem unable to be effective teachers. Outside help is needed but if it is not sought by the parents things are very unlikely to change.

Sometimes there is an underlying medical condition to behavioral issues. It could be that the parents are coping the best they can with a recalcitrant child. The suggestion to see an MD is a good one.

I agree, and maybe I should clarify what I meant when expressing my opinion about corporal punishment. I don’t believe that corporal punishment would do anything but push this young man further down the road he has already chosen. The child they see before them is the product of lack of discipline, accountability, and effective parenting. The time to try and reason with him as a way to get positive results has long passed. Having used corporal punishment when my boys were much younger let them know that disrespect, selective hearing, and disobedient behavior would not be tolerated. As said, outside help should be sought sooner than later.

Thank you to everyone who responded. He's supposed to see an MD today and I am trying to really push him and my parents to go to counseling. Told them to go separately, if he refuses to go... it would be better than nothing. He still hasn't gone to school. He seems to be in left field about it. He said he never thought about dropping out until we mentioned it. I told him... you have missed 15+ days of school in two months... if you miss more than 36 for the year they won't pass you. Not to mention you could fail your classes.... I guess he thinks these rules aren't enforced or that they do not apply to him. Talking to him it is evident that he is very depressed, lonely and angry. But he won't admit any of this. When I was a teen, I might not want to talk about it, but I would at least admit that I was mad... I'll just continue to hope for the best. I tried to impress on him that, while school is serious, his situation is not hopeless... but that he is making it harder for himself in the long run.

My neighbor's boy finally finished his GED at age 20, and has just joined the military. Even if your brother does not follow the more common route of highschool graduation it is not necessarily the end of the world. The other routes are more difficult, but he could still be capable of taking care of himself.

Well, the situation here has gotten even worse. I was wondering if anyone has any experience or advice with "forcing" a teen to go to counseling and calling the cops if they refuse to go and become violent. Part of me thinks this could backfire, or that it wouldn't work b/c the kid doesn't "want" to get better and won't put in the effort...but another part wonders how long this situation can go on... He's been going to school maybe once or twice a week, and is failing all but one or two classes. But I really think there is a problem here larger than not going to school that has to be addressed. He's angry/depressed and may have some sort of untreated mental problem.. He sleeps literally until 2 or 3pm (sometimes later) and stays up half the night. But in total, he is still sleeping way more than the average teen. He really only has one friend, the video games, and plays guitar. Like I described in the first post, he still gets very nasty, but will occassionally want to talk to my mom. He refuses counseling. They are pretty sure he will get violent if they "make" him go to counseling or if they take away his tv/game system/guitar if he does not go. Has anyone forced anyone into counseling like this before (and/or called the police) or can offer any advice?

Teenagers cannot be forced to go to therapy unless it is court ordered. The police will not help you force your brother to go, but may arrest him if they are called into the situation. Your family may want to consider looking into having someone come to your parents home to evaluate your brother. Once a week therapy will be unlikely to significantly change the situation you describe with your brother. He may be found to need inpatient treatment where he will be part of a more intense program. Involving the police may result in your brother being sent to an inpatient program, but he would also have an arrest record which would make his life much more difficult in the future.

Thanks for the reply. Do you know how to arrange for someone to come to the house? Is this something that some psychiatrists or counselors will do? It seems that a social worker has to be court ordered in their state.

your mom should of grounded him alooong time ago, your mom is gonna have to step up to the plate and get some serious help for her and your brother at this point. If she cant or wont, then mabe he should live with you for awhile and you could homeschool or classes online. Just an idea, I wish you the very best.

Possibly his doctor could recommend someone or the local Child Mental Health office could recommend some course of action. A private psychiatrist or counselor may be costly.

Thanks again to everyone for your replies and support. My parents are going to attend a support group, hopefully this helps and can give them some idea of what has worked for other people in the area.

Thank you for letting us know. Hope your brother will one day realize how fortunate he is to have such a caring sister!