Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Impulsive or Rebellious Child

For those parents who have impulsive or rebellious children who prefer to march to their own beat, breathe deeply. I was moved by a piece in the September 2nd, 2009 NY Times Sunday Magazine Section about 39 year old Spike Jonze.
Spike barely made it out of High School. BMX motocross and skateboarding, it seemed, were about all that captured his young imagination. I know there are many parents who can relate to this. Parents who ask each other, me, and their children, "where is skateboarding or a dirt bike going to get you in life?" Well hold on now!

In today's competitive school environment, Spike was a child who probably would have been labelled Attention Deficit (ADHD) or Oppositional Defiant (ODD). I see the the young Spike Jonzes' all the time in my LA based psychotherapy practice. They are the kids who push their parents to the brink by breaking rules, challenging authority, blowing off their school work and sports commitments. A cycle intensifies when parents', out of concern, attempt to reign in their children by offering all kinds of positive and negative incentives, but the pushing and threatening only serves to increase their child's act out behavior.

Spike was probably met with a lot of judgement and scorn as a youth. He wasn't exactly on the Ivy League Fast Track. His single parent mother was probably concerned and scared for her son. I encourage you parents out there to meet your "Spikes" with curiosity and a bit of faith instead. Spike may have barely made it out of High School but he went on to make ground breaking music videos and then the feature film “Being John Malkovich” which was nominated for three major Academy Awards, including best director, as well as “Adaptation” which was nominated for four more Academy Awards and one Oscar. He did all this before reaching his mid thirties. Not all willful or unruly children will end up another Spike Jonze. I will say though that "the outside the box children" are often the ones who go on to do great things.