What's a good way to deal with 6yo's aggression? New perspectives needed! - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 8 Old 08-19-2011, 04:15 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Hi,

 

I’m looking for some new perspectives on how I’m approaching my son’s aggressive outbursts.

 

My DS1 (almost 6yo) is very sensitive and experiences emotions very intensly. This is generally positive as most the time he is full of beans and very enthusiastic about what he’s doing. He is also very loving and very empathetic. However, when he is frustrated he will often be aggressive, either with us or DS2 (4yo). This has improved a lot over the years, but still happens every couple of days. Typically he will try to scratch or bite. Then he laughs and starts being “bad”, saying mean things etc. When he finally calms down he is always very repentent and often cries and hugs us.

 

When I am calm and together I can deal with this calmly and I think that he is still learning to contain his emotions and I need to help him with that. That’s probably about 50 percent of the time. However, the other 50 percent I feel very cross and frustrated. Then, I end up shouting and telling him how angry and sad I am. This invariably makes it much worse and I end up apologising for shouting. So, I realise that a big part of the issue here is my self control and my ability to deal with the situation.

 

However, there is a part of me that thinks he also needs to see that his actions genuinely upset people and make them feel very bad. Also, he is big for his age and sometimes hits out at other children when frustrated, which is clearly a big issue on lots of levels.

 

I realise that there is a contradiction here that I can’t resolve in my mind. If he genuinely can’t control himself yet, then why should I be cross with him? Surely I just need to guide him? Yet, if he can’t appreciate how bad this makes other people (and ultimately himself) feel, then will he learn that this behaviour absolutely can’t happen?

 

I feel like at the moment my reactions are quite extreme. I’m either completely calm and in control or I’m acting like he did the worse thing in the world. Can anyone suggest a middle path where I can get my emotions out but in a way that is healthy for everyone and that gives a good example to him of how to deal with intense emotions.

 

Thank you!


Happy mama to DS1 (2006), DS2 (2007) & DD (2012)

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#2 of 8 Old 08-19-2011, 07:32 AM
 
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Hi -- I really feel for you and understand what you must be going through. My DD7 has had very similar issues since around age 5, although lacking a sibling it has been against us (and me, in particular) that she chooses to physically strike when she becomes angry or reaches the limits of her frustration.

 

Fortunately, things are much better now than they were even a year (or six months) ago. While I attribute some of this to her increasing maturity, we have also done a lot research ourselves. Dr. Ross Greene's book "The Explosive Child" and his many resources freely available on the web (I think his web site is www.livesinthebalance.org) have been very helpful in understanding how to work with "challenging behavior" (as he terms it), first, for showing us that we are not alone and second, reminding us that the behavior is as disturbing to our child as it is to us ("kids cooperate when they can," is his mantra and it makes sense, because the advantages of being cooperative far outweigh those of not being cooperative). His suggestions have helped as guidelines (though they are by no means a "by the book" method promising certain success) for working things out together. 

 

Dr. Greene's suggestions for reaching "mutually acceptable" solutions do help, but it takes a lot time, creativity and patience, especially when you have a pattern and history of getting angry yourself, for your child to accept and trust that you will really listen to and accept his concerns. And if your sensitive, spirited child is like mine, patterns are important and something they expect -- even negative patterns -- to moving to a more positive place may not happen as quickly as you would like just because you've read the book.

 

Correspondingly, achieving success even in one "minor" trigger area I've found helps boost overall household cooperation and harmony, and seems to help other problems go away on their own and increase her ability to be flexible (for instance, my workaround for the battle of changing her socks in the morning was to give her a foot massage at bedtime, then put clean socks on as soon as she was in a deep sleep...now, two months later, even if I now neglect to put on her clean socks at night, come morning comes DD seems to be able to manage on her own to put on her sock and get it to "feel right" with minimal fiddling and no angry outburst. 

 

Now, if only I could find a similar workaround for getting her to shower on a regular basis (she is so sensitive -- she finally told me -- that the "tone" the shower makes hitting the bottom of the bathtub jangles her nerves...that and having to make the transition are what push her over the edge). It sounds ridiculous to anyone who doesn't have a highly sensitive, "high needs" child, but I really believe her in this. She is not putting up the fight because she wants to make life difficult, and I keep trying to appeal to her high intellect but she insists that the chlorine she swims in at the pool "cleans" everything (no, I say, it merely "kills" some germs but the chlorine itself is toxic...[sigh] still another "unsolved problem," as Dr. Greene with call it.

 

Good luck...hang in there...

 

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#3 of 8 Old 08-19-2011, 10:02 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Thank you so much for your thoughts Tiramisu.

 

I love the mantra "kids cooperate when they can" and will keep that with me! I'll also check out that website for some more ideas. I totally agree that it's not something he does to be difficult - it does really seem beyond his control right now. I think I make the mistake of comparing him to some of his (very calm!) friends and that leads me to the frustration - perhaps a feeling that I'm not getting things right or that actually he really should know better. He is a very special little guy in so many ways and I need to really work with this and not against him.


Happy mama to DS1 (2006), DS2 (2007) & DD (2012)

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#4 of 8 Old 08-19-2011, 10:33 AM
 
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Yes, yes that's really it...he is very special and I'm sure the flip side of what's "challenging" are some very unique strengths that will serve him well in life. Seriously, do check out Dr. Greene and listen, if you can, to his podcasts for parents (he has a separate one for educators, since his approach and methods are equally applied there). And also, the fact that your 6 y.o. directs his anger and frustration outwards is a positive -- once it's safely channeled and redirected or coped with -- Dr. Greene talks about the kids who quietly "implode," and they're much harder to detect and help because they bottle everything up.

