Parent Abuse: Help for Parents of Violent Teens

Who would you call for help if your 15-year-old teenager becomes so out-of-control with violent outbursts that it leads him to going after his parent with a knife?

• Child Protective Services?
• Crisis Hot Lines?
• Doctors?
• Mental Health?
• Support Groups?
• The Police?
• Therapists?

Try and imagine feeling more like a prisoner then a parent with your teenager, because no one can handle your teenager not even school, so you home school.

Try spending thousands of dollars and going everywhere you can to find a cure, support, the newest medication, therapy, clinic, diet, only to realize your teenager is getting older, bigger and the violence is getting worst.

Try to imagine being scared of your own minor child (not teen) at times and there is NO WHERE TO TURN FOR HELP!

Try to imagine knowing if you try to escape, you can go to jail for “child abandonment” when you always want to be there for you teenager, however you can’t control them and need to be safe.

Try to imagine living this way daily, 24/7, give or take the severity of the violence from the minor. 

Try to imagine getting no help with the exception of 911 coming to defuse the situations.

Try to imagine praying for the day you wake with your teenager and it will be a loving, enjoyable and peaceful time with them and to not feel it is your fault when it is not.

Try to imagine, if you protect yourself and your teenager says it was abuse, you are investigated and could faced with charges, legal fees etc…

Try to imagine crying out for help from every authority letting them know, you and your family are in fear of your life while being in the presence of your teenager’s violent outbursts and you receive answers as these:

Police: Why am I doing your (the parents’) job?

Police: We can’t hand cuff and take into custody a 15-year-old child.

Crisis Hot Line: I understand you (the parent) feel your life is threatened by your teenager. We will send out a person to defuse the situation and place you on our mailing list and help you get involved in our support group.

Therapist: Call 911 and have the police come. Take your teenager to an ER to have him/her mentally evaluated. (Do you think this hasn’t been done already by the parents?)

Child Protective Services: What did you (the parents) do to create this situation?

Bottom line choices currently for many moms & dads with behavioral challenged teens are as follows:
  • Possibly be involved in the legal system for child abandonment.
  • Possibly be involved in the legal system trying to prove self protection or defending lies of child abuse accusations. The law sides with the minor and in most cases it should, but not in all.
  • Possibly get hurt by the teenager or at worst case be killed.
  • Possibly others getting hurt or worst case killed by the teenager.
  • Possibly the teenager ends up hurt or worst case killed.

Perhaps the biggest obstacles to overcoming parent abuse are shame and blame. If your teen is violent (hitting, threatening, intimidating, name-calling, shoving, etc.) it’s tough to even think about getting help because acknowledging or naming the problem is painful.

To make matters worse, once parents that are suffering abuse find the courage to reach out they often do not find the help they need. Instead they find blame –“this is your fault because you are a bad parent.”

It is no wonder that parent abuse - an increasingly common problem – is not often talked about or adequately addressed.

If you are suffering abuse at the hands of your son or daughter, please know this:

• Present a united front – parents and other care-givers can work together on solutions for managing the problem of parent abuse whether it is directed at one or both parties.

• Rebuild an appropriate parent/child relationship – Help your teen understand what you expect. Consider the use of behavior contracts and family meetings. Remove privileges when necessary and spend time together doing things you both enjoy.

• Remind yourself that you do have inner strength and wisdom – you might not feel like it now faced with what seems like such an insurmountable problem, but you do. Marshaling that strength will help you do something; it might be learning more about parent abuse, interviewing therapists, finding a support group, etc. Just doing something can help you banish the feeling of powerlessness that often comes with parent abuse.

• There is something you can do – Rely on your inner strength and wisdom to guide you toward the best answer for your family. Consider all available resources. Some of these include: therapy or counseling, evaluation and medication, if appropriate; temporary respite, drug/alcohol testing, if appropriate; mediation if your teen is willing to acknowledge that s/he is responsible for his/her own violence and the necessary steps to re-establish trust and safety in the home, anger management workshops, talking with trusted friends, etc.

• Think safety – Making a safety plan and calling the police, if necessary, does not mean you don’t love your teenager. We all want to protect our teens but that protection cannot be traded against personal safety. Everyone has a right to physically and emotionally safe.

• Understand that turning the problem around will take time – As you experiment with different resources allow time to determine if what you are trying is really for you. If not, why not? For example, what kind of therapist do you think would work best with your family? Is it someone that values a collaborative approach? Someone that has more traditional positions on family roles and responsibilities? It is important to look for a good fit that feels comfortable.

• You are not alone – again, although the problem isn’t often talked about, it does exist and it is increasingly common. Blaming is not the answer or even a useful response to the problem.

For many moms & dads, parent abuse feels like the outcome of a job not so well-done. Many parents feel like the abuse means they have failed themselves and their teens. When you start beating yourself up about the way you are being treated by your teen remember this:

Yes, you have had an influence on the person your teenager is today, but you are by no means the only influence. Your teens encounter many people and experiences that happen completely outside of you. Maybe you didn’t have a part in causing what is happening now. But you do have some power to direct how your relationship will be going forward. Choose to use it.

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