The Destructive Teen
Here is a beautiful true story taken from a book called, "Living the
Seven Habits." I'm really impressed by this testimony of love and
patience and forgiveness and the wonderful fruit that resulted. It doesn't talk
about the Lord but I believe this testimony is based on living the principles of
God's Love as outlined in 1 Cor. 13. I personally am convicted to live these
principles more after reading this and I hope you will be too!
This marvelous story teaches the power of one-on-one communication with all
family members while dealing with the destructive lifestyle of one. As soon as
the parents re-enthroned the principles of empathy, love, understanding, and
respect, and built a strong one-on-one Emotional Bank Account with each child,
then they could deal with the destructive teen challenge. Notice also the
tremendous power of example.
I am a mother of several children. One of my sons got involved in destructive
behavior as a teenager, while we still had two younger children at home. From
being a handsome clean-cut kid he turned into a filthy young man, with unkempt
long hair that he would leave in thick tangles for weeks without washing. He
pierced his ears and body in several places, he came home with tattoos, he
hardly ate (probably because he was on drugs), his eyes were bloodshot, his
clothes stank of cigarette smoke. Not only did he look dark and scary, but his
lifestyle completely changed his personality. He became mean, non-communicate,
and never made eye contact with any of us. He avoided all family functions and
never answered us unless it was in a snarl. His younger brother and sister
became so upset about his behavior that they often would yell: "Throw him
out, we don't want him here, he is ruining everything!" His new friends
were the same and some were even gang members.
In the beginning we were actually in shock from suddenly having this kind of kid
in our home. We analyzed our parental behavior to see if we could hind holes in
the way we had raised him, we contacted professionals, we talked to other
parents to get sympathy and advice, and we tried to talk, plead, and threaten
him into change. Nothing helped!
In the meantime we began to have another huge problem on our hands -- the two
younger children, who were watching our daily confrontations, were obviously
being affected. It became evident that they were being hurt by what they
watched. Our inconsistent behavior toward their brother (because sometimes we
were nice to him when he didn't deserve it) was very confusing to them. They
began to say things like, "Well, if Darren can do this and this, and you
don't even get mad, then I am going to..etc." I remember discussing the
possibility of sending Darren away to someone because I could not bear watching
him destroy the other two innocent younger children.
Our family was falling apart because of this one boy. All our energy,
conversations, and work centered around him. We couldn't even go out to dinner
without spending the entire time talking about him. And here we were raising two
other children who desperately needed a healthy and happy mom and dad. We knew
we had to change our approach.
We then decided to sit down with each of Darren's siblings individually and tell
them how much we loved all of our children, including Darren. We reminded them
of what a great kid he used to be, and how he was going through a very difficult
phase in his life right now, one that he would probably be embarrassed about
later. We even got photographs out to remind us all of how Darren used to be.
We asked for their help and a charitable attitude toward him. We told them that
things might not appear fair, but that it was necessary for us to show patience,
forgiveness, and faith in Darren so he would be able to overcome his problem. We
explained to them how drugs completely alter behavior and that what they saw now
really wasn't the complete Darren, but just a part of him that had chosen to be
very destructive. We talked about all the good things he was missing out on in
school and in his social life and what a terrible shame it was. For the first
time they actually began to feel a bit sorry for him, instead of just angry or
Throughout the following year we repeated this kind of one-on-one talk several
times with the two younger children, as the need arose. It wasn't easy for them,
but they were now able to send little signals to us whenever Darren was in the
room and acting up that clearly testified to their understanding of what we all
needed to do. When we got far enough in this process of being understanding,
forgiving, and nonjudgmental and did special, kind things for Darren (even when
he didn't deserve it), the younger two followed right after and did the same.
It totally blew Darren away! Why were we all being so nice, when he was being so
rotten? Within the next year he straightened himself out -- on his own. We still
have repercussions from his bad years. The younger kids will use Darren and his
poor behavior when they want something -- "We really deserve to get
permission to do this and this, we never gave you trouble like Darren did"
-- but all in all they have survived the three year ordeal with Darren and have
vowed never to put us through what Darren put us through. They actually have
much more charitable natures and a greater understanding of people and their
problems today. I really don't think there is one thing in our lives that has
challenged us and made us grow more than Darren and his tumultuous time.
To top it all off, Darren fell in love with a young lady who herself has serious
behavioral problems, She has been through substance abuse and much more. But
Darren has been able to see through it all and still love her. And the most
comforting thing is that he is using the exact same loving, patient process with
her as we used with him. He knows there is a core in there that is good and he
is determined to unearth it.