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Hi again,Customer Before I attempt to provide you with some suggested strategies, I need a bit more information. I see that you are in Great Britain. Are you in a city or the country side? Can you respond specifically to the following for me. 1) Tell me about the development of your son. Was the pregnancy normal, if not, what were the issues? Has his development been normal (i.e.: walking, talking, skill development, etc.) 2) What is your marital status? Any significant issues that may impact your son's anger issues? 3) When did the bullying begin, what forms does it take (verbal, physical,) What actions/interventions have you taken? What has been the results of that? 4) Can you share with me some of your son's likes, dislikes? Academic, Sports, Social (I know he likes Judo). Is he skilled in any particular area. Thank you for your responses to these
Thank you for your questions. We live in a lovely part of the countryside and have ready access to fields and open spaces. This was a normal pregnancy (text book!). He developed normally as a baby, early to walk (9 months) slightly later than average to start talking but once he did there's been no stopping him! I'm married to his father and have been for 28 years and we have a daughter age 11. We have moved house several times since he was born (due to his father changing jobs) - this is his 5th home, we have lived in this house for 3 years and in this area for 5 years. The bullying (and it has been quite mild) began in primary school around age 8. The move at age 7 was quite a wrench for him as he had started school (but so too had my daughter). The bullying is generally pretty mild and takes mostly a verbal form - mostly teasing, but he doesn't seem to be able to just laugh it off. Sometimes it gets a bit physical (pushing and shoving type of thing) but he has never come home with any damage. At primary school we spoke to the teachers on a number of occasions but it didn't seem to make any difference. We spoke to the parents of the perpetrators (who we were on good terms with) and it eased up a little. We have not spoken to the secondary school/high school teachers because he asked us not too, but a recent parents evening revealed that one or two of his teachers at least are aware that he gets laughed at and does not get on with certain individuals and are working to keep them apart in the class room. We have talked with him about how to deal with the "bullies" and others who annoy him advising him to ignore the bullies who are provoking a reaction - which they normally get. We have yet to see if he can master this.
He loves maths and science and art but is doing well in all subjects at school. Until recently he did a lot of gymnastics and has been put on the gifted and talented register for PE for his involvement in martial arts. He does not always find it easy to make new friends - other people annoy him and he annoys other people. However, he generally gets on very well with adults who find him charming, and he is particularly good with small children and will look out for them and they love him.
I might also add that along with the anger is defiance at home and also resentment at being asked to do anything to help with household tasks such as changing the sheets on his bed, being asked to help with household chores, etc.
I hope that hellps.
Thank you for your response, and yes the information you provided helps me a great deal to understand the nature of the issue you face and perhaps offer some suggestions.
First and foremost, what you have described to me is not alarming, nor raise any warning that you need to seek "immediate" intervention. On the contrary, what you have described to me is very typical adolescent behavior. You seem to be quite aware of your children's needs and perhaps a few sessions with a mental health professional (even a school counselor and/or school psychologist) may help. I want to separate at least three issues you have raised, although it may seem as if it were only one for you. After I comment on each, I will offer some suggestions and strategies for you to consider.
First is you son's behavior at home, and what appears to be defiance and/or belligerence. Young people who enter adolescence (and please forgive me if you already know all this) have certain social, emotional, physical, behavioral, and spiritual tasks to acquire as they move from childhood to adulthood. Although boys and girls have different developmental milestones and tasks, the general developmental issues are common to both...that is they may occur at different ages or periods; and of course the physical issues are gender specific. With that as a background, your son, at the early stages of adolescence is going through tremendous physical, emotional and social changes and as such, challenges. I imagine that he is entering if not already well into puberty, and therein lies a great deal of hormonal imbalance. The stress of body changes, normal joint pain, change in self identity all typically raise stress levels, not to mention rapid changes in mood swings. If you are experiencing this with your son, this is very common, and your exasperation and frustration is also very typical. When I work with families, I often ask parents to recall when they were that age...it brings on yet a different perspective. In terms of defiance and some appearance of disrespect and disregard for direction. Without making excuses for this poor behavior, males at this stage of adolescence often demand independence and need autonomy. What is typically viewed by concerned care givers as belligerence is more an expression of "leave me alone, I'd rather do it my self, my own way. In summary, much of your son's behavior is normal adolescent growth and development.
Bullying is a growing problem world wide, in cities and rural areas. Unfortunately, the internet and digital social networks has aided in the expanse of this problem that has been around for many hundreds of years. There is evidence that bullying even occurred in biblical times. However, it is important that it is not left unbridled. Although, I must say, that I am not too concerned since your son is studying the martial arts and can take care of himself, which is why I suspect he asked you not to got to the school authorities. That along with the adolescent need for independence that I described above. You and your husband need to keep a close watch on this, however.
