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My DS is so angry

(26 Posts)
Llareggub Wed 19-Mar-14 12:06:44

I am a lone parent of 7 and 4 year old boys. Their father was an alcoholic and we separated 2 or so years ago. My youngest doesn't remember much but my eldest witnessed some pretty confusing behaviour from his father, who probably had MH problems as well.

I battled on for a year post separation in the family home, mainly because I wanted stability for the boys with their school and proximity to their paternal grandparents, with whom they have an excellent relationship.

Financially, despite working full time it was too much and I felt forced into moving back to my home city, where I can (just) afford to work part time and provide a comfortable home. I am now close to my family and friends. We are 150 miles away from our old home.

The boys seemed to cope well with the move and their new school. We've been here over a year now and life is a lot easier.

During the first year their father was in rehab following suicide attempts and alcoholism. He's now sober, in a new relationship and sees the boys every 2 weeks for the day. He sees them at our home where I can be around if needed. He seems to be alcohol free. I've done my best to ensure that contact happens and the boys go to their paternal grandparents in the school holidays and I make sure they know what is happening in their lives.

My eldest son's behaviour is terrible at home. At school he is a pleasure to have about, according to his teacher. At home, he hisses at me if I ask him to something and speaks to me like he hates me. He hits his younger brother all the time and the little one has told me that his brother is "always mean."

I don't recognise the boy he has become. He seems so angry and I have tried lots of ways to address this behaviour with him.

He is pretty bright and has always displayed pretty insightful thoughts about the world around him. His maths is exceptional but he is struggling with reading at school and is having help.

I don't really know where to go. Every morning is a struggle and bit of a nightmare to be frank. He's better in the evenings where occasionally we might have a conversation that doesn't include hissing or an attitude.

Any thoughts on what I can try? I really am out of ideas. A friend of mine witnessed his behaviour towards me the other day and was horrified. When my son realised my friend was there he changed instantly.

Deathwatchbeetle Wed 19-Mar-14 12:21:59

I am afraid it is the usual thing. He is angry at his dad/the situation but taking it out on you, which is why he is well behaved with everyone else. I wonder if he could get some counselling? Sometimes they provide tht at schools, I have heard. My godson got counselling when his mum and dad split up.

CogitoErgoSometimes Wed 19-Mar-14 12:25:49

I suppose the thing to cling to is that he's well-behaved at school. So you could say it's a positive that he feels secure enough at home with you to get grumpy. That said, it's not acceptable for him to be violent to his little brother or to treat you with contempt. I wonder if he might benefit from being in an environment where there are older children that he can't be mean to? Something like Cub Scouts, for example, where he could make new friends, burn off some energy and there would also be older male role models to look up to.

Could you ask for a referral to CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services)?

Llareggub Wed 19-Mar-14 12:38:50

Thank you for your replies. I've been googling counselling services in the local area but they are pricey.

I have had prior experience with LA MH services when my exH was suicidal and was decidedly unimpressed. I'm also wary about involving the school as I don't want him to be labelled. He's already very conscious about being different because of his difficulties with reading.

The thing about male role models is spot on. Both of my sons cling onto any man they meet and my oldest is very aware of the fact dad doesn't live with us. Cubs sounds like a good idea and I will also arrange for my nephew (a year older and very gentle) to spend time with us.

Deathwatchbeetle Wed 19-Mar-14 12:43:55

Exactly, he feels safe at home to 'go off on one'. If he gave his dad shit, his dad would go NC, if he did it at school there would be consequences, whereas you are unlikely to go away (even if it sounded like a very good idea!).

Cubs might well be the answer. It might be goo to let the school know (forewarned is forearmed) incase of difficulties later.

Llareggub Wed 19-Mar-14 13:00:21

The school are aware of his background as I have told each of his teachers. His current teacher is very good but a bit preoccupied with getting the class through yr 2 SATS at the moment hmm

I'm not sure he is old enough for Cubs yet. I will take a look at find out. He does tennis, football and swimming so he gets plenty of exercise (we spend a lot of time running around beaches) but he does miss having a man around so I will make this happen.

He wants me to get married. His only request is that this future husband is good at Lego grin

Lweji Wed 19-Mar-14 13:12:13

I have a 9 year old who has witnessed DV by his dad, who also used to drink. It happened when he was 6. Nothing as much as yours, but he does get through phases of being rebelious and even aggressive at home.
Children at these ages are still changing and testing boundaries, so it's not so surprising. My nephews also show some shitty behaviour, particularly with their siblings, and they are in stable loving families, with good dads.

