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Old 03-30-2020, 09:13 AM
 
9 posts, read 5,265 times
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Hello.

I have a 4 year old daughter who is very aggressive and destructive when angry and I can't figure out how to make it stop. Anything can set her off. Yesterday morning, it was because I parked the car on a driveway chalk drawing she did a day before. Usually, it's when she doesn't get her way or if she's very tired.

Here is my dilemma. When she gets angry she lashes out on the environment. She will try to flip furniture, pull curtains off the walls, knock over end tables, slam doors. Very recently, she ran off down the street. Obviously, I can't let her do that so I have to physically stop her. As soon as I, or my wife, touch her, she will start hitting, scratching, kicking, and biting us. She drew blood yesterday on my wife's arms. As I type I this, I have scabs on the tops of both of my hands. If I try to restrain her, she'll scream that we're choking her and try to spit on us. She'll fight to free herself until she passes out. So, you can see my problem. I can't let her destroy the house, but I also can't physically stop her without being attacked myself.

We have tried everything: spanking (which only makes her angrier), timeouts (she will not stay in the timeout spot and will fight you to get out), taking things away, talking to her after when she finally gets calm. When she is in the red zone, it's like she can't even hear us talking. There is nothing that can stop her.

Lately, my only method is to take her upstairs to a spare bedroom and sit against the door so she can't leave (while inside room with her). She will repetitively scream "go away" or "stupid head" over and over for at least an hour while trying to get out of the room. It only stops when she completely fatigues herself. I don't even know how she still has a voice when it is done. By the end we are scraped up, tired and wondering why we decided bring a second child into this.

I need a new strategy but don't have any better ideas. I can't let her destroy things and I can't let her hit me. But if I stop one, I get the other.
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Old 03-30-2020, 09:45 AM
 
Location: Brentwood, Tennessee
48,401 posts, read 46,677,077 times
Reputation: 94765
Quote:
Originally Posted by daddy2dd View Post
Hello.

I have a 4 year old daughter who is very aggressive and destructive when angry and I can't figure out how to make it stop. Anything can set her off. Yesterday morning, it was because I parked the car on a driveway chalk drawing she did a day before. Usually, it's when she doesn't get her way or if she's very tired.

Here is my dilemma. When she gets angry she lashes out on the environment. She will try to flip furniture, pull curtains off the walls, knock over end tables, slam doors. Very recently, she ran off down the street. Obviously, I can't let her do that so I have to physically stop her. As soon as I, or my wife, touch her, she will start hitting, scratching, kicking, and biting us. She drew blood yesterday on my wife's arms. As I type I this, I have scabs on the tops of both of my hands. If I try to restrain her, she'll scream that we're choking her and try to spit on us. She'll fight to free herself until she passes out. So, you can see my problem. I can't let her destroy the house, but I also can't physically stop her without being attacked myself.

We have tried everything: spanking (which only makes her angrier), timeouts (she will not stay in the timeout spot and will fight you to get out), taking things away, talking to her after when she finally gets calm. When she is in the red zone, it's like she can't even hear us talking. There is nothing that can stop her.

Lately, my only method is to take her upstairs to a spare bedroom and sit against the door so she can't leave (while inside room with her). She will repetitively scream "go away" or "stupid head" over and over for at least an hour while trying to get out of the room. It only stops when she completely fatigues herself. I don't even know how she still has a voice when it is done. By the end we are scraped up, tired and wondering why we decided bring a second child into this.

I need a new strategy but don't have any better ideas. I can't let her destroy things and I can't let her hit me. But if I stop one, I get the other.
Your daughter needs professional intervention. Have you not asked her doctor about this?

Most likely there is a developmental issue at work here that can't be punished away. Please call her pediatrician ASAP and schedule a behavioral/psychological evaluation.
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Old 03-30-2020, 10:40 AM
 
9 posts, read 5,265 times
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We have had a single appointment with a counselor and a single OT appointment. My wife suspects a sensory processing disorder from online reading and we're confident that we are dealing with complete meltdowns vs. regular tantrums. More appointments will have to wait until this quarantine is over. There's a possibility we can meet via skype and, if so, we'll try that. My wife is seven months pregnant and I can tell she feels helpless and defeated. I am at complete loss as to how to respond and we haven't reached any point in therapy where there have been recommendations or strategies provided to us. If I knew what to do, I know I'd follow through. It is just weird to have no idea what to do with a person.

When she is not doing this she is a sweet, social and smart little girl. Great eye contact, plays well with other kids, generally well behaved at school (with one or two episodes compared to very frequent at home).
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Old 03-30-2020, 07:50 PM
 
78 posts, read 27,773 times
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She needs professional help. Speaking as a pediatric OT, this does not sound like sensory processing disorder. What it sounds like is a mental health issue, potentially trauma-induced. Continue with the counseling and pursue a neuropsychological assessment as soon as you can get in.

