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7 YEAR OLD THREATS
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7 YEAR OLD THREATS

Our 7 year old daughter still has temper tantrums 2-3 times a week.  The tantrums consist of mild kicking, anger, and alot of screaming.

Our peditrician recommended taking her into the bathroom and locking the door for 7 minutes as a timeout.

Occasionally, she will make threats to hit me or that she's going to get a knife and cut off my head.   After she's calmed down and can talk, I ask her if she still feels that way and she says no.  She appears remorseful for saying those things and will often write a "I'm sorry" letter.

She doesn't have this problem at school.  We don't spnk our kids but she has been spanked about  12 times in her lifetime, backside only with the hand.

We don't think she's violent.  She not bossy and doesn't try to hurt her younger brothers or us - she just makes those awful threats.   Most of the time she's happy, playful, energetic, and fun to be around.

Most of the advice for this kind of behavior is to take her to a pediatric mental health professional for an evaluation.   What will they do? How will they evaluate her?  What is the standard cource of treatment and what studies are available that back up those treatments?

Thanks in advance.

VG




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Dear VG,

Your description indicates that your daughter's problem lies in her inability to tolerate frustration of her wishes. She experiences a rush of anger and quickly is overwhelmed with this emotion. She hasn't yet developed the capacity to manage the emotions associated with frustration. As you describe her, she sounds like she is otherwise developing in a normal way.

I endorse the suggestion of time out in the wake of any threat or action that is aggressive in nature. However, I would use an adult-size chair for the time out, not locking her in a room. Use a timer to track the time (probably around ten minutes), and start the timer only when your daughter is seated quietly in the chair.

It doesn't sound to me like your daughter displays an underlying mood disorder. But, if you seek professional evaluation, the clinician could discern if this represents (which I think it probably does) a normal-spectrum childhood behavioral problem, or is symptomatic of an emotional disorder (e.g., mood disorder, disruptive behavior disorder). One way or the other, the clinician could collaborate with you around behavior management.

Sometimes parents think that professionals should be consulted only as a last resort, only if serious pathology is evident. But, to be honest, most of the children and parents we see in the office are experiencing everyday types of problems, and they don't necessarily display serious pathology. Preventive guidance and straightforward help with parenting are probably some of the most useful services pediatric mental health clinicians provide.
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Eliminate all artificial dyes, flavors and preservatives from her diet.  Cook from scratch and use no preprocessed foods.  Limit sugar, sodas, juices, and anything with corn syrup as an ingredient.  For snacks give raw veggies and fruits, and limit junk food.  Rotate your foods and don't feed the same foods in a 4 day period.  Try reading "Is This Your Child" by Dr. Doris Rapp, and "Special Diets for Special Kids" by Lisa Lewis

Also add essential fatty acids to her diet.  Read "The LCP Solution" by Jacqueline Stordy and Malcolm Nicholl.  Controlled scientific studies have shown essential fatty acids to improve behavior because the cause of the behavior problem is likely to be an essential fatty acid deficiency.

My 6 yr old son was acting the same way as your daughter when he was 4 1/2.  EXTREME tantrums that lasted 1 - 2 hours long 1 - 3 times per day with kicking, scratching, yelling, anger, out of control behavior at home and at school.  We could take him no where because everything would set him off.  We tried the two things I mentioned above and after two weeks we had a calm, compliant, obeying child.  He verbalized his anger and frustration instead of acting it out.  We are still on this diet and he still takes essential fatty acids.  He takes a product called Efalex that contains the correct balance of Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids plus DHA.

To improve your parenting skills try reading "The Defiant Child" by Dr. Douglas Riley.  But at this point she cannot control her behavior and expecting punishments to help probably is unrealistic.  If you need further information and support, the message boards at conductdisorders.com are excellent.  

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I just want to say thank you to bcollie for the information, I started my 7 year old daughter on efalex 1 week ago and I already feel that she is doing better - crossing my fingers that her improvement continues. I also am starting to eliminate foods/substances from my child's diet but this will take time as I don't want to discourage her by making her feel that life is changing dramatically all at once. I have noticed that chocolate seems to set her off and am inquiring to see if maybe it's any food/beverage item with cafeine. She takes efalex well as she does not like her behavior either. We are both very hopeful. Thanks again. Good luck to all.
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