My DS is almost 6, and we are having major behavioral issues. I am home full-time with him, his 4-yr-old brother and 2-yr-old sister. When he was 2, we had issues with temper tantrums. They have resurfaced from time to time with difficult times (moving; DH working long hours for a few months). This time, however, I don't know what's causing them, and he is (in my opinion) too big to be acting the way he is. At the end of November he started yelling at me if he didn't get his way. By December, he was screaming and hitting, biting, and pulling hair. He only does it to me, he only does it when he doesn't get his way, and he 'snaps' into and out of these fits. Often they will last an hour. I guess I should add that he has had tantrums for my mom recently (she watches them often), but has never hit her.
We stopped doing schoolwork (it wasn't much anyway, just about an hour a day of Kindergarten) and started staying home more, and he did get better. I do recognize that he has trouble with transitions (playing at home to going to the playground, or eating at the table to the next activity). However, I think that he is getting old to be just left to play. There are times when we have to leave the house, or times when I would like him to be doing something other than playing (always legos or cars), and I'm at a loss as to how to deal with it.
Both DH and I have talked with him many times about why he's so angry (he doesn't have an answer), about how hitting me hurts me, about alternatives to hitting ... like I said, I'm at a loss now.
Thanks for any insight ...
I don't have any amazing answers, but I didn't want your post to go unanswered.
I think I would take a back to basics sort of approach. What does work? A 5 minute warning before transitions? A reward system? A type of consequences system? I'm not a believer in time outs for toddlers and little kids (I just don't think they truly understand consequences at that age), but at almost 6 I think you should be able to talk to them and make some sort of decision together about what everyone will do when he's feeling out of control. If he's feeling/acting out of control what does HE think should happen? You might be surprised by what he says. (It seems kids are way harder on themselves than you would be.) I think logical consequences for his actions at this age are FULLY appropriate. A self imposed time out/time away might be a good idea. (We all have those times when we're having a bad day and need a little time away from everybody.)
Also, I'd look pretty hard for something going on. You mentioned these things only happened when there was a problem. You also mentioned school and that homework was a trigger. Have you talked to his teachers? Is he having problems grasping some of the material? Is there a problem socially (ie bully/teaser)? Is there any thing else that makes you think something else is going on?
Good luck mama.
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It is normal for some kids to have tantrums older. I'm told I had them until 8! So it can be a temperament thing. Diet can help a lot with that. Especially, I've found, having a protein-rich or at least a dense breakfast like oatmeal, rather than cold cereal and milk or something like that. I found that when she had a solid breakfast, one that wouldn't cause her blood sugar to react too much, her behavior was better all the way through to bedtime. You could also consider food sensitivities, because sensitivity to dairy, gluten, and red food dye can cause behavior issues, as can sensitivities to other foods, different for each kid. Maybe keep a food journal for a while and see if anything is linked to the tantrums? Also working on transitions, which you talked about, helped with my daughter.
But I do think that some kids have to just learn to work through their emotions on their own. I think if we get all emotional along with them, we feed the drama of it and escalate things. Eventually I just let my daughter have her tantrum, told her I'd be there when she was done, didn't like abandon her or anything but went on with what I'd do normally, and then when she was done with the tantrum I'd give her love and let her know that everything is OK. I think the ultimate lesson I was going for was that having a huge fit and tons of drama doesn't change anything. It doesn't make anything better or get her anything special, but it also doesn't make me love her less.
And then finally, you said that the tantrums are often assocated with stresses in his life. Does he have any stress at this time? Are you expecting or anything like that? Kids are very sensitive to some things, sometiems even things we think don't affect them or they wouldn't be aware of or understand. I'd try to find out if anything is bothering him or stressing him. Even happy things can cause huge stress so not just bad stuff.
Our five year old has been having tantrum issues too. Our situation is a bit different. She was an easy child -- and the hard lines often necessary for two year olds were never done -- she just never had the terrible twos. So we knew we'd have to get to it sometime...
I view it as a way to make herself feel strong in our family -- she's got a very dynamic older sister, and she needs to equalize with her. It is effective -- when she cries, screams and hits her.
My strategies: I tell her to use her words, and when we're all calm I just, in a friendly way, usually while hugging her -- say, look, you know hitting is wrong. She knows.
Second, I really try to provide avenues for self-expression and empowerment. I often will ask her, when she's just beginning to get upset, "Hey, tell me what's going on, I'd like to hear." We sit together, cuddle a little, and I just listen.
Third, I remind her that if she's getting frustrated, the best thing is to come tell Mom and Dad to see if we can help, rather than hitting.
Sometimes it just escalates anyway, and we use a time-out -- NOT as a punishment but as a pleasant break. We create a quite space, often with a parent, play a game, listen to a story, away from the big sister or other frustrating situation.
Also -- when she starts to get worked up -- I will say, "Hey, you know that yelling is going to not get you what you want. Would you like to just hit the reset button and start again?" It gives her a neutral way to "back down" without shaming or us retreading what she had done wrong .... a fresh start.
Overall -- it is really working. It takes a number of months to really take hold, naturally.
If it really kept up == I would bring your little one into to see a psychotherapist -- that's just me. We have a good child psychotherapist who will do a couple of play sessions and just be a pal and listen ... it helped my older dd in a couple of sessions.