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Norman M.
Norman M., Principal psychotherapist in private practice. Newspaper contributor, over 2000 satisfied clients on JA
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 2536
Experience:  ADHP(NC), DEHP(NC), ECP, UKCP Registered.
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I have a 15yr old son that it in total crisis. He is on diversion

Customer Question

I have a 15yr old son that it in total crisis. He is on diversion for breaking into and stealing from cars. He has been hanging with a bad crowd Just two nights ago got shot with a shotgun full of birdshot while going to watch a fight happen. Today I got notice that he failed his last drug screen and his diversion is being revoked. I have looked into these troubled teen boot camps but unfortunately do not have the resources to send him. Where do I turn and what can be done to help him. He has ADD and severe anger issues. We have been to about 4 different counselors trying to get help but can't seem to find one that gets through to him. He is defiant and refuses to obey any rules. He will leave in the middle of the night or start screaming at me if told not to leave and pushes past me and leaves. I obviously have no control over him and need serious help.
Submitted: 4 years ago.
Category: Mental Health
Expert:  Norman M. replied 4 years ago.
Hello, and thanks for visiting JA.

Really, this young man is, as you say, totally out of control.

To help me to help you, can you tell me:

Can you tell me if he is getting any treatment for his ADD?

Now that his diversion is being revoked, do you know what is going to happen to him?

Customer: replied 3 years ago.

He is seeing a counselor and was on medication for ADD, which he did not like the effects. They took him off the adderall (we have tried many) and put him on an antidepressant and mood elevator, hoping it will counteract the effects of the adderall.

Now that diversion is being revoked, he has to go back to court. The lawyer seems to think he will on probation, for 9 more months. If he stays out of trouble for 3 years after completing probation, the records can then be sealed

Expert:  Norman M. replied 3 years ago.

Hello, and thanks for visiting JA.

The first thing is that you and you partner have to make sure that you are in total agreement as to what standards of behaviour are acceptable, and which are not. That way, he cannot play one off against the other. Discuss this with your partner, and get things really clear.

These boundaries must include no violence, no threats of violence, no swearing and so on He needs to understand that if he ever hits you again, the police will be involved.

Children of his age are rather liable to push things to see what happens, and what they really need are firm boundaries. Being ‘soft’ just makes you easier to manipulate, and anger just teaches them to be angry when they in turn are faced with a difficult situation

In your situation, recent events within the family will (despite all you have done) have left him feeling a bit insecure, and he is going to need a lot of reassurance and support when he is behaving well. You need to re-evaluate your parenting style a little, perhaps, although I must say that what you have been doing so far is pretty good.

He is quite old enough to know about actions and consequences. We humans only indulge in behaviour that brings reward of some kind. Only when that reward (whatever it might be) disappears, or the consequences of our behaviour promise to be unpleasant do we consider changing what we do.

Here is the clue to sorting things out. When you are faced with non-co-operation – give him choices, and make sure he understands the consequences of his choice – and always follow through. If you don’t he’ll just get confused. Please make sure though that all his small successes are praised and occasionally rewarded. Consider what sanctions you might use – no mobile phone, cut in pocket money (which in fact should be earned by doing chores, not just handed out), no computer or games for a while, no washing done foe him. Privileges should be reinstated after he demonstrates that he has earned them by not crossing the boundaries you set.

Choices are not always about punishment - they can be offered in advance.

When it does come to punishment, try to make sure that it is something that will have an impact "That is it no more money this week." And make sure you vary it otherwise it becomes stale, and therefore more or less ignored.

Ask him too, what he is prepared to do to change his behaviour in future – tell him to research what might help him, what help he feels she needs, and even consider a ‘contract’ between you. In other words, involve him in his own change, with a prospect of a small reward for success.

Never get angry, stay cool and in control, matter of fact and stick to the facts. Avoid drama.

Never, never be blaming or accusatory. Tell her how you feel about his behaviour, and make sure he understands that while you love her, his bad behaviour is hurtful and will not be accepted.

I’m going to suggest that you get a copy of the book “How to talk so teens will listen, and how to listen so teens will talk”. Its ISBN is 13: 978 1 85340 857 1

Not only will it help you turn things around round it is also a good read!

Best wishes, NormanM

Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Number 1, I am a single mom with a disability, and I have no one to back me up on this.

Number 2, how do I enforce the consequences, if he chooses to ignore them+

Expert:  Norman M. replied 3 years ago.
Since you are on your own, in a sense, you have a slighjt advantage - he cannot play one parent off against the other! You get to decide what is appropriate in your own home.

If the consequences are simple like no more money this week, or no washing done - just stick to it and do it. Never, never give in.

It's important though, to try to engage your sonin his own change - get him to help you set up the house rules - if he agrees to something, he cannot later say it's unfair.

You may have to try to re-establish good communication with him, too.

I'd like you to have alook at this website:

I wonder too if any relatives could be asked to help you out, or if your local Social Services Department could help in any way - it would certainly be worth asking them.
Customer: replied 3 years ago.
This still does not tell me how to enforce these rules, even if he has helped set up consequences. He does not care about following the rules.
Expert:  Norman M. replied 3 years ago.
Not quite sure I understand. Once you have a rule in place, make sure he knows what the consequence is of breaking it. For example "If you shout at me at all, you get no more money this week".

Then if he shouts , he gets no more money. Each 'rule' should have the consequences for braking it spelled out. "If to ever push me, or threaten me physically, I will call the police immediately" - then if it happens, do it.

In the end of the day, it might not work at all, but it has got to be worth a try. Finally, he does need to be seen by a psychiatrist, and I suggest you arrange that as soon as possible.

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