My three year old boy (the middle of three boys; older brother is 9, younger brother is almost 2) is smoldering with anger pretty often. He flies off the handle at little things. I've dealt with a good share of tantruming with my oldest, who had a speech delay and sensory issues, but this is something else. At the least, he's nasty - he glowers, talks through his teeth, and says very rude things. At his worst, he goes into fits of rage: eyes wide, red face, sweat, teeth and fists clenched, screaming, kicking, biting (if you come near), throwing things, knocking over furniture, breaking toys, shredding books... I have tried letting him "work it out", but after 45 min of this my other children are terrified, and, my tantruming child's asthma starts to rear its ugly head and he starts to gasp for air.
I have tried attempting to teach him "healthy" outlets for his anger - such as bouncing on an exercise ball (which worked for my oldest), counting, deep breathing, and using his wonderful vocabulary to just tell me he's mad. So far, nothing has worked.
Usually, as is typical for this age, this starts because he is being unreasonable (I want to be naked at school!), or misbehaving (stealing chocolates from mommy's special candy dish).
I firmly believe he is transforming shame, disappointment and sadness into anger. I bought a book that illustrates feelings (designed for pre-schoolers) and he furiously, adamantly, skips the two pages that talk about "sad" and "embarrassed." That's when the "mad face" shows up... how can I teach him to feel sad, shame, etc., in a healthy way?
I am hoping someone can offer some advice on how to help me help him calm down before he even gets to that point. He needs help that I am apparently not capable of. I know he is in hell when he feels that mad, and I am prepared to accept I am doing something wrong so I can fix this.
He never hurts himself on purpose (thankfully). But I am concerned he will accidentally. And, now that he shares a room with his baby brother, I am concerned for him and his belongings.
My last resort method is to put him in the shower - fully clothed - to snap him out of his rage. He often forgets what he was initially mad about and so is suddenly mad about the wet clothes, which I immediately help him with, and then he begins to calm. It takes several minutes for his breathing to return to normal, and then, he sleeps.
Does he need professional help perhaps? Nothing traumatic had happened... he's just got a really short fuse. It all boils down to this: it is probably an aspect of his personality (being quick tempered) and we want to channel it now before it has a devastating effect on his life. We all know how repressed anger can destroy someone and how equally destructive it is if allowed to be expressed freely as well (it's difficult to have friends, relationships, jobs, if one is flying off the handle frequently).
My husband and I have looked at our own behavior and are doing our best to always stay calm, and to acknowledge and talk about the times when we aren't (we're only two humans working full time and trying to raise three boys after all!). No matter how calm and even we are though, his temper is as strong as ever.
We discipline using the three warning system and time outs. The time outs are less and less effective because they turn into tantrums. We started using more positive reinforcement for good behavior (less emphasis on bad behavior) and this has only given him the idea now that he is invincible and can torture his brothers and get away with it.
We are totally stressed out by him, and feel really sad that our happy go lucky baby has gotten such a mean streak.