Help! Severe Aggressive/Defiant Behavior! - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 494 Old 09-16-2009, 07:54 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I am a single mother of a 4-year-old son with extreme behavioral problems, and I am desperate for your help as I am not liking what the medical community is offering us (medication, of course).

Here's the main point of concern so I can make my "thesis" clear. For over two years, I've been dealing with serious behavioral problems with my son including extreme aggression and destructive behavior. He has severely injured me on many occasions. I have sought therapy for him and both his therapist and the behavioral/developmental pediatrician we saw are recommending medication. The pediatrician prescribed Risperdal, which is an extremely serious anti-psychotic medication. My parents are not supportive of me giving him medication, and I am not sold on the idea either (as I know most of you probably wouldn't be), but I am at my wit's end with his behavior. I am posting here as a last-ditch effort to get some ideas that might help me deal with my son. Medication is NOT what I want to do, but I am feeling desperate. Also, the doctor and therapist (a psychologist) along with his regular pediatrician say that if his behavior continues, he is building neural pathways that will stay with him for the rest of his life. They say once this behavior becomes entrenched, it will only get worse. They say, "If you have a hard time controlling him now and keeping him from hurting you, what about when he's 8 or 10 years old?" I am scared, angry, and frustrated with this situation, and of course I blame myself.

Just to give you some context for my situation, his father is not involved at all and has never met him, and though I have some help from my parents (they usually watch him one night per week, though they are not at all emotionally supportive), I am raising this child primarily on my own. My parents live an hour and a half away, so when my son has these hideous tantrums, which can last as long as 6-8 hours at times, I have no one to call to help me, and I can't handle it at times.

We had a very hard time from the beginning. He hated breastfeeding (or so it appeared) and screamed, pushed me away, and scratched me every time I tried. I didn't give up, but it took six months and a million visits to a lactation consultant to really be successful with it. He cried a lot and was colicky as well. He was hardly ever content.

The aggression began early. Even at 18 months, my son showed signs of aggressive behavior, trying to slam his head backwards into my face. He succeeded in giving me bloody noses and split my lip on several occasions. People would ask me if someone punched me in the face. I don't know why he did it, but he seemed angry and it seemed very intentional, even though I know he didn't really understand what he was doing. 

 

(ADDENDUM:  Since posting this originally, and thanks to a few MDC moms for recognizing it, my son has been diagnosed with Sensory Processing Disorder and has sensory seeking behavior as part of his SPD.  He is unable to tell where his body is in space and has difficulty gauging how hard/soft he is doing things.  In light of this, his behavior at 18 months is now clearly related to SPD.  While I thought he "seemed angry," it was because he seemed to be trying to hurt me; however, the behavior wasn't happening in response to a "no" or any sort of discipline from me.  I interpreted his body language in trying to slam into me as anger, but emotionally he didn't seem angry.  It was just random.  I don't believe he was being aggressive at that age now, just having difficulties with sensory processing.)

As far as discipline goes, I began with attachment parenting and was very committed to the idea. I breastfed him for two years and didn't put him in childcare until he was two years old. We co-slept and still do. I didn't circumcise him because I felt it was unnecessary and violent. I felt like I was doing everything "right" and that he would be a happy, healthy, loving child. I wanted to show him nothing but love and kindness, which is very different from what I got as a child.

I used very gentle discipline. If he hurt me, I would say, "We do not hit. Hitting hurts mommy." I was later told by therapists, nannies, parents, and doctors that my gentle approach to discipline was what caused his aggressive, out-of-control behavior.

Then, my son was seriously abused at a daycare when he was two, which only made things worse. We had to change daycares, obviously, and he would be extremely aggressive towards the other children any time I was around. He would hit, slap, push kids down, grab and pinch their faces, and once he even grabbed another child's head and started slamming it into the wall as hard as he could, over and over, while everyone screamed in horror and ran towards him as quickly as we could to make him stop. It was horrifying and humiliating. Everyone looked at me with horror and shock on their faces and said, "Why would he do this?"

Keep in mind that he had never watched a single TV show, had never seen someone be violent to another person, had never been physically brutalized by a loved one himself, though I will never know exactly what happened to him at that daycare. I do know that the skin was pretty much ripped off his testicles when the teacher (according to both the doctor's assessment and mine) apparently twisted his testicles for punishment, or torture, or who knows what.

I understand that the abuse he faced certainly impacted his behavior. He was angry and scared, and I still see him as a very angry, scared child. He seems to direct all his anger at me.

I can't count the number of black eyes and bloody noses he's given me. I am fairly sure he has even broken my nose. He has destroyed things, thrown heavy objects at my head, broken lamps, urinated on the couch on purpose (while in a time out), and so many awful things I can't even list them all, nor do I want to.

We have also faced several very stressful situations, one right after another. In addition to the abuse at his daycare, we also had the extremely traumatizing experience of having someone try to break into our house in May when we were there alone. It took the police 30 minutes to arrive, and I later found out (which I knew in my heart at the time) that the person was trying to get in to our house not to steal things, but to hurt me. He lived across the street, but I did not know him. He intended to rape me and cut me up with a box cutter. It's not clear whether he intended to hurt my son, but he knew my son and I lived there alone. My son was awake during the whole incident and we were both extremely terrified.

After this, we obviously had to move, as the attacker's relatives lived directly across the street from us and I didn't feel safe. We had to leave all of our friends that we had known for two years, and my son had to leave all the kids he played with daily.

