If I only had a dollar for everytime I have seen people in the ER who wouldn’t be able to properly parent a goldfish, yet for some reason have 2-3 kids; I wouldn’t be working right now. Really though, I think a whole blog could be devoted to the subject of inadequate parenting. Yet, the following story really stood out in the sea of poor parenting that I see on a daily basis.
I get a call from police who tell me that they are bringing in an 11 year old. I thought it was a prank and asked them if he was a little tough for the force to handle. Then they told me no, that it was serious. They had been called out to a home by a mother who stated that her son had gone crazy and started to beat her. They came out the first time and settled things down and left. Then they were called out again for the same issue. This 11 year old clearly wanted to put a serious hurt on his mother. The second time police came though, he started to scuffle with them as well. And so now, he was coming to the ER for what sounded like a transfer to a psych facility for adolescents.
When I get around to seeing this young hellion, I am surprised by how small he is sitting in the psych room chair. The very experienced nurse who had triaged him told me that he wasn’t telling her anything. No comments whatsoever. So before going in, I did a quick check on adolescent psychiatric beds in the state. The closest available bed was 4 hours away. I use that technique a lto because it is amazing how cooperative a person can get when they realize how far away they are going to be sent. I have often wished I could transfer to another country – that should really get them to cooperate.
So now it’s time to talk. I make it straightforward and simple for this young man. I spoke to him in a stern, no nonsense manner. If you don’t want to talk to me, that’s fine. I already have a place for you to go and it won’t be quite as comfy as home. If, on the other hand, you want to plead your case and explore other options, then you had better talk. And so he opened up to me with great reluctance. What he said though, I didn’t at all expect.
Doc: So, why were you beating on your mom?
William: Why shouldn’t I? Everyone else does?
Doc (shocked): What do mean everyone else does?
William: All her boyfriends hit her before when she didn’t listen. So I told her to do something and she wouldn’t listen, so I hit her.
Doc: And you don’t think that its wrong to hit her.
For me, that was totally unexpected. Obviously, this boy’s mother had been in more than one relationship where she was domestically abused. We put a lot of focus on the women in these cases, but sometimes we underestimate the effect this has on the children. Children learn so much from watching what we do – the main reason why in parenting we always encourage parents to do what they say. You can say whatever you want, because children are going to learn more from your behavior and actions than from your words. Your words will have the most impact when they are backed up by supporting actions.
So, now I was stuck. It wouldn’t be entirely right to penalize this boy now, since he was only doing what he had been taught. I’m sure he was very confused since he had not only never been taught that this was wrong, but was actually shown that it was right. So, mom and I had a little conference to discuss this matter.
I explained to her that clearly, she had been part of the wrong message to this boy. She totally agreed with me and said that she had made some poor decisions and that she had furthermore always given this little boy decision making capacity in the home. He was, for lack of a better term, the man of the house and the head of the household. She errantly thought that allowing him to make decisions would be a good step in helping him mature, but what it had done, in this particular environment, was give him the idea that he was in charge. He was the boss, at least in his own mind, and no one had yet challenged that concept. That explains why he even scuffled with police. He was probably asking himself why they were getting involved in his private domain.
At the end, I got through to him that he should be his mother’s protector. He doesn’t want someone to slap him around, why would he allow someone else to do that to the mother he loves so much? Worse yet, why would he do it himself? I told him that he had one chance to make me a believer and that I would give him his golden opportunity to convince his mother to take him back home. When his mother went back to give him the chance to apologize, I saw the behavior of a true 11 year old child. He wept and went down on his knees telling her how sorry he was for hurting her and how he should have protected her. They both cried and I felt as if we had made an impact. We had changed the course maybe before it was too late. Only time will tell.
We get a user’s manual with every product, no matter how trivial. We are required to have a license to drive a car, to undergo safety training when it comes to firearms, to attend job orientation when we get our first job bagging groceries. Yet for the most important job in the world, most people think they need no training at all. If we want a brighter future, me thinks we need to make a bigger effort in this issue today.
For your consideration:
But really, on a more serious note: