August 19, 2008,
A.H. asks from Navarre, OH on August 17, 2008
When My Six Year Old Son Gets Angry He Said He Wanted to Hurt Himself
My son is 6 1/2 and normally very well behaved, great child with almost no disipline issues. The other day when he wasn't allowed to play with our neighbor friend for the umpthteenth hour he got very angry and said he wanted to hurt himself. This absolutely broke my heart and then he started crying and scracthing at his legs. I was driving and pulled over in a safe place to stop the behavior. My husband and I had a talk with him about never doing that again and that God made him special, and how we can not hurt ourselves.... Yesterday he said the same thing again but didnt actually try and scratch himself. I dont know what to do about this behavior, and he has been fine for the most part besides these outbursts. But it does scare me that he even thinks of that or what the future could hold. How do I handle it? Also I wonder if this has anything to do with changes in his life since he has a new baby sister. He seems to do great with her always giving her kisses, saying how cute she is and smiling and playing with her. What do I do?
R.N. answers from Columbus on August 19, 2008
Honestly you are so kind. My son said and did something basically we called is bluff adn said " Wow that was really not a smart thing to do." No reaction on the face what so ever. the pity party and attnetion he wanted was never given. Later i told him if he ever did it again he would be grounded in his room. End of story no more explination then that and it was never repeated.
S.L. answers from Columbus on August 18, 2008
My son used to have hurt himself when he was angry too. We would talk to him about anger, and that it is normal to be angry sometimes, but that we needed to deal with it in a more healthy way. We created the "magic circle." When he would get upset we would remind him to go to the magic circle which was an imaginary circle maybe just a few steps from where he was actually standing. In the magic circle he closed his eyes and took deep breaths. Pretty soon he was going to "the magic circle" on his own, and then he didn't need it anymore. I believe thatanger is avery scary emotion for kids and they just don't know how to handle it. Hope this helps!
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C.L. answers from Columbus on August 18, 2008
How scary for you, but it's good you caught it now before it develops into more aggressive behavior towards himself. If it just started after he switched sitters, you're probably right in relating it to the change. Have you asked the sitter if he does it at her house? I would ask her also if any other kids might be doing this in her care, because it could be a learned behavior that the's seen another child do while he's there. Hopefully it's just a phase that he'll QUICKLY get past. Definitely talk to him and ask him what makes him want to do this to himself. I'll keep you in my prayers. Good luck.
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M.R. answers from Columbus on August 18, 2008
If he has only done this twice, and the second time he did not scratch himself, he had made progress and your talk had an impact on him. I would not spend too much time struggling with this, just continue to say what you have said and see if he improves. It is not uncommon to feel frustration and try to manipulate a better outcome for yourself in an angry fit, if it never works for him and he is developing normally, he will find that it is an ineffective strategy, and he won't try it again.
You should only really worry if this is a strategy that he tries even thought it does not work and he uses it more than other more effective ones. If he hurts himself over and over, then you should talk to your doctor about an evaluation. But once, is nothing to worry about.
PS medication that causes agitation for children with ADHD needs to be adjusted. It can cause escalation of these behaviors, and any child with such a reaction should be seen by thier doctor imedeatly, and if the doctor does not know what to do, that parent should find a new doctor. That is not an acceptable outcome for ADHD medication, these are some of the most effective medications available, so don't settle for one that has a bad out come, most children with ADHD will need adjustment and change in dosage until the right mix is found.
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B.B. answers from Indianapolis on August 19, 2008
Yes, the new addition to the family could be affecting him greatly. It could be that it was very important to him to be able to play with the neighbor friend, and whether it was rejection (the friend didn't want to play with him) or it just wasn't a good time (dinner time) or for some reason you guys didn't want him playing with the neighbor friend (bad influence?) --- it could be he doesn't really understand what's going on and perceiving it that for some reason it's his fault he can't play with the neighbor friend. There could be a lot going on that he doesn't exactly understand.
