ok, I need to learn the best way to deal with my son when he starts hitting himself after he's been asked not to do something. This morning he was pestering his youger brother and I asked him to stop and leave his room...he went to his room, put pillow over his face and started punching it--not real hard and calling himself "stupid". He only started the punching when I came to see how he was....I had first made sure younger son was ok and on track for getting dressed.
(We don't normally have this much trouble at this point in the morning!! Trouble usually comes when its time to go out the door. )
What I did was ask him to stop hitting himself and take hold of his hands gently and briefly to make my point and get his attention. He swore at me. I stated our rule about swearing and then I repeated my instruction not to hit and left the room and refocused attention on other son and proceeded downstairs to kitchen. Son seemed to snap out of it and followed us down, although still grumpy.
Any suggestions on how to handle this better? I think I need to learn how to discipline him in a way that doesn't have him feel like he's "Stupid". This is his standard response to any type of correction--behaviour or schoolwork, etc. And we are not sure if this is attachment only, or depression overlaying it. Problem is he doesn't have a complete set of depressive symptoms--has interests, wants to do favourite activities and play with his friends.
Hi Janet: This self destructive mode is dangerous for your son and so anything that you can do to detour this reaction before is escalates would be best. My grandson's family use "strong sitting" extensively for many issues, that would include verbal abuse right up alongside plain old refusal to comply. Teaching this technique takes patience, but in our grandson, you can see him getting control over his emotions. He is able to sit straight, tall, in contol with his hands folded in his lap. The praise of doing it right and looking "very strong now" and "getting control of your feelings" really pays off. Strong sitting can be used in a number of situations, that include showing they are done what you have asked and then sit in the designated place and wait for you to check on the results of the task that was asked. Once his family started this, we of course continued it and it works everywhere, in the store, at the restaurant, on an outing, after poor behavior, or after simple chores requested. It is also a means of showing respect for the rules. I hope I have explained this part well enough. I expect you may get some more suggestions here as well. In another post you asked about a website for Deb Hage. Check it out at www.deborahhage.com I have had the opportunity to meet Deb and know she could help you with implementing this. It is also one used extensively by Nancy Thomas. Good for you in recognizing the problem that exists and knowing you will be required to change your plan of attack for your child to develop more appropriate ways of dealing with his frustration. Sometimes a little jogging on the spot, some exercise running outdoors, will stimulate the oxygen to the brain and things will get back on track. good luck and keep posting and asking Carol
Hi Carol, Thank you for the reply. I will look up that website. And I am going to order Nancy Thomas' book, so I can learn how to do the strong sitting technique, and maybe find a few other tools.
With or son, it is so hard to tell that he has a problem--he is ok most of the time now. He will battle over certain rules for ages, then all of a sudden accepts those rules, and moves his battle to another area. It has been easy to just think he's very persistent...but then we realized that he does not apply the same persistence in the area of learning new tasks or schoolwork--he just quits in frustration when there is something hard to do.
We will keep trying to find good solutions and guide him towards good mental health!
Hi Janet You are right. Good mental health is the bottom line to all of this. Mental health issues in children are so unrecognizable by the general population and unfortunately by well meaning family members. Our little grandson is a perfect example. It took "grandpa" ten times longer to recognize the behavioral signs. Many reasons of course as I spend more time with the child, and he is on his best behavior with grandpa always. We have nicknamed grandpa "the weak link" and he knows it. He wants so much to believe this magincal little soul can do no wrong that he has often overlooked signs that are obvious to the parents and myself. It did take me a long time also, but grandpa still hovers between acceptance and denial some times. Carol
Post by Heather and Judy on Jan 10, 2009 10:50:18 GMT -5
First off, don't blame yourself for him hitting himself. It is not because of you, or how you spoke to him or what you did or didn't do.
Secondly, it is important to try to accept that no matter what we do, sometimes, it will not alter behaviour.
Only you know the "why" behind why your son is hitting himself. Is it because he is truly mentally unstable, is it because he wants you to feel sorry for him, is it because he acts without thinking, is it because he wants sympathy from someone at school the next day due to marks on his face, or is it because he truly feels "stupid" when he is spoken to. Dealing with RAD and co-existing conditions is something we know first hand to be very difficult. No therapist can really help you with this part. You need to accept that you know your child best and can decipher, for the most part, what point the behaviour is coming from.
The reason you need to know this is to know how to deal with the behaviour.
Something else to keep in mind is that children with RAD, and I know you're son has been described as insecurely attached, are not usually allowed around other children unsupervised. I don't know if he was unsupervised with your other son or bothering him in front of you.
My first reaction, but bear in mind we do not know the reasons behind your son's behaviour, would be to say that rather than "telling" him the behaviour is wrong, that he should be consequenced. He knows the behaviour is wrong, he knows swearing at you is wrong. Less talk with these children and more action. You also don't want him to think YOU think he's stupid, which is why you are telling him again that what he is doing is wrong.
So - he would be consequenced, and the options for that could be discussed here after depending on the motivation for his behaviour, which would in effect, eliminate him going to his room and hitting himself at all. He would not be allowed to wander off into his room because he would be getting consequenced in your presence.
Also - of note, is that if you are currently using a therapist, bear in mind the therapist may not be on board with you using Nancy Thomas' methods if they are not educated about HOW they are used. It really takes living with these kids to understand how this method can be helpful. The bottom line is that you need to evaluate your family's relationship with your son and determine if the methods you are using now are working and if not, how you and your spouse feel about using new methods...
