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The Spiral

by Michael E. Kirk, PhD
Dr. Kirk is a local clinical psychologist, father and grandfather, who specializes in working with families, adolescents, and children.

Alex has been caught playing with fire. He does not have many friends and keeps to himself quite a bit. He has a fairly big knife collection. He does not speak with family much. His mother thinks she has caught him hurting the dog several times, but he will never admit to it. Things seem to be broken around the home, but no one can figure out who breaks them all. His father resides in another state.

Robbie is very quiet and seldom makes good eye contact with his parents. His usual answer to them is “I don’t know” as he slinks away. He stays in his room to play violent video games and has a morbid curiosity with firepower. He never comes to the family dinner table, while his parents do not encourage him otherwise. His parents do not know his friends and leave him be when he resists their offer to join them on errands.  Robbie senses that his parents do not care about him. They always seem so busy with their lives.

Archie is moody, argumentative, and distant with his family. He seems to purposely provoke arguments and irritate others. Archie does not do well in school. While he says he has lots of friends, he is never seen with any.  He sleeps much of the day and seems to stay up all night searching “YouTube,” which makes getting up in the morning a real battle.

All three of these children have red flag behaviors. Somehow, the Parenting process has failed these children. Their parents need to take responsibility for changing what they are doing, which includes receiving outside psychological help for them and their child.

Whenever a child appears to become isolated from his family and have little social interaction, there should be a concern. As he begins to act out what he believes others have encouraged him to do: stay away!  

Manipulative children who seem to have little regard for others can also be a worry. They attempt to control others as they feel they have been controlled.

Quarrelsome children are displaying the hurt they feel they have encountered with others.

Children who have a fascination with fire and hurting animals are quite troubled. They have begun actively seeking to hurt others as they believe they have been hurt.

Children who appear to have a dark fascination with weapons, such as guns and knives, may be signaling their overt need for extra power to harm others.

This is the downhill spiral that children may often take as they become more and more enraged with the way they feel they have been neglected or mistreated. A therapist must become involved at any point in this spiral and may be able to give the parents some perspective on how this occurred and how to reverse the process.

The end of the spiral is when a child mistakenly realigns the blame he has for his antagonizers toward the innocent public. It is at this point that the long, seemingly benign process of neglect begins to take its toll, as the child misguidedly places the culpability upon innocent others and starts to single them out.

Concerned parents who notice this pattern can begin with these tactics:  At any point along the way, you may work at tearing down the child’s borders and gently refuse to be pushed away any longer. No longer accept his seeming willingness to walk away. Stay with him and follow him to his room. Smile. Read your book in there. Sit down with your child when he is watching something you would not. Stay, make some popcorn, and be happy with your child. When your child becomes argumentative or insulting, slow down and tell him you are certain you must have done something to hurt him. Ask him to tell you what you did that hurt him.

This process will be slow, as it took a long time to get here in the first place. Be very patient. Your child does desire to KNOW that you love him. The only way to make this happen is to spend positive time with him. In due time, your child may be more willing to open up, stay up with the family, go out to the store to shop with Mom, and be gentle with the dog. But, parents must treat the child better first. Talk softly, go find him in the house and speak with him, be pleasant and refuse to yell. Touch and kiss your child more. Children and adolescents still need what parents should have been giving them when they were babies:

AFFECTION & LOVE. Happy people treat others happy as well.

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Tags: Featured Story, Parenting

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