I have a son and getting married with the mother of three children in a few weeks. She has an 8-year-old son, whom this question is about, and an older son and a younger daughter. All is well with everything with the exception of the 8-year-old boy.

His mum and dad separated 4 years ago, he's 8 now. His older brother and younger sister appear to have handled things well enough and are mostly pretty well behaved. But he's really a challenge most of the time. We've tried everything that we can think of to help him. I have a son too, and he gets on well with the new family.

So the 8-year-old's behavior issues can vary. He will regularly hit the other kids if he does get his way, he's been in trouble at school for this, too. It all started long before mum and I got together, so I don't think it's the new environment that's unsettling him.

As an example, this weekend...

I build him a new wardrobe and he sorted out some lego. The other two came in and said that a lot of his lego display was made up of theirs that he had taken. A scuffle ensued. Essentially he couldn't see that taking something was wrong, even if he wanted it. He firmly believed that finders keepers was ok and the only issue was that the others were ruining his display.

Secondly, he was then caught digging up part of the garden with a spade. I asked him not to and said he needed to be the big boy and show the younger kids the right way to behave in the garden, thinking this would be encouraging good behavior. Two minutes later, he was throwing the spade at someone and then threw a stick onto the neighbor's roof. When I asked him why he could only say he did it because he wanted to.

It's like there is no filter about what is ok and what isn't, it's always justified by him saying he did it because he wanted to.

We've tried reward charts, removing privileges, banning electronics, TV, encouraging, playing one on one with him. Just don't know what to do to get through to him. He's a fab kid when he wants to be and is very loving, (a bit too touchy feely), and has no idea about personal space (for example, he will try and sit on visitors' laps and stroke their faces etc.), but when he gets one on him he just does what he wants and there's no regard for anyone else.

What can we do to improve his behavior?

  • 3
    Incorrigible behavior that is not responding to normal behavioral interventions may have biological roots. It may be worth your whole to talk to a pediatrician, since medical advice is outside the scope of SE, if only to rule out autism, brain injury, and other issues that can express the same way.
    – pojo-guy
    Commented Apr 3, 2018 at 12:00

1 Answer 1


It sounds like the family changes are not the root cause. As another mentioned, start with his medical doctor. However also considered strongly a child therapist/councilor.

My family has been through a great deal and a family psychologist has been able to help all of us. She sometimes sees my son alone and sometimes we all go together. It is great to simply have a third party who is not invested give guidance.

Those same issues that brought us to the psychologist are also biological in that each of us has either a disability or mental illness do work through.

Diagnosis of mental illness for your child might be the best thing to ever happen for him. Or perhaps there is an underlying learning disability.

We were getting phone calls from my sons school almost daily about behavior issues. Then we found he is dyslexic. That changed everything and now he is happy and not a behavior problem

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