Hope this helps a little - let us know what you think about the motivation behind your sons hitting, Heather
It's impossible to rationalize irrational behaviour...
Hi, I think the self-hitting comes from his truly feeling "stupid" for making a mistake--he is very perfectionist and responds with self-depreciation whenever he makes a mistake. Although sometimes he does it now to get attention, since he knows I will tell him to stop. The swearing at me at that time comes from ???I have no idea?? possibly from becoming angry with me for interfering with his self-depreciating exercise (hitting himself). And from a need to improve his basic respect skills when he's "emotional".
We have been using a "normal" child parenting technique of "re-do's" (Ron Morrish). If you say a swear word (or other non-respectful action etc.), you get a "re-do". You are allowed to express your anger with a more appropriate word/phrase. This has actually worked well--unless son is on the verge of a rage. The technique took a lot stress out of our lives. And it helped the kids feel like they didn't have to be perfect all the time--they could make a mistake and have a chance to correct it immediately. It did take awhile for them to get used to--the both refused a first. They were both not willing to trust a change in how they were handled! Has been helpful for the perfectionist streak in our older son. This may not be so good for a more severe RAD child. With our older son, he seems fine, until he's done something wrong, or thinks or knows we are angry with him--that's when his "RAD" like behaviours come into play.
Normally he is not such a pest in the morning. So I'm not sure what was up that morning. And perhaps he doesn't know what he was up to either....leading him to "Beat himself up" even more. Usually I can let him be "unsupervised" with others. I am always within ear-shot, except when they are playing outside. Honestly, usually it is the other son pestering him. The other son has impulse issues what we are thinking are related to ADHD or possibly FAS. We don't see a lot of impulse problems with our older son. He's normally pretty cautious.
I'd say that right now, we are using a mixed bag of "normal" parenting techniques, along with some "zero" tolerance immediate consequence type stuff. And some Dan Hughes stuff--matching body-posture and affect. Matching body-posture is going well--so far they hate it when I try to match their "Affect" They think I'm mocking them, so obivously I haven't got the annoyance out of my voice and/or missing their point!!
Wow, it's late and I'm not even sure what I'm trying to say now. So I'll quit. Any advice is appreciated.
Post by Heather and Judy on Jan 19, 2009 13:36:08 GMT -5
Sorry this is delayed....after reading the update to your post, these are my suggestions:
1 - Swearing - Any behaviour your son picks up is one you need to be able to regulate (ie control). When YOU choose the time and place he engages in the behaviour, then the behaviour loses it's charm and loses it's impact on you.
ie) swearing at you. "Sweetheart, I'd love to do the swearing thing right now, however, I have your brother to get off to school, Daddy to say goodbye to, and myself to get at work. Let me grab the calendar and we'll make an appt. How's tonight at 7:30 for you? 15 mins good enough? (He will likely still be swearing at you all through this...you ignore it and talk and look at him with love in your eyes...this is very hard...you CAN do it...do not let the adrenaline in your system make you boil over. Literally, if you need practice, get hubby or a friend to swear at you WAY out of earshot of the children, saying the things your child says, while you ignore it and practice your response.) No? Ok, 25 mins may be better than. I can fit that in. I love you and I can't wait till our swearing session tonight. Have a great day, sweetie!" Then walk away.
When the session comes, you announce it is time for your scheduled appt with him, bring snacks if you want for both of you, or grab a hot drink and sit down looking relaxed. Pick the place, tell your child he now has your undivided attention. Calmly sip your drink while he swears at you. He may need encouragement, ie) if not now, when? You know, I may not have time to make an appt for you whenever you feel like it, so you best use the time for swearing now. If he doesn't, no prob, give him the time allotted (it can be 10 mins or something less if you like), then tell him, "I'm glad we set aside this time together!"
2 - Hitting himself - you do mention some thought about it occasionally being for attention. My suggestion is as above - behaviours are things you need to get a handle on by deciding when and where they are performed...(Deb Hage web site - articles is good for this..I forget off hand which one describes this tho)
So - couple ideas - 1) once in a while you schedule hitting time. Make it short - 1 min...whatever...ok honey, have a seat on the stool there. Now's time for you new "I'm stupid so I will hit myself" hobby. Not a hobby I would choose for myself, but you seem to like it! Other kids would probably find different ways to deal with feeling like they were stupid, but you like hitting yourself...funny choice...but totally ok with me.
Idea 2) can be used with idea 1). Before you are going to tell him he has done something wrong, or intervene, or consequence, you could say, "Honey, just to let you know, I am about ready to "tell you, consequence you, etc..." about what just happened, and you will hit yourself in the head, call yourself stupid and go to your room. So, you can go ahead and get that done with now so it's over. Go ahead, hit yourself, say you're stupid, go to your room, then come back and see me." He will, or will not do this. He may look atyou like you're crazy. Ignore this. Look at him lovingly and remember you are doing important work. If he does it, tell him, "great job!" and then tell him what you were going to say. If he doesn't do it, you can say, "well it's your choice not to hit yourself and call yourself stupid, as long as you're ok with it..." or, dependent on the time you have and the situation, you can get comfy and tell him the next good thing will not be happening until you can ensure he has had the chance to hit himself, call himself stupid, go to his room, and come back.
Anyway, two off the wall ideas that usually work, if delivered in the right way.
Ok - I'll leave you with this for now - fire off another msg with any other comments
Take care, Heather
It's impossible to rationalize irrational behaviour...