Thursday, August 28, 2008

Hang in there

A couple of times during breaks in last Friday's class, I moderated the comments on last Friday's post, Catalytic converter thefts. The very first post was a long missive that was completely off the topic. I recognized the author as J.J., who has posted comments concerning his problems with his young adult son on a few past occasions. After posting this comment, he took a mild bashing from other readers who didn't get the point. I didn't get a chance to come to his defense until early evening, when I told readers that if it helps him to lay it out there on my blog, I'm OK with it--particularly since he has been a long-time reader.

J.J. has posted under a couple of different nom de plumes since his first comment back in April, 2007. I've never met him before to my knowledge, but I empathize with his plight. He's trying to deal with a young adult son who is involved in some risky behaviors that are all-too common. He's not alone.

I talk to a lot of people similarly situated. So many, in fact, that several years ago I wrote this down so I could give people in writing the gist of our conversation. I've learned that when you are spilling your guts in the police chief's office, you miss a lot of what is said, so I want you to have it in writing to look at later, too. Here's the letter I send home with parents after these meetings:

"Several times each year, I talk to a parent who is at their wits end dealing with a teenager or young adult child who is engaged in serious misconduct or self-destructive behavior. The parents I talk to have tried everything, and are often overwhelmed with a sense of helplessness and despair. I want to provide my best advice.

It’s not your fault. Parents do not cause their children to behave badly as adults. You did the best you could. The problems he or she has now were not caused by anything you did or failed to do. Great parents who have done everything right still encounter these problems. On the other hand, there are plenty of people who were abandoned, neglected, abused, or orphaned as children who have done just fine in life. Don’t let the mistakes you may have made as a parent stand as an excuse for the bad acts of an adult child.

Don’t contribute to your child’s self-destructive behavior. Don’t help him or her escape the consequences of bad acts. Don’t cover up, lie, make excuses, or compromise your own ethics just to “keep the peace.” Do not give your child money or pay his bills so he can buy drugs, booze, smokes, gamble, or otherwise lead a destructive lifestyle. Help your child, rather than making it easier for her to hurt herself. You can help by making and paying for a dental appointment, by taking over a casserole, by offering the use of your washing machine, providing a ride to work—but not by giving cash or paying the rent and the cable bill.

Stay connected. No matter how ugly it gets, make it clear that your son or daughter is still welcome at your home. Visit, make phone calls, write letters, or do anything else you can to remain part of his or her life.

Have faith. It isn’t necessarily permanent. Lots of young people who engage in reckless and destructive behavior during their early adulthood are quite different a few years later. It’s entirely possible that a spiteful, addicted, angry, 17 year old will be a healthy, well-adjusted, happy and productive adult at age 27. Get a picture out of your child during some happy times when he or she was about 12. That same wonderful, loving kid is still in there, and will eventually emerge."


Anonymous said...

Great advice.
Why don't you omit the second paragraph and give it to parents of preschoolers?
Too many parents protect kids from their own actions. It's heartbreaking to watch my children hurt or fail but I'd rather they learn about consequences now while the kids are young and the lessons "cheap". The old adage "It's gonna hurt me more than it hurts you" has crossed my mind several times as I find myself holding back from a rescue.
A felony is a lot harder to overcome than a trip to the principal's office.

Anonymous said...


I had the privilege of being in the "Citizen's Academy" recommended by Cptn. Soukup.

We are fortunate to have one with your skill sets as Chief of LPD. I recently became aware of this blog and appreciate your contribution.

Will you give permission to use this letter? I know a couple families that could use the encouragement.

Anonymous said...

I too have a friend that could use this advice. Do we have your permission to print this out?


Tom Casady said...

Help yourself folks, you need no permission to reprint or distribute--that's why I put it out here!

Anonymous said...

I think it might be too late to help my child.

Spay and neuter your pets.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps this could land on the Dr. Phill show?

P.S I have your LPD email and will send other communication to that if this goes ahead.


Anonymous said...

Well I have solved the problem of having all the readers view my blog posts. I have created a blog and will post here with my blogger ident. So I will keep my comments to the topic at hand as it relates to the Chiefs corner. Those that want to read more on family issues ect, will then have the option to do so by selecting my blog area.