My boyfriend has a 6-year-old boy for whom he has primary custody over. He visits his mother for the summer, some holidays, talks to her via Skype and on the phone. He seems to have a very loving and great connection with her.

He just came back a few weeks ago and started first grade. So far it has been awful. He's had maybe one decent day out of a few weeks. He screams at the teacher, tells her no, doesn't do his work, runs away, hides, hits/pushes/pulls other kids' hair, poops his pants, etc. He has problems every single day of school.

Today, his teacher brought him out with no shoes and no backpack, because he threw his shoes and his backpack across the hall and she is over his behavior, so she just brought him out to us. She was obviously in distress, tears almost running down her face. I can tell that he is draining her, because she cannot do her job because of him.

As for his behavior at home, we have no problems for the most part. He has told his father "no" a few times and has accidents very rarely. For his punishment from his behavior at school, he has had his toys taken away, electronics taken away, movies taken away, he has gotten spanked on the butt, he has been told to calm down... we have done everything from going easy on him to being very stern. We are truly at a loss.

He has seen a therapist at his previous school in kindergarten and had seen a specialist. He also went to a camp while he was at his moms and had the same problems. He's said "I wish I was never born", "I hate myself" and other things to that affect. He has also threatened to stab other kids. We fear for his safety, for our safety, and the safety of others.

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    I believe I have an idea about what is going on, but I would like a clearer picture of the situation so I can provide a more comprehensive answer. Can you please provide details on the following: (1) How does the school handle EACH of the behavioral outbursts (e.g., X behavior receives Y response, Z behavior also receives Y response, B behavior receives C response, etc.)? (2) Have you all tried reward systems in addition to punishments? (3) Does his behavior tend to improve, worsen, or stay the same over the course of the year? (4) Has he been diagnosed with a mental or medical disorder?
    – Dr. Mom
    Commented Sep 7, 2017 at 21:16
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    Hi, Allie, and welcome. You can answer in comments, or you can edit the information into your post by clicking "edit" to the left of your name. The details will help the response to be more helpful. Thanks. Commented Sep 7, 2017 at 21:25
  • I would do a lot of research on what is hapening on the other side of the family. Privately is different than public. Have you also try doing more bounding? Like a shared hobby? Or is he more "alone" at home?
    – the_lotus
    Commented Sep 8, 2017 at 0:36
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    I'd like to provide an answer from another question that may (or may not) provide you with some insight. Especially the sections on ODD and ADHD, as these seem like very typical signs of those (although IANAD).
    – Anoplexian
    Commented Sep 29, 2017 at 17:39
  • Did you talk with him about why he does that? What did he say? He's quite old enough to be able to talk about his experiences at school.
    – sleske
    Commented May 4, 2018 at 11:36

2 Answers 2


Here's something to consider -

It's possible he is behaving this way because he's afraid or embarrassed he will "get it wrong"

My wife is a math interventionist, and a teacher in k-5 and when you sit down one on one with kids who are having troubles like this, you figure out that their idiotic behavior evens out as their confidence grows. It's strangely universal that all kids conclude the solution to hard things is to become a spectacle and tantrum your way out of it. Those who don't are part of the standard deviation.

Taking things away is right along the same path as the bully solution. The same solution they came up with to get out of having to do anything in class. Just be mean and it will all go away. So I don't think your punishment should be so obvious. I think you need to get tactical, and psychological.

I would use the outdoors personally. When you take him away from the toys, you are not taking the toys away, but you are making them unavailable. Now he has to focus on you. You can disguise every subject he will be facing in school as an outdoor activity. Sort of like what Miyagi did in the Karate Kid. You teach him indirectly and sort of piece together what he may be missing when he goes into school. It's not a matter of whether or not he actually knows what they're teaching, but whether or not he feels he will get it wrong, be made fun of, or nobody likes him. While there's plenty of social interactions missing from my plan, it might just be the confidence part that he needs.

First grade is very low level, but it is the first grade of actual school where there's things to do. If you have to come up with games or activities to interest him, you should have no problems figuring out basic puzzles and games at his level. I mean basic things like pretending you cant read a sign and asking him for help. Holding 5 grapes in your hand and asking him how many you'll have left if you give him 2. That kind of thing. Out and about in nature, away from the gizmos. And if he's not into nature, then contort that suggestion into whatever he is into that makes the distractions unavailable.

Keep asking him questions. Like - hey, how do you spell "we" again? and simple first grade things. Make him feel like he's helping you out. And exaggerate your level of appreciation when he does help out. Make him feel like helping is what he's good at and it may become true, and give him the confidence that he needs.

I agree with what Kathryn said in her answer - Home is where the fun is. Why can't I just stay home? That is a common thing among the ones who act out. But confidence is right up there as well.

Side note - If I had to guess, I'd say he didn't attend a preschool. Am I wrong about that?


This is a difficult situation. Because of his age, I don't think that punishments at home will effect his school behavior. Simply too much time has past between the behavior and the responses for a six-year old brain to fully make the connection.

I wonder if he is trying to get kicked out of school. Maybe he thinks if he misbehaves enough, the school will let him stay at home. I know this sounds a bit crazy, but I know of a kindergarten kid who did this because staying home meant watching TV and playing Nintendo.

Whatever his motivation, I think it's time for you and your husband to consider putting your son is a special ed class that has someone trained in emotional behavior disorder (EBD). Special ed classes are typically quite small, so your son will get more attention from the teachers. And the special ed teacher should have coping strategies that are not available to regular teachers.

I hope this helps.

  • Nothing wrong with thinking, but what sort of outcome do you have in mind? Commented May 11, 2018 at 6:37

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