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Counseling a Student After the Blow-up

I recently counseled a student who was incredibly angry that his parents wouldn’t buy him what he wanted. Remember, I live in Orange County, California. Walking across any high school parking lot in town can make even the most devout Mother Theresa wanna be get envious. The collection of cars is more like a car show than a hand-me-down jalopy graveyard littered across the parking lot of the school I attended.

The list of names he called his parents before storming out of the house was a bit disconcerting. How could such a basic need, something he already has, but just wants more of, cause such an angry reaction when denied?

Here are some comments and questions that came up in our conversation. These will hopefully be helpful to others:

  • This isn’t just about _________. What’s really going on?
  • Those things you said were to make your parents angry, right?
  • Did that help?
  • Did you get what you want?
  • They’ve set up a structure for you to earn money, right? (Washing windows, cars, vacuuming, etc – in this case, I knew the answer beforehand)
  • Why would you expect them to give you something without you doing your part?
  • Let’s talk about coping skills
    • When a person is 2 or 3, parents expect a kid to throw himself on the ground and have a tantrum when they don’t get their way
    • When a kid gets to be 7 or 8, parents will probably take that kid to a doctor to get checked out for emotional issues if he hasn’t changed his coping skills by then
    • You’re almost out of high school, I think you’re beyond the coping skills you’re using
    • Would you be embarrassed if I walked into your house while you were treating your parents the way you were?
    • Think through how you deal with not getting what you want
  • What’s life going to be like when you’re on your own?
    • You’ve got your own place
    • You set your own rules
    • People in your house answer to you
    • (He saw where I was going)
    • Right now it’s your parent’s turn to make those rules
    • Pretty soon (in a few years) it will be your turn
    • For now, you gotta live by their rules and respect that
  • There is a path toward getting your way
    • Show ownership
    • Create a plan based on the allowance system they’ve set up for you
    • Say to them you’ll have it done by Friday
    • You’ll have _________ on Saturday
    • No drama needed