by Shadra Bruce

As a child, I saw my mom – a grown woman with children of her own – become the victim of her out of control teen brother’s violence. My uncle was staying with us while my grandparents moved, and he got angry at my mom, pinned her down, and began punching her. It is a moment that is burned into my brain. I share it because the media is constantly broadcasting the tragedy of abuse within homes. There are many advocates protecting children everywhere from abusive parents, but who speaks for parents and family members being abused by teens?

Teens who are abusive and out of control do not always come from violent homes, and their violence does not signify that you are a bad parent. It may mean that your teen may have some underlying issues that are causing them to act out dangerously, and it may be a sign that your teen is abusing drugs or alcohol.

If your teen is abusive or violent to you or other members of your family, you need to take immediate action. Making excuses for your child is only going to make the situation worse and more hazardous for the other family members. While you can move forward with seeing your family physician to obtain an examination and blood work so that your physician can determine whether your teen has any type of medical condition or is abusing drugs or alcohol, if you or your family members are in danger, you may want to have a more immediate plan of action, like phoning the police or seeking refuge with a friend or family member. Certainly, you should enlist the help of a mental health professional, both for your violent teen as well as for your other children, spouse, and yourself. A specialist can decide if there is a disorder causing your teen’s abusive behavior and provide support for the entire family.

As much as you want to help your troubled teen, you cannot neglect your obligations to yourself and the rest of your family. Your teen is not dictator of the household; your world does not revolve around him or her. It is still important to take time to nurture your own needs, those of your partner’s, and those of your other children. If your teen is posing a threat to others in the household, you may have to make the difficult decision of not allowing the teen to remain at home. Make certain that your teen understands that you will work according to the family’s best interests, even if that means insisting that he or she find other accommodations.

Protecting your family and yourself is not bad parenting. You cannot help your teen work through violent behavior without first protecting everyone that you love. Your teen needs you now more than ever, and you can demonstrate that you are willing to support them in their efforts to get help and overcome their challenges without putting yourself and your family at risk.

If you have exhausted every option at home, a boot camp may be something you need to consider if your teen is too out of control. These treatment camps are specifically for children when nothing else will reach them. It consists of a strict regimen of physical and mental exercises that serve to modify the teen’s behavior and help them learn the self-discipline needed to reintegrate into the family.

Do not lose hope in your teen. Just because they are acting out in a way that is not socially acceptable does not mean that they do not care for you or their family. They simply need behavior modification and other treatment to gain control over their violent urges. Do not fight fire with fire; abuse in return will only make matters worse. Help your teen as much as you can, but protect yourself and your family first.