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Archive for the ‘family violence’ Category

Guest Blogger Faith Blitman: Bullying Behavior

Posted by Marcia on December 23, 2011

Faith Blitman, M.A. is a Psychotherapist and Certified Drug and Alcohol Assessor in Philadelphia, PA. She provides individual, group and family counseling as well as drug and alcohol assessment and counseling. Faith Blitman, M.A. and Brian Loughlin, M. Ed. work in LINKS, a family reunification program within the Family Service Association in Bucks County, PA. For questions or additional information, please feel free to e-mail either faithblitman@aol.com or bloughlin@fsabc.org.

According to Stan Davis, a school counselor and bully prevention expert in Maine, a bullying incident occurs every seven minutes. He further speculates that adults intervene in only 4% of school incidents and peers intervene in 11% of these incidents. Bullying is pandemic and can take many forms: (1) Physical – hitting, kicking, punching and shoving; (2) Verbal – insults, name-calling, threatening, disparaging a person’s race, sexual preference, religion, etc., (3) Indirect – spreading gossip/rumors, attempting to turn one’s peer group against them, shooting hateful looks, telling malicious lies; and finally, the deliberate omission of a person from their peer group with the intent of engendering feelings of rejection; (4) Cyber-bullying – sending hurtful text messages, e-mails and instant messages as well as posting injurious information on web pages and sites; (5) Reactive bullying takes place when an individual impulsively acts out of frustration, typically in response to an episode of stress. This particular type of bullying may be the most difficult with which to deal since the person behaves in the dual role of bully and victim.

The causes of bullying behavior vary from individual to individual. Sometimes bullying is learned at home and can result from a lack of supervision, warmth or attention, by reinforcing inconsistent boundaries and rules, as well as by observing parents and older siblings using bullying techniques as a means of managing conflict. Moreover, such parents tend to also incorporate emotional outbursts and physical discipline as corrective measures for their children’s behaviors. Sometimes people require learning new parenting skills since the only tools in their armory are the ones they have learned from their own parents. Hence, the cycle of bullying may be inadvertently passed from generation to generation without benefit of additional intervention and learning. Bullying behavior can also be generated when a person has been bullied by classmates and learns how to express aggression in this manner. Finally, some individuals seem to have a genetic predisposition towards bullying behaviors. Nonetheless, regardless of the cause(s), counseling can help.

The effects of bullying can be profound: damaged self-esteem, anxiety, depression, toxic shame, absenteeism from school, and rage along with a strong tendency to want to exact revenge on perpetrators. Some victims feel so beaten down from this abuse that they simply withdraw from life, relying upon alcohol and drugs to medicate their intense pain or engaging in other addictive/compulsive behaviors. Some who are feeling discarded and uncared for may become pregnant as a desperate means of securing love into their lives. Most significantly, there has been no shortage of reports in the news recently of pre-teens and teens who have been so distraught by bullying, that they saw no escape from their agony but to end their own lives.

There is yet another subset of children who have been bullied who tend to identify with their aggressors, and in contrast to the aforementioned victims, act-out their rage by joining gangs, engaging in criminal acts and frequently perpetuate the bullying cycle by later abusing their own spouses and children. Some of these individuals have been responsible for mass causality school shootings. Since the bully has markedly more power than the victim, the longer bullying ensues, the greater grows the imbalance of power.

Regardless of how any act of abuse presents itself, children need to be well-educated regarding what constitutes bullying, how they should conduct themselves if they or a friend are being victimized by a bully, and to whom they should report these abusive acts. Most researchers quickly point out that bullying behaviors remain consistent if there is no intervention. Nonetheless, when an appropriate and consistent intervention is applied, negative behaviors have been reversible. In addition, it is critical that parents, teachers, and other stewards offer validation and attempt to build as trusting and caring a relationship as possible, so children feel comfortable sharing their concerns. After all, it is every child’s right to feel safe and valued in the world, and it is up to adults to help make that happen.

What can a concerned parent do?

• Be supportive, encourage openness when speaking with your child.
• Express your concerns with your child’s teacher, guidance counselor or principal (making certain to talk this over with your child before taking action).
• Encourage your child to talk to you and other adults at school.
• Ask your child’s school to educate students about bullying.
• If the bullying/victimization behaviors continue, don’t hesitate to seek professional counseling.

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Posted in bullies, bullying, Faith Blitman, family difficulties, family violence, listen to family problems, out of control teens, parent coping with disappointment in kids, Parents and teens, teens and consequences, Troubled teens, worried parents | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Are You Bullied by Your Child?

