My 8-year-old son has difficulty managing his anger in a healthy way. When he gets angry at his sister, sometimes he hits her or pulls her hair. Sometimes he hits himself. Sometimes he screams and cries. Sometimes he breaks things. Sometimes he makes threats to hurt or kill himself or someone else, sometimes with a knife in his hand or his hands around his throat.
My wife and I have been taking him to see a family counselor. Together, we identified some things that he can do to calm down, like taking deep breaths, running in place or "shaking it out." He liked the idea at first, but he doesn't want to do these things when he's upset. He resists going to his room to cool off, preferring to sit on the couch and pout, or on his bed if/when he does go to his room. He's usually willing to take deep breaths, but his idea of deep breaths is more like hyperventilating.
To be fair, I understand how he feels. When I'm angry, I don't want to cool off either; I just want to stay angry. It doesn't help that I suffer from depression (I'm medicated), and I think he may be dealing with that as well (he's not medicated). This makes it really difficult to get him to cooperate. I've tried running in place with him, shaking like a fool, punching the bed and all kinds of things, but he usually just lies on his bed and wiggles a little.
I told him that if he could go for three days without having any uncontrollable outbursts I would buy him a book (at his reading level). It took a couple of tries, but he actually did it. Then, I told him that if he could go for five days I would do it again. That was over a week ago. We're still on day #1.
A couple of recent incidents prompted me to post this question here:
The other day, I managed to get him to do some jumping jacks with me, but it was like pulling teeth. At that point, I'd lost all my energy and motivation. I told him to cool off for a while longer without me; that I would come back when he felt like cooperating. That didn't go over well - he started choking himself, crying and screaming that he hates himself, that I'm the worst dad ever, etc.
This morning, my wife mentioned in front of him that his younger sister might need some help managing her anger as well. This made him really upset. He started crying and screaming that she doesn't need that kind of help; that it was just for him. I got irritated and called him out for being jealous (a bad idea in hindsight). He smacked himself in the face, sat on the couch and pouted.
We've hidden the knives, but I'm at my wits end.