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16 year old needs more than anger management

answered 12:24 PM EST, Tue December 04, 2012
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anonymous anonymous
My 16 year old son has an anger control problem. He is a good person and a good student and he has never been violent at home or with any family or friends. But three times in the last 2 years (that I know about) he has gotten in fights and he has beaten the other person quite severely each time. He was kicked out his soccer league for fighting and he is now facing assault charges for breaking another boys jaw at a party. He says the other people start it every time but he just finishes it and that he won’t let people disrespect him. He needs to learn a better way of delaying with conflict but he does not listen to me or my husband. What type of professional help does he need? I would also like to show the judge that we are serious about this. Because of his history there is a chance he could get time juvenile prison time.

E W Says...

Hi - first off, kudos for seeking help. Even though children operate more and more independently as they get older, parents are legally responsible for their children's behaviors until the child attains the age of 18.  My fear is that you have a lot more to worry about than just the juvenile justice system. At 16 many teens are adult-sized and well physically able of serious physical harm and even of taking a life, whether intentional or not. Any physical contact can result not only in assault charges as a juvenile, but also as an adult, especially if anyone dies. These are very serious and real possibilities that must be addressed, for your own sake as well as your son's, and for the sake of people he encounters. Unless his actions have all been in self-defense or defense of someone else, his use of physical force is completely unacceptable and must be stopped immediately.

Has there been a life-long pattern of anger-related issues for your son? Or, is this anger management problem new or recent? Does he express any sincere remorse for causing physical harm to another being? The answers to these questions need to be taken to a professional now. Is your son being bullied - maybe he could benefit from conflict-resolution skills, or does he need help addressing school-based problems? Is this a life-long pattern? Along with these questions, checking for any medical problems is a good start. His primary care doctor may provide referrals to psychiatric or mental health professionals or programs.

You indicated that your son "won't listen" to you nor your husband - my recommendation is that you all (or just you and your husband if your son refuses) go see a mental health professional to discuss the situation, get support, and come up with viable options. Your son may need help understanding what happened and how to avoid it in the future. He may benefit from anger management. He may need long-term counseling. If your son is justifying his violent behavior and denying personal responsibility then it is always possible that your home and family and friends may be in real danger as well as the general public. Your son needs to know that you will always love him, but that his behavior and the risks it presents are unacceptable to you and society in general. This violence has to stop and it has to stop now. He has to understand that you are willing to do whatever it takes to get him help, whether that means counseling, medication, or intensive programs away from home, but that he must get help and that is not negotiable.

In a few short years, your son will be 18 and on his own. With most of your parenting years behind you, this is the last time you can try to influence how your son enters adult life. With help for yourselves and him, hopefully you can all gain an understanding of each other, how you got where you are, and how to make the future a better place. Use your health insurance, or local United Way, Red Cross, or crisis services. Violence can put an abrupt end on any otherwise promising future - his or that of other people. Seek help, and don't give up.

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Page last updated Dec 11, 2012

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