My son just turned 5 this July. He has behavior problems I have had him enrolled in about 3 different schools( Not this year - in about a 3 year time frame).

I have gotten a call from school twice this week asking me to get my son from school because his behavior is uncalled for yelling, kicking the desks spitting in the teachers faces,etc.. He recently saw a behavioral therapist and I don't think that helped much.

He has a hard time sitting down and focusing on one subject for example Having him do a homework project which is just writing his name he doesn't seem to want to focus on this).
His teacher has told me that if there doing a group activity he does not want to participate but if its one on one with the teacher he does a fantastic job and is eager to learn.. I'm worried because school will start in about 2 weeks and I am nervous on how he will respond to the change.

My son is very smart and bright always on the go always wants to be outside doing something, he is very caring and loving.

His father and I are not together I feel like I am the only parent that provides discipline for my child, when he goes to his fathers house which is every other weekend he comes back with an attitude doesn't want to listen I feel that when he goes to his fathers he thinks its like Disney because he does what ever he wants.

I have tried spanking but this does not seem to work as he tells me this doesn't hurt.

If I try and talk to him he shuts down doesn't want to talk or if he doesn't I'll threaten him saying he's going to bed when he gets home or not going to your fathers house this weekend (bc that's what he looks forward too) he will then say I am not talking to you anymore I am not talking to anyone.

I've had him tell me I am mean. I need some help with what I can do to change my behavior and also suggestions to help him?

  • 3
    When I was a kid (9-12 years old), back in the mid to late 70s, I knew another kid whose parents were divorced. Each parent treated him like a king, trying to outdo each other apparently. The kid's behavior suggested their method was a disaster. I remember him swearing like a sailor when we were in 3rd grade (F..k and C..t were his favorites...not kidding). It was even worse than that. Parental disagreement about discipline is a recipe for disaster, in my opinion. Commented Jul 30, 2016 at 3:43
  • I feel the answers and comments at parenting.stackexchange.com/questions/26671/… will be applicable here. Same base concept.
    – Jeff.Clark
    Commented Aug 5, 2016 at 16:31

3 Answers 3


I'm sorry this is happening. Please start with neuropsychological testing as soon as possible. I have a 6 year old same thing. Boston Children's Hospital has been awesome. If there is a Children's Hospital near you, ask your pediatrician for a referral. My son has Aspergers which I suspected. Knowing now helps me develop a new toolkit so to speak. There is an online place to start at www.cognoa.com. if it weren't for them I would still be floundering. They are not affiliated with Boston Children's. Don't wait longer ok... Don't let anything stop you from getting a complete assessment. I have an adult daughter (30) whom I had such problems with. She is just now being diagnosed with Aspergers. She is my little 6 year Olds bio mom. I adopted him as she could not care for him. I was afraid to search for help outside of the Internet: Afraid I would be blamed Afraid that the belief that I was a bad mom would be a reality Afraid (irrationally so) I would lose my daughter Afraid I wouldn't be able to ever understand or do the work that needed to be done And...I was exhausted! I still am. But I want this little guy to have a better chance, so I am going for it. His bio mom (my dtr) is a mess, and living a bad way. I am going to get all the help I can for this guy no matter how afraid I am. I hope this helps... You can do what it takes. Keep us posted.. Donna

  • This is something a behavioral therapist should have caught. That being said; however, I think this is a reasonable suggestion. One thing the OP doesn't mention is if the child is sensitive to touch, light etc. Also if said child has anything he obsesses over.
    – L.B.
    Commented Aug 9, 2016 at 15:57

