What to do next for explosive 10 year old?


New Member
Dear Fellow Weary Parents,

Looking for some new ideas.

My 10-year old has anxiety issues and rigidity and is very reactive. He is getting bigger and his explosive behavior is getting hard to contain and manage. Lately, he loses his temper explosively at least once a week over tiny tiny things. Today, I gave him 30 minutes of screen time, then gave many warnings that his time was almost up, then he went over time, and I gently reminded him to wrap up several times. Eventually, I gently removed the iPad from his grasp. And, he screams - I WAS IN THE MIDDLE OF SOMETHING. YOU ARE SO MEAN!!! And, then he proceeds to make a huge mess, tear things up, scream at me, and charge at me and knock me and my chair over. He seemed to be surprised to have knocked me over, and finally complied with my instruction to go to his room and cool off. Then, he regained his composure, apologized, and is now completely back to normal. Haven't had much success or take-up in trying to replace aggressive behaviors with other anger coping strategies. He seems to really want to create chaos and suffering for others when anger takes hold of him.

One question for this wise group - What kind of consequence is appropriate and a good disciplinary tool for an explosive, aggressive child? I want him to know there is zero tolerance for physical abuse. But, he responds very explosively to consequences (such as losing screen time for the next day). We try to hold the line. But, I'm never sure any lesson has been taught when a consequence is imposed, because the experience is eclipsed by the magnitude of his reaction to the consequence and his feeling of injustice and that he is the true victim.

Another question is - What else should we be doing to help him cope with his strong emotions? He is taking a low dose of Zoloft for compulsive behavior (especially the compulsion to complete a preferred activity) and anxiety. We wonder whether we should try a higher dose or different medications. It seems daunting to change up medication and we don't have great confidence in our psychiatrist. Currently searching for someone better but also daunted by yet another intake process. He also currently sees 2 different psychologists a week - one for play therapy, the other more talk therapy and skill-building oriented. Back in 2014, he had a psychiatric-ed evaluation, FBA, and IEP evaluation and everyone says there's a strong anxiety component with some social skill deficits and black and white thinking typical of Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). He's never had a neuro-psychiatric evaluation and maybe it's time to do that or re-do some of these other assessments? Kind of overwhelmed with what to do next given many options and already pretty battle weary and exhausted.

Would love to hear any thoughts from his experienced and supportive group. I was so happy to rediscover this forum after searching for ideas on-line.

Thank you!!


Roll With It
I am sorry you have to deal withthis. I know how scary it can be. been there done that, Know what I mean??? I would start the process for a neuropsychologist evaluation asap. I would also start another IEP evaluation/update because you are clearly not where you need to be.

Have you read The Explosive Child and What Your Explosive Child is Trying to Tell You? Both are very good and highly recommended here. Different authors, but both are excellent. You may want to start there as you wait for evaluations. You also may want to talk with your psychiatrist about an antipsychotic medication. I don't know if it would help ornot. I do know that we used one with my oldest when he would explode like that and it helped greatly. That is an extremely personal decision and one only you can make. In our situation, my son was attacking his little sister and harming her and we didn't have very many options at the time. We felt something had to give or someone was going to get seriously harmed.

I don't think he hears any of your warnings that his time is up. He is too into his game to have any idea that you exist. I used to have this problem with my family and I solved it. People often thought I was nuts with my solution if they didn't know what I was doing, but if I cared enough to explain, they thought I was a genius. My children responded to dessert. I noticed that I could be in another room and if I mentioned, in a whisper, anything to do with chocolate pudding, or chocolate chip cookies, or anything chocolate, I instantly had their attention. So when I got tired of trying to make transitions and not being heard, I used it. Because they could be deep in a game on the computer and still hear me three rooms away while I was whispering!

The first 7-10 days I said "chocolate chip cookies" when I wanted them to do anything and I gave them each a cookie every time. Or I used "Chocolate Pudding" but they got the reward every single time. I kept that up so they got used to getting the reward and they got trained. Then they got the reward every other time for a week or so. Then they got it every 3rd time or maybe every other time. Then it became when I wanted it. But I always had the reward on hand so that if I noticed they were not paying attention I could give them the reward more often for a few days so they would wonder. Psychology tells us that the most effective reward schedule is the one that is not every time and not predictable. So that they never know if this time will be a reward or won't be a reward.

For my kids the reward that worked was chocolate. I don't know what will motivate your kids. I know my reward worked for years. It is kind of a family joke because even though I have not done it for years, I can walk into a room and call out "chocolate chip cookie dough" and every one of my kids drops everything to look at me. Even the one that hasn't lived with me for years!

If nothing else, make sure your son stops his game and is looking at you and is paying attention to you each time you warn him that his game will be ending. I seriously doubt he is getting any of your warnings. I know you are giving them, but he is not receiving them. Gently turn his face to you and have him look into your face when you are speaking to him, which also may drive him crazy. Or offer him a piece of gum or candy with the warning. An M&M or something that he likes, which will probably drive him a lot less crazy. Something to get his attention.


