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Some hope their children will be like sponges soaking up the truth and wisdom imparted by their parents. However appealing this philosophy might be, it seldom seems to catch on with their children.

The teenage years require a delicate balance between the young person's need to gain independence, and the parent's need to retain authority.

Children do not develop on their own - they only develop within relationships.

We should not medicate the boys so they fit the school; we should change the school to fit the boy. (Leonard Sax, M.D. Ph.D)

Being a parent of a teenager can cure a person of narcissism.

The mistake that Sharon and I both made is we never set any boundaries.  (Ozzy Osbourne)

You cannot reason with someone who is being unreasonable.

"Moody" and "unpredictable" are adjectives parents will often use when referring to their teenagers.

Hurt people hurt people.

The best inheritance  parents can give their children is a few minutes of their time each day.

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Another option commonly pursued in finding solutions to children’s behaviour problems is counselling. The approaches in this grouping represent very broad and divergent directions, but all of them employ communication between a therapist and the client.

At one extreme end of the counselling continuum we have psychotherapy. Theories developed by Sigmund Freud and his adherents believe that the root cause of  person’s inappropriate behaviours lie in unresolved conflicts in the client’s past (frequently involving mother!). They hold that the solution is to take the client back in time to the traumatic incident or period and resolve those intense feelings by talking about them. The therapist would focus on maladjusted psychological forces such as drives, impulses, needs, motives, conflicts and  personality traits existing within the client. Once the conflict is resolved in the mind of the client through psychotherapy, the client is then able to put those feelings into a healthier perspective and the individual’s present functioning improves.

The goal of  any counselling is to get into the client’s head and determine what REALLY is going on. If the therapist is successful in getting into the child’s head, he can plant new ideas about responding to the world in a different way and the old inappropriate behaviours just fade away.

At the other extreme end of the “counselling” continuum, I would place therapies that facilitate two way communication but do not necessarily employ talking. Music therapy, play therapy, art therapy, etc.. are all examples where the child communicates what is really going on in his head by actions rather than words. If a child displays violent images in his artwork or has one doll “humping” another, the therapist interprets these behaviours and may speculate what trauma the child experienced thus opening a door for the therapist to enter with words.

Somewhere in the middle between psychotherapy and art therapy we have the everyday kind of “counselling” sessions that parents , teachers and social workers do with kids when we attempt to “talk” them out of destructive behaviour patterns and into constructive ones.

It has been my observation that for formal counselling to be useful 3 things need to be in place:

1. the child needs to truthfully admit they have a problem

2. the child must want to improve the problem

3. the child’s environment must support the changes

If any of these 3 are not embraced by the child or his parents, the probability of improved behaviour through counselling is slim. Even complete compliance to these 3 conditions seldom result in quick positive responses from the child. Old habits die hard.

Clearly the “counselling” option does not represent a universal solution to all children’s behaviour problems either.

Next posting – the “Skills Acquisition” approach

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+ Behaviour Management

This full day or 2 evening workshop will introduce you […]

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+ Lick Your Kids

  “Lick Your Kids” (figuratively not literally) (2 hours) First […]

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+ A Parent’s Guide to the Teenage Brain

  A teenager’s brain is not just an adult brain […]

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+ Reading Rescue

A program for children with reading problems

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+ Taming a Toddler

Many parents wonder what hit them when their sweet little baby turns into an unreasonable toddler – ideas for dealing with mealtime, bedtime, temper tanturms, toilet training, noncompliance, etc.

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