Sweet, sensitive, sometimes angry son suspended for writing 'hate list' of perceived bullies

TF - posted on 04/17/2014 ( 3 moms have responded )

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Hi there,

My 7 (almost 8) yr old is at the end of 2nd grade. He's academically on target, we've had him tested and he's average to above average intelligence. He's a tall kid, so doesn't struggle with size issues which I know can be difficult for young boys. However he tends to focus on the negative and catastrophize situations, especially social ones at school.

For the first 6 years of his life his dad was in a bad place, and too hard on our son. He's since gone through counseling and after we split up has really been able to turn things around with hard work. He's deeply engaged with our son and they are building trust and a loving relationship, but I see his defiance and aggression coming out at school in a way that is so opposite of the person that he is the rest of the time, it's almost like a dr. jeckyl & mr. hyde!

His behavior has escalated, a month ago the girls in his class didn't want the boys to play soccer with them, so he threw his shoes at them and then put his hands on the neck of one of the girls (!!). I was so horrified to hear this - there are no video games, no violent shows, no physical violence EVER permitted in our home, his dad has never touched me etc. Then the next week during spring break he ran away from us at Disneyland because I wouldn't let him ride one of the large roller coasters. Then a few weeks after we get back he claims the kids in his class were taunting him in PE by chanting 'get out!' of a game that they were playing, and apparently one kid accidentally kicked a ball while his hand was on it. He apparently had a complete meltdown at school, screaming and crying and couldn't let it go. We picked him up early, talked to him about different ways of framing what happened and he seemed fine, cheery and normal.

The next morning he wrote a 'hate list' in his journal (we didn't know) and wrote that he wanted to 'kill with a gun'. The school found this and called us, he's suspended while they figure out a plan... I am literally dumbstruck and DEVASTATED. We don't own guns, I don't like guns, we don't talk about them, use them, advocate them. We don't have cable, so the shows he watches are closely monitored, he hasn't had access to an ipad or games for month's, and before we always made sure his games were non violent. I feel so sad for him and so worried at the same time. He is very very young for his grade, just barely making the cutoff. I think he could benefit from an extra year, but he already calls himself dumb (why I don't know?!, he can't explain)... I'm at a loss for how to help my sweet loving boy who has trouble properly processing and expressing his anger.

How can I help him? Should I switch schools, have him re-do second grade and just keep him at a separate school from his sisters (younger)? I want to do that for his long run development.. but that is a big move to make. My girls are thriving at the school and I don't want to 'punish' and disrupt their experience just because he may need to move. Again academics are solid, it's just his social/emotional development I'm thinking.

Thanks in advance!!

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♫ Shawnn ♪♫♫ - posted on 04/17/2014

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Agree with LM. Something else is going on. I'd recommend both a regular physical checkup, as well as continued visits with a therapist.

He's voiced some very disturbing desires, to kill people with guns. My family are big gun owners, we each have personal firearms, etc, and that is NOT proper firearms behaviour. Even at their angriest and most frustrated, resorting to gun violence is the furthest thing from my kids' minds. He does need time and assistance to figure out where he's at in his head, and what's going on. Columbine, Sandy Hook...pretty much any of the school shootings can be traced back to some sort of underlying bullying or socially outcast individual. If he's feeling those feelings, they need to be addressed.

You're also a split home, which could be adding to his aggravation. Would his dad agree to joint family counseling? That may help him express some of what's bothering him...

good luck, my dear.

3 Comments

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Jodi - posted on 04/18/2014

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Ok, is he in therapy? Sorry, but any child who writes up a list of names and talks about wanting to kill them with a gun has some real underlying issues. This is not normal. This is not about changing schools, this is about getting to the bottom of his issues. A counsellor would be a place to start.

~♥Little Miss - posted on 04/17/2014

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Wow. That is a lot to digest. My son is turning 8 next month and is also at the end of second grade. So I gotta say your son is in the correct grade. I was trying to imagine my son doing all the things you have said your son is dealing with, and man I just can't. All of what you said is really upsetting, and I am sorry your son is in such a hard place for him to act out like this and threaten violence.

Something else is going on with him. Whether it be the dynamic at school, self esteem, lack of friends, or whatever. I truly thing your son needs to continue seeing a therapist, along with family therapy for the both of you and possibly even your ex. You all need to get on track before this turns really violent. A therapist will help get back on track, but will take time.

I honestly would not be surprised if your son got expelled for threatening the school with a gun. Regardless of written or verbal words, that is really scary. Sandy Hook is 3 hours from where I live, and we are still feeling the repercussions from that. Do not take your childs acting out for granted.

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