violent teens

Handling Aggressive or Violent Teens

violent teensParenting a teenager is a whole new life experience. Particularly for parents who face aggressive or violent teens when they are disappointed or challenged. If you are one of these parents, believe me, you are not alone. There are many mums and dads struggling, faced with the same behaviours in their teens. It’s an issue that affects families from all walks of life and economic backgrounds. Coming to know these truths prompted me to write this blog. The following paragraph from this article in the SMH explains so perfectly what often happens:

“The first act of violence, parents are so shocked and taken aback they don’t know how to respond,” Ms Howard said. “It escalates to the point where parents are too intimidated and scared to stop the behaviour.”

violent teensThe article says that psychologists and researchers have found this behaviour linked to a sense of entitlement and ‘cotton wool parenting’. While I don’t disagree with that, many other factors can play a role as well. For many, mental health issues and the inability to cope with thoughts and emotions are the cause. I’m writing from the latter angle.

In our case, my daughter, Jessie, went from being a confident, happy kid, to being volatile and unpredictable. Her friendships were becoming fractured. Her tolerance for disappointment or discipline was no longer existent. It was extremely shocking and confronting! I couldn’t understand why my violent teenparenting methods were no longer working. Neither did I understand why her reactions were so intense. I was living on eggshells, afraid to parent and at a loss. Jessie was ruling the roost with anger and violence. (No pun intended!) Things needed to change because it wasn’t any way to live for either of us. With support and learning though, homelife is way more peaceful and connected these days.

As a loving and responsible parent, safety for everyone must be paramount. Our boundaries around safety in the home need to be made clear to our teens. Consequences also need to be made clear, and we must be consistent in upholding them. Physical violence and destruction of property need a no tolerance attitude. Police should be called if your teen is acting out in a way that poses a serious risk to themselves or others. As harsh as that may sound, the fact is that violence and physical abuse isn’t acceptable behaviour, or appropriate coping mechanisms. Those are rules of life. Better our kids learn that before adult consequences come into play.

While we are standing firm on the no violence rule, we need to give another outlet. My daughter punched her pillows and screamed into them. If you’ve got violent teenspace, hang up a punching bag that your teen can take their rage out on.

As parents we can do a lot to help as well. By modelling the behaviour we want to see, we show them how it’s done, as well as demonstrating that we are strong and capable of dealing with whatever they bring our way. Teens feel safer knowing we are their rock.

Communication plays a huge role in dealing with aggressive and violent teens. Effective use of it can de-escalate the situation before things become out of control and police are required. Read my article here about communication holding the power for attaining peace. Like changing any habits, it takes practice before it comes second nature, but the pay-offs are well worth it.

What teens are throwing out to us, mirrors what is happening with them. If we can remember that they’re hurting and/or really not liking themselves, and try not to take things to heart, we can provide the best support. I think it’s important we tell them how their words or action affect us, so they learn about others emotions. However it’s most effective to stay calm and don’t react in the same ways they are.

Try and see humour whenever you can, to give you a giggle on the inside. A couple of weeks ago Jessie came home annoyed and yelling at me. When I told her it upset me when she spoke to me that way, and she replied “well I’m sorry you’re the only one here for me to take it out on!!” I burst out laughing (NOT in the good parenting book), so had to take myself off to the bathroom. I still find it amusing. The apitome of teenage thinking!

If you need help:

ReachOut.com Australia runs a FREE, flexible coaching course for parents to help us help our teens, with whatever the issues are. You need a computer and a phone, and 90 minutes for the first session. You can however make use of up to an additional three, one hour sessions. Click here for more info or to register.

ReachOut.com also runs a forum which is a supportive community of parents needing assistance or offering advice, learned from experience. If you’re feeling isolated, you will find others going through similar things, which can be therapeutic in itself. You can check out the forum here.

violent teens

sex culture

Society’s Abysmal Sex Culture

sex cultureThe motivation for this article on sex culture comes after watching a USA documentary called ‘Audrey and Daisy’. It tells the separate stories of two young teenage girls who were raped and filmed by their male ‘friends’ while passed out, intoxicated. The footage was then shared around. These poor girls were vilified by their peers and on social media. Audrey committed suicide at 15. Daisy survived her many suicide attempts and now advocates for other survivors. This heartbreaking story really made me think about our society’s sex culture and the major flaws in our legal system.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, there were 21 380 victims of sexual assault, including rape, recorded by police in 2015. This was a 3 percent increase since 2014. 93 percent of victims are female. In 2013, NSW alone saw 3,951 sexual assaults reported to police. In the same year 715 people were charged and 315 were found guilty – a 52 percent conviction rate. Out of those 315 found guilty, only 168 received a full time custodial sentence. That equals 4 percent of assaults originally reported to police.

sex cultureThe United Nations report Australia as having one of the highest rates of reported sexual assault in the world. 92 out of 100,000 people are sexually assaulted. However it’s estimated that 70 percent of assaults go unreported. This is most likely due to the fact the burden of proof has extensive requirements to be met. Additionally, court can be a lengthy and harrowing experience for victims. With such a low conviction rate, it’s understandable why so many keep quiet.

Being raped is a soul destroying experience. It strips you of your sense of self and erodes your feeling of worth. You feel shame and guilt for someone else’s crime. You’re tormented with flashbacks and riddled with confusion.

sex cultureIt was after I was first raped that I also lost my trust and faith in the human race. I was raped in broad daylight with people walking by. Not a single one did anything to help me, even after the perpetrator had gone. Feeling the overwhelming need to crawl out of my own skin, and my sickening instant despise for people, I walked all the way home. The bus wasn’t an option. I felt so dirty but showers weren’t cleaning me, no matter how long they were or how hard I scrubbed. Soap and water can’t clean a stained soul. I didn’t report the rape for two weeks due to shame and the unfounded feeling of guilt I carried, that I have since learned is common amongst survivors.

