What to do if you have a child who rages

by Brenda on

cryingchild

photo credit: emrank

Let’s just pretend for a minute that you have a kid who randomly screams and rages. Let’s just pretend. :) And let’s pretend that it’s so unpredictable that it’s really hard to plan life around it. And let’s say, it can be triggered by the strangest things. You say to your daughter “let’s put away your dolls sweetie, we’re going to play Pretty, Pretty Princess,” which she usually loves, but she decides to throw a screaming, violent fit. Let’s just say you’ve got a scenario like that going on in your home, and often (maybe daily). What do you do?

 

First of all, let’s think about what this kind of scenario might do to the rest of your family. Can your other kids (assuming you have any) talk to you very easily when the raging is going on? Can your family continue playing Pretty, Pretty Princess, with or without your angry child? How are the heart & breathing rates of your family members? Are you doing ok? Are you stressed? Do you snap at your other kids, because you’re at the end of your rope and you feel hopeless and out of control? How’s your marriage doing? Can you communicate with your spouse? Do you have different ideas about how to handle the situation & does it put you at odds? There’s a definite impact on the whole family when one child is out of control. Something has to be done.

You’ve got to evaluate your own child and situation and try to figure out the following:

1. Is your child raging just because she isn’t getting her way?

or

2. Is your child raging because there was past trauma, neglect, or the child was scared–and he didn’t get his way & that might have triggered the big feelings? (Read Nancy Thomas’s When Love is Not Enough to learn more about this…).

If you’re dealing with #1, this post isn’t going to help you (Sorry! Keep reading tomorrow!). Please don’t over-indulge a selfish child. Lots of kids are behaving like kids who were traumatized, only because they’ve been over-indulged their whole life. If you’ve been over-indulging your children, take a hard look at why you’ve been doing that…are you trying to make up for some loss in your own childhood? Take some time to think about it, and make a plan to change…And like I said, come back tomorrow!

If you’re dealing with #2, the root of your child’s raging is fear. I have some ideas for you! Please note, I didn’t come up with these ideas on my own. We are surrounded by an amazing team of support–people who have taught us, done respite for us and supported us through the hard times. So far, this is what I’ve learned:

 

Hold your raging child.

 

First off, I recommend the book Holding Time by Martha Welch. Hold your child, cuddle her, tell her “you are safe, you are loved,” over and over and over. In the beginning, the hold might be more like a restraint (not painful, just holding the child to get him or her to calm down–read Holding Time for more info on this). Hold her until she is totally calm. I’ve done this lots of times and had my kids fall asleep in my arms. One of my children holds the record for raging for at least an hour during holding–several times! Oh it is soooo tiring!! You’ll have to plan for a break for yourself on these days!

 

You will likely be bitten, hit, kicked, pinched, etc. I am not saying that this is an easy job. One time I got a really big bruise on my arm from a raging child.

 

Whatever they do, don’t get angry! The messages that you’re trying to send your child are:

 

“I love you no matter what you do.”

and

 “You’re safe with me.”

and

 “You can’t do anything to push away my love.”

and

“I’m strong enough to handle you and all of your big feelings.”

While the child is screaming and being violent, do not make eye contact. Repeat phrases like “I am a strong Mommy,” (to which they will respond “no you’re not!” and “You’re a terrible mom, you won’t let me have what I want,” etc., etc. Ignore it!) ;) . Just say, calmly, “You are safe. You are loved.” When the child calms down, look him in the eye and keep saying these things. Tell him some of his story and how you were SO glad that God gave him to you and that you feel blessed to be his Mommy…

Ideally, this will be enough. If it is, you know that your chid is working hard on healing and building an attachment with you. Hooray!

Sometimes holding does not kick the child out of the funk they’re in. Sometimes, you’ll muster up all of the love you have in you and pour it out on your child and you will still get glared at, screamed at and attacked. Your child is stuck. If this happens, you’ll need a few more tools in your toolbox, which I’ll share with you tomorrow!

What about you? Have you tried holding your child when he or she was raging? What was the result?

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