I caught my son smoking pot a few times and it was a daily deal. He had a real nice big room upstairs in our home that was private so I moved him downstairs closer to my bedroom. I have been monitoring his social media, phone calls and texts and have found several people texting him about weed so I basically cut off his communication with them by telling these kids doing drugs to stay away from my son and that I am fully aware of what they do.

I have had several, what I would call, productive conversations with him regarding the consequences he is suffering now due to his choice to get high and drink. Then I start to hear about how I am ruining his social life and am referred to as "The Crazy Dad". He has told all of his classmates about his current situation and tells me that they all think that I am crazy and super strict. I have also found is very derogatory as he refers to me as a religious nut, bible thumper, over the top freak to all of his friends.

I have spoken to several other parents, friends and even a couple of professionals. They just keep telling me to "stick to my guns" and "you are doing the right thing" etc. I have to admit though...I am sort of running a little thin these days. I feel like that I have given up my life to raise this inconsiderate little !*&^%$ and am ready to toss him into military school to finish out his high school education. My ex wife tried to take him but asked me to come get him after only 6 months. He is a very smart, funny, athletic kid but is rebelling hard.

Am I in over my head here or do I need to just keep the pedal to the metal, so to speak? HELP!!!

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    Keep in mind that he needs to maintain status with his friends. He might not mean what he says to them about you, and even if he does, he will internalize the boundaries you set for him. It will make a difference in the long run, as frustrating as it is for you right now.
    – Kit Z. Fox
    Commented Feb 22, 2016 at 20:47
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    I wonder about "religious nut" and "bible thumper"--are you perhaps using religion as part of your argument against his behavior? Commented Feb 23, 2016 at 0:14
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    What is the legal drinking age where you live? And is pot legal where you live?
    – corsiKa
    Commented Feb 23, 2016 at 1:51
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    I just read all the answers about stick to it or thats how parenting is. I actually don't know the way you do it. But my mother when I was in that age ruled over me by setting times when I had to get home (be it after school or in weekend's evenings) in a way, while still animating me to do stuff with friends, that made me have to come home when most people actually not even have arrived. This made me having a really hard time getting social connection and is (I assume) part of the cause for my lack in social skills I was strugling the last years with to fix. Just a note to keep in mind.
    – Zaibis
    Commented Feb 23, 2016 at 10:06
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    ..... you complain he calls you crazy dad behind your back... you think "inconsiderate little %/$*/|" is more appropriate?
    – Patrice
    Commented Feb 23, 2016 at 12:52

9 Answers 9


Ahhhh...TEENS!!! The true test of parenting. Don't you wish he were a "terrible two" again or a "terrifying Three". My boys are now 20 & 18. My daughter just turned 16 and here is what I have learned and a great quote from my own mother...

"If they like you all the time, then you're doing your job wrong."

Here is the first thing you need to do. STOP. Take a step back, breathe and get your bearings. You do no one any good if you fall apart. Do you remember being 16? This is his journey and you can set rules, guidelines and enforce them but I'm going to tell you this, when he isn't in your home, you have zero control. He's going to fall on his face, make mistakes and make a mess. You are now reaching the parenting point where you can only pray a lot and be there when he falls.

We all have this idea that our child will be different, our child will be so loved and provided for that they won't make mistakes, they won't be "that kid", they wont cave in to peer pressure...but the fact is that's not how it works.

Its time for you to transition from the parent that is still teaching all the time to the parent that starts to trust what he has already taught. Have faith. Don't put yourself in a position where you are pushing him away because one day he'll be in a situation at 3am and you want to be the one he can call, not the one he avoids. It's a hard balance. Research it, talk to other parents, get different ideas. But what ever you do, don't turn every encounter into a lecture and don't think that just because he had a "heart to heart" with you one day, doesn't mean he's not right back to mischief the next moment. He's 16...the frontal lobe of his brain (which controls impulse and reasoning) hasn't fully developed yet...and won't till he is 28!!!

So hang in there and never, ever give up. Some day he'll be 30 and thank you!!

