My Son Is A Jekyl & Hyde!
(Daytona Beach, FL)
I am completely at a loss and am looking for advice from anyone who can help me with my child. He turns 5 in January and started a VPK program in August.
For the first month, he was doing wonderfully. He loved his class, his teacher, and the students. Then, for two weeks, he started having these massive tantrums, one of which resulted in him throwing chairs in his classroom. He also scratched his teacher and teacher's aide, when they tried to physically restrain him.
The fits would last about 15-30 minutes and once he snapped out of them, he was a perfect little angel again. He really had no memory of the damage he did to the classroom or that he injured his teacher. I punished him with spankings and removal of his favorite toys. I also tried to spend as much one-on-one time with him as I could, constantly hugging him and telling him I love him.
Everything was fine for over two months, so the school and myself thought it was just a transition phase. But for the past two weeks, the behavior returned. He would have fits of anger, yelling at the teacher, calling her names and telling her she was stupid. She tried to restrain him and he tried to bite her and beat his head against her chest in an attempt to free from her grasp.
He has also taken all of the toys in the classroom and dumped them in a pile on the floor. He appears to blackout during these episodes and his reasons for getting angry are not rational, but he is EXTREMELY apologetic afterward.
We have discussed his behavior many times and he says he will be good, but then something triggers it. He is a truly kind soul, and I don't believe his behavior is intentionally malicious, nor is it pre-meditated.
He is a leader and is very intelligent. He obviously cannot deal with his anger on his own, and I have tried everything--punishment, rewards, spanking, removal of toys--and nothing seems to work.
Response from Dr. DeFoore
Hello Christy, and thanks for telling your story here. Your situation sounds unique in some ways, though not unfamiliar to me. I'll try to help.
First of all, your son is not a Jekyll and Hyde. All of his behavior makes sense, and I'll try to help you find the meaning of it so that you can help him.
It is apparent that you are a good, caring mother, and an intelligent person. Your approach sounds good, but I would need to know more about the specifics of the spankings to know for sure. One consideration is that if you're spanking your son at home for what he is doing in school, that will not help. The consequences need to be closer to the behavior. He will associate the spankings with being at home with you, while it sounds like the problems are at school.
If I were working with your son, I would be using family therapy. I would encourage you and your husband to be sure that you have explored and told your own personal stories--that is significant emotional experiences you have had in your past, especially childhood. The reason for this is that sometimes children "act out the untold stories" of their parents. It kind of sounds like that might be happening with your son, but there's no way for me to know for sure.
Use the journaling processes on this page to help you tell your story, and clear any emotional baggage you or your husband may have.
Also, if there is unresolved tension or conflict between you and your husband, your son may be acting that out. Marriage counseling would be a good way to explore this, if you have any doubts.
Finally, use the positive journaling exercises (see link above) to focus on the good in you, your son and your life in general. Focus on the strengths of your son, his school and the teachers. Every time you think of your son, picture him happy, healthy, strong and functioning well. This is a powerful exercise, and it takes the place of the automatic fear thoughts that come up when you're having the kind of problems you are having.
I also strongly encourage you to check out the audio program below. You can listen to free previews right away, and get your copy through download or buying the CD.
Let me know if I can answer any further questions.
You can do this, Christy. Your son is healthy, and his anger has a message. When you understand and respond to the message of his anger, it will subside.
My very best to you,
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