Has your oppositional, defiant child’s behavior escalated to the point where he’s using physical force against you—or do you fear that he might? Kim Abraham and Marney Studaker-Cordner have worked with parents of kids with Oppositional Defiant Disorder for 20 years—and Kim is the parent of an adult child with ODD. In this article, they explain how to handle your ODD child’s aggressive, violent behavior effectively.

“[ODD kids] get frustrated more easily than your ‘typical’ child, and often can’t see a way to resolve conflict without aggression. The only tool they have [in their toolbox]is a hammer!”

“You know, for a minute there I really thought my son was going to hit me. He had his fists clenched, his face was red and he actually took a step toward me. I used to think that was a line he would never cross, but I just don’t know anymore. What can I do to stop it from getting to that point?”

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We’ve heard this from many parents of Oppositional Defiant teens and pre–teens, parents who are not only worried about their child’s current behavior, but about what could happen if things continue to escalate. If your child is already engaging in behaviors you never expected (lying, yelling at you, breaking the rules of the house, being destructive), it’s understandable that you would worry about aggression. What’s to keep him or her from crossing that line?

Tools Fix More than Just Appliances

We all have skills we use to cope when things don’t go our way:  a “toolbox,” if you will. You can probably think of a few “tools” that you use when you’re stressed or frustrated. If you’re upset with your spouse, you may call a friend to vent. If your work is stressful, you may exercise or read a book when you get home to try to relax. Over the years, the make–up of your toolbox has probably changed as you’ve learned and matured. You may want to slug your offensive boss, but instead you use a different skill—one that won’t get you fired or land you in jail!

Kids start out with an empty toolbox. They begin to fill that box as they encounter different situations—and parents, teachers and other kids model tools (or coping skills) that your child may try out and decide whether or not to keep. For instance, screwdrivers may not work for your child – he may need a pair of pliers instead. So venting might not help him feel better; listening to music may be more helpful for your 15 year old.

Kids with Oppositional Defiant Disorder, ADHD, anxiety and other emotional challenges have a very difficult time finding and keeping tools in their box. They get frustrated more easily than your “typical” child, and often can’t see a way to resolve conflict without aggression. The only tool they often have is a hammer!

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Why Does He Use a Hammer to Swat a Fly?

ODD kids have a very difficult time coping with stress or conflicts, even small ones. It may seem like your child is overreacting to something that you view as a pretty minor event.  Kids with emotional challenges often feel powerless; they make up for this with aggressive words and behaviors. The thing is, this behavior typically backfires and your child ends up feeling even worse in the long run. By helping him learn to resolve things calmly, you will actually empower him. It can be hard to look past the words, threats and aggressive body language to what’s underneath. Oftentimes, ODD kids are not trying to be malicious—they simply don’t know what else to do.

“My Hammer Is Bigger than Yours.”

When your child was two, if he threw himself on the floor kicking and screaming, you could just carry (or drag) him out of the store. You were able to exert physical control. But over the years, tantrums can escalate if your child doesn’t learn other skills. By the time he’s a teenager, there’s no way you can pick him up. And now, you may be afraid he’s the one who’s going to take physical control of the situation.

Understand this: Conflict is a natural part of life. It’s going happen. And it happens frequently between parents and children, because kids want what they want, exactly when they want it, and parents often have to set limits or say the dreaded word “no.” Conflict is also born simply from different personalities and outlooks: you see it one way, your child sees it another way, and so an argument is born. There’s a difference between conflict and arguing. Even though it’s difficult for most of us, conflict can also lead to growth: you want something, I want something different, what skills can we both use to resolve this? Arguing, on the other hand, is usually about winning. Your child can become so focused on “winning” the power struggle that the point of the conflict is completely lost. And let’s be honest – sometimes, as parents, we fall into the same trap! It can start to feel like a chess game, where you’re trying to out–maneuver each other. Other times, it may seem like a boxing match. But remember, it’s more like the “Marathon of Life.” You and your child are both on the same team, after all—and it’s more about teaching him appropriate skills than it is about winning.

A Trip to the Hardware Store

As parents, the very best we can hope to do is teach our kids about real life. In real life, there are all sorts of stressors: mean co–workers, disappointing jobs, (or sometimes no job), frustrating conversations, long lines in stores and rude people who cut in front of you. These are situations in which aggression will not only fail to solve the problem, it will make it worse. Your job as a parent is to show your child how a screwdriver can work better than a hammer. You can do this by modeling coping and conflict resolution skills for our child.

