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Ask Dr. Keane Your Own Question
Dr. Keane
Dr. Keane, Family Counselor
Category: Parenting
Satisfied Customers: 1768
Experience:  Parenting Workshops, Teacher, PHD Clinical Psychology, 30 yrs. Exp. 4 Children
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Hello. I have a question about figuring out what parenting

Customer Question

Hello. I have a question about figuring out what parenting approach is right. I admit to being overwhelmed and having done this whole parenting thing "well" lately. I have 4 kids, one boy who is 14 and pretty typical, a girl almost 13 diagnosed with ADHD, SPD and aspergers (I question this last diagnosis), a son age 6 diagnosed with SPD and selective mutism and a 3 year old boy who thus far seems pretty neuro typical.

My middle two are my big challenges and I don't know what approach to use to b most successful. I've been told love and logic and 1-2-3 magic and positive discipline. They all differ and there are parts of each that make sense...but how do I know which is best for kids with some differences.

My two middle have horrible rages and tantrums and my six year old is just downright difficult to like. He hits, grabs, rages, hurts others, talks back and screams so much. He doesn't have much empathy and doesn't care that he hurts others either physically or their feelings. He will destroy his older siblings belongings and laugh or smirk about it when confronted... I really am at a loss with him. His older sister, while she had rages was rarely so deliberately mean to others. When she is mean its usually when she is in a rage, so a little easier to understand that she is out of control.

Any advice on best methodology? And keeping my sanity?
Submitted: 4 years ago.
Category: Parenting
Expert:  Dr. Keane replied 4 years ago.

Dr. Keane :

I can help you today.

Dr. Keane :

It looks like you have gone offline so I will leave my response for you to reply to when you are back online. We can then arrange a time to chat

Dr. Keane :

First of all having four children at different developmental stages can be overwhelming on its own, add disabilities to the mix and I understand completely why you are having a difficult time. What is jumping out to me is the behavior of your six year old, can you tell me in more detail how you respond to him when he has lost control and is hurting others. I would like more information so I can best help you.Tell me about therapies he has had or is having. I will check back in later today and hopefully you will have responded. Without more information I can only cautiously suggest outside therapy to help your son deal with his behaviors. I am sorry you were not online.

JACUSTOMER-d97oka9h- : Honestly we've tried a lot of things. It started in the beginning with talking and redirecting, which generally results in him refusing to look at us and using kind of grunts and sometimes plugging his ears, or sometimes smirking. Progressed to timeouts and yelling quite honestly. In timeouts he usually sits and screams or will try to mutt
JACUSTOMER-d97oka9h- : Autocorrect! Oops!
JACUSTOMER-d97oka9h- : Or will try to sneak out or stand or cruel
JACUSTOMER-d97oka9h- : gah... Need to do this from a computer. Or he will crawl away or try to hurt walls or things around him. Lately I've progressed to trying to remove whoever or whatever is being hurt from him and ignoring him. This gets the other kids mad as they say I'm not doing anything about him, which undermines the lack or response. I then try to give him attention when he is being nice again. I have spanked in the past as well.
JACUSTOMER-d97oka9h- : no therapies yet as we just got a diagnosis last month and have been on a waiting list. I don't have a lot of funds for therapy either sadly. My daughter has had similar rages but never hurt others... Usually just hurts things or screams and stomps and never in public, so while the rages could go on for literally hours, it was at home so I didn't have to worry about other people being horrified at either her rage or however we were attempting to handle it. With him, he seems to take special delight in doing it in public.for instance, this am in a store, I have just the two younger boys with me. My six year old is running away from me, pulling things off hangers, hiding in clothes racks and refusing to respond, I had to take him as my husband was working. Finally I'm having him hold hangers while I straighten pants he had pulled off the hanger to put them back, I ask him for th e hanger, he says no and smirks and tries to hold it out of my reach. I lost my temper and grabbed for it, in process I scratched his arm and he runs a ways away from me crying. A fellow customer looks horrified. I finish picking out what I have to get quickly and check out, while getting the boys into the van, I turn around and see the horrified woman is there and she confronts me to tell me she saw me scratch my son and that she plans to call the police.
Dr. Keane :

Thanks for the additional information. There is a subset in children with selected mutism where oppositional behavior is exhibited. One of the therapies that seems to have success in helping control and improve behavior is cognitive behavioral therapy and that may be something you want to look into for him. The anxiety component becomes exacerbated and situations get out of control and bad behavior

JACUSTOMER-d97oka9h- : Fabulous. She scared me and angered me by coming up on me in a parking lot too! When he was 4, we were at disneyworld and he was having a meltdown. I had no choice but to sit quietly near him and let him rage it out while my husband had the rest of our kids on a ride. He is pushing himself into a corner, screaming you're not my daddy! Which apparently prompted someone to be concerned I might be trying to abduct him, so security comes to me, all was fine, but his behavior is very difficult to manage!! I'm at my wits end!!
Dr. Keane :

I bet you are, where is he "mute" school? home? any particular situation?

