Lost on how to handle my 8 year old son

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by wwise, Mar 15, 2016.

  1. wwise

    wwise New Member

    Good Morning,

    I am newer to the site and have read so many posts that are similar to my own.

    I have an 8 year old step son who is out of control. He was diagnosed ADHD a couple years back though his paediatrician has since reduced his medication only to find no change in his behaviour (at home, at school if he does not take his medication his teachers claim to see a difference.

    Please do not mind my ramblings but I'm hoping someone can offer some sort of advice that we may have overlooked or bypassed previously.

    We are a family of 6. My Wife, Our kids aged 10, 8, 6 and 3. Our 10 year old has ADHD and it is very discernible. My 6 and 3 year old copy a lot of what they see from their older brother and sister. I Do not believe it makes a difference but I am the Step Dad to the oldest three and the biological father to the youngest. I have been in my wife's life and our children's lives for the better part of 5 years now.

    My sons father did abandon him a few years ago and I know he does blame a lot of that on me.

    My issue however stems from my 8 year old son.

    - He hits, kicks, bites, slaps me or throws things at me when he is angry
    - He has threatened to kill me a few times (He has taken a knife and stabbed it into a box on the table and sink)
    - He bites, punches or hits in some fashion his younger Brother (6) and older sister (10)
    - He screams his words (usually telling me to STOP IT NOW!, I DON'T HAVE TO LISTEN TO YOU!, I CAN DO WHAT I WANT! SHUT UP! GO AWAY! LEAVE ME ALONE!
    - He screams and yells for hours on end
    - He repeatedly ignores my requests
    - He is repetitious and repeats things over and over again
    - He refuses to do chores
    - Gets easily upset by minor things
    - Very hyper, constantly moving, jumping, obsessed with movement
    - Argues with everything
    - Destructive
    - Hits himself with objects around the house
    - Bangs his head against walls, metal bed frames
    - Has no remorse for his actions
    - Has no Empathy or Sympathy
    - When disciplined he does not care (Both removal of privileges and spankings)
    - Makes perverse gestures with his body (Yes he's been told its inappropriate)

    Around Strangers he acts (I hate the term) but normal
    If he gets what he wants he will behave, very shortly after he reverts back to the above
    When he is by himself with other family members he does not act this way

    I have no idea what to do any more.When I do discipline him it really does nothing but add fuel to the fire, I worry about his reaction. I am at a complete loss as to what to do to help him.

    Your advice is welcome.

    Thank you
  2. InsaneCdn

    InsaneCdn Well-Known Member

    Hi, and welcome.

    I'm just another parent. Some things in your post are a puzzle. At first, the traits you listed would sound related to some form of developmental disorder, such as Asperger's or Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). However... people with those kinds of challenges are typically either no different, or worse, around strangers for example. His ability to "act normal" at age 10 makes anything on the autism spectrum unlikely.

    What were the first 3 years of his life like?
  3. Praecepta

    Praecepta Active Member

    What difference does the teacher see when he does not take his medication? Better? Worse?
    Have you taken him to a child psychologist / psychiatrist?

    A suggestion: Try ONLY giving him positive feedback, never say anything negative about his behavior. Don't yell at him - rather walk away if he makes you upset, then later come back and point out the positive things he is doing (I know, easier said than done!).

    For teaching him to do things, read about the short attention span of ADHD. Try just giving him lessons for 1 minute, then let him go wild, then another minute, then let him go wild, etc.

    If the above works, report that to his doctor / psychologist - get further advice as to what to do.
  4. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    When did he lose his father? He could have resctive attachment disorder since he lost a parent in his early years. If he saw or experienced abuse, that makes it even more likely. It is hard for youg kids to lose a parent, so it does matter. I think insane canadian and me are thinking the same. This appears to me more than adhd. Tell us about his first three years. They are uber important. He would need a special type of psycologist to determine if he has attachment problems or autism (they often exist together). Any drugs or alcohol ingested while mom was pregnant?
    Good luck!!
    Last edited: Mar 15, 2016
  5. Roxona

    Roxona Active Member

    Hi Wwise. I'm a stepmom, and I understand what you are going through. I have SS10, who is very much like your SS8.

