If your child doesn’t want to go to school, resists getting dressed, has behavior problems in school and at home, and is threatening you and being verbally abusive, know that his whole level of functioning is off. Being abusive to his siblings or to you is only one piece of it.

Before we discuss ways to stop verbal abuse, threats, and intimidation, I want to say that these are very difficult issues to deal with. This type of behavior is generally a manifestation of a much bigger problem that is going on with your child.

While I’m going to try to focus attention on these individual behaviors in this article, I can’t stress enough that parents need to have a systematic way of dealing with these problems so that they don’t simply move from crisis to crisis with their child.

Parents need a comprehensive structure, a set of guidelines and procedures from which they can draw guidance and strength in order to deal with these very serious things as they occur.

There’s No Excuse for Abuse

There is no excuse for abuse, physical or otherwise. That rule should be written on an index card with a black magic marker and posted on your refrigerator. The message to your child is:

“If you’re abusive, there’s no excuse. I don’t want to hear what the reason was. There’s no justification for it. There’s nobody you can blame. You are responsible and accountable for your abusive behavior. And by ‘responsible,’ I mean it’s nobody else’s fault, and by ‘accountable’ I mean there will be consequences.”

Sibling Abuse

Many siblings will tease each other excessively from time to time and even have physical fights with each other. This is normal sibling rivalry. What’s not normal and not acceptable is the situation where one sibling is picking on, demoralizing, and targeting a younger or weaker sibling. This is abuse and should not be taken lightly. And when you see a situation where there’s clearly a perpetrator and clearly a victim, it has to be dealt with in the strictest, sternest ways.

Remember this: if you have an older child who’s abusive, and you let that child get away with this kind of behavior, your younger child will start to realize that his sibling is more powerful than you are as a parent.

Offer for FREE Empowering Parents Personal Parenting Plan

The younger child will begin to think that you can’t keep him safe from his older sibling. Once he realizes that, the next thing he’ll start to do is give in to his older sibling. You’ll hear the oldest sibling say abusive and foul things and then you’ll hear the younger kid say, “I’m sorry.”

These are very powerful, damaging things to be happening in the family and should not be taken lightly. As far as the nature of the consequences or the nature of the limits set in this situation, again, that belongs to a more comprehensive discussion about how families should run and how parents should manage their families using a comprehensive structure.

When your child abuses anyone in your family, tell him:

“There’s no excuse for abuse. You’re not allowed to abuse people. Go to your room.”

Abusive Kids Blame the Victim

Be prepared for him to blame the victim because that’s what abusive people do. It’s an easy way out. Abusive people say, “I wouldn’t have abused you but you…” and fill in the blank.

So your child might say:

  • “I’m sorry I hit him, but he yelled at me.”
  • “I’m sorry I called her a name, but she wouldn’t let me play the video game.”

What they’re really saying is, “I’m sorry, but it was your fault.” And it means that they are not actually sorry. It means, “I’m sorry, but it’s not my responsibility.” And when kids don’t take responsibility for their behavior, they see no reason to change it.

They’ve just learned to mimic the words “I’m sorry,” but they are not sorry at all. It becomes another false social construct that comes out of their mouths without any meaning or understanding behind it whatsoever. And if you buy into it, you’re allowing that child to continue his abusive behavior and excuses.

Having Problem-Solving Conversations with Your Child

Kids use abusive behavior to solve problems and to get what they want. Therefore, it’s important that kids learn to replace abusive behavior with healthier and acceptable problem-solving skills.

It’s just not enough to point out and give consequences for abusive behavior. You also have to help your child replace their inappropriate behavior with something that will help him solve his problems without getting into trouble or hurting others.

Here’s the bottom line: if we don’t help kids replace their inappropriate behavior with something healthier, they’re going keep using the inappropriate behavior. Because that’s all they know.

This is why parents need to have problem-solving conversations with their kids, so the next time their child is faced with a similar situation, their child can ask themselves what they can do to solve the problem differently. Their child will begin to consider options besides hurting someone’s feelings, being abusive, or threatening.

For instance, the next time your verbally abusive daughter calls her younger brother names and threatens him, you should not only correct her, but also have a conversation with her when things calm down. That conversation should be:

“The next time you’re frustrated, what can you do differently so you don’t get into trouble and get more consequences. What can you do to get more rewards?”

Focus on Consequences and Rewards, Not Empathy

Notice that the focus of the conversation is on avoiding consequences and getting rewards. Also, notice what the conversation is not about. It’s not about why hurting her brother is wrong. And it’s not about how badly it makes her brother feel. Parents need to understand that it doesn’t work to appeal to a sense of empathy or humanity if those traits have not yet been developed. After all, abusive people don’t really care about their victims.

Instead, I think we should be appealing to their self-interest, because self-interest is much more effective in stopping abuse. Look at it this way: if they had empathy or sympathy, they wouldn’t be doing it in the first place. Don’t get me wrong, we want our kids to learn empathy, but the goal is to stop the abusive behavior regardless of whether your child feels empathy.

Intimidation and Threats of Violence

If a parent is frightened about physically destructive behavior, destruction of property, or threats of violence, I want to be very clear about this: call the police. I know that this can be difficult for many parents, but it needs to be an option. Tell the police:

“He threatened to hurt me and I don’t feel safe with him here tonight.”