One way to help your child get through tough situations is to remember that while he’s upset, there’s a lot of adrenaline pumping through him. Though we take it for granted, it takes a lot of coping skills to manage that physical burst of energy experienced whenever we feel frustrated or angry. If your child doesn’t have those coping skills yet, how is he going to release that energy? Without a positive outlet, he may resort to punching walls, destroying property or even coming at you—or someone else—aggressively.

Talk with your child during a moment of calm. You know your child best. If your instincts tell you he was “right on the edge” and about to become physical, explain to him later that you’re concerned about what the consequences of that behavior will be. You can actually say, “You seemed really, really angry the other day. I want to help you handle that in a way that’s going to turn out well for you. Do you know what happens if you hit someone, whether it’s a family member or someone else? That’s called assault. People call the police when that happens. And if you hit me, I’m going to do the same thing. One of my personal rules is that I will never allow anyone to physically abuse me – not even you.”

In saying this, you’re teaching your child:

1) What happens in real life

2) What your boundaries are

3) What the consequences for his behavior will be

Even though the thought of calling the police on your child can be very, very difficult and is probably the last thing you ever thought you might have to do as a parent, if your child becomes aggressive toward you, it is very important to follow through and call the police. If you don’t, your child won’t learn that domestic violence is not only unacceptable, it’s against the law. And he may have to learn that lesson in a much more difficult way down the road—with a spouse or someone else who won’t hesitate to call the police on him. Remember, as James Lehman says in The Total Transformation, “There’s no excuse for abuse,” –not even from your child.

During a calm moment, offer to work with your child to come up with a plan that you can put into effect if things start to escalate. Explain to your child how anger and adrenaline work, and develop a list of things he can do that are positive or acceptable to everyone when he’s feeling that way. Some ideas are exercise (sit ups and push–ups to get rid of adrenaline), going for a walk, going to his room and listening to music, or giving him a journal he can draw or write in. Think about his strengths – things he’s good at or enjoys. Ask your child what ideas he has, or he may even want to get suggestions from friends. This helps get him thinking, rather than reacting. Remember, you’re modeling for him how to recognize his own emotions and find ways to deal with them non–violently.  Follow through and let him use those skills when you’re in a conflict with him. A power struggle is often a trigger to physical aggression, and if you can de–escalate the situation before it hits that point, it’s well worth it.

An Ounce of Prevention…Keeps You From Getting A Hammer Through Your Wall

Sometimes it’s so exhausting to raise an Oppositional Defiant child to adulthood. As parents we reach into our toolboxes and pull out coping skills that aren’t always effective. Ever find yourself arguing, yelling or blaming your child during a time of conflict? If so, it’s a good clue that you need to take a personal time out. In doing so, you’re showing your child it’s okay for him to do that, as well. Remember, you want to model an approach of “we can resolve this, calmly,” rather than trying to “win” or get the upper hand.  You can actually tell your child, “When you get upset, it’s okay to turn around and walk away. I’ll know that means you need a break because you’re getting too upset. We can come back to the discussion later, when things are calmer. And I’ll respect that. If I get upset, I’m going to do the same thing.”  This is a technique your child can carry over into other real-life situations as well.

Your child may continue to follow you around the house, trying to carry on the argument, when you’re trying to disengage. If you have to (and he’s old enough), leave the house completely. Go for a drive or a walk. This will also help de–escalate the situation.

Just because you choose to walk away to de-escalate a situation or allow your child to calm down, does not mean you won’t hold him accountable for his behavior, provide consequences if he doesn’t follow your house rules, or that you are “giving in.” Remember, it’s not about winning: it’s about teaching skills. So if you’re in a conflict with your child about him going to a friend’s house and you see that his face is turning red, you know the signs that he’s about to blow. You can end the power struggle by walking away. He knows the answer; it’s “no.” If he chooses to leave without permission because you’ve walked away from the argument, he probably would have left anyway. You can still hold him accountable when he comes home by providing a consequence—and you will have avoided a physical confrontation.

