This post is primarily directed toward parents of children who are intensely spirited who have considered or gone down the path of an evaluation. (Please note, we are not a family who will use any physical means of consequences/punishment. To date, we have not tried any token reinforcement systems such as a star chart, sticker chart, etc. though if need be, we are not opposed to it.)
I am trying to determine if I should take my three year old child in for an evaluation. This level of aggressive behavior has been present for about two months.
My son can go from zero to sixty over situations such as requests to wash his hands, use the bathroom, etc. Basically, non-preferred requests. His rages involve a great degree of physical aggression (directed mostly toward me or my husband) and, while the actions are not hard - that is, they do not really hurt - they are very directed. When he rages it looks like the following: Pre-warning of request is made: "In 5 minutes, it will be time to use the bathroom". Time reminders are delivered in a non-emotional voice at three and one minute's time. When the five minutes are up he is given the choice to walk by himself or with me/my husband. (Even if we have tried to assist the transition by helping him find "safe" places for his current project, talking about the next fun activity that will follow the non-preferred task the following scenario will still occur.) This is when he screams and comes at me/my husband - hitting, kicking and spitting. He is permitted to take a break should he not desire to engage in the request but once aggressions have occurred he is instructed to take a time-out in his room. He will usually go to his room (a positive) but will continue to rage (screaming, kicking furniture) for 15 minutes to an hour. No amount of talking helps at this point. He has demonstrated he needs the space to "rage" until he is done. At which point, me/my husband goes in a checks in with him. We talk about what happened, what a safer choice would have been and practice calming techniques. We always model the following language, "When you hurt someone, you can say 'I'm sorry.' or 'Are you okay?' He usually chooses one of the phrases but apologies are never required.
On a good day, he usually has two episodes and on a bad, closer to six. I taught in early intervention rooms prior to obtaining my teaching license and taught a primary (K-2) behavior classroom for years before having my own children. I have read many a book and think my approach is solid and grounded. (Not that I am perfect but I feel like the manner in which I am addressing his needs is not the heart of the issue.) I provide clear boundaries, an appropriate level of choice, positive redirection, lots of cuddle time, etc.
We have had no big changes that have triggered this behavior. HOWEVER he did stop napping consistently around the time of the increased rages but I have tried everything possible to make naps happen and it is not working or worth it. Any quiet time or nap time is now met with more raging - lasting one hour typically. He has very developed linguistic skills. His diet contains a very limited amount of sugar. For example, he is allowed three vegan fig newtons per day if he remembers to ask.
We get outside a lot and spend the majority of the day outside if possible. He has always been an intensely spirited child who has gone through three other phases of aggression. This one is more intense (perhaps because he is three?) in the degree of aggressions - approximately 20-25 on a bad day - and the duration that the episodes last. When he did attend daycare for a short while he did display similar intense behaviors yet not the level of aggression as that was not at the time he was in an aggressive phase.
Although this has been a very long post, I know as a specialist I would still have many clarifying questions. Here is my question: What would you do? Would you seek an Early Intervention evaluation? Would you look at diet? Would you just wait it out and appreciate that this could just be an intense child learning where the boundaries lie? Please advise.