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Ask a Professional: My son has been aggressive towards everyone

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Ask a Professional: My son has been aggressive towards everyone

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Ask a Professional: My son has been aggressive towards everyone

My 11 year old feels like he has turned into an angry teen. He doesn’t want to do anything that isn’t gaming. He has not been doing school work. Simply refuses to participate. He struggles and battles to do any activities off screen with me. Even all of his other interests.

He is quick to blame everyone else and can’t hold himself accountable even if it is him that may have started an issue. He is swearing very rude words and being aggressive and violent and wrecking things at school and now also at home.

I’m a single mum and need help and guidance as he is headed down a very dangerous scary path and just seems like he has given up on morals or listening to reason or trying.


Dear @Positivechange,

It sounds like a really difficult and frightening situation for you to be in. It’s really encouraging that you are seeking help and support. Although it may feel overwhelming that this is happening when your son is still so young, there is an opportunity to address this behaviour early before it becomes entrenched.

With this type of big change in behaviour, particularly when it involves aggression, I would really recommend getting an assessment from a professional. Your GP is a good place to start, and they may also recommend seeing a pediatrician or psychologist. They will be able to ask more questions about what you have noticed, which can help them work out what might be triggering this behaviour, and provide you with much more personalised suggestions.

It sounds like it has been really difficult to talk with your son, because he is responding defensively, or blaming others. With the behaviour you describe, he’s probably getting in trouble both at school and home pretty often, and sometimes teens will shut down conversations because they don’t want to feel blamed or be judged. This can be really frustrating for parents who are trying to address concerning behaviour.

You mention that he struggles to do activities off-screen with you. I don’t know if you’ve explored spending some time with him with the two of you gaming together? Seeking to understand his interests can be a great way to build rapport and for him to be more open to having conversations about other things.

Sometimes anger and aggression happens because a young person is feeling overwhelmed or distressed or scared. If there are times when your son is a bit calmer and more willing to talk, asking about how he is finding school, or how he is feeling (instead of trying to encourage behaviour change) could be a helpful way to approach things. He might also be more willing to talk to someone else (sometimes it can be hard to share with parents!) such as a family friend, a teacher, or even talking to someone he does not know (a professional). Offering the option to talk to someone can be helpful as a way of letting your son know you are interested in his perspective, even if he does not take you up on it right now..

I want to acknowledge how frightening it can be when someone is behaving aggressively, and that it can be really helpful to have support when going through something like this. A lot of parents find that having seeing a counsellor or psychologist themselves can help provide a place for them to talk through how they are feeling, understand patterns of behaviour, and discuss parenting strategies. Your GP should be able to help you access local services.

Positivechange, I know that it can take a bit of time to access professional support, and just getting by each day may feel like a challenge right now. I encourage you to think about small ways you can look after yourself at the moment. It’s easy to lose sight of this when you’ve focused on your child, but small steps like taking a few minutes to do a breathing exercise, having a coffee with friends, or going for a daily walk can make a big difference in how you’re feeling and the energy you have to respond to the situation.

Best wishes,

Linda is a psychologist experienced in working with people across the lifespan, including teenagers and their families, in a variety of settings, and is ReachOut's Clinical Lead.