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Dr. Shirley Schaye
Dr. Shirley Schaye, Doctor
Category: Parenting
Satisfied Customers: 1673
Experience:  PhD-Psych; Certif. Psychoanalyst NPAP& NYFS; Memb.APsaA;IPA; Pub.Author; Teach/Supervise Therapy
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My 4 year old son is a handful. He is incredibly smart, but

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My 4 year old son is a handful. He is incredibly smart, but incredibly challenging. I'm not sure that I even know where to begin asking questions about how to effectively handle him, but I do know that I've spent my last morning screaming at him and crying because of his disobedience. My two main problems are that he does not listen to me AT ALL and will purposely do whatever it takes to push my buttons and make me angry. We do not use corporal punishment, but he gets sent to his room all the time. When I go in to speak to him about his "time out", he makes faces as if to indicate he's trying not to laugh at me. Even if I break down in tears because of my frustration, he will try not to laugh at me, which, of course, makes me even more upset. I am a stay at home mother (of two boys) and I have truly made it my life mission to raise two wonderful, respectful little boys. He certainly has the capacity to be sweet and thoughtful, but he is a Jekyll and Hyde; I never know when the switch will flip and the other "side" will come out. I do note that when his mind is engaged (learning about outer space or building one of his "machines"), he is very sweet and completely pleasant. He engages his mind though as he pleases... I cannot redirect him to go do this if he is bothering his 2 year old brother or just getting into trouble. And I don't have time to start him on a project if, say, we are trying to get ready for school. Any suggestions would be incredibly helpful... thank you in advance!
First off I do want to say I understand what you are going through and you are not alone. It can be extremely frustrating when this happens when you only have good intentions. You are spending your life to stay home to raise them to be respectful children, so it is very upsetting when faced with this challenge.

I want you to know that it is not your fault. There are some children that no matter what we do they are more difficult than others. Some parents can do no discipling and the child is an angel meanwhile someone else can do everything and the child still does not listen. All children have different personalities and this is a big chunk of why they do what they do even when we are doing our very best and going crazy.

It seems as though you have tried everything in the book and I know anything I tell you is much easier said than done. In day to day life just with basic day to day things to do can already be challenging mix that with extra activities and a child that doesn't listen and your blood can really boil which causes the screaming.

It is easy to make a plan and through it out the window in the moment because the moment is the most difficult part. When your child acts out and you feel the need to scream I want you to take a deep breath and just be silent. Walk away if you can and take a few seconds to analyze what is happening. Even though screaming feels great in the moment it can cause guilt for us later and overall it is not effective. It will just cause him to ignore and drown you out. Another thing you can do instead of screaming is count to 3. Children usually automatically know that by the count of 3 they need to stop, but you can let him know the first time if he does not know then if he does not stop and you feel the urge the scream walk away.

So then after the counting and taking a breath or just taking the breath if he has not stopped what he is doing or if what he has done already is enough to cause a punishment then physically lift him and put him in time out. If he gets out of the time out continue to put him back. He may scream, he may fight, he may get out. Just continue to put him back. Do not say a word. The first few times you literally may need to do this 100 plus times. I am serious, but even though it will be exhausting and you may want to give up. I encourage you to continue. The first few weeks may be extremely challenging, but then I guarantee if you are CONSISTENT with it then you will see a change.

It is better to have a more difficult 3 weeks doing this then let this continue because he wull grow and it will get worse. He will then be ten years old and it will be more difficult to do this or almost impossible. It would be a different method all together. Now is the easiest time to get this under control.

He needs to see that you are serious and be very consistent. That is the key. If you let it go once and no another he will see he can get away with things and not take you seriously. Do not cry in front of him either. This will show him you are not in control and he will play off your weakness. It is okay to cry, but do it in private or with another adult if you can.

You can also combine the time outs with taking things and priveleges away, but be consistent. It is easy to "sometimes" let things go because we are busy, tired, or may just not even realize what is happening because we are on the inside and so used to the situation. Also, if it is the morning and getting ready and he does something if you have no time to time out that is okay, but tell him he will get a time out when he gets home due to this and then follow through with it.

After he is calm and the time out is finished you can then explain to him what he did wrong and how he can do different. Try not to overexplain or talk too much this will also cause him to drown you out.

