How to Deal with My Grandson's Anger Outbreaks.

Updated on October 18, 2010
C.S. asks from Marshall, WI
14 answers

My grandson is 8 years old and has been experiencing physical anger issues for some time now. It has escalated to the point of choking another child while having a disageement over a soccer game. This is not the first time that he has exhibited this choking behavior. He is perfectly fine and can be loving and easy going for days and then all it takes is someone saying no to him or a disagreement with a child that he is playing with and he becomes very physical, intimidating and agressive. When his father, my son, diciplines him he also becomes very physical and abusive to him also. He has been grounded with things taken away from him and he knows that what he did was wrong but yet it happens again days later. People tell us that he has bipolar symptoms and some suggest AD/HD and everyone seems to have an opinion. From what I know of bipolar symptoms, there should be signs of depression but yet I have never seen any signs of depression. He loves baseball and football and is always talking about sports but never really seems down or depressed. My son is at his wits end and hase made an appointment with a child physcologist. My son is afraid that he will be put on some form of medication and become a "zombie" but I keep trying to reassure him that this won't happen. Any advice????

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So What Happened?

Since I posted this "dilemma" a real serious outbreak happened again.But first let me add some more info on background. My son is a single father ( he has custody of his son all week) and he goes to his mother's house on the weekends(not always). My son has a fiance living with him and she has 2 children, 1 girl @9 yrs old and a son @7 years old. My gson really does get along with both children and when he is in his normal mood seems to really like her. I know for sure that there is no physical abuse toward the gson by my son and there is a lot of affection openly displayed in their house as well as ours. He really spends a lot of time with him in baseball and soccer and they love watching football together. There has been times when he is at his mother's house that he has been so uncontrollable that his mother has called my son to come and get him because she can't handle him. She is also in fear of what he would do to her son who is 2 years younger than my gson. He has "attacked" him at times too. Today they were going to the apple orchard to pick apples and my gson did not like the seating arrangement in the back seat so he just "head butted" the other boy and that's when the trouble started again. An appointment was made last week but he can't get in to see the doctor till the beginning of November!!!He needs help now and we are all just getting so frustrated. We also just found out today that his uncle, his mother's brother was just diagnosed with bipolar. My son is going to be on the phone all day tomorrow to see if he can get someone to see him sooner. His punishment for his actions is to be excluded from any activities that involve other children and the tv gets taken away. He always says that he is sorry after the fact but my son doesn't think that his apologies are sincere. My only hope right now is that he can have good luck in finding someone who can see him before any more "damage" is done. Thanx for listening(reading) it feels good just to be able to vent

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answers from New York on

It sound like he needs counseling for anger management more than medication. An experienced child psychologist should be able to do that.

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answers from St. Louis on

treatment for this....hopefully....will be thru behavior modification. He will be taught to recognize trigger points & how to work thru the issues. & even if he's put on meds, he should still be taught these all-important coping skills.

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answers from Portland on

There are at least 2 forms of bi-polar disorder. Depression symptoms are not necessary to have a form of bi-polar disorder.

He may not be bi-polar at all but may be responding to unresolved angry feelings. Has he been taught how to recognize when he's angry and how to manage those feelings. He may stuff his negative feelings and then they come out all at once in a big rush. This is not a mental illness. Managing our anger is a skill to be learned.

I think his father has made the right decision to take him to a child psychologist for an evaluation. If your grandson has other developmental issues a developmental pediatrician is the right one for an evaluation.

My grandson erupts and hurts people in similar ways to the way you describe your grandson. He's been suspended from school several times because he hits, kicks, and spits at kids and adults. He's immature in several ways including socially. He's 7 and has difficulty speaking so that others can understand what he's saying. He has difficulty focusing on school work and staying in his chair tho he can play for hours with Tech Deck Dudes or Bakugans. He wants hard touches. Evaluation has shown that he has some poor muscle tone which isn't obvious when we look at him. He runs into things and seems awkward in some ways that he moves.