  • 10
    "the frontal lobe of his brain (which controls impulse and reasoning) hasn't fully developed yet...and won't till he is 28!!! " -- or, looking at it another way, our frontal lobes have all been in a senescent state since we were 28. Commented Feb 22, 2016 at 23:03
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    +1 for the comment about being the one to call at 3am. Monitoring his communications, vetoing his friends, and making him move rooms just makes the father an adversary, if not a warden. It's important for the father to emphasize to the son that he has his best interests in mind, and that he's on his side, regardless of how much he may disagree with his current choices.
    – DCShannon
    Commented Feb 23, 2016 at 4:19
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    Doing pot every day is not normal rebellious teen behavior. This is at a whole different level. Commented Feb 23, 2016 at 7:06
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    Not that it's applicable to the OP's situation, but if you really would consider your kids liking you all the time to be a sign that you're doing something wrong, I find that really alarming. That's equivalent to saying the correct way to parent is to create conflict and bad feelings if there were none before. I hope you don't really use that rule of thumb to guide your behavior with your children or with anyone else.
    – Don Hatch
    Commented Feb 23, 2016 at 13:40
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    lol...that's not what I said at all, but I guess like all things, it comes down to interpretation doesn't it. All I'm saying is be a parent first, and a friend 2nd. If you start just trying to be their friend, the lines get blurry. Commented Feb 23, 2016 at 14:11

Firstly, "stick to your guns", "you are doing the right thing" etc, etc, you know the drill.

Secondly, he is going to dislike and disrespect your boundaries. That is what being a teenager is. If he's still obeying them or at least trying to (i.e. there's a difference between "slipping" and "not caring"), that is what being a good teenager is.

Drink and drugs are two of the biggest peer pressures. Your primary task as a parent is to make sure he doesn't permanently ruin his life or health, your secondary task is to make sure he can do the same for himself when you're not monitoring him, and your tertiary is not to throw your relationship under a bus fulfilling the first two.

Frankly, the only way you'll get the third is to target the first two; an addict makes a very difficult person to have a solid relationship with.

Parental considerations about drinking and drugs vary. Some parents are okay with any amount of drinking but panic over anything illegal, regardless of health concerns. Others are okay with casual weed usage but would go ballistic if their child was brought home for being drunk and disorderly. The important thing is that you decide what your line is, you only change it in the case where you decide it's not doing the job, and you treat it as a fundamental principle that you can enforce, explain, and live up to yourself.

In terms of his classmates; if you are embarrassed to be known as the "crazy dad who doesn't want his kid getting high", consider that if you remove the word "crazy", that is not a thing to be embarrassed about. Own it. You're not cool, you're a good dad. Another way to look at it is, as Kit states, that he's using you as his excuse not to do this stuff, without losing status. "I totally can't drink that bleach, my stupid dad wouldn't like it."

One thing you can do to maintain the relationship is find something he does or might enjoy that's not drugs, and find a way for you to do that together. A weekly run, or monthly fishing trip, or something as basic as Movie Night or a shared Video or Board Game. He may mock it, he may pretend that he hates it, but at the end of the day, you're aiming to have a decent time with him where you're being a dad without having to be "that parent" for half an hour a week.

Regarding military school; I know Americans have a different attitude to this, but military school is not a rehabilitation program. You'd basically be giving up any control, giving his care and socialising over to people who may not share your priorities and potentially throwing your relationship with him under a tank. It may be the right call, but I would consider your son, and how you think he would react to this before pulling that trigger.

  • 8
    I like your comment on Military Schools. My son's father (ex husband) wanted to do this but I knew it wasn't what he needed. People seem to think its a fix all....its not. It's also VERY EXPENSIVE and not realistic for all situations. Commented Feb 22, 2016 at 22:54
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    I agree with this in all of it's points. I would add a bit (and will), but +1 for a great answer. Commented Feb 22, 2016 at 23:12
  • My kids are younger and I find myself often concentrating on the stuff I have to 'fix' rather than making my point on those things and then spending the same level of effort on the stuff they like to do with me. That's a very good point though. Finding something mutual can help build mutual respect. I was brought up, and mostly agree with the idea of parents not being friends but being a respected friend at times can carry a lot of weight as kids grow up. If I look back I think that's a lot of why I would listen more to my dad than my mom. He'd say his piece then let it go. Good answer. Commented Feb 24, 2016 at 3:24
  • @MartinFawls Note that I don't say you can't be a friend. You could replace "dad" with "friend" in that part and it still works as a concept. But yeah, if you have to choose between Dad and Friend, only you can be the Dad
    – deworde
    Commented Feb 24, 2016 at 6:53
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    I like your comment on son using Dad as an excuse to avoid peer pressure. I remember a couple of times in my teenage years where I was able to avoid unpleasant or even dangerous situations because "My parents are TOTALLY unreasonable and I don't want to get grounded. Again." With teenagers, you can't listen to what they say. Instead, listen to what they do. Commented Feb 24, 2016 at 17:24
  1. Don't kid yourself that because you had a productive conversation, he agrees with your rules. He's 16 and "very smart and funny", so he knows how to hold a conversation. He is aware of your reasons and can talk to you about them, but they're still your reasons and not his.

