HELP FOR PARENTS WITH STRONG-WILLED, OUT-OF-CONTROL CHILDREN AND ADOLESCENTS

Education and Counseling for Individuals Affected by Oppositional Defiant Disorder and ADHD

Dealing with Violent Behavior in Kids & Teens

"My son sucker punched me. I'm not violent, and to say the least, it really surprised and hurt me (emotionally, he didn't hit hard enough to hurt) ...he is 13."

There is a great concern about the incidence of violent behavior among kids and teens. This complex and troubling issue needs to be carefully understood by moms and dads, educators, and other grown-ups.

Kids as young as preschoolers can show violent behavior. Moms and dads who witness the behavior may be concerned; however, they often hope that the youngster will "grow out of it." Violent behavior in a youngster at any age always needs to be taken seriously. It should not be quickly dismissed as "just a phase they're going through!"

Violent behavior in kids and teens can include a wide range of behaviors, for example:
  • cruelty toward animals
  • explosive temper tantrums
  • fighting
  • fire setting
  • homicidal thoughts
  • intentional destruction of property
  • physical aggression
  • threats or attempts to hurt others
  • use of weapons
  • vandalism

Numerous research studies have concluded that a complex interaction or combination of factors leads to an increased risk of violent behavior in kids and teens. These factors include:
  • Being the victim of physical abuse and/or sexual abuse
  • Brain damage from head injury
  • Combination of stressful family socioeconomic factors (e.g., poverty, severe deprivation, marital breakup, single parenting, unemployment, loss of support from extended family)
  • Exposure to violence in media (e.g., TV, movies, etc.)
  • Exposure to violence in the home and/or community
  • Genetic (i.e., family heredity) factors
  • Presence of firearms in home
  • Previous aggressive or violent behavior
  • Use of drugs and/or alcohol

Kids and teens who have several risk factors and show the following behaviors should be carefully evaluated:
  • Becoming easily frustrated
  • Extreme impulsiveness
  • Extreme irritability
  • Frequent loss of temper or blow-ups
  • Intense anger

Moms and dads and teachers should be careful not to minimize these behaviors in kids. Whenever parents are concerned, they should immediately arrange for a comprehensive evaluation by a qualified mental health professional. Early treatment by a professional can often help. The goals of treatment typically focus on helping the youngster in the following ways:
  • accept consequences
  • be responsible for his/her actions
  • express anger and frustrations in appropriate ways
  • learn how to control his/her anger

In addition, family conflicts, school problems, and community issues must be addressed.

Research studies have shown that much violent behavior can be decreased or even prevented if the above risk factors are significantly reduced or eliminated. Most importantly, efforts should be directed at dramatically decreasing the exposure of kids and teens to violence in the home, community, and through the media. Clearly, violence leads to violence.

In addition, the following strategies can lessen or prevent violent behavior:
  • Early intervention programs for violent youngsters
  • Monitoring youngster's viewing of violence on TV/videos/movies
  • Prevention of child abuse (e.g., use of programs like parent training, family support programs, etc.)
  • Sex education and parenting programs for teens

My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents

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