Question: My 15-year old stepson purposely causes trouble when he comes to visit. He has colored hair and chains around his neck connected by small locks. He smokes, and speaks in a stream of four-letter words. He says he hates God and reads about witchcraft. He is rude and shows no respect for others. He will not help or clean up after himself, and yet his mother defends him. Any suggestions for me?
Answer: Children are no more than sponges in their early days of personality formation, and by the time they begin asserting themselves, these impressions they have come to incorporate in themselves (and express) are on their way to becoming hardened habits. The only hope such a child has — who may be aggressive and cruel, showing no consideration for others and beginning to exhibit dangerous anti-social behaviors — is for an adult to lay down some laws of rightness and respect. Without these guiding principles — established out of love but maintained with toughness — the child is little more than an animal with a human body who will, one day, harm himself and others in a fit of some sort. Each of us must weigh what we will and won’t do in the face of truth. I can’t tell you what to do with such a child, but I will tell you that if I had attempted to make kind and necessary corrections to this child and he or she would not obey, I would never let such a child in my house.