No One Wants to Enter Adulthood with an Empty Toolbox

It can help to think of the situations you’re encountering with your child now, and for the next few years, as opportunities rather than problems. It’s human nature to experience anger and adrenaline when in conflict. The important thing is how you handle it. When your child is in this mode, especially between the ages of 12 and 18, it’s a chance to prepare him to deal with the real world and real life for many years to come. No one wants to enter adulthood with an empty toolbox, not even your Oppositional Defiant child—and at the end of the day, he really needs you to teach him those skills he’ll need as he matures into an adult.

Related Content:
Parenting ODD Children and Teens: How to Make Consequences Work
When They Don’t Leave at 18: Parenting an Adult Child with ODD

Empowering Parents Podcast:
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About and

Kimberly Abraham and Marney Studaker-Cordner are the co-creators of The ODD Lifeline® for parents of Oppositional, Defiant kids, and Life Over the Influence™, a program that helps families struggling with substance abuse issues (both programs are included in The Total Transformation® Online Package). Kimberly Abraham, LMSW, has worked with children and families for more than 25 years. She specializes in working with teens with behavioral disorders, and has also raised a child with Oppositional Defiant Disorder. Marney Studaker-Cordner, LMSW, is the mother of four and has been a therapist for 15 years. She works with children and families and has in-depth training in the area of substance abuse. Kim and Marney are also the co-creators of their first children's book, Daisy: The True Story of an Amazing 3-Legged Chinchilla, which teaches the value of embracing differences and was the winner of the 2014 National Indie Excellence Children's Storybook Cover Design Award.

Comments (35)
  • Scared for my kids

    I realize these comments are a year old so I hope it’s not to late

    I have a 16 year old stepson that lives with us. He was diagnosed with ODD when he was around 12 years old. He only did a year of counseling before the counselor told us that at this point, he was going to do better or continue down a bad road.

    He’s behavior has only gotten worse and his aggression towards my child is awful. He punishes, pushes, and grabs at our 7 year old. She is now scared of her brother. He’s been to juvy, we have taken counselors advice on discipline and done everything this article has said. Nothing has worked. My husband willl not put him back into counseling because he doesn’t want to force his son to do something he doesn’t want to. He doesn’t discipline him or stuck to anything either. My step son is allowed to do whatever he wants. My step son is abusing my daughter and I’m ready to throw in the towel and leave. I don’t want to end my marriage, but I also have to protect my other children as well if he refuses to get his son help. I don’t know what to do anymore or where to turn. I feel completely helpless

  • Chris

    My grandson is 12 years old, has ODD and ADHD. This morning he went after his 13 yr old sister and begin hitting her before she licked herself in her bedroom. This is the 4 th time he’s gone after her. He is on meds, including psychotropic meds, has been since he’s been 5 years

    old. His Father left work, has them both at home and the question is, what should be his consequence? He is starting another bout of counseling with a psychologist.

    Thank you.

