Need help now?

16 year old son just starting to show signs of going off the rails

16 year old son just starting to show signs of going off the rails

Active scribe

16 year old son just starting to show signs of going off the rails

My 16 year old son is leaving the house if we argue, he doesn't tell me where he is or answer my calls most times. He says he hates his current school although he is on an OP pathway and is passing all subjects except Math, he is also doing a Cert III in fitness. He has been to school 4 days since the last holidays and says he wants to change schools. He is hanging out at another boys house whos mum lets all the boys in their group go there and smoke pot.

I dont know what to do, I have tried putting down ground rules that didnt work - he just left. I have tried begging him to come home and he came home for 1 day then left again. Now he wants to change highschools to go and be where these other kids go to school - I thinks its a bad idea but I want him to stay in school so I am considering it.


Is it better to enrol him at a school he says he will go to than try to battle with him daily to go to a school he doesnt want to be at? 

And if I spend all this money changing schools, is he just going to wag or drop out or fail because he is smoking pot?

I dont know what to do, I dont want to make the wrong decision. I cant sleep at night or concentrate at work because of all the worrying I am doing about him. His Dad just says if hes going to be a little brat and not behave he can piss off, but I dont want it to come to that, my Dad did that to me and I didnt go home.

Super contributor

Re: 16 year old son just starting to show signs of going off the rails

Thank you so much for sharing this @Mumof3boys Such a tough situation.  Although there are definitely parents here who will relate and I'm very keen to see what they have to share.


Based on what you've written, my immediate response is to suggest lots of caution around the move of schools.

I'm sure he will present a picture to you that he will force your hand unless he gets to go but, for me, I think any distance between him and the people he's using drugs with could be more helpful than harmful.


I used to work with young people who were struggling with drug use issues and almost always separating them from the peers that they used drugs with was a huge factor in them stopping or reducing.  It's almost impossible to do when the young person has no other peer groups to fill that void. Imagine having to give up all your friends and the important things that go along with that. It's brutal. So it was often easier for young people who had other connections e.g. a sports team,  an older group of mates that pre-date the drug use, or peers at a different school.

My concern is, by moving to the new school, is he going to reduce his peer group to just these guys? Who may absolutely be wonderful kids, but if they're struggling with drug use too it's going to be very hard for them to all stop together.


Does that make sense? What do you think about that angle? 


Parent Peer Supporter

Re: 16 year old son just starting to show signs of going off the rails

Message contains a hyperlink

Hi @Mumof3boys, welcome to the forum. 


It's such a difficult age of temptation and trying to fit in isn't it. I can understand your concerns about not allowing your son to change schools, but I think I'd be erring towards the side of caution too, as @Ngaio-RO has mentioned. I'd be concerned that if your son was to go to school with these boys that his schooling may suffer even further, as you've mentioned. 


I'm not sure about you, but when I'm struggling with a decision based around my daughter and what the best course of action is, sometimes just having some back up in what I think is the best, can be what it takes to let the stress go and for me to be confident in my decision. ReachOut offers fantastic coaching for parents, that is very practical and offers tips that you can use straight away. It's free and I found it to be very useful with the issues I was facing with my daughter. The link is here if you'd like to check it out. It's free, done online and over the phone and is very flexible. 


I'm sorry I don't have much more to add to @Ngaio-RO thoughts, but I do hope the coaching can be of assistance for you.

Parent Peer Supporter

Re: 16 year old son just starting to show signs of going off the rails

Message contains a hyperlink

Hi @Mumof3boys definitely sounds like a worrisome situation with your son.  No wonder you are having trouble sleeping and concentrating at work.  I tend to agree with @Ngaio-RO and @taokat about being cautious about moving schools.  If your son wants to move schools to be closer with the group of boys who are using drugs, does not sound like an ideal situation.  It would probably make it harder for you to influence him not to take drugs, if he has more exposure to the kids that are using.    


You mentioned that you tried to set some rules that did not work.  What sort of things did you try?  


It is such a challenge at this age.  Kids at this age want to be more independent, however are still very much dependent on their parents.  It is also so important to have consequences if the rules are not followed.


I learnt this the hard way!  My daughter use to run off if she didn’t get her own way, or lie about where she was she could sneak off somewhere else.  I had rules, but I didn’t follow through with any consequences.  It was easier for me to give-in rather than battle with her, which didn’t stop her behaviour as she knew she could get away with it.  I would be in tears and tearing my hair out because she would continually not do what I asked.  I was so mad once, I took everything out of her room I could physically carry… Smiley Frustrated


In the end, what I found worked best was to have a list of rules, and if any of them were broken she knew the consequences ahead of time. This made it easier to implement and it took the emotion away when things got stressful.  I also found it helpful to set rules that in the end she actually agreed were reasonable, such as “mum has the right to know where I am”


Things are a lot better now, but it took a very long time, tears and sleepless nights!


Here is a link to Setting Boundaries that you may find helpful click here


@taokat also has a great suggestion about the Coaching.  They will also help you to put some practical tips into place. 

Parent Community Champion

Re: 16 year old son just starting to show signs of going off the rails

Hi @Mumof3boys I am in a very similar scenario to you with our 14, soon to be 15 your old son. He has broken every rule we have set, reasonable and maybe unreasonable. He has been verbally abusive for months, been expelled, and just yesterday his father found him bunking off from school with some kids, attempting to bong on in an abandoned old house in our street. This kid has had 2 police cautions in the past 5-6 weeks, and just doesn't get it. 

