Frustration issues with 5yo son

Megan - posted on 11/07/2008 ( 8 moms have responded )

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Our son, Jacob, has always been easily frustrated when he can't do something right away. When we were teaching him to dress himself, he would throw fits and cry. We taught him to ask for help if he couldn't do something. As he is getting older, he seems to be more aggressive with his frustration. If he gets in trouble and is sent to his room, he will pound the floor and scream (more like growl). More recently he hit a friend at preschool and threw a rock at another friend. My husband and I are concerned that this could be just the beginning of an anger streak. I feel so sorry for him when he does get angry/frustrated because I can tell he is trying to handle it and doesn't quite know what to do, so I work with him on expressing his emotions. I'm wondering if any of you moms have had issues with this. Could it be that he is just 5 and trying to understand his emotions? Could it be a growth thing? Or, my fear is that it stems from his being alone for a year and a half in a Russian hospital and the baby home and that feeling is now manifesting itself in anger. Or am I just thinking too much about it? ARGH!!!! Any thoughts would be great.

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We have a daughter, brought home from an orphanage in Thailand - age 4. She is 23 now and doing well, but we had some major struggles until she ran away for three years - age 16-19. I would encourage any one who has adopted an older child to take this seriously. Two books that really helped me understand were Help for the Hopeless Child by Dr. Ron Federrici (this helped me understand my daughter and attachment issues) and Language of Letting Go by Melody Beattie (to help me understand my own control issues). So, please, research as much as you can about grief and loss and adoption and learn to take care of yourself.

I wish I had learned what I did years earlier. Now, I am glad to say, God has performed amazing works of reconciliation and redemption and my daughter and I are very close. That's the good news.

Cheryl - posted on 03/04/2009

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Well....at first I don't think we responded well to her anger, we would get equally angry and then I realized that she would get more angry and then hide when we or I specifically got angry.  By hide I mean she would either physically hide, start yelling and hitting things longer & louder, shake, etc.  I went back to her adoption papers and realized that she had dealt in her short life with many people who were always angry and hurting each other.  So I made "the choice" to not yell once more at her and let me tell you that was not easy because she tested me every step of the way.  As her English language skills became better, I started (when she would become out of control) to wait until she settled down and realized I wasn't leaving the area and this was no matter where I was (home, church, out shopping, etc.).  Once she settled  down I asked her if she was okay now and hugged her.  She generally broke into tears at this point.  Then I would very quietly talk to her about what happened.  Quitely so that she had to really listen.  I would get her to express her feelings the best she could and then hug her and tell her I loved her regardless of how she thought I felt about her.  She settled down for a year or two, I think she got the hang of it.  Then about 12, puberty, she started lashing out again.  Physically trying to hit me, hurting herself, etc.  We got into counseling, but because she didn't want help it didn't help.   So, we thought that was a waste.  If she tried to swing at me, I subdued her until she was calm again.  If she tried to hurt herself, I stopped her and then at the end of either I would talk to her about her feelings (these sessions usually took at least an hour).  About 16, she had another bout of anger and this time she tried to take her life.  This was a really long story of her doing something she shouldn't have getting caught and then trying to take her life by downing Advil.  After going to the hospital, dealing with counselors, etc.  She said, "Mom, why do you still love me after all this?"  I told her, "You know what I probably shouldn't, but I do.  I can't explain why I love you, but I do."  She then said, can I get counseling.  That was her big turning point.  She had always thought before that she could stuff all her pain and it didn't bother her, she realized right then that the stuffed pain was killing her (in her words).  We found a wonderful counselor that helped her realize that what she went through was not normal (that's what she always thought).  Through all those years we let her get mad and not judge her, but love her.  Told her she couldn't hurt our belongings, but she can got beat up her pillow and yell and scream at it. If she broke something of ours, she had to pay us for it.   I also, always knew her anger wasn't really pointed at me, but her biological mother that beat her, gave her to men, and abandoned her.  As Simona's relationship to me grew stronger, she then was open to having a relationship with her dad.  Now that is a whole other issue because of the sexual abuse of men in her past.  I'm sorry to say that this will be a long battle with the anger, trusting your instincts on how to respond, realizing it's not your fault (they can be very convincing that you didn't really see or hear what you thought you saw or heard), trying to relax your shoulders (that's where I hold my stress), trying to like them when they make it really hard to.  In the end I have my beautiful, well-adjusted young lady who loves us beyond in ways we can't even understand.  She told us not long ago, that if she knew one thing - she knew we loved her and if we loved her she could do anything.  Those years were not very long ago, but they seem a life time away already.  Hang in there and hit your pillow from time to time or go get a massage. :)

