I have 3 boys, one a 6 year old. My husband and I are very positive people and try and do a lot with our children, and give each child equal attention. The concerns I have with my 6 year old son are based on his listening, lack of focus and most recently the following bad behavior.

Over the past two years our oldest son has had trouble listening and focusing when you would speak to him. I know it sounds typical; we would joke that he has "selective hearing". But if we say something simple to him (with eye contact) then ask him to repeat, his response is "I don't know" or "umm... I forgot". When you need him to stay and focus on something he would have to do something else quickly because he can't help it.

Unfortunately, he is the same way in school. Example: his school has a fire drill and the kids are to stay in line. My son sees an ant hill and has to walk over to it and check it out. The teacher tells him to get back in line but then a second later he does it again. The teacher asks him why is he disobeying what she asks and his response is "I don't know".

My son is a good boy, but unfortunately also has a problem with following bad behavior, which is our biggest issue, from particular children in his school: he likes to do things that make people laugh. Like being silly in a fun way, or doing something inappropriate (like making noises with his mouth).

We've recently gotten emails from his teacher saying "he has been very disruptive in her class, following others' bad behavior and makes many inappropriate noises." We try to remind him every day that it's rude and disrespectful to act that way. We ask him if he likes getting into trouble? Does he like copying the bad kids (he names the bad kids on request, which we are aware are the trouble makers)? Does he like it when Mommy and Daddy get upset? Do you like to have fun and do fun things, because bad behavior doesn't deserve fun? Do you like when Mommy and Daddy talk to you in the morning about being an awesome boy and have a great day? We try not to sound negative and try and speak calmly but we get to a point were we feel like when we speak to him, while he says he cares, we don't feel that he does.

We've done time outs and daily good behavior charts. We've awarded little prizes on good behavior. We've tried so many options and it's just making us sad and scared for the boy he'll become. We know he's a good boy; he just needs to show it more and stop copying others' wrong doing just to get a laugh.

We recently called his pediatrician to see what we should do about his listening, focus and behavior thinking it's related with ADHD. I was referred to have a Neuro Sociological Evaluation done, which I'm still waiting to get through.

I'm sorry for the request on so much info, but we're coming to a halt on what to do next. I'm open to suggestions.

  • 2
    Just a gentle proactive reminder to commenters: please be nice. If you disagree with an answer, post an answer of your own; let's use comments for clarifications or to point out mistakes, but not for expressing disagreement with the general philosophy.
    – Joe
    Jun 9, 2015 at 16:59
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    Taylor - how does your son behave at home? Does he play with these boys on the baseball team? What is your approach to discipline, and what in particular do you do when you see him acting like this when you're around (if you do see him like that)? How does he react to the good behavior chart and/or little prizes - you said you did them, but what were the results; did they change his behavior at home, at school, neither, or both?
    – Joe
    Jun 9, 2015 at 17:01
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    That sounds very very similar to my childhood. I'm now 22, with diagnosed ADHD. I was diagnosed with it at 8 years old and have been medicated ever since. I always tell people that ADHD is like asthma. You can't tell a child with ADHD to 'just behave' just like you can't tell an asthmatic to 'just breathe'. Asking those kinds of questions is totally useless, because they will leave your child's head within 3 seconds. It's impulsive behaviour that the teachers are trying to deal with.
    – JamesENL
    Jun 10, 2015 at 8:10
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    Have you considered the idea that he isn't ready for school? Intellectually he might be, but emotionally, he might need to start a year later. In that case, there is no point in ending childhood early for him and medicating him for the rest of his life. He might just need a bit more time to be ready for school.
    – boatcoder
    Jun 11, 2015 at 9:38

9 Answers 9


We know he's a good boy; he just needs to show it more and stop copying others wrong doing just to get a laugh.

I have no doubt that he is a good boy. Asking him if he likes getting into trouble or making Mommy and Daddy upset are questions that he probably can't resolve with his behavior right now and probably make him feel like a bad son, so I would suggest you not send him mixed messages - either he is a good boy (and you know his inability to live up to your expectations displeases him), or he's not, because at this age, children can still be very black-and-white in their thinking.

Your son seems to have a significant problem with impulsivity, which is not the same as being bad, disrespectful, rude, or unloving. I would be much more concerned if he was aggressive towards peers or younger children or openly defiant (being curious about an ant hill and leaving a line to examine it is an example of poor impulse control; if he defied his teacher, said something smart, and stayed at the ant hill instead of obeying; I would be much more concerned.)

