What to do when 9 yr old ODD boy escalates to hitting?

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by CuddlingACactus, Sep 18, 2009.

  1. CuddlingACactus

    CuddlingACactus New Member

    Hi all,

    When I am tired and have no patience for all the little tricks and mental maneuvers we parents have to make to get what we need from our ODD's all the while avoiding a power struggle, and I let an issue escalate...well, what do I do once the little dude hits me, kicks me, etc.? My routine isn't working to keep him from getting physical the next time we have a disagreement...suggestions on how to handle wanted. Also, do we ever get to just tell them what we need them to do, and have them do just do it?


    Must I Cuddle A Cactus? ;)
  2. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    Hi and welcome. :tongue:

    First off, most of us here don't believe there IS just an ODD diagnosis. The general consensus is that it's not a helpful diagnosis and that it is caused by another diagnosis, such as a childhood emerging mood disorder or a form of high functioning autism or Tourette's Syndrome etc. but it doesn't stand alone. Therefore just expecting ODD to get better, in the opinion of most of us, won't work until you get to the crux of the problem.

    Many of us, me included, feel that a neuropsychologist evaluation is a good way to get an across-the-board accurate diagnosis. ODD is usually from a therapist, rarely from one who does any sort of testing.

    Even the Big Cheese of ODD, Dr. Chandler himself, believes ODD almost never stands alone. So part of the reason he is continuing to be nonstop defiant is likely because something else is going on and it's not being treated the right way. So first off, I suggest a neuropsychologist evaluation.

    Secondly, you may want to pick up a copy of "The Explosive Child" by Ross Greene, a lifesaver for many of us during our most trying times. In a word, these kids are wired differently and just telling them point plank what to do is going to get you an automatic "No." They require creative parenting, depending on what else is going on. It's hard to tell you exactly what to do to make it better. My son got MUCH better after he was rightly diagnosed and treated.

    You may want to tell us if there are any psychiatric disorders on either side of his biological tree. Also, let us know how his early development was--speech, eye contact, social interaction with same age peers from little on, pottying, any obsessions, any quirks. Does he seem kind of clueless about life?

    Welcome! Others will come along.
  3. CuddlingACactus

    CuddlingACactus New Member

    Thanks for the Welcome!

    Yes, he has also been diagnosed with- ADHD. He was born drug addicted, and spent the first 6 years of his life back and forth between mom (addict) and dad (addict and jail frequenter) and a loving grandmother. He has many memories of great times with- mom and or dad, but I also know of some awful stuff he was witness to, forced to be part of, and victim to. His paternal grandmother had guardianship of him, and she is super loving...but she is elderly, her husband had alzheimers and was injuring my "difficult child", couldn't drive (so he missed a lot of school), and is also from Sicily and still doesn't speak/read English well enough to help him with- schoolwork, he was stuck in an apt and so we can all imagine the kind of outbursts that were happening being cooped up etc etc. So, bless her heart, he was removed from her care. Which is where I came in, he was 6 and came to live with- his maternal uncle and me in 2007. Mom died in Dec '07, and dad went back to jail again.

    He had the ADHD and ODD diagnoses when he came to us, nothing else abnormal about him. Truthfully, I ignored the ODD diagnosis until about 3 wks ago when his new psychiatric asked me if he had ever had an ODD diagnosis. I guess I didn't want to believe it. But my ex (his maternal uncle) and I split over the summer which caused my difficult child major anxiety etc and shot his behaviors through the roof. (by the way My ex was just diagnosed with- Bipolar 6 wks ago. He was major manic this summer.) Also, dad got out of jail last month, difficult child went to visit him, they had a great time and now he misses his mom and dad deeply. So that's the history till now... We do see a psychiatrist once a month and therapist every other week.

    He's mostly a joy; funny, super cuddly, loving, clever, fun to hang with, very smart etc. But of course, he thinks he's an equal with- me, and getting what I need out of him (dressed in the morning, homework done, shower taken, etc) takes, as you said, "creative parenting". Somedays I'm exhausted and don't have it in me, which is when things always go pear shaped. Of course, I realize in hindsight what I should have done...but by that time, he's kicking/hitting calling me names, etc.

    Thank you for the book recommendation. I have this on my library list...which should arrive midweek.

    But until then, I'm just wondering if anyone has any thoughts on what to do once he does get to the hitting phase?

