Our 4-year-old son is an only child who behaves well at home and perfectly when out in public but constantly acts up at school. While he is impulsive, he is also smart and is academically far above his peers. He pokes his friends or grabs their toys instead of using his words, which he has plenty of. He also dumbs himself down at school telling the teacher he doesn't know something, when he knows it very well. He would prefer to deal with adults than children, which is great, but not while he’s in school. We need help. Please.
You hit on a key topic when you mentioned that he is academically advanced. His boredom might explain some of his behaviors. To a child, any attention is better than no attention at all. If you want the behavior to change, you'll need to effectively use positive and negative consequences. A positive consequence will increase the chance of a behavior happening. For example, if your son receives a good report from school one day, he can pick out a special treat for a snack. A negative consequence will decrease the chance of a behavior happening. If your son receives a bad report from school he loses a privilege. Administering consequences is more than just giving a punishment; it's a time for parents to teach their children why they are receiving a good/bad consequence for what specific behavior.
Keep your consequences age appropriate, relevant and immediate. Above all, be consistent. While it takes time, stick with your strategy, and you will see changes. Talk with your son’s teachers about how they can participate.
The good news is you know that your son has the ability to behave himself, and what a compliment to have people telling you that! Not all parents have that same experience with their little ones.
I am having issues with my six- and eight-year-old daughters. We have tried every punishment in the book and always stick with it, but they just don't care. We don’t take them out in public because we are embarrassed by their behavior. We don’t give them everything because we cannot afford to. We try to reward good behavior, but that only lasts for a few hours. I am thinking about military school.
Thank you for contacting us. We receive messages and calls every day from parents like you who are looking for ways to help their children.
Children at this age are learning how to be more independent and to feel they’re in control of the house. Because of this, they constantly test limits set by parents and other authority figures. Parenting is a tough job, but you can regain your authority, help your daughters turn their negative behaviors into positive actions and feel like you can take them in public again.
Discipline is very important, but it is also just as important to praise children. For every one negative consequence, give your daughters four praises. Try catching them being good. That can be pretty difficult when it seems as if all they do is seek negative attention. Try spending 15 minutes a day with each of them alone; let them choose what you do during that time and be sure to praise, laugh and smile with them.
The school that your daughters attend can also be a resource for you. Every school district has counselors. Request that they come and observe your daughters in the classroom, conduct an evaluation and also inquire about their in-home services. You might be able to get some help when the girls are at home. If you'd like more advice about this situation or anything else, call us 24/7 at 1-800-448-3000.
My seven-year-old child has a best friend in the final stages of a long battle with cancer. How do we tell her and her 10 year-old brother that the friend is dying and won't be with us much longer? They know he is sick but are unaware how little time remains. Any advice would greatly be welcomed.
We appreciate you emailing us. Death and dying is never an easy subject to discuss, especially where young children are concerned. However, the family values that you hold dear can be a source of strength and comfort as you share this difficult news with your children.
If your family is one that has spiritual beliefs, you may want to try talking with them from a spiritual perspective. Children are very receptive to messages of love and peace when it comes to the lives of others. You can also try opening the conversation with a "What if..." question and see how they respond. Allow them to share their thoughts and feelings and to ask questions. Give answers in words they will understand and don’t be afraid to use stories, as children are receptive to stories and illustrations.
Encourage them to celebrate their friend’s life after he’s gone by creating a memory/scrapbook, planting a tree or making a small donation they raise themselves to the hospital or cancer organization in his honor. The goal is to understand that even though their friend may have left this world physically, his spirit can live on through them.
If you'd like more advice about this situation or anything else, call us 24/7 at 1-800-448-3000.
I have a 19-month-old son who is not interested in eating and doesn’t say simple words like “mama.” His doctor wants him to gain more weight, but he is growing in height not weight. My husband and I were both skinny as babies, so I think it could be genetic. Should I be worried?
Thanks for reaching out to us today about your concerns with your young child. Any parent would be concerned if their child was not eating. Most children at this age are focused on getting into things and less focus on eating. If your child is not eating at all, then this is not normal and is something you should tell his doctor.
