Violent child- I don't know what to do :-((39 Posts)
I have name-changed for this, as I am really ashamed that i'm clearly failing my son in some way and I don't know how to solve the problem
My son is four, and will be starting school in September, but i'm really struggling with his behaviour.
We love him to pieces, but to be honest, he has always been very challenging! Mostly this has been things like bad sleeping, refusal to listen, temper etc, but unfortunately he seems to have a violent streak, and I have no idea what to do about it. It started really young, before he even really seemed to know what he was doing (around 15 months). He would push and hit and throw things at people. For a while I stopped taking him to groups and things, because it was becoming really awkward and I was conscious that we were getting a bit of a reputation. We really tried to get on top of it and encourage nice behaviour, and constantly talked about feelings and the importance of being kind etc. Once he hit about three and a half, he seemed to get a lot better, he had been on a sort of behaviour plan at pre-school for children with social issues, and they decided to take him off this as he had improved so much, which was great! However, over the last couple of months, things seem to have nose-dived, and he's doing awful things. I have had to sign three incident forms lately, two because he put his hands around another childs throat as if to strangle them, and another today because he punched a child in the face. I am so upset. He is four years old, so while he is young, he is more than old enough to understand that what he is doing is wrong. I don't understand where he has learned the behaviour from, he is from a very loving family, and there is absolutely no violence of any kind in our home, my husband and I never even argue let alone fight! He only ever watches age-appropriate television, and we only read age appropriate books with him. We have a lot of pets, (most of which were around before him so he has grown up with them) so we have always encouraged gentle, kind behaviour and talked about not hurting the animals etc. We've tried so many things, behaviour charts, marble jars, taking toys away if he's been unkind, rewarding good behaviour and ignoring bad, but nothing bothers him, he just doesn't care. I told him today that after the incident at preschool today, he's not allowed to watch anything on the TV tomorrow, and he just said 'I don't care, i'll watch it the next day instead.' He is an only child (this is not by design, we have been trying for another child for almost two years with no luck) in a family where there are no children at all, so he is used to a lot of adoration and attention from adults, and is often spoiled because everyone dotes on him as the only child for 26 years. I know this isn't helpful for him, and I have asked that people don't spoil him so much, but it falls on deaf ears! Not that it's anyone elses fault, this is clearly more deep-rooted than him just being a bit spoiled, but I just have no idea what to do about it?
I am really embarrassed and ashamed that I can't get on top of this. It's so incredibly important that he doesn't hurt other children. I feel like writing to all of the parents to apologise because I feel so awful that their children keep getting hurt at the hands of my son. They must all think we're an awful family.
I've got to go in to preschool for a meeting tomorrow, and I have no idea what i'm going to say other than admit that actually, I have no idea how to handle this, i'm way out of my depth.
Just to add- I am pretty certain that there are no SEN or anything, in case anyone believes that might be the cause of his behaviour.
I'm sorry you are struggling
Has he had a hearing test recently? I know this sounds weird but sometimes children play up when they can't hear properly.
In terms of reducing the behaviour, you have to be firm and consistent. It sounds like you've tried lots of things, which is great, but it can equally have the negative effect of not showing consistency. If taking TV time away for the day doesn't work because he will 'watch it tomorrow' then don't let him watch it the next day either. In fact, whatever it is that you know will bother him, he has to earn back. So a good day at pre school or something.
It also may be worth asking what the pre school are doing to help. Children need to be shown how to play and some can find this harder than others. A classic tool that they use when they don't know how else to include themselves in social interaction is to hit.
Could you try supervised play dates? It may be worth observing these closely to see when he is turning to violence. It may give you a clue on how to help.
If he enjoys being spoiled by other people in your family, is there one that he would hate to be told off by? Sometimes a bit of disappointment from a caring relative can be a bit of a shock for them.
There will be a way through, it will get easier, I promise.
Has he had an assessment with an educational psychologist? You say there are no SEN, but he seems to have poor impulse control. Some of the other traits you mention are often seen with children diagnosed with High Functioning Autism/Aspergers? His behaviour is quite untypical for a child coming from a functional loving household.