  • my firework
    Hi i have a 7 year old little girl who struggles with a few different emotional difficulties, including violent outbursts at home. We are seeing psychiatrist and psychologist and suspecting ODD, ADHD and high functioning autism. We are waiting on testing to have a firm diagnosis. In the recentMore weeks my daughters outbursts have become extremely violent towards me and every strategy I try makes no difference. What is suggested for this young age? I know it says call the police if your child hits you, does this apply this young? She is my world and it kills me to see her struggle like this.
    • Rebecca Wolfenden, Parent CoachEP Coach
      I’m so sorry to hear about the issues you are currently facing with your daughter, and it’s great that you are using numerous resources, both here online as well as in your community, to help her learn how to manage her behavior. Calling the police is a very toughMore question which each parent must answer for themselves. Given your daughter’s age, the police might be limited in how they could respond if you were to call. As Kim and Marney point out in another article, My ODD Child is Physically Abusive to Siblings and Parents—Help!, it’s typically most effective to focus on other resources like doctors and therapists for kids under 10. Your daughter’s treatment team may have some ideas for resources you can contact when she starts to become violent. You might also find some ideas for addressing this behavior in Stop Aggressive Behavior in Kids and Tweens: Is Your Child Screaming, Pushing and Hitting? I recognize how difficult this must be for you and your family right now, and I wish you all the best moving forward. Take care.
  • Jackie
    From Feb this year my granddaughter as changed from a school loving ordinary 15 year old to a horrible foul mouthed violent stranger, she as run away three times she as pulled a knife on her dad removed from the house by the police being restraind by police afterMore going for her dads partner all this within the last 4 weeks what is happening to her
    • drowden
      Hi, Jackie. I'm sorry to hear you and your family are dealing with these challenges. It would be difficult to say what caused such a drastic turn around for your granddaughter. Teens in general lack appropriate problem solving and coping skills. So, when they're faced with situations that cause themMore frustration or anger, they may lash out verbally or physically in an attempt to manage the situation. Do you know if there are any available services in your area to work with your granddaughter and family? There is a website that offers help to families in the UK who are struggling with different issues. You can find them online at familylives.org/uk. They also have a call in line at 0808 800 2222. I wish you and your family the best of luck moving forward. Be sure to check back and let us know how things are going.
  • Nicole
    The article talks about pre teens and teens but my issue is with an autistic 5 yr old! He's huge for his age and uses that extra size and power to his advantage causing physical harm to everyone around him in clouding 1 yr old twin brothers and myself (hisMore pregnant mother). I have tried BHRS (behavioral health and rehabilitation services) as well as counselling, and even spoke with his Dr about possible medication but all resources led me nowhere. He's now nearing 6 yrs old and has teachers and family members telling me that his behavior is going to end up holding him back in education and social situations. He's the worst kid in his ENTIRE school. He's the menace of the entire family. We have tried long stints of different disciplinary actions and have even tried to ignore him/remove ourselves from his presence to no avail. He's in increasingly more aggressive and short tempered everyday over simple things like, not having 10 loaves of bread when we tell him to eat different foods even the ones he loves! ( Like meatloaf). All it takes is one small, soft, gentle "no" and he jumps straight to explitives and physical violence. My husband grew up with an abusive father so he's is adamant about not using violence or allowing violence. We have spoken with friends of the family who are cops and they were unable to help "scare" him straight with the facts of life. We even tried to explain why stealing/violence is only going to get him into more trouble. He has already stolen a stranger's keys, stolen from the till at the grocery store, stolen straight from dad's and grandpa's wallet, hit GRA spa in the back where he had surgery, hit dad in the jewels repeatedly, and punched me in the belly (at 5 months pregnant), and even kicked his little brothers like they were footballs. Everyone around him is frightened of his behavior and we are all just waiting for the day that he finally does stab someone (since he likes to waive kitchen knives around despite our best efforts to hide them up high in the cabinets but he gets a chair and pulls them down anyway)... It's to the point where I'm afraid I will have to seriously hurt him or worse to protect myself and others in our home. And he's only 5!!!! I don't understand where he gets the ideas for his aggression. TV? We try to watch adult movies after he goes to bed. We don't allow curse words or violence beyond a soft tap on the rear to get attention (literally a "love tap" that doesn't even make a sound to snap the screaming out of the kids long enough to get a word in to soothe them or else it's a screaming match just to be heard). Grandpa once smacked him across the face so hard his head bounced off the wall and I threatened to call police if he ever hit my child again... Yes his behavior was out of control but hitting doesn't fix anything. It just encourages him to hit back. If grandpa gets in trouble then so will u and everyone else that does bad things. Noone has been able to help gain control of my 5 yr old (the only person in a house of 6 who is violent and out of control daily and the most poorly behaved child in all the school and school district from what the teacher has told me). My husband thinks it's something we did wrong but he can that be when we practice what we preach: one hand washed the other. Violence begets violence. If u want to be heard u must also listen, ECT ECT.
    • Rebecca Wolfenden, Parent Coach
      I’m so sorry to hear about the increasing violence you are experiencing with your son. I’m glad that you have attempted to work with local supports, such as your son’s doctor and behavior specialists, in addition to reaching out here. It’s not uncommon for young children to actMore out aggressively, because they tend to have a low frustration tolerance, poor impulse control and few appropriate coping skills to use when they become upset. You might find some useful strategies in Hitting, Biting and Kicking: How to Stop Aggressive Behavior in Young Children, though with your son’s diagnosis, I encourage you to consult with your son’s treatment team to see they will be appropriate to use with your son, or if they might need to be modified to be more effective. I can only imagine how difficult this must be with your son, and I wish you and your family all the best moving forward. Take care.
  • Pam Bronson.
    What do you do when you give your child and entire box full of ways to deal with life and they still refuse to use it?
    • Rebecca Wolfenden, Parent Coach
      This is a common question, so you are not alone in wondering this. Something that can be useful is focusing on where you have control, which is really over yourself and your own actions. You can teach your child alternate ways of handling situations, and you can holdMore your child accountable if s/he is choosing to break the rules, though. In the end, you cannot “make” your child use the tools which you have taught; your child’s behavior is under his/her control. You might find some helpful information on this in another article by Kim and Marney, Your Defiant Child’s Behavior: 5 Things You Can—and Can’t—Control as a Parent. Thank you for your question; take care.
  • Connie1976
    My husband tip toes around his 14 year old son cause he doesn't want to make him mad. So I'm always left to be the bad guy and then they're both mad at me.
  • RebeccaW_ParentalSupport


