Can't get started with our 10 year old son

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by NJDad, Jan 9, 2011.

  1. NJDad

    NJDad Guest

    Hello Everyone and thank you for taking the time to read this.

    I have a ten year old son who has displayed violent, abusive and destructive behavior towards my wife and I as well both of his brothers.

    I wish I could be more specific, but I can't-there lies the problem.

    Our Pediatrician suggested that the first course of action should be a complete neurological examination. My son refuses to go. Now I know I can make demands,ultimatums, etc and force him to go, but I don't think that's the answer. Drawing a line in the sand on escalates the hostility and the behavior, which is damaging the whole family and my marriage.

    Can any of you suggest some ideas or strategies to get him to take the first step?

    I'm not saying this to brag, but he's a very intelligent kid. An "A" student and a very good little athlete. I think on some level, he knows something is wrong, but is afraid or angry to find out what it might be.

    If you have any thoughts or ideas, please respond. I feel like I'm sitting here doing nothing but watch my family and my marriage crumble. Thanks for reading
  2. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    You are the parent, you can insist. However, I do understand the problems of having to deal with a very controlling, very bright child.

    First step - get hold of "The Explosive Child" by Ross Greene. It will help.

    Second step - you need to be able to explain to him that this is going to happen, this is necessary. A neuropsychologist exam is important because it can also help assess how gifted he is and the results can then be used to get him into acceleration programs tat he might find very desirable.

    So don't focus on his bad behaviour - focus on what he can get out of cooperation.

    A final course of action (which you can also use as a first course of action) - take yourself off to see a therapist, without your son. Talk through the problems and work up some management strategies, even if the kid is not there at these appointments.

  3. shellyd67

    shellyd67 Active Member

    Hi NJ Dad and welcome to the forum. I have been where you are a few short years ago. I also have a 10 year old son who has displayed those behaviors. First off, you MUST have him evaluated by a neuropyschologist regardless of whether he wants to go or not. My husband and I had to force our son while he kicked and screamed the whole time. In the meantime pick up a copy of the book "The Explosive Child " by Ross Greene. Many of us swear by it. Having a difficult child can definetly put strain on the strongest of marriages but you and your spouse need to be on the same page. There a alot of parents on this forum who have so much knowledge and experience that will give you advice and support. Please list some more info on your son, ie. speech delays if any, social interactions, etc .... Welcome and I hope things get better for you and your family.
  4. slsh

    slsh member since 1999

    Hi Dad and welcome.

    First off, I think it's very positive that he's doing so well in school and athletics. That is a very hopeful sign, in my humble opinion.

    While I understand the dilemma of ultimatums and line-in-sand-drawing provoking defiance, the bottom line is that this is a 10-year-old *boy* who is being violent toward his family members. Whether or not he is evaluated is a decision you and your wife, as his responsible parents, must make. Certainly his cooperation would be more than helpful, but ... as the mother of a child who was incredibly violent for years, I feel very *very* strongly about a zero tolerance for violence in the home. You and your wife do have an obligation to protect his siblings, as well as yourselves. The damage a violent/aggressive sibling can cause to other sibs in the household is significant.

    If a carrot approach (aka bribery) would work, I'd go for it. If reasoning is possible, I would explain that the behaviors he is exhibiting at home are having a negative impact on 4 other people and it's time to find out if there is something that can be done to help him control his behaviors. In essence, by making home life unsafe, he actually has already made the choice to have further evaluations. But bottom line, the evaluation needs to be undertaken regardless of whether or not he agrees.

    You cannot allow your marriage and your family life to be held hostage by a violent 10-year-old. Your other children have an absolute right to live in a safe home. Realistically, what is the alternative? What will be *your* line in the sand for forcing evaluation/treatment?

    Just my opinion - again, our family dealt with violence, destruction, and aggression for years from our difficult child, and I feel that while we did address it quickly, my other children were exposed to way too much of it. Hindsight being 20/20, I would have been much more proactive in keeping them away from the violence (and verbal aggression is just as harmful to sibs as physical violence, in my humble opinion).

    Again, welcome and I'm glad you found us.
  5. DDD

    DDD Well-Known Member

    Welcome. Glad you found us but sorry you needed to. It's a difficult road but you all can survive.

    First, and foremost, where do you and your wife agree? Do you both agree that an evaluation is needed? Do you both agree that you will schedule it and get him there? Can you discuss what method both of you can agree to for accomplishing this goal?

    Obviously he can not be the one who decides. That empowers him. That makes him confident that he the ruling force in the family and can dictate to everyone..perhaps even encourages the concept of more violence to make sure that you all do as he wants and says. Can't happen.

