This Is Becoming A Typical Blog Format: Whine, Whine, Whine, Request for Advice.

photoThere was a bad day last week where I wrote a sobbing entry at a low moment with Wes and – thankfully – deleted it later so that only the people who read me on a feed reader were subjected to that misery.

By the time that dreadful day was over, I had taken back all of the toys Wes had gotten for his Birthday (he hadn’t even earned back all of the toys I took back months ago) and we were having sobbing heart-to-hearts about how much we love each other. It was rough. As a matter of fact, it’s all still very rough and I’m now at the point that I can start crying at the drop of the hat, just thinking about my struggles with Wes. Basically, I just want someone to assure me that they had a child with anger issues who did NOT grow up and turn into a serial killer. Are any of you out there?

Since then our days have been better. The pain of that day is still vivid enough for both of us. He’ll yell something mean and then immediately apologize. He hasn’t hit since that day. He is having fits of frustration and anger still, but they involve a lot of random growls and hair pulls, but nothing major like last week. I’m constantly asking him if he needs to go punch pillows or hit his mattress, reminding him there are ways to release that frustration that don’t involved hurting other people mentally or physically.

And of course – he’s upped the Sweet Factor by a million. He is hugging me constantly and telling me he loves me. He’s even being really sweet to his sister and the animals. I can tell he’s trying and sometimes that’s what breaks my heart the most. He just doesn’t know how to cope with the anger and frustration in those single moments, but outside of those moments he loves the whole world.

But here’s where we come to the point of the entry where I ask your opinion/advice. I had put a moratorium on “rough-housing” between the kids back when hitting started becoming a problem because I worried that maybe he had gotten so used to being aggressive when they played, that he lost the ability to turn that off at other times. I’m still wondering the same thing. But, I also think a healthy dose of rough-housing is good for kids. My brother and I wrestled all of the time. Do I keep that off the books still? Or do you think maybe it’s okay as long as we define it well. Nikki LOVED it when they used to rough-house, but I just am not sure how to define when it’s “okay” to play like that and what are the limits? I’m pretty sure my brother and I punched the crap out of each other when we were having our wrestling sessions (which I always won because I was older and therefore bigger) but is there a way to teach a kid like Wes that play-wrestling is okay but he needs to be able to understand the line between that and the “bad” kind of hitting? I just don’t know. He’s newly 5, is he old enough to differentiate yet? I think my brother and I were older during our wrestling phase, but I don’t really recall.

So! Play rough-housing! Yay or Nay! What are your rules? What about if you’re trying to teach your child not to hit?

24 thoughts on “This Is Becoming A Typical Blog Format: Whine, Whine, Whine, Request for Advice.”

  1. Firstly, I feel your pain. Toby is so challenging at the moment, hitting, aggression, shouting etc, and I know the thoughts of “Oh my god, I am raising a serial killer” well. I have no real advice (apart from the fact that I am reading “Raising the Spirited Child” at the moment and my neck is aching from all the nodding I am doing), but lots of sympathy. It’s horrible, isn’t it?
    Re rough-housing, my ped suggested that it is important, because it gives them an opportunity to try it out, and find out where the limits are, and when they need to stop. Sure, you need a patient rough-housing partner, because chances are that they will get hurt sometimes, but assuming the rough-housing is over as soon as he actually hurts his sister, it may teach him how far he can go…
    Lots of love. xx

  2. I read your post that was deleted and just wanted to hug you! Then my youngest decided it would be a great idea to bite her sister, lie about it for the next hour and then act like nothing ever happened. It was a rough hour of trying to get her to simple stop screaming, kicking and generally being out of control. Time outs only result in her screaming for as long as she is in time out. Trying to hold her tight doesn’t do anything and like her older sister, I have to wait for her to “snap out of it”. I haven’t found a book yet that hold the magic solution so I am afraid I have nothing for you but support and understanding.

  3. Your post brings back so many memories. My oldest is now 16, but I remember when he was about 5 or 6 having a whiteboard in the kitchen with a countdown of how many hours/days he’d gone without showing aggression. For so long, the incentive that he was trying for was just impossibly out of reach. That said, it did help my son to keep trying for a reward. It made him much more aware of each unacceptable incident and also gave him small victories. (We watched a lot of Super Nanny at the time so were forever telling him “that’s unacceptable”) I didn’t allow rough-housing because he didn’t know how not to escalate and hurt his brother. I didn’t even allow air-punching or other expressions of anger because he couldn’t handle doing just a little aggression. I found that he mirrored back anger. It definitely helped to stay calm and also catch signs that he was getting frustrated early. Sleep was important as well as not scheduling too much during the day. Be assured that my son DID grow out of it and is a delightful teenager now. The turning point for me was realizing that he had more self-control than I thought. It looked like he was losing control in his fit of anger, but I started realizing all the things he didn’t do. He was actually careful not to break anything when overturning furniture and didn’t seriously stab anyone or draw blood, etc. Realizing that he had a line which he wouldn’t cross helped me to realize that he did actually have sefl control, and we just needed to change where his line was drawn. Best wishes to you. This too shall pass!

