Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Anger and Frustration

We received an email from Kai’s teacher mid-day yesterday. At first, I thought it was a pleasant email.

She told us that he would be joining the other fifth grade class just for math as that classroom had a group that was working at a faster pace and we had thought that Kai was ready for more challenging work in the subject.

We also thought that Kai would be happy with the news as he has long considered the other class the “real” fifth grade classroom and he was extremely disappointed when he was not placed in that room at the beginning of the school year, a feeling he has maintained even all these many months later.

The teacher then went on to tell us that because Kai had written a very persuasive letter to her, she agreed to get two pet hamsters for the classroom.

So far, so good.

But then she went on to tell us the bad news.

This was the first day of the hamsters and the kids were very excited. The teacher asked them to talk quietly so as to not scare the new pets. Apparently another student did something to upset Kai and he started to complain in a loud voice. He did not quiet down as asked, and was asked to take a break away from the pets, where his anger continued.

Later, he was the last one called to line up for PE. He does not like being last, and no matter how often we tell him to shrug off things like that, he too often gets upset. In this case, he slammed the classroom door, spoke of harming the hamsters, and then got violent with the staff when they asked him to take a timeout. As before, he ended up destroying another shirt, plus his new fleece jacket as well as his new eyeglass strap.

When I got home from work, he was still mopey, hiding out under the covers in his bed. After calling him to come down to dinner several times, he finally came to the kitchen where he knew he would have to talk about the unpleasant events at school.

If he had said how sorry he was for destroying his clothing and hurting the staff, and if he had expressed any regret at all, we would have been somewhat sympathetic. But, as is usually the case, he started to rage about how terrible the staff was and how he would never go back to that classroom again.

“And that’s all I’m going to say about it!” he yelled.

I told him that he had lost his iPad privileges for a full week, his longest such punishment yet. “And that’s all I’m going to say about it,” I said.

Though I didn’t actually stop there. As Kai raged about the punishment, my wife and I explained, yet again, how he needed to accept responsibility for his actions. And to not blame others. And to not react so angrily when he is frustrated.

Of course, he only got angrier when we spoke. We told him to go to his room and to calm himself down.

We could hear his shouting for a good long time before he quieted down. When he finally came back down to the kitchen, he said he was sorry for getting so angry and behaving inappropriately.

He said in his anger he had pulled out one of his teeth, and he was holding a tissue full of his blood, as well as his tooth.

He said he wanted to put the tooth under his pillow for the Tooth Fairy. We told him that the Tooth Fairy doesn’t come when you pull out your own tooth like that.

This morning, he got out of bed very slowly, but he finally did get up. It appears that he will go to school without too much of a struggle.

And so we will await to see if we get another dreaded email today.

But we question what to do now.

Kai’s anger and frustration is very evident. But ours is growing along with it. Well, that along with a growing feeling of despair.

We are considering stopping our Point Store incentive as the motivation to earn points does not seem to affect Kai when it matters most, which is when he is frustrated and angry. His failures to achieve goals seem to only get him depressed.

My wife wants to cancel all birthday presents for him as he has to pay back all for all the property he has destroyed. I can appreciate the sentiments but am guessing that she will relax her views just a bit as his birthday nears.

So what will we do? What adjustments can we make?

As frustrating as this is as parents, I think it is important to maintain hope that Kai can find a way to control his emotions better. Right now, he doesn’t believe he can. And so, he will need us to believe for him until he learns how.

That won’t be easy.


  1. Oh dear...Ugh! That's just awful...especially the tooth!
    I wrote a gigantically long comment but deleted it. lol....I think my parenting style is just so different from yours and I didn't want my thoughts to be misunderstood. I do feel for you though...thoughts and prayers for you and your wife as you decide how to help Kai. So hard....

    1. Thought about you all today. Hope today was better! I forgot to ask yesterday if Kai's tooth was already loose, a baby tooth or permanent.
      Alex is our only boy that had anger issues. His started about age 10...probably at the onslaught of puberty. The doctor put him on Naltrexone (anti-rage) and we got our sweet boy back. 50mgs daily. Our new doctor was surprised at the use of this medicine for rage. I guess it's normally used to stop smoking! Just mentioning this...I probably have before...but it's a miracle drug for Alex. It's certainly worth a try. He takes it in the morning...I've given him another 1/2 dose late in the day if I have to, but that only happens a few times a year.

    2. Thanks for checking in, Betsy. Kai has had two pretty good days - no incidents at school and he has come to terms with not getting to use the iPad for a week.

      We believe that Kai's tooth was a baby tooth. He had not mentioned before that it was coming loose so I don't think it was too far along, which is why there was a lot of bleeding. But afterward he did say that it was starting to come loose.

      We have had Kai back on resperidone since last month, but I'd like to at least ask our doctor about Naltrexone. It is always good to hear what is working with others.

      Thanks for your comments. I appreciate how sensitive it can be to give advice to other parents, especially if you think their parenting style is different. I thank you for your support.

  2. I felt for you all so much reading this. It's a horrible feeling seeing your child be out of control and hurting others and themselves---I can say from experience. We are going through this too. I know it's a scary thought, but has Kai ever been admitted to the hospital or to a psychiatric hospital? I am not sure if you follow my blog, but that is what happened with Janey last month. I am not overall sure if it helped anything or not, but it so blindsided me when it happened that I just sort of wanted to put it out there in case it ever gets suggested to you. You sound like such wonderful caring parents and Kai sounds like he has so much promise and intelligence. I feel awful thinking about him hurting himself. I will be thinking of you.