    Agree on that one thing with your spouse. Then go for it. If bribery is necessary. Oh, well. Is bribery good? Of course not. It is imperative that you all know his strengths and weaknesses. Perhaps he thinks he will be given physical tests. There are no physical aspects. on the other hand, he will learn how smart he is. That should appeal to his ego. Play it however you both agree it can be played and do not get into long drawn out conversations about it. It just is going to happen.

    Does your family have a history of troubled behavior? Is he a biological son? Sometimes the past gives clues to the present.

    On a sincere sympathetic note, I am sorry you are facing this. It is not your fault. It is not your wife's fault. Anything that either of you has done or said in the past did not cause this degree of trouble. Get together as a parental unit to identify the issues and then you'll be on the way to trying for some resolutions. You can do it! We are all rooting for you.
  6. NJDad

    NJDad Guest

    Hello and thanks to all of you for responding. Message received regarding the neurological exam. We will get that done, even if some bribery is needed. As far as background goes, outside of the home he is a little shy but has lots of friends. If we told some of the parents of the kids he hangs around with about this they would think we are crazy!! He's an angel in public, but home is a different story. The only medical issue he has ever had besides the standard colds, etc. is heart surgery when he was two days old. He is in perfect health now, but limited in terms of contact sports such as football and heavy weight lifting when he gets older. That's about it. He is a completely different person in public.

    My wife and I are so lost right now, it's hard to say what we agree or disagree on--we are open to anything. That's why hearing from great people like you is so helpful. Thank you so much!
  7. HaoZi

    HaoZi Guest

    I can also promise you that NOT getting that evaluation will eventually cause a lot more damage to everyone. You were lucky to get a doctor with that as a first step, both of my kid's doctors have flat refused to give her the referral, even after a week spent in a psychiatric hospital that also didn't give her the referral. I finally made a call and got the referral from the insurance company directly. A lot of neuropsychs also have a long waiting list, and the sooner you get him in the better off everyone will be. If you have to bribe, appeal to his ego, or even have him transported by police or ambulance to get him evaluated, by all means do it. He won't get better on his own - he will get bigger and stronger and harder to maintain and handle. Better one meltdown getting him there than the continuous punishment he will put everyone else through, including himself, even if he doesn't realize it right now. If you feel it's best to pack him in the car and not tell him where you're going (I suggest you get a sitter for the others and have one adult in the backseat with him) then do it that way.
  8. NJDad

    NJDad Guest

    Thank you for your responses.

    Message received. We will get the neurological exam completed one way or the other. My wife and I are so lost right now it's hard to say what we agree or disagree on regarding treatment. We both know that we love our son very much and failure is not an option.

    You provided us with a great start. Thank you again
  9. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    To ensure you and your wife are working as a team on this, get her to read this thread and to lurk/post here. My husband and I are already a good team, but when I began posting here, he began lurking to read what I wrote. We would then discuss these things when we had the chance. You would think we had already talked it through - and we had - but there is something in writing it down in a place like this that condenses your thoughts on the topic and can sometimes make them more easily understood. It's also often easier to read a post (in one chunk) than to try to communicate in the midst of tantrums and distractions. My husband is now a member here although he doesn't post very often. His handle is "Marg's Man".

    You talk about not wanting to draw a line in the sand with him - the thing is, your son has already drawn a line in the sand by getting violent with you and your wife.

    Another thought which has been bugging me since I read your first post - I think it is imperative you have him evaluated for Asperger's. When you added in your second post that he is shy with others outside the home and his behaviour outside the home is very different, that also would fit.

    Asperger's would not necessarily be bad news. However, if it goes undiagnosed and it is there, he is going to reach a point academically and socially where he really struggles. An apparently really bright kid can do well in school until a certain point, where they seem to crash and burn for no reason. But if you know, you can head that off and also get support in areas where it may be needed.

    Aspie kids are often anxious (increasingly, as they reach struggle point) and often have areas of special interest or extreme capability which can be all-consuming. They will often want to talk to you about their favourite thing, ad infinitum/ad nauseum, and do not take well to adults trying to control their lives too closely. We have learned to let the child have control where it doesn't really matter, so we can have control where it does. The usual discipline methods, which are to respond to rebellion with tighter control, will make these kids worse. He does better away from home because in other people's homes he is the guest and people treat guests differently. He also knows you love him unconditionally, so he has to let go somewhere, so it is where he feels safest.