You can continue to do the charts for good behavior and be consistent with that. Also, when he is in a good mood try to encourage the things he likes, so he can spend more time on those things. Also, when he behaves reward him with praise. Try not to focus attention on the negative rather the positive. Even negative attention children subconcuisouly enjoy. This is why I would like you to be quiet when he misbehaves and just count and time out because he will not be getting the attention he wants. So his subconsious plan will not be working. This also mixed with consistency causes it to be more funcional.

I want you to know that even when it seems like nothing is working it really is. Sometimes we do not see the fruits of our labor and hardwork until years later. But you will see it in the future. Everything you teach him if you see it now or not he is taking it in and you will see the positive feedback one day. Just do not give up. Take each situation as it comes and stay positive within, so you do not get to stressed and burned out. Also, make sure you are taking adequate care of yourself. This will in turn make you feel better and be ready for the daily challenges.

I truly hope this was helpful and I am here if you need any clarification or further help. Also if you ever come back to this site in the future you can always request me and I can help since we spoke already. If you'd like ofcourse. I wish you the very best and stay strong!
Jen Helant, Child Care
Category: Parenting
Satisfied Customers: 1386
Experience: I have my bachelors degree in psychology. I worked with children. Since then I have raised and still raising 3 wonderful boys.
Jen Helant and other Parenting Specialists are ready to help you
I want to say that, whereas, I agree about not losing it in front of your son there are other issues that may need to be addressed before we consider this merely as a behaviour problem. I say this because I do a lot of diagnosis and treatment of children ( as well as adults). I have in addition to my Bachelor's degree in psychology another 17 years of education in the mental health field. As such, I am licensed in my state to diagnose and treat children. So, be that as it may --- what am I saying? What I am about to say is that given how much trouble you are having with your son's behaviour, it would seem crucial to have him diagnosed first before merely embarking on TIME OUTS. Of course, one needs to deal with the behaviour but hey, one needs to think about why this behaviour first. What is going on to create this behaviour? Of course, I haven't interviewed your son so I cannot make a diagnosis. But if you were to bring him to my office I, of course, would want to daiagnose what is going on --- I would want to rule out anything before deciding to dismiss his behaviour and just consider it him being a bad boy who needs Time -Outs. So even though I haven't seen him you mentioned one thing that peeks my diagnostic skills. I will quote you. " I do note that when his mind is engaged (learning about outer space or building one of his "machines"), he is very sweet and completely pleasant. He engages his mind though as he pleases..." This makes me wonder about him being able to hyper focus on what he is interested in but not be able to do that when it's something he is not interested in. So what I would do instead of merely disciplining him is bring him to a child psychiatrist/psychologist to get him properly diagnosed. If they rule out that there is anything is wrong except just misbehaving then one they will try to figure out what is going on about why this is happening and only then help you with dealing with his behaviour. If he were in my office I would want to check out whether he has ADD/ADHD. I would rule that out first. If it was not that, as I said, only then would I go to the next step of finding out what were the psychological reasons for this behaviour and then then treating that behaviour.
Take a look at the information below that appears in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual IV on ADD/ADHD

If you have any questions after you have read what it says you may contact me by putting DR. Shirley Schaye before your response and I will be happy to discuss this further with you.

INATTENTION (need 6 of 9)
a) often fails to give close attention to details or makes careless mistakes in schoolwork, work or other activities

b) often has difficulty sustaining attention in tasks or play activities

c) often does not seem to listen when spoken to directly

d) often does not follow through on instructions and fails to finish schoolwork, chores, or duties in the workplace (no if oppositional behavior or doesn't understand instructions)

e) often has difficulty organizing tasks and activities

f) often avoids, dislikes, or is reluctant to engage in tasks or activities that require sustained mental effort (such as schoolwork or homework)

g) often loses things necessary for tasks or activities (e.g., toys, school assignments, pencils, books, or tools)

h) is often easily distracted by extraneous stimuli

i) is often forgetful in daily activities

a) often fidgets with hands or feet or squirms in seat

b) often leaves seat in classroom or in other situations in which remaining seated is expected

c) often runs about or climbs excessively in situations in which it is inappropriate (in adolescents or adults, may be limited to subjective feelings of restlessness)

d) often has difficulty playing or engaging in leisure activities quietly

e) is often "on the go" or often acts as if "driven by a motor"

f) often talks excessively

g) often blurts out answers before questions have been completed

h) often has difficulty awaiting turn

i) often interrupts or intrudes on others (e.g., butts into conversations or games)

1) Present at least 6 months, maladaptive and inconsistent with development level

2) Some symptoms that caused impairment were present before age 7

3) Some impairment from the symptoms is present in two or more settings (e.g., at school {or work} and at home)

4) There must be clear evidence of clinically significant impairment in social, academic or occupational functioning

Customer: replied 5 years ago.

