What do do in the midst of a child's rage?
May 22, 2016 10:48 AM   Subscribe

What can I do in the midst of a violent rage from my preteen?

I have a child with complex disabilities (not autism, but many similarities - PM if important). We have a psychologist and psychiatrist and have had lots of assessments from a zillion places. Lots of diagnoses. On the whole, things are really improving. He's totally fine at school and daycare, assuming 1:1 support. However, he's getting stronger and more threatening to me and I am the main target for anything that went wrong through the day. (We have put better debriefing plans in place with school and daycare). Leaving the room uses to shift things, but now it's making things worse.

Our team is focused on the overall trajectory, which is toward improvement. But I'm a single mom. He's getting super, super aggressive and violent to me, because he's getting older, smarter and bigger. I've been told to make myself bigger than him, but he then responds by standing on a table or the top of the sofa. Anything can become a weapon - a toaster can be turned into a medieval flail - but anything obvious is put away. However, I can't turn my small apartment into a rubber room. I also can't move. He has a den for his room, but there isn't a door, btw, and I can't leave him along in there during a rage as he will jump out window.

I support the overall goal and process. But what on earth can I do in the middle of these rages? Any sensory tool I provide will be thrown at me. I know it's better to catch him before a rage, but sometimes that isn't possible and anything can become a weapon and he is set on destruction too. Specialists have observed that he is very strategic and devious and that all attacks and destruction is very deliberate - he's unable to think or calm down in the rage, except he is still very, very strategic about what he does.

I am in Canada. There are very few behaviour consultants for this sort of thing here - he doesn't have autism. Our psychiatrist tells me that there is pretty much no help from the system. I contacted multiple government departments, including the special needs unit, and they said they can't help either, not even with a support worker.

I'm open to applying to charities for help. If there is some sort of de-escalation training, even if it is in the US, I am all ears. If there is a technique I can use in the midst of a rage, I am all ears.

Note: Ross Green Explosive Child tactics do NOT work with this child, although they work with my other kid. Collaborative problem solving in the midst of a rage just causes even worse explosive behaviour.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats to Health & Fitness (34 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
He has a den for his room, but there isn't a door, btw, and I can't leave him along in there during a rage as he will jump out window.

Can you somehow reinforce the window so that jumping out is no longer possible? It's possible that this would present a fire hazard, but if he has another egress path - and it sounds like he does, since there isn't a door to his room - then it might be possible.

Also, is there someplace safe you can go to hide from him if necessary? Your question makes me really scared for your safety.

I'm really sorry you're going through this. I can only imagine how hard and stressful it must be.
posted by schroedingersgirl at 11:23 AM on May 22, 2016 [1 favorite]

It's more that he will find a way to break the window and jump out. The window is too large to get anything like bars put over it and it would become a safety hazard in a fire. And, as I mentioned, going into another room is causing him to escalate.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 11:34 AM on May 22, 2016

If medication has not until now been an option, it might be time to investigate. Mood stabilizers/anti-anxiety meds may help take the edge off, either as a regular schedule or an Ativan when the rage starts. Temporary fix, yes, but it sounds like you need something now for your own safety and your child's.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 11:39 AM on May 22, 2016 [1 favorite]

Child is on meds and they say anything more is unsafe or contraindicated (and child will throw or refuse anything PRN). Not meaning to threadsit - but that is an important point to address.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 11:41 AM on May 22, 2016

I don't know how it works in Canada, but in the US there are non-profits that provide in-home support for families in this kind of situation.These workers are often called TBS (Therapeutic Behavioral Services). Maybe that's something you can look into if the government resources aren't useful? Meanwhile, do you know of Heather Forbes? Her books are great but she also teaches interactive webinars for parents and caretakers. Her specialty is kids with trauma histories (which you don't mention) but many of her techniques can be applied more broadly. In a similar vein I've seen Dan Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson's work used to great effect with explosive kids in a variety of situations. Unfortunately, as you've acknowledged, substantial positive change takes a long time. It's really hopeful (and a testament to your parenting) that you're seeing improvement!
It sounds like you are dealing with a really difficult situation in a compassionate and smart way. I hope you find the support and services you need! Take care of yourself!
posted by Otis the Lion at 11:52 AM on May 22, 2016 [3 favorites]