Only a few weeks after this happened when we were still living with my parents and commuting 3 hours each day to work and preschool, a teacher at my son's Waldorf preschool (yes! Waldorf!) called to tell me that the director of the school had physically force-fed my son on several occasions, shoving a spoon through his closed lips while he sobbed for mommy. He had been particularly clingy when I dropped him off, but I thought it was due to the extreme stress we'd been under after the break-in. This teacher reported the force feeding as child abuse to the child care division and quit her job, and I immediately removed my son from that school. (Another teacher also witnessed the incident and confirmed that the account was true.) Yet another devastating change for him, as he lost all the friends he had made. It's been one loss, trauma, and tragedy for us (and my son in particular) after another.

Sorry this is so long, but there are so many pieces to this terrible puzzle that I feel I need to share.

Since he was a little over two, right after the child abuse at daycare and the aggressive behavior towards other children surfaced, I have been taking him to see a play therapist, and she has advised me to use time outs for any behavior that harms himself, harms others, or destroys belongings. Time outs do not seem to work for him and only escalate the situation until it turns into a complete physical battle. He is hitting, kicking, screaming, biting, and doing anything he can to fight me. He always hurts me, and I lose my temper and can become rough with him or emotionally abusive. This poor parenting on my part has been a new thing; somehow in the past I usually kept it together, but I am just burned out.

He will not stay in time out. He will come out of time out and continue to hit, bite, throw things and generally be out of control. Have been instructed by our therapist (who is generally very kind, rational, and reasonable; I do like her, overall) to restrain him and physically force him to stay in time out by sitting behind him and wrapping his arms around himself, as if he's in a straight-jacket. This usually results in him trying to bash me with his head or bite me, so sometimes I have to sit him in a chair and hold his arms over his head. I often have to drag him kicking and screaming into time out, since he refuses to go to time out.

I absolutely HATE, despise, and detest having to have these physical confrontations with him, like we are in a battle. I am only 5'2" and he is now 3'7" and a very muscular, strong kid. Even though he is only four, he is very hard to restrain and control. It just doesn't feel right, and it's very hard for me because I was very physically abused as a child, and it really triggers me. I feel like I am in an abusive relationship with someone who is hitting me and hurting me, and I want to leave, every fiber of my being is screaming "WALK AWAY BEFORE YOU LOSE IT!" but I can't walk away. He's only four. I can't leave him alone.

As I mentioned above, he has been in therapy for two years, and his therapist and behavioral pediatrician recommend that he take Risperdal, which is an anti-psychotic. This is a serious medication, given to schizophrenics and aggressive autistic children, and giving it to my son would be considered an "off label" use, but it's supposedly the only medication used to treat aggressive behavior in children. I do not like the idea of him taking medication AT ALL.

My parents completely disagree with medication, and of course blame his behavior on me because his behavior is most severe when he is with me. He doesn't act this way at school, and while he does have tantrums and aggressive behavior when he's at my parent's house, it's probably only 25% as much as he does it with me, if not less. I feel like if he's not acting this way at school or as much with my parents, it must be something I am doing wrong. The behavioral pediatrician said that it just shows he has awareness of what's socially appropriate and that after holding it in all day, he blows his fuse when he's with me because he feels safe doing so with me..

In addition to the traumas he's been through (abuse, force-feeding, break-in attempt, loss of friends and home), I think there may be some genetic components, as his father was a very mentally unhealthy person who exhibited many of the same behaviors of being kind, loving, and calm one minute and in a complete irrational fury the next.

I don't want to put him on medication, and I blame myself for not being able to have an impact on his behavior. I don't know what to do. I am afraid that the stress of fighting with him on a daily basis could lead to me becoming abusive. I already see myself going in the direction of emotional abuse, saying awful things to him that I hate myself for saying, like "I don't want to be around you. I don't want to talk to you. Just leave me alone." Of course I feel like crap after saying that, and I never said things like that until only recently. I feel like I've been patient for so long and I've finally run out of patience. He's only four, for God's sake, but I feel like I am in an abusive situation and I want to leave, but I can't. If I had someone to call when I am at my wit's end to just have a break for a few minutes, it would help so much, but I don't have any family here, and all my friends have children, and who'd want to come in to deal with a hitting, biting, kicking, screaming, spitting child? No one. So I am left to deal with it even when I feel like I can't. I love him, but more than once I've felt like just walking out the door and not coming back. I can't imagine living without him, but I can't live with him either. I feel like I am completely at my wit's end.

He constantly hurts me, and makes me late for work by having tantrums that make it impossible to get us out the door, which puts me under extreme stress. We live in a high rise apartment complex and I fear us getting evicted because he is screaming blood-curdling screams on a daily basis, sometimes for hours!

I have also lost several friendships because of this because my friends don't want their children around him. I haven't even attempted dating since I was pregnant, because I can't imagine any man wanting to be around a child who acts like this.

From time to time, he can be very sweet and kind. He loves animals, especially cats, and is extremely gentle with them. He can be very loving with me, but his kindness comes only sporadically and can be followed immediately by an angry, violent outburst towards me. Even things he enjoys, like offers from me of going swimming, to the park, out to eat, etc can bring about anger. It's completely irrational.

On the positive side, he is an extremely bright child (off the charts with his vocabulary) and both intellectually and physically talented. He could run at 9 months, and just before his 4th birthday was riding a bike without training wheels! He has so many strengths, and I wish we could see more of those and less of the emotional outbursts.

I've tried using positive reinforcement instead of negative, trying incentives like sticker charts and prizes, but he hates sticker charts and rewards most of the time, and will even get angry if you tell him he did a great job on a task and offer to reward him. He is a completely baffling child much of the time.

I am at my wit's end, but I love my son and want things to change. I don't want to put him on this medication. It seems like there MUST be another way, but I am physically and emotionally exhausted, and nothing I do seems to be working. Has anyone else dealt with severe behavioral problems? If so, what did you do? HELP!!!!!!

