My 13-Year Old Son Has Had Two Run-Ins With Police, But I Refuse To Let That Define Him.

It’s easy to let our children’s bad choices, extreme behavior, or special needs defeat us and make us want to give up. But something deep inside of me refuses to let his choices define his future!

Sad embrace - father and son

The other day Kristin sent me a text that nearly took my breath away. “About to call the police department back over the incident at camp this summer.” The incident happened between my 13-year-old son and another boy enrolled in sports camp with him. The fellow camper said something to my son, made a face, and muttered something else under his breath, and in turn, my son lost his cool, charged after the boy, punched him in the head, and subsequently threw him to the turf in the indoor soccer arena.

5 Lessons I’ve Learned From Parenting A Child With FASD.

Ten years ago our oldest son was diagnosed with Alcohol-Related-Nuerodevelopmental-Disorder (ARND), very similar to Fetal-Alcohol-Spectrum-Disorder (FASD), and our lives have been a rollercoaster ride ever since. Recently, however, we’ve begun learning new lessons about him, ourselves, and what we need to do differently.


Defeating. That’s the word that comes to mind when I recount the past decade of parenting our son. He is on the fetal-alcohol spectrum. His brain suffered irreversible damage when he was in his birth mother’s womb. The result has been violence, aggression, impulsion, even run-ins with police, the older he becomes.

The Warning Signs Of Teen Dating Violence [Part 2].

On Monday, Allison Schultz, who works as a therapist for a domestic violence agency in the state of Oregon, began an excellent post on teen dating violence. You can read part 1 here.

I’m extremely excited to post part 2 today. As I stated on Monday, I believe every parent should read this content and be aware of these warning signs. While we hope and pray violence (especially with our children) never shows up on our doorstep, it’s important to be educated and aware. Take some time to share this with other parents you know, especially those with pre-teens or teenagers!

Violence victim

Photo courtesy of

Author’s Note: I recognize that both males and females can perpetrate abuse and both males and females can be victims/survivors of abuse. What we know about intimate partner violence is that in most cases a male is perpetrating abuse against a female.  For the sake of avoiding a mouthful of pronouns, I’m going to use “he” when referring to an abuser and “she” when referring to a survivor.

According to recent statistics from, nearly 1.5 million high school students nationwide experience physical abuse from a dating partner in a single year. As shocking as that statistic is, one in three adolescents in the U.S. is a victim of physical, sexual, emotional or verbal abuse from a dating partner, a figure that far exceeds rates of other types of youth violence. This is a serious epidemic across our country.

In part 1 we focused on physical, emotional and sexual abuse and the warning signs to be aware of. In this post, we will conclude with financial, spiritual and social abuse.

Financial abuse is often related to part time jobs for teens. He might keep her up all night on the phone so she’s tired the next day at work. He might harass her at work by showing up uninvited or continually calling her while she’s working. This often prevents her from getting or keeping a job. Watch for the following warning signs of financial abuse:

  • She gets in trouble a lot at work or is fired.
  • Her reasons for this don’t make sense or seem odd.

Spiritual abuse can be anything from putting down her faith to forcing his faith on her.  The following are warning signs of spiritual abuse:

  • She stops going to her normal activities at church or place of worship.
  • Her belief system changes dramatically and suddenly. 

The last type of abuse is social abuse. This is particularly powerful with teens because of how central peers are in their lives.  He might insist that she spend all of her time with him, giving excuses that she got to see her friend in class or she always fights with her family anyway.  His goal is to isolate her and break down her support system.  Abusers do this in a manipulative way.  He might continually suggest that Joe in Debate Club is flirting with her and eventually insist that she drop out of Debate Club to prove that she’s not cheating on him.  This extreme jealousy may surface around technology too (i.e. who writes on her Facebook wall).  He may ask for her passwords to social networking sites.  Additionally, he might threaten her with rumors, saying if she doesn’t do X, Y, and Z he’ll tell everyone at school that she had sex with him or if she breaks up with him, he’ll text that explicit photo of her to the whole football team.  The following are warning signs of social abuse:

  • She loses interest in activities that she used to enjoy.
  • She doesn’t spend time with her friends anymore or is losing friends.
  • She drops out of sports or activities. 

It’s important to remember that this list [including part 1] isn’t exhaustive. You know the teens in your lives well. If you see drastic changes in their mood, grades, or any part of their life, ask questions. Approach her with your concerns respectfully; don’t talk down to her. Affirm and validate her feelings. Remember that teens shut down when adults correct them. Support their desire for independence and remind them how wonderful and loved they are and that they deserve a healthy relationship. Listen to them, believe them, and tell them that no one deserves to be abused. Also, you’re not alone. In addition to your own support systems, there are a lot of resources out there that can help. Here are just a few:

The National Domestic Violence Hotline — 1-800-799-SAFE

Question: What other resources have you come across that can help in this area? Or, what questions would you like to pose? Take some time to comment and join the conversation.