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Why I Sent My Out-of-Control Troubled Son To A Therapeutic Boarding School

A Mom's Story: I Was A Desperate Mother Seeking Help For Son Connor

Connor was born on March 12, 2001. He was a very happy little boy from day one. He loved attention and to make people laugh, especially his big brother. As a child, Connor was very helpful, easy to correct and quick to apologize. He was tolerant but when got angry he had a tendency to lash out but then it was over, he would say sorry and move on.

Connor is a very charming boy who was taught how to have manners and treat others with respect. He can be very compassionate and thoughtful and encouraging. As far back as I can remember, it seems he felt his role was to make people around him laugh. Until a few years ago he was always very lighthearted and a joy to be around. His desire to make other people laugh often got in the way of effective schoolwork but he is a very smart young man.

My Son Started Lying When He Was 12 Years Old

At around twelve years old he started lying about everything. We would call him on it, he would admit it then apologize. So for the most part he was very easy to work with and fun to be around. As he became a teenager, age 13-14, a black cloud of selfishness, lying, and anger grew.

Trouble at School and Suspensions

By the end of 8th grade we were getting called into the principal’s office at school every week. He disrespected his teachers. He rode his skateboard in the school hallway and even smoked at school. He got suspended several times. We tried everything but nothing turned him around.

“We tried everything we could think of, counselors, vitamins, oils, etc.” 

We continued to pull Connor in, sit him down and talk to him. We talked about his attitude, his choices and where they were leading him. We tried to encourage him to make better choices. Choose better friends, understand the importance of school work etc. but felt it all fell on deaf ears.

We tried to put him in wrestling which he was very good at but he was defiant. He got bad grades so that he could not play and did not show up for practice.

By the beginning of ninth grade, his attitude had taken over. He was suspended from school within the first few months for bullying!! We, again, got called in many times for his disrespect and non-compliance. He got suspended for leaving school grounds and coming back stoned. We tried talking to him, grounding him, pleading with him.

As Parents, We Needed To Believe We Could Fix Our Son's Problems.

By the spring of ninth grade, he was about to get expelled so my husband, Toby and I decided to homeschool him. Taking him out of school served two purposes. We would avoid having an expulsion in his record and keep him away from his school friends.

When Our Son Went Missing for Forty Hours – I Prayed and Pleaded…

He started hanging out with a girl and lying to us about it so when we grounded him and took his phone he decided to run away. For a whole 40 hours, we had absolutely no idea where he was. We had taken his phone away when we grounded him so there was no way to call him. We frantically searched friends’ houses including the girl’s house he liked. We searched the bridges, the local hangouts and even hangouts far away. No one knew (or would confess) where he was.

We made a Facebook plea for him to come home. We put out flyers in businesses for him to be found. We prayed and prayed that God would keep him safe and bring him home unharmed. We did EVERYTHING we could think of.

Finally, he called us from McDonald’s -tired of hiding and wanting to come home. We brought him home and after everyone gave hugs we drove him to the hospital for a drug test. Truthfully, we hoped they would keep him for a few days. They did not and we had to bring him home.

We were angry, hurt, scared- not sure how long he would stay before he ran away again. So, we decided to send him to Alaska with family for 6 weeks. Our hope was that he would lose interest in his “friends” and this girl that he had been with. But thanks to social media, he continued his relationships. When he returned home, he was angrier than ever.

The next day we had planned to take our family to a church outreach function. We did and Connor went along. When we came home my heart was so burdened and crushed. I began to share with him my broken heart and how I didn’t understand how we have gotten to this place that we were his enemy.

Out-Of-Control Troubled Son -

We started Over, This Time We Signed a "Rules to Live By at Home" Contract with Our Son.

While Connor was in Alaska, we met with a local Teen Challenge counselor. The counselor helped us write a contract to use when he came home. The contract said that if Connor followed certain rules, he could live in our home. If he could not follow those rules, he would have to go to a therapeutic boarding school.

The rules were things like:

  • We must know where you are at all times.
  • You must be honest with us.
  • You must go to church and youth group.
  • You must take part in household chores.
  • You must not take part in anything illegal, immoral or permanent.
  • You must get passing grades, etc.

 

When Connor returned home after six weeks, we sat down, showed him the contract, and explained how serious we were. We had him sign it in front of the counselor. He broke it within the first week. Then he broke it the second week.

Another Chance and More Promises

angry son

Each time he broke the contract, we sat down and explained to him what he did wrong. We discussed how we could not tolerate it and he would beg for another chance. He promised us that he could do better.

Then, the third week I caught him lying to me about where he had been. And, instead of admitting it, he got so mad he began to yell and scream in my face. His behavior was off the charts! As he continued to scream at me, he punched holes in doors, jumped off our banister and ran out the door. That was it; I was ready to send him away the next day! I no longer wanted to be left alone with my own son.

We Constantly were pleading, praying and negotiating with our out of control teenage son!

The next day we had planned to take our family to a church outreach function. We did and Connor went along. When we came home my heart was so burdened and crushed. I began to share with him my broken heart and how I didn’t understand how we have gotten to this place that we were his enemy.
 
