Friday, July 02, 2010

Good Book - "Teens Who Hurt" (Hardy & Laszloffy)

Title: Teens Who Hurt: Clinical Interventions to Break the Cycle of Adolescent Violence
Authors: Kenneth V Hardy & Tracey A Laszloffy
Published: NY: Guilford Press, 2005.

Teens Who Hurt: Clinical Interventions to Break the Cycle of Adolescent ViolenceThis book deserves to be read. Both parents and teens will benefit from reading it. In a nutshell, this book is directed at people facing teen violence. Though it deals with the physical problems of violence, it helps readers to recognize that under each physical blow from a teen, lies a fragile emotional being.

1) Diagnosing the Problem
The four problems identified are that teens hurt because of 4 reasons:
  • They feel devalued;
  • They feel disrupted from the community they love.
  • They feel dehumanized;
  • They feel rage arising from one or more of the three problems above.
Violence among teens are generally due to an emotional neglect that starts inside the home. When teens lose this critical form of security, the results can be tragic. The problems are exacerbated when adults feel helpless about what to do. This is where I feel Hardy and Laszloffy`s book can play a major role to guide adults.

2) Distilling the Solutions
Using a clinical strategy called the VCR approach, the authors attempt to deal with the 4 symptoms above. 
  • V = Validate, Validate and Validate the teens' sense of self-worth;
  • C = Challenge; this has to do with positively encouraging youths to move beyond themselves. It leads them to solve challenges themselves, rather than to be talked down into discouragement. This has to be carefully done. If not careful, adults can unwittingly enter into a cycle of 'challenging, confronting, criticizing and correcting
  • R = Request. Teens are no longer little children. A little respect and courtesy goes a long way.
What is particularly helpful for the reader are the 'adolescent axioms.'
  • "Expect Madness, Badness, and No Easy Rides." (126)
  • "Invoke the PTA Rule" (129). This refers to the role of parents, therapists and adults to maintain a form of emotional strength that stems from one's sense of secureness and positive psychological empathy. In order to help teens, one first has to be secure and confident on one's own self-worth. Otherwise, one risks being accused on trying to 'control' others. Teens are especially sensitive about this.
  • "Be Suspicious of Memory" (139); do not glorify the past so much that teens are unable to live up to past expectations. It is simply unfair to expect them to live in our past, when teens have so much going for them in the future. Remember that teens have a future that is much different from those of us adults.
  • Making a distinction between style and substance. In other words, if adults can maintain a focus on 'content' and what needs to be done, HOW it is done will depend on circumstances and what works for the teen. (144)
  • "Recognize How Adolescents are Similar Yet Different" (145): some things are quite the same, yet others are different. The key is to recognize the difference and adapt continuously as they grow.
3) Designing the VCR Strategy
I find this a simple and easy to implement method. In 'Validating,' we want to make sure we understand, not necessarily agree with the teen concerned. We ask questions regarding their emotions and whatever outbursts. We encourage them positively, correcting them gently, and learn to make sense of the rights and wrongs of their feelings. After all, teens are not always right, but they have the right to express themselves.

Secondly, the Challenge step comes after validating. This will provide the path forward to challenge the teen to move and live beyond themselves. After all, teens have remarkable energies at their age. Why let it go to waste by suppressing their creativity?

Once the V and C steps are done, work on the Request portion. It is where the teenagers are prompted to go beyond complaining or lamenting. Wise adult guidance is even more important here. 

My Comments
The book offers lots of practical wisdom. After listing the 4 problems teen face, the authors provide a way toward redemption through re-validating, re-connecting, re-humanizing, and redeeming one`s self-worth. This is deeply necessary for healing to take place. 

The 5 adolescent axioms let us moderate our expectations of teens as well as any unhealthy idealism inside the mind of the adult. The axioms, used together with the VCR strategy can provide a constructive path for both adults and teens as they interact. Perhaps, what teens most need at their tumultuous age is a listening ear. I like the way the authors state the problem, and then offer positive steps to break the vicious cycle. Good book and should be read by all concerned for youth development. 

Rating: 4 stars of 5.


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