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Dr. Bonnie
Dr. Bonnie, Psychologist and RN
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 2189
Experience:  35 years experience counseling children and families
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My 8 year old son is driving us crazy! He is a great student

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My 8 year old son is driving us crazy! He is a great student (very bright) who rarely has behavior problems at school. He is totally disrespectful to his mother and me. He can't keep his hands to himself. Always pestering his sisters, and when he has a friend over or encounters his friends at sporting events, he is always the one punching or kicking the others. He doesn't appear to be doing it with malice, but the other kids obviously get irritated with it. I know "boys will be boys", but he always is the one who takes it too far. I'm very, very frustrated. We've tried all types of punishment, but nothing sticks. He also gets very upset when he gets in trouble, but it's the same thing every day and it's wearing thin.

Hi, this is Howard,


This sounds like an upsetting situation. From what you have reported, you respond to your son's behavior with negative consequences, i.e. punishment.


A better approach would be to reward your son when he behaves appropriately. For example, when he isn't pestering his sisters you can say "Son, I am so happy you aren't bothering your sisters. That's great!" The more you praise his these positive behaviors the more they will become part of his normal behavior.


You can also set up a reward system. At the end of the afternoon, if your son's behavior was appropriate then he gets a special treat. That can be a favorite snack, or a favorite TV program, or just a few minutes of one on one time with you. This can also be very helpful.


There are numerous books you can read for more tips. Here is a link to one that may be helpful:

Customer: replied 5 years ago.
We've tried the reward system as well. The problem is, he behaves for half an hour and wants his reward and if we say no it triggers a tantrum. It's just very frustrating because it's the same thing over and over. Obviously what we are doing isn't working. Any more advice?

Also, when he misbehaves, do we just ignore it? How can we balance consequences for the bad and rewarding the good? Another issue is that he stutters. We are seeing a highly regarded therapist in the area for that. The "at home" exercises are very time consuming and we lose a lot of that because we are battling his behavior. Obviously, I'm frustrated.
Reward systems usually work if they are executed properly. You may need to shorten the time period that is required for the reward, and then gradually extend it. For example, give your son a reward after ten minutes of good behavior. After doing that a few times extend it to fifteen minutes, and so on. You just have to be careful to use a reward that he will continue to want.

My other suggestion would be for you and your husband to attend parenting classes. They are offered in many communities.
Customer: replied 5 years ago.
Relist: Answer quality.
Hello and thank you for consulting JA,

I certainly agree with Howard's suggestions about positive behavior management.

Here's another thought: it is possible that he does not have much control over his behavior. Sounds like he is able to control it at school but then, due to the energy it takes and the fatigue that result, he "let's it all out at home".

What I am suggesting is that he may have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Here are the DSM-IV (a manual used by mental health providers to diagnose) symptoms:

The aggressive behavior (while not mean spirited) can be due to the impulsive component of ADHD (acting before thinking).

If you think this is a possibility, consult with his primary doctor about the usual treatment. The treatment, medication, is usually concerning to parents. However, the behavior management techniques will not work if it is ADHD because it is a biological condition of the brain which makes sustaining control impossible. If untreated, it can start to interfere with grades even in the brightest student. This usually happens as the educational material becomes more abstract (4th grade).

Just my thoughts.....hope this is somewhat helpful....Warm regards,
Dr. Bonnie, Psychologist and RN
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 2189
Experience: 35 years experience counseling children and families
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