difficult child switching physical aggression target from easy child to me?

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by OpenWindow, Sep 3, 2008.

  1. OpenWindow

    OpenWindow Active Member

    difficult child used to love his little sister. In fact, he played with her more than with easy child#1, who is only one year older than him. Last winter that changed and he started hanging out with easy child 1 and his friends, and he started to be mean to his sister. He's been threatening her, pushing her, hitting her and correcting her constantly. We've been really on him to stop for the last few months.

    I noticed last week that it has improved dramatically. Not perfect, but a very dramatic change. This weekend, I noticed he was becoming more physical with me, and gets more angry at me for having him do little things, like let his dog out or get his laundry off of his floor. He's been pushing my shoulder with his hands as he goes by me, and hit me on the arm once (not enough to hurt, but enough for me to know he was mad at me). Last night, he came after me in anger and I thought he was going to try to push me to the floor, but he stopped himself. He did give me a slight chest bump but then turned to walk away, yelling and calling me names the whole time.

    So he has to have one person to channel all of his anger at?
  2. gcvmom

    gcvmom Here we go again!

    Could be, but my advice is to STOP allowing that aggression towards you IMMEDIATELY. He may only be 12 now, and it may not feel like a big deal now, but ask yourself if you'll feel safe with him doing that at 15 or 17? That's a personal boundary that no child should ever cross -- especially with mom!

    Maybe he needs a punching bag! Or some other positive way for him to vent his anger without directing it at you or anyone else. Talking is important, too. But I've found with our boys that they often need a physical outlet as well. I usually have them take a walk or go punch the bag and then we talk it out.
  3. OpenWindow

    OpenWindow Active Member

    I'm not allowing it! Whenever he hits, threatens or calls anyone names he has to leave and go to his room. Last night, husband followed him to his room and yelled, a lot. He had to stay in there the rest of the night, which wasn't pleasant at all because his TV is broken. It wasn't pleasant for us either because he kept coming out every 15 minutes or so.

    He hasn't reached that level of aggression in quite a while. I have an email in to his counselor so she can address it today.

    We're thinking alike! We have a punching bag in the backyard that no one's used in quite a while. I had already called husband this morning and asked him to clean it up and bring it in to difficult child's room.
  4. Fran

    Fran Former desparate mom

    Scary stuff. It's unfortunate that he is setting his target on you. Hopefully as the hormones of puberty settle down he will be less belligerent. In the meantime, having an appropriate place to vent that anger is a good idea.

    Our kids are pretty frustrating. Do you think the new school year has stressed him in some way?
  5. witzend

    witzend Well-Known Member

    I don't know, at 12, you're still bigger than them. If one of my kids swung out a hand in anger at me I would grab it but quick, look them straight in the eye, and explain in no uncertain terms that while I may never have spanked them, I will not hesitate to defend myself (and my other children) any time, any day, any how.

    I guess I'm a little confused. Is this the difficult child 12 year old boy who has been investigated for molesting this 8 year old sister, and you are requesting an immediate evaluation? You have kind of gone back and forth from it being "only a one time thing" to not knowing what it was. Your description of him as "used to love her" and "threatening her, pushing her, hitting her and correcting her constantly" is kind of disturbing. Is it possible that whatever has been going on between them he is a little more than angry at you for putting the brakes on him?

    Honestly, your son sounds at best like a bully.
  6. OpenWindow

    OpenWindow Active Member

    Fran - I don't think it's the new school year. In fact, he is talking like he is enjoying school and we've gotten great reports. They say he is like a different kid than a year ago. I think he's stressed about the investigation and having to talk to all these people. He doesn't like the alarm on his door, and he doesn't think it's fair that he has to stay in there once he goes to bed for the night. He was also mad that he couldn't go swimming this weekend without me being there to surpervise because there were a bunch of little kids. He blames it all on me, if I hadn't told the counselor then he wouldn't have to have all these restrictions and have to talk to all these people.

