Q: Should we be concerned about our son’s abusive behaviour? We’re constantly on him about hitting his younger siblings, and lately he’s also been hurting the cat.
A: First, you may want to look for stressors that might be causing your son to act out in this way. Is there tension or dysfunction at home? Conflict between Mum and Dad? Recent or impending divorce? Trouble at school, bullies in the neighbourhood, a death in the family, or some other type of trauma or loss? Circumstances like these could touch off the angry, aggressive behaviour you’re describing. In cases like these, it’s essential to deal with the underlying cause first. Only then will it become possible to deal directly with the abusive acts that are causing you concern.
Or consider whether your son’s actions can be traced to outside influences. Is there another boy in the neighbourhood who treats his pets cruelly? Has your son recently been exposed to a lot of violent television or video games? Are there others in his life who display abusive tendencies? Remember, children learn by imitation and often copy what they see in the world around them.
If none of these seem likely, we suggest sitting down with your son and seeing if you can get him to pinpoint a reason for the cruel treatment he’s been dishing out. Don’t raise your voice or blow your top. Instead, draw him out gently and question him patiently. Do your best to encourage him to talk.
We’d also encourage you to contact our Family Support Services at 03-7954 7920 or write to firstname.lastname@example.org for a referral to a child psychologist or family counsellor in your area. This is especially important if you feel your son’s behaviour indicates a pattern of abuse. A trained therapist will have many tools at their disposal that can provide you with the help you need.
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