In the meantime, stop hitting her. Start looking up mindfulness, Zones of Regulation (you're already using this curriculum's Red Zone terminology), and other self-regulation techniques for preschoolers. Play games like freeze dance and red light green light for impulse control. Spend lots of one-on-one time playing with her. Praise and reward her for positive behaviors and helping. Build up her self-esteem. Create a Calm Corner she can retreat to to calm down - a cozy little nook, something like a beanbag chair in a pop-up tent that can be her safe space. Have her practice going there and relaxing at times she's already calm. Talk about emotions. Name yours. Name hers. Narrate things you do to calm and regulate yourself. When she escalates, stay calm and even with a low, slow voice. Give her space and get down low, at her level. Minimize language. Avoid communicating your own agitation or stress at the situation, as it will only feed hers.
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Old 03-31-2020, 07:23 AM
 
Location: Brentwood, Tennessee
48,401 posts, read 46,677,077 times
Reputation: 94765
Quote:
Originally Posted by mollycatherine View Post

She needs professional help. Speaking as a pediatric OT, this does not sound like sensory processing disorder. What it sounds like is a mental health issue, potentially trauma-induced. Continue with the counseling and pursue a neuropsychological assessment as soon as you can get in.
I agree. In my experience, the destruction of property and physical attacks on people elevate this to another level.
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Old 03-31-2020, 08:58 AM
 
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Thanks for the feedback. We have a skype session this Friday. In the first OT session, the therapist said she was behind on phasing out some reflex. I think she used the word "integration."

We had a good day yesterday as I was able to get her to nap in the afternoon. She's staying home with me while we wait for the coronavirus to die down, so it has been a rapid change in routine for her and a challenge to both of us since I have to do some work while she's here. Usually, the day is fine and the problems start at night. My wife and I are obviously worried and beating ourselves up that every time we have lost patience and yelled or spanked that we have somehow created this.

I agree that spanking hasn't worked for us (and maybe doesn't work as a concept) but unfortunately we had to learn through experience with our daughter. It's how I was raised and we all turned out fine. Philosophically, my wife and I had to ask ourselves: should we teach that hitting is always wrong or teach that if you hit, you may get hit back? So we started with slap on the butt if she hit us. Needless to say, the philosophical argument became useless when spanking just made it worse.
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Old 03-31-2020, 11:43 AM
 
Location: Southwest Washington State
26,203 posts, read 16,885,177 times
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I am glad you have had a chance to speak with the therapist. You and spouse sound like responsible and loving parents. I’ve thought about your problem. I have thoughts, but no solutions.

I wonder if this violent behavior “turns on” like a switch, or if she works herself into a frenzy over a short period of time. Knowing this might give clues to why it happens.

How have you and wife talked to her about the arrival of her new sibling? How has she handled learning about this?

How have your behaviors changed toward your daughter since you have had to deal with your daughter’s outbursts?

Is there any mental illness in either of your families?

My last thought is this: even young children can become manipulative, even unconsciously. What does your child gain from these aggressive outbursts?

I agree with a previous poster about remaining calm.
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Old 03-31-2020, 11:55 AM
 
Location: planet earth
6,625 posts, read 2,744,389 times
Reputation: 14891
Quote:
Originally Posted by mollycatherine View Post
She needs professional help. Speaking as a pediatric OT, this does not sound like sensory processing disorder. What it sounds like is a mental health issue, potentially trauma-induced. Continue with the counseling and pursue a neuropsychological assessment as soon as you can get in.

In the meantime, stop hitting her. Start looking up mindfulness, Zones of Regulation (you're already using this curriculum's Red Zone terminology), and other self-regulation techniques for preschoolers. Play games like freeze dance and red light green light for impulse control. Spend lots of one-on-one time playing with her. Praise and reward her for positive behaviors and helping. Build up her self-esteem. Create a Calm Corner she can retreat to to calm down - a cozy little nook, something like a beanbag chair in a pop-up tent that can be her safe space. Have her practice going there and relaxing at times she's already calm. Talk about emotions. Name yours. Name hers. Narrate things you do to calm and regulate yourself. When she escalates, stay calm and even with a low, slow voice. Give her space and get down low, at her level. Minimize language. Avoid communicating your own agitation or stress at the situation, as it will only feed hers.
OP: This is really good advice. I hope you will implement it! Order the tent online today! Make it cozy. It can be her "safe space."
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Old 03-31-2020, 01:26 PM
 
9 posts, read 5,265 times
Reputation: 18
We are both reviewing the comments and thanks for all the suggestions. Today has been bad. I am now 50 minutes into a bad meltdown.

We were lying on the couch together watching a movie and she accidentally kicked me in a sensitive area. I instinctively said OW, but not in an angry way. It caught her attention and I said please be careful. She started purposefully trying to kick me, slamming her cup on the table and calling me rude. I told her I would cut the movie off if she kicked me again. She did and I followed through.