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#2 of 494 Old 09-16-2009, 08:55 PM
 
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His behavior is causing a cycle that is making things worse and digging him in deeper. His behavior causes him to lose friendships and interferes with his attachment to you. He will eventually get the label of "bad kid" and when he does, it is SO hard to turn that label and the behavior around.

Risperdal is not that bad. I would not define it as an "extremely serious" anti-psychotic medication. Its used for aggression. Its used more often off-label than for anything else, so don't let the off-label use worry you. Its calming. Its probably the best choice of medication for aggression. It usually doesn't have bad side effects (worst is usually weight gain). Using Risperdal in conjunction with play therapy and a behavior intervention plan will give your child the best chance to have positive, loving, healthy relationships. Then you can fade the Risperdal as he gains skills and self-control, and heals from all the trauma he has experienced.

I know this isn't what you wanted to hear. I agree with the professionals that medication is needed here so that he can start having more successes, gain confidence, and learn loving interactions. You can always stop the medication if you really don't think its useful.
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#3 of 494 Old 09-16-2009, 09:14 PM
 
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I have no advice just want to offer a .
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#4 of 494 Old 09-16-2009, 09:36 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BellinghamCrunchie View Post
His behavior is causing a cycle that is making things worse and digging him in deeper. His behavior causes him to lose friendships and interferes with his attachment to you. He will eventually get the label of "bad kid" and when he does, it is SO hard to turn that label and the behavior around.

Risperdal is not that bad. I would not define it as an "extremely serious" anti-psychotic medication. Its used for aggression. Its used more often off-label than for anything else, so don't let the off-label use worry you. Its calming. Its probably the best choice of medication for aggression. It usually doesn't have bad side effects (worst is usually weight gain). Using Risperdal in conjunction with play therapy and a behavior intervention plan will give your child the best chance to have positive, loving, healthy relationships. Then you can fade the Risperdal as he gains skills and self-control, and heals from all the trauma he has experienced.

I know this isn't what you wanted to hear. I agree with the professionals that medication is needed here so that he can start having more successes, gain confidence, and learn loving interactions. You can always stop the medication if you really don't think its useful.
I agree, Risperdal was a god send for us and really helps stop the violence and aggression, it also sounds like he desperately needs a mood stabilizer as well. I highly recommend you get the book "Bipolar Kids" by Rosalie Greenburg. Your sons issues are not from what happened at daycare, this behavior is way way outside the norm and like it or not, you son NEEDS meds. I have been where you are and so have many others, your son is to young to be given a Bipolar dx but I can almost assure you he will get the label by the time he's 8. Get the book and you will clearly see your son, there is help out there and you might want to try the mental health forum, the GD forum people while well meaning will not be able to advise you on dealing with this situation and your more then likely going to be flamed or end up being bashed on other forums as a horrible mother because of the way your child acts (cause you know, its gotta be the mothers fault there child is so outta control ) . Trust me, BTDT. Being the parent of a mentally ill child is very very difficult and very hard to accept but once you accept help life gets better, much better. I honestly regret waiting until my dd was 8 and we'd been though YEARS of hell before I was ready to admit we needed meds and we tried EVERYTHING before resorting to meds.

Seriously?
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#5 of 494 Old 09-16-2009, 09:37 PM
 
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Mama, I couldn't read and not reply. Poor you; you must be so, so exhausted.

My son is high need and very, very spirited. He has ADHD in a huge, huge way, and might end up being bipolar as well. He's only 8.
When he was littler, like yours, while he was never nearly as aggressive as that, he was pretty off the scale aggressive compared to other kids. I was always That Mom with That Kid at the playground. I feel your pain-- perhaps on a lesser scale, but I identify with the isolation, the loneliness, the blame, the shame, the What Did I Do, the self-doubt.

My kid's therapist was pushing for meds since he was 3, 3-1/2 or so. I just. would. not. go there. She kept telling me that she was not a Meds As First Line of Defense person, but I felt that she was...anyway. Long story short, I finally came to a couple of conclusions:
1) a trial on meds is just that, a trial. It's not a sentence. It doesn't have to last forever.
and 2)-- this was really, really hard for me to grasp-- I know that our kids in the USA are way overmedicated, but I also know that there are some kids that truly need them, and my kid was one of them.

I went through stages of grief over this, and guilt like you can't imagine. He started meds when he was 5, and we've changed them up a couple times since then, and now he's trying a mood stabilizer too, for his extreme negativity, and I can't stand it-- I can't stand it, the meds, any meds, new meds, higher dosage meds. For us, it just seems to keep escalating-- BUT, and this is a big but-- they help him.

Yes, they make my life easier, but that's not what it's about-- they help HIM get through a day, help HIM relate to people normally, they help HIM learn social skills that he can't seem to get by himself, they help HIM learn to handle his feelings in an appropriate manner, with appropriate outlets.

I can't believe I'm saying this-- but I'd advocate trying them. Just trying. You have done all you can, and I know you are a great and loving mama, because I've been there (though in a different way) and I am the best mama I can be, too. You are breaking down and it comes through in your email.
BTW-- I'm a single mama, too, with no support system either.

Good luck and don't beat yourself up if your boy is one who truly needs meds-- it's not your fault. At ALL. Sometimes things are just random. Maybe you were given this particular boy because he knew before he was incarnate that you were the one that would love him and handle him like nobody else can. Who knows why we get the children we get. I have often wondered why I got a boy who is so, so hyper and defiant-- who decided I needed to learn MORE patience?
But it isn't mine to question, or doubt, I guess-- apparently I am the mama most able to parent this particular boy. I love him with every pore and every fiber of my being, as exasperating as he can be sometimes

If you do try him on meds, and they help-- like they say in AA, if the cure works, you might possibly have the disease (or in this case, syndrome or disorder or whatever the catch-phrase of the day is). Go through the grief stages, and then breathe and be gentle with yourself.