What will the police do? It’s hard to say because it depends on the officer and the department. But I’ll tell you, your child will now know that you’re not just going to sit around and be bullied. It’s not what the police do—it’s what your child will understand.

Advertisement for Empowering Parents Total Transformation Online Package

So call the police if you think you’re in danger. Call the police if you’re assaulted. And keep calling the police until they do something. Until your child stops hurting you or your property.

Related content: When to Call the Police on Your Child

If you’re frightened, make sure you don’t have weapons in the house. Make sure you don’t have violence in the house. Get rid of the violent music. If your child threatens violence or gets violent, that music should be gone, as well as video games that promote violence.

If you have an abusive child in the house, then movies, video games, and music that glorify or glamorize violence should be banned. That’s one of the things your child should lose the right to immediately. And you can say:

“You no longer have the right to listen to that kind of music because you weren’t able to manage it.”

Department of Child Services

You should also call your state’s Department of Child Services and say:

“My son is threatening me,” or “My son hit me.”

Don’t be afraid they’re going to take your child. They don’t want to take financial or legal responsibility for him unless he’s in danger. The idea is that you’re making noise. You’re creating a paper trail. And you’re letting people know that these things are happening from an early age. You are doing all this because if the day comes when your child hurts somebody, your goal is that he will be held accountable.

Parents who are afraid of their kids getting locked up for this kind of behavior do not understand the juvenile justice system. The wheels of justice turn excruciatingly slowly. Nobody wants to lock your child up.

In fact, if your child has severe behavior problems and behaves criminally at home, you’ll be lucky if somebody decides to lock him up. If he’s so out of control that the authorities hold him responsible by locking him up, so be it.

The juvenile justice system and the child welfare system are overwhelmed and under-funded. But we use them because if your kid does change, fine. If the child doesn’t change, then there’s a body of evidence that says, “This kid has been out of control for a long time.” And you’re going to want that evidence because if you’re talking to your child’s probation officer when he’s 15 or 16, you’ll be glad you have three years where you’ve documented what this kid has put you through.

Nothing Changes if Nothing Changes

If your child is starting to threaten you or abuse you verbally, is there still hope to turn his or her behavior around, even if he’s a teen? There’s always hope. But hope without action and change is pointless.

If you want your child to turn their behavior around without them making some very fundamental changes right away, I don’t hold out much hope for that. If you have a middle- to older-aged teen and they’re threatening you, being verbally abusive, and intimidating, and you’re not able or willing to take some risks, I personally don’t think there will be any turning around.

Nothing changes if nothing changes. The sooner you start, the better chance you have of changing this behavior. But it will mean changing your whole family dynamic.

In other words, if you want to change the way your child is doing things, you’re going to have to change the way your whole family is doing things.

Related Content:
When Kids Get Violent: “There’s No Excuse for Abuse”
The Lost Children: When Behavior Problems Traumatize Siblings

Empowering Parents Podcast:
Apple, Spotify


James Lehman, who dedicated his life to behaviorally troubled youth, created The Total Transformation®, The Complete Guide to Consequences™, Getting Through To Your Child™, and Two Parents One Plan™, from a place of professional and personal experience. Having had severe behavioral problems himself as a child, he was inspired to focus on behavioral management professionally. Together with his wife, Janet Lehman, he developed an approach to managing children and teens that challenges them to solve their own problems without hiding behind disrespectful, obnoxious or abusive behavior. Empowering Parents now brings this insightful and impactful program directly to homes around the globe.

Comments (53)
  • Sadandtired

    I have a 21 year old son. He's had a hard life of wrong choices at home and in school. He got diagnosed with ADHD in 1st grade. He's always been destructive and mouthy. Angers easily. Since he turned 21 about a month ago he's now drinking. Daily. He's so verbally abusive to me and my youngest son. He doesn't have a relationship with any of his 4 siblings for so many reasons. He does and says all he can to be hurtful and hateful. We don't talk. At all. He hasn't spent a holiday with us at all. He mouthed off last week and I told him if he wants to talk to me to be respectful...loving ...kind...or not talk to me at all. That was last Thursday. Friday came and I found a picture of me on my table by my recliner and the picture was ripped into 4 pieces. I left it there. Saturday came and I took my youngest 2 bowling and came home 2 hours later...same picture on my table now 2 of the pieces are half burnt. Fast-forward to today and he just leaves it's 10:45 and he starts a song that says "RUNNING OUT OF TIME" as he walks out the door.

    His dad use to beat me. I left him when my son was about 2. I am feeling the same as I did when I was with his dad...but because of my son.

    I see this kind of stuff on TV. I'm taking all of these things he is doing as threats.

    It's breaking my soul because he is in school to be a nurse. He is so respectful to others. He's so kind and polite. He's making straight A's in college.

    But I think something bad is going to happen.

    I'm so lost. I know I have other kids to protect. I don't want to kick him out and make him homeless. We've been homeless before.

    He needs help. I need help.

    I hate living in Paranoia again.

    How do I get my son help without ruining his life and making him hate me more.

    • Denise Rowden, Parent CoachEP Coach

      Thank you for reaching out to Empowering Parents. I can understand your distress. The question really is whether or not your son wants help. Being that he is now an adult, there may not be much you can do in that regard. Parenting adult children really is about the parent determining what their boundaries are and deciding whether or not they will support the choices their adult child is making. If your son is starting to threaten you, even in a passive aggressive manner, it's important to take steps to protect yourself and the other members of the family. To that end, it may be helpful to see what types of support services are available in your area.