I had this issue with my kid for a few years when he was younger. The only thing for it was to physically overpower him and get him in kind of a wrestling hold and keep him immobile until the rage passed. It helped that I was still quite a bit larger than him. I realize this is a temporary solution at best, and it was exhausting and despair-inducing, but I never came up with anything better in those situations. If it had continued as he grew I was planning to hire a young man, like maybe a college student interested in working with special-needs kids, to be his "buddy" (and my backup.) I'm sorry that I can't be more helpful, but I wanted to at least let you know that you're not the only one who's had a kid with this behavior.
posted by Daily Alice at 12:07 PM on May 22, 2016 [5 favorites]

His room doesn't have a door, but would it be possible to get him or both of you into your bathroom when this starts? Bathrooms are small, have doors, are usually free of things that will aggravate sensory issues, and it should be possible to remove anything from it that he could use as a weapon. Keep soap/shampoo/etc. outside the room; put a child safety lock on the toilet lid; put an actual lock on the medicine cabinet.

I'm sorry this doesn't address the behavior itself, but it might help a little as a stopgap. You have all my sympathy, and I hope things improve for all of you as fast as they can.
posted by Rush-That-Speaks at 1:26 PM on May 22, 2016 [1 favorite]

You say he is a preteen. My youngest has a terrible temper and was prone to fits of rage when he was younger. When he began being hormonal, I sat him down one day and explained the psychosomatic effect of hormones -- that hormones make you feel angry and aggressive and if you do not know it is hormones, you will look around for a "cause" to blame your feelings on. I explained to him that this was why he was picking fights with people. I summed it up as "Your problem is called TESTOSTERONE, not my bitch mother."

His older brother and best friend were present for that discussion. All three boys were easier to deal with after that.

So, has it been explained to him that he is hormonal and some of his pissed-off-edness is just a thing that puberty causes? Because if he doesn't know that, he is going to look for a justification for what he is feeling and that will often mean mom gets blamed.

You might also look into biofeedback. My oldest had rages when he was little. They stopped after he got hopping mad one day and literally burst a blood vessel and blood began gushing from his nose. The shock stopped the rage and the suddenness of it let him feel some brain pathway. After that, he could consciously interrupt the out of control spiral.

During the actual rage, how good are you at staying calm? Me and my youngest feed on each other's anger. If we are both having a shitty day, the best thing to do is physically separate us, otherwise, his anger pisses me off and my anger pisses him off and away we go.

You need to somehow assert control. I realize that is challenging, but that will help calm him. One way to assert control is to remain in control of yourself. It is kind of like the principle of how to put a baby to sleep: keep calm and give off calmness.

Though you may need to first find a way to assert real control. You sound afraid, and justifiably so. My sons figured out early that I would not hurt them, but I also would not take their shit. And it sounds like he never got that memo. He needs to get that memo.
posted by Michele in California at 1:40 PM on May 22, 2016 [9 favorites]

PMAB or UMAB training might be helpful if you can find something close to home (I linked to two random sites that have a bit of info, but the trainings are available all over the place). These are the two trainings that professionals are encouraged to take when they're preparing to work with aggressive youth/teens. UMAB includes 'holds' - how to physically restrain someone in a safe (for both of you) way. I've never taken either of the trainings, but have many coworkers who have (and who found them beneficial).
posted by VioletU at 2:27 PM on May 22, 2016 [3 favorites]

You say that putting bars on the windows would present a fire hazard. But think of it this way: the probability that he'll harm himself by attempting to get out of the window is very high, and the probability that there will be a fire and he'll be in that room and that'll be the only route of escape is very small. Adding that risk is very small; letting him harm himself or you keeps a risk that is very high. If you can make his room a safe space and put a lock on the door you'll have an emergency escape. (I'm guessing that shoving him in there and locking the door every time he has a rage is going to make them worse, but you may need an emergency outlet once in a while, and this could be it.)

