Ask Dr. Phelan: Aggressive Tantrums

So what do you do when your kids say
things to you that are very upsetting, maybe very hostile comments, maybe even violent threats, or to sound like violent threats. We have a question from
Anita today and she says “We were suggested the 1-2-3 Magic book for my
five-year-old son last year by a psychologist here in Adelaide Australia.
It worked wonders and we had great success at home and at school.
However our summer holidays started in mid-December and since the break our
five-year-old has gone back to having major tantrums and aggression; wishing
his family would die, he hates us, he wants someone to chop Daddy’s head off,
he needs a gun to protect himself from the bad guys getting into his room at
night. The hurtful things he says are horrible and he’s wishing violence on
his family which worries me. I should add that three minutes later he is screaming
how much he needs his family and he loves us. We are due to go back to our
psychologist next week, but I just wondered if this is something other kids
say. How can I get him to stop saying these horrible things?” Anita – I
think it’s probably not a big problem but here’s what I would suggest. First go
back and reread 1-2-3 magic Chapter 10 which is the six kinds of testing and
manipulation. And this is likely tactic 2 which is intimidation or temper. The
question is when he senses stuff does it follow immediately upon a major
frustration that he has with you because you wouldn’t let him do something? Or you counted him or you did something that really made him angry? If that’s the case, it’s more likely testing and manipulation and those aren’t really his
thoughts because you mentioned he also comes up with very loving positive
thoughts as well. So to get your perspective on if it’s testing and
manipulation, it follows frustration, and yes, a lot of five-year-olds and
four-year-olds will say “I’m going to kill you” and other horrible things which they don’t really mean. Second thing is since you already
have a psychologist, after you reread Chapter 10 about testing and
manipulation, take the book in with you and discuss what I’m discussing here
with the psychologist. Try and get a perspective on this. I think chances are
you’ll be reassured and feel better and then with that psychologist, you need to
discuss how to manage it. You can either count it or ignore it. So that’s
my take on that, and good luck!