      If you live in the US or Canada, you could contact the 211 National Helpline, a referral service available 24 hours a day, nationwide. They can give you information on the types of support services available in your area such as counselors, therapists, support groups/kinship services as well as various other resources. You can reach the Helpline by calling 1-800-273-6222 or by logging onto 211.org (211.ca in Canada.)

      We appreciate you being part of our Empowering Parents community. Be sure to check back and let us know how things are going. Take care.

  • Meg Merriet
    I agree with much of the article and it's great to share resources with parents, but I would warn people against calling the police as they are not equipped to deal with family strife. Police are primarily trained to disarm and arrest people. If you want your child disarmed andMore arrested, by all means call them. They are not, however, trained to de-escalate or moderate family strife in the same way social workers are. Sadly, we can't get social workers to the scene of domestic disturbance with the same speed as police. I would still recommend calling a mental health hotline or even an ambulance before requesting police presence. Police take people away. They put your loved one in a cell. They deprive them of all human dignity. They slam your family with fines. And even if you drop the charges against your child, the police might charge them anyway, as a family friend found out the hard way. So your kid could end up doing hard time. Calling the police BREAKS families. Irrevocably. Use it only as a last resort.
  • Hope4Ever

    I did it. I called the police on my 18-yr old child twice a year ago. It was emotionally excruciating. The second time, the police took my son out of our house in handcuffs. I pressed charges against him. The only time I saw my child after that was via Zoom at court dates. What gave me comfort throughout this heart wrenching ordeal was unwavering faith in God, the articles on this site, and hope my child would get the help he needed.

    One year later, I stand by the decision to call the police. The decision had enormous emotional cost. It severed our close family. I haven’t seen or spoken to my child in a year. My child wants nothing to do with me. Still, I persevere with reading articles on this site and praying. I have faith the story of the Prodigal Son will manifest in my family one day.

  • Hopefulparent

    Hi all,

    Can I just say thank you for sharing so much. Probably don't need to say this, but it's supportive to hear of other people's Experiences with similar scenarios and their children. I wonder is there some sort of free online get together where we can all get together, share our experiences, what's working, what's not etc. and maybe just give eachother a bit of moral support. I love my kids to bits and just want them both to be happy and when my children exhibit hurtful behaviour towards themselves, others or me, it makes me feel like I'm failing big time.

    I try to be as calm as possible mostly, but anyone will shout and rail if put under enough pressure. I've tried calming techniques for me so I can try and to simply weather the storm when it hits, but that doesn't get us to school on time, or reduce the amount of time it takes to get my daughter to sleep. I also have to take the constant put downs from my daughter's Dad, but then when I hear those same words he says to me, but coming out of my little girls mouth, I feel so bad for her, because it means she's clearly having to hear these things about her own Mum. Last night she stood there hands on hips and told me my life was nothing, that I don't do anything, I'm a mess and really need to sort myself out (because I was trying to get her to bed) and then this morning I got you're just like your mother after asking her to stop screaming. She came back from her Dad's yesterday and granted had had an amazing time. They'd been to a concert, to the cinema etc. but when she got home she just kept crying and saying it's not her fault, like she was about to be told off for something that hadn't even happened yet and assumed her brother who was making cookies with her and had just walked her to the shop to get the ingredients when she had asked, was being mean to her in some way. He wasn't, he was trying to do something nice with her. I've read articles, psychology papers, I know remaining calm is the best approach, but not always feasible. A chat with other parents who are dealing with similar would be awesome if anyone is up for it?

    Thanks and hope you have a good day.

  • Joanna
    I came across this article googling why my child is abusive at 6? Why does my child try to isolate me? It’s sad to have to google this. But I’m happy I did cause now I don’t feel so alone! I feel each and every one of you! I’m strugglingMore so much and don’t know where to even begin. ODD and ADHD is what my son was diagnosed with. But … it’s just with me. So it’s extra frustrating when we all know “change what your doing at home” gets said. Cause I’ve done a million things since he was a little over a year old he started this behaviour. I’m a mess and I want to give up.
  • Liz
    My granddaughter lives with my husband and I, and we have had custody since she was two. She was born prematurely and had some developmental issues, but is now physically fine. She is now 14, and for the last few years has become extremely verbally and sometimes physically abusive. WeMore started taking her to a therapist and a psychiatrist when she was 11, and finally got a diagnosis of ADHD. We had taken her to the ER twice when she threatened to harm herself, and she was committed for a week when she was 12. We don't give in to her demands, and we take away privileges when she acts out. We think she has a mental illness that has been undiagnosed, and so far the psych would only prescribe zoloft and Adderall. She is mean to our pets, and thinks that she is blameless for whatever she does. We are at our wits end with her, and want her to be a caring and productive member of society, but as it is, I can't even take her anywhere without some kind of outburst or verbal attack on me, or even strangers. I'm concerned that she will get expelled from school or even get arrested. We are in over our heads here and need help.
    • Denise Rowden, Parent CoachEP Coach

      Hi, Liz. Thank you for reaching out. Your granddaughter is very lucky to have you. I can hear how distressing her behavior is and can understand why you reached out for help. Because getting started can feel overwhelming to many parents and care givers, I often recommend making a prioritized list of all the behaviors you are dealing with, and then focusing on just 1-2 of the most disruptive behaviors at a time. This allows you to be consistent with limit setting and accountability, without becoming overwhelmed. For more helpful tools, please check out this article: How to Create a Culture of Accountability in Your Home (https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/how-to-create-a-culture-of-accountability-in-your-home/).