Dr. Keane :

There is a national organization, a grassroots organization that can help you while you wait for intervention, called National Alliance on Mental Illness. The web site is They have chapters all over the country and can at least give you some help while you wait. Has he had a school evaluation yet?

JACUSTOMER-d97oka9h- : Thank you. CBt is something I've used for me so eager to see if it could help him. Didn't know kids this young could use it, he is mute in public situations if people he doesn't know try to talk to hi. Takes him a long time to warm up to people, for instance inkindergarten he did warm up and start talking but usually he gets around it in other situation like daycare by just touching or sitting next to the teachers he feels most comfortable with and doing things next to them rather than actually talking much,
Dr. Keane :

So he is "shy" around people he doesn't know? Classic symptom, who gave you the diagnosis?

JACUSTOMER-d97oka9h- : school won't evaluate, as he doesn't really cause a problem there. Only a couple of times that he has acted up there. His teacher said he didn't focus well or listen well, but he usually would pull through when coaxed. Both my daughter and he seem to save it for home, which I therapy for my daube
JACUSTOMER-d97oka9h- : Daughter they told me was pretty typical for a child to unleash where it feels safe.
JACUSTOMER-d97oka9h- : yes, he will not speak to grandparents, clerks at stores, new teachers or daycare providers. It looks shy but he rarely comes out of it uses the teacher or counselor is a man or had a lot of time around him.
JACUSTOMER-d97oka9h- : He had a full day evaluation at northwest neurobehavioral where they ruled out autism and diagnosed him with mutism, and spd. He failed some portions of the eval because he would not speak to the evaluators, during the iq test for instance. He would smile at them and not throw a fit, just wouldn't speak.
JACUSTOMER-d97oka9h- : The thing that soothes him is his preoccupation with iPad or iPhone. I hate that I rely on it, but it will immediately calm him.
JACUSTOMER-d97oka9h- : I will look at Naming
Dr. Keane :

So he did have the evaluation, I would suggest you contact and get some help. Where do you live? state?

JACUSTOMER-d97oka9h- : i will look at NAMI again, it did have helpful info as I recall, but while I'm on the waiting list just trying to figure out which overall approach would be best to try before I lose it!! :)
JACUSTOMER-d97oka9h- : Idaho
JACUSTOMER-d97oka9h- : Yes he had an eval, just not through school.
Dr. Keane :

There is no one overall approach, but I would ignore the bad behavior, if he is attacking someone physically, say nothing but pick him up and put him in a safe space, don't yell or talk, just move him. ....if you have to wrap yourself around him do so, he'll get the message.....You can also have him help make up another chart for behavior, let him have input and do not let him "see" you being frustrated (I know hard to do), maybe try a relaxation CD with him, give him responsibility that he'll like. Sometimes saying nothing, taking a deep breath and going about whatever you are doing is best. He may, at first, act out even more but once he realizes (and once he learns in behavioral therapy) the rules you will see a difference. REaction is what he is looking for, his anxiety needs to be addressed (again in therapy) .

Dr. Keane :

Perhaps get him a some cool ear phones so he can listen to "his" CD. There are tons out there for kids. You have done most of what is recommended 123 magic I love as long as it is followed. Hit 3 and it's over, if you have to turn your car around and go home or whatever it is, consistency is key.

Dr. Keane :

I hope this helped give you a place to start while you wait. Please let me know if I can help in the future. Dr. Keane

JACUSTOMER-d97oka9h- : Thank you so much for the ideas. He won't let me touch him hardly ever, so I've tried the wrapping around thing and that greatly escalates thighs but
JACUSTOMER-d97oka9h- : things but I've thought about making him a special cool down area just for him. And the cd is a great idea. I will find one and cool ear phones! Controlling my own reaction and the reaction of the kids, who think by not reacting I'm letting him get away with it are big challenges.
JACUSTOMER-d97oka9h- : Any suggestions for how to help the other kids realize they by not reacting we are doing the right things?
Dr. Keane :

Sorry I had computer problem which I just managed to rectify. As for the other children, tell them what you plan on doing, in fact tell all of them that negative behaviors will be ignored. They can all be part of the plan, incorporate it into 1-2-3 and use it with all them. As for your sanity, contact and they can set you up with some help. Again, apologies for the long wait. Good luck !