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‘My 15-year-old son hit me. Am I bad parent?’: Let’s talk about teenage violence

In Part 2 of our series, #LetsTalkAboutTeenageViolence, torn between maternal love and violence, a mother dreads she might end up as a newspaper headline that screams ‘Mother killed by son’.

india Updated: Mar 20, 2018 18:26 IST
Teen violence,Juvenile crime,Let's Talk About Teenage Violence
(Illustration: Malay Karmakar)

I do not want to become another newspaper headline that screams ‘Mother killed by son.’ I do not want to see my husband kill himself. I am desperately trying to save my son from turning into a hardened criminal.

For the last 18 months, my husband and I have been suffering at the hands of our 15-year-old boy, who abuses us physically and mentally each time we refuse to give in to his unreasonable demands.

Which mother would like to call the police to report her own son? I was forced to call the police on multiple occasions. In January, a mere refusal by us to buy him a new smart phone led him to smash his old mobile on my forehead.

He then rained blows on my face with both fists.

Part 1 | Let’s talk about teenage violence: ‘I am a 15-year-old accused of murder’

I narrowly escaped turning blind in one eye and needed several stitches on my forehead. I always saw my son as an innocent boy, but there was not a hint of regret or guilt in his eyes. He abused us in front of the police team.

Our son turned 15 in December. He drinks alcohol regularly and takes our car out for joyrides. He has crossed various lines. He has procured a fake government identity proof and wants to build a future using fake mark sheets.

I am afraid that my teenage son’s violent behaviour may soon lead to serious offences. His behaviour has shattered the false notion I nurtured that juvenile criminals belong only to the poorer classes of society. He studies in one of the best schools in Delhi and lives with us in a tony South Delhi address.

Our son is an only child. I love him dearly but I must confess that I have thought about having him arrested and not bailing him out.

I am a desperate mother who is not sure of how to deal with her teenage son’s violence.

Our son was not always like this. Two years ago, he was a cycling enthusiast who also excelled in football and basketball at school. He did well in academics at the prestigious school.

Today, his bicycle gathers dust in one corner of our duplex home. He has replaced his cricket and football teammates with a bunch of older boys who give him company in illegal joyrides and drinking sessions. He has not studied a word in several months and hardly attends school any more.

Should we move our son to a hostel? Will that help discipline him? Questions keep popping into my head; the answers to which are always elusive. He found out about the hostel plan and threatened to harm us. At home, he uses violence as a way of getting what he wants. Other members of the extended family shield their children from our son, now seen as a bad influence.

We are a well-to-do business family. We have struggled and worked hard to live the comfortable life we lead. In a city where nuclear families are the norm, we live in a joint family along with my husband’s parents and his brother’s family.

Our son is our flesh and blood. Did we contribute to what he is today? We brought him up with great love and gave him all he wanted. Maybe we are guilty of not drawing any lines; of not striking the right balance, of not teaching him the value of money.

How do children suddenly turn on their parents? The problems with our son began to manifest themselves in mid-2016. Till then, he was a good student but in class eight, his marks started dropping from the 90s to the 50s. I checked and found that he had not been attending school regularly. He had also left the cycling club he had enrolled in and had begun drinking.

At home, he doesn’t take no for an answer. One violent tantrum gives way to another. He has started smashing the crockery and breaking mobile phones. Had he fallen into the wrong company, we asked ourselves, and moved him to another school.

Our son has turned more aggressive. He is still years away from getting a valid driving license, but our Honda City car has become his. He drinks and drives. My husband can smell alcohol in the car.

I am worried that he will soon be in an accident that could hurt him and others. I live in constant fear of my husband being booked for letting a minor drive. In November last year, he crashed into another car. We managed to get away by paying off the other driver and spending Rs 2.25 lakh to repair our car. I know it is only a matter of time before he crashes into another vehicle.

When we confront him, or try to deter him from driving, he doesn’t think twice before beating us up. Left with little choice, I arranged a driver for him. The two have now become a team and our son won’t let us change the driver.

We pay Rs 500 every day for petrol expenses. In addition, our son takes between Rs 40,000 and 50,000 as monthly pocket money that is spent in pubs with friends.

At night, he uses a spare key to sneak out of the house to go meet his friends. I don’t know what he is up to. May be I should hire a private detective. I am emotionally drained. Our son uses us as an ATM and the house as a hotel.

He refers to his father as ‘yaar’. My husband is a mild-mannered and kind man and our son exploits that. I try to put up a brave front and counter him but am afraid of his thrashings. My husband has even contemplated suicide.

We have knocked on several doors to try and help our son.

Senior police officers have given us a patient hearing and have instructed the local police to counsel him. Our son refused to visit the police station, compelling the officers to visit our home instead. He sweet talks the officers into believing he is a victim of high expectations from us.

We have taken our son to counsellors and psychologists in the city but that hasn’t helped either. Last November, we convinced him to get admitted into the psychiatric department of a top private hospital for 10 days. Within two days, our son was back to his violent ways.

His teachers appear happy he doesn’t attend school regularly because they feel they have less trouble to deal with. The teachers are afraid of complaining about him. He has been involved in violence at school where he has beaten up other students and got beaten himself.

I am constantly haunted by the question: have I been a bad parent?. I don’t know the road ahead. Should we be blamed if someday he is caught for a crime? I am helpless and scared of ending up as a newspaper headline.

(As told to Shiv Sunny)

This is the second of a five-part series, Let’s Talk About Teenage Violence. To join the conversation, tweet or post using #LetsTalkAboutTeenageViolence.

First Published: Mar 20, 2018 07:48 IST