      It may also be beneficial to see what types of local supports are available to help you and your family. If you are located in the US or Canada, you can contact the National 211 Helpline at 211.org (US) or 211.cs (Canada) to find out about support services in your area.

      We appreciate you reaching out and wish you all the best moving forward. Take care.

  • Catherine Babor
    I read the article and am disappointed that it didnt explain WHAT TO DO. it explains the problem but left me without tools.
    • Denise Rowden, Parent CoachEP Coach

      Hi, Catherine. We have several articles that give more specific suggestions for dealing with verbal abuse. One in particular you may find helpful is this one by Sara Bean: https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/i-hate-you-mom-i-wish-you-were-dead-when-kids-say-hurtful-things/.

      We appreciate you being part of our Empowering Parents community.

  • Adomic

    So this is hard, my son is turning 8(or is it 9), he has been diagnosed with ADHD, and we are having him tested for a couple other things as well(I have Adult ADHD, borderline personality disorder and general anxiety, his mother has general anxiety disorder as well).

    We have been dealing with his outbursts in strides....his bed is falling apart due to him kicking it, we've told him if he breaks it we won't get him another one(its a solid wood bed frame). His little sister and him do get physical, and he has gotten physical with my wife and I as well as his older stepsister.

    Lately his language has exploded with tons of F-you and well tonight he actually called his little sister(age 6) a little Bi***. He also threatened our older daughter telling her "how would you like it if I broke your neck..this is new..

    Like always my first response is to yell at him...I stress out and my BPD ouroboros cycle starts...my wife will usually tell me to go to the other room, but I can't take it when he starts kicking her when she tries to settle him down...

    Im lost...if I try to grab him and just pull him into a hug...just wrap him up and try to love on him and prevent him from hurting himself, others or property he screams and yells...like I am hurting him...it hurts inside...

    I can't quit on him...but sometimes I just want to run away...

  • Exhausted and hopeless
    I appreciate your articles and plans for parents. Our 12 yo adopted daughter has RAD and ODD. She has been seeing a therapist since she was 5 when she started raging, and psychologist and psychiatrist for the past 2 years when we started to suspect possible mental illness.More However, they have refused to diagnose her because she does not display her aggression to them. She is extremely manipulative! She was at a therapeutic boarding school for girls with RAD for a year and a half and worked her was home. However, once home she started up again within 3 weeks. She went back to the boarding school but eventually got kicked out for numerous violent responses, the last being trying to wreck the school van full of staff and passengers. She is now starting to display some of these verbally aggressive responses at school but they still don’t see the half of what she does at home. We don’t give into her and she has very little privileges. This makes her even more agitated. She believes that she is equal with adults and deserves complete freedom to do and say as she pleases. There is no talking with her on problem solving skills. She has rejected all forms of coping skills, saying they don’t work and that all we want is for her to calm down. She has absolutely no intention of trying to change or earn privileges. We are at a complete loss. Our 3 other children pretty much hide in their rooms because she is so unpleasant all the time. She is never nice or cooperative. Crisis has told us they won’t help unless she has been hospitalized 3 times or an immediate violent threat (meaning she has a weapon and intention to harm)...verbal doesn’t count. Police just arrive to find a meek child (remember she is extremely manipulative). So we get zero help. We just live in a war zone and we hate it. It causes us to resent her. We’ve tried to get her into a psychiatric facility but can’t find one that will take both self pay and Medicaid (long story on this need). It’s frustrating that there isn’t better help for these kids and our families. I know my family all has PTSD from her.
  • Parent In Distress

    With reference to & I quote "Nothing changes if nothing changes. The sooner you start, the better chance you have of changing this behavior. But it will mean changing your whole family dynamic.

    In other words, if you want to change the way your child is doing things, you’re going to have to change the way your whole family is doing things."

    Please lead me to how i find out how to do this - where do i start - i am desperately in need of help ASAP Please I need help I am at my end with the abuse & want it to stop - mostly because I don't want my son to be this person, I do not want him to become more of this as a adult man.. Please tell me where to go - really appreciate it so much. Thank you

    • Denise Rowden, Parent CoachEP Coach

      I am so sorry you are facing these challenges with your son. We have several articles that offer tools and techniques for managing abusive behavior you may find helpful: https://www.empoweringparents.com/article-categories/child-behavior-problems/abusive-violent-behavior/. You may also find it helpful to review our personal parenting plan - a set of our specially chosen and best articles and resources covering angry outbursts, consequences, disrespect, oppositional defiance disorder, physical abuse, and adult kids living at home. It is a great way to review our content and resources online. Here is the link: https://www.empoweringparents.com/personal-parenting-plan/.

      WE appreciate you being part of our Empowering Parents community. Take care.

  • Hopeless

    Wow, Seeing all of your comments makes me feel not alone.

