I know a man whose 17 year old son has had a lifetime of emotional and psychological challenges. He almost didn't survive birth and spent his first days in the NICU, has been diagnosed with Tourettes, and, according to his dad has been "snitty", nasty, unreasonable since childhood. In fact, he's "much better" now than ever before, including young childhood. I could go on, but don't want to get too far from the point. He has two younger brothers. There is family history of mental illness diagnoses. His parents are in the process of divorcing.
This young man occasionally goes beyond being merely insensitive and cruel and becomes violently angry. Throws things, kicks things, yells... over what seems to be very little cause. Parents holding to agreements that he was part of establishing, that sort of thing.
Last night while his father was upstairs he went down and got a saw, to saw the stairs to trap his dad. To me, that's a red flag because it doesn't make sense. It's not just an uncomfortable expression of a strong emotion, it's a loss of touch with reality. Maybe I'm wrong, I was an angelic teenager, and I don't know what it's like to fly into a rage, so I want feedback on my assessment, too.
I care about this kid. I want him to be happy in his life and I am really worried about what his apparent inability to realize or care about the impacts of his actions on others will mean for him "out there" when he goes to college next year.
Here are my questions for y'all:
1) What level of rage is "normal" or "to be expected" from a 17yo boy?
2) What level of rage is "acceptable" to the point that you let him know that violent speech and actions are not a good way to express a strong feeling, but the next day you go on like nothing happened?
3) If you don't go on like nothing happened, what do you go on like? What do you do after the fact to reinforce or teach ways to handle those strong feelings in an acceptable way?
4) What's the best way to respond in the moment to rage?
5) How do you teach empathy?
6) What would you do if this was your kid?
Number (4) is the one I'm most curious about. It's really scarey for everyone and it would help to have a strategy in mind when it happens so we at least feel grounded by a sense of preparedness.
After writing all that, I realize that "get him in counseling" is an obvious possibility. I'll mention it to the kid's father.
Thanks in advance for your responses.