He told God he needed help and asked Jesus into his heart to come and help him and take away the pain. He said amen and looked at us with weird eyes. Right away he asked us “Is it weird that I feel different?”

He had a huge smile on his face and once again was filled with joy and love and compassion and laughter. We sat there laughing and crying and thanking God for saving our son. For a few days he was happy… truly happy.

And bad influences…blaming others

During this time, he had a girlfriend, not the heroin addict but one he had dated off and on for the last year. She was always very controlling. But now she was depressed to the point where her family had her hospitalized. 

With one phone call, we would see the joy drain from him and the emotional roller coaster would continue. She had a way of affecting his mood that made nothing else matter. She blamed him for all of her depression and he took the blame regardless of what his dad and I said.

Over the next couple months, we tried to point out that he was in a very unhealthy relationship. And, we showed him examples of healthy relationships. It became a balancing act with Connor’s emotions. We didn’t know what would push his buttons? What would set him off? He was OK as long as we didn’t ask him to do something he didn’t want to do. If we pushed too hard, he would lose it! He would get incredibly angry, scream and punch things-not people…just things.

By early November, he decided to break it off with her. It was hard and she had a lot of mean things to say but it was a choice that he made because he knew it was unhealthy. At least that’s what he said.

We Were Hopeful When He Made New Friends

Each time he broke the contract, we sat down and explained to him what he did wrong. We discussed how we could not tolerate it and he would beg for another chance. He promised us that he could do better.

Then, the third week I caught him lying to me about where he had been. And, instead of admitting it, he got so mad he began to yell and scream in my face. His behavior was off the charts! As he continued to scream at me, he punched holes in doors, jumped off our banister and ran out the door. That was it; I was ready to send him away the next day! I no longer wanted to be left alone with my own son.

Our Son Used Marijuana

Let me take a minute to say that we never approved or overlooked Connor smoking marijuana. We would regularly search his room and check his phone, but he got better and better at hiding it.

He showed us what we wanted to see but did whatever he wanted behind our back. For example shortly, after we sent him to the therapeutic boarding school, we found a tube of Chapstick in his room. Upon examining it closer, we noticed that he had emptied it and turned into a pipe. You would never know unless you opened it to use it for Chapstick.

Our Son Was Out of Control – He Did What He Wanted!

Is your good kid spiraling out of control?Over the next few months, Connor took the car several more times while we were sleeping. When we would address this behavior, he would lash out with rage and anger. Several times his dad would try to hold him down to keep him from hurting himself, even if the punches turned towards him.

Connor was spinning out of control and holding loosely to reality. If he wanted to go do something, he would just leave when we weren’t looking and go do it.

Toby and I left for a week in January on an incentive trip we won to Jamaica. When we came home we found out that Connor had been meeting with this ex-girlfriend. Toby and I both spoke to him separately and together, reminding him how risky this was. We tried to remind him how harmful their relationship had been. Unfortunately, he would pretend to go along with what we said giving us a false sense yet again.

The last straw, REALLY!

Then, one night we woke up at 1 am and he was gone. I sat in his room waiting for him to come back and finally at 5:45 am, he walked in the door. Of course, he lied to us about where he was, and when he left and when we told him we knew he was lying, he told us the truth. That he was at her house in her bed all night!!

This was the last straw. The writing was on the wall. We were no longer helping our son! We were only enabling him to continue to lie and make decisions that were harmful to him and others. We believe Connor truly had a desire to do what we were asking him to do. But the desire to do what he wanted to do was far greater.

Mary Warren: Options, Guidance and Boarding School Placement

That’s when we called Mary Warren and began the process of enrollment into therapeutic boarding school . Ten days later Charles and Noah- the transition team- showed up at our door. They took Connor from our home and delivered him to WCA, a boarding school for boys in Montana.

Let me just take a moment to say that for us, the transition team made all the difference in the world. We felt we either had two choices. We could trick Connor into thinking we were going on vacation, pull up at the WCA campus, push him out of the car and drive off or hire a transition team.

Transporting Him to Therapeutic Boarding School: The Transition Team

Transportation to Therapeutic Boarding School

We felt that Connor would surely run away the moment he suspected it was no vacation. We thought the experience of dropping him off and fighting with him would be traumatic for us all. A transition team specializes in transporting troubled teens to boarding schools. For us, hiring a transition team made all the difference in the world.

Saying goodbye to your angry, frothing teenager that you know for sure will never speak to you again is not easy. It is a traumatic day! While you know what you are doing is for their own good, it feels completely opposite to them.

Charles from the transition team was so very professional with us on the phone. He described every detail of what the transition day would look like and what to expect at every hour. When he showed up at our door, it went exactly how he had planned. They were so good at giving directions, then talking to Connor to get him talking about himself, so he didn’t feel threatened. I was sure he would throw a fit or try to jump out his window and runoff. But he didn’t.