  2. Your son will chafe under your rules, again because they're your rules and not his. Given the option he'd behave differently from what you want. You can't raise him to agree with you about everything.

  3. You have to decide for yourself whether insults like "religious nut", "bible thumper", "freak", are worth another round of discipline, or whether you can stand for him to blow off steam to his friends like that. Obviously it's very disrespectful to you personally, but it's not putting him in any risk like taking drugs is. You could choose to leave it and take the bigger win that he's not (regularly) taking drugs any more. Or you could make a stand that this isn't an acceptable way to behave and you need him to apologise and stop it. You could see it as an opportunity to teach him that if you're going to call someone names behind their back, you want to take precautions that they won't hear about it! Anyway, him bad-mouthing you to his friends does not mean you're in over your head, so try not to worry about that. It means your son can be a mouthy so-and-so when he chooses, and that's all.

  4. Falling over into traffic on a snacks run would be a "consequence" of being high and drunk. You monitoring his phone and vetoing his friendships aren't just things that happened to him because of what he did, they are things that you chose to do in response to his choices. And so of course he blames you for the ones he doesn't agree with: you are responsible. Which is fine, you're supposed to be, that's what parenting is.

  5. You've already decided it's better for him to blame you for being too strict, than it is for him to take drugs. That's the decision you've made, and since he's 16 you have the right to make it. So stick with that and accept the "consequences" of your decision ;-)

  6. Most adults can live with the fact that their parents did things they don't agree with, even if they never come to agree with them. Chances are good you'll both get over this, even if right now you feel close to breaking. And you can both look on the bright side, in only 2 years he can be out of the house and then he'll be responsible for this stuff.


I think there is a lot of good information in @Kit's comment and @deworde's excellent answer, but I would like to add some other points to consider.

Am I in over my head here or do I need to just keep the pedal to the metal...

Maybe both, it depends on your son's and your situation.

You don't say how his drug and alcohol use is affecting his day-to-day or his academic life. There's a whole range of severity of drug and alcohol use, from someone smoking pot and occasionally drinking while maintaining good grades and having healthy interests to someone who is failing out of school, breaking the law with wanton disregard, and is not interested in doing much of anything that is not related to drugs and alcohol. Only you can discern, with honest discussion and observation, where he is on this spectrum. The more severe the consequences of his use, the more urgent the response.

Also, if there's a history of alcoholism and/or drug addiction in close relatives, I would be more proactive in my response.

Don't disregard the role therapists can play here, for you and for your son. For you, it might help you to define your roles as a parent, how to deal with the frustrations that inevitably come up with teens who have different values than yours, etc. Speaking to a therapist specializing in adolescence and drug/alcohol (ab)use, you can get much needed support, guidance, and advice on how to interact in a healthy/productive and less stressful manner with your son, and also possibly negotiating a contract with your son. And I would, after a lot of discussion, consider making a contract with your son if his use merits it.

Your son might benefit from seeing a therapist - again, with a specialty - to explore the role of peer-acceptance, what he gets from using, what his problems are at home, etc. A divorce and a mom who shipped him back to dad has to have affected him in a manner which might be beneficial to explore. Kids can learn life skills from therapy. Sooner is better than later.

About military school, many are incorporating therapy for this kind of problem, but if it reached a point of real desperation (you see your son's life literally falling apart and you can't seem to have any positive effect), I would investigate a good wilderness program and a therapeutic boarding school way before a military boarding school. Consider he may have abandonment issues already, though. A professional to help you with this is really important.

There is a lot to work on here. I wish you both the best.

  • 1
    "Also, if there's a history of alcoholism and/or drug addiction in close relatives, I would be more proactive in my response." and on top of this - if it's an issue highlight it with him: "You know uncle Bob? the reason he is X instead of Y is because he did this and lost control. There is a genetic component to addiction which means you're more likely to have the same problem uncle Bob did than some of your friends."
    – Joel
    Commented Feb 24, 2016 at 2:39
  • 1
    I think you're spot on with the divorce affecting the son, and probably the father and father/son relationship. Father/son relationships can need rebuilding periodically in normal circumstances. I can imagine a divorce and all that encompasses, even if amicable, might result in a need to rebuild some areas. At 16 he is still a boy, or at least part of him is, and he still needs some of the same things boys need from their father. Commented Feb 24, 2016 at 3:31

Is it your goal to have the approval of your son or for you to do the right thing? As a teen the two may be hard to align.

