My son has always had a fairly short fuse, but very rarely has had "meltdowns" for the past couple years. But starting a couple of weeks ago, he started throwing full-out tantrums about seemingly small things, such as doing the chores he has done (albeit begrudgingly) since the beginning of summer: putting his clothes away and brushing teeth at night. Other than the out of control tantrums, he has been increasingly needy: used to go to bed on his own, now has to be put to bed, used to entertain himself solo, now "needs" me with him almost constantly unless he's watching TV. His fights with his brother who is 5 years older have increased in frequency and intensity. I feel like I have a toddler again. He seems more anxious than before as well.
I recently quit my full time job to stay at home more with him and be able to homeschool full time (he had been homeschooled before only on my days off). We definitely spend more time together than we ever did before.
I'm at a loss as to what to do. Punishments for the hostility/rage have not worked. We've tried incentives for good behavior, but he hasn't been able to do it at all. I've read The Explosive Child and am trying to use some of the collaborative problem solving techniques from it. I think they have helped, but they are completely exhausting and DH and DSS are not really on board. I feel like I'm walking on eggshells all the time. I wouldn't have described my son as an "explosive child" before, but after reading the book, I see that maybe he has those tendencies. They've just never been this acute before (since toddlerhood).
I guess I'm hoping someone else has had experience like this before.
I don't really have any suggestions, but I hope someone does.
I had an angry 9 year old, and we ended up taking her for therapy. We were having her evaluated for ADHD, but they psychiatrist also recommended therapy, and the therapist recommended 1-2-3 Magic, the techniques of which I did try, and found helpful to a degree. We tried a medication for ADHD, but it seemed mostly just to rule it out, and we ended up discontinuing it. It caused her to have anxiety at night, and then after being off it for awhile, that settled down and things seemed better over all. But I feel like the upshot of it all from the therapist was that it was uneven parenting, which was why he recommended 1-2-3 Magic, and the funny thing is she watched the dvd when I did, so she already aware of the techniques before I even tried them, but the one thing she did at least seem to accept was that I wasn't going to give in. So she might get angry and rage about it, but she stopped trying to engage me directly after awhile.
It's possible that things have gotten worse lately because he is in a new developmental cycle. It could also be food related. So you are homeschooling him full time now, but when you worked before and homeschooled him part time, was he in school part time, or was he with another caretaker or something of that nature? Is it possible he is having a hard time adjusting to this new situation?
Is he able to explain when he is calm why he was so angry? It was kind of eye opening listening to my daughter talk in her therapy sessions, but she just came off as so hostile to me, and she still does at times. In the last year, I've seen her actually become a little nicer. Just about a week or two ago, she offered to share something with me. That was honestly a first. She will be 10 in about a month.
Therapy has helped with my ds1 who has had life-long tantrums. It really helped him recognize his feelings and give him words and tools. But there is the fear of making him feel like there is something 'wrong' with him by gonig to therapy. Although if he's homeschooled he's less likely to feel embarassed about leaving school for an appointment, etc.
On a personal note, I'm wondering what the power dynamic is like between you and your DH and how your DH relates to ds. If something is off in either of those respects, it might help explain why (now that you're home more with him) he suddenly is expressing a deep need for more nurturing while also expressing a fear about this sense of vulnerability by acting out.
I've been working with a family counsellor to help me with ds1. He recommends as much nurturing and positive attentiona as possible. Make him feel special - if you make cookies, make one extra big one for him, or one in his initial of his name. Recognize his emotional needs, but don't give up structure. If he needs you to hold his hand to fall asleep, then ok. But keep bedtime at the same time and his routine the same. But be sure he genuinely feels he needs you - meaning he has real fears about something. Otherwise, make a plan to check on him every 3 minutes once the lights go out, or shop for a night light. Ask him at a calm time during the day, 'I've noticed you've been having a hard time going to sleep by yourself at night. You didn't used to. What's up?' make a plan together, plan to revisit it in a week or two, plan again.
About chores, as long as they are age appropriate he still needs to do them. Ask him, again when things are calm, 'I've noticed you've been getting upset about taking out the garbage lately. What's up?' Does he feel he does too much work at home - way more than his siblings? If so, explain it's because he's the oldest. And being the oldest is a special job with responsibilities but also a lot of privileges. And then devise a privilege that only he gets. Writing up contracts together are good and they are a more 'adult' way of making agreements.
anyways, hth. Explosive child is good.
Good luck and take care.
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