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Dr. Mark
Dr. Mark, Psychotherapist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 5334
Experience:  Dr. Mark is a PhD in psychology in private practice
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I have a 19 yr old son who's dad died in '04. Before he

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I have a 19 yr old son who's dad died in '04. Before he died, i used to do all the disciplining, and his dad didn't do anything because he didn't want to acknowledge that our son had a behavioral/ emotional disability. He used to go against everything i did or said to discipline our sons, and now my son is totally out of control. He has no respect for my rules, nor anything i ask him to do. alot of it is also my fault because I felt sorry for him because of his problems, but i've created an even bigger monster because he now hangs out with the wrong people, and smokes weed and doesn't go to school(G.E.D. classes) in the youth program we had agreed upon. he also refuses to do as i ask, and I'm afraid he is going to be hurt or in jail because he is smart, but wants everybody to feel sorry for him!! I'm moving this summer and don't want him to come with us, but I'm afraid to throw him out in the street. he refuses to go get some help or counseling!!

Hi! I believe I can be of help with this issue.

First, let me say I can imagine how frustrating and disappointing this situation must be. And worrisome. Along with the legal problems, he is a young man with little life motivation who tends toward laziness and instant gratification and is rather self centered. And you are clearly a loving mom along with trying to enforce some law and order. But you know you've let your guard down for a long time now with him and I'm afraid this is not a productive thing for him. It feeds into his weakness: his self centered orientation has let him use your feelings of sadness for him to give him a free ride, so to speak.

So the problem is that you have become, in spite of yourself, an enabler for him. I'm hesitant to overload you with books as resources. But I don't have much of an alternative in terms of what can be done here. Why?

You say he refuses to get help. He knows he can have all your goodness and kindness without taking any steps and we don't know how much this has contributed to his lack of motivation, but it has contributed some for sure. So he's not seeking serious work nor making effort for himself to get help in psychotherapy. Well, he's an adult legally now and there's nothing that can be done to force him to seek treatment.

However, you must stop acting as an enabler. Because no matter how much you may feel responsible for him as your son, or no matter how you two may have contributed to his pattern of behavior, your feeling guilty and responsible and as though you need to tolerate and bear whatever he does will not help. In fact it does the opposite: it HURTS him and his chances of growing up and having a good and happy life.

Here are two important and good books you can get from the library or buy online or from a bookstore about enabling adult children:

Setting Boundaries with Your Adult Children: Six Steps to Hope and Healing for Struggling Parents by Allison Bottke. She comes from a Christian perspective but it is not a religious book and non-religious people have found it extremely helpful.

The Enabler by Angelyn Miller. This is also excellent and not just for the usual enabling of alcoholism, etc.

So he may have to start swimming on his own. This includes navigating the court system. If it means jail, then it means jail. I worked with a man who finally made it out into a halfway house last year: he had to reach pretty low to reach bottom. But he finally got there and last year realized he was finally ready to make a positive life for himself. Jail was the only thing that woke him up.

Finding his own place to live may be an important developmental step for your son as well. And you will need to let him flounder for a while, even if it means sleeping on friends' sofas or his car for a time. He has to find his own "bottom" so he can learn to stand up on his feet is the idea here. And it will be tough and that's why I want you to read those books.

Here are some motivational ideas you can print out for him to send him on his way. He will probably scorn them and just throw it away, but I'm offering it for him anyways. You'll see their benefit. Maybe he will. You can perhaps buy him one of these books to take with him on his way. So this is for him:

Here's a simple YouTube search I put together on "motivational speakers":

Some like Tony Robbins are the classic big guys. Some are newer. Watch them all. Get inspired. Buy a book or two. Here are some possibilities, but they are only suggestions as there are so many good ones.

The first book is the father of all these type of books. How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. There are classes in these books now! It was written in the 1930s and still has something to say to us today that is very worthwhile.

I think very highly of the second book on my list, which is a real classic: The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey. It is the book that has helped more people than probably any other.

The third book is by Anthony Robbins. He's one of those speakers who fills up huge auditoriums. For a reason. He's a terrific speaker and writer. The particular book (if you like it, try his others): Awaken the Giant Within.

Okay, I wish you the very best!

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Customer: replied 5 years ago.
Dr. Mark,
I have heard about "Intervention programs" where they come and put the person into an appropiate Rehab/clinic to get the help they need since they refuse to do it on their own. This can be done by a family member or relative. Is this possible for my son? I don't want to wait until he is "dead, or hospitalized from being beaten up because he is a follower and has a very low self-esteem. you already answered the main part of my question. I'd appreciate it if you had any other suggestions.
Thank you,

I have not heard of such programs. I know that for children there are Individual Educational Plans that the schools are required by law in most states to provide a child who is diagnosed with mental health issues, etc. but I don't know of any such programs that do this. It's hard to imagine that after 18 there would be such a program.

YOu have to remember that he's an adult at 18 and in this day's atmosphere of patients' rights, there's very little chance of keeping him in any rehab or residential program unwillingly. He can walk out any time. The lock down wards or facilities have to be court mandated usually or he signs voluntarily to go into one of those.

So the key is his realizing he needs help. But pursue this possibility and let me know if you find anything helpful.

All the best, ***** *****