It is a rule that there are no drugs or drug paraphernalia in the house (aka marijuana, grinder, and bongs). My son seems to think the rules don’t apply to him, and so I have repeatedly confiscated and destroyed what I find. He is also engaged in risky behaviour like driving after smoking pot. I don’t want to kick him out because I can keep a closer eye on him in my house, but I cannot sit by and watch him destroy his life with drugs, and I can’t tolerate the crap laying around.
I don’t know how many times you’ve confiscated your son’s drug paraphernalia, but “repeatedly” suggests more than once or twice, so it would seem this strategy isn’t working.
Parents often see acting-out behaviour (including drug use) as the problem. In fact, it’s a symptom. The problem lies elsewhere, and is generally tied to unsatisfying relationships. I highly recommend a 14-minute TED Talk by Johann Hari entitled “Everything you think you know about addiction is wrong.”
And if you watch it before reading the rest of this article, all the better!
For the next month, suspend judgment and criticism. Stop commenting on your son’s drug paraphernalia and drug use, and focus on re-establishing a strong and meaningful connection with him. Smile at him when he walks in the room. Make him feel welcome in your presence. Let him know by actions, words, and body language that you value him and love him for who he is, not for what he does or doesn’t do. Language isn’t important. We all know when we’re welcome!
Start noticing and making a list of things you like or admire about him – not his appearance or how smart he is or what he’s accomplished, but things that speak to his character. Is he loyal? Generous? For giving? Fair? Does he have a great sense of humour? (And if he is all those things with his friends but not with you, it still counts.)
“Small minds discuss people. Mediocre minds discuss events. Great minds discuss ideas.” Give him the opportunity to develop a great mind! You can start by asking his opinion about something going on in the world or in your neighbourhood – then just listen. Don’t listen to respond; listen to understand. This isn’t your opportunity to lecture or educate or correct him; this is your opportunity to connect with him. Talk about anything – but don’t talk about him.
If you find a joke that he’d appreciate, share it with him. If you come across an old photo that reminds you of a great time you had together, share that with him, too, and tell him what it means to you.
Invite him to do things with you that you both enjoy and have some fun together, whether that’s playing cards, going fishing, or just going for a hike. And throughout all of this, talk less and listen more.
It took time to get here, and it’ll take time to turn things around. So please get back to me in a month or so and let me know what’s happening.
In the next article, I’ll reply to an email about an entitled, ungrateful teen.
Want to know more about Choice Theory? My PDF booklet Who’s Driving YOUR Car? and handout Six Things: How to create healthy boundaries are now available for download on my website at www.sanerparenting.com/downloads/. And if you want to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, I always welcome your comments and questions!