I know you love your boy, too. Keep loving him. Keep doing the best you can. Hang in there, mama, things will get better.

Me treehugger.gif Handfasted wife to M  geek.gif as of 3/7/10 , and Mama to R  reading.gif (1/31/01) luxlove.gif

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#6 of 494 Old 09-16-2009, 09:41 PM
 
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Oh mama I'm so sorry for all the trauma and heartache that you and your son have been through.

I don't have advice on the medication front, but I do notice, from your description, that the time-outs seem to trigger a great deal of violence and tantrums. Could you try getting rid of them completely? If they're not working, and they are causing you both so much trauma, maybe doing away with them is the best thing? You could try a 'time-in' instead, where, if he does something violent or aggressive, you sit with him, hug him, tell him how important he is to you, basically go for connection rather than separation. Once he's calm enough, you could try talking to him about it, see how it goes?

You are doing such a great job - it's so wonderful that you are reaching out everywhere you can to get resources and ways to help your son. He has a wonderful, caring mama, and you will both get through this.

Lindsay, mama to Owen (06.08) and Sadie (05.11) wool.gifpartner to the amazing J. 
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#7 of 494 Old 09-16-2009, 09:50 PM
 
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I'm sorry you and your little guy are going through this. If I were in your shoes, I would try medication. What you're doing isn't working. Medication might not either, but it's another tool in the tool box, and it might be what he needs. I know it's a tired analogy, but if your child had diabetes that wasn't being controlled through diet, wouldn't you try insulin? Trying meds also doesn't mean that he will be on them forever. It could be that he needs them to get him on an even keel so that all the therapy and effort that you are putting in can help him.
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#8 of 494 Old 09-16-2009, 10:14 PM
 
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no advice, just a nak

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#9 of 494 Old 09-16-2009, 10:25 PM
 
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First, many, many hugs to you.

You've gotten some great BTDT advice, I have no experience with meds as do several pps, and I wanted to chime in with a suggestion (whatever you decide with meds) to find a Peter Levine trained therapist to help your ds with his trauma history. Apparently, they have amazing results with adults and kids, and it popped into my mind as I was reading your post. You can check out his work and find a therapist here: http://www.traumahealing.com/

Best, best wishes for your journey. You will make it through, as will your son. I hope you find all the help you need, whatever form it takes.
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#10 of 494 Old 09-16-2009, 11:19 PM
 
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I, too, wanted to offer you a hug. I can't imagine going through what you are going through. I don't have any experience with the medication that you mentionned but I did want to mention one thing. When I first read your post and you were talking about his infancy, the first thing that jumped to mind was that he might have food sensitivities. I realize that food issues might not be the full solution, given the extent of the situation, but it might be a large piece of the puzzle. There is a great deal of info in the 'allergies' threads here on MDC that you might want to check out.
You sound like a wonderful mother. Go easy on yourself. We have all fallen short of our ideal parenting at times. I kow that I have - and for much less than you have had to deal with. Could you ever make arrangements with someone to take him so that you might get some time to recharge your batteries? I know that for me, sometimes a short time apart gives me the energy to get through the rest of the day...
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#11 of 494 Old 09-16-2009, 11:56 PM - Thread Starter
 
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First of all, thank you to all of you who have replied. I am honestly really surprised at how many of you are ok with medication---not surprised in a judgmental way, like "I can't believe you would think that," but just plain old surprise. I really expected most people to say, "Absolutely do not give him medication" since I know a lot of people on this site are really into natural parenting. In some ways, it is a little comforting to hear people say that they tried it and it really worked for their child. But I am still scared. My parents have made it very clear that if we try medication and anything goes wrong, they are going to hold me responsible. Yes, they are SOOO supportive (heavy sarcasm). Yet they also tell me they want me to "do something" about his behavior. Honestly, I think what my dad would like me to do is start spanking my son. That's how they raised me, and it destroyed my self-esteem and I hated my parents for most of my life. It's hard to feel like someone loves you when they beat you, you know?

As far as the medication goes, I guess it really freaked me out because this medication is used for schizophrenia, and I had a friend who had schizophrenia (who later committed suicide) and all the medications she was on were absolutely awful. I've also dealt with depression myself and have been on anti-depressants, most of which have given me pretty awful side effects.

I guess my fears are that he is too young to really explain how he's feeling on the medication, and that he might have some terrible side effect that is irreversible. I went on a website about this medication and a few kids developed tics (like smacking their lips and rolling their tongues around) that didn't go away once the medication was stopped. I guess I just feel scared about doing something to his brain.

Sometimes I feel like I am blowing his behavior out of proportion. He's not terrible every day. But we definitely go through spells (days and days) where it can be completely off the charts. I do notice that it has a lot to do with my mood and my energy levels. It takes a lot of energy to engage with him and direct him positively without doing too much of "No, don't do that. Stop that! Put that down!" and just picking on every little thing he is doing instead of using a more positive approach. But then again, there are those times that no matter how "perfectly" I do things, it just doesn't matter.

For the people who mentioned bi-polar disorder or have bi-polar kids, were your kids having problems in all situations (home, school, etc)? I know you're not medical experts, but what do you make of him being able to control his behavior at preschool and (to a certain extent) with his grandparents but not so much with me?

I honestly hope it's not bipolar disorder, but with as dysfunctional as his dad is, I wouldn't be completely surprised.

I guess I feel like he's been through so much trauma that it's hard to know if it's just that.

For those of you with bipolar kids, what were they like as babies? Did you find them to be difficult babies as well?

