dealing with violence in 4-year-old boy - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 4 Old 07-05-2010, 11:06 PM - Thread Starter
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Okay, he will be 4 this month but he's not yet. And sorry, this is long.

If my older son is the least bit tired or hungry, he is completely impossible to be around. It's difficult because he also fights sleep (of course). I can deal with the general tantrums and whining, and even the physical violence towards objects (knocking down chairs, etc.), but he is also extremely violent towards his younger brothers, who are 2. The truth is, he hurts them when he's not in one of his moods, too, but it's worse if he gets mad at me when he is tired. He will try to push them off of chairs, shove them in the face so they fall over, kick them, lay on top of them (that's a favorite), just terrorize them in any way. Recently he found a crochet hook and started stabbing one of them in the back with it They are pretty scared of him when he gets like that.

Oh, another trigger is him wanting everything to be his. If his brothers are playing with anything, he wants it, and he will use violence to get it. He basically fancies himself the dictator of the house, and continues to do so even though I always intervene in those situations.

I know that a lot of this is normal for his age, although I do believe his case is a bit extreme. He has other things going on: he had twin brothers born prematurely when he was only 21 months old, and there are a *lot* of jealousy issues there regardless of how much alone time he gets with me. His father died when he was just over 3. And now he knows that I will be going to school full-time starting in August, which he is upset about.

He sees a psychiatrist semi-regularly. The doctor says he is a very intelligent kid, has a lot of anxiety, and has obsessive and compulsive behaviors. But overall he is doing really well. FWIW, he has always been high needs, from birth. In general he is a complete angel in public, too, so nobody who hasn't seen it believes the way he acts when nobody else is looking. But he does have a very, very bad temper, and obviously issues dealing with anger.

What would you do when he gets like that? I'm just at a loss. I'm mostly interested in protecting my twins, both physically and mentally, from the bullying older brother. I think my older boy needs to learn skills to cope with his anger, and needs to get better sleep, but both of those are difficult problems to tackle (or even figure out how to tackle). In the meantime I really don't want anybody to get hurt.

(We're also transitioning right now to a Waldorf-based environment, and I find it difficult because of all of this. Sometimes everything will be going along great when out of the blue my older boy will punch one of his brothers in the head. He also gets incredibly hyperactive, in a frenetic way, very often, especially first thing in the morning and in the evenings. Not exactly the calm Waldorf ideal lol I've considered food sensitivities...what would be most likely, wheat? He has a grandfather with celiac disease but tested negative himself 2 years ago. We're vegans and I seriously think if I have to cut out wheat I will have my own little tantrum )
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#2 of 4 Old 07-06-2010, 09:28 AM
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I can't really comment on how to handle him at home, unfortunately. While my son can get pretty worked up like that, and often displays his worst behavior at home after holding it together all day at day care, I don't have any other kids at home to "protect."

However, I did want to mention omega 3 and vitamin D supplements if you aren't doing it already. Omega 3 helps with depression and anxiety which seem to be different sides of the same coin. And vitamin D helps as well. I don't know if there are vegan sources of omega 3 though. I find fish oil sources to be much better than flax seed sources for example. There are DHA supplements out there made from algal oil, so that might work if you are interested.

The other thing I can think of is how much exercise he's getting. Is he able to burn off a lot of this energy? Is there a way to enroll him in something like karate, which might direct the physically violent impulses in more respectful and socially appropriate directions? (I'm enrolling mine the day he turns 4).

Hang in there.
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#3 of 4 Old 07-06-2010, 10:51 AM
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oh wow. There is a lot on your plate right now, between an almost four year old and 2 year old twins, loss of a partner to parent 4 yo, and planning on going to school full-time. Hugs to you.

Ok, as to your four year old, I love the Omega 3 and Vit. D idea. The more I read about functional nutrition, the more of a fan I am. Hopefully some supplements will make a difference. I've recently started with chia seeds which are an incredible source of Omega 3, a complete protein and have a great number of other important nutrients, which might be a good source because you're vegan.

it's hard to know how I would handle the situation, but I had a sort of similar situation:

When my second oldest son (who is 17 months younger than his older brother) would exhibit aggressive behavior like this, I would immediately separate him from the scene and make it a BIIIIIG deal. I'm generally a pretty easy going mom, so when I would act very upset it really made an impact. I'd take him in his room and tell him, "Sweetie. I know that you are a wonderful boy who would never want to hurt your brother normally. So now that you are trying to hurt him, I know that something is wrong. What is it? What would make you act so horribly to him? ( I would demonize the behavior while taking pains not to demonize the boy) I'm here. Let me help you." Then he would be angry, crying, trying to hit me. I'd hold him in my lap, so he couldn't hurt me or run away until he started to calm down. Usually took a few minutes. then he would be sad instead of angry and willing to talk to me. I'd encourage him to verbalize his feelings...what is it that makes you do something that you know is wrong? were you feeling angry, jealous, mad? etc.

I know it sounds like a lot of work but for me I was able to do it because he was the younger brother. I don't know if you could modify so that you are in the same room to keep an eye on the twins but remove 4 yo from the situation.

the basics then to sum this all up:

1. immediately and with great drama respond to ANY violent behavior
2. make it abundantly clear that we NEVER hurt anyone let alone our brothers
3. if you can remove him from the situation, it seems to make more of an impact
4. don't allow him to run away from you or hit you
5. demonize (i wish i could think of a better word but you get the idea) the behavior BUT not the you show that you know he's a good loving boy but that something must be wrong for him to act so inappropriately
6. explain how, why, his brothers must feel that their big brother who they look up to and trust and would never hurt him feel when he hurts them
7. Hold him and give him an outpouring of love while he processes his anger
8. Give him words to describe the feelings
9. give him alternate behaviors to do when he feels like he wants to hit

I don't know if anything I'm saying sparks anything for you, but I hope at least something helps.

oh and FWIW, my younger son is now 14 and is extremely good at verbalizing is feelings and asking for help. He still remembers those times when we had our 'hugs on the bed' and laughs about it now.
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#4 of 4 Old 07-06-2010, 11:00 AM
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Originally Posted by mama_tigress View Post
I've considered food sensitivities...what would be most likely, wheat? He has a grandfather with celiac disease but tested negative himself 2 years ago. We're vegans and I seriously think if I have to cut out wheat I will have my own little tantrum )
Unfortunately I know a beautiful little boy who flies into violent rages if he has either dairy products or gluten.

Take the time to heal from your marriage before you move on with someone else. Make a list of all the qualities you would like in a new partner and then work on growing that way yourself. ~mandib50
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