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Thread: Child or parent: Who has the behavior problem?

  1. Child or parent: Who has the behavior problem?

    For over 30 years I specialized in behavior challenged teens in group home settings, school, outpatient clinics, etc. Many times there was one common thread. If the teen was angry, so was the parent. If the teen had a substance abuse, so did the parent. If the teen had a record with the law, so did the parent, with many of them having done time in jail. And the list goes on.

    It was always and still is a real confusing situation. My mandate was to work with the teen but, in my heart, I knew if mom and dad could get better, there wouldn't be that problem with the teen.

    Of course, there are disorders where even with perfect parents, the teen would have had serious problems, but a high majority of my behavior challenged teens had behavior challenged parents. I'd like to hear others' experiences with this one.

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  3. Child or parent: Who has the behavior problem?

    I agree, to a point.

    I also do a lot of work with teens and their parents. I would say that it it is sometimes a problem with one or both parents that is reflected in the behavior of the teen - e.g., the teen has an anger problem in part because dad has an anger problem, the difference being that the teen is expected to "respect" his dad anyway even when he is being unreasonable or irrational.

    More often, though, it's not so much a behavior problem in the parent(s) as it is a problem in how the parents interpret and react to the teen's behavior. Anger in teens is an emotion that masks a lot of other things, including depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem or self-confidence. I try to help parents to look behind the anger and deal with what is really there: for example, asking the question, "If you could see that your teenage child was sad and depressed instead of angry, would you still feel angry and would you still want to punish him or her for feeling that way?".

    Even if the teen is simply angry, getting angry back rarely helps to decelerate a conflict... the example that often comes to mind is spanking a child for hitting someone, all the while saying, "it is wrong to hit your brother".

  4. Child or parent: Who has the behavior problem?

    e.g., the teen has an anger problem in part because dad has an anger problem, the difference being that the teen is expected to "respect" his dad anyway even when he is being unreasonable or irrational
    Isn't that the truth! Anger is not something that you can expect your child, partner or others to turn off and on like a tap. Many times parents expect their children "not to get mad". I use the example over and over again, "can you tell your child not to get hungry?" It is not the anger that causes the problems, it is what you do with the anger - and often anger demands some sort of physical activity. A good walk, a punching bag (some differ), a trampoline, loud music sometimes does it... but don't just say, "don't be mad".

    Children mirror their peers and so if Dad is aggressive when angry, it gives the message that it is ok - that's how you should express yourself when angry.

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