When a child is hitting, or destructive

2010, on the Always Learning list:
I have a middle son 6yrs. who will often through objects at other family members, especially his older brother 8yrs., when he gets mad. It is usually a result of some form of teasing, name calling or wildness that has gotten out of control. I try and always listen to their play to catch things before they reach that level but we have a big yard and it can be difficult to always be there.

I have talked to the older brother about not pushing to the point where his younger brother explodes and I tried a code word they could use to try and avoid those situations. That worked for a while but I feel like I am not getting to the root of what is happening for the middle son. I try and validate his angry feelings and talk to him about other options but I think when he gets fired up he sees revenge as the most satifying one to him.

I am concerned that he will hurt someone as he will throw rocks and heavy objects. He really hates it when I suggest to breathe, maybe I don't do it in the right way? This is not really typical of our family though my husband is quicker to anger than I. Hoping for some wisdom to help us past this to a better way of being from some more experienced mothers.

Schuyler Waynforth responded with a quote from Deb Lewis on another list, but it all seemed really applicable, so I've saved it here.

Schuyler's framing; the quotes are indented, and the responses are Deb.

Deb Lewis recently wrote a wonderful post about spending more time with a child who was/is being destructive. I'm gonna just rip it from the unschoolbasics archives and post it here:

***My ds is 4 and he takes tools (real, toy, knives, whatever he can find that he can alter something with) and digs, cuts, scrapes into one of the windowsills and one particular part of the living room wall.***
Deb Lewis:
Where are you when he digs the windowsills or walls? If you know he's likely to do it (because he's done it before) you should be with him.
***For the most part he'll stop when redirected, or told why it's not ok. ***
Deb Lewis:
But he does it again? After you told him why it's not ok? He needs you with him more, then.
***he will hit or throw things at his sister when she doesn't want to play with him. He won't be dissuaded by our attempts to get him focused on something else, playing with dh or me, helping us with something***
Deb Lewis:
It seems like he needs more direct attention from you so that he's not left to dig walls or depend on his sister to be his play mate.

Busy moms sometimes forget how much four year olds still need attention. They can seem so mature about so many things - able to get snacks and drinks, able to work the TV and DVR and computer. But they really need mom attention. If you are doing housework or on the computer while he's doing his own thing, he's on his own too much. Play with him a lot while his sister is in school. Get out and do things together, even if that's just digging a big hole in the garden. Be right with him, be his companion. Helping him find appropriate things to bang up and destroy is fine but it has to come with the attention and companionship he's craving or it won't be enough.

If being destructive is his outlet for feelings of frustration or loneliness you can change that. If he has opportunity to destroy appropriate things but still feels frustrated or lonely, he might find other, possibly more destructive outlets. Don't expect the act of destruction to fulfill him. *You* are the only thing that can fulfill him. Your time, your attention.

You've said he's not polite, he's destructive and he's hurting his sister, you should be with him all the time. If that means leaving housework until your partner gets home, or waiting to get on the computer until he's asleep, then that's what it means right now. He's growing and changing and won't be four forever.

Deb Lewis

[end of quote, back to Schuyler]
So, that's what I'd say, spend more time with your 6 year old son. Don't expect your 8 year old to be his playmate. Be present a lot, a lot more.


Pam Sorooshian: (responding to indented comment)
-=-I have talked to the older brother about not pushing to the point where his younger brother explodes and I tried a code word they could use to try and avoid those situations.-=-
I'm assuming there are long periods of time that they do play happily together, right? Which is why you get a bit complacent and then they erupt?

I had three girls who played together really happily much of the time, but the middle one would sometimes explode in anger. I now know, after years of trial and error, the solution. More separate time! The more time they are separated, the more they enjoy the time they have to play together. Find reasons to take one with you when you go out. Set up play dates for just one. Invite a friend over for one and do something special with the others. And so on.


When Siblings Fight

More on peace between siblings

Attitude and Unschooling