Mothering Forums

Mothering Forums (http://www.mothering.com/forum/)
-   Gentle Discipline (http://www.mothering.com/forum/36-gentle-discipline/)
-   -   Tell me about your "explosive" child (http://www.mothering.com/forum/36-gentle-discipline/1026883-tell-me-about-your-explosive-child.html)

kindacrunchy 01-15-2009 01:34 AM

My Ds will be 6 on Saturday and we have been dealing with him and his anger since he was 3. He has gotten much better as he gets older, however, we see only 2 emotions out of this kid. Either happiness, or anger. He can go from happy to hellion in a heartbeat. A lot has to do with his brother who is 3. The other night he had this horrible melt down and repeatedly hit and kicked me. I could NOT get him to stop. I eventually put him in a cold shower. NOT a proud moment, just desperate. Somebody suggested the 90 second thing. Count to 90 to let the "fight or flight" hormones cycle through and get you to a better place before you act. I introduced that to him and he is resisting. He wants to take karate, which I told him that it is not to learn how to fight but for self-defense and self-control and that they don't teach kicking at first they teach self-control and anger management. He said "well then I don't want to do it then cause I don't want to manage my anger I want to blow the house down with it"
How can this kid who was so happy and positive for the past 3 weeks during break, who seemed to have such a maturity growth spurt become such a angry, resistant, difficult child when he goes back to school which he loves? I don't get it. And he goes through these phases where you absolutely cannot get through to him. He is like talking to a brick wall about everything and he is so negative and resistant.
Someone mentioned "the explosive child" book and I first would like to hear people tell me about their child.
Thanks for sharing

Magella 01-15-2009 12:13 PM

My explosive child is 9 now. Things started getting really difficult with her when she was about 3. She would go in phases of being really explosive, and then phases of being calm. I remember going back and forth about whether to seek out an evaluation for a few years. When she was 6, all heck broke loose and she started having these really long, violent rages (her rages/tantrums always tended to be long-often 45 minutes or up to 1.5 hours--but the very physically aggressive bit was new and, frankly, scary). This girl was always one to have two settings: very happy, or very angry. Her fuse seemed really short, as if she could go from zero to raging in seconds. She very often refused help calming down and was resistant to efforts to try to teach her to manage her anger. When she was angry and/or raging, you just couldn't talk to her or get through to her most of the time. While we made progress in interactions between her and ourselves, conflict with her siblings was an area of real problems and we despite working very hard at it we weren't making any progress with her in this area (and by working hard I mean, if we tried some new approach we really stuck with it for several weeks--we read books, watched videos, attended parenting workshops).

When she was 6 and the rages became violent, and her aggression toward siblings or the environment (and sometimes us) became nonredirectable and very, very stressful we sought an evaluation. We found it very helpful in terms of helping us identify underlying issues that contributed to her anger/behavioral difficulties and addressing those, and in terms of learning new ways of responding to her which she was more receptive to. It really helped to have someone to talk to, to brainstorm with, who could offer ideas we hadn't come across or thought of ourselves.

What ultimately helped dd get a real handle on her anger was addressing her anxiety, and working on helping her learn to regulate her emotions better. And in helping her better regulate her emotions, we didn't start with anger. That had become such a hot-button issue, and her resistance was so high. We went back to basics on the emotional education front, and started by talking about positive emotions-and incorporating development of emotional awareness throughout the day. Eventually we moved on to identifying ways to calm down, ways to care for ourselves throughout the day so that tension doesn't build to the point that we're exploding, etc. We started having one-on-one time with her every day for 15-20 minutes, and during this time she led our play/interaction and not only did we not ask questions (except about the play we were doing) but all of our comments were positive. This was not a time to talk about any difficulties we were having. This was positive time designed to help us connect, build trust, and gave us something positive to build on--which we desperately needed because things had become so negative and stressful.

