Thursday, June 30, 2016
4 yr old throws things
I stumbled upon your website as I had been desperately trying to find out how to help my son. He will be 5 in October and was a micro-preemie, born at 24 weeks and weighing just 1 lb 8 oz. He has experienced delays from the start; however, nothing major physically and he would have spurts where his speech or skills would catch up. But his emotional outbursts were always there from the beginning. From a very young age, he had issues with anger/frustration. He would actually fall to the ground into a type of "coma". That's the best way I could describe it. His eyes would be open and he was indeed awake but he wouldn't cry or speak until the feeling passed....sometimes for 30 minutes.
He doesn't do that anymore thank God but when angry, he still shuts down and will not communicate no matter what I try. He is now in preschool and having issues. he throws things and screams so loud for so long that the teachers are unable to control him and fear for the safety of the other kids (from him throwing things, not from him hitting.) He has been through several evaluations and the Dr's all cannot find anything to explain it (he did not test on the spectrum) as 60-75% of the time he is quite normal, happy and social. People have been telling me it's me being paranoid since he was so early, or that he needs his butt whipped or that he'll eventually "catch up" and this has left me frustrated and feeling very alone in my search to help him.
Your article about Anger Overload was the FIRST thing that aligned with his symptoms!!! I have contacted a child counselor to see if they provide Parent - Child Interactive Therapy so I can learn how to best deal with his outbursts. I also plan on buying your book tonight in the hopes that this four year nightmare will finally end. It's not the anger I have an issue with....it's NOT knowing what he is going through and how to help him. Having a name for it (and not succumbing to labeling him but rather focusing on giving him outlets) helps me so much. Thank You, thank you, thank you!!!!
Hi, research on anger suggests that the structures in the brain that have to do with anger and self control are the amygdala and cerebral cortex. The cerebral cortex receives signals from the amygdala; for children who have difficulty with self control, one prominent theory is that the cortex is not developed enough yet to manage the signals from the amygdala. The cortex gets overloaded. Hence the term anger overload. The exercises in my parent's manuals are designed to help children cope. I think that as children practice the strategies the control centers in the brain become further developed.
The emphasis of the first chapter of volume one is careful observation. You would write down what happens and look for themes. What issues sometimes trigger your child's anger? Then you would keep an eye out for these triggers. The next chapters of the manual offer a number of strategies. One set of strategies involves changing the sequence of events to avoid a trigger. When this is not possible, early intervention is key. Emotional distraction can help if a child is not yet in overload. Also, developing "mantras," or jingles, helps a child to change his mental set (his expectations) and this often helps to change the way a child acts. I explain how to develop these strategies (and more) in my parent's manuals and in other blog posts. In the second volume of the manual, I also explain how to use the strategies in a school setting.
When a child is throwing things, he is in the overload phase. It is hard to reason with a child in this stage because he is not thinking rationally. His cortex is overloaded. When he is calm, in addition to the above strategies, I would try to develop a "go to place" when he feels an upset coming on, and reward him heavily for trying to go there when he is frustrated. In the "go to place," I would have something he could hold and/or squeeze to try to comfort himself. If he throws something there, no one gets hurt. It is not easy to accomplish this because your child (given his age), will not usually realize when he is starting to get upset. Thus, it is important to help him see early signs of getting frustrated and point out which situations he should look out for. Most young children though need an adult to cue them to use the "go to place." At that point, do not explain what you see happening, just cue him to use the "go to place." Keep the cue short.
For older children (ages 8 and above) we recently developed an anger overload workbook that parents can work on with their child. But for younger children, the parents' manuals are what you should read. Best, Dr. Dave Gottlieb