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Troubled Children and Youth Report


Crisis and Courage

The history of Western civilization provides evidence of cruel and negligent attitude towards children who frequently were treated as property, severely punished or even sold into servitude. Regardless of the remarkable progress of democracy, the problem of social support for youngsters remains undertreated in the United States. Demonizing children’s deviant behavior is the common strategy implemented to justify the draconian punitive measures.

While democracies worldwide have already given serious consideration to the protection of youth rights, the legislation of the United States still allows sending children under 18 to be imprisoned for a life sentence. It is important to understand the underlying causes of the youthful problem behavior for selecting the most effective solutions to the problem instead of punishing children who are the victims of the social order themselves. According to Peter Benson (1997), this approach can cause the bankruptcy of social capital (Brendto & Shabhazian 2004).

Coping with Conflict

Though conflict is a normal animal reaction to the occurrence of threats, people may have a distorted perception of danger and redefine insults as potential threats. The sharp anger as the reaction to any kind of assault is rooted deep in American culture and history. Being exposed to violence at home and school, modern children choose between the roles of victims and victimizers instead of learning how to coexist peacefully with other members of the community. Taking into account the fact that the children’s observable behavior is insufficient for concluding their inner life, it is necessary to understand the triggers and true motives of kids’ actions and avoid responding to their problem behavior with a threat which is a thinking error.

Pathways to Problems

As opposed to the tendencies of demonizing the children’s problem behavior, the youth trouble makers only try to defeat themselves. Traumas as painful feelings are recognized as the main triggers making children decide on coping or defeating behavior. Developing the sense of their self-identity and looking for their place in the community, children depend upon adults and need their positive responses and connection. Misunderstanding or neglecting children’s needs, adults can traumatize them and observe the troubling behavior which is the direct consequence of their errors. Love and limits are the kids’ primary needs. It is important to distinguish between behavioral and psychological control for teaching children responsibility and self-control paying proper respect to their emotional needs.

The Dance of Disturbance

According to Karl Menninger (1893-1990), healthy emotional adjustment requires living in harmony with oneself and others. So that to teach kids how to obtain that balance, adults need to achieve the goals of empathizing, compassion and encouragement. The response to children’s annoying behavior depends upon the adult’s private logic and has a significant impact on the kid’s following development. For this reason, enhancing the parents’ and educators’ awareness of the true causes of the troubling behavior in children is crucial for improving the current practices of responding to the kids’ troubling behavior. Recognizing the importance of empathy for understanding the children’s inner worlds is crucial for dealing with their behavior more constructively.

Relationship Beachheads

The goal of establishing trustful relationships and showing the depth of their love was defined as the major challenge for educators by Pestalozzi to a hundred years ago. The deficit of love as an unmet basic need in all children was recognized as a common cause of the troubling behavior by Anna Freud. A positive relationship with children is the necessary precondition of their regular development and effective interventions.

The traumatized children can develop sophisticated strategies aimed at blocking the adults’ attempts to help them which need to be distinguished by the adults to estimate not only the observed behavior but also the underlying inner processes which accompany it. The fight, flight and fool techniques used by children can explain how kids may attack the others because they are afraid of being hurt themselves (fight), avoid interpersonal contact not to be hurt (flight) and conceal their true feelings and emotions because they are afraid of being laughed at (fool). Distinguishing these strategies can be a challenge even for experienced educators, but the empathic skills can be helpful.

Cultivating Strengths

An interesting interpretation of the defiant children was provided by Maria Montessori who explained their troubling behavior as the courage and resistance to an unfair surrounding world. Unfortunately, not everyone can see the positive qualities of troubled children. The problem behavior should be viewed as an opportunity to structure the child’s personality for success, to boost his/her attention and affection, enhance their morale and motivation and coach them for competence. No matter how difficult it may be in certain situations, adults should look at the positive sides of the problem children and hope even for those who seem hopeless.

Crisis as Opportunity

Taking into account the strategies which children can implement for concealing their true emotions and avoiding contact with adults, it can be stated that connecting with problem kids can be difficult. However, crisis moments need to be perceived as opportunities for establishing rapport. Entangling themselves from anger is of paramount importance for adults who attempt to help children in conflicts. Their emotional management, including the monitoring of their feelings and avoiding personal assaults through children’s trouble behavior, can be offensive. The next step is creating favorable conditions for settling the conflict by allowing tine to cooling down and modeling a forgiving spirit. The crisis events can cause emotional conflict and reduce the person’s ability to cope with the problem. It is especially important to break the self-defeating patterns in the crisis periods for avoiding more serious traumas.

The Developmental Audit

The children’s trouble behavior should become a signal for the adults motivating them to analyze the preconditions of crisis, the main deficits, and ways for filling them and plan future development. In contrast to widely spread misconceptions that trouble children are irresponsible and immature, kids should be involved in their developmental planning. Constructing growth plans and discussing their needs and strengths is an effective intervention strategy that can help overcome self-defeating blocks and teaching kids to live in harmony with themselves and the others.

“The Courage to Trust”

The story of Allan represents a clear example of problem behavior as the result of family crises and adults’ thinking errors. Though it was the extreme case in which Dad as a domestic offender had some psychic disorder and needed professional help, the main message is that loving but not understanding is not enough for a child. Allan’s broken life is the result of a series of draconian punishments for his problem behavior which was only his response to the unfair world. However, the fact that Alan can monitor his emotions and their causes is a significant step forward in learning how to cope with crises.

Reference List

Brendto, L. & Shabhazian, M. (2004). Troubled children and youth: Turning problems into opportunities. Virginia, VA: Research Press.

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IvyPanda. 2020. "Troubled Children and Youth." July 14, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/troubled-children-and-youth/.

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IvyPanda. (2020) 'Troubled Children and Youth'. 14 July.

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