I have a 4 yr. old Son, he was adopted at birth. His biological "mom" used meth during pregnancy. I knew that he could develop problems in regard to behaviors. He's extremely bright, learns easy and learns fast. His vocabulary is 100% as well as comprehension. He knows right from wrong, I'm certain of that.

However, he runs off when we're in public, and thinks it's funny, no consequence makes a difference, including a good spanking, which is the immediate response. He will run into a busy highway, with us chasing him with every ounce of strength we have.

He plays fairly good with other kids, but has to be in control, and if he don't have that control, he will hit, and hit hard. I've let the natural consequence take place whenever possible and he's been slapped or kicked by other kids and it's very deserved, but once again does no good.

He will scream "shut up" at us or his grandparents, or answer with a smart mouth "nope", over and again.

He's not destructive, loves to have stories told to him or for me to sing to him and he engages in conversation with interest and the ability to converse. When he's in preschool, he's good and has only been in time out a couple of time in the last year, his behavior is also very appropriate in Sunday School.

I question myself, constantly and wonder if I'm the problem. I took him to a child psychiatrist, who wanted to put him on several (4) different medications and never as much as did a physical or blood work on him. I'm guessing ADHD and defiant personality disorder, but simply don't know where to turn.

I'm scared and unfortunately coming apart. I love this child with every part of me, but I'm failing. I don't know where to turn, what to do or say and it's not hard to see what the future holds for him. Any suggestions or advise would be appreciated.

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    Hi Donna and welcome to the site. I've edited your question to make it a bit easier to read by breaking it into paragraphs. I've also removed the request for a doctor recommendation. We don't do resource recommendations here, nor do we do medical advice. If you need medical advice, see a doctor. If you need help finding a doctor, try various local resources (chamber of commerce, asking friends and family, etc.) or even use Google if you are out of ideas. Anyway, feel free to edit your question or rollback my edit if I didn't quite get the meaning or feel quite right.
    – Becuzz
    Apr 13, 2016 at 19:59
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    I don't really have an answer for you, but most of this doesn't seem too strange for a 4 year old. I personally don't think kids this age have 'smart' mouths - nope or no or saying shut up seems natural to me. he is discovering he has feelings and opinions that are HIS OWN and not others, and it can be a taxing process. I am patiently teaching my sons they have to say 'no thank you, I don't want to talk about that' rather than scream shut up. I have to respect their opinion and model a discussion, I reply with 'well, we have to talk about it, you can choose now or in 5 min' for instance.
    – Ida
    Apr 13, 2016 at 21:59
  • As it's currently written, the question is essentially "What should I do?" Asking such an open-ended question can make it hard to get quality answers. Can you narrow the focus down to a slightly more specific question? Apr 14, 2016 at 18:36

2 Answers 2


Sounds like typical 4 year old behavior, to me. You have a smart kid, one you can be proud of, who knows how to behave in certain settings but doesn't when with you. When with you, he feels safe enough to let himself show how he's really feeling. That's a good thing, for all that it's aggravating. I understand it's a touchy subject, but since you asked for advice-- I would stop spanking. It's been shown to increase antisocial and impulsive behaviors in children, and that is the opposite of what you're going for. Some things to try instead:

  • Talking to his preschool & Sunday school teachers to learn what's working there.
  • Paying attention to his interactions with peers and intervening before it comes to blows.
  • Ignoring his smart mouth. It doesn't hurt anyone, really. Address it again once you've dealt with the violence and self-endangering behaviors.
  • Giving lots of praise when he does things correctly.

You might find a parenting book or two helpful. It will take trying a few to find one that works for your family, so head over to the library. One that might apply well for your son is: Raising Your Spirited Child


My son was born under nearly identical circumstances, and has had very similar behavior challenges. I would caution you to avoid attributing all his behavior to the circumstances of his birth. That leads you to view it as an unavoidable part of who he is, when really it's something he can work on and improve over time. His birth likely played a factor, but you don't want to view it as a disproportionate factor.

First of all, don't lose heart if things people claim work for other children don't work for your son. It can make you feel like there's something you're just not "getting." Our daughter requires a tenth the effort to discipline compared to our son, and I'm not exaggerating. All his misbehaviors are typical for a child his age, but what people don't get is he does them with much higher frequency and intensity. We have no other option but to be stricter with him.

People who watch him for an hour at church don't understand. People who only have typical children don't understand. Grandparents don't understand. School teachers understand a little. Therapists and other professionals understand a little. Only other parents of similar children who have the responsibility 24/7 understand fully. You have to figure out most of it for yourself.

As far as the psychologist and medication goes, there is no blood test they can do to test for ADHD and the like. The best they can do is try out some medication and see how they respond. If it doesn't work, they best they can do is make adjustments and try again. Not everyone is comfortable with medication, but you shouldn't let a lack of a blood test be the deciding factor.

What helps the most for our son is giving him plenty of outlets for physical energy, giving him extremely clear expectations, and a strong routine. He is nine now and at a point where he behaves pretty well as long as we watch him like a hawk. I don't know if that's comforting or terrifying. Hang in there, you're doing a better job than you think.

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