There's a lot going on here. Children are constantly making decisions about themselves, their world, and how they can work on that world. They have an innate need for significance and belonging. Significance comes from capabilities, from working things out, from having a voice and being heard, from being involved in what happens to them, and from making choices and contributing. Belonging comes from connection, socialization, family, being involved usefully, and the message of love. "Love, is the completion of the law" as they say. Because these needs are his human needs, he will get them. Positively, or negatively, he will get them. Misbehavior is communication. In fact, we cannot not communicate. He's communicating that he's discouraged. His misbehavior, imagine with me for a moment, is telling you, "I'm a child, and I need to feel significant, I need to belong, I'm not clear on how to do that right now. Can you help me?" Now, because you're obviously a mom that wants the best for her kid, and are doing the best you can with the limited resources you are aware of, you're here saying "yes baby, mama will help you!!" First things first, have a conversation with your ex, and agree with him that you can both focus on a single effective parenting style. Agree that your child's needs far outweigh any animosity either of you may have. Agree that though you may not be together, you can still parent collaboratively, because your son has the right to feel significant and to feel belonging. Agree to work together. Keep notebook to communicate if your unable to do so by phone productively. Share any materials, literature, or information you may have with each other. Focus on your boy, talk about him, and let your actions and behaviors communicate that to each other, but most of all, to him. Second, get on one plan. Forego any discouragement, negativity, or pain. Leave behind punishment, and seek encouragement strategies. "No blame no shame no pain" , Jane Nelson, the internationally renowned author would say in her many parenting books. She has been my teacher(now esteemed colleague) for twenty years and I have worked with hundreds and hundreds of families all over the world. Though, I would likely recommend an evaluation to rule out any learning delay or disability, I would transform the Parenting experience you currently live for sure.
Third, seek out a Certified Parent Educator and Parenting Coach to guide you and your ex with research based parenting help. There's so much that you can do right now to help your son, together.
Four, here's the part that gets your head spinning. Start this out with an apology to your child. Not because you are to blame, or to cause you guilt, or despair. More so to mark a new moment of mutual respect, a new choice, a new plan. "honey, I wanted to speak to you because I RECOGNIZE that things are probably hard on you, and can be confusing. I feel the same way and I ADMIT that yelling, spanking, or punishing you, haven't been the best way to show you how to do things, or to help you learn. I'm APOLOGIZING because, though I never wanted to, I can see my choices have hurt, and I want to tell you that I'm going with a new PLAN. (R. A. A. P.) From now on, I won't yell, or punish you. I am going to learn a better way to be the best parent I can be for both of us. I am taking classes to do that. I will need your help, and I may make mistakes, but I know that together, we will be ok. " I love you" hug it out.
Now, begin by simply spending undivided 1 to 1 time with him for 10-15 minutes twice per day, every day doing what he loves to do, present, focused, undistracted by cell, cooking, laundry, bills,. Be there with him, connecting. Do this everyday.
At a neutral calm time tell your boy that you know how it feels to be angry, in a calm voice, tell him that you've felt angry before, tell him that its ok to be angry but not ok to hurt others or destroy things. Brainstorm different solutions that are other alternatives to handling anger (taking a walk, drawing, singing, jumping up and down, telling someone, going to a quiet space, pillow fight, hammering pegs, etc.) Then make a wheel he can choose from. Now time role play it. Role play a couple of times. Make a copy of the wheel for school, or that he can carry with him. Laminated picture Cards on a ring would work too. Last but not least, model the behaviors you want your son to imitate. One of those is disconnecting. The next time things get hot, remove any danger, without a word, then disconnect by telling him that you're going to your quiet space. Tell him that you can talk about solutions when you can both be respectful (and that means not screaming).
This is all like learning a new language. It takes practice, laugh when you do something awkward or silly, and learn from mistakes. There is no failure only feedback. You choose, you always have. Best to you and your family.


Get him on an IEP, get him "504'ed". That will protect him from being kicked out, and, will get him an aide. This might not work in private or charter schools, each state is different. But for public schools, he'd be protected by Americans with Disabilities act.

Getting him 504'ed is easy: just tell the school he has a social problem, and - voila! - he's protected under ADA. The school will then be forced to qualify him, and set up a process to help him - that's what the IEP is for.

If you are unsure about this, talk with your pediatrician. You can also talk to his school, they are familiar with the process, and they do it all the time.

Take a look here: Americans with Disabilities Act

Also, I don't know what state (or country) you're in; in the US, each state has a constitution which covers students with disabilities, and also has resources to assist with people in your situation.