All the best to you, it's a very difficult situation to cope with.
My sister in laws son is exactly the same. She could have written this.
One thing which stands out from both of your issues I think it's being an only child who is spoiled. I don't mean this in a judgmental way just making some connections.
TBH admitting you're not coping with his behaviour is not a bad thing. It will probably get you the help you need to understand what's really going on. Also don't feel embarrassed or guilty. You sound like a loving and caring mother who is doing her best.
Thank you so much for replying.
He hasn't had a hearing test since his newborn screening in the hospital, so that is definitely worth investigating. That said, his speech is very good, so I would be surprised if there were hearing difficulties, but it is certainly worth testing just to be sure.
You are so right, consistency is key, and I know this is an area where we fall down. Due to work patterns etc, care for him has always been split between five people (including preschool), and I am aware that as much as we try to be vaguely on the same page, we do all have slightly different approaches to how we deal with him, which is not helpful, especially with a child like him.
I do try to arrange play dates, although i'm sadly finding them increasingly hard to organise lately, which I fear is because parents are starting to realise that my son has some behavioural issues, and they perhaps don't want their children to mix with him (which to be honest, I don't really blame them for, no one wants their child to get hurt)? The last three playdates i've organised, have been cancelled at the last minute which is a bit heartbreaking
That is a very good idea to get a relative to tell him off. He absolutely adores my husband mum, and she is probably the worst when it comes to spoiling him, so he would be very shocked to be told off by her. My only issue would be getting her on board, she tends to see him as a faultless blue-eyed boy, and almost seems to take it personally when I mention any issues we're having! I could try and get my husband to talk to her though, she'd probably listen to him more than me.
Thank you for your message, I just really hope we can resolve these issues before school. It's breaking my heart to think that he will alienate everyone and have no friends- I had very few friends at school and it's horrible!
My DS had similar issues around that age - although more hitting me and throwing things etc, but he was often appearing aggressive in class as well when he didn't get his own way or in retaliation to other children. Very loving and tearful after an 'episode' but I was at my wits end!
What helped was setting some firm boundaries and I saw a play therapist at the school who told me that some children have a hard time dealing with their emotions and anger at this age. The key is not to let them bottle it up but to use the energy and release it a different way. She gave me a swimming noodle to take home and when he was in a good mood I told him that when he feels angry or upset at home he could take the noodle and whack particular things (eg. his bed or one of the doors etc) and that he needed to do that instead of hurging others or hurting himself. I gave him a go with the noodle then and he tested it out on things to hear the different sounds and found it fun.
For about 2 weeks whenever he got mad he would grab this noodle and bash the carpet or whatever. Sounds a bit mad but it really helped! It took about 6 weeks in total and he no longer used it, was very pleasant in class and has stopped hitting! It helped him through the phase, so perhaps try a noodle or something soft he can use. The play therapist also suggested things like a catalogue that they can just slam on the floor as well...doesn't need to cost much
DS is absolutely lovely these days, so hang in there and hopefully you get him sorted.
I had a friend whose ds was appallingly violent. Strangling etc. Pre-school had special precautions in place and locally he was 'that child'. She was lovely. I tried to talk to her about it and she refused to acknowledge a problem whilst simultaneously wondering why her friends weren't there for her.
So well done for accepting you need to do something That's totally step 1.
I would approach the meeting woth an open mind. Don't be defensive. Listen. It's OK to be upset because you're confused. Work with them to try things.
I have a dc with ASD and I know how hard it is to have whole meetings about dc and what's wrong. Denial is failing them.
Apologies, I wrote my last post before I saw the next two replies!
notfinished- He hasn't had an assessment actually, but it's interesting that you say that because he was previously at a private nursery one day a week, from 14 months- 2 years 4 months, and when he was about 18 months they asked if they could arrange an assessment because they were concerned about some of the behaviour he was exhibiting- mostly the fact that a lot of his actions were entirely unprovoked, which they said was very unusual and hard to manage as they had to practically have someone with him on a 1-1 basis because they couldn't predict when he would hit/push/throw something. We agreed to an assessment, but they were told that he was too young and that they would need to re-refer when he was older. We deliberately didn't inform the preschool about this because we wanted them to come to their own conclusion, and so far they haven't suggested an assessment, but I guess that doesn't mean that one isn't necessary. You are right, it is very odd behaviour for a child from a loving home. It is possibly a slightly odd home set up, in that my parents live next door, and we have lots of animals (well, I say lots, it's hardly a farm or anything!)- although in isolation I don't think those things are that unusual, certainly not things that would negatively impact his behaviour I wouldn't think? Maybe i'll mention at the meeting tomorrow whether they think an assessment would be appropriate- it can't hurt.