    I have an 8 year old who's been diagnostic with combined ADD/ADHD. Oh god we can't go to the store to get a loaf of bread without an outburst.. he was violent when he was younger and when we were trying different doses, times and medicines. Now it's Vyvanse and Intunvi in the morning and Intuniv in the evening with melatonin gummies to fall asleep. We still can't go to the store to shop really but some days are better than others. He isn't violent anymore, just threatens us, calls us horrible parents, says he wants a new mom and dad etc etc. As soon as those meds kick in he feels sorry and gets lovely dovely. Ugh

    It's frustrating. And hurtful. And tbh it has driven hubs and I apart, but we are working on it. Emotionally drained. How do you all do it? When does it stop? I want him to be happy, but not spoiled.

    • Aneta Chencinski

      YES, it is hard.

      Sometime it is getting easier as they mature. Also working with professional teaching him new behaviours and proper rewards can help. Acting in improper way will have to be substituted by acting in proper way and he needs to learn those new ways.

    • Crissy
      We're experiencing the same things. It's become crucial to stay as positive as possible if for no other reason than my own mental health at this time. Doing my own work so I'm not triggered and remain calm in the chaos has been helpful too! Hoping this total transformation worksMore and he's doing play therapy as well, stay hopeful! Anything can always happen :)
  • RedMom-inthesouth

    Our son is 16 and has ADHD. He has been to counseling and we have called the police a couple of times in the past. He no longer takes his ADHD medication. We have tried vyvance and adderall and both caused severe angry outbursts in the afternoons. The outbursts have not stopped but are MUCH LESS often than when he was on the meds. He is currently failing most of his classes BUT when his vehicle was taken away, he was able to raise the grades in his core classes by over 20 points in just a few weeks. This tells me that he CAN do the work if he wants to.

    I feel ya'lls pain and I don't have the answers but please protect yourself and your other children from abuse. CALL THE POLICE! Don't enable the abuser. Let them fail so they can hit rock bottom as a teenager instead of as an adult. When they are able to make better choices for themselves is when they learn self-esteem. Not when you enable or allow their attacks to happen.

    I was a terribly unruly teenager and didn't care about my parents back then. Dropped out of high school several times until 1 day, something clicked. I don't know what it was, but I doubled up on classes and passed.

    There is hope. Take care of you. Protect the innocent.

    You are not alone. No excuse for abuse. Let them fall so they can pick themselves up.

    p.s. My adult daughter whose career is in serving and protecting others actually got a tattoo that says "Fall down 7 times, get up 8" I actually didn't understand why that was so important to her until I just typed all this out.


    • Right there w/ya
      Thank you for your encouragement; and I love how your daughter pays it forward too. God bless you and your family.
  • Caring Mom
    Abuse is not acceptable but understand that it could be a sign of a serious mental illness. It is better to get the child to a psychiatrist for an evaluation. It could be a sign of bipolar disorder, disruptive mood dysregulation disorder, prodromal psychosis or substance abuse. Yes,More call the police but it is better to have a diagnosis if there is one, and to get them transported to a psychiatric hospital, not a juvenile detention center. If there is a crisis intervention team then get them involved. Read The Bipolar Child. We have been there and I never stopped empathizing and believing that a serious mental illness was involved. Again, abuse is not acceptable and professionals should be involved but it needs to be the right professionals.
  • ProTecMom100
    My 15 year old son is on HisHwy and stopping for nothing, speeding up the pace! I get very little sleep because I do not know what he’s capable of. Never have I ever left his 8 year old brother alone with him. Extremely great at controlling only his tears.More Yeah Hollywood has an actor under my roof. Family members say psychopath brewing. I’m only 4’9 115 lbs and this year he grew past me. Now he’s lightly hitting my every time I turn around. He will giggle a little when doing this but he has hit me hard twice but that was right after I had two disc replaced in my neck. He said he knew I was weak then so he felt secure in himself physically then. He says he’s never gonna believe in God and hates me for making attend church. His father never reached out and up until two years I never asked for help. Basically I’m all he has because his two older half brothers mine also, his Aunt that’s my Sister and our Dad ( grandpa) say foster care. Look therapy he’s in it sees psychiatrist as well and prescribed ADD meds. Which he says calm him but focus is not there. Look I could go on and on. He’s friends at school are the only humans he actually likes and has feelings for. I’m ashamed of myself because he’s difficult to show love to. I mean he’s my son and I’d die tor him but not from him. His pediatrician says he’s spoiled. Emergency Room social worker psychologist whatever says he’s jealous of younger brother. I’m really tired of his back talk ,and telling me no, disagree with EVERYTHING that is have a chance to say. He does not like hims lf
  • Katie
    I disagree with the statement that if they had empathy or sympathy they wouldn't be doing it in the first place... my son has adhd, and until we can get his med in him and it takes effect.. trying to get him to do anything is pointless.. even trying toMore convince him to take his pill as soon as we get him awake is extremely difficult. he's turning 9 this month and I'm getting scared we're not having everything figured out yet.. but until his med takes effect he is verbally abusive and can be physically at times... once the med takes effect in him he feels horrible for the things he did and said! he's extremely apologetic and feels guilty.. which makes me feel terrible he has to go through this and I feel terrible bc I yelled at him and lost my cool bc I'm getting yelled at and called names and having to get him dressed myself. I'm at a loss of what to do bc he can't function without his adhd med and I can't get it in him quick enough on school mornings 😰
  • Outnumbered
    I appreciate this article! I have a step son who is and has been doing the same things mentioned long before I married his dad. My husband & ex-wife have always looked the other way or claimed, "everyone mistakes" and never addressed the issues or got counseling for him. IMore went through a weekend visit where my step son(16 years old) snook a girl into his room/bed. When caught he was verbally abusive to me and lied and punched a hole in the bedroom door. I told him that he was not welcome in my home and my husband took him back to his mom. My husband stands by me to a point but wants to smooth things over and have him back in our home. I disagree. He has never apologized or made any attempts to show that his behavior will change. He is abusive to his younger brother as well. I feel outnumbered!
  • Jason