Right thing is probably as easy as what others are saying - stick to what you believe and express your concerns. Be the villain if you can. It's your job to love your son the way it seems to be every teenager's job to rebel against their parents, or generally behave this way. Not necessarily rebelling but getting mixed up with the things most kids get mixed up in. Drinking and weed may not be seen in the highest regards but it could be worse. He could be in a gang, thuggin, bustin caps and robbin everyone he sees. Conversely, pretty much everyone I know smoked the mad chronic and drank themselves stupid and so few of them genuinely trashed their lives through it. Not saying it should just be tolerated, but I am suggesting the reaction should be justified and weighted against the possible outcomes. Military school for example... no sir. I have a hard time imagining anyone coming out of that without a grudge against the accusations. In other words, it will likely put distance between you two and he will probably resent you when he gets out, and also return to the routine.

I know everyone wants to support the obvious suggestion to seek professional help. I don't really believe that helps anything from a psychology perspective and I may be trashed for saying so. My suggestion comes from personal history, not with weed or liquor but with unreasonable reactions to what seemed to me to be non-issues or just me being me. I wouldn't get extreme. I wouldn't yell or preach about it. I would do my best to be aware of just what he's up to and make sure he is not doing something outrageous like driving while drunk or high. I suggest you do some research on the benefits of marajuana (no, I don't smoke the stuff) and try to get him interested in the medicinal side of things all inclusively. Attacking it will probably just go in one ear and out the other. But identifying the strong medical difference between medical grade products vs illegal pesticide laden trash might at least get him to raise standards and turn down the stuff that might paint his face with cystic acne. Also, using a vaporizer over every single other form of inhaled THC will slap a lot of the harsh negatives straight off the narcotic profile. Technically weed is still illegal in many ways, so obviously you shouldn't suggest he keep it up or acquire it for him or anything. But understanding that kids will likely do what they will do may be the bridge he needs to see that it may not be doing what he wants it to do, and he may give it up sooner. Same speech for liquor. "In moderation" is used a lot when trying to identify the harm liquor does. Some, like whisky, have a much lower sugar and carb level than a lot of the common ones. I don't haver enough data to strike even a reasonable argument for that, but some prefer pot over liquor and medically it looks like pot has some benefits, where liquor seems to have very little.

I don't know if you're religious or if he's just saying all that. But if you are consider the Amish practice Rumspringa where the kids at 16 can choose to go out into the world and experience the insanity themselves. By knowing what is out there they can see more clearly the intentions of the church and the appeal of that lifestyle. It's the practice I'm trying to emphasize, not necessarily the religious aspect of it. Teenagers are a tough bomb to diffuse. I was, I don't think intervention would have helped. Eventually I just calmed down on my own. Perhaps your son just needs to be allowed to be him. In 5 to 10 years he will know what he doesn't want anymore. Long time, but think about how long it took you to stop thinking like a kid.

And I think surveillance is only going to stress you both out. Curious as you may be, it might be better to just not look at social media or phone logs, etc. You already know what he's up to. Focus on his goals and interests and support him in what he wants out of life. He will figure out what means anything to him soon enough.

  • 1
    Interesting answer. I agree that a more relaxed attitude could help. My mom had control issues (stalker) and displayed similar behavior to the OP. It only made me hate her then and avoid her now (20yrs later). The worst thing is the 'do as I say, not as I do/did'. If my mom had just explained her reasoning, I might have listened more. Turns out, after hearing them now, she had valid life-learned reasons but never passed them on. Try "no, and here's what I learned" not "no, because I said so". I call it "passing down knowledge" v. "controlling your property". Boundaries clear, WISER kid.
    – coblr
    Commented Feb 24, 2016 at 21:21

I have skimmed the other answers and while the nurse's answer is very insightful, (as always, really) I do miss a few points I want to make. With almost everybody else encouraging you to keep pushing your son, I realize I might be the party pooper with these, but that's something I can live with.

From what you write I pieced together the situation as seen by your son as follows: He was having fun with his peers, but you stomped on this. You imposed a set of rules on him which he had to agree to, put him close to your room for easier spying on his routine, are reading his private conversations with others, and try to shy his friends away. You consider him an "inconsiderate little !*&^%$" and are ready to "toss him into military school" to let their drill do what you could not.

