My son is 6, 7 next month. He's having a lot of problems at school.

At the beginning of the year he was getting tallies and notes sent home because he was hitting, pushing, kicking other kids at school. When asked "why" it's always in response to something they had done. He has an excuse for everything, it's always someone else's fault.

Since then his teacher recommended the star chart and it worked so well that we started to use it for other problems he was having. We've used it for getting up out of his seat, blurting out, and more recently following directions.

Since returning to school after Christmas break his behavior has plummeted. He loses multiple stars everyday for things like, "getting mad his pencil broke and threw the lead tip and hit another student" to "disrespectful to teachers". His teacher called me the other day to tell me that he was so mad he had to pull a tally and lose a star that he started yelling that he hates school, he hates his family, everybody hates me etc. and wants him to speak to a counselor about his anger. He came home that day with a bruised forehead because he was so mad he tried to hurt himself.

His behavior at home is so up and down. One minute he's in a great mood, nice to his siblings, happy and playing. One thing will happen and he just goes off, screaming at his sister, hitting the dog, yelling that nobody likes him. Tonight we were playing a family game and after giving him multiple chances to play the right way we sent him to bed and he screamed and cried in his room for a good 20 minutes.

We explain to him and explain to him until we're blue in the face that we love him but he cannot act this way. We've made charts at home for rewards based his behavior and he still can't seem to make good decisions, and just get's mad all over again when he hasn't earned a reward. He's extremely intelligent and get's good grades at school, but he's also extremely emotional and once he get's set off it seems to ruin the rest of his day.

Could it be ADHD? Does he have emotional problems? I don't want to put him on medicine but I just don't know what to do.

  • 2
    We can't provide a diagnosis; it could be any number of things, but a complete and thorough evaluation is critical to getting the right answer (and therefore the right solution). I will note that ADHD doesn't require medication, and many of its symptoms can be handled with behavioral interventions or school accommodations.
    – Acire
    Feb 5, 2016 at 1:57
  • 3
    Your son really sounds like he needs a win. Is there some way to give him a day with goals he cant fail at? Like take him to his favorite place and really spend some bonding time with him. Let him pick the activities and maybe even let him choose when its time to go home and what to have on the pizza for dinner. I don't mean this as a reward, but just let him feel what its like to be "successful" so that he can remember that YES he can do this and NO hes not a "bad" kid or nobody likes him etc.
    – user7678
    Feb 5, 2016 at 12:36

2 Answers 2


It sounds like you are a wonderful parent, and you have good reason to believe you are doing all you can in the home. There is something called "mismatch" where even the best-intentioned parents and kids just aren't a good fit, which causes strife, but your situation seems way different.

Your child needs an evaluation by a mental health professional. Your school counselor may have someone in mind. My bias in a situation with potential for harm and difficulties in multiple settings would be a psychiatrist--they may not just throw a medicine at you; they may work with a psychologist or be prone to therapy. However, if this is a major disorder, or the prodrome of a major disorder [by these I mean ADHD, mood disorder, or psychotic disorder], then it's a good idea to have a doctor involved. Speaking of which, your pediatrician should be notified and consulted.

A wait-and-see approach may be considered, but how often can a child act out before becoming ostracized or parents refusing play dates?

Some information you may need are changes in appetite or sleep patterns; sustained periods of euphoria, irritability, or depression; descriptions of make-believe (your son's sense of reality); focus and attention--both to things liked and disliked; consolability; and the status of his relationships with his attachments (those around him daily).

Hope this helps.


I just want to give a perspective as a mother. Of course I can't answer your question. I'm not a medical professional. I'm also not a native Englisch speaker.

Maybe he is scored to much. I feel like every behaviour is evaluated against stars. Maybe he thinks his feelings are wrong. That something about himself is wrong.

Could you stop using this score system for a while and help him manage his feelings with time ins. Nobody in this world can be happy and nice all the time. So when he is angry and thinks he is not allowed to, this could make him feel something is wrong with him. This sets him up for a downward spiral.

Maybe he just needs more help and attention managing his feelings instead of score cards. All feelings are always valid. It's just the mismanagement that causes problems.

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