I REALLY appreciate everyone's advice (of ALL kinds) on this issue. I think the more opinions (and diverse opinions) the better. It gives me a lot to think about. Thank you!

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#12 of 494 Old 09-16-2009, 11:58 PM
 
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I am so sorry; it sounds over-the-top stressful. I understand trying to avoid meds; I am a minimalist re: meds of any kind too. But sometimes they are needed. I think you have tried everything you can short of meds. I really would try what the doctors are recommending. See if it helps. Because is it better to be natural and miserable or on medication and happy?

Quote:
Originally Posted by BellinghamCrunchie View Post
His behavior is causing a cycle that is making things worse and digging him in deeper. His behavior causes him to lose friendships and interferes with his attachment to you. He will eventually get the label of "bad kid" and when he does, it is SO hard to turn that label and the behavior around.

I know this isn't what you wanted to hear. I agree with the professionals that medication is needed here so that he can start having more successes, gain confidence, and learn loving interactions. You can always stop the medication if you really don't think its useful.
I really agree with all of this.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Maiasaura View Post
our kids in the USA are way overmedicated, but I also know that there are some kids that truly need them, and my kid was one of them.

I'd advocate trying them. Just trying. You have done all you can

If you do try him on meds, and they help-- like they say in AA, if the cure works, you might possibly have the disease (or in this case, syndrome or disorder or whatever the catch-phrase of the day is). Go through the grief stages, and then breathe and be gentle with yourself.
Yes, this.

Quote:
Originally Posted by eclipse View Post
if your child had diabetes that wasn't being controlled through diet, wouldn't you try insulin? Trying meds also doesn't mean that he will be on them forever. It could be that he needs them to get him on an even keel so that all the therapy and effort that you are putting in can help him.
This was the first thing I thought of too. And I really, REALLY understand not wanting to medicate - but I think your situation warrants trying. As a good, caring, loving, dedicated mother, you have tried everything else already. It is ok to try this. What if his life and yours could be calm and workable? Isn't it worth trying to see?
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#13 of 494 Old 09-17-2009, 12:21 AM
 
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I would definitely try nature therapy and art therapy first. I have always had success with these and you do not need to be an expert in either of these fields to do them. Take your son into nature every day. Make it an adventure, especially let him dig in the dirt and help you plant and care for flowers, trees, etc...There is a wonderful book called Last Child in the Woods which is fantastic and I highly recommend it.
Leave art supplies in every area he plays in-clay, crayons, washable markers, watercolors. Cover your kitchen table with butcher paper instead of a table cloth and put crayons in a vase instead of flowers. Set up a messy zone where he can use paint unrestricted on large canvases or scraps of fabric. Shower curtains are great for covering flooring during painting.
If an adult went through the trauma that your son did, a lot of therapy would be prescribed. But he is a child and although medication will change his behavior, it will not heal what he has been through. Of course he is furious! I was too just reading what has happened to him. He has been betrayed by adults he trusted and that is no small thing. He needs the right kind of therapy which is age appropriate. I combine art and nature therapy and I have worked with some very aggressive children. It always works but I have found that they work better in conjunction than one or the other alone in serious cases.
I am sending you so much love and healing. Please feel free to contact me if you need any ideas. I know you can do this. Hang in there and take care of yourself, Mama. I love you.

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#14 of 494 Old 09-17-2009, 01:10 AM
 
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I couldn't read and not reply. I have no expertise here, but I agree with the previous posters who say it sounds like the medication is needed here, and I would listen to the medical professionals in this case, rather than your parents. I hope you can find peace with the decision and that the medication will help your son and you to build a better life together.

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#15 of 494 Old 09-17-2009, 01:31 AM
 
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oh you poor thing!! Sounds to me like you are a great mom. I agree with everyone, give the medication a try, if you don't like it, you can always go back, right?
I also read "The Last Child in the Woods" and though I'm not sure about the whole "Nature Deficit Disorder" thing (that ADHD is basically caused by a lack of free play time in the woods), I do think it's a valuable book. My friend has a kid with pretty bad ADHD and she gets really annoyed when someone suggests that the illness can be cured by eliminating sugar from his diet or taking him out into the woods a lot. She DOES take him into the woods a lot, by the way.
anyway, good luck! You are not alone! Mothering.com is a fantastic place to come for support!

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#16 of 494 Old 09-17-2009, 01:52 AM
 
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i couldn't read without at least giving you a what you've been going through is obviously exhausting. you and your son are in my prayers.

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#17 of 494 Old 09-17-2009, 02:16 AM
 
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This is a tough time, but it can get better.

Of available resources, is there someone near you (or on here maybe?) that would look at things from an whole-person (osteopathic) standpoint? Yes, he may very much need the meds, but there could be other things making it worse by adding a physical component to whatever's triggering his outbursts, something he wouldn't have the words to express.

I have a nephew who was diagnosed as ADHD very young, with bouts of very odd, sometimes aggressive behavior, and meds did help him. But my sister in law also found out that limiting foods with certain dyes and other chemicals helped reduce the amount of triggered events he was having.

The way you described your son pushing you away when he needed to nurse sounds alot like an article I read about babies reacting when nursing mothers eat things that trigger the baby's allergies. There may be some trigger things that he is getting, especially since you are his primary caregiver, so he would get meals you plan and eat yourself. It would be a major bummer if it's something he really likes, but down the road it could make all the difference. Since he also has outbursts with your parents, it could be something common to both households. It may not even be a food, it could be a cleaning product or a scented product.

I don't know enough to say what kinds of things you could look at as possible culprits, but you could start eliminating things that are not strictly needed - like fabric softener.