A couple things came to mind...let him know it's okay to get angry sometimes, it's the way he deals with it that needs to be addressed. We have a 4 year old daughter that will tell us she's either sad or mad at us for various things - she doesn't want to go inside yet or go to bed yet, whatever. We tell her it's okay to be mad/sad, but it's not okay to have a meltdown about it. We'll tell her we appreciate her letting us know she's upset, and that we understand why she's upset - however, we still need to go inside so we can have dinner - or we still need to go inside and get ready for bed, whatever.
It's really hard to be patient with her sometimes when she gets so upset that we have to go inside or we can't do whatever it is she wants to do. But things do go so much easier when we try very hard to be patient, and get down on her level and say, "Okay...calm down and tell me why you're upset - let's use big girl words..." and try to get to the root of the problem. Depending on what the problem is, sometimes we can negotiate a little...if she wants to go to get "chicken and fries" at CHik-fil-a on Sunday, we have to tell her, "I'm sorry, sweetie - they're closed today. Maybe we can go tomorrow if you're really good, okay?"
We do make sure that she gets to help us with her sister...like "Hey, can you get the sippy cup (or nuk or whaever) off the table? Baby sister really needs it." And then give her a big "Thank you so much! That was a BIG HELP!!"
I also make sure everyday when we turn out the lights for night-night that I tell her good things she did that day, like "Hey, you did a good job today helping mommy with the laundry, and I really liked it when you helped me change your baby sister's diaper; you were a big help!" Her face always lights up when I do that.
Just a few thoughts...
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D.R. answers from Fort Wayne on August 18, 2008
The poor littly guy--he loves his family--even the little sister who took so much of everyones attention--he is loving and mature enough to know he can't take out his frustration on his sister, but still feels the anxiety , anger and jealousy just doesn't know what to do with all that emotion. It probably won't help to ask him--he may not be even be able to verbally express what he feels! Let him know it is OKAY to feel his feelings of anger, jealousy, sadness etc, that you have all been through a lot--but it is NEVER okay to hurt anyone-- including himself.Then help him find ways to express his feelings. I went through this with my grandson--we had a great time punching pillows in his room as a way to express his anger. After that if he started doing being aggressive to others, to himself or throwing a tantrum I would tell him to go to his room and express his anger there. He would stomp to his room punch a pillow and then come out just fine! he may also being feeling a need to be away from sister --thus wanting to be with his neighbor friends--make sure you and Dad spend some alone time with him without baby sister always being there. Of course, if things get worse then family counseling would be a good idea. I personally do not feel taking a child to a counseler/pschyologist as if they alone are the problem is not helpful--the whole family is involved so someone who will work with you, DAd and him together would be best if it comes to that. Congratulations to you on your new baby and to him for being a wonderful big brother!
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C.P. answers from Indianapolis on August 19, 2008
I would keep a close eye on him, but try not to overreact. He knows he is getting all the attention when he does that. If it worked the first time, it will probably work again.
K.V. answers from Indianapolis on August 18, 2008
Is your son on any medication? I have a friend with a son who was on medication for ADHD. I don't know what the med was, but when he would get angry would say things like that. He would also go into angry fits. I do think part of the problem could be the younger sister issue, and that maybe he reacts so "lovingly" towards her because that's how the parents act. My son was 5 when my daughter was born, and she spent her first week in the NICU. He wasn't allowed to visit her in there except the first day, but allowing him to be active in helping to take care of her when we came home seemed to help.
N.N. answers from Columbus on August 19, 2008
I wouldn't worry too much about it. When frustrated, kids do funny things, some bite themselves also. When they realize that it gets them attention, they keep doing it just for the attention. When you are angry it feels good to lash out, even if it is just at yourself. The clenching of muscles is a normal biological reaction; when you're already all clenched up the next step is to lash out. Try giving him an acceptable way to use his "angry energy." Or teach him how to relax the "angry energy" away. Good luck.