    My SS10 was diagnosed with ADHD at the age of 3, maybe 4, and was on medication prior to going into kindergarten. He lost his mother to cancer when he had just turned 7, and I entered his life shortly before he was 8. Even on the medication his behavior at home and school had been disruptive and out of control. Lots of explosive temper tantrums if he didn't get what he wants. Obviously, the medication wasn't working, and we ended up taking him off of the medication to get a baseline and to see if we could help him learn how to control himself with behavior modification. I am the first relatively consistent person in his life. He has learned a lot, but is still having a lot of trouble acting appropriately.

    This here is exactly why it does matter. I am going through the same thing with SS10. He was old enough to know his mother, and he hates that I'm here instead of her. He hates that I've made a ton of changes in how the house runs and that there are now rules he has to live by. He went to grief counseling for a year after his mother died, but his father and I feel he hasn't really dealt with the loss of his mother. He won't talk about her much, and when he does he blames himself because he was hard on her and made her cry a lot. He gets very angry at SS6 if SS6 talks about her. Have you had your SS8 in to see a counselor? I think abandonment would feel worse to a child than losing a parent to death because it is an active choice of the parent to leave. From what you describe below, he is clearly angry, and it sounds like a lot of it has to do with this issue.

    In addition to ADHD, my SS10 has been diagnosed with attachment disorder and has an emotional growth of a 3 year old. He exhibits a lot of the same behaviors you have listed above. The therapist stated that at some point when SS10 was small,l he experienced a trauma and his emotional growth stopped. My husband can't recall any kind of trauma other than his brother being born. By your account, you would have entered his life when he was about 3. How was your SS8 as a baby? When did this type of behavior start? Does he know how to self-soothe? These are questions the therapist asked us. She explained that when a child plays with their toys, they are working out what has happened to them in their play. It helps them to understand what is going on and soothing themselves at the same time.

    Your SS8 is very angry, and it seems to me he doesn't know how to deal with his anger appropriately. Has he been fully evaluated? To me, I think that would be the first step, and then counseling to help him learn how to deal with his anger and how to self-soothe. He has experienced a lot of grief in his few short years. A lot of adults wouldn't know to deal well with abandonment. Can you imagine how impossible that would be for a child who doesn't even have the tools to deal with the loss of a goldfish, much less his father?

    This will take time and patience. A lot of it. If one counselor isn't making progress over time, you may have to find another.

    I have experienced the same thing. SS10 thinks I am the bad guy because I came into his house and changed all the rules. SS10 fights me and his Dad with every fiber of his being. The stress has gotten the better part of me, and I have had to disengage somewhat. Right now I try to leave all the disciplining to his Dad. When his Dad is home, I do my very best to stay out of it. It’s hard to bite my tongue sometimes, but it’s better for my sanity. I also try not to tell SS10 to do anything over and above what he would normally have to do. I ask my husband to tell him instead. The night time ritual is beyond difficult every night, so I no longer participate. I have basically made my husband parent his child 100% while he is at home. We are trying to become a united front and have come up with certain expectations for the morning routine, as well as the after school routine. If either boy doesn’t comply with the morning routine, then the consequence is they will not be able to use their iPad in the evening after dinner. If either boy fights me on homework after school, then they know they will go to their room until their Dad comes home to deal with them. I had their Dad present this to them, so they will think it is coming from him and not just me.

    I’m glad you posted today. Some of the things you posted have made me think some more on how we are approaching SS10. I hope that some of what I written will be helpful.
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  6. pigless in VA

    pigless in VA Well-Known Member

    Welcome, wwise. :welcomecat:

    My step-sister was abandoned by her father at age 10. It is incredibly hurtful to have a parent walk out of your life. Children have a way of thinking that actions of the adults in their lives are their faults. They can blame themselves for parents' divorces, abandonments, and even deaths.

    I think it's particularly difficult for boys to process softer emotions such as sadness and grief. They seem to find it much easier to be angry all the time instead. My son has been in counseling since the age of 8 due to his father. First my son was ignored for years by his father who was mentally ill. Then his father died. It took my son an incredibly long time to process all that grief.

    I think as far as discipline goes, you have to find the one thing that your child really loves and use it. For my son, it was the Xbox. Whenever he got out of line, I took the Xbox away from him.