    1. Suzanne, it is starting to occur to us that there might be a time when we may need to seriously consider taking Kai to such a place. As he gets older and bigger, it will become more dangerous if cannot control his anger. It is a scary thought, but we should be giving it more thought. Thanks for your support and thoughts.

  3. I understand frustration and anger well. The only thing which has kept me in check is my sense of future...and the knowledge that I can always drain stress ,and feel exceptional, through exercise. One of the things I had done for a while was... I used to run for many miles at a time (along with other forms of exercise). My minimum distance was 6 miles...and once a week, or when I had felt especially energetic...I would run 10. This kept me at an emotional level throughout the following days, as what I can only describe as...mellow. When I was younger than Kai...I would walk for many miles at a time along a river bank...alone (1960s...I know it cannot be safely done now). I have always kept myself physically drained to control my impulses...and back then...my compulsions (I had Touretts until I learned how to exercise to the appropriate levels for long enough). I was in a constant state of agitation without a high amount of exercise. However, with it, I felt so happy. Kai reminds me of how I felt when I couldn't exercise as a youth. I craved solitude and large amounts of exercise. With the correct amount, and with high enough intensity of exercise, I felt so calm...for days on end. I was very sensitive to everything when I was a child. I learned, through exercise, that afterwards, I was no longer nearly so sensitve...for a day or so at a time...whereupon I would exercise again. Even now, without some form of exercise, I start getting nervous tics, irritated by small things...etc. However, with it...I feel like a king on a mountain with symphonies playing...colors come alive, and I love the feel of the wind again.

    I learned at approximately age 6 (through my long walks), that the exercise had to be long enough...and so the intensity had to be low enough to sustain the exercise for at least an hour. I later was able to adjust the intensity levels so I could feel good anywhere for two days at a time from an hour to an hour and a half of good solid exercise. So long as I could physically drain myself to a deep level...although I was still extremely sensitive to everything...it was only the sensitivity to good stimuli that I had felt. I was numb to any irritating stimuli (without exercise, just by sitting still in class, I would feel nauseated...and all I felt was heat and compression).

    However, with exercise...life was beautiful. This meant that all of life could be good...and at my control. This is when the future became so bright for me.
    I had found a key to myself, and so, to my happiness.

    Just as a pet hamster or rat needs a wheel to exercise in...without which he will become so agitated as to even become self destructive...so it is with many humans.

    My thoughts: Kai and I are tigers inside. We have a tremendous amount of energy. It has to go somewhere. If it is not directed in high enough amounts and levels of intensity of exercise... in a productive way...it will come out in destructive ways. Regular exercise, when done with most other people, simply won't do it. From when I was 13 years old...I trained with highly motivated men (they were former world champions)...not boys. They had trained at such levels of intensity...and for such long periods...that I, for the first time in my life, got to the point of being comfortably numb (just as in the Pink Floyd song :). My compulsions melted away...I was no longer affected by negative stimuli...and all pleasant sensations were greatly magnified. I could finally concentrate enough to start listening in school (although I still daydream quite a lot nowadays...before, I lived in my dream world :)

    Without exercise...I would not have graduated high school. I may have ended up in prison...or dead.

    Many a man...without exercise...are tigers in a cage. We will go mad...or go rogue. What we cannot do, is sit still. We must sate the tiger within with copious amounts of high enough levels of intense exercise. With the correct amount...we feel as if we are kings of the jungle once again.


  4. (Continuation)

    We are men of extremes. *We either feel exceptionally poor (without exercise)...or (with exercise) everything we experience touches us deeply, and all of life is seen from the top of a mountain...and we are the king of the mountain. We are comfortably numb to most forms of pain or discomfort. We don't just see colors...we experience them. Grand symphonies play wherever we are. There is always a song in our hearts.

    *This is not to be confused with being bipolar. People who are bipolar experience ups and downs unless medically controlled. With proper exercise practiced by a tiger...there are never any downs. All of life is beautiful...all the time (momentary frustrations last but a few seconds).

    The key to motivating a child to exercise enough...is through his heart.
    I was raised on movies of Samurai, and other warriors. I loved their discipline and training. I, of course, love the story of Musashi. I expose my son to many of the same things so he has the sense of future, and a role model of discipline. My son now loves to exercise because he knows how good it feels afterwards. Through it, life is greatly enhanced.

    I only say these things because I see so much of my younger self in Kai.
    We are different from so many others. It is through this difference that exceptionality is born. Once the inner tiger is tamed and directed, his energy can carry him to great heights...and to great happiness.

    1. Thanks for taking the time to write your thoughts in such a thorough manner. I don't doubt that exercise is a very positive thing, and can impact behavior as you can personally attest to. I have been trying to extend Kai's exercise time but haven't gotten nearly to the level you are with your son.

      I do also want to say, though, that I feel that the issues with Kai may be more complicated than what you experienced with yourself. For example, Kai still tends to blame others, even hours after the incidents. So while the aggression is one issue, his inability to process how his own actions led to the consequences will continue to hinder efforts to get him to change his behavior.


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