    This can improve, but you will need to work with him, and with your wife. You will also need to be consistent. He is intelligent, so engage him in the process of changing his behaviour. It is unacceptable for him to continue to hurt family members, and this is the line in the sand he has drawn. You are entitled to make it safe, and if that means he has to get evaluated, then that is what has to happen. He needs to be told why, and given a chance to have some input - "Son, we are getting this evaluation to see if we can help you better control your aggression. We also want to understand why it happens, so we can help." You can also add the carrot I suggested earlier - an evaluation can open doors for him to get extension academically, if the evaluation clearly demonstrates his high capability.

    He needs to understand why he has to do this. He may still be reluctant, but if he can't produce another solution, then he has to comply. Family comes first. Safety comes first. And you all need to be safe, your son included. If he does not learn self-control, then one day he will let fly and someone will have him charged. As he gets older, this becomes far more likely. If he has a diagnosis if/when this happens, then he has a better chance of getting help instead of incarceration, but there is no guarantee.

    Better to fix it now while you can.

  10. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    Hi and welcome here.

    I have no idea why you'd let a ten year old tell you if he gets to see a neuropsychologist or not. I'd insist and take away his athletics if he refused to cooperate. I agree with whomever said that it will only get worse if he isn't evaluated. Drugs could be his future and there his A's and sports will go. I wouldn't take that chance...good luck.
  11. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    I do.

    These kids can be very controlling and sometimes as parents we take the line of least resistance; until we have to stand our ground, when all hockey sticks breaks loose. To the child, this seems inconsistent. A very bright but rigid child has 'rules' in his head that 'explain' the world and how it works. At school you sit facing the teacher and stay quiet until you're asked to speak. If you do not do this, you will find yourself the focus of unpleasant attention. At school you work at certain times and you go out to play at other times. It is all dictated carefully and all known and understood. At home, meals can be at different times and so can other pars of the evening routine. This is not good and the child will develop his own routine which he expects everyone else to obey. At home things run smoothly as long as the child gets to control what happens when. It is when anyone tries to over-ride and say, "Actually no, we're planning to do this," that you see the outbursts.

    We have had to teach difficult child 3 to accept change and lack of control. For example, when we go out for a drive, sometimes husband & I like to explore. Especially if we're on holidays, we need to 'get lost' in order to find ourselves. This really upsets difficult child 3 who is really anxious that we will never find our way back and will be lost forever. So sometimes we give him his own copy of the map and keep telling him where we are so he can look it up on the map and connect it to where we are staying. If we make a sudden change in direction, such as diving down a side street saying, "This looks interesting," it can trigger a panic. Sometimes we have said to difficult child 3, "It's OK, you stay here for a minute while we check it out." If it's something we really want him to try, we will go back and explain to him, "It's just over there. You can see it from here. We can come back to this spot afterwards and navigate back from here." Sometimes we set a time limit - "If we are still there in two hours' time, we will leave and go back to where we are staying."

    We do not say to him, "Come on, you will love it," because he often then makes up his mind that he won't. He also has to learn that other people in the family might like it, even if he doesn't. Telling him he will love it almost sets us up for failure, because whether he enjoys it or not is within his control and he will assert that control to make a point, even if it is despite his probable enjoyment.

    Places our difficult child 3 will like when we're on holiday - giant mazes. Places full of puzzles, interactive stuff, brightly coloured, mentally stimulating. We do have to be careful, though. There was one place we went to on the Gold Coast that we were sure he would love, it was full of lasers, optical illusions etc. But he hated it, because it was too unpredictable and changing. He came in with us (which cost a fair bit for entry) and dragged us through at lightning pace. Favourite places - museums, bookshops. Toy stores, especially those that sell brain teaser puzzles.

    It has taken ongoing hard work to keep him "on side" with trying new things. But each new thing tried, is a success which breeds more success. And when we discover places he loves, we use those as a carrot to get him to try more things. "If you come with us to the trout farm and try to catch a fish, we will stop off at the hedge maze on the way back."

    Compromise. That is, if pure "We have to do this, whether you like it or not" is risky.

    Whatever you do, you cannot fail. You must always win any battle you engage. Never lose. It is better to not battle, than to battle and lose. That's why compromise and reason works so well with these kids.

  12. confuzzled

    confuzzled Member

    i think we need to step back a second...

    the pediatrician wants a complete neurological exam according to OP...which is a medical evaluation...a neuropsychologist exam is something different.

    the pediatrician might have very good reasons to rule out things like seizure disorders and other neuro type issues that can easily be missed and can affect behaviors.

    i highly suggest dad follow the doctors advice and ask for a referral as soon as possible--it can be a hard speciality to get an appointment with.
  13. NJDad

    NJDad Guest

    Thanks to all of you for your responses-I am very grateful.

