Our raging kids and where they come from

Well hot damn. Hells bells. Sheesh-ka-bob.

Things have been really hopping over here since I wrote my last post.

I’m a chronic over-sharer in my day-to-day, so writing about my life, all splayed open for the world to see, comes naturally and feels good. Necessary, even. And so I write and I keep writing and I hope it strikes a chord somewhere. Hope someone else feels a little less nuts, a little more jovial about their particular mess, a little bit encouraged by the good company of us other bumbling humans, just trying to see what sticks.

spag splat

And then BAM. For whatever reason, I struck a chord last week. A relatively big one.

The things you’ve shared with me have left me stunned.

There are so many of us.

This is my son ALL over the place.

Wow. Just Wow. Your story resonated with our boy word for word.

The attitude of mum, the elder child’s personality and spunk, and the shock when it actually worked all ring so true.

My beautiful bad seed is all girl..lovely, opinionated, strong-willed, thoughtful, loving, commanding, and gorgeously all girl. With a temper that can send giants to the corner, silently weeping and hugging their knees.

What you wrote has an impact for me right now. I can be that padded wall.

This is our house, so thanks-

Like a few of you have said above, he hits, kicks, head butts, body slams me, bites, throws things, ect, and laughs all the while doing it. And I know he is not laughing to be malicious, but because he cannot get his emotions under control, and he doesn’t understand them. It’s damn hard though. And he’s a strong little bugger.

Ladies, this was so my son when he was younger. I think I still have PTSD from his first month or so of kindergarten when he was 5.

I’m trying to find a way with my 3 years old boy that plays –often– the agressive kid, usually against me.

I have four boys – two are like your son. Your piece had me in tears as not an hour ago I had numerous sets of eyes glaring at me at a park as a meltdown occurred. I stayed calm, told myself to ignore the judgement and to love my boy. But gosh was it hard. Even after two years of practice staying calm with him during his outbursts (since I finally learned not staying calm made it infinitely worse!) I still struggle.

Thank you for putting in words what I’ve been trying to do with my nearly-3yr old bundle of energy boy.

My very spirited 2 1/2 year old can be aggressive and violent like this to his very gentle 6 year old brother!

I needed this today.

my son is Jo…

This is exactly my 4yo.

When my son goes berserk he tries to hit and scratch and bite and he’s like a wild beast. If it’s not that it’s chucking things at me and knocking things down.

I am in exactly the same boat with my almost 3 year old and little ‘accidents’ with his younger brother.

My son is only 6-months and I feel like this already fits him to a T. Love the insight and I’ll be sharing this with my wife as we prepare for the next stage!

We have a Jo of our own in the form of Eli. Thank you very much for sharing this.

Your description of the sadistic smile that he gets is so like my William’s! He is so much more than that mask. Your post brought me to tears, because you showed me I am not alone.

Maria, I thought of you when I read this, especially the head-butting part.

And this isn’t even all of them.

I had no idea how many of us were in this boat. Parents with young ones who are scratching, hitting, throwing, biting and yes, as Maria well knows, head-butting; they’re hurting things and people in their path and then tossing off a sadistic laugh to boot. Even though I know these behaviors intimately because we’ve lived them all for the past couple years, it still baffles me to write it all out. Why is this happening? And to so many of us?

Maybe this has been going on for centuries with human kids. But if that were the case, wouldn’t there be a How-To-Handle-Your-Young-Child-Who-Often-Behaves-Very-Much-Like-a-Sociopath manual out there? Written and tried and tested by the droves of mothers who have come before us, and sat where we sit, staring, glazed-over, at a loss?

I’m working out a theory for why we’re seeing this particular kind of child so much.

First, there are a bunch of us parents who are suspicious of going straight to punishment when our kids’ behavior goes south. We don’t go straight to spanking or time out when the block goes whizzing by our head. That is not to say we don’t ever go the punishment route. After a long LONG day when I’m over it, I bust out some yelling and forceful placement in the room, to “not come out until you can touch your brother the right way.” But sometimes I have the energy and time to try other stuff. I listen. I give eye contact. For those of us who are willing to try this stuff, we don’t (or can’t!) stop the cyclone of destruction dead in its tracks (as much as we might like to!), so we see our kids’ raging as it gains steam and plays out.

Second is this article. It has me floored.

Atlantic Overprotected Kid

My friend Meg brought it up as we were talking about the response to my post about “bad” Jo and all the droves of moms of kids like him that were moved to share their thoughts here. It’s a long read, but worth the time, about the dramatic trend away from unsupervised and risky play since the 1970s and how, these days, children expect to be constantly supervised. While the hyper-supervision trend seems to be rooted in parents’ fear of injury or abduction, instances of those things haven’t gone up since the 70s, though our awareness of them has. And I have a hunch that all this reigning in of our kiddos has something to do with these little psychopath boy moments we’re trying to contain out in the world and in our houses.

For example, beginning in 2011, Swanson Primary School in New Zealand submitted itself to a university experiment and agreed to suspend all playground rules, allowing the kids to run, climb trees, slide down a muddy hill, jump off swings, and play in a “loose-parts pit” that was like a mini adventure playground. The teachers feared chaos, but in fact what they got was less naughtiness and bullying—because the kids were too busy and engaged to want to cause trouble, the principal said.

Are our kids so bored out of their skulls with their wooden train sets and soccer practice and happy cartoons that they’re seeking out the juicy-dangerous-aliveness that comes from risk-taking with us? If they could wander, unfettered with their neighborhood friends and build forts and cut down tree limbs and explore on their own more often, would they rage less at home?

Something tells me yes.