 

I have found that it really helps to pull back from the less important problems to focus the major ones. Even if it seems like (or others accuse you of) "giving in," just by showing by doing that you are flexible will help him learn, too, how to be flexible.

 

And, yeah, hard as it is, it's best to avoid comparisons altogether. They certainly do not motivate better behavior. I know that in some of my Bad Mommy Moments I'd Rather Forget [sigh] I've let loose on DD to complain that her half brother (my stepson is 19, I've been in his life for a decade) never acted like this. Well, fact is (as I've learned), SS19 happened to be docile and compliant by nature and so, of course, if he got yelled at (not by me, but sometimes by his dad and often by his mom), he obeyed...which doesn't mean that yelling is, in fact, a good way to enforce discipline. Or I've told her that I never acted that way towards my mom, dad, whomever (I was that same docile, compliant child as my SS19 ). 

 

I find that by reducing as much stress as possible, it helps. Also by making things as fun as possible, just in general (another great book to have at home -- "Playful Parenting" by Lawrence Cohen). I really, really wish someone had pointed me in the direction of these resources when DD's "spirited" nature first emerged (around age 2 and a half) -- so many of the other books lead you to believe that if we parents were just consistent or "followed through" with punishment the kids would behave.

 

Oh, finally, another great podcast focusing on "empathic parenting" is "Parenting for Humanity," which you can find through BlogTalk Radio! The two hosts are both moms and talk freely about their own failings, challenges and successes and they have really good guests!

 

Hugs...

 

 

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#5 of 8 Old 08-19-2011, 11:46 AM
 
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I think I make the mistake of comparing him to some of his (very calm!) friends and that leads me to the frustration - perhaps a feeling that I'm not getting things right or that actually he really should know better.>>>>>>

 

Just remember that his friends probably do freak out too, but they probably do it at home when they're just with immediate family:)  Making sure he is sleeping well and on a consistent schedule for sleep/wake up helps a lot.


Cathy mom to 13 y/o DD, 10 y/o DD, 7 y/o DS

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#6 of 8 Old 08-19-2011, 11:59 AM
 
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My 4 year sounds very similar to yours! Very emotional and sensitive and I'm learning that her holds these emotions in, and lets them out via aggression, defiance. I'm starting to try to treat the "root" of the problem, not just the symptoms (the behaviour) and am really excited about how well it seems to be working. Basically, I've been scheduling time alone with him every week (about 2 hours) to just be with him, listen, and let him lead the play. and also making sure to tell him several times a day how great I think he is, how wonderful of a brother, a friend he is.  It's so simple...but I literally see instant results! I'm learning that when he's acting out, he's telling me that somethings hurting him on the inside....it's my job to figure it out and support him through it via the alone time. It's like Magic!!! Good luck!

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#7 of 8 Old 08-19-2011, 12:19 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Tiramisu - I checked out Dr Ross Greene's web. Just what I was looking for. I really like his philosophy. I'm going to start with the cooperative process that he describes and see how we do. Thanks!

 

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Originally Posted by mom2grrls View Post

I think I make the mistake of comparing him to some of his (very calm!) friends and that leads me to the frustration - perhaps a feeling that I'm not getting things right or that actually he really should know better.>>>>>>

 

Just remember that his friends probably do freak out too, but they probably do it at home when they're just with immediate family:)  Making sure he is sleeping well and on a consistent schedule for sleep/wake up helps a lot.

 

Yes, that's probably true :) Sleep is major to him and he is definitely more prone to outbursts when he's tired.

 

Great to hear about your breakthroughs Samozzy. Very encouraging!
 

 


Happy mama to DS1 (2006), DS2 (2007) & DD (2012)

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#8 of 8 Old 08-19-2011, 01:01 PM
 
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Glad to help...regarding Dr. Greene's "collaborative problem solving" -- don't be discouraged if at first your DS doesn't answer or seems to balk at your questioning him. It may take some trial and error to figure out the right time and the right approach to initiate discussions.

 

I have been using the "I've noticed that ... what's up?" approach with areas that aren't problems at all, just getting used to having DD open up and share. I've noticed that she's been coming to me more and about things that make her uncomfortable...or me uncomfortable...like, if she tells me at lunch at camp she had 3 cups of lemonade and only one cup of water, I won't scold her. I just thank her for her honesty and resist the urge to reprimand her (and then pat myself on the back for not keeping sugary beverages at home). 

 

Just a heads-up, though -- DH and I have perhaps gone overboard in assuming that every bit of negative behavior is reflective of something that happened during the day. DD gets really peeved when either he or I asks "So what happened today to get you so upset?" Sometimes a kid just feels like acting out, and our DD is going to save it for the place she feels safest...home. DH certainly realizes that her negative behavior towards him is caused by his lack of time with her. He runs his own business, out of home, so he is always here but usually unavailable. I see DD more in the outside world, and how wonderful she is consistently. To the extent that DH has been able to have special alone time with her, he's noticed this. However, those times are too few and far between, given the demands on his time from work, aging parents, my SS19...you get the picture. Our worst issues have to do with when DD goes for the negative attention from her Dad, but then DH calls on me to intervene to stop it...duh.gif

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