Is therapy helpful for an out of control child?
My child is suffering from anxiety. My child refuses to do homework and/or to go to school. My child doesn’t play well with other children. My child won’t listen. My child is verbally and/or physically aggressive at home.
Would it be helpful to send them to therapy? Maybe, but most therapies weren’t designed to work with people that are resistant. If a child refuses therapy and the family eventually ‘strong-arms’ them to talk with someone often they will get less than desired results.
- You may have escalating angry conversations every time therapy sessions approach.
- Forcing therapy may fuel the anger and it’s unlikely the newly acquired information will be used.
- You will teach your family and friends that therapy doesn’t work and that isn’t true. It just doesn’t work for this particular problem.
- The child/teenager will continue to get older and bigger which will only exacerbate the problem.
- You will waste your most precious resource…time.
So if traditional therapy isn’t the answer then what is?
Empower the parents.
Consider time. One hour per week is considered a standard therapy time. Three to five hours a week is considered intensive, while five to 20 hours is ‘out-patient’ therapy . . . however, parents spend sixty to seventy hours per week with their child. It is more effective in regards to time, energy and costs to teach parents strategies to help their child progress in treatment.
Domestic violence is generally perceived to be between parents, or parent and child. When you are dealing with a disruptive child, this term must expand to include the violence inflicted on other members of the household by the disruptive child. Parents are highly motivated to fix the problem since they live in the domestically violent and dysfunctional environment, but they do not have to become trained therapists to provide a therapeutic environment.
The answer is to have a model of care that will teach parents simple, effective techniques to help manage the household and the child’s behavioral issues. The model also needs to be flexible enough to apply the techniques to the ever-changing situations that the child will create. Your immediate goals should be:
- De-escalate volatile situations effectively and learn new ways to interact when the child becomes verbally or physically aggressive.
- Teach the child how to ‘fix’ their behavior and give them a way to atone for their dysfunctional actions. Removing ‘privileges’ fixes nothing and gives the child another reason to be angry and aggressive.
- Repair the relationship. The relationship must improve otherwise the home environment will never improve. The tragic end comes when the parent begins to resent or ‘hate’ the child, but this feeling is common in abusive relationships and can be turned around.
Can all parents do this? Maybe not, but it is everyone’s best interest to try something new, especially if nothing else seems to be working. Remember the first rule in behavior management: Do what works! If what you’re doing doesn’t seem to work, then stop and try something new. If the child still needs to talk to someone after the behavior is managed, send them to therapy. Then the therapist can work on the real issues instead of trying to manage the child’s behaviors. Both your child and therapist will thank you.