Ideas for dealing with anger in a five year old? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 6 Old 01-13-2012, 10:25 PM - Thread Starter
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Help! I'm having a lot of trouble with my 5 year old (his birthday is Tuesday! love.gif) and his anger/rage. His behavior has gotten increasingly worse over the last year. I really am out of ideas. His behavior is shockingly bad at home. At pre-school, he's fine, with Grandma/Grandpa it's so-so, sometimes he acts up, but mostly he listens pretty well.

What is the problem? That's a little harder to quantify. He is very, very, very reactive and emotional. Like, 90% of the time. For instance, the dog will brush against him and he'll SCREAM, "I HATE YOU MAIZY! I wish we never got you! I HATE YOU!" and then hit her. Or I'll say, "Hey, buddy, it's time to get dressed." And he'll arch his back, throwing himself back on the couch and start punching it while yelling, "YOU. ARE. THE. STUPIDEST. MOMMY. EVER." He's getting increasingly violent, hitting the dog, kicking his baby sister, punching, biting, pinching, etc.

Everything is an episode, a fight. Getting up, getting dressed, going to pre-school, going to Grandma's, staying home, it really doesn't matter what we're doing, he just doesn't want to do whatever it is that day. He's running on a hair trigger temper and everything tips him into a rage. He screams, his veins standing out in his neck, hits, kicks. I'm really taken aback by his total lack of anger management, it's like the slightest annoyance is hitting him at 99 on a scale of 100, over and over again. But he ONLY does this at home, so he clearly CAN control it.

The other piece of this is that once he gets a consequence for his behavior, he starts crying and talking about how he hates himself, he's so stupid... We always stop him when he starts this and tell him that we don't call anyone stupid in our house, anyone. And we won't allow him to call himself stupid. We love him, he made a poor choice, he gets a consequence.

Which brings me to "stupid." Everything is stupid, and he hates everything. Two words that make my skin crawl anyway, but to be called a "stupid mommy." Yeah... And he does this "grrrrr" angry growling scream that now our toddler does when she doesn't want to do something. I have two growling little children who don't use their words, and only one of them has a reason for that!!

Today he was sick, temp of 102, and wanted cake (I have no idea why, but he really, really wanted cake). So I decided to oblige this. We went to get started and I discovered we only had one egg, so we couldn't use a cake mix. He FLIPPED out screaming about how I was "never going to make him a cake, never, ever. He couldn't even have cake on his birthday." I tried to stay calm and just said, "We can still make cake, I will look up a recipe." He continued shouting and yelling about how he could never have cake ever again (this is pretty typical, the never-ever stuff). I just ignored him and sat down and found a recipe. Once I did, I returned to the kitchen where he was still yelling and I put the computer down on the table, squatted down at his level and said, "Look hon, I found a recipe, lets get started." He turned off, like a switch, and we went to get started. I went to wash my hands and he leaned over and PINCHED me because I wasn't cooking yet. Now, ordinarily, I would have just stopped the whole thing there, but he had a temperature, his sibs had gotten to go to Grandma's and he was really looking forward to this, so I turned around, took his hand and said, "You MAY NOT pinch me. It hurts. I have to wash my hands before we start, if I can't do that, we can't cook. Do you want to make the cake still?" He said he did, he was sorry and he hugged me, and we were able to make the cake without further incident.

What have we done to address his behavior? We've tried a variety of logical consequences related to whatever has caused the fit in the first place, some very logical, like turning off the TV if he screamed at his sister for blocking his view, making him get his sister an ice pack after he punched her, etc. We've suggested he hit the couch, stomp his feet, practiced deep breathing and other calming techniques. We've worked on warning him before transitions, reviewing the schedule the night before, giving him two warnings before we do something, nothing seems to help. We know some things are always a fight, like getting dressed in the morning, or turning off pretty much any media source at all, or picking anything up, ever. We've tried un-related consequences, time out, loss of privileges, early bed-time, etc. Usually he just responds with a flippant, "Whatever, I didn't want to watch TV anyway." We've tried just ignoring his antics and moving forward, but he's now hurting his sibs/pets, I can't ignore that. He's 5, and has a 16 month old sister he has kicked, punched, hit, when he is in a rage.