    Thank you, it has opened my eyes more and given me some unanswered questions answers for.

    also cleared a lot of uncertainty up and also maybe where my faults were also.

    kind regards Jason

  • Gail
    I always thought my daughter was just a little spoiled until school started this year. Her whole personality changed. She began having violent outbursts at first. It was just her calling me and her dad names at first. Then it was I hope youMore die. Now its physical. She kicked me so hard last week that I am still bruised. The thing is she is telling people we are abusing her and they seem to believe her. It is a nightmare. I'm afraid we are going to be defending ourselves and she uses that to harm us further. I am not sleeping well and deeply depressed. We have gotten her a counselor and talked to the juvenile system. But I'm afraid she is going to harm us, and we have a small child also in the house. Not sure what to do next.
    • Rebecca Wolfenden, Parent CoachEP Coach
      I’m so sorry to hear about your daughter’s increasingly violent and aggressive behavior. I’m glad that you’re here reaching out for support, both here as well as in your community. In addition to working with the counselor for your daughter, it’s also going to be helpful to developMore a plan to keep everyone safe when your daughter starts to have these outbursts. I also encourage you to get some support for yourself right now. Dealing with this kind of behavior can be frightening and exhausting, and you will be more effective in enforcing your rules and expectations if you are caring for your own emotional well-being. You might find some additional tips in Signs of Parental Abuse: What to Do When Your Child or Teen Hits You, as well as The Lost Children: When Behavior Problems Traumatize Siblings. I recognize how difficult this must be right now for you and your family, and I wish you all the best moving forward. Take care.
    My youngest brother was verbally abusive, intimidating and would destroy things in the house. My mother was a single mom and for years we suffered in silence, putting up with bouts of anger and abuse. I never stood up to him, fearing I would just make things worse. ThisMore article is on point when it mentions "nothing changes if nothing changes". My brother grew up to become a verbally abusive and intimidating adult. I'm now 41 years old and mom is in her 60's. He's a little better, in the sense that he acknowledges that he needs to change, but he still has his angry outbursts and we still feel like we're walking on eggshells around him. I've been doing a lot of online reading about t I wish we would have had the knowledge, resources, and support that we needed, and that he needed.
  • Isabel
    I found this website as I'm really worried about my 10-year old daughter. She is often really rude and disrespectful to me, and shouts a lot if she doesn't get her way. She can also be sweet and loving. But I feel she is very aggressive and doesn't respect myMore boundaries and goes behind my back when I say "no" to something. Yesterday, when I said No to her taking my mobile phone,she said "I want to kick you in the face until you bleed!" I was so shocked and still am. I don't really know what to do! Her father (who I'm not in a relationship with) also has aggressive tendencies so I don't know if has "learnt" if from him, or if my parenting skills are to blame. But I feel like I have to do something, but am at a loss to what.
    • Aneta Chencinski

      Isabel, sorry to hear about your difficulties.

      I understand you have boundaries however are there consequences attached when she doesn't respect the boundaries? Do you have plan how to respond?

  • Jayme
    This is the first article that has actually given me some type of hope. My now nine year old physically abuses me and her brother(6). I feel like a referee most days breaking up fights. Getting called foul words. We have been kicked out of businesses, CPS interactions, she isMore in a behavior class in school. I feel traped, I love her but avoid going anywhere with her due to her exsplosive behavior. I have installed locks on my door to get away from her, and protect my child.
  • Victoria
    As I am writing this I am so so sad, my 8 year old son is just awful. He is becoming more & more verbally abusive by the day. He used to be an adorable little boy always smiling but now he shouts at us, tells us we stink nonMore stop, says we're stupid, is angry & unkind with his younger brother who adores him. He shows us up more or less everyday by insulting us in front of people. It is non stop!! He is destroying our family life & is really affecting our marriage & also the lives of his little brother & sister.
  • RebeccaW_ParentalSupport
    AshleyScaredDesperate I’m so sorry to hear about the violence you are experiencing from your daughter.  You deserve to be safe in your home.  Even though your daughter has learning disabilities and is triggered by school work, there is https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/when-kids-get-violent-theres-no-excuse-for-abuse/  I see that you have been working with local resources, suchMore as the police, counseling, child services and so on, in order to help you manage her behavior and keep you safe.  I encourage you to continue to do so, and if you need additional local support, you might consider contacting the http://www.211.ca at 1-800-836-3238.  211 is a service which provides information on resources available in your community.  You also might find some additional helpful information in https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/signs-of-parental-abuse-what-to-do-when-your-child-or-teen-hits-you/.  I recognize what a difficult situation this must for you, and I wish you all the best moving forward.  Take care.
  • KathleenORourke
    I no longer feel so alone. My son and grandson are abusive to me. How can I get away from this?
    • RebeccaW_ParentalSupport
      KathleenORourke I’m sorry to hear about the way that your son and grandson are treating you.  You deserve to be safe from abuse, and I’m glad that you found our site and no longer feel isolated in experiencing this kind of behavior.  In addition to the tips in the articleMore above, you might find additional helpful information how to handle abusive behavior in https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/rules-boundaries-and-older-children-part-ii-in-response-to-questions-about-older-children-living-at-home/ and https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/signs-of-parental-abuse-what-to-do-when-your-child-or-teen-hits-you/.  I recognize what a difficult situation this must be for you, and I wish you all the best moving forward.  Take care.
  • CLN071277
    Is there a follow up to this??
    • RebeccaW_ParentalSupport
      CLN071277 Thank you for your question.  This is the second article in a two-part series on verbal abuse.  You can find the first article in the series https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/kids-who-are-verbally-abusive-part-1-the-creation-of-a-defiant-child/.  Please let us know if you have any additional questions.  Take care.
  • RebeccaW_ParentalSupport
    Terryn Irvin We appreciate you writing in to Empowering Parents and sharing your story. I am sorry to hear about the way that your sister is treating you.  Because we are a website aimed at helping people become more effective parents, we are limited in the advice and suggestions weMore can give to those outside of a direct parenting role.  Another resource which might be more useful to you is the Boys Town National Hotline, which you can reach by calling 1-800-448-3000, 24/7. They have trained counselors who talk with kids, teens and young adults everyday about issues they are facing, and they can help you to look at your options and come up with a plan.  They also have options to communicate via text, email, and live chat which you can find on their website, http://www.yourlifeyourvoice.org/ We wish you the best going forward. Take care.
  • Please help