    Midwestmom, I guess I didn't make myself clear. I am not allowing my son to dictate the terms and conditions of the neurological exam. I know that if I tell him straight out that he's going there will be a fight. If that's what has to happen, so be it. I was just looking for any possible ideas that might achieve the objective without subjecting everyone to the stress. But if that's the way it has to be, so be it. Thanks again
  14. HaoZi

    HaoZi Guest

    Would it work to not tell him what doctor he's going to?
  15. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    HaoZi, I wouldn't be deceptive about it. It only teaches the child that you have to be deceptive to get what you want from other people.

    NJDad, try the reasoning and logic approach first. Then simply say, "We are doing this. We cannot continue to live with your current behaviour of ..." and spell it out.

    You need to be very specific and concrete in what you say. We are doing this because..." and give him bullet points. If you can, say to him that this behaviour is unacceptable because (people getting hurt) and you want to understand why, and maybe help him learn better self-control. You also want him to be able to learn more effectively to use that brilliant brain of his.

    If you work this right, you could have him pulling you through the door determined to keep the appointment!

  16. NJDad

    NJDad Guest

    I don't think deception would work with him. I think any trust we may have with him would be damaged. I like your idea, Marge. Bullet Points. Short and sweet. Thanks again
  17. barneysmom

    barneysmom Member

    Hi NJDad, welcome.

    I think getting a good physical exam first, to rule out any physiological problems, is a great idea. Be sure to get his thyroid checked (TSH and free T4).

    Has there been any stress in your family lately, any recent changes (even subtle ones)?

    Also regarding family history -- are there any psychiatric problems in your family histories like depression, bipolar, or even a lot of substance abuse (of course I am not asking you to answer you here -- just something to reflect upon -- there are generally a lot of clues in genetics, unless your son is adopted, which is another story). Any trauma at birth, or head injury? How long was he in the hospital for his heart surgery?

    Were there any clues over the past ten years of your son's life -- any little inklings even -- that could somehow tie in to the behavior he is showing now? You may already know a lot more about him than you think, when little things fall into place.

    by the way, it's fairly typical for a kid to be an angel in public, and let loose at home. And then it's even worse because he's been holding it in all day. Wonder what it is that he is holding in. Any ideas? Maybe you could ask him directly. Sometimes when I ask my kids about stuff like that, I'm surprised at the results.

    Good luck, be sure to get enough rest and good food, you can do it.


    P.S. You might try a kindly approach with the kid, tell him you know he"s uncomfortable and scared, and that you want to help him to feel better and to make the days easier. You could tell him that as a parent it's your job to take care of him, and you are going to do your job (I use that one a lot).
  18. HaoZi

    HaoZi Guest

    You do have to go with what works best for your own kid. With mine, she didn't want to know ahead of time when her blood draw would be, because she would spend all that time fretting over it, working herself up, and keeping her anxiety level at a constant near-meltdown high. She wanted me to tell her after we were in the car and about to go. She knew she had to have it and why, and she was very resistant to it, so I didn't hide that from her, it was *when* it would take place that she didn't want to know or think about it, which was more of where I was trying to go with that. But she made the choice that she didn't want a lot of advance notice on that one. Some kids do better with a ton of advance notice, and others don't. Still trying to work out the best timing for my kid.
  19. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    HaoZi, I suspect that worked for you and your daughter, because you had previously agreed, both of you, to do things that way.

    That is what I was trying to say - discuss, use logic, find some ground for consensus.

    I remember easy child being invited to a friend's birthday party sleepover when she was 12 and asking me expressly to forbid her to go. While she wanted to go to the party, she did not want to sleep over because there would be boys there. She also got very anxious and needed to know ahead of time that the evening would have an end that she could look forward to, even though she was enjoying herself.

    So I helped her out - I forbade her to sleep over, but I let her go to the party until 10 pm. She was satisfied with this, then went off to telephone her friend and give her the 'bad' news...

  20. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    Hmmmmmm. Ok. I think a neurological evaluation is good, but I'd add a neuropsychologist evaluation. Without knowing what is wrong with the c hild, he is only going to get worse. Violence is dangerous...I wouldn't play around with it.
    I don't think that ten year olds should get to decide what they do, regardless of their resistance. Sets up a precedence for the teen years that "I do what *I* want to do and Mom and Dad can't make me listen." I lived with a kid like that and it goes to a whole new level when they are teenagers. You can't just suddenly start to put your foot down. It doesn't work.