Right now, he can't seem to help his wandering thoughts and his impulses. Please, for his sake and your own, don't equate these behaviors with bad behaviors. He will come to this conclusion often enough himself.

Make sure that he has a good grasp of "feeling words", so that when asking him the "why" of something, he has an adequate vocabulary from which to answer. Not having the proper vocabulary inhibits communication.

Please read (here and elsewhere) about ADHD and impulsivity. Many parents have been in your shoes.

Have him tested, and ask for training/counseling for both your child and yourselves, so that together, you can encourage pro-social behavior and promote a positive self image with realistic goal-setting. Keep his teachers up to date on his strengths and weaknesses and include them in goal-setting, etc.

Time heals many problems. He may be able to do very well with a few more years of development. It's important to give him the opportunity to grow before he forms a negative self-image. And for what time can't heal, there is therapy, training, and help.

  • Thank you Karl for your recommendations. I will definitely use them.
    – Taylor
    Jun 9, 2015 at 18:35
  • Thank you Anongoodnurse. With the fidgeting that my son shows I do see that he has an impulsivity. We always try to let him be who he is, even with his curiosity. We just hope with time that he learns what we are trying to say to him. Not just negative responses but just really trying to help him do better.
    – Taylor
    Jun 9, 2015 at 18:39

We had a similar experience with my son. It's an unpopular opinion among school teachers, but what you need to realize is parents can't control how a six year-old acts at school. Kids that age simply don't think that far ahead, especially kids with ADHD. They very much live in the moment. What might happen this evening at home has zero bearing on his decisions this morning. Behavior needs to be shaped by the adults he is with at the time.

You can express support for the teacher. You can enforce good behavior at home. You can do make-up work at home. You can role play proper responses. You can tell the teacher what works for you. Take it from me, though, punishments, rewards, or discussions long after the event won't help, will only stress everyone out, and will reinforce the idea in your son's mind that he has no control over his own behavior.

So changes need to be made at school, and an evaluation for ADHD is a good start to making those accommodations happen. Those doctors will be able to make specific recommendations, but some of the following are common:

  • More breaks for unstructured physical activity.
  • Disallowing counter-productive punishments like missing recess, in favor of better alternatives.
  • Allowing the child to fidget.
  • Assignments more targeted to individual interests.
  • Written checklists and instructions instead of oral instructions.
  • Communicating expectations about attention beforehand. "I'm going to tell you something, then ask you to repeat what I said. Are you ready?"
  • Trying different kinds of responses to attention-seeking behavior, like ignoring or a silent head shake.
  • Assignments with more rapid feedback, like a computer math program that immediately tells you if you made a mistake.

Teachers used to have more latitude to make these kinds of accommodations for every child, with or without a diagnosis, but the unfortunate political reality is that's not generally the case any more. Academics are being moved earlier, to the detriment of kids like your son. It's stressing out teachers too, who are burning out sooner. You may have to fight hard for these sorts of accommodations. We opted to homeschool instead, and have been happier all around.


I want to focus on two specific things that have been brought up in other answers, and go in more detail.

Focus on behaviors, not labels. This is true for adults as much as children. If someone says you are "lazy" or "good" or "bad", it's hard to take action based on that. It's also easy to internalize that label and decide that it's just part of your nature - and even easier for a kid, who's used to black or white things (Of course the Joker wants to kill everyone in Gotham, he's a bad guy, that's what he does.)

Actions can be taken based on specific behaviors. "Can you focus on standing straight in line when you're waiting for a drink of water with your class?" That's specifically actionable. He can actively think about it while going to stand in line, and you can have a "report" on the specific behavior afterwards. Maybe you work on one specific situation at a time - this week you work on standing in line at the water fountain, next week you work on paying attention while teacher reads stories. Have specific goals - "go a week while standing within one foot of where you should be standing, with your body within 20 degrees of straight, during every water break." Have an allowance for failure that is not too strict. And, most importantly, get the teacher in on it.

This is the second point I wanted to bring up: none of this will work unless you and the teacher are on the same page. You can't watch him during class. You can't evaluate his success. You can't give him immediate feedback. His teacher needs to be on board, both to help give feedback on what needs improving and on whether he's improved. This also helps point out to the teacher where he has improved - it can be easy to not notice improvements in behavior if a child is 99% good but still has those 1% of failures, those 1% are much more noticeable with 20-25 kids.

