A woman came to see me because of a problematic and rebellious 16 year-old boy named Martin. She was the founder of a philanthropic organization dedicated to offering shelter and care to abused or abandoned adolescents and youth in the city. Martin was one of these young boys housed in the shelter. Unfortunately he was the cause of much anxiety. Inside the shelter Martin wouldn’t respect the staff and outside, he had been repeatedly caught shoplifting by the police. But since he was under-age and already enrolled in a social program for difficult youth, he was not criminally charged but merely reprimanded by the judge and sent back.
She had taken him to numerous psychologists who had tried their best to reason with him. Some psychotherapists had talked to Martin about his current situation as an abandoned child and how he could constructively cope with his anger. Other therapists had listened to him in order to understand the origin of his arrogant and rude behavior, trying to unearth the ‘nice boy’ underneath all those layers of misconduct.
I also learned that as part of the social program Martin received an allowance of $12 per month. As well, he enjoyed many other social privileges: a cell phone, weekend outings, swimming pool, horseback riding, jacuzzi, soccer games, trips and summer vacations.
On the scheduled day of our session, Martin walked into my office accompanied by the two young women who worked with him almost every day as his tutors. They explained to me in detail their numerous efforts aimed to help Martin become more cooperative at the youth center and how they had tried in different ways to stop his negative and destructive behavior. They had punished him for things they didn’t want to encourage, rewarded him for behavior they wanted to encourage and even at times ignored him completely hoping that he grow out of his ‘childish’ behavior. As I was listening to these two meek and gentle young girls, I noticed the smirking expression on Martin’s face as he sat there with a very arrogant and disrespectful posture.