Violent. Child. These words don’t seem like they belong together do they? We hope that children are naïve, accepting, loving, gentle. That they have open loving hearts.

That is what I thought when a bright eyed 8 year old came into our hearts and our home. He exhibited behaviors that were the usual ones of a child in the foster system and this young man had been in placement since he was 2 years old, bounced thru a couple of homes, having lived in the last home prior to ours, for 4 years.

Patterns for him were: Extreme lying, fires, inappropriate sexual behavior. But I didn’t even know then the depth of his manipulative nature. He had learned well how to survive up to that point. I had hoped that our love and stability of knowing he was a part of a family would overcome the habits he had developed.

But it went far deeper than just survival. It seems to be his core. His nature. And when it was getting worse and worse at home, I had no one to turn to as a mother of a violent child. No one believed me. Not the church, not my family, and not social services from whom we adopted him from. In fact, most of the professionals and my family believed the lies my son told over what I was telling them. He was that good. I was that frustrated and emotional.

The Internet had very little information, just little blurbs of a few others reaching and seeking as I was, but not finding any useful help.

Many would just shrug their shoulders and say that at age 8, there was no hope, that we should just rescind the adoption. I didn’t want to be just another that gave up on him. At age 13 he became outright violent and physically assaulted me with a 10-inch knife and a baseball bat and tried to kill me several more times over the next few years.

After that, it was in and out of different legal institutions, wilderness camps, in home counseling when he was returned home, yet he never seemed to fit any program. He was either too violent, not violent enough, too this or too that.

What do you do when your child is falling thru the cracks? And if I felt frustrated, how did he feel? Angry. Out of control. He is now 20 years old. He has been in jail for drugs and shoplifting and everything just seems so difficult for him, yet he doesn’t want any of the help from programs. I cant 100% blame him; programs haven’t helped him in the past. One day he may be ready to trust again.

In the meantime, perhaps I can help others that may be going thru some of the difficult situations that I did…and happy to report that there is more and more acknowledgement of abusive children and resources to access.

What are the "warning signs" for violent behavior in children? Children who have several risk factors and show the following behaviors should be carefully evaluated:

· Intense anger
· Frequent loss of temper or blow-ups
· Extreme irritability
· Extreme impulsiveness
· Becoming easily frustrated

Parents and teachers should be careful not to minimize these behaviors in children. Whenever a parent or other adult is concerned, they should immediately arrange for a comprehensive evaluation by a qualified mental health professional. Fight for your child even in the midst of all that anger. As a parent, give yourself mini breaks and vacations. Find at least one person in your circle that is understanding and will let you just vent and express yourself.

Being strong, loving and supportive doesn’t mean doing it alone.

Author's Bio: 

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Dawn Peters Armfield is a Self Employed Business Owner and Teacher of Massage Therapy in the Atlanta GA area. She holds a degree in Early Childhood Education, has been certified as a Nurses Aid, was a foster parent for 7 years.

Dawn has won several poetry awards over the years and has published articles related to her field -Massage and Bodywork.

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