    I say to him "hitting etc is unnacceptable", but it's what he goes straight to when we have an argument and he doesn't care what the consequences will be. How do I deal with- that? I adore him, but when he hits/kicks me I just want to slap him really really hard (Sorry, but it's the truth. Don't worry though I've never done it.). It takes all I have to ignore it, and he goes crazy when I restrain him. I have bruises up and down my body from the last few months.

    ugghh, help. Sorry for the length of the text. And thanks again!
  4. RWHangel

    RWHangel New Member

    I also wanted to welcome you though I am new myself I understand what you are going through and I totally agree. ODD almost never stands alone. My precious little devil was diagnosis with ADHD and mood disorder not otherwise specified way before the ODD came into the picture. She is 6 and does the same thing. Hits bites kicks can't be told to do anything like a normal kid she just flat out wont do it then gets mad and starts her fit. My advice is the same get an actual neuropsychologist evaluation to help you determine what the heck is really going on. As for the explosions I have actually had to restrain my little one (who isn't so little) to keep her from harming me or herself. It is rough and trying but they are ours for a reason. God trusts that we can handle it and will do the best we can by them. Will you ever be able to just tell them to do something and they do it well if you ever find the magic words to get that to happen I am sure alot of us would love to know too....LOL. Hold on keep talking and you will get some great advice here. I already have.
  5. Christy

    Christy New Member

    I understand what you are saying. Every time I read a book such as the Explosive Child that outlines all the things you can do to avoid getting to the hitting and kicking stage. I would wonder what does the expert suggest that you do in the midst of a violent meltdown? This is seldom addressed in the parenting books that I've come across. Let's assume you have the proper diagnosis and are engaging in all the proper treatments and parenting techniques, meltdowns still happen! My question is always something like, "what do you do when you set limits and say no to a toy in the cereal aisle and difficult child slams the cart into you and begins to kick you in the shins?" The answer you will most likely get from an therapist or parenting expert is something like, "Little Joey is too overstimulated by the grocery store, avoid taking him there." or "Set the expectation ahead of time, explain that you are not going to be buying toys, but only groceries, and offer a reward such as a pack of gum at the checkout if he does well in the store." Both of these answers are good advice but they don't answer the question of what to do in the middle of a meltdown. As a mom who has survived many violent meltdowns in public and at home, here's what I do to survive...

    Keep you cell phone in your pocket or clipped to your body at all times.

    In public if my son starts to meltdown, we stop what we are doing and get out of the situation as quickly as possible. This might mean abandoning the grocery cart in the middle of the aisle, putting my arm around him and quickly escorting him out of the store. I do not try to engage him in any conversation at this point. I quickly look for the safest area for him to calm down such as the restroom hallway of the store, a grassy area on the side on the parking lot, a bench, etc... I keep very close to him and will hold or restrain him if necessary. I don't discuss consequences until we are home and safe.

    When driving (make certain child locks are engaged), if he is kicking the window, throwing things at me, trying to get out of the moving vehicle, I find the safest place to pull over. Jump over the seat and get in the back with him. I keep my hands on him if he is trying to exit the van and state that I will not drive until he is safe. If he does not regain control, I call 911 (I have done this before so difficult child knows that I am serious). Once he has calmed down, I remove anything that can be thrown at me including his shoes before attempting to drive again. If possible, I may choose to take back roads instead of a highway in case things escalate again.

    At home, we have established a few safe areas where difficult child can go to calm down. He has a quiet corner in his room with pillows and a weighted lap blanket and there is a safe comfort area in the family room as well. That said, rarely when difficult child is enraged will he willingly go to his quiet area, use his coping strategies, etc.. It often requires some physical intervention such as putting my arms around him and escorting him to the closest safe spot. Many experts will tell you to give your child "some space" to calm down and leave him alone. I do not do this because my child is too unsafe and destructive when angry. I may sit in the doorway of his room or closeby and offer to give him more space as long as he is safe. He has had unstable periods in the past where everything but his mattress and bedding had to be removed from his room in order to keep him from destroying things in anger. His room is now back together again and he no longer destroys it because he missed having his things and knows we will strip his room again if necessary.

    When difficult child is attacking me, I restrain him. I have had some training in a few basic restraint holds, enough to keep from injuring difficult child and to keep myself safe. I tell difficult child that I will let him go the second he stops and is safe. I then escort him to safe area and give him as much space as he can handle. Many people will tell you never to go hands-on and to call the police at the first sign of violence. We have had police involvement and they have been helpful during some difficult situations but they can not arrive instantaneously and you will suffer a lot of destruction while waiting. My son was also a runner and one point in time and he would flee before the police arrived creating another unsafe situation.

    Developing survival strategies to make it through a meltdown is necessary but if the intensity and frequency of the meltdowns is increasing, you will need to move to the next level of intervention. It may be beginning or changing medications, it may be an emergency room psychiatric evaluation and a short term hospitalization, it may be seeking out additional support or services in the community.

    While I am sorry you are struggling with this, I hope it comforts you to know that you are not alone. I wish you the best as you seek help for your son.

  6. graceupongrace

    graceupongrace New Member

    Welcome, CaC.