I really think that when things reach a point where parents feel desperate, and things are happening like putting your child in a cold shower (I am not criticizing you, I have done things I shouldn't have done either, which were wake up calls to me), it is a good idea to consider seeking some outside help. Not because you're doing anything wrong, but because there may be issues behind the anger that you have not yet identified (really, my dd's anxiety was something we didn't suspect as being a big problem--and it really contributed to her anger). And also because sometimes when things get this tense and difficult, it's helpful to have someone to consult who can look at the situation with fresh eyes and offer some new ideas.

Quote:
How can this kid who was so happy and positive for the past 3 weeks during break, who seemed to have such a maturity growth spurt become such a angry, resistant, difficult child when he goes back to school which he loves?
As much as he loves school (mine does too), could he just be tired because of being back in school? I know as much as the structure of going to school and being in school helps my dd, it can also be tiring for her--and if she's tired she has more trouble regulating her emotions and more difficulty with exploding. Also, a transition back to school after a vacation is particularly hard, and we can count on about a week or so of "reentry" (despite her being glad to be back).

Also, we have found that karate class has been very therapeutic for our dd. That was kind of a hard decision to make, because of her history of aggression. It's an activity that helps her feel better, it's a positive environment in which she's successful and gets positive feedback, it provides her with a challenge, she enjoys it--and she has never carried over anthing she's learned in karate to home, never used what she's learned in her aggression toward siblings. The teachers make it very clear that it is for self-defense only.

Quote:
He said "well then I don't want to do it then cause I don't want to manage my anger I want to blow the house down with it"
Is it at all possible that he said this not because he enjoys being angry, but because managing his anger is very hard for him and he's discouraged and feeling a lot of pressure to manage his anger (and not being able to manage it better, at least not able as frequently as you'd like)? I really think this is why my dd resisted learning to manage her anger, and why she'd say "I don't want to" when we'd ask her to or talk about learning to manage her anger better.

kindacrunchy 01-15-2009 01:45 PM

Thank you SO much for taking th time to write your post. Anxiety. I thing that plays a huge role. He does seem to get this overwhelming panic when things aren't quite the way he thinks they should be, or if his brother looks in the direction of a lego creation, etc. I think part of it is nature and part of it is nurture. I am not a constant overreacter but I think I have done so with regards to his behavior because I don't understand it and sometimes it comes out of left field in my eyes.
HOw did you find someone to evaluate your daughter? Our insurance has mental health services an hour away and there is a ridiculous waiting list.

Magella 01-15-2009 02:01 PM

Yeah, I know what you mean about overreacting due to not understanding the behavior (and due to the fact that it can be actually frightening). Despite my best efforts (and really I held it together so much of the time, but there was just so much raging...) I think I did a lot of overreacting before we really got a handle on understanding it, and understanding how to best respond given dd's issues and personality, and I really do think that my overreactions contributed to the issues (at the very least, it didn't help). It is both nature and nurture.

We first sat down with her pediatrician, because we wanted to make sure the ped. didn't think there might be medical issues to rule out. She referred us to a child psychologist. We had to wait about a month for our first appointment, and the entire process of evaluation (meeting with us, meeting with dd, talking to dd's teacher and ped.) took two months (lots of waiting). Then dd started treatment for anxiety (the behavior issues had waned at that point, so we didn't address those-only anxiety). Then therapy ended due to the psychologist's moving. She left us with referrals, and several months later we sought out a second evaluation and family therapy to address the behavioral issues. We waited about two weeks for an initial appointment with the second psychologist.

It stinks that your mental health services are an hour away, and it is awful but common that waiting lists are so long. Our insurance sucks eggs, and we have a huge deductible to meet before they pay for anything so we paid out of pocket for all our mental health services. We did find that most people charged for services on a sliding scale for people who pay privately (thank goodness), so if you have people who are local but not in your insurance network you may look into that (also some insurances pay some portion for out-of-network providers, so if you don't know if yours does you might look into that too). Also, in terms of waiting lists, we found that psychologists tend to have shorter waiting lists than psychiatrists--and I would recommend a psychologist over a psychiatrist to begin with.

eta:

Magella 01-15-2009 02:57 PM

Some resources we've found to be extremely helpful:

The Pathways Inventory from The Explosive Child: This helped us identify what skills dd needed to work on, areas in which she had lagging skills that led to her behavioral difficulties.

