What is the problem? That's a little harder to quantify. He is very, very, very reactive and emotional. Like, 90% of the time. For instance, the dog will brush against him and he'll SCREAM, "I HATE YOU MAIZY! I wish we never got you! I HATE YOU!" and then hit her. Or I'll say, "Hey, buddy, it's time to get dressed." And he'll arch his back, throwing himself back on the couch and start punching it while yelling, "YOU. ARE. THE. STUPIDEST. MOMMY. EVER." He's getting increasingly violent, hitting the dog, kicking his baby sister, punching, biting, pinching, etc.
Everything is an episode, a fight. Getting up, getting dressed, going to pre-school, going to Grandma's, staying home, it really doesn't matter what we're doing, he just doesn't want to do whatever it is that day. He's running on a hair trigger temper and everything tips him into a rage. He screams, his veins standing out in his neck, hits, kicks. I'm really taken aback by his total lack of anger management, it's like the slightest annoyance is hitting him at 99 on a scale of 100, over and over again. But he ONLY does this at home, so he clearly CAN control it.
The other piece of this is that once he gets a consequence for his behavior, he starts crying and talking about how he hates himself, he's so stupid... We always stop him when he starts this and tell him that we don't call anyone stupid in our house, anyone. And we won't allow him to call himself stupid. We love him, he made a poor choice, he gets a consequence.
Which brings me to "stupid." Everything is stupid, and he hates everything. Two words that make my skin crawl anyway, but to be called a "stupid mommy." Yeah... And he does this "grrrrr" angry growling scream that now our toddler does when she doesn't want to do something. I have two growling little children who don't use their words, and only one of them has a reason for that!!
Today he was sick, temp of 102, and wanted cake (I have no idea why, but he really, really wanted cake). So I decided to oblige this. We went to get started and I discovered we only had one egg, so we couldn't use a cake mix. He FLIPPED out screaming about how I was "never going to make him a cake, never, ever. He couldn't even have cake on his birthday." I tried to stay calm and just said, "We can still make cake, I will look up a recipe." He continued shouting and yelling about how he could never have cake ever again (this is pretty typical, the never-ever stuff). I just ignored him and sat down and found a recipe. Once I did, I returned to the kitchen where he was still yelling and I put the computer down on the table, squatted down at his level and said, "Look hon, I found a recipe, lets get started." He turned off, like a switch, and we went to get started. I went to wash my hands and he leaned over and PINCHED me because I wasn't cooking yet. Now, ordinarily, I would have just stopped the whole thing there, but he had a temperature, his sibs had gotten to go to Grandma's and he was really looking forward to this, so I turned around, took his hand and said, "You MAY NOT pinch me. It hurts. I have to wash my hands before we start, if I can't do that, we can't cook. Do you want to make the cake still?" He said he did, he was sorry and he hugged me, and we were able to make the cake without further incident.
What have we done to address his behavior? We've tried a variety of logical consequences related to whatever has caused the fit in the first place, some very logical, like turning off the TV if he screamed at his sister for blocking his view, making him get his sister an ice pack after he punched her, etc. We've suggested he hit the couch, stomp his feet, practiced deep breathing and other calming techniques. We've worked on warning him before transitions, reviewing the schedule the night before, giving him two warnings before we do something, nothing seems to help. We know some things are always a fight, like getting dressed in the morning, or turning off pretty much any media source at all, or picking anything up, ever. We've tried un-related consequences, time out, loss of privileges, early bed-time, etc. Usually he just responds with a flippant, "Whatever, I didn't want to watch TV anyway." We've tried just ignoring his antics and moving forward, but he's now hurting his sibs/pets, I can't ignore that. He's 5, and has a 16 month old sister he has kicked, punched, hit, when he is in a rage.
We have not tried positive reinforcement of his good behavior, which I need to do. He does respond well to positives, I was thinking maybe a sticker chart, or marble jar sort of thing. At first he would need daily or maybe even smaller rewards, I don't think we could get very far with a sticker as the reward.
Background- he's our middle child, big sister will be 8 in February, little sister is 16 months. We have a golden retriever puppy too, she's 8 months and a "terrible teen" right now (hence the stupid dog, he really, really hates her right now). He goes to preschool four mornings a week, it's a mostly play-based preschool with a small amount of directed age appropriate work (like practicing writing his name). He has 9 girls, 1 special needs boy, and 1 neuro-typical boy, in his room. He's the only boy cousin of 6 and the only boy in the neighborhood. He expresses needing more time to do "boy things" as the group of 8 to 12 year old girls don't really dig his legos, blocks and trucks. He is extremely verbal and very bright. His expressive language and vocabulary exceed my 8 year old, and he keeps up with most of her math work as well. I WOH three days a week, and on those afternoons he goes to his Grandma and Grandpa's, the other days he's home with me in the afternoon. He doesn't nap anymore, and usually sleeps quite soundly from 9pm to 7:30am. We eat a typical diet, probably better than the Standard American, but worse than the average MDC'r Mostly home cooked, but he does get gluten, some processed foods, some HFCS, some dyes, all in moderation, but nothing is eliminated.
He's one of three, we're busy working parents, I KNOW he doesn't get the positive attention he needs. We're trying hard to build that up, give him time for special time with one of us, or just little things, to remind him we see him, we love him, he is special to us. He is a sensitive little guy and we, I think, have gotten into the unfortunate habit of yelling at him. It's hard, we aren't "yellers" by nature in parenting, but good grief... when he ignores you the first six times, then makes a flippant comment about how stupid you are, then starts screaming at you, it's hard to stay in a good parenting zone...
I need some tips, ideas? Strategies? BTDT? Promises this will all get better when he turns five on Tuesday?