Q. My grandson started hitting me when he was about age five. I pick him up from school five days a week until his mother gets home from work. He is now thirteen and much bigger. He threw a glass and hit me in the head last week. A couple days later he put his fist through the wall. Earlier this week he punched me in the chest. It hurt. If anyone else did that I’d call the police, but this is “my grandson!” Yes, he is angry because his father was killed in Pakistan, but it is starting to feel as if he is taking it out on us. I know he hits his mother, but she always says it was an accident and he didn’t really mean it. We don’t want to spank him because he just becomes uncontrollable and goes into a rage, so we have tried reasoning with him and taking away privileges. It may work for a day or two but then something else will happen. He slung a dinner plate at a large mirror in the dining room yesterday and they splintered into smithereens. What is wrong with his brain and what can we do to protect ours?

A. What you are describing is dangerous behavior. The examples you gave are way beyond a child pushing boundaries. They are intimidating behavior. They are way past defiance. They show lack of respect for both of you with no concern about consequences. They are above simply being angry about a parent’s death. They are showing a pattern of escalating abusive behavior against a parent and grandparent.

If unchecked, such behaviors can escalate into severe injury if not death for you or your daughter. There is also a risk that this type of behavior could generalize to the boy’s future relationships with a teacher, girlfriend, spouse, his own children, or others. You are not doing him, yourself, or anyone else a favor by allowing him to engage in this behavior without meaningful consequences.

No mother or grandmother wants to believe their child wants to be abusive. Your emotions can even make you question if things are really as bad as you think they might be. If you have not already done so, you might ask a physician to examine him carefully. Perhaps he has a brain tumor or some other physical condition that is underlying these behaviors.

As one child social worker put it, “Aggressive and abusive behavior is not a part of typical childhood or adolescence. It’s not a stage that your teen will “grow out of” if you ignore it. If you’re dealing with parental abuse in your home, your child is violating the rights of others. It doesn’t matter that it’s his parent’s rights; that doesn’t make it any less serious or illegal… The truth is, there can be several underlying factors contributing to parental abuse including poor boundaries, substance abuse (by either a parent or child), poor coping skills, underlying psychological conditions (such as ADHD, Oppositional Defiant Disorder and Conduct Disorder) and learned behavior. Some kids behave violently due to poor coping skills. Others are more deliberate and enjoy the power that comes from intimidating a parent… Parental abuse is a form of domestic violence.”

My brain’s opinion is that this type of behavior is a serious issue and needs immediate intervention. Here are a couple of resources that might be helpful as you review options (copy full URL and paste into your browser):