With all due respect, my son would definitely not be diagnosed with ADD/ADHD. I also have a bachelor's degree in psychology (in addition to a law degree) and spent my working career dealing with severely emotionally disturbed children. He can sit and listen to stories for hours (has ALWAYS done this), and has no problem completing tasks put in front of him. If anything, he begins one of his "projects" (ie, making a washing machine from boxes and by pretending to plug in electrical cords to "generators", etc. and becomes irate that he can't finish it when we have to leave the house to go to school, etc. I know you've never met my son, but I do believe that he is highly gifted; he could recite the cabinet members of the White House before the age of 2 and knows more about the solar system than most college grads. I truly think that he bores easily, likes getting a rise out of people, and has a very demanding personality. He is my first born and was most definitely bathed in attention from day 1. However, even as an infant he would be incredibly challenging and demanding...he would constantly fight sleep, he would scream bloody murder if you sat down while holding him (wanting you to walk around and jostle him slightly). He's just a very temperamental child. Does he have somewhat of an explosive disorder? Yes. He is very impatient and can most definitely lash out when things do not go his way. However, I am not about to drag him into a Dr's office to make him feel as if there is something "wrong" with him until I exhaust every possible parenting solution first. I don't mean any disrespect by that and I do appreciate your response, but I really don't believe in "labeling" children, especially at the age of 4.

Well, you have made your decision. If he does have ADD that does not mean he is not gifted. If a child does have ADD that doesn't mean thathe cannot focus on what he is interestedin. In fact we call that hyper focusing.
I have worked with children for many, many years. I treat many kids with ADD. I only answered that question because I was concerned about the answer suggesting that the parent should only deal with the behaviour without having the child evaluated and looking underneath to see why this child is showing this behaviour.I was concerned about that. I have 17 years of mental health training POST my Bachelor's of Arts degree in psychology. I treat children all the time.I'm sorry that I showed my concern for you since it offended you.
Customer: replied 5 years ago.

Dr. Schaye,


I apologize for my knee jerk reaction to your follow-up email. I most definitely respect the fact that you have many years of education, training, and experience in the mental health field. I just had one of those terrible days of parenting and needed a bit of "TLC", so to speak, and some suggestions as to how to effectively deal with a sweet, yet challenging 4 year old.


In going through the DSM IV criteria though, the only trait that really fits my child is the c) does not listen when spoken to directly. I really don't feel that in my heart of hearts he has ADD/ADHD. He's never been the fidgety/can't sit still kind of little boy who needs to run around in circles to get out energy and he really has no problem completing tasks, listening to stories (he even likes chapter books with no pictures and Winnie The Pooh poetry books), or engaging his mind in challenging tasks. He has literally demanded A TON of attention from his first day on earth and I think that he often doesn't care if it's positive or negative. I'm going to try and remove all negative attention to the best of my ability for the next several weeks/months and see if that has an impact. If not, I will most definitely seek out a mental health professional to meet with me and consider other options. Thank you, XXXXX XXXXX XXXXX concern and responses.

Hey, I understand your frustration. I am not saying that he has ADD/ADHD. Of course, I wouldn't know that but what I wanted you to do is to look underneath what is going on so that things can turn around. I am glad to hear that if things don't improve behaviourally that you'll take the next step to dig deeper to find out what is going on. He is a special little boy and you want to turn this around --- that's really my point. In my field first you rule out organicity --- i.e., is it ADD. If not, then we need to dig deeper to find out what is causing the problem --- not just dealing with the behaviour.I noticed something else but frankly you giving me a poor service rating makes me afraid to say anymore.Hey, I'm a mom, too, and completely understand that you were upset. All I wanted is for you go the nine yards to dig deep and find out WHY this is happening so that you can help your little boy maximize his potential. Just dealing behaviourally does not give us answers about why your little boy is behaving the way he is.Anyway, I sincerely XXXXX XXXXX the best with your little boy.
Dr. Shirley Schaye, Doctor
Category: Parenting
Satisfied Customers: 1673
Experience: PhD-Psych; Certif. Psychoanalyst NPAP& NYFS; Memb.APsaA;IPA; Pub.Author; Teach/Supervise Therapy
Dr. Shirley Schaye and other Parenting Specialists are ready to help you