Relationship Connection: I think my kids have personality disorders

Question

I have a 17 year-old daughter and 15 year-old son who I am extremely concerned about. They both seem to be one type of person at times and then almost completely opposite at others. I have recently found some articles and books about personality disorders. How should I get my children properly diagnosed and what would be the right steps for treatment if they do have a personality disorder?

I have struggled my entire life with depression and anxiety. I have been much better in the last 5 years with proper medication and I often go to therapy. My husband has ADD and anxiety. He is also on medication and very stable. As adults, we have been very stable and are able to work through our tough days together due to therapy and proper medications.

Both our daughter and our son have had several romantic relationships and move from one relationship to another. They both lie to us about grades. They often don’t want to go to school even though they have both been A-students in general. They are very smart and well liked by their peers.

Randomly our daughter will lash out at others because she perceives something that was said or done as an attack against her. Our son feels deeply that no one likes him or that others don’t think well of him even though he has many friends. Our daughter’s relationship with others is very unstable. Sometimes she is very happy and thinks we are great. Then later she says we are terrible parents when we don’t give her exactly what she wants.

Our daughter is never at fault for anything with anyone. She blames everything on others at least 90 percent of the time. On a rare good day she is quick to say something was her fault when it really was and will apologize. This has increased a lot in the past 3 years.

Our son struggles with anger and being physically mean to his brothers when he is angry. He is the oldest and very strong. On his good days he is VERY kind and quick to help. He has bad days almost 50 percent of the time.

We love them dearly but don’t know where to begin and we don’t want to make them feel like they are a burden. We try to discuss their bad behavior kindly because we want them to feel loved. Thanks for your time and any direction you can give is appreciated.

Answer

Adolescence is such a stormy time, full of uncertainty, insecurity, changes, transition, and countless other adjustments that it’s difficult to see what might really be going on with teens. Trying to figure out the cause of their behaviors is a complicated process. Before jumping to conclusions diagnosing your kids, I recommend you consider some of the following points.

How is the quality of your personal relationship with each of your children? Sometimes the redirecting and disciplining can take up so much time that the parent/child relationship never gets nurtured.

When’s the last time you took time to be with them alone? You may wonder what you would talk about or do, especially if things have been tense lately. Find out what interests them and find ways to spend time with them doing it. Even if you can’t think of anything, try spending time with them over a meal or dessert. Just being with them is important. They may appear bored or disinterested. Stay with it. Remember, contact is more important than consent.

Your kids have some tough reactions and certainly need some redirection and boundaries. There will be times you will need to step in and set firm limits. In between those times, however, it’s critical that you build a relationship with them. I’m not a big fan of the saying, “I’m not your friend, I’m your parent.” I get the sentiment and how parents need to ultimately err on the side of being the parent instead of trying to be popular. I agree with that mindset. What I see happen, though, is that parents stop being friendly to their kids while they enforce limits. They become probation officers who only become interested in outcomes.

If your goal is to help your children become respectful and considerate of others, you must model that while you’re setting limits with them. If you’re already in therapy, make sure you don’t just turn into a co-therapist and diagnose your kids so you can fix them. Instead, learn how your reactions to your children might influence the relationship you have with them. Allow yourself to be vulnerable and learn how everyone can work to improve relationships in the family.

I encourage you to check out “The Anatomy of Peace” by the Arbinger Institute. It’s a wonderful book that helps parents work on getting their hearts right so they can more effectively guide their families toward healthy relationships.

While you’re working to connect with them, you might better understand what they need as you observe them and listen to them. They may not share much, but I trust that parents can gain insight and understanding as they spend time and pay close attention. Sometimes parents spend so much time talking and lecturing that they really never learn anything about their children and what they need.

Again, I don’t doubt that your children have some behavioral struggles that need attention. I’m encouraging you to start with the less intrusive approach of working on building a more secure relationship with them while you enforce firm limits. Both are possible and will help communicate the respect and love you have for them better than simply diagnosing and controlling their behavior.

Stay connected!

ResourcesScreen Shot 2014-02-05 at 6.27.21 AM

Want to improve your marriage in a fun and engaging two-day marriage workshop? Geoff will be facilitating a Hold Me Tight marriage workshop in St. George, Utah, February 21-22. Visit www.alliantcounseling.com for more details.

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Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in St. George, Utah. He specializes in working with couples in all stages of their relationships. The opinions stated in this article are solely his and not those of St. George News.

Have a relationship question for Geoff to answer? Submit to:

Email: geoff@lovingmarriage.com

Twitter: @geoffsteurer

Facebook: facebook.com/GeoffSteurerMFT

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2014, all rights reserved.

 

 

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10 Comments

  • GiveAway February 19, 2014 at 9:21 am

    Your comments, “I have struggled my entire life with depression and anxiety. I have been much better in the last 5 years with proper medication and I often go to therapy. My husband has ADD and anxiety. He is also on medication and very stable” are a dead give away you are from Utah, most likely St George, where for some reason, there is a cultural hang-up on looks and image. Why do people in St George have such a hang-up on their image, on what they think they are supposed to look like, how they are supposed to act, who might be watching them, grading them, constantly evaluating them? No wonder there is a high suicide rate and dependency on anti-depressant medications. The hang-up on having the perfect looks and perfect image and perfect behaviors is oppressive. Happiness is found with being happy with who you are, not how you look or the image you want to have to look and act perfect. Ask yourself, “Am I truly happy with myself, how I look, how I interact with people, how I care about others and how I care about myself?” If you are hooked on the image issue, as are many people in St George, you’ll always find fault with yourself, your possessions, your friends and your family. You will find a fault in everything, for never is anything perfect like that false image you fantasize about. Get real. Get a life. Get over that imaginary image you are obsessed with.

  • Get Help Now! February 19, 2014 at 10:54 am

    Nice. You are looking for sincere help here, and all you get is psychobabble.
    I believe you have a very real problem here with your son. From what I read in your article, there are safety issues that this so called “therapist” missed completely.
    If that boy is not being treated with both counseling (and NOT with the author,) and psychotropic drugs, he needs to be. He could easily become a physical danger to both himself and to others!
    The girl needs help too, of course. And you need to move on this right away, as both of these kid’s futures are at stake here. Don’t wait!

  • doofy February 19, 2014 at 11:37 am

    Lets see, her daughter isn’t pregnant, her son isn’t in jail, and neither one is doing drugs it seems. Is she blowing the issues way out of proportion and over-parenting?

  • Tom February 19, 2014 at 2:40 pm

    I dont think its over parenting. It seems quite the opposite.But yes, it is being blown waaaay out of proportion. They are teenagers. They are trying to figure out the world and
    themselves. None of this sounds too abnormal. There is a huge communication gap and is the parents job to bridge the gap. And also, calm down.

  • Control Freak Parents February 19, 2014 at 3:55 pm

    Get the kids counseling or get the kids on medication whenever the kids don’t behave the way parents think they should. Maybe the parents should lay off their medications and let everyone see how they act without being medicated.

    • doofy February 19, 2014 at 4:15 pm

      prozac and xanax = adult mormon candies 😀

      • Was He Illegal February 20, 2014 at 6:16 pm

        You got that right! Kids probably act weird because they are raiding the parents’ meds.

  • JOSH DALTON February 20, 2014 at 11:58 am

    News Flash!!! Its the parents fault! Kids these days do not need wireless devices and access to the internet for recreational use. Back in my day folks said it was rap music and violent movies. now its the fact that nobody looks up anymore. Thier eyes are glued to a PDA. That is the problem.

  • Bob February 22, 2014 at 1:35 am

    Look at those thighs!

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