The Explosive Child by Ross Greene and Treating Explosive Kids by Ross Greene and Stuart Ablon. www.thinkkids.org for an overview of the approach, and for both the clinician's and parent's blogs which have helpful information and tips.

eta: the latest parent blog (12/3/08) is good reading. http://www.thinkkids.org/blog/ From the blog:
Quote:
Every parent has those moments they wish they could take back – the times when it wasn’t just their child who lost control. And unfortunately parents of challenging kids know this tends to happen more frequently for them and, to make matters worse, the stakes are even higher during those episodes. Living with and parenting behaviorally challenging kids can be enormously frustrating and stressful and even the calmest and most empathic of parents is prone to completely losing it at points. A frustrated parent and a behaviorally challenging kid can make quite a combustible combination. Rest assured though, you’re not alone – and you’re not a bad parent! We often remind parents that it is an unavoidable fact that we are going to make mistakes as parents, say and do things we wish we could take back, but the potential for those things happening is that much higher with challenging kids....
Raising A Thinking Child by Myrna Shure for activities to work on using words, brainstorming, other conflict resolution skills.

What to Do When Your Temper Flares: A Kids' Guide to Overcoming Problems With Anger by Dawn Huebner: for helping to understand anger and for ideas for coping with anger in healthier ways.

www.worrywisekids.org for information about childhood anxiety

What to Do When You Worry Too Much: A Kid's Guide to Overcoming Anxiety
by Dawn Huebner.

kindacrunchy 01-15-2009 03:45 PM

Wow! Thank you!
What things should I look for in a psychologist? What key questions would you ask if you had to shop around?

kindacrunchy 01-15-2009 03:54 PM

I have the Kurcinka book about spirited children and that really hit the nail on the head, too, because he is MORE. When he is happy, he is just overflowing with love and caring, and kindness. It shows me that he does know how to handle things. But it is such a struggle. I get so tired of the attitude, the resistance, the "Oh come on MOM!" and the back and forth with that. Although he didn't hit me hard, I though, my god, when is this going to quit? I can't have him doing this to me when he is 8, 9, 10, etc. And I think he pulls back because he doesn't want to hurt me but he does it because he knows it is a hot button for me. KWIM? He has been a TON better with it. It was the night before school started. I kind of want to homeschool him, but I think we clash so much it would be even more frustrating. I used to enjoy him so much, and I crave that, and I get so frustrated and hurt and angry because I don't enjoy him like I used to. It is like I have labled him as my difficult child and I am always bracing myself for what might be coming my way. He is generally not an out of control child. People outside our house would be shocked to know some of the things he has done because he is so sweet and happy and cooperative. I think he showed a little bit of his explosiveness 2 or 3 times in 2 years of preschool. Once was when he accidentally was hurt by another child and he darted out of the class room. This was when he first started. Another time was when I was working in the classroom and he was hungry and he melted down because he couldn't sit where he wanted to and started knocking over chairs. There were some pretty shocked moms.
Thank you so much. I feel like I am unloading a lot of stuff that has been pent up.

Magella 01-15-2009 05:28 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by kindacrunchy View Post
Wow! Thank you!
What things should I look for in a psychologist? What key questions would you ask if you had to shop around?
These posts have some good questions to ask:

http://www.mothering.com/discussions...90&postcount=7

http://www.mothering.com/discussions...90&postcount=5

My personal preference is to look for a psychologist who mainly works with children and their families, whose training is in working with children and their families, and whose approach is cognitive-behavioral. Personally, I want to work with someone who respects both my knowledge of my child and my goals wrt my family and my child, who is flexible in approach, and who values my input--these things may be difficult to gauge in an interview, but it's important to remember that if you find that it isn't working out with a therapist you can find someone else. You might find it helpful to ask for recommendations from other parents, a good resource for this might be parent groups for parents of special needs kids (for instance, my school district has a Special Education Parents Advisory Council).