So, as I reside in New Jersey, I had several resources:

  • Office of Licensing - they ensure schools comply with ADA
  • Office of Civil Affairs - they ensure schools do not violate student's rights
  • Child Protection Services (formerly, Division of Youth and Family Services)

One thing that helped me big-time was PerformCare, a division of Child Protection Services consisting of therapists and counselors that were contracted through CPS/DYFS (yes, the same department famous(?) for taking kids away from bad parents; that's not all that they do: they can help you here). I liked PerformCare, because the therapists came to your home to do the counseling. This is roughly how the process worked:

  1. Call Child Protection Services, tell them you need counseling services for your child

  2. They will create a case number for you (as well as interview you). They will generally guide you through the rest of the process, but I'll spell out what we did for posterity

  3. Take that case number you got from CPS/DYFS, call PerformCare (or the equivalant for your state), and give them the case number

  4. You will answer a series of questions, about 10 minutes

  5. After that, they will schedule a more in-depth interview for you, your child, and maybe your family members

  6. An agent from DYFS and PerformCare will arrive at your home (don't be alarmed, this is expected)

  7. You will go through a rigorous 4-hour interview, focusing on what you've tried, what is happening, what the schools are doing; they'll ask about history, your upbringing - everything. Answer candidly!

  8. After that interview, they leave, and separately review that interview

  9. They will make recommendations about what kind of services they can provide. For example, my son needed anger management help, body control help, and sensory interruptions for his ADHD. They recommended 3 therapists for anger management; 3 therapists for ADHD; and 3 therapists for dealing with sensory issues. We chose one from each category, based on those therapists timeframes. Cost is paid for by the state!

  10. Therapists came to the home - three per week, one for each issue - for one hour each. This is called "intensive psychological help", and lasts for 3-4 weeks. After that, it calms down, and visits focus on treatment, remedies, and resources for both the child and the family.

  11. After about 4 months, if you feel you need more counseling, you can petition CPS/DYFS to give you more time, but you only get one extension. Some states might give you more time, others might not give you an extension. Others might give you 6 months, others might not have a limit.

In the meantime, you'll hopefully get a diagnosis of his condition, and so, you'll have resources to help you and your child cope with whatever affliction he's diagnosed with.

During all of this, work with your son's teachers, aides, and guidance counselors. Sign all agreements allowing them all to speak to each other; if you don't you become the bottle neck, and communication is slowed. Best to let them do the communicating, but, you have to sign documents to let them do that.

Also during all this, CPS/DYFS will periodically visit you. Not so much to keep an eye on you, but they're paying the bills, so they want to be sure the therapists are showing up and that you feel they're doing a good job. Any hint that someone's not doing their job, they should try to fix it in some way.

In the meantime, I understand when you say he's "bad" - I've been there. But it is better to say "he's misbehaving", or, "he could improve his behavior" - it's less negative. I'm not into PC terms, but he'll live up to these things, so, focus more on the positive and ignore the negative where possible. Don't say he's "bad".

Also, set up a structure of discipline - and be consistent and FOLLOW THROUGH. Your counselors can guide you through all this, but it doesn't hurt to restate it. You mentioned spanking. That's a hot-button topic in all states. You are allowed to spank your child in most states child even where it's explicitly banned - you just can't leave a mark - and red spots are marks. However, while you are under the care of CPS/DYFS, you will need to abandon any corporal punishments. Timeouts, taking away activities - these are all what CPS/DYFS will steer you to. It's okay to tell them you spank your child, too. (They'll ask your son anyway, expect him to give honest answers. So don't lie.)

You will also need to coordinate with his father - who will also undergo an interview with CPS/PerformCare, and even counselors. If he refuses, that's an issue for the state to deal with, he'll eventually have to - and even be forced to through the courts. Otherwise, the state can refuse to help you (unless there's allegations of abuse, but you didn't hint that was an issue here).

One more thing: Everyone focuses on the kids. It's always about the kids. The kids get child care reimbursement, free/reduced lunches, use of parks. There's always some toy or clothing drive to help kids.

But the adults get nothing.

You need to make it unequivocally clear to CPS/DYFS, and your son's therapists, that YOU need resources too: books, seminars, workshops, data sheets - everything. You're going to raise him the rest of his life, they leave after 6 months. He's nothing but a case number to them. So take advantage of the system and the therapists who are there, and get tips on dealing with his behavior, as well as tips on working with "the system".

I promise: this is an uphill battle, and he will continually be threatened with expulsion. But if you show that you are working to help him, and work with the school system, they can be very compassionate. So arm yourself with knowledge and resources - as much as you can get. Learn how to talk to people in the system, learn the ins and outs of navigating a system designed to protect themselves.

YOU are his ONLY advocate! Be his hero.

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