I am a 39 year old ex con who has lived more than 1/2 his life incarcerated. I started my life of crime at the age of 12 and by the age of 15, I was already charged as an adult and was sentenced to adult prison. It would be almost 20 years before I learned my way in the world.
Let's understand something here. I am not a young black male who was raised in the projects. I was not in any way disadvantaged. I am a white male who had every possible advantage. I went to Private Schools and although we weren't rich, we weren't poor either. I had everything I needed and alot of what I wanted. I was born and raised in North Miami, Florida and back then -believe it or not- it was an all white area.
Well, it's funny how life works, because I am now suffering through the same things my father did with me. My oldest step-son is going crazy. He's skipping school. He's running away. He's hanging out with idiots and thugs. I'm pretty sure he's smoking weed. He's extremely disrespectful towards his mother and his attitude is mean and violent. (I've had to show him that i'm still the biggest and baddest bear in this house) So I've been forced to do an evaluation of where I am as a parent.
I have a total of 5 children. I have an 11 year old daughter in California whom I basically have no contact with. (At the mothers request) I am raising 3 step-sons (Ages 15, 13 & 11) and me and my wife have a 5 year old daughter. So my plate is pretty full. But here's the thing. I was released from prison in 2002 and I've been free ever since. I have worked extremely hard to pull myself out of the cesspool that had been my life.
I do not make alot of money, but I do okay. I make enough to support my family and to have a few extras. Once upon a time that wouldn't have been good enough, but now it is. But as I watch my oldest do his thing, it's made me wonder. "What have we done wrong"? That's the question of the day.
He was an Honor Student 1 year ago. Literally. Yeah, even back then he had an attitude problem. But he was a good kid with a bad attitude. We never had to worry about about him. He did his thing and he was never any trouble. But that has drastically changed over the past year and now I wonder.....
What can and/or should I do? In truth, i'm almost clueless. You see, here's one of the problems. When I first got with his mother, she had already been divorced for 4 years and she was alone raising the 3 boys. Well, discipline has never been one of her stronger points and the boys were used to pretty much doing what they wanted, when they wanted. It has been a 5 year battle for me, getting them to understand that they can not -and will not- do what they want.
The two younger boys have finally adjusted and their both doing fine. (Both good students and both Boy Scouts who doesn't think it's "gay". I am also their Scout Master.) They have grown into fine young men.
But the oldest...man...he's taking a nose dive. (Let's call him John) I have taken the route of tough love. He's been severely grounded. All he's allowed to do right now is breath and eat. He's only allowed TV because he lives in the same room as his brother and i'm not going to make him suffer too. John had a job bagging groceries, but we took that from him after a long debate about it. He's not allowed on the phone or the cpu, nor is he allowed to use the phone. In short, he's allowed to eat, breath and sleep. In-between that he goes to school.
In truth, I know this is only as effective as he's going to allow it to be. I know that, because I know that when I was his age, nobody could MAKE me do anything that I didn't want to do. (Actually, at his age I was already in adult prison.) As of right now, he's been complying with the restrictions. So although I do not know how the final outcome will be, I guess I can't complain right now.
But here's what I want you to think about. John was a very good kid 1 year ago. Straight A's and never a peep of trouble. It's taken less than a year for him to do a total reversal.
LESS THAN A YEAR. And with no apparent reason.
I'm not sure what we could have done differently. Or for that matter, what we did wrong. Or even if we've actually done anything wrong. I just don't know. I am trying to compare my situation with him with MY childhood. I'm trying to see if theres any resemblance. In the end, I've decided to take the Tough Love approach.
I don't see what else I can do. He's pretty much had every advantage, so theres no excuse for his behavior. He just wants to do what he wants, when he wants to do it and how he wants to do it. That is not going to happen under my roof. So I guess all i'm trying to tell all of you parents with an At Risk Child is this.
DO NOT GIVE UP AND DO NOT GIVE IN. Nor should you blame yourself. (We do not blame ourselves) The old addage is true. You can lead a horse to water, but that doesn't mean he'll drink. All you can do is get him there. Stick to your guns and hold your ground. Do not allow the inmates to run the prison. Remember, you are the parent. You are the one in control. You can not give up that power.
Ultimately, we gave him the option. You are going to do things our way or you can get the hell out. I literally dragged his little smart ass out the front door and let him know....."Theres the sidewalk. It leads 2 ways. Down the street or down our walkway. Take your pick. Your way or our way". As of right now, he has chose our way. And in truth, I think and feel that.....he's going to be okay.
I know and understand that your love for your child makes being "tough" hard. It's heartbreaking. But there comes a time where.....well, you have to stand your ground for the greater good. And you know what? Sometimes that's all it takes.
To be continued.....
I will continue this with updates every Saturday morning.....