The anger and verbal aggression is an important issue to also note. while aggression and increased verbal hostility is expected during adolescents, there needs to be counter actions, beyond sanctions and punishment to manage this behavior. Briefly, aggression and violence is learned, and it is reinforced when the aggressor has greater positive reinforcement for his behavior than negative. One of the developmental tasks adolescents must master, especially in their emotional and social domains is angry impulse control. There are programs that help adolescents do that and your school counselors should know of these. Next
Steps and strategies to consider:
You seem to have a good understanding of your son's situation. I believe you stated that you and your husband speak with your children and attempt to help them understand their behaviors and resultant consequences. Yet there are other things that you may wish to consider. In no particular order: 1) Adolescence requires parents to be vigilant, consistent, and constant. Within this general guideline, parents need to keep in mind that adolescents require their own independence and sense of control. What you and your husband can do is provide the condition by allowing your son to take on as much responsibility for which he is capable and willing to be accountable. For example, if you wish him to make his bed and change his linens: rather than tell his he should do that, set an expectation such as "your bed sheets and clothes must be changed once a week. Then allow him to choose the day and time to do that (eg: every Tuesday after I return from school, I shall complete that chore). Then all you need to do is hold him accountable for that. This is but one small example of empowering young people to take responsibility for their own behavior. 2) In terms of bullying, a watchful parental eye is required here. However, you need to be very clear, and consistent. One strategy is again set expectations and clear guidelines. Something like: "Son, we shall respect your wishes not to get involved with the school as you have requested. You are getting old enough to tell us what you need and how you would like us to help you. However, if things seems to be getting out of hand, then we reserve the right to protect you...not to interfere with your life, but to protect you because we love you and because that is our responsibility as parents." 3) The aggressive behavior, while typical of adolescence must also be monitored carefully. If you see and increase in verbal and/or physical aggression, not only must you confront that behavior, but you must be prepared to intervene in at least a few areas. First, appropriate sanctions and punishments according to the severity of the behavior. Second, seeking help from support people such as family members, school and community (church, friends, neighbors). Third professional intervention either through school personnel or mental health professionals.
I hope this has been helpful for you. Please ask follow up questions if I have omitted anything you think I should have answered. Of course contact me with new issues should you need. Be sure to complete the feedback forms and provide a rating so I may be credited for my time with you.
Thank you. What you have said makes sense and is reassuring. My only remaining area of concern is the anger management.
I am aware that adolescents are on an emotional roller coaster however my son has always had this problem: as a toddler he would over-react and become stressed by a change in plans - eg going to the food shop, I changed the shop I went to due to a traffic incident blocking the road, to which he had a complete tantrum. In his early years at school he would not accept if his team did not win, and would twist the facts and tell everyone in fact they did win (much to their annoyance which of course resulted in a huge argument). He once took some nail clippers to school in his pocket, they were quite rightly taken off him by the teacher till the end of school, but he became completely angry at that and told the head teacher they had no right to take them (age 5 or 6). If something happens that he thinks is wrong, he cannot be reasoned with. His angry reaction and self assertiveness is becoming more pronounced with adolescence and we are struggling to help him understand that it is OK for people to have a different view point to him, it is OK for people to make mistakes and that he should not get angry with them for doing so. The incident that sparked my internet searching yesterday went along these lines: He and a male friend/neighbour age 11, who I'll call John, were playing a computer game. Something happened which caused my son to lash out verbally at John calling him an idiot and a git. Knowing my son, John had probably made a move which my son thought was less than clever. John was understandably upset at the abuse and retaliated verbally at which point my son told him he'd better get out of here and go home. John decided to do this and started packing his bags. At this point I came home with my daughter so John decided to play with her instead and they went to her room to get out some toys. My son then went to her room to torment them: they shut the door: he started firing his foam bullets from a toy gun at her door: his father told him to go away and leave them alone: John's mum phoned for John to go home - it was also our family meal time: my son tried to push and shove him as he attempted to leave: we told him again to leave them alone and his father tried to distract him by getting him to help with a task: he helped begrudgingly and then went straight back to tormenting John: all this time the anger was building and the verbal abuse to anyone who spoke to him was increasing: his father then said that he would not take him to Judo if the rudeness continued: at which point we get "what! That's not fair! It's not my fault! They were the ones who were being idiots!" etc. When asked to calm down and stop shouting he then sat at the meal in silence with his headphones on listening to music. At the end of the meal I tapped him on the shoulder to ask him to remove the headphones (I wanted to talk to him to negotiate going to Judo): he pretended he didn't know what I wanted so I gently removed one from his hear which he attempted to replace at which point his father lost patience and snatched his headphones from him - of course this added fuel to the anger fire! "What was that for!" I explained that I had wanted to talk to him about the possibility of his still going to Judo tonight but if he didn't want to talk about it that was fine. "I am going to Judo and no one is going to stop me" His father said he needed to see some contrite behaviour first and there was no evidence of it so far. "Fine! Sorry! There, now I'm going to Judo" You can imagine how it continued right up to getting into the car with his Dad and sister to the point of being dragged out of the car by his father and physically taken back to the house. (Father then drives off with daughter). The real anger explosion then occurred with slamming of (glass) doors, throwing items, locking himself in the downstairs bathroom then climbing out of the window and heading off across the fields and returning after an hour, seemingly calm and more collected. Later at bed time he said to me that he didn't know why he wasn't allowed to go to Judo, that everyone picks on him and that he is the only one that ever gets told off and everyone gangs up on him and is mean. I said that it was not the time to talk about it as it was late and he needed to sleep and that we would talk about it tomorrow: I hope we shall do so this evening. What concerns me is his continued lack of understanding that it is his own behaviour in the first place that sparks these things off, that this behaviour has consequences and that he can control the situation himself. I believe he has always been like this and is just getting worse with adolescence. Whenever I've sought advice in the past I've been told: Oh, it's just the terrible twos: oh they are often difficult when they start school: it's because he's 8 it's a difficult age: this is what happens in adolescence. So is this what he is going to be like as an adult? I hope not. He will have a very difficult time if he is. I think the way we are handling these outbursts is wrong: my husband thinks we are not strict enough soon enough - I think we/he is not sufficiently diplomatic nor respectful of my son when asking him to do things. I think we create the situations to a certain extent in the first place: but on the other hand our daughter is completely different and we shouldn't have to tread so carefully around our son - that won't happen in the big wide world. It seems to me however that we do need to change our approach in some way, it's just knowing how to change that is the hard part. How do we get him to take his walk across the fields to calm down at the point where John annoyed him - it's like the anger button is turned on and from that point the self control is lost and there is no reasoning with him. Thank you.
Thank you. I will research that.