I'm also going to suggest that you connect with a group of parents whose children have PANS or PANDA, as they have children who can have these kinds of rages. They have lots of experience with handling these kinds of attacks. Your son may or may not have this condition, but he has similar symptoms, and perhaps they have specific advice for you.

On a different note: My heart has a special space for you, and if you ever need words of encouragement, please don't hesitate to reach out. Single mom, special needs children, unsafe home environment ... you are a hero for handling all that you do.
posted by Capri at 3:03 PM on May 22, 2016 [3 favorites]

Thanks. It is a den and there is no door, so no option for a lock on the door. One wall is windows from floor to ceiling. I could not possibly put bars over the entire thing and he would use it to climb and leap on to the floor.

I like the bathroom idea, but he currently finds ways to flood the bathroom using the sink or stuffs things down the toilet. He's not a toddler, so I think he would know how to get a toilet lock off, unless someone can tell me an idea? There is NO OFF VALVE for the sink. But I agree that the bathroom is likely the safest place for him to be, especially compared to his room. It is small and far more contained and I can put anything else important in another room.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 3:13 PM on May 22, 2016

Some options that are not quite right but may help w/ brainstorming:

Have you received nonviolent crisis intervention training? It's not a solution, but may help keep both of you safe in a bad situation.

A major sensory change helped my son get out of bad mental spaces. Showering or at least running hands under water, moving from somewhere warm to somewhere cold, sitting in front of a fan, etc. all helped. (This presumably couldn't be done in the thick of it but might deescalate things if you catch them early?) Music, dimming the lights might also be worth a try.

I assume you've already talked about the issue with him when he's calm, and asked for his suggestions for solving the problem. Sometimes kids come up with crazy solutions that don't seem like they'd work, but because they're invested in them, they DO actually help.

Again focused in prevention which I know you're already working on, but practicing calming techniques with him in less fraught circumstances make it easier for him to use them when things are bad.

Do you have anyone you could call to help you? Does he get better if other people are around?
posted by metasarah at 3:40 PM on May 22, 2016 [2 favorites]

There has to be an off valve somewhere. Find it. See if you can access it, even if it means cutting water to the entire apartment while he is in the bathroom.

At age 2 or 3, my oldest climbed doorframes and then counted on me to catch him before he hit the floor as he was slipping when he couldn't climb down again. So I do understand the whole "Oh, god, there is no such thing as a safe building -- this child can turn ANYTHING into nightmare fuel!"

But there has to be a way to cut off the water. If necessary, see if you can get a cut off valve installed that would be more convenient for you to use. Somewhere, someone can cut that water off. And additional cut off valves can be put in. It costs money, but it can be done. And it is cheaper than a flooded apartment.
posted by Michele in California at 3:40 PM on May 22, 2016 [2 favorites]

You say that putting bars on the windows would present a fire hazard

I'm not seeing how old he is now; would he be able to operate quick-release window bars? (I thought those were required in most places these days, anyway?)
posted by Room 641-A at 4:31 PM on May 22, 2016

Forgive me if this sounds ignorant but I am curious and might have a suggestion you might consider. If he is this much trouble now, and is getting bigger and stronger by the day, what are your plans for the future when he is *really* big and dangerous? Is this issue likely to continue? Is the aggression so bad that he could maim/possibly kill you? How able-bodied/fit are you? Are you only interested in "deescalation tactics," or do you want to actually be able to physically defend yourself/control the boy physically (not hurt him, just control and prevent being hurt).
posted by hypercomplexsimplicity at 4:34 PM on May 22, 2016 [6 favorites]

It looks like I could get a valve installed for a couple thousand, since they'd have to shut down the building (I cannot believe there are not shut offs on floor), but then I still have the problem of the toilet and him flushing stuff down. And he's smart enough to figure out how to turn it back on, potentially.

The windows are an entire wall and there is nothing to affix bars to and the bars would become a climbing apparatus. He would most likely figure out a quick release method and use the bars to bash me over the head.

I am not only interested in de-escalation tactics. I would be very interested in holds and physical manouevres. He is getting too big for me to pick up and take into a room.