Well-Known Member
I don't have much expertise for the problem you are having.

Some small suggestions, at least where the iPad is concerned. Can you set a kitchen timer to give him signals to wrap up? Like the first timer lets him know 10 more minutes. Then the next timer is time to stop.

Also, instead of no iPad use the next day, can you start out each day with a fresh slate? Some kids are just overwhelmed with the concept of another full day.

Or try a tiered level of time outs... First one hour, second offense two hours, third offense, the rest of the day.

Good luck. Don't know if my ideas will work for your child, but the timer helped my girls share the computer when they were younger. They would set the timer and take turns better, if I removed myself from the equation.


Well-Known Member
This kid should have a neuropsychologist evaluation. He has tons of symptoms of Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) but regular psychiatrists tend to overlook it. Anxirty, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) behsvior and insbility to transition from one activity to another are all typical of Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) as is rage when there is change or an activity is interrupted.

You need to hae him assessed. He would need intensive testing for the diagnosis.

My Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) son, now a man doing well, was misdiagnosed with ADHD, ODD, and finally bipolar until we took him to a neuropsychologist. Once off the bipolar medications and in good interventions he rapidly improved. He was 11 when he finally got the right diagnosis.

He has learned to control his temper and to transition. It took the right professionals plus understanding of his challenges on our parts.

Good luck.


Well-Known Member
I agree that if your son was found ineligible for an IEP the first time around that you try again. If he is successful in school, which can be as loosely defined as 'rarely suspended and passing all classes' depending on the district, then he may not be eligible as an IEP only addresses problems functioning in school.

I agree with SOT that a neuropsychologist evaluation is a must. The gold standard diagnostic tool for Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) is something called the ADOS - Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule. It must be administered over multiple days and not all clinicians are trained to deliver it. The neuropsychologist may recommend this test, and if not, I'd recommend that you request it. From your description, your son displays many characteristics of an autism spectrum disorder. A correct diagnosis will open the door to the right kind of help which not only includes specialized therapy for this population, but may also include financial help from your state.

Is his father involved and does your son respond differently to him, or any other caretakers he may have?

While nobody can tell you what to do in your specific situation, we can speak from our personal experience. I can tell you that if my child became violent when asked to stop using a device, he would no longer be using that device until I was reasonably certain the violence would not recur. For me that would certainly entail a session with his therapist describing the outburst, the therapist's input for interventions and child's response to those interventions. It could also entail a medication change.

It does seem like a great deal is happening within your son, and he probably doesn't understand it himself and as of yet has not learned how to control it. I would definitely start with an in-depth neuropsychiatric consult to determine if he is on the autism spectrum. His pediatrician or psychologist/psychiatrist may be able to refer you.

As the step-parent to a young man with a history of violent behavior I can tell you that the bigger and stronger they get, the more dangerous it becomes for everybody. I hope you are able to find the answers you need sooner rather than later. Good luck to you.


New Member
I want to thank everyone for their supportive and helpful replies.

Susiestar - I love the idea of the M&M or chocolate chip to make sure that the warnings to stop the screen time register. Thank you. I agree he is often just not hearing the warnings. And thanks for the book ideas, too. I love your story about whispering chocolate chip cookies. So creative! And what a great and peaceful way to get attention. My kids tune me out and then when I raise my voice they say "You don't have to yell at us!". How much nicer to just be able to whisper "chocolate...."!!

KSM - I agree with you that each day needs to be a fresh slate. Great point. Don't think timers will work for my son, because I think he will turn them off and keep going.

SOT - so glad to hear about all the progress your son has made after the correct diagnosis. Thanks for your recommendations.

Culturanta - thanks for the info on the gold standard test for Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). That's helpful. He has been assessed over and over but maybe not deeply enough.

I hear everyone on the strong recommendation for a neuro-psychiatric evaluation, and will look into getting on someone's calendar for that.

I could be wrong on this, but I hesitate to deny the iPad indefinitely because that is not the only trigger. I think he needs practice transitioning from preferred activities, and the iPad screen time gives him that practice. He can often transition from screen time without flipping out. But, yesterday was not one of those days. I did think through eliminating the iPad altogether after yesterday, but I don't really think that would solve anything.

To answer some of the questions:

- For the most part he functions well in school, and is strong academically. He has a 504 plan. The structure and predictability of school agrees with him. His school has been very supportive and accommodating when challenges arise, so feel fine about that for now.

- Father and I are together. Son pretty much responds same way to father and me these days.

- He is a super tricky kid to figure out. He is absolutely fine and able to cope much of the time. But, when he loses it, he really loses it.

Thanks again to everyone who responded. This forum is an incredible resource and source of support.



Well-Known Member
Intensive daily therapy at or after school might help. I would lock up the I-Pad except when he needs it for school.