    For your son, I think the first bad behavior you must address is the hitting, kicking, and slapping. The best resource I can give you is a book called The Explosive Child by Ross Greene. It will help you to prioritize the child's behaviors and deal with the more serious ones first. Some things, you simply need to ignore for awhile. Kids get a surprising amount of reward from negative attention, meaning they like having adults fuss at them all the time. It's up to the adults to try to shift that dynamic toward more positive interactions and fewer negative ones.
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  7. Roxona

    Roxona Active Member

    This is so true. J's dad and I split before J was even 2 years old. I thought it wouldn't affect him so much because he was so young. Boy was I wrong. I didn't find out until later, but J absolutely thought the split was his fault.
  8. LalaSmitty

    LalaSmitty New Member

    I have no advise as I am in a similar situation. Hoping we can all find answers and growth from these experiences and hardships.
  9. Copabanana

    Copabanana Well-Known Member

    Good question. How does he do at school? If I missed that, sorry.
    This just gave me an idea. Music and dance more and more are considered extremely effective as treatment forms but I am wondering how these boys respond to music and movement.

    I am wondering if something even like an Mp3 player with headphones would have a calming effect. Of course, cheap ones, in case they stomp on them. I saw a film about how listening to music brought back Alzheimers patients.

    I will google and see if I see anything about treating children with music and dance that might help us.
  10. Copabanana

    Copabanana Well-Known Member

    Music Therapy With Emotionally Disturbed Children
    June 01, 2003 | Addiction
    By David L. Hussey, PhD

    Music therapy is defined as "the prescribed use of music by a qualified person to effect positive changes in the psychological, physical, cognitive, or social functioning of individuals with health or educational problems" (American Music Therapy Association, 2003). While music therapy is closely aligned with the behavioral sciences, it is distinct in that it bridges art with science. Two publications by Elio Frattaroli, M.D., (2002, 2001) illustrate the dilemma faced by modern psychiatry in trying to understand mental illness, not only in the science of neurological processes but also in the art of skillful healing relationships.

    Music therapists are skillful practitioners who orchestrate their talents to help soothe a wide variety of painful human conditions. While many psychiatrists are aware of the uses of music therapy for the treatment of autism, substance abuse, Alzheimer's disease and pain, far fewer are aware of the exciting work that's being done with children who have serious emotional disturbances.

    Children with such disturbances have diagnosable mental health disorders and extreme functional impairment that limit or interfere with the ability to function in the family, school and/or community (Stroul and Friedman, 1994). Conservative estimates from epidemiological studies suggest that 8% to 12% of students ages 6 to 21 suffer from a significant disability, and approximately 8%, roughly 470,000 of this population, are identified through their schools as being emotionally disturbed (U.S. Department of Education, 2001).

    A review of the music therapy literature delineates at least three broad domains of functioning where music therapy has been successfully utilized in the treatment of emotionally disturbed children: affect regulation, communication and social/behavioral dysfunction. Assessment and intervention in each of these domains requires strong grounding in developmental theory, a key component in the training of music therapists. Early on, music therapy was identified as an intervention to treat impairments in affective functioning, including reducing levels of anxiety (Cooke, 1969), and as a tool to improve emotional responsiveness (Wasserman, 1972). Music therapy has been well-suited to help improve communication deficits and stimulate nonverbal communication. Numerous positive outcomes in improving social functioning, social awareness and cooperation (Werbner, 1966), and decreasing disruptive behaviors (Hong et al., 1998) have been reported. One of the major contemporary applications for music therapy is working with children who have serious emotional disturbances and high degrees of impulsivity and limited ability to self-regulate (Layman et al., 2002).

    Some of the modalities and techniques used in the treatment of emotionally disturbed children include live music production (e.g., playing instruments and/or singing), improvisation, guided imagery (e.g., pairing of visualization with music), creative songwriting and lyric analysis. After a careful assessment of the child's needs and capabilities, music therapists formulate individualized treatment plans that include goals and measurable objectives. Music therapists reinforce and shape targeted behaviors, while dynamically exploring underlying feelings and issues. Music therapists who work on multidisciplinary treatment teams often concentrate on a specific subset of treatment goals or objectives most appropriate for music therapy intervention. These techniques are applied in a variety of community treatment settings, as well as in hospitals, residential treatment centers and partial hospitalization programs. Therapy sessions with children typically last from 30 to 60 minutes and may be structured to include individual, family and group formats.

