Monday, August 4, 2008

Physical Aggression

This behavior in our children requires extreme caution on our part, as you know.We don't want to do things to escalate the behavior. We don't want to do anything to hurt our child. We want to help them regulate themselves.

Our son is not physically aggressive any longer. Well, except toward siblings. That has been going on since Cain and Abel so if you can figure out how to stop it you probably also have the answers to the War in Iraq and how to develop an alternative fuel. I'm honored to know you. I'm speaking of the out of control rage our children experience. Here are some things we tried that helped. It was one of the first behaviors to go during therapy. To me it was the most frightening because it spoke of a violent future.

I often used the phrase "Use your words". He was so poor at expressing his feelings. He needed to start talking. Talk about what he is thinking and feeling when he is really angry. Do this during a calmer time.

Find alternatives : "When you are really mad you are allowed to..."

Make sure they get a lot of physical exercise. It releases a lot of the energy and can relieve stress. Exercise is a way I deal with stress so I am a big believer in this one. Take them roller skating, to the pool, out riding his bike, on walks with you. If yours is like mine was, they have to have constant supervision around other kids or they find the other "fighters". I could count on him seeking out and fighting with those kids anywhere and everywhere.

Watch his physical behavior closely and learn to see it coming. I could tell when things were headed south and I would say "Taz I want you to scream and yell and kick." He would say NO and walk away. If I missed it and he started I would say "I'm glad you are letting all your anger out. It is good to get it all out and I would encourage him to keep going."

Touch: Sometimes a gentle word and a soft touch would immediately bring him down. Sometimes it did not.

Therapy is essential if your child is demonstrating this behavior. Your child needs to learn to express feelings verbally. You need help so you stay calm and don't cross any lines.

Keep your other children safe. In no way should your other children be endangered. I'd send them to their rooms and have them shut their doors.

Get help. If things become dangerous for you or any of your other family members you need to be brave enough to call 911.

I know this is frightening. If you are dealing with this behavior I will pray especially for you today.

PS I wanted to add Bren's suggestion of calling someone. Our children do not want anyone else to know how they treat us. This is a great idea and one I used as well only I would call my husband and put it on speaker phone. They did not want him to hear the way they talked to me so would stop. It would regulate them to the point of when I hung up they were calmer. I also called our attachment therapist during a particulalry violent episode for some instructions. I went outside to make the call and calm myself. He followed me out and started breaking the branches of the trees. First of all hearing a calm voice on the other end of the line calmed me. He suggested telling him to go ahead and have a fit as loud and long as he needed too. Get it all out. Taz looked at me and walked quietly back into the house.


Bren said...

I remember the physical strength of a 4 year old girl who could pull a door open that I was hold ing shut and threw me across the room! I had brusies all over my legs from her kicking...I learned to pick up a phone and call ANYONE and she would instantly stop. No one EVER saw this but me and a girl friend (she only saw it once). Thank God those stopped. Still, it is better than no emotion at all.

Brenda said...


Mmm. Frightening stuff, isn't it.

ali said...

jackson is not physically agressive towards anyone. he continues to threaten to kill me in my sleep,(which "therapists" were very nonchalant about) and tears his belongings apart in his room. a box of brand new pencils, all broken in 2, every page ripped out of every book.freshly painted room, painstakingly accomplished by ME and ME alone, destroyed by small screw driver he found and black sharpie marker. needess to say, i dont buy pencils and books anymore. i won't ever paint his personal space again(i'm a painter). when verbally confronted by one of us,he claims to be so very tough, makes LOTS of big threats, but always backs down from any physical confrontation, or ANY physical contact for that matter.
we don't do therapy anymore. all they ever did was sit and play cards with him. there was never any positive change in years. i felt he needed anxiety meds but the meds person just kept suggesting more Ritalin @@. (he takes plenty)he is who he is and i am done sitting in shrinks offices, to be has been "the jackson show" for far too long.time for the other 4 kids to get some time and attention.shoot- i said i wasnt going to speak of him this week. oops.

