by Dr. Lorin Bradbury
Question: I really need your help. I have six children. The two oldest are boys who are now in their mid-twenties. I am pretty sure they are using marijuana, and they use alcohol frequently. When they drink, they become violent, and just recently, my husband and I had to leave our home and go my mother’s house because we were afraid they were going to hurt us while intoxicated. My husband and I don’t want to kick them out of the house because when they are sober, they are good boys. Really, we don’t want to see them leave home. What can I do? I’m concerned that one of our younger children is going to get hurt, and I’m also concerned they are setting a bad example for our younger children.
In reading your question, I see a number of very unhealthy behaviors on the part of you and your husband. First, you are enabling your sons to behave in a criminal manner. The behaviors you describe are chargeable offenses. They should not be allowed to force you, your husband, and the younger children to leave your home. You must be willing to reestablish order and authority in your home. Beginning today, any behaviors that are criminal in nature should be reported to the police, and you must be willing to press charges. By doing so, you are not only demonstrating authority to your two adult sons, but you are demonstrating to your younger children that threatening behaviors will not be tolerated in your home. Threatening anyone is a criminal offense. If you don’t take these steps, it is likely that someone will eventually get hurt.
When your sons are arrested for assault, don’t rescue them. Let them experience the consequence of their behavior. It is at this point that you must not allow their manipulation and your guilt to determine the outcome. You must stand strong and exercise tough love. YOU MUST NOT BAIL THEM OUT.
In your question, you expressed codependency. You are willing you put up with their very disrespectful behaviors because you need something from them. You scratch my back; I’ll scratch yours. I’ll lie for you today because I may need you to lie for me tomorrow. Codependency is indicative of a very unhealthy relationship.
Your two boys are not boys; they are men, and therefore you are not doing them a favor by allowing them to lie around your house and not work. It’s time for the full-grown eagles to be PUSHED out of the nest.
Healthy families work toward making their children independent. They begin early preparing their children to leave the safety and security of the home at a predetermined time, such as graduation or 18 years of age. If they are old enough to vote, serve on jury duty, go in the military, and get married, they probably are old enough to begin to make their own way in life—independent of parents. It’s true that they may skin their knees, and they may not do everything you want them to do. However, they’re not doing what you want them to do anyway.
Many parents fear losing their children’s love by drawing a line in the sand and establishing firm boundaries. However, the opposite is likely to occur. When authority is not established there is no respect.
I would begin by discussing your situation with your husband. Hopefully, the two of you can agree. Inform your adult sons that they have to work toward independence. Set a time for them to be out of the house, or live by your house rules. If they violate your conditions, inform them they will have to leave immediately. Permanently. Inform them that if they break the law by bringing marijuana into your home, or alcohol into your home if you live in a dry village, or if they threaten anyone in your home, you will call the police and press charges. Exercise your authority as a parent and protector of the home. Establish rules for your home—rules for all who live in the home to live by. Set curfews, and give members of the household chores. Everyone should make his or her own bed. Other chores should be assigned with the expectation of completion, dependent upon the age of each child.
This may not have been the answer you were looking for, but I trust you will have the courage to stand up and reestablish order in your home.
Lorin L. Bradbury, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in private practice in Bethel. For appointments, he can be reached at 543-3266. If you have questions that you would like Dr. Bradbury to answer in the Delta Discovery, please send them to The Delta Discovery, P.O. Box 1028, Bethel, AK 99559, or e-mail them to [email protected]