    Rationale for Music Therapy

    An advantage of music therapy is that it is an inherently nonthreatening and inviting medium. It offers a child a safe haven from which to explore feelings, behaviors and issues ranging from self-esteem to severe emotional dysregulation. Music therapy techniques can be designed to address more complex issues such as grief, abandonment or deeply conflicted emotions. As a medium, music therapy has enormous range and scope in targeting multiple clinical needs across the gamut of childhood developmental stages. It can set the occasion for a child to establish a meaningful relationship with an adult through musical play and interaction. Music therapy can also facilitate the development of prosocial skills, trust and feelings of positive attachment. Developmentally, almost all children respond to music. This greatly assists in laying a strong foundation for engaging in deeper therapeutic work. Children's natural interest in music is enhanced by the fact that they are occupied in stimulating motor and auditory activities more associated with play or fun than work or therapy. The careful and repetitious orchestration of such multisensory experiences, in the context of a skillful and nurturing relationship, has a remarkable range of clinical benefits.

    Music Therapy Applications

    The mental health care and child welfare fields are searching for effective therapies that can be utilized with victimized children, especially those who have comorbid disorders. The most heavily researched psychiatric sequelae of victimization is posttraumatic stress disorder, and its most frequently studied treatment is cognitive-behavioral therapy. A concerning gap in the treatment literature is that many emotionally disturbed children suffer from cognitive deficits and developmental disabilities. Research indicates that the average IQ of child welfare populations undergoing intensive mental health treatment is in the low- to mid-80s (Hussey and Guo, 2002). Such intellectual and information-processing deficits render cognitive and verbal therapies less effective for these children than for children with higher IQs.

    Continued at Psychiatric Times. http://www.psychiatrictimes.com/art...nally-disturbed-children#sthash.IKVrcGcs.dpuf
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  11. Copabanana

    Copabanana Well-Known Member

    These were brilliant posts.
    My parents divorced when I was 8 and my Dad abandoned us after a couple of years. I did not see him until I was much older.

    I still deal with it and I am over 60. Really, I cannot even look at my grief, still. It is too hard.

    My son was abandoned by his parents and at 2 weeks went to a crisis nursery because his birth mother threatened to hurt him. He was there until he was 22 months. When he was 19 we learned he had acquired at birth a serious, chronic disease. When this disease worsened is when things really went off the rails.

    You see, I am reminding myself here that there are reasons for our children's pain and meaning to their suffering.

    I am writing this to remind myself of this: We do not get over these hurts. They are truly insurmountable. We can only learn to live with them.

    This is true for every single hurt that is recorded on this page, on this thread and on this site.

    Even thought our kids may not know the details, there are ways of communicating that do not involve words. That is why the music makes sense to me. One reason.
    While I have not read it by all accounts this is a fantastic resource.
  12. LalaSmitty

    LalaSmitty New Member

    I actually am looking into music therapy! A friend of mine suggested it and it makes sense.
  13. Malika

    Malika Well-Known Member

    Hello. I am sorry you are experiencing such a difficult time - stressful, anxiety-making and lonely for all, I know.

    I would stop the spankings NOW and make a firm inner resolve never to resort to physical violence with your step-son. You cannot possibly expect him to integrate that hitting is unacceptable when he is being hit. It will just be making him angrier.

    Ditto the suggestion re "The Explosive Child". There are no easy solutions. Things can get better with the right structures in place.
  14. TargetPractice

    TargetPractice Fakin' it 'til I make it!

    Hello, wwise, I'm new here too, nice to meet you!

    I almost cried when I read your post, your son is so much like mine, right down to the acting normal. I know your pain, so, to start, *HUG*, or at least the sentiment if you're not a hugger :). I agree with everyone above who suggested lingering guilt and hurt over his father. My boy is 14, and I've noticed a pattern of him acting out or trying to hurt someone emotionally (usually me, since he blames me for the divorce and apparently for his father's work schedule as well ) after learning his father has canceled a scheduled visit. I feel that if he could express that appropriately, be able to say he feels disappointed or angry, he would be able to process it better. He is in counselling, and we are working on it, but he is not ready to open up yet. He seems to talk best with his stepfather, my husband. Is there someone in your son's life that he genuinely trusts and can take a more active role in his life for while? Or the possibility of a fun sport or scouts? It would have to be something he's very interested in, to engage him. Any experience that gives him positive reinforcement and positive feelings, or feelings of success, achievement and personal worth you can give him....well, we all like those things, right?. I can't give any better advice, besides take care of yourselves, and support the sibs as much as you can! As my younger two will tell you, its stressful on the sibs when one of the kids is showing his hurt this way. You sound like a great dad! It's hard, but somehow we get through it, even if it's only one hour at a time!