    I’m sorry to hear about the issues you are facing with your 9 year old, and

    I understand your concern for his siblings’ safety.I’m glad that you have scheduled an

    appointment with his doctor to address his behavior.The choice of whether to send your son to

    stay with your parents is really up to you, and your best judgment.In the meantime, I encourage you to https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/the-lost-children-when-behavior-problems-traumatize-siblings/ with your younger children about what they can do if their

    brother becomes violent.You might also

    find some helpful information in https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/stop-aggressive-behavior-in-kids-and-tweens-is-your-child-screaming-pushing-and-hitting/Please be sure to write

    back and let us know how things are going for you and your family.Take care.

  • Jacqui fleary
    I have a 13 year now in her 3rd high school due to her hitting pupils and staff any ideas
    • RebeccaW_ParentalSupport

      Jacqui fleary 

      I hear you.  It

      can be so challenging when your child is behaving aggressively and violently

      toward others, and I’m glad that you are reaching out for support.  At

      this point, I encourage you to work with your daughter at home to help her

      develop more appropriate coping skills than hitting.  James Lehman

      outlines some tips you can try in his article series, https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/aggressive-child-behavior-part-i-fighting-in-school-and-at-home/ and https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/aggressive-child-behavior-part-ii-7-tools-to-stop-fighting-in-school-and-at-home/. 

      Take care.

      • Jacqui fleary
        Thanks for reply things took a bad turn she ran away hit me and her elder sister social services have stepped in and took her to live with her father has she doesn't want to live with me thx for reply I'm heart broken I've raised her alone all herMore live with no input from her father I just hope she gets the support needed take care
  • Mamabambie
    Hi, I have a 10 year old with high functioning Aspergers, Adhd combined form, episodic mood disorder and ODD. My son has been physically abusive since he was very young. Last week was only the second week of school. My son had been suspended for 4 days by this pastMore Friday. In which each incident the police liaison at the school and other school teachers and staff had to evacuate his classroom and put him in CP holds. I'm also stuck in a domestic violence situation with my husband. I have been trying to get away for a year but I live on SSI due to my issues from severe traumas throughout my entire life. My husband is violent. I have put him in jail to the point where the cops told me not to call anymore. I'm terrified my son is going to severely hurt his 5 yr old sister or another person in public or school. My son has been in therapy and on medication since he was young. But he he still is destructive, he throws things, kicks and punches walls and doors, screams, swears, bites, spits and has attacked me on many occasions. Now I know my son is a sweet little boy. On good days he is very loving and helpful with anything. But on bad days it is scary bad. I have tried everything I've been offered. I've been to seminars suggested by school and therapist.
    • RebeccaW_ParentalSupport


      I’m so sorry to hear about the abusive behavior you are

      experiencing from your son, as well as your husband, and I’m glad that you are

      reaching out for support.  I understand your fear that your son could

      potentially hurt his younger sister, or someone else in the community.  I

      see that your son is in therapy, and I encourage you to use his therapist as a

      resource to help you https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/the-lost-children-when-behavior-problems-traumatize-siblings/ to keep you, his sister, and others in the house safe when

      your son has an outburst.  I also hope that you have some support for

      yourself right now.  If you are not currently working with anyone, try

      contacting the http://www.211.org/ at 1-800-273-6222. 

      211 is a service which connects people with resources available in their

      community.  I recognize how difficult this must be for you, and I wish you

      and your family all the best moving forward.  Take care.