His mother took him to his pediatrician who did evaluate him with ADHD but said something else was also going on and referred him to a developmental pediatrician. He's now had additional speech and occupational evaluations as well as a neurological evaluation.

He is taking medication for ADHD which seems to be helping some. He is NOT a zombie on it. In fact the only difference that I can see is that he's calmer some of the time. He's still very energetic most of the time.
His mother delayed giving him meds for a couple of years after his doctor recommended trying them.
Evaluation is an important first step. The longer that his inappropriate expression of anger is allowed to continue the more difficult his life will be and the harder it will be for him to learn how to manage it. You want him to be in control of his feelings before he becomes a teen. There are two obvious reasons for wanting this. As a teen he can more seriously hurt others as well as be more harshly treated by law enforcement. The other is he will have access to drugs and could decide to try self-medication to deal with his pain.

Remind your son that he is still the one who decides what to do for his son. The professionals assess and make recommendations. His father chooses what he will do.

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answers from Sacramento on

My friend had this happen to her and her child...............and let me tell you she is a loving mom and they are a normal family.
Having said that.............she took him to counseling. He is fine.
NO meds. So take him to a counselor and it will probably work out.
Esp w/o meds first. He is 6 and it's much better now.

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answers from Los Angeles on

It wasn't clear to me from reading this that the father is physically abusive to his son. What I read suggested that the son is inappropriately physically abusive to his father. The fact that the father is willing to take his son to a child psychologist indicates that he knows he needs help in learning how to discipline his son, how to parent his son.
I'll also point out, though I hope it's obvious,
saying a child KNOWS that what he did was wrong
in no way suggests that the child has learned ways
to act/react in different ways in the future.
I'm in my late 60s and KNOW lots of stuff
but that is no help when I am in a reactive mode.

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answers from Atlanta on

Well, first of all, it's GREAT he's seeking psychological help. A psychologist cannot prescribe meds, but may refer them to a child psychiatrist if he/she feels there is a need for further evaluation and possible meds. IF he is bipolar, it's VERY NECESSARY he take medication, but maybe he's not. It's just a really good thing that he is seeking help. Please urge your son (although I know it's hard when he's frustrated) to do some counseling sessions with the psychologist about how to handle his son.

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answers from Chicago on

I have experienced some similarities with my son who is now older. The medication, when correct, or the perfect combination of meds will not make my son or anyone a 'zombie' it will help level their anger, and focus. I wish you can encourage this now. I am dealing with a twenty year old who yes is really a wonderful person, people love him, but he gets very impulsive, doesn't think things through. He up and quit his job this weekend (now of course lots of us have done that) but he has done things like this that really only hurt himself. He does not want to take the medication so he doesn't see how helpful it was when he was taking it. I am thinking if the child starts when he is younger he will know to continue it unless things change or designated by the doctor. My son simply decided no more meds and is clearly not handling things very well. He did look like a zombie when he was taking the wrong meds, but when he was taking the right ones he looked fine.There is too much to tell here, but feel free to privately write me. I also encourage your son and must do this myself more, contact NAMI.

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answers from Chicago on

I think you are heading in the right direction with professional help. Psychologists, for the most part, do not prescribe medication. Usually with some exception that is left to a psychiatrist or other medical doctor. I would never think of "diagnosing" based on your paragraph. I only want to share that depression can manifest in behavior other than weepy and sad characteristics. Often anxiety and anger can be part of it. I hope this professional helps your grandson. I can only imagine how tough it is to be 8 and be filled with such strong emotion. I have a tough time being a passionate adult. I hope he finds peace.

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answers from Portland on

The son is doing what his father does – trying to get his way through force and intimidation. Kids learn what they see demonstrated far more effectively than what they hear preached. If there's a cognitive dissonance between the two, it can create a child who's something of an emotional wishbone, pulled in two directions at once. Confusing, to say the least.