Posted by Marcia on April 11, 2011

As parents, we want our children to be respected at school and most of us would be upset if they were being bullied. We teach our children to stand up for themselves and we may enlist the aid of the teacher and principal. We don’t want children to be bullied, so why would we allow them to bully the parents?

A father and teenage son were at a table in a restaurant near my friends. The son was berating the father, being sarcastic, talking back, insulting his father and using foul language.

My friends were shocked to hear a teenager talk to a parent like that. The father didn’t reprimand the son and didn’t do anything other than hang his head. Frankly, given the people I’ve interviewed and the people who have contacted me, I find this shocking but I am not surprised.

I imagine the father has been bullied by his child for years and did not address it when it started. When you overlook this behavior or give the child a “pass”, the child can assume it is okay to be disrespectful to parents. Bad behavior that is allowed will often escalate, and once escalated, parents may feel helpless to stop it.

Bullying comes in many forms, but experts agree that it is repeated behavior that is intended to intimidate, humiliate or demean another person. It is intentional disrespect. It may take the form of verbal abuse like the father and son in the restaurant. The bully has a pattern of behavior that may include yelling, intimidation or humiliation, criticism, insults or even personal sabotage. This emotional abuse and may escalate into damaging personal property or even physically harming family members with the idea of further intimidation.

Victims of bullies usually do not confront the bully or react aggressively. They may have different reasons behind their decisions not to confront, and it could be that they don’t want to stoop to the other person’s level. Maybe the victim is startled, upset or angry and decides to walk away; hoping that will prevent reoccurrence of bad behavior, but the bully sees this as a victory. You’ve just given your child a lot of control over you by not speaking up for yourself.

Whatever form it takes, the parents have to consider this to be intolerable behavior and must put a stop to it. Clearly define what bullying is, talk about it in your family, explain it will not be tolerated and the disciplinary action that will be taken to those who violate the family rules. Train your children about what is and is not appropriate behavior and what constitutes a healthier environment in the home. Teach kindness and sympathy, acknowledge and reward small steps in the right direction with praise and a hug.

Children learn from the model you present and the way you talk with them, the corrections and guidance you give them. It’s in your family’s best interests to stop bad behavior, don’t let it slide and don’t avoid confronting it. Help your child to stop the bullying and stop being a victim.

Posted in bullies, changing parent behavior, changing parent's behavior, compliment your child, emotional abuse, enabler, enabling, family difficulties, family violence, out of control teens, parenting adult children, Parents and teens, repaired relationship, rewarding good behavior, teen intervention, Troubled teens, worried parents | Leave a Comment »

Guest Blogger: Family Member Asked for a 5150 for Mentally Ill Loved One

Posted by Marcia on March 31, 2011

Our guest contributor has a family member who is mentally ill. In this post, “Linda” describes what it is like to take care of “Joe” and the time she had to request a 5150 for him. The 5150 is an involuntary psychiatric hold that I wrote about previously.

Marcia, you always have a very helpful nonjudgmental commentary that can be very useful for people struggling with tough decisions, ethical dilemmas, and multi-layered situations, and thanks for that.

I wanted to say a few words which I think may be helpful for some to hear, although opinionated as is my nature. I have a family member, “Joe”, who is diagnosed with schizophrenia and taking anti psychotic meds.

I admit it is hard to be “your brother’s keeper” even for loved ones. Their outbursts and behavior can wear you down and make you feel unappreciated, angry, and sometimes even unsafe around them.

And just like addictions, brain disorders are something that one seems to want to have a lot of empathy for those who fall prey to, but it’s not always easy. I sometimes feel guilty if I do something that makes Joe upset or can feel like I’m violating him with my firm “it’s good for you” nature.

I have had to 5150 my family member not by my authority but by insisting the boarding house where Joe lives call it in. In fact, the attending physician who monitors my relative’s case in this county said it’s not illegal for patients to decide to stop taking their meds so the psychiatrist could not compel him to do anything including taking his prescriptions to avoid severe symptoms such as hearing voices and deep paranoia.

I was frustrated because I felt the system was doing nothing preventative; it was going to be all punitive. I felt that the professional caregivers were doing nothing to avert an impending disaster. I knew in my heart that Joe needed to stabilize on medicine and get a restart in a controlled environment, and my fear was that Joe was going to hurt someone or get arrested, both of which has happened in the past.