    Witz - He is a bully to his little sister, and has been to me. He is bullied by kids his age and older. He used to enjoy playing with younger kids, and was great with them. He used to get along with his little sister very well. Now he says he hates her. His counselor has even told me she's concerned because he seems to feel real hate towards her. This has been within the last year. He hates her friends and verbally bullies them, but not as much as her. He's never left a mark or seriously hurt her, but we are still very concerned that he pushes her and hits her. We've been working on it with his counselor since January. He touched her inappropriately in June. It happened to be one day when they were getting along - because they were getting along and he seemed to be in a very calm mood, I let them go swimming together while I watched from the other side of the window.

    It was the only incident we know about, and I'm pretty confident it was the only time. He was hypersexual when he was younger, but hasn't been outwardly that way for probably around 5 years. I know it's a possibility there could have been more times, but I don't remember wavering from the fact that we only know about this one time. Since he does bully her we haven't let them be together unsupervised since last fall, so there wasn't much opportunity for anything to happen. We are requesting an evaluation from a sexual abuse program, but we're thinking it will help us keep him from being sent to a sexual offender Residential Treatment Center (RTC), and at the same time uncover any issues that are there so we can deal with it.

    I really don't think he's angry I put the brakes on anything, but I'm sure he is angry at me for telling the counselor, which in turn caused all these consequences, at least in his eyes. He tells me he knows he was wrong, but it's still my fault because I didn't have to tell. Nothing I say or the counselor says seems to change his mind about this. I think that's where his anger comes from.

    He really is being much more civil to his sister now. The odd thing is the coincidental timing between being nice to her and targeting me. I'd much prefer it to be me, but it still needs to be addressed.
  7. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    It's quite possible that at least some of his anger now towards you is because you 'blew the whistle' on his inappropriate touching back in June. By doing so, you've started a cascade of intervention that must be really confronting for him. You did the rightr thing - but he is angry. So be it.

    Your husband yelling at him in his room - that is going to be counterproductive. You don't punish a kid's aggression by showing more aggression. Instead, you need to model appropriate behaviour. Yes, it's appropriate to be angry with him but he needs to learn from you and husband that there are better ways to express anger. Seriously - if husband had spent the same amount of time with him, maybe getting him to write a letter of apology to you - it would have got the message through even better, it would have been a far worse punishment (from difficult child's point of view) and you wouldn't need to add grounding to the list of things to do, if you didn't want to. I mention that because sometimes grounding a kid can give a parent some breathing space; and sometimes it can make the job more difficult. It depends on the kid and depends on the parent.

    On the subject of modelling behaviour - difficult child 3 and I have been working on training his new budgie. The little bird tends to fly off sometimes then need rescuing from wherever he's perched on the interior brickwork. It's not good training to allow this to happen too often, it's much better for us to get through a training session with no problems and to finish on a high. But if the little bird flies off in a panic too often, we stop the training and put him back in his cage.
    So I went into the room where difficult child 3 was sitting beside his now-caged budgie and I asked why the cage door wasshut.
    "He's in time out," difficult child 3 solemnly explained. "He kept flying off, so he's in time out for ten minutes."
    Just then the timer on difficult child 3's watch went off, he leaned forward and opened the cage door again, reaching in to get his budgie.

    OK, he missed the point here for why we put the bird back in the cage, but the end result was the same - the bird gort achance to calm down before another short training session!

    But difficult child 3 has learnt this from watching us and learning what works for him. And he is now applying it to training his pet.

    If we had tried to teach this to difficult child 3 in any intellectual capacity, he wouldn't have got the message. But by DOING it, he has learnt it and now applies it himself.

    Just a small example.

    You do need to get on top of this fast - the others are right on this, he is only going to get bigger and more aggressive. He MUST learn that people need to be respected; females especially need to be respected and not physically attacked. And family especially, you do not attack but you always support. And mothers even more so than anybody else - mothers are gold, they should be treated as royalty.

    For difficult child to learn this, it must be modelled. This means husband has to step up to the plate and model this, in ALL his interactions with everyone in the family, including difficult child, even if he's been naughty. Show respect, to teach respect.

  8. susiestar

    susiestar Roll With It

    I have LIVED with the violence you talk about. It was very bad, aimed at Jessie and at me. It has taken a LOT of therapy for all of us and having Wiz live with my parents.

    You have to find some way to stop the violence. Your husband is not helping by yelling. I understand the temptation, but it will only make things worse.