What has been working for us is clear boundaries regarding behaviour, and associated discipline, but also lots of loving attention. Talking in a loving way about the behaviour should go along with not accepting it and enforcing consequences for such behaviour. I'd make sure I have time to talk to him about what he's feeling, regarding his father in particular.
Counselling is likely to help, yes, but I'd be trying to get as much as him from it.

meringue33 Wed 19-Mar-14 13:21:09

I would suggest contacting Al-Anon or Alateen - they are support organisations for the family of alcoholics and you will find people who are equally familiar with the territory and aftermath of what you have dealt with. If you are lucky and in an area where there are lots of families with children the same age, your son may make some firm friends.

somewheresomehow Wed 19-Mar-14 13:37:49

hiya, just posting to say that if he's not quite old enough for cubs he could go to beavers then on to cubs when he reaches the required age

Llareggub Wed 19-Mar-14 15:27:55

I've emailed the local Cubs. Thanks for the suggestion.

As for CAMHS, I am going to have a chat with this teacher soon and see what she suggests. It's a small school and both of my DCs have teachers with children in the same class as mine. So it feels a little personal to involve the school.

That said, I will look into counselling before I speak to his teacher and see if I can find something for him. I am also going to ask my brother if he will take him under his wing a bit and do some manly role modelling with him.

Lweji Wed 19-Mar-14 15:48:15

Getting your brother to help is a good idea.

I have also enrolled DS in a self defence class where I also attend. There are a few men there, as you'd expect. But he also learns how to control aggression and how to respond to it.
On the other hand, we end up play fighting quite a bit, while practicising techniques.

Martial arts are usually considered quite good for discipline and anger management.

3boys1cat Wed 19-Mar-14 20:42:01

I second the idea of martial arts. My DS1 benefited enormously from the self confidence and self discipline he got from Tae-kwon do. The classes also have him a male role who wasn't his father, which was very valuable during his early teens.

Llareggub Thu 20-Mar-14 08:12:52

I spoke to my son this morning about cubs and karate and he actually smiled. This is rare in the morning!

I'm also wondering if this is less about his past and more about growing up. He has suddenly started locking the bathroom door and wanting privacy. He used to run around naked but recently (at last, I've nagged a lot) gets up and pulls on some clothes. He is one of the oldest and tallest in his class.

I don't want to over react about it but don't want to leave it either. He won't speak to his father on the phone so now his father rarely calls. I've asked him to keep calling so that he knows his father wants to talk to him but I can't force him.

wallypops Thu 20-Mar-14 09:44:24

Could you change the communication method with his dad? Might email or texting work better? I know my kids much prefer texting to pretty much all other forms of communication - its quick and often gets an instant reply which they like. They are 8 & 9 so not much older. They have access to a phone which is "theirs" so they feel it is private. Obviously it isn't really! They just have a few numbers on there, and know it is isn't theirs to carry round.

Lweji Thu 20-Mar-14 11:22:23

I do think quite a lot may be from him finding himself and his identity as growing up. He seems quite assertive if he doesn't want to talk to his father, which may be a side of it.

With DS when he plays up, asking him if he wants other people (me) to talk to him in the same manner or do the same to him, often works.

Good luck with cubs and karate. smile It may well do the trick, but I think you will have to have and enforce clear rules and boundaries at home too. Along with lots of love and cuddles. It's sometimes hard to balance, but it does pay off.

Llareggub Thu 20-Mar-14 12:55:15

Yes, he is very assertive. He doesn't do cuddles or affection and gets upset if I try and cuddle him. I spend time with him every evening reading history or science mags (he hates fiction) and he'll sometimes engineer contact then. His brother is very affectionate and I am very aware of it.

I do set clear boundaries but find increasingly that I have to pick my battles and work on one thing at a time or I'd constantly be dealing with his behaviour.

He can be an absolute delight, and as I mentioned earlier up thread he is bright. I've set up an email account on his tablet so he can email his dad but he refuses that too. He is behind in writing and reading and refuses to write anything at home. That's another battle!

I've spent the last few months concentrating on his reading and he's made great progress but he is still pretty phobic about writing. I've tried all sorts. He is amazing at maths, and it comes naturally to him. He just gets it. I suspect he won't try at writing because he doesn't find it so easy.

