My son turned 13 a few months ago and his behavior is spiraling out of control. Like a lot of parents of teenagers, I am at my wits end and don’t know what else to do.
Last month during a visit with his dad, my son and a neighbor boy broke the windows of someone’s house which he claims he thought was abandoned. The homeowners did not press charges, but asked that he come back and help clean their yard that next weekend. If they would have pressed charges, my 13-year-old son could have been handcuffed and taken to the Department of Juvenile Justice.
And it doesn’t end there…
He is extremely disrespectful to me and his teachers, and sometimes refuses to do his school work. Yes, there are times he is the most well mannered young man, does his chores, is the best big brother to his sisters, and is still sometimes sweet to his mama … but he, like some other teenagers, is in need of a major wake up call.
Taking Drastic Measures
I contacted my friend Denise who founded Reconnecting Villages. This nonprofit organization offers support, guidance, and coping mechanisms to parents and guardians dealing with behavioral issues in their teen. Meetings are facilitated by volunteers who are committed to providing a nonjudgmental, confidential and safe environment. They also connect parents with a direct contact to a mentoring or counseling organization to help get their child back on track.
Denise came over to my house and talked to my son. She recommended I look into sending him to the JUMP Start Program (Juveniles Under Motivated Pressure) facilitated by the Richland County Sheriff’s Department.
I contacted Cpl. Parks with the Richland County Sheriff’s Department and he emailed me some forms to fill out and gave me the date of the next JUMP program which was several weeks away. During those weeks I went through a lot of emotions.
“Of course my kid needed a wake up call – BUT HE WASN’T THAT BAD.”
“If he wasn’t influenced by that other boy, he never would have broken those windows.”
These thoughts crossed my mind but you know what … my kid IS that bad. My kid WAS at fault. Moms! We have to stop making excuses for our kids. Sometimes we have to come out of our comfort zone so our children can receive the help they so desperately need.
What the JUMP Start (aka “Scared Straight”) Program is REALLY Like
I shed many tears, and even more after I dropped him off at the sheriff’s department. No one wants their kid – their precious baby – to have to go through these types of “Scared Straight” programs, but some teens need a wake up call. I would rather put my son in a program like this now than him end up behind bars some day or worse.
MY son had to be at the sheriff’s department at 3 p.m. on a Friday. Needless to say, it was hectic trying to find care for my other four kids. I ended up taking my 5 week old with me. I didn’t know this at the time but the class is several hours long so you need to have childcare for your other children. I sat for three hours in a metal chair with a newborn. It was miserable but I learned a lot and am grateful for the class taught by Captain Harris. If you care about your child and want to help, you will do whatever it takes.
My son said they gave him a bologna sandwich for dinner and water throughout the night. From the details he shared with me about his experience, it reminded me of when I was at basic training at Ft. Jackson. My son said he didn’t want to go through that again.
Richland County offers the program once a month so I told him if his behavior doesn’t continue to improve then he will go back. They also follow-up with the families who participate and conduct a mediation several weeks after your teenager completes the overnight program to see how things are going.
If you think this might be a good program for your teen, I encourage you to look into it. The JUMP program is for youth ages 11 – 17. If you live in Richland County the fee is $10 and if you live outside of the county the fee is $20.
What Life is Like Today
It’s been two weeks since my son attended the overnight portion of the program and I can definitely see a change. There are moments I have to correct him and remind him that I am the parent, but I do see a positive change.
Last week a neighbor came over and asked him if he could go outside to play basketball and my son said, “Not today. I have a social studies project due.” I was so proud of him in that moment. I couldn’t believe he actually said that. He has also been much better about doing his chores.
Change isn’t going to happen overnight but we are both working on ourselves. It is our job as parents to create a culture in our home that promotes responsibility and accountability for actions.