    I strongly recommend one of the Love and Logic books for your husband. I would start with the one for teens - Love and Logic parenting for teens - something like that. Their website describes the books quite well. They really seem to get through to my husband and the dhs of some of my friends.

    This may not seem like a huge deal now, but your son could really HURT you. I was also glad when Wiz targetted me instead of Jess, but it still kept getting worse. I ended up having to have Wiz removed by the sheriff. I hope you don't have to do that - but you MUST do something to get through to him that he just CAN'T hurt people. A big part of it will be getting your husband on the same page as you.

    I am so sorry you are going through this.

  9. OpenWindow

    OpenWindow Active Member

    Getting husband on the same page as me is not possible - he is still mad at me for "blowing the whistle" too and said "I told you so" when DHS became more involved than anyone thought they would. husband has been working on his own anger since July when he and I had a big blow up. He is not a good model for difficult child, and I've been trying to get that through his head. I told husband last time that he wasn't going to treat me like that, and that was the last time I'd put up with it. I told him I didn't want difficult child growing up thinking that was OK. Since then he has held his temper with all of us, until difficult child pushed me, now husband is back to his old yelling self. I'm hoping it doesn't get back to where we were a couple of months ago. The reason it's hard to convince husband that it isn't helping is that difficult child listens to husband and generally does what he says. He does not listen to me and everything I ask him to do is an argument. So husband thinks he is doing it right and I am doing it wrong, and no one can tell him any different.

    We made a decision when difficult child was very young to not spank him, because when we tried it, it gave him permission in his own mind to hit other people when he thinked they wronged him. It stopped him in that moment, but made things worse afterwards. He started getting in trouble for hitting other kids at daycare. I can't get husband to see that yelling and intimidating does the same thing. I've been telling him this for years, and so have countless counselors and psychiatrists, and I can't see it changing.

    Last night difficult child was calm so I talked with him about it. After talking in circles for a while he finally got it. He said he pushed me because it was easier to get mad at me than to get mad at himself. He knew he had to go in his room because of what he did but he hates to admit he's wrong, so he just gets mad at me. So he had a moment of clarity and the rest of the evening was good, but like I've said before, even if he gets it intellectually it doesn't transfer to his behavior. This morning he was back to being mad at everyone else but himself.

    I hate to sound hopeless about husband, but I can't help it right now. He talked to a counselor with me and seemed to be ready to jump on the bandwagon, but then a week or so later he's back to thinking it's all a bunch of bunk and his way is the right way. The counselor recommended a DVD program that helps married couples get along better and he won't even watch that with me, and when he did he only saw my faults in the DVD, not his. I really doubt he will read a book to help deal with difficult child.
  10. TerryJ2

    TerryJ2 Well-Known Member

    He said he pushed me because it was easier to get mad at me than to get mad at himself.

    Wow. That's insightful. I like it!

    It sounds like difficult child has good potential. Not sure about your husband. So sorry.
  11. witzend

    witzend Well-Known Member

    What does "that" refer to? Are you saying that your husband bullies you and the kids, or that your husband has been physically violent with you and the kids?

    I have to admit, your husbands reaction to your protecting your daughter makes me uncomfortable. I spent 4 years as a Victim's Advocate for our local District Attorney's office. During that time I regularly met assault victims at the hospital to assist in the initial investigative process. The victims, always girls and women, ranged in age from 18 months to in their 70's, and were assaulted by everyone from their husbands and fathers and and boyfriends and brothers mom's boyfriends to strangers. Any parent, caretaker, or friend in assistance of a victim of assault who reacts to the report of the assault with anger and concern that the assaulter will get into trouble and that it should be kept a secret is going to raise huge red flags. I know it raised huge red flags for me when you described your husband's reaction.

    I hope that your husband will continue to not do whatever it is that you told him you would no longer tolerate. I also hope that you will stick to your guns should he start it up again.
  12. OpenWindow

    OpenWindow Active Member

    Terry -

    I feel the same way. husband is trying at least to control his anger (and doing a pretty good job of it), but that's as far as he's going. I'm disappointed and confused at the same time.

