Explosive 16 year old. Help!

by Rod Smith

“My son (16) has from very young displayed the most unvelievable stubbornness on some issues. We have come to understand it as being inflexible explosive behaviour that it is incredibly difficult to work with. Usually there is a pattern and there are times when one is able to reason and resolve, other times there is no warning and the explosion or meltdown occurs. It is usually because he has not been able to get his own way despite our explanations. He indulges in defiant behaviour such as in this last instance, staying his bedroom for 25 hours and sleeping most of the time. Upon arising my attempts to talk to him are met with a blank. How does one handle someone who resorts to defiant behaviour when he doesn’t get his own way? I believe it is time for him to find alternate, more mature ways of dealing with issues – or am I expecting too much from a 16 yr old?” (Edited)

While I could say “take him by suprise” or “change the rules” I am going to resist suggesting the solution is easily found. He sounds depressed perhaps relating to some broader matters. I am hereby asking readers to express their opinions and experience before I tackle your question again in a few days.

Yesterday’s column clearly hit a hot button. Here are two of may responses…

“I was amazed at the description of the stubborn 16 year old. It could have been a description of a family member of mine who has been diagnosed as depressed. For a long time we all thought it was purely a self-centred nature or a short fuse. Based on learning the hard way my advice to the parent would be to stand up to his behaviour. If an explosion occurs walk out of the room. Do not try to reason or explain. Being depressed does not give anyone the right to abuse others. The depressed individual is quick to see a pattern forming: ‘If I have a tantrum everyone will do as I wish, out of fear, or just to keep the peace.’ If you fall into this trap you are setting yourself up for much misery and are not doing your depressed family member any favours by playing to their brattish behaviour.”

“My first impression was that the boy suffered from a lack of discipline. However, the problem appears to have existed from a very young age and appears to be a more deeply rooted problem. If I was in the shoes of the parents I would consult a psychologist/psychiatrist as Bi-polar comes to mind.”

One reader’s view regarding the defiant 16-year-old….

“The story of the stubborn, defiant 16-year old makes me smile. The mother has waited 16 years too long to start disciplining her son. One of my daughters had this same strong will, it was not an iron will, it was stainless steel! Her first few years made life very difficult for us, until I started reading books about the strong willed child. When she was old enough to begin understanding that her tantrums were not acceptable we began teaching her. Whenever we told her to stop whatever was unacceptable, and when I counted to 10 and she did not stop I would give her a smack with my wooden spoon on ‘the seat of learning’. After about 6 weeks the truth sank in, and I only had to warn her: the wooden spoon treatment became now very rare. She grew up into a delightful woman. The Bible tells us to spare the rod and spoil the child. Unfortunately this has now become forbidden in many countries.”

Rod Smith, MSMFT

Apparently your experience ends happily. I’d welcome a comment from your daughter whom you say is a “delightful woman” – and hear her comments on your discipline.

I fear she might be too afraid to tell her truth.

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