Questions in the Parenting Forum are being answered by doctors from MindWorks. Topics include: Behavioral Issues - Discipline, Emotional Development, Family Issues, Recreation, School Issues, Social Development
Not really sure what category this should be under. My 13 year old is smoking. I believe that he has been for a while. He told me that he had stopped because i had taken away some privelages, but last night i smelled smoke when i kissed him goodnight. I then smelled his fingers and he was definatley smoking. No question about it. What do i do? How do you discipline a 13 year old. I am a nurse and he knows the long term as well as short term effects. I understand all the stuff about being "cool" at this age. I did the same thing. I just thought that because i dont smoke and he knows the effects that he would not want to do it. Boy was i wrong.
I agree with you that this is something to take very seriously. The research on teen smoking indicates that they may become addicted faster than adults and can become habitual smokers very quickly. Even a few cigarettes can be enough to trigger cravings, and some researchers have determined that 100 cigarettes is the indication of crossing the line to becoming a smoker.
Aside from the worries about the smoking itself is what this behavior means. Smoking at this age is an anti-social behavior, a direct violation of adult authority and the law. Your son is engaging in illegal behavior and is probably consorting with someone else who is willing to also break the law to provide him with cigarettes (or else shoplifting, also serious). Most young people who abuse substances begin when they are in middle school, experimenting with stealing from a parents liquor cabinet or pilfering cigarettes. Now it is also common for young people to take their parents prescription medications. As you know your son is abusing nicotine, I would be very concerned about what else he and his friends are doing.
Your son needs to hear that his behavior is absolutely not to be tolerated. Young teens often try to break the rules just to see what your reaction will be, so you want to make sure to do this right. If you punish to harshly, then you run the risk of generating anger that will lead to increased rebellion against you. If you react weakly he will assume you do not care, and will not worry much about defying you again.
I would seek the help of a psychologist or counselor who specializes in adolescents. The first step will be to work with the clinician to develop a behavioral contract with your son that makes expectations clear and lists rewards and consequences for behavior. I would also work with the psychologist to determine how closely to supervise your son. Your son will need help quitting, and you may need a separate therapist to assist him in that battle. Fortunately your insurance should cover substance abuse treatment. You may also wish to work with the school, as they may have services to help you as well. It may also be wise to ask his friend's parents about their own children's substance use, and see if any of them are 'looking the other way' or even supplying the kids with cigarettes.
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