    Witzend - "that" refers to the big blow up husband had after I told the counselor what happened with the kids and that it was being reported to DHS. husband is in denial most of the time that anything is wrong with difficult child, and he thinks difficult child will grow out of it. husband has mentioned to me that something similar happened when he was younger in his family (don't know details because he won't tell me) and that his parents handled it in the family, and it never happened again. He has alway had a great mistrust of law enforcement and the government, and me "inviting" them into our lives like that made him very angry. He said I was going to ruin difficult child's life. He blew up at me verbally, and said some really mean and hateful things. He's done it before but this was the worst in years. I'd say it happens every 3 - 6 months, but he is known for his temper in everyday situations too - he gets mad very easily. He's not normally mean and hateful (and not to the kids at all), but easily aggravated. After my ultimatum, he has been very decent to me and them and the stress level in the house went way down.

    It is a pattern with him though - big blow up then apology and then a month or so of good times, then his mood starts to change again. He is never physically abusive, and I've never been afraid of him in that regard.

    I understand the red flags you see. I think his anger comes from his position of denial that his son could be that dysfunctional and be classified as a sex offender.

    I'm working with a counselor on this and I'm hoping husband can continue to make more changes, and I'm not sure at all what the future holds.
    Last edited: Sep 4, 2008
  13. TerryJ2

    TerryJ2 Well-Known Member

    Hmm. Sounds like your husband may need some diagnosis ... if it's a pattern, it seems that he can only tolerate X-amt of frustration in his life, then he blows up, then feels better (and is remorseful), then starts all over. I have no idea how much of that is genetic and how much is learned, since he experienced "something" when he was younger, but there is something there.
    Doesn't sound like he'd be willing to do anything about it, but it would serve you well to be aware of it.
  14. witzend

    witzend Well-Known Member

    I think maybe the lesson husband could learn (if he were willing to try) would be that when you hide "something" from your childhood instead of dealing with it, it comes back to haunt you in a negative way in your adult life. ie: not being prepared to deal with confronting shortcomings in our children without having a big blow-up.

    I have to admit, my husband has no childhood, so far as I know. He swears he doesn't remember anything other than a few vague details until he was out of the house in college. It's just never spoken of. His way of dealing with it is more difficult than your husband's in a way, because he very successfully does not deal with it. He just hides. The rest of the world sees it as "mellow peaceful husband". Our children and I see it as "husband sticking his head in the ground so no one can move forward and better themselves" or "husband ignoring reality."

    Good luck.
  15. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    I worked in a home for domestic abuse, and was taught that verbal abuse is much like physical abuse:
    They verbally abuse you in a very hurtful way then...
    They apologize and often beg for forgiveness and are on good behavior for a while...
    then they do it again and the cycle repeats ad nauseum.
    I think your hub needs counseling badly. JMO, but I feel he is probably verbally abusive.
  16. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    I'm wondering how much is really 'wrong' with difficult child, and how much is learned behaviour from observing husband and his way of interacting with you and with the world.

    If difficult child could be at all aware of the blow-up between you and husband (and even though he was removed, there are ways for difficult child to pick up on this because your husband stayed mad at you over this for some time) then he (difficult child) could feel some degree of validation for expressing anger towards you. After all, he's only doing what his father does; and if his father is angry at you for calling authorities, then (in difficult child's mind) his father must be right and you have done a bad thing which you should be punished for.

    It's not an easy lesson for a kid, especially a difficult child, to have to accept that his parents are not in agreement and that one of them might be very wrong. It is very unsettling, when kids (especially when younger) really feel a need to know that parents are the backbone of their existence, always right, always the standard by which the rest of the world must be compared. To have to learn that this is not the case, or that there is not accord - it's like suddenly discovering that your school flagpole is made of rubber and won't support the weight of the flag.