In the meantime, try feeding after a big playtime, when he has built up an appetite. Remove distractions so his attention is on eating. Try different foods and realize that the more foods you expose your child to, the more luck you will have finding something that he’ll like. Record what your son eats and when and give that to his doctor to help him understand what’s going on.
If you feel in your gut something is wrong, or you think your child might be ill in any way, do not hesitate to reach out to your doctor. They can alleviate your stress by reassuring you that everything is OK, or telling you what to try to make sure that your child is gaining the appropriate amount of weight.
My son suffers from ADHD and mild depression. He has trouble with social skills at school and has very few friends. One boy in particular is always bothering him and when my son retaliates, he usually gets into trouble. He is very close to getting suspended. Can you suggest any words or actions that my son can take so that he does not end up getting in a fight and getting suspended?
We're glad you contacted us about your son. Parenting is never easy and when you add ADHD to the mix, it makes things even more difficult. You are right to help your son learn social skills, but this can be difficult, and you need support in the process.
It is common for children with ADHD to have trouble making friends. If you’re not already, start working with the school and your son’s therapist on ways to help your son. The best treatment approach for a child with ADHD is to get the school, therapist, doctor, and parents involved in his learning and therapy.
A therapist can help with things like following instructions, impulse control, accepting decisions and communicating honestly. If he's not already working with a therapist, we encourage you to start. This will benefit the whole family.
Work on friendship skills together at home. Practice and role-play different scenarios and teach him how he should respond. Set up a pretend situation where you are the "bully." Before you practice, tell your son exactly what you want him to do. It might sound like this: "We are on the playground, and I am going to come up and push you. I want you to stand up, walk away and tell the teacher." Practice and if he does exactly what you tell him to do, praise him! It may seem very basic, but this is probably what he needs.
My girlfriend has been adamant that her five-year-old son have his own room in my house. The room is now up, but he never sleeps in it. Yet I don't believe he has spent one entire night in there since the room's inception. Though I have made the point very clear that he is old enough to sleep in his own room, she insists that he sleep in the bed with her until "he's ready to sleep by himself." My girlfriend won’t sleep without the TV on and constantly argues with her son about watching it instead of sleeping. How do I approach my girlfriend in a way that won't make her think I'm criticizing her skills or ignoring her wishes?
Thank you for writing to us. You addressed a very important issue concerning bedtime. You should talk directly with your girlfriend about what your involvement in rearing her child should be. It was considerate of you to make space for her son, and we’re sure that this all seems a little new and fresh. Routine and consistency go hand in hand when it comes to this issue. Establishing a bedtime routine can boost success.
Help get her son into the routine of brushing his teeth, getting into his bed for a story and then lights out. Watching TV before going to sleep can be counterproductive because it actually stimulates your brain. Other activities such as reading or listening to relaxing music have a more soothing effect.
Children respond more enthusiastically to a bedtime routine when parents participate. You and your girlfriend can offer encouragement during this routine which will make it more enjoyable for him. Offering these suggestions to your girlfriend might work, but be prepared for any resistance. You mentioned she said he'll sleep in his room when he's ready, but it sounds as if she's the one who isn't ready. You might want to address this with her. Approach her with sensitivity and let her know upfront that you aren't trying to attack her parenting skills.
My son’s kindergarten class uses a smiley face (good), straight face (somewhat misbehaved) and sad face (misbehaved greatly) system for marking behavior. While he started off the year well, for the past three and half weeks, he has brought home only straight and sad faces. His misbehavior is expressed as excessive talking at inappropriate times, running or something tied to his energy level. We have tried lowering the sugar in his diet, taking away his favorite things, issuing timeouts, explaining why it’s important to pay attention at school and creating a reward system if he brings home smiley faces. How can I help him calm down at school?
Thanks for contacting us with your parenting concern. It sounds like you have tried many strategies in hopes of getting your son to be successful at school. Hang in there and remember that parenting strategies often have to be modified to fit the needs of our children.
Perhaps delivering some rewards, as well as consequences throughout the school day, will help him realize what's acceptable and what's not acceptable. Consequences (both positive and negative) are most effective when they’re issued right after the negative or positive behavior. It's possible that waiting until he comes home to receive his reward or punishment is too long of a time span for him to connect it to his behaviors. To help modify this, talk with your school about how they may help implement your motivation system. They should be willing to work with you as they're just as frustrated with your son's behaviors as you.
