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Extreme Behavior, Harming Others

Question:

My 7-year-old son has had behavioral issues since he was about one-year-old. When he was a toddler, he was kicked out of seven daycares for biting, hitting and throwing things at others. My husband and I have two other small children under two years, and my son is generally very good with his siblings, but I am worried about having him around them after the events that took place a few days ago. He has been diagnosed with Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) and is on three different medications. He goes to an alternative school because he was suspended more than 20 times in kindergarten for hitting, throwing objects, swearing and punching people. Since moving to an alternative school in first grade, he has been doing better overall, but once in a while will ‘explode.’

The other night my son lost control completely. He stormed into his room and started throwing and breaking things. I went in there to talk to him, and he tackled me and started pulling my hair and kicking me. He then grabbed my phone that had fallen on the floor and began hitting me over the head with it. I sat on top of him and held down his hands to try to get him to calm down. He then began calling me terrible names. I called my husband to come home from work. My son continued yelling and hitting me. My neighbor came over after my husband had called her and took our two younger children to her house for a while. I went in to my son’s room to tell him to pick it up, and he took his shoes off and threw them at me and tackled me again, ripping at my hair and clawing at me. I walked out and called my dad to calm me down because I didn't know what to do or how to react. My son continued yelling saying that I should sell him, that he didn’t want to live with me anymore and that he wished someone would poison him and that he wanted to hang himself. I have never seen this extreme behavior from my son before. I don't know what to do. He needs help and fast! He can still learn new ways, but I am afraid for myself and other children.

Answer:

Thank you for contacting us with your parenting concern. Parenting is never easy, especially when you have a child with very unique and difficult behaviors such as your son.

You are completely right in stating your son is able to learn new positive behaviors to replace the existing negative behaviors. It sounds like your son has a lot of things going on right now; however, the most alarming is his violent and aggressive behaviors toward you.

First of all, we really want to praise you in being able to momentarily remove yourself from the situation and call your husband and then your dad. In situations like this, it can be really hard to think clearly on what to do next. You did the right thing by giving yourself a timeout to reach for assistance in gathering your thoughts.

Whenever children become aggressive to others, we always encourage parents to call the police. Not only does this ensure the safety of others in the home, but also your son’s safety. Often police will come to the house and say there’s not much they can do, especially given his age. However, they will assist you in de-escalating in the situation and will give a stern talking to your son. Many children respect police officers and are more likely to comply in the future if they know you’re going to call the police again. In addition, this creates a paper trail and will record the amount of times that you’ve had to reach out for assistance due to your son’s out-of-control behaviors.

If you are unable to maintain your son’s safety and he is posing a threat to himself or anyone else in the home, we encourage you to take him to the closest emergency room. There he will be evaluated and his safety to himself and others will be assessed. If you can’t physically get him to the hospital because of his aggressiveness, the police can escort him to the hospital.

You mentioned that your son was prescribed with three different medications. Were they prescribed by his pediatrician or a psychiatrist? We recommend children on psychotropic medications be seen by a psychiatrist as they specialize in medication management and mental health disorders. Have you been able to identify any progress with these medications? It’s essential that you keep ongoing communication with the doctor who prescribed these medications. We would also suggest individual therapy and also family therapy. Medications work most effectively when they are paired with some form of therapy. Also, in therapy your son can learn new ways of dealing with his emotions (specifically his anger and suicidal thoughts). Therapy can also help you can learn new ways to respond and parent to his specific behaviors.

We’d like to continue to offer you support in any way we can. If you need assistance locating a mental health professional in your area, let us know your city and state, and we can offer you referrals in your community. We’re only a phone call away if you’d like to discuss specific behaviors or just need someone to talk to. If you feel more comfortable with email, please continue emailing us.

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