Get a meeting with the teacher, and bring a plan. Don't be inflexible with that plan, of course, if the teacher has good advice or suggestions; but definitely have a plan when you walk into the meeting so you are more likely to be successful. Tell the teacher what you need from her/him, and ask what information that you need to make it a good plan (in particular, ask what very specific behaviors you can use for your list of things to work on). Get their buy-in on implementing the plan. Be very specific as to what you need from them - in terms of feedback and in terms of helping him be successful and giving him immediate feedback.

If you've ever had management training in your job, I recommend looking back at that and thinking about how that can be useful - all of the above comes from the same basic approach. It may be easiest to treat your son like an employee who needs to improve, though of course you can't fire him, and presumably have more of an emotional investment in him.

  • 1
    One problem my ADHD soon has with specificity is that he easily forgets the specifics, sometimes within seconds -- but even so, instructions are better than fruitlessly hoping he figures it out.
    – Acire
    Jun 10, 2015 at 9:50
  • Right - and I think very simple instructions, particularly single thing at a time, will be easier to remember, and easier for the teacher to help remind him of.
    – Joe
    Jun 10, 2015 at 17:13

You might try getting him involved in an activity where attention and discipline are self-reinforcing parts of the activity. I'd recommend meditation, tai chi, or yoga (as a family activity) where he has incentive to emulate other family members, or some kind of martial arts. I think the martial arts especially would be productive.

  • Actually, martial arts are recommended for children with ADHD, so +1 for you. However, on this (Q&A site), we prefer fuller answers, and answers with references. Welcome, and please see the site tour and the help sections for more information. Thanks. Jun 10, 2015 at 17:12

I'm guessing you're going to find strong ADHD indicators when you get the results back. The selective hearing, inability to focus and tendency to be distracted from what he is supposed to be doing are pretty classic.

Your pediatrician will be able to help you and him develop coping mechanisms for his ADHD (if that's the diagnosis).

Now, the goofing off and funny noises may just be an excess of boy-ness. My son has the same problem. He literally can't seem to help himself; whatever he is doing he just ends up making noises. I ask him why he does it and he says he doesn't know. It just happens. We call them "boy noises" (my husband is also guilty of this, though to a lesser degree). It's probably sexist to call them "boy" noises (I'm sure there are girls who do the same) but we have just observed that boys seem more likely to exhibit attention-getting behaviors through random noises.

Our son was getting a fair amount of negative feedback and so were we (he was about six when it started getting bad). His problem was apparently "blurting". The school implemented a behavioral report card for all children with behavioral problems. They divided it up into early morning, first recess, late morning, lunch, after lunch, 2nd recess and special class (music, etc). They gave numeric scores (1-5). We instituted a strong reward system based on how he did each day, with a listed set of rewards and punishments (30 minutes early bedtime for average score below 2.5, 15 min extra TV time for average score above 4, etc)

It took a while but eventually he learned not to be disruptive in class. I don't know if your school has something like that available, but you might ask. The important thing is that you stay firm and fair and above all, consistent. Also, you and the school need to be a team. Make sure you let them know that you are there to support their efforts in creating an atmosphere conducive to learning, and make sure your son knows it as well. One of the things that I've heard over and over from teachers (and even to a greater degree from sports coaches) is that the biggest problem they face in their job environment is the parents. If you can become "part of the solution instead of part of the problem" I've noticed they will be far more likely to go out of their way to include you, and they will be far more open to what you have to say.

Here's a suggestion - it sounds like your son, like most kids, is looking for a way to stand out and be noticed. Every child wants the approval of his or her peers. However, this is the very sort of thing that causes disruption in class. Maybe you can help him find ways to stand out for things that aren't as disruptive. Show and tell is always a great tool for that. Help him come up with something that will have them talking for a week about it. Maybe he will have suggestions as to how he can get more "good" attention. Let him know that you understand how much fun it is to have people pay attention (and instead of following up with a 'but these are the wrong ways to get it' instead follow up with 'and here are some fun ways to do it').

Example: Is he a performer? Maybe you could help him come up with a puppet-onna-icecreamstick show for Show and Tell. Show him how to get his friends involved (pick two kids to hold the cow and the donkey puppets and tell them when to say moo/hee-haw). Have him ask the teacher to participate; the sight of their teacher making moo-ing noises ought to make the entire class laugh. (you might want to give her a heads-up beforehand and ask for her help)

However you do it, it's easier to influence someone if you are channeling and directing, not blocking. Use what's already there and see how you can turn it from something negative to something positive.