User- While I am sorry that your sister in law is experiencing the same issues, I am glad I am not alone! Although part of me wonders whether I am your sister in law?! I know that the spoiled only child thing is not really good for him unfortunately. I think that some people cope better with being only children than others. My husband is an only child, but he is really calm, placid and incredibly laid back, so even though he was in a similar position to our son growing up, he dealt with it entirely differently- whereas our son laps up the attention and seems to crave more, it's not good!
'care for him has always been split between five people (including preschool), and I am aware that as much as we try to be vaguely on the same page, we do all have slightly different approaches to how we deal with him, which is not helpful, especially with a child like him.'
This is what stands out to me. I don't think th
My son is/was like that at that age. He was diagnosed with ADHD at the age of 5. He has also recently had an ASD assessment recently but we haven't had the results yet.
I recommend taking him to the GP and explaining what is happening. Hopefully, they will refer you to a paediatrician.
You need azero tolerance approach to hitting.
You can do all the explanations etc but fundamentally if he hits, he gets a timeout or you walk away for five minutes. Give him a clear warning in advance "if you do that again, I'm stepping away".
I would look again at your childcare arrangements and either a) introduce consistency in terms of behaviour management or b) have fewer carers.
Get him assessed for any underlying causes but still the hitting cannot be excused.
Does he have dietary issues?
Sorry, posted too soon.
This is what stands out to me 'care for him has always been split between five people (including preschool), and I am aware that as much as we try to be vaguely on the same page, we do all have slightly different approaches to how we deal with him, which is not helpful, especially with a child like him.'
Hitting/pushing etc is not unusual behaviour at all (at toddler age at least) but how has it been dealt with thus far? Talking wouldn't be enough as it's impulsive behaviour. He knows it's wrong but can't help it. Should be blocked and calmly prevented from doing this. Has the reaction to his behaviour been consistent in the past?Too strong? Too weak? Now he's getting older it's less acceptable.
By all means get an assessment but this is what stood out to me.
I think you need to see your GP and get the ball rolling on an assessment. Also have you looked up oppositional defiant disorder as well as asd. Hope you get the help you need. You sound like loving parents.
If he would be shocked to be told off by MIL then make her the person he has to impress. Call her up every time he has a good day and let her praise him! Plan a special treat with her when he has had X good days.
How about no Tv at all? Lots of small world play and talking instead where he can act powerfully but safely.
Sorry but I think setting MiL up to 'tell him off' in a manner she doesn't normally take and is possibly uncomfortable with, is a strange idea. More inconsistency. Inauthentic. And not sure why shocking him is going to help. It sounds like he needs calm consistency, everyone on the same page, and his parents taking the lead whenever possible.
My son is three and I'm in a similar position.
Perhaps I am being over dramatic, but please don't TTC at this point! It will only be harder if you have a very vulnerable new born to protect! Give yourselves some time to manage this, before challenging him in this way.
Thank you for your replies.
Yes I know that lots of people looking after him is far less than ideal. I did change my hours from full time to part time when he was 18 months, and then changed jobs entirely when he was 3 so I was around more and his care was more consistently with me. Right now I am working 18 hours a week, but this is as low as I can realistically go, we can't afford for me to work any less. His care is actually between four people not sure why I wrote five, not that it makes much difference, I know it's not ideal, but at the moment there's not much I can do to change it. We just need to make sure everyone is consistent with dealing with him, it's just so hard because he doesn't respond to anything we try.
GP might be a good idea. I was also thinking maybe I could try and get an appointment with a child psychologist, but I've no idea if that's the right avenue.