I got home from my work tonight to discover he had locked big sister out of the house as she refuses to drive him anywhere. She has recently got her P plates, and we have asked that she doesn't take passengers for a while on her own until she has had her new car for a few more weeks. So, in retaliation he ripped all the pictures and photos off her bedroom door and locked her out. I asked him quietly to unlock the door and let me in, and was greeted with him videoing me on his phone. He is 'trying to get something' on his parents. 


So so my suggestions to you are, stay as calm as you possibly can. Be firm, fair and friendly- not his BFF- but keep your tone pleasant. I have done this all week, with one moment when I raised my voice at his 2 year old like behaviour. My calm seems to have disarmed him somewhat. Although today I was called fat, lazy, F*ing this that and the other, and had batteries from a remote thrown across the room deliberately aimed at me because I don't have the house wifi code and my husband has restricted his access to son's phone. I am completely over him, but I am utterly resolved to stay firm and quiet.


Doing so meant he did actually unload and stack the dishwasher in return for wifi later.  However, he walked out at 8:00pm to go to a party. I have said if he is not home at 9:00pm, the house will be locked and there will be a sleeping bag outside for him and he can sleep there. He will not have access to the house later as I am not putting up with the abuse and more when he has come in at all hours.


so, sorry for the long comment, but stay firm. Stay calm. Don't expect overnight miracles and him seeing your way or respecting your wishes. Do try to keep him occupied. I am probably failing in that regard at the moment, but I am struggling with my feelings towards my son. My next step is to leave a heap of pot related health info in his room. He seems to think that it is harmless! 

Good luck. Will be thinking of you. 


Parent Community Champion

Re: 16 year old son just starting to show signs of going off the rails

@Mumof3boys I was taking a few quiet moments for myself this morning and picked up the Dymocks bag that has been sitting in my room for a few weeks, so long I had forgotten what I had bought. Inside was an anthology called milk and honey by Rupi Kaur. I'm not hugely into poetry, I enjoy it, I read it for my profession, but I am useless at memorising lines etc. However, flicking through I came across this, and it resonated with me. It reaffirms that in wanting to right things, the choices my son is making, I need to also be able to live with myself. I am struggling with this notion as frankly I am at a point where I prefer my son is not in the house. I am sure the next counselling step will be along the lines of making effort to reconnect, but all I can ask myself is why? Why should I put myself through more pain? Anyway, here is the poem.


        you must

        want to spend

         the rest of your life

         with yourself




Wishing you a safe weekend.

Active scribe

Re: 16 year old son just starting to show signs of going off the rails

Hi @Faob_1 thank you for sharing your situation and experience. I am trying not to escalate anything with my boy at the moment. After advice and cautiins from members we have actually changed schools. When my so mentioned names to the principal of boys he knew the response was not what I expected. Sons behaviour has improved heaps since enrollment. He hasnt actually started yet so we'll take each day as it comes. After setting some rules about going out and curfew times he has surprised me by staying home. So we'll see.

Hope u have some improvement with your son.
Parent Community Champion

Re: 16 year old son just starting to show signs of going off the rails

That's good news @Mumof3boys. Hoping for you that a corner has been turned with your son.
We are not feeling so lucky atm. Son has stayed out all Friday and Saturday nights. Who knows where. We believe he has taken cash from husband's wallet and other cash from home, just silver coins. Tried to get cash from his sister but she didn't have any nor would she have given him any.
He's come home to go play his regular hockey game today, then husband was driving straight to a friend's farm so friend could have a long talk with our son. Friend has lived on the street as a teen & lost family members to addiction and trying to intervene and get his sister clean. He has a life of real experience and just maybe he can get through as Mum & Dad can't.
Still waiting on police to take the action they said they would. We are about to go into ,"you want it, you earn it" mode at home. Aiming for the ability to maintain my calm. Not aiming for much, haha 😂
Parent Peer Supporter

Re: 16 year old son just starting to show signs of going off the rails

Hi @Mumof3boys, thanks for the update. As mum's we ultimately go with our trusted gut feeling and I hope you're feeling much calmer after making the final decision. 


I hope your son's behaviour will continue for you. I got the impression the principal had positive things to say about the other boys which must be a relief for you. Is it possible s/he aren't aware though? 


When does he start at the new school? Let us know how he goes Smiley Happy


Hang in there @Faob_1. It's so incredibly difficult at times to keep calm and follow through with consequences.  Especially at the beginning when things often get worse before they get better after setting boundaries. I wanted to give up a few times, but I'm so glad I didn't. Calm, consistency, consequences and kindness brought us amazing changes. Intermingled with lots of crying and swearing into my pillow! 

Parent Community Champion

Re: 16 year old son just starting to show signs of going off the rails

Well, just maybe, my friends have gotten through to son. son was actually pleasant after school today, ate at the dining table and has even asked to be woken extra early so he can work on a school project. He has agreed to go on an expedition in SA led by psychs and social workers next month, for 2 weeks.


He had a few home truths laid out for him yesterday regarding respect; being a man and what that involves; working for what you have; treating family members with care and respect; drug addiction and violence. And the biggie, not being manipulated by kids who are doing him no favours & are leaving him to bear the brunt of the punishment. Our friend has kept in touch with son through the day today and will take on the role of friend/mentor. 


I am feeling utterly blessed to know these people and for the generous spirits they have. I am also feeling utterly blessed to have the amazing husband I have who responded so firmly when I had reached breaking point. It has been an exhausting 6 months, & i am under no delusions that it is all sorted. Far from it, but maybe, just maybe, we have turned a corner.


Thankyou all here for the support. It has meant, and will continue to mean a great deal as we go through our counselling sessions. 


I actually was able to smile at work today!