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My son has a problem destroying things, colors on walls,

rips up anything he can...
My son has a problem destroying things, colors on walls, rips up anything he can, pours toothpaste, soap, or anything else he can on carpets. We have yelled, spanked, time out, talked about why he does this and how it makes mommy and daddy feel when he does it, make him clean it up, taken toys away, we have even locked bathroom doors and the master bedroom door when it is naptime but he has proven he can now pick locks. I am at my wits end I do not know what to do anymore. We have family day every saturday, we play outside as a family, have family meals together every day and even got him a fish to try to teach him responsibility, he is four years old and we can't seem to do anything to discipline him. He has had shaken baby syndrome and a broken femur in the past by his bio dad and social services had told me he will need to overcome that trauma just like I had. Me and his step father are at a loss please please help.
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Answered in 2 hours by:
3/1/2013
Dr. L
Dr. L, Psychologist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 1,168
Experience: Psychologist, Marriage and Family Therapist
Verified
Dr. L :

Hello,

Dr. L :

I would like to help you with your question.

Customer:

ok

Dr. L :

I am so sorry this is happening. It would seem that your son is reacting to the trauma he experienced early in his life. I encourage you to take him to see a child psychologist as soon as possible so that he can be evaluated and get the help he needs to deal with the emotional pain of his past.

Dr. L :

Discipline is not what he needs. Rather...he needs love, understanding, patience...and the support of a child psychologist.

Dr. L :

That he is destroying things is his way of trying to deal with his world...a world that likely does not feel safe to him.

Customer:

i had tried taking him to a child psychologist this happened when he was 7 weeks old and I took him almost two years ago, we went four times and she said he was a happy normal little boy and she didnt need to see him. We have tried giving him one on one attention with his step dad and myself and he does great for the few hours we are with him but then he will just snap and be very rude and disrespectful and act like nothing happened.

Dr. L :

Those visits were 2 years ago...and at that time he was at a different level of cognitive and emotional development...he is 2 years older...and now he is able to express himself more fully.

Dr. L :

So...even though you were told he was a normal child...that was an assessment based on that period of time. Today is different. And..today...he needs a new evaluation and a new treatment plan.

Customer:
I am not sure if that is part of the service for you to just leave when I had a few more questions concerning the type of psychologist you would suggest, whether it would be strictly for him or myself and his step dad should be involved as a family therapy
Dr. L :

I am sorry. My computer shut down. I am here.

Dr. L :

I will work with you until you are satisfied.

Dr. L :

What I was trying to write when my computer went down was that you need to be sure that whomever your son sees needs to have expertise in trauma. Without that expertise...the psychologist may not have the necessary skills.

Dr. L :

Yes...I agree that family therapy would be important. It would seem best to have all three of you see the therapist for an initial visit and then to make a decision based on what the psychologist sees as the best course of action.

Dr. L :

Your son is suffering. And...at the same time you and your husband are also feeling the consequences. This is a tough situation...

Dr. L :

I also encourage you to get the following book:

Dr. L :

Parenting With Love and Logic by Dr. Foster Cline and Jim Fay

Dr. L :

This parenting program is highly rated..easy to use...and works! Please see:

Dr. L :

www.loveandlogic.com

Dr. L :

Not only will you learn about the love and logic system...but there are many helpful tips.

Dr. L :

Again...I am sorry that we got disconnected.

Dr. L :

I would ask you to rate me after we are done chatting.

Dr. L :

I see you have entered again. I will wait for you to reply and then we can continue chatting.

Customer:

so you are suggesting my son doesnt feel safe with my husband and myself that is why he may be acting out and destroying things, and we need to find a child psychologist who can handle trauma based issues in order to help us mend this issue?

Dr. L :

No...it isn't that you are not providing safety...that comes from his past...from experiences (being shaken and the broken femur) that did not provide the kind of safety that he needed. His current behavior is based on his past...not on what is necessarily happening today.

Dr. L :

However...when he is being punished today - depending on what that punishment is - it may not be interpreted correctly. Let me try to explain this...

Dr. L :

For example...if you say to him "bad boy" for pouring soap on the carpet..he could possibly be connecting this with a past experience in which he was also told he was a bad boy. But when he was told he was a bad boy might not have been based on anything he did..but rather he heard that as he was bad. So now...any time he hears bad boy...he feels convinced that he is bad. And so he acts in a "bad" way.

Dr. L :

Does this make sense?

Customer:

yes that makes sense but we have tried extremes from spanking to getting on his level and talking it out, explaining why we are mad, what he did wrong, asking him why he did it and so on. I have even asked my own councilor advice and she was the one who suggested time outs but that doesnt seem to work. I dont quite understand however how this happened when he was only 7 weeks old, so I'm not quite sure how that "bad boy" example fits into his situation.