This is SO much for you to handle with him, but by eliminating one thing at a time for a month or so to see if there is a difference, you might be able to identify something. At this point, anything that will help reduce the load on your shoulders is good.
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#18 of 494 Old 09-17-2009, 03:06 AM
 
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I would actually try to avoid using antipsychotics, particularly in a child so young. I've been prescribed them off-label as an adult, and they are pretty scary. One of them did give me involuntary muscle spasms- it was painful and scary. Thankfully we discontinued the medication as soon as they appeared and they went away fully. I have met people who weren't so lucky. Some studies have also shown that atypical antipsychotics cause brain shrinkage in monkeys. And while the risk of developing permanent movement disorders (called tardive dyskinesia) is lower than on older antipsychotics, the longer a person remains on the drug, the greater the chances that they will develop. If you remain on them long enough, the risk can become astronomical- and this is in adults, where the drug has been tested. I've also known people who's doctors response to the development of these tics is to prescirbe another medication to treat the tics, while keeping them on the medication that is causing the tics because "they need it". What if your son starts on the drug at 4 and never reaches a point where they feel he can come off? By the time he is 24 he'll have been exposed to it for 2 decades. I just wouldn't use it if at all possible in a child with a developing brain- I'm wary about their use in adults as it is. Its also worth saying, these drugs are prescribed off label for any number of things- just because your son responds in a certain way t one of these drugs does not mean he has a condition- psychiatric conditions are diagnosed by behaviors, not by response to medications, because we simply don't understand the causality yet.

That said, I'm unsure what to recommend in its place. Is play therapy otherwise working for your child? I would look at getting him some trauma therapy, if its not being focused on in play therapy. It might also be worth looking for another therapist who uses a different discipline system. The ideas she is using may just not be the right fit for your son. Could you get some behavioral counseling in your home? I know this is something that my therapist's office does, they have behavioral technicians who can come and observe your childs behaviors in your own home, and help you work on properly applying parenting techniques- sometimes hearing and seeing are two different things you know? Both for you, implementing the technique, and for your therapist, who only hears your description of the behaviors. I hope you find something that works, and something that you are comfortable with for your son.
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#19 of 494 Old 09-17-2009, 03:08 AM
 
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That sounds so tough.

I just want to say that I'm really, really opposed to medicating kids but after reading your story, I thought, "She needs to try it."

I agree that you also should try to limit dyes (my own child acts weird when she gets food dyes in her, and she's quite normal otherwise) and artificial preservatives, etc.

But the doctor is right that he's building patterns. If he weren't able to walk because he were having problems with pain in his feet, or his knees wouldn't bend, you wouldn't stop a second before giving him medicine to relieve his symptoms, even if you were going for a more long-term solution. Well... mental illness is not a shame, it's an illness. There's nothing wrong going for medicine.

That said, if you do, can you find a different doctor and see what s/he says about meds (which ones, dosing, etc.) just to see?

I have a cousin who had a seizure on medication for bi-polar. It was horrible. But she needs the medication to function and be a mom to her son. She just needed something different. There are lots of medications for different disorders that can be tried. It sounds like you're a really attentive mom, so he will have you to pay attention to him to see what's going on there.

It's not that the stay-at-home-parent gets to stay home with the kids. The kids get to stay home with a parent. Lucky Mom to DD1 (4 y) and DD2 (18 mo), Wife to Mercenary Dad
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#20 of 494 Old 09-17-2009, 10:56 AM
 
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My son (14) has ADHD and ODD (oppisitional deifiant disorder) and was very aggressive towards me.(At his worst he tried to strangle me w/a electric cord- I brought him to the ER because I didn't know what else i could do and the dr. didn't want to commit him because he was really upset w/himself and remorseful for what he'd done- he was off his meds- refusing to take them and agreed to take them willing as part of his plan to go home) He has been taking meds for his ADHD for the past 2 years and things for him/us have improved greatly!

I too tried to avoid meds for him (when he was 1st dx @ 8) and we tried lots of different more natural ways to help him but they did not work then. Some have helped NOW that's he's older- like elimination of sugars and food dyes. But as for right now we're continuing w/his meds. Its whats best for him.

When we were seeing a phsycoligist a few years ago she recommended the book The Explosive Child by Ross Greene- not for the ADHD but for the ODD and the aggresive behavior. Its a really good book IMO and has good ideas on how to deal w/blowups- and I found it alot more gentle than some.

I am giving you my experience here w/my son. None of this my work for your but I really wanted you to know you're not alone in this and please- I know how easy it is- don't blame yourself or your parenting skills for this. I took me a long time not to blame myself and to realize this is him (but not his fault,IKWIM?) and I have to do my part as his parent and love him. BIG HUGS!

As for your parents and their OP- well its just that their OP and they can have it BUT they are not raising him or living w/him- and to be honset don't sound all that great in the first place. He's YOUR boy and YOU worry about him- forget about them. You don't even have to tell them if you decide to put him on meds- it none of their business!
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#21 of 494 Old 09-17-2009, 01:26 PM
 