Quote:
When he is happy, he is just overflowing with love and caring, and kindness. It shows me that he does know how to handle things.
Btdt. With my dd, she could handle things very well, impressively well (with creativity and kindness and patience)-so long as she was feeling well. Once she was too frustrated, or tense, or anxious, or tired, or whatever then she couldn't handle things well. It was confusing until I understood that just because she could handle things well sometimes that didn't mean she could always handle things well but sort of chose not to. KWIM? There are times when our inner resources are low, and/or the situation/circumstances are such that our skills aren't adequate. I love the description from The Explosive Child that kids explode "when the demands of the situation outstrip their ability to cope adaptively." That sums it up. Sometimes kids can, and sometimes they can't. If a child finally hits his first home run in baseball, we wouldn't expect him to hit a home run every time (or even most times) from then on. Sometimes he can hit a home run, and sometimes he can't. With practice, and with developing his skills, he'll hit home runs more often. (Not a perfect analogy, but one I like.)

Quote:
People outside our house would be shocked to know some of the things he has done because he is so sweet and happy and cooperative.
I know. People have been very shocked to hear of our difficulties at home. It has been very frustrating at times, to almost not be believed and to hear "oh, but she's so wonderful!" Yes, she is wonderful. And she has some very real problems. I will never forget the day her preschool teacher went on and on about how kind and patient dd was, how the teacher thought she'd grow up to be a gentle leader like Buddha. There were a couple of seconds when I thought maybe she forgot who my child was, had me mixed up with some other parent. And of course, dd does have those qualities too. She just can't always respond in those ways, can't always access those skills.

Of coure, don't most of us behave better outside home? Isn't home where we kick back and let it all hang out? Explosive kids often do hold it together at school, sometimes because it's embarrassing to lose control in front non-family members, sometimes there's anxiety about how others will react if they explode--so they hold it in, using all their energy to maintain control. Sometimes there is something about the school environment or whatever environment that helps them hold it together-the structure, or the interesting things to look at/experience, whatever. But at home, at home they explode. Lucky us.

Quote:
I kind of want to homeschool him, but I think we clash so much it would be even more frustrating. I used to enjoy him so much, and I crave that, and I get so frustrated and hurt and angry because I don't enjoy him like I used to. It is like I have labled him as my difficult child and I am always bracing myself for what might be coming my way.
I hear you. It's hard. But it can get better, and very likely will with some patience and hard work on your part to help him. It's a difficult path for you, and it's hard for him too. But you can learn some valuable things along the way, and there will be happy times and proud times and easy times along with the difficult ones. I think sometimes we parents have to work extra hard to create those enjoyable times, and to remember that our kids don't choose to be difficult and are, in fact, so much more than their difficulties. That can be really hard to do, though.

I think there's some grieving too, when our life with our kids isn't what we expected or wanted. That's okay, totally normal. And that can be part of what we need to do in order to come to terms with reality and enjoy our kids more-to grieve a little and let go of those visions of how we think life should be, so we can embrace what actually is.

Magella 01-15-2009 05:45 PM

Almost forgot, you might find this website helpful also: http://www.explosivekids.org/index.html

It has some good information, book recommendations, support group locations (there are several around the U.S.), and a discussion forum (which is slow but it's nice to read about other families' experiences and successes living with explosive kids).

kindacrunchy 01-16-2009 01:35 PM

thank you for all of your help. i have a zillion questions. do you mindif i pm them to you?

Magella 01-16-2009 02:05 PM

Totally cool to pm me. Fire away.


BeantownBaby9 01-16-2009 02:29 PM

can I ask all of you something? did you feel like your LO's were high needs babies? I am just wonderfing if I am already seeing signs of this and what you all described is what is in store for us.

littlehawksmom 01-16-2009 04:05 PM

Thanks so much for your informative and personal posts, Magella. I have always read your posts about your 'explosive' child with interest, as she sounds so much like my ds (almost 6).

I would love to hear more about your responsibility charts and the other ways you organize your life. I feel this is where we need help. The days where I have 'engineered' the day's routine are by far the best days with less freak outs. However, this does not come easily to me and has been a real lesson for me (Thank you, ds, for all your lessons).

