Temper control question — The Bump
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Temper control question

I am a nanny for 2 boys, one is 5 and the other 9. The older boy (S) is prone to having these violent, angry outbursts whenever he feels like his brother (N) has done something wrong. For example, this morning they were riding bikes before school and N (accidently) ran into S with his bike. S immediately started screaming his head off, so I told N, "What do you say when you accidently hurt someone?" and N apologized. S kept screaming about it and then intentionally ran into him with his bike and slapped him in the face. I pulled S aside and took away the bike and told him it's not okay to hit someone no matter how angry he is. And he just kept yelling about how N wouldn't leave him alone, so I told him that if he feels like he needs space then he should tell me and I will make sure N doesn't follow him but that he can not hit anyone. Things like this happen at least twice a day, on a good day.

Their parents seem to have this "S, don't hit him and N you shouldn't be following him, anyway" sort of attitude and don't do much about it. But S is so much bigger than N that I really worry he might hurt him... and in general, I don't want this kid to grow up thinking he can hit people whenever he's angry.

Anyone have any ideas about what I can do? I think he just needs to work on having an appropriate outlet for his anger, but I can't really come up with anything. It seems like walking away wouldn't help because he gets so overwhelmed with anger in the moment that he can't stop himself and it only takes him about 5 minutes to cool down and move on. Time outs are just not feasible because this morning he had to get on the bus for school so I couldn't make him sit somewhere.

The kids parents work all the time, so I have them from 7am - 7:30 or 8pm every day (except the hours they're in school, when school is on holiday I have them all day).

TIA.

Re: Temper control question

  • I hate to post and run but I have to get back to work now. I will read and reply tonight! TIA!
  • I think you're probably handling it in the best way possible.  

    I'd estimate that "S" probably has three or four solid years under his belt of developing the habit of venting his frustration and anger in a physical way on his brother.  It's going to take a while for him to gain the impulse control to stop this behavior.  

    Is S's anger usually provoked by his brother?  Or does he have impulse control issues in other areas as well (like, gets frustrated when he's losing a game, gets angry and dwells on "unfairness" a lot, etc.)  If it's usually provoked by N, I wouldn't be overly worried, although I would not tolerate hitting.  Nothing aggravates a kid like a sibling!

    When my kids argue, I try to stay out of it.  I monitor the situation if I'm nearby.  I only intervene if someone breaks a rule or doesn't fight fairly.  If I have to get involved, I try not to act as judge. Instead, I push them to come up with a solution to their problem.  I may talk them through this process and model ways that they might reach a resolution.  If the fight has already gotten to the name-calling or hitting stage, I let them cool down first.  THEN we reach a resolution of the original problem, THEN I deal individually with them about whatever inappropriate actions they took during the argument.  If they manage to come to a solution before the situation gets out of control, even if I helped them, I praise them.

    When dealing with an impulse control issue like you have with S, it helps to keep a really close eye on the kid and watch for signs that he's about to lash out.  If you can stop him and say something like "Whoah -- I see you're getting angry.  Stop and think for a second before you do something you can't undo."  Praise heavily if the child has the self-control to stop at this point.

    When either of my kids loses control of their emotions, I typically handle it using some version of this script:

    "I can see that you're feeling very angry right now.  I understand how __________________ could make you feel that way. However, hitting/name-calling is never okay, and you know that.    If you need to get your anger out, you can punch a pillow or you can go outside and yell.  Do you think that would make you feel better?  There are ways to solve this problem that don't involve hitting/name-calling.  When you are more calm, I'm happy to talk about it."

    There are some times when, like you said, the bus is going to come or the clock is ticking or whatever, and you can't resolve things satisfactorily.  I try to judge whether we need to let it go, or if it's something that merits talking about later.

    HTH!   

    High School English teacher and mom of 2 kids:

    DD, born 9/06/00 -- 12th grade
    DS, born 8/25/04 -- 7th grade
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  • He has these outbursts whenever anything doesn't go his way. If we are playing a board game and N makes a move that isn't allowed, S will hit him and yell about it (instead of just saying, "you can't do that"). If N wins fairly, S will flip over the board. If his homework takes too long, he throws it on the floor. If I tell him to put away his iPhone, he throws screams and runs away and throws things around whichever room he's in.

    I did notice that they're much worse when he's hungry or tired, so I do try to keep snacks available and encourage him to eat when I can see he's starting to get upset. I can't control how much he sleeps, but I'd honestly like to put him to bed myself because my day is just hell if he doesn't go to bed at a decent hour.

    Thanks for the response.  He probably is a little attention starved so the praise will likely really help him. Sometimes it's just hard to find something to praise when all I hear is screeching.

  • Read Siblings without Rivalry and work with him on expressing his feelings to his brother appropriately.  taking a time out to regroup is great when you can do it ... not in a punitive way but in a "everybody needs to cool down sometimes" way.  Does he have any anxiety or other behavioral issues that could be contributing to it?  Sometimes boys need to hit something benign to get out some pent up aggression - pillows and punching bags are good.  Hopefully, if you help him find an outlet and help him learn to talk it out, these situations will be less frequent.  But, if you find it happens at the same time every day, I would try to do something else at that time.  Maybe riding bikes before school isn't the best thing for these kids if they can't do it without getting on each other's nerves.
    DS1 age 7, DD age 5 and DS2 born 4/3/12
  • imageMinipenguin:

    He has these outbursts whenever anything doesn't go his way. If we are playing a board game and N makes a move that isn't allowed, S will hit him and yell about it (instead of just saying, "you can't do that"). If N wins fairly, S will flip over the board. If his homework takes too long, he throws it on the floor. If I tell him to put away his iPhone, he throws screams and runs away and throws things around whichever room he's in.

    I did notice that they're much worse when he's hungry or tired, so I do try to keep snacks available and encourage him to eat when I can see he's starting to get upset. I can't control how much he sleeps, but I'd honestly like to put him to bed myself because my day is just hell if he doesn't go to bed at a decent hour.

    Thanks for the response.  He probably is a little attention starved so the praise will likely really help him. Sometimes it's just hard to find something to praise when all I hear is screeching.

    Some kids are just "hard-wired" to have a shorter fuse, and he may be one of them.  I think it's also possible in his case that he's never been coached by his parents (or anyone prior to you!) to exercise more self-control.  It's become easy and rewarding for him to handle difficult feelings by lashing out.  It's going to take work and time for him to learn a new way.  He will benefit if you are consistent and firm.  

    I believe kids inherently want to gravitate toward more inner control.  Losing control may bring relief in the short term, but it's costly and embarrassing in the long run.  As he comes to trust you more, you may be able to help him see that his behavior is very babyish and not really normal for an older kid!  This might help motivate him to change.  But you really want to wait to use that tactic until you've developed a bond with him or he'll just shut you out.

    High School English teacher and mom of 2 kids:

    DD, born 9/06/00 -- 12th grade
    DS, born 8/25/04 -- 7th grade
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