  4. For what it’s worth, I was the kid that was on the younger end and always lost… and I hated the rough housing and didn’t understand why my parents wouldn’t step in and make it stop. It made me very mad, so take that for what it’s worth. To this day, I over react when I get accidentally jostled or hit with something – immediate anger.

  5. I also read the deleted post and just wanted to hug you as well.

    Although what we work through is not as big or systemic as what Wes is learning we do have one thing in our house that might help. Maybe.

    My son (who is Wes’s age) REALLY wanted foam swords and after a lot of resistance on my part he got them. The primary rule is about head / face hits – and the rule is that if I hit you in the face with the sword we have to stop and I have to ask you if we can keep playing swords. That way, if it is an accidental tap and we are all having fun you can say yes and we go from there. If it hurt or felt mean you can make it stop.

    That may help in the roughhousing if you decide to reinstate it. As for that, I don’t know. My nephew had control issues for awhile and he took karate for a year or so. It helped primarily in the fact that there were 9 poses before you got to the “punch” pose so everybody had warning because he would get mad and start doing / counting poses so he could get to the “punch” one.

  6. Have you considered putting him into a martial arts program? I know ANOTHER activity probably sounds like an awful idea, but if you do have the time/money a good one does an excellent job teaching about appropriate use of force and self control. It’s also a great way to safely get out that pent up energy, and “rough house” in a way that is safe.

  7. This isn’t advice; I just wanted you to know that you are *not* alone on this issue. My son is a sweet, well-behaved 10 year old now, but the years of 4-5 were really hard for him (and me!) He was still sweet back then, but had lots of anger issues. My heart goes out to you and Wes; I remember the constant worrying, waiting for school to call because he had another outburst, feeling like I was the worst mother in the world. My poor son felt like everyone hated him because of his outbursts, too- it was heartbreaking. We even took him to a therapist, who said nothing was wrong with him, he was just bored at school (which was where he had most of his outbursts.) We changed his school situation, which helped immensely.

    Also, once he turned 6, it seemed like overnight he was finally able to put all the anger management skills we’d talked about constantly to use. I don’t know if they just finally “stuck” or if getting older made the difference, but it really did get better with age. You’re doing a great job, even if it doesn’t feel like it some days- just hang in there!

  8. Zoot, you are a fantastic mom, and I hope know that! I am sorry you are having troubles. I read the deleted post and wanted to send you hugs.

    I’d like to second the martial arts suggestion (they are fantastic for channeling the mind). Also, don’t feel bad if you decide to go the therapist route…there are different issues that manifest as anger in an otherwise sweet child.

    Hang in there.

  9. Wow, great question and responses…I am near tears now myself. I have twin boys so roughhousing is just a way a life, and I know many other parents probably don’t understand that. It’s hard to know when to step in. We have started immediate time outs for unprovoked hitting of any kind, but let them wrestle, etc., if it starts out as play. When it escalates we tell them that it is too rough, and if one gets hurt point out that is is because they were playing too rough. This could be the worst advice ever, but it’s what we are doing for now.
    At this point I am having a bigger issue with them seemingly not listening to any.thing. that I say, rather than the angry outbursts, but yes, five years old is not easy.

  10. My general guideline for roughhouse play is that when it ceases to be fun for someone, it’s over. Sometimes one person seems to get the upper hand and it can turn into bullying … and that is just not acceptable in our house. As long as both are happy and enjoying it (and no one is in danger of injury), I don’t have a problem with it.

  11. I don’t know if this is any help to you or not, but we started having more success with my son when we started treating his anxiety instead of just the aggression. He is a rule follower (which sounds funny to say when he’s hitting people, but it’s true) and he really doesn’t like change, so seeing other kids not following rules or not knowing what the rules are makes him anxious. When he gets really anxious he gets aggressive. I have found when I tell him that he’s not in charge of the other kids and that there are adults around he can ask for help he calms down. He had a situation in school the other day where he was trying to build a blanket fort in the corner but the other kids kept getting in his way. His teacher (who is fabulous with him) asked him how he was feeling and he told her he was feeling like he was going to start hitting people, so she was able to get him to figure out a solution that didn’t involve hitting. That’s huge progress for him. He’s 6 and in kindergarten.

  12. I read the post as well.
    I like the martial arts suggestion. Especially one like Tai Kwon Do (sp). They teach a child all about using force, but also self control. The other benefit is they learn to understand the difference between acceptable behavior and unacceptable behavior without you losing your mind.