Charles and Noah handled the situation with such expertise. Within five minutes of them entering Connor’s room, he calmly walked out of the house and got into their car. They spoke to him in the car for five to ten more minutes. Then Charles came back into our house, gave us his jewelry, wallet, and such and they drove away. He would call every hour or two to update us on Connor’s status.

They kept him calm and bragging about himself. They took him to the airport, got him on a plane, then rented a car and drove three more hours to the therapeutic boarding school. During this last three hours stretch they prepared Connor for what life at WCA would be like. They told him the quickest way to go home was to follow all the rules as soon as possible. They told him about other boys who fought the system and ended up extending their stay by six months or more.

With the Help of the Transition Team, Connor Arrived at the Therapeutic Boarding School

Charles and Noah prepped Connor so well. From the moment, he stepped foot in the door of the therapeutic boarding school he was polite and conforming. Don’t get me wrong- he was NOT happy to be there but he figured he could fake it long enough to get to come home. Oh boy, was he wrong!!

The school is set up in a way that encourages boys to be sincere and honest with themselves. Those who do not find it difficult to “move up in the ranks.”

We wrote Connor an “intake letter”, where we told him we looked forward to him graduating the program. The “intake letter” was the first letter we wrote him. We never gave him any timeline for coming home other than when he finished the program.

What to Expect During the first 6-8 Weeks at Therapeutic Boarding School

Four weeks into his stay at the residential treatment center, he had his sixteenth birthday!! You always think about your kid’s sweet sixteen. I never even imagined he would be in a place where I couldn’t even speak to him, let alone celebrate his birthday. But, he was safe and that was more important.

It turns out they let him call home on his birthday. He cried the whole time, telling us how sorry he was and how he knew he needed to be there and even told us he wasn’t mad!!! And there it was- the first glimmer of hope!!!

Our first visit to see our son in his new therapeutic boarding school

Four weeks later we headed up for our first Parents Weekend. It had been eight weeks since we had seen our son. The last time we saw him he had long hair, sagging pants and enough attitude for a whole herd of teenagers!

We pulled into the parking lot and we saw this young man with a buzz cut, pants that fit, and a ginormous smile on his face running towards us. We met- his dad, him and I with a huge embrace and held it for quite a while.

We were all crying- so relieved to see each other again. As we spent the weekend together, he told us how he realized it was such a waste to be angry all the time. And that there were too many things to be thankful for.

Feeling hopeful during group sessions

In the group sessions, he shared what he thought the root of his anger was and we had the opportunity to make amends. He told us he liked being there. He liked the animals and the structure and that the people were nice. Firm but nice. He said it really helped that everything was set and structured and the only variable is you. It caused him to look at himself and ask himself why he was there.

We left that weekend with our hearts full- knowing that we had made the right choice in sending him. We finally had a glimpse of the young man we always knew our son could be.

The Reason Therapeutic Boarding Schools Work

To us the residential boarding school program offered a retreat for him. It is a place:

  • without distractions, without cell phones, Internet, video games, cigarettes, Marijuana and girlfriends.
  • where he had the ability to step outside of his life and the ability to look at it and finally evaluate what he wanted.
  • A place where he could examine which choices got him there and which choices would lead to harm.
  • It was safe enough to finally be able to go to those wounded areas of his past and heal them.
  • To apply what he was raised to believe: faith, love, respect, leadership, honor and integrity.

 

Six months into therapeutic boarding school: A Progress Report

Now seven months later, it has been all that and more! Connor is still in the residential therapeutic program and is almost a level three. He has been working the twelve-step program and is on step five. He is proud that he has been sober for seven months. And, wants to continue the Twelve Step Program when he returns home. He has fallen in love with reading. He never has been a reader. I am also thrilled to say that he has fallen in love with Jesus and his word.

Here is an excerpt from his most recent letter:

“Recently I have been really growing in my relationship with the Lord. I have read Revelation, John, Matthew, 1st John and I’m starting on Psalms now.

I am constantly in prayer for everything through the day that I feel compassion to those whom I am frustrated with also that he watches over all of you. Also, I am constantly asking God if he wants me to change something for his glory.

One thing I felt he wanted me to do a stop lying to the people here and everywhere really. I realize that God didn’t want me to be a liar and it wasn’t worth being liked to break God’s law. So I called a meeting with everyone here and told him I have been lying. Right away I felt so much better like the weight has been lifted off my chest.

Another thing I am very proud of is I felt like God didn’t want me to use foul language anymore so with his help I have stopped and right now it’s been four days since I’ve sworn. Both of these I feel have been a huge step forward for me and I’m really happy because of it. God has sent so many blessings my way recently and even while I was home I just couldn’t see them till now. I have been so happy lately I feel like nothing can drag me down. God has really taken over my life and I am happier than ever.”

 

It takes time… but I am confident…

We still have a long way to go to bring him home and reintegrate him into real life, with all its distractions and temptations. But, I am confident that now he has the tools he needs to make the changes and get the help that he needs to continue this course that has been set before him.

We will be forever grateful for all the RTC has done for my son and for so many others.

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