How A 15-Year-Old Turned From Being The School Rebel To The Class Valedictorian

by Chris Taylor, MFT, Author "Back to Basics"

Let me introduce you to Timmy.  He is 18 now and on his way to his first year at a prestigious college.  He recently gave the valedictorian speech at his high school graduation.  His parents were filled with so much pride for him, as well as themselves as parents.  It wasn’t always this way though.

Recognizing when your teen needs help

You see, when Timmy’s parents first called me for a consultation they where distraught.  They had found Timmy’s phone lying on the counter while he was at soccer practice, and they decided to take a look.  What they saw shocked them to say the least.  In his SnapChat story, they saw pictures of him with huge clouds of smoke coming out of his mouth.  They saw messages between him and multiple girls that where sexually explicit and referenced things they had done.  They looked further and saw pictures of him engaged in sexual acts with many different girls.  They read messages of him trying to buy Xanax, marijuana, and LSD.  Their lives where shattered.  The image they had of Timmy could not be further from the truth.  What they saw is every parent’s worst nightmare, and in a matter of minutes it became their reality.

As they continued reading, it was clear that Timmy’s behavior had been escalating for some time.  Although he was maintaining his grades and performing well at soccer, his behavior at home was atrocious.  He did not listen to his parents at all.  He’d tell them to “shut the fuck up,” and “to go kill themselves.”  He did not do his chores and it would later come out that his early academic success in high school was due to copying his friends homework and cheating on tests.

How A 15-Year-Old Turned From Being The School Rebel To The Class Valedictorian | by Christopher Taylor, MFT, teen expert and author of “Back to Basics”

He was out of control, and without intervention would probably be kicked out of high school within the year.  He was at risk for an overdose, teen pregnancy, STD’s, and dropping out of school.  Yet I knew that this was the kid who I had reached to so many times before in my career.  I believed in him without having met him.  I knew he was smart, and with the right approach he could turn his life around.  It was going to be hard work and it would require his parents to change as well.  This is always the hard part, getting parents to change their approach.  It’s always “change my kid” or “make them better” without expecting to change themselves, and this situation was no different.

The first session was rough.  Timmy was pissed off that he was even in my office. After all, what defiant kid is excited about his parents signing him up for counseling?  In my 15 years of experience, not many.  But these are the kids I like to work with the most.  In fact, it was working with these types of kids that I built my career on. 

Back to Basics: Tayloring Your Teen for Success

Over the course of the next hour, the family felt the hope that my Back to Basics program brings.  I was able to give them the overview for how we were going to approach the issues.  I named the root of the problem, so that they could see that I understood exactly what they were going though. 

Over the next six weeks, the family diligently worked on the program.  Each week they came to the session with their workbook exercises complete and the questions answered.  It was obvious that they where putting in the work.  Timmy reported that his parents where communicating with him in a way that made him want to tell them the pressures he was facing, and what his decision making process was.  Initially following these communication strategies was hard for the parent’s, but they saw such success in such a short amount of time that they were encouraged to keep trying.  The entire family learned to map out their behavior using the workbook templates.  I taught them scientifically proven intervention techniques that created an almost instant improvement in regards to arguing and disrespectful language.  The even learned how to use incentive structures and my task chains to get him to follow through on all of his responsibilities without nagging him.  It was a remarkable turnaround in just a matter of weeks. 

One topic that came up over the course of my work with Timmy and his family was his depression.  It turned out that this serious mental health issue was underlying a lot of his behavior, even causing him to report suicidal thoughts.  With the tools of the program, his parents were able to attune to Timmy’s needs and with steady progress, lack of conflict, and increased personal success Timmy’s depression also lifted.  Obviously this was an encouraging feeling for Timmy and allowed his parents to not only understand the “why” more clearly, but also let go of the fear and worry when he reported that those thoughts were gone. 

Continuing success at home

As I wrapped up my time with Timmy and his family, I showed them the template to continue the progress that they had made so they could put weekly attention to all the issues in the most constructive way possible.  The whole approach is based on teaching one to fish, rather than giving one a fish:  Self sufficiency and enduring success through a model of empowerment.  In my experience, the only things people need are the right tools, and clarity in how to use those tools.  The Back to Basics: Tayloring Your Teen For Success parenting program does both.  Because I have seen the power that this program has in changing the lives of families, I want every family to have access to this.  As part of that mission, I have created a free video series on parenting teens that incorporates many of the techniques I taught to Timmy and his parents.  Sign up now by clicking below to join the community of parents like Timmy’s who have experienced incredible results by getting Back to Basics.


About Christopher Taylor, MFT

Christopher Taylor, MFT is a teen expert, therapist, author, and speaker with 16 years of experience working with teens and families. He provides teen and family therapy services in Folsom, Granite Bay, El Dorado Hills and surrounding areas. Chris is the author and creator of the Back to Basics: Tayloring Your Teen For Success Program, consisting of the book, workbook and online course.