      • Mamabambie
        Again today at 3:00pm I got the urgent call from the school "it's john we need you". This is the worst outburst yet. So he is suspended for the 5th time since school started September 6th.
  • Kcg79
    My daughter is great outside of the home, her teachers love her and she's polite. She's horrible to me, when she's angry, she writes me letters telling me to kill myself and she hopes I die. I want these last 4 years to fly by and beMore done raising her.
    • Aquamarine
      Dear Kcg79, I can totally relate. I feel embarrassed that my daughter is like this. I don't understand it either. She's cruel and mean. Writes letters like that too and wishes I was dead. She hits and kicks and throws things. She's polite and sweet to her teachers and othersMore but to myself she is like a totally different person. Unfortunately I hate to admit but if I had enough money to send her off to a boarding school I would. She hurts me tremendously every day and all I try to do is reason with her kiss her and hug her and tell her that I love her and to stop this behavior, giving reasons that's by we don't use angry words and physical force and it just continues on and on. I have three other children and none of them ever acted this way ...it is so baffling to me. Our oldest son is in college and he will be graduating with his bachelors degree this year and our 19-year-old has just left to another state to pursue a 2 year degree at a technical school and we have a son that is younger than our daughter in kindergarten and he is just a breeze and wonderful! I just don't understand this child and if she did not look just like me and my husband I would think she was switched in the hospital! She is a doll and we love her but I need this to stop!
  • Jen41
    I have called the police broken window glass all on my face arms chest broken walls, hitting me with a cell phone across my face. I live in the county police dont do nothing. I was driving and my daughter attacked me car almost flipped. My daughter did get arrested.More Im in fear of my life. Dont know what to do lost my husband almost three yrs ago my children changed blame me I could not cure stage four terminal brain cancer spread to his body. I know they need counseling so do I but 400 a hr is insane
    • RebeccaW_ParentalSupport


      I’m so sorry to

      hear about the violence you have experienced from your daughter, and I’m glad

      that you are reaching out for support.  There is no excuse for abuse, and

      you have the right to be safe in your home.  At this point, since your

      daughter has been arrested for her violence against you, we encourage you to

      allow her to experience the natural legal consequences of her actions.  In

      addition, as Kim and Marney point out in their article https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/signs-of-parental-abuse-what-to-do-when-your-child-or-teen-hits-you/, you might

      also consider working with local resources (such as law enforcement and/or

      local domestic violence services) to help you develop a plan to stay

      safe.  For assistance locating these services in your community, try

      contacting the http://www.211.org/ at

      1-800-273-6222.  I wish you all the best moving forward; take care.

  • TiredMomOfFour

    I could really use a bit of guidance. I have four children: 12, 10 and 9 year old boys and a 4 year old daughter. Biologically, my oldest two are my nephews...I adopted them 15 months ago. From the bottom of my heart, I can say that all four are absolutely great human beings with kind gentle souls. My challenge lies in the fact that my 12 year old is going through puberty (he actually started about a year ago), my 10 and 9 year olds have both been formally tested and diagnosed with ADHD and adjustment disorder with mixed disturbance of emotions and conduct, and I HIGHLY suspect my 10 year old of having ODD, and my four year old is working her way from toddler to little girl with three big brothers experience a lot of change and emotional issues.

    As our family grew, we started counseling for the obvious reasons, hoping to avoid some of the common challenges associated with 'merging' families. It at least gave us some tools to use as situations came up, but I can't help but feel at a loss everyday. Not only do we have the age/developmentally appropriate stuff to deal with, but the way my 10 yo (and sometimes my 9 yo) lash out at each other, me, innocent bystanders, is becoming more and more difficult to manage.

    Today my 10yo hit my 9 yo in the privates with a sword (an accident according to him). My response was to tell him to be more careful, that it was unacceptable to him someone period, let alone in the privates and to make better choices. His response was to start throwing things around his room. I explained that that was not an appropriate way to display his emotions, that of he continued he would be grounded. I asked if he wanted to talk it out with me at which point he threw something at the wall beside me. I told him he was grounded for the day and the situation escalated to him running around the house, hitting things, kicking the walls and punching his door. I told him to go to his room and I sat with him talking to him in a very calm tone, explaining that acting out was not going to help him, it would only cause more consequences, whether it be grounding, hurt feet from kicking things, toys broken, etc. I explained that I was very upset too, but yelling wouldn't make anything better, so I was chosing to be calm to try and resolve the situation. During this whole episode, he was hurling hurtful words and such, which I didn't respond to.