We have not tried positive reinforcement of his good behavior, which I need to do. He does respond well to positives, I was thinking maybe a sticker chart, or marble jar sort of thing. At first he would need daily or maybe even smaller rewards, I don't think we could get very far with a sticker as the reward.

Background- he's our middle child, big sister will be 8 in February, little sister is 16 months. We have a golden retriever puppy too, she's 8 months and a "terrible teen" right now (hence the stupid dog, he really, really hates her right now). He goes to preschool four mornings a week, it's a mostly play-based preschool with a small amount of directed age appropriate work (like practicing writing his name). He has 9 girls, 1 special needs boy, and 1 neuro-typical boy, in his room. He's the only boy cousin of 6 and the only boy in the neighborhood. He expresses needing more time to do "boy things" as the group of 8 to 12 year old girls don't really dig his legos, blocks and trucks. He is extremely verbal and very bright. His expressive language and vocabulary exceed my 8 year old, and he keeps up with most of her math work as well. I WOH three days a week, and on those afternoons he goes to his Grandma and Grandpa's, the other days he's home with me in the afternoon. He doesn't nap anymore, and usually sleeps quite soundly from 9pm to 7:30am. We eat a typical diet, probably better than the Standard American, but worse than the average MDC'r smile.gif Mostly home cooked, but he does get gluten, some processed foods, some HFCS, some dyes, all in moderation, but nothing is eliminated.

He's one of three, we're busy working parents, I KNOW he doesn't get the positive attention he needs. We're trying hard to build that up, give him time for special time with one of us, or just little things, to remind him we see him, we love him, he is special to us. He is a sensitive little guy and we, I think, have gotten into the unfortunate habit of yelling at him. It's hard, we aren't "yellers" by nature in parenting, but good grief... when he ignores you the first six times, then makes a flippant comment about how stupid you are, then starts screaming at you, it's hard to stay in a good parenting zone...

I need some tips, ideas? Strategies? BTDT? Promises this will all get better when he turns five on Tuesday? innocent.gif

sleepytime.gifC.- WOHM, CPST Instructor, and all around busy Mama to  blowkiss.gifA.- 02/04, bouncy.gif I. 01/07,babyf.gifE. 09/10 and

stork-suprise.gif expecting the surprise of our lives Fall 2012!

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#2 of 6 Old 01-14-2012, 08:11 AM
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I deal with anything that looks tantrumy the same way, regardless of age. I disengage, don't feed the drama or take on the emotional upset, and let them get over it on their own. Let him scream and rage on his own and get over it on his own. I feel like kids have to learn at some point that things don't always go how they want, and that it's OK when things go when they want, and that the lesson is a hard one and some kids have tantrums as they learn it, at whatever age they learn it. So I let them get through their tantrum on their own, without getting angry, without shunning or specifically ignoring (I do stay close), without punishing, or without aruging or trying to solve it or contributing in any way, and then after it's done I give them love so they get the other half of the lesson, that no matter how upset they get everything is the same despite the tantrum. Tantrums change nothing. I would also every single time after the tantrum (becuase when he's out of control he won't be able to learn) tell him that you don't like to be called stupid and then give him some less disrespectful alternative things he can say to express his upset.


Him being able to hold it together until he gets to you doesn't mean he can control it - it means you're the safe place to let it out.


My older one had huge terrible tantrums until she was about 5 or 6. It was a bad time. My little one turns 3 in February and she has yet to have a tantrum. I don't know if I've just handled helping her learn to handle her emotions better or if she's just more easy going, but I'm guessing she's just more easy going. Some kids are just more challenging than others. But I do think that kids (not babies) who are prone to very storng emotions have to learn to control their emotions on their own. I don't think we can help them with that. Every time we get involved, we are still teaching them to rely on having their emotions regulated from outside. It's ugly to watch but it's their emotional journey. Just be there for him when he's gotten through it because they do need lots of love and connection afterward.

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#3 of 6 Old 01-14-2012, 08:35 AM
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DD2... her to a T!  Sorry mama, for us she's getting better and growing out of it.  Which is nice.  But I have envisioned picking her up and putting her in the garage until she's done.  Only for a long time she was never done.  If it wasn't one thing it was another. 


