What do we do about the violent adolescents? Good question. Here are some possible answers. Angry children need love. The older and angrier they get, the harder they are to love, and the more frightening they can become.
If you have an angry teenager in your home, extended family, your child’s school or your community, here are some ideas that may help:
- Do everything in your power to get to know them.
- Find out what they like to do and do it with them. That’s a stretch in some cases, but do the best you can. They will notice the effort. Stay true to yourself—if they see you trying to become like them, they’ll lose respect for you.
- Ask them to tell you about the things they’re interested in. You may have to prove that you’re really interested before they will open up, but if you’re sincere and persistent, they will start talking.
- Be a steady, loving presence in their life. You may have to forego some of your other activities, but if you have an adolescent who is possibly moving toward violence or suicide, it’s worth it.
- Get in touch with your own healthy anger, so that you have the personal power and confidence to deal with the energy of adolescent anger.
- Work to master humor and love. Find as many ways as possible to have fun with the adolescent and show your love. Make sure that you are pursuing the relationship for them, and not to fulfill some unmet needs from your own past.
- Consult with other adults and parents who are good with teenagers. Watch how they interact with kids and learn from their example.
- Pray. You’re going to need all the help you can get, and you need to know you are not alone in your mission to bring love to this unhappy child.
EMBRACING THE OUTCASTS AND MISFITS
This is simply impossible if you have outcasts and misfits in your own subconscious body/mind. So the first order of business here is to make sure you have found, embraced and made a place for the children within you that you or others may have found that represent remnants of memories that you have yet to resolve. These are the inner children that symbolize your pain, shame, and self-doubt.
Rest assured that the outcast child that you approach in the outer world will not accept your embrace if they see unresolved fear and anger in your eyes or actions.
Since we know that the outcasts and misfits are the children most likely to become violent, it only follows that we must pull them into the arms of love and/or acceptance, and find a place where they fit. If our system doesn’t have a place where a child fits, there’s something wrong with the system, not the child.
Look around you in your family and your community. Do you see the outcasts and misfits? The ones that seem to have no friends, or who only hang out with others like them? Look for the ones that don’t act “right,” are too this or too that or not enough of the other. Especially look for the ones that are not talking about their feelings, and seem to carry a lot of depression and/or anger.
Genius often hides in such places. If you are wise, healthy and dedicated enough to win an inroad to the heart and mind of one of these “personas non grata,” you may discover a hidden treasure. The movie “Good Will Hunting” depicts such a case, where an angry, violent misfit is also a gifted genius. The older movie “The Breakfast Club” also shows us the beauty in the shadow of the misfit.
Kindness and compassion will sometimes be greeted with doubt, fear and even anger at first. If you really mean it and have the courage to do so, you can penetrate that outer shell and touch the tender heart within. You may be saving someone’s life.
Consider the outcasts and misfits in your world to be unexplored territories of your own soul, undiscovered treasures waiting for you. The rewards will be as great for you as for those you help.
When we look deep enough into any living being, we find the face of God.
Teach this to your children, like Max did in the following example.
Max had come to me for almost four years, to heal from a very painful childhood, and to learn to manage his anger toward his wife. He was making excellent progress and was tapering off in his sessions.
Max’s son Derek was six years old, and the apple of his dad’s eye. Max was determined to give Derek the healthy guidance, love and positive role modeling he had never received as a child.
Smiling ear to ear, Max told me of some of his recent successes with his wife and son. “I have always been afraid I would end up homeless and living under a bridge. So, I decided to confront this fear a little more directly. After church, Sunday, Derek and I took about 40 hamburgers to the homeless people living under the overpass downtown. Derek loved it! Now he wants to feed all of the homeless people in the city. Those people were so grateful.”
Max was quiet for a moment, as he wiped his eyes and regained his composure. He had given a great gift to some outcasts and misfits, to his son, and to himself.