    Linda, if your difficult child does also have some Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD) traits, then this is going to be even more confusing for him. Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD) kids (the high-functioning ones especially) tend to observe closely those around them who seem to be the rule-setters, and to try to follow their example. Not necessarily in any way we always accept - our kids are learning NOT "do as I say," but develop their own concept of "do as I do."
    For example, a rule at difficult child 3's school was, "Do not hit other kids." difficult child 3 knew this and could recite it, but he SAW kids hitting other kids, especially hitting him, and realised that the words on a page were not REALLY the rules. He had to analyse his observations to determine what the true rule was. Maybe the rule was, "hitting is allowed." So difficult child 3 would hit other kids, especially when they hit him. Then he got into trouble and was made to repeat the school rule, "Do not hit other kids."
    A smarter kid (socially) would quickly work out the 11th Commandment, "Thou shalt not get caught," but not difficult child 3. He soon 'learnt' that the rule was, "Hitting difficult child 3 is OK. difficult child 3 is not permitted to hit other kids, not even in retaliation. Never hit back. Just wait for them to stop hitting, then they will go away."

    Linda, your difficult child is probably developing his own concept of your rules, which are being modified by his observations of his father's behaviour. Plus, he knows that he is a boy and wants to be like his father. So that is exactly what he is trying to do.

    To understand this, you have to be able to empathise - to get into difficult child's head. I'm sure you can do this - but I don't think your husband can, from what you describe.

    Last edited: Sep 4, 2008
  17. OpenWindow

    OpenWindow Active Member

    Terry - although husband says he'll "do anything" to save our marriage, anything doesn't include going to a psychiatrist and considering medication. He went at one point about 7 or 8 years ago, and tried a couple of medications. He thought they didn't work and thought the psychiatrist didn't know what he was doing, so he quit. (The medications were working, in my opinion). I'm thinking he might be bipolar or borderline. He was diagnosed with ADHD when he was a kid, but not medicated or treated at all.

    husband - Yes, husband's head is firmly in the sand regarding so many things. He says his childhood was a happy one, so I'm not sure where it comes from.

    Midwest Mom - you're right, he is verbally abusive and it's a definite pattern. He gets angry at the kids and comes close to the line often, but I don't feel he's verbally abusive to them.

    Marg - I wonder the same things sometimes, but difficult child was a difficult kid since birth. One of the things he does, though, is mimic people, and usually bad behaviors. I'm sure now he gets the way he treats me from his dad in a lot of ways. husband can't even see his own behaviors in a negative light, so I'm sure he can't empathize enough to see how difficult child is responding to it.

    We argued again last night. He got very mad again but kept his control. Then he came back an hour later, crying, saying he was sorry. He said the thing he fears most is that I may be right about difficult child (that he may have hypersexual issues that need to be addressed). He said he'd agree to do whatever I wanted regarding difficult child. Just like difficult child, a moment of clarity and I guess I should appreciate it, but I'm not sure it will turn into positive action.
  18. witzend

    witzend Well-Known Member

    It's the "may" part that is bothersome. If, instead of your son in the aggressor role in this, it was a neighbor 12 - 13 year old or a stranger with his hands in his daughter's swimsuit, and he had been there to witness it, would your husband have suggested that it was probably nothing and that it should be hidden, or would the kid have been lucky to make it out of the pool alive? There shouldn't be a double standard to our children's safety when the danger comes from a family member.

    The other part of the "may" being bothersome to me, is that in my experience, to do that to your daughter in front of you is very bold. If most of your family knew your son was hypersexualized before, I don't understand why your husband would think it possible that he is not, now that he has done something so overt. Most kids would do this in the closet with the door closed or in the garage, not in front of their mom.
  19. OpenWindow

    OpenWindow Active Member

    husband dismissed the signs of difficult child being hypersexual and told me I was overreacting, just like everything else. The professionals I did tell told us to keep an eye on it, but it didn't seem concerning to them.

    difficult child probably thought no one was watching - I was inside looking out the window. And he's very impulsive, doesn't think about consequences or being caught. One of the things he does is sneak food in the middle of the night. He knows the alarm is on his door now and it will wake me up, but he still tries it at least once a week. He doesn't seem to learn that I will come out and see what he's doing.

    I've asked husband that very same thing about what if it was someone else not in the family, and of course husband said it depended on the kid and if the parent was addressing it. I tend to think husband would not be so nice though.

    Thank you all for your responses. It really does help me think more clearly about all of this.

  20. witzend

    witzend Well-Known Member

    I'm with you. I think he's deluding himself, there!