Thanks too for your reminder that it is okay to grieve how you thought your family life would look. I do get frustrated and wish things would be easier and different, so I try to not be too hard on myself, start fresh every day and find the little things to be thankful for. And make sure to do things for myself to recharge.

As we do not have access to any professional help for us and ds, I would like to know if there are any things we could do at home to help ds manage anxiety (which for sure leads to him being unable to cope). We already do a lot of sensory activities and talking about emotions and reactions and try to do some play-type therapy (and this is helpful for ds, but very difficult for me for some reason).

Thanks again for this thread.

Magella 01-16-2009 04:11 PM

Quote:
can I ask all of you something? did you feel like your LO's were high needs babies? I am just wonderfing if I am already seeing signs of this and what you all described is what is in store for us.
Mine was a high-needs baby, but please don't think that being a high-needs baby is necessarily indicative of future difficulties. I think high-needs kids remain somewhat high-needs, but that doesn't necessarily lead to difficulties.

Having a high-needs baby can be tiring, so .

Enjoy your baby, live in the now, try not to worry too much about what the future holds. You won't know until you get there.

And, I've been on a wild ride but I wouldn't trade any of it for anything. I love my high-needs, highly sensitive, explosive, anxious kiddo, she's just amazing. She is a great many things besides challenging. She's creative, loving, compassionate, thoughtful, kind, intelligent, thoughtful, and fun. She has allowed me to learn so very much.

Magella 01-16-2009 04:37 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by littlehawksmom View Post
I would love to hear more about your responsibility charts and the other ways you organize your life. I feel this is where we need help. The days where I have 'engineered' the day's routine are by far the best days with less freak outs. However, this does not come easily to me and has been a real lesson for me (Thank you, ds, for all your lessons).
My dd just thrives on organization and structure, and I am really bad at organization and structure. What we've got going on now is this: each child has a packet of schedules (they love them). There's a morning schedule that applies to school days, one morning schedule for Saturdays because they have karate on Saturday mornings. There is a schedule for each afternoon Monday through Friday. Each schedule is in a clear plastic sheet protector, and they are all held together by a little ring (like a binder ring). They use wipe-off markers to check off things as they go. We use timers for certain things, as it helps them keep track and manage their time. These schedules are not in any way tied to rewards or consequences, just a means of organization (though, in the morning everything needs to be done before playing so that we get out to school on time, without struggle, and without forgetting major things).

It looks kind of like:

7:00 am downstairs:
pack lunch
pack backpack
etc.

7:20 eat breakfast

7:40 brush teeth 2 minutes
brush hair

And so on. Afternoon schedules include play/relaxing time, snack, homework, play, chores, practice karate/instruments, play, help with dinner (or shower or set table depending on the day--the older two shower every other day, rotating), dinner, relax, get ready for bed.

Having schedules keeps me on track, keeps them on track, and gives them not only a visual cue of what needs to be done but enables us to ensure they have a good balance between play/downtime and Things That Need Doing. Keeping us in a predictable, solid routine has definitely been something I've needed to learn, and still need to work on. All 3 kids seem happier this way.


Quote:
Originally Posted by littlehawksmom View Post
As we do not have access to any professional help for us and ds, I would like to know if there are any things we could do at home to help ds manage anxiety (which for sure leads to him being unable to cope). We already do a lot of sensory activities and talking about emotions and reactions and try to do some play-type therapy (and this is helpful for ds, but very difficult for me for some reason).
I have found two books to be very helpful for helping dd with her anxiety: Freeing Your Child From Anxiety by Tamar Chansky and What to Do When You Worry Too Much by Dawn Huebner. Ime, important parts to managing anxiety are understanding anxiety (what it is and how it works), identifying anxiety in oneself (learning to be aware of it, knowing what to call it), and learning strategies for coping with it. Coping strategies for dd include not only ways of coping when she's anxious about something specific, but also learning ways of relaxing in general-of keeping herself relaxed, identifying bodily tension, taking care of herself. Both books have some very good information, and the What To Do... book is geared toward kids with very kid-friendly explanations.

