Archive for 'At Risk Behaviors'

Mar 29

“Children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority and show disrespect for their elders.  They contradict their parents, and tyrannize their teachers.”  This was written by Socrates 2000 years before the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock.

Problems with teens aren’t new, but things have obviously changed.  Today’s youth, especially young women, face a plethora of issues that effect normal adolescent development.  Exposure to an explicit violent amoral media, drugs and alcohol at school, predators on the internet, bullying, and gang activity are among the new issues teens have to deal with today.

How does a parent know their daughter or son is becoming “at risk”?

1)  Abrupt Changes:  Adolescence is a time of great change.  Brain research shows teens are undergoing massive growth and reorganization in the pre-frontal cortex.  As a parent you must pay attention to abrupt dramatic changes in attitude, values, beliefs, dress, appearance, friends, patterns, and relations with parents.

2)  Instability:  We know teens are moody and unpredictable; however, marked changes in a teen’s emotional state that is not temporary is cause for concern.  Extreme moodiness, sadness, hostility, agitation, belligerence, personality changes, talk of suicide or hopelessness are serious warning signs for you as a parent to seek help for your teen.

3)  Irresponsibility:  Most teens vacillate between wanting to grow up and wanting to stay dependent.  When a teen begins to show a pattern of irresponsibility, i.e. lying, manipulating, breaking promises, being late or absent, a lack of any honest effort – this begins a trajectory that should be interrupted, not ignored.

4)  Divorcing their Parents:  All teens and parents have moments they just can’t seem to resolve–disagreements, even some anger or withdrawal.  However, teens cannot be allowed to divorce their parents in favor of a peer group.  Parents must stay close to their teens.  Extreme behaviors such as yelling, threatening, outright defiance or rebellion are cause for concern.

5)  Refusal:  Teens can be stubborn and uncooperative; however, outright refusal to receive parental feedback, communicate, or acknowledge problems is not acceptable and should be considered serious.

But wait, there’s more!

As if the above information wasn’t enough for parents to deal with.  Of equal concern is the juvenile system itself.  Today in Portland, and many other major jurisdictions across the country, it’s not uncommon for a juvenile to have a half dozen felony convictions and still be in the community and public schools associating with your kids.

We know that one of the prime risk factors for anti-social behavior is “negative peer associations”.  It is crucial for today’s parents to be vigilant and know who your kids are with, who their parents are, and all critical contact information.

A Chinese proverb says, “A child’s life is like a piece of paper on which every person leaves a mark”.

Looking for help?  The Academy at Sisters is a private therapeutic boarding school in Central Oregon for at risk girls.  Call 800-910-0412 and ask for Chesley or Denise.

Apr 28

In an effort to provide some perspective on problematic behavior I want to
provide for you some guidelines on anti-social behaviors and understanding what you’re seeing. You will see some familiar terms here because we strive to address any antisocial traits when we see them.

A truly anti-social youngster approaches the world with a sense of
ownership and entitlement. For them they want things they’re way right away. They see life as a one way street – their way. This is reminiscent of the egocentricity of early childhood.

The responsible child internalizes deterrents from parents, teachers and
others. He or she anticipates consequences of behavior before acting. To some degree they allow fear to be a guide. The antisocial child “cuts off fear”. They know the consequences but the rush is worth the risk.

Another hallmark of anti-social youngsters is disregard of injury to others: personally, emotionally, physically and sexually. This character trait is usually inculcated in the responsible child by nine or ten. The antisocial youngster does not accept obligations – life’s demands, frustrations or challenges. Another trait is that the antisocial youngster is taking the short cut – the easy way out. Never working through anything disagreeable, he or she perpetually seeks the most expedient course, generally digging themselves into one hole after another.

Another trait and a very fundamental one is lying chronically usually to escape accountability or exonerate themselves from blame for some wrong doing. It is common for kids and adults to blame others as in “he started it”. While the average person may do this on occasion, the antisocial person refuses accountability, because of this they don’t learn from mistakes they simply blame and excuse make. The antisocial person considers themselves unique without much in common with others. Because of this rules don’t apply to him.

Jan 27

The Teen-age years are a time for erratic behaviors, making mistakes and what some call ‘impulsive’ behaviors. Some of these decisions show up as uncontrolled energy, distractions (lack of concentration) and moment by moment changing ideas about what we want, where will we go today, with whom, etc. It is also associated with frequent irritability and confusion about decisions; therefore, some days may seem ‘impulsive’ because it is easier to follow the group than to be responsible for your own decision- making.

“Impulsive behavior” is defined as, ‘acting suddenly, while ignoring the consequences of the behavior’.It would seem that the word impulsive has been over used and in many cases used as an excuse for behaviors, especially for adolescents. That is why it is important to stress that you are responsible for their decisions and actions. There is never an excuse for harmful impulses!

Here is a list of examples of impulsive actions:

Punching something or being verbally aggressive
‘Borrowing’ without asking
Running away
Spending more money than you have (going in debt)
Unprotected sex, acting out sexually
Drug use
Being dishonest
Breaking the rules
Drinking alcohol
Cutting yourself (self-destruction)
Driving under the influence of an illegal substance or getting into a car with irresponsible peers
Tantrums (slamming doors, throwing things, hitting walls
Destroying property when angry
Being mean, cruel or ‘putting others down’
Smoking cigarettes
Trying to commit suicide
Doing bizarre things with your hair (shave it, color it, etc.)
Driving without a license

We also know we have choices. Some decisions may seem impulsive but we decide on things all the time without even realizing it. The truth is we always think about everything we do even if it doesn’t seem like it at the time. How often have you responded, “Wow, I didn’t even think about it, I just did it.” You did think, it just went by really fast and it may have seemed unimportant; therefore, you could ignore the consequences.

It is important to learn that sudden decisions (or impulsive behaviors which may be harmful) are never an excuse for our actions and you always have a choice! Listen to those things you say to yourself before you act! Learn to hear the justifications and excuses you make to yourself when you ignore what you know is right and wrong.