However, I spent the afternoon safeguarding the bathroom and I'm looking at whether that would at least be able to serve as a safe room.

I need very practical advice. I appreciate all the videos and books and so on, but I basically need commando-style or Macgyver-style hacks. Like, seriously, how do I make a toilet inaccessible to a smart kid? That sort of thing. (I'm now seeing the bathroom as the best idea.)
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 5:20 PM on May 22, 2016 [1 favorite]

In the short term, during the rages themselves, some kind of context change seems like a good bet. Put on a blindfold by wrapping a hand towel really tight around his head? The darkness and tightness can be soothing. Put a weighted blanket on top of him? For me, feeling a constant weight on top of me will calm me down like nothing else. Bonus, it's pretty hard to throw. Earplugs? (This might be something to talk about beforehand, like "I know you get pretty angry sometimes, and it's okay to feel angry. Everyone does sometimes. Do you think this blanket/towel/whatever might help when you feel that way?")

Or how about pretending? "You sound like a real dinosaur right now, stomping around. Do you roar too? What kind of dinosaur are you? Are you a carnivore or an herbivore? Do you want to try being a quiet dinosaur, or maybe a sloth?"

Outside of these rages, I wonder if you could try to redirect his intellect and physical power to make the rages less intense and/or shorter. You said you already have a team working with you, so I imagine they've already thought of most of these, but maybe something in here will be helpful anyway.

Does exercise help at all? Can he get more exercise than he's getting right now? (If he's getting little to moderate amounts of exercise, that's where I'd start. And if he's getting a lot already, like if he's on a sports team, then I would still consider it as an option because a physically exhausted child who needs rest is less likely to have the energy to lash out at you.) Someone upthread mentioned sensory changes, and swimming sounds like a good candidate for exercise + sensory change. This is more of a long-term strategy, like maybe every day you take him to the pool, and then he is less wound up in general when you both get home.

Is he learning things that interest him? Is he being challenged? It sounds like he is very smart and cunning and needs an outlet where that is appreciated. Maybe you could have him take up a new hobby - fixing things comes to mind. Give him a broken piece of equipment (old DVD player, computer keyboard, etc.) and see if he can figure out why it's broken, or give him an old working one and tell him to take it apart and put it back together. Programming might be helpful here also, and there are a number of languages like Scratch that are kid-friendly. Again, this is more of a long-term strategy.

Are there any therapy-with-animals programs available to you? I've heard that animals, who clearly don't have a notion of intent and are thus "innocent" in a way that humans are not, can calm people who feel like the world is constantly out to hurt them.

Diet, too, can be a factor. I realize that it can be challenging to make changes to a kid's diet, but in general more protein and less carbs/sugar seems to work for some people. More protein helps build the precursors to neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine, and less sugar helps prevent sugar crashes. Maybe your psychiatrist will have more specific ideas.

Finally, I like the idea of explaining about emotions and testosterone. "Everyone has some testosterone. Sometimes your body makes more or less of it, depending on the moment. Having a lot of testosterone makes you feel angry. It's okay to feel angry. I still love you even when you're angry. But it's not okay to hit me when you're angry. You can put on your blindfold/blanket/whatever instead." And then in the moment, you can say "You're really angry right now! Angry Kid is on the loose! Does Angry Kid want his blindfold/blanket/whatever?" Referring to Angry Kid in the third person might be useful too.

Good luck. You've been through so much already. I'm amazed at your resilience!
posted by danceswithlight at 5:58 PM on May 22, 2016 [3 favorites]

How do you feel about calling the police when he is in a rage? If he is a danger to you or himself and you can't calm him or protect yourself, it may be your best option.
posted by fancyoats at 5:59 PM on May 22, 2016 [5 favorites]

I have absolutely no experience with the type of situation you're in but one question you asked (types of holds you could use) made me think: is it possible for you to take any sort of self-defense training, especially Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu? It would be very beneficial for you as your son grows.

BJJ promotes the concept that a smaller, weaker person can successfully defend against a bigger, stronger, heavier assailant by using proper technique, leverage, and most notably, taking the fight to the ground, and then applying joint-locks and chokeholds to defeat the opponent.

