This is a hard post to write. As I sit here contemplating what to say to those of you who are at a place where you think it is time to kick your kid out because of behavior issues, I hope you’ll read last week’s blog before this one. My prayer is that if there are any other options that you will take those first before pulling the trigger. Actions can have major fallout for decades to come and while the Now you are in seems overwhelming, the silence down the road can become a heavy burden to carry as well.
A decade ago, I was in a similar situation with one of my kids. The defiance, disrespect, and “you can’t tell me what to do” were stretching my husband and me to a breaking point. We had allowed things to go on for too long and were truly at a point of losing perspective. This teen’s actions were affecting the entire family in a way that I knew was unhealthy. We were at our wits end. What should we put up with and where was the line for letting natural consequences play out?
Regardless of your child’s age, as I know many of you have adult children living under your roof, the principles are the same. Helping them move forward into maturity is the goal while attempting to maintain the relationship.
Thankfully, a wise therapist/psychiatrist helped us discern the best course of action and spent many hours making sure my husband and I were speaking the same language to our teen. He knew that we had to be fully on the same page to move our family forward.
As my husband and I met with the therapist weekly, he coached us through the process of working through our own differing opinions on parenting issues. Meanwhile, he was working with our teen to determine possible scenarios to change behavior. About six months into these separate sessions, I remember his word’s vividly. “You can’t allow this to continue in your home. I have real concerns for your other children. I think it is time to put a plan in place. The choice is hers. She either adheres to your boundary or she chooses to leave.”
Notice I didn’t say we kicked her out.
She chose to leave.
And that is the difference in future potential for the relationship. When we empower our children to “choose” their destiny, we aren’t foisting our desires, feelings, and anger on them. We are drawing a line in the sand and letting them make the choice on which side they want to land.
So what are the steps we took and what makes it their choice?
- Determine what has to change. This doesn’t mean everything that is going wrong. What are the non-negotiable behaviors that are negatively impacting the family?
- Make sure the behaviors that need to change are measurable. You will want to be able to cite instances of both positive and destructive behaviors on a weekly basis, so take good notes.
- Determine the date that the teen will need to move out if things don’t change. Our counselor was insistent that we not stretch things out too long. The date was set with the intent of allowing our teen time to decide whether they were going to follow our rules, find a place to live if they chose to move out, and to make sure they had a plan in place for adequate financial stability. In our situation we allowed 2 1/2 months.
- Write down the plan before meeting with the teen. Writing things down help both parents determine specifics and makes sure that both are on the same page. There needs to be no question about each step along the way and the behaviors that need to change.
- Have the conversation. Remember, once you are here, there is no turning back. You need to make sure you are strong enough to follow through. With our teen the conversation went something like this. “Honey, we love you and we want so much for you to be part of this family. We’ve had a lot of friction about ____, ____, and ____. You are making choices that are impacting our family in a negative way and we can no longer live this way. Your mom/dad and I have decided that you can either change your behavior or choose to move out. Know that whatever you choose, we will always love you. Please understand that this is really difficult for us, but in life there will always be rules and people that have authority over you (like a boss). We hope that you will choose to work on the things we’ve outlined that need to change. (Read the list you’ve compiled and be willing to talk through specifics. If they want to negotiate a point, let the teen know that you and mom/dad will talk about it and get back to them). Please know that if you choose to move out you’ll need to find a place to live and figure out how you are going to survive without our financing. You will be responsible for you. We will be more than willing to help you find affordable housing or teach you about budgeting or anything else you need to make it happen. If you choose to move out, ______ is the date. We would like to sit down with you weekly/every other week, to see where you are at so there is no question as to how we think you are doing regarding the rules we’ll be monitoring. Again, we do love you and hope you’ll do everything in your power to make this work so that you can continue to live here.”
- Continue to stay in relationship. Be kind, loving, and encouraging when/if you see positive behaviors. Remember the goal is to build the relationship and not have them move out if they are still a teen. If you are dealing with an adult child your goal is to pave a way to give them encouragement to leave.
- Be sure to check in regularly during this time. Your goal should be to help them succeed regardless of their decision. Feedback on their behavior is paramount. This is where your note taking and measurable goals will be discussed. And if they choose to leave, a goal should be to let them go without hard feelings.
- If their behavior changes, celebrate. If it doesn’t, remind them that their continued behavior means they are choosing to leave.
- When the day arrives for those who choose to leave, carry their things down the stairs, tell them you love them, hug them, and fall apart after they walk out the door.
So how did it go for us?
Our child chose to leave. And it was one of the most difficult things I have ever endured.
This teen continued to make poor choices; however, we stayed in relationship. Two days after she moved out she showed up and asked her dad to test drive a new car she was planning to purchase. He graciously did and even went with her to sign the papers. We didn’t co-sign the loan, but we were there for her. Several weeks later I called and offered to take her to lunch–no lecture, just a “how are you doing” conversation letting her know that we respected her decision and still loved her dearly.
As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve coached several parents through this same process. It isn’t easy to endure, but I know for me, I was so glad I had an outside perspective as I walked through it.
My prayer is that regardless of what you are dealing with in your difficult situation, that you will not kick your kid out with anger and hard feelings. Sometimes we have to let go and let God do His work in our children’s lives. Our goal is to set the stage for easier forgiveness and restoration.
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.
“Let go…and Let God”,