Tuesday, August 25, 2015

7 yr old acts out in school

Hello. I was reading about anger overload and that is totally my 7 year old son.  Every year since kindergarten my son starts school and it's like 5 months of craziness before he gets settled in.  He acts out in class, get aggressive with other kids, and ends up miserable and with no friends and obviously upset about it. He says he's a jerk, everyone hates him, that I (his mother) think he's a jerk or an idiot.  He's always touching other kids and annoying them.  He gets angry when he feels like things aren't fair or he's not good enough.  He's really smart though. Has no problems learning. I would even say he's a little gifted.. 

I don't know what to do and it stresses me out daily. I work full time and so does his dad.  My mom watches them most days.  When he's at home or with one friend he's amazing! Totally nice, sweet, thoughtful, loves his mommy and family very much..  I'm used to when I do go to school to drop him off or pick up I get dirty looks from parents and already know the teacher is going to tell me something he did wrong that day.  I try not to yell at him at all, when he's in a rage kicking his closet and punching holes in the door I let him be until he calms down.   I take things away for short periods of time, he gets grounded for a day or two, sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. It's hard because he's really great at home but when he's at school it's a different story.  He does sports, swims, skateboards, and is very active.  What more can I do. I'm so tired of this and I know it hurts him that he doesn't have super close friends and relationships with peers.  I don't want him to have to feel this way anymore.
Thank you!

Hi, You point out several scenarios at school when he is likely to blow, e.g. a) he touches other kids and annoys them, or b) when he thinks things are not fair, or c) when he feels he is not good enough.  Work with the teacher to review when these types of triggers are likely to occur. That is, a) what is going on right before he touches other kids, b) what does he not think is fair, and c) what is he doing when he does not feel he is good enough.  Let's take the first scenario:  Young children often want more attention from peers and will touch them to get attention.  Does he seem to want interaction when he touches others?  If so, you could practice at home how to get someone's attention without annoying them.  Role play a situation in class.  Ask your child who he wants to interact with and then practice a way that uses words and does not intrude on another person's space.  Or if your child does not want to role play, then make up a story at bedtime that "shows" him indirectly how to get someone's attention in school.  In volume two of my parent's manual, I explain how to use imaginary stories and also explain other strategies for school.  

Self esteem issues are often another trigger.  You mention that he sometimes does not feel good enough.  There are different techniques you can use here.  In the first volume of my manual for parents, I write about lowering a child's expectations ahead of time, before anger is triggered.  The teacher may be able to intervene and use a "mantra" like "everyone makes mistakes" at the beginning of assignments that in the past have triggered your child's frustration.   .At home you can reinforce the message by telling your child that you hope he made at least one mistake today because that shows he is learning something new.  Ask him to tell you about a mistake and be proud of him for sharing this information with you.

Fairness is another trigger for many children..  Often these children have difficulty seeing other points of view.  Here I recommend helping your child to expect that things sometimes won't go his way.  Also, in the second half of my parent's manual, I explain how to teach child about other points of view.

The underlying principle of all these strategies is to try to alter a child's way of looking at things before he gets upset.  Once anger overload occurs, it is more difficult to intervene because a child is not thinking rationally then.  It is usually better to say as little as possible when a child is in overload, and work on strategies, like those mentioned above, while he is calm.  If you can catch anger early, you can also use emotional distraction:  the teacher could try saying something that can change your child's mood.  Something silly or funny often helps.  It is hard to be extremely angry while you are laughing!  There is more about emotional distraction and relaxation strategies in my original manual for parents.

Best, David Gottlieb, Ph.D.

No comments:

Post a Comment