Unique, just like everyone else

Dear Rhonda and Dr. Cheri,

Our son went into high school and suddenly he is hanging out with kids who do drugs and drink. He said he doesn’t.

He dresses in wild ways. Like shredded jeans, which I threw away.

He came home with green hair one day.

His father and I had a conversation with him about his new friends and the way they have made him change. We also brought up his rather disappointing report card.

He got angry at us and said we don’t appreciate his “uniqueness.” His dad told him he wasn’t unique, he was just like everyone else he’s been hanging around with. He glared at his dad and flipped his hands through his greasy green hair. His dad said, “What’s unique about having bad grades?”

Our son said we don’t know how special he is and said he was treated badly by most of his teachers too, just because he’s different.

How do we make him change back to the way he was? He was actually unique in having eclectic interests, such as art and science. He won awards in science fairs. He was a Boy Scout and he also played in a garage band. What happened?

Signed,

Confused parents

Dear Confused,

Many teens, including your son, may feel powerful and less vulnerable when they use uniqueness as a cop-out. Your son may feel he can avoid consequences by declaring he’s so unique that he (unlike his new friends) can resist using drugs or alcohol.

However, fashion is different than drugs. Resist throwing away his clothing. Show him you are reasonable.

Experience shows that sooner, rather than later, he will likely feel he is so unique that he can do drugs and drink alcohol and not experience the bad consequences that will inevitably follow.

The reality of his choices will lead to the same results as his friends’, such as bad grades and getting into trouble with authority.

He, unfortunately, chose a common reaction — victimhood. He’s claiming social injustice because he is so unique that you and the whole world can’t understand him. That’s his justification for not taking responsibility for not studying or following directives.

Decide not to engage in arguments over his perceived uniqueness. He will figure out that victimhood doesn’t work as he matures.

Give him boundaries like the following:

• He will be well groomed every day

• He will do given assignments at school

• He’s responsible for asking you if he may go places, and where he’ll be

• Help him develop his real, unique talents which will express his individuality

Finally, no one “makes” anyone change — everyone has choices.

Signed,

Rhonda and Dr. Cheri