Dr. L :

At two years old..he had little ability to interpret his world...at 4 years old he has a bit more ability to understand his world...but still he cannot possibly figure out complex things...and all he really knows is based on experiences. So the trauma he experienced in those early days made a huge impact...that impact will continue to unfold as he continues to develop.

Customer:

what would be your advice for us to do until we are able to get the referral approved to get us to an initial meeting with a psychologist for him?

Dr. L :

All of our life experiences are stored in our body. So what gets said..how we are treated..our memories...stay within the body. At seven weeks old he was a vulnerable being who depended on his primary caregivers for everything...for nuturance, support, love, food, shelter, clean diapers and so forth. When he was physically harmed...he could not understand this in his mind and he still cannot understand it. But what he feels now is this intense energy...that energy is the result of his tiny body being harmed.

Dr. L :

What he is trying to do now is to rid his body of this energy...and that is why is destroys things.

Dr. L :

I know this is hard to understand. It is complex. But, as a trauma therapist, I can assure you that your son does not understand what he is doing...all he knows is that he is filled with energy and he feels compelled to work out that energy.

Dr. L :

Another book I would like you to read is:

Dr. L :

The Whole Brain Child by Dan Siegel

Dr. L :

Dr. Siegel is a world reknown researcher on the brain. This book is written for parents and helps explain how the brain works and how things like trauma impact the brain.

Dr. L :

Dr. Siegels book is filled with illustrations and stories that can be told to children to help them understand why they are feeling and why they engage in certain behaviors.

Customer:

so until we can find a more permanent route to help him through this with a psychologist we should stick to more positive reinforcement and talking rather than discipline?

Dr. L :

Your wrote that you have also had to work to overcome the trauma. I imagine that it has been difficult for you...and, in the same manner, it will be difficult for your son.

Dr. L :

Yes. Also...more physical activities with him that help him to discharge the huge amount of energy he has.

Customer:

ok, thank you so much.

Dr. L :

The more he can play...run...jump...play physical games the better.

Dr. L :

Swimming, skiing, skating...

Dr. L :

Also...get him into the martial arts if at all possible. That will help him learn self-control.

Customer:

yeah he loves pretending to be a power ranger and super heros I have just been afraid that the negative aspect of martial arts and his actions at home would be a bad mix.

Customer:

plus he has a really hard time being away from me, he's overly shy and doesnt participate in groups easily

Dr. L :

I can understand your thought on this. However...he needs a way to channel his energy and aggression and activities that allow him to tire out his body are going to be beneficial.

Dr. L :

It would seem that his fear of being away from you..the shyness...and so forth are really about the safety piece. What I see is that the world does not feel safe to him. And so he will need lots of reassurance that he is physically safe...and emotionally safe. The physically safe piece you know - that extra attention to make sure that he feels comfortable is important and offering reassurances that you are nearby. The emotionally safety piece is about him learning that his feelings - all of them - are valued and important. So...if he acts out his aggression by pouring milk on the floor - you don't blow up at him - rather you say, "I see that you are upset and that you are wanting mommy's attention. I am here for you. I will not leave you. When you are able, you can tell me what has you upset. For now, let's clean this up together. Okay honey?"

Dr. L :

And when he runs to you wanting to hug and kiss you...you acknowledge that positive behavior in the same way. "I see you are happy to be with me. I am here for you. I like your happy face."

Dr. L :

Do you understand my point about physical safety and emotional safety?

Customer:

yes i do, this is seriously helpful, i'll put in for a referral tomorrow for a psychologist and look into some classes or programs at the ymca that he can go to and for a while i can be with him to help him see it is ok and hopefully he will in time be able to do it without me right beside him. Thank you sooooo much

Dr. L :

Martial arts are really very good for children having difficulties with life. Research has shown that the martial arts actually have a calming impact on children..and this is due to the physical movements as well as due to the discipline of the art.

Dr. L :

You are very, very welcome.

Dr. L :

Please consider the two books I suggested. I think both will be very helpful. The Siegel book is really an eye opener as most of us tend not to know much about how the brain really functions. And...the reality with trauma is that it does impact the processing of the brain. We tend to think about the physical damage...but the emotional damage is far worse.

Dr. L :

Is there any last thing I can help you with this evening?

Customer:

no thank you so much.

Dr. L :

Will you please consider changing the rating?

Customer:

of course.

Dr. L :

Thank you. I really appreciate that.

Dr. L :

I will say good-bye now.

Customer:

good night.

Dr. L
Dr. L, Psychologist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 1,168
Experience: Psychologist, Marriage and Family Therapist
Verified
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Dr. L
Dr. L
Dr. L, Psychologist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 1,168
1,168 Satisfied Customers
Experience: Psychologist, Marriage and Family Therapist

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