Christine said...

We have seen a small amount of this intensifying with ds12, as he has been here a bit longer, and - for the first time - is having the confusing and frightening feelings of attachment.

He has admitted that he has been really mean to friends in the past (HUGE that he used his words and could tell me that!!). He tends to get too rough with his siblings at times, but that has improved.

He has just been aggressive with me when he's raging. It's interesting, because you can actually see him exercising some control over these things. He knows he doesn't want to hurt me, but he wants me to THINK that he does. Like, he'll throw a t-shirt across the room (showing his rage, but knowing it will not do any damage), or once he was in the van, and I was sitting on the edge (being present). He tried to shut the door while I was sitting there. He could have really hurt me, but instead he was using very angry words, and just tapping me with the door.

I have found that an old-fashioned pillow fight (with me) is a great way for him to get out aggression and also have some fun.

I was talking to a friend last night whose son has always kept a punching bag in the garage for times of anger.

I've also found he's much less aggressive if I have him outside in the fresh air - not always, but much of the time.

As as you always say, I'm always switching up my tools and approaches - keeping it fresh!

Brenda said...


We have had the destructiveness as well. Same thing with the bedroom. I just found about 5 minutes ago that the stopper to our new bathroom faucet is broken. It is so frustrating. Have you tried Attachment therapy? It is completely different and focus' only on attaching to mom and dealing with trauma from the past. They don't care if Jr had a good week or what he is good at or any of the other balogna.

Accidental Mommy said...

I've been kicked and punched and screamed at for hours on end too. I think our record is 7 hours.

I was worried someone was going to report us because of all the screaming and yelling "don't hurt me!" etc... Even though she was in her room by herself.

The boy pulled a muscle in my arm when I was taking him back to his room one time. Sometimes I'll wake up and my arm doesn't work.

I know how Ali feels. Mine rip things up to tiny pieces, put holes in the walls and used I don't know what to scrape scribble lines deep in to a brand new dresser.

People out here don't really know what RAD is. I take the heat a lot. But I found this letter to teachers and I think I am going to carry that around and give it to the teachers and anyone else who gives me a hard time, it's hard enough with the kids without other people giving me crap.

A couple of my kids are on Risperdal. It helped a million times. It took away nightmares and hallucinations and allows them to get some sleep. Since they started that my kids are 1000% better.

It was also a stepping stone for empowering one of my children. She said she felt the medicine was making her a better person and I took the chance and told her that I thought it was the medicine that made her feel safe enough to make good decisions on her own.

I didn't want her to be reliant on it and I wanted her to take the credit. Her smile was amazing and so genuine when I told her that.

She's more conscious of her decisions now because it is something she now realizes she controls which is what RAD kids want. Control.

Simply Moms said...

When the rages come we have tried:

Bringing her in front of a she can see herself. Not pretty.

Stopping what we were doing to stare at her blank faced....all 6 of us.

Getting out the camera/video camera. She haaaaaaates the thought of others knowing the truth about her behavior. Sometimes I need to document our bad days so that I can show hubby when he gets home from work....that I am not CRAZY.

Standing her in the corner...facing that all in the home get to see the rage....and she gets to see that life goes on.

Anything that takes away the control and forces her to see herself as she is at that moment.

Over time....she has not liked what she has seen and the behavior has lessened. Ours was never physically dangerous to others....but to herself...which was frightening. And yeah, she used to break things. Every day....a new thing to fix.

Simply Moms said...

Oh yeah....I've also had her draw pictures when she is in a rage. Specifically, I've asked her to draw herself. I've got a pretty scary pile of self portraits. Now though....she sees herself as lovely and her drawings reflect the peace and calm that she is finally experiencing much of the time.