And one last thing...don't worry too much. Most of these behavioral issues sort themselves out as long as you continue to follow the principles of good parenting, and it sounds like you are.

  • 7
    "Now, the goofing off and funny noises may just be an excess of boy-ness." As the father of two young girls, I can assure this is a symptom of excess child-ness in general.
    – corsiKa
    Jun 9, 2015 at 21:01

Here is something that worked for us that resolved the "selective hearing" issue.

Every time you or your husband asks something of your child, insist that he responds. He has the freedom to disagree, but he has to say something. Or at least acknowledge that he heard you. Do it in a gentle way.

Also, pick one thing to work on at a time. For eg, during the week that you choose to work on the "selective hearing" issue, you cannot talk to him about his disruptive behavior in class or not finishing everything on his plate. No body likes being nagged all the time.

"Example: his school has a fire drill and the kids are to stay in line. My son sees an ant hill and has to walk over to it and check it out."

  • he is just being a 6 year old boy (like mine). Will he get a different teacher next year ? Looks like his teacher is not skilled enough to deal with disruptions in class room.

Also, look for any social skills groups for kids in your neighborhood.


I have no personal experience with this but I have three sons as well. Society expects a certain behaviour of our children, to sit quiet for long hours, to focus, to obey, to be detail oriented, but not every person is like this. According to the description of your son he is very inquisitive, physically active, and just gets bored in class and doesn't know what to do with his energy. Remember, the parents of those other 'bad boys' say the same to their sons, to not copy the other bad boys, including yours. Some people just function better in an environment that doesn't try to control them all the time. I'd say this is a positive characteristic. Maybe a school type that allows more freedom for self development is better suited for your son, like Montessori? Medication can't be the answer. Not everybody has to be a able to perform repetitive tasks like a factory worker, or sit concentrated in a chair for long hours to perform intellectual activity like an office worker.

  • An ADHD diagnosis doesn't mandate medication, but does open up avenues for behavior-based solutions that work with a child's attention problems.
    – Acire
    Jun 12, 2015 at 1:17

You wrote: "We've done time outs and daily good behavior charts. We've awarded little prizes on good behavior."

To me, this seems to be a strategy that could work out for toddlers but not schoolchildren.

The matter is this: You can't demand obedience without offering real rewards. In other words, you have to make a deal. You can't just tell them to do something. That's disrespectful. Punishments are also disrespectful.

It's true that some kids will obey because of other reasons, say out of fear or for praise but that is not a lasting effect. Instead, it will surely lead to reactance and rebellion later on, because the kid wants to reassure himself of his freedom.

If those complaints about your child are the only ones you have, your boy is perfectly normal.

When he disobeys the teacher, as we all did at some point, he just exercises his freedom and he knows there is no or very little reward in obeying.

Please consider an example: Soldiers obey because they get paid. Workers obey because they get paid. And teachers get paid, too. Even the priests and bishops and popes get paid.

And kids are quite fast in knowing what's going on - they know what all those adults value and love quite a lot. It's appreciation in form of money.

So, did you already try a (daily) allowance for him? You can give money for good grades, too.

It's our responsibility as parents not to exhaust the kid's good behavior by not rewarding it properly. And I'm sure your kid behaves well most of the time.

  • If there's actually ADHD involved, money (or indeed any reward) can be part of the solution, but on its own it is rarely sufficient enough to help a child focus. Even as an adult, knowing I need to concentrate in order to earn my paycheck, my ADHD can kick in and my mind can wander.
    – Acire
    Jun 12, 2015 at 1:20
  • I'm ADHD and I was abused as a kid because of it and I don't believe in physical punishment at all it won't help it will only make it worse
    – user26023
    Jan 6, 2017 at 1:29

i could say that the child don't have a fear or he does not have a the value of they parents and he not so maturity stage he doing just a childish behavior where we also used to do . what he is doing correct or wrong even he don't know that. that stage you have to make him release that you are getting insulted and be more strick . by not beating him he should be afraid of the parents . where he should get a fix mind that if I do something wrong my parents will scold me and they would also beat me. then see ...how it works. he enjoy doing that by giving a disrespect doing and his friend accompany him. ask that teacher who started give him a company in laughing warned them.

  • Beating isn't going to help an ADHD child focus, but it can make him self-conscious, fearful, convinced that he's incapable of doing a good job, and ultimately be less successful.
    – Acire
    Jun 12, 2015 at 1:23
  • I couldn't agree with you more Erica
    – user26023
    Jan 6, 2017 at 1:27

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