    I don't know how to discipline my oldest boy. He's 15. He back talks me and treats me like crap. I try to get on to him but then he gets my mother involved and she tells me I'm in the wrong every time. It is now causing problems in my relationship.

    Please help

    • RebeccaW_ParentalSupport

      @Please help 

      I’m sorry to hear

      about the issues you are facing with your son, as well as how your mother is

      responding when he gets her involved.  With your son, it could be helpful

      to talk during a calm time about the way you expect to be treated, and how he

      will be held accountable if he is not treating you respectfully.  You

      might find some additional useful information in our article, https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/how-to-respond-to-disrespectful-children-and-teens/.  With your mother, it

      might be useful to talk during a calm time about how she can support you. 

      Debbie Pincus explains more about this in https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/grandparents-and-parents-disagreeing-11-tips-for-both-of-you/.  Please be sure to

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

      Take care.

  • WorriedEldest
    Hello. I'm not being abused but the youngest of our family is by his next older sister. She is 11yrs old and is verbally abusive to him. He's 8. She doesn't cuss but she belittles him constantly. I'll be honest about the 11year old. She has a very big headMore and thinks highly of herself. She has an attitude all the time. I hope it is just a faze. I'm not the parent, may I add. I'm the oldest sibling. In this part where you talked about empathy and the apologyies it was the 11year old to T. Our mom doesn't know what to do and I was bullied as a kid at school and it makes me angry when she does this to our brother. How could she be that way? Shouldn't she want to protect him? She's also mean to our 16year of old sister. She has a different personality then the rest of us. The 11year old made a comment to me yesterday about how she never can take a joke. I told her that's just her personality. "Well it's stupid." "No, it's her. That's how she is. If everyone was the same it would be boring." "No, if everyone was like me, the world would be awesome." I don't control the way she's raised, if I yell at her I get yelled at. I want advice for my mom. I'm leaving for my second year of college and I'm worried for my brother and sister but also for the abusive one. I'm afraid she's a bully but her friends have been bullied to and she stood up for them. I don't understand her mind. Okay, rant over!
    • RebeccaW_ParentalSupport


      We appreciate you writing in to Empowering Parents and

      sharing your story. I am sorry to hear about the way that your sister is

      treating your youngest brother.  Because we are a website aimed at helping

      people become more effective parents, we are limited in the advice and

      suggestions we can give to those outside of a direct parenting role. 

      Another resource which might be more useful to you is the Boys Town National

      Hotline, which you can reach by calling 1-800-448-3000, 24/7. They have trained

      counselors who talk with kids, teens and young adults everyday about issues

      they are facing, and they can help you to look at your options and come up with

      a plan.  They also have options to communicate via text, email, and live

      chat which you can find on their website, http://www.yourlifeyourvoice.org/ We wish you

      the best going forward. Take care.

  • klomprez

    My son is nine and has severe ADHD and ODD. He has become increasingly violent over the years. I am constantly covered in bruises and scratches from him. I am now pregnant with my second child and I'm terrified of my son. He has hit me in the stomach three times since I've been pregnant, and screams at me that he hopes he killed the baby each time. I've tried so damn hard to get him help. All day, every day is a struggle with him. Everything is an argument. The counselors and psychiatrists only seem to care about his behavior in school,  however. They seem to think that because he manages to get through school relatively well, that there is no problem. This is despite the fact that I've told them repeatedly that his grades have started falling and he has been violent with other students at school at times as well. 

