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Threatens to Run Away


My 17-year-old son threatens to run away, is verbally abusive, destroys property and is manipulative. I have two younger children at home, and I have difficulty focusing on them. My son rages until everyone gives in to his demands. I don’t know what to do for him, short of throwing him out of my house


You are in a very difficult situation, and it took courage to reach out for help. You did the right thing. You are not alone. Unfortunately, many parents are feeling the same types of emotions and frustrations that you are right now. You mention that you want to do something for him; it is great that you are focused on this; he needs your help now.

It is important to find the positive things he is doing and remind him of his value and importance to you and your family. Many kids who are angry and violent have gotten the label as the “bad kid” from others as well as from themselves. They end up living up to that expectation.

Try to remind him that he is a great kid. ​Give him choices and responsibilities; when he completes them, praise him, but try to minimize your praise if he chooses to not complete the tasks. Some examples may be to work in the yard, do the dishes or clean his room. Point out even the smallest things he does that help you. If he takes off his shoes at the door or comes home on time let him know that you noticed.

If your son sees a therapist or is on any medication, it may be time to reevaluate his treatment to help him learn proper ways to get what he wants and express his anger.

Also, sit down with him at a time when things are calm and establish a plan. Make a family contract stating what rewards he can earn by showing respectful behavior. Rewards can include his cell phone (if he has one), driving privileges or going out at night. These are rewards/privileges he should earn, not just have handed to him. If he is rude and disrespectful or “raging,” as you mentioned, then he loses these privileges for a period of time. But let him know how he can earn them back so he can be successful.

Your situation can be frustrating. It is important to take care of yourself, as well as to find help for your son. Do you have support — friends, family or a therapist to talk to? We encourage you and your son to call us at the Boys Town National Hotline (1-800-448-3000). Please keep in touch and let us know how you are doing or if there is anything else we can help you with. He is still your little boy in there, and this, too, shall pass.