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.
He was. He has Tourette's. The parents thought he would get some kind of Autism diagnosis because of his lack of empathy, but that was ruled out. I think the reason he hasn't been to see anyone recently is that his folks think most of what happens can be chalked up to "just being a teenager". I disagree but our perspectives are different. That's one reason I came here: to get additional perspective. Their standards of mental wellness might be a little skewed because Mom has clinical depression and anxiety, is an abuse survivor and has bipolar disorder. The youngest of the three boys just started counseling (after years of my urging, not that I "told them so" or anything) because while the symptoms of severe ADD weren't enough to concern them overmuch, the manifestations of kleptomania started to be worrisome. Anyway, I'll start working on getting them to take the oldest for evaluation.
In the meantime, I was hoping to get more responses with advice how to deal with rage. How to respond in the moment in a way that is neither permissive nor escalating.
I might call the police. He's way too big to physically restrain, and if he gets violent and everyone is scared of him, that might be the only way to show how unacceptable the behavior is. Then again, I don't know what the consequences for the whole family might be if they called the police.
Step mom to Malakie, Cameron , and Aurelia
Problem is, a lot of how to deal with his rage will depend on the cause(s). A mental health professional would be better able to advise the parents as to what steps to take.