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Opinion & Essays - Mar, 2000 Issue #67 

By: Lon Woodbury
Certified Educational Planner 

The desire for a “quick fix” has been a frequent goal of parents with teens making poor decisions. I hear this request, or perhaps it is a yearning, so often I’m convinced it is one of the most common mistakes parents make when looking for a residential intervention for their “out-of-control” child.

When parents look for a “quick fix,” they are thinking in terms of solution instead of process, rather like taking a car into the shop to have the carburetor worked on. They are forgetting their child is a human being, not a possession like a car; a person that needs to mature rather than “be done unto.” The result of this misconception is that parents might overlook what their child really needs, which is simply to grow up. The question is often implied, “Can you fix him/her?” when the real question should be, “What does he/she need?”

Growing up successfully is what all children need to do to become mature adults, and that is really a life-long process. The first eighteen years builds the foundation, and if not done well, results in immature teens, or adults, doing dumb and/or self- destructive things. This need to mature applies as much to those with a serious pathology as it is does to children who only missed some basic concept of living, for example, a simple grasp of cause and effect.

Perhaps this universal desire for a MAGIC BULLET stems from a the line of thinking that has caused some commentators to name this “The Therapeutic Society.” It is characterized by the belief that the scientific methods so obviously successful in the Physical Sciences and the Life Sciences can be applied directly to problems stemming from human behavior. The average parent views the miracles of medicine and modern drugs and accepts the controversial concept that negative behavior comes from a “disorder.” As a result, they are ready to believe any problem of teenage behavior can be solved by a similar application of either the proper medication or the “Right” words from a credentialed therapist. This “Magical” type of thinking really seems to regard therapists as some kind of modern “Shaman.”

So, this hope for a magic bullet is based on a “Faith” rather than reason, and if not corrected, will lead to ineffective decisions, and a feeling of broken promises.

When a child is “out-of-control,” what is needed is a dedication to long-term parenting, perhaps mixed with professional help. In an overwhelming percentage of situations, there is no MAGIC BULLET.

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