  13. I don’t allow rough-housing, but mine just turned 8 year old has some aggression too, we never had the hitting people problem, but punching couches, yes, kicking things yes, walking around with his hands balled up in fists YES…. I am constantly stressed about it. I only have a son and daughter (daughter just turned 5) and I am just am not comfortable with the idea of my boy play fighting with his sister. I am trying to teach him that its absolutely unacceptable to hit a female EVER and that its almost always unacceptable to hit anyone at all. I don’t want him testing boundaries on a girl. I was the older sister of 3 girls and one of my siblings was a fighter, myself and the other sister were screamers, I hated getting into a fight because I had no desire to hit or hurt anyone… but I sure didn’t want to be hurt either. It sucked (but of course this is much different than rough-housing I know). This sister was the same sibling who was a biter and she would bite the heck out of you and then bite herself just as hard so that when you tattled, she would show her arm and we would both be punished. My Mom never dreamed a child would deliberately bite herself so hard. I read the post and because my of my experiences with my son, I felt like hugging you. I wish I had a handbook because I feel like I am inadequate.

  14. Our boys are allowed to rough house. The line is anything done in anger, retaliation, or with intent to hurt leads to consequences. I believe boys need a testosterone outlet. Does your hubs or E wrestle him? That way it can be someone he can’t hurt that he can wail on in fun. Also the reason I delurked: my 17 year old nephew had serious anger and violence issues and now he’s awesome, fun to be around and totally not a sociopath. I enjoy reading your “whiny” blogs. I wouldn’t call them whiny just open, honest, and desperate. We all have times when our hearts are shattered and I need times to feel compassion for someone I don’t have a personal relationship with.

  15. I don’t have anything helpful to say. Just that I read the post on your rotten day, and my heart hurt for you. Its so hard when our kids have a tough path to walk, whatever the reason.

    I do have an opinion on roughhousing, but my kid is just 3 and a girly girl. I haven’t been really tested on it yet. Anyway – my rule about roughhousing (and most things, really) is that I don’t let her do anything with me/at home that wouldn’t be acceptable on the playground, at school or with her friends. So, chasing, tickling, throwing pillows and a little bit of rolling around, absolutely. Hitting, kicking, or anything that hurts isn’t allowed. I also don’t let her cheat in games (though I will help or coach her), and she doesn’t always get to win. I want her to know how to play appropriately with others, and it has made her transition in to preschool pretty seamless.

  16. Have you thought about childrens therapy? I don’t know if you are already doing it, but at his age they do play therapy where the therapist is able to watch what they are doing while they play, and the kids work out their issues that they have trouble expressing while they play. I have my daughter in therapy, and she is 4, not for anger issues, but to deal with her dad and I splitting up, and the fact that her dad is trying to make her choose between us, and the fact that I think something is going on there I can’t get out of her that scares me.

    Anyhow, not about me, but again, I believe that therapy can work. I know a lot of people don’t think about it at this age, but it is really really helpful.

    I also, somewhere in my house, have an entire DVD collection on how to deal with your childs anger, that if I could find, I could send it to you, I would just have to look. Though my ex husband tried to take everything, and he may have taken that. I will look for them. We got them for participating in an anger study with our son, who was having some anger issues, and luckily once 4 was over, he just stopped for the most part. Though he yelled alot in anger, he stopped doing the rest. Of course, I noticed his dad doing a lot of mental and physical abuse, and left him, and since then he hasn’t had any issues either.

    So, yeah, therapy. I wish you luck.


  17. I read the post too, and thought the same as everyone else – hugs!

    I think rough rousing is important to a degree but we encourage smacking a big rock with foam swords or throwing tennis balls at a wall instead of wrestling etc. It gets the frustrations and energy out without anyone getting hurt.

    By any chance have you looked into Oppositional Defiant Disorder? I have a nephew with it and Wes sounds so very similar. Whatever the underlying issue is, it’s not anyone’s fault and it WILL get better.

  18. I’m late chiming in but when I was younger, my dad used to rough house with us girls. It was me and my step sister. We (my sister and myself) never rough housed with each other, it was way more fun with dad. LOL

  19. My 8 year old son has an anxiety disorder which sometimes goes hand in hand with anger outbursts so we do very light versions of rough housing. He has gotten better over the years but we did finally put him on Zoloft which has been a Godsend and he also goes to behavior therapy twice a month. They teach him how to deal with his feelings and coping methods. It has been a wonderful tool for him and for us as parents. I was very reluctant about the meds but I decided to try it and it did not change his personality one bit just calmed him down so the outbursed lessoned and made him a better version of his wonderful self. I know meds aren’t for everyone but they worked for us.

  20. I may have missed the beginning of the conversation about Wes, but does he have specific “triggers” or is it an all the time thing?

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