I tried to convince Joe to self-commit, but he refused. So I discussed the behavior with the home, and we concluded there was danger to others and Joe needed to go into a hospital for a short stay. It was not to teach him a lesson or mess with him – which is sometimes hard for the afflicted to perceive – and then they go ballistic.

But after months of visiting Joe’s social worker and medical team and trying to intervene and lean on the team to suggest group therapy and talking to the licensed board and care residence to monitor the medication better, it didn’t seem that I was getting anywhere and all the advocating can take a toll. (I might add that I do not have a conservatorship and Joe needed to sign a waiver at the clinic, so they would discuss the case with me. He had signed it during his “better days” so it was in effect later when he was not agreeable.)

Just like Charlie Sheen who seems to have an ongoing struggle, my family member has repeated incidents, and it burns me out. Many people call Charlie Sheen a jerk and let me tell you, people with these problems can be, but they do deserve our compassion, not help avoiding the consequences of their actions, and if you have the strength to give, they will be better off with your efforts on their behalf.

Even though we don’t want to let our love ones down, I want to tell people out there that it is ok to take a breather; turn your back if you can’t deal with their problems at that moment. Long after Joe got out of the hospital from that particular 5150 in better condition as a result of the stay, he continued to manifest behavior that violated me, so I made the decision to cut ties. I needed to for a few months not to talk to him, to concentrate on my life, and rejuvenate so that I could come back more refreshed and in a healthy state of mind for myself.

I didn’t know if or when I was going to come back because I felt a lot of anger over the way I was treated after I had “helped” him repeatedly, and I felt abused when he was so hostile in return. It was emotionally painful to do this during the holidays and his birthday, causing me guilt because I do feel a responsibility to contribute to better his quality of life and safety.

After “the breather” though, I’m not angry anymore, and I just called up to see how my family member was doing. There was no apology from him, but I didn’t need it. I accept that’s who he is and now with my new self protecting boundaries in place, I can be kinder and able to offer advice that may be well received or not, but continue to be a support to him by just showing my love and concern.

Posted in conservatorship, family difficulties, family violence, Involuntary commitment, Involuntary Psychiatric Hold, mental illness, Troubled teens | Tagged: , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Information About the Involuntary Psychiatric Hold

Posted by Marcia on March 14, 2011

I have blogs and websites with tools to analyze traffic, see what terms people are using that lead them to my sites and my book. I use analytics to learn more about what information you’re seeking, and I occasionally use that along with discussions, emails and calls to determine topics to present.

Due to the ongoing discussions about Charlie Sheen and similar or more extreme experiences of others, this article is devoted to a difficult subject: the involuntary psychiatric hold or commitment. Involuntary commitment is when a person is placed in a psychiatric hospital or ward against his or her will. This must be in compliance with the mental health laws, is usually limited in duration and requires regular reevaluation.

I will direct you to some informational websites to help you or your friends as I am not in a profession that deals with these matters: I simply know how to research.

A Wikipedia entry at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Involuntary_commitment#Alternatives has a good overview of the history of involuntary commitment and some information about the process in different countries.

In California, Section 5150 allows a qualified officer or clinician to evaluate a person and have that person involuntarily confined. There are specifics as to who is qualified to evaluate a person and what circumstances would lead to this decision. Generally speaking, the person must be a danger to self and/or others and/or be gravely disabled. There is a Wikipedia entry regarding Section 5150 at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/5150_(Involuntary_psychiatric_hold).

There is a brochure describing the California involuntary 72-hour and 14-day hold that explains the process and a person’s rights under the law. This informational piece was created by the California Network of Mental Health Clients in Sacramento. The brochure is at http://www.disabilityrightsca.org/pubs/502401.pdf and their number is 916-443-3232. They have provided additional resources if you need them.

The last topic I will mention is “conservatorship” or “guardianship.” You can read an explanation at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conservatorship. In order to be another person’s conservator, you must have clear and convincing evidence that it is necessary to provide for the other person’s “physical health, food, clothing, and shelter” or that the person cannot “substantially manage his…own financial resources or…resist fraud or undue influence.”

I started this article by mentioning Charlie Sheen. It’s terrible to watch and I can’t imagine what this is like for the family and friends who love him. What would I do if I were in their shoes? I don’t know, and it’s hard for any of us to know from a distance exactly what’s going on and why. I can say this on the basis of my research – you don’t have to stand by and watch, and you don’t have to walk away because you don’t want to be enabling the behavior. A good psychiatrist and/or an attorney can help you sort through the options.

For those of you living in these extreme situations, I hope this has given you some information to consider and the courage to act. You will absolutely need courage and resolve.

