My son is 6 years old and was diagnosed with ADHD last year. When he gets angry, he will scream statements like “I hate you,” “I want to be killed” and “I want to be dead.” I have told him that these are not nice things to say. I think he has picked these words up from watching cartoons. How do I handle this situation?
Anger is a normal feeling. We all get angry. How we express our anger can either be helpful or harmful to others and ourselves. Assure your son that being upset is fine. However, when he experiences anger he should say, “I am MAD!” Those are the only words he is allowed to say. Then after he says those words, offer him options. He can go to his room to calm down, or he can “blow out his birthday candles.” (Hold up six fingers, take a big breath, blow on a finger and fold it down; repeat with all six fingers.) Or he can rock in a rocking chair until he can speak without yelling. There are many options.
As his mother, you can best determine what will work for your son. You also know when he is starting to get upset. You can tell by his voice tone and body language. That is when you can prompt him to use one of his “calming techniques” that you have taught him.
This is called Preventive Teaching. It teaches children what they need to know and affords them opportunities to practice the new skills. The three specific steps in Preventive Teaching are: 1. Describe what you would like him to do; 2. Give a good “kid” reason for doing it that way; 3. Practice what you have just taught him.
While this can work for many skills, right now you should focus on his angry outbursts and teaching him an alternative to what he is currently doing.
I'm not sure how to handle my 8-year-old son’s recent behavior. He’s been acting inappropriately towards his 5-year-old sister by daring other children to kiss her, which upsets her greatly. When I confront him about it, he lies. We’re a new military family at our first duty station, and my husband just left. My son starts to cry and throw a temper tantrum when the other kids "don’t want to play with him" because he’s being too bossy. I am a young mother of three and very concerned about this.
Being a parent is a tremendous responsibility and having to do it alone while your husband is deployed can be overwhelming. If there are groups of other mothers who find themselves in the same situation, we suggest you consider joining one of them. It will at least help you realize that you are not the only one experiencing these problems, and at most you may learn some strategies that others have used successfully with their children.
Initiate preventive teaching to help your son change his behavior. Preventative teaching involves three simple steps:
- Describe what kind of behavior your want.
- Give a reason.
If you were to use it to address the "kissing" issue, it may sound something like this:
- When you are playing, “kissing games” are not okay. But let's talk about what other games you can play. If someone suggests a kissing game, just say "No, I am not going to play,” and walk away.
- If you find other things to play, you will still have fun and not get into trouble when adults hear or see what you are doing. And, you’ll be able to play with those friends more.
- Okay, let's say you are over at the neighbors, and someone says, "Hey, let’s chase the girls and kiss them." Show me what you would do and say.
If the behavior continues, use a different parenting skill called “corrective teaching.” There are only four steps, and it’s used to respond to your child's problem behaviors by teaching and practicing acceptable alternatives:
- Stop the problem behavior.
- Give a consequence.
- Describe what you want.
- Practice what you want them to do.
The Boys Town Press book Common Sense Parenting describes these skills in more detail. There are examples and guidelines on using effective consequences.