Parenting is tough! Thank you for all your suggestions.

Lweji Thu 20-Mar-14 13:45:54

Mine is very affectionate, and good at maths, but reading and writing are not his strong features either. smile I don't think he will be a famous writer. grin

I think one of the techniques used to get children, particularly boys, talking is to encourage it during a quiet activity, so that they don't feel on the spot, and not face to face (side by side is better). A typical example would be fishing. smile But it could be some quiet time in the car, or using a tv programme to bring up a subject, or eating somewhere side by side.

Kanne Thu 20-Mar-14 14:19:23

Hi, I don't often post but so much of this is like my son although he is now 10. I thought I would share what I tried if that is okay.

He has never been into fiction - reference books are his thing particularly anything about dinosaurs and animals. So I put an ad on freecycle and managed to get loads of books from kind people that he could just flick through and see if anything took his fancy. Encyclopedias were his favourite and covered a variety of weird animals. His knowledge is amazing because of this which is great but we then related everything to it. For 30 minutes after tea we would have lego time and we would build something together that we had read about the previous day and refer to pictures. We got a large jotter and I drew what we had made and got him to colour it or he drew and I coloured. He then had to write the date and give it a name and write it down. As time went on he wrote a little more about it, sometimes copying a fact from the book. He used it a few times at school for show and tell.

When he gets spelling to do for school we also make the sentences relate to animals or dinosaurs quoting facts and dates as that is his thing. I found out lots about his day or his thoughts while building with lego as he was relaxed and concentrating so his mind wasnt running wild.

Tae-Kwon-Do was another thing we tried which worked for a while especially as the coaches were all men where as at school the teachers were all female till this year. He has a male teacher and has progressed fantastically.

He still isn't the best writer or speller but is now in the top reading group and I couldn't be prouder.

I completely get what you say about small schools. Ours is a village school and everyone knows everyone so I went through my gp to access counselling and explained about the school and they were more than happy to do a referral for me. We now attend a monthly meeting at CAHMS. Its for adults and children and the kids all play together and have made great friends and found counsellors and volunteers to chat with. It is also for siblings and we have various outings during the year which the kids love.

Feel free to pm me if you want to chat

ChoudeBruxelles Thu 20-Mar-14 14:30:07

I would try speaking to his teacher as schools often have access to counselling services.

Different situation but my DS is struggling with anger after my mother dying and his school have organised counselling for him through SENCO.

Llareggub Fri 28-Mar-14 09:32:10

Just thought I'd update.

I've spent a lot of time this week playing monopoly and playstation with my son. As we've been playing I've chatted to him about the things that are important to him and to me and what we can do to help each other get these.

He wants more time with me on a one to one basis so I've explained to him how we can make this happen. He also told me he likes surprises so I am going to think about how I can surprise him. He loves gardening so I have given us a little project to do together by transforming our patio area.

He has responded quite well to this and I've seen some pretty rapid responses. Obviously time will tell.

I've told him that he needs to support me by getting ready when I ask him to and by keeping his things tidy. It's a big house and the boys are very messy and I spend a lot of time just trying to keep on top of the mess. I'm exhausted by the evening so having them help with the mess will mean more time for them. He saw this as a huge revelation!

Lovethebubbles Fri 28-Mar-14 09:35:34

No advice from me, but just wanted to say you sound like a fab mum. X

CogitoErgoSometimes Fri 28-Mar-14 09:47:49

I think you were right earlier when you wondered if the anger was part of growing up and I think you're handling it really well. So important to find something to connect over and, if you're as bad at Playstation as I am, then my hat goes off to you! I think giving him some responsibility and rationale for dealing with mess is also inspired. My DS is almost 14yo and finally working out that messy house = grumpy mother = not pleasant.

Llareggub Fri 28-Mar-14 11:03:49

Thank you. There are most definitely times when I feel like I'm not handling anything well! but I guess that is normal maternal guilt!

I just hope the younger one doesn't develop the same anger. Then I might just hit the gin.

StayingZen Fri 28-Mar-14 15:36:49

Re the reading and writing: could you gently introduce word games like Scrabble or Boggle? I used to play Scrabble with my son for 20 minutes in the mornings before the school bus - no big sisters to butt in, and winning every time gave him a pleasant feeling of superiority. Even now, I still can't think about a Scrabble move for more than 30 seconds!

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