Cheryl - posted on 03/03/2009

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Megan I have an adopted daughter from Latvia.  We adopted her 11 years ago now, she was 9 at the time.  She had this very issue.  In fact the first day of school she punched a boy because he had a ball she wanted.  I wondered what we had gotten ourselves into.  It may be a little harder because your son is only 5, but he is expressing his emotions.  Those emotions he's expressing are from being in the hospital, being adopted, losing his bio family, and probably so many more issues you won't know for years or may never know.   There is so much to this issue and I can elaborate if you want me to, but just know Simona is a beautiful, adjusted, young women.  She has not one hint of an anger problem now.  It's seems you have great instincts and that's what you need to deal with any adopted child.  Do you want me to elaborate more on what we did with Simona?

Cheryl - posted on 03/03/2009

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Megan I have an adopted daughter from Latvia.  We adopted her 11 years ago now, she was 9 at the time.  She had this very issue.  In fact the first day of school she punched a boy because he had a ball she wanted.  I wondered what we had gotten ourselves into.  It may be a little harder because your son is only 5, but he is expressing his emotions.  Those emotions he's expressing are from being in the hospital, being adopted, losing his bio family, and probably so many more issues you won't know for years or may never know.   There is so much to this issue and I can elaborate if you want me to, but just know Simona is a beautiful, adjusted, young women.  She has not one hint of an anger problem now.  It's seems you have great instincts and that's what you need to deal with any adopted child.  Do you want me to elaborate more on what we did with Simona?

Sarah - posted on 01/27/2009

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I can sympathize with you.  My older daughter (who was in an orphanage until 10 months) is 6 and we've gone through some of this too though she's never hit or tried to hurt any of friends as far as I know.   (Her little sister is another story but I think that's siblings).  She has *major* storms on occasion - usually because she's angry.  I think that things are getting better so it may be partly developmental.  She has a hard time expressing emotions verbally and I don't think she's always terribly in touch with what's going on inside of her.    We work with her on that and also what are appropriate responses to being angry or hurt.  Recently we discussed the difference between having a fit (I didn't call it that) because you're trying to get your way and crying because you're angry or hurt.  This actually seems to have helped.  If she's starting to go into the fit, I ask her if she's doing it because she's trying to get her way or because she's angry or hurt.  For whatever reason, this seems to pull her up some of the time and then we can work on using her words to express whatever is going on or negotiating with us if she wants us to change her mind.  I also took a parenting for adoptive parents class recently and they suggested that we try to avoid isolating her when she's in trouble with us.  So we don't send her to her room by herself (if one of us goes with her that's okay).  You may already know this but apparently for some kids being isolated when they're misbehaving taps into that well of feelings they had while in the orphanage and were not getting the attention they needed when they needed it.    My own sense is that this hasn't had much impact on this kid but may work for others.  Interestingly, my younger daughter who was in a different orphanage and was there until 13 months, doesn't seem to be having this issue nearly as much.  So it's probably developmental, temperamental, and environmental.  As you say Aargh!  I'll look forward to seeing what other people say.

Alisha - posted on 01/15/2009

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Our son Elijah is 6 and he is easily frustrated and angered too.  He was 34 months old when we met him in Svalyava, Ukraine and his "gotcha day" is just 5 days before his birthday.  Mostly, I'm writing to say I'm in the same boat.  We are constantly working on expressing emotions and describing what he's feeling.  I think that age has something to do with it as 5,6 &7 are big times of cognitive development.  It doesn't help Eli's situation much that he's learning to express emotion in two languages (we live in Argentina).  His sentences often begin in English and end in Spanish...or he'll just throw in a word or two from the language he's not speaking in...



I'll monitor this thread closely to see any advice others have to give, especially in the area of anger management for young children.  We want so much to teach him how to express his feelings in a healthy way.

Jessica - posted on 12/15/2008

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Our bio son is 5 and we have gone through some of that. Esp. if he wasn't winning in a game, or things didn't go his way. A sudden burst of temper followed by a stomping away screaming. At 3-5 they are very much self absorbed and it is all about them. In the fall he started Kindergaren and we had a few issues (he hit someone out of anger)-which really suprised us as he never had any problems in daycare or preschool. Now he is coming out of it and it doing great. Sometimes these phases just take time for the little ones to work out.

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