THE BLOG
03/13/2014 04:12 pm ET Updated May 13, 2014

Reactions to Peter Lanza and 8 Pieces of Advice for Parents Concerned About Their Child's Violent and Aggressive Behavior

The parents of Adam Lanza had an unfathomable task on their hands of how to help their child who seemed to be un-helpable. Without knowing the details, it's no one's place to judge the situation. However, we can contemplate human nature in a more general way. For example, this may be a good time to consider what we, as parents, can and should do when confronted with a child that seems uncontrollable or one who shows signs of anti-social behavior or long term depression or paranoia.

The reality is that most people can change in almost every way -- it's not that people are "born" one way. The research is clear that both nature (temperament and genetics) and nurture (environment) impact the development of people. Experts in human nature agree that there is no evidence to support the idea of an absolute "good" or "evil" person -- baby, child or adult.

Therefore, it behooves the media, mental health professionals, and psychologists to educate people, in this case parents, that change is possible when a child is challenged by mental health difficulties and /or violent and aggressive tendencies.When children have trouble managing their aggressive and violent impulses, parents must find a way to trust and delegate authority to mental health experts in order to get proper help and support.

In the same way that when a parent is ill they must "trust" their own physician for treatment, when their child needs treatment, doctors must be trusted -- even when there is no clear and direct answer. Parents should consider seeking several professional opinions before settling on a doctor they can trust to treat their child and family. And often for physical and mental illness there is not a clear cut path to recovery. It is a known truth that medicine and psychology are "arts" as well as sciences.

What can parents do if they feel their child is at risk:

1. Never be afraid to take action. The internal trigger that you fear your child or what he or she may do is a HUGE warning sign; a red flag that you are not in control and something is terribly wrong. When you, as a parent do not feel in control, neither does your child, and in fact they may feel unsafe. Right then, when you first experience this initial warning sign, is when you should seek help.

2. If the child your child is older, and you feel you can can not force them into treatment or they refuse to comply with recommended treatment, seek a Conservatorship. A Conservatorship is a legal concept in the United States of America where a guardian and protector is appointed by a judge to manage the financial affairs and/or daily life of another due to physical or mental limitations, or old age.

3. Do not make the problems of your child about you as the parent. Children are born with different make-ups and temperaments and all children have individual and unique needs. If parents are stigmatized by their child's behavior, they risk not accessing help for the child. There is no shame in asking for help. The alternative is to ignore the red flags. Your goal is to improve things, denial will not do that.

4. Get multiple recommendations if you don't trust your treatment provider -- there are many perspectives available to guide parents and therefore don't stop looking until you find one that's comfortable for you and providing adequate, measurable help.

5. When there are patterns of behavior in your child that are troublesome, don't ignore these patterns. Patterns are a sign that something is real and repetitive and unlikely to disappear without professional intervention.

6. Step back to gain perspective and to ask yourself if things have improved over time. If the answer is "no," use this perspective to consider whether more and/or different help is needed. If things have not gotten better over time, they will not improve by staying on the same path.

7. Don't focus on the "why's" because they are often unknown and a waste of time and energy. Let the professionals worry about investigating the reasons behind behavior. Instead, focus on making positive change through accessing help. Stay results driven.

8. Try to view diagnostic labels that doctors use as categories that allow for access to medications, services and funding. Do not view your child as crazy or inhuman if they have been assigned serious labels like schizophrenia or another mental health label. They are still your child, albeit perhaps very troubled; they have aspects of their personality that are bright and healthy.