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Alicia_MSW, Psychotherapist
Category: Mental Health
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Experience:  Specializing in mental health counseling
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My 8 year old son is controlling his friends and showing bad

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my 8 year old son is controlling his friends and showing bad behavior towards me (mum) and when he dont get his own way he breaks things slams doors . he eats fruit and veg not alot of proccessed stuff, his dad left when he was 4 . he can be having a great day then its like flicking a switch and hes a demon child for no apparent reason. most kids dont act like that over what path in a park to take or you didnt choose the right color . minor problems big reactions. i m at the end of my rope with him its very emotional and humiliating in public. please help Catherine
Hello Catherine,
I'm Alicia. Thanks for your question, I'm happy to help.
Without meeting your son in person, it's hard to say for sure what's causing his behavior. You've done many of the things that most parents would try, and then some, in terms of the behavior charts, rewards, punishments and so forth. If he's only 8 and he's engaging in vandalism and other anti-social behaviors, then his behaviors goes beyond the "normal" acting out and displaying of angry feelings. It sounds to me like nothing you're trying is working, and I can certainly understand how frustrating this situation is becoming for the both of you.
Just based on what you've said, it sounds to me like your son might be suffering from ODD - or oppositional defiant disorder. Basically, this disorder manifests in symptoms just as you've described - problems with authority (you and perhaps others - his teachers, for example), problems getting along with peers, temper tantrums, excessive frustration and acting out when they don't get their own way, mean or resentful, especially when you try to discipline them, and defiant behavior (vandalism certainly falls into this category.)
You can read more about this disorder here:
There's another disorder that is similar yet much more severe, known as conduct disorder. This disorder involves more serious symptoms such as lying, cheating, stealing, running away from home, truancy, bullying and frequently breaking the rules. Just for your information, you might wish to review this information as well, because I can't provide an accurate diagnosis without meeting your son in person, so it's important for you to be informed so you can decide what the best course of action is:
The only way these disorders can improve is with treatment. You've already seen that you've done everything in your power to try to get him to behave, and it's not working - and I don't think that is because of faulty parenting - as I said previously, I believe you've been doing a good job so far with everything you've described.
The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry recommends a few tips for parents with children who have ODD:
Always build on the positives, give the child praise and positive reinforcement when he shows flexibility or cooperation.
Take a time-out or break if you are about to make the conflict with your child worse, not better. This is good modeling for your child. Support your child if he decides to take a time-out to prevent overreacting.
Pick your battles. Since the child with ODD has trouble avoiding power struggles, prioritize the things you want your child to do. If you give your child a time-out in his room for misbehavior, don’t add time for arguing. Say “your time will start when you go to your room.”
Set up reasonable, age appropriate limits with consequences that can be enforced consistently.
Maintain interests other than your child with ODD, so that managing your child doesn’t take all your time and energy. Try to work with and obtain support from the other adults (teachers, coaches, and spouse) dealing with your child.
Manage your own stress with healthy life choices such as exercise and relaxation. Use respite care and other breaks as needed.
But in order to find out what is really going on, you would need tobring him to a child psychiatrist - as they are the only professionals who can make an accurate diagnosis. It's crucial that he receives a proper diagnosis and not something that many GP's might label it as (such as ADHD or another disorder) so that can receive the appropriate interventions. After a diagnosis is made, the doctor will discuss treatment options - which can include medication (though not always), anger management training, so he can learn how to better regulate his feelings, family therapy, so that you can both learn better ways of interacting with each other, and other psychological/social interventions to help him cope with authority, learn to respect others, etc.
You can find a child psychiatrist by asking your GP for a referral, or through this website:
I hope that helps. Please let me know if you have any additional questions.
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