    You're not alone. This topic can be hard to talk about, but many (if not most) of us have experienced this. Your son is so fortunate to have you after all he's been through!

    Is he on any medications? I have lived through violent episodes from time to time over the years, and they usually have been helped with a medication adjustment (increase in dosage or change in medications). It is helpful to keep a log of these behaviors and what triggers them (if you can tell) so you can communicate with your psychiatrist and therapist. And if you haven't mentioned your ex's bipolar diagnosis to your psychiatrist, please do. Bipolar tends to run in families. Also, symptoms overlap, evolve and emerge over time, especially with kids so young.

    I wish I had a great answer for stopping a meltdown, but I don't. The best thing for me has been to walk away (when I can -- difficult child has often pursued me). You're right to pull over and call 911 if it occurs in the car. I once pulled into a nearby fire station for help.

    Just know that you have a lot of help here, and no one will think you're crazy, uncaring or a bad parent.

  7. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    Poor little guy. I adopted a child who was exposed to drugs/alcohol in utero and that alone can cause many behavioral/neurological/learning problems. My son came to us at two and could get very violent (he is docile now...yes docile!!!). How old was your son when you got him? Is he adopted?

    How does he do at school? Does he seem to know right from wrong or not get it? Sadly, he could be alcohol affected and alcohol spectrum means organic brain damage, which means he can't really help how he behaves.

    I would definitely get him thoroughly assessed. On top of everything else he could have some attachment issues which makes kids violent. With all the stuff going on in the bio. family, I think he needs a neuropsychologist evaluation but also a neurological evaluation (no, they are not the same thing). A child with his background is going to exhibit ODD behavior and it is likely that he is more than just ADHD/ODD. If he is on stimulants, with some disorders that just makes the kids more violent as they ARE speed and only bonafide ADHD responds to it.

    When we adopted our son, we took him to a fantastic clinic in Chicago that deals with drug/alcohol affected kids as an extra precaution. We wanted to make sure we caught EVERYTHING. My son really dodged a deadly bullet because he has no symptoms of alcohol spectrum disorder and he was certainly exposed. However, he IS on the autism spectrum (his first diagnosis. was ADHD/ODD). Many drug affected kids are on the Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) spectrum, but I really believe that with all the stuff in your little guy's background history AND genetics, he will be hard to diagnose and stabilize. Still, you need to keep trying to figure him out.

    I wish you tons of luck. We have had a happy ending. My son is doing great and it sure didn't start out that way. He did get a ton of interventions starting really young. Good luck!
  8. TPaul

    TPaul Idecor8

    We have been lucky that our 11 year old son, had not began to become physical with us, but there are times he becomes so with on of his siblings. Quick intervention has kept anything major from happening thus far. We do worry that he has become much quicker to show a physical threat during what I feel are his manic periods. He is not bipolar diagnosed thus far, but I have very little doubt that the ODD and bipolar are not hand in hand within him.

    We are hoping to have him evaluated by a physician soon and maybe even on medications, we can hope, I think, :)

    Hang on,
  9. TerryJ2

    TerryJ2 Well-Known Member

    Hi Cactus, welcome.

    My son has no prenatal drug issues but he has escalated to physical violence in the past. I unwittingly provoked him at times simply by not letting up. I thought that if I stood my ground and yelled as loudly as he did, it would help. It didn't.
    Now I stand my ground but I keep my voice well modulated, as he is very sensitive to noise, and he hates it if I yell from another room. Also, I give him physical space, and do not go up and grab his arm, for example. I stay a couple of feet away and make eye contact. If his ears and cheeks turn red and he starts tapping his foot, I know he's escalating and I leave the room, come back in a couple of minutes, and try again.
    You have to learn the signs. Watch his skin color, listen to his breathing, look at his pupils to see whether they are dilated.
    In regard to hitting back, by nine most kids are big enough to inflict a lot of damage, so I would avoid a physical confrontation at all costs. One thing we learned to do was talk about escalation at the therapist's office, and then the next time it happened, my son and I played our new "roles" and boy, it was hard but it helped a lot. The more you practice, the easier it becomes. I even had my son thank me one time. I remember he had me backed up against a wall and I was getting claustrophobic and angry but I stood there and waited for him to finish his verbal tirade and he finally backed away. After he thanked me, I told him that it really bothered me when he got that close and screamed at me and that I didn't know if I could restrain myself again. It was a very good exchange. Again, the more often you can do that, and talk it out, the easier it will become.

    If you're in the middle of a kicking, hissing, spitting, flailing Tasmanian devil episode, I would leave the room. Just make sure there's nothing there he can hurt himself with. We kept all of our knives in drawers until about 3 yrs ago. We also had to lock all the closet dowels, baseball bats and stray pcs of wood up in the garage.

    I hope that helps!