Son says violent things - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 32 Old 12-18-2019, 05:03 PM Thread Starter
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Son says violent things

My son is 7. For a little back story: he’s always been SUPER emotional. He has always been high anxiety, upset about everything, nothing is right, pessimist. But he’s also very sweet and loving.

His dad and I divorced two years ago. He started acting out a lot after that, very angry, saying violent things. He went to play therapy for a year. His behavior got better and the therapist really wasn’t worried about him.

One thing remains: when he gets upset, he says violent or mean things. He clearly doesn’t process properly. But he’s always been well behaved at school, until this year. He’s gotten into trouble a few times for saying mean or violent things to other kids. Today he said he wanted to cut someone’s head off.

I am not sure how to address this issue at his age and hoping some more experienced parents than I can offer some advice.

I will say we are very natural minded; spanking, putting hot sauce on his tongue or soap in his mouth etc will not be happening and I ask that those types of things are not suggested.

I’ve read that this sort of language is normal for kids around 5 as they can’t always express themselves and lash out, or see that it gets a rise out of people. But he is a little older now and we need to get this under control.

Has anyone else dealt with this?

Thanks!
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post #2 of 32 Old 12-18-2019, 05:17 PM
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Subbing cuz this should be interesting. I know a nine year old who acts quiet similar to what you describe - gets really angry and doesn't seem to know how to deal with it - so I'll be interested to see what people say.

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post #3 of 32 Old 12-18-2019, 05:29 PM
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I don't have experience with this specifically, but has he been evaluated by a therapist? Could he have some difficulties processing things that would make it more difficult for him to handle his emotions? This sounds like something that needs to be dealt with by getting a professional involved - though by the sounds of it, you already have. Are you sure that person is helping your son? I have deal with some very incompetent professionals when it came to dealing with my son so don't hesitate to look elsewhere. Your son's future depends on it. Don't be afraid to advocate for him.

That said, you also need to have a plan as a parent. I fully agree with you that violent methods have no place in child-rearing, but I assume there are consequences to him saying these things? At 7, he still needs immediate and proportionate consequences to help him self-regulate his emotions since he doesn't yet have that ability. A very quick, non-negotiable reaction is important, but it's also very important that you don't show emotions when you tell him (and reinforce) the consequence. You want to think of it as you just providing the equal and opposite reaction to his behavior, but without getting emotionally invested. I know it's hard, but stay neutral in the moment. Don't express anger, sadness or tell him how much you love him. Tell him this behavior = that consequence, and do it every single time. It doesn't matter how hard it is for you or him, or that he says he hates you. Don't make threats you can't or won't follow through. Be consistent! You can even sit down with him and make a chart of what happens if he says violent things. Lay out the exact consequence, but also include consequence for good behavior. Say he hasn't said anything violent for a week, he gets pizza! Write it on the chart. Put it somewhere he can see it every day. And follow through!
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post #4 of 32 Old 12-18-2019, 05:31 PM
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A friend's foster son acts a lot like this. He's had some trauma and has anger and trust issues. They're working closely with a therapist on helping him process and control his emotions and he is improving. His school also suggested he be tested for some developmental and behavioral screening. While it didn't appear when he was younger, he is showing some signs of behaviors on the autism spectrum, so that is something they are planning after the holidays.

His therapy has really helped him learn to express his feelings, and now they are working toward appropriate expression since he's better able to understand what he's feeling. For him, stress and anxiety and frustration were manifesting as 'rage and aggression' even though anger wasn't really what he was feeling.

His therapist also stressed that at age 8, he still needs consequences for inappropriate behavior. Allowing him to say awful things to people, or to hit and shove needs to be dealt with, no matter the cause.

A former coworker's autistic son is now in prison at age 18, because his family was told that since he was autistic, he did not need any consequences for his behavior. Well, now that he's aged out of youth facilities and treatment, she came home one day to find him chasing his younger sister through the house with an axe, and called the police for help. Her son then attacked the police officer. He's now in prison, which is not where he needs to be.


Many boys go through a period like this, and often, it's accompanied by saying inappropriate things-- usually heard on television or from another family member or playmate at school. Some of it is normal, but it sounds like you may want to get a professional involved here to develop a game plan for your son, work with him on accurately expressing his emotions, and make sure he's also not hearing what he's not supposed to do being said at school, home, or on tv. Having worked in the educational setting, most kids, especially boys, start mimicking what they're hearing. So if dad says "I wish he'd rip his head off" watching football on Sunday, or they hear it on tv, it's really no surprise when the kids start saying it to a classmate they are frustrated with.

Last edited by SilverMaple; 12-18-2019 at 05:40 PM.
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post #5 of 32 Old 12-18-2019, 09:58 PM
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If your insurance will cover it, I would suggest taking him to a psychologist for testing. It could be just seven year old acting out but it could also be something else such as ADHD or maybe something in the same family as OCD.

My son has Tourrettes and while most people associate that with ticks and noises, it can be so much more. He doesn't scream out or bark like they show people doing on television, his ticks and sounds are less noticeable. Many times people don't realize he has it until he is particularly anxious when it gets really noticeable.

The thing with it is that there are a lot of quirks that come with it and it's hard to determine what is him and what is "not" him. For instance, he mutters under his breath when he is told to do something. I get so angry when he does it because I think he's being a smarty pants, but it happens to be one of the cool behaviors that come with it. He also will act or speak before his brain has a chance to stop him. As he's gotten older he has learned to control the physical part of that fairly well but he still will speak before the think tank an stop him.

Obviously your kid isn't showing signs of tourette's but he could have some sort of fun little specialness...

Or - he could be just acting out...