We found that it helped to teach dd some explicit relaxation skills, and to do them with her every day. Things like progressive muscle relaxation (tensing and releasing one muscle group at a time-just feet, for example, then legs...), belly breathing (breathing in slowly through the nose, expanding the belly outward, exhaling through the mouth), visualization. iTunes has some free visualizations for kids you can download-look for Patti Teel (Time out for Dreamers) and Meditation for Children and Teens by Stin Hansen.

I find that with dd, it helps to have one-on-one time that looks like this: she leads the play/activity, I ask no questions (unless it's about the activity we're engaging in) and definitely don't talk about any difficulties, and everything I say is positive. This is time that helps dd relax, helps us connect and build trust, and gives us something positive to focus on (which we have sorely needed at some points, when things have gotten really frustrating and negative). This is the closest thing to "play-type" therapy that we do.


Also, check out the Special Needs forum, I know there have been some great threads on anxiety there.

elvenom 01-19-2009 08:44 PM

Where do I start? As I write this I am mentally DRAINED. I am in such a terrible mood that I just want to sit here and not move. My son is 4 and his behavior is out of control. He has always been a bit spirited but it all came to a head when our 9 month old daughter was born. I dont know if it is just a coincidence but he seemed to get so much worse once she got here. He cries CONSTANTLY. If he is not full on crying he is whining. He is so rigid and cannot accept it when things dont go his way, or when he is told no. He starts flailing his arms and legs, like he literally cant control his movements, and cries cries cries. Time outs do not work because he cries the whole time, begging to get up or screaming so loud that I have to put him in his room.

I hate to use his room as a place of punishment but with the baby being here I cannot have him screaming like this in front of her. I have tried everything you can think of. I do not hit him, and I try not to yell. I give him options. He fights me on every level. If I say he can have one of something, he cries for TWO. If I ask him to do something he will ignore what I am saying and just start talking about something else as if he didnt hear me. I have to repeatedly ask him to do whatever it is..then once I raise my voice or get stern, the whining and crying starts. When I am talking he tries to talk over me or have the last word. Its all about control. He is never violent with us or himself, thank God.

The odd thing is, he can have weeks where he is relatively calm, some whining but no real tantrums. Then its like someone flipped a switched and hes back to crying and tantruming several times a day. Thats where we are now. Yesterday he cried and tantrum-ed about 5 times. Each lasting about 15 minutes or more. Unwelcome behavior = time outs=crying=screaming= 20 minute tantrum.

Its almost like he enjoys crying or something because even when things are fine he finds a reason to cry and that always escalates. He has to DO everything: press play on the remote, push the button on the microwave, fix my belt, the list goes on and on. And if we do not let him, he cries..of course I don't let him do everything he wants so..

I am extremely frustrated. And so far he is fine at school. If he doesn't like something the teacher says or does he will show disappointment, but never cries or tantrums. The moment he walks in the door here, he turns into a little monster.

when is having a good week/s he is the sweetest, most angelic child ever. I am exhausted and started researching therapists today. I know it has much to do with his rigidity...just wanted to vent..good luck to everyone who posted. We need it! lol!

Simone

Tuesday 02-22-2009 05:37 PM

Just wanted to say hi and you're not alone. I am feeling very "bruised" today by my son's behaviour this morning and just plain burnt out from 6 years of having an explosive child. I'd explain more but I think it'd be too emotionally jarring at this moment. I was just searching our board for help and found this thread. You're not alone! I hope the explosiveness gets better! Does it?!


All times are GMT -7. The time now is 12:04 AM.

Powered by vBulletin® Copyright ©2000 - 2014, Jelsoft Enterprises Ltd.

vBulletin Optimisation provided by vB Optimise (Pro) - vBulletin Mods & Addons Copyright © 2014 DragonByte Technologies Ltd.
User Alert System provided by Advanced User Tagging (Pro) - vBulletin Mods & Addons Copyright © 2014 DragonByte Technologies Ltd.