My Son is Angry All the Time

Question: There is something seriously wrong with my 5 year old son. He is constantly angry, even when he first wakes up in the morning. He has major meltdowns, threatens people and is aggressive, sometimes even violent. But he’s also outgoing and has friends at his preschool. I’ve read parenting books but their advice hasn’t worked. I took him to a psychiatrist who said he was probably on the Spectrum but refused to give him an official diagnosis until he was older. I feel like no one’s helping me. This is so hard and I don’t know what to do.

Answer: Dealing with discipline is one of the toughest jobs a parent has to accomplish. The word discipline comes from the Latin root to teach. Unlike punishment, it is a way for children to internalize good behavior and it sounds like you’ve truly been doing your best. I commend you on trying so many different things. That is the mark of a dedicated and loving mother.

When figuring out what is going on with kids’ behavior, the more information you have the better it will be. As such, looking for patterns of behavior will be useful and the best way to do that is to start a journal. Whenever I am working with a family dealing with behavior problems, I want to know both what sets off the child and what makes her or him happy. Consequently, start writing down everything surrounding his tantrums. Pertinent information can include how much sleep he got, what he ate, the time of day, his energy level, who is around, what he was just doing, the weather, and how he responded to intervention. I would also want information about activities he enjoys and the times when he seems happy or at least not angry.

In getting more information, I would want to know how your son behaves at his preschool. If he is outgoing and social, does that mean he can “turn off” his angry behavior while he is not at home? If so, I would want to know what disciplinary strategies they use and what kinds of activities they see that he enjoys. I would want similar information from other places and people with whom he spends time, like neighbors, family members or civic organizations.

All of the information you compile should be of assistance in trying to see your son’s triggers and rewards. It will also be useful to the healthcare professionals you consult. If you’ve done all that you can, it’s time to again ask for help. Just like you would before undergoing a major surgery, I recommend getting a second opinion. Find someone who has a great deal of experience with children with behavioral difficulties and meet with them. There are many things that could be affecting your son’s behavior and the trick is to find the professionals who can be of assistance, anyone from a play therapist or a child psychologist to an occupational therapist. Although it is daunting, I would continue to consult until you find someone who can help. There should be no reason to wait until your son goes to school because there are many things that can be done now.

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