With her, there is a calm that comes after the storm. We used to request a letter from her...listing what was inappropriate about the behavior (this is how we had her process calmly) and requsting an apology for the center of attention/selfish/dishonoring nature of her choices... which takes time away from all of the other family members.... etc. When she wasn't sorry yet...we told her not to fake it and wait until she was sorry. Sometimes that wasn't for quite a while. Eventually, we would get notes slipped under the bathroom door....or placed on our pillows.

Now, the rages are farther and fewer between...and we get notes w/out asking.

For us....slow and steady wins the race. Consistency and forgiveness. Drawing close when the behavior is atrocious and we do not feel like it.

~K~ said...

My oldest son is Bi-polar. This summer has been a hard time for our house. We had almost a full year of peace and then all H**l broke loose.

I am so tired. My children are tired and I am sure my oldest is tired of raging as well.

My son is very aggressive with words and actions. He is big on making threats of hurting/killing others or himself. At times he even physically assults myself or my other son.

We have had a couple of medicine changes with not much luck as of yet. I hate changing medicines, you never know what will happen.

School starts this week. Transition times are always difficult for Noah. I just don't know how to help him anymore and am so tired.

We have been on this battle for 9 years.

My other son is "typical" but he has been coping his brothers behaviors and some of his feelings. Making threats on himself and his brother. But later he always appoligizes and recongnizes he is wrong. But I worry about his actions "in the moment" as it seems like he might follow through. He is soooo angry.

Oops, sorry for the book.

I am just one tired mama and at times I am done, finished, wanting to resign for parenthood.


Brenda said...


Welcome. As you can see there are a lot of experienced moms leaving their opinions here. I know I am benefiting from each and every one. Like I said, I am writing this stuff all down to use myself. There are not always answers but there is always love and support here. I'm glad you came.

Renee said...

Thankfully our full blown rages are few and far between now. (There is hope everyone.) But back when we were spending hours every day in a war zone, I would raise the blinds and open the windows so she could be heard far and wide. Sometimes this stopped it and sometimes it didn't.

Sometimes I would go sit on the porch and wave at my neighbors as they watched me swinging outside and heard my daughter yelling "Mommy, don't beat me!" from within the house.

The Broken Man said...

Wow, I can't imagine how you all cope with this every day. I take my hat off to you all.

The Broken man

Brenda said...

Broken Man,

We do it because we must. We love ou children. If they had cancer, were in a horrible accident or had any other crisis we would be there for them. This is an illness that is not their fault.

ali said...

just therapy by 2 people who were 'schooled" in RAD. no attachment therapists locally here.i also would get the "sounds like he had an awesome week!" comment after therapy, which got old very quickly. she claimed she has a clue, but im doubtful now.
he wrecked a brand new dresser too. i removed it and gave him a shitty one. what else was i supposed to do?
is it bad that i do not miss him yet? hes been gone since sunday at 1pm.

Brenda said...


Why would you miss someone who is destroying your home piece by piece and tormenting you day in and day out? That is his purpose is to drive you away. You are exactly where we were when we started Attachment therapy. I wish there was good help closer to you. Have you thought about doing a 2 week intensive with any of the well knowns?

Leaders In Learning said...

We've also tried the camcorder, cheering and holding up score cards and generally giving up the opposite reaction the child is looking for with some success. But, we are still dealing with the violent aspects of things and have to sometimes make the child stay in the room for a while until calmer just to keep everyone including us safe. It's hard to hold a slitherer who breaks free and bites, hits and kicks you while you sing them a lullaby. We are looking for attachment therapists but our therapist said that attachment therapy was going too deep until you stablize the child first so to work on trauma first and then look for attachment therapy. I'm not sure what to think. We were ready to Baker Act the child just to protect people in the house until we can get some meds to help calm the child first.

Brenda said...

Leader in Learning.

I say, anytime the therapist you are not using does not work after a period of time, it is time to change. I do not see how he can become stablized until he starts addressing his fears of abandonment.