20 thoughts on “Our raging kids and where they come from

  1. Love this follow up post too – thank you! I do agree – my little guy is such a little treasure when we’re outside making mud pies and letting him use his imagination to create scenarios (his favourite is to get up into his cubby house and peer over the railing and try to take my money in exchange for some tickets or food or something!). I was also told (when we sought help) that boys struggle with a new sibling more (generally speaking) than girls as they take on a mothering/nurturing role so don’t feel so displaced by a new sibling. All very interesting stuff!

  2. The idea of how closely we supervise our children and the effects is so interesting. I also have a hitter/head butter/kicker. Recently we spent time with his cousins (also boys) at my mother’s who lives in a pretty family-friendly, quiet neighborhood. I’m pregnant and in the exhausting first trimester and my sister-in-law was taking care of a sick baby. As a result, the boys pretty much ran wild. I barely saw my son and really did not deal with one tantrum the whole weekend. Unfortunately, we live in a city so it’s difficult to let him go off by himself all the time (he’s five) but it is something to think about.

    1. Fascinating! I think this is the real challenge–living in a city today where all of the parents around us aren’t letting their kids roam, and so if we do it, it feels even less safe because they’re the only ones. I really want to find more ways to do this, though, because time for the kids that feels unsupervised just seems so SO important to me.

  3. YEs, Yes, Yes! My boy too! Same smile and trying to be bad but I know he just wants me to say I will love you anyways! thanks! lavignephotography.blogspot.com

  4. “I was once that aggressive boy. I was. My mother tells me, that when I was in kindergarten, I’d come home sometimes and be so enraged that there was nothing that she could do to get me to talk, listen, engage in any way. The only thing she could do was to hand me an old plate (we didn’t have new plates) and let me throw in on the kitchen floor. As it shattered, my spell broke, I could smile again, and come back. She would then ask me to clean it up, and I’d say: ‘But you said I should throw this plate on the floor.’ Knowing that I was right about that, she collected the pieces.”

    My full response is much longer. Please find it here: https://parentconnecteastbay.com/i-was-once-that-aggressive-boy/

  5. That article, The Overprotected Child, changed my life. I quit taking the namby-pamby peacenicky attitude and started taking the “let’s wrestle, play war, tackle, and sign up for Tae Kwon Do” path. My son is happier b/c of it. I have had some discussions with friends who have children my son’s age and some have agreed to, within reason, allow our kids, including the girls, to start playing more “aggressively” with one another. I’m not saying I’m raising my son to be a super aggressive macho machine, rather I’m not curtailing his natural, and functional, instinct to run, jump, fight, grab, wrestle, get hurt, etc.

    This article ties in nicely how roughhousing helps kids learn how NOT to hurt others. They learn how to know when things might cross a line, empathy, resiliency, grit, etc.


    Thank you for your writings. Really. The pendulum *may* have swung too far toward safety at the expense of some things well-meaning people failed to recognize. I’m all for safety but not if it’s going to create an unnecessary conflict within my son who might think his zestfulness is somehow “wrong.”

    1. Awesome, Allie. I’m all about allowing aggression and roughhousing too which I think is a wonderful outlet for all kids. I think some seek it out more than others, but they all really benefit from it. We’ve certainly had our fair share of bumps and bruises from that kind of play but the beneifits far outweigh the risks to me. Good on you for doing this–I think the more other parents see this kind of play being allowed and supported, the less fear and misunderstanding there will be about it.

  6. This made me chuckle a bit. Society definitely has gone too far the other way on supervision and being over protective. My little guy was climbing a 2 foot high chain link fence at a year and a half (I swear he was born part monkey lol). I’m always the last one to worry about that stuff (within reason). The only reason I have to be near him at the park, watching every little thing he does, is because of other parents. I saw one lady actually remove her child from the park because my son climbed up the slide from the bottom. (He climbed up, she said something to the little girl, and they left, we were the only other one’s there). I don’t know a single child who hasn’t tried that, or won’t try it. My son is also a little social butterfly, so he will go up to other children and ask if he can play with them or if they would like to play with him. That almost seems not normal by some of the adult reactions. Just have to shake my head sometimes.

    1. I’m the same mom in the park. I tend to sit back and let Jo and Cal go…and started doing that ever since Jo was very young. I would step in if there was a significant disagreement with another kid, but otherwise, just hang back. And, just as you said, the main pressure I felt about it came from other parents. They would see Jo without a parent flanking him at a 2 foot distance and look around with grave concern wondering if he was alone. On my better days, I would just let them deal with it and keep doing my thing.

  7. This was great food for thought. I have a 5 year old who despite being energetic and very silly sometimes, naturally likes to play it very safe. I would like him to climb more, explore more but he’s quite the conformist and does not like to appear to be breaking any rules, I suspect city life and especially in a place like Singapore has something to do with that..

    1. Interesting, Kad. Some days I really wish I had your kid 🙂 But the grass is always greener. All I want is for Jo to settle more. If you’re worried about his desire to conform preventing him from exploring more, maybe you could try some playing with him at home about “breaking the rules.” Choosing a few things he knows are rules at your house and playfully breaking them together.

  8. As a mom of identical twin, 3.5yo girls, I am thankful you rewrote this! And more thankful for your letter about it. 🙂
    My girls are spirited. And one of them is a lot “like a boy” a lot of the time. As in, she’s a little aggressive, very adventurous, a daredevil and an imp. These are things I love about her. And I am sure they will also serve her well in the future as a grown woman, as long as she can embrace these things as being an awesome part of herself and not undesirable traits of a “wild” girl.

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