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I have some family experience w/ bipolar. In the child I knew (he's grown now) it wasn't constant - he would be fine, "normal" for a period (weeks, sometimes months) and then a long major instability phase of lots of up-and-down swings. This started when he was 5 and was not well-controlled until early 20s. He was terrifying to be around during these swings, would attack people for anything. Kids don't always show the same patterns of behavior as adults, and bipolar is very rare in kids, so you might want to make sure the therapist/doctor have considered ALL the possibilities.
Based on the history you mentioned, they would also considered things like attachment disorder, right (much more common in kids).
As far as the medication - if he needs it, he needs it. "Off label" just means the FDA didn't officially say "Ok, use it for that" - drugs are used off-label all the time. Especially for kids - ALL antipsychotics are off-label for kids and for the majority of diagnoses they are used for as well. It's just too difficult and expensive to do a full study on every option, so they use their best guess to decide.
I am like you, very suspicious of the medication option, but sometimes it is needed. If you want to give it a go, on a trial basis, make sure your prescribing doc is aware of that and you have worked out a reassessment appointment/Plan B idea before he takes the first pill. You don't want to be fumbling when time comes to make the keep-it-or-lose-it discussion. The doc might have different ideas than you - he/she might want to keep the meds if they work, while you might want to drop them anyway because side effects are too much...it should be worked out ahead of time or it can be much harder to convince them to agree with dropping. (Of course, hopefully you won't need to have that kind of talk in the first place!)
Good luck!! <hug>
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#22 of 494 Old 09-17-2009, 02:14 PM
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It's really unfair of your parents using the fact that your DS is worse for you to say his behavior is your fault. Children's behavior is often worse for their primary caregiver because that's who they feel safest with. That's the person who will still love them and be nice to them regardless of what they do.
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#23 of 494 Old 09-17-2009, 03:55 PM
 
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I thought as a medical person, I should reply.

First of all, as soon as you learn to accept an illness and diagnosis, the sooner you can move onto treating it. Today, still, there seems to be stigma attached to mental disorders, especially in children. But, with more research and development, we are finding that the same disorders that exist in adults exist in children (bi-polar disorder, depression, anxiety, etc.), and in children they are much more difficult to "control" without medication just because of the energy levels and their lack of understanding about their behavior and how it affects others.

Also, I've heard it said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over, and expecting a different result. If you do the same things, you are going to get the same result.

Now, based on that, it sounds like you have done everything you can possibly do (except meds) to attempt to treat your son's aggression to no avail. You have gotten professional recommendations from his doctor and therapist as far as trying medication. Obviously, if they thought that straight therapy would help, they wouldn't have recommended the meds. And, just because whatever you read as far as Rispardil being using for schizophrenia doens't mean your son is a schizophrenic. I know somebody who takes Rispardil for insomnia. It just happens to be the best medication for aggression in children. Meds are used off label all the time. AND---taking medication is not a permanent thing, they can be stopped at any time. But, it certainly is worth a try. You can't continue being beat up, have no friends, your son have no friends, and living in fear all the time because you don't know what he's going to do.

And, as far as your parents "holding you responsible" if anything happens, screw them. First of all---you are an adult. You have a child. He is your child, not theirs----and frankly, it is none of their damned business what you do with him!! You do for your son what you feel you need to do to make his life and your life better. It sounds like they still have some sort of "control" over you, and use guilts trip to make you do what they want you to do. To hell with them. He is your son to raise, not theirs. You have to deal with his behaviors and outburts all the time, no them. Perhaps you should let them take him for a week or two and then see if they think he should be put on medication???? Let him bite them, kick them, hit them, spit on them for a few days and see how they like it----I can tell you, they won't. Don't feel like you have to *explain* why you are doing something to your parents!! It is none of their business what you are doing at all anynway!! You don't have to tell them that you put him on meds. You are a grown woman, living on her own with a child who need help. Do what you need to do to get him the help he needs.

The meds are worth a try, since everything else is not working. The insanity is not going away, so you need to do something different. You will notice pretty quickly if the meds are helping him or not. Even though it is difficult to put your child on meds, if they need them, they need them----I am sure you wouldn't think twice if he was a diabetic and needed insulin every day whether you would give it to him or not. This is the same thing. You shouldn't look at it any differently just because it has to do with his brain and not his blood sugar.
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#24 of 494 Old 09-17-2009, 04:00 PM
 
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I totally agree with the PP, mama.

You are doing everything-- EVERYTHING-- and it isn't working.

So now it's time to try something different.

Maybe helping him get his emotions under control will be the first step towards helping him process all his trauma.

I am so, so sorry for all you have gone through. I cannot imagine how horrific all these things have been for you.
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#25 of 494 Old 09-17-2009, 04:11 PM
 
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to you momma and your son.

I would try the medication. Once you guys get some breathing space, he may be able to heal enough to stop taking it, but you need to win that breathing space, no matter what it takes, to move forward.

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Happy Momma to DD (almost 3) Fall Coleslaw -- Simple Italian Stuffed Peppers -- - Fall Toddler Activities.- We Made a Play Kitchen Selling gently used books on all topics here.
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#26 of 494 Old 09-17-2009, 04:18 PM
 
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I did not see if you had tried diet modification?

Because of the trauma history I would look at www.tir.org and see if a certified therapist is your area. Sometimes they work with children, and it's a very gentle therapy.

Mother is the word for God on the hearts and lips of all little children--William Makepeace Thackeray
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#27 of 494 Old 09-17-2009, 04:18 PM
 
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reading about the trauma you and your poor baby have gone through has brought me to tears. I am so sorry for everything have gone through and continue to go through.

You have received alot of good advice here. But I wonder.......................

Are you seeking some thereputic assitance for yourself? Your comments about being struck as a child, the trauma of the attempted break in, the HORRIFYING ABUSE of your little baby boy......Mama!! I would need atleast counseling for myself after such events. I wonder if alot of the behaviors your son is acting out have anything to do with your own sufferings being projected on a subconscience level? Im not saying that is the only root of the problem, I am just saying that while you are seeking help for your baby, i sure hope you are also seeking help for yourself.