    It took about 45 minutes for the 'switch' to flip off and my happy sweet boy was back...sad that he was grounded, that one of his favorite toys was broken and feeling down on himself for the way he behaved. Here's the issue, that was mild! None of my other children got involved and we were able to de-escalate rather quickly...but even on a good day it is exhausting and disheartening. There is no light at the end of the tunnel and I feel myself getting more and more ineffective everyday, but I don't know what else to do.

    • RebeccaW_ParentalSupport


      It sounds like you

      have quite a bit going on in your household, and it’s understandable that you

      might feel overwhelmed at times.  Many parents struggle with how to

      address power struggles and outbursts, so you are not alone.  In general,

      it tends to be most effective when you set a limit regarding inappropriate

      behavior, and end the conversation there, rather than trying to reason with a

      child or giving consequences when he is having an outburst.  For most kids

      (and some adults), they are not able to access the logical, rational part of

      their brain when they are angry or upset, and continuing to interact with them

      can cause a situation to escalate further.  Carole Banks discusses this

      more in her article, https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/angry-child-outbursts-the-10-rules-of-dealing-with-an-angry-child/.  I

      recognize how challenging this must be for you; please let us know if you have

      any additional questions.  Take care.

  • scaredaunt
    Im a single mom to two and one on the way . but my sister her husband and there three kids live with me . i am pretty sure my 9 yr oldniece has odd bu anytime u mention therapy or anything of the sort her mother flips . myMore niece has been physically violent w her mom dad sibling and me for a long time now to the point that in the last month ive been kicked in stomach twice and actually hurt my self trying to restrain her today.im at my wits i cant keep it up my 4 yr old is starting to copy her. She flips out anytime u tell her to do something or its bed time or bath time or if u disipline her for harming her sibling or others . i have tryed the having her find a quiet spot to hide and color to calm down or spot to write in her journal and for most part i can control her but its harder when her mother is even in the same house because her mother acts the same way at times and is always yelling at them . i guess what im asking is what should i do?
    • RebeccaW_ParentalSupport


      Thank you for writing in

      and sharing your experiences.  Because your sister is living with you in

      your home, it could be useful to talk with her during a calm time to develop a

      plan for how you can respond to your niece’s outbursts in a way that keeps

      everyone safe.  In general, we do not recommend restraining a child

      because it tends to escalate a situation and increase the risk that someone

      (you, your niece, or another person) might get hurt.  You can also hold

      your 4 year old accountable for his/her actions as the parent, and communicate

      that inappropriate behavior brings consequences, as Kim Abraham and Marney

      Studaker-Cordner point out in https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/no-such-thing-as-a-bad-apple-fix-the-behavior-not-the-kid/.  Even if

      your sister refuses to attend therapy, it could still be useful for you to

      explore your options for how you and your children can respond to your niece’s

      outbursts and stay safe in your home.  For assistance locating these

      resources, try contacting the http://www.211.org/ at

      1-800-273-6222.  I recognize how difficult this must be for you, and I

      wish you and your family all the best moving forward. Take care.

  • Dealing Dad
    Great article.  Thank you for sharing your experiences with us.  I am having this type of problem with my 6yo son who is pushing, yelling, throwing items and hitting his sister, mom and myself (dad) which leads to us physically needing to restrain him to avoid him hurting us.  Most ofMore the outbursts stem from us saying "no" to him.  We've tried having him count to 10 or direct his anger to something else but that has not worked.  We need to try other tools as you suggest to try help resolve this.
  • DeniseR_ParentalSupport


    This sounds quite challenging. We have several articles that

    address this type of behavior in children. A couple you may find useful are https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/stop-aggressive-behavior-in-kids-and-tweens-is-your-child-screaming-pushing-and-hitting/ & https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/how-to-manage-aggressive-child-behavior/. It may also be helpful to talk with

    the parent to find out how they would like to see the behavior addressed. Best

    of luck moving forward. Take care.

