Our son has been making some really bad choices lately and we don't know how to help him anymore. A few weeks ago he was playing with his new multitool from scouts but was running in the yard with it and threatening kids in the yard and stabbing trees, we were quickly alerted to this from his older sibling and stopped the behavior and had a conversation about safety and violence and fear.

Last week he and his younger brother(3 years) were "play fighting" and he used his size and strength to "beat" his younger brother with a baseball bat. We of course removed the bat and he was sent to time out and grounded. Often he takes things that arent his without permission, sometimes breaking them and hiding them. During a tour of the fire department he was being "goofy" with his friends and laughingly tried to make a joke about blowing up the school (I don't think he realized what he was saying). We had a POINTED conversation about the violence and dangers of what he was saying. Yesterday he found some brake clean in the garage and sprayed it all over some foam. I'm assuming he thought it looked cool since it was melting but severely dangerous. We've tried grounding him, taking away video games, all electronics, no TV, took all the toys out of his room, took away all his toy weapons and nerf guns. He is active in sports and other extra curricular activites. We've tried tough love, and we've tried just more love. We've tried reward systems and extra one on one attention. We've tried positive praise and encouragement. I'm afraid for him and I don't know what else to do. I know part of it is just typical boyhood curiosity, but it's like literally every day he's getting into something, or screwing off or misbehaving. We wondered if he was angry about his bio dad leaving when he was 3, but my husband has been in his life for so long, he's had a stable adult male in his life. It's discouraging that our extended family's first suggestion is always counseling. There has to be other ways we can address this or investigate more before therapy.

He struggles in school too, with not raising his hand, reluctant to follow instructions, dawdling hoping he won't have to finish an assignment or station. He gets along well with other kids, he's happy, kind. He eats well, he sleeps well, he gets lots of physical activity and lots of opportunity to learn and experience things. We have several family members close by. I'm just at my wits end. Thank you.

1 Answer 1


Your description of his behavior at school has some important hints for what could be driving him:

He struggles in school too, with

  1. not raising his hand, (impulsive)
  2. reluctant to follow instructions, (lack of concentration)
  3. dawdling hoping he won't have to finish an assignment or station. (struggles to finish assignments)

Those comments from your post match exactly the kind of behavior my son had at school before he was diagnosed with ADHD and started medications.

You might consider having your son evaluated for ADHD, and if he does have ADHD the diagnosis will give you a deeper understanding of how his brain works, or doesn't.

I'm not sure where your view of counseling has come from, but I am aware that there are bad counselors out there, and that there are wonderful counselors out there that are truly dedicated to children and their families.

My son had a counselor, and this was an enormous blessing to his life and to mine. His counselor was a trusted adult outside of our family that was there for him, 100%, and there for our family, 100%. This is the only kind of counselor that I would accept for my son and my family.

To be very clear, my son did not have a mental health disorder. His pediatrician did not suggest or diagnose that he had a mental health disorder. The pediatric specialist was a bit diagnosis happy when we first saw her, but respected the fact that I would not start more than one treatment for my son at a time, so we treated ADHD first, and only after he'd been on ADHD meds for a while would I allow the doctor to evaluate him again. Doctors diagnose and suggest. Parents decide on treatments.

As far as aggressive and dangerous behavior, my daughter was very ADHD and very aggressive and sometimes dangerous when she was off of her meds. When she didn't have her meds she reverted to a much younger age in her behavior, and she did things that much younger children would do, and that was a problem because she was as strong and as big as a 7yo, but behaved much like a 3yo.

When my daughter had all of her ADHD meds, she was not aggressive, she did not express her anger physically, at school she looked and behaved like every other 1st grader.

You might observe your son's behavior specifically to look for behaviors that younger children have. If he does have these behaviors, I'm not saying that he has ADHD, it could be that he's developing at a rate that's just a bit slower than other children, and still well within the range of normal for his age. I am saying that your observations of your son are the most valuable observations of his behavior because you know him the best.

With both of my children, we started with a visit to their pediatrician. They put in a referral to a pediatric specialist for an evaluation for ADHD, and to a children's counselor, and it changed all of our lives for the better.

I recognize so much of your post as things I could have written myself years ago, I hope that somewhere in my answer you'll find something that helps you and your family.

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