My 4 year olds temper tantrums are turning violent! Help!

User - posted on 06/24/2013 ( 1 mom has responded )

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My 4 year old has always been a screamer since he was a baby. Was a fussy baby, and talked late which is why he screamed. ALL DAY LONG. We thought that once he started talking well, the screaming would stop. Not so much. It's more just evolved. Now he wails, and throws dramatic temper tantrums and has started to physically hurt his younger sister which is why I am reaching out for help. He becomes frustrated very easily and there is usually very little warning that a blow out is coming until it's already in full swing. His fits are 0-60. A good portion are in response to frustration with his older brother (7) or younger sister (2) The most random things will set him off. While his brother can be a bit of an antogonist (we are working on that) something as simple as his sister deciding that she wants a snack and him not thinking she should have one will send him into a tissy. He will run over and tell her no that she can't have it, she screams and won't give it up, he gets angry and does something to hurt her. He goes mad. His teeth clench and his head shakes and he used to just grab her really hard, but recently has started choking her and biting her. Most of his agression is taken out on her since she is stubborn and rarely does the things that he wants her to do. Before this, his tantrums were just screaming wailing fits. He would slam doors, bang walls, throw toys (always in his room which is where we would drag him to during a fit) There was/is no amount of time out, talking, reasoning, etc that you can do with him. He will have none of it. He won't talk to you about how he is feeling. My other kids I can talk things out with, reason with, calm them and find a solution and talk about a better way to handle it in the future. Not so with him. Trying to talk to him just adds fuel to the fire. We used to have to lock him in his room and just wait it out (he has gotten better about these all out war tantrums and these happen very seldom. So much so that we were able to remove his lock) but still if you tried to talk to him after it would send him in another tissy. He will not discuss or answer any questions when he is mad or even after he has calmed down. He will just scream that he hates you and yell at you to go away. He will get frustrated and have tantrums at simple things like a toy not doing what he wants it to do, his pillows not staying the way he likes, the wrong color cup etc. It seems as the full having to get locked into his room tantrums have become more seldom, his lashing out and hurting people (mostly his sister) has escalated. He is actually become much more descreet even. Often I have no idea there is a problem until his sister starts screaming and crying. And since she has also developed a love of screaming in response to things she doesn't like, its like the boy who cried wolf. You never know if its serious or because something like her toy is stuck. It's all the same blood curdling scream. He has never hurt anyone else's child that I am aware of. His preschool and sunday school teachers have never expressed any behavioral concerns with me. In fact most of them tell me how wonderful and helpful he is. Which he is. He is a sweet, thoughtful smart child. 70% of the time. I don't know if it's us and our family dynamic that he feels frustrated with, or if it's just because 95% of his time is spent with us that there is more opportunity for frustrating events. I am sure also since there is multiple children to play with (he can avoid the children he doesn't like, unlike siblings) and many adults watching helps. Keeping him and his sister separate is a pipe dream. It's like a magnetic attraction. They can't stand each other half the time, yet always have to be up in each others business. I can't have him physically assaulting his sister, and it's also affected how she is starting to handle her frustrastions and anger too. I have to find a way to make it stop!! Also I can't stand that this poor lil sweet 4 year old gets trapped in these fitful rages that I am sure he has no idea how to handle or why they are happening to him. Any helpful insight or thoughts are much appreciated!! Thank you!

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Denikka - posted on 06/26/2013

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The first thing I would do is consult with a doctor. It sounds like he's is dramatically over sensitized to stimulus he doesn't like which could possibly mean some mental problem, or even something simple like an easily fixable imbalance (chemical, or dietary).
It is also possible that he has an allergy. I know that sounds really weird in response to a behavioral issue, but it could be a cause. A friend of my mothers is allergic to bananas. He didn't know until his mid 30's because it never presented itself in a *normal* manner. His reaction was behavioral. Instead of breaking out in hives or whatever, he would rage. He became super sensitive to the smallest things and would go into a fit of anger over whatever thing it happened to be. He got better at controlling the physical outbursts as he got older, but even the smallest irritant would have him clenching his fists, breathing heavily, etc, just to keep himself under control. It randomly came to his attention that he was only like this within a certain time frame of eating bananas (something like 6-12 hours) and, since eliminating them from his diet, all those rage issues have quite literally disappeared (it's been just under 5 years now with ZERO issue). It may be something to look into. Keep a food journal and see if there is ANY correlation between what foods your child eats and when he has a bad day. I know red food dye can also affect certain children in a behavioral way.

If you rule out medical causes, you may need to look into actual professional behavioral help. As sad as it is to say, there are times when our children are just beyond our control and nothing we know how to do will work. A behavioral specialist may be able to give him, as well as you, a different perspective along with tools that may help.

It sounds like you have a very angry little boy on your hands. And with the level of violence escalating it needs to be dealt with and quickly. I can only imagine how difficult it is for him on the inside, to be right in the middle of all that chaos. I don't personally believe that general parenting advice is going to help you. I think you need to go to someone who has the resources to help you. Not only because of the extreme behavior your son is showing, but because this is now a family problem and needs a family solution. This is so much more than just finding a new disciplinary tactic, you need to find a whole new way to interact with your son so that you are aware of his triggers and signs, as subtle as they may be, and hopefully HE can be made aware of them as well, so more preventative measures can be taken, instead of just attempting to manage the chaos as it comes.
I really wish you the best of luck :)

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