  • Mimi1961
    I am very concerned about my 7 y/o grandson. My daughter is a single parent and works long hours. He has always been very energetic and has to win at everything. He can be argumentative and disrespects authority. The thought of any punishment does not seem to phase him whenMore he is being defiant. His teacher says he is disruptive in class and he has been sent to the principal this year. He can be very loving and I have never considered him violent, but this evening he chased another little boy with a knife. This was following the death of his pet hamster,  which he was heartbroken over. He has  history of SBS by daycare provider at the age of 5 months, but has no obvious developmental affects. I am very concerned that he has ODD. He can concentrate on tasks for extended periods of time when he wants to. I am trying to convince my daughter that this could become very serious if not addressed professionally. Any advice would be appreciated.
    • DeniseR_ParentalSupport


      I can hear your distress. It can be tough to watch a child

      you love struggle. It sounds like you have spoken to your daughter about your

      concerns and she does not seem to share in your worry. Unfortunately, there may

      not be much you can do other than continue to talk with her about your concerns

      and encourage her to have him seen by his doctor. As his parent, it’s up to her

      to decide what interventions to put in place. We do have an article about ways

      parents and grandparents can navigate differences that you may find helpful: https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/grandparents-and-parents-disagreeing-11-tips-for-both-of-you/. Good luck to you and your

      family moving forward. Be sure to check back to let us know how things are

      going. Take care.

  • My three sons
    I am having a serious situation with my 13 year old son and my 9 year old son. I am a single mother of 3 boys ages 13,9 and 4. My 13 year old has always bullied his 9 year old brother but for the past couple of months heMore has threatened physical violence. Today after 13yr olds anger management session he actually put his hands around my 9yr olds neck over a lost PlayStation remote!! My 9yr old managed to bite my 13yr old in the private in order to get away. Where was I? In the bathroom!! From that point when I was asking questions to find out what happened I was screamed at from 13yr old saying I hate you I hate him I hate everyone and I don't want to live here anymore. I am letting all tempers cool down before I have another discussion with him, but I feel like I have completely lost control of my boys and I don't know how to fix this someone please help me the situation is getting desperate
    • DeniseR_ParentalSupport

      My three sons

      What an upsetting turn of events. It’s understandable you

      would be upset. I think that’s a normal response given the circumstances.

      Unfortunately, kids sometimes do use aggression as a way to solve their

      problems. It’s not OK, but, it’s also not uncommon. I would try not to

      personalize the comments your son made when he was confronted about his

      behavior. Verbal disrespect, like aggression, is a reflection of poor problem

      solving skills. I’m glad to hear you’re letting everyone take some space to

      calm down. That’s going to help diffuse the situation and allow you the

      opportunity to talk with your son when he’s not in an escalated state. When

      everything is calm, we would recommend sitting down with each of your sons

      separately and talking with them about ways they could handle the situation

      differently in the future. You can find great tips for having this kind of

      conversation in Sara Bean’s article The Surprising Reason for Bad Child Behavior: “I Can’t Solve Problems”.

      After having the conversation, you can hold both of your sons accountable for

      their behavior with a task oriented consequence. For example, you could limit

      video games until they can go for a few hours without being aggressive with

      each other. We do suggest holding both children accountable for their part in

      the altercation, even if one child seems to have been the instigator.

       Carole Banks explains why this is important in her article http://www.empoweringparents.com/Sibling-Rivalry-Good-Kid-vs-Bad-Kid.php. I hope this is useful information. Be sure

      to check back if you have any further questions. Take care.

  • struggling
    I am an elementary special education teacher. I have a student who is only 7 years old with ADHD, OCD and ODD. He hits and kicks people in authority who ask him to do ANYTHING that he does not wish to do. The family is dysfunctional and refuses to getMore the appropriate counseling. This student has shown periods of up to 2 months of fairly good behavior then reverts back to the horrible destructive and violent behaviors. I guess I am asking what are some specific interventions or strategies to try in this situation.
    • DeniseR_ParentalSupport


      We appreciate you reaching out to Empowering Parents for

      help in finding ways of addressing behavior in your classroom. Because we are a

      website aimed at helping people who are in a direct parenting role develop more

      effective ways of addressing their child’s acting out behavior, we are limited

      in the advice we are able to offer you in this situation. It may be helpful to

      speak with your school administrators about this situation to see what guidance

      they may be able to offer. Another possible support could be your department

      head or a senior special education teacher in your school or district. We wish

      you the best of luck moving forward. Take care.

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