My stepson turned 18 years old last December and lives with us full time. His mother passed away several years ago. He graduated from high school last month and then decided not to attend college in the fall as originally planned. He’s working full time at a decent job.
Several years ago we had some major behavioral issues with him, to the point where we were seriously exploring sending him to a therapeutic boarding school. We chose instead to undergo 5 months of intensive MST (Multi Systemic Therapy) so that he could learn that the only thing we were obligated to provide for him was food, shelter, and clothing. Everything else (cell phone, television, internet, etc.) was a privilege and needed to be earned through his behavior. His attitude changed drastically and we lived together harmoniously for a few years. Now that he’s not in high school anymore, we’re starting to see some of the defiant behaviors reappear again. We’ve told him he’s welcome to live with us, but we expect him to follow a few house rules. For instance, not leaving food containers in his room. He rarely follows those rules. We’ve also told him that we understand that he wants some independence, but he’ll continue to have a curfew while living with us because coming home at 3 in the morning disrupts the entire family (we also have a young child). We’ve tried to be flexible with it and if he calls and lets us know he’s going to be late and what time he’ll be home we’re usually o.k. with it. But normally he just doesn’t show up and won’t answer our text messages or phone calls.
We’ve told him over and over again that if he chooses not to follow our rules, he’ll need to figure out where he’s going to live. We don’t run a hotel where he can come and go as he pleases. The techniques we used in the past really aren’t working now in the past because he’s got his own financial resources available to him. (In addition to his job, he receives a small payment from a trust fund each month now).
My husband was finally fed up with it last night after stepson was over 2 hours late. We knew he was o.k. because we could see his cell phone activity. He finally sent him a text message that said “You’re not answering your phone… We’ll talk tomorrow. When you get home, you’re going to need to sleep in your truck in the driveway so you don’t wake anyone up. We’ll leave your work clothes for tomorrow on the front patio. Turn the truck off so it doesn’t disturb the neighbors.” (He has a diesel truck and it’s extremely loud). It seemed drastic, but we’re hoping that if he spends enough nights in a hot truck he’ll begin to appreciate his nice, cool comfortable bedroom a bit more and understand that we truly don’t have to allow him to live there.
My mother-in-law was furious this morning that we made him sleep outside. Our response was that it was his choice. Of course, she wasn’t there at 2 in the morning waiting for him to come home. Stepson called me today at work and asked if we were kicking him out. I told him that he was welcome to live there and that it's in his best interest to live there, but he was going to have to start to show some respect for everyone else living there. We're not going to continue warning him, talking to him, pleading with him. He knows the rules and we expect him to follow them.
Now we’re second guessing ourselves.
Should we have handled things a different way?
I feel so much better now! It's not the first time we've had to do some things that were unpopular with him and that others thought were too tough... we were literally at the point of starting to make arrangements for an out-of-home placement several years ago.
But this time we were basically saying "we love you and enjoy being with you, but we'd rather have you not live with us than have you live with us and disrespect us. We can love you from afar too." It just seemed harsher, but I know from past experience that talking doesn't work-- action does.
Thanks for your feedback.