(from Wikipedia)

Good luck to you.
posted by hapax_legomenon at 7:11 PM on May 22, 2016 [2 favorites]

In the US when working with kids like this we typically instructed the parents to call the police when children become unsafe. They will subdue the child and take them to local hospital psych unit for a 1 to 7 day hold. If it happens repeatedly the child may need permanent institutional care to prevent him from injuring or even killing another person
posted by TestamentToGrace at 7:35 PM on May 22, 2016 [11 favorites]

OP, regarding your interest in physical options/defending yourself:

hapax_legomenon just beat me to it, but I strongly suggest you immediately look into Brazillian Jiu-Jitsu. It is one of the, if not the only, martial art in the world capable of teaching you to overcome a small-medium gap in strength (vs an untrained adversary), and again one of the only that will allow you to learn to control and win without hurting.

In my opinion, isolated, individual "techniques" are worse than useless, as without a complete understanding of grappling, you are likely to panic in a real world situation that does not conform to the individual technique situation. This could lead to you hurting yourself or your son.

In contrast, practicing Brazillian Jiu-Jitsu (often abbreviated BJJ), gives you an intuitive understanding of how the human body works with regard to grappling. It teaches you how to move your body and use leverage to your advantage whenever possible. It of course gives you an arsenal of "techniques," but more usefully it teaches you how to be CALM while in a physical altercation and gives you the confidence and skills you need to escape or subdue someone trying to hurt you, instead of having to resort to things that will do lasting damage to you or your son (hitting, scratching, biting, eye gouging, etc).

As your son is (I am assuming) untrained in martial arts, 6 months actively (2-3 times a week) training in a reputable Gracie jiu-jitsu gym will put you miles ahead of your untrained self. I cannot accurately describe the difference in both knowledge and perspective that you would gain from this.

Brazillian Jiu Jitsu is considered essential for modern professional mixed martial arts, but don't let its association with violent sports to dissuade you, it is absolutely the safest, most effective thing you can do to gain yourself a perspective on self-defense.

Some quick videos for perspective:

A quick intro (maybe a bit hyperbolic on "twice your size," but pretty accurate).

BJJ for women (basically an advertisement but some useful content nonetheless:


Not applicable to your situation specifically, and a bit rough, but some useful comments on BJJ and the perspective it gives you:


specifically, the comments starting at around 45 seconds in likening being untrained in grappling in a fight being similar to not knowing how to swim when being thrown into water: being untrained, you are likely to "drown."

Two Jiu-Jitsu black-belts discussing beginning in jiu-jitsu:


Anyway, if it's possible for you to attend classes in your area, I would advise it. I am far from an expert in any way, but as someone who has experienced just how effective it is (from being a beginner and experiencing the sheer power of someone who knows this stuff well), I have become a huge advocate.
posted by hypercomplexsimplicity at 7:43 PM on May 22, 2016 [4 favorites]

I've hesitated to comment on this post, because I'm not an expert and I don't want to be presumptuous, but I keep coming back because I'm concerned for you. Based on your descriptions, this is not a long-term sustainable situation, simply because your son is going to grow into a young man soon enough, and, with the likely resulting size and strength disparity, all the martial arts in the world won't be able to protect you. A teenage boy using a toaster as a medieval flail could easily kill you.

This in particular worries me: "I am the main target for anything that went wrong through the day...Specialists have observed that he is very strategic and devious and that all attacks and destruction is very deliberate - he's unable to think or calm down in the rage, except he is still very, very strategic about what he does." It sounds to me like he is thinking, he is choosing, and he absolutely believes that he is entitled to hurt you. As a preteen, he is either old enough to know better, but feels he can disregard his knowledge that you are a fellow-human being who will experience pain if injured, or so developmentally delayed/disorganized that you can't trust he will ever get to the point of knowing better. Either way, you are not safe.

