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Trouble with 6 year old
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Trouble with 6 year old

I have a six year old son who is an only child. He has just been suspended from school for throwing a temper tantrum and kicking a teacher in the process. He has had problems in the past(since about age 4) accepting punnishment; he seems to get angry and throw fits when things don't go his way. We punish him for this by taking away toys, TV, and grounding him, writing sentences and often even spanking him. His Dad and I are at the point where we don't know what to do, since nothing seems to work. He knows the school rules and he knows the consequences if he doesn't follow them, yet he continues to not mind the teachers and openly disobey them at times. At home he has problems minding and has thrown fits and screamed mainly when he is told to take a time out or if you try to spank him. I work full time and we cannot afford at this point for me to quit my job, but I fear if he keeps this up he will be expelled from school. Also I am 3 mos. pregnant and cannot immagine dealing with this and another child. My son is wonderful the majority of the time, but this behavior is really hurting our family. Help!
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Dear Tiffany,

The behaviors you are describing, in and of themselves, may be indicative of a so-called normal childhood behavioral problem (which should be responsive to a regimen of behavior management and other environmental modifications) or an emotional disorder (e.g., mood disorder).

Sound limit-setting and discipline, including a systematic time out plan, should be part of a behavior management regimen. However, it is equally important to include a component of reinforcing, via a contingency system, the behaviors you desire. A plan that relies too heavily on trying to stop the problematic behaviors, without building the positive behaviors, will likely not succeed.

There's no need to spank your son. I say this not from an ideological perspective, or from a perspective that insists it is wrong to physically discipline children. Rather, I say it from the point of view that spanking is not necessary and may well result in unintended consequences.

My guess is that part of your problem is that your methods of behavior management are not sufficiently systematic. That is, it is likely not clear to your son precisely what will occur when he does or does not follow the expectations (at home and at school). Such clarity is necessary to any behavior management program.

I cann ot, within this format, delineate a behavior management program. However, read S.O.S. Help for Parents, and 1,2,3, Magic.. These will get you off to a good start. And consider a professional evaluation if common-sense behavior management adjustments are not sufficient.
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My son was the very same way a year or so ago.  We tried EVERYTHING and nothing seemed to help, and punishments seemed to make things worse.  Sometimes this behavior is caused by a deficiency in essential fatty acids - Omega-3 and Omega-6 and DHA.  My son did a 180 degree turnaround after only two weeks on essentail fatty acids.  We use a a product called Efalex that you can get at most of the larger chain drug stores.  He still takes it and he also has experienced a marked improvement in handwriting and no longer needs to wear glasses.  Try reading "The LCP Solution" by Jacqueline Stordy and Malcolm Nicholl.

Punishments do not help them to improve.  Try giving specific positive praise for good behavior and do not punish for the bad.  Kyle's therapist told me one of the best things to do is not to spank or take away TV, toys, etc. but to ignore, ignore, ignore when the tantrums happen.  Do not talk to him, give affection, etc. but go into another room and remove yourself from the situation. Tell him you cannot understand him when he is yelling, hitting, throwing things, etc. and can only understand him when he is verbalizing his anger in a calm manner.  After a few weeks of this you should see an improvement.

Try eliminating artificial ingredients from his diet, especially artificial dyes.  Cook from scratch and use no preprocessed foods.  Limit sugar and dairy products.  If his diet is part of the problem, you should see an improvement in his behavior after about a week.

Group situations with peers is Kyle's biggest stressors.  He just cannot handle it as he gets very competitive and aggressive.  We had to remove him from his day care and he now is in an individual home for after school care.  I hate it that he only gets peer interaction at school (he goes to a Christian school who only takes ADHD kids and there are only 5 in his class) but for now it seems to be fine.  Maturity can help this too.  Use situations in your everyday life to teach appropriate behavior and when something goes wrong and things have calmed down, talk about the appropriate way to react and behave.  I still do this as these kids seem not to learn appropriate behavior on their own.

If none of this works for you, he probably will need to be assessed and evaluated.  The earlier you figure out the problem and address it with behavior therapy and/or medication the better off you will be.  Kyle does not have the out of control tanturms and rages any more, but he still takes 5 mg Ritalin AM during school and takes an antidepressant at night.  Plus we are going to start behavior therapy again so he can begin to interact with peers appropriately.
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