Look at this from his POV. Does this sound like a loving parent to you? It certainly doesn't do so to me, and I doubt it does to him. (Do not get me wrong. I am questioning if it looks like you do, not if you do. I am fully prepared to assume you love your son.)

The first thing I'd do in your situation (I know, I almost always say this, but to me this is might well be the most important thing about parenting) is to ask myself Why?

Why is he doing things you disapprove of? Why is he drinking and doing drugs? Why did he pick these friends, and not others?

The next question would be: What are the consequences, short- and long-term? (That's already well-covered by the nurse, though, so I won't go into this question.) Does he understand them, and if so, and if they are dire, why wouldn't he care? If a therapist/counselor (as suggested by her) is worth anything, these are is the questions he will inevitably be trying to get answers for.

From what you wrote, it doesn't seem like you have asked these questions. Yet, the answer to why acts my child like this? is always at the very heart of the answer to how do I change this? In the end, it's mostly us parents who are responsible for what are children are and, thus, why they act the way they do, so it mostly comes down to us to change something


Is it possible that he actually values your discipline, but needs a scapegoat to explain to his friends why he isn't "fun" anymore? Sometimes exaggerating the strictness of a parent is a way for a teen to get out of situations that make him or her nervous.

My cousin (who has a great relationship with his kids) actually made a practice of playacting as a "crazy strict" parent in front of their friends, to give them an excuse to stand up to peer pressure.

It may be hard to tell for sure --asking him directly might be counterproductive --but if you feel good about your relationship with him, I wouldn't worry too much about how he portrays you to his friends.

  • When I was younger, my mother explicitly said that if I needed to, I should make her the "bad guy" to get out of a tricky situation. This seems like a great idea, although I don't remember ever actually needing to use it.
    – user371366
    Commented May 31, 2017 at 0:21

While your son is still basically following your rules, I think you're on the right track, and should stick to your guns. Try not to worry about whether he trash talks you to his loser friends. Their opinions don't matter. Ultimately though, he has to come to the conclusion himself, that the choices he's making aren't doing him any favours.

What's particularly sad about being a pot-head, is that although he may do it now to be social. The ability to be social is exactly what he will lose if it becomes too habitual. Heavy marijuana users often become reclusive, paranoid and completely anti-social.

Yes it can lead to other heavier drugs, but even if it doesn't, all on it's own it can totally mess you up.

Your son needs a wake up call, and he needs to get out of the bad daily routine he's apparently developed, and get far away from the loser friends who help enable his behaviour. I'm not sure military school would be the answer, but what about a holiday (kind of)? Just the two of you. Somewhere to help show him there is more to the world, and more to life than hanging out with small minded pot-heads.

You could take him to India, or Bangladesh, to do some volunteering with a mission. Guaranteed this would absolutely blow his mind, and give him a massively different perception of reality.

At the moment he's living an utterly self-centred life. Doing exactly what he pleases, with no thought to the future, and no consideration for anyone else.

Showing him how others are forced to live, may give him a bit more appreciation for all the opportunities he has in his own life, opportunities he's so busily squandering.


Thank you all for your kind words and support. It feels like you are all alone sometimes when you are parenting. There is no way to know sometimes if you are right in what you are doing. I want my son to have every opportunity to succeed in life. I want him to be happy in the choices that he makes. After reading these responses I do feel that I am on the right track. You only get this one chance at this edge to get them going down the right path to give them the best odds at becoming a happy healthy productive human. One commenter made the point that he is blowing off steam to his friends and/or maintaining his social status in his predicament. I think that is true. I am willing to take the heat now, (to a point with boundaries), knowing that he doesn't actually believe it to be true. To answer one question about the religious freak comment. I am a Christian but do not use religion outright to instruct him. I maintain biblical principals but do not beat him over the head with anything religious. He has actually told me recently that he is an Atheist. Thats just another area of rebellion for him that I choose not to engage. It is just to get a rise out of me. Again, thank you all for your encouragement! I have seen some improvement in the last few weeks and his friends are also warming up to me. It did help when I brought a bunch of pizzas to his school for him and his friends one day. I am also tuned in a lot more to him. We have a night a week that we just hang out and go do stuff. We are connecting more and more on a daily basis and with the help of his principal and others in the community speaking into his life it has mad the difference.

  • Happy to see things are going better, but I would caution against seeing any and all disagreements as rebellion. :)
    – Weckar E.
    Commented Jun 15, 2017 at 12:28

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