You're not the first person I've seen posting here who has been the object of substantial violence from a mentally ill child whose treatment team seems oblivious or indifferent to the risk posed by that violence. I'm not sure you can trust your son's doctors to recognize it, or tell you about it, if the risk becomes too great. Exposed to it for so long, I worry that you may not be able to recognize it either, until something terrible happens. I guess what I'm saying is that, of course, you need advice on managing this in the short term (better take the mirror out of the bathroom if there is one, and consider putting bumpers on the sink's corners) but if you don't start planning for the possible medium term now (and by that I do mean investigating institutionalization options), if the crisis comes, you are going to be in the worst possible position for handling it. From what I've read, getting a child into residential psych treatment is a difficult and time-consuming process, and you don't want your first approach to be while he's sitting in short-term hold after breaking one of your bones. Or after he's been shot by a trigger-happy cop responding to a reported domestic dispute, which happens heartbreakingly often to the mentally ill.

I wish your family the best.
posted by praemunire at 8:17 PM on May 22, 2016 [19 favorites]

Thanks for all your posts and concern. I will look into Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu - I'd never heard of it, but there are a couple of locations nearby.

I do have a response plan from police, but the problem is that the police create a traumatic response. So we are working on exposure therapy (with their help!) in less critical situations, so that he regains some trust. Some responding police have mocked me in the past and refused to help, so I'm working with them to put info on file so we get appropriate help.

The local children's hospital - the top place for this - and our existing care team say there is nothing really available to us. There is no residential treatment for children. There is no unit that holds kids for 1-7 days. They much prefer that I subdue him in the home and, if necessary, give him his medication and remove stressors. They say their only other option, which they strongly do not recommend, would be short-term foster care, which is not appropriate for a kid who has only gone through a 30-minute rage and may be fine for the next week and who would be with people who don't have the skills, plus the experience could further traumatize him. Given trauma is one of the critical problems for him, we don't want to add to it.

The feedback our team is giving me is that this should turn around by age 12 and that we are making gains. It's just he is getting bigger and stronger and smarter. And, yes, while he is thinking deviously about how to cause attention, there is a disconnect in his brain between that and the self regulation. It's the social thinking and self regulation and the cause/effect pieces that he can't do. On a planning level, he can think like someone 6 years older than him. If we get to age 12, there are more options, because there are more services available to teens, although I am hearing that there are still huge gaps and that those units have kids who are very violent and will suggest really not okay things to him. Canada does not have the kinds of treatment facilities available in the US.

These have been really great recommendations. I'm going to call an OT after the long weekend and take an updated look at sensory needs. You are right that he is old enough now that we can engage him and get him to look at what works. Maybe he needs to do a lot more exercise during the day, too.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 8:34 PM on May 22, 2016

Have you contacted CAMH directly? Not all psychiatrists are fully aware of all services available. I realize that places added work on you, but I am concerned, as praemunire is, about what happens if he doesn't outgrow this.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:13 PM on May 22, 2016 [3 favorites]

You need help. I think you need to keep reaching out, maybe try online groups or the CAMH helpline as mentioned above. Please don't let the doctors you are working with put you in danger: they likely don't understand. Can you set up cameras and bring them a recording of your child's rage?

My heart goes out to you, this is a tough situation.
posted by fshgrl at 9:24 PM on May 22, 2016 [3 favorites]

When you are considering how to manage his rage, please do think of Trudy and Sky. It's a heart wrenching cautionary tale.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 12:44 AM on May 23, 2016 [3 favorites]

Memailing you, but short answer is you need several plans, not one. You also need to think very very carefully about how this is affecting your other child/ren. If your older child is deliberately targeting you in anger, they are capable of targeting a sibling in secrecy, and it is also simply traumatic for a child to witness a parent being repeatedly hurt, even if it is by a sibling, and to have that parent's time and attention, including negative attention, go to one child primarily.

Bathrooms are the best. You can remove almost everything - toilet seat cover, everything, and have very strong locks installed. You need to watch out for deliberate self-harming as a way to induce traumatic responses in others.

Your doctors should be able to teach you safe holding techniques that a smallish person can effectively use to secure a same size angry person down without harming them, generally a sort of full body sort of pinning. You need to practice them on someone a couple of times, but they are effective.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 4:13 AM on May 23, 2016 [5 favorites]

I am so sorry. This sounds so difficult.