Be as consistent as possible. Remember that change doesn't happen overnight and that your son will resist everything at first. Push through that resistance until you start to notice small changes in his behaviors. Set realistic expectations. Set a goal of one positive action a week rather than having positive days every day of the week. Praise him for even the smallest positive changes and stick with it. Your hard work and consistent training will pay off with changed behavior.
Our six-year-old brings items home from school that are not his. He says that his friends give him these items or that they let him borrow them for a few days. We encourage him to return everything the next school day, but he often forgets. When I question my son, he sticks to his story but knows I'm not quite sure I believe him. How do we find out if he is telling the truth? How do I know if he’s borrowing or stealing?
Young children can have difficulty telling the truth. Sometimes it's just an attempt to avoid conflict, punishment or embarrassment. However, it is important to deal with the behavior as soon as possible so that it does not get out of hand.
Talk to your son in depth about the nature of his “borrowing” behaviors. Try to keep your questioning neutral so that he does not resort to lying to avoid punishment. Help him explore what he could do differently in the future. For example, before accepting anything from another child, instruct him to clear it with you first or be sure that the teacher is aware of what is going on. Meet with the teacher about your son’s behavior. It well may help determine a course of action.
If your son doesn't have a hobby, you may want to explore the idea with him. He may find it fascinating and become more focused on his own collection then picking up things at random, or bringing things home that belong to other children. Anything ranging from rocks to baseball cards are a collector's dream, especially for young boys. Let him give it a try; you may be surprised at the change in his focus.
My four-year-old sleeps with us every night. He starts out in his bed but comes into our room in the middle of the night. This has been going on for several years. We have tried rewards if he sleeps in his bed all night, but that doesn't seem to work. We have tried putting him back in his bed but later in the night, he will return to our room. What do you suggest?
It is difficult when our children do not sleep through the night in their own beds. When children learn sleep patterns, they learn not only how to go to bed (which your son seems to have no trouble doing) but also getting back to sleep when woken. It appears he does not have this ability. He has developed a pattern of only returning to sleep when he is in your bed. So, you need to retrain his brain.
Dr. Patrick Friman has written an excellent and somewhat funny book titled Good Night, Sweet Dreams, I Love You: Now Get into Bed and Go to Sleep! You can find it at boystownpress.org. The book talks about continuing to be consistent and calm and offers techniques that you can try to help your son learn to sleep through the night in his own room.
One method that may work for you is the robotic return. Hold his hand and calmly walk him back to his own bed without making any eye contact. Be like a robot, you are not upset or cuddly, just returning him to bed. However you decide to approach this issue, remember to stay calm and focus on praising his positive change.
My five-year-old son has always been very busy, like he had a rocket-booster in his back. He is also very stubborn and seems to want to do the opposite of what we want, no matter what it is. He recently started not wanting to go to preschool or cooperate in any way. He says he wants to stay home with me, but when he is home, he’s a terror. My husband and I provide a loving home, healthy meals, 11 hours of sleep or more a night, timeouts, reading and religious upbringing, but we just can't figure out how to change his behavior. Can you help?
We're glad you contacted us with your parenting concern. Being a parent is never easy especially to very active little boys.
Using consequences and rewards is a great motivation system when trying to change behaviors. However, it's not a cookie-cutter approach. Since every child is different, you might need to modify your consequences and rewards to fit your son’s changing interests. What worked for him last month may no longer interest him this month.
When thinking about consequences, remember these three things: size, relativity and immediacy. How big is the behavior you are trying to correct? If it's a very big concern to you, then there should be a large consequence. The consequence should be related to the behavior and be issued as immediately as possible. When choosing rewards for positive behaviors, let your son have a say.
It's good that you make him clean up his messes because accountability is important. For every time you give in, it takes 10 more times to stand your ground. So, remember to stay consistent and provide lots of structure. Especially with kindergarten around the corner, your son needs to be prepared for rules and routines. We hope this helps and please let us know if you have any questions or concerns.