         Even if he manages to get through the school day relatively well, he is not medicated at home, and they will not medicate him outside of school! When he gets home, I get the full brunt of all the anger and violence that he's held in all day. I get treated like it's my fault that he behaves this way, like I haven't tried EVERYTHING to help him. I had to drop out of college to take care of him full time because no one would watch him for me. He is too difficult to take care of. I can't keep a job because I'm always getting calls about his behavior. The psychiatrists and counselors all say the same thing, that I need to help him learn how to control his anger in a constructive way. They tell me to sit down with him when he gets angry and talk it out with him. Clearly they've never actually tried to talk to an irrationally angry child! There is no sitting down and having a constructive conversation with someone who is throwing things at your face and screaming at you! I'm tired of being treated like I'm just not doing enough to help him change his behavior. I honestly don't think I could do any more than I have! Helping him has become my whole life! It's all I do! People need to stop blaming the parents for the child's behavior because, honestly, sometimes it's just the child.

    • ttcat79
      Sounds like my 11 year old daughter. .exactly. .it is exhausting trying to help them ..and when the drs just turn it around on us as parents and their home life .I had a terrible home life and I didn't act like thus ..this Lil girl has no excuses sheMore making all of our lives he'll my husband and my 16 year old daughter ..
    • Gianna 22

      Hi komplez. I don't have any answers for you but all I can tell you is reading your comment is like someone looking into our lives. I deal with the EXACT Same thing with my 8 year old son, who also has ADHD. Like you he manages to get through school ok and the teachers think he's adorable and honesty I think they think I'm mad when I act surprised that they don't have more issues and they just don't believe me when I've told them about his violent outbursts both physical and verbal. I currentlyhave a 20 months old and also pregnant again. When I was pregnant with my second my Son got increasingly violent and would also punch my stomach on purpose. It was extremely hard, emotionally exhausting and isolating. No body wanted to help or believe us how bad things were/are. Unfortunately this is still true and even our close families have turned their backs on us refusing to acknowledge our daily struggles. We are currently paying privately for our son to have some child psychotherapy. It's expensive but it's the only thing we've not yet tried. It's too early to say if it's helping our son but at least the psychotherapist is starting to understand what we are having to deal with and most importantly believes me!

      I'm sorry I couldn't be more help, I really do understand how awfully lonely and guilty it feels to have a daily horrible battle with your once beautiful baby/little boy that has been hijacked by this bundle of bad behaviour and the horrible emotional cycle of not understanding why they hate you so much, not thinking you can cope and sometimes thinking how much easier it would be without them, then mourning the lovely child you once had and then feeling over whelming sadness and guilt about even thinking of not having him in your life.

      For us both I hope there is a light at the end of the tunnel.


      • Sympatheric
        From a few different situations I have witnessed, the school environment is a huge factor in the at home behavior. The more comfortable a child feels at school, the less they will have to vent when they get home. A possible school change might be in order. It also soundsMore like you need to change therapists as well. If they are ignoring a child's abusive and destructive behavior, they aren't helping him.
  • Sharon Bush Klouser
    Can you get a restraining order against a minor child if they are verbally abusive?
    • RebeccaW_ParentalSupport

      Sharon Bush Klouser 

      Thank you for your question.  Because the laws around

      restraining or protective orders vary among communities, I am not able to give

      you a specific answer.  You might consider checking with your local clerk

      of courts, or law enforcement, to see what the guidelines are in your

      area.  Take care.

  • Hopeles
    I feel better knowing I'm not the only one going through this. I feel so worthless at times. Like its all my fault my son turned out this way. But he's now 18 and still scares me and my daughter. I love him but I feel like I'm in aMore relationship with an abusive mate letting him in and out to of our life's. Tired.
    • Lou73
      Hi im having the same problem with my 21 yr old and my 23 yr old one i have restraining order on he use to hit me spit at me smash everything in my house call me names put me down he still does it but mentally abuses me threwMore text messages im struggling to get by day to day im so ashamed embarressed my 21yr old still lives with me he threatens me everyday says really sick things i carnt eat sleep have friends round go out hes so nasty and cruel he says the nastiest things and controls everything i do i just dont want to be ere anymore i feel like my life is over i dont no what to do who to turn to how to get out of this and away from my 2 boys i feel awful but there really violent i dont feel safe in my own home but ive got nowere to go and he wont go i do everything for them i just dont understand why they hate me so much and how they can treat me so bad
  • Older sister
    Why does this only address sibling abuse from the older sibling? I'm 3 years older than my brother and he's bigger than me and beats me all the time. This is part of the problems with sibling abuse, it's only looked at as if it can never be caused byMore the younger one. This is why no one takes me seriously and my brother will eventually hospitalize me or something.
    • Americanense

      I totally understand! I was verbally and emotionally abused by a younger sibbling!

      I'm very sorry that you are going through this!

    • Hopeles
      My son scares his sister. He's 6 ft and towars over her and she's 5'1 2 yrs younger only. Youngest or oldest it will get worse if you dont find someone that will take you seriously.
  • heathering4


    My son is on the Autism spectrum.  Growing up his dad was verbally and physically violent toward me. We are now separated, however, my son is being verbally abusive to me and today threatened to hit me with his drum sticks.  I had told him he needed to take a walk with me for physical exercise as he is overweight and refusing to do PE at school.  I told him if he didn't take a walk then I would cancel his play date for the weekend.  This ongoing situation is causing me and tremendous and I feel fatigued and depressed.

Advertisement for Empowering Parents Total Transformation Online Package
Like What You're Reading?
Sign up for our newsletter and get immediate access to a FREE eBook, 5 Ways to Fix Disrespectful Behavior Now
We will not share your information with anyone. Terms of Use