Posted in behavior of someone using drugs, conservatorship, danger to self, enabler, enabling, estranged, family difficulties, family violence, Involuntary commitment, Involuntary Psychiatric Hold, mental illness, mentally ill teen, meth addict, out of control teens, parenting adult children, Parents and teens, restraining orders, Section 5150, teen and addiction, teen intervention, Troubled teens, violence in mentally ill people, what drugs cost, worried parents | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Parent’s Path to a Restraining Order

Posted by Marcia on October 28, 2010

Please note I am now primarily posting at Strained Relations: Parenting Troubled Teens. You’ll find all of the content you have sought on this blog. Please follow me over there.

Thank you,

Marcia

The following note was written in response to a comment made on my post at
https://strainedrelations.wordpress.com/2010/03/30/a-man’s-restraining-order-against-his-son/.

We have five kids; the two oldest are my husband’s, and yes, Robert had some issues, a little more than “teenage” ones, but nothing like this. The others, nothing to speak of….

Sadly, Ben is my own son, although my husband is his stepfather and has been since Ben was four. I was very glad to find your blog, and know I’m not the only one. I mean, I know that, intellectually, but – and I can say that here, Jennifer and others like her just don’t “get it”. Besides the counseling, they seem to think it’s the parents’ fault. Believe me: I dealt with a lot of social workers who outright said the same things.

The social workers kept telling us we were too strict. I was honestly puzzled. How can things like keep your room clean, be here for dinner, be home by 11 p.m., keep us informed of your whereabouts, do your laundry once a week, take a daily shower, and help out around the house be “too strict”? The whole thing about drove me crazy. Eventually, they started to see the light…sort of!

My son was just shy of his 15th birthday when he started skipping class – never a stellar student due to lack of effort, he was bringing home Ds and Fs. One C. He started running away, cursing us, causing damage in our home, and filed several false reports of abuse against us, which were investigated and found unsubstantiated. We sent him to counseling, then military school. He did pretty well, grades came up, politeness returned, behavior improved. Until he came home. He seemed to think he could do whatever he wanted. After a summer visit for a week at Grandma’s, he went on a hunger strike, ended up in the psych ward and then outpatient therapy.

There were questions about a fire at school, alcohol, then he ordered tasers online and used them on other students. Expelled, he returned home just after he turned 16. He didn’t want to go to the alternative high school, and frankly I wasn’t thrilled either. He said he’d work, get his GED, and start community college classes in the fall.

Within a month after returning home, his verbal abuse picked up, he ran off a few times, and then assaulted me. We already knew most of the police force, due to numerous calls before he went away to school, and since, and he was taken to detention. For three weeks. He came home, on probation, and was well-behaved for 24 hours. Within nine days, he was removed again to detention.

He called me that night, at midnight. He asked me to pick him up and I said no. The next morning, he told the detention officers that my husband had beaten him and they put him in a shelter for a month, then foster care. The family court judge realized what was going on and kept my son in care for six months. The rest of us, including our now-12-year-old, tried to recuperate. We all went to counseling. My son was tested, found to have antisocial tendencies.

He came home in October, a month or so before he turned 17. Things were fine for a few days, then got worse, same stuff all over again. He was put on anti-violence meds by a psychiatrist. He lasted, at home, until February of this year. He ran away, was gone for a week, two hours from home. His probation officer insisted he come home. He couch-surfed, he broke into our house a few times, knowing we weren’t there. We finally went back to court, re his probation, and the judge put him back in detention for three days. Then he ended the probation, and told my son there was nothing more we could do for him; he did order him to comply with treatment, and my son did so for a few days or a week. At one point, he stood outside our house, after threatening us, for a solid hour, ringing the bell, beating on the doors and windows, and yelling and cursing.

Several times he went to the family farm, engaged in vandalism, wild parties with girls and alcohol, guns, fires in the buildings, etc. When he first went to “live” there, in the old garage, it was because we’d had an episode at home and he took off. He went first to the police station, told them I’d hit him with a laptop, and when they refused to do anything – knowing he was lying – he went to the ER and told the same story. Again, nothing, so he hotlined me. The investigator came out, talked to me, talked to my son, told me he should never come home.

The last straw was this past May. My son came home occasionally, to ask for money usually, but this time he demanded it and refused to leave unless I gave him some. He was violent, threatening, and not only refused to leave when requested, but blocked the door so I couldn’t leave either.