Hoping you find peace for you and your little boy.
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#28 of 494 Old 09-17-2009, 04:43 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pomegranate View Post
i couldn't read without at least giving you a what you've been going through is obviously exhausting. you and your son are in my prayers.
Me too
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#29 of 494 Old 09-17-2009, 05:13 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Oubliette8 View Post
I would actually try to avoid using antipsychotics, particularly in a child so young. I've been prescribed them off-label as an adult, and they are pretty scary. One of them did give me involuntary muscle spasms- it was painful and scary. Thankfully we discontinued the medication as soon as they appeared and they went away fully. I have met people who weren't so lucky. Some studies have also shown that atypical antipsychotics cause brain shrinkage in monkeys. And while the risk of developing permanent movement disorders (called tardive dyskinesia) is lower than on older antipsychotics, the longer a person remains on the drug, the greater the chances that they will develop. If you remain on them long enough, the risk can become astronomical- and this is in adults, where the drug has been tested. I've also known people who's doctors response to the development of these tics is to prescirbe another medication to treat the tics, while keeping them on the medication that is causing the tics because "they need it". What if your son starts on the drug at 4 and never reaches a point where they feel he can come off? By the time he is 24 he'll have been exposed to it for 2 decades. I just wouldn't use it if at all possible in a child with a developing brain- I'm wary about their use in adults as it is. Its also worth saying, these drugs are prescribed off label for any number of things- just because your son responds in a certain way t one of these drugs does not mean he has a condition- psychiatric conditions are diagnosed by behaviors, not by response to medications, because we simply don't understand the causality yet.

That said, I'm unsure what to recommend in its place. Is play therapy otherwise working for your child? I would look at getting him some trauma therapy, if its not being focused on in play therapy. It might also be worth looking for another therapist who uses a different discipline system. The ideas she is using may just not be the right fit for your son. Could you get some behavioral counseling in your home? I know this is something that my therapist's office does, they have behavioral technicians who can come and observe your childs behaviors in your own home, and help you work on properly applying parenting techniques- sometimes hearing and seeing are two different things you know? Both for you, implementing the technique, and for your therapist, who only hears your description of the behaviors. I hope you find something that works, and something that you are comfortable with for your son.
A lot of what you've said here echoes my concerns as a parent, and as someone who has been on medications to treat mental health problems (depression) and had some very bad side effects, I know how serious these medications can be.

I am also seriously listening to those who think medication should be tried, but I have to wonder if trying it is dangerous in itself? Can the medication cause permanent damage or change to his brain? Reading this post definitely makes me concerned that we could end up with more problems than we started with.

One person said that this is just like giving a child medication for diabetes, and I agree that mental illness can be like a physical illness and need medication, but when a child is so young (he just turned four years old) how can we really know what's wrong with him? With diabetes, you can do a blood test and find out for sure that the child has diabetes. This isn't the case with mental problems. There are no tests.

Another thing that has been upsetting to me coming from the medical community is that they keep saying, "Well, with you being a single mom and not having as much support, this is needed." It makes me feel like if I were part of a couple that we could somehow handle this differently, but because I am a single mom, we might as well just medicate him.

It's so confusing and upsetting. It's hard having to make these decisions on my own, and also to know that if I do decide to give him medication, my parents will be furious about it.
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#30 of 494 Old 09-17-2009, 05:24 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Hi Barbie:

Thanks for the post. Yes, I have been seeking counseling for myself, but I have Kaiser for insurance, and though I am allowed one visit per week for counseling under my benefits, I've only been receiving about one visit per month since they are so overbooked (I guess, or trying to save money, or both).

I do think that my son reacts strongly to my moods, and we've been under immense stress in the past few months. It's always been my worst fear that someone would try to break into my home to hurt me, and having that fear be realized was almost more than I could handle. Having my son there, a small child who was too terrified to cooperate with my instructions, made it a million times worse. I knew that my options to protect myself and him were much more limited with him there. By the time the police finally decided to show up (after two calls to 911, where I was begging and pleading for help) the man had almost completely broken our sliding glass door out of the wall. It was separated from the dry wall all the way around the door. He was literally moments from getting in, and he was armed with a box cutter and told the police he intended to use it on me.

Trying to deal with this on top of every day stresses, including my son, my job (I teach college and work the equivalent of almost two full time teaching jobs since I teach as an adjunct), and my parents (whom I feel tied to because I need SOME kind of help) has been almost more than I can bear.

I did call Kaiser yesterday to say that I REALLY needed help and needed to see someone more regularly. He really wanted to focus on me doing "deep breathing," as if that would magically solve all my problems. Finally I convinced him to get me in for EMDR therapy, which is the #1 therapy used for PTSD.

I feel like I haven't really been able to give my son a stable environment because of what we've been through over the past two years. Honestly, it has been complete hell. So sometimes that just makes me think maybe I am the one who needs medication! Maybe if I could be more calm, less depressed, more happy and upbeat and patient I could deal with him better.

I do really appreciate everyone's words of sympathy, support, and kindness. In the past two days I have sucked it up and drawn up all my remaining patience to be as kind and loving to my son as I can be, and he has improved, but there are still moments of incredible challenge every day. I don't know if I am completely ready to throw in the towel and try medication yet. Maybe I just need to try a little harder, a little longer.

Your words of encouragement do help give me strength and make me feel less alone, so thank you.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Barbie64g View Post
reading about the trauma you and your poor baby have gone through has brought me to tears. I am so sorry for everything have gone through and continue to go through.

You have received alot of good advice here. But I wonder.......................

Are you seeking some thereputic assitance for yourself? Your comments about being struck as a child, the trauma of the attempted break in, the HORRIFYING ABUSE of your little baby boy......Mama!! I would need atleast counseling for myself after such events. I wonder if alot of the behaviors your son is acting out have anything to do with your own sufferings being projected on a subconscience level? Im not saying that is the only root of the problem, I am just saying that while you are seeking help for your baby, i sure hope you are also seeking help for yourself.

Hoping you find peace for you and your little boy.
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