That set her off. After attempting to run out of the house we are now in the spare bedroom, me sitting against the door (inside room with her) while she repetitively screams, "get away from my door stupid head.". She's not hitting me or throwing stuff, thankfully. I occasionally stop and ask her if she's ready to make good choices and calm down. She just screams louder if I talk.

Anyways, I have resigned myself to sit here calmly until it is over.

Update: It ended at exactly 1 hour. Her signal that she's ready to calm down is usually when she stops screaming the words and sort of just talks them instead. I asked if she wanted a hug to help her stop (that's our thing, see how hard she can squeeze me and I pretend to pass out). After the hug she was totally calm and we sat in the room and talked for a few minutes. She said she was angry because she wanted just wanted to sit on the couch by herself. I said all she had to do was ask and that when she throws things and tries to run outside we have to go to timeout.

Update 2: Answering some questions
-No mental illness in family. I was diagnosed ADHD as a young adult but that's it. My wife and I both medicated for anxiety attacks during college years but I think that's pretty common.
-She seems excited about the new baby (a boy due in June) and has decided that she gets to pick the name, which is cute.
-I don't think we treat her any differently because of outbursts, but my wife very obviously walks on eggshells because they are so exhausting to manage that avoidance becomes easier. I am more of a head-on person and am more ready to have it out, but that hasn't seemed to make any difference either.
-If she's gaining anything from the outbursts I'm not sure what it is.

Last edited by daddy2dd; 03-31-2020 at 02:10 PM..
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Old 03-31-2020, 02:12 PM
 
281 posts, read 162,328 times
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Oy, can I relate to all of this. OP, I'm sorry you're going through this. Here are my thoughts:

Expect it to get worse when the baby comes. I'm sorry.

You can try reading some books, like The Explosive Child by Ross Greene (or any of his other books). There is also Transforming the Difficult Child, Ten Days to a Less Defiant Child, and others. None of these will give you a magic quick fix, but there are some strategies in there to help you communicate better and therefore reduce conflict. It will also help you understand why your daughter isn't giving you a hard time, she's having a hard time.

There are also lots of support groups on Facebook. In many ways, these have actually been more helpful for me than any therapist so far. Parents who have been there and gone through it.

There are also lots of books on emotional regulation for kids, that you can read to her. These are some good ones: https://www.readbrightly.com/7-books...heir-emotions/
We also like "How do Dinosaurs Say I'm Mad?"

As parents, be clear and consistent with your expectations, and with the consequences, so your daughter knows what to expect. Do your best not to engage when she escalates. Your daughter feeds off of your reaction. Be neutral. Be Switzerland. However, anytime there is good behavior (this includes not behaving badly when the opportunity arises) praise the dickens out if it and reward it! Be enthusiastic in your praise, make eye contact, give her a high-five, and a hug. Be over-the-top. Anytime she does something that warrants an apology from her, teach her to not only say, "I'm sorry" but to also do something to make it all better. At this age it might be as basic as picking up the living room or making up her bed - the point is that she is learning to show a gesture to make up for it. I would recommend to not spank her or hit her - anything you do to her, she may do to her younger sibling.

When your daughter gets violent and physically attacks you, rather than locking yourself in her room with her - try locking yourself (and your wife, whoever is in the house) in your own room. When you lock yourself in her room with her, she has an audience and therefore the show lasts longer. The show will end more quickly when there is no audience.

I have been told by several therapists that because of that age, they won't diagnose her with much - it would typically just be an anxiety diagnosis. Full psychiatric evaluations take several hours over a 1-2 day period, which is challenging for a 4 year old. I'm not advising you for or against the psychiatric evaluation - just passing on what we were told. Also, SPD is comorbid with so many things.

What's most important for her now, is to get help learning to regulate her emotions. This is obviously more difficult with the quarantine going on, but a play therapist may have some helpful ideas. She needs to learn to identify her emotions (ie "I'm feeling mad") so that she can verbalize it instead of lashing out at the environment. Then she can learn healthier ways to cope when she feels dysregulated - drinking ice water, shredding paper, looking at a calm jar, being "tucker turtle", etc. Admittedly, we personally haven't found any one thing that sticks long term, that our daughter finds helpful to calm down.

Lead by example. Say to her, "I'm feeling mad because xyz. I'm going to go to my room and take some deep breaths and count to ten. I'm going to come out once I've calmed down".

You can also look into local emotional sills classes for your daughter that focus on regulating emotions, building confidence, etc. Some therapists offices offer these.

Spend quality time wither her, one on one, every day. Let her be in charge of what you play and how you play it (as long as her behavior isn't violent) - whether it's playing with blocks or playing house or whatever. Your daughter feels out of control in her environment. This will help her feel loved, safe, and in control, and to continue trusting you.

I'm sorry for the novel. I hope some of this helps.
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