Recent research confirms that children who are punished by spanking or other forms of physical force are more aggressive, as a group, than those who are not. There's wide variation within the group, of course. It sounds like your grandson has landed at the more extreme end of the spectrum.

I hope you'll look up Emotion Coaching, and investigate some of the excellent books that show more respectful alternatives for teaching children correct behavior. But if this boy's father isn't willing to change his approach, his son may not be able to, either, without professional intervention.

My best to you all.

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answers from Minneapolis on

Another thing to check on is whether he is sleeping enough and getting the right kind of sleep. Sleep disorders can have a severe effect on emotional health and behavior. If my son is even short an hour of sleep, he will react very differently (hitting, kicking, etc) than if he is well rested (able to articulate feelings and can problem solve).

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answers from Chicago on

My daughter had periods of violence that got worse with age, and seemed to revolve around certain times of the year as well. I would have your son take him to the pediatrician and ask for them to do some tests for physical things that can cause these issues. Often, a simple infection like a Urinary Tract Infection or Strep can cause these issues without any other outward symptoms.

Have them run tests for heavy metals (a urine test AND blood work for lead)
A strep test (a rapid test and a 72 hour culture)
A urine test for UTI
Hormone tests (blood test) to see if his testosterone is high

Going to a counselor is a great idea- it can help you both get a handle on things while you look into other avenues too.

My daughter has a disorder that causes her to respond to strep- it literally makes her brain-stem swell. If you search PANDAS + strep you can view the symptoms, or go to this site:

you can read more about my story on my blog too:

Some of the symptoms are:
OCD behaviors (being extra picky)
Sensory (doesn't like tags, wont' eat mushy foods, for example)
Fears of irrational things like choking
Trouble going to sleep at night
Not ever seeming to get sick OR getting extra sick w/simple colds
Mood swings
Changes in handwriting
Enlarged pupils
Seeming to "zone out"
Bed or day-wetting after potty training
Tics/Tourette's (my daughter's seemed like allergies- sniffing, clearing throat, tugging at ears, and later an eye-blink and a slight finger-flicking movement. She later progressed to shoulder shrugging.)

I hope this helps. If you have any questions at all, let me know. You may also want to see a Pediatric Neurologist to help rule out petit mal seizures (little ones that you can't really "see") and just to make sure everything is okay physically in the brain too. We saw Dr. Sperry at the Children's Hospital in Winfield- he is EXCELLENT!

Again, if you have questions about doctors, tests, etc, please do message me. We have been through this for years and have managed to do it mostly without pysch meds (we tried for a short time, but it made things worse.)

As you can see, if you look at my blog, we do a lot with diet changes too. Red #40 and Yellow #5 food coloring can make children react aggressively, especially. Sometimes dairy and gluten also, and other food sensitivities. These can stay in the body for up to 10 days sometimes.


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answers from Chicago on

Look into Feingold diet and see if that can help. If he drinks a lot of pop and eats a lot of candy or premade things, this could be his issue. Please look it up, much better than being diagnosed with Bipolar. Trust me...that ruins a lot of your life, and at 8, you don't want that.



answers from Chicago on

Forget the psychologist, get him to a child psychiatrist. If you have a Children's Memorial Hospital by you then get a recommendation from them. Be very careful who you choose, there are a lot of "questionable" ones out there, which is really sad to say.



answers from Chicago on

Well one thing you said was that your son when he disciplines your grandchild at times is physical and abusive. Maybe your grandson is taking out his anger at his father being abusive on others that he can intimidate. Yes, take him to a doctor and be honest about what is happening, your son needs to be honest about his how he disciplines him. As far as symptoms of being bipolar not all bipolar people experience the depression and depression looks different in different people. Whatever your son does he need to make sure he understands what the doctor is saying and he needs to make sure he stops his physical abusive behavior towards his son. You might find that once he stops the behavior stops in his son. Stay prayerful as all grandmothers do and keep the lines of communication open with your grandson. sometimes it is easier to talk to granny about how you feel than it is to talk to your parents. What does his mother think?

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