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Troubled 13-Year-Old Turns to Violence
Q: Our 13-year-old son has been arrested for attempted assault on his father, and was suspended from school for telling a student he was going to bring a gun to school and blow everyone away (he has no access to a gun). We have him in counseling, but it doesn't seem to be helping much. The child psychiatrist has put him on Paxil. Our son is also hearing impaired, and wears two hearing aids. I only want to do what's best for him, but I'm at a loss about where to go next for help.
A: Two observations: You note that your son "has no access to a gun," but in America, sadly, that just isn't so.
I suggest that you always remain familiar with his room and other areas of your home. If you check his room when he is at school, for example, remember that you're looking for indicators of serious problems -- not minor infractions. In other words, no need to bring up small things with him, because it's best if he doesn't feel you are invading his privacy.
Next, I sense that the psychiatrist treating your son doesn't have your full confidence. Finding someone you respect, someone who educates and empowers you, is important, because there will be many times you'll want guidance. Your parenting challenge is more difficult than most, so your efforts, patience, and commitment to learn all you can are an expression of true love for your son.
Thank you for what you're doing.
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Gavin de Becker is widely regarded as the leading U.S. expert on the prediction and management of violence. His work has earned him three Presidential appointments and a position on a congressional committee. He is currently co-chair of the Domestic Violence Council Advisory Board, and a Senior Fellow at the UCLA School of Public Policy.