I suppose the first thing to do is see what pre-school have to say this morning, they might have some suggestions I guess.
We have had a pretty much zero tolerance approach so far, but he doesn't care. We've left parks, cancelled much looked forward to trips at the last minute, taken favourite toys away, but he's never bothered enough for his behaviour to change. Whenever we go somewhere I remind him about being nice to other children, and say that if he hits anyone or anything like that then we'll have to go home, and we do follow through on that. That said, mostly the violence happens at preschool, I haven't experienced it with me for a while now, and was genuinely beginning to believe that he has been getting a lot better, but apparently not.
Dietary wise he's fine, he got a bit of general small child fussiness with certain things, but he is generally a good eater and has a varied diet including fruit and veg and aside from when he's poorly, he has a good appetite most of the time.
Do children come with receipts? I'm not sure I'm entirely cut out for this, I seem to be getting it very wrong
Please don't think he is a monster though, I know this makes him sound awful, but a lot of the time he is really loving and kind, it's just this streak that we can't seem to control. I know it is very serious, and I'm not taking it lightly, but I feel bad for having painted him as a monster when he really isn't always like that.
Don't worry, after two years of TTC, DH and I decided that for our own sanity we would stop anyway. Besides which, I think he's past the age where having a sibling would actually help his behaviour, he'd be five by the time another child came along, and I think the age difference is too big to actually benefit him from a behaviour perspective. He's had too long already of undivided adult attention! We'll revisit it in a year or so I think, once DS is settled in school and hopefully on the right path behaviour wise.
My little boy was a bit like yours- no aggression, but completely unresponsive to traditional parenting methods. Star charts, punishments etc- water off a duck's back. He's now a lovely, lovely young adult. Very resistant to manipulation, which isn't a bad thing really.
Hang in there. We used 'natural consequences' which worked well. If he has sensory issues, then it may be just over stimulating for him. Try a scheduled quiet time every 30 mins to let him decompress from all the stimuli.
It might bot be a popular suggestion but i would be limiting time with family members who go against your wishes and telling them why. I think it's actually quite nasty of them to defy you when myou are struggling with his bahaviour and doing your best to address it.
Yes to natural consequences. The thing that struck me was that you were explaining things to him when he was 1(?) and later on you talk about cancelling trips etc etc.
The consequence needs to be immediate.
So if one of mine hit me with a toy, toy is removed and I walk off for a few minutes with a firm no hitting. If they hit me I say firmly no hitting and again, walk off (telling them I'm going for five minutes). If they hit their sibling, it's a firm no hitting and I see to the other child first.
My two dcs don't hit very much - my oldest doesn't hit at all any more. We had a spate of it when he was a toddler because of his new sibling and we worked intensively on it. Short, sharp action with no long term "punishments" like taking stuff away - it means nothing to them!
With my youngest, we were lucky as she didn't do it but as she's got older she has been (she's 5). So we reinforce the message but keep it short.
Oh op It doesn't sound like you're getting it wrong - from what you say he is responding well when you're consistent. It doesn't have to be a problem that he has more than one carer, just the consistency. Personally I'd beware of anyone though that struggles with setting clear calm boundaries.
Maybe he is overwhelmed around other children? It can't be pleasant for him all the negative attention.
If it were me, I'd stop the unrelated punishments. Nothing wrong with leaving the park after, say, one or two warnings if he's not able to manage - but cancelling trips/taking away tv? These are unrelated to his behaviour and may just cause him frustration. You need to address it in the moment as it sounds impulsive.
Say, at the park, stay very near, if he goes to hit, block him. Stop him. Tell him no hitting, but don't make it a big deal. And repeat. Tell him if he hits you'll have to help him to leave - but no need to be cross about it, just follow through. And repeat. The park is probably a great place to try this. Less overwhelming outside & hopefully you can leave without too much embarrassment if you need to. Preschool is more difficult as presumably they can't constantly spot him, but hopefully they have a plan or you can put one in place.
Anyway I hope your meeting helps/goes well.
My son sounds like yours and my son has Asd, he tried kicking me down the stairs yesterday xx
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