Based on what you describe (and I hope that I misunderstood your question and your follow up information), it doesn't sound like it is safe for you to live with your son.

I understood that there are two parallel developments. On one hand, doctors expect that your son will stop violently attacking you relatively soon, on the other hand, your son will get bigger and stronger. I would recommend that you hope for the improvements, but to make sure that you can remain safe, you prepare for a time that you can not safely provide a home for your son. I think that you should act now to find a solution (full time care, assisted living facility, etc...) so that you are sure that you can be safe in case of the worst case scenario.

I remind you that you won't be able parent any of your children, if you are incapacitated. You owe it to your whole family - all your children - to stay safe. Based on what you described (or what I understood), there is no trick or tool (holds, deescalation, etc...) that can 100% guarantee your safety over the long run if there is no improvement.
posted by jazh at 4:50 AM on May 23, 2016 [3 favorites]

For what it’s worth, in my personal experience with a violent (but not as violent) son, he got much better at 11-12, which also correlated with him going into middle school, which was a better environment for him. I had been terrified that I could only anticipate things getting worse as he hit puberty and testosterone kicked in but that didn’t happen.

I’m so sorry you’re going through this, and know how stressful, heartbreaking, and solitary it is to care for a child in a tough situation, even though mine did not compare to yours. The support just isn’t there.
posted by metasarah at 5:51 AM on May 23, 2016 [1 favorite]

. I've been told to make myself bigger than him, but he then responds by standing on a table or the top of the sofa.

You have been given some super bad advice in the past and you may need to work to undo some of those patterns/messages/expectations. I never made this a power play and I actively avoided sending the message that "I am in control because I am bigger than you" because I knew he would someday be bigger than me. I was in control because I was the parent and it was my responsibility. That's it. Size has nothing to do with it.

Dietary changes and vitamins helped both of my sons enormously. Keep a food journal. See if his rages follow consumption of a particular food. This may happen hours later, even up to 48 hours later. Removing foods that my son's were allergic to dramatically reduced the drama.

I spent years on various parenting and alternative med groups. Supplements have a better track record of calming kids than drugs do. Magnesium, calcium and B vitamins are the big three that I recall.

If your son has tinnitus, he needs magnesium. My oldest has less buzzing in his ears and sleeps better and is generally less crazy since we learned about this connection. I also get noise sensitive when I am magnesium deficient. In certain circles, it is well known that magnesium deficiency causes noise sensitivity.

I can become very suddenly noise sensitive due to fever or vomiting. I add magnesium rich foods my diet in response to symptoms.

Best of luck.
posted by Michele in California at 10:28 AM on May 23, 2016 [2 favorites]

My school district does Right Response training for the behavioral special ed techs. I haven't done it myself, so I can't tell you how useful it will be.
posted by The corpse in the library at 2:04 PM on May 23, 2016 [2 favorites]

I work in a Mental Health Hospital in Ontario and our staff are trained in something called "CPI" for Nonviolent crisis intervention. Maybe you could see if there is somewhere local that provides training?

CPI Training
posted by Dressed to Kill at 7:21 AM on May 24, 2016

Can you switch bedrooms with him?

This sounds heartbreaking and exhausting. I'm so sorry.
posted by defreckled at 8:45 AM on May 24, 2016

Have you ever tried surprising and/or random questions?

What do you want for dinner?
What is 47*3?
How many shoes are you wearing?

Catching someone off guard can get them using a totally different part of the brain. Which can be helpful to shift the mood.

Nth the idea to explore diet. Food coloring can create difficulties, as can artificial sweeteners according to some of my friends. Increase tryptophan from food or non-food sources. Increase GABA if it seems appropriate.

Also, essential oils can help reduce nervous system arousal and they bypass all logical processes to do so. Here is a citation about lavender oil's ability to do this: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22612017 I recommend getting a high quality oil if you go this route. One that has been through independent testing to ensure it is more than just (artificial) fragrance. Lavender oil might also reduce the trauma of police involvement.

Learning about pressure points in martial arts can also help if you need to take him down.
posted by crunchy potato at 3:45 PM on May 28, 2016

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