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post #6 of 32 Old 12-18-2019, 10:56 PM
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Regardless of whether there's any... 'specialness' about it, I'd probably at least speak to a psychologist or councellor myself, to get some other ideas of how best to deal, if not get your boy into some therapy himself. Agree especially with Acadian & SM re consequences. Whether you use/agree with 'corporal punishment' or not (I'm not big on it either, but never say never), they still need to learn their actions have consequences. Negative punishment(removing something desirable - privileges) seem to be pretty effective with kids. And, just like I 'go on' about it with training horses, focussing on & rewarding 'right' behaviour is so important too. Perhaps you can find appropriate ways for him to express those feelings & reinforce him for that?

I get soooo fed up with obnoxious kids - and you can hardly blame the kids when they've never been taught - because parents allow it, teachers allow it, everyone seems frightened to actually DO anything these days. Many people want to just... discuss with kids, the way they might with a rational, non emotional adult. I have a friend who has a couple of spoiled brats, because she lets them literally scream at her & kick her & break things & about the harshest thing I've heard her say was 'Mummy doesn't like that darling'. At least she knows better than to cave in to their tantrums. Another friend will allow her children to hit, kick, scream... & after saying no a few times, will say Oh OK, you don't have to eat your vegetables & you can have a bowl of icecream instead'. Or 'OK, you can stay home from school today'. She doesn't get that she is not just allowing it, but REINFORCING it! Those kids are bad enough now. I dread to think what they're going to be like as teenagers. And then to hear some of the stories from my kids about other teens they go to school with... and when the principal doesn't believe in detention or anything - he has implemented something called 'relocation' where 'naughty' kids are sent to another class, to sit in the back of it and spend the time on their ipad or phone... obviously highly effective, when kids will play up just so they can be sent to 'relo'!
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post #7 of 32 Old 12-19-2019, 11:01 AM Thread Starter
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Really appreciate the responses... I do agree with all of you.

I've always been pretty strict but fair with my kids. They were angles as 2 and 3 year old's, we never had the issues other parents describe. I believe in natural/logical consequences... for when he is mean, the consequence has always been something like "if you can't be nice to people, you can't be around people. You have to go to your room." HATES this, as he hates being alone. I think that's part of his anxiety. He doesn't know how to play by himself etc. Very different from my daughter.

If anyone has ideas for other logical consequences, I am all ears. They don't have electronics and they rarely are allowed to watch television. Certainly not during the week. He gets to play 30 minutes of a video game on friday afternoons and then we watch some television over the weekend. I am not sure removing that would be effective since it's long removed from the week. I definitely agree with you about not reinforcing negative behavior and I certainly don't do it.

He was in therapy for a year and saw the school counselor at his old school for a year, but he HAS had a lot of changes this year. Both his dad and I moved into new houses, I remarried, and he started a new school. So it would make sense that he would benefit from more counseling.

Unfortunately his dad is in charge of medical decisions and I am in charge of educational decisions, so all I can do is suggest it and hope he agrees, or take him back to court to get therapy ordered. I will definitely suggest it.

I want to clarify that this behavior doesn't occur very often, he's not out of control by any stretch of the imagination, but he's getting to that age where he's in school now and he CANNOT be saying these things, especially in the climate we live in these days...I've actually always wondered if he has Sensory Processing Disorder or Aspergers so it's interesting someone else has mentioned Autism. I spoke with a psychologist that I had been seeing for myself about some of my son's issues and he said it sounded like very high anxiety...for example for several years he would only wear very tight clothing, shoes etc. Then for a year he would only wear sweat pants, nothing with a button. He's better about these things now, so I think we've made progress...

Yesterday he and I had a calm discussion about what he did, and that everyone gets overwhelmed with feelings but it's not ok to say violent or mean things, and that there are other ways to handle situations when we feel overwhelmed. He then asked for examples of things he could have done instead, which I thought was good of him. He then spent about an hour in time out in his room.

We will continue discussing these things and helping him form new habits for his responses to emotionally overwhelming situations... but again, if anyone has ideas for consequences other than time out, I'd appreciate it.
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post #8 of 32 Old 12-19-2019, 11:02 AM
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I will agree with all of the above. Therapy is a must. And there are low cost or income based therapists. Talk to the school and see if they have a psychologist. I also strongly agree with setting parameters and sticking to them.

My nephew started acting out at a very young age, my sister and her husband were both marines so they moved around a little bit (3 times before he was 12 I think) Cody would act out and the schools would call and my sister would make excuses. He was diagnosed with ADHD and medicated - and it helped some. As he got older (from 10-14) things got worse. At 14 he ended up in a boys home. Where the psychologist flat out told his parents lack of consistency had made some of his behaviors worse - and if they did not stick to a plan of discipline/rewards Cody would end up in a far worse place. The boys home gave him a lot of counseling and coping exercises. He came home a changed kid - but his parents did not change. Eventually he dropped out of HS and spent some time in and out of jail on various petty drug charges (mostly marijuana) He eventually went to jail for about 9 months and just finished a drug treatment program and is back home (he is now 22) Getting a job for him will be hard with his record -

My point in all of this is that sometimes tough love is harder on the parent than the kid - but know always in your heart that you are doing it for the best.
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post #9 of 32 Old 12-19-2019, 11:07 AM Thread Starter
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@carshon he was in therapy for a year and after that saw the school counselor as well. I am a strict, consistent parent - but his dad is not, and I can only control what goes on at my house. He definitely doesn't have sever behavioral issues, but it's clear he doesn't know how to handle feelings of high magnitude - whether they be positive or negative.
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post #10 of 32 Old 12-19-2019, 11:40 AM
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The lack of consistency between your home and his father's will make any issue far worse. Would his dad be open to an evaluation for your son and a meeting with both of you there so he can be made aware of the importance of having consistent expectations between homes?
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