Troubled teens, troubled parents

"I was a hired thug for tough love" by Sheerly Avni; "Whose crisis is this, anyway?" by Debra Ollivier

By Salon Staff
September 1, 2000 11:29PM (UTC)
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Read Sheerly Avni's story

Read Debra Ollivier's story

Sheerly Avni's attempt to rationalize behavior which is unethical, immoral and, I believe, should be criminal, is a weak one. There is no excuse for kidnapping an innocent human being ("blue-haired" and "multi-pierced" or no) from her bed and dragging her away in the night. The idea that such admitted "thuggery" is an acceptable method by which to transform a troubled person into a healthy one is a frightening example of doublethink.


-- Shoshanna Love

OK, so Sheerly Avni gave Karen a "moment." That's great, but according to Avni's own testimony it was a moment which was valuable chiefly to Avni. What Avni's article really proves is that if you separate people from their friends, keep them in a state of uncertainty and angst, and let them know that your terms are the only terms there are, you will often render them capable of achieving amazing feats. The military does this. So do ballet teachers, gymnastics instructors and some coaches. But at least soldiers, dancers, athletes and gymnasts stand some chance of garnering pay and recognition for their deeds. Karen was not in a position to demand either pay or recognition for what she achieved: This is why Avni's recital takes on its aura of charity. But Avni wasn't working for a charity, she was working for a living. I think Karen understood all of this. I also think that's why she retained her skepticism.

-- R. Warner


I was the victim of one of these boot camps. I was abducted from my home two weeks before my 18th birthday for the "crime" of being the only person in my family with my head on straight. I refused to accept the behavior of my alcoholic stepfather and drug-addict mother. See, no one seems to listen to kids. Adults can say whatever they want about you and it's accepted as gospel. I was accused of all sorts of terrible things that "justified" my being sent to this camp by order of the court. I was then held as a prisoner by the state. No crime had been committed, no trial had been conducted.

As far as I am concerned, these therapeutic camps are nothing more than brainwashing facilities. It was absolutely terrifying. My family has since sobered up and apologized for having me locked away, but the damage was already done. I've spent the last six years recovering from the continuous brainwashing I was subjected to. (If you are placed in these camps by the courts, you are expected to admit guilt to be proclaimed "cured." If you do not cooperate you are held prisoner indefinitely.) This, by the way, occurred in Pennsylvania. I still find it hard to believe that this could happen in our country, but it DID happen ... and I must deal with that every day of my life.

-- Jason


As a baby boomer, mother of a 15-year-old son and professional parent educator, I am in total agreement with this article and feel it's about time someone said these things. I have watched talk shows that showcase "rebellious" and "out-of-control" teens, while the parent is sitting there sobbing and saying that he or she just can't take it anymore. Then a muscular, sergeant-type man comes out and gets in the teen's face and shouts that the teen WILL clean up his or her act after a few weeks in his "boot camp." While watching all of this, I continue to ask myself when we are going to get to the part where we send the parents to the boot camp as well so that they can learn to parent.

-- Wadine Toliaferro


It does seem that parents are going overboard with their children. Has anyone noticed that along with these changes the statistics of mothers working out of the home has also risen? Before I had my children I worked in a day care, and what I saw there was sad. Moms who were so dedicated to their own careers that they did not want to come get their children when they were sick. One woman's exact words, when we told her that her daughter had a 103.6 temperature were, "Do I have to come get her?"

I don't necessarily think it should be the mother who stays home, but someone in the family needs to put the children first. They put their children in charge of getting themselves to school and making their own dinners because they want to work, then wonder why they have no control. It seems all that matters now is being financially comfortable.

-- JoAnn Thompson


Please. Another lame article blaming parents for their children's problems. I am sick of hearing so-called experts talk about how parents are wrong for wanting to be their kids' friends. I see nothing wrong with being a friend to your child.

Granted, my child is only 16 months old now, but, when she does get to be a teenager, I want my relationship with her to be a friendly one. I want her to feel like she can come to me with her problems and we can talk about what the best decision might be in a particular circumstance. I do count on being able to reason with her about most things.

Do I want to smoke pot with her or go out on dates with her? No. Being a friend to your child doesn't mean abdicating your parental responsibility of discipline and teaching your child self-control. But every article about discipline (including this one) seems to equate being a friend with your child to not asserting any dominance or discipline in the relationship.


-- Karen Moskowitz

Salon Staff

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