I have a 7 year old son that is having behavior problems everyday. My husband and I have done everything imaginable and nothing works. We have tried grounding, spanking, etc. and we are at our wits end. He trys to be a class clown at school, lacks respect, and expects the teacher to give him un-divided attention regardless if it is bad or good. His reading and math scores are severly under the school requirements, but everytime I try to get him to sit down and read a book it is a fight, tantrum, etc. He cannot explain to me why he is acting the way he does and I feel like I do not know how to help him. Any suggestions????
it sounds just awful, but take heart that these things can get turned around. I know he can't explain why he's doing what he's doing, but I am sure that the explanation is really that he can't think of anything better to do! So there are two 'fronts' to deal with here, school and home. Lets talk school first, because getting help there is a pretty straightforward process. Under the law, you have the right to a free psychological and educational assessment for your son, provided through the school system (your tax dollars at work!). You can begin the process of getting help for him by speaking to an administrator or guidance counselor and requesting an evaluation to determine if he could be eligible for special education services and accommodations. He is still quite young to fall below grade level, so its definitely not a time to take a 'wait and see' attitude. Lots of kids who demand attention and try to be the class clown are covering up the shame and frustration of not being able to do the work. If he is below grade level, he should be getting intensive reading help from a reading specialist or special educator on a daily basis. Get the eligibility process going at school, and don't accept 'oh he's just a boy' or 'he will grow out of it.' The early years of elementary school are the critical time to begin getting help for him. Your son's disruptive behavior is telling everyone around him that he needs help.
If you can, I recommend strongly you first talk to your pediatrician, and then get a private psychological assessment. Start with the pediatrician and have a sit down chat. Ask if there is anything medical that could explain your son's behavior (some medical conditions can cause irritability or problems focusing, such as sleep apnea or hearing loss). Ask if his hearing and vision are within normal limits. Then, ask for a referral for psychological testing.You will want to learn if your son does have a disability or mood disorder, and the evaluation will tell you a lot about what could help him in school. If the pediatrician suggests a good private clinic, understand that they will probably not accept insurance, so you and your husband will want to consider what you can afford if your insurance will not reimburse you for your expenses. You can also get very good testing from pediatric hospitals. Ask other mom's you know for advice on where to go in you're area. Look at the webpages for pediatric hospitals near you and try to get an appointment with a neurospychologist. A hospital will take your insurance, though the drawback is generally long wait and travel time. Be aware that a student will probably do the testing instead of the doctor, but you may be able to get a high quality evaluation for less if you can't afford a private clinic.
The other thing to ask your pediatrician is for the names of some good psychologists or other professionals who can assist you in learning to manage your son's behavior. The methods you have tried are the ones parents typically resort to when they feel overwhelmed. Unfortunately, spanking and grounding are not effective methods for most kids (as you have seen for yourself). Lots of good kids and good parents find themselves stuck in cycles where the child is defiant and the parent does not know what to do. You will need to learn new ways of handling his behavior, but you can do it. Getting the help of a professional is key. Just like you can't cut your own hair, its very hard to figure out how to change your own child's behavior because you are too close to see what's going on between you. You want to find a psychologist or other professional who specializes in helping families in situations just like yours (you are NOT alone!). You may even find someone who takes insurance.
Ask your pediatrician for a recommendation for a child psychologist or behavior specialist who will work with you and your husband primarily at first. You two will spend time learning about what is triggering your son's unwanted behavior, what is keeping it going, and how to teach him new skills. It will be very important for you parents to be a major part of the treatment. Don't go with someone who plans to just work one to one with your son, because you and your husband need help here too! One to one play or art therapy is not likely to do much.
The psychologist should create a behavior plan for you to use, tweak it weekly, and help you determine what is working and what is not. Its a process, but if you can stick with it the benefits to you and him will be invaluable. It will be worth the time and money to work with a psychologist instead of trying to go it alone. Lots of husbands have a strong reaction to the idea of going to therapy, but even if you go by yourself he can learn the skills and follow the program.
So now you have a 'to do' list, and I'll give you some books to look at while you're waiting to see all of these people who can help you.All these books are available used on the internet for a fwe dollars. First, I highly recommend The Kazdin Method by Dr. Alan Kazdin. It will give you a sense of how unwanted behavior develops and how to teach kids better ways of acting. Ross Greene's book The Explosive Child is also excellent for learning to deal with outbursts and power struggles. Finally, How To Talk so Kids Will Listen and Listen so Kids will Talk by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish is a great one to add to the collection.
Best wishes to you and your family,
Disclaimer: This post was written for educational purposes only, it is never intended to replace face to face medical or psychological care. This post was not intended to give or rule-out a diagnosis, nor to establish a patient-psychologist relationship.
Children, especially little boys, may go through the dog years, and they can be a pain in the neck. They outgrow it eventually. I would not place an otherwise healthy child in a position where he might be prescribed drugs. I am part of a large extended family, with children, grandchildren and cousins galore. Many of these normal children, again, mostly boys, go through a very annoying period. They seem to come out of it as they approach puberty. Nowadays, whenever a child is not perfectly behaved, there is a tendency to give them a label that suggests a psychological problem. This is particularly evident in the reckless diagnoses of ADD/ADHD. The actual number of sufferers is extremely small.
Stumbled upon your question. I hope it's not yet too late for my answer. Try to look for a naturopath in your area that tests for food intolerances. It sounds like you are feeding him something that does not sit well with him.
My son has adhd/mild autism. I tested him for intolerances and it turned out that he's allergic to almost everything...dairy, soy, beef, all kinds of nuts, gluten, egg, etc. As soon as I elimenated all those, i saw a dramatic change in his behaviour. Food colorings and dye are the worse. The diet is not at all easy but once you see the results, you will be amazed!
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