My advice... start drinking.  I KID!  Don't do that.  Actually some of the tantrum is perfectly fine and some of it is manipulative.  DD2 would tantrum initially about something and once it was over and she felt she did not get her way she would drag it over to something else.  If she got her way, because I was going to tie her shoe anyway she's good and done for a few hours.  If it's something she wanted done immediately and I was busy... like hands in a Turkeys Ass and DH was taking a bath, she has to wait.  And that pisses her off like no other.  She is no longer allowed to ask DD1 for help.  Since she's disrespected her enough times for me to want to explode myself.  A while back DD1 was doing her hair and was trying to get it just right, DD2 wanted her to help her with her shoes.  DD1 told her to give her a minute so she could finish her hair.  DD2 threw her shoe at her and screamed "DO IT NOW!" 


DD2 tries to hide how she treats DD1 from us and gets really embarrassed if we see her in action.  If she's told on she will turn it around.  We've recently turned a corner in this behavior and I think it had a lot to do with us telling her we loved her we liked her and we want her to be part of what we're doing.  But none of us deserved to be treated so poorly and we did not have to allow it.  Being told she is no longer allowed to ask for help from DD1 has been a big pusher as she really loves her sister, she just shows herself more when she feels her needs are greater.


As far as your son taking his aggression out on the dog,  a very nice dog could eventually nip back to protect itself.  I would not allow your son around the dog until he can treat her with respect.  He doesn't have to like the dog, he just has to not harm the dog.

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#4 of 6 Old 01-15-2012, 09:18 AM
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 My sympathies. That sounds really hard. My son is the same age and while he doesn't rage, he does still have tantrums. We struggle with it but I thought I'd mention some things that help:

1. He's gluten free and doesn't have any dyes or preservatives

2. The less tv the better. It is terrible for his behaviour

3. He needs sleep. I work really hard to get him to sleep by 7.30. It's not easy but it helps enormously. 


In your shoes I would work on diet, media and sleep first. Then if you see an improvement, start positively reinforcing it whichever way you think is best. 


Good luck. It sounds rough

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#5 of 6 Old 01-15-2012, 10:27 AM
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Oh! As far as diet goes, I've noticed that with my older daughter - the one who had tantrums - if she has a breakfast based on protein, like eggs, her WHOLE DAY right thorugh to bedtime is better than if she has a breakfast based on grain, like cereal. Really, the whole day is completely different as far as her moods go. She gets nothing even vaguely sweet until after lunchtime.

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#6 of 6 Old 01-15-2012, 10:47 PM
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mama what you need is patience.


and some support for yourself. 


these are hard times.


but i will say this is spot on for his age.


i have noticed this in kids from about age 4 to 6. 'I' personally call it first stage 'puberty' - the beginning of hormonal changes. i think the beginnings of puberty starts waaaaaaaaaaay early than we think it does. 


my dd was exactly as your son during her 5s.


i could not find much info on this. it was my dd and some of my IRL friend's teen children who gave me some insight. 


it was kinda like first stage teenage hood. my dd described it as 'she logically knows what she is diong is wrong, but there was something inside her that forced her to do it. 


i KNEW something was up - by the extremeness of her anger and frustration. mama i am SPEAKING to you. why dont you understand my words....


her hitting that had gone away returned in full force. i discovered trying to discipline her during that time was the worst thing i could do. i would either put some space between me or put up a pillow. 


and then BOOM. she was done. and a new her emerged. much different and way more mature than who she was previously. she seemed to understand everything. hearing a no was no longer a big deal. YIKES!!!! it took me a while to recover from teh sudden change. and kinda made me sad too. that sweet baby of mine was gone forever and instead was replaced by an more mature child who understood the ways.


his bday :) interestingly i have found dd's growth spurts have all occured kinda just before her bday. during that time her emotional stuff was at its worst. like your son, she was the best behaved girl outside, but once home, OMG. i figured with all the confusion outside i should really take as a compliment that she gets so mad and upset at home. a safe place where she knew no matter how she behaved, she would be loved. 


you know the funny part. just like your son and his apology after the cake egg situation, i could never discipline dd because she had already noted her behaviour and aplogized earlier (mind you this was huge coz i never asked for an apology from her).


this is also the time for you to regroup yourself and realise parenting from now on is going to be so much different. we will need to give more responsibility/more decision making towards our children. sometimes the best thing to do is to not say a WORD. sometimes the best thing is to just happen to give the advice they need in a v. subtle by the way - way. 

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