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Letter: Coping With Misbehaving Teens

To the Editor:

The call came from the police in the early evening informing us that our son and a friend had been caught vandalizing town property. With shock and anxiety, we rushed to the station. The event turned on what the boys saw as a prank but that the officials saw as a serious misdemeanor. The differences in perceptions were striking. After further discussions with both officials and our son, we acknowledged that our understanding of our son’s developmental level was not accurate.

A recent Valley News editorial “Teenage Confessions,” especially the statement, “Teenagers are not, it is clear, just younger versions of adults,” provides insights about the nature of brain development of teenagers.

Most of us can clearly recall instances of angrily confronting our teenager’s errant behavior, whether it be a form of rebellion, a “reasonable” request or behavior bordering on a misdemeanor or worse. Many parents know that a key to bringing up one’s child is to understand his or her level of development. Another is to hold on, often desperately, to one’s sanity, especially during the teenage years, to safeguard the child’s growth to adulthood. There are, of course, resources to help parents cope with a teen’s misbehavior. In our case, we were fortunate to connect with several other families experiencing traumas regarding their sons, and with the help of a social worker, we, as a group, vented our frustrations and learned about teen development.

Our sons were not in serious trouble with the law. However, for those families whose children have received a citation for breaking a law, an important resource is the Windsor County Court Diversion Program in White River Junction. If your child is eligible for diversion, he or she meets with the diversion case manager and, in turn, you and your child meet with a review panel of trained community volunteers to develop a contract for making amends. These efforts represent a saving grace for many teens and their families: With the successful completion of the contract, a child avoids having a criminal record. The diversion program represents a supportive, humane response to children and families in need.

Bob Scobie



Editorial: Teenage Confessions; Age Group Is Vulnerable to Abuse

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Anyone with working knowledge of the teenage brain — parents, say — probably will not be shocked by new data suggesting that juveniles are far more likely to confess to crimes they did not commit than are adults. Impulsiveness and the desire for short-term gratification so typical of teenagers may make them particularly vulnerable to suggestion or coercion during interrogation. …