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What's Wrong With My 4-Yr Old?
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What's Wrong With My 4-Yr Old?

My 4-yr old son just got kicked out of his 2nd preschool for bad behavior.  At home he's not so bad - he will sit still to watch cartoons or play by himself for a decent abount of time(he's an only child), but in public places he is uncontrollable.  He runs & jumps around, crawls under tables & counters, touches everything etc.  He won't listen to me when I tell him to stop or hold still. We can't even walk from the car into the store without him trying to run away from me and touching all the cars along the way.  In school, he won't take a nap and won't be quiet so the other kids can sleep.  He'll lay there and make loud noises and keep everyone awake & distrupt the entire school(he does this at bedtime too).  He won't sit and do any art projects, he just "tears up" his paper and refuses to participate.  When he gets time out or when I spank him, he just laughs and sits in the corner making more noises.  He also has what I call "uncontrollable impulses" where just out of the blue he'll throw something across the room or strike out and hit someone or something.  He's always kicking at our dog and slapping at other kids.  The other day he went up to a little girl at school to act like he was going to give her a kiss and instead bit her on the cheek!  He also went up to a 2-yr old and just out of the blue kicked her in the face!  (Thus, why he's kicked out of school) He seems to enjoy all of this and laughs about it.  What is wrong with my child?  I think he shows signs of hyperactivity but no one is willing to diagnose him until he enters school.  In the meantime, I don't know how to handle him.  And most importantly, why is he so mean to other children and seem to get satisfaction from it?  Please help!
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Dear Jill,

Such impulsive, aggressive and disorganized behavior in a four-year-old can be hard to diagnose, but nonetheless it's important to introduce your son to a professional evaluation where this can be sorted out.

For some children, there do exist biologically-based problems, usually having to do with neurotransmitters and other brain chemicals, that precipitate uninhibited, aggressive behavior. ADHD is one such condition, but not the only one. Generally, the reluctance you've experienced about diagnosing ADHD in such a young child is a wise caution. On the other hand, there are children who are so hyperactive and impulsive at a young age that pharmacological treatment is not only an option, it is a sensible intervention.

The important thing is to pursue a clinical evaluation and, through such a process, to determine a diagnosis and develop a treatment plan. If you're not sure where to turn, a logical starting point is your child's pediatrician. Usually the medical doctor will know how to secure mental health or behavioral health services. If you have insurance, call the member services representative and that person can guide you about what type of help is available through your insurance. If you are not insured, check with any local child guidance or family service clinic, and they will know how to secure help. In almost all jurisdictions there are resources for children whether they come under private insurance or not. Finally, check with your local school department. Your son should qualify for early intervention services. Dr. KDK
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Your son and yours should be twins!  They exhibit the same behaviors and problems when my son was 4.  I mean the EXACT same behaviors.  Hitting kids, cutting classmates hair and clothes, not doing his work in class, refusing to come in at recess, having tantrums - you name it, Kyle did it!!

Try reading "The LCP Solution" by Jacqueline Stordy and Malcolm Nicholl.  We have had Kyle on essential fatty acids since May 1999 and saw a 180 turn around in his behavior within weeks.  His impulsiveness is down, he obeys, does not get upset, no tantrums, no lashing out in anger, in other words a semi-normal child.  He is not perfect but he certainly is not the child he was.  

Also try reading "The ADD Nutrition Solution" by Marcia Zimmerman as diet, allergies and vitamin/mineral deficiencies all play a role in hyperactivity and attention.

Some good websites are foodallergy.org, drrapp.com, and greatplainslaboratory.com.

Medication should be a last resort, especially in a child so young.  Kyle is 6 1/2 now and he is on 5 mg Ritalin AM and so far this year he has had no behavior problems in school at all and is making all A's.  Keeping my fingers crossed!!  We just had an educational and behavorial evaluation done because we wanted to make sure there were no problems going on that we had not uncovered yet.  We had the organic acid test done at Great Plains Labs and it uncovered low serotonin, Candidia yeast overgrowth (Kyle is allergic to Candidia and it can cause hyperactivity), and a bunch of other problems that we have addressed.  We had a hair test done by an osteopath and it uncovered some vitamin/mineral deficiencies.  A lot of ADHD kids are deficient in magnesium, zinc, and calcium - all needed for proper neurotransmitter functioning.  Kyle also needed an antioxidant and was deficient in C (hates citrus fruits/juices) so we started with 500 mg C for one month and he now takes 250 mg C per day.  He was deficient in B-2, so now he takes 50 mg B-complex and 50 mg B-6 (B-6 is good for attention).  A good vitamin book is "Vitamins and Minerals - An Illustrated Guide" by Karen Sullivan.

Good luck.  "The Explosive Child" is an excellent book, as is "The Defiant Child".  Please realize that spanking, yelling, and punishing are not going to help matters any because you are trying to correct behavior that he cannot control.  Been There, Done That, Have the T-Shirt and Bumper Sticker.
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