I filed for an order of protection, the temp [temporary order] was granted; my son came by the house a few days later, and I told him to leave and he asked if I had a PO [Protective Order]. I said yes, and I showed it to him. He turned around and left, went to the police station; they called and asked for info, which I gave. He went to stay with his former foster parents.

I was granted the RO [Restraining Order], but the permanent [order] stated no communication whatsoever; the temp had, as I requested, allowed phone contact. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, filing the paperwork, then going to court. After about a month of my occasionally texting him to make sure he was okay, he blew up and told me to kiss off. I keep up, sort of, on FB [Facebook] and via his sisters. I continue to pay his medical insurance and co-pays, etc. Not sure where to go from here on out.

Ironically, we have five kids and two grandkids and have never had these kinds of issues. I’m also a professional writer/editor and my specialty is, naturally, parenting. Jennifer reminds me of many social workers and students who think everything should be hearts and flowers and rainbows and teddy bears and, if you throw enough counseling at someone, they can be “fixed.”

Sometimes, there is no “fix.”

Posted in estranged, estranged from parents, family difficulties, family violence, file restraining order against son, missing our son, orders of protection, orders of protection against son, out of control teens, Parents and teens, restraining orders, Troubled teens | Leave a Comment »

Article: Parent Obtained Restraining Order Against Son

Posted by Marcia on October 11, 2010

I sent out a request to hear from parents who had gotten a restraining order against their child. I received the follow message and I have changed the name of the son.

“Here’s what happened that led up to getting a restraining order last year against my then 20 year old son, “Rick”.

Since he was 14 or so we knew he was drinking and smoking and doing drugs. He had problems already and the drugs and everything made the situation much worse. We took him to therapy and wanted to send him to a therapeutic boarding school but couldn’t afford it. Our part of the country doesn’t have much to offer as far as family help.

He was stealing from us and I mean he took from our wallets, stole the change bottle, took some of my jewelry and sold it. We didn’t know what would happen next. He had took $1,000 or more and that’s just a guess.

My husband bought a safe and we put our wallets and any items of value that we could fit in there. It was ridiculous to have to remember to get your wallet before you go out the door, but at least we knew where our money was.

I heard therapists telling us that we were part of the problem, but I was viewing it that this kid was the problem and we were just good parents who wanted to see him outgrow this and still be in a safe environment. I was scared that if we kicked him out of our house that he might live in the streets or even die. I also felt that we would be branded as horrible parents once he was out, but till then it was our dirty family secret all of the tings that went on at home.

All through his teen years he would be very disrespectful to us and would call us terrible names and if we tried to talk to him, he would yell at us or stomp to his room. Once at his room he might put a hole in the wall or throw a chair. I was afraid of him and afraid to be alone with him.

The last day he was at home, I asked him if he had seen a box I knew had been delivered for my birthday. It was a present from my mom and she sent very expensive things. He said it hadn’t come but the UPS tracker said it had. He went to his room and I started looking through the trash. That’s the thing: he lied and stole and was never good at hiding his tracks.

I found the box and the packing slip said there was jewelry enclosed. I was furious and had really had enough. I called my husband and he came home early.

We confronted Rick and he took his almost full can of soda and threw it at me and then he hit me, punched me hard in my cheek. I was in a lot of pain and just knocked to the floor from that punch. My husband and Rick started pushing each other. Finally Rick was pushed out the door and my husband locked it. Rick was banging on the door and threatening us.

My husband called the police and they came out to talk with us. They were really fast, but the few minutes until they got here were terrifying. I didn’t know what Rick would do and was scared my husband would have a heart attack.

The police said we should file a restraining order. Because there was still time that day, we went to the court and filed the papers. The papers weren’t difficult, but the emotions that went into that day were horrible. We were granted the order and had Rick served. He has to stay away from our home and not contact us, but we could call him if we want to.

We got all new locks and increased our security. We don’t ever park our cars outside and I worry about running into him somewhere. I’ve seen some of his friends and hear he’s out there wasting his life and staying in seedy places. I hate being afraid to run into him.

I am sad, angry, depressed and ashamed and even though I want to talk with him it’s very dangerous. I think one of the worst parts is that when you have this child and you love him, you have a dream about what your life will be and now that dream is blown apart. It won’t ever be all right in our house.”

If you are interested in more information about restraining orders (in some states, “orders of protection”) you can check with your local police or courthouse.

Posted in enabler, enabling, estranged, estranged from parents, family difficulties, family violence, file restraining order against son, missing our son, orders of protection, orders of protection against son, out of control teens, Parents and teens, restraining orders, Troubled teens, worried parents | Leave a Comment »

 
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