Sexual assault and rape are about power over another individual. Nine times out of ten the offender/s are known to their victims. Not ever is it the victim’s fault. No means no at whatever stage of the interlude. No definitely means no when one person is in no state to give consent. Sadly, abusers and rapists are part of society’s fabric. They don’t stand out as the people their labels describe them to be. Instead they are family members, friends, or co-workers, and often covert nice people.

sex cultureRape and sexual abuse is not a new phenomenon by any means. But the laws around it need a complete overhaul. As the figures show, too many offenders are held unaccountable while too many victims go without justice. Current laws give too much protection to the perpetrators of these abysmal crimes. Humanity needs to grow a stronger backbone and stop being afraid to stand up and help protect our fellow human beings from these crimes. Silence brings with it culpability – we need to teach this to our kids so they grow into adults who understand this.

This disturbing sex culture is more than alive and well amongst our teens. Asking girls for ‘nudes’ seems to be standard practice for the boys. Education is around teaching our girls the dangers of sending such photos, placing the onus on females to be wary of the consequences. I don’t see responsibility or consequences for the boys asking for these pornographic images of minors.

My daughter hopped in the car after tennis a few weeks ago quite upset. One of the boys in her group had been talking ‘rape talk’ she said. She stood up and told him not to talk like that, that it wasn’t okay. He then apparently said ‘aww you don’t like rape talk? Well you better get used to it.’ She told him she didn’t have to. It’s brave to speak up when nobody else does and I’m so proud of her. It’s disgusting that some boys still believe that sort of talk is ‘their right’, and concerning the lack of respect for females. The whole thinking pattern is faulty. And the sort of mindset that we need to change.

DON’T GET RAPED

 

self harm

Why Do Kids Self Harm and What is the Payoff?

The term ‘self-harm’ has many definitions. It is usually defined as the intentional causing of injury to oneself. Self harm includes cutting, hitting or burning oneself, binge-eating or starvation, or repeatedly putting oneself in dangerous situations.

So what makes our kids want to self-harm? I used to think the driving cause was self loathing and the motivation – attention seeking. But it is usually a way of coping with big emotions, and is often done in secrecy, with every effort made to try and hide the behaviour. And the pay off? Short term release from suffocating emotions in most cases.

self harm

My daughter, Jessie, started cutting around the age of 12. It’s such a frightening thing as a mum being confronted with self inflicted bloodied arms needing cleaning and care. Worse when it started being hidden from me, and I’d have the school call me to come and pick her up if she’d taken her jumper off and been reported.

School rules are that all cuts must be covered to discourage other girls copying. Self harm is very much a taboo subject in the school environment. I ended up leaving bandages and tubigrip with the year advisor so she could stay at school. Jessie hated the whole thing, and I agree with her – she felt the bandages only made it more obvious and girls would ask her what happened. I do understand the school’s theory as well, and I don’t think there’s a perfect solution.

I would search every inch of Jessie’s room looking for sharps. She was not allowed scissors, not even at school. The teachers were informed and would lend her scissors if she needed them. I had to take the protractor out of her geometry kit. All my knives and all sharp or pointy kitchen utensils had to be hidden away. She would always find something though, it’s amazing how resourceful she can be. One of her favourites was pulling pencil sharpeners apart and using the blade. This one took me a while to work out as they can be put back together. Her hiding places became more of a challenge to find.

Initially she would become violent towards me and out of control. Police would come, and even if  Jessie settled, they would call an ambulance because of her wounds. She would be treated without empathy by the staff in ER. One time we were sent home without a nurse even looking at her cuts, let alone cleaning down her arm. I was disgusted, and made a formal complaint, and that didn’t ever happen again.

It then became a silent battle of wills I guess you could call it. I would search her room and confiscate anything sharp I found or any new pencil sharpeners. She wouldn’t say anything – so no Police enforced trips to hospital – she would just find or make new tools.

Jessie’s counsellor from Child and Youth Mental Health Services (CYMHS) suggested she wear an elastic band around her wrist, and flick it again her skin when she needed to. Another suggestion was ice cubes on the skin. Neither of these things gave Jessie the outlet she needed. As it was explained to me, there is actually a physiological reaction that occurs with self-harm, that briefly increases serotonin levels, giving a feeling of release.

Self harm behaviours have been found to be more prevalent in teenagers who have excessively strong emotions and trouble regulating those emotions and impulse control. Lots of articles I’ve read also state that it is believed that borderline personality disorders are caused by the inability to manage emotions.

self harm

These kids are hurting and overwhelmed by the intensity of their feelings. With Jessie we started off with a sealed jar of water with lots of glitter in it – her Glitter Jar. When she felt herself becoming really anxious or uptight, she would shake the jar and say to me “my glitter is all over the place” before storming off. I was always amazed the Glitter Jar didn’t ever get smashed along with so many other things. Little tornado she can be! Get in her way and she’ll take you down! Shows how much she appreciated having it, and what an important communication tool it was for her.

That then progressed to using emotion cards to identify her emotion. (Bear cards are awesome if you can find them. Each card is a bear showing a different feeling, and the kids can choose a card whenever they feel the need to.) Giving her language helped diffuse the extremity of the feeling and make the feeling more manageable. We were also given a card with The Four Rooms of Change. It’s kept on the fridge, and we both have our own magnet and use it to let each know what sort of mood we’re in.

self harm

 

REACHOUT.com Australia website provides useful information and links to related articles. The website also gives details for eheadspace, Kids Helpline and Lifeline. They can be contacted by phone or via online  chat.

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