Parents, Have You Done Your Trust Building?

She sits sullenly looking at the floor. They all do, the teenagers roped into therapy by angry parents. “It isn’t enough that she isn’t doing her homework; it turns out she’s online with boys behind my back,” growls Mrs. Portnoy. “She’s only 14 and I’m scared to death what she’s getting into.” Sylvia continues to stare at the floor. Not a sign of life. Mrs. Portnoy continues, “I’ve pleaded, I’ve argued, I’ve yelled…” Sylvia suddenly comes somewhat alive, remarking, “‘Screamed’ is more like it.” For some reason, the teens seem to have found the subtle distinction between yelling and screaming. I’m always impressed with that—and saddened, too, that they should have had so much exposure to the two forms of expressed anger that they can make such fine distinctions. “Yes, that’s right,” glowers Mrs. Portnoy, “because nothing I say or do works.” “We both try,” Mr. Portnoy pleads, perhaps slightly embarrassed by his wife’s forcefulness. There I sit, compelled to be diplomatic towards the poor Portnoys who truly want the best for their child, are clueless how to get it, and—worst of all—are causing much of the problem their child is facing. I must be loving and gentle with the Portnoys in helping them because if I’m the least bit challenging, the least bit confrontative, the least bit offensive (and people can take easy offense when hearing that they did something wrong), they’re out the door and Sylvia will be resigned to an awful life: a life of self-doubt, low self-esteem, confusion, and self-hate. She may also get involved in drugs, gangs, or early pregnancy. This is not an...
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