Promoting Empathy With Your Teen

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Three Strategies for Dealing With Your Defiant Teen

What to do with a teen who habitually runs away from home.

Over the weekend, I came across the story of a fourteen year old Black teen who was shot in the face by a thirty-three year old White man. The kid is currently in critical condition with his family members reporting that he can only move the right side of his body, while doctors are predicting permanent brain damage.

The incident occurred around two am on Friday morning and the story is still vague. However it is being reported that the man believed the teen was trying to break into his home, after he found him in his front yard. Clearly, there are racial implications with the story, but my thoughts and feelings about that has been reserved for a different blog, where I will write a post about this story in the coming days.

On this blog, I would like to address the issues of defiant teenagers, because I have witnessed these types of stories in my profession before. I think it's sad that the kid's brother described him as a professional thief, due to past charges for stealing. A professional thief at fourteen years of age?I have worked with parents in this position, where they have an adolescent who is habitually defiant as evidenced by trouble making in the home and community coupled with the  occasional runaway from home.

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Parents in this situation are usually divided into two groups, those who have access to resources due to monetary wealth, and those who do not. Parents with adequate to surplus access to resources typically will place their son or daughter in a residential therapeutic program. While parents who don't have access to resources, experience a profound sense of helplessness with a teen spiraling out of control. If you are parent of a defiant teen and you don't have the money to place your teen in a therapeutic residential program, these three strategies will go a long way towards helping to restore some type of order in your family. 

Get a Family Therapist 

It's not uncommon for parents of defiant teens to drop their teens off for a scheduled appointment with a therapist and expect that their parenting styles wouldn't be evaluated. In a family unit where the teen presents with an issue, it's the entire family dynamic that needs to be addressed in addition to the teen with the presenting issues. It's important for parents to seek a family therapist, who is willing to look at the family dynamic as a whole,  while they adopt an open minded approach into doing things differently. 

Practice the Change You Preach 

If you want your teen to show more respect, then you have to practice the same thing. If you want your teen to better manage his or her temper, then you have role model proper anger management. If you want your teen to keep his room clean, no matter how much worse his room is compared to yours. You get the idea. This is where your family therapist can come in to help you and your spouse or co parent, role model healthier habits you want your children and teens to adopt. 

Use Government Services To Your Advantage

Rather than wait for the police to knock on your door, and get embroiled with legal services you can barely afford to pay, take a pro active approach. Find an attorney, who can help you petition for public assistance to either fund your teens therapies or placement in a reputable residential therapeutic program. The more aggressive you are about this approach, the more likely you are to get a court order with some scholarship assistance, to help assist you in placing your teen. I have worked with parents who had their teens placed on probation, which gave them significant leverage in getting their teens to corporate with their rules. This is a last ditch effort, but if you have a teen who habitually runs away from home, it's safe to assume that while outside of the home his or her well being could be in serious risk. 

All appropaite thoughts and feelings regarding this post are welcome in the comments section. Any Inappropaite comments will be promply deleted.

Ugo is a psychotherapist and owner of Road 2 Resolutions PLLC, a professional